Samuel Gawith - Grousemoor 50g
First, a Disclaimer. ...
I found an unopened tin of Grousemoor 'way back in my stack of tobacco, (about 10 years old) and so this may not reflect the state of a freshly minted example. Opening up the tin, the topping was rather subtle to my nose. The moisture was still there - so it hadn't leaked away. Packing and lighting was straight forward, and the tobacco was very much a Virginia to my senses. The lemongrass component was there from the start, and remaind the same throughout. I didn't find any overpowering Lakeland flavor at all - more like a honey and rose impression. Interestingly, the sourness of the lemongrass reminded me of an Oriental tobacco. And even a slight peppery side, as though someone had put a dash of Perique in there too.... Maybe if I left it unopened, in another 5 years it would have turned into a Balkan! Seriously though, this Grousemoor was a nice and light tobacco with a clean and unghosted finish. Guess I should compare it to a more recent vintage. Or, wait another 10 years....
Seattle Pipe Club - Plum Pudding Special Reserve 4oz
As a lover of the original Plum Pudding, I looked forward to trying this 'Special Reserve' iteration. Wow...Imagine a richer, more flavorful version that keeps changing with the entire smoke. It comes from the tin as a 'big brownie' that you shred and pull apart into chunks. Interestingly, these are very easy to light, and keep lit, through the entire smoke. AND, it burns to a very fine ash, leaving a clean, cool pipe. This is a 'Plum Pudding', made even better. Highly recommended.
Edward G. Robinson - Edward G. Robinson's Pipe Blend 1.5oz
A blend that brings back memories - as a little boy, entering a local tobacco shop (it was perfectly ok back then) and smelling a sweet nutty smoke in the air, the patron's pipes fuming gently.... This, a blend actually overseen by Robinson himself -hearkens back to some of the original American blends that were all so common in their day. The tin note actually sets the stage for the smoking experience itself...a spicy, slightly sweet nuttiness that remains virtually the same, from the top to bottom of the bowl. It burns very cleanly, with no ghosting, and reeks only of history. Try some. Yeah......See?
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Black Twist
Wow, what a tobacco ! Strong and rich, but oh so smooooth. The 'slices' are actually very long thin ribbons, that at first light remind me of Semois with a dollop of blakstrap molasses added to keep it company. Sip it slowly, and enjoy the flavor.....until the top of your head begins to float away. Not to be smoked when using heavy equipment. For a more every day smoke, I'll try cutting it with some unflavored cavandish. A glass of sweet sherry is a good accompaniment with this one, too.
Hearth & Home - WhiteKnight 1.75oz
Even Better Than the 'Original'
I smoked the Balkan Sobranie Original Mixture in the 80's, and find this to be as close to, if not better, than that benchmark tobacco. All the right notes are present, with a melding of strength and smoothness. I've set a few tins aside for now, and the future. I recommend a meerschaum for your first bowl -it really lets you concentrate on the tobacco - and keeps any possible ghosting at bay. If you remember the good ol' BSOSM, this should bring a smile. Hearth and Home seems to be THE place to go for stunning recreations, and really balanced mixtures. Please try some, and write a review of your own !
Bengal Slices - Bengal Slices 1.75oz
Bengal is Back !
I've had the great pleasure to light up a wonderful tobacco of the past, and now present. I find this crumble cake very similar in texture to Seattle's 'Plum Pudding' but with some intriguing differences. The first quarter bowl finds the Latakia forward, but settles down to a meld with the other tobaccos. The unique subtle topping comes to the fore...as a light, cool, tingling on the tongue, that I could swear is spearmint, with a drop or two of honey, for sweetness.... This rich, yet gentle smoke keeps getting better all the way down to the final puffs. This is a very good tobacco for those who are first entering the oriental world...and a wonderful place to dwell, for those of us already there. Russ does it again ! By the way - this is the first tobacco I have been able to smell the room note with, while smoking. And that note is quite enjoyable and light, too.
Seattle Pipe Club - Plum Pudding 2oz
It's No Secret...
