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18 July 2014

A Week with Tommi Ascorti

       -Posted by kathryn-

Much to my husband’s lament, I’ve been charmed by an Italian man. This week Smokingpipes.com was host to Tommaso “Tommi” Ascorti of Caminetto Pipes and his renowned mustache. He brought with him a great number of pipes, some pretty bad weather, an insatiable hunger for hamburgers, and a big smile. I had the pleasure of being a fly on the wall throughout his entire visit; tagging along for drinks and dinners, driving him to and from meetings and get-togethers, and enjoying the conversation and education which accompanied his visit to Adam Davidson’s workshop, as well as his in-store event at Low Country Pipe and Cigar. He and much of the Smokingpipes crew are heading to IPCPR in Las Vegas as I speak, but when I dropped him off at the airport this morning I was treated as the closest of friends. “I will see you soon in Italy,” he says, giving me a big hug. This sounded so natural coming from him, yet was never discussed. “Ciao!” he called behind him, and I was left hoping he was right. I hope to see more of Tommi and his beautiful pipes soon.

Below are some of my favorite pictures from the festivities and fun this week, but don’t forget, it’s not over yet. The 10% off Caminetto sale runs through this Sunday at midnight. Ciao!

Kathryn Mann: Social Media Liaison Kathryn Mann: Social Media Liaison








Posted by kathryn at 3:43 PM | Link | 0 comments


03 July 2014

Summer Pipe Tobacco Suggestions

       -Posted by shane ireland-

When you picture someone enjoying a pipe, is he frantically puffing on a big ol’ bowl of some Latakia blend as he lounges by the pool, covered in SPF 4 Million, roasting like a wild boar at a Luau? Or do you imagine someone curled up by the fire with a nice book and a wee dram? Pipe smoking and cool weather just seem to go hand in hand, which presents a bit of a problem during the warmer months.

Here at Smokingpipes.com HQ we are experiencing full-fledged hot-and-humid summer weather. I was born and raised in Southern California, where every day of the year is a mild summer’s day. Having recently relocated to the South, I can categorically say that this feels like the first real summer of my life. Now, in my years as a tobacco enthusiast, if I had a nickle for every time that I have heard someone say “this is cigar weather” when the days became longer and warmer, then I would finally be able to afford a seven day set of Dunhill DR five-stars. While I can’t argue with the sentiment that a good stogie flat-out works on a hot day, I refuse to submit to Mother Nature’s whim and abandon my pipes until autumn.

Sometime last week, during a particularly warm afternoon, Andy stopped by my desk with a request for a warm-weather tobacco recommendation. Having recently spent no small amount of time discussing this very topic with my tobacco cohorts, Josh and Jeremy, I jumped at the chance to apply our theory:

 A quenching Summer pipe tobacco should be mild-medium in strength, and full-flavored. Blends with plenty of flavor will tend to keep one from “smoking hot” since over-puffing is all too often a result of the smoker trying to get more flavor from a tobacco than it has to offer. The smoke must be satisfying even in smaller doses since you may not want a lengthy smoke in the heat. Small-chambered briars and corn cobs are perfectly suited to warm-weather puffing, with cobs being the preferred tool for those residing in areas that are prone to extreme humidity; corn cob pipes smoke cool and dry, and do a great job of absorbing unavoidable moisture. Ideally, a warm-weather blend will be predominantly Virginia-based with Burley to add body and, if condiment tobaccos are a must, cool-burning Perique is the clear winner over Oriental varieties and Latakia.

Keeping all of this in mind, I began to sift through my pile of jars and tins until I found the golden tin labeled: “Reiner Blend No. 71”, and handed it to Andy. Blend No. 71 or, Long Golden Flake, is a medium-strength flake comprised of golden Virginias, white Burley and a bit of Perique; it delivers plenty of creamy, flavorful smoke and burns well. I caught up with Andy later that day and asked what his impressions were. He found the blend to be “light, yet full of flavor and the perfect strength.” He said the blend burned slowly and the flavor intensified as the bowl progressed, but it never became hot or acrid. The end result was a “satisfying and refreshing smoke, perfect for a hot summer’s day”.

In our experimentation, we have returned to old favorites such as Reiner’s Long Golden Flake, Escudo, Cornell & Diehl's Briar Fox and Sunday Picnic (every blend in the C&D Simply Elegant series deserves consideration), and don’t forget the exception to the “no Latakia” rule, G. L. Pease’s Key Largo; a perfect seasonal change of pace for the dedicated heavy-English/Balkan puffer. We have also discovered several other perfectly suitable swelter smokes including Cornell & Diehl's Five O'Clock Shadow, which is rich, very flavorful blend, packed with cool-smoking Perique, and a new favorite. The new Seasonal Flakes recently released by Samuel Gawith are winners across the board and, although we currently favor the Springtime and English Summer flakes, we have sampled and can’t wait bring out the Scottish Autumn and Winter Time flakes when the weather finally does cool down.

These are, of course, simply guidelines and let’s face it; rules truly are meant to be broken. While I always look forward to summer yard work during which I exclusively enjoy Samuel Gawith’s 1792 in my cobs, for the past few days Jeremy (he’s a bit of a wildcard) has been smoking a lot of Cornell & Diehl’s Easy Times which is a stout blend of Red Virginia, Dark Fired Kentucky and Latakia!

A little trial and error is necessary when trying to find what works best for you so put away your large-chambered briars and those heavy Latakia blends, and stuff your favorite corn cob with some Virginia because Summer ain’t just for cigars!

Shane Ireland: Copywriter and Customer Service Representative

 Shane Ireland: Customer Service Representative








Posted by shane ireland at 11:42 AM | Link | 5 comments


25 June 2014

Mystery Tobacco June 2014

       -Posted by eric-

It’s time again: a blind taste-test with our own Smokingpipes staff serving in the roles of experimental subjects A, B, and C. Or, as it were, Subject Josh, Subject Shane, and Subject Jeremy. For today’s entry I’ve done something a little different; instead of popping off down to the warehouse to search through rows and rows of tobaccos, I simply reached over and grabbed a tin buried amongst the clutter of my desk (half of which is other tins, to no one’s surprise I’m sure).

So, here we go – with Reeves kicking things off in poetic verse:

Jeremy -

Ziplock baggie on my work desk, contents are unknown.

Mostly black, with specks of tanness, contents are unknown.

Smells of sorghum, black molasses, deep brown sugar, fragrant wood.

In the background, smoke and vinegar, very subtle, smells quite good.

 

Packed so easy, just gravity, barely needs a tamp,

Lit up quickly, sweet and spicy, barely needs a tamp.

Ling'ring sourness, vinegar tartness, barely smokey, Latakia?

No I'm sure now, it is only vinegar topped Stoved Virginia!

 

McClelland surely is the maker, from the get-go, there's no doubt.

Sugar topping, tangy VA, perhaps there are some Orientals about.

I detect no Burley, Perique, etc., etc., in my snout.

I think this would smoke quite lovely, in a corncob, fishing trout.

 

Ziplock baggie on my work desk, all will be reveal’d.

When in the blog posting later, your name is unseal’d.

Then will I go to the warehouse, searching for a tin of you?

I believe that is precisely what I shall intend to do.

 

Next up, Josh Burgess, our resident Ph. D (History), engages in a casual-dissection-and-light-dissertation of his own:

Josh -

I dumped the plastic bag of tobacco onto a sheet of paper to examine the cut and take a sniff. I think we technically classify something like this as a ribbon cut, although there are lots of smaller chunks. Looks and smells like a McClelland Blend. There’s that tell-tale vinegar sweetness that others call “ketchupy”—I think it smells like A1 sauce. Components are particularly dark, lots of browns and blacks with only a few pieces of lemon colored ribbons. Based upon the smell and look, I’m expecting a lot of rich stoved Virginias. There’s a nagging question in the back of my mind: does this blend contain Latakia? I’m sad to say that I can’t tell at this point. I don’t detect it, but with a blend this dark, I don’t entirely trust my nose. Not knowing which briar to select, I grab a cob from my office book shelf.

