Types of tobacco

PRESSED TOBACCOS

1) Flake tobacco: leaves are pressed to form thick parallelepipeds, that will be divided in strips by special machinery. The strips are in turn “sliced” and tobacco (that might have underwent additional treatments, e.g. cold or hot pressing) is in its final form: bars made up of pressed slices, that will have to be crumbled before being introduced into the pipe.

2) Twist or spun cut tobacco: leaves are transformed in a “rope”. There are generally two qualities of leaves: basic and aromatic. The rope, after further treatments, is cut into little disks: observing them in sections, it’s easy to distinguish the different tobaccos composing it.

NON-PRESSED TOBACCOS

1) Loose tobacco: in this case, the leaves are neither pressed nor rolled, but cut into thin strips and “toasted” by hand, to eliminate humidity and exalt the aroma. The strips are gathered in sprigs and are then sheared with a kind of guillotine. “Pure” Virginia and blends undergo this treatment. Well known examples in Italy are the Balkan Sobraine and Trinciato Italia.

We’ve said that we can distinguish between pure Virginia and blends.

A) Pure Virginia tobaccos are ideally exclusively composed of Virginia (today Virginia doesn’t necessarily come from the state Virginia). They’re distinguished by their pure taste and lack of particular aroma, but not fragrance.
B) Blends have a base of Virginia (England) or Burley (America) to which are added aromatic tobaccos in different proportions.

Let us now look in more details at the various tobacco products and their characteristics

tabacco virginia

Virginia

Virginia: it was introduced in Virginia by John Rolpe in 1612, but today it grows in other areas of America (e.g. Carolina) and of the world, including Italy. It can be smoked pure or blended. Pure has a doughy taste, a light fragrance, a sweet flavor, due to the high sugar level. It constitutes the basis of the finest tobacco blends, thanks to its excellent degree of combustibility.
Maryland: grown in the southern part of the homonym State, Maryland has a strong flavor and excellent combustibility. It can be smoked alone or used as flavoring agent in blends.

Tabacco Burley

Burley

Burley: its name comes from Lord Burleight, a rich, English landowner on the banks of the Ohio river; his farmers were refugees from Virginia and Maryland who observed that the tobacco coming from their homelands acquired different characteristics, and named it after their master. Burley grows in Ohio, in Tennessee and in South Carolina. It’s a fresh, sweet and aromatic tobacco that can be used as a basis for blends but can also be smoked pure.
Kentucky: it’s a variant of Burley and it is mainly a tobacco for cigars, but it can be used in blends as well.

tabacco black-cavendish

Cavendish

Cavendish: its name comes from Lord William Cavendish, who created it in 1690. Cavendish and Virginia have analogous characteristics, from which it can be distinguished by its darker color, due to particular sweetening processes with rum, honey and other. It has a sweet, soft flavor, and can be smoked pure or used to create decidedly aromatic blends.
Avana: as it is known, Avana tobacco is mainly used for homonym cigars, from the island of Cuba, but it can be used in blends giving them a particular flavor and taste, making them appreciated as digestives after a good meal.

Latakia

Latakia

Latakia: discovered in China in the middle of the last century, it is of a dark color. Its very unique taste is due to the fact that leaves are cured over the fire of Asian oak wood and aromatic herbs. Usually only tobacco leaves are used: Latakia is an exception, because also its stalk and veins, probably the best part, are used. Latakia can’t be smoked pure and a maximum of 10/15% is used in blends to give a strong aroma and a full and vigorous flavor, and to attenuate the tongue tingle that’s typical of light tobaccos.

Perique

Perique

Perique: a tobacco with a very strong aroma, it was named after Perrie Chenet (Perique is a hispanicized form of endearment of the French name Pierre) who discovered this tobacco in Louisiana. The modern treatment is not that different from the indigenous one: tobacco was macerated in large basins, and then squeezed. The liquid extracted was used to soak the tobacco again. After this treatment, it was then fermented. The Perique is extremely rare and grows in a restricted area south of New Orleans. It is used parsimoniously in blends (up to 5%) as if it were a precious spice.
CUT

The cut can be fine, medium or thick.
Fine cut (similar to that of cigarettes) burns easily but it is dangerous to both the pipe and the smoker’s tongue, as it “pinches”. It can be smoked in thick-walled pipes.
Thick cut burns slowly, but it has the advantage of fully developing the aroma of the tobacco. It needs attention, patience, and competence because it risks burning out at a moment’s distraction. It is excellent for big pipes, less simple to smoke in little ones, and it is ideal for long indoor smokes. Its characteristics makes it rather expensive if smoked outdoors, as the combustion may be too fast especially if favored by a small breeze.
Medium cut is the right medium: it practically has all the virtues of the other two, and it ought to be chosen by beginners for their first experiences.

STRENGTH

It specifies the degree of aroma and taste. It can be light, medium or full (strong).
Beginners might be carried away by light tobacco, which is a mistake, because it is precisely light tobacco that burns the tongue. The choice will have to be oriented towards medium or full tobacco, even at the cost of experiencing a bit of euphoria, especially if the tobacco is full-flavored.

THE SELECTION OF TOBACCO

It’s hard to give advice on such a subjective matter.
Too aromatic tobaccos may bore. Sweet tobaccos are the most “irritating”. The advisable cut is medium-long. The finest cut burns fast and heats up (pipe and tongue).
To preserve tobacco the degree of humidity is important. Always keep it in hermetically sealed containers. English mixtures in airtight containers are nearly always too humid: air them for a few hours. To moisten dry tobacco, scatter it on a sheet and then wet it with a spray. An apple slice (or of potato or carrot) in the container can prove useful. Moistening with liquors prevents molding, but it also flavors the tobacco. Keep tobacco away from sources of heat and perfumes.
All cut tobaccos that are on sale are blends. Everyone can have a good time creating new ones according to their tastes. Prepare in small amounts. Weigh and take note of weights. Mix compatible cuts (fine cut doesn’t fit with granulated tobaccos). Always let it “season” a bit so that the different aromas can blend.
Bags can be used for daily tobacco needs. They must be waterproof.