Within the pipe smoking community, the ageing of tobacco seems to be a somewhat divisive topic. On the one hand, there are people that believe that because tobacco is a plant, it should be treated like other plants and consumed when fresh. Others, however, believe that ageing tobacco can bring new flavours and aromas to the smoke, offering the smoker something new and unique. If you want to try your hand at ageing tobacco and seeing the results for yourself, read on to find out more:
The ageing of drinks such as wine and whiskey is something that we’ve been doing for hundreds of years. Extravagant wine cellars, coveted whiskey blends and improvements in technology have all played their part in the evolution of products that get better with age. During the 16th-century, many wine merchants would sell older bottles more cheaply in an attempt to get rid of old stock and bring in fresher bottles. However, during this period, people realised how the properties of aged wine differed to that of fresh wine, such as flavour, sweetness and aroma. These changes are equally noticeable in pipe tobacco when it has been cellared for a few years.
First, it’s important to bear in mind the reasons we age products such as tobacco, wine, whiskey or cigars. Sometimes this can be as a financial investment. Many people look to buy limited edition cigars in the hope of selling them for a profit in years to come. Equally, people buy cigars or whiskey as an investment for themselves to enjoy at a later date, a prime example of delayed gratification. They might enjoy them now, but they’ll enjoy them ten times more in a few years! Also, some people may do it for the changes that occur over time in an attempt to find the optimum ageing time for a certain cigar or tobacco. Whichever of these reasons is most relevant for you, it’s important that you store and age the tobacco correctly. Here are some of the most important things:
One of the best ways to see which tobaccos age and how long they should age for would be to store numerous collections and age them for different times. Some tobaccos may get worse with age and some may improve vastly. Keep a detailed set of notes on each batch so that you can see which is the best blend and time period to age them for.
It’s also important to remember that there is no set way to cellar pipe tobacco as everything is open to interpretation. Something that tastes great to one person may taste awful for the next, it’s all about individual preference. That said, there are still a few rough guidelines that should be considered.
Temperature and Humidity
If you’ve aged anything else before, whether wine, cigars or anything else, then you’ll be aware of the importance of humidity and temperature in the ageing process. The sweet spot is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15 – 21C), a higher temperature will spoil the tobacco and lower will not be enough to really start the ageing process.
Minimal humidity is required for tobacco to age properly. Storing it somewhere that experiences high humidity can be at the detriment of the tobacco and ruin it rather than improve it.
Store in a Dark Place
Unless you have invested in high-quality ageing containers that block out light, storing tobacco in a dark place is vital as light exposure can cause the tobacco to spoil. Using cardboard to block light is advisable as this also absorbs any humidity before it has time to affect your precious collection.
Store in Metal or Glass, Not Plastic
Storing tobacco in plastic containers long term will seriously affect tobacco. Chemicals in it will break down the plastic’s structure which will affect the flavour and longevity of the tobacco, DO NOT DO THIS!
Do Not Add Moisture to the Tobacco
Adding moisture to the tobacco will undo all the hard work you have already done and cause the tobacco to grow mould. This will ruin your stash beyond repair and the only thing it will be good for is going in the bin.
What to Expect from Certain Tobaccos
As you can imagine, certain tobaccos react differently than others to the ageing process, with varying degrees of success. Here’s a quick look at some examples:
Virginia Tobacco – Virginia Tobacco is a great candidate for ageing as the natural sugar content and chemical structure of the tobacco lends itself perfectly to the ageing process. Any ageing time for Virginia will make it better so you can leave this as long as you want.
Orientals – These tobaccos require a long cellaring time to reach their peak, roughly 30-40 years will do the trick nicely. Over this time, they will lose their spicy flavours and start to develop fruity notes. After this prime time period, they will begin to lose their flavour so bear this in mind.
Burley Tobacco – In fact, Burley tobacco is nearly always blended to Virginia tobacco, therefore, the same rules apply. However, be aware that some companies use heavy coatings on aromatic tobaccos which can actually harm the tobacco over time, some experimenting will be required.
Latakia – Ageing Latakia is really up to personal preference. The harshness of the tobacco that we have come to know and love will start to be lost over time so if you prefer a more mellow smoke, aged Latakia will be for you. If you like a bit of a kick, then smoke Latakia fresh.
If you want to grab some tobacco to start ageing, why not check out our Ashton Pipe Tobacco selection on our online store?