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Why is Pipe Tobacco so Moist?

Danny

Well-known member
#1
And are we supposed to smoke it that way? Is drying really necessary? Let's take Samuel Gawith, Gawith Hoggarth & Co and Condor as examples, and I'm talking Plug and Flakes as these have been around for many years.
Did the Pipe Smokers of Yesterday who smoked these Tobaccos have time to dry their tobacco before smoking it? Machinists, Labourers, Farmers out on the Moor tending an herding Sheep, they didn't have the time or even the inclination, and just smoked it straight from their pouch or in the case of Plugs,straight from their pockets and just cut chunks off into their hands.
So drying on a plate,paper towel, drying mat or even microwave, is it how we should be preparing our tobacco or should we learn to smoke it how, in my opinion it was meant to be smoked, moist and straight out of the Pouch, Tin or Pocket?
Discuss.
 
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soutso

Well-known member
#4
Why do you assume folks from the past didn't dry their tobacco? In any case all tobacco dries a little after being opened and there definitely would have been further natural drying in a pouch.

Some guys like to crack a tin and smoke it over a few weeks to a couple months, without transferring the tobacco into a mason jar. The tins are not airtight once opened so this is a form of drying too. I actually believe that this form of gradual drying yields better results than drying for say, an hour, before lighting up.
 
#5
I don’t dry GH or Condor. Even Dark Plug just gets cut, shredded, and smoked.

Some McClelland blends are damn near impossible to smoke without drying, though. Dark Star gave me a hell of a time until @psquared turned me onto some that was dried out and mulched up.
Dark Plug smokes great just shaved off the plug. 1792 and Firedance Flakes are essentially fireproof if not dried.
 

Danny

Well-known member
#6
Also, moisture in tobacco helps to slow the burn rate which helps when smoking out of doors. Why was the Falcon designed in such a way as to collect moisture in the Humidome, and a screw on bowl so you could remove the bowl and wipe out the liquid mid smoke if need be, because nobody dried their tobacco and moisture was an issue in some Pipes.
 

Danny

Well-known member
#7
Why do you assume folks from the past didn't dry their tobacco? In any case all tobacco dries a little after being opened and there definitely would have been further natural drying in a pouch.

Some guys like to crack a tin and smoke it over a few weeks to a couple months, without transferring the tobacco into a mason jar. The tins are not airtight once opened so this is a form of drying too. I actually believe that this form of gradual drying yields better results than drying for say, an hour, before lighting up.
Time constraints in the work place, on your way to work,pick up a Tin of Condor, get to work, clock in, fill pipe get on with your job.
 

jpberg

The Worst Thing about the Internet
Staff member
Sales
#8
Why do you assume folks from the past didn't dry their tobacco? In any case all tobacco dries a little after being opened and there definitely would have been further natural drying in a pouch.

Some guys like to crack a tin and smoke it over a few weeks to a couple months, without transferring the tobacco into a mason jar. The tins are not airtight once opened so this is a form of drying too. I actually believe that this form of gradual drying yields better results than drying for say, an hour, before lighting up.
I would assume it simply based on how most folks used to buy tobacco (specifically in the UK) - go to the tobacconist, buy your hunk off the plug, and smoke it. I think the only drying took place in the smokers pocket.
 

tipofthelake

Have you ever seen the rain?
Patron
#9
I think that historically drying wasn't really necessary as air and water tight packaging wasn't nearly as prevalent. By the time it had been shipped, been handled at the shops, packaged and brought home, it was likely at a convenient smoking moisture.
Fwiw, I rarely dry anything. If I think it's a bit wet I fluff it up and pack a bit looser, then adjust as necessary with tamping. I think it tastes better wet, for the most part.
 

cigrmaster

Well-known member
#10
I prefer some moisture in my flakes and plugs. If dried too much I will get a hot burn and lose flavor. Now as far as SG flakes, those I have to dry if I want a good smoke. Yesterday I opened a tin of 2004 FVF and I had to let the flakes sit out for 4 freaking hours before it was ready to smoke.

