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Blending Your Own

(22 posts)
  1. brass

    brass

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    I'm about to pull the trigger on a half dozen blending tobaccos, including some condiments, an oz or so of Latakia and Perique, some orientals and burleys, as well yellow and red Virginias.

    I'm mostly interested in smoking a little of each straight, just so I can identify ingredients of commercial blends. Should be fun, something like home brewing but less messy.

    I'm looking forward to getting a copy of Russ Oullettes upcoming book. But in the meantime, can anyone point me to some information on blending. I dabbled in it 30 years ago but only remember, that "a pinch of perique goes a long way." I gave it up when my B&M store closed. Besides, I realized none of my blends matched my favorites I could get commercially.

    Pax

    Posted 4 years ago #
  2. minfarshaw

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    Brass,
    That sounds interesting and labor- intensive. I can't imagine smoking straight perique. I remember listening the the radio show last summer and Brian Levine was sampling straight orientals. I guess being able to identify ingredients in a blend would give you a window into what the blender is trying to achieve. What kind of flavor he wants to impart to the smoker. Also, if he was successful in enhancing the favors in the tobacco. I don't know anything about blending and am just starting to able to guess where the flavored are coming from. It requires so much concentration. Sometimes I just want to taste what I'm tasting and not over-analyze.

    Posted 4 years ago #
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    jitterbugdude

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    Don't get stuck on the "little pinch goes a long way" notion. Experiment and find out what you like. The way to do that is go to extremes. With Perique for instance try a 5% blend and a 40% blend. You will be able to judge where you want to go with Perique, up or down. Myself, I like about 30% Perique in my blend.

    Mix small batches so if you make something that's terrible you will not have wasted a lot of tobacco. Keep written records!!!

    I use a triple beam balance and usually mix up about a 20g blend for starters.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  4. brass

    brass

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    I got my order of blending tobaccos.

    My first order of business is to familiarize myself with the look, taste and smell of these straight tobaccos. So,
    Spent an hour or so jarring the tobaccos, taking note of look and smell of each leaf.

    I used a tiny cob to taste the tobaccos straight. The Perique was a jet black, moist shag that was surprisingly mild, relatively speaking, to it's reputation. I guess I expected it to set my head on fire. I detected the pepper but it was light. The smoke tasted of heat, like a mild pepper sauce. It didn't burn hot, it tasted hot.

    I was surprised that a bowl of straight dark fired Kentucky tasted much more spicy than the Perique. It was a bit musty and full bodied and tasted like tobacco. Surprise.

    I'm wondering if I might need to smoke a larger bowl, maybe something close to a size two, to get a truer idea of the characteristics?

    I would like to see this thread be the start of discussion about creating your own blends. Perhaps some experience blenders could share some reciepies and tips.

    I'm sure it is more than just mixing ingredients. For example, how do you go about making kakes and flakes; constructing home-made presses, stoving tobaccos, etc.

    It is possible to get basic blending tobaccos for less than the price of a box of low end premium cigars. Here's what I got to start.
    __________________________________________________________________________

    Qty Item Options Price

    4 Blending - Blended Turkish Ribbon
    Item # PT-BGB0028 $10.56 USD
    1 Blending - Burley Shag
    Item # PT-BGD0028 $4.03 USD
    1 Blending - Cigar Leaf
    Item # PT-BGF0028 $4.22 USD
    2 Blending - Dark Burley
    Item # PT-BGG0028 $7.74 USD
    1 Blending - Dark Fired Kentucky Burley
    Item # PT-BGH0028 $4.63 USD
    3 Blending - Latakia
    Item # PT-BGM0028 $14.01 USD
    1 Blending - Perique
    Item # PT-BGO0028 $4.84 USD
    2 Blending - Premium Ribbon Cut Burley
    Item # PT-BGR0028 $8.16 USD
    2 Blending - White Cube Burley
    Item # PT-BGW0028 $8.50 USD
    1 Blending - Yellow Virginia
    Item # PT-BGX0028 $4.06 USD
    2 Blending - Green River Black Cavendish
    Item # PT-BGY0028 $7.78 USD
    4 Blending - Red Virginia Cavendish (Matured)
    Item # PT-BG00028 $10.80 USD

    Pax

    Posted 4 years ago #
  5. okiescout

    okiescout

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    brass, I have not heard about Russ writing a book. Have you heard when it will be available?

