Have you ever wanted to modify the tobacco you’re smoking? Perhaps it’s too strong, a bit boring, not sweet enough, and too bitter, too hot, or maybe it bites. Supplementing or modifying existing blends is a form of blending. Blending can be as simple as mixing two or more existing blends together or creating a new blend from scratch using basic blending tobaccos. It can range from creating ‘parfaits’ of tobaccos ‘in-bowl’, to mixing basic blending tobaccos, all the way to more elaborate procedures like stoving, pressing, and adding aromatic flavourings.
By “playing” with your tobaccos (especially blending tobaccos) you’ll learn more about your own preferences, you’ll broaden your taste and understanding of tobaccos, and you’ll learn to translate the taste of a blend into an idea of its constituent tobaccos. You’ll certainly broaden your enjoyment of our hobby and you may find that elusive ‘ideal’ blend for you.
If you blend you should try your new creation immediately after mixing. Then try it again after it’s had a month in the jar. Then try it again six months later (if it lasts that long!). Keep notes on the tastes. The changes will amaze you. I hope you will share your formulas, reviews, successes, and also-rans with us. This, after all, is the really interesting part.
While some of you are, no doubt, ambitious enough to try anything including stoving and flavouring tobaccos I suggest that you enlarge your tobacco vocabulary first by modifying an existing tobacco or create a basic blend from scratch. You are more likely to enjoy success and you’ll have some insight into why at least one version of your blend ‘works’ better than others. Defer trying advanced techniques like stoving and flavouring for your first attempt. This is something that can be done, to be sure, at a later date when you've got the hang of straight blending of some sort.
If you’re blending from scratch how do you start? Do you smoke the constituent tobaccos and then somehow intuit how they should fit together in a blend? Based upon what? If you put yourself in the blenders chair and are told to "go, create a nice blend" you might wonder where to start. Arranged in front of you are a bunch of labeled tobacco's all of different colour and property. Now what?
I think one of the easiest ways to start is to modify a tobacco that fails to satisfy in some identifiable way. Another starter is to create variations on a single fairly standard type of blend from scratch (eg English, Balkan, American English, Va/Burley, Va/Perique, etc). I’ve done a bit of both in my experiments. Make or modify small amounts. It doesn’t take much tobacco to learn and you will find that modifying the second time around is easier than deciding how to start. There are some articles on blending written by Serad for P&T magazine that are available and there are also websites with formulas to use as a basis for starting. Nothing replaces “try it”. Mix a little and smoke it. Then try to imagine the changes that will occur as the tobaccos meld together as a blend rather than just an odd mix of tobaccos.
True blending tobaccos are available from a number of suppliers; some in bulk form and some in tin. They are all very good but they do vary with the supplier.
Blending tobaccos include: Red, Lemon and stoved Virginias, a variety of types of Burleys, blends of Turkish (Oriental) tobaccos, Perique, various Cavendish, cigar leaf, and Latakia. Not all are required in every blend. Suppliers like McClelland’s, Cornell & Diehl, Lane, Altadis, and, Stokkebye supply blending tobaccos in addition to ready-made mixtures. The breadth varies by supplier with Cornell & Diehl having the most complete line, McClelland’s next, and finally Altadis, Stokkebye, Lane and the rest. No single retailer (from whom we would likely purchase) seems to carry all blending tobaccos from three or more suppliers.
McClelland blending tobaccos are the most ubiquitous and perhaps the least expensive. However, some may prefer Cornell & Diehl over McClelland.
Many bulk mixtures and tin tobaccos are also suitable for hybrid blending or amendment with blending tobaccos. There are also many uniform tasting blends that can be employed much like blending tobaccos. This is really something to discuss and for you to research according to your interests.
The following websites have some information about blending, along with some recipes, techniques, and ideas. A number of them are no longer; it is there that we have provided an archived link for your convenience and time travel: