My A-Z of Pipe Tobacco

C is for Century

Welp, now we’re cooking with gas! After blasting through the B’s, I’m now cracking on with the C’s, with a brand that is a tentpole blender for any good tobacconist or pipe shop (while admittedly being slightly niche) Century, USA.

The brand

As the “USA” suffix might imply, Century specialise in highly aromatic, American style pipe tobacco blends. To me, they are the quintessential American style blender with a consistent style across the blend, which stays true to the distinctive American style: Mild tobacco with a pronounced, sweet casing and an enticingly pungent aroma. From its roots in Kentucky, the brand’s factory itself has survived for a long time, through many different owners in America due to various buyouts over the years. However, it managed to come out smelling of roses (Damn, it would have been too convenient for them to have ever done a Rose flavour tobacco that I could humorously link to here, wouldn’t it? Maybe I should’ve said “Came out smelling like cherries” instead?) and has emerged as America’s best-selling loose tobacco brand, with a respectable following on this side of the pond too.

Sadly, as is the case with many flavoured tobaccos – especially American Style ones – the range in the UK is very small compared to what is used to be/currently is, in other countries. However, even though we have been reduced to just five blends available, they manage to cover a decent variety of options, including some slightly less expected ones.

Black & Brown.

This is an interesting one to start off with. Normally, American blends tend to go for a more specific (if abbreviated) flavour name: Black C. Golden H, etc. However, in this case, they have gone for a more generally descriptive “Black & Brown,” referring to the colours of the tobacco itself. It has actually had a few names in the past, including “Tweed” and “Black and Tan” (the latter being changed for obvious reasons…)  The Black and Brown in this case, is a mix of Black Cavendish, Burleys and Bright Virginias. When researching this blend, I found that there seems to be some debate about whether or not there is a casing involved, the general consensus being that if anything, it has a light vanilla topping. Regardless of that, there is a pleasant general sweetness to the blend. As well as the vanilla, I also get hints of a slightly syrupy, molasses-like sweetness, with occasional hints of caramel. As is often the case with American style blends, the tobacco itself is extremely mild and barely detectable under the sweetness. All in all, this is a nice blend for sweet-tooths who don’t want to be overwhelmed.

Black Cavendish

Following on from Black & Brown, this is another simple, uncompromising blend: Pure, sweet Black Cavendish. Weirdly, this is another one where the casing has been debated, before settling on “Vaguely vanilla.” Although, I guess it isn’t that weird if you consider that it’s the same Black Cavendish that is used in the Black & Brown. While Black Cavendish is quite simple in theory, this one has been fire cured to add a little bit of earthy character, to the traditional sugary sweetness. Once again, it’s extremely mild, but it does have some utility. Personally, I see this as the polar opposite of pure Latakia. I often suggest keeping a portion of Latakia on hand for if you ever find yourself with an English/Balkan type blend that you find a little weak or lacking, so you have the option of giving it a little extra “Oomph!” You can do the same with this Black Cavendish but for when you have a sweet American blend, that you feel could use a little sweetness boost.

B23 Black C

No self-respecting American style range can exist without having a Black Cherry option and Century is no different. This might be slightly biased as it is far and away our best-selling pure cherry blend in Chester but to me, Century’s offering is the archetypal American Black Cherry blend. It uses toasted Black Cavendish, as well as Virginias and Bright Cavendish, topped with a strong, sweet black cherry flavour. This is a fairly rare case where you can somewhat taste the tobacco flavour under the casing, but it is still pretty mild in the grand scheme of things. They do a good job of keeping the cherry both sweet and pronounced, while avoiding it becoming too sweet and therefore sickly. A great starting point for American Aromatics in general.

BR (Buttered Rum)

I’ve got to be honest; I didn’t know buttered rum was a thing until I found this tobacco. It makes sense though, rum is an extremely varied drink with a few different extremes of flavour. I guess that’s why Century opted to cover a couple of bases, by using two types of rum for the casing: Buttered New England rum and a more traditional Sweet Jamaican rum. This topping is added to a fairly straightforward mix of Virginia and Burley, a classic unobtrusive base that allows the casing to shine. I’m not always the biggest rum fan, but I really enjoy this blend. I feel that the buttery element comes forward more than the rum, with occasional hints of creaminess to boot. This works well for me though, as I feel a full-strength rum flavour would be a little too overpowering for this sort of blend. Also, worth noting: the cut of this blend as a little longer than a lot of the Century range, which gives it an excellent slow-burning character.

RC (Royal Champage)

We finish off with one that I find myself torn on. I’ve got to admit, I’m not massively into champagne as a whole, but as regular readers will know: I love it when an aromatic blend goes for an unusual and “Out there” flavour and I don’t think I’ve ever seen another champagne flavoured blend. In spite of me not being into Champagne, I still really enjoy this blend for its idiosyncrasies. On top of being a less used flavour, it’s also a rare case of an aromatic blend that couldn’t be described as sweet; it has a tarter and tangier sort of character that really stands out amongst other American Aromatics. As should be expected at his point, the tobacco isn’t particularly noticeable here, but it works well as a whole. So, I’d definitely say it’s worth trying, even if you wouldn’t usually go for a bit of the old bubbly!

So that’s what remains of the Century range. It’s sad to see what used to be a massive selection reduced down so much, but I’m warmed by how much they still manage to pack into what’s left. They’re a real pillar of pipe tobacco and well worth experiencing if you haven’t yet!

Until next time:

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!


Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester


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