Capstan - Flake Blue 1.75oz
Simple and Timeless.
It's a flake like this that shows you how good a simple Va flake can be. I bought this flake grudgingly as a replacement for Dunhill during the last "Dunhill Crisis".. Now Dunhill flake is back (i think) but I have moved on to Capstan. It's a bit ketchuppy at first stiff (which is a modifier that might bring to mind another departed tobacco house) That's always a good sign. Make no mistake. This is not a beginner's smoke or even a good first flake. There are plenty of people who think that Va flakes are too plain or "cigaretty". Old Gowrie (and really Dunhill flake) changed my mind.. The flavor here is so clean, one might easily overdraw it, but I enjoy it frequently in that most dangerous of bowl shapes, the Savinelli 320, and my tongue hasn't yet melted off.. It just requires a respectful, slow draw and then it's a king amongst smokes. Decidedly, it's a best in class and great with a cup of tea. (or a stout)
Seattle Pipe Club - Plum Pudding 2oz
Luxury English Cake.
First impression: There sure is a lot of this stuff! This 2 oz tin seems awfully large.. No foolin'. Time to get serious. As a result of a fellow piper's praise, I sort of expected a more navy style english blend, like plumcake, black frigate, et al, but this is not that. Instead, this is a fine melange of interesting tobaccos giving a medium-strong smoke. A nice luxury balkan cake (if any of those tags mean anything to anyone), nothing more, nothing less. It much reminds me of some of the so called 'american' english blends and cakes submitted by C&D, but just without burley.. The latakia and perique are center stage here. The turkish is detectable but minor and the cavendish adds dimension to the smoke rounding it out nicely. Actually I also very much thought of Nightcap smoking this. Now, i'm no Nightcap addict, but i suspect the forlorn Nightcap aficionado would cherish this cake. I may actually like it better than nightcap, it seems not quite as strong.
Cornell & Diehl - Pirate Kake 2oz
Kinda like fishin' with dynamite.
As it happens, latakia on its own is quite mild. Might not have the best flavour in the world by itself, but it is a very cool burning leaf. I'm then not particularly surprised that this cake burns nice and cool. I AM somewhat surprised at this cake's mild, lovely flavour.. It's still a strong smoke, it's just got a fairly mild flavor. Like Guinness Draught, say. Not much sticks out: Creosote.. Gunpowder, leather, peat. These kind of flavours, borne of latakia singly. The turkish offers nice counterpoint, but no standard campfire, woody, earthy et al aromas to be had on this trip. Still, it's a pretty impressive cake and it pairs best with a cup of two day old black coffee (which I'm also fond of), or a guinness. This is not a complex smoke. Still I find it a smoother ride than say Star of the East or Pease's Gaslight..
G. L. Pease - Westminster 2oz
London Mixture is dead. Long live Westminster..
I still have a few tins of London Mixture left. Now I can just let them rest. The panic is over. I've been searching around trying to find anything that would replace what, for me has been irreplaceable. And it was right under my nose the entire time! This is a near perfect smoke. It has that same "red" character as DLM. Yeasty, like an irish ale. Almost nutty to my palate, redolent with red Va. Wonderfully aromatic turkish adds just the right amount of sour and the latakia is slightly more than condimental. The cut is much more of a ribbon than other C&D made english blends which, for me, makes the act of smoking it much more pleasurable. The latakia presents more toward the finish of the bowl. A medium smoke, but in no way mediocre. Now if I could just find analogues for the list of McClelland blends I'm missing..
Cornell & Diehl - Green River Vanilla
Not your father's vbc. Closer to your great great grandfather's..
