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Home Blends

Discuss or ask questions about pipe tobacco, pipe tobacco storage and aging, blending, etc.

Home Blends

Postby Nomad » Sat May 20, 2017 3:51 pm

Anyone into making their own mixtures from the blending tobaccos that can be purchased? I got a selection of 25g bags ages ago, and never did anything with them.

I have: Latakia, Burley, Perique, Turkish and Bright Virginia. The first two were from jars in the local B&M, and the other three are Samuel Gawith (from Smoke King in the UK). I also have some Revor Plug that I'm unlikely to smoke on its own.

I'd be interested in something similar to a house blend that Smoke King used to do, called Steeplechase. This seemed to be an English, but not as lively as Nightcap, which I find can be a bit too tangy when exhaled through the nose. Steeplechase had some Black Cavendish in it, which I don't have, but perhaps the Revor Plug could work as a substitute.

Any suggestions for components and proportions to use as a starting point for this, and for other blends?
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Re: Home Blends

Postby FightnHampsters » Thu Jun 08, 2017 9:48 pm

I have been interested in this as well. I assume that the mixing components would be available past the FDA deadlines and figured the only way to get something new would be to blend my own.
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Re: Home Blends

Postby Nomad » Fri Jun 09, 2017 8:41 pm

I'm in the UK and not very clued up on the FDA thing, but I seem to remember something about blends after a certain date being disallowed. Since these are de-facto not blends, I'm tempted to agree that they would still be available.

My Latakia and Burley were pretty dried out when I had a look at them around the time of my previous post, so I wetted some of those hydrator things and left them in the jars. Just had a look, and the moisture seems about right now, but I found some bits of mould on the Burley. I suspect that this is best avoided, so it'll probably go in the bin. The Latakia looks fine, however.

Anyway, I made up a blend of the following percentages...

Code: Select all
Component    %   grams
Bright Va   50   5
Revor       20   2
Latakia     15   1.5
Turkish     10   1
Perique      5   0.5


10 grams in total, which should be fine for a few bowls.

Probably supposed to let it meld for a while, but I had a bowl anyway. Here are my somewhat uninformed impressions...

The component tobaccos mostly seem to have a rough ribbon cut, aside from the Revor Plug, which was rubbed out quite finely. The tin note surprised me a little in that the Va seemed to dominate, with a hint of the Latakia - nowhere near as strong smelling as Nightcap. Moisture seemed about right with a pinch test. I filled a small-to-medium straight apple (a Parker basket pipe which smokes quite well), and lit it with a match. The charring light went out almost immediately, and it took 2 or 3 more lights with the lighter to get it going. After that, it seemed to settle and only needed a couple more relights for the rest of the bowl.

I would say the flavour was a tad sharp - leaning towards the spicy end of things, and with a lack of mellowness or body that I was hoping the Revor might add. I found some notes made ages ago, where I had tried the Va on its own, and I had written "somewhat uneventful other than a sharpish taste in the mouth between puffs". That sharpish taste was still there, but evident during the puffs as well - not so much at the start, but becoming more noticeable as the bowl progressed. Interestingly, exhaling through the nose was okay - a passable snork compared to Nightcap.

The smoke was quite light but reasonably plentiful. The burn was pretty cool, especially considering I'm a puffer more than a sipper. I got a little bit of gurgle about a third of the way through, which a quick poke with a pipe cleaner sorted out. After that, it puffed away good style until the end of the bowl and left no dottle. Ash was light grey.

Vitamin N was evident. I smoke roll-ups (Golden Virginia), and perhaps don't experience a nic hit from a pipe as much as others might. Even so, there was a definite whack from the velvet hammer.

In conclusion, if this was a sample from a shop, I wouldn't buy a tin. The balance of flavours doesn't suit me - too much spiciness and not enough mellowness. To be fair, it was smoked moments after blending, so maybe things will improve with time. On the plus side, it burned well, and the nic hit was stronger than expected. Given my notes from the Va on its own, perhaps I should try a different Virginia. Similarly, maybe the Revor should be supplanted with Black Cavendish.

