• Dear Guest,

    We've been using a forum format called vBulletin for over seven years and the program is no longer being developed, so that means no more updates or security patches. vBulletin has never been compatible with search engine optimization and it does not support the multitude of various devices most people use to access the internet, so it's time to say goodbye to vBulletin.

    For these reasons we have moved our forum to a new format that will support and encourage growth for the next generation of grower and DIY tobacco users.

    So please post any issues you're having with using the new site.

    As usual, you may login with your old password.

Whole Leaf Tobacco

Wiktor’s PipingNotes 04 – How Hard it is to Make a Blend? Hard!

alPol05

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2018
Messages
140
Likes
15
Points
18
Location
Albuquerque, NM
#1
“A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and you are a master blender.” - Bob (deluxestogie)

It was there, staring at me, in the context of frustrations expressed by some about the difficulties they have with making their blends.

I am not for public self-flogging for mistakes I make, but it is important for me to put my thoughts into words to clearly understand what happened. This type of post can also be beneficial for those who are new to tobacco blending. This post will be a long one, but I want to write down as much as I remember about the whole experience.

I never had any illusion that blending tobacco for pipe smoking is an easy task. I read whatever I could find online, but there is not much of a real in-depth material out there on the topic.

Jamming myself in a pickle

Some time at the end of January I began experimenting with a blend by expending two groups of tobacco. One was Virginias, and the other was Orientals. The idea came from reading many descriptions of blends found on commercial websites like this: “… This blend starts with golden and red flue-cured tobaccos which are matured under pressure while heat is applied, deepening the flavor.” It sounded interesting, and I decided to try it myself.

I started with a blend recipe offered by Bob (deluxestogie). He posted it a while back (in 2014). Here is the original formula:

deluxestogie's Warspur (an English Mixture)

1. Virginia air-cured: 30%
2. Oriental: 30%
3. Latakia: 35%
4. Black Cavendish or Dark Air: 5% (optional, to add body)

I remember the day I wrote this formula in my blending log document - it was January 23 rd. Here is the bad part: I didn’t have a clue what the Virginia Air-cured is, and I was too uncomfortable to post a question on this forum. I also didn’t know what the hell the Dark Air is, and chose to use Black Cavendish and not to bother with asking.

I made my first mixture of tobaccos I had on hand. I had to substitute Virginia air-cured with something, so I made a choice to use Red Virginia and Bright Virginia mix. All components were commercial blending tobaccos. Here is my first mixture:

WarSpur No.1 – Eng. Mix - 01/23/2018

1. Virginia Red 20% 12g
2. Virginia Bright (Lane) 10% 6g
3. Oriental-Turkish 20% 12g
4. Smyrna 10% 6g
5. Latakia: 35% 21g
6. Black Cav. 5% 3g
7. Perique 3g

Since I already diverted from the original recipe, I also used two different Oriental tobaccos. To make it more complicated, my Cavendish was Lane BCA, which is aromatic tobacco with vanilla flavoring. For some reason, I also added a little bit of Perique. I guess I sounded interesting and it didn’t bother me that my percentage column didn’t add up to 100%. I also didn’t understand exactly how to manage percentages and real weight and assigned a 6g arbitrarily as being 10%.

As I look at this combination now, it is obvious that I didn’t have a clue what am I doing. Although smoking this mixture was an OK experience, but by the end of January I learned several other things about blending tobacco, and I realized that I have to make changes to this mixture.

First, I needed to eliminate Vanilla flavor, and second, I wanted to include Perique in my percentage calculations. Here is the mixture I concocted on 02/09/2018:

WarSpur No.2 – Eng. Mix - 02/09/2018
1. Virginia - red 20% 12g
2. Virginia Bright (Lane) 10% 6g
3. Turkish Ribbon Cut 0% 6g
4. Izmir 10% 6g
5. Smyrna 10% 6g
6. Latakia: 30% 18g
7. Perique : 5% 3g
8. Dark Fired Kentucky 5% 3g

I still didn't have Black Cavendish, so I substituted it with Dark Fired Kentucky. I also expended my combination of Orientals and added Izmir. As I write this, I smoke a bowl of this blend. It is two months plus old by now, and it has some merits. The impact of Perique is evident. The blend is sweeter than the previous one, and it does have a pleasant aroma.

