There are a large variety of pipe tobaccos and thousands of different blends.
Let's explore some of the basics concerning pipe tobacco.
There is so much to say about pipe tobacco. In fact, I could probably write an entire book about it. However, on this page, I am going to focus on the basics. So, if you are a new pipe smoker or want to dabble in other tobaccos, this page is for you.
Aromatics v. Non-Aromatics
First, let's look at the two main categories of pipe tobacco blends: aromatics and non-aromatics.
An aromatic tobacco is one that has been cased or sprayed with a natural top-coating. Typical natural flavorings include sugar, rum, molasses, liquorice,whiskey, vanilla, cherry and various other flavorings. Aromatics generally have pleasant room notes. They are the types of tobaccos that make passersby and non-smokers say, "I love the small of a pipe."
A non-aromatic is any tobacco or blend that has not been sprayed or cased. Non-aromatics can be mild or bold and spicy. Generally, they produce distinct room notes or aromas that can actually be unpleasant for those in your company.
Common Pipe Tobacco Types
Virginias are commonly used as a base for aromatic blends but can also be smoked alone. They contain a higher sugar content than many other tobaccos and have a sweet, fruity, or tangy taste. They are a complex and delicate tobacco that should be sipped slowly. As they burn down in the bowl, the complexity of the leaf come to life. Virginia blends like Deep Hollow by McClland, are better enjoyed when they are smoked slowly. In fact, smoking a Virgina too quickly will cause tongue bite.
Virginias have colors resembling autumn leaves. Their primary colors are red, yellow, light brown and gold. They are grown all over the world,
While many believe that Cavendish is a type of tobacco, it is actually a special curing and cutting process. The Cavendish process can be used on most tobaccos including Virgina, Burley or Kentucky. The purpose of the process is to bring out the natural flavor and sweetness of the tobacco leaf. The process involves the pressing of tobacco leaves into an inch-thick cake and then steaming or heating it and then allowing it to ferment. It is common for flavors such as cherry, rum, vanilla or chocolate to be added to the tobacco during the process.
Burley is a low-sugar subtle tobacco that is used as a base for some aromatics or on its own. It is a slow burning tobacco that has a relatively high nicotine content. It is an air-cured tobacco that is used primarily in cigarettes. For pipe smokers, Burley can add to the body of the smoke. It tends to produce a thick or chewy mouthfeel that some pipe smokers love. Next time you smoke an aromatic blend check to see if there is some Burley mixed in and compare the body of the smoke to a pure Virgina blend. If you happen to be a lover of Burley there are a number of very high-quality products avilable. One of my favorit Burley blends is Cornell & Diehl's Haunted Bookshop.
Latakia is a cured tobacco that originated in Syria. In fact, it got its' name from the Syrian port of Latakia. Now, most Latakia comes from Cyprus. It is considered a non-aromatic.It has a very bold and spicy taste. It gets its spicy flavors during the curing process. Latakia is cured over aromatic woods and herbs. Latakia can be found in a number or aromatic blends but is more commonly found heavily in English blends. I found that when experimenting with Latakia for the first time you should smoke an aromatic blend with Latakia included. For example, Jocks Mixture from Rattray is a very nice blend to get your feet wet. From there you can move on to other blends that have a greater percentage of Latakia.
Perique is probably one of the most common Oriental tobaccos. It is considered a non-aromatic. It is generally used in English mixtures along with Latakia. Perique is considered to be a spice tobacco and is another cured tobacco. It has a distinct pepper and fig taste. Generally, its aroma is described as musty or mushroom-like.