    "Work as if you were to live a hundred years. Pray as if you were to die tomorrow."
    Benjamin Franklin
    Posted 4 years ago #
  6. tarak

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    Brass- I do recall listening to one of the radio shows to a blender talk...they only use clay pipes to sample and smoke the tobacco as briar tends to impart its own flavor. I don't know if that's true for cobs but they felt to truly understand the pure taste of a leaf they smoked it in clay.

    Thought you might find that interesting.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  7. brass

    brass

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    OkieScout, I think it is coming out next year. It will cover DIY blending among other topics. For details, you can post a message to Russ in this months tobacco crawl athttp://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/pax-tobacco-crawl-with-russ-ouellette#post-777917

    Tarak, I may just have to try some clay pipes. I know some professional blenders use cobs to the same effect.

    Pax

    Posted 4 years ago #
  8. cosmicfolklore

    Cosmic

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    If you are really getting into the groove with this, try buying some whole leaf tobacco, shread it in a paper shreader or twist it up yourself. You'll discover there are many different types of Turkish with a vast difference in flavor. Cigar blends, what is that? There are so many different types of tobaccos used in cigars that translate nicely into pipe blends also. Even Virginias. If you are dealing with whole leaf, there is no clear category called Virginias. It is bright leaf. And, there is a whole array of flavors. Orientals, man there are so many.

    This is why I could never do those blend you own things on the tobacco seller websites. What do they mean by oriental, which Turkish's? Too many unanswered questions, ha ha.

    Fun fun!!

    Michael
    Posted 4 years ago #
  9. cosmicfolklore

    Cosmic

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    Or, here
    If you do a search for whole leaf, you get quite a few places.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  10. brass

    brass

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    Thanks Michael.

    I dabbled in blending years B.I. (Before Internet). Straight tobaccos for blending were hard to come by. Most B&M at the time that were selling house blends, were actually just re-branding bulk IQ and others. I finally found a real tobacconists who sold me some straight tobaccos as a favor. There was little written for the DIY home blender. I finally came to the conclusion that what I was blending for myself didn't match the COTS blends by the pro's. When my tobacconist closed, I gave up blending and rarely smoked a pipe for a number of years.

    For now, my primary purpose is simply to sample the straight tobaccos so as to get better acquainted with the ingredients in the blends I buy. I also see some value in blending some basic varieties and adjusting ingredient proportions to see how it affects taste. For example, maybe start with some red Virginia straight, add some yellow Virginians, then a bit of Perique.

    I can see blending as a hobby could get completely out of control. I already have several different Virginians, a couple of orientals and know that it isn't even the tip of the ice burg. I could see a basement wall with shelves top to bottom, with gallon plus containers of exotic tobaccos.

    Regarding cigar blends, I refer to blends that contain cigar leaf, usually wrappers. Key Largo, Billy Bud, Dominican Glory, Stogie, Havana Day Dreams are cigar leaf blends. There about 50 blends in the tobacco review database that contain cigar leaf. None remotely taste like cigars. The leaf is used mostly to add body, fullness, and smoke volume to a blend.

    Pax

    Posted 4 years ago #
  11. cosmicfolklore

    Cosmic

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    To me, the ones that I like, add a creaminess, a heaviness to the mouth feel of it. I like that part of it. Then Key largo tends to add a bit of that cedar taste I like to the blend also. MMM... I need to pop a tin of that. No no, I will hold off till mid summer. I love Key Largo on the deck by the pool in the mornings with a cup of coffee. Pure heaven!

    Posted 4 years ago #
  12. brass

    brass

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    I'm still working on my favorite cigar leaf. None would be at the top of my rotation but I love them as a change of pace, as mentioned.

    The DGM is a little different from the rest. I'm still not decided if I like it. It certainly wasn't love at first puff.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  13. cosmicfolklore

    Cosmic

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    Try H&H's Virginia Spice. If you like VaPers it has a little cigar added to creamy it up. Plus, it's latakia free, if that's your thing.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  14. brass

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    Thanks. I've added it to my official wish list. Looks interesting. I like Latakia. But since almost all cigar leaf blends use Lats, I decided to try other interpretations. It may be a while before I order more baccies. I spent over $200 on tobacco in the last month. Ouch!

