Teach Me How to Enjoy Aromatics

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Grimpeur

Well-known member
#23
First define what is meant by the word "aromatic". It's a fairly broad category that runs from GH Dark Plug Rose to Borkum Rif Cherry Cavendish.

My number one discovery in broadening my tobacco horizon is: don't just smoke a bowl or two. Live with something new for awhile. For me, a day or two.

There are several reasons for my choosing this approach. The taste may be so unfamiliar, it takes a bit to get comfortable with it. The cut is so different, my fingers have to remember again what to do; going from a thick flake to an angel-hair cut for example.
Nicotine! Going from a steady diet of a high octane blend to many aromatics leaves me unsatisfied for a brief period.

That all sounds like more trouble than it is in practice. But maybe you will think differently?

I'm a bit of a Mac Baren fanboy, so take this with a grain of salt...I would recommend any of their aromatic blends as a great starting point. Relatively inexpensive and high quality, their take on the Captain Black line, the 7 Seas blends are really well done...with so much less PG. Amphora Black might just be my favourite aro of all.

Get lots of cobs, maybe several boxes of Medico filters to help with moisture? Grabow filters are too restrictive.

Have fun exploring!
 

Coastal Bend

Get off my lawn.
Patron
#24
First define what is meant by the word "aromatic". It's a fairly broad category that runs from GH Dark Plug Rose to Borkum Rif Cherry Cavendish.

My number one discovery in broadening my tobacco horizon is: don't just smoke a bowl or two. Live with something new for awhile. For me, a day or two.

There are several reasons for my choosing this approach. The taste may be so unfamiliar, it takes a bit to get comfortable with it. The cut is so different, my fingers have to remember again what to do; going from a thick flake to an angel-hair cut for example.
Nicotine! Going from a steady diet of a high octane blend to many aromatics leaves me unsatisfied for a brief period.

That all sounds like more trouble than it is in practice. But maybe you will think differently?

I'm a bit of a Mac Baren fanboy, so take this with a grain of salt...I would recommend any of their aromatic blends as a great starting point. Relatively inexpensive and high quality, their take on the Captain Black line, the 7 Seas blends are really well done...with so much less PG. Amphora Black might just be my favourite aro of all.

Get lots of cobs, maybe several boxes of Medico filters to help with moisture? Grabow filters are too restrictive.

Have fun exploring!
Well said. There are some blends that are classed as "aromatic" on TR that I enjoy -- like Mac Baren Scottish Mixture and Watch City Deluxe Crumb Cut. There's many others I don't enjoy, but then again, I'm still learning. I'm just entering my sixth decade of pipe smoking, and I'm sure after a while I'll get it right.
 

Peacock

There is no spoon.
Patron
#26
I have tried 1Q, and I have some Autumn Evening waiting for the fullness of time. I like SWRA. The others are unknown to me. SWRA smokes about like anything else to me in terms of packing, etc.

I have decided that black cavendish and I do not get along. It typically tastes thin and a little musty to me. I tend to overpuff probably trying to get some flavor out. It may just be that you are looking for more tobacco flavor in your tobacco, and there is nothing wrong with that.
I think that may be my case too but I really want to like aromatics - if just for the sake of being more publically acceptable to smoke the sweet smelling stuff that reminds people of their grandpas.
 

Peacock

There is no spoon.
Patron
#27
Not drying it... I will. Thanks guys.

Smoking slowly is the hardest part still for me - besides tongue burn or lack of flavor how do I know what the right cadence is for me? Is it the same for everyone? Can I count say 10-30s between draws?

Odd thing is, I feel good about getting nice flavor from VA’s - which are most prone to being problematic with a strong cadence/too hot of smoking... right?
 