When i was young, one used to be able to walk into any drugstore and buy like a 10 oz drum of this stuff. Well, not this stuff. That stuff was black, wet and generally unappealing. Actually, it looks a lot like this stuff, but the differences become clear when you light them up. I probably still have a can of that stuff from the mid 90s packed away somewhere.. I found it impossible to finish a bowl. The can, impossible to finish in much the same way. To be fair, straight cavendish has never been my jam really. That said, the C&D version is delicious to the end. I found myself shocked when i got to the end of the bowl. It starts out like any VBC but with a better flavour overall. The difference really, is how it finishes. Like any VBC, it's mild as it gets- steamy even, great aroma. Sweet. Won't burn the mouth. It helps to char the bowl and then leave it for a day, maybe even store it in a non airtight container. You could zap it (just a bowl worth) in the microwave a few seconds to dry it out.. It's best as dry as possible. Leave it to C&D to take the most ubiquitous american pipe staple and completely reinvent it. Better even than McClelland's. As a lover of all things vanilla, I bet I'll actually smoke the occasional bowl of this here and there. The "apricots & cream" version is also pretty great..
Peter Stokkebye - PS402 Luxury Twist Flake
like a fine english pudding
This is a really enjoyable flake. I could swear that there is some burley going on- really, the characteristics of it in the pipe might be helped with a little burley. I love the top flavor- reminds me of Orlik racing green. Something english about it: tonquin, butterscotch or caramel, like a nice pudding. I save this one for contemplative moments. It likes to go slow.. It is not a forgiving flake when pushed: the taste starts to go off and it'll burn ya. It's a little easier when dried out but i don't get the subtle flavors as much. Really enjoyable anyway though, sometimes I start a bowl of this one early in the morning and come back to it throughout the day.. Also I have to say, as something of a bulk blend adept, this flake (the other ps flakes shine here too) gets points for being such a unique offering, available in bulk, in the american market. If some of the lakeland flakes/blends were easier to get ahold of, it might not matter as much but I appreciate that p.s. has really been stepping up to the market demand..
Hearth & Home - Fusilier's Ration 1.75oz
My dad smoked Bengal Slices in the 80s.. I bought him a tin of the remake and when I finally got around to asking him his thoughts his response was something like "Everything must've tasted better when I was young.." or something like that. Having tried a pinch myself, I just remember it being strong! So that's more or less what I was expecting when I sampled Fusilier's Ration. What struck me immediately about this cake is it's relative mildness.. The strong balkans or english luxury blends are usually too much for me save for the odd, wild night here and there. But this is perfectly balanced. I would smoke it all the time if I could. The orientals play perfectly with the va.. The cavendish gives the smoke serious body. The topping is light and could be anything- plum, tonquin, anise butterscotch, whiskey or rum.. none would surprise me. It's just a little voice in the chorus anyway. As the bowl dies, the latakia gets more prominent. It's just so good. I just wish i could get it in bigger cakes..
Capstan - Flake Blue 1.75oz
makes the passing of Dunhill flake that much easier..
As a sometime smoker of Dunhill Flake, I've scrambled to find something that scratches that same itch. And I found this, which is probably better.. Very strong Ketchup note in the tin. It's more complex than I thought it would be as a straight va flake. Burns slow enough- I like a huge bowl for such things. This one would easily burn the uninitiated but in a good, large pipe or a peterson system, it's a dream. A contemplative smoke. Darker and stronger than I was expecting- also slightly sweeter. Like honey or fig or something. I'm surprised after tasting that there's not even a dash of perique.. Macbaren really did well here..
A & C Petersen - Escudo Navy Deluxe 50g
I wish I hadn't tried this.
I was perfectly happy smoking bulk navy rolls from an unnamed company. I had always meant to try these and the Dunhill Navy Rolls and what with Dunhill getting out of the business I figured there's no time like the present. Such depth to the smoke.. Sweet, sour and spicy.. somewhat ketchuppy tin note. Real heady stuff. Really not so different than Orlik golden sliced, but deeper. Richer. I swear there's a plum or raisin topnote, but it could just be the prominence of the perique. This is rich like a chocolate croissant and just as delicious..