    Pax

    Posted 4 years ago #
  15. jackswilling

    jackswilling

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    It makes sense to try components straight up. Also makes sense to blend them and see how they mix. Also makes sense to see the individual components and how they differ from one another and how they look individually. Good thread. I will follow it.
    Thanks

    "Had his shooting been as good as his running, he might have given a better account of himself."
    James. C. Henderson
    Posted 4 years ago #
  16. mso489

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    I don't really blend tobaccos, but I do enjoy mixing them, the distinction -- in my mind anyway -- is that I don't put the mixes under pressure or age them with any orderly plan, or heat, steam, or otherwise process them. I just put a little of this, and two parts of that in a pottery bowl, and pack my pipe with it immediately or over the next few days, small quantities, and no recipes kept. Equal parts burley and Virginia, with a healthy pinch of Cavendish is often good, and Latakia and/or Perique as flavoring too. Some of my most enjoyable smokes have been done this way. I'm not sure if I went to more trouble I would have a whole lot better experience, but it could be quite a quest. Hard to beat the pros who've apprenticed and been at it for years or decades, but fun to try.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  17. brass

    brass

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    GK Chesterton said that "If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."

    I've learned that trying to create your own art, even if done badly, helps you appreciate the art in a way that could never be understood if the art is just taken in passively.

    I played and practiced my Saxophone for 2 to 4 hours for several years. I never became a virtuoso. As a matter of fact, I was barely competent for the stage. But I did learn to appreciate jazz and blues and classical music like never before. I heard structure, harmony and rhythm that I never noticed until I started playing.

    While I couldn't (and can't) play nearly as well as most professional musicians I've had the deep pleasure of knowing, I could still have informed discussions. Some of the musicians I've known or met were relatively unknown but extremely talented. e.g, members of the Air Force or Marine bands here in DC.

    Some were better famous, like Dizzy G. or Derek Trucks or BB King. I met each for only a few minutes but they were memorable. (I know some members here are terrific blues players. BB King gave me a bit of advice on technique I'll pass along. "It ain't what you play that makes the blues, son. It's what you leave out."

    The point is that doing things, even badly, helps you appreciate the art or craft not possible any other way. So, I'll never mix blends like our friend Russ Oullette or Greg Pease. I don't have the talent and the gift of heightened senses required. But as MSO says, it will be fun to try and I'll get to know pipe tobacco in a way not possible any other way.

    And who know, maybe, like Captain Bob, I'll stumble onto something original that members here will enjoy.

    Pax

    Posted 4 years ago #
  18. okiescout

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    Back in the day I took several courses in high fired ceramic as electives my senior year. We mixed our own glazes and were required to keep exact records. Working one weekend I didn't bother with it (weighing some known elements) a terrific glaze really impressed the instructor ... until he asked for the paperwork. Well what we have here is a happy accident we cannot reproduce, don't we Mr. student?! I could never reproduce that exact glaze again.
    It is the same with paints, cooking, and any number of other subjects.
    Note to self: keep good notes when blending anything.
    With no experience in Tobacco blending.... it may not be as exact as minerals in ceramic glass, but with the smoke taste buds many of you guys have, I would not want to bet on it.
    Then again, I have heard many folks on here say, blends shift with the quality of the tobacco crops from year to year, the top dressing, etc so maybe it is not as big a deal as I am prone to think.
    Maybe it just comes down to what you are really trying to accomplish. Different personalities coming into play.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  19. brass

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    Master Blenders face similar challenges as Whiskey Malt Masters, Beer Meisters, Masters of Whine (er, excuse me, wine). You could say there job is take similar but ever changing ingredients, whether hops or malts or grapes, changing weather conditions, etc and blend them all together to obtain the same branded taste, flavor and bouquet year after year.

    I imagined that Tobacco Blenders secluded themselves in a little room like a mad scientist, spending their time on creating new creations.

    In a conversation with Russ Oulette, who is guiding this months tobacco crawl at http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/pax-tobacco-crawl-with-russ-ouellette?replies=63#post-778804, (as I never tire of mentioning) he said that a big part of his job is quality control, testing blends as they are being produced, and making whatever adjustments are necessary, to produce a consistent product.

