THE ART OF PACKING A PIPE
There are as many ways to pack a pipe as there are pipe smokers. There is no right or wrong method, and each method takes a bit of practice, but the technique below works well for most pipes and most types of tobacco.
Virginia: Often referred to as “bright leaf tobacco,” and the most widely grown variety in the world. Typically air cured (also called flue cured), Virginia is sweeter and mellower than dark leaf tobacco.
Cavendish: Virginia tobacco that has been cased (see below) with a bit of rum and sugar. The sugars caramelize during the process, sweetening and darkening the tobacco. Darker versions are referred to as Black Cavendish. Lighter versions are Gold Cavendish.
Burley: Burley has lower sugar content and a deeper flavor than its Virginia cousin. It is also generally higher in nicotine.
Dark Fired Kentucky: Burley that has been cured by smoke.
Turkish and Oriental: Typically sun-cured and grown in Southern Europe and the Middle East. This highly-aromatic tobacco has more flavor than Virginia or Burley, but lower nicotine content.
Latakia: A Turkish tobacco that is first sun-cured and then fire-cured, leading to an extremely smoky flavor and aroma.
PIPE TOBACCO: CASING AND TOP FLAVORS
All pipe tobacco leaves first undergo a process called “casing” where moisture is added along with subtle amounts of sweeteners such as sugar, rum, cocoa and or licorice. Most pipe tobacco then receives a “top” flavor which can be essence of everything from vanilla to peach to whiskey. The more top flavor, the more aromatic the tobacco.
PIPE TOBACCO: STANDARD CUTS
Most pipe tobaccos, and the majority of the pipe tobaccos in Lane’s portfolio, are cut following the casing and top flavor process. Here are the most common cuts:
Loose Cut: A long, thin ribbon cut, similar to the Bugler cut, but slightly thicker. Commonly found in many Captain Black and Lane Bulk blends.
Broad Cut: The thickest cut, about twice as wide as a loose cut. Commonly used with air-cured Virginia, then used to blend with other cuts.
Cross Cut: A broad cut that is cut twice, creating small squares.
PIPE TOBACCO: PRESSED CUTS
With pressed cuts the tobacco is placed under extreme pressure and varying degrees of heat for an extended period of time. The tobacco emerges in compressed cakes or rolls. A bit of fermentation also occurs during the process, which gives the tobacco a fuller, rounder taste. Pressed cuts usually contain little or no top flavor.
Flake: The tobacco is placed under very high pressure and varying degrees of heat. When the tobacco cake emerges, it is sliced into thin flakes, typically about 1-2 inches wide and 0.1 inches thick. You fold or lightly rub the flake to put it in your pipe.
Ready Rubbed: Flake that has been created under slightly less pressure. The flake is partially separated so it can be readily smoked or combined with other cuts.
Cube Cut: Flake tobacco that has been cut into small cubes.
Roll Cake: Flake tobacco that is sliced more thinly than normal. The flakes are then rolled into a tight tube. Finally they are sliced again. The result is a thin medallion.
Spun Cut: A time intensive process where tobacco leaves are hand rolled into thin ropes as much as 60 feet long. The rope is then placed under compression and ultimately sliced into medallions, similar to roll cake.
“Mixture” is a term often seen on pipe tobacco packages. As te name implies, it is simply a mix of tobacco types, cuts and flavors.
No other tobacco category is as diverse as pipe tobacco. Spun cuts, cross cuts, loose cuts, flakes and mixtures, Virginia, Burley, Latakia. It’s enough to confuse even an experienced pipe smoker. But nobody produces more pipe tobacco than Lane and STG, and no one is better suited to help you appreciate the subtleties and complexities of pipe tobacco.
EACH PIPE TOBACCO BLEND TASTES DIFFERENT
In order to help you navigate through the variety of blends on the following pages, we have classified each of them according to three characteristics: Body, Aromatic Taste and Room Note. For each characteristic, a scale indicates how intense or mellow the tobacco blend is.
We show each characteristic on a five point scale:
(1) Low (2) Mellow (3) Balanced (4) Distinct (5) Intensive
Similar to wine or beer terminology, body refers to a deepness or fullness of flavor. In general, the types of tobacco leaves used determine the body. A blend that is mostly Cavendish will often be low in body (think of a pilsner), while a blend that has a great deal of Latakia can be intensive in body (think of a stout).
Almost all pipe tobaccos have some degree of flavoring added, from vanilla to rum to peach extract and just about everything in between. Aromatic Taste describes the extent to which the taste of the flavorings come through while smoking.
Simply put, how pronounced is the tobacco’s scent to those around you? Is it light and unassuming, or bold and pronounced? In general, a more intensive body or aromatic taste will lead to a more intensive room note.
The pipe tobacco below would have a mellow body with just the right amount of aromatic taste and a very intensive room note.