Way before there were mass-produced cigarettes, there were pipes. Indeed, since the early days of tobacco harvesting and curing, people packed pipes with tobacco, as captured in iconic images of farmers with corncob pipes, sea captains clenching pipes, and aristocrats enjoying a pipe with an after-dinner drink.
Over the years, the mystique of pipe smoking faded in comparison with wider acceptance of cigarettes, but there’s always remained a segment of people who prefers the unique experience and taste of pipe tobacco, much like there’s a specific demographic that opts to roll their own cigarettes. But are roll-your-own (RYO) and pipe tobacco products — and their customers — interchangeable? Maybe yes, maybe no.
Yes, both pipe and RYO tobacco are classified as loose and sold in pouches. Yes, they each allow users to create an individualized experience. But there are some notable differences, too. In almost all cases, RYO is cigarette tobacco, meaning it cut into fine strands and usually dried out. Pipe tobacco, on the other hand, is characteristically a coarser cut and moist, perfect for a slower burn.
To help customers understand the differences between pipe and RYO options, here’s a quick primer on the traditional elements of pipe tobacco.
- Aromatic and Non-aromatic
These are two core segments of pipe tobacco. Aromatics, reportedly the most popular, are tobacco blends featuring a layer of flavor, such as whiskey, maple, caramel, vanilla and even chocolate. Unlike cigarette tobacco that has flavors added after it’s been dried and processed, the pipe tobacco flavors are added to the leaves, a procedure known as casing, for a more natural taste. Non-aromatic pipe tobacco may also offer a hint of flavor, but it’s usually very subtle. Additionally, pipe tobacco typically contains a high level of natural sugars that’s not present in RYO or cigarettes.
- Coarse Cut
As previously noted, pipe tobacco showcases thicker strands, from as big as 1/8 inch down to 1/16 inch, which is still bigger than most of the fine ground used in RYO and cigarettes.
- High Moisture
Although not as moist as chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco isn’t as dry as RYO or cigarettes. This is why the pouch packaging is perfect for pipe tobacco because the airtight seal keeps the product fresh.
- Tobacco Types
Modern cigarettes may blend tobacco from a variety of sources from around the world, but pipe tobacco primarily originates from Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisiana and Tennessee. What’s more, the blend tends to be more organic, or at least with fewer chemical additives than in cigarettes.
While not entirely interchangeable, the ritual involved with both RYO and pipe tobacco may appeal to a shared customer base, so through a little education, convenience store owners and operators could grow basket sales by encouraging clients to try both.