I don't imagine people from way back when were letting their flakes dry for 4 hours. They might have opened a tin and let it dry a few weeks and then began smoking. Maybe they always had a tin they were drying while they smoked from a tin already dry.
 

dmkerr

Fabulously non-descript
Staff member
#11
Some tobaccos, particularly Virginia flakes (really, any kind of flake) needs to be dried to open up the tobacco's flavor. Too much moisture causes steam when it burns, which can turn into tongue bite. The finest flakes taste "meh" to me when wet. Moisture is a great preservative but it's also a great flavor dissipator.

That said, I think Berg is basically correct - the tobaccos dried out in the smokers pocket. They kept their tobacco in drawstring bags... not too conducive for keeping tobacco moist. Then again, they had no reason to worry about it, since they smoked what they bought on a daily basis. There was no hoarding back then.

Finally I don't think tobacco blenders worried about tobacco being moist, either. It was probably pretty dry by the time it was sold. So I think tobacco was always meant to be smoked dry. It was only with the advent of Goopers that we worried about too dry tobacco for the most part, and they need to be moist to retain the added flavorings (casings and flavorings need a lot of moisture, pure tobacco does not IMHO). I've smoked a lot of old OTC's that were pretty dry in the tin.

My biggest exhibit... Stonehaven. If I hadn't been taught to dry it to crispy, I would have written it off as an overly-hyped tobacco. Once dried, it showed it's incredible strengths.
 

Ozark Wizard

Well-known member
#12
I believe that it's a mix of things. To wit......

Yes, SG and others making flakes and plugs rely on moisture to adhere the components. Try pressing Tobac Manil products. You get snuff. If the leaf is too dry, you get no plug. Sure, toppings add moisture. But if they evaporate, the "essence" is lost. Also, well, moisture (water) is cheaper than finished tobacco. Yes, that must be acknowledged. Y'all know who I'm talking about. But still, I'd rather have issue getting Firedance flake to light and enjoy the slow burn than just dry it down to essentially CR flake. Which I don't mind either, but you need the sauce to get the flavours touted. Same with Rum Flake. Mildly decanted it is sublime. Dried to a quick lighting smoke it is just another sweet dark flake.

So, for the OP. Yuppers, modern addition of water is like a helper to keep manufacturer costs down and profits up. Water's heavy. But if you want to enjoy a topping, you mustn't dry it too much. My approach to those is to "prime the pipe". I know I'm going to be to smoke a bowl of blend "X". It's a damp flake. I'll char the crap out of the top, and then set it aside, or pocket it. That charred crust makes a hard cake holding the tobacco in place, and the fast heat starts evaporation, without losing flavours. When I do get a chance to smoke it, it's good to go and burns nice.

YMMV
 

Cheeseybacon

Well-known member
#13
I believe that it's a mix of things. To wit......

Yes, SG and others making flakes and plugs rely on moisture to adhere the components. Try pressing Tobac Manil products. You get snuff. If the leaf is too dry, you get no plug. Sure, toppings add moisture. But if they evaporate, the "essence" is lost. Also, well, moisture (water) is cheaper than finished tobacco. Yes, that must be acknowledged. Y'all know who I'm talking about. But still, I'd rather have issue getting Firedance flake to light and enjoy the slow burn than just dry it down to essentially CR flake. Which I don't mind either, but you need the sauce to get the flavours touted. Same with Rum Flake. Mildly decanted it is sublime. Dried to a quick lighting smoke it is just another sweet dark flake.

So, for the OP. Yuppers, modern addition of water is like a helper to keep manufacturer costs down and profits up. Water's heavy. But if you want to enjoy a topping, you mustn't dry it too much. My approach to those is to "prime the pipe". I know I'm going to be to smoke a bowl of blend "X". It's a damp flake. I'll char the crap out of the top, and then set it aside, or pocket it. That charred crust makes a hard cake holding the tobacco in place, and the fast heat starts evaporation, without losing flavours. When I do get a chance to smoke it, it's good to go and burns nice.