Not a bad start. I'll leave it for a while to see what happens with the addition of time.
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Re: Home Blends

Postby Geo3rge » Sat Jun 24, 2017 1:00 am

A great read and very interesting to see your efforts, results and thoughts about the process. I've tried home blending using original ingredients just once, though I'd like to do more of it. Some blends have been made by throwing remnants of tins and pouches together, but it's not scientific enough I feel! Tasted fine, just didn't know what was in there!
I'm sure that, given more trials and greater time in allowing blends to meld together, you might come up with some fascinating own blends.
I hope that you can continue. It's good to experiment and then reflect. I'm sure that members will be interested in your progress.
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Re: Home Blends

Postby KevLa » Sat Jun 24, 2017 6:21 am

Great work, Nomad. Sorry it didn't turn out to your liking, but you are doing it right; trial and error is all that's called for :)
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Re: Home Blends

Postby Nomad » Sat Jun 24, 2017 10:16 pm

Thanks chaps. It's not too hard to be fairly methodical about it. I think the key things are to know the ingredients and proportions that go into a blend, and to keep notes of that and one's impressions of it. Might be worth describing my accoutrements...

The notes are kept in a spreadsheet, mainly because it can be used to calculate totals and percentages from the gram weights that I put in, and also because it lends itself to presenting the data in a tabulated form, which makes it easy to glance up and down to make comparisons. It's also easy to edit things neatly if I want to add another column later.

For storing the component tobaccos, I use small Kilner 250ml jars - the type with the two-part screw-on lid. The 250ml size easily holds 25g of ribbon cut, and could probably manage 50g if it was pressed down a bit.

The baccy is weighed using a small digital scale bought ages ago in Maplin, and I put it into a little plastic tub on the scale to avoid mess (subtract the weight of the tub with the tare button, then add the baccy). The scale resolves to 0.1g.

The mixture goes into a small plastic clip-lid storage box about the size of a 2oz tobacco tin. I find these pretty good for medium term storage because they seem pretty resistant to letting the baccy dry out. If I hit on a blend that I like and want to make in a larger quantity, it'll go into a Kilner jar.

I have a larger clip-lid box that I use for the actual mixing - one of those slimline ones that's the right size to fit a square sandwich. Might need to use something bigger if the quantity increases, but it's fine for the experiments.

At the moment, I'm aiming to make up samples of 10g, which is enough for a few bowls in the pipe I'm using (the aforementioned Parker 2nd). So far, I've bought the components in 25g pouches. For the condiment baccies, that's probably plenty given that they make up a small proportion. Once I get more settled on a blend, I'll probably buy the foundation baccies in larger quantities, but 25g pouches of those will be fine for now.

Anyway, I went to the B&M today, and got some Black Cavendish, some Scotch Cake (nearest they had to a basic Va), and something called Elizabethan, which apparently is mostly Burley with some Va. The Scotch Cake has the hay notes of Va (mostly flue cured, with some sun cured), more so than the Bright Va I used previously. So, I'm going to try another blend, replacing the Bright Va and Revor with Scotch Cake and Black Cav.
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Re: Home Blends

Postby Nomad » Sun Jun 25, 2017 12:30 am

Okay, blend No2...

Code: Select all
Component    %   grams
Scotch Cake 50   5
Black Cav   20   2
Latakia     15   1.5
Turkish     10   1
Perique      5   0.5


Same proportions as blend No1, with Scotch Cake replacing the Bright Va, and Black Cavendish instead of Revor. No change to the others. That was supposed to add up to 10g, but for some reason, the final weight was 11.8g. This might have been due to how I was using the scales. Each component was weighed into the little plastic tub and then tipped into the blending box, but when I put the tub back on the scale, it didn't return to zero - it tended to read about 0.2g, at which point I hit the tare button and weighed out the next component. I either made a mess of reading one or more of the weights, or I need to change how I use the scales (probably switch off after each part, then tare the plastic tub each time). If it was inconsistency with the weighing, I suspect the later parts have a higher proportion than the table above indicates. (They were weighed out in the same order as shown.)

Anyway, dodgy weighing aside, here are my impressions of a bowl straight after blending...

The tin note leans towards an English. Not especially strong or pungent, but it's there. If anything, it strikes me as quite similar to Germain's SLF in that it's quite a grassy, earthy smell where the spicier components don't jump out at you. Smells like a nice, mellow, proper tobacco.

Roughish ribbon cut again, moisture about right, packed easily into the same pipe, and pretty much proceeded the same as before, perhaps with a couple more relights as I got through the bowl. Cool burn again, no dottle, but ash tending more towards a darker grey this time.

Certainly a more pleasant smoke than blend No1. The spicy components weren't particularly obvious at first, but came to the fore as the bowl went down. Predominantly spicy in the last third, to the extent that I was having thoughts of adjusting the condiments (maybe remove the Perique to see what happens). The smoke was again quite light, but less plentiful. One tiny hint of gurgle (well, a feeling of blocking up a little when drawing) at about a third of the way down, fixed again with a pipe cleaner, and it smoked dry for the rest of the bowl. Snork was similar, or maybe a bit more understated for the most part, apart from occasional moments when it was quite sharp (reminded me of Nightcap at those points).

