G. L. Pease - Embarcadero 2oz
I've smoked this for a while but not lately. Decided to try it in a clean pipe of known provenance and get a solid idea about it again. It starts off strong but mellows nicely. I like orientals a lot but the Izmir is very forward in this one, don't think of this as a straight VA, it's not. That said, it smokes well, best sipped like most VA blends, but it's rewarding. It doesn't need to be rubbed ou as someone suggested and in fact burns better if left as it comes from the tin--just stuff it in and make sure it's not to tight, not too loose, AS ALWAYS, eh?
Lane Limited - Punch 1.75oz
Very Good, Nice & Strong
I won a tin of this at a Lane Pipe event. The tobacco was neither dry nor wet. (Even if it had been, moistening some dry tobacco is simple with some of the self-contained beads in a bag). As to consistency of tobacco, too many smokers are spoiled by perfectly rubbed out blends and in my opinions should experiment with different types that come in cake, flake or different cuts that force them to think outside the box and grow as pipe smokers. Punch is no more difficult to smoke than some dozens of other blends. It has twigs that were hard to get in your pipe? Didn't burn? Find an experienced smoker and get some advice. As to flavor, it's quite good. As you'd expect from the description the Latakia is in the forefront so you should expect a heavy dose of this flavor, but if you buy a tin already likely know whether you like Latakia. It's not not peppery like a Perique blend, just strong. I happen to love Latakia but I think the percentage in Punch is off somehow. Just a little. What I suspect would help is more Virginia overall and perhaps less Burley in the blend, Because I feel the balance is off I'm only giving this four stars. As to "tastes like campfires and old leather and bits of bat guano," I'll leave that junk to the cigar smokers. Us pipe guys know what different tobacco tastes like, right? The cigar guys gotta say stuff like that because the cigar makers never admit what's in a cigar. Pipe tobacco makers actually tell us what's in the tobacco so we can learn what different tobacco tastes like. We don't need to describe it like one does a cigar! ;D Oh, I also don't care for the "cigar names" Lane is using for this line. Why? It's about as creative as a macaroni sculpture, and the tobaccos have zero relation to the flavors of the cigars they are named after--the Lane rep told me that.
G. L. Pease - Triple Play 2oz
One of the Best VA-Pers I've Found
I enjoy fiddling and thus flakes and cakes are one of my favorite types of tobacco forms to smoke, Yes, you need a sharp knife--I use a CRKT folder dedicated to my cake tobaccos. I cut on a piece of hardwood as well. These obviously go in my kit so I can smoke cake wherever I go and not assault the table of my host. I find Triple Play typical of the Pease cakes I've smoked, which is to say very firm. After I cut a length off the cake I crumble it to the best of my ability before packing, so I've had no smoking issues--it burns nicely. Now flavor--I'm glad there are several opinions here because they simply don't agree with each other and you are going to have to decide which smoker shares a similar palate with you. If you take the advice of someone with a rather different palate (and he hasn't said what his palate prefers), you may regret it. I'll just tell you that I like Virginia-Perique blends a lot, and the addition of dark-fired Kentucky, which makes the blends stronger, is right up my alley (strong flavors). I also smoke a lot of Balkan blends that use small to large amounts of Latakia, so my palate is one that really prefers heavy flavor. I also smoke straight Virginias for the more subtle but amazing flavors they offer, but I've learned to sip a Virginia so I avoid hot pipes and a burned mouth. I smoke essentially no aromatics because the casing on many adds moisture and stickiness, but primarily because I don't like the flavor and "sugariness" that comes from the topping on most aromatics and causes mouth burn. That should ID my palate enough so that when I say TRIPLE PLAY is a wonderful tobacco you can decide if you'll like it or not. The Perique and the dark-fired Kentucky go very well together as neither is too much nor over-powers the other. The Virginias even make themselves known, but no denying it, this is a strong VA-PER plus DFK. Nothing really like a heavy Latakia, but strong flavor in its own right. So good! I tried a single can and had to order three more right away. Five Stars.
Captain Earle's - Stimulus Package 8oz
Captain Earle's Stimulus Package is nothing short of perfection for my palate. I smoke VAs, Va-Pers, and, mostly, Latakia blends, which some erroneously refer to as "English" blends. This is a Latakia blend though it is not the strongest Latakia blend out there by a wide margin. There is plenty of Latakia for the Latakia lover, but the addition of orientals as condiments here are what really set this tobacco apart as superbly tasty. I normally rotate through perhaps 35 different tobaccos, with about a dozen favorites. This is now my number one, something I have never had in forty plus years of pipe smoking. It really is that good.
Mac Baren - HH Vintage Syrian 3.5oz
One of the best ever
Five Stars! Folks who rate this down for lack of Latakia have likely only smoked Cyprian Latakia and, in my opinion, have not developed their palates yet. Folks who still refer to Latakia blends as "English" don't know the history of English blends or they wouldn't still be using that term to mean Latakia blends in general. Enough of that. MacBaren makes wonderful tobacco. The HH line is the best of the best, named, I believe, for master blender Henrik Halberg. Vintage Syrian is a smoky mix of the best Latakia (in my mind), vintage--that is, Syrian that has been aging and which even now may be gone and only existing in blends already in the pipeline, Turkish Orientals, Virginia, and some dark-fired Kentucky. It is loose cut so you get all the individual flavors in every pipeful. One unique thing that I've found is that I can actually smell the room note with this tobacco, and I can't say that about anything else I smoke. It simply adds to the overall pleasure. Your mileage may vary. This is perhaps my favorite tobacco, and my shelves hold perhaps fifty types.
