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24 October
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Contact Info
Synjeco SA
Pipes and Tobaccos
Via Leoncavallo 7
P.O.Box 742
6614 Brissago, Switzerland

Email: info@synjeco.ch
Phone: +41 (0)91 793 1365
Fax: +41 (0)91 793 2716

F.A.Q. - Tobaccos

What are the names of the major blending pipe tobaccos?

Virginia (Bright, Red, Black), Burley, Latakia (Cypriot and Syrian), Kentucky, Maryland, Black Cavendish, Orientals, Turkish, Perique, etc.

If you have a question or a comment, contact Daniel

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What are the major tobacco growing countries?

The USA, China, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Cyprus, and Syria.

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How are pipe tobaccos cured?

There are four major ways to cure (and dry) tobaccos:

  • Sun-cured: The tobacco is left in the open in direct contact with the sun
  • Air-cured: The tobacco is placed in the open air
  • Flue-cured: Here the tobacco is exposed to heat produced by hot plates placed underneath the hanging tobacco bundles
  • Fire-cured: A good example is Latakia, which is exposed to the heat and smoke of burning wood (in this case, oak). This process imparts a particular taste and aroma to the end product

If you have a question or a comment, contact Daniel

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Tobaccos come in many different types. What are they?

Tobaccos are normally divided into four types: English (with Latakia), Straight Virginia (possibly with Perique), Straight Burley, and Flavored Tobaccos (commonly known as "Aromatics").

A typical English Mixture has as its base one or more Virginias, Orientals/Turkish, Latakia, and possibly a bit of Perique. Other tobaccos, such as Burley and Black Cavendish, have found their way in the "modern" English mixtures. The word "English" is also used to describe tobaccos that contain no additives. (For example, in the USA, this word is used to describe an additive-free tobacco, regardless of the ingredient tobaccos or the type of blend; i.e., it could be a blend with Latakia or a pressed Virginia.)

Straight Virginias are usually found in pressed form (Flakes, Slices, Curlies, Plugs, etc.). These tobaccos are traditionally free of artificial flavorings; however, they can currently be found with slight to heavy "casing".

Straight Burley is an all-American tradition. These blends have always been so highly appreciated by some American connoisseurs. Unfortunately, in the minds of many smokers, Burley is associated with flavored tobaccos, which is not awlays true. It's hard to find a natural all-Burley blend outside the USA.

"Flavored" is used here to refer to the so-called "Aromatics". The former is preferred, simply because a tobacco is "aromatic" when it has a nice NATURAL aroma; if we insist on a word derived from "aroma" to describe flavored tobaccos, then it should be "aromaticized" (which means uninherently aromatic). In the UK, as well as elsewhere, the word "Scented" is used to mean "Aromatic" (in the American sense) and "Flavored", as used here.
Tobaccos can be flavored with so many different agents, ranging from the 100% natural to the 100% artificial (i.e., chemical). Among the most popular flavors used in pipe tobacco are: Vanilla, Fruits (peach, strawberry, etc.), and alcoholic beverages (such as Whiskey, Cognac and Rum).

If you have a question or a comment, contact Daniel

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In what various forms is tobacco sold?

The final products you find in tobacco shops are divided:

  • Blend/Mixture: Different (or same) cut tobaccos, mixed together to create a mixture/blend. This is the most popular tobacco form nowadays. The highly prized Schürch tobaccos fall into this category
  • Curlies: Again a complete blend of tobacco that, with heat and humidity, is rolled up into a sort of tube (similar to a cigar, but much, much longer) and then sliced into little circles. This is the most labor intensive type of tobacco, and it usually commands a high price. Samuel Gawith's Curly Cut is one such tobacco
  • Flake: A blend of different tobaccos is later exposed to humidity, heat and a lot of pressure. It becomes blocks of tobacco that are then sliced and sold in the form of flakes. Such a tobacco is, for example, St. Bruno or Capstan
  • 6-inch Flakes: Flakes but cut into longer pieces (a 6-inch long flake would be around double the length of normal flakes); we're proud to offer a wide assortment of Samuel Gawith 6-inch flakes
  • Plug: The above-mentioned "block" of tobacco, that is the result of heating and pressing, is cut into a "cube" (instead of into flakes). Basically, the Plug can then be cut into flakes by the smoker using a knife. Why buy the same tobacco in Plug form when you can buy it in Flake form? You can cut the flakes into the thickness that best suits you. Though quite rare, Samuel Gawith makes several Plugs (their most popular two can be found on this site)
  • Ready-Rubbed: Flakes that are already rubbed out and ready to be either used as they are or rubbed even more. (Another name is "Broken Flake" which refers to Flakes only slightly rubbed out.) Dunhill Hand Blended series includes some RR tobaccos. A good example of a Broken Flake is Samuel Gawith's Medium Virginia
  • Slices: Similar to flakes but Slices are normally cut thicker than flakes. Edgeworth Slices is a good example of this tobacco form (also, Bengal Slice, which is as thick as Edgeworth but much shorter)
  • Twist: It's the form of tobacco that comes before slicing it into Curlies, but instead of going all the way and cutting it into slices (Curlies), it's cut in pieces (varying in length, from 5cm/2" and more). This form is extremely difficult to find these days; however, again, Samuel Gawith offers a big selection, one of them is available here

If you have a question or a comment, contact Daniel

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Does color have an effect on the taste and strength of a tobacco?