Nicotine hit was far less noticeable than previously. There's a bit, but it's no velvet hammer. Or, perhaps I wasn't so susceptible to a nic hit this time.

Overall, blend No2 was a more satisfying smoke, if maybe a bit spicy in the latter stages. Unlike blend No1, I keep opening the box to have a sniff, and I'm looking forward to seeing what I think of the next bowl. I think I'd like to try and shift the balance such that it's a bit less spicy in the last third of the bowl. I might try removing the Perique, and maybe shift the foundation tobaccos more towards the Black Cavendish.

I think the most significant thing to be taken from this blend is that I feel that I want to give it another try to see if my first impressions are repeated. I didn't feel like that at all with blend No1 - that blend's only chance for redemption is some sort of magic happening in the meld (which I doubt - I suspect the Bright Va is something that I don't like, and I can't see the other components changing its character enough). By contrast, blend No2 was passable right after mixing. So, an improvement, and going in the right direction.
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Re: Home Blends

Postby Geo3rge » Sun Jun 25, 2017 10:26 pm

Very interesting reading. You are certainly methodical in your approach. Rob Kimberley of UKPTC (Facebook) does the same and has all his 'recipes' on spreadsheets. Good idea here.
Another thought is to set aside a portion of each blend and let it mature over time then smoke it. Chances are that the ingredients will have settled with one another and the smoke may well be fuller and more mellow? A thought.
Great to read of your adventures here.
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Re: Home Blends

Postby Nomad » Mon Jun 26, 2017 11:00 pm

Yes, I'll be leaving them to settle and meld for a while, although I should probably leave that until I get to a blend or two that seems promising and make up a larger batch for storing in Kilner jars. The small batches I'm making at the moment mean there's quite a lot of air in the plastic boxes. I think I'm looking for blends that show some promise right away.

I smoked a couple more bowls of blend Mo2, and they were pretty similar to the first. I think I quite like that one - comes across as a typical English, and it did remind me a bit of the Smoke King Steeplechase that I had ages ago (ie, a bit like Nightcap, but less sharp on the snork).

This evening, I made blend No3, which is as follows...

Code: Select all
Component    %   grams
Scotch Cake 30   3
Black Cav   40   4
Latakia     15   1.5
Turkish     15   1.5


The foundation tobaccos are now biased towards the Cavendish, and the Turkish has been upped a little to replace the Perique. A bit hard to be sure of the tin note at the moment because I had just smoked a bowl of No2, but my impression is that it's quite similar to No2, but with the Latakia not really evident. Maybe a touch more grassy and a bit less earthy than No2.

Burned a bit hotter - I would say the heat build up on the outside of the bowl was normal for me. A few relights, but it generally burned well. A bit easier to keep it going with sips and then have a bigger draw. Smoke was still quite light, but quite plentiful - some nice plumes when exhaling the bigger draws. The snork was quite spicy in general - the Latakia seemed to be the dominant factor. I didn't feel that the flavour developed much as I got through the bowl - a grassiness at the start soon became spicy with the Latakia the more dominant aspect, and it seemed to stay that way. I got a bit of audible gurgle this time, about half way through, but a cleaner sorted that out and it didn't come back. Maybe I was just puffing too enthusiastically with this bowl, given the gurgle and hotter burn. No dottle, and dark grey ash.

The nic hit was quite strong. Not quite as strong as blend No1, although it lingered for quite a while after the bowl was finished (just easing off now). It's notable that the other two bowls of No2 didn't elicit a nic hit like No1 and No3, so maybe my velvet hammer detector is reasonably reliable after all.

Overall, a bit one-dimensional in terms of favour, and perhaps leaning towards the Latakia more than I would like (unless I was in a Lat mood). I'll try a couple more bowls and see if my thoughts on it evolve.

A little addendum to blend No2. After I had smoked the bowl of that this evening, I went off to find another plastic box for No3, and got a nice whiff of the No2 room note when I came back - very pleasant tobacco aroma that hinted a bit at cigars.

Not sure what direction to go in next. I think I'll probably give the pipe a good clean while I smoke something else for a bit, then maybe sample the current blends a bit more. So far, I'd say that No2 is my preference, but it lacks the nic hit.
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