McClelland - Craftsbury: Frog Morton's Cellar 50g
This is my favorite thing ever.
I have been a long time smoker of Frog Morton. I first encountered it when my dad smoked on the town in the 90s. I was a teenager then and I would steal pinches of it and roll it into cigarettes.. Finally he bought me a Sav churchwarden and one of the first things i did was buy the original Frog Morton. I liked the experience so much that from all of those years to now (and though I'm fond of much stronger blends generally now), I've never smoked anything in that pipe except Frog Morton. This makes it even better. On the town has always been an okay blend for me, but it's as if there are too many directions it's trying to go- also the leaf is sweet enough on its own (just my op) sometimes it makes me feel a little ill that one. But this one.. Somehow the whiskey fills in the missing components of the flavor and you have this thing that is at once very mild, full of body and flavor, and quintessentially american. My wife also thinks it's the best thing she's ever smelled.. I sort of stole her sentiment for the title of this review..
Comoy's - Cask No.5
Maybe it's just me.
I'm not exactly sure what about this blend hasn't connected for me. I love liquor flavoured VaBurs, I was expecting to love this one. My first experience with this blend was in a filtered Vauen and i thought it was pretty great. There are some good things here: Clearly not too many additives, the tobaccos themselves seem to be top quality. I found the smoke a little one dimensional compared to say Peterson's Irish Whiskey but clearly made by europeans.. My stash dried out fairly easily with little to no glycol additive, seemingly. So.. I can't figure out why every smoke since has gotten sour at some point (some sooner, some later). As if it was smoking waay too hot. I'm not new to VaBurs and am, in fact, a lover of them - I've tried different pipes, different humidity levels but I can't keep this one from losing it's flavor midway through the bowl. It's too bad too as it starts out very nice.
Orlik - Club Mixture 50g
A good cavendish mixture.
This is mixture sort of highlights what Orlik, as a company, does best. No frills, straightfoward tobaccos made with top quality products and processes. This one is pretty good as aromatics go, though it's a pretty standard Danish. Vanilla, caramel, some fruit notes probably caused more by the Va than casings and chocolate from the Burley. Hits all the marks. The Burley is a nice and relaxing touch. I often neglect this blend for Dan's Blue Note, and though they are similar at the outset, this is more chocolate and smoother, the latter being just more complex overall with vanilla and higher fruit notes (juicy fruit gum?! pineapple?!) . This is just a simpler blend, but only a tad shallow and still wonderfully made and supremely enjoyable. One note, as this is a real Danish (not an 'american' danish), you have to keep it somewhat moist for it to remain enjoyable- the humectants are (thankfully) omitted.
Orlik - Racing Green 50g
The Green one.
Never without this stuff in the 'cellar'. To me, this tobacco has a particularly english sensibility.. some bright va flavours (citrus, grass) play with the lower Burley notes, giving this smoke more dimension than GS (the cavendish probably helps here. It's like a really nice pudding. I've had an on/off relationship with Erinmore, but this took that's place in my cellar. It's a little less straighfoward, and so it will always be less popular, but give it some time and care and it will grow on you. As with any VaBur or Va in general, you have to puff this one easily (if it's a new tin, I sometimes have a little bit of a time keeping orlik stuff lit without drying it a bit). Really sings in a large bowl- I use a Sav Estella 815.
Orlik - Golden Sliced 100g
The classic VaPer
This is a fine flake. For many, a first foray into this class of tobacco but I came to the party fairly late.. I've ordered both the 50 and 100 g tins. The 50g flake is further processed by cutting the larger flake into standard rectangles and packed in a square tin. The 100g flakes end up being twice as long, bent and jammed into the standard circular tin. This puts people off, but it's great stuff however it's packaged. I only slightly prefer the 50g flake as it dries out a little quicker and is easier to eyeball for my pipes. Not really a perique bomb, but there is a whiff for sure. Chimney puffers will be put off by this blend as, with other Vas, one should puff as slowly as possible. I adore this flake in a Peterson system. Smokes just right! Also (though I usually ignore the price when reviewing a fine tobacco) the price is certainly right.
