Let’s talk about the salt and pepper of pipe tobacco blending. First is Latakia, pronounced La-TACK-kee-ya. This pronunciation surprised me since I had been mispronouncing it for many years. Latakia was discovered in northern Syria when a tobacco farmer had a bumper crop and left the surplus tobacco hanging in his tobacco barn. Now in Syria people like to cook their food over an open fire made with hard wood. Because of the smoke generated, they cook in the barn, not in the house. The farmer discovered the cooking smoke gave his tobacco a very dark color and a smoky aroma and flavor. The tobacco processing was named after a nearby town of Latakia which is on the coast of the Mediterranean sea. I finally learned of the correct pronunciation from news reports about the fighting going over there. Now the current tale. No perique is produced in Syria today. It is all produced on the island of Cyprus.
There are very few pipe smokers that smoke Latakia straight because of its strong taste and aroma so it is used sparingly in blending. We call it the salt in blending.
The blending pepper is perique, pronounced per-EEK. When French-Canadians came to Louisiana in 1776 they found the native Indians growing and processing what is now called Perique. Originally Perique was made by pruning the tobacco plant to just a few leaves. While still green the entire plant is picked and tied into one pound hands. It is partially dried in air then packed in whiskey barrels and compressed with a very large screw press for a year. During that time the pressure is relieved occasionally to allow some air back into the tobacco. The tobacco is then processed (usually granulated). The whole process is very labor intensive. Less than sixteen acres produce the entire supply but that is not the whole story. Burley is also processed the same way and mixed in with the Louisiana perique to reduce the cost. In spite of this, perique is by far the most expensive pipe tobacco. Perique is dark brown, nearly black and has a fruity and slightly vinegar flavor.
So there you have it. I hope you found my story interesting.