Fermentation of Tobacco.

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alialansari

Junior Member
Mar 2, 2015
79
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Hidd, Bahrain.
Good Day,
I was wondering whether or not the fermentation of tobacco leaves, such as the case with Perique and Cavendish, produces alcohol as a by-product similarly to alcoholic fermentation.

I would appreciate your input on this matter.
Regards.

 

dottiewarden

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Mar 25, 2014
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Toronto
Welcome aboard alialansari
Interesting question. I'll be following this thread just to read the responses from all the knowledgeable gentlemen around here.

 

chasingembers

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Nov 12, 2014
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Alcohol production is the consumption of sugars by yeast. Tobacco fermentation has to do with nicotine reduction. Found this on victoryseeds.com.
After fresh tobacco has been harvested and cured (by air, flue or fire curing), it must be further processed in order to make it a premium product. This applies to the leaf used for all parts of a cigar - filler, binder, and wrapper.
The process is known as fermentation and must be carefully monitored at all times. Essentially, the bales of cured (and dried) leaf are received, moistened, and laid up into large piles called "bulks." The centers of the bulks generate heat and are monitored so that they are not allowed to exceed 115 to 130 degrees F.
The leaves in the bulk are rotated out from center to outside and the heat allowed to build up again. This process is repeated, as necessary, from four to eight cycles until the generation of heat levels off. Each cycle or rotation is know as a "sweat." The "sweating" or fermentation process releases nitrogen and other chemical compounds. It also reduces the nicotine content.
After fermentation has been completed and the leaves re-dried, the tobacco is again restacked into bales or barrels and allowed to age. This aging process helps to enhance the flavors and the burning qualities. It is this step that sets aside premium, high quality cigar manufacturers, an hence their cigars, from the inferior ones.
Common signs that the tobacco leaf has not been fully fermented and aged include:
harshness, bitterness, or a metallic taste on the tongue, lips and in the mouth.
a feeling something like heartburn in the chest cavity.
the cigar keeps going out easily.
One last point, once a cigar is made, the tobacco in it can no longer be fermented. A cigar must be maintained and under the proper storage conditions, may mellow and improve with age. That said, if unfermented or un-aged tobacco is used in the making of a cigar, no amount of time will improve its characteristics.

 

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jitterbugdude

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Mar 25, 2014
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In regards to Perique and Cavendish: Neither one will produce alcohol. Perique is fermented anaerobically. The predominate microbes in the finished Perique are yeasts. Cavendish is not fermented in the strict sense. It is tobacco leaf (Burley, Maryland, Virginia) that has gone through the fermentation/sweat process and then processed further by the addition of sweeteners and steaming (to darken the leaf).

 

chasingembers

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More perique info.
http://fairtradetobacco.com/threads/5542-Microorganisms-involved-in-Perique-fermentation

 

alialansari

Junior Member
Mar 2, 2015
79
1
Hidd, Bahrain.
Thank you all for your replies. As it turns out, Cavendish and Cigar leaf tobacco is indeed 'fermented' not in the traditional sense of the word. However regarding Perique, I am only concerned for having stumbled upon this a few days ago: http://www.bestabsinthe.com/perique.htm
Cheers.

 

phred

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Dec 11, 2012
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"Fermentation" simply refers to the conversion of sugars by yeast and/or other microorganisms (lactobacilli, for example). The sugars get converted into alcohol in some cases (but not all), acids in other cases (kimichi, for example), and gasses (CO2 in particular). The end result depends upon both the material being fermented (malted grain extract for beer and spirits, bread dough for bread, tobacco for Perique, cabbage for sauerkraut and/or kimchi) and the particular strain of yeast or lactobacillus used (you can make alcohol with bread yeast, for example, but it's not very good...).

 

menuhin

Preferred Member
Oct 21, 2014
642
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I bet the signature ketchup smell of McClelland Virginia broken flakes is probably related to certain kind of fermentation or aging. If only I know how to re-create this ketchup smell, then I would do some experiments at home.

 

cosmicfolklore

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Aug 9, 2013
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Jitterbugdude, I thought that you have aged your own tobaccos? That ketchup/vinegar smell is all natural. I get it on my homemade age cured Virginias. As the ammonia is evaporated off, the vinegar smell comes forward. And, I didn't add anything to mine. So, I would assume that the smell of McClellands is the natural cure also, as mine has that exact same fragrance. But, it's not fermentation, just a part of the cure.