Sir Saartan

The Tan Saarlander
#28
One of the biggest mistakes a new pipe smoker can make is to begin with a strong aromatic.
I absolutely agree with this statement.

in my opinion there are several main reasons, some of which have already been mentionned:
a) PG makes it hard to dry your tobacco to the point where a new pipe smoker will have no trouble smoking it slowly
b) PG makes it even harder to know you haven't reached that point yet, because the tobacco feels right while it still holds too much moisture
c) if you smoke too hot, not only will the flavoring fade away quickly: somehow, these tobaccos themselves turn bitter/ harsh/ tasteless
d) not all, but a lot of aromatics don't use the same quality of leaf as not aromatics, because the added flavoring is supposed to add
a lot of flavor. therefore, once that's been blown away by the excessive heat, you're left with less than optimal quality tobacco

Some aromatics are different, but I still don't have the same great smoking experience with aromatics regularly. However
non flavored blends are much easier to achieve that with.

Me personally, I have always enjoyed non aromatics more, even though I do add a couple here an there as a "desert" smoke.
Therefore, my suggestion is to mainly smoke non flavored blends until you can smoke them without even thinking about them.
Get some early morning pipe (if you like that one) or some shag cut, put it in a wee little clencher and get a arts or similar project
going. Once that works without you needing to think about your pipe, you'll have a much easier time with those aromatics.

another bit of advice: Since humidity is the main problem, a smaller cob is a great pipe for aromatics. I'm mainly a briar smoker,
but cobs will soak up some of the moisture (much more compared to a briar pipe) and make this a little easier. Small bowls
will also lessen the problem, because there isn't a ton of tobacco underneath the burning part that can soak up excessive moisture, turning
into a soaked mess that just refuses to burn. once you have a soaked ball of tobacco in the chamber, it's time to dump that
anyways because it's going to taste just horrible.

I believe the "smoke something different for now" part of my post isn't the kind of advice you were asking for, but it's what I did.
I simply found other blends much more enjoyable, and instead of forcing me to smoke something that didn't agree with me, I
turned to the other 20 blends I had already purchased that did.

I do believe it's important to practice your technique, but:
a) you will also do so when smoking blends that do taste quite well even if you're not quite where you want to be technique wise
b) I personally believe that flakes are a much better tobacco to practice technique with, and most of those are not aromatics.
 

Coastal Bend

Get off my lawn.
Patron
#29
I think that may be my case too but I really want to like aromatics - if just for the sake of being more publically acceptable to smoke the sweet smelling stuff that reminds people of their grandpas.
It may not be exactly accurate, but at one time my philosophy was you either smoked for your enjoyment or for the enjoyment of those around you when it came to deciding on whether to smoke an aromatic or a non-aromatic.
 

Peacock

There is no spoon.
Patron
#31
I will attempt to give you an answer.
One of the biggest problems with aromatics is the fact that many expect the tine note to be just like what you will get when you smoke them. It can be to an extent if one very important step is taken. SMOKE THEM SLOWLY.
Many aromatics have humectants to preserve the tobacco--PG as we call it. Propylene Glycol. This adds lots of moisture to the point you will tell yourself you simply cannot get the tobacco to dry out at all. What one needs to do is to sip these blends slowly when smoking them--just enough to keep the pipe going, and even if you have to relight--it's ok--no sweat. What happens when we puff to hard, and fast with aromatics it causes the tobacco to get real hot, and we know moisture is a product of combustion. The harder we puff--the faster we puff--the more moisture you will get. That moisture has to go some place, and usually it goes up the stem, or makes the tobacco real wet. From there what happens is all the flavor profile is going out the top of your pipe in steam, and chemicals. What you will be left with is a goopy mess in the bottom of your pipe, and up in the stem-mortise, and tenon area.
One of the biggest mistakes a new pipe smoker can make is to begin with a strong aromatic. What usually happens is the smoker is seeking to get the wonderful flavor just like the tin note. So--we begin, and say--where is the flavor?? So we begin to puff harder, and faster in order to attempt to get that flavor. It's all down hill from there because just as I noted we create lots of moisture, and steam, and the result becomes very unpleasant. The key is to gently sip the pipe--just keep it slowly burning, and you will begin to find the flavors you are looking for. Again--smoke----SSLLOOWWLLYY. Aromatics can be tough for a beginner. You will find when you slow down the flavors will come through, and the moisture issues will be less of a factor.
Thanks Russ - I always appreciate your thoughtful responses. Slow down. Got it. My wife would be chuckling at this thread, that’s her mantra for me.
 

