The Pipe Tobacco Aging, Storage and Cellaring FAQ

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Cellaring

  1. What should I use as my actual tobacco cellar?
  2. What is the optimal environment for my cellar?
  3. I would like to stock up a cellar. Any good rules of thumb?
  4. What's a good way to determine the age of the tobacco in my cellar?
  5. Should I keep track of my cellar inventory?
  6. Besides aging, are there other reasons to cellar tobacco?


1 ~ What should I use as my actual tobacco cellar?

No, nobody has built an elaborate wine cellar-like to furnish your 200-2000 tin tobacco cellar. You may be horrified to learn that just about everyone (including the pros!) improvise. Witness:

As for storing unopened tins, I just pile them in a large plastic cooler, no humidification, in my basement.

JHowell982, 2001-02-26

I love my cellar - it's a large ice chest with a handle and wheels, like a wagon. I've moved twice since starting to collect and age tins, and it's been both rugged and temperature-stable. I only age tins and sealed bulks, so I don't need much more than that.

Mike Jacobs, 2001-08-22

My cellar consists entirely of cardboard U-Haul boxes, as well as the cartons the mason jars come in. I have boxes dedicated to tins of Pease blends, Rattray blends, Butera/Esoterica, and the rest.

Fred Latchaw, 2001-08-22

I keep mine in boxes in a closet.

G.L. Pease, 2001-04-03

I use coolers of various sizes and dimensions -- perfect accommodations for tins and bags of bulk. The coolers are kept in a closet.

Jeff Schwartz, 2001-04-03

When we built our house, we had one of the rooms converted into a den. The closest was converted into my "cellar" by placing a bookcase in it. Most of my jars are on this bookcase (around 40 or so bail tops) with the rest of the shelves stacked with tins.

Stanmed, 2002-02-05

I store my tobacco in a two door metal cabinet (typical storage cabinet like those used for office supplies). It is a cheap one from Office Max (US$100 or so). It has a lock to keep the kiddies out.

Charles Perry, 2004-08-02

Part of my cellar consists of a couple of CD/DVD racks purchased from an office supply store and one from IKEA. With a minimal amount of cannibalizing, I was able to "rework" them both to fit into the unused corners and wall space in my smoking den. They're ideal for both tin and bail-top jar storage, as the units are between 6" and 10" deep and the shelves are usually very adjustable, allowing for efficient organization. The IKEA "Billy" unit can be adjusted to perfectly fit the 1000 mll bail-tops sold at ebottles.com. As I keep about fifty tins open at any one time (I like variety), the CD/DVD rack is ideal.

I also was fortunate enough to purchase an old custom-built pipe cabinet that was made from a quality china closet; the bottom is home to about 250+ tins. Additionally, I also use the two deep bottom drawers of my desk as storage for the overflow (makes the desk smell great). "Out-Of-Print" tins are stored in an antique Pennsylvania Dutch inlayed box (10" X 12" X 18") and everything else goes into a metal two-drawer large-format index card filing cabinet.

And finally, I have my eye on a 1940's-era maple gun cabinet that, with the addition of some properly crafted shelves, could hold a couple of hundred tins.

Clifford W. Woodward, 2005-08-21

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2 ~ What is the optimal environment for my cellar?

To the extent that we can control our environment, we should, is the upshot. Discussion:

Cool and dry is best. If you can keep it between 55 deg F and 70 deg F, you're doing well; perhaps a 65 deg F upper limit is better still.

Heat, despite the apparent popularity of some of the "Dashboard Stoving" techniques, is not your tobacco's friend. Among other things, you increase the probability that dormant mold spores will germinate. Freezing is also a bad idea.

Of course, moist environments will do nothing other than contribute to rust development, so dry is better. (Remember, the tins are sealed. Moisture inside the tins will stay there, irrespective of the external RH.)

G.L. Pease, 2005-03-29

If you are comfortable, the tobacco will be comfortable.

James D. Beard, 2005-03-28

The main concern is to keep them in an environment that will keep the tins from rusting. The idea is an environment that does not fluctuate in temperature or humidity.

G. W. Fletcher, 2001-05-10

The stuff should be stored in a cool, dry place. Dry is important. Tins, while coated on the inside to prevent rust from within, are susceptible to rusting from the outside in. There's nothing worse than opening a tin of something you've been looking forward to for years, only to find a dry, rusty mess inside. Rust does have a flavour of its own. It's terrible.

G.L. Pease, 2001-08-15

Cool, but not cold, storage conditions will allow your tobacco to mature in a slow, even manner. The proper range is slightly less than room temperature (55 F to 65 F) for slow, steady maturation of tobacco. Tinned tobacco that is stored at a slightly warmer range, say 75 F, will mature quicker with only a slight loss in the overall final product. Remember that heat is used with steam, some types of pressing and stoving of tobacco, but these processes are used during manufacturing rather than the long term maturation of the "finished product".

R.C. Hamlin, 1995 Pipes Digest

DO NOT put sealed tins in the humidor! Tins are actually made of steel, and pull-tops are aluminum, and corrosion is their worst enemy. I've lost some remarkable old tobaccos to the dreaded rust.

G.L. Pease, 1998-11-16

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3 ~ I would like to stock up a cellar. Any good rules of thumb?

Mr. Schwartz offers the definitive answer:

How big is your cellar?

Jeff Schwartz, 2000-10-28

Answers with more words, and possibly philosophies more easy on your bank account, follow.

As much as you can get my hands on, or at least as much as you can afford. [...] When I empty a tin, I don't open anything from the cellar, I order more; typically in a one-to-five relationship, where I buy one to open and five to stash.

Fred Latchaw 2001-04-03

Every time you buy a tin to smoke, buy one to "lay down" for a while. Better yet, buy two to cellar for a while, so you can build your sampling stash.

