From the SPC Lab: Aging Tobacco
Working for Smokingpipes.com is, for the record, as much fun as many of you have suggested you think it is, and sometimes even more so. Case in point: Friday some of us got together to experiment with stoving tobacco. The genesis for this endeavor started when Chris Johnson offered me a bowl of five-year-old Rattray's Marlin Flake, given to him by Mimmo of Romeobriar.com fame. Let me tell you, it's absolutely scrumptious! Ted Swearingen had earlier that day discussed stoving some Haddo's, hoping to bring it closer in flavor to Sykes's ten-year-old version we sampled in Chicago and so the three of us decided we should try tossing some Marlin Flake in the oven and see how it would turn out.
I walked downstairs and purchased a shiny new tin from our brick-and-mortar, Low Country Pipes and Cigars. From this tin, I removed roughly half of the tobacco for stoving, and kept the other half to smoke through the weekend so that I might thoroughly explore Marlin Flake's un-aged/un-stoved flavor for comparison. The pipe I chose to wield for this experiment was my little Peter Heeschen brandy, a piece that I have smoked no more than a handful times (being my nicest pipe, I like to save it for special occasions; we all have our rituals and rules).
The flake to be cooked, in what's commonly refered to as Fred Hannah's 220/220 method, was placed in a coffee can topped with aluminum foil. With the oven heated to 220 F, we baked the pile for just over two hours, and visually compared the three, the fresh, the stoved, and the aged-five-years. The stoved pile was much darker, closer in color to the aged tobacco. Unfortunately, the stoved flake was now also completely devoid of moisture. I placed it in plastic bag with a Hydrostone (a small, leaf-shaped piece of ceramic) and left the stoved Marlin Flake to re-hydrate over the weekend.
The result? As you might expect, the baked tobacco does not go so far as to match the five-year-old in flavor or smoothness, but it does indeed taste better. How much better than new? Well, only a little bit, honestly. I'm guessing that certain pipe tobacco mixtures respond to stoving better than others, and one could also vary cooking time, temperature, along with moistness of the tobacco, but stoving is nonetheless not chemically equivalent to aging, and therefore cannot be expected to replace it. Was it worth the time and effort? That's hard to answer, as we did have some fun playing mad-scientists in the kitchen, and I'd say that aspect at least is worth more than the end result.
Enough about tobacco, let's talk update. Today we have for you two new pieces from our own Adam Davidson, four from Lasse Skovgaard, alongside a fresh selection of Tsuges, Dunhills, Johs, Brighams, Savinellis, Petersons, and masterfully restored estates from England and Italy. Enjoy!
John Sutherland: Marketing Mngr and Sr. Photographer