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Another Thought On Home Blending

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RSteve

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Brunello":n9v246ml said:
There seems to be the occasional flurry of activity on home blending - one of the best started by BlackHorse himself - then nothing for years. I've just been wondering why there isn't more sustained interest in the topic?
Brunello's query was taken from another thread and I've been off and on thinking about it since I read the original post. As do many, I have far too much tobacco on hand. I'm personally averse to using the word "cellared" because that, for me, speaks to smoking the well aged tobacco in the distant future. At my age, aging tobacco for several years is impractical. I am fairly certain that when I die, my daughters will throw away all the remaining pipe tobacco and donate my extensive cigar collection to Cigars for Warriors. (Army, July, '68-Sept, '69, MACV, Vietnam)

I began blending pipe tobacco in search of the one blend that will satisfy me every time I smoke.
For me, it's no longer about having a variety of blends. I did that for years. I can't count the number of times, I've purchased a blend only to  think, "Well, Steve, that was $$$ thrown away."

It's probably just a quirk in my personality, because in foods and beverages I'm always seeking new flavors and products.

I just want that one blend that I will enjoy every time I smoke. (And I'm really close.)
 

Corncobcon

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I often wonder what will happen to all my stuff when I pass on. So, I have put notes with all the stuff I want to go somewhere or to somebody. Pipes, tobaccos, model trains, guns, music records and cd's, etc., all will hopefully have a place to go when I'm gone. Sometimes you really do have to plan ahead.
 

RSteve

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Corncobcon":n47mc3uy said:
 Sometimes you really do have to plan ahead.
I am doing a continuous rewrite of my obituary.
 

RSteve

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Corncobcon":iht8t74w said:
 Sometimes you really do have to plan ahead.
RSteve":iht8t74w said:
I am doing a continuous rewrite of my obituary.
Gore Vidal's Palimpsest was published in 1995. He admitted that this autobiography was written about his life as he'd hoped it would have been; not particularly a factual account. I think that when I write my eulogy, I'll follow that example.
 

Brunello

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Good to see a fellow home blender honing in on their Nirvana blend. I don't know that I'll ever settle in on a single, perfect blend, but I think for me it is worth the pursuit to have on hand the perfect example of each type of blend that I enjoy: perfect Balkan, perfect English-Aromatic, perfect VA-Tur, etc.

Recently while developing a new English-Aromatic blend I hot upon my best recipe yet, a blend so good (to my palate) that I could literally find no fault with it, nor imagine how I might make it better. That's actually a first for me. So now I consider that category closed, and no more need for tinkering. The more I develop blends that satisfy my own tastes, the more I look at all the commercial stuff on my shelf and wonder what I'm going to do with it all. I've tried the entire portfolios of Dunhill and Esoterica (except Scarborough, which I've somehow never tried) and honestly, none of them stack up to some of my own creations, or RSteve's Lion's Mane.

I just read today on Tobacco reviews somebody once again wetting their pants in praise of Penzance as being something utterly divine. So I smoked a bowl, as I do every few years to see how it's coming along, but came to the same conclusion I always do: A monolithic "One Note Samba" lacking layered complexity, smooth and pleasant in a kind of boring way, like an English-blend version of Prince Albert. That's why I say to those with the patience for it:

For those in pursuit of perfection there is no substitute for developing your own blend custom tailored to your own palate.
 

RSteve

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Brunello":c8wif8ya said:
For those in pursuit of perfection there is no substitute for developing your own blend custom tailored to your own palate.
Amen!
 

RSteve

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Brunello":2zu0adeo said:
Good to see a fellow home blender honing in on their Nirvana blend. I don't know that I'll ever settle in on a single, perfect blend...
I think that may be a product of the difference of our ages. 15 years hence, you also may want to hone in on a singular Nirvana blend, knowing that when you fill your bowl, you'll never be disappointed.

That said, I just I blended and pressed two tins of Cornell & Diehl Carolina Red Flake, 2 oz each, with 4 Oz. of C & D latakia for a simple English blend. I won't know what it's like for at least six months, as I want to see how the Virginia ages with the latakia.