During that time (January – February) I read many descriptions of commercial blends, and one thing that struck me was a mention of combinations of different Virginias used in some of these blends. The idea was appealing, and I took it even further. I also expended the combination of Orientals. As I look at this venture now, I realize that I was running more on excitement than knowledge.
By the end of February, I had five different Virginias and four different Orientals in the mix. Virginias included three WLT tobaccos and two commercial brands. Orientals block included three commercial brands and one, a Krumovgrad I purchased from the LeafOnly website. I was on a mixture No. 7.

At this point, things became a bit dicey. I start feeling that it is a strong blend and, I thought, I am consuming too much nicotine. I start having really strong buzz, and my cheeks were red and hot after test-smoking the mixture.

I decided to eliminate Perique and Dark Fired Kentucky. At the same time, I expended my Orientals block to five different components. They were Turkish mixture, Izmir, Smyrna – all commercial origin, Krumovgrad - LeafOnly, and Basma - WLT.

I was on mixture No. 8, and it was not much better. The feeling of too much nicotine persisted, and I felt I am getting sick after every test. I didn’t sleep well and was getting more and more tired.
For next two mixtures, I focused on lowering percentage of Latakia since I remembered reading that Latakia and Perique are “strong condiment tobaccos.” Since there was no detailed explanation of this statement, I understood this as containing large doses of nicotine.

After mixture No. 11 I decided to take a break. I was sick, tired and frustrated. I hit a wall!

After a few days of rest, my brain returned to much-needed functionality. First, I decided to leave emotions and zealousness outside of the process. Second, I reviewed my recipes and found them to be a mess with no logic or justification. Third, I went back to a recipe before the introduction of Krumovgrad into the mix. That mixture was OK, although nothing to be proud of, but I didn’t have a buzz effect I was experiencing by the end of this venture.

Aha…! The small load of Krumovgrad was in a pipe, and I was puffing on the culprit. Here were the symptoms: the lining of my mouth became sore and irritated, and I could taste very strong bitterness. The soreness appeared on the inside of my lips and inside lining of my cheeks. There was no tongue bite, at least that’s what I thought, or any other unpleasant sensations except bitterness that I could taste on the further part of my tongue and throat. I felt like I just took a good dose of black pepper in my mouth. It was shocking.

I posted this description in the thread in another thread.

Bob stated that: “I have no idea why one Basma-type tobacco would be unusually bitter. Sometimes leaf gets fumigated in a warehouse. Bitter is usually associated with alkaline pH, while sun-cured Orientals tend to be slightly acidic. Most of them, however, are not particularly sweet.” He suggested to “Smoke some. Then mist it with lemon juice. After it dries down, smoke some more. There are some sources of bitter that will be unaffected by lowering the pH.”

Jitterbugdude made a point: “Wiktor, I think maybe the description of "provides a sweet, pleasant flavor" is just something that each vendor cuts-n-pastes from someones else's description. I doubt the vendor you bought it from has even smoked it.”

Garlisk suggested the following: “Wiktor, I cannot give you too much specific information, but I can say that humans can have odd reactions to some things based on genetics.”
I took all suggestions as important pointers. First, the description of Krumovgrad was not accurate. There is no sweetness in this leaf. Second, the lemon juice treatment did the job. The bitterness was almost gone, although there was still soreness in the lining of my mouth. It was, however, manageable and not as severe as after the initial test. I could register the aroma of Middle East incense, and taste of unidentified spices, etc.; something I expected from Orientals.

As to “odd reactions to some things based on genetics,” there was no way for me to test this theory. I knew one thing – I am old Polish stock, I have no allergies to anything, I can eat and drink almost anything. Well, maybe not exactly true – I do have an allergic reaction to the thought of my former wife. As to eating and drinking – at 70, I have to keep things in moderation. However, I am not dismissing this suggestion, and I might be reacting negatively to this specific tobacco.

So, where do I go from here?


