The great rivalries: Packers vs. Bears, Montagues vs. Capulets, Churchill vs. Chamberlain, blonde vs. brunette. And to this storied list of squabbles, we can tack on Aromatic vs. Non-Aromatic and English pipe tobaccos. While it’s true that certain smokers straddle the divide, many find themselves drawn to one side or the other along the lines of big-ticket items like aroma, tobacco burn temperature, and the nuances of natural tobacco flavors. While we support brothers and sisters of the leaf of all stripes and preferences, indulge us for a moment on 9 of the top-rated Aromatic blends to broaden your tobacco roster; you may even find yourself an unwitting convert.
Before we begin, a quick primer on what qualifies an Aromatic pipe tobacco. At the bird’s eye view, tobacco blends are divided into three principal categories: Non-Aromatic, Aromatic, and English. While the difference between English and Non-Aromatic is a lengthier topic for another day, Aromatic pipe tobacco is distinguished from these other two by the marked aromas—the sharply identifiable room notes—the tobacco carries. These are the crowd pleasers that your layman associates with pipes: cherry, vanilla, honey, maple, chocolate, rum; the sweet wafting smoke that’s less a cause for offense than a nostalgic return to fishing with a grandfather or a department chair strolling across the quad (at least back in the days when you could smoke on campus).
The process for deriving the characteristic aromas of Aromatic pipe tobacco are the result of a process called “casing.” Casing involves adding a “flavoring,” or in many cases more than one, to the tobacco. In addition to casing, blenders may incorporate “top notes,” which are specifically orchestrated injections of flavoring applied to the entirety of the blend and not just its constituent tobaccos. The result is a scent-arresting fragrance—the primary, emergent aromas of the tobacco that light up the room.
As mentioned, tobacco pipe smokers are often split on their enjoyment of Aromatics vs. Non-Aromatics. Aromatics are, perhaps too pejoratively, considered a newbie’s tobacco because they are often recommended to new pipers; however, many seasoned pipers find occasion to appreciate the craftsmanship of intentional casing and top notes, and some incorporate Aromatics with comparable gravitas to their Non-Aromatic and English blends. When you’re bringing in reputable blending titans like Mac Baren, Orlik, and G.L. Pease into the Aromatic conversation, you can be certain the offerings are worthy at a minimum and interesting to say the least. Without further delay, here are 9 top-rated Aromatic blends to try now.
First to the plate is a mainstay in the Aromatic smoker’s arsenal. Mac Baren’s Seven Seas Royal Blend is a straightforward and exceptionally mild mixture of Black Cavendish, Burley, and Virginia tobaccos. A perfect candidate for an all-day smoke anytime you need that sweet relief, it’s easy to envision a sailor with a permanent poker stuck between his teeth puffing on bowls from port to starboard. Indulge this mild and subtly fruity Aromatic and its gorgeous thick white smoke in small ounce options or all the way up to a 5 lb. bag.
F&K has roots back to 1926. Their St. Louis, Missouri blending experimentation has even produced an Aromatic cigar—The Piper’s Cigar. Nice. We love the experiments, and F&K scored a win with their batshit crazy Bat with a Hat pipe tobacco. This ribbon cut Burley, Virginia, and Green River Leaf blend carries a mild strength with a solid medium taste of burley nuttiness, Virginia sweetness, and liquor and caramel flavoring. The Bat burns nice and smooth and delivers a pleasurable room note, so while the name raises hell, smoking this beauty is easy on the mouth and your audience.
Welcome to the most mythical corner of Aromatic pipe tobaccos. Vauen Auenland’s The Shire calls together a family of blends from Black Cavendish to Burley to Virginia and completes the collective with a deliciously mild peach flavoring. This smooth, German-origin tobacco, with its toasty oatmeal aroma, is perfect for easy like Sunday mornings, when you’ve got that wake-up cup of coffee and your feet are propped up and a wizard in grey may come calling at any moment.
