How to Cellar Pipe Tobacco: Part Two

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So you have decided to do your future pipe-smoking self a favor by investing in a tobacco "cellar." Comprised of blends that promise to age like wine, as well as a few blends that you simply never want to be without, your cellar is an investment that can provide many years of contemplative reverie and enjoyment. Fine tobacco is not exactly cheap, and it is only natural to be concerned about the safety (and therefore the returns) of such an investment. The good news is that cellaring pipe tobacco is as simple as it is rewarding.

Two reasons to stock up

Many of us have spent our time and our hard-earned money searching for that special blend. A blend that just sings in our best pipes. One that delivers the aroma and flavor time, and time again and forces us to stop and say "now this is why I smoke a pipe!" Some of us have no plans to end the great search even after finding multiple "must-haves." There are two basic reasons to add tobacco to one's cellar:

  • The desire to "age" the blend over a period of time to either improve or amplify its characteristics.
  • The blend is a favorite and as such should never be in short supply.
  • It is safe to assume that a fine tobacco will only improve over time, but you might have to add enough to your stock to sample at different stages of maturation, to determine what amount of time you prefer. Many smokers feel that English blends (especially those containing high proportions of Latakia and Oriental varieties) peak around the five-year mark, showing little improvement beyond that point and a possible decline with too much age. Virginia blends, on the other hand, can essentially age indefinitely; they will not change much after a certain point (the biggest change tends to take place before or around the ten-year mark), but most smokers who have tried a Virginia blend with 25+ years of age will tell you that the experience was pleasing, to say the very least. As far as keeping a supply of your favorite(s), you might just be looking to ensure that if availability is ever affected, you will not have to "go without."

    Cellaring Tobacco at

    Tins and Jars

    My personal tobacco cellar is comprised of several large, plastic storage containers filled with various tins and jars. Tins are wonderful because in most cases all you need to do is date them (I use a marker to hand write the date they are added to my cellar on the bottom label of tins which are not factory date-stamped) and keep them in a safe, dry place out of any direct sunlight. What about blends that are not available in tins? What about the savings offered by purchasing my favorites in bulk? Well, you will need to pick up some Mason jars. I prefer Pint and Half-Pint jars with wide mouths for ease of filling (and un-filling!). Pint-sized jars will hold approximately 4 ounces of ribbon-cut tobacco, whereas Half-Pint jars are perfect for 2 ounces. Typically I use Pint jars for larger quantities of tobacco that I plan to age long-term, and the Half-Pint jars for my "working supply" or simply when I wish to have more practical amounts open at a given time.

    It is always a good idea to periodically check the seals on both your tins and jars. Simply tighten the lids of any jars that have become loose, and if you find that a seal has been compromised on a tin, you will want to either enjoy the tobacco immediately, or transfer it into a jar. I also keep a pack of blank peel-off address labels and use them to label my jars with the blend name, quantity in the jar, and date added to my cellar. Fill your jars loosely, make sure no tobacco bits are on the rim before sealing to ensure a proper seal, and store them. The idea that jars should be heated in water in order to create a "seal" is unnecessary and stems from certain "canning" recipes which are intended for use with food, not tobacco. A little bit of air is a good thing, and jars of pipe tobacco will actually "seal" themselves after a short time. I would also avoid using paraffin wax or similar substances to further seal the lids of the jars as it is also unnecessary and can be quite messy when the time comes to enjoy the contents.

    Cellaring pipe tobacco is really that simple. Just buy what you like, keep it safe, and enjoy. Still searching for those cellar-worthy blends? Check out our Tobacco Locator and let us know which blends are best represented in your own cellar! If you have any questions about the Locator itself, take a look at Jeremy's recent post for a quick breakdown of how to use the tool.

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    Tagged in:   Cellaring Pipe Basics Tips Tobacco


      • Paul on September 16, 2014
      • Good info. I like the idea of keeping the unopened tins in a plastic container. You can never know if a water pipe will leak and ruin your precious stash.

      • s.ireland on September 16, 2014
      • Few worldly possessions are more precious than fine pipes and tobaccos! I also like that I am able to keep my stash (somewhat) organized using the containers as well.

      • mr. destiny on September 20, 2014
      • What is the best temperature for storage. I keep mine in the basement of my cabin in the woods. When I am away the heat is turned down and the basement can get close to freezing,( but not all the way so the pipes won't freeze.)

      • s.ireland on September 22, 2014
      • Generally speaking, you want to store your tobacco in a cool, dry place. Extreme temperatures are not ideal. I would recommend keeping your stash in your residence where the temperature remains somewhat constant.