Testing my Orientals. I created a scale from 1 to 10 to illustrate the bitterness, where 10 represents soreness and bitterness of Krumovgrad.
a. Turkish - 3
b. Smyrna – 4
c. Izmir – 5
d. Samsun-WLT - 1
e. Basma-WLT - 2
f. Krumovgrad-LeafOnly - 10

Checking all my vendors. Not one describes Orientals as a sweet leaf except LeafOnly for Krumovgrad. Most of them emphasize aroma and spiciness of Oriental tobaccos. All descriptions point to the interplay of Orientals with Latakia without details on what that interplay is or suppose to be.

So, what happened?

Here is what happened.
1. Whatever I learned so far about tobacco is not enough to feel comfortable with the process of blending at this point.
2. My choice of the recipe for this experiment was not good. Not only I didn’t have proper ingredients; I substituted them with wrong choices.
3. My excitement excided the knowledge I have. It represents itself in mixing different tobaccos from a particular group (Virginias and Orientals) without a clear understanding of how they will impact each other and the whole blend.

I started this thread with a statement by Bob (deluxestogie): “A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and you are a master blender.”

It seems like a clear warning. However, I read it as a message about accurate measurement only. There is more to it: Know the impact of one tobacco on another and the whole blend.

Blending tobacco is often compared to cooking. I am not an expert in neither of these disciplines. However, when it comes to cooking, we are exposed to the effects of it from the first day of our lives. By experience, we learned what will salt do to our meal. The same for pepper, onion, garlic, etc. When the dish is described as too salty, we instantly recall that taste in our mind without even touching that salty dish.

With tobacco, it is not that obvious. Although the verbiage describing tobacco borrows terms from a culinary discipline, the terminology appears to be not settled or consistent.

There is a void in literature for an explanation of an interplay between different tobaccos in a blend, how they impact each other, and the whole blend. Here is an example:
“Oriental, often called Turkish, is a variety of sun-cured tobacco with an exotic flavor and an aromatic aroma. It's sort of a catch-all term for sun-cured tobacco, as there are many different sub-types, such as Izmir, Katerini, Samsun, Sokhoum, Smyrna, Drama, Yenidje, and many more. When used in a blend, these sun-cured tobaccos can offer essences of tea and lemon but also a bit of spice, earthiness, and nuttiness as well. They're often used in English blends to play off the similarly exotic, smoky notes of Latakia.” Jeremy Reeves of Cornell & Diehl made this comment in one of his videos.

I use this quote to show how little the statement in bold means to a newbie like me.

Although I consider this “blend” a failure, I did learn a lot from this experience. I hope to apply what I learned to my next attempt off making a blend.
 

deluxestogie

Administrator
Joined
May 25, 2011
Messages
12,697
Likes
1,540
Points
113
Location
near Blacksburg, VA
#2
Wiktor,
You have jumped in with a robust enthusiasm.

My purpose in posting the Warspur recipe was to provide a smokable blend that used air-cured Virginia. You can't buy air-cured Virginia. If someone grows Virginia, but does not flue-cure it, then that grower has air-cured Virginia.

My impression of the source of your frustration is the following:
  • you made substitutions that are quite different from the original tobacco ingredients
  • your path to altering the blend has been to make it more complex, rather than keeping it simple enough to understand
  • based on the comments of our Bulgarian member with regard to Kumovgrad, together with your description of your experience with it, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the Kumovgrad that you purchased has been contaminated by some chemical adulterant (who knows what)
Approaches
  • pipe blending is a low risk activity, and should be approached in a relaxed state of mind
  • you may benefit from looking at the Latakia blending matrix, and starting with the mildest (in terms of Latakia %) recipe that does not contain burley. Make subtle adjustments to it, to see what impact each of those specific ingredients have.
  • when I'm missing Lemon or Red VA, I just make the total Virginia flue-cured from whatever I do have, understanding that it will give me a different but smokable blend
  • keep any exploratory blends relatively simple
  • Pearl of Shibam is really simple and enjoyable to smoke. It uses only
    • Lemon VA 5/16
    • Perique 3/16 (specifically there to balance the Lemon VA. It eliminates tongue bite. If you go higher, it increases nicotine absorption. If you have to substitute Red VA for the Lemon, then the Perique needs to be reduced, since the Red contributes less acidity.)
    • Latakia 4/16
    • any Oriental 4/16
I continue to believe that pipe blending is easy, so long as you understand the ingredients and keep the recipes relatively simple.

