Types Of Tobacco And Blending

Don't know your Burley from your Cavendish? Ever wondered why one tobacco burns harsh but you don't feel satisfied, then the next tobacco you try smokes really cool and smooth but leaves you dizzy, well hopefully soon you will know why.

Due to limited choices in Supermarkets our choice tends to be dictated by the packaging and the price rather than the contents. By reading this you can break away from the dictatorship of the corporate companies and begin selecting tobaccos you enjoy.


Burley Tobacco leaf

Burley is the second most popular tobacco and makes an excellent blending tobacco. Burley is a light brown, air cured tobacco with a much lower sugar content than Virginia. It gives a much drier and fuller aroma than Virginia and has a slower burn rate making it a cooler smoke. Burley has not got a distinct flavour but can easily take on flavour.


Cavendish is a blend of tobaccos heated and stored under pressure for many weeks to bring out the natural sugars and remove tar content making it a mild, cool smoking, sweet blend.

English Cavendish is made using dark or fire cured Virginia and is slightly flavoured before a longer fermentation process, which produces a very dark sweet tobacco.

Many modern versions are flavoured more before fermentation to produce a much sweeter tobacco appealing to the modern market.


A Cuban tobacco, which is primarily used as a filler or wrapper for production of premium cigars.


A Cuban tobacco leaf, grown in the famous Vuelta Abajo region primarily used for Cigar production.


Kentucky is produced from fire curing Burley leaf, which retains a high nicotine content for a full bodied smoke. The Kentucky is not cured over smouldering fires so does not take on a strong smokey flavour.


The Marmite of the tobacco world "Love it or Hate it" a true English blend. Latakia is produced by fire-curing Oriental leaf over smouldering aromatic woods and herbs, which adds a distinct burnt Oakey character. It is generally used as a blending tobacco but some smokers crave it so much they will smoke it straight.

Oriental Tobacco

Oriental Tobacco leaf is a small sun-cured leaf, with a highly aromatic punch, which is predominantly grown in Turkey but is also grown in Greece, Bulgaria and Russia. It is often used to give a blend a bit of bite. It generally provides a dusty, dry often sourish aroma.


One of the richest tobacco leaf, Perique is a rare, full bodied tobacco leaf with a distinctive flavour and is almost considered a delicacy. Reddish Burley leaves are fermented under pressure for a short time before the leaves are left to mature and ferment further under pressure in oak barrels for over a year. Even a smidgen adds a spicy kick to any blend while burning slow and cool.

Virginia Tobacco (Bright Leaf)

The most popular choice of tobacco leaf used today. Virginia accounts for 60% of the world’s tobacco usage. Virginia is a very light golden coloured, flue-cured, mild tobacco leaf, which has a naturally high sugar content. Because Virginia has a low Tar content it also burns well so makes a good accelerator for pipe tobaccos but if used on its own in a fine cut can burn hot.


Room Note

How offensive or pleasant the scent given off the tobacco when smoked.


A fragrant flavour added to a blend. Some people will refer to any flavoured tobacco as Aromatic but Aromatic is a specific flavour that is hard to put in words.


Casing is a process of adding sweet flavours early on in the production of the blend and has a distinct effect on the overall taste.

Top Dressing

Flavours added towards the end of processing, which helps to provide a more pleasant room note.


Pressed tobacco leaves, which have been cut into small cubes. These cubes are generally added to a pipe to slow down the burn rate of a hotter blend.

Hand Rolling Tobacco

A fast burring tobacco, cut into thin strips less than 1.2 millimetres wide.

Shag tobacco

A fast burning pipe tobacco, which burns easily. Most pipe smokers view it as an inferior cut or add it to a blend to increase the burn rate.

Twist Tobacco (Rope)

Tobacco leaves twisted and spun into a rope, which aids the fermentation process and provides a very full bodied, head spinning smoke. Generally used for pipe smoking but originally was used for chewing.

Tongue Bite

A burning sensation on the tongue, which affects novice pipe smokers and experienced pipe smokers who have been smoking more than usual. Different tobaccos blends may give more tongue bite than others.

Roll Cake

Small coins of tobacco cut from the cross section of twist tobacco.

Flake Tobacco

Tobacco leaves that have been fermented under pressure into a cake. The Cake is then thinly sliced to form "flakes."

Air-Cured Tobacco

Tobacco Leaves dried naturally in a sheltered environment for around 3 months, which reduces the sugar content producing a light tasting tobacco, high in nicotine content..

Dark Tobaccos

Matured tobacco plants, which are put through a second fermentation process.

Fire Cured Tobacco

Tobacco leaves are dried in barns above wood fires, which provides a distinctive Smokey flavour that is low in sugar and high in nicotine.

Flue Cured tobaccos

Tobacco leaves cured in an enclosed heated area but does not come into contact with any smoke. This produces a tobacco high in sugar, with medium to high nicotine levels. Virginia cured this way turns a bright yellow colour know as bright leaf

Sun Cured tobaccos

Tobacco leaves that have been dried under the heat of the sun, providing a low sugar and nicotine content.


Finding the right tobacco is no easy task. Every pipe smoker has different tastes and varying opinions on every aspect of smoking so you can't rely too much on recommendations.

Picking the most popular isn’t a good start either.

So what is the answer?

Unfortunately apart from a few basic guidelines that we will provide below it is down to trial and error.

And now you’re thinking about the expense! Do not fear all our loose pipe tobaccos are available in 15g sample sizes and regardless of whether you like it or not it won’t go to waste!


Get a sealed box of some description. A wooden box such as a cigar humidor would be ideal as the wood will season and add to the contents, but a Tupperware style container would suffice. It needs to be sealed but preferably should still allow the tobacco to breath.

