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5 Underrated Straight Virginia Pipe Tobaccos

5 Underrated Straight Virginia Pipe Tobaccos

Posted by Greg Rosenberg on 26th Oct 2023

There are plenty of blogs out there listing some of the best pipe tobaccos to try within a given blend family. Our blog features several, curated with consideration given to popularity as well as personal recommendation. I usually make a point to include a blend or two in these lists that isn’t quite as widely appreciated compared to some of the classics expected on such lists. Then it occurred to me, it might be worth it to the pipe smoker exploring the wide world of tobacco blends to have lists focusing on fine blends that don't get so much attention. 

Of course, a list of this nature is all the more crafted around personal taste, but if you share my affinity for smoking “widely”—more given to trying a lot of new-to-you blends rather than keeping to a few standards—or if you’re still looking for some mixtures that feel worthy of rotation, I’m hoping these blogs can offer some ideas to help you along.

With so many blends out there, why not narrow things a bit? This list will feature some underrated straight Virginias worth trying, but other (sub)genres of tobacco blends are to come.

Cornell & Diehl Derringer

Cornell & Diehl Derringer pipe tobacco

Cut:          Ready Rubbed 
Taste:        Medium       
Strength:     Medium       
Packaging:    Tin (2 oz)   

Derringer is a wonderful straight Virginia from Cornell & Diehl that comes in bulk or tin. With a sugar casing for balance, this mixture leans into the natural goodness of the Virginia leaf with a little more kick (apt for the name) than we often get from the genre.

The mixture of ready rubbed and long cut ribbon offers a tin note of barnyard, and fermentation with some citrus accents. The ready rubbed is broken down a good deal and requires no additional rubbing out, though you certainly can if it’s your preference. It’s an easy pack, takes a light amicably, and keeps an easy burn. 

Tang and spice of Red Virginias are on display complementing a woody core, which I feel leans bready some ways into the smoke. Those barnyard notes make it into the profile—it's a character that is very Cornell & Diehl to me. I imagine this is what Bayou Morning's base might taste like beneath the whopping 25% Perique. 

Though not extremely heavy, Derringer's strength comes through much in the sinus and emphasis on some of the darker notes, however the nic hit stays entirely manageable, even to the nicotine wary.

Hearth & Home Slow-Aged - Bright Night

Hearth & Home Slow-Aged Bright Night pipe tobacco

Cut:          Cake          
Taste:        Medium        
Strength:     Medium        
Packaging:    Tin (1.75 oz) 

Hearth & Home's Slow-Aged series exhibits the fine benefits of pressure and time. Sutliff tobacco, who manufactures Hearth & Home blends, employs their double-pressed method also used for such brands as John Cotton's and Cobblestone Brick. After being pressed into a crumble cake, the blend is rubbed out and again loaded in a holding press where it is put under pressure for thirty days. The result is deeper flavor with a smoother delivery; attributes we often have to compromise between.

Plum, cane sugar, vegetative, and bready notes are about in Bright Night. The pressing brings a Red character out of the Bright Virginias—mature tobacco taste with depth. The profile offers a whisper of that Sutliff vinegar note that is central to blends like their Red Virginia Crumble Kake or 515 RC-1, but to a much milder, less acidic degree, as the pressing processes really smooths the edges of the sharper edges of the profile. Ideally however, more mellow and melded shouldn't mean languid and monotone. Bright Night finds that balance well, with spice and floral notes adding complexities. 

Cobblestone Brick - Virginia Plug

Cobblestone Brick Virginia Plug pipe tobacco

Cut:         Cake          
Taste:       Medium        
Strength:    Mild - Medium 
Packaging:   Tin (1.75 oz) 

Seeing as Cobblestone Brick got a mention with the previous blend, might as well jump to one from the series that made my list here.

Despite the name, we have more of a crumble cake with Cobblestone Virginia Plug. A full, harmonious flavor is achieved in the pressing of the mostly Red Virginias, promoting a natural and deep sweetness. Dark fruit, bready, and currant notes are on show. Accents of citrus and grass bring a mild bright character and a bit of spice is present.

Being straight Virignias that are similarly processed, I find Bright Night to have a bit more spice and body than Virginia Plug. Other nuances separate them, but to me, those are most apparent. 

Cobblestone Virginia Plug is a great straight Virginia to showcase the attributes of darker Virginia flavors in an all day blend that is approachable to those favoring mild tobaccos.

Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia

Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia pipe tobacco

Cut:          Ready Rubbed 
Taste:        Mild         
Strength:     Mild         
Packaging:    Bulk         

Sutliff tobacco is well appreciated by lovers of straight Virginia blends for their quality yet affordable contributions. Since their releases, 515 RC-1 and 507 Virginia Slices have been widely embraced. But there is another that I’m quite fond of that I don’t hear too much about—707 Sweet Virginia.

707 delightfully touts that baking bread Virginia character with a light body. Bright notes of citrus and with a slight herbal quality make this an understated pleasure that displays the lighter side of Virginia leaf.

I find 707 Sweet Virginia to be a sort of companion to Virginia Slices, they’re different in their characteristics, but play a similar role in their simple, unpretentious goodness. If this is something you appreciate about Virginia Slices, Sweet Virginia may be another to bring into rotation. Truly an “all day” tobacco.

I also like to keep a few blending tobaccos on hand for my occasional arm-chair-blender whims. 707 Sweet Virginia is a go to for when I feel a little supplemental Virginia might do well to enhance a blend’s profile or even some aspect out.

McConnell Shakespeare

McConnell Shakespeare pipe tobacco

Cut:         Ribbon        
Taste:       Medium        
Strength:    Mild - Medium 
Packaging:   Tin (1.75 oz) 

As was the case with several manufacturers in the wake of Dunhill’s withdrawal from pipe tobacco, the German blending house Kohlhase & Kopp made an attempt at cloning some of the staples of British blending. This lineup was introduced as the Heritage series under the Robert McConnell brand. Shakespeare (previously The Old Sign) was blended in the likeness of Dunhill’s Ye Olde Signe.

Whether they succeeded in blending a viable alternative, I can’t say, but it’s certainly my opinion that Robert McConnell Shakespeare stands as a great straight Virginia blend—and one you don’t hear much chat around.

Shakespeare is a ribbon cut that offers a pleasant straight Virginia that doesn't favor too heavily the light or dark, Bright or Red, aspects of Virginia leaf, but embraces quintessential flue cured character in thoughtful balance. Woody, floral, and hay notes are joined with a light top flavoring that refines the profile without subtracting from the Virginia character of the blend. 

Finding blends you like is always a matter of navigating personal preferences, but I get how the larger popularity of a blend can offer confidence. If so many enjoy it, it's gotta be a decent place to start, right? However, I also know its easy to look at the sea of options behind the classics and modern favorites and be unsure where to start, so I hope this short list gives you something to consider. 

I look forward to doing more of these with other blend families, and of course, there are plenty of blogs curated with different qualities in mind to help you find that next favorite in the rotation.