    I compare it with cooking. If you cook at all, you will hardly ever follow a recipe exactly. You'll add ingredients and seasoning, as you go, to arrive at a taste that is in your mind as being "just right".

    I take Okies advice on making notes when I start blending. Right now, I'm still tasting the raw ingredients. Last night, I tried a straght burley shag and a dark fired Kentuckey burley. They were like burley blends - they just had more burley in them.

    I have to say that I enjoyed the straight burleys more than a couple of commercial burley blends that I've tried, especially the dark fired one. I could really see smoking them straight once in a while just for the pleasure.

    BTW, one thing I'm learning is the incredible variety in the varities - there many burleys, many, many orientals, and all kinds of Virginias.

    This is already lots of fun.

    Pax

    Posted 4 years ago #
  20. brass

    brass

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    Master Blenders face similar challenges as Whiskey Malt Masters, Beer Meisters, Masters of Whine (er, excuse me, wine). You could say there job is take similar but ever changing ingredients, whether hops or malts or grapes, changing weather conditions, etc and blend them all together to obtain the same branded taste, flavor and bouquet year after year.

    I imagined that Tobacco Blenders secluded themselves in a little room like a mad scientist, spending their time on creating new creations.

    In a conversation with Russ Oulette, who is guiding this months tobacco crawl at http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/pax-tobacco-crawl-with-russ-ouellette?replies=63#post-778804, (as I never tire of mentioning) he said that a big part of his job is quality control, testing blends as they are being produced, and making whatever adjustments are necessary, to produce a consistent product.

    I compare it with cooking. If you cook at all, you will hardly ever follow a recipe exactly. You'll add ingredients and seasoning, as you go, to arrive at a taste that is in your mind as being "just right".

    I take Okies advice on making notes when I start blending. Right now, I'm still tasting the raw ingredients. Last night, I tried a straght burley shag and a dark fired Kentuckey burley. They were like burley blends - they just had more burley in them.

    I have to say that I enjoyed the straight burleys more than a couple of commercial burley blends that I've tried, especially the dark fired one. I could really see smoking them straight once in a while just for the pleasure.

    BTW, one thing I'm learning is the incredible variety in the varities - there many burleys, many, many orientals, and all kinds of Virginias.

    This is already lots of fun.

    Pax

    Posted 4 years ago #
  21. okiescout

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    I was going to wait on Russ's book, but you are probably on to something, brass.
    I know cosmic has encouraged people to start with VA's and learn them before jumping on up, in order to educate themselves or maybe I should say their taste buds. I may not be paraphrasing him correctly on that. But that would seem to make a lot of sense to me.
    It being a while until the book comes out, and you having so much fun, I may have to try your program out also.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  22. brass

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    Okie, Russ helped me refine the selections I've listed above. It will give you a place to start. And he has a couple of articles on blending, including one that is a kick starter for beginners.

    Meantime, I smoked straight Virginians last night, a yellow and a red Cavendish. I started with the yellow. As you would expect, it was relatively light and bright. I was expecting it to be much sweeter but it was more peppery. I could feel the acidity building from the first puff. It became obvious that this stuff can bite. It did and I knew it before I finished the bowl. The bite was still with me this morning. Not terrible but enough to be conscious of it. I would not smoke straight yellow Virginians for pleasure.

    The red Virginia Cavendish (matured) was another matter. It was heavier than the yellow, with a deeper, richer flavor. It reminded me faintly of cigarette smoke but tasted better than any cigarette I've tried.

    The big surprise for me after testing these straight blend tobaccos, is how they can stand on their own, without being in a blend. I'm sure some pipe smokers, like single malt scotch drinkers, would enjoy some single leaf tobaccos.

    I haven't asked Russ, but I suspect the blend tobaccos I'm smoking are not only pre-cut, but they are highly processed, e.g, pressed, steamed, stoved, smoked, and cased. Of course, the Latakia, Perique, and Cavendish are by definition processed.

    You could buy whole leaf tobacco and take the DIY philosophy even further. (Although most whole leaf I've seen for sale on the Internet seems to be targeted at the RYO cigarette crowd trying to duck onerous taxes. More power to them.)

    We have some members that not only process their own leaf and make their own blends but grow their own tobacco.I wouldn't be surprised to see a post asking how to make their own seed. :P:worship:

    Pax

    Posted 4 years ago #

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