Many pipe smokers don’t realize that tobacco is much like wine; certain tobacco's get better with age. Tobacco aging can significantly improve the smoking experience. However, aging tobacco is more than just buying a bag and letting it sit for a few years. It is a process that, when done correctly, can result in a delightful tasting tobacco that can be enjoyed for years to come.
The process starts by selecting the right type of tobacco. The tobaccos that age the best are the ones with high natural sugar content like the Virginia. However, people have had great success with other types like the Oriental and English-style tobaccos. These can be picked up at any local tobacconist. If one is not available, there are many online sources that will ship high-quality tobacco to almost any location in the world.
The second step to successful tobacco aging in storing it correctly. This is where many people go wrong. One misstep early in the process can result in lifeless tobacco whose flavor only deadens that much more every year. The two biggest enemies of tobacco are light and heat. Therefore, it is best to store it in cool dark places. Wine cellars and basements are ideal storage areas. However, any isolated spot that doesn’t get overly warm or too much light will do.
The best way to store tobacco is to let it sit in the tin it was purchased in. Simply mark the date it was purchased and set it in the storage area. Loose tobacco, however, should be placed in glass jars rather than plastic bags as plastic bags don’t allow the tobacco to age properly. Additionally, do not vacuum seal the containers. The tobacco needs a certain amount of air for the fermentation process. Vacuum sealing will keep the tobacco fresh for many years but it won’t age correctly.
The next step is to let the tobacco age for an appropriate length of time. In general, the longer the tobacco sits the better it will get. However, six months to one year is the minimum length of time tobacco should be aged. Significant improvement in taste and other characteristics typically take about 18 months with 36 months being the ideal target for tobacco aging. The aging process will slow down considerably after 3 years, but it will continue. Some tobacco has been aging for 30 years or more that produces the most sublime smoking experience.
When it comes time to open a container, let it air out for about an hour before packing into a pipe. This will allow the fresh air to bring the tobacco’s flavors to the fore.