Every time you buy a tobacco you that isn't to your liking chuck it in the box. As you will no doubt buy some sweet, some bitter, some dry and some damp tobaccos you will end up with a balanced and complex tobacco blend you will enjoy.

One word of warning, WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU'VE ADDED!

I have told hundreds of people this trick over the years and countless smokers have returned 6 months later overwhelmed with the results they came up with but the utter frustration soon follows as they try to recall what they added to it. I have one customer who did this years ago and still can’t get close to it!

Right where to start!

Can you recall your early introduction to tea and coffee? I will hazard a guess that it was enjoyed with a heap full of sugar and a good splash of milk or cream. Unless you have been smoking cigars for the last few years the same can be applied to pipe smoking. Start sweet, damp and cool and gradually remove the sweetness as your palette develops. Look at the contents, blends that are Cavendish based are always a great place to start such as the Gawith and Hoggarth American Blends. These are sweet and cool burning so will not offend anyone unless you particularly enjoy a savoury flavour. Then try a different blend with some Virginia in and see what you think. Hate Virginia try one with a bit of Burley and so on. Soon you will identify what tobaccos you like and be able to guide yourself along a journey of self-discovery.


Unless you have a specific desire for a savoury flavour a sweeter tobacco will be more enjoyable and will provide a nicer room note.


Generally start mild and work up as your palette desires. However mild Virginia based tobaccos tend to burn hot, which can be more offensive than a strong tobacco.


A dark tobacco will smoke cooler and more enjoyable but in some cases can be a sign of a stronger tobacco. You may find over time that you enjoy the extra bite given from a hotter smoking tobacco.


As you smoke a tobacco note how it smokes and read the description so you know what tobaccos make up the blend. As you try new blends you shall gradually learn to identify the tobacco content and what suits you. Then before long you should be able to choose a tobacco just from its description.


Choosing hand rolling tobacco is much easier than choosing a pipe tobacco as there is much less variation and little change manufacturers of hand rolling tobacco can make without affecting the smoking character of the tobacco in cigarette form. If the blend is made too damp it will not smoke and if it is made too dry it will bite the tongue. There are also a limited number of tobacco leaves that are suited to hand rolling tobacco.

Generally a mild tobacco is made up of Virginia, to obtain more bite and strength Burley can be blended in gradually. Medium strength tobacco is mainly made up of Burley and can be tweaked by adding Virginia or fire cured tobaccos. Full strength tobacco is generally made from fire cured tobacco leaves.


Better tobaccos are made from better leaves and more of the stem will be removed giving a cleaner taste. All though hand rolling tobacco has substantially less additives than cigarettes some very cheap offerings from the big global companies can contain more additives to make the tobacco smoke quicker.


This can be gauged by colour. A light coloured tobacco will be very easy going with little bite. The darker the blend the stronger it becomes.

Additive free

Up until recent years all hand rolling tobacco had some additives. Sugars can be added during the blending or fermentation process to add sweetness and some additives will help slow down the burn rate. However some of the big tobacco manufacturers have gradually added additives for profit. The faster a tobacco burns the more you will buy. In some cases the additives begin to affect the flavour and start to smell like pre-manufactured cigarettes. This has led to the introduction of additive free tobaccos. These guarantee that no additives have been used anywhere during the growing or manufacturing process. This gives a very pure tobacco taste but does also affect the burn rate. Some smokers prefer the way it smokes but others cannot get on with additive free tobaccos at all.


Flavoured hand rolling tobacco is increasing in popularity on a daily basis. The flavour can take away some of the bite and make the tobacco much more enjoyable. Flavour is a very personal choice and we cannot really advise on this. If you get the opportunity smell the tobaccos to get an idea of whether you will like it.


Experienced users can more or less use any tobacco in their home made cigarettes, but if you are just starting out we recommend using a very finely cut, dry tobacco. Specific tubing tobacco is available but it isn’t very popular as to make tubing easier they are very dry and fine, which can provide a harsh smoke. We generally recommend customers use a good quality hand rolling tobacco. When you first start tubing leave the packet open for a few hours and let the tobacco dry out. This will make the tubing much easier. Then once you have got the hang of tubing you will find you can use damper and coarser tobacco, which will smoke cooler and smoother.

The rest is up to you, if you want it mild, strong or even flavoured you decide!

Like Hand Rolling tobacco the strength can be gauged by the colour of the tobacco.

A light tobacco is easy going and the darker it is the stronger the tobacco tends to be.


Overall the popularity of Chewing tobacco has declined in UK as it was generally used down the Collieries where a naked flame was not advised. Since the closure of the pits the demand for chewing tobacco isn't as big as the miners have diversified.

However it is still a common way of using tobacco and a new wave of chewing has developed as chewing tobacco is not in contravention of the smoking ban. It is also very popular in the US where they have a very wide range of chewing tobacco/bits such as Scholl, Red Man and Copenhagen. These can be in forms of paste, small chunks of tobacco or tea bag style pouches. Unfortunately many of the US bands are banned in UK due to additives that are permitted in the US.

Chewing bits/Tobacco pieces

A similar style to the American brands these are designed to be placed in between the teeth and gums. The Nicotine is absorbed through the skin. Once the flavour has gone the excess is spat out. Follow the steps below for disposing of the excess. (do not swallow)

Twist/Rope/Spun Tobacco

Available in Pigtail (Thin) Bogie (Medium) and Irish (Large.)

These come on a long spun rope, which is cut to the desired length and chewed. Once the flavour has gone the excess is disposed of. Traditionally in a spittoon (see below.)

  • Find a traditional pub with an old spittoon,
  • Make a note of the nearest exit,
  • Launch the excess at the drum
  • As you hear the satisfying dong make a swift exit before the landlady buries your head in the spittoon.