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Blend Age: What's Optimal?

(21 posts)
  1. mso489

    mso489

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    As with wine, it's fun to think in terms of blends, especially non-aromatic blends, as just getting better and better, and some folks have a great time unsealing blends that are thirty years old and finding them smokeable, sometimes ecstatically good. But just in terms of a rotation of tobacco where you aren't going for the thirty or fifty year mark with this or that tin, what's the general average age for best results. I'm guessing about five years from sealing the tin or jar, not counting any aging done by the blender before that. I think a lot of Forums members might go more toward the ten-to-fifteen mark. I do know that aromatic flavorings fade over time, and for a while, that may be a good thing, making a blend more tobacco forward. I've had Latakia fade almost completely in a famous premium blend, though others have reported Lat holding up for a decade or more. I surmise that if you open a tin after five years, you can feel, in good conscience, that it might get better, but that would just be luck, and it might decline. Others know a good deal more about this than I do. What do you think?

    Posted 2 months ago #
  2. seanv

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    The whole aging thing drives me crazy when people post about aging a blend they have not tried. If you don’t know what it tastes like fresh, how will you know if the aged example is any better? To me it is like wine. You buy a case and sample a bottle each year. That is the only way to gauge improvement if there is any.
    I have had best luck ageing Virginia’s and vapers. They mellow out quite a bit. Also I have some burley blends that smooth out as well. The taste on those burleys doesn’t change, it just smoothes out any rough edges.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  3. jaytex969

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    Sean, many of us "newer" smokers are doing so based on blind faith in our pipe community elders.

    Coming into pipe smoking 2 years ago, with FDA deeming already established and some producers already disappearing, my only choice was to familiarize generally with the tobacco field and begin building a cellar to weather and outlive any future disruptions.

    Although I've cellared numerous blends I've never tasted, I've sampled fresh offerings of the genres, bought and consumed some aged product from others and made semi-educated decisions to allow for my long term future enjoyment.

    I paid aging only lip service until buying some of foggymountain's ODF with 6 or 7 years on it. Having smoked and greatly enjoyed it fresh, I was quite surprised at how much MORE enjoyment was available aged.

    In reality, I might enjoy some of those blends more fresh, but if it goes from a "9" to a "6" over the years, it will still be better than an empty cellar.

    MSO, I don't have much data to add to the aging debate in general, but as I smoke mostly non-aro's, the general consensus is that they mostly age OK. I like latakia and, like you, often prefer it with a lighter touch, so any lat fading in my cellar will likely be tolerated with satisfaction.

    Gunner, Black Frigate. Say "Hello" to my little friend!
    Posted 2 months ago #
  4. seanv

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    Good post Jay. I guess what's the worst that could happen? Follow advice, have a rough idea of what you like and go for it.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  5. workman

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    I'm also curious about this. For a relatively new pipe smoker, 15 years sure seems a long time to wait for a decent smoke.

    Smoking is one of the leading causes of all statistics.
    Posted 2 months ago #
  6. jvnshr

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    seanv, another pro is if you don't like it, you may swap it with the blend you like with the same age as yours.

    Javan
    Posted 2 months ago #
  7. cosmicfolklore

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    My first wave of cellared tins and jars is coming up on six years. I never noticed any effects up until any of them hit five years. I will return to update as soon as they hit ten years.

    Time goes by quicker than you'll know, and seems to be speeding up.

    Michael
    Posted 2 months ago #
  8. ophiuchus

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    The whole aging thing drives me crazy when people post about aging a blend they have not tried. If you don’t know what it tastes like fresh, how will you know if the aged example is any better?

    Being a one-for-now-two-for-later kinda guy with regards to pipe tobacco purchases, this is how I felt about it ...

    ... many of us "newer" smokers are doing so based on blind faith in our pipe community elders.

    Coming into pipe smoking 2 years ago, with FDA deeming already established and some producers already disappearing, my only choice was to familiarize generally with the tobacco field and begin building a cellar to weather and outlive any future disruptions.


    ... so I'm glad you spoke out.

    When I got started in "collecting" tobacco, aging was the last thing on my mind. I wasn't knowledgeable enough to know there was such a thing. I really started off buying and "losing" stuff all the time, then started deliberately saving tobacco, because it was one of few things you can store for years at a time. Aging turned out to be a happy accidental discovery later with some virginia and oriental inclusive blends.

