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Recycle Cigar Butts into Premium Pipe Tobacco

I smoke cigars. Specifically, I smoke premium hand rolled cigars. Smoking one or two a day, it doesn’t take long before I have an ashtray full of cigar butts to throw away. One day it occurred to me that, except for the charred end, I was throwing away good tobacco. Not only was it good tobacco, it was a blend of tobaccos. In a premium cigar the outer wrapper leaves are selected for flavor and the inner leaves for their burning qualities. I know little about pipe tobacco but it seemed reasonable that the same properties of flavor and burning should apply. There was a simple way to find out.

I purchased an inexpensive smoking pipe from Amazon. During the two or three days prior to its arrival I saved my butts and snippings. Most cigar smokers will tell you that if a partially smoked cigar is abandoned and relit later, the charred end must be snipped off. Relit char has an unpleasant bitter taste. Also, if not snipped soon enough, the taste will seep into the unsmoked tobacco. In practice, I found that after the butt was completely out, one can simply squeeze most of the char and ash out leaving a blackened end. This butt can be saved for a few days before final processing. Prior to chopping, the blackened ends were snipped off below the char line with an ordinary cigar cutter.

From my garage, I retrieved an electric food chopper that I had purchased at a thrift shop for just a few dollars. After one failed attempt at chopping, I found that it was necessary to unravel the butts with my thumbnail into fragments of leaves. The leaves chopped nicely. I chopped in bursts until the grinds looked suitable for packing into a pipe. I now had a product ready to smoke. The chopped tobacco was stored in an empty wooden cigar box.

Many years ago I learned how to properly pack tobacco into a pipe. If you haven’t smoked pipes before, Google it. Basically the tobacco is packed loosely at the bottom of the bowl, heavier midway, and tightly at the top.

My first bowl was largely successful. Not perfect because I had to relight the pipe twice. I believe that the tobacco was a little too moist. After leaving the container open overnight, the second smoke was perfect. The flavor was all that I had expected and very good. I suppose that an aficionado would cringe at this. Remember the objective is not to achieve a specific flavor but simply to achieve a good flavor from leftovers.

Of course the same procedure can be used for whole cigars. Cigars can and do have rolling defects. They may be plugged, unraveled or have some other defect or damage rendering them unsmokable. Why not salvage them?

The journey from the tobacco field to the finished product is quite different for cigar or pipe tobacco. Leaves destined for cigars are selected, fermented and aged. Pipe leaves are cured (some are fermented), a much less expensive process. While cigars do make a good pipe smoke, it is an expensive smoke and not one that would be commercially profitable. Therefore, I consider my homemade pipe tobacco a premium product.

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