Peacock

There is no spoon.
Patron
#32
It is one of the things I kicked myself over for years, I can't think of many aro's that taste like they smell, which is sort of in the name when I think about it, the gang is right on point though, slow way, way down. I find it a bit of a puzzle that so many new smokers are pointed towards the aro blends when they really are expert level blends, if you don't dry them out properly, pack the pipe properly, have a painfully slow cadence it is going to be a massive pain getting on with most aro's. For the record, my experience with SWRA mirrors that of our chaplains, and I do not consider CH an aro, it is topped, but not really an aro. In addition to being a pain to work with, many aro's ghost/goop up pipes something fierce, so be sure you don't use a pipe to smoke a blend if you aren't sure you'd like reminders of your aro with your next Virginia or English or whatever.
Thanks guys. Dry it out. Take my time. Generally approaches I take to other tobaccos but for some reason I thought drying out aros would make them lose their flavor... and yes @SmokeRings ive been using cobs for any aros
 

SmokeRings

Well-known member
Patron
#33
Not drying it... I will. Thanks guys.

Smoking slowly is the hardest part still for me - besides tongue burn or lack of flavor how do I know what the right cadence is for me? Is it the same for everyone? Can I count say 10-30s between draws?

Odd thing is, I feel good about getting nice flavor from VA’s - which are most prone to being problematic with a strong cadence/too hot of smoking... right?
Play around with how you fill the pipe, I personally think this is critical for success with aro's, if you fill it right, it will behave right and the rest kind of just falls into place, too loose and it burns way hot/fast, too tight and it won't stay lit.

As far as cadence, unfortunately "it depends" is the only steadfast answer here, temperature, humidity, amount of wind, what size draught hole, how wet/dry is the tobacco, all play a part, in general though, if you are puffing 2-3 times per minute, you are probably slow enough
 

Peacock

There is no spoon.
Patron
#34
My recommendation, which I did not see though I may have skimmed past it, is to cut your goopy mess 60:40 or 70:30 aro/dry neutral smoking blend. It'll lessen the aromatic qualities somewhat of course, but it'll also dry it out without losing as much of the flavor compared to just setting some on the counter for an hour.
Open to recommendations on what to cut with goopers. Specific blends or categories
 

icerunoff

Dirigo
Patron
#35
Jared,
I’d buy a sampler from Wilke. His blends smoke really well right out of the bag. I’d give Lizzie Blood Red Virginia and Rumcake a shot. Vermont Maple Cavendish is good by itself and as an addition to other blends. I like Cherry Cavendish as an addition to other blends. John has 65 blends to choose from. View attachment 48186
+1 for Wilke. Boswell aromatics are tops in my book, Wilke a close second. Those quality aromatic tobaccos, and time developed technique, will go a long way towards enjoying the nostalgic experience.
 

icerunoff

Dirigo
Patron
#36
For some reason this question made me think of what a wit one time offered as the "Perfect Mint Julep."
  • Take two silver Old Fashions
  • In first add two teaspoons of sugar
  • Add one freshly picked sprig of mint
  • Branch water to moisten
  • Use pedestal to crush the mint into the sugar mixture
  • In second Old Fashion add three fingers of 12-year old Kentucky bourbon
  • Hold the second Old Fashion in your right hand
  • Hold the first with the mint and sugar mixture in your left hand
  • Then dump the contents of your left hand and drink the contents held in your right hand.
There must me some reason this came to mind when talking about aromatics. Give me some time, I'll figure it out. :whistling:
There is wisdom there! Also, I usually come across people repeating the "Perfect Mint Julep" bit around Derby season. Usually from dyed in the Kentuckians who abhor the mint julep rush at Churchill Downs.
 

JRobert

Nuclear Moderator
Staff member
#37
Open to recommendations on what to cut with goopers. Specific blends or categories
I usually cut aromatics with some kind of burley. The burley blends I have tend to be drier and help even out the overly-wet aromatics. If you are brave you can try a little aro with a latakia mixture. Either way I think it's best to mix only a little at a time (a couple of bowls worth) so you can adjust as necessary. Once you get something you like you can mix more. I have a couple of 'custom' aromatic/burley mixes I smoke on a regular basis.
 

millarddj

Perpetual whippersnapper
#39
Been a busy morning of meetings or I'd have jumped in here quickly as another younger guy with cautionary tales about starting on aromatics. Twice I *kind of* started pipe smoking, and gave it up after a little while because of the tongue bite/futziness. Nowadays, I smoke a lot of straightforward blends with little or no topping, and I have consequently learned to be a better pipe smoker. Going back to aromatics these days is MUCH more enjoyable. I've had bowls of Sutliff goop that have been downright magical in their place.

