By Bob Tate

English Pipe Tobacco Blends

Some of you may know from reading my articles, reviews, and from discussions in our forums, that I normally use the term ‘Latakia Blend(s)’ and not ‘English Blend(s)’ when I am talking about a blend that contains Latakia tobacco. The reason why I don’t like to use the term English Blend when associating it with Latakia is because the addition of Latakia into a blend does not make it an English blend. I have no idea where that connection started from and most people that I have talked with whom are from Great Britain do not understand it either.

I believe that the term ‘English Blend’ started being used in the American pipe tobacco market. Maybe they began using it to distinguish between English blends of the day that were manufactured under the tobacco purity laws of Great Britain and the blends that were made in America. It is also possible that it may have started off as a marketing gimmick that caught fire and spiraled out of control. Regardless of how it started, it is erroneous to refer to all blends that contain Latakia as ‘English Blends’.

Have you noticed that most every English pipe tobacco manufacturer uses the word Latakia and not the word English on their blend names and descriptions?

Notice that it is labeled 'Medium Latakia Mixture' not 'Medium English Mixture'

Notice that it is labeled 'Medium Latakia Mixture' not 'Medium English Mixture'

Once again the use of the word Latakia instead of English

Once again the use of the word Latakia instead of English

 

English blends were originally called English blends because they were made in Great Britain and also because of the old, now repealed, Tobacco Purity Laws that had to be adhered to in Great Britain at the time. Because of the purity laws, all additives to tobacco blends were very restricted and very limited. You could not add much, if any, flavorings to the tobacco; and additives such as preservatives, humectants, etc. were not allowed. Therefore all of the English blends back then were considered pure tobacco blends. All blends that were produced in Britain at that time had to fit within the parameters of the purity laws and were all considered English blends.

This means that all blends that were made in Great Britain under the purity laws, whether or not they contained any Latakia, were known as English Blends.

Did they use Turkish and Oriental tobaccos as well as Latakia in some of the blends produced there? Of course they did. And they used a lot more of those types of tobacco than American blenders of the time period did. They used those types because they are naturally more aromatic and flavorful than most types of other tobacco without the use of many, if any, additives. But keep in mind, not all blends that were made back then contained some of these types of tobacco. Unfortunately, the two words ‘English’ and ‘Latakia’ have now become synonymous with each other when talking about pipe tobacco.

A straight Virginia or Burley blend that was made under the purity laws was considered an English Blend as opposed to a blend that was made in America where they did not have to work under the confinements of the purity laws. That is where the distinction between ‘American Blends’ and ‘English Blends’ began. It is just so happens that at that time, Americans preferred to add flavorings to their pipe tobacco.

Germain's Royal Jersey Perique Pipe TobaccoBritish tobacco companies also used quite a bit of Perique in their blends to add flavor and aroma without the use of additives. [1] So why do people call blends that contain Latakia ‘English Blends’ but they do not call Virginia/Perique blends ‘English Blends’? I’m sure that Virginia/Perique blends were more popular in Great Britain long before they became popular in America.

In my opinion, it seems that the current distinction that American Blends tend to be sweet and highly flavored and that English Blends always contain Latakia is a widely spread and accepted misconception. At one time, American blends mainly consisted of Burley tobacco and were sweetened and flavored. I understand where the term ‘American Blend(s)’ came to be used, but that is hardly the case anymore. There are hundreds of blends that are currently made in America that do not contain Burley tobacco or flavorings.

Another term that has been, and is still being, used incorrectly is ‘English Style Blend’. This term is being used to describe the same thing as an ‘English Blend’; a blend that contains Latakia. With that being said, the term ‘English Style Blend’ can be a relative term if it is used correctly. Since there was a distinct way and style that English blends were made during the times of the tobacco purity laws, this term can be used to describe blends that are now being made in that tradition. But that tradition is not solely the use of Latakia; it is the use of no additives.

This term could also be applied to blends that were once made in Britain, but are now made somewhere else; such as Dunhill pipe tobacco. Dunhill pipe tobacco is now made in Denmark, but since it is supposedly made to the specifications of the old English recipes, it could be considered as an English Style Blend because it is made in that style.

I think that the commonly used definitions of these terms should Germain's Special Latakia Flakebe discarded. As most pipe smokers know, not all blends that are made in America are sweet and flavored and there are more than a few blends that are made in the UK that contain flavorings and vise versa. Times have changed and we must change with them.

