This Genre Which is Not One - African-Grown VA Leaf? RY, Gawith Twists, &c

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beastinview

Part of the Furniture Now
Jan 5, 2016
504
1
I’ve noticed that we in the internet pipe tobacco community like our genres—one finds scores of threads comparing various blends in their respective genres: Pure VAs, Va/Pers, English blends, Balkan, Burleys, and so on. Yet I’ve discovered that what seems to be my favorite kind of leaf/blend has very little terminology associated with it.
The Imperial Virginia:

I’m stealing this term from the user “deathmetal” who used it a while back. This leaf is a Virginia, but doesn’t fit the general descriptions of VA leaf. It is grown mostly in Africa (I see Malawi mentioned some in descriptions) but I’ve also seen Indian-grown VA mentioned as well in blends that have these qualities. It is the central ingredient in quite a few blends produced in Great Britain and Europe, though I don't think I've seen it used by any American blenders.
Characteristics of the Leaf:

--Big nic-hit

--Robust, full, earthy flavor--almost cigar like at times

--Not nearly as sweet as most VA, but not as dry and nutty as Burley either
I first noticed when I smoked Royal Yacht, I thought—what sort of Virginia is this? I loved it. It wasn’t particularly sweet itself (although the topping was a bit), and was loaded with nicotine. I asked around, and some members mentioned it was African-grown VA.
I tried Gawith’s Maple twist. Again, I loved it. Not nutty like burley—it had a hint of sweetness—but this was the sweetness one finds in a strong cigar. Again, it turns out the leaf was African-grown VA.
I started to realize that there was a constant here--
1792 Flake, another of my favorites, seems to be composed of African-grown VA from my research.
Dark Flake is equal parts dark-fired Malawi leaf and air-cured Indian leaf. Again, rich flavor, lots of nicotine.
Dark Birdseye, Kendal Kentucky, Kendal Dark, all of the twists--it seems many of the G&H and SG offerings that I enjoy so much all contain this leaf in some proportion.
I think one main thing that keeps these from being so much a coherent genre is that some have unusual toppings (1792, Royal Yacht) in addition to the Gawith blends sometimes containing a whiff of Lakeland in them. This can be a turnoff for some, thought it isn’t for me. Although some of these have a Burley or Kentucky component, the base VA leaf is really what wins me over.
Is anyone else a fan? Any other blends you’d like to mention that are in this basic genre? Any corrections to some of the things I’ve stated above?

 

stickframer

Part of the Furniture Now
Apr 11, 2015
875
6
Great topic. I've noticed all the characteristics you've mentioned, and am a big fan of African grown VA. I vaguely recall a thread or post mentioning the challenges of growing tobacco in the region, mainly from long standing issues that the area has faced for so long. I wish I remembered more about it.
I have to add McBaren Old Dark Fired to the list of blends.

 

jitterbugdude

Part of the Furniture Now
Mar 25, 2014
993
6
African grown tobacco is considered low grade in the tobacco trade. What you are tasting is the sauces that are added. Just because pipe tobacco companies put on their label " finest quality tobacco from Africa" or some other nonsense doesn't make it so.

 
There are a few strains of Virginia outside of Virginia Gold that taste different. Orinoco come to mind.

Yep, I'm a Dark Virginia fan. I grew forty plants this year. I'm not sure, but I think all of these regional dark Virginias are from the Dark VA strain. They have that same musty sweetness to them. Twists, GH&co has quite a few nice dark Virginias. Maybe cased, but I like the smoke cured dark Virginias the most.

 

ltstone

Part of the Furniture Now
Dec 30, 2015
503
50
I've been smoking the Vanilla Flake and Ennerdale lately. The Vanilla Flake has that Lakeland taste all the way down and the added sweetness is very detectable. But for that pure tobacco taste I really like good old Brown Twist. MMM,MMM.

 

bigpond

Lifer
Oct 14, 2014
2,019
12
Imperial is a poor and potentially offensive descriptor for something that already has a perfectly fine name, African Va. Brazilian Va could also be considered "imperial" though it has little in common with African leaf. I've always thought African Va's had the telltale taste of rooibos tea, particularly noticeable in the red va's. Savinelli doblone d'oro has a whole truck load of the stuff.

