Commenter P. Stephenson wonders if Savinelli’s balsa filters reduce the nicotine hit from tobacco by absorbing moisture. This is a good question, so I set out to see if that’s true. Some while back I used carbon filters in the hope that they would diminish the nicotine hit that some tobaccos give me. I can’t say they did. I don’t recall if I tried balsa filters in that regard, and I hoped to learn something about this in my latest experimentation.
After a week of testing, I can say one thing for certain: I’m just not sure. I smoked three blends that, under some circumstances, can give me quite a wallop: C&D Big ‘N’ Burley, C&D Mad Fiddler Flake, and GL Pease Embarcadero. I mean these guys can make my head spin and my legs wobble.
So what happened when I smoked them in my Savinellis with balsa filters? One thing I can say is that the nicotine hit did not disappear altogether. The question is whether it was reduced at all. And here I am not sure. It may have done, but I must bear in mind that, for me at least, the nicotine hit from a blend seems heavily dependent on factors other than the tobacco itself. Time of day, state of rest, and fullness stomach seem to have a lot to do with it. Thus even if I’m right and did indeed experience a lesser hit, I have no way of knowing if the filter was the reason.
I’ll keep experimenting, but I fear that no matter how long I do, I won’t be able to overcome the epistemological problem. After all, if on a given occasion I find the hit less severe, I will never know what it would have been had I smoked without a filter.
Here is another thing I can say with certainty, the filter makes the draw less easy than I prefer.
It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: if your first impression of a tobacco blend is negative, put it away and try it again after a few weeks or months — maybe even a year or more. For any number of reasons, you may like it at that point. I’ve experienced this more than once. And even if you don’t love the tobacco after giving it time, you might mix it with something else and come up with a blend you really like. Experimentation can be fun.
I’m having such an experience now. Six months ago I bought a few ounces of Cornell & Diehl Big ‘N’ Burley. Wow! The name is perfect because this product packs quite a wallop, both in flavor and nicotine. I didn’t think this was a tobacco I could smoke.
So I jarred it and put it away for six months. When I tried it again recently, it was just as potent. But I like burley, so I didn’t want to give up. What could I do? I tried mixing it with some Prince Albert, hoping it would take some of the edge off. And you know what? It did so to an extent. I enjoyed this morning’s smoke. But it was still potent, and therefore I want to add more Prince Albert just to see what happens. I am also thinking about adding unsweetened Cavendish to the Big ‘N’ Burley alone. If I understand cavendish correctly, it should round out the burley. I’ll pick some up from my local tobacconist.
Not every pipe smoker wants to fool around like this, and I appreciate that. This is one of the things that separates the hobbyist from the smoker. Our time is limited; not everyone wants to devote time to blending tobacco because that would take him away from something else. Perfectly understandable. But I enjoy dabbling in blending, so I’m willing to spend a wee bit more time to see if I can fully enjoy Big ‘N’ Burley.
I’ll report on my progress.