Moisture content seems about right, but it takes a bit of effort to light. Initial flavors are of sweet and rich Virginias. Stoved Virginias are quite prominent with their deep brown sugar notes, and their sweetness is present throughout the bowl. I detect a few mild aromatic elements—perhaps some vanilla and something fruity. No Latakia here after all. Flavor profile remains pretty consistent throughout the bowl, but in the second half I do get a little more tanginess from the VAs. On the whole, I’d consider this a mildly flavored and rich crossover blend—something that McClelland is quite good at achieving. I’m going to guess Deep Hollow.

 

Finally comes Shane Ireland – on merit of being the last one to get his review done and to my desk:

Shane -

You all know how this works; Eric drops a nondescript bag of "mystery" on the desks of several unsuspecting puffers and we struggle to identify and review said tobacco blindly. The baggy which this installment is based on contained mostly dark tobaccos. The blends appears to be largely comprised of Stoved Virginia with a few flecks of tan and chestnut colored leaf. The aroma from the bag reminds me of brown sugar or sweet and tangy BBQ sauce, while Adam Davidson thought the smell was closer to Worcestershire... I had to let this dry out significantly in order to achieve optimal smoking moisture, or lack thereof. Despite feeling fairly dry to the touch, I didn't find this baccy to take a flame easily and the taste upon lighting was slightly sweet, faintly tangy and similar to the aroma from the bag; caramelized brown sugar, some spiciness, and vinegar. Midway through the bowl, more Virginia sweetness and slight tang. I'm not sure if I'll even finish this bowl. With so many fine (more complex) blends around me, this certainly does not stand out; unoffensive, yet uninteresting.

 

Disappointment from the disappointing – so it goes. And so it proves: Different strokes for different folks, or as it were, different palates.

As for the tin, it was McClelland’s (no hiding that) Royal Cajun, a blend of dark-stoved and lemon Virginias, and “Cajun Black”, a modern component developed by Steve Cooley, and described by McClelland as such:

McClelland Cajun Blind Tobacco Review

”Cajun Black derives from Virginia seed brought to Southern Kentucky long ago to grow in that fertile, heavy soil where it was crossbred to create dark fire-cured tobacco. It is stalk-cut and hung over slow-burning hardwood slabs in a three- to five-step smoking process for 2 to 3 weeks until it turns a deep chocolate color and achieves its distinctive smoky flavor.”

Well, I’m glad McClelland’s inclusion of Mr. Cooley’s efforts can at least be appreciated by two out of three people. The two, I will note, who were also conscientious enough to get their reviews in early – one even in rhyme.








Posted by eric at 9:24 AM | Link | 1 comment


24 June 2014

Tobacco Locator
 The latest feature on Smokingpipes.com

       -Posted by R. 'Bear' Graves-

It is with no small amount of pride that we announce a new, comprehensive search engine, one which works in a similar manner to our Pipe Locator, except that it will help guide you in your never-ending quest to find the perfect blend – as opposed to, well, pipes. Imaginatively titled ”Tobacco Locator”, it is located in the top-right menu on every page of the website. Whether you wish to search for a broad family of tobaccos, or for a specific blend, you need merely select from a series of criteria and click the “Find It!” button.

Any search engine, and the Tobacco Locator is no exception, will initially default to "everything", and then continue to narrow the number of results presented with each restriction added. The potential problem you are most likely to encounter will arise from placing too many restrictions on your search (usually identified by a notification of "No Results"). Example: a friend recommended a bulk tobacco, the exact name of which escapes you at the moment, but you are pretty sure the blend contained Virginia, Burley & Perique and you click all three buttons. If, ultimately, the mixture doesn't contain Burley, that blend will not be included in your results. We have found that the best searches usually involve 1-3 restrictions, followed by a bit of scrolling on your part. We also suggest that you steer wide of the more subjective restrictions. While Burley (not subjective) will always yield a Burley result, room notes and strengths are opinions, opinions differ, and thus become a prime candidate to yield a false negative.

Give it a try, and happy hunting.