    Optimal blend age? Sorry mso ... I still haven't figured that one out.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  9. rfernand

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    The only before and after I’ve tried was about 7 years apart. It was PA. It smokes about the same but the oldest one was leas intense on the topping (only a little). I know JimInks has written about experience with multi-decade tests, maybe he can shed some light. I honestly don’t know if aging helps pipe tobacco.

    For Cuban cigars, age for about 3 years to really get the optimal flavor (it helps that boxes have a date). Other cigars are not dated, but for example Davidoffs are already aged to perfection at time of sale. The oils in the leaves do react over time. For aging cigars, you will want a cooler room temperature (low 60s) and lower RH than your usual smoke-ready stuff.

    Dunhill will return.
    Posted 2 months ago #
  10. hawky454

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    For my rotation/cellar I try not to smoke anything before the 2 yr mark. 2 years is relatively young as far as tobacco is concerned but I find it’s a good point where the blend has had plenty of time to marry and ferment. English blends are different, I try to smoke pretty fresh but that’s all changed since the talk about Latakia going away, I’ve just recently started adding Lat blends to the cellar. As far as scented tobaccos like St. Bruno and Condor, I try to arrest the aging process as I like them the way they are now and I don’t want them losing much “sauce”. Granted, that is just for this point in time as 10 years from now I’ll be smoking 10 to 20 year old tobacco.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  11. jpmcwjr

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    Certainly there's a curve regarding the effects of aging. The difference between time zero and one year is greater than what happens between 1 and 2, and so on.

    The real question is: Is it better? Different, yes, but better is in the eye of the smoker.

    I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
    Posted 2 months ago #
  12. sablebrush52

    sablebrush52

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    I'm also curious about this. For a relatively new pipe smoker, 15 years sure seems a long time to wait for a decent smoke.

    It IS a long time to wait, and completely unnecessary to do so. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Aging does not improve blends. Aging changes blends. Whether that change represents an improvement is for the individual smoker to decide.

    There are blends that I prefer with a few years on them and some that I'm happy to smoke fresh off the boat. I like the A&C Petersen version of Excudo with five more more years on it, but the STG version doesn't develop in the same manner, Might as well smoke it fresh. A lot of people like PS-LBF fresh. I don't find it smokeable with less than 4 years in a jar. RO GP-11 is ready to go fresh. We'll see what it's like in a few years. Dunbar, Dorchester, and Stonehaven are fine fresh.

    There are no hard and fast rules for an optimal age. None. Nada. Zero. Zip.

    It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. - Mark Twain

    It is pointless to argue with a fanatic since a dim bulb can't be converted into a searchlight. - Jesse Silver
    Posted 2 months ago #
  13. cosmicfolklore

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    Hell, I can do 5 years standing up. At my age, years fly by like days used to. 15 years is really no big deal. Only a younger man would think that... and really old guys with not many more years left. I may have 10 or so good years left. So, I am enjoying the fruits of having stocked up years ago.

    If people don't want to age their blends, that doesn't bother me in the least. Sure, sure, aging doesn't make it better. I will just be over here minding my own business... with my pipe, and some five year old Hal of the Wynd. It's really just different. Not worth waiting on or anything... really.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  14. didimauw

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    With the way I'm stocking up these days, I'm about to finally find out how aging affects blends. Well, in a few years I mean.

    "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."
    Posted 2 months ago #
  15. cortezattic

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    From the Pipe Tobacco Aging, Storage and Cellaring FAQ:

    4 ~ Are there milestones in the aging process?

      One of my favorite questions! There is a subjective element here, of course, where each cellarer perceives (and waits impatiently for) a real superior shift in flavor. But to the extent we can generalize, we have room for discussion. Mr. Pease in particular has weighed in on the topic, over ASP's lifetime. Here are his responses, in chronological order:

    The most major changes occur over the first six months to a year, though there is significant improvement in two months. After a year, it takes about another year to notice much difference, then about two more...see a pattern? After about 10 years, things really slow down. But, smoking tobaccos that have been aged 2-5 years is a real treat, and worth the wait, for some blends.