Bob
 

DistillingJim

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 23, 2016
Messages
350
Likes
28
Points
28
Location
UK
#3
I've been at this for a little over a year Wiktor. What I've found is to start with a basic recipe (Bob's are great), make a small batch, smoke it, get to know it. Then, swap one component for another. Get through that batch. Then another, then another. Your most basic is 80% virginia, 20% perique. Play with the ratios, play with the different virginia types and the different perique bases, add a touch of something exotic, but for me, it always works best in small amounts once you know the baseline you're deviating from and when you're making one change at a time. You wont become a master and develop your ideal recipe overnight but you'll get there with time. Enjoy the journey, learn from the mistakes, and unless you're 100% sure you want tonnes of it, keep the batches small.
 

DistillingJim

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 23, 2016
Messages
350
Likes
28
Points
28
Location
UK
#5
These days I tend to make 20-25g when experimenting but in the past I've made as little as 10g. Most leaf isn't scarce for me so losing 25g in a dodgy blend isnt a source of concern.
 

alPol05

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2018
Messages
140
Likes
15
Points
18
Location
Albuquerque, NM
#6
These days I tend to make 20-25g when experimenting but in the past, I've made as little as 10g. Most leaf isn't scarce for me so losing 25g in a dodgy blend isnt a source of concern.
I did try small amount blends like that but it doesn't work for me. I like to smoke several bowls to get a good feel for the mix. I make 50 grams as a rule. If I have an unsatisfactory mix I correct it by adding whatever I need to add. I only had one instance when I had to trash substantial amount - these are the mixes I described in my post above.

As a note about my post above - this is a story from the past. My intention in posting it is to encourage others to post stories of their venture in making a blend. I hope to see more stories like that, either they are successful or unsuccessful attempts. I believe that would be great learning material for others to read.

Best,
 
Joined
May 20, 2018
Messages
3
Likes
1
Points
0
Location
Delaware
#7
I've gotten into blending, and so far I have loved everything I have made. I think the key to good blends is : good quality leaf (mines from WLT), and not using to many leaves in one blend. Also doing an extra fermentation + pressing helps make a lovely pipe blend.

Here is one I just smokes last night:
50% MD609, 50% Bright VA fermented together and pressed at 4 tons for 36hrs. Vacuum packed for 2 months before smoking.
 

Attachments

alPol05

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2018
Messages
140
Likes
15
Points
18
Location
Albuquerque, NM
#8
Also doing an extra fermentation + pressing helps make a lovely pipe blend... 50% MD609, 50% Bright VA fermented together
Can you expand on "extra fermentation"? At what point you do it? How you do it? As many details as possible. What is MD609?

This morning I was reading about kilning... I am more confused. Does the leaf purchased from WLT requires extra kilning? Is kilning described on this website in many threads and with various details is a process applied for home-grown tobacco and is not necessary for purchased, flue-cured leaf.

My understanding so far was that flue-cured leaf purchased from WLT is already fermented and ready to use in a blend.
 

CobGuy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2015
Messages
527
Likes
109
Points
43
Location
Central Arizona
#9
MD609 is a Maryland tobacco - similar to a Burley but thinner leaves / faster burn.Fermenting = Kilning = accelerating aging ... WLT is ready to smoke but can certainly benefit from this.Basics of this are 120F Temperature with 70% Humidity ... more info in the pages of this site for sure!Keep at it and good luck! :)
 
Joined
May 20, 2018
Messages
3
Likes
1
Points
0
Location
Delaware
#10
Can you expand on "extra fermentation"? At what point you do it? How you do it? As many details as possible. What is MD609?

This morning I was reading about kilning... I am more confused. Does the leaf purchased from WLT requires extra kilning? Is kilning described on this website in many threads and with various details is a process applied for home-grown tobacco and is not necessary for purchased, flue-cured leaf.