Smoking slowly is the hardest part still for me - besides tongue burn or lack of flavor how do I know what the right cadence is for me? Is it the same for everyone? Can I count say 10-30s between draws?

Odd thing is, I feel good about getting nice flavor from VA’s - which are most prone to being problematic with a strong cadence/too hot of smoking... right?
A lot of wisdom has been shared here by pipers older and wiser than I. That said, I'd still like to enumerate a few points that I feel important. I think I probably smoke as many or more aromatics than anyone else around here, so I feel somewhat confident in saying:

  1. Wet and dry aromatics are very different creatures and they behave differently in my mind. By the former I mean most "goopy" humectant-laden blends from places like Sutliff/Lane. By dry, I'd say stuff like Autumn Evening and the Wilke and Watch City blends I've tried. The former often won't be helped by drying time alone, whereas I often find that the latter WILL be. HOWEVER - DON'T MICROWAVE (my go-to method of quickly improving a blend's "smokability") aromatics unless you're already familiar with them. It usually kills some of the flavor, and quickly. Aromatics with latakia are another beast as well.
  2. To my mind, "cutting" a blend's flavor with another, non-aromatic blend is a complete change in character. Nothing is neutral, and I'm not sure if it's even a shortcut to learning how to smoke aros.
  3. I'm going to counter, to an extent, the "smoke slowly" point. I'm a fast smoker, always have been. I think the key is to really find consistency in how *often* one needs to puff to keep getting full flavor out of the pipe and maintain smoke quantity without it heating up. A personal example that has been a great teacher for me: I pray the rosary frequently as I smoke, so I puff a couple of times between each Hail Mary. That's about every 12-15 seconds, which is slower than I'd regularly go. With aromatics, I feel like I've got to puff a little more frequently than with VA/VAPers. Consequently, I don't smoke them as often during devotional time.
  4. I highly recommend wider/bigger bowls for aromatics. I really think they need more room to breath, and I consistently feel like I get more flavor out of those bowls
  5. As a rule, an aromatic (barring stuff like Rich Dark Honeydew) is going to taste a lot less interesting/strong in the tobacco department than other blends. Aromatics are often a "work smoke" for me while I'm doing something more mindless, since I want something with a little more depth/character if I'm dedicating my mind (at least partially) to the flavor I'm enjoying.
  6. This one is really important to me - I like to smoke aromatics in a still (no wind or air movement) environment. In the garage or on the back deck in the summer when there's little to no wind. I am 100% convinced that the real secret to enjoying aros is to bask in the room note, which builds continuously as you smoke until it surrounds you. With many other blends, most of the enjoyment is purely in the snork, and I could care less about (or actively prefer to avoid) the "room note". Quite different, in my mind, with aromatics. The snork on an aro is often not very interesting once you're attuned to the topping, so retrohaling less frequently makes it more enjoyable for me when I do.
 

tipofthelake

Fiddlesticksing sick of politics and posturing
Patron
#40
Open to recommendations on what to cut with goopers. Specific blends or categories
As @JRobert said I find burley works well (I have used PA and Granger), and have also used some Virginia blending tobacco which worked alright also, and would help to avoid the point @millarddj brought up about few things being truly neutral. You want something that is mild enough that you'd probably not smoke it on it's own normally to minimize this (for me this doesn't include either burley I recommended as I quite enjoy both of those blends)
All that said, I don't smoke many (non-gh) aromatics so even cut down the flavors are a big change from what I'm used to.
For whatever it's worth the blend I have received the most compliments on was gurkha urban legend, which is fairly mildly topped but really doesn't smoke like an aromatic. My friends also like the smell of lat blends though...:unsure:
 
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