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Smoking and vaping tobacco share similarities and differences. It is often said that vaped tobaccos flavors or aromas are more like the aroma of the unlit tobacco, akin to walking into a tobacco shop and inhaling the smell. And what a wonderful smell it is! I used to love when I was in Midtown Manhattan and passed by the Nat Sherman shop on 42nd St. If you have never been, don’t go. Not as a vaper, don’t do it. It glorious. Go to the Porto Rico Importing Co. stores and buy some fine coffees instead. If simply because the smell is like a blanket of warm, moist earthy rich goodness. Not that cheap dry chemically dirt raisin flavor of a pack of Pall Mall 100’s Unfiltered. This is an oasis for smokers like me, one of many. Yet, not anymore…
Switching to vaping, like many, I thought to avoid tobacco flavors to move as far from the drug that ruined-my-life. Despite that, my first mix ever was a House Mix cigar flavor that was gross and way over nicced but it took. I bought the device and the mix for an overnight trip where I was uninterested in either smelling like smoke constantly (and being found out) or wearing a patch and having those crazy nicotine patch dreams. When I returned, I pulled out of the glove box my packet of Nat Sherman Hint of Mints (I always had money for smokes), lit up, and gagged. Holy Smokes! All I could taste was ash and burning. And I had the damndest time inhaling it since all I could feel was pain and a tightening of the throat.
Decided to look online for e-juice descriptions. “Google, what is the BEST e-juice flavor?” That search came up with a few results that seemed sketchy but one stood out: Black Note. Black Note is a NET (Naturally Extracted Tobacco) that is quite good and comes with a steep and hefty cost. But, hey, what did I know and, if this new way of life were to take hold, let me buy the best and see if it can’t work for me. So I tried a small bottle of Legato. Notorious coil murder aside, my precious Baby Beast tank delivered the smoothest flavor compared to that OG Cigar bottle (which I still have from april 2017 in my drawer, black as night). Yeah, well, that led me to vape shops which would let you try stuff and, despite all the sugary fruits and strawberries and cream/custard ubiquity, there I was with a handful of pre-mixed juices that kept me off the stinkies solid since.
It was the stranglehold of not being able to reduce nicotine consumption efficiently (0mg/3mg/6mg/wha?) that led me to researching how to make my own ejuice that led me here looking for answers. In late 2017, the FLV Tobaccos were gaining in well deserved popularity for their complex flavors and you can see some early pre/post release reviews show how mixers were trying to figure out the flavors and how they mixed with the INW and FA tobaccos that were more widely available at the time:
Etc. The point is, I tried many a tobacco flavor that was available readily shopping off the names (mostly FA -- still scarred) and was like nahhhhh this isn’t for me. But look how far we have come from My First Tobacco Order from 4 years ago to u/ChemicalBurnVictim’s wonderful post Getting in to Tobaccos and even more specifically, Battle of the Baccos: Turkish v. Oriental.
And with all that said, and nearly vaping tobacco flavors semi-exclusively for the last 3 years, I STILL struggle to explain what in the hell they taste like. I guess a strawberry can be realistic, juicy, authentic, jammy, or whatever. But how in god’s name do you explain a bacco? Mostly, if you vape a lot of them, you notice the accents and that can drive your pairings later on. Cedar note here, coffee note there, woodsy and leafy but what kind? Is it a brown crinkly leaf? This is madness.
So how are tobaccos described by smokers? And, how much of that relates to vaping, which can be significantly different?
Let’s start with an adaptation of some stuff I cobbled together from a 10 minute search online:
- Aroma or Room Note
We can say “Duh” all day long but, after having been heckled (and rightfully so) by u/mLnikon on Noted for saying “Leafy” as a descriptor for a ‘good’ bacco and “Leafy” again as a bad thing. I realized I lacked the appropriate vocabulary to describe what I was tasting. And, metaphors can only take you so far despite the joy of saying “Grandma’s bathwater” repeatedly. I’ve found a few charts that really help with identifying categories for describing categories and specific notes within those categories here:
The chart and the table should be self explanatory. Add some of your favorite tobacco vocabulary in the comments (or just the funniest descriptions you’ve heard)!
Here’s one that we can probably all relate to with vaping. How do these flavors actually impact your palate? Texture, richness, weight and overall mouthfeel are all important components. For tobaccos, from a source that links to tobacco products: “in conjunction with body is texture. Words used to characterize texture include leathery, meaty, silky, creamy, soft, succulent, woody, chalky, dry, oily, and spicy.” TPA Western is leathery (actual leather lol), INW Vanilla for Pipe is woody, FLV Arabian is spicy, etc.
This one, in my humble opinion is a bit trickier. A real cigar might touch on the taste receptors on the tongue: bitter, salty, sour, sweet, umami. We do know that some of these experiences are simply not in the cards for vape juice, most notably salty and sour. Maybe you can get impressions of them but it does seem to be a missing factor in flavor impressions. (Do you get a salty impression from FLV Beer Nuts? No, saline does not add a salty taste.) Bitter, I’m not as sure about (please chime in here, people) and sweet is a no brainer. Would umami be DAAP? I dunno, you tell me.
That said, balance for a tobacco flavor, in this mixer’s humble opinion would be more along the lines of “What accents/notes are needed to ‘complete’ this experience?” With this in mind, some tobacco flavors are very strong stand alone flavors and can carry a recipe all on their own while still having a function as an accent. Some are complex in flavor but seem to have one aspect a little more prominent than the others. All around, this comes most importantly into play in the mind and imagination of the mixer. Let’s say you have a flavor like FLV Red Burley that is very moist with a prominent nutty note and people say they also get a cocoa note as well. You may want to play to that cocoa to bring it out more or just use RB low in a mix to accent another bacco with that nutty note where a bit of moisture is also welcome.
This is going to be a less useful term as it relates to vaping as from smoking, but hear me out. Strength applies to the nicotine content of a given tobacco or blend. Since diy mixers directly control that nicotine strength level, how does this apply here. In a weird way, I personally find that some flavors behave differently at different wattages. A really interesting recipe that delves into this aspect can be found in u/matthewkocanda’s Amorphous. I am here to argue that some flavors/recipes do shine in different ways at different temps and vaping styles. I am by no means an expert on this but I do know that u/wh1skeyk1ing’s Gold tastes quite differently at low watts mtl over higher watts dtl (yes better and new gold ducat works quite nicely when you don’t know any better). So do make note here that strength does indeed have a kind of place in our lexicon.
This one may be the least important for you, yet more important for your loved ones. While you may not be Brad with your pack of donut lies, there can be some serious cat pissy room note vibes from some tobacco flavors. A traditional pipe tobacco room note can be extremely enticing, and occasionally in vape form we get that. To me this is a bonus, but the opportunity to create a vape with this in mind is there. Go wild.
An often overlooked aspect of flavors on my part, the finish is the lasting and lingering note after the flavor or mix is exhaled. This can range from lingering ashy notes to woody or spice notes. The way INW Bahraini Apple Gold leaves that lingering anise tingle on the tongue in u/tbx12’s Simple Apple Shisha Hookah is like heaven. Or like the way he blended it to cover it up in TB4 and end with a slight cocoa touch at the end.
That's all for now. Check out Prior Tuesday Tutorial posts written by a host of people. Please feel free to comment on anything you like at all, but particularly if you have an idea for a future post, if you'd like to write one, or if you caught a mistake or misinformation in my post.
keep mixin and keep sharin,