Virginia Tobacco - Pipe 101 - Cigars International

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I want to talk to you about the 3 main varieties of tobacco (Virginia, Burley, and Turkish/Oriental) and three processing methods that are so well known that the tobaccos they produce are often thought of as tobacco varieties in themselves; namely Cavendish, Latakia and Perique.

Before we get into this discussion, we need to a little background. Each of these varietal families (Virginia, Burley, Oriental) is a direct descendant of Nicotiana tabacum. Through genetics these distinct types have been developed along with numerous hybrids of each variety. Also, just like cigar tobacco, the microclimate where the tobacco is grown, the trace elements in the soil, and the specific way the tobacco is processed have a great affect on how the tobacco tastes when smoked. Virginia tobaccos are the most widely grown varietal family in the world, growing in Maryland through the Carolinas and other states, in Canada, from Central America to Brazil, several African countries, in Europe and Asia; and is a base tobacco in many pipe tobacco blends. While most of the Virginia grown in the world is used for cigarettes, higher grade varietals and heavier leaves are used for producing pipe tobaccos. Virginia tobaccos are naturally high in sugar content, relatively low in oils and are typically flue-cured after harvest; a process that pipes furnace-driven heat into a enclosed building which fixes the sugar content at Virginia's naturally high level. Virginia leaves vary in color from bright yellow to orange to mahogany brown to black, with the lighter colored Virginias being sweeter and sharper. There are a number of types of Virginia, and each has unique properties.
Yellow Virginia is usually the sweetest kind, being lemon to banana yellow and having a noticeable acidity to it with distinct citrus notes. Bright Virginia usually is a mixture of yellow and orange, possibly with a bit of red, and is less sharp than yellow, but with a little more depth to the flavor. Orange is a touch less sweet still, and has more of a hay-like quality, and red is more toasty with bread-like notes and noticeably less sugar. The term "brown Virginia" usually refers to matured flue cured. To mature the leaf, heat, pressure, aging or any combination thereof may be used. This normally deepens the flavor and increases the nicotine content. Finally, stoved Virginia is actually (typically) yellow Virginia that is roasted on a metal surface until it turns black. This caramelizes the sugars and brings out a fruitiness that can add a nice dimension to a mixture.
Due to its high sugar content, Virginia can burn a little hot, and can cause some tongue irritation if you smoke it too quickly. This is because water, in the form of steam, is a byproduct of the combustion of the sugar in the tobacco. This can be avoided by puffing slowly on your pipe and by letting the pipe go out and cool, if it gets too hot. The coarser the tobacco cut and the firmer you pack your pipe, will also slow the burning rate of the tobacco. Good Virginia tobacco is naturally light in flavor + aroma, sweet, and has a medium (to high) nicotine content. Virginia/Perique blends have quite a following, not only because the combination tastes good, but also because the slow and cool burning Perique can tame the heat of a Virginia quite well.