 

beastinview

Part of the Furniture Now
Jan 5, 2016
504
1
Sorry for any triggering I've done. My thread on a little leaf is getting a few people a bit upset it seems. :lol:

African grown tobacco is considered low grade in the tobacco trade. What you are tasting is the sauces that are added. Just because pipe tobacco companies put on their label " finest quality tobacco from Africa" or some other nonsense doesn't make it so.

Sorry, old chap--you seem to be confused. We aren't discussing the "grade" or "quality" of a tobacco, nor the topping, but rather a specific leaf. As our resident grower, Cosmic highlighted the difference above: it's actually a different type of seed. Though different tobacco leaf is often distinguished by region (Virginia, Kentucky, Latakia, etc.) this is admittedly a bit confusing because VA may be grown quite a bit outside VA. Compound that with VA that's grown in Africa, but can be grown elsewhere, perhaps this is a bad name.
Imperial is a poor and potentially offensive descriptor for something that already has a perfectly fine name, African Va.
The question is--is it really African VA? Or is it better referred to as "Dark VA"? It seems Cosmic has grown it perfectly well here in the states. I merely borrowed the term "Imperial" as it seemed to apply to also the leaf grown in India. I hope everyone knows the British empire is now defunct, but my apologies to any I've offended.
Compound that with the confusion above, and I think "Dark Virginia" will be a better descriptor from here on.
Cosmic--how exactly is the seed differentiated? Is it marketed as a different species, or what? (I'm a bit hazy on agriculture, botany, etc.)
I would add Warrior Plug to your already delicious list. :puffy:

Thank you guys for this and your other wonderful suggestions. I will have to place a big order to GQ Tobaccos to get some of these harder-to-find blends that we see across the pond.
But for that pure tobacco taste I really like good old Brown Twist.

It really is hard to beat. I'm going to give Gawith's "Lakeland Dark" a whirl. I think it is quite unfortunately named, as it is actually purported to be the unscented version of 1792 Flake. That said, I'm pretty sure there is a huge class of American smokers who won't touch anything with "Lakeland" in the name who might actually like the blend.

 

beastinview

Part of the Furniture Now
Jan 5, 2016
504
1
I've always thought African Va's had the telltale taste of rooibos tea, particularly noticeable in the red va's. Savinelli doblone d'oro has a whole truck load of the stuff.
Looks like I've going to have to snag some Rooibos tea!
And that may explain my affinity for Doblone D'Oro. It's good stuff.

 
Cosmic--how exactly is the seed differentiated? Is it marketed as a different species, or what? (I'm a bit hazy on agriculture, botany, etc.)

Differentiated from what? From Virginia Gold, it looks very similar in the garden, but as it is drying, I notice that the color, aroma, and "feel" starts to separate itself from the VA Gold. It is mustier. I am treating it just like I am the VA Gold. I have no idea how they cure it in Africa, and I am not set up to smoke cure it, although I draw up plans to build something every year. I just have too much going on to complete a smoker.
Jitter may have some ideas on curing it. He has been growing much longer than me. But, ha ha, I imagine by his earlier post that he is going to suggest a strong casing or topping.
In smoking the sand lugs, it does have a back of the throat flavor that is not all that pleasant. I am hoping that gets balanced out in curing and aging.
I have some rope that I twisted up last year that used a little of this in some of it. But, I am waiting patiently for one more year before I start smoking it.

 

beastinview

Part of the Furniture Now
Jan 5, 2016
504
1
Cosmic--I suppose I just meant in purchasing, how did you know you were receiving a Dark Virginia seed? Is "Dark Virginia" the trade name of this sort of seed, or is it marketed a bit more randomly than that?
I'm quite certain the Dark VA is a different strain from say, a red or yellow VA, and the difference isn't just the casing, since one has a ton of nicotine and the others have (to my senses) virtually zero nicotine, seemingly regardless of how they are cured.

 

beastinview

Part of the Furniture Now
Jan 5, 2016
504
1
And my apologies to jitterbug if he is an experienced grower, but regardless of what grade the leaf is considered in the tobacco biz, I quite like it. I suppose I'm a pleb, but I guess I sealed that fate when I moved from cigars to pipes. :puffy:

 
Everything that we know as the common Virginia, red, yellow, browns, etc... comes from the Virginia Gold seed, which is also used in many cigarette varieties... before the cigarette companies destroy it.