It seems to me that these terms should have more up to date definitions that are also easier to understand and less complicated. There are so many terms that have been applied to pipe tobacco blends over the last 30 years that it can make your head swim. Why do we feel the need to have a million genres and sub-genres of tobacco blends and make things more complicated than they really are or need to be?

To give you an example of what I mean, here is a list of simplified terms that I use and how I define them:

English Blend – Blends that are made in the UK.
American Blend – Blends that are made in the U.S.A.
Latakia & Balkan Blends – Blends that contain a noticeable amount of Latakia. [2]
Oriental Blend – Blends that contain a large amount of Oriental tobaccos.
Virginia/Perique Blend (VA/Per) – Blends that contain Virginia tobaccos and Perique.
Virginia/Oriental Blend – Blends that contain a larger portion of Virginia than Oriental.
Aromatic Blend – Blends that contain added flavorings that are not natural to the tobacco.

So in conclusion and back to the original question, which is also the title of this article:
English Blends and Latakia Blends - One in the Same?
The answer is; No, they are not the same.

I hope that you have enjoyed this article and that it has helped some of you to better understand what exactly an English Blend really is.

Happy Puffin’!

 

——————–
Notes

1. British tobacco manufacturers still use Perique. They are just not confined to the purity laws any longer.

2. Is there a difference between Latakia blends and Balkan blends? This is addressed in my article: The Mystery of Balkan Blends

 

 

 

17 Responses to “English Blends and Latakia Blends - One and the Same?”

  1. [...] English Blends and Latakia Blends - One in the Same? [...]

  2. papipeguy said:

    Very nice article. When I was younger I always identified English blends as having latakia because that was what was available in the USA. This should clear up a lot of misconceptions, especially for the new pipe smokers.

  3. Kevin said:

    I think this is a great educational article for any newer pipe smokers, and a nice reminder for the more experienced of how things were in the past, and how they have changed as we moved into the present regarding what is referred to as an “American Blend” and what is referred to as an “English Blend” … and a Latakia blend!

    Great job researching and writing it Bob! I learned something here myself.

  4. dunc said:

    I am really glad you addressed this subject. In England the term of an “English blend” does not refer to a blend containing Latakia. I would say that with the great Master Blenders that you have in US - GLP & Mr Tarler but to mention two who I respect to hold the title of Master Blender, that American blends are better than English offerings. Certainly some of the blends offered by the aforementioned blenders are excellent in Latakia blends. I have never really understood where the terminollogy of “English” came from.
    I read this article with great interest and learned from it.
    Kind regards.
    Dunc. (North-West UK.)

  5. bowhatchie said:

    Great article Bob! Thanks for the education.. I was certainly guilty of associating Latakia with all English blends.Thanks for setting me straight, now I know better!
    Well done.

  6. tedswearingen said:

    I definitely agree that there is a distinction to be made between a latakia blend and an English blend. To my mind any blend can contain latakia but an English blend is a semi-specific recipe of Virginia and Latakia leaf born out of the British tobacco purity laws. I don’t think it matters that those laws are today irrelevant. Also, I don’t think the term should be thrown out the window or exchanged for any tobacco made in the UK. Doing so could lead to some real confusion when, for instance, discussing the difference between the current production of Nightcap and the old Murray’s production. The UK perimeter has changed quite a bit over the last 100 years. An English blend (or British blend) as the name of a blend style makes for a more consistent and stable term than one bound to national geography. When I think of an American blend, I think of the cut of tobacco favored by American blenders like C&D and McClellands.

  7. William said:

    Bob, this a good piece on illuminating that the origins of the term “English Blend” is the result of previous purity law requirements. However, I would eliminate both “English Blend” and “American Blend” from your list. Since the purity laws are no longer enforced and the classifications you give that follow them, render these terms meaningless in regards to blend type. Both the UK and the U.S.A. make all the other blends you listed. Outside of geographical curiosity these two blends do not offer the pipe smoker any useful information.

    Geography is important when classifying “types of tobaccos” and where they are grown but not necessary when classifying “types of blends”.

    It’s analogous to the questions “What kind of car do you drive and what are you smoking?” “I drive an English car and I’m smoking an American blend”. These answers are not very helpful but “I drive a sports car and I’m smoking a VaPer” are a little more clarifying.

    Anyway, that’s my suggestion if simplifying blend classifications is a goal.