Dunhill - London Mixture 50g
A terrific classic.
This blend was my education into English pipe tobacco.. Before London Mixture for me there was just aros.. good and bad... mostly bad... I didn't have the gills for it immediately.. I remember feeling green twice in my years of smoking- once from this and once much earlier from an ill-advised foray into Old Dublin.. Whoa. Weren't ready for either. But London Mixture, through all those years, has remained interesting: spicy, fragrant, ripe, incense-y.. some notes of peanut, though the tin just smells earthy, like forest floor. This and EMP are easily two of the finest light-medium English blends ever made, though this one is slightly richer and more interesting.
Cornell & Diehl - Red Odessa
I've been trying various C&D blends for over a year now and this is the one. They make a nice bulk english, and some terrific bulk "balkans" but this one takes the kake. I'm told that this blend gets about as close to the old Sobranie as one can.. For me- and I'm not quite old enough to have known Balkan Sobranie firsthand, though my father was well acquainted.. Red Odessa is as good as any premium blend I've ever had. I prefer it to Star of the North and Gaslight certainly for its complexity and favor it above Byzantium, Engine 99 even Super Balkan and Bayou Night for its mellow character (though those last two are also favorites).. I believe it must be that red Va (which seems to be missing from the above description).. Good red VA seems to round out the blend quite nicely imparting a terrific mellow character . It's a favorite in its class for me and I'd highly recommend to anyone with the "Balkan" bug. One note.. All C&D blends seem to lack humectant, and to be properly enjoyed, one should make sure they don't get bone dry, which can happen really quickly in a dry climate. A mason jar works well for me..
McClelland - Craftsbury: Frog Morton 50g
My unique old friend.
I've been smoking this blend since the 90's- On the town as well, but this is a better blend. It's truly mischaracterized as a 'Balkan'... What this blend is instead is truly mild, deep, rich and slightly sweet. At one point I smoked this blend in a pipe dedicated to other, less mild, C&D Balkan smokes and the soft flavors disappeared into the stronger ghosts left behind. But my old Sav churchwarden has only ever burned this leaf and it always tastes amazing. Do yourself a favor: If you like its mildness, (which is, I understand, somewhat out of fashion in Latakia blends) dedicate a pipe for it. You won't be sorry. An exquisitely subtle blend.
Peterson - Irish Whiskey 50g
Very nice smoke!
A terrific smoke with fantastic aroma.. Not terribly strong or flavoured; the burley comes through the most: chocolate and peanut butter. I swear, the aroma at light smells like Reese's pieces. Not as heavily flavoured as other blends (comoy's #5 comes to mind) and maybe not as interesting as some the Gawaith and Hoggarth offerings but easier to smoke and very enjoyable. Wasn't expecting to like it as much as I do.. May dedicate one of my Petersons to this blend. Like other burley blends, I find it smokes better with good humidification.
Samuel Gawith - Squadron Leader 50g
A british 'best in class'
A fantastic blend, too often maligned for its semplice. To me SL is very nearly identical to skiff mixture, the latter having just a bit more of the wonderful component that set this one apart from its peers: The fantastic turkish! More than a replacement for the Red Rapparee I remember smoking 15 years ago.. And that famous gawith va sets the stage for a very mellow, sweet smoke. There are those who will be off put by the lightness of this blend, or the particular tang of the orientals, but I find it has wonderful, rich aroma through and through. I think, though I've really only known this blend less than a year, I will be quite sad if it ever goes..