      • pacman357 on September 28, 2014
      • Really good, very helpful info. I'll add a couple of things. One, I wash the Mason Jars before using them (and yes, get the wide-mouthed...look on the boxes and check jars to see difference). Not to sterilize them, but because I wasn't there when they were boxed, and I don't know who all may have stuck what into them. Simple dish soap and water, plus I use deionized water to rinse to eliminate spots (water where we live is pretty hard, even with a softener on the house). Also, you can buy a funnel to fill the wide-mouth jars. I'd normally fashion my own, but given the amount of use and the cheap price, I'd say get the funnel, and clean after use. Additionally, I like both Syrian and Cyprian Latakia for different reasons. I've smoked some aged English blends with Syrian leaf, and I think the Syrian Latakia ages more gracefully than Cyprian does. My guess is that either the Cyprian has further to fall, typically being more pronounced and brighter in flavor, or it is all in my head. On more Oriental-forward blends, probably best to go only a handful of years. Conversely, Perique seems to age quite nicely. I usually add some to a VaPer, as I love the stuff, and nearly every blend lacks enough to satisfy me. To my taste buds, a well-aged VaPer can be amazing, especially in flake form (my preferred VaPer format). I add the extra Perique when smoking, but mixing it in when cellaring could mellow the entire blend and allow the flavors to marry better if you're not as much of a Perique nut. Finally, I also like a number of aromatics. I've given up trying to figure out which will age well and which won't. Seems to be too variable, but there are some that seem to age better than others. If you're wondering about a specific blend, I recommend checking online for opinions as to whether a particular blend is believed to age well or not. If a blend isn't to your liking to start with, I wouldn't expect the passage of time to elevate it, but I've seen a lot of reviews where a reviewer says "I didn't like this at first, but tried it again a couple of years later and it was fantastic". I wouldn't stock up on a stinker, but won't toss one I don't like until I've given it at least a year to age. And yes, this comment is likely longer than the article. Sorry, just trying to help.

      • s.ireland on September 29, 2014
      • That is interesting that you find the Syrian Latakia to age more gracefully than Cyprian. I will have to experiment with some Syrian blends to see for myself! Overall great input. Thanks for sharing!

      • skyblue on October 1, 2014
      • I once bought an antique tobacco tin on EBay Prince Albert Crimp Cut with the finger slicing top. To my amazement it was still full of tobacco sealed in waxed paper. I couldn't resist trying it - and despite perhaps 50 years of age it was a touch dry but an excellent smoke !

      • AZ Mountain Geek on October 3, 2014
      • I know from experience that the square/rectangular tins don't usually reseal well after they've been opened. (I'm thinking Solani Aged Burley Flake, Savinelli's Brunello Flake, Mac Baren's HH Dark Fired, etc.) What about unopened tins like these? Are they ok to cellar in the original unopened tins, or should they be transferred to a Mason jar? Thanks for the good thread!

      • s.ireland on October 3, 2014
      • The square tins you described are certainly okay to cellar long term, as long as they have not been opened. I have heard of the seals failing but have only experienced this one, maybe two times over the years (and being a flake smoker, much of my cellar is comprised of square tins). Just like my jars, I check the square tins every now and then to make sure the seals are intact. I hope this helps!

      • pacman357 on October 13, 2014
      • Mr. I, happy to help. I've found with both cigars and pipe tobacco, there are opinions all over the map, but I've learned to watch for the constants, and opinions that get repeated, when looking at a long-term deal or an expensive purchase. Lots of people have advised me along my pipe journey with posts, reviews, etc. Cigar & pipe people seem to generally be inquisitive and also generous with information. Just trying to pay it forward. I've recently had to move a ton of tobacco around, as my wife and I set up a cigar & pipe store in April, so I can't say for sure where everything is, but if you want, I could see if track down a couple samples for you (I have a large number of tins and jars to sort through, but I'm happy to do so if you wish). As for the Latakias, it just struck me that if I was to put music to them, Syrian Lat would probably get Sade's "Smooth Operator", whereas Cyprian Lat would be more like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers' "Give it a Way".

      • Cliff on January 11, 2015
      • Hi Shane, you mentioned "loosely." I'm new to pipe smoking (and cellaring) so I wanted to ask. I jarred a bag of Penzance, for example, into half-pint regular mouth jars, by sliding the flakes in where space allowed and then put in some of the broken flake on top, all the way to the top. I didn't warm/vacuum anything. I just filled it and put the lid on. So, there's air, but not "loose" per se. Will this hurt the tobacco? Or, just slow its aging? In your opinion, should I open them up and re-jar them? Here are some pics. Penzance: Stonehaven:

      • s.ireland on January 12, 2015
      • Cliff, your Penzance will be just fine; no need to open or re-jar. I almost always jar my flakes (including Penzance) in the same manner as you have. To clarify, when I said "loosely" all I meant was there is no need to really stuff it in there. Even if one does choose to pack a jar tightly it will not hurt the tobacco. Enjoy!