 

jitterbugdude

Preferred Member
Mar 25, 2014
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CF, I've had hints of vinegar on my tobacco but never a ketchup smell. I've only tried 1 tin of McClellands and that was Christmas cheer. It reeked of ketchup. Perhaps we can swap some homegrown and compare?

 

menuhin

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Oct 21, 2014
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@cosmic

Thanks this possible answer to the source of ketchup smell of McClelland Virginia. I want to believe that is true indeed.
Here comes a follow-up question:

If McClelland Virginia tobaccos are so well-beloved and the aging process is so pure (and hence, simple), then why don't other tobacco companies just follow this simple process to process superb Virginia blends? But in fact this ketchup smells is the signature of McClelland Virginia blends.

 

woodsroad

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Oct 10, 2013
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Doesn't McClelland make McCrannies?
FIW, I notice the the aroma in McClellands, but only very slightly. I like it. 2020 Mature Flake is a favorite of mine, as is 2045 Oriental and 5100 Virginia.
I read/heard that some people can't smell it at all. Maybe I was talking about this with Les? Are you there, Les?

 

cosmicfolklore

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Sounds good. I didn't have much of a crop this year because of the drought, but I did get a few ounces. I'd be happy to swap. Keep in mind that mine is from this last year, so it is still not smokable IMO. I am still in the venting stage. I was going to seal them up at some point this month.
The ketchup comes from a mixture of the vinegar and the sour sugary Virginias, which has a fruit tomato-y smell, IMO. Mine isn't full blown ketchup yet, but it seems to be going in that direction.
Now, Mac Baren's owner, Per Jenson, has said on this forum that they do spray vinegar on their ODF line to protect it from spoiling, which figures for a company that I can't one single blend that doesn't have some sort of flavoring that I can taste on it. But, I don't smell the vinegar on that blend like I do the McClelland and McCrannies.

 

cosmicfolklore

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As far as I have gotten from my email from McCrannies, they handle the tinning, and that is the extent of what I know for sure about McCrannies and McClelland, but lots of companies swap jobs for each other like that in the tobacco world. Anything else is just speculation.
Why don't other companies make this? Good question. I wish more of them would. But, some of those European companies have an ancient set-up, whereas McClellands looks rather modern (from the outside anyways). Maybe these other places are more prone to fungus and bacterial rot of some sort. Just speculation again.
Another possible reason may be the process they use to cure. Age curing takes time, and steam pressing a flake, casing the leaf, flue curing, or Blackeney's process are quick ways to get tobacco to market, without the wait.

 

cosmicfolklore

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also menuhin, "pure" is in the eye of the beholder. The Indians also cased tobaccos, even using maple sap (syrup). And, pressing and such are also old techniques. After dealing with my own crop, I can say it's a messy job regardless.
Plus, you have to be careful handling the leaf with barehands. I had an uncle who lost his hand from working with burley in the fields without gloves. Many farmers did. It is not uncommon. So, be careful. Those oils seep right into your skin and can make you sick also.

 

dottiewarden

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Mar 25, 2014
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This thread is getting rather interesting. I never would have imagined the McKetchup to be natural. In fact I was put off by it initially, but now Frog Morton On The Bayou is one of my favorites. Honestly I don't care if it's topping or natural, I love it. But hey, if it's natural, all the better!

 

cosmicfolklore

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If you leave a tin open for a while the vinegar aroma dissipates, but it never translated into the taste of the blend anyways, so it never has bothered me.
The idea behind age curing Virginias is to allow the leaf to rot slowly, leaving as much of the essential oils and sugars intact, but allowing the ammonia and actual water moisture to dissipate, but slowly. If you rush it and sun cure or air cure it, you lose a lot of taste. Some varieties are ok to do this way, because they have pungent flavors anyway, but with something as delicate as a Virginia flavor, you want to lock in as much of that all natural goodness as possible. So, you get a rotten fruit small. That is the smell of awesomeness. IMO>
I can see whereas some companies like those European ones giving up the golden egg for the cash flow. Allowing a blend to age naturally would be space, time which means money. It's just easier to dry it, case it in honey or whatever stuff they happen to find in their grocery stores, and pass it off as a Virginia. I get that. Most smokers would probably never know the difference. Just speculation on my part.
But, on the otherhand, I find it hard sometimes to suffer through a bowl of Virginia #1 after having developed a taste for the real stuff :wink: Ha ha!!

 
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