Contrary to common belief, NOT, at least not always. Black Cavendish is jet black and yet is pretty mild, and so is Latakia (which is actually mistakingly believed to be a strong tobacco). A light brown Virginia is often a lot stronger than Latakia, for example.

However, within the same type of tobacco, let's say Virginia, usually a tobacco lighter in color is milder than a darker one. The strength of a tobacco is usually determined by the amount of fermentation, but primarily by the type of leaf itself.

If you have a question or a comment, contact Daniel

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In what forms is pipe tobacco sold in a tobacco shop?

Here, we're talking about weight and type of "container". The most common weight is 2oz/50g. Some tobaccos are also availabe in double, far fewer in half, that quantity.

Tobaccos are generally sold in bulk (or loose), in a plastic pouch, or in a tin. Due to cost, weight, and size, tins are not as commonplace as pouches nowadays. As for bulk/loose tobaccos, and depending on the shop, the desired quantity is usually sold in a transparent, plain, plastic pouch that can keep up to 50g of tobacco for a week (with about 3-4 pipefuls a day), with no risk (I'm not talking about capacity now, rather the functionality). For bigger quantities, I recommend a jar that seals the tobacco in. The plastic pouch can be used for 50g at a time.

If you have a question or a comment, contact Daniel

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What are the different factors that a blender considers when making a new blend of tobacco?

Blending a good pipe tobacco is an extremely complicated process, and it requires talent, experience, and lots of patience. Having in mind the kind of blend that is required, the blender should consider, among other things: the taste, color tones, aroma, combustibility, humidity, cut, and feel of each blending tobacco, and then the same aspects all over again to evaluate the final product before offering it on the market. Good blends could take up to years to make and test before they land into your pipe.

If you have a question or a comment, contact Daniel

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Is there a particular type of tobacco most suitable for a newly born pipe smoker?

Here I can only give some buy-not's. Do NOT buy:

  • a pressed tobacco (hard to prepare, light and burn)
  • a heavily flavored tobacco (they smoke wet, hot, and sometimes bitter)
  • a too dry/moist tobacco (in the case of bulk/loose tobaccos, you can check a tobacco before buying it, provided you know how!)
  • a too mild a tobacco, if you're a cigarette/cigar smoker
  • a too strong a tobacco, if you're not a smoker
  • a tobacco just because it smells good to others (could be a disaster to YOU)
  • a tobacco just because the pouch or tin is attractive (as Shakespeare says, "Appearance versus reality.")

It's hard to name one tobacco or one type of tobacco. It all depends on the smoker(-to-be). The best thing would be to ask a professional tobacconist and/or a pipe smoking friend (not that that always works!). Alternatively, you can ask ME ;-)

If you have a question or a comment, contact Daniel

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What is Cavendish? Is it a tobacco?

Well, Cavendish is NOT a tobacco. It refers to tobaccos (Virginias) pressed, fermented, etc. and then cut and used in a blend, or, rarely, sold and smoked as it is. So "Cavendish" refers to a manufacturing process and not to a tobacco as it is found in nature. Now, the most common kind of Cavendish is Black Cavendish, which is usually jet black and is in little cube-like pieces; if you look carefully and closely, you can see it is a pressed tobacco. BC can be either flavored/sweetened during the pressing and fermenting process, or not; a common sweetening agent is molasses. So, if a blend has BC, you don't know whether it's flavored or natural. Apart from BC, other tobaccos (VAs) can be processed the same way and referred to as Cavendish. Unfortunately, and very often, the words "Ready Rubbed" and "Cavendish" are used interchangeable. I think they should be and remain distinct. An example of what is called Cavendish is Amphora Red (or Brown); if you look at Dunhill's Handblended "Ready Rubbed" #36166, you find that it's almost identical to the way "Cavendish" Amphora Red looks

If you have a question or a comment, contact Daniel

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Why do tobaccos come in different forms, such as flake, plug, etc?

Most the "forms" are actually pressed tobaccos. Sailors started pressing their tobaccos so that it lasted longer during their long voyages. It was mainly for practical purposes. Also, pressed tobaccos were necessary for those to chew tobaccos. Plug would therefore seem to be the mother of pressed tobaccos. Also, miner used to take their twists when they were underground, since smoking was not allowed; they would then chew the tobaccos, keep the chew bits in their "hatband", and then smoke it in their pipes when they resurfaced. The flexibility of pressed tobaccos such as plugs and twists (ropes) offered the possibility of partaking tobacco use in different ways, based on the circumstances (by chewing it or by smoking it in a pipe). Flakes have always been less demanding in their preparation than plugs and twist; they grew in popularity. However, they were still too cumbersome (at least for some) and hence the manufacturers started "rubbing out" or "breaking" the flakes before packaging them, and then the "Ready Rubbed" and "Broken" tobaccos.

Pressed tobaccos are easier to conserve and slower (and cooler) to burn. 4 grams of a pressed tobacco would last (much) longer than 4g of a mixture. They all offered the smoker the liberty to prepare the tobaccos in the form and way he likes: In case of plugs, e.g., you decide how thick you want to slice the tobaccos, and then how coarsely you want to rub it out or break it.

So, why all these forms?

  • Innovation: Manufacturers always try to introduce something different
  • Personal preference: The smoker chooses form he likes best
Imagine if we had tobaccos only in the form of mixtures. A lot of the fun would be missing, don't you think?

If you have a question or a comment, contact Daniel

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