Bear Graves: Media & Content Specialist

 Bear Graves: Media & Content Specialist








Posted by R. 'Bear' Graves at 2:55 PM | Link | 1 comment


In Praise of Perique

       -Posted by R. 'Bear' Graves-

As any of my annoyed coworkers will confirm, once I begin research on a subject of interest, I will chase that metaphorical rabbit not only down the hole, but catch it, dissect it, and place its tissues under a microscope. My near pathological compulsion for pursuing curiosity doesn’t allow for cursory glances. Example: beginning about six months ago, tobacco joined my long list of “must research to death” subjects. On day one, I noticed a ton of crazy-bad information out there on the subject of tobacco aging (by its very definition, fermentation is an anaerobic process, if O2 is present, it’s respiration). Fast forward two weeks, and I am in a discussion with a research team in the PRC, who recently isolated what they believe to be the two microbes most responsible for the flavor and fragrance of flue-cured Virginia. Recently, I caught sight of a domestic rabbit, one which we all have encountered countless times before: Perique. This time, however, I followed my compulsion to give chase – and my regard for the properties of Perique became immeasurably enhanced.

Whether you love, hate, or find yourself completely ambivalent about the leaf, Perique is a singular, fascinating anomaly within the world of tobacco. A bit of the “cool” that is Perique lies within elements of its unique production process, but skipping past the (admittedly interesting) history of the condiment tobacco, which is readily available with seven keystrokes and two clicks in a Google search box, the coolest information can be found in the finished product itself.

On the first matter, while Perique isn’t unique in having to undergo Torquemadan torture during processing (Cavendish doesn’t exactly receive back massages and warm stone treatments on its path), the use of oak whiskey barrels/and or oak blocks, insanely high pressure levels, retention/inclusion of all run off byproduct, plus a multitude of “turn, press, and return to storage” over the better part of a year, is. The upshot is that Perique-in-the-making goes through multiple periods of an anaerobic (true fermentation) state, followed by brief exposure to O2 (while microbes can convert sugars in an anaerobic state, they work much more efficiently in the presence of oxygen). Chilling with a fine bowl of red Burley and Perique back in (say) the 1600’s, the Algonquians knew that that they had something special going, but it took the advent of advanced GCMS (gas chromatography – mass spectrometry), as well as running out of all other tobacco subjects, save Perique, to understand why it was different.

(Channeling the Don Adam’s character, Maxwell Smart) “Would you believe...?” Of the nearly 350 components identified in Perique, fully 14% (47) are singular to this ‘truffle of tobaccos” – think about that for a tick. No other tobacco can claim the presence of whiskey lactone (cis-Oak lactone), not having been subjected to whiskey-barrel wood and high pressure. How could they? Twenty-six of the exclusive isolates were esters and alcohols commonly found it fermented products. While I will spare the reader from the eye glazing, exact constituent names, such as Gamma-Undecalactone (5-Butyl-4-methyldihydrofuran-2(3H)-one) (another Perique-unique, one which possesses a fruity, peach-like note), hosts of other volatile oils and esters heretofore solely associated with flowers and fruits – but not tobacco leaf – have been cataloged. Much to my surprise even Frontalin, the aggregation pheromone of the Southern Pine Beetle, was present (but I wouldn’t read too much into that).

Up until now, I usually preferred my Perique somewhere between the 7-15% ranges. Then again, once I really started flipping over hot sauces, those rated around 200,000 on the Scoville scale became just another way to say “Zesty!”

Bear Graves: Media & Content Specialist

 Bear Graves: Media & Content Specialist








Posted by R. 'Bear' Graves at 8:44 AM | Link | 1 comment


18 June 2014

J. Alan: An Artisan Discovered
 His Process and Story In His Own Words

       -Posted by shane ireland-

J. Alan pipes are in high-demand, and as such, we are delighted to offer up a number of these meticulously designed and engineered briars whenever possible. Jeff Gracik has worked closely with many (some legendary) Master pipe makers over the last decade, and has continued to focus on mentoring and sharing his knowledge with quite a few of the emerging American artisans, including several well-known carvers such as Ernie Markle, Nathan Armentrout, and Jared Coles, and John Klose of J&J Artisan pipes. The number of American pipe makers is on the rise and we here at Smokingpipes.com are delighted to witness the continued development of the "American aesthetic". The J. Alan brand represents the culmination of years of designing and crafting hand-made pipes, as well as a wealth of shared knowledge and passion within a growing movement of not only pipe makers, but many different craftsmen and artisans from beer brewers, to coffee roasters, to those who make musical instruments and furniture. Beautifully shot and edited by Jared and John of J&J Artisan pipes, we hope you will enjoy this short video that sheds light on practically every aspect of Jeff's process, while providing insight on the growing number of American craftsmen.  

