It truly is a great time to be a pipe smoker! There has been a resurgence in recent years of the tobacco blending art, and many new blends have hit the scene. Not only that, but many blends that haven't been produced in years, sometimes decades, are making a return to the scene! Gone are the days of choosing one blend and smoking it for 80 years; as with pipes, there are literally HUNDREDS of choices.
I always recommend trying at least one of the following 5 blend types to help you figure out what types of tobaccos you like. Some of my recommendations are a bit muddled because of the inclusion of other tobacco types, but I feel these blends are good starting points.
1. Aromatics - This is the blend type that I think is most associated with pipe smoking, and thoughts of grandpa. I would recommend starting with a simple flavoring, like Vanilla. You can branch out into Chocolates, Rums, Whiskeys, Cherries, and other Fruit Essences from there.
2. Natural Virginias - From the lighter grassy/hay-like Virginias, to the medium-bodied bread notes, to the heavily aged plum-like or vinegary Dark Virginias, there's a wide spectrum of flavors here, but all share the most notable sweetness of the Virginia leaf, which has the most natural sugar content of any type of tobacco. Virginia based blends also seem to age the best in general, and are often found in flake form.
5. Perique Blends - Ah, Perique...my favorite. It can add that little something extra to so many different kinds of blends. Depending upon the types and proportions of the other tobaccos with which it is blended, it can be soothing or spicy. Many consider that it provides a dark fruit or aged flavor, which makes sense considering it undergoes a long anaerobic aging process. True Perique is only available from the St. James Parish of Louisiana.
Other “condimental” tobaccos (of which I also consider Latakia and Perique) to consider as you learn what you like are the deep flavors of Dark-Fired Kentucky (Mac Baren HH Old Dark Fired, Peterson Irish Flake), the robust taste of Cigar Leaf (Cornell & Diehl Gray Ghost, GL Pease Key Largo), and the crisp and somewhat exotic tang of Orientals (Dunhill Standard Mixture, Savinelli Brunello Flake). As I've found my own personal tastes, I've gravitated more towards blends that include some sort of mixture of Burleys, Virginias, Perique and Dark-Fired...but that's just me. You may find that your taste in pipe tobacco is completely different from mine! If you enjoy smoking, I thoroughly believe there's something for everyone in the realm of pipe tobacco.
I could include many more, but that's plenty enough to get you started down the yellow brick road that eventually branches in so many directions, you may never reach the Wizard of Oz! But that's kind of the point with Pipe Smoking...the journey is much more important than the destination.
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