How Would You Describe What Aging a Blend Does?

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derfargin

Preferred Member
Mar 3, 2014
2,025
0
Kennesaw, GA
I've only been at this for just under a year, and there's lots of talk about aging(specifically VA's)blends. I'm currently in the "try anything and everything I can stuff in my pipe" stage of pipesmoking. Thus far I haven't really put much into Straight VA blends because I find them boring. I find I like a bit of complexity to my smokes, but VA only blends just come off as sweet(if I get that at all from them). My favorite VA blend thus far is McC's 5100 Red Cake. I've tried Sam Gawith's Best Brown and while I found it ok, by the time I got closer to the end of the bowl I was bored with it.
I've read many posts that aging takes the "edge" off a blend. How would you describe what in fact that edge is? I haven't yet done an comparison with a fresh tin of a VA to some with some defined age on it. So, it may be just a matter of me doing that and seeing for myself.
Anyway, I thought I'd throw it out there to see if anyone may have had the same question in your smoking history, and could somehow put it to words.

 

cortezattic

Preferred Member
Nov 19, 2009
14,956
3,940
Chicago, IL
I really don't know squat about aging tobacco. I've tried it many times and have always been disappointed.

Even the popular 5100 left me unimpressed after 5 years. I guess I just prefer younger blends.

However, I can conjecture based on what I've read -- most from G L Pease.
Different blends, and blends from different manufacturers, will age in distinct ways.

Storage temperature, and, if you're using glass jars, the relative humidity at the time you put up the tobacco

as well as the amount of incidental light exposure during storage, will all affect the aging process.
I think most folks today are stockpiling tobacco, and aging is seen as a bonus.

There may be some folks who put up tobacco just to see how aging will change a blend.
Take the edge off? In a Va, that can mean reduced harshness; reduced sharpness; less grassy and more wine-like;

improved sweetness; or improved balance. With Perique, that can mean less peppery and more fruit-like, or more musty

and more prominent umami.
Claims that aging improves the sweetness of a blend have always puzzled me because aerobic bacteria metabolize sugar,

so an aged blend should be less sweet. Go figure.
I think if someone uses an expression like "takes the edge off", he should be more specific.
If you're keen to know more about what happens during aging, check out this post by kashmir, a PhD. in microbiology.

In fact, you may wish to read the Aging, Storage & Cellaring FAQ compiled by our member, planetary.

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
19,169
2,910
Outer Space
There are very few cellars over 15 years old that were created for intentional aging for tobaccos. This really didn't take off till GLP started blogging it and buying bulk tobacco online became possible. From what I understand it is an American phenomena, but is catching on worldwide.
In the blends that I've tried from trades and buying old backstock of tins, it's not a huge favor change. If you're not already a fan of Virginias and VaPers, you'll probably not going to notice much of a change. I was expecting Nirvana on a couple of tins and was sort of disappointed. The flavors change depending on the bright leafs and dark leafs, stoved, casings, condimental leafs, etc. They're all going to be different in the way they change. Some I suspect will not get better, but maybe worse in the way they taste. But, I enjoy the nuances in differences between blends anyways. I enjoy the differences in the way flakes taste between brands, etc... I'm geeky in that way. So, I look forward to subtle differences in flavors, good or bad. Think, if you enjoy 20 or so different blends of Virginias, then when you also have an aged selection of 1, 2, 10, years at your disposal, you'll increase the amount of different flavors to choose from. That's how I see it.

But, there's also the fact that tobacco will not get any cheaper. The more I can stash back now, the less I'll have to pay in the future. It's an investment in a way.

 

bwithers55

Member
Jul 17, 2012
107
0
Some might say that taking the edge off means losing the top note(s) of the flavor so that what remains is a rounder flavor. In addition, the sharpness of the perique will be toned down, too.
-bw

 

settersbrace

Preferred Member
Mar 20, 2014
1,565
0
Virginias can be a bit bitey to me when young and having only recently been turned on to some 20+ year old Virginia flakes of differing origins can I say that I now am starting to "get it". By "it" I mean the benefit of aging these tobaccos to allow them to be tamed and build in complexity. The wine reference is a good one and although there are a few Virginias that I can pop and smoke, the overall field for my taste is fairly narrow. I think that even a year or two can make a big difference and I am now carefully laying away quite a few bulk and tinned selections with no other purpose than to put some age on them. It's kind of fun to stash away something and patiently wait for the day you can open it up and see what the years have done for it.

