Many pipe smokers think cased tobacco has something to do with the way it is shipped or sold. In actuality, the term describes a type of flavoring process. Almost all tobacco sold on the market has some type of flavoring added to it. Natural, raw tobacco is not the most pleasant thing to smoke, though there are some people that love it. In general, though, the majority of tobacco manufacturers add some type of flavor to their products and casing is one of several ways that they do it.
Casing involves spraying or soaking the tobacco in a mixture called a sauce. This sauce may contain a combination of sugar, molasses, licorice, alcohol (rum, whiskey, or bourbon for example), and other flavorings. After a length of time, the tobacco is removed from the sauce and placed in drying tumblers to reduce moisture content to between 12 percent (for very dry tobacco) and 22 percent (for very wet tobacco) with the ideal moisture level being between 13 and 16 percent.
The flavor in cased tobacco is more persistent than tobacco that is flavored in other ways. Not only will it affect the smoke and taste throughout the entire bowl, the flavor can linger and affect subsequent bowls even if the person uses a different type of tobacco. This depends a lot on how heavy handed the manufacturer is with the casing. Highly fragrant aromatic tobaccos are more likely to linger than those that are lightly scented.
Uncased tobacco, then, is tobacco that has not been put through this treatment process. However, as noted before, raw tobacco doesn’t have the best smoke qualities. Therefore, almost all tobacco sold has been flavored in some way. Top spraying is another popular flavoring process. This process involves lightly spraying the blended tobacco with a flavoring or scent. This application is much lighter than casing, but the tobacco can lose much of this added component if it is left out for too long. It also tends to dissipate a lot faster when smoked.
There are too many factors that affect the finished product to say that cased tobacco is superior to uncased tobacco or vice versa. It depends on how the manufacturer makes the tobacco, the quality of the ingredients used, and, most of all, the smoker’s personal preference. It is best for each individual pipe smoker to sample tobacco from a variety of different manufacturers to find the ones they like the best.