Pipe tobacco types

It can be difficult to navigate through the jungle of pipe tobaccos, especiallt if you’re a new to the hobby. Therefore we’ve put together a few lists to maybe help you go down the right way – or at least know which way you’re going! You can read about the various types of tobacco, their basic characteristics, and how they’re typically blended and cut and what it does to the experience.

Of course, what matters in the end is your personal preferences, which you can only establish by trying something different once in a while, but still, it’s always nice to get a few pointers, isn’t it?

Virginia

The most popular type of tobacco used.
It comes in a range of colors. You will find it in most blends for the pipe, but it’s also very common for people to smoke one of the pure, or ’straight’, Virginias on the market. The strenght can be both low or high, but in general it’s milder compared to other types. It has the highest level of natural dextrose (sugar) among the different tobacco plants, and therefore it has a sweet character.
As always, smoke slowly - otherwise you might miss out on the great taste of the Virginia. Because of the high sugar levels it will easily suffer from too much heat, but when smoked with patience it can be one of the most interesting and delicious experiences.

In color it ranges from bright, hayish yellow to dark red and almost black, and each shade has different characteristics tastewise. It’s difficult to translate taste impressions to nothing but words, but in general many people find the brighter types to be lighter and more ’fresh’ tasting with notes of someting like hay, citrus, and summerdays, while the darker ones typically has a deeper, darker taste with hints of dried fruit, caramel, and chocolate.

Burley

Also a very typical component of many pipe tobacco blends.
Unlike the Virginias this one contains almost no natural sugars, and therefore you get a much dryer smoke and taste, and unlike the Virginias the Burley is not prone to burn too hot. It’s used in many Aromatic pipe blends because it easily absorbs the added flavorings.

Colors can be light to dark brown, and the taste is often described as nut-like or with little hints of chocolate.

Cavendish

Not really a type of tobacco – it’s more a method to treat it.
It’s typically made of Virginia or Burley that is cured, heated, and pressurerized in a special way, a process that results in a quite mild and gentle tobacco. The natural taste is almost gone, and it’s typically rather sweet, and in modern Cavendish there’s almost always added some sort of ’casing’, taste, and it’s therefore often a component of Aromatic blends. It’s black or very dark brown, and it can taste of everything from vanilla, strawberries, and cherry, to rum, whisky, and liquorice – very often something that will make you extremely popular with people around you.

Sometimes a sweet but unflavored Cavendish is used as a soft element in a heavy mixtures or together with Virginia and Perique.

Latakia

The result of a special process that involves fire curing the leaves over controlled fires with aromatic types of wood and fragrant herbs, and it’s mainly grown and processed in Cyprus and northern Syria.
Curing the tobacco like that gives it a very unique personality – when people smell it in the tin they quickly think of bonfires, leather, and little harbours on eternal summer days. It’s a component in many mixtures and adds a certain spicy and exotic flavor.
The content can vary quite a bit – from just a few pinches to about 40-50 %, or even more.

It’s not a strong tobacco per se, but very rich in taste and it tends to smoke dry and cool in the pipe.

Oriental

A variety of tobaccos grown in Turkey, the Balkans, and Russia.
The most used are Ismir, Samsun, Yenidji, Cavella, and Bursa, and a common characteristic is a dry, somewhat dusty and sometimes slightly sour aroma. Typically used in heavier mixtures or together with Virginias, it adds a bit of spice and some interesting flavor notes.

NB: technically speaking Latakia is also a type of Oriental.

Perique

The truffle of pipe tobacco.
It’s called that not just because it’s a special tasting tobacco, but also because it’s somewhat rare. The production of it is quite small as it is only grown and processed in St. James, Louisiana. It’s made from a Red Burley type that is treated in a very special way. First it is air-cured (like Burley typically is), but for a shorter time. Then the leaves are put in large oak barrels under heavy pressure, which will force some of the juice out and make it ferment. From time to time the leaves are taken out and repacked for further fermentation. This process take no less than a full year.

The result is a full bodied and quite strong tobacco, but luckily only small amounts are needed to spice up a tobacco blend. 5 % is often enough, and we wouldn’t recommend smoking it straight – there’s simply too much nicotine in it.

It’s most often used in mixtures or with straight Virginias, and the taste is quite unique. General impressions are: spicy and sour notes of fruit.

Kentucky

A type of Burley that is fire-cured instead of air-cured, much like Latakia.
But the Kentucky isn’t nearly as heavy or smoky in taste, but actually quite aromatic and playful. Not as strong as Perique nicotinewise but it’s up there and therefore it’s mostly used in smaller amounts in blends, where it adds a bit of tasty oomph.


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