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OK, school me on 'cuts' of tobacco, what are the differences?

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
So I just got some Mac Baren Vanilla Cream loose cut delivered (bulk), and it is a strong contender for replacing all the stuff SWMBO likes. PA, CH, Capt Black, the Cavendishes I have lying around. This may replace all of them, one ring to rule them all, as it were. But success tonight with the War Department and I loved smoking it. I've had it before, not new to me.

But I want to know about how tobacco is cut and why that matters. On Tobaccoreviews, for example, this blend comes in several cuts, and the Mac Baren Vanilla Cream Roll Cut is way, way better reviewed than the loose cut version. Why? Lots of reviews of both, too, like a couple hundred, so it has some credence to it over something reviewed by like 7 guys. Why is the roll cut so much more loved?

I don't know how cut affects tobacco. I've had tinned flakes before, loose cut, obviously, and I've seen some tobacco in what are called 'coins', kind of like round flake. What does the cut have to do with how it smokes or the ratings?

Thanks! I got 8 oz of the Mac Baren Vanilla Cream Loose Cut because having had it before, I know I like it and was confident the spousal unit would love it. I've never tried the roll cut, though. I'm curious now, big time. Thanks!

And I'm excited, I got a tin of My Mixture 965 today and something called Count Pulaski I think, which is a current version of an old classic I can't remember the name of, can't wait to try those on the porch while it's still warm enough to do so.
 

Kentos

Wiped out at 25
So flake/coin/rolled tobacco is basically whole leaf tobacco formed under pressure into flame/coin/rolls. If sold in chunks it’s a plug. The pressing of the tobacco melds the flavors together and you might get a more uniform flavor when you smoke the flake/coin whole. Loose ribbon tobacco is just cut up and mixed together. Such blends might have less uniformity, but you could get flashes of individual flavors as individual components of the blend combust in the pipe. Think of drinking a mango strawberry shake vs eating a fruit cocktail of mango and strawberry.

If you rub out a flake it might approach what a ribbon would smoke like, however the pressing of the leaf before hand may still meld the flavors so some of the Va will have latakia notes and the Latakia will have Va notes despite being separate in the bowl as you smoke. A bit oversimplified, but that’s the gist.

Certain blends benefit from the ribbon cut, where pressing the ribbon cut into a plug results in a less enjoyable smoke. Conversely pressing adds another dimension to certain blends that would be absent if presented as a ribbon.
 
So flake/coin/rolled tobacco is basically whole leaf tobacco formed under pressure into flame/coin/rolls. If sold in chunks it’s a plug. The pressing of the tobacco melds the flavors together and you might get a more uniform flavor when you smoke the flake/coin whole. Loose ribbon tobacco is just cut up and mixed together. Such blends might have less uniformity, but you could get flashes of individual flavors as individual components of the blend combust in the pipe. Think of drinking a mango strawberry shake vs eating a fruit cocktail of mango and strawberry.

If you rub out a flake it might approach what a ribbon would smoke like, however the pressing of the leaf before hand may still meld the flavors so some of the Va will have latakia notes and the Latakia will have Va notes despite being separate in the bowl as you smoke. A bit oversimplified, but that’s the gist.

Certain blends benefit from the ribbon cut, where pressing the ribbon cut into a plug results in a less enjoyable smoke. Conversely pressing adds another dimension to certain blends that would be absent if presented as a ribbon.
Excellent info, thank you!
 

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
Thanks to you both! @simon1 I've never heard of Tobacco University, thanks for that link!!

@Kentos, that is a great explanation. I love the Mac Baren Vanilla Cream loose cut, but now I wish I had bought a bit less of it so I could try the roll cake. I'll get a tin one of these days, my curiosity will out, I'm sure. Here's what I mean about the difference in reviews and why I asked.

I was wrong about the number of reviews, there are only 15 for this, but the average is 3.7 and JimInks gives it 4 stars out of 4.



The Vanilla Cream loose cut has 299 reviews, but averages only 2.9. Despite the higher number of reviewers making it more statistically significant, it can't account for that much of a difference. And JimInks gives it 3 stars. I only quote him because he has a million reviews and judging by his writeups he must have a perfumer's nose.



That intrigues me a lot. Same thing with the reviews at SmokingPipes.com, too, much higher for the roll cake version. It also could be more different than just the coins vs loose, too, it could be a completely different blend for all I know.

rollcake.jpg
 
Thanks to you both! @simon1 I've never heard of Tobacco University, thanks for that link!!

@Kentos, that is a great explanation. I love the Mac Baren Vanilla Cream loose cut, but now I wish I had bought a bit less of it so I could try the roll cake. I'll get a tin one of these days, my curiosity will out, I'm sure. Here's what I mean about the difference in reviews and why I asked.

I was wrong about the number of reviews, there are only 15 for this, but the average is 3.7 and JimInks gives it 4 stars out of 4.