My understanding so far was that flue-cured leaf purchased from WLT is already fermented and ready to use in a blend.
Sure!

I am of this opinion that all things yummy in life are fermented (cheese, beer, salami, pickles etc), including tobacco. One of the theories I have heard, is tobacco can improve over time via slow fermentation from the natural sugars and microbes, and I believe this to be plausible. So to speed that process along I tried an experiment. I took some leaf and brought to a very high hydration using a 20%w/v honey water solution ( I chose honey because is the only sugar I have). Then I packed the wet leaf into a mason jar an inculcated it with a yeast culture. I then let sit for a few weeks, and burped the jar until CO2 evolution ceased. During fermentation you get some awesome smells, raisins, cherries, chocolate etc. Once fermentation ceased I air dried an pressed. The fermentation also reduces alkalinity of any leaf, so the leaf becomes tangy and basically looses all tongue bite. You don't end up tasting the honey, it is just extra fuel for the microbes.

MD609 is Maryland 609, an air cured variety. To me the leaf smells kinda like cigars. It is mild, nutty, and burns well.

The leaf from WLT is ready to go, but you can have fun doing extra processing to coax different flavors. For example pressure cooking bright VA for 1.5hr produces a darker leaf with a wonderful sweet malty smell. Push that to 4 hrs and you get a black leaf that smells strongly of figs or plums.

I like to tinker, but its true the leaf from WLT is ready to go without any extra steps.
 

deluxestogie

Administrator
Joined
May 25, 2011
Messages
12,697
Likes
1,540
Points
113
Location
near Blacksburg, VA
#11
Every variety of leaf sold by WLT is finished, and ready for commercial (or home) manufacture. No kilning is necessary.

MD 609 is Maryland 609. Its use class is "Maryland", and can be used in pipe blending, cigarettes and smokeless forms.

Bob
 

alPol05

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2018
Messages
140
Likes
15
Points
18
Location
Albuquerque, NM
#13
Sure! The leaf from WLT is ready to go, but you can have fun doing extra processing to coax different flavors. For example pressure cooking bright VA for 1.5hr produces a darker leaf with a wonderful sweet malty smell. Push that to 4 hrs and you get a black leaf that smells strongly of figs or plums.

I like to tinker, but its true the leaf from WLT is ready to go without any extra steps.
PressureLeaf, this is very interesting take on extra fermenting. I will try that just to see what happens and how the leaf smokes after extra fermentation.

On your pressure cooking - this looks like production of cavendish. Am I correct?
 
Joined
May 20, 2018
Messages
3
Likes
1
Points
0
Location
Delaware
#14
PressureLeaf, this is very interesting take on extra fermenting. I will try that just to see what happens and how the leaf smokes after extra fermentation.

On your pressure cooking - this looks like production of cavendish. Am I correct?
I think the extra fermentation really makes for some awesome tobacco, I'll do a write up later. Yes the pressure cooker was inspired by the cavendish thread. My take is VA is the best pressure cooker candidate since it is naturally high in sugars. Sugars + nitrogenous compounds gives way to malliard reactions, which give wonderful flavor molecules.
 

alPol05

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2018
Messages
140
Likes
15
Points
18
Location
Albuquerque, NM
#15
I think the extra fermentation really makes for some awesome tobacco, I'll do a write up later. Yes the pressure cooker was inspired by the cavendish thread. My take is VA is the best pressure cooker candidate since it is naturally high in sugars. Sugars + nitrogenous compounds gives way to malliard reactions, which give wonderful flavor molecules.
I am looking forward to your write-up on extra fermentation. I believe this kind of stand-alone "paper" would be a great addition to this site. Bob posted several this type of "procedural papers" and they are the most helpful, at least for me.

I tried to do some cooking of tobacco for one specific purpose, but I fell asleep and ended up with well-cocked cavendish of the blend. At this point, I decided to concentrate on creating a few simple blends I can use in my daily smoking and take the next step after I understand tobaccos a bit better and their interaction in a blend. I am in the final stages of creating my version of Early Morning Pipe mix and will be posting a PipingNotes on that soon.

Good to have you here as a member and I definitely appreciate your comments.
 
Top