Alright, boys, girls, we’re doing things a little differently this time. We have a tobacco whose identity there was no hiding from those here around the office, but which I wanted to draw extra attention to regardless. So instead of some doomed-to-fail trick like dyeing the leaf purple before handing it off to our reviewers, I’ve made no effort to hide what it is from Josh, Jeremy, Bear, Andy, or Shane. Instead I’m just going to hide it from you. As anyone, particularly those who still recall schoolyard chatter from back in the innocent days before some adult or another sat them down and explained the birds and bees in embarrassing detail, may tell you: Guessing can be fun.
I first tried _______ _____’s ______ a few years ago when the only way to obtain this utterly singular tobacco was to have a friend or relative bring some back from their travels. Straight out of the packaging, this blend seems almost too dry. I am the type of smoker who prefers his tobacco on the dry-side, and it is nice to be able to load up the bowl right away without any air time. It has been long enough since my last bowl of ______, that I feel as though I am trying it for the first time. Taking Eric’s advice, I packed the small chamber of my pipe tightly with sufficient pressure between pinches to ensure an even burn. Speaking of the burn, ______ burns evenly and easily. I always try to keep my cadence slowed down to a pace where the tobacco is perpetually on the verge of going out; this has never been easier to achieve than it is with ______. The flavor truly is unlike any other tobacco that I have experienced; earthy in a transcendental way. You feel as though you are standing in the ________ Valley when the side-stream dances underneath your nose. I wouldn't go as far as to say that this is a complex tobacco, but it is immensely satisfying with notes of musty cigar lounge, stale malt, and charred corn on the cob. Simple, strong, and low-maintenance, this is a tobacco for those interested in an old-world feel, and who don’t have the time to “search” for flavor during a smoke.
Very well then, a good start. Next up, Jeremy Reeves hallucinates and leaves us pondering the question, “Who in this building could most use a good therapist?”
I woke from a truly terrifying dream this morning. I was surrounded by Erics. I mean like 20 Erics. They were towering over me, armed with baggies of tobacco, each one in his turn, throwing the bag at me, and shouting: “SMOKE AND WRITE! SMOKE AND WRITE!”
Soon I was buried in baggies, no longer able to see the army of Erics. All went dark but I could still hear the gentle Thud, Thud Thud of the bags continuing to be thrown, the muffled cries of my identical oppressors, commanding me to smoke the contents of every tobacco thrown, and write about it...Then I woke up.
This dream seemed so befuddling at first. “What was that all about?” I thought to myself.
And then I remembered: Today I have a tobacco review that is due. !@>>*?
So, the topic at hand is a tobacco that has been quite popular since we announced its addition to our selection of tinned tobacco. It’s a true Burley tobacco that has been grown in the ________ Valley in _______. The effects of the soil and climate have certainly made ______ a unique departure from our American Burley or the Malawi grown Burleys found in some of the Gawith blends.
Firstly, the presentation: Dry and crimped, long ribbons of tobacco remind me of the brown paper strips sometimes used by boutiques to pack expensive perfumes or watches. However, the leaf does not crumble or break, despite the low moisture. In fact, it is rather sturdy.
The aroma is quite pleasing in the package; dry earth, cedar, cigar, lightly vegetal. Packs easily, and lights well but not alarmingly so. The flavor is much like the aroma would suggest. Dry, subtly spicy, cigar-like, woodsy and slightly tangy. Not particularly complex, but certainly the richness remains interesting and engaging throughout the smoke.I smoked this in a small BBB pocket Billiard and a cob, and this blend was great in both - but there is just something about Burley in a cob that seems to fit. Recommended to lovers of Burley, cigar smokers, and all who wish to try something new.
Now if you'll excuse me, I see Eric (or something that looks just like him) coming this way with what looks to be a cat-o-nine-tails hanging from his belt...
Wasn’t me for the record. I prefer the old-fashioned charm of using a walking-stick to inspire good behavior. Next up, a bit of the old good cop, bad cop – or as it is in our case, with Josh and Bear, good doctor, mad doctor.
The tobacco that Eric gave us for this mystery review had a fairly uniform appearance of light, toasty brown ribbons. Pouch note is as fascinating as it is difficult to pin down. Scents of earth, minerals, grass, and roasted nuts are bound together in a tight and pungent bouquet. I've never smelled anything quite like this. The tobacco is remarkably dry but springy, so much so that it requires some care in packing. It needs to be packed tighter that more typically moist tobaccos, but I learned pretty quickly that if you over-correct and pack this blend too tightly, you'll set yourself up for an acrid and unpleasant smoke. Blend takes eagerly to the flame. First puff is shockingly novel. I'm most struck by the dryness of the smoke. I mean that in same way we might describe a wine as dry as opposed to sweet. There are no casings or toppings here. In another parallel to wine-tasting, I immediately begin to experience something that I'm tempted to describe as tannins. This tobacco, more than anything else I've smoked, has a totally unique mouthfeel. In terms of flavor, the first third of the bowl somehow manages to be light and full-bodied at the same time. Flavor is grassy, nutty, lightly floral and very subtly sweet, although this sweetness is experienced mainly by retrohaling. A third of the way through the bowl, the tobacco begins to take on richer notes of roasted almonds and the slight bitterness of cocoa powder. These deeper flavors remain constant throughout the bowl, but the lighter grassy and floral notes never really fade away. They become a little more elusive, but occasionally weave in and out of the blend until the last puff. The blend can become harsh if pushed and instead rewards gentle sipping.