 

Brunello

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Maybe RSteve can clip that quote from Pease about casing vs topping and put it here in the DIY section; I don't know how to move quotes from one thread to another.

From the perspective of a home blender the matter of casing vs topping is very important. I believe it was Pease who also said that because of differences in porosity Virginias absorb only 6% of their weight in flavoring while Burleys can take on as much as 24% which is why I never case (or top) different kinds of tobaccos together. When I receive a shipment of unprocessed leaf I usually divide the stash into three or four piles to be processed with different casings and different cuts (ribbon machine or scissors). Like many, when I first started blending I'd add different topping - a drop of vanilla or a spritz of Barenjaeger honey liquor -  but I haven't added toppings to any of my blends for several years now for the exact reasons that Pease and RSteve talk about.  
 

RSteve

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Brunello":usr907e4 said:
Maybe RSteve can clip that quote from Pease about casing vs topping and put it here in the DIY section; I don't know how to move quotes from one thread to another.
G.L.Pease":usr907e4 said:
There are two things of interest here, namely "casing" and "top flavouring." They are two distinctly different approaches to altering a blend's flavor. Some tobaccos employ both.

Casing requires that the tobacco be sprayed with or soaked in a "sauce" that may contain sugar, molasses, liquorice, alcohols like rum or whiskey, and various flavourings, natural or otherwise, depending on the manufacturer. Once the tobacco "drinks" the sauce, it's conditioned in large cylinders that dry it back to the desired moisture level, generally between 12% (on the dry side) and 22% (very moist). Optimal moisture for smoking depends on the smoker, but it's generally in the 13-16% range. The aromas and flavours imparted by casing will remain in the tobacco pretty tenaciously, and will affect the smoke throughout the bowl.

Top-flavouring is added by spraying the finished blend with scents and flavourings. This is a much lighter application, and doesn't alter the moisture content of the leaf dramatically. Sometimes called "top-notes," this can be quite ephemeral. Because of the volatile nature of many of the commonly used components, a tobacco left to "air out" may lose a lot of the perfume that's applied this way.

Depending on the casing used, tobaccos can become very sticky. Some producers use humectants to maintain a specific moisture level in the final product. You'll hear people talk about PG, or propylene glycol, the most commonly used humectant these days. It's generally spoken of in rather disparaging terms, thought it's not the PG that deserves the condemnation, but the blending houses who use it with reckless abandon. If the tobacco won't dry out, PG is likely the culprit. In small quantities, it does its job well. In large quantities, it produces a sticky, wet smoking, pipe clogging weed that should never see the inside of a pipe.

Not all flavoured tobaccos are cased, and casing is not always a bad thing, but the term is used incorrectly more often than not, so a lot of confusion has been created.
 

Brunello

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RSteve has got me fired up again thinking about this topic. I'm always wondering how to get more people interested in trying home blending and I think it is a fine line between sharing too much or too little information. On the one hand I'd like to share my own mishaps so that others can avoid them, on the other hand, too much information can overwhelm or scare off a person with a casual interest.

The whole topic of casing is probably beyond the scope of this forum because unless I'm missing somebody it seems that there are only a handful of us who actively dabble in home blending: RSteve, GeoffC, Timbo, Ozark Wizard, Brunello.

As for me, I have one more shipment of unprocessed leaf coming, and then I'm probably done with that. Unless done on a commercial scale casing at home is a real chore, and I have to ask myself if I've really done anything better than what could be ready-bought from bulk blending suppliers like Stokkebye and Sutliff. After all that effort and experimentation I can only count three true success stories: a Latakia that I cased with coffee works wonderfully with Burley; a dark Burley that I cased in a coriander and chestnut reduction (great when combined with Izmir), and a Basma-Samsun blend that I cased in a light honey sauce.

My top three creations are all made with standard blending components or maybe kicked up a notch with some premium commercial products like John Cotton's Double Pressed Kentucky. No need to make things even more difficult.


 

RSteve

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Brunello":9ilg192c said:

As for me, I have one more shipment of unprocessed leaf coming, and then I'm probably done with that.
After my last order from LeafOnly, I said the exact same thing.
 
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