This is the third list in our blends to try series, following the previous Aromatic's list. Now it is time to take a look at Virginia blends that you should check out before the end of the year.
Virginia tobacco is one of the most common ingredients in any blend. The nature of the leaf means they work well with the other styles of tobacco, creating complex aromas and flavors that would be lost without Virginia's addition.
So what is Virginia tobacco? Well, as you can imagine, it earned its name from where it was first cultivated. Brought to the American colonies in 1612, John Rolfe planted Spanish tobacco seeds in the rich soil near the James River in Virginia. Since Virginia was the first colony to grow this crop and develop this version of tobacco, the leaves from this plant became known as Virginia tobacco.
What makes Virginia tobaccos special is the sugar content. Virginia tobaccos come in multiple varieties, but they all have a higher than typical sugar content than other naturally grown tobaccos. This allows the tobacco to age, like wine. During the aging process, the sugars will sweeten the tobacco, giving them a more citrus or fruity taste.
Another thing that affects the taste of Virginias is the time when it was harvested. When it is ripe, the leaf will be a light yellow with a weaker flavor. If the farmer lets it sit longer and become overripe, the leaf will be darker and more flavorful.
The final thing to affect taste is how the Virginia tobacco is cured. Curing is the process of drying freshly harvested tobacco leaves. When done under carefully controlled circumstances, you get the excellence that you expect from your blends.
Virginia tobacco was originally air-cured, which meant they were left hanging under a roof until dry. That process took between 40 and 60 days to be ready for production. Later, in the middle of the 1800s, a new process was developed that improved the taste and aroma of the tobacco. This new process, flue-curing, involved a barn with a heat source. This heat source was in the form of a flue that would raise the heat in the barn without exposing tobacco inside to any smoke that would alter the flavor. Later on, new technologies would allow for different forms of heating, such as high-powered light bulbs serving as heat lamps.
Now that we have talked about what a Virginia blend is and what goes into making it let's take a look at the ten blends you should try to get your hands on before the end of the year.
First, we should talk about the mild strengths. Mild tobaccos are great to be enjoyed any time of the day. Most of them are labeled as all-day smokes since you can pack and light multiple bowls of them throughout the day. Mild tobaccos are great for beginners, as they won't overpower you like the stronger blends. However, just because they are ideal for beginners doesn't mean they are not ideal for everyone.
Chess is a game of skill that has existed for more than 1500 years. It has been played by royalty and the aristocracy, becoming one of the most popular board games in the world, with multiple tournaments and a recognized world champion. People use chess to sharpen their minds and develop an improved sense of strategy.
The most important piece in chess is the king. You win a game when you force the opposing king into an indefensible position, called checkmate. It is fitting then that one of the better Virginia blends around is named after this essential piece.
Cobblestone Chess King is a combination of Virginia and Perique tobaccos, a mixture that is known as a VaPer. VaPers have become increasingly popular as time goes by, and they are a great addition to any smoker's collection. The King tobacco is milder in strength, so you don't have to worry about it overpowering you, but it lies more in-between mild and medium, so it might not be an all-day smoke for everyone. The Cobblestone Chess line is full of Virginia blends, with a couple of English blends in there too. You will not regret picking up this Chess set whenever you wish to enjoy a Virginia tobacco.
Virginia tobacco is not just harvested in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The plant has been spread around the world, reaching South America, Africa, and plenty of other locations.
Amphora is one of the Virginia Blends that utilizes tobaccos grown all over the globe, and it is a pure Virginia, with no other types mixed in. You will get a pleasant note of citrus with this blend, and since it is milder in strength, you will be able to enjoy this tobacco all day long.
Mac Baren acquired the Amphora brand in 2015 and has taken its 150 year history to the next level, improving upon the blends and garnering even better reviews than before. It is no surprise that the Amphora Virginia Blend is loved by just about everyone that tries it.
The Cobblestone slogan is "Find Your Path," and this is something they truly believe. By finding your own way in this world, you will be able to discover what you love, what you enjoy, and what you want to do. Having your own way creates opportunities for many different experiences, and you should take the time to make certain you know how you want to go.
When you are looking for a comfortable and purely Virginia blend, Cobblestone's Brick line will step up to satisfy you. Utilizing only Red Virginia, you will be picking up a great option for an everyday smoke. Not too strong, but not too mild, this blend is a touch under medium strength, so you can enjoy it without beginners being overpowered.
With the Cobblestone Brick Virginia tobacco, you will be able to "Find Your Path" by enjoying a pleasant smoking experience of pure Virginia.
Medium strength blends are tobaccos that can be all-day smokes, just not for beginners. They are milder than the strongest blends, so they will not overpower you as much as those, but a beginner might need some time to work their way up to these as they gain experience on how to smoke a tobacco pipe.
When you get a tobacco from G. L. Pease, you are getting something that has been worked on by one of the most well respected members of the tobacco community. Gregory Pease got his start in the tobacco world by working at a classic tobacco shop, Drucquer & Sons, before opening up his own shop after learning all he could from there.
Laurel Heights is Pease's combination of Latakia and Virginia tobaccos, which he first released in March of 2006. As Pease describes it, "the flavors are deep and round, with a smooth, natural sweetness, and subtle notes of orange peel, roasted oats, leather, and peat." This is a tobacco that will progress well, and you will enjoy the darker Virginia tobacco that has been paired well to create a blend that has been praised for fifteen years now.
One great thing about this tobacco blend is the quantity you can get. There are two different options, a two ounce tin and an eight ounce one. For newcomers to this blend, two ounces is a great start. If you love it, eight ounces is waiting for you.