Shane Ireland: Copywriter and Customer Service Representative

 Shane Ireland: Customer Service Representative








Posted by shane ireland at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments


17 June 2014

One Man's Rotation

       -Posted by eric-

Rotation, collection, by one name or another, it’s the collective pile of pipes you smoke. For some of us this means polished cases of Dunhills chosen for particular shapes and vintages, for others, a repurposed spice rack of craggy Custombilts and well-weathered clenchers, kept as workhorses that have proven to provide a good smoke. For most of us, it’s something in between. For me, personally, it’s in-between, but minus any racks or cases – my pipes usually just wind up scattered around, resting atop piles of books.

Like racks or cases, I’ve also neglected acquire proper shelving. As for the pipes, here are some of them, photographed in their natural environs.

S.T. Dupont “305” Canadian:

One of my prizes; it looks great, and smokes like a dream when paired with Old Dark Fired. Typical of the old French style, this is a bit lighter and leaner a shape, and easy to clench even with the long, straight shank. The simple gold band is tasteful, the drilling is straight, it holds a decent bit of tobacco, and I enjoy the texture of the sandblast both aesthetically and in hand. The only real flaw I find is that the silver “D” logo set into the stem was slightly mangled somewhere along the way. Also note the color of the finish: a subtly warm, dark chestnut, and not, as Ted insists, purple.

Dunhill “42142” Root Briar bent Billiard:

One of those shapes they aren’t making anymore, perhaps because it actually looks not so much English as, dare I say it, French. Deep of chamber, easy as a jaw-hanger, and with a pretty decent cross-cut grain to boot, the design appears to be one that was phased out during the switch over to a four-digit stamping system. While I don’t baby this briar, the fact that you can’t get a new one ensures that I’ll never, ever get rid of it.

St. James “9042”:

Is a Comoy’s by any other name just as sweet? No, in this case it’s better. This is my most recent find. It smokes like a dream, and even at the end of a bowl the internals remain dry. The shape is simply wonderful all-around, smooth in hand and to the eye, and the grain isn’t shabby either – birdseye front and back, with cross-grain down the sides.

Unknown bent Not-quite-Billiard-not-quite-Pot:

In the words of Shane MacGowan, this pipe is a, well, I can’t repeat it here. Let’s just say that every time I look at this pipe, the tenth line of Boys from the County Hell immediately springs to mind; I can hear old Shane singing it now. I have owned this pipe for almost three years, and to this day have yet to get a good, or decent, or even not miserable smoke out of it. It’s usually the first pipe I try out when a new blend lands on my desk. It sucks, universally. Virginias, Balkans, aromatics, Burleys, shags, flakes, this pipe transforms them all to crap. It is the great equalizer, the grim reaper of all tobacco, the bell that tolls for the best efforts of all blenders. It’s a woman with no heart, a man who hates to work, and a dog that bites the hand that feeds it, all rolled into one. It reminds me of a cat I once knew, one so mean he refused to die until he was just shy of twenty years old. That cat, too, was unfortunately mine. I still have one eyelid that doesn’t open quite as far as the other to prove it.

And like that ornery feline, I’ll never get rid of this briar, either, because some day, somehow, I’m going to get the better of this son of a garbage-eating cur. I couldn’t tell you who made this dog’s ass of a pipe. The only improvement I’ve managed to make to it was using a steel wire brush to get rid of the extra-thick, asphalt-like original finish, a process that took the stamping off too. And good riddance to that, because I don’t even want to know it. May their name and all their works be forgotten by the race of man – but not until I’ve gotten a proper smoke out this little featherweight wonder of deficiency.