      • Cliff on January 12, 2015
      • Thanks Shane! I really appreciate it. Now all I need to worry about is that I ran the jars through the sanitize heat cycle in my dishwasher! Thanks for the great advice here.

      • Robert on May 26, 2015
      • How exactly can you tell if a factory sealed tin has a compromised seal? Firmness?

        To confirm, do you suggest moving opened tins to jars if it is decided not to smoke them straight away?

        That leads to another question I've had. How appropriate is it to throw opened tins into a cigar humidor kept at 70-72% RH? Would this prevent drying out? Is that too high or low a humidity level? Being both a cigar and pipe smoker I've always wanted to know.

        I threw two tins of Dunhill ( EMP and Nightcap) along with several "baggies" of bulk into an ammo can humidor and recently discovered it. Because of the complete seal the humidity remained and was somewhat high so the cans rusted lightly but the result was fantastic. The bulk in baggies was quite moist. Can't wait to pack it up !!

      • s.ireland on May 26, 2015
      • Robert, there isn't really a way to be able to tell with 100% certainty. Of course, if you can remove the lid, then the seal is broken, but if the lid is on firmly the vacuum can still be compromised. Most folk will gently shake the tin and if you can hear a lot of movement, then your tin might be compromised and the contents may have dried out.

        And yes, I recommend using jars for tobacco that you aren't going to smoke right away, as well as aging bulk tobacco.

        You don't want to throw tins into your cigar humidor since the high humidity will most likely cause the tins to rust. I use jars because it will keep the tobacco very close to the moisture level it was intended to be stored at. If you put tobacco into a humidor it will absorb more moisture than you might want.

      • mark shuttleworth on July 10, 2015
      • Thank you for an excellent article. I have been thinking about the best ways to store tobacco and I was thinking of a humidor. Now I will be obtaining some suitable jars instead.

      • William Sladek on December 26, 2015
      • I place sweet humidifying disc in each jar I cellar. Is that wise? Is there a possibility the tobacco might mold? Thanks.

      • s.ireland on December 29, 2015
      • @William Sladek I wouldn't recommend using humidifying discs in jars that you intend to store long-term. When using Mason/canning jars, there's no need to worry about moisture loss as the jars are self-sealing and will retain the tobacco's moisture for many, many years. And adding additional moisture can increase the chances of mold. Humidifying discs work great when you have a few grams of tobacco in a pouch that you will be smoking soon, but you don't need them when cellaring/jarring tobacco for aging. I hope this helps!

      • Bryan Webber on May 7, 2016
      • I built a corner hutch in my home and use the shelving for my prized pipes and everyday blends. It has a cabinet section on the bottom where I can keep all of my tins or jars for storage.

        Good article SP!

      • Adam O'Neill on May 7, 2016
      • @Bryan Webber Sounds like an A setup, thanks for sharing and thank you for the kind words.

      • physicsman on September 17, 2016
      • I've discovered that aromatics (top notes, smokiness of Latakia, and other flavor compounds) can pass through the gasket material on mason jar lids and all vacuum sealed tins. I now seal all my jars and tins with aluminum tape as a barrier to slow the escape of these flavor compounds.

      • Adam O'Neill on September 19, 2016
      • @Physicsman That's a great tip, thanks man!

      • Todd Nelson on August 23, 2017
      • I've hear do that aromatic tobacco won't age as well. Thoughts? Any idea on how long aromatics can be aged before losing their "aroma"?

      • s.ireland on August 23, 2017
      • @ Todd Nelson Aromatic blends will keep in jars indefinitely, without too much degradation, if any at all. Typically folks don't cellar Aromatic bends with the hopes that the flavor will change/mature, but a big part of cellaring is simply about stocking up on your favorites.

      • Bill on January 2, 2018
      • Interesting stuff

      • Adam O'Neill on January 2, 2018
      • @Bill Glad you enjoyed it, my friend!

      • Todd Nelson on June 13, 2018
      • Hi. Another question: do you find any difference between the screw top mason jars versus the ones with a rubber seal and bail and wire closure?

      • Khurt on June 16, 2018
      • I’ve purchased some pouch tobacco that I intend to age. I’ve thought about just placing the pouch in a mason jar without opening it. Or, would it be better to empty it directly into the jar?

      • Scott Deininger on September 10, 2018
      • I'm new to pipe smoking, and smoke tobacco slowly.
        How should I store, and should I humidify in some way, the open tins and bags I'm working through? I have several ounces of three or four tobacco's that I'm enjoying, but it's going to take me several months to get through it all. I already notice it being dryer than it was.

        One solution is to smoke more!
        But what are my other options?

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