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:
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:
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:
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:
”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.