So, that’s not my whole collection, but that is most of the highlights. And here’s the point: Every single one of these pipes is a reject, a delinquent, a misfit – not just that last one. Not a single one of these pipes passed our estate department’s QC process. One of them deserved it, the rest just had issues that made them un-sellable. The S.T. Dupont someone ran a drill down the draft-hole, over-boring it, the Dunhill was smoked so hot it baked the finish (yet somehow didn’t char the chamber), the St. James I’ll admit is a bit of a mystery (as a seconds brand with a chewed-up bit, it may not have been worth the cost of labor), and as for the Unknown, well it didn’t deserve to leave the factory in the first place – and our customers certainly don’t deserve it.

These are not Smokingpipes estate pipes, these are Smokingpipes “science box” pipes, and still three out of four of them are fine smokers. The fourth just gives me something to do when actually enjoying life grows tiresome, and I get it in my head to try an experience completely irreconcilable with accomplishment or pleasure.

Eric Squires: Copywriter

 Eric Squires: Copywriter








Posted by eric at 11:40 AM | Link | 0 comments


03 June 2014

Wessex Tobacco Dreams

       -Posted by shane ireland-

Certainly you have heard of pipe dreams, but what of tobacco dreams?

It has become a ritual for me, once a week, to wander down to the warehouse and do a little tobacco shopping. Typically, I will grab a few tins of my perennial favorite but with such a wonderful selection available to, it's only natural that in addition to my "usual," I pick out something new to try. I don't have to tell you this, but every now and then, one of those new blends has a profound effect and ends up claiming a spot in the regular rotation.

Some time ago I made the trip downstairs to the warehouse and grabbed a few tins of McConnell’s Scottish Flake, one of my standbys. Looking around for something new, I noticed the Wessex shelf and remembered Josh mentioning to me that he really enjoyed Wessex Brown Virginia flake. I have loved many blends from Wessex, but the BVF was one that I somehow overlooked. "Why not?", I thought while adding a tin to my stack. I paid for the tobacco and rushed home to crack open the experimental tin.

This is where things get a bit hazy.

Wessex Brown Virginia Review at Smokingpipes.com

The tin note was luscious. The moisture level directly from the tin was ideal and the beautiful, medium-brown flakes rubbed out effortlessly and felt like velvet in my hands. It would take at least another page for me to adequately describe the flavor, but I will say that it is creamy, full-bodied, and chock-full of dark, dried fruit notes and an aroma of freshly baked bread. As my first bowlful approached its end, I felt enlightened; I felt my spirit finally at peace, floating contently through time and space and into other realms that were strange and beautiful. Truth be told, I'm not even sure just how long I was "out of it."

The next thing I remember was walking into Sykes' office. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity, but I’m afraid I must request an indefinite sabbatical," I told him. "Although it will be very difficult to leave this place, I have to summon the courage to see this journey through." He couldn’t tell if I was serious as I continued my cryptic explanation. "I will take my final pay in the form of Wessex Brown Virginia Flake, please". I’ve never been more serious about anything in my life. Fortunately, Sykes is an understanding man who knows exactly what it’s like to find a tobacco that one can really share a life with. We shook hands and he wished me well.

I gave my car away, abandoned my home and set out on foot with a rucksack full of Brown Virginia Flake, a few trusty briars and my loyal canine companion by my side. I walked and walked until the days turned into months. I slept under the stars. I fished in the streams for my supper. I carved "BROWN VIRGINIA SHANE WAS HERE" in the oak trees. Young women smiled and winked at me as they passed me on the side of the road; they knew I couldn’t care less and they wanted me more because of it. Others would tell me that whatever I was smoking smelled wonderful. "I know," I would reply and I would be on my way. The world finally made sense to me. I was free and happy. One evening I took the last few puffs of a bowl, laid down my head, the night sky above, and drifted to off sleep.

Seemingly in an instant, I awoke in a panic. I looked around and recognized my living room furniture, my apartment; my old life. It was all a dream? The confusion was devastating. Did I really imagine all of that? I looked over to the end table and noticed an open tin of Wessex Brown Virginia with a few flakes missing. I really had tried the blend, and it truly was dreamy.

