My experience with rehydrating pipe tobacco (a relatively easy process, with caveats)

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Thursday, 23 July 2009

(17:02:28 CDT)

My experience with rehydrating pipe tobacco (a relatively easy process, with caveats)

It's weird to think about, but Dickens of a Blog first started as a tea and pipe blog and then later got blended with my book and personal blog, and the latter two pretty much dominate. I still smoke a pipe, but pretty casually (I am at 4-5 bowls a week, so not even a bowl a day), and that "causal" bit is why I rarely post about pipe-related anything. It is also the raison d'être for this post. Since I smoke something like two ounces a month as an upper limit, it's not uncommon for tobacco to go dry on me. I'm switching more and more to tins, and just focusing on a tin at a time, but I was faced with a dilemma for a while, how do I try out new blends? Do I open two or three tins and then risk one or two of them drying out before I get there? At any rate, I had accumulated about eight ounces of too dry tobacco over the past year or two and wanted to try a rescue procedure.

I have heard of two rough versions of this. The first involves taking a small damp piece of cloth or thick paper towel, and dropping it in the tin. The second was a quicker method, involving dripping some liquid into the cannister and shaking it up. I went with the second, and let me give it to you in a little more detail.

Take your tobacco. Put it in something water tight and water proof (mason jars work, or if you have one of those cannisters people use for tea, for instance). For every ounce or so of tobacco, you want to add a couple of drops. You can add (1) distilled water or (2) some sort of liquor, but if you do #2 stick to slightly strong (80 proof give or take) and fairly plain (vodka and whiskey and maybe rum over any with flavorings, I can imagine gin would mess you up). A couple of drops does not sound like much, but you do not want to go put much in there. A teaspoon is enough or more than enough for eight or so ounces. I can speak from experience.

Now you want to heat this, lightly. Put the cannister out in the sun, or one person recommended it putting it through a dishwasher cycle. As long as you are careful, some sort of oven cycle might work, but don't know how to do that without making something explode. Maybe a quick bath in a low heat double boiler? Sun's best, generally, and you don't have to watch it much.

Shake it up. Come back in an hour and shake it up. Come back in an hour and shake it up. By this time (two or so hours, later) you should already have a fair amount of rehydration going. If not enough, add another drop or two per ounce and repeat. Eventually, it will moisten quite well.

There is a caveat, though. This process is not 100% taste friendly. You are not going to get back a pouch of top shelf tobacco tasting like it is perfectly aged. There is going to be a slightly increased bitterness to the flavor, and the overall flavor is weaker. It also seems to burn a little faster. As a week or two passes, the rehydration should better blend into a more normalized moisture, but my guess is that this process is best for those who have a couple of ounces of a favorite blend, get a new batch, and want to rehydrate before blending the two batches together.

Si Vales, Valeo


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