I don't wish to enter into a huge debate on this issue as there are many knowledgeable blenders who will be able to offer a concise definition and history of aromatic, non-aromatic tobaccos and, as it is sometimes called, crossovers. Some experienced smokers will tell you that new pipe smokers prefer aromatics and as your senses and experience grow, you will start to move over to non-aromatics. However, you will be surprised how many experienced smokers do grab their aromatics from time to time.
Aromatics or non-aromatics?
So what's the story then.....suffice for the novice smoker the following:
- an aromatic tobacco is a tobacco which has added flavouring to enhance the taste and smell of the tobacco, whether that added flavouring is naturally infused flavours like honey or whisky, or more chemical additives. As one tobacco house says: "lightly topped with a natural flavouring that provides both aroma (room note) and flavour when smoked. This casing may make the tobacco more moist than a non-aromatic blend. Some pipe smokers will set a portion out to dry a bit, while others will take the higher moisture content into account when packing the pipe"1.Aromatic tobaccos would be Cherry, Whisky, Rum or any tobacco brand which clearly has a specific taste and flavour distinction. Peterson Irish Oak is a rich and full, sour fruit notes, woody undertones, subtle sherry flavours. Peterson Sherlock Holmes is a mellower Virginia, Tobacco light citrus flavours like orange. Mild and tangy.
- Non-aromatics roughly would mean tobacco with little or no flavourings. These tobaccos smoke cleaner and offer a truer tobacco taste. As one tobacco house says: "re blended with a focus toward the natural tobacco flavours rather than added flavouring. The un-smoked tobacco and room note from these non-aromatics typically offer earthy scents like hay, spice, grasses, and wood". Blenders often use non-aromatics to blend different tobaccos like Virginia, Blurley and Latakia in variable quantities which produce a specific appealing taste and smell. It can also be called "raw" tobacco although that is not really used in terms of tobacco. Non-aromatic blends would be something like a tobacconist's blend of Virginias, Latakia, Perique and Orientals to give you an enjoyable flavour and smell. Add to this the further skill of maturing and stoving to further enhance the taste and smell of tobacco. There are many no-aromatic tobacco available on the market (see Tobaccoreviews.com).
- Another method of "flavouring" a tobacco is by casing. Casing differs from aromatics (which is in essence flavouring) in the sense that aromatic tobaccos are flavoured with an additive while casing is the process where the tobacco is treated with a mixture (like Rum or Liquorice) to enhance a specific flavour in a blend. Another method is fermentation or ageing in barrels (like Frog Mortn Cellar) where the barrel will transfer its flavours to the tobacco.
You can imagine how one must be a master blender to know all the different varieties and there individual tastes to such an extent that he/she can blend a tobacco that it is pleasing and enjoyable. There are such master blenders and in the older days, many Tobacconists pride themselves on their blends. Unfortunately it seems as if this trade and craftsmanship is disappearing. It is also interesting to note that many "raw" (rather untreated) tobacco has been "cased" before further processing of the tobacco leaf. " Casing is the process of adding sugars and flavoring agents before the leaf is further processed." (Chris Garlasco )
I've made a video on this topic. Watch the (video here