Shane Ireland: Copywriter and Customer Service Representative

 Shane Ireland: Copywriter & Customer Service Representative








Posted by shane ireland at 12:59 PM | Link | 0 comments


20 May 2014

Quite Mysterious Tobacco
 Eric graciously shares his knowledge’...

       -Posted by eric-

A couple weekends ago I brought a few ounces of flake tobacco, in an unmarked bag, over to a little get-together Adam was throwing. When Jeremy asked what it was, I handed it over; he gave some a sniff and pronounced that the blend was clearly one of Gawith, Hoggarth & Co.’s.

Well that won’t do, I thought – this was supposed to be the next “Mystery Tobacco”. So it was that, in order to make life more difficult for those I work with, I determined from that moment to find another flake, one far less commonly known; one, in short, that they would never identify unless I was so kind enough as to tell them.

 

Josh Burgess:

Eric presented each of us with three attractive flakes—thin and mottled brown with a few black and tan strips. Moisture content is ideal for a Virginia flake. Aroma promises a mild to medium smoke and is reminiscent of a freshly opened bag of sweet feed: hay, oats, and molasses. I cut the flake into quarter-inch cubes and gently loaded them into one of my favorite VA pipes. Upon the first lighting, the tobacco delivers on all the promises made by the pouch note. As the bowl proceeds, the tobacco develops a nice harmony between a light citrus note, sweet hay-like middle tones, and a richer earthiness. By mid bowl, the lighter notes are mostly gone and the smoke becomes quite rich, earthy, and sweet. A slight spice note, perhaps cinnamon or clove, with stewed fruit presents occasionally. I suspect that the three of us will disagree on whether or not this tobacco contains Perique. For me, some of the tobacco’s richer notes suggest that it does, albeit in a fairly small quantity. While the tobacco may lack some of the complexity that I find in darker Virginias, its only serious fault is a slight harshness in the bottom third of the bowl. On the whole, this tobacco is quite good, and there aren’t all that many VA flakes that are going to smoke better fresh from the tin.

 

Jeremy Reeves:

Yet another of these haunting little packages arrived on my desk a few days ago. Mysterious tobacco with a smoke-by date scrawled in red marker. This time the package contained three well-formed flakes of brown tobacco specked ever so slightly with black flecks. The flakes hold up well, and yet are pliant and easy to manipulate. Apparently so am I since all it takes is to drop off a baggie with some tobacco in it and a date written on it and I am likely to smoke it and write about it by the date indicated.

This flake rubs out easily and burns well, effortlessly in fact. I set my pipe down once during the first run for about five minutes and when I took it back up I found that with three gentle puffs the bowl was right back where I left it with no relighting needed. If only other aspects of the multi-tasking that made me set the pipe down in the first place were so time insensitive.

I find myself to be a little befuddled by this particular toby. Occasionally I am reminded of Wessex Brown Flake during the smoke, but just as it comes, it goes. The topping on this is so reminiscent of honey-suckle! Really tasty and quite sweet, but rich tobacco flavors are present as well. I am almost certain that this contains VA and nothing else, though perhaps there is a hint of Perique. I mean FAINT.

So easy going and forgiving that heavy puffing yields no tongue-bite, only thick clouds of smoke and fuller flavor. Sipped this is deliciously nuanced with subtle spice and creamy textures, powdered sugar, spice cookies and sweet dinner rolls. I liked this best in a broad GBD long-shanked Pot which I folded and stuffed. Smoked on one light for over an hour and still got another 30 minutes out of the next light with plenty of smoke volume! Wow!

I think it's an Orlik product though not one I can place in my mental tobacco lexicon, but I can't wait to find out what this is so I can either buy some or go back to the tin I may have stuffed somewhere and give it a revisit, perhaps with some age. Nice stuff.

 

Shane Ireland:

I was both delighted and terrified when Eric tossed me a baggy of nondescript, medium-brown flake tobacco. “The time is nigh” I thought out loud to myself; it would be my very first Mystery Tobacco experiment!