Dark Virginia, Orinoco, and a few other varieties in the Virginia family are sold as they are classified.
Red Virginia is made by the cure. Gold, brown, etc... are just the way the tobacco is prepared. I am just not that familiar with what differentiates the African from the others. However, I would gamble that Dark Virginia is the seed stock. I just can't say so with any real knowledge or authority.

 

beastinview

Part of the Furniture Now
Jan 5, 2016
504
1
Thanks. On the bright side, speaking of different strains and species, this thread has inspired me to go order some Nicotiana rustica bundles--I found a site that imports them from South America. I'm curious whether and pipe tobacco blends sneak a little of this in as an ingredient. I know Cotton Boll twist is reputedly made of rustica, but it's not made for smoking.

I know you're growing some. Let us know how they turn out when they're ready. :)

 

bigpond

Lifer
Oct 14, 2014
2,019
12
Sorry for any triggering I've done. My thread on a little leaf is getting a few people a bit upset it seems. :lol:

A wee bit childish, no?
Sorry, old chap--you seem to be confused.
Oh, there is confusion but it is not on this side of the fence. However, there is hope and it's pretty easy to reach. Take a look at these links:
http://www.thetobaccoseed.com/Pipe_Tobacco.html

http://sustainableseedco.com/pipe-tobacco-seed-types/
You'll find descriptions and in some cases lineages of current strains which include those referenced above.
For an interesting read on Orinoco and it's development and proliferation in colonial US read this: (don't worry, it's 100% safe and legit)

https://ejournals.unm.edu/index.php/historicalgeography/article/download/.../2400
We aren't discussing the "grade" or "quality" of a tobacco, nor the topping, but rather a specific leaf.
Nope, you are speculating entirely based on taste and a marketing blurb. Unless you are privy to a blenders recipe book, that is. Read the links and you'll see that "imperial" is silly, African Va. is less silly, and something like lizard tail orinoco is even less silly. However, the reality is that most of the Va that is grown in Africa is simply listed as "Golden Virginia" tobacco. This is the seed tenant farmers purchase to grow on their land, which is sold by local agents for Gawith's, for example. Incidentally, the exact same process occurs for Malawi, which is almost entirely a Burley region.
Edit: Perhaps the largest point that underscores this entire speculative exercise is one that has more to do with the soil than the the seed, and that is terroir as African seed stock was transplanted from the new world.

 

beastinview

Part of the Furniture Now
Jan 5, 2016
504
1
So bigpond, what is your position?
That all of our understanding of what leaves are used in blends are inaccurate because we aren't privy to blender's recipe books? Who knows if McClellenad Burley Flake is really a burley or if red cake is a VA? We've just been hoodwinked by tin descriptions? I genuinely want to learn, but I'm merely unclear on how this relates to my original post, and I certainly won't be privy to any blenders' recipe books anytime soon.

 

beastinview

Part of the Furniture Now
Jan 5, 2016
504
1
To clarify: are you suggesting lizard tail orinoco is perhaps a common ingredient in blends I've mentioned above? Or are you just suggesting that they likely bear nothing in common?
Also, would African and other foreign growers be purchasing seed of an American website like sustainable seed? Seems like they might have their own strains that have developed there?

 

beastinview

Part of the Furniture Now
Jan 5, 2016
504
1
Edit: Perhaps the largest point that underscores this entire speculative exercise is one that has more to do with the soil than the the seed, and that is terroir as African seed stock was transplanted from the new world.
Well, if going off of blenders' descriptions is mere speculation, then I suppose I'm quite at a loss.
I don't pretend to be an expert, but I do enjoy the above blends. They seemed to taste similar to me, and also seemed to be confirmed by blenders' descriptions and other knowledgeable members on the board.
That said, I guess "Virginia" is specific as I can get about them. I apologize again for upsetting people!
EDIT: You've quoted my post toward jitterbug and responded to it by naming different types of leafs. Jitterbug said the differences I noticed in these blends (high nicotine content being one) were merely the result of toppings or casings that were added. When I claimed that wasn't what I was saying, you've responded saying that I'm confused.
So are you agreeing with jitter that the stronger nicotine of these blends is caused by toppings/casings? I didn't know there were casings that added nicotine, but again--I'm eager to learn.

 
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