By Bob Tate
In the years that I have been involved with pipe smoking, I have heard and read numerous things from pipe smokers that I do not agree with or just doesn’t make any sense to me. One of the things that I continually see and hear is that pipe smokers evolve over time in their choice of tobacco blends. Some people call it a natural progression. I consider both of the terms one in the same as it applies to this case.
The general meaning of it, as I have heard and read, is that; most pipe smokers start off smoking Aromatic blends because they don’t know any better and naturally progress and evolve into smoking English Blends when they learn how to properly taste and appreciate the flavors of tobacco. (I prefer to use the term Latakia blends instead of English blends. Read about it in my article: English Blends and Latakia Blends – One in the same?).
It seems that the popular opinion amongst pipe smokers is that Aromatic blends are horrible tobacco and that they are for beginning pipe smokers because they don’t know any better and they need time to be able to appreciate the finer tobaccos and blends that are available. It also seems that the general consensus is that Latakia is the top of the pipe tobacco smoking evolutionary ladder and is the ‘end all, be all’ in pipe smoking. Once you get to where you only smoke Latakia blends, then you are considered a “real” pipe smoker.
I do not agree with this at all and I for one do not buy into or like the whole “Evolution of Pipe Smoking” and consider it another myth associated with pipe smoking that is driven by popular opinion. While I do love Latakia blends, I also love Aromatic, Virginia, Virginia/Perique blends, etc. I have smoked some really bad Aromatic blends, but I have also smoked some really bad Latakia blends.
By saying that pipe smokers will evolve from smoking Aromatic blends to smoking Latakia blends as they learn more about pipe smoking implies, at least to me, that Aromatic blends and Aromatic smokers are less evolved and know less than Latakia blends and Latakia smokers. It is like saying that Aromatic smokers are like primitive humans (because they don’t know any better) and that Latakia smokers are what humans have evolved into today (highly intelligent). I consider this rubbish.
I am sure that beginning pipe smokers and Aromatic smokers in general, know whether or not if they like the flavor of something. I would compare this with coffee. Some people like a strong brewed black coffee and some people like a weaker coffee with cream and sugar. It is all about personal preference. Some people feel that if they have to acquire the taste for something that it is not worth it and that they will continue with the things that they enjoy the flavor of.
Due to marketing and popular opinion, Aromatic blends have come to be known as blends that are very sweet and highly cased or topped with artificial flavors. But in truth, an Aromatic tobacco is a tobacco that contains aromatic additives or flavorings that add flavors to the tobacco that are not natural to the tobacco leaf itself.  So in my opinion, and if you want to get technical, Latakia should be classified as an aromatic tobacco.
Just like Perique, Latakia is not a tobacco varietal, but the result of a process that the tobacco goes through. Latakia is made from Oriental tobaccos that go through a process that ‘cures’ or ‘smokes’ the tobacco to impart a particular flavor to the leaf. After the tobacco has been dried, it is hung in a barn and is fire-cured over the smoke of burning aromatic woods and fragrant herbs. This imparts a distinct flavor to the tobacco and makes it an aromatic tobacco because it adds flavors that are not characteristic to the tobacco leaf. So in essence, people who smoke Latakia blends are smoking aromatic blends, thus making them aromatic smokers.
Just remember that there is no “Evolution” that a pipe smoker goes through. Everyone has different tastes and prefers different things. Don’t feel that if you prefer Aromatic blends that you are any less of a pipe smoker than someone who prefers to not smoke Aromatics.
Enjoy yourself and remember; Smoke what YOU like, and like what you smoke!
1. I would like to clarify my usage of the terms Aromatic Tobacco and Aromatic Blend. While a lot of tobacco varietals are actually considered to be naturally aromatic tobaccos, I am using the terms Aromatic Tobacco and Aromatic Blends in the sense that most pipe smokers use them; as a tobacco or blend that has been flavored with flavorings added by the blender.