 

papipeguy

Preferred Member
Jul 31, 2010
15,799
8
Bethlehem, Pa.
I don't cellar tobacco intentionally but 2 years ago I found a tin of MacBaren's Mixture in my parent's basement that I must have left there in 1977. It was still sealed and when I finally got it open the difference between 1977 and today was very pronounced. I find MacB blends to be on the sharp side anyway but this was now like honey in a pipe. Very enjoyable to say the least.

That was a happy accident and I appreciated it but I would not bother to deliberately store anything for 5 years or more. I buy stuff to smoke now while I can.

 

ruscho

Member
Jul 8, 2014
134
0
There are very few cellars over 15 years old that were created for intentional aging for tobaccos. This really didn't take off till GLP started blogging it and buying bulk tobacco online became possible. From what I understand it is an American phenomena, but is catching on worldwide.
I don't agree at all with this statement. Sure, Americans didn't age blends in the past, but what's to gain with aging a cheap aro burley like CH?!? Or any other aro?
Aging actually became nearly a necessity thanks to new blenders like C&D, who are using young tobaccos and make no attempt to age their blends before sending them to market. The big companies like Orlik and Mac Baren have a ton of aged leaf, which is a big advantage and I am sure that because of their long-established contacts they are getting the better leaf than the new companies to begin with. Most people claim that the old Dunhill blends were better because Dunhill was aging the leaf for years before and after blending. I.e. in the past, the tobacco companies aged the leaf for us, now we have to do it ourselves.
To me, as mostly English blend smoker, aging is very important, as it helps the different tobaccos marry into a more uniform mixture. For example, with a fresh English blend, it's possible that you pack your pipe with more VAs than Latakia (compared to the proportion intended by the blender) and that would affect your smoke. If the blend has had a couple of years time to marry - every bowl will taste exactly the same, regardless of the small variations in actual leaf.
With VA and Vapers, I age mostly because I don't smoke them that often. But I find VAs to mellow down with time, which is maybe what people perceive as "sweeter"? I also love seeing SG flakes turn from black/brown to white :)

 

phil67

Preferred Member
Dec 14, 2013
2,052
2
I buy stuff to smoke now while I can.
A double amen to that, and as it should be. Granted, if you wish to stock up for some foreseeable tax increases, no longer being able to purchase tobacco online, etc. then by all means go for it. Other than that I think this 'aging' thing is way to over hyped, and quite frankly, attributed to the computer age and social media.
Buy it... smoke it. It worked for my grandfather and my great uncle and it seems to be working just fine for me. :wink:

 

cigrmaster

Preferred Member
May 26, 2012
14,182
4,007
United States
I have found that aging VA, Vaper and Vabur flakes makes the tobacco smoother, rounder and more complex. I opened a tin of Fribourg& Treyer Cut Virginia Plug and a tin of Hamborger Veermaster that were both 10 years old and both tobaccos were jet black and looked nothing like they originally did. The flavors of figs and raisins were amazing and both blends were smooth as silk. I opened a 15 year old tin of Orlik Dark Strong Kentucky which is a Vabur and again the flavors were amazing. I opened a 11 year old tin of Escudo and it was incredibly creamy, the virginia's were like stewed fruit and the perigue had mellowed but still had a spicy component. I have smoked all 4 fresh and while I do enjoy them, a decade of age turns them into a completely different animal.
I am currently smoking through a pound of 2006 SG Best Brown Flake that is just awesome. Again it is rounder, smoother, sweeter and just plain tastier. I only age flakes as I have found for my tastes they age the best.

 

mikestanley

Preferred Member
May 10, 2009
1,348
77
Akron area of Ohio
I've been buying tobacco to age since 1989. I cut my teeth on articles by and conversations with Barry Levin, Tag Gage,Dr. Fred Hanna, Greg Pease and Richard Hacker among others. I believe in the benefits. I age Virginias, Vapers, Balkans and English blends. My intention is to smooth out Latakia blends while the Virginias in those blends sweeten and stengthen in flavor. I age mainly to get my newer blends to take on the characteristics of the blends from England that were available back when I took up the pipe. I believe the various individual components of blends were aged prior to blending longer back then. Time being money, it is probably tough to make money without "rushing" things a bit these days. There was a flavor, a wine like character that blends of old had before they were sent to the Continent to be made. I'm not great at describing flavors. McClelland blends seem to age at a "slower" rate than most others, to me. A ten yr. old tin of Escudo is much different from it's fresh cousin than the difference between 10 yr. old St. James Woods is to a fresh tin. The ammonia levels in fresh tobacco are much more pronounced in fresh Virginias. Time seems to exchange this for a pleasant, musty aroma that equates to great flavor in my taste. Bottom line, in my opinion, not aging most blends is to miss out on some of the great flavors tobacco offer.
Mike S.

 
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