Mac Baren - Plumcake 3.5oz
I like this blend so much, I stopped smoking basically everything else for quite some time when I first tried it. It really sort of owns a little of everything I love about pipe smoking. It's sweet, but that's the point really, it's spicy certainly but that's not it, It sort of has a raisiny taste that plays wonderfully with the latakia and for me.. eh, i don't notice the rum all that much but for every once and awhile. I am a lover of latakia and this has enough to at least keep my interest, but it is also certainly not driving the bus here. It's a big wide world in this little smoke. Truly cosmopolitan in spirit. One word of warning- There is a bit of a learning curve to smoking this tobacco in particular. The flavors can be even more mild and mellow at the start than other macbaren blends and the tendency is to really huff and puff to compensate - to "go chasing after the flavors" as it were, but the flavors, like the great cleveland symphony, are just playing pianissississmo for a bit. The fortissimo will knock you out of your seat. Translation: sip this one for sure - take it slow - if you catch yourself improperly sucking this one down, or if you are a puffer in general, you'll find yourself repeatedly victimized by rather obnoxious flavors and/or burn the hell out of your mouth.
McClelland - Craftsbury: Deep Hollow 50g
Mclelland has always, by my reckoning at least, put out blends of serious quality. Love em, Like em or hate em, even their biggest critics will have to hand that to them. I commonly see this blend misinterpreted as a nonaromatic virginian, but the subtle, stoved flavors and the generally dry and yet present quality of the casings and toppings work together in such a way that nothing really stands out of place. It's just marvelous. I've been smoking this stuff for years (when I would steal pinches here and there from my dad and roll them into cigarettes) and it just seems to get better. The flavor itself is like a nice, southern apple crisp with bluebell homade vanilla ("deep hollow" is admittedly a better title). Apple or fig, caramel, sweet vanilla some spicy qualities, and yet dispite how it sounds, the toppings are muted enough to play really well with the virginians and produce a really mild, dry smoke. I would say that it smokes cool, but really I think I just tend to sip this blend like I would a balkan. It's reallly hard to be wound with this stuff in the air. Wonderful for summertime-after-dessert-porch-sitting.
CAO - Bella Vanilla 50g
Decent Aromatic Vanilla by CAO
As a former avid cigar smoker I appreciate Cao trying to step across the aisle for pipers- sort of getting back to their company roots. There is a number of things to like about their offerings for the pipe. This tobacco is a true danish.. not wet, not ribbon cut, more "ready rubbed". The tin and room notes are wonderful. Really stellar. Mild and sweet. The burn from the bowl smells just like taste of the bella vanilla cigars, but that's where the similarities end. The flavor itself falls flat a bit. Maybe my love of bella vanilla cigars works against me in this case as I wanted the smoke to taste more like the great, balanced sweet flavor of the cigars, but in this iteration it is much more thin and though there is a vanilla flavor, the virginian isn't really discernable. Also this blend, like other danishes, burns hot, so one really has to ease off the puffing, and then the flavors come together a bit more.. Still not as good as those damn cigars though.
Sutliff - 1M
This is one of the first pipe tobaccos I ever tried. I believe the shop I bought it from called it 'Saddleman'. Recently purchased some from above to chase my youth and was not disappointed. Sort of your garden variety american-danish blend. It's a vanilla blend so lots of sweet Vanilla and maybe some fruity notes - an above reviewer wrote whisky.. I don't taste it but it could easily be in there. Very similar in consitency to Lane's 1-Q but higher in quality and, I'm betting, not as heavily cased in glycol. It'll burn hotter if you puff on it hard (like actual tobacco!). Nice and mild, easy to light and smoke, a decent enough first smoke for sure!
Lane Limited - RLP-6
I really wanted to like this blend..
