Moving From English Blends to Pure Virginias

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Fo0zle

Lurker
Jan 22, 2023
46
250
29
Western N.C.
I’ve recently returned to pipe smoking after a long hiatus. Both times I’ve been into it I’ve exclusively smoked English blends, so I’m trying to branch out a bit and see what I might have been missing.

I ordered some Cornell & Diehl Autumn Evening as a first aromatic blend and some Sutliff 507C Virginia Slices as a first pure Virginia blend.

I tried the 507C tonight in a brand new corn cob and I found it to be incredibly light to the extent that I felt like I was smoking a cigarette through one of those long filters :LOL:

I used to roll my own cigarettes and the experience was quite similar. Almost felt strange not to inhale it.

I even smelled like I smoked a cigarette after I came back inside…

I guess what I’m wondering is…. Is this just the specific blend I ordered or are Virginias supposed to be this light?

My go-to blends these days are Presbyterian Mixture and Peterson Nightcap occasionally.

I’m open to the possibility that I got it right the first time and English blends are my thing.. but I’d hate to write off other things based on this experience.

Is 507C exemplary enough of straight Virginias that I should be confident that they’re not my thing? Should I try VaPers or something else?

I love buying new blends but I’m not made of money so I’m trying to narrow things down a bit before I go spending more. 😆
 

OzPiper

Lifer
Nov 30, 2020
5,830
31,011
71
Sydney, Australia
I came back to smoking pipes a few years ago after smoking cigars exclusively for 15 years.

I smoked Latakia/Oriental blends predominantly for a long while as those flavours were bold, instantly recognisable and satisfying.
I was lucky to have a very generous friend who introduced me to his favourite blends and supplied me with a never ending stream of samples to try.

Lately I've been exploring VaPers, Virginia-Burley and Virginia-Cavendish blends. And straight Virginias.

My palate is finally ready for more subtle tobaccos 😄
 

PipeIT

Lifer
Nov 14, 2020
4,453
26,765
Hawaii
On a different topic about VAs, if you’re new to pipe smoking, or weren’t aware, be careful, the PH balance of these can bite.

Check out at the bottom of this post, I found a lot of great info online about Bite.


P.S. And no, not all VAs are light, some can be quite rich.
 

pipingfool

Can't Leave
Sep 29, 2016
369
1,476
Seattle, WA
This seems to be a very common journey for new/new-ish pipesmokers, myself included.

I started out with predominantly English Blends and the first Virginia blends that I smoked, I really didn't like. But I kept experimenting with them until one night, it all clicked for me.

Virginias are a whole new ball game. They can be straightforward, easy smokes. They can delicate and nuanced. They can change dramatically when condimental leaves such as Perique and Orientals are added. And they can age for years like no other type of tobacco, in my opinion. But they require a much slower smoking cadence than most English blends.

This is an analogy that I used for a friend of mine who just could not figure out what the fuss was about Virginia blends. If you are a wine drinker, then it will make sense. If not, well then, I guess you can skip to the next reply. LOL!

Think of an English Blend as a big, fruit forward Napa Valley Cabernet. Full of flavor. Big in body. tannin and alcohol. Most of the time you don't have to search for the flavors in a wine like that. It hits your palate like Thor's Hammer. They are good wines, no doubt. But they have a certain flavor profile that attracts some newcomers because they don't require a lot of "training" to coax out the flavors.

Virginias, on the other hand, would be your French Burgundies (Pinot Noir) of pipe tobacco. Burgundy/Pinot is much more delicate and nuanced. The flavors can be subtle. And they are generally lighter in body, tannins and alcohol. But once you get used to tasting them, they are fantastic and ethereal at times.

Virginias are a lot like that. It takes some time and training for your palate to recognize what's going on in the smoke if you are used to big English blends.

But the number one advice I could give is SLOW DOWN when smoking Virginias. Not only will you pick up more flavor, you will also minimize any bite that might creep up with a fast cadence.

Happy Puffing!!
 

bullet08

Lifer
Nov 26, 2018
8,942
37,946
RTP, NC. USA
Virginia takes time. Your palate will have to get to a point where you can notice thing. Could be few months or could be much longer. Latakia's very forgiving. Burns cooler and easy to recognize. Virginia needs little work. And she does burn little hotter. And tobacco, if smoked hot and fast, will somewhat taste like cigarette. Also, dry Virginia more. To a point, it's lightly crispy on the edges.
 

Fo0zle

Lurker
Jan 22, 2023
46
250
29
Western N.C.
Thanks for the responses. Sounds like I need to spend some more time with this blend and others.

Any recommendations for a straight Virginia with a bit more complexity than 507C?

I’m wondering if my problem is compounded by this also being my first time smoking out of a corn cob pipe. I’m not used to the smoke being so dry and neutral. It felt almost clinical in comparison to the woody, smoky taste of my briar pipes.

