4. Flavorings and Sauces

There are four general categories of casings for pipe tobacco:

  • sweeteners
  • flavorants
  • pH (acidity) modifiers
  • humectants

Some of these play multiple roles. For pipe tobacco made from an excellent quality whole leaf that has been properly blended, the need for casings may be limited to attempts to create “aromatic” pipe tobacco‑sweetening and flavoring.

If you decide to add casing to your whole leaf tobacco blends, be sure to shred the tobacco first. It gets sticky! If you press your cased tobacco blend, purchase some baking parchment from the grocery store, and use it to line the pressing container and follower, again to prevent sticking.

Free Tobacco Flavoring Book: An entire 74-page book on tobacco flavorings (from Leffingwell, Young, and Bernasek [R.J. Reynolds], 1972) can be downloaded for free from Leffingwell.com: Tobacco Flavoring for Smoking Products. It contains an extensive list of specific chemicals and compounds evaluated for this use, including their smoke taste as well as the smoke aroma.

Materials such as Orange, Lemon, Patchouli, Rose, Neroli, Tonka, Deer Tongue, Vanilla, Valerian, Orris, Bergamot, Cardamon, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cedarwood, Mace, Lavender, Cascarilla, Sandalwood, Lovage, Styrax, Balsam Peru, Balsam Tolu, Foenugreek, Rum, and Geranium are old favorites.

The use of any given flavoring material is dependent upon several factors:
1. Is the material readily available at a reasonable cost?
2. Does it blend well and enhance the smoking flavor of the specific tobacco base to which it is added?
3. What is the optimum use level?
4. What is its effect on package aroma?
5. Is it stable on storage?
6. Is the method of applying the flavoring material to the tobacco base compatible with acceptable manufacturing operations?
7. Is the material safe from a toxicological standpoint?

a) Sweetening>
Sugar, if burned, tends to caramelize and char, and give up an acrid smoke. There are two types of “sugars” used for the casing, reducing sugars and non-reducing Sugars. [Much of the commentary on sweetening is from FTT forum member, Jitterbugdude, from Maryland.]

Reducing Sugars: glucose, fructose, and invert sugar. These are considered more chemically reactive than non-reducing sugars

Non-reducing Sugars: sucrose (white table sugar and brown sugar) Reducing sugars react with the free amino acids (FAA) in the tobacco leaf as well as with the FAAs from other substances such as cocoa and licorice. These are very pH-dependent. The reaction is usually not a complete reaction so a secondary casing is often added. This is where the non-reducing sugars come into play. Brown sugar or regular white sugar are often used.

Non-reducing sugars caramelize more than reducing sugars. Common table sugar can be converted to a mixture of fructose and glucose (both reducing sugars), by heating a sugar solution with lemon juice or citric acid, as is sometimes done while making jellies or jams.

Honey is mostly reducing sugars‑a mix of glucose and fructose. The ratio changes depending on the type of honey.

Molasses (known also as treacle) is a residual product from the manufacture of sugar from sugarcane or sugar beets and is sold in a wide range of consistencies and compositions. As a rough average, molasses from the grocery store consists of:

sucrose 30-35% non-reducing
invert (glucose and fructose) 30% reducing
other compounds and water 35%

In addition to serving as a sweetener, it adds favors, and also serves to some extent as a humectant.

Maple Syrup is, like molasses, a mixture of several sugars, flavors, and water.

Artificial Sweeteners may or may not make sense for oral tobacco (chew, for example), but their addition to tobacco that will be burned is not a good idea. Most artificial sweeteners break down chemically when heated, meaning there is no sweetness contributed to the smoke. Some even produce toxic chemicals when heated.

b) Flavoring
Flavoring can be derived from all manner of natural products, from foods and beverages to herbs and spices, to oils and liquors. The form in which such flavors are added to a tobacco casing makes a difference. As an example, cocoa or chocolate is a commonly used tobacco flavorant. But if you simply add cocoa powder to tobacco, it inhibits burn and tastes unpleasant. Instead, chocolate or cocoa flavoring, in the form of a specialty liquid, is added.

Liquid concentrates of a host of different flavors are available as essential oils (not water-soluble) or as water-soluble, in a solution of polypropylene glycol (PPG). One source for both of these types of flavorants is LorAnn Oils, which offers a huge selection. Generally, oil-based flavors will need to be dissolved into a bit of alcohol (e.g. vodka), which will then allow it to be dissolved into water. PPG-based flavorings are readily soluble in water.