    G.L. Pease, 1998-03-08

    There is really no optimal interval, but there are ranges that are significant. The first real difference is noticed after a couple months in the tin. Here, the melding of the flavours has really started to take place, and there's a little more "evenness" throughout the smoke. After about 6-months or so, significant fermentation has begun, and the flavours really start to become enhanced. Beyond that, 1-year, 2-years, 5-years show distinct changes, though not as dramatic as the early ones. Aging continues, but at a slower pace. There's not a lot of difference between a 5-years old tobacco and one which has been aged for 6-years, but at 10-years, it's noticeable, though subtle.

    G.L. Pease, 1999-06-01

    As with wine, the best thing to do is to buy plenty, cellar it carefully, and taste it often - at six months, at a year, at two years, again at five. It is better to enjoy it sooner, and dream of what it may become, that to find it over the hill later, and lament what it might have been.

    G.L. Pease, 2000-05-03

    It seems that somewhere between 12 and 24 months is something of a magic number, and that seems to be pretty universal amongst most tobaccos I've experimented with.

    G.L. Pease, 2002-05-20

    While six months makes quite a difference, I've noticed that 18 months to two years is really where the turning point lies. You can expect increased complexity, a rounding out of the flavours, enhanced sweetness, and greater depth.

    G.L. Pease, 2004-08-05

    I find myself sitting idly on the line dividing past and future,
    as if I could kill time without injuring eternity. -- Thoreau
    Posted 2 months ago #
  16. mso489

    mso489

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    I think there is a wide range of length of aging tobacco with the blenders, but since they are proprietorial about all of their processes, I don't even try to calculate that. Some leaf may be years old, and other right out of the field. If I had to guess at an average, I'd suppose that most packaged tobacco is a year or two off the stem.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  17. glassjapan

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    The only blends that I like that I ever felt I needed to age was McClelland red virginias. It took some of the sharpness out of them. But if you loved that sharpness, years in the tin will fade that out some.

    I enjoy FVF and Stonehaven fresh, but cellared them just to have a lifetime supply. I've got jars going on 11 years now. Like Sable has said, they're different, but not necessarily better. To me, if you love the treacle flavor in Stonehaven, then 10 year old Stonehaven is probably not your thing. It's still a great burley, but the treacle has faded in it some. Aged FVF has smoothed out any rough edges it once had. And yeah, it's really really good.

    So I guess for me, cellering was never about improving the tobacco. It was always about just having want I wanted down the road. They will change, but it's not necessarily a good thing for everybody. It's pretty much up to each of us to decide what we like in a blend and will aging help or not.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  18. cosmicfolklore

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    I don't notice much of any difference after just a couple of years. I am betting that Greg is talking about initially after it has been tinned. But, even in bulk, two years doesn't give me anything different from just smoking it fresh. I will smoke fresh and under 2 year old tins and jars between popping five year old jars. YMMV

    Posted 2 months ago #
  19. styler

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    "It is better to enjoy it sooner, and dream of what it may become, that to find it over the hill later, and lament what it might have been." - GLP

    I very much agree with this!

    While I do find enjoyment in seeing what a tobacco might become over time, life is short! None of us are getting any younger and who knows what foul fate may befall us at any given moment. What a shame it would be to hoard away some of the finest tobaccos in the world, but never get to enjoy them.

    When I started smoking cigars several years ago I remember having a discussion about ageing cigars for so long that they almost become too precious to smoke. A piece of advise that always stuck in my head was "Don't wait for a special occasion to smoke your best cigars, make smoking your best cigars the special occasion". Seems to me that it applies just as much to pipe tobacco.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  20. ray47

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    The only thing that ages at my house is me. I've got blends that have been jarred for 5 yrs and recently opened a jar of MacBaren's Virginia #1. I didn't notice any difference, but then it might just be my pallet.

    Posted 2 months ago #
  21. mso489

    mso489

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    Since I am a moderate smoker, a bowl or two a day, some days or stretches with none for lack of time or opportunity, I am equally concerned about not keeping blends too long. This applies mostly to aromatics, but also to some constituent Latakia and other leaf that can, at least in some instances, fade, or fade quickly once a tin or jar is opened. I should mention, I am enough afflicted with TAD so that I tend to accumulate more blends than I am smoking at the moment, by far. I rely on the concept that most blends only improve, but often, some do and some don't.

    Posted 2 months ago #

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