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blends were originally called English blends because they were made in Great Britain and also because of the old, now repealed, Tobacco Purity Laws that had to be adhered to in Great Britain at the time.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’!

 

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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