Casings & Toppings – Not the Same – CMT Contribution, Kevin Godbee
On page 84 of The Tobacconist Handbook, it states in the Tobacconist Tip:
“Casing is another term for flavorings that can be added to pipe tobaccos, primarily aromatic blends. Casing usually involves applying flavored liquids, like honey, liqueurs, and extracts.”
I’d like to expand on this.
Casings and Toppings are two different things. Toppings are actually what is more associated with the stereotypical sweet flavor or aroma of an “aromatic” pipe tobacco blend. For example, a Cherry Tobacco will have a cherry topping. The topping is applied last, at the very end of the processing just before the tobacco goes into the tin or pouch.
Casing, on the other hand is done to ALL pipe tobacco blends – NOT just AROMATICS. Casing happens around the middle of the processing, and it is not meant to add anything that is detectable to the flavor. Casing is applied, and then the tobacco is left to sit for about a day to absorb the casing. So, casing is absorbed into the tobacco, and toppings, as implied, sit on top of the tobacco and quickly burn off. You don’t so much as taste the topping as smell it.
The most typical casings are as follows:
Virginia tobaccos (which are not strictly from VA, but that’s another lesson), are typically cased with sugar-water.
Burley tobaccos are typically cased with a solution that contains chocolate and / or licorice.
Even though chocolate and licorice do have distinct flavors, they are not detectable as a casing.
Casings serve the purpose of enhancing and bringing out more of the tobacco’s natural flavor. Toppings serve the purpose of adding an additional flavor (taste+aroma) to a blend. The simple way I use to remember the difference is to think of casing as a marinade, as it is added during the processing, and soaks into the tobacco. And think of toppings as a sauce. You could marinate (casing) a steak, then grill it, and after it is cooked, you can put some A1 sauce (topping) on it.
Here is a photo of tobacco being cased at the Orlik Factory in Denmark.