We thought we’d play a game: a blind tobacco tasting. I’m not too sure what the exact objective of this game might have been other than to see if Adam, Eric, Sykes and I were up to the challenge of trying to identify the exact components, blender, or even blend picked out for us by Susan. She handed to each of us little zip lock bags labeled ‘Mystery Tobacco’. With some trepidation, we all got to work smoking. Here’s what we came up with:
I was given a little baggie of 'mystery tobacco' and immediately poured the contents on a piece of white paper in an even layer to see the flecks of dark chocolate and tobacco-brown equally mixing. The cut is rather medium with some larger pieces in the mix and crumbs here and there and on the dry side. Not really a ribbon cut, but more of irregular-shaped flakes similar to fish food. I like this, actually, as it's rather easy to pour into the bowl of my Ashton XXX Pebble Grain Dublin.
The moisture - or lack thereof - seems perfect for my taste. Filled to the top of the bowl and puffing with one match, the tobacco rose about half an inch, which was easily tamped down to a level coal. No relighting was necessary. While I mainly smoke Virginias (and probably because of) I can detect richer flavors in this blend. Initially I thought it might be Latakia, and it might be, though soft. The flavors during the first few minutes of puffing remind me more of cigar leaf. Not Connecticut or Maduro, but more like a Gran Habano or La Gloria Cubana. There was just a hint of sweetness at first, most likely from a Virginia, but they are securely behind the veil of pronounced cigar-flavors. Once in a while there is a bit of peppery-spice at the back of my throat, even though I'm not inhaling the smoke. Also like a cigar, my palate seems dry, but in an expected way. I used another match mid-bowl after I tapped out loose ash. Most of the ember fell out too; probably because the irregular cut couldn't hold it within an upside-down bowl. There haven't been any sweet flavors since just after the initial light, which I miss, and the musty-essence seems to intensify. I get no nicotine head-spin at all, so believe this is rather mild. For me, this bowl was just too deep for the developing flavors. Perhaps this would be better - for me - in a smaller bowl or not dried out as much.
About the same time as Ted and I reviewed Distinguished Gentleman, Susan handed Ted, Adam, and I each a small ziplock bag labeled only "Mystery Tobacco 02/17/11". As you can tell, we put smoking it off a bit, though in our defense I must say that if I've given any of the women in our offices a reason to take up the ancient art of poisoning men, it's probably Susan. Probably. Having said that, for Susan's Mystery blend, I chose the same large Luciano dublin as I used for the Distinguished Gentlemen review. Upon first light the blend seemed slightly sweet, with a very, very subtle note of fruit - apricot, for some reason, was the first to come to mind. These flavors merely lay under the stronger, toasty main flavor, however. The smoke was smooth, and rather cool as well (latakia?), and burned quite readily. By Ted's visual assessment the blend appears to be largely virginia with a bit of latakia, possibly with a touch of burley as well. This would explain the combination of easy and mild smoking qualities, as well as the hints of sweetness. My beginning-of-the-bowl apricots remain inexplicable, however. The room note is additionally rather pleasant, so long as you aren't sticking your nose right into the middle of a smoke plume, at which point I found my sinuses receiving more than a mere tickle (again, latakia?). Overall the blend is mild, honestly more so than I really favor, with the sweeter elements so subtle that I easily lost them at times, and the latakia, if that is what it is, offering a bit of cooling but not much else. Bear in mind I have quite an insensitive palette - those of you with a sharper sense of taste may find considerably more to this blend than I ever could. On a more definitive note however, can say with absolute certainty that I have not been poisoned in any way, for which I am genuinely thankful towards Susan.
Featuring a lovely mix of colors, from a nice red virginia, to the black of some latakia, plus some lighter virginias and what I think is just a little bit of oriental leaf, this English smells lovely in the bag. It's certainly an American manufacturer. I'd guess it's made by Altadis or C&D, but that still leaves open a ton of possible different brands. I'm not going to even try to guess at the blend, but it does remind me a little of a couple of the English blends from G. L. Pease.
I don't smoke a lot of English blends; I'm more of a straight Virginia / Virginia/perique kind of guy, so this is a little bit of a departure for me. Still, when I do smoke blends containing latakia, I prefer lighter Englishes. I'm not a more is better kind of guy with latakia. I think latakia should sit comfortably in the background, serving as a condiment to a well-constructed blend rather than be the central theme. At first, that seems the case here; the smokiness from the latakia enhances and supplements the other flavors, rather than supplanting them. The sweetness from the Virginias shines through nicely, providing a soft bed for the other flavors.
As I move through the bowl, the latakia seems to be increasingly pronounced. I'm still enjoying it, though. It hasn't hit that point of latakia overload for me. All in all, I'm quite impressed. It's balanced and well-constructed. The nicotine hit was pretty heavy, a little much for my taste, as I moved towards the end of the bowl. A lovely English with a surprising kick. Once I find out what it is, I'll return to it, I'm sure. It won't be an everyday smoke (I'm spinning just slightly right now), but it will be a good postprandial choice.
I waited for this stuff to dry out completely before I packed it. This blend was definitely topped with something which was sweet and tangy that reminded me of Altadis. The cut also reminds me of Altadis or C&D. This is certainly an American tobacco. Upon lighting, I picked up on the smoky latakia first, although the leaf isn’t really playing a forward part in the blend. There’s a peppery spice here somewhere which has me inclined to identify a perique content (or perhaps cigar leaf). I was really feeling this in the back of my throat. To my taste, this element is driving the blend. Towards the middle of the bowl I seem to detect some orientals; nothing sweet, perhaps Turkish or Macedonian. I’m picking up some kind of nicotine here which has me thinking this blend contains some burley. Reexamining the tobacco, I want to say that I see some, but I do not taste it. Maybe I’m imagining things. All-in-all, this is a fairly medium bodied smoke, with a light flavor, but the perique is just way too strong for me.
Conclusion: The blend? Cornell & Diehl's Bayou Night. Who got it right? Well, none of us. But come on, that would have been nearly impossible. As far as I'm concerned, I was closest, having identified both the strong perique content and the burley. But that's easy for me to say because I'm putting together this post. So there!