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The Ultimate Tobacco Cut Guide

Broken Flake

Broken flakes are cut from cakes or plugs into irregular pieces of approximately 1/8” in size. It is very easy to rub this tobacco out into a texture like that of Ribbon if so desired, but it can also be crushed, folded, or smoked without further preparation. With a little care in storage, this tobacco will keep well, and can be cellared or aged for long periods of time.

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Packing Difficulty Fairly Easy
Availability Common
Aging Potential High

Curly Cut

Curly Cut refers to thin slices of tobacco cut from twisted “Rope” tobacco, which take an almost thin coin-like appearance. Curly Cut is much like Flake tobacco, only differing in shape and slightly in thickness, and is sometimes referred to as a type of flake. It can be prepared for smoking in the same way as a traditional Flake, by either folding, crushing, or rubbing it out to a desirable texture for smoking.

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Packing Difficulty Fairly Easy
Availability Scarce
Aging Potential High

Flake

Flakes, or “slices” are cut from compressed cakes such as Plug, into slices, which are typically rectangular in shape but can be somewhat oddly or loosely shaped as well. Flakes keep somewhat well after opening, and are quite easy to prepare for smoking. Flake can either be folded and stuffed into the smoking chamber, or rubbed out to a consistency similar to that of Ribbon or Shag cut.

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Packing Difficulty Challenging
Availability Common
Aging Potential High

Plug

Plugs are square or rectangular bars cut from tobacco that has been layered, heated, and pressed. They keep well since they do not allow much air exchange. Plugs must be sliced, and either folded or rubbed out for smoking. It’s important to cut “against the grain” of the tobacco layers, since each layer is a different type of tobacco, and it helps achieve a properly smokable texture.

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Packing Difficulty Difficult
Availability Scarce
Aging Potential High

Ribbon

Ribbon cut tobacco is tobacco that is mechanically cut from cakes or plugs into thin strands of about 1/16”. It will not keep very well for long periods of time after the tin or bag is opened, unless careful precautions are taken to store it properly. Ribbon tobacco does not need any preparation before smoking; it can simply be stuffed into the bowl and smoked.

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Packing Difficulty Very Easy
Availability Very Common
Aging Potential Medium

Rope

Rope tobacco is not cut, but rather spun into thick cords usually about 1” in diameter, and sold in different lengths. This is typically considered a “bulk” tobacco. It is a fairly uncommon method of preparation, but Rope is quite compact and stores very well, much like Plug tobacco. For smoking, Rope must be cut into slices and either folded or rubbed to the desired texture.

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Packing Difficulty Difficult
Availability Scarce
Aging Potential High

Shag

Similar to Ribbon cut, Shag cut tobacco is also cut mechanically into strands, but is even finer in texture than Ribbon. Shag tobacco is very delicate, and much like Ribbon, it can be smoked straight from the tin without preparation. Once a tin or bag of Shag tobacco is opened, it needs to be stored in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out, which it will otherwise quickly do.

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Packing Difficulty Very Easy
Availability Scarce
Aging Potential Low