If you go shopping for pipe tobacco at a real tobacconist instead of a Walgreens or a head shop, you are likely to find a bunch of in-house blends and dozens of kinds in tins. I would suggest that a new pipe smoker go with a house blend if possible. Here are some things to watch for:

Black Cavendish: This stuff is really dark, moist and fragrant. Cavendish tobaccos are usually pretty mild and very tasty. They have a sweet, oily aroma that you taste most on your tongue and the back of your nostrils. Some Black Cavendishes have undertones of cream or chocolate. It is heavy and burns slow, and produces significant amounts of moisture.

Blonde Cavendish: This has not been cured as long or as vigorously as the black variety, but retains similar character. It burns with more heat, less moisture and a flatter, sharper flavor. This tobacco is often used as a base to create a blend.

Latakia: Originally from the Balkan area, this tobacco has been cured with a different recipe. It is usually blended into other kinds of tobacco. When you smell a blend with Latakia in it, you feel a sharp, flinty taste on the back of your tongue and your upper palate. It's pretty intoxicating fresh, and when you smoke it, that flavor packs a lot of bandwidth. I feel the funk blast.

Burley: This tobacco hasn't been cured much at all. Sometimes they call it Virginia pipe tobacco. It burns with a sparky vigor and has a dry and natural taste. Think of burning sweetgrass. Ranges from medium to strong in effect.

There are also flavored tobaccos, like cherry, peach or even chocolate. I feel fairly certain that you have to add chemicals to tobacco to get it to taste like crunchberries, but they're probably not incredibly toxic. I've smoked some excellent vanilla tobacco, but sometimes the persistent sweetness turned me off.

Two companies can produce the same kind of tobacco and it will still smoke very differently, so I highly suggest sampling tobacco before you spend even a thin dime on it. Even so, you may eventually get tired of a tobacco that you liked in the first place. Don't take any guff from anybody about it! Go through phases. Try stuff on impulse. Mix and match with your favorite beer, wine or vodka. Good luck!

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