I seem to have bad luck with Lane blends overall.. I know they have a huge body of supporters amongst fellow pipesters but I haven't yet found one I like.. The main problem that i find is that the flavors seem to come apart for me midway through the bowl. Rather than getting more intense, they sort of well.. start to just taste bad. In fact, I've given this one three shots and haven't yet been able to finish a bowl.. Which is lame because my wife seems to LOVE the aroma. "It's like cookies!" and "That's the cookie one!" she exclaims wildly. I've smoked the RSVP blend by Mcllelland and it is almost certainly a "knockoff" of this blend and yet, though I'm not a huge fan of that either, it's really quite a nice smoke in comparison. Well constructed and balanced. I also feel obliged to note that though I'm used to a fairly sticky post-pipe experience with these kind of blends, having smoked sutliff equivalents for years, there must be a terrific amount of humectant added given the coughsyrupy (it really smells like cherry cough syrup! ) residue.. I had to get creative to get the smell out.. The smell of the tobacco in the pouch and in the pipe made me really want to like this blend, but it's sadly not to be.
Lane Limited - 1-Q
Not really a fan.
I only recently tried this blend. Had I started smoking this when I first started smoking a pipe, I might have a certain nostalgia for it. Decent flavor overall- Like toasted marshmallows.. Very, very mild.. Puffing as hard as I can I really can't get this tobacco to burn hot or even increase in flavor (that seems strange to me). Toward the middle of the bowl the flavors start to turn acrid (might be the cavendish). I'm guessing there's a great deal of glycol in Lane blends, as they all seem to leave my pipe pretty darn sticky. It's certainly got its share of enthusiasts, but for my money, I favor 1-M..
Mac Baren - Vanilla Cream Loose Cut
Are there beans in this?
First a note: I am a vanilla connoiseur. It is my favorite culinary flavor and I have four different types of extracts that I put in basically everything from popcorn (with cayenne!) to coffee. When I drink coke, I add Adams extract (not vanilla syrup!) for a nice, dry flavor. I buy madagascar bean pods wholesale and flavor sugar with them. All of this is to say, I'm a nut for vanilla. I find it to be anything but "plain." I also probably bring this up because this blend (the burning smell in the pipe) reminds me of the smell of madagascar beans. Vanilla is ubiquitous with pipe tobacco. As a condiment in casing or top note, it's hard to get away from. There are plenty of blends out there which are enhanced with a sweet vanilla flavor- The two most popular blends by lane and sutliff respectively are "vanilla" flavored blends. One of those is even decent.. But this is a far cry from that. I've tried just about every vanilla blend I can get my hands on but this is really the quintessential flavor I was looking for. Spicy, yet mellow, cooler than other macbaren blends, probably due to the ingenious inclusion of the cut plugs and cavendish.. Lots of nice, clean virginian flavor going on. The tobacco, as with other macbaren blends, comes through quite nicely. I'm really a fan. I don't drink a lot of soda, but this one goes great with an ice cold vanilla coke (made the way i described above) on a hot day. It's a similar flavor really.. That dry spicy sorta thing going on.. There are blends with far more complex flavors (I'm thinking of Dan tobacco) and there are certainly no shortage of blends that are sweeter, many of which are quite nice, but I can't think of a strictly vanilla flavored blend more satisfying than this one.
Sutliff - 150 Mark Twain
Takes me back.
It's actually fitting that this will be my first review here: This was the first aromatic blend that I bought for myself at a local pipe shop some 20 years ago when I started smoking. Out of the collection of jars (some maintained better than others) this one seemed to get heavy traffic (at least the jar was one of the cleanist) and I really fell in love with the smell and the look of the cut immediately. Still can't really put my finger on it.. Nutty, Bourbony.. hint of cherry cordial and caramel.. hmm. Very mild danish- I should warn that it has a sidestream smell that may have some odd notes from time to time, though maybe that's just me. It's still, for me, a cut above many of the other comparable bulkblends- a true jewel in the sutliff cap. Anywho, I'd forgotten all about it for years and years under other more prominant blends until I wandered into a pipe store that ended up being a place that had been opened by a former employee of that same former store! So, I am another customer that called up SP to ask about it and I'm a bit thunderstruck to now see it here. Good customer handling guys, for sure!