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Commentary: Beginner Pipe Blends

10 Apr 2014



Hopefully, after my previous discussion on the different types of tobacco pipes, you were inspired to go pick one up. Now you’re probably realizing you need some tobacco. Well, today I’m going to discuss different types of tobaccos and some good beginner blends.

A quick disclaimer: This article is going to paint in very broad strokes. There are tons of different tobacco “genres,” but I’m going to focus here on the Big Three. This is not to say that they have more merit than the others, or that there is something inherently more important about them. They are simply the most common. Also, the blends that I recommend will be from my personal experience and opinion. If you don’t like them, or if you have another idea, please feel free to discuss it in the comments. Just know I am not trying to say these are the “best” blends; what I am saying is they are good, beginner-friendly representations of the larger groups they come from.

Virginia Tobaccos — Virginias are some of the most common tobaccos. If a blend is not pure Virginia, then it likely has some Virginia leaf in it. What’s great about Virginias is they come in all different shades. Mainly, there are “bright” and “matured” varieties. The difference here is in color and flavor. Bright Virginias are yellows and light brown, and taste sweet, with notes of hay and citrus very common. Matured, dark Virginias have a higher nicotine content and a much richer flavor (full palate sweetness, dark earthiness). There are also reddish Virginias, which seem to be a good in-between. Virginias tend to come in the flake format, or broken flake, which is a bit harder to prepare to smoke, so I’d recommend watching some videos on that before you attempt it (this is a topic we will cover later). For a lighter blend, I’d heartily recommend Orlik’s Golden Sliced, which has great lemon and citrus notes. For a darker version, try H.H. Matured Virginia from MacBaren.

English Tobaccos — This definition is a constant topic of debate, but used colloquially English blends refer to blends which feature latakia. Latakia is a leaf similar to fire-cured (for more info, see my review of the A.J. Fernandez Spectre), and tastes smoky and spicy. These are great tobaccos, but I would recommend you start with a tin containing only a slight amount of lat, to make sure you like it. Luckily, there’s a fantastic series of pipe tobacco which is just that: McClelland’s Frog Morton. Specifically, I’d recommend either the titular “Frog Morton” or “Frog Morton Across the Pond.” Across the Pond is a bit more intense, but still shouldn’t scare anyone away.

Aromatics — Much like flavored cigars, these are blends with something added to them. These are the pipe tobaccos most people associate with their grandfathers (if you ever want to figure out what your grandfather smoked, I’d bet money it was Middleton’s Cherry, which you can still find at drugstores today). Some aromatics are very goopy. What I mean is there’s a lot of flavoring added and they smoke very wet. Also, aromatics tend to “ghost” briar pipes (they leave their flavor in the pipe itself). Due to this, I only smoke aromatics in a corn cob. My favorite aromatics are currently Drew Estate’s Central Park Stroll, which has chocolate and fruit notes, and MacBaren’s Honey & Chocolate, which is the most chocolatey blend I’ve ever tasted (the honey, however, I don’t get).

These should be very accessible blends that will help you get into pipe smoking. If you try any of these, or if you’d like to hear reviews of them, or if you have other suggestions, let me know. Next time I’ll cover packing a pipe and avoiding tongue burn.

-Joey J

photo credit: N/A

Drew Estate