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Aging Pipe Tobacco

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If you are reading this, you probably have a few burning questions on your mind such as Does pipe tobacco get better with age? or What pipe tobacco is best for aging? A lot of people have discovered that aging pipe tobacco can make for a more pleasurable smoking experience, but, as with many things about pipes and tobaccos, there are several misconceptions and a lot of misinformation out there. In this article, we will look at what kind of pipe tobaccos benefit from aging, how to properly age tobacco and more!

What Kind of Pipe Tobaccos Benefit from Aging?

Virginia and Virginia/Perique blends probably are the ones that change most noticeably and generally become sweeter and smoother. One of the most surprising smokes I have ever had was from a 10-year-old tin of McClelland Christmas Cheer. It had become so sweet that it reminded me of toffee. 

English and Balkan style blends will also be helped if you find the tobacco to be harsh or overpowering when fresh. Time mellows and takes the edge off the sometimes-in-your-face flavor of Latakia. Burley blends and aromatics don’t seem to benefit much, if at all.

How to Age Pipe Tobacco

The preferred method for aging pipe tobacco (whether it’s bulk tobacco or from vacuum-sealed tins), is to use mason jars (like the ones used for jarring preserves and pickles), but the method is different than you would use for food products. 

Step 1: Fill the jars about ¾ of the way full.

You want to fill the jar about ¾ of the way to leave enough air space for maturation. 

Step 2: Draw hot tap water (temperature below 140° F) into your sink and place the jars in the sink.

Whereas you would usually put these jars in a bath of boiling water for food preservation, the extreme heat would change the tobacco. Put some kind of weight on top of the jars so that they sit on the bottom of the sink and fill the water up to about the level of tobacco in the jar. Let them sit in the water for about 15 minutes, and then screw the lids into place.

Step 3: Remove them from the sink, and as they cool, a light vacuum will pull the lids tightly into place.

Some folks like to use a vacuum sealer and bags to age tobacco, but this will result in a much slower aging process. Other folks will try using Ziplock bags or Tupperware type containers, but they just won’t work as there will be too much air exchange, and the tobacco will dry out.

Step 4: Store in a dark place, such as a basement or cellar.

Tobacco is sensitive to sunlight, so it is best to store your aging pipe tobacco in a dark place such as a basement or cellar if the area maintains a consistent temperature. 

Does Pipe Tobacco Age in the Tin?

If you mostly purchase tins, you can age the tobacco right in the tin, in fact, the process is simpler but has its caveats. If you purchase vacuum-sealed tins (the flat tins with screw threads or need to be popped with a coin), be aware that leaving the tobacco in that tin will allow it to age, but relatively slowly. The relative lack of oxygen in the tins means that most of the fermentation will be anaerobic, according to no less an authority than Greg Pease. The tins used by Cornell & Diehl, G.L. Pease, and McClelland tobaccos are not vacuum-sealed, so the oxygen content of the tin will increase aerobic fermentation, followed by anaerobic.

When you’re ready to finally smoke the aged tobacco, open the container and allow the tin or jar to remain open for an hour, or preferably longer, before loading a bowl, to let the air bring out the flavor. Now it’s time to enjoy your aged tobacco! If you found this information helpful, check out some of our other tobacco resources like Latakia 101, Aromatics 101, and many more! 

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