There can be no doubt that this blend is __ ________ by _____ _____, a pure ______ tobacco. I sampled it for the first time at this year's Chicago Pipe show and have been a devotee ever since. In many ways, that first bowl reminded me of my first glass of wine. I will never forget how shocked I was to discover that wine bore very little resemblance to the fruit juice flavors I had expected. So ______ failed to conform to my expectations of what tobacco--pipe tobacco, at least--tastes like. But after a few months of smoking this blend regularly, it has come to fill a niche in my rotation that I can't imagine anything else taking the place of. I've heard others describe the blend as rustic. The word I first reached for when sampling the blend was another wine term: austere. This is an old world tobacco. Its flavors are not the product of casings or toppings, but of soil, rain, and sunshine. Indeed, this blend isn't for everyone. Some will find it harsh, uninteresting, or bland. But for others of us, this blend offers a flavor and, frankly, a charm that cannot be duplicated.
Fire hits leaf: After tamping down an impressive rise upon the charring light – this tobacco really likes a tight pack - and applying the second match, an immediate note, reminiscent of cigar leaf took front and center of the stage. Not quite the same as a blend with cigar leaf, but the spice/earth/espresso notes were there, in spades. Not being the hugest fan of cigar-leaf blends, I was mentally preparing myself for a grueling bowl. Within roughly a minute, however, the profound earthiness evanesced, replaced by fragrances of toasted malt and freshly baked dark bread.
Mid bowl: Maintaining a balanced undertone of toasted malt and pumpernickel, some fascinating nuances, quite singular within my experience, materialized: a scent which I can only describe as being in the same neighborhood as the herbaceous/vegetal notes of freshly cropped Hallertau hops, combined with a touch of floral & pine. The newcomer to the party wasn’t overwhelming by any stretch. On the contrary, it was ephemeral to the point that it seemed as if it was playing hide-and-seek: “There it is!” “Now where did it run to?!” Yet, this come and go was cool enough that I didn’t mind always being “it”, in this variation of “tag”. It was also during mid-bowl that I became fully aware of how sensitive/reactive this tobacco was to variations in puffing speed. I had selected a pipe with relatively thin walls, so (if nothing else) my fingers monitored any unconscious heat over-ramp, but slooooow, thoughtful puffing rewarded with nuances and a medium body. Puff-n-go, on the other hand, seems to take away a great deal of the complexity, and move the perceived body well into the strong zone (yes, more so than with most other tobaccos)
End bowl: While the quintet had left the building, a taste – now fairly similar to the end-bowl of a dark fired Kentucky – remained, and I found myself quite content with that.
Well, that was unusually well-behaved for Bear, I have to admit. Perhaps he was simply overcome by the uniqueness of what he was smoking – no doubt he’ll make up for it by slipping plenty of off-color jokes in next review.
Last but not least we have, hailing from the very heart of tobacco country, mine and Bear’s protégé, Andy.
This marks my second go at the elusive ______ tobacco. The first time, while still enjoyable, would have benefited from a little bit of experience - namely in the packing and lighting department. After handling this dry ribbon cut, intuition suggests packing it tight, but I would advise not to overdo it. You want to encourage a natural flowing burn, not cram as much of the stuff in your bowl as you can. Lighting should be done with a match to ensure a more uniform, cooler smoke. Get this stuff burning too hot, and it'll run away from you, compromising all the subtle notes that accompany the exotic leaf.
The tin note reminds me of stacked hay bales left to ferment in the back of an old barn. Upon initial light, a rich cigar leaf-like flavor with subtle floral undertones shines through. There's also a natural Burley element to the smoke, with very little sweetness (not at all a bad thing). It's important to take your time with this blend - sipping slowly to enjoy a fuller flavor palate. It burns evenly from top to bottom, with very few if any relights needed. I intentionally let the embers die down and slowly go out to judge the flavor change upon relight. When I fired it back up, I noticed the same cigar-like earthiness, yet this time - and especially as you near the middle and bottom of the bowl - I experienced a flavor similar to freshly baked bread. Still there's very little bite if smoked properly. I would describe the strength to be anywhere from medium to strong with just the right amount of vitamin-N and full bodied smoke. I imagine it would pair well with a fresh cob pipe. Definitely worth trying if you've never experienced ______, as it is a perfect companion for hot summer days and dwindling autumn evenings alike.
He’s coming along nicely, this one.
So what is this mystery leaf? I’m not telling. It’s your turn to guess. Those of you who have ever smoked it, I have no doubt, will have sussed it out quite early on. This leaf is, simply, unique. For those of you who haven’t, I’ll give you one final clue: Coincidence has it that the sole importers of this tobacco into the US-of-A are based right in the very same town where I went to high school.