YMMV
This.
 

Grimpeur

Well-known member
#14
On the old forum, I calculated the cost of the water required to evaporate to get an S.Gawith tinned flake to a smokable condition. I can't recall the exact figure, but at Canadian prices, I seem to think it was something nuts like one hundred times the cost of gasoline. Not to be cynical...moi!?...but water sure is cheaper than tobacco. Ebay listings for old one- and half-pound tins of English flakes from, say, before the sixties, will provide examples of the tins having vent holes in sides! "Sold by weight when packed" indeed!
As @MLC will attest, the half or full ounce packets of tobacco sold to the working man weren't tinned; paper, foil, and/or cello wrapping seems to have been the norm.
Given that the climate (unrelenting rain wot?) over there isn't really conducive to drying tobacco, I assume that for tinned, sopping wet blends, a Peterson system pipe, a clay (and they sure made a staggering amount of clays up to fairly recently), and later the Falcon must have felt heaven-sent to the average navvy.
 

RedScot

Well-known member
#15
Haven't had the opportunity to sample any SG flakes yet, but the G&H twists have - across the board - needed a little drying just to light up. Even when the outer leaf looked parched, once sliced and rubbed out there was a little too much moisture.
Of the flakes I've smoked, I've never had any problem with moisture. Heck, HH ODF Flake is so dense you can dry it all day and I suspect there'd not be a lot of mass change. Really hard plugs like Salty Dogs are the same way.
In the "old days" I'd imagine that most tobacco purchasers had access to plugs & twists exclusively, delivered in drawstring muslin pouches or wrapped in a bit of butcher paper. I'm guessing on all of this, mind you, but both plugs and twists are good at retaining moisture inside even as the outside dries.
Perhaps we are needlessly finicky. We have unprecedented access to tobaccos from exotic locales and the luxury of leisure time in which to fiddle with blends and mixtures to extract the very best that we can get. But...ever tasted a completely bone dry tobacco?
 

Ozark Wizard

Well-known member
#16
Haven't had the opportunity to sample any SG flakes yet, but the G&H twists have - across the board - needed a little drying just to light up. Even when the outer leaf looked parched, once sliced and rubbed out there was a little too much moisture.
Of the flakes I've smoked, I've never had any problem with moisture. Heck, HH ODF Flake is so dense you can dry it all day and I suspect there'd not be a lot of mass change. Really hard plugs like Salty Dogs are the same way.
In the "old days" I'd imagine that most tobacco purchasers had access to plugs & twists exclusively, delivered in drawstring muslin pouches or wrapped in a bit of butcher paper. I'm guessing on all of this, mind you, but both plugs and twists are good at retaining moisture inside even as the outside dries.
Perhaps we are needlessly finicky. We have unprecedented access to tobaccos from exotic locales and the luxury of leisure time in which to fiddle with blends and mixtures to extract the very best that we can get. But...ever tasted a completely bone dry tobacco?
Indeed.
 

Super K

Well-known member
#18
Also, moisture in tobacco helps to slow the burn rate which helps when smoking out of doors. Why was the Falcon designed in such a way as to collect moisture in the Humidome, and a screw on bowl so you could remove the bowl and wipe out the liquid mid smoke if need be, because nobody dried their tobacco and moisture was an issue in some Pipes.
Doesn’t moisture contribute to tongue bite?
 

soutso

Well-known member
#20
Time constraints in the work place, on your way to work,pick up a Tin of Condor, get to work, clock in, fill pipe get on with your job.
Actually come to think of it I'd say you have a point, the tobacco buying and consuming experience for those in the past was different from most of us today. I buy tins and they generally provide moist tobacco. Last year I was on a holiday in Europe and whilst in Windsor, England I visited a place called Havana House. I bought FVF and the tobacconist pulled it out of a large jar and into a bag. It smoked great from the beginning, no drying needed. It was nowhere near as moist as the tinned version. I thought that it may have been well aged but it was also far drier than I have generally experienced and it was essentially ready to be enjoyed.