The Vanilla Cream loose cut has 299 reviews, but averages only 2.9. Despite the higher number of reviewers making it more statistically significant, it can't account for that much of a difference. And JimInks gives it 3 stars. I only quote him because he has a million reviews and judging by his writeups he must have a perfumer's nose.



That intrigues me a lot. Same thing with the reviews at SmokingPipes.com, too, much higher for the roll cake version. It also could be more different than just the coins vs loose, too, it could be a completely different blend for all I know.

View attachment 1360956

I like MB Vanilla Roll Cake. It is one of my favorite aromatics out there. In general though, I enjoy vanilla flavored/scented tobaccos. With that said, many are overly cased with that vanilla flavoring and turn out to be just “goopy”. Vanilla Roll Cake to me seems less cased and a touch more tobacco forward. The vanilla casing is extremely more complimentary to the tobacco notes of the blend. And I think this is why this particular blend is higher rated. I don’t believe it is due to the packaging in regards to cut (ribbon vs coin). IMHO, I think VRC is extremely well blended.
 
I think I remember that when MB released VRC the info was that it is a different vanilla casing/topping from their other Vanilla lines. FWIW VRC is probably my No. 1 Vanilla tobacco which is why there is a pound of it in my cellar.
 
I think I remember that when MB released VRC the info was that it is a different vanilla casing/topping from their other Vanilla lines. FWIW VRC is probably my No. 1 Vanilla tobacco which is why there is a pound of it in my cellar.
That's correct. The Roll Cake is a more recent recipe that uses a very high quality natural vanilla in the casing, which is unusual for the genre. One of the few premium vanillas I'm aware of outside an artisan blender. Many others just throw on a cheap heavy topping at the end that can taste like a bag of Jet Puffed.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
To take what @Kentos said a little further...

If it's pressed and steamed into a block, that's PLUG. Most plug is then sliced into FLAKE, some of which stays together better than others, depending how densely it's pressed (see the difference between a Gawith flake and a Germain flake). BROKEN FLAKE is partially rubbed, and on its way to being READY RUBBED.There is also CUT PLUG, which tends to resemble broken flake, in that it is not fully rubbed out.

Instead of being formed as plug, it may be hand or machine wound into TWIST or ROPE, which just like FLAKE, may be sliced or ROLL CUT into COINS.

Finally there us RIBBON CUT, which just gets cut up in leaf form, before being blended together. SHAG CUT is a very fine ribbon cut. neither if these tends to have flavours melded as well as those which start as plug or ROPE, though being finely cut does compensate for this somewhat. It also burns faster, which my lead a pipe to burn hot.

As I understand it, casing is added at the stage of forming the tobacco into flake or twist, whereas topping is added, when the tobacco is cut however it is intended to be served to the punter.
 

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
Thanks all! I knew what the different types are, and have used them in the past, but I erroneously thought the difference in ratings was simply the way it is packed. Now it has been confirmed that it is, in fact, a whole different blend.

And now, with all the love for it here, I'm anxious to try it, but I just received a half-pound of the loose cut. Which is not bad at all, thankfully, but it will be a while before I get the VRC. But I sure will!

Thanks, everyone!
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
For me, variations in form are as appealing as variations in blend. If I've been smoking flake a while, I tend to get cravings for something simpler. I also like to have something around that requires no prep. Be that a ribbon cut, or just some opened flake which has already dried out a bit, so I can pack and light straight away, without needing the forethought to air stuff out beforehand.

Likewise, smoking "faster" tobaccos for a while, leaves me wanting a slower burning smoke. As such, I always like to have variety of form to hand, as well as blend. If all I have open is flake, I might rub out enough of one blend for three or four smokes, just so I have the choice of a planned or impromptu smoke.
 
The sharp spikes of Mac Baren Golden Extra: What cut is that? I find it hard to load and pack well. A loose packing can lead to a hot smoke, I've read, and I certainly had one yesterday with the Mac Baren in a pipe that in my experience does not heat up much. So I wonder if it's the cut.
 

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
Well, had some Escudo Navy Deluxe yesterday. Wife is not a fan. Says it smells like cigarrettes. I loved it, but back to Mac Baren Vanillas and Cavendishes I think. And CH & PA. Pretty much have the limits of my indoor smoking defined now, and those are the cuplrits.
 
Well, had some Escudo Navy Deluxe yesterday. Wife is not a fan. Says it smells like cigarrettes. I loved it, but back to Mac Baren Vanillas and Cavendishes I think. And CH & PA. Pretty much have the limits of my indoor smoking defined now, and those are the cuplrits.
Escudo may be the world heavyweight champion of pipe tobaccos. Personally I love the aroma, but it's not going to endear you to any non-pipe smokers.
 

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
Escudo may be the world heavyweight champion of pipe tobaccos. Personally I love the aroma, but it's not going to endear you to any non-pipe smokers.

Good to know, Price. I should have asked before. So apparently I should smoke VaPers alone. I have a good selection of stuff she really does like, though, so I'm good to go!
 
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