Another strong showing from Mac Baren, Black Ambrosia is as good as its namesake when it comes to dessert. This sweet, citrus-flavored Cavendish and Virginia tobacco is nice and mild, and when smoked properly, carries little bite. Another candidate for an all-day smoke, Black Ambrosia is an ideal send off when you want something gentle that pairs well with a top shelf bourbon. Pick up a 3.5oz tin to take it for a spin, and then plunge for the 16oz bag when you want to hit the majors.
Lane Limited 1-Q
What list of top-rated Aromatic pipe tobaccos would be complete without the famed Lane Limited 1-Q? A colossus of tobacco, 1-Q is the number one selling blend in the world. A mellow mixture of golden Cavendish and sweet Virginia with an exceedingly pleasurable room note, 1-Q is imbued with a cool and flavorful vanilla that has helped to make it one of the all-time classics. 1-Q is great on its own and also makes a nice mixing element for the home-blender who wants to conjure their own creations. Given its popularity, and that once you’ve smoked 1-Q you’ll likely stick around for many bowls to come, you can sample with a 1.75 oz tin or go all the way up to a 5 lb. bag.
When master blender, Carl McCallister, turns his trusty hand to any blend, we’re here for the result. Sutliff Private Stock Molto Dolce is a creamy Black Cavendish, Burley, and Virginia ribbon cut masterpiece that’s flavored with Vanilla, Honey, and Caramel, making it an ideal after-dinner dessert choice. As with many Aromatics, Molto Dolce is well-served with a bit of drying time before firing up a bowl. And when you do, the fabulous, creamy room notes and smooth and gentle smoke will keep you returning tin after tin.
What happens when you unite smoky Dark Fired Kentucky, lightly sweet Virginias, vanilla and bourbon topping, and the steady hand of G.L. Pease? You get G.L. Pease Virginia Cream Pipe Tobacco, that’s what. True to its name, this tobacco is deliciously creamy with its well-orchestratedand complex Virginias and is perfectly complemented by a good neat bourbon. Grab a 2oz or 8oz tin and dig into this exceptional Aromatic pipe tobacco.
Lane Limited carries oomph in the world of Aromatic pipe tobaccos, and not just for the famed 1-Q. Not to be missed is Lane Limited’s BCA. Perfect for a breezy morning smoke or an evening send-down, this loose-cut Cavendish tobacco is flavored with vanilla and excellent to blend if you want to try out a pinch with your other favorites. Reviewers note hints of chocolate alongside the vanilla, and if you’re a fan of Cavendish, you’re in for the real deal from a 1.75 oz tester all the way up to a 5 lb. bag. Take the plunge for this tried and true Aromatic.
Cornell & Diehl has helmed some of the finest tobacco blends around since 1992, and Autumn Evening is their best-selling Aromatic. This medium flavored tobacco carries tin notes of citrus, liquor, maple, rum, and vanilla, making it particularly intricate on the nose for an Aromatic pipe tobacco. Ideal for the veteran piper and the newbie alike, the room note on Autumn Evening brings to mind those balmy evenings with golden sunsets and beaming tumblers of bourbon. Take a tin for spin and we’re certain even your spouse will agree.
Aromatics remain a staple of the tobacco world for their unique play with tobacco and the wide web of flavorings and top notes they employ. Spending time with one of our strongest senses, aroma offers an intentional depth of dimension that’s a joy for even seasoned pipers and pleasing to those sharing their air as well. There is an absolutely vast array of Aromatic pipe tobacco on the market to choose from but take it from those who have gone before you and dip your toe into this fine-smelling sea with one of our nine heavy hitters. Incorporating Aromatics doesn’t mean you’re departing from the English and Non-Aromatic blends you love, but simply offering a counterpoint that complicates your palate and broadens your capacity to identify particulars and peculiarities. And that’s something every piper can find value in. So grab your favorite Savinelli pipe, Peterson Pipe or Rattray's pipe and try some of these aromatics today!