Here is some basic information on tobacco that may help you better understand what you are smoking and why you might like it or dislike it. Research has shown that tobacco leaf and smoke can contain up to 3,000 compounds. However, 2 of the most important to the tobacco blender are:
- and -
The sugars refer to naturally occurring reducing sugars as dextrose.
Since tobacco crops can vary from year to year, they are tested to measure the different levels of these two compounds. Also, having knowledge of the general characteristics of the different types of tobaccos from different locales, and the different types of curing, is what enables the tobacco blender to produce consistent blends with sometimes non-consistent crops.
The amount of nicotine vs. sugars is usually an INVERSE relationship. Tobaccos high in sugar are usually low in nicotine and tobaccos high in nicotine are low in (natural) sugars.
Highest nicotine, lowest sugars by TOBACCO type -
- Green River Kentucky
Highest nicotine, lowest sugars by CURING type -
- Fire-Cured (with one exception - see below)
- Air-cured, Pressed / Fermented (That's not an official term, but I made it up to describe how Perique is processed.)
Highest sugar, lowest nicotine by TOBACCO type -
- Turkish / Oriental
Highest sugar, lowest nicotine by CURING type -
Flue-curing tobaccos involves heating up the barn while the leaves are hung upside down. The heat is gradually raised using "Flues" which are like big tubes that create an oven-like effect, but the heat is kept under 200 degrees. It takes 3 - 5 days. Most tobacco is flue-cured. The speediness of flue curing makes it economically attractive. It also help hold the sugars in the tobacco by quickly killing the leaf.
Fire-curing smokes the tobacco, just like smoke-curing meat. Fires are lit on the floor of the barn and the smoke rises to the hanging tobacco.
Air-curing is when the tobacco is left to dry out naturally without adding heat or smoke. It takes 4 - 6 weeks.
Sun-curing is like air-curing, but as it's names implies, the tobacco is left out in the sun. Sun-cured tobaccos are usually used for cigars and not often found in pipe blends.
Here's an interesting rule and an exception to the rule -
Fire-cured tobaccos like "Dark-Fired Kentucky" and "Green River Kentucky" have some of the highest nicotine and little to no sugars at all.
However, the quite popular Latakia tobacco is fire-cured, but contains low nicotine and high sugars. This is because Latakia is made from Oriental tobaccos which have high sugar and low nicotine to begin with.