Samuel Gawith - 1792 Flake 50g
The addition of Tonquin Bean probably gives 1792 the edge over similar blends, but I happen to love that flavor so it gets five stars from me. This is an extraordinarily strong tobacco. A surgeon friend of mine, a very long-time pipe man, got nicotine-sick on this when I folded a couple of flakes in one of his pipes--he is not a "folder" while I am and I wanted to show him how folding changes the experience with the same tobacco. I have never had an issue with 1792 but I can sense the strength of it. Frankly I find the comments of smokers who LOOK for a "nic hit" to be juvenile--sorry fellows, that's MY opinion--that's not what pipe smoking is all about. If I never noticed nicotine in my tobacco I'd be happy, but my experience here does urge me to caution new smokers or those susceptible to nicotine-sickness. I've had some other friends cut 1792 with a favorite VA or Burley blend and the wonderful flavor of 1792 still came through, they told me, they didn't get the same strong effect of the nicotine, and they enjoyed the 1792--cut back. I've never tried that but it's an option. You know yourself better than anyone. If you like strong tobacco, if you love Latakia, if you are a fan of the Tonquin Bean, and if you are also a fan of flakes, this might be just the smoke you've been looking for. It's one of my favorites, and I smoke a wide variety of blends.
Carter Hall - Carter Hall 1.5oz Pouch
Don't Dismiss It because it's OTC
I am 61 and started pipe smoking at age 18 with the original Borkum Riff and Captain Black, their aromatic properties winning my allegiance. I never tried Carter Hall before. Then at our last pipe club meeting one of our senior members, threw a pouch each of Carter Hall, Half & Half, and Sir Walter Raleigh on the table and said "try out what your grandfathers smoked, boys." We did, and I found that I had given these OTC (over the counter) blends short shrift. Are we all tobacco snobs sooner or later? ;-) We get so wrapped up in our tinned blends of Balkans and Syrian Latakias, Virgians and St. James Perique, that we forget that sometimes simple is okay, and maybe even good. I've got perhaps fifty blends at home and am cellaring many good ones for even more variety, so perhaps that's why I was open now to these OTCs, of which I personally liked Carter Hall best. It is a nice blend of Burley--which I've always slighted--and Virginias. Some claim a top note--perhaps, but it is undetectable by me over the flavor of the Burley and Virginia. One large point seems worth making. It seems common knowledge that one "sips" Virginias, rather than smoking them like the pipe is a runaway locomotive on a steep downhill grade. Well, this applies to a Burley-VA blend as well, and in my further experimentation with straight Burleys of late, I suggest that Burleys are to be sipped as well. I guess my approach is this. If the flavor of a tobacco is subtle, sip it slowly and let the smoke move around in your mouth, approaching your various taste buds until it finds the ones that resound with pleasure. If you accordian the smoke in and out, your taste buds will not enjoy the tobacco. Frankly this is why so many new smokers go headfirst into heavily cased aromatics, or, lately, strong Latakia tobaccos early on. I believe they are looking for a flavor hit that engulfs their taste buds like a jalapeno. The pipe smoker with a few thousand bowls behind him comes to realize that in this way at least, smoking a pipe is like drinking a fine bourbon or single malt scotch. (Or wine, for you guys reading this and still wearing your tie). You get nothing but drunk gulping booze. That's only fun until you pass your teen years. With a pipe, smoking it like a cigarette is not fun at all, for you or your tongue--or your palate. I bet you thought I'd never return to talking about Carter Hall. Tobaccos like this are a great treat for your palate because they are mild, yet when smoked slowly, in small puffs (sipping), they reward us with a very pleasing flavor and yet are gentle on a tongue that may have been abused by our experimentation with other blends that are not nearly as gentle. I recommend Carter Hall as an inexpensive and pleasant way to while away the hours between the next pipeful of Samuel Gawith 1792.
Savinelli - Giubileo d'Oro 50g
For a latakia blend I consider this mild. I smoke it folded in various large bowls so I can enjoy it for a long smoke. The blend of VAa and Latakia is near perfect to my mind. It doesn't require smoking slowly like a straight VA but all the delicious VA flavor comes through, enhanced by the perfect amount of Latakia flavor without being overpowering. I normally smoke VA and VA/Pers with a Latakia blend about 25% of the time, but if you really want more Latakia flavor that is easier on the palate, give this a try.
Reiner - Blend No. 71 100g
Good but mild
I don't believe this has a "wollop of nicotine" as some claim, but I suspect some folks are more susceptible to nicotine than others, so take that into consideration. It's also not Orlik Golden Sliced by another name. I believe the Orlik is a good bit stronger, and as I prefer VA/PERs on the stronger side, I have drastically cut back smoking the Reiner LGF. If you really prefer a milder smoke yet are a real fan of Virginias, this might be exactly what you are looking for. It smokes well and has a pleasant VA flavor. I do like the long ribbon, makes for easy folding if you like to smoke that way. I can't quite see why Reiner uses such a large can as it could be shortened by half and the tobacco would still fit.
Try Everthing Twice
- ► Something not mentioned but seemingly obvious is that a different pipe will often impart its own reflection on a given tobacco. If you own multiple pipes as most of us do you know how they smoke. You also know briar can ghost flavors and that a clean briar is the best when trying a new blend, especially if it is radically different from what was smoked in it before (say say, switching from Latakia to a Va/Per blend). The pipe itself should always be considered as a participant in the smoking experience. Otherwise I believe everyone has made some fine comments to a fine editorial.