My cadence was perhaps a bit faster in the corn cob as well, since the draw was much more open than I’m used to. I’ve never packed a bowl with flake / slices before so I was winging it. But it felt like no matter how much pressure I used tamping it, I couldn’t get the draw to tighten up.

The Missouri meerschaum I ordered has a little ramp at the bottom of the bowl where the bore hole is, so tobacco doesn’t pack all the way to the bottom. Seems weird to me.
 

rmbittner

Lifer
Dec 12, 2012
2,759
1,995
Any recommendations for a straight Virginia with a bit more complexity than 507C?
I think it was unfortunate that your first Virginia experience was with a bulk flake; IMO, it’s the rare bulk that can compete with a tinned blend.

Rattray’s has a terrific range of Virginias, although some also include a touch of perique. You might enjoy Old Gowrie, Marlin Flake, and Hal o’ the Wynd. Perhaps my favorite VA flake is Samuel Gawith’s Full Virginia Flake, followed by Peterson’s Flake and Capstan Blue. Dan Tobacco’s Hamborger Veermaster is worth trying, but for me it was less interesting than all of the others above.

I haven’t smoked it, but MacBaren’s HH Virginia is well regarded.

And I have a tin of GLPease’s Laurel Heights in the cellar that is described as an all-Virginia blend, but I have yet to try it. I would expect it to be a wonderful blend, though, given my experience of other GLP tobaccos.
 
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Duke of Erinmore

Can't Leave
Jul 5, 2020
316
1,415
45
Bayreuth, Bavaria, Germany
Well, I try VA or decent aromatics from time to time, and smoke them with some pleasure. But my alldays are all English, and I rarely finish a tin of the others (except for Erinmore, Ennerdale and Daddy Gefftl) but give huge parts to people that are more into that stuff.

So no matter how I look at it, English Blends are my thing. Can't help it.
 

hawky454

Lifer
Feb 11, 2016
5,338
10,221
Austin, TX
It took me a good 6 - 7 years to really appreciate VA’s. I would suggest never writing a genre off entirely, come back to them and try them out from time to time. One day out of the blue, I smoked Escudo for the umpteenth time but this time, I could really taste it, whereas before all I tasted was smoke. If you can learn to taste VA’s, I can assure you that it’s worth the period of trial and error… unless of course you lean how to taste them but still don’t like the taste.
 

brian64

Lifer
Jan 31, 2011
9,634
14,748
I've only tried straight VA a couple of times and tasted very little...but I love Perique so much that I lack the motivation to train my palate. But I do think some people are just born with superior taste/smell senses...I'm not one of them (also I have a deviated septum which I suspect is a factor in my overall taste/smell function...and makes retrohaling a bit more difficult).

How I experience any blend is also greatly affected by what if anything I've had to eat or drink shortly prior to smoking.

I have yet to try well aged straight VA though, and have some cellared. Eventually I'll see how much difference it makes...I suspect I'll still end up adding some Perique.
 

pipingfool

Can't Leave
Sep 29, 2016
369
1,476
Seattle, WA
I would suggest Newminster 400 Navy Flake as well. It’s a bulk, but pretty damn tasty fresh and great with some age. A little sweetness and nuance but enough flavor so you won’t get bored.

The other one I like is Orlik Golden Sliced. Yes, there is a TINY amount of Perique in it, but hardly noticeable. It’s been a staple of mine since I started on my Virginia pathway.
 

elvishrunes

Starting to Get Obsessed
Jun 19, 2017
275
497
Yeah as others have mentioned some are lighter than others…. I find Orlik actually a pretty strong full tobacco both in taste and nic….
 

PipeIT

Lifer
Nov 14, 2020
4,453
26,765
Hawaii
Careful with too much Virginia. Tongue bite is real.

For me it’s not my tongue, the roof of my mouth feels like it gets slightly scalded and raw, and then it throbs and aches slightly.

I’m actually on a pipe rest now, haven’t smoked in two weeks because of this. I’m probably going to wait one more month, you know, getting old, you slow down healing.

One bloody thing is for sure, I will dry my VAs/VaPers drier and sip them even slower than before.

edger there has some good advice too, just barely keep them smoldering. I personally will barely light them, take a few sips and let it go out.

Jim mentioned to me before, to watch out for Bright VAs.

P.S. I can’t wait to get back to the pipe from resting from the VA Blues! LOL 😆
 

Yadkin1765

Starting to Get Obsessed
Nov 28, 2022
120
476
Maine
Warning: be careful! Successfully switching from Englishes to Virginias may cause a sudden depreciation in appreciation for English blends once held in high regard. The difference is like taking straight shot of Jack Daniels vs sipping a nuanced scotch that will only benefit from proper aging, not that I don't enjoy JD now and then. But once you get a taste for it, everything else seems adulterated.