The flakes looked familiar, smelled familiar, and rubbed out easily. I gave the rubbed flake a bit of drying time before loading into a favorite pipe of mine that has a chamber on the larger side of my preferred range. The charring light was easy enough and I immediately tasted honey and the side stream smelled of Virginia sweetness and bread still in the oven. I’ll admit that although Virginia flakes comprise about 90% of my rotation, this one wasn't “doing it” for me. I was getting a little harshness while snorking (exhaling through the nose) and there didn't seem to be much flavor despite being medium-bodied.

This morning, knowing that Eric would be expecting something more substantial than “meh” for a review, I brought my trusty, little Dunhill Cumberland Poker. I gave the chamber a quick ream and rubbed out a few more flakes to dry. I am now on my third bowl and suddenly; this Virginia flake is revealing its deepest, darkest secrets like a former child star on the couch of an overpriced therapist. I am still tasting honey but with an added clove-like spice. There is a faint Speyside spirit finished in oak Sherry cask note, grains, toffee, iced black tea, cornbread with honey-whipped butter and more vanilla-clove spicy sweetness. I must have missed it in the larger bowl, but in this narrow Poker chamber I can detect a hint of spicy condiment tobacco. I am unsure, however, if it is Perique (most likely), Dark Fired or a spicy topping…There is a creamy element that reminds me of certain almond and chocolate flavorings utilized by the boys over in Kendal, but I am sure that this was produced in Denmark, and probably by Orlik. I am now enjoying this mystery flake quite a bit. Time for yet another bowl methinks…

There are quite a few flavors and aromas that are familiar and recognizable, but I do not believe that I have smoked this particular blend before… My best guess would be Comoy’s Cask No. 4 or Stokkebye 1931 flake. Thanks, Eric! Now the entire Internet knows just how unrefined my palate is!

Blind Tobacco Tasting Blog at Smokingpipes.com

And now we enter the end-game. They’ve smoked it, they’ve enjoyed it, they all want more of it, but only I know its name. The cards are all in my hands. That is, except for the minor detail that I’ve simultaneously backed myself into a corner. In order for this article to have any point, beyond toying with the minds of my co-workers, I will need to reveal the blend’s identity to the general public.

Well let’s just spin it as I’m feeling particularly considerate, generous, and merciful, rather than say that I plotted myself right up against a wall. Deal? Deal.

Very good then: The blend is Fribourg & Treyer’s Vintage.

Now, let’s all pretend this never happened! At least, that is, until the day I devise a more effective stratagem…

Eric Squires: Copywriter

 Eric Squires: Copywriter








Posted by eric at 2:01 PM | Link | 0 comments


07 May 2014

HH Latakia Flake is Here

       -Posted by eric-

 

It’s dark, it’s hot-pressed, and it’s here: Mac Baren’s new HH Latakia Flake has arrived. Between the briskness with which those about the office emptied our taste-testing tins, and the universal praise found in early reviews, by all appearances the blender of Old Dark Fired has once again knocked it out of the park. Again they've produced a dark, flavorful, and distinctive flake tobacco, this time using heat and pressure to create a mellow, flavorful marriage of Latakia smokiness, natural Virginia sweetness, Turkish spice, and earthy/nutty Burley-ness.

 

Each element remains distinct in the smoke, producing a complex interplay of flavors, while also remaining easy to enjoy. One particular pipe-fellow over on TobaccoReviews, who made a point to mention being primarily an aromatic smoker, has even recommended HH Latakia Flake as a readily pleasing introduction to Latakia. As much as many of us (myself included) have taken a shine to Mac Baren’s Old Dark Fired, it would seem this latest HH flake does have it beat in terms of accessibility. While the dark-fired Burley and flue-cured Virginia composition of ODF is something of a barely-street-legal V8 powerhouse, HH Latakia Flake offers a V12’s smooth, luxurious delivery. A proper, stimulating smokiness remains in play, it’s just that this time they have taken it in a more delicately balanced and sophisticated direction.

 

Eric Squires: Copywriter

 Eric Squires: Copywriter








Posted by eric at 12:44 PM | Link | 0 comments


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