  8. Bob said:

    I am glad that you all have enjoyed reading this article and that it is promoting some discussion about this subject.
    -
    I do agree that it is tricky to place globalized terms to blends and to be honest, I never use the term English Blend to describe blends made in the UK or American Blend to describe blends made in America. I was just trying to stress the point that the old/current usage of those terms really do apply anymore and that using the terms as I suggested at the end of the article might be a better use of those terms.

  9. William said:

    Bob,

    This is a great discussion and I really do appreciate you solving the mystery of the original term “English Blend”. It seems logical and reasonable when the old purity laws are referenced but it may be difficult and counter productive to disregard how “English Blend” is misunderstood by the majority today.

    Ted,

    I believe out posts got posted out of order and I wanted to clarify my suggestion for eliminating the term “English Blend” from Bob’s list. That suggestion was only if Bob’s current definition of an “English Blend” was adopted because I don’t see how it would be useful with the other blend definitions he gave. I love the term “English Blend”, the images it conjures, the latakia flavor I associate with it (sorry Bob), and do not want it eliminated. Bob stated that “Times have changed and we must change with them.” Exactly! Time has changed the meaning of “English Blend” and it is now understood in the very way Bob explains how it became misunderstood. Correct me on that if I’m wrong. Attempting to either reintroduce the original meaning of “English Blend” or using it only to classify blends made in the UK either confuses the issue or makes is useless.

    I still associate the term” English Blend” with Latakia and most likely always will. In another forum thread I proposed that we use your inherited classification system (see below). I feel it is simpler and more nostalgically interesting.

    Va = Virginia
    Va + Perique = Va/Per
    Va + Latakia = English
    Va + Oriental/Turkish = Oriental
    Va + Oriental/Turkish + Latakia = Balkan (possibly w/out Virginia)
    Va + Oriental/Turkish + Latakia + Cavendish = Scottish
    * depending on the blender Perique or Cavendish may be used to any formula above as a ‘condiment’

  10. cornguy said:

    Very informative. I really enjoy your educational articles. I feel like I’ve earned at least a partial credit in “English blends 101.”
    …and I smoke in class!

  11. brian64 said:

    Great article Bob! And I agree it makes much more sense to use the term latakia blend.

    Also, it would be nice if all blends disclosed any and all additives they may contain…preservatives and otherwise. Do we really even know what additives may or may not be in any given blend these days?

  12. cortezattic said:

    brian64 for President! It would be nice if manufacturers listed all the leaf varieties in their blend, in order of prominence if possible, as well as all top dressings, flavorings, or other aromatic treatments.
    .

    Nice article Bob; very informative. I kinda like William’s identification scheme (let’s make him vice president :)

  13. glpease said:

    Interesting article, Bob, and some of your suggestions are spot on, but recasting the term “English Blend” to mean something other than its current connotation, at least in the US, would likely be quite a struggle, and what about obaccos that once had an English pedigree, but are now produced on the continent? (Dunhill, for instance.).

    The term has been in relatively common usage for decades, and words in common use tend to be part of the language for a very long time. The US pipe smoking community at large would not easily abandon referring to Latakia mixtures as “English Blends,” nor would UK smokers abandon calling them “Mixtures.” Anyone using the new connotation will be at odds with someone using it the old way.

    I fully agree that “Latakia mixture” makes a lot more sense, and tend to use the term myself. At least lately.

    Always something to think about!

    -glp

  14. William said:

    Cortez,

    The classification system came from Ted. He shared it in the forum a week ago titled “The Different Blends” and explained that he learned it from someone who worked with Peter Stokkebye for six years.

  15. [...] English Blends and Latakia Blends - One in the Same? [...]

  16. morlader said:

    An interesting topic.Here in England we dont seem to use the term English Blend it is usually Latakia Blend ( my prefered phrase ) or Balkan Blend. However we do have American Blends which are predominantly aromatic also there are several blends of Danish origin and these also are aromatic.When I think of American tobacco I remember back to my seafaring days in the 1950’s when I was around the USA and what comes to mind is Prince Albert and Half and Half. my preference these days is Full Strenght Commonwealth mixture ” Fully steamed Virginia and Latakia ” For a slightly aromatic blend I smoke Peterson’s Sunset Breeze. Virginia,Burley and Black Cavendish with a touch of Amarretto for flvour.

  17. david said:

    real nice article! thanks a lot!
    now the question:
    witch tobacco / mixture / brand you would consider a “true” english one?

 

 

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