Another benefit is how well this tobacco ages. You can pack a bowl with it as soon as it comes in the mail, or you can cellar it to allow some age to develop the flavors more. Either way, you will be enjoying an excellent smoking session, which makes Laurel Heights a double duty tobacco.
Master tobacco blender Russ Oullette created the Hearth and Home brand of pipe tobacco, using his 35 years of experience to craft excellently made mixtures. He created 47 different blends under the Hearth and Home line, and this one is definitely one of the best of them.
Virginia Spice features a combination of Cigar Leaf, Virginia, and Perique tobaccos, creating a unique VaPer that is bound to satisfy. The Virginias provide a sweet flavor with the added kick that Perique brings to the table, while the cigar leaf adds a fullness that is hard to miss. Pick up citrus and fruity notes with this blend, and when you fill your bowl with it, remember to thank Russ Oullette for it.
There is something primal about going out hunting. Making sure you bring home something freshly caught that will serve well for a few meals. Hunting has been an essential aspect of human history from the very beginning, before modern humans even existed. It has been so important that it was symbolized in the ancient world through deities and rituals. These deities were found all over the world, with Gods and Goddesses like Artemis in Greece, Mixcoatl in Central America, and Oshosi in Africa.
Even today, hunting is still one of the great ways to spend time with friends and family. Plus, you will only get some of the best tasting meals thanks to the efforts of hunting. Have you ever tried venison? It is a little gamey, but overall one of the tastiest meats around.
Cobblestone's Outdoors series' Hunting blend utilizes a mixture of Burley, Perique, and Virginia tobaccos, which combine to be an excellent smoking experience. The Burley adds some strength to the blend, while the sweet and spicy flavor comes from the Virginia and Perique. When you pack your tobacco pipe with the Hunting blend, you will be receiving a pleasant tobacco with great taste and aroma. Take the time to enjoy yourself with this blend, and you will not be disappointed.
Capstan is a brand rescued from obscurity. It was initially created by W. D. & H. O. Wills, a small shop in Bristol, England, that was founded in 1786. While the original blenders have gone out of business, their tobacco has stood the test of time, currently being manufactured by Mac Baren.
Capstan was one of the favorites at Oxford university, especially with famous and renowned author J. R. R. Tolkien. The characters in his books would frequently smoke from a tobacco pipe; Tolkien made it a point to write scenes specifically for that. While he never officially named the tobacco the characters would use, it has been generally accepted that they used Capstan's Original blend.
Capstan's Original Navy is a pure Virginia blend. It provides notes of citrus and fig, with some earthy tones. Capstan leaves a pleasant room note, and you should appreciate the strength without it being too overpowering.
Strong tobaccos are potent blends. These can overwhelm you if you are not careful. Best enjoyed after a meal, these blends are something you should work your way up to and not jump right to it. Powerful tobaccos like these have plenty of fans and will provide great smoking sessions if you are ready for them.
Cornell and Diehl is one of the most well respected pipe tobacco manufacturers in the world, and they have accomplished that in a relatively short amount of time. Founded in 1992, their experience comes from the acquisition and salvation of tobacco blends that would have disappeared into history.
Thanks to all the brands Cornell and Diehl have acquired, they have more than 120 years of experience at their hands when they see the notes and recipes left behind.
Billy Budd Blonde is the sequel to an earlier blend and is a combination of Black Cavendish, Burley, Cigar, Perique, and Virginia tobaccos. The flavors all mesh well to create an overall excellent tasting tobacco.
Billy Budd Blonde was created to honor the memory of a gentleman named Sailorman Jack. He was a co-founder and the first president of the New York Pipe Club when it was organized in the early 1980s. He was well respected in the pipe smoking community, where he was known to give gifts to friends and helped spread the word about new and exciting blends when they first got released. Sailorman Jack remained a beloved friend to many until his passing in 2006 and is still spoken of fondly to this day. It is fitting that a great pipe tobacco was made to pay homage to him.
Another masterful Cornell and Diehl mixture, Virginia Flake, is a straight Virginia blend. Originally created by the Atlas Blending Corporation, you will get notes of tart and tangy citrus.
Sharp and full bodied, one thing many reviewers recommend is taking your time while smoking this, which will keep the tobacco tasting sweeter.
One great benefit of this tobacco blend is the quantity you can receive. If you only want a little bit, you can get only two ounces in a tin. If you love it, there is a bag full of sixteen ounces instead that is available for you.
Cornell and Diehl's blending ability has let them make more than two hundred different blends, so even if these two are not your preference, there are many more that can be right for you.
Escudo was created 64 years after the founding of the company that made it. Thomas and George Cope started Cope Brothers tobacco in 1848 and quickly grew the company into a massive success. By the 1880s, they had close to 2000 employees and multiple successful tobacco lines.
The Gallaher Group bought the Cope Brothers company in 1952, and Escudo continued to be made until 1994. Three years later, A & C Peterson purchased the rights to the original recipe, but by 2000 it was not available in the United States. Thankfully, two years after a 2004 acquisition by the Scandinavian Tobacco Group, it returned to the country, and pipe smokers here can appreciate the brilliance of a well made tobacco.
This Escudo blend is a VaPer and is one of the most popular ones throughout the world. With a sweet tin note and pleasant room note, this tobacco is strong but not off-putting. The Virginia tobacco makes sure that the sweetness translates to the flavor as well, with a nice pop thanks to the Perique. If you decide to go with Escudo, you will discover why it is called the "King of VaPers."
The great thing about Virginia blends is that there are so many of them out there. You have a ton of options, and if you do not see something on this list that grabs your attention, there are plenty more Virginia pipe tobacco options available.
Next list: Cherry Aromatics