Having heard much of Plum Pudding's reputation, I ordered a tin...and then ordered several more after tasting this wonderful concoction. Really. Yes it's an English Balkan - but with a wonderful 'secret' addition that is not overpowering or obtrusive to the blending. With the name PLUM Pudding (that's a hint, I think, of that secret ingredient) there is actually a slight sweet richness that remains from top to bottom of the bowl. I found that NOT rubbing it out too much helps the coolness and richness of the smoke. And that smoke is truly exceptional. The 'new' Bengal Slices crumble cake has a similar approach to the blending, too. Please do try this if you enjoy a thoughtful Balkan. And Aromatic smokers - this is a wonderful transition tobacco, to enter into the world of fine English tobaccos.
McClelland - Balkan Blue 50g
What's in a Name?
Just opened a tin of this wonderful tobacco, though mine is labeled "Blue Mountain" (guess I'd been saving it a while) and must say it's been worth the wait. Yes, it's a Balkan - but with overtones of sweet spiciness that can make this blend an all-day smoker. I dusted off my gourd calabash for the occasion, and drew clouds of rich gentle smoke for some 45 minutes of bliss. McClelland really knows how to recreate blends from the past. If you think Balkans are not your 'cup of tea', please try this one. It just might surprise you. I'm going to reorder Blue Mountain, (er, Balkan Blue), real soon...
Books - Scandinavian Pipemakers
Inside the Mind and Hands of Master Carvers
I received my copy of Jan Andersson's book from SPC, and immediately fell in love with the photos of the pipes and their makers. The history behind the path to becoming an accomplished artisan may be varied - but Andersson shows that it is always a labor of love. The pictures of their workshops, hometowns, private collections, let the reader see into the heart of our hobby - and gives a greater appreciation of those pipes of theirs, that we may be so very fortunate to own. In that way, part of their journey becomes ours, also.
Tampers & Tools - Tsuge Bamboo Tamper
I purchased a Tsuge bamboo tamper to go with my two bamboo stemmed Tsuge pipes, simply for esthetic reasons...but found this to be a sturdy addition to the pipe routine. Yes, it does unscrew to a rounded tip scraper (so have no fear of gouging your Ikebana's bowl) and sits patiently by your side to tap down the ash at a moments notice. Yes, a roofing nail would work as well - but come on, add a little class to your smoke.
Erinmore - Erinmore Flake 50g
A Fun Flake
Physically, this is an easy to load flake...I followed SPC's fold over and bend method, and this keeps the tobacco cool and sweet all the way down. Yes, the 'mystery' casing is present at first light - but then retreats behind the Virginia blend quite nicely. The melding is very well handled by whoever came up with this blend. I'd recommend a meerschaum for a first try...so that pipe and mixture stay true. There is no gooey dottle to worry about at the finish. Like most others who wrote reviews here, this is a tobacco that grows on you. Note: there is a pretty good nicotine hit, though the taste wouldn't telegraph that. Well recommended. Especially at the price.
Peterson - Special Reserve Limited Edition 2014 100g
Yesterday, I received the 2014 Peterson Special Reserve in the mail. The hint of tobacco was even present when I opened the box. As usual, the tin itself was a work of art. Popping open the tin (it's not an airtight seal, but a hinged container) the plastic pouch inside wafted it's scent into the room. Nice. Even the LOOK of the tobaccos present were amazing...thin bright ribbons - chunks of broken flake - dark brown shag. The fresh scent was of fine tobaccos and a hint of berries. I opted for a large bowl meerschaum, to give room for the chunks without packing too tightly, and give the smoke an unbiased trial. Well... it lit easily, a very smooth beginning, with a hint of rich berry flavor - sort of like the hint of juniper berries in a fine gin - and burned cool all the way through. After awhile, the berry flavor retreated to the background, and the mixture of tobaccos kept me very interested in the evolving flavors. By the end of the smoke, only a smidgen of ash remained....I smoked virtually every bit! AND the pipe remained almost free of any lingering odors. Wonderful stuff, chosen, mixed, and presented by a truly dedicated tobacco blender. I hope I can purchase more before it's gone, forever.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - American Delite 50g
An English American...
I had been creating a lightly aromatic 'my own mixture' for some time, to smoke in company with other people. I saw the recipe for "American Delight", and it appeared similar. So...I tried it! It's a very nice blend with a good room presence for others, and has a level of a nicotine that surprised me. The cooked fruit overtone is subtle - and doesn't detract from the clear tobacco flavors. I found this a good 'break-in' tobacco for new pipes too...it's springy enough to fill the bowl evenly, and clean-burning to leave absolutely no sticky residue at all.This is now a go-to of mine...and for those smelling it, too.