Usually, only the tiniest amount of a flavor concentrate is better in casing than so large a quantity that the specific flavor can be immediately identified. Subtle flavoring produces a vague enhancement of the smoke aroma, while a strong dose shouts out its name [Some of the “fruit” flavored pipe tobacco blends from Cornell & Diehl, such as “berries”, “apricot” or “peaches and cream”, while delicious, do not actually taste identifiably like the named flavors.]

c) Modifying pH (acidity)
Modification of tobacco pH (a lower number means more acidic, while a higher number means more alkaline) causes changes that can be grouped into two general categories: chemically altering amino acids and other compounds within the tobacco or tobacco casing, and directly altering the acidity of the smoke of combustion. The citric acid solution, for example, is commonly used as a casing on flue-cured tobacco to “smooth” away from the “harshness”, though what exactly this means is unclear.

In contrast to using the more alkaline nature (higher pH) of perique smoke to neutralize the relative acidity (lower pH) of flue-cured tobacco smoke, directly adding acid or alkali chemically removes (or alters) some offending compounds.

d) Humectants
The character of a humectant is that it tends to attract and hold onto water. Similarly, a humectant may hold onto a flavoring ingredient that might otherwise promptly waft away. Honey and molasses (and other syrups) serve to some extent as humectants.

Glycerin and polypropylene glycol (PPG) is the most common humectants used in commercial pipe tobacco. Not only do they (alone or in combination) hold onto moisture, keeping tobacco eternally soft and “consumer-friendly”, they also do the same with flavorants.

In addition, PPG exerts a mild, anti-fungal effect, decreasing the risk of mold developing. For this latter reason, PPG is added to every commercial pipe tobacco on the market today. Even brands noted for being initially on the “dry” side contain some PPG. Glycerin is anti-bacterial.

Unfortunately, some pipe smokers can easily taste PPG. Regardless, PPG compromises the burn properties of a tobacco blend and is the primary cause of a gooey, tar-like mess created in a pipe stem and at the bottom of a pipe bowl. Natural, PPG-free pipe tobacco simply doesn’t do that.

For a pipe blend that contains no humectant, storage within a vapor-proof container (not a common, pipe tobacco tin) will maintain its current moisture for weeks or months. If it becomes too dry, then flicking in a few drops of water from your fingertips, and then re-closing the container will restore the tobacco to a higher state of the case.

e) Casing Recipes for Pipe Tobacco
Earl Grey: a casing with a drop each of bergamot and lavender (LorAnn Oils) into a 1/4 teaspoon of glycerin and a 1/4 cup of vodka and 1/2 teaspoon of invert sugar and added that to 100 grams of my Cavendish and put in a press for 3 weeks. I tried some after cutting and drying it and what an awesome flavor. It truly tastes like Earl Grey. It is rather strong in flavor and will benefit from being blended.

Below are two recipes for casing during the pressure cooker Cavendish procedure.

Unflavored Black Cavendish: Glycerin at a 1:20 to 1:40 ratio by weight of glycerin to tobacco, before pressure cooking. This is not a precise procedure, to begin with, but for the sake of making it simple, this involves about 20 parts tobacco, 19 parts water, and 1 part glycerin. Then pressure is cooked in a sealed jar at 15lbs for 3 to 4 hours. If this is done with flue-cured bright tobacco, dried, and aged a month, it makes a sweet but tobacco flavored black Cavendish.
[ ChinaVoodoo]

Vanilla Black Cavendish: Follow the black Cavendish procedure (above) but use vanilla extract. This means 20 parts tobacco, 10 to 15 parts water, 5 to 10 parts vanilla extract. It must be an alcohol-based vanilla extract.

Berry-infused tobacco
Roll tobacco into a rope. Pack into a jar. Fill the jar with dried elderberries or dried currents. Put some water in. Bake at 220°F for a couple of hours.

Toasted Burley:
1. Combine 1 Tbsp Hershey’s syrup (may also use molasses if preferred or a combo of both) per 1 ounce of water (distilled preferred but not necessary)
2. Spread your Burley out onto a cookie sheet and preheat the oven to approximately 180°F.
3. Toast the tobacco until almost dry (not crispy) and remove from the oven.
4. Spritz the Burley with casing solution, mixing well, until covered but not dripping wet.
5. Place the tobacco back in the oven and dry again.
6. Repeat these steps 3 or 4 times.
[ Cobguy (Darin)]

Coffee House” Red Flue-cured Virginia (FCV):
1. Combine 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar (Bragg’s) per 1 ounce water (distilled preferred but not necessary) and add 1/8 tsp cinnamon.
2. Spritz whole Red FCV leaf while in the low case until it’s brought to the high case.
3. Allow the leaf to dry back down to the medium case and make a stack.
4. Press the stack into a plug using your home-press of choice for at least 3 days.
5. Slice into flakes and jar for at least 3 months. 9-12 months is better.
Cobguy (Darin)]