G.L. Pease, 2001-08-15

Might I make a tiny suggestion? Start to think of yourself as a "tobacco collector", and those feelings of mild trepidation you're having will be transformed into immense pride.

Mark Shelor, 2003-05-12

It took me a couple of years before I knew for sure which blends I wanted to cellar, and which blends cellar well. Until recently, I still had dozens of open tins - tins that eventually dried out as I began to smoke others regularly. I probably blew a few hundred dollars in tobacco over three years experimenting, but that's part of a hobby. I'm happy I found some personal favorites, and now I'm "investing" with a plan. I would have had no idea what to buy before I identified my ideal blends.

Mike Jacobs, 2001-11-19

My objectives are: 1) never smoke anything that's less than five years old, and 2) to hedge against discontinuation of my favorites. Hedging against inflation is a nice side benefit but there's also a lot of economic risk associated with it - I don't mind the risk, but for me the opportunity cost just about balances any likelihood of tin appreciation.

Mike Jacobs, 2001-11-17

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4 ~ What's a good way to determine the age of the tobacco in my cellar?

Down this road lies obsessive-compulsive disorder. But at least you'll have good data!

For me, writing the date on the top of a jar, or a tin, is really just a way to keep track of stuff. I actually keep a log book of what I cellar, when I cellared it, where it came from, and eventually, when I dip into it, and how much (relatively) I have left in the tin/jar when I seal it up again.

FatMax, 2002-05-20

Buy twice as much as you smoke, and put the extra away in a closet. Label each tin with the date you purchased it, and realize that its age is indeterminate when you buy it. After a year, try some of your fresh stuff, which you have been continually smoking, and know and love, and some of the aged stock. Try again after two years. If you are a Virginia or Latakia mixture smoker, you'll be glad you did!

G.L. Pease, 1997-10-13

Make sure that you date the tins in your cellar with the month and year of purchase. This can be done by writing on the label or using a marker on the underside of the tin. [...] I would suggest that you month/year date all tobaccos you decide to cellar. [...] As a final step in tracking the progression of tobaccos that you cellar, you should keep a log. Your cellar log can be as simple as a 3x5 card with dates and tasting comments or as complex as you like. Your log should list the dates that you added to your cellar, by type and brand of tobacco. You will also find if very helpful to keep tasting notes based on either a point scale (taste, bite, sharpness, softness, sweetness, etc) or just a text based reaction to each tobacco as they mature. This written history will serve you well when you track the other tobaccos in your cellar. A cellar log will help you learn to recognize the progression of various types of tobaccos, especially those that you decide to add to your cellar selection in the future.

R.C. Hamlin, 1995 Pipes Digest

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5 ~ Should I keep track of my cellar inventory?

Surprisingly few people seem to keep track of the contents of their cellar, for fear of cataloging the full range of tinned temptations available, which time has forgotten. Probably wise, I guess.

I started to do an inventory, once. Counting things, sorting things, putting things in columns is not something I'm particularly fond of, so after filling a couple pages of a legal pad with the miscellany, I gave up, and settled for getting a "feel" for what's stored in the cellar.

G.L. Pease, 2001-05-07

I have put together a Microsoft Access database with pictues of my pipes and information about them. I also have a section of the database for tracking the tobaccos I purchase as far as date, type, impressions, etc. I haven't maintained it faithfully, but can see the potential in it for someone so inclined.

Fred Langer, 1998-06-28

You may wish to check out the Online Pipe Tobacco Cellar developed by Ryan Vanderbijl and me.

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6 ~ Besides aging, are there other reasons to cellar tobacco?

Yes, there are some people who seem to collect tobacco for other reasons. Weird, huh?

There is, to me, another compelling reason to have a tobacco cellar, and include in it blends that you enjoy but might not expect to do any more than taste at least as good to you as they do now: future availability and cost. Tobacco taxes seem to know only one direction-- up. There are a ton of new products on the market, and not all of them will survive. The return on investment from being in the pipe tobacco business has been deemed too low to justify staying in it in the past by some very prominent makers. Only a few years ago, things were disappearing right and left because of "bean counter" decisions. If the economy goes south, product liability insurance premiums go up, fashion trends change, whatever, then you will start to see those kinds of "bean counter" decisions being made again.

Daniel L. Merriman, 2000-10-06

If I find something I don't like, I cellar it. As tastes changes, what I don't like now may be quite enjoyable to me later. And if I don't change enough, the tobak may.

Bill Triplett, 1999-08-18

Some ASPers are convinced that tobacco is going to be increasingly regulated, taxed, or outlawed - and find this trend a compelling reason to cellar their favorite blends in quantity.

Maybe tobacco will be outlawed, maybe not. I'm not taking chances. Pick up a few years worth, whatever that means to you. If you smoke a pound of tobacco per year, hit your favorite shop and order 10-20 pounds of McClelland, Rattray, Esoterica, Dunhill, C&D, GLP, or whatever tobaccos you like. Seal them in some large mason jars. Worst case scenario is that you will have some primo tobacco to smoke in 10 to 20 years, or you will be able to pay for your kid's tuition [down the road].

Inquisitor, 2004-01-14

While a total [tobacco] ban in the US is possible, I think that the probability is very low. What does score a perfect 1.0 in probability is taxation beyond the reach of many of us. This is why I've curtailed buying pipes for the last two years and have been buying tobacco like it's going out of style - it is. After two years I've built up enough poundage to supply my smoking rate for about 10 years.

Dave Keever, 2004-01-14

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Russian Translation | Home | Fundamentals | Aging | Tin Storage | Bulk Storage | Jarring Guide | Cellaring
Cellar Gallery | Categorization | Flakes | Touchstones | Moisture | Related Topics | Glossary | Appendices