Stands & Pouches - 1790 English Tobacco Box Brass
Useful, Attractive, Durable
I bought this tobacco box to throw in my briefcase with a couple of flakes, thinking that my tobacco would dry in this tin. Well, it certainly dries out, but it takes over a week! It is very well-made, and can fit a day's worth of tobacco, especially coins. I constantly am asked about it--it's very good looking as well. The brass corrodes, of course, especially with wet tobaccos, but some mineral oil or food-grade cooking oil seems to prevent that from happening. Long story short, it's become an essential piece of my tobacco kit, and I encourage you to give one a try.
Dan Tobacco - The Mallard 50g
Could be special, quality leaves something to be desired.
Dan tobacco, a venerable old company, seems to make good tobacco in general. The Mellow Mallard is no exception, and behind the Roper's, is my favorite. This tobacco bills itself (no pun intended) as an all-day smoker. That it is, but for the one problem that seems to haunt all Dan products: Bite. Now a VA isn't supposed to have bite. I think Dan tops them just a little more than they should with...something. Don't get me wrong, this is definitely a natural VA. It's got all the great notes of a VA, turned down a bit. Straw, maybe a lemony citrus, and a wine/honey/caramel sweetness, with not a lot of spice (maybe black pepper?). But I can't smoke this all day because of palate exhaustion. I've tried old tins, new tins, medium tins... it doesn't seem to fade with age. It's certainly not a LOT of bite (just a nip, really), but for me that removes it from the category of true all-dayers. It might be that I am having a reaction to a component that Dan uses (it's possible), but I feel, after smoking many tins of this, that in the end it comes down to quality of the leaf. In its favor, it is quite as mellow as described, not too sweet, and the cut is FABULOUS. Definitely worth a try, but after this last tin I may have to go hunting (pun intended) again for my all day, no-problem smoke. R
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Intertwined Sterling Silver Pipe Tamper
This is a step up from your everyday pipe nail, not because of a gigantic jump in its functionality (although it is pleasantly heavy, with a wider head, and very well-made), but because it is simply beautiful. I'm not a big silver lover, but there is something so perfectly FIT about this thing, and I get nothing but compliments about it. Well done, whoever you are.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Abe Herbaugh Antique Bakelite and Brass Tamper White/Lime
Great Tamper, but fragile
The antiqued brass and bakelite combination is indeed attractive. The tamper is extraordinarily pleasant to hold and use. I bought one in each colour. To clear my tampers of ash, I often gently tap them on the side of an ashtray or more usually the wood on my chair. After less than a week of use, the white/lime version broke. The bakelite snapped right off at the joint. I'm not hacked off, as bakelite is a famously brittle material, but I hope this serves as a warning to potential buyers. Treat it carefully.
Tampers & Tools - 8deco Bamboo Tamper
Best Tamper for the Money Bar None
A raw slice of bamboo is the body of this tamper. The one reviewer below who seems to be bothered by this may complain, but I feel that it is an odd note to say the least. It is rustic yet looks very fine. The domed, ventilated, machined-brass foot is the perfect size for most pipes, being wide enough to tamp evenly and quickly, and slightly domed to improve tobacco consumption. I feel that the ventilation doesn't necessarily make that big of a difference--but the concavity certainly does. A few marks against it: they fall apart after heavy use, just like all 8deco products (the only exception to this being the "Penner" tamper). Also the foot is a little too wide for smaller pipes, especially with some cake on them, forcing me to carry two tampers with me wherever I go, since I carry multiple sizes of pipe. Also the maker of these tampers is the most unresponsive businessman I have ever heard of. Those caveats aside, I buy these constantly. I use the foot of the broken ones and put them on my own shafts, give them away, and generally abuse them. They don't do well if accidentally soaked with water (obviously), or with too much pressure on the joint (obviously), but then again, the thin neck of the tamper allows for great manoeuvrability. They're so cheap that anyone who complains about this is crazy. I buy them three at a time, with every other order. These things work. I have better tampers, more expensive tampers, and tampers that I like better, but this is so far beyond a Czech tool, I don't even understand why people buy those damn things, at basically the same price. In conclusion, I will continue buying and using these things until I am grey. And you should too.
Dunhill - Navy Rolls 50g
Can't get Enough
When they switched from "Deluxe Navy Rolls" to "Navy Rolls", I have a feeling that something shifted. Maybe it's an aging thing, maybe a different batch of tobacco, etc. But I agree with Andrew H. below that they have a consistency issue. But how would I know this? Because I smoke a tin of this stuff a week. I think it is superior to Escudo in depth. It is molasses sweet, grapefruit citrusy, but never acidic. It has green pepper notes and definitely errs on the side of old hay (and chocolate malt?!) rather than fresh-cut grass. It is dusty and fresh simultaneously. When it hits, it hits so perfectly that it becomes addictive. I pray that they fix whatever issue they're having. I'd rather go without for a time and have the darker African Virginias back, if indeed that's the case. When it's right, it's in the top three for me.
Peter Heinrichs - Dark Strong Flake 200g
Joseph G., reviewer below, is correct: This blend needs age. Right out of tin its like buttery smoky pancakes but two days of being open and it oxidizes into a bitey whiskey flavour that's downright unpleasant. But after two years in a jar, my oh my what a miracle. It's worth that time to get at this stuff. It basically smokes itself, nice and sugary, with a distinct maple aroma. Dates, brown sugar, cider vinegar, cinnamon, a touch of mesquite smoke, fresh cherries, and so much more. This is complex, rich but not overpowering, malty and ancient-tasting (like a well-aged tea or old, old books inside a tobacco shop). It's one of the greats, and if you don't like it, let that lady sit for a while and give her some time to come to terms with herself. She's a rare breed that gets wiser and more beautiful the more she ages. R
Dunhill - Ye Olde Signe 50g
Virginia Smokers, beware. You are used to flakes and thick cuts and if you are anything like me, the first few bowls will be ashy and spicy, like Royal Yacht. BUT DON'T DESPAIR. Adjust your packing technique and pack it like a fine-cut Lat blend, with a little extra pressure, and right out of the tin. Suddenly it yields up a fast-but-cool burning hay note, a fantastic earthiness akin to cigar leaf, a touch of fresh, grassy sweetness, and a nice white pepper nose to boot. This is anything but a complex blend, but it's delicious and accessible to English smokers who want a break from the Latakia. I use wider-bowled pipes (.79-.82" in diameter) to get at this, which means I can use some of my larger smokes. Don't overheat it or the tobacco will lose its rather delicate flavor, and for goodness' sake don't dry it! It's ready right out of the tin, and I even spritzed it with some water halfway through the tin to keep the presence of the sugar. In other words, not the easiest for VA purists like me to understand, but this is a nice "I don't want to think I just want to smoke" blend. Superior quality tobacco, and I'll be keeping a tin around.
Dunhill - Dark Flake 50g
Another Great Release
Dunhill is really stepping up their game, responding to the growing market interest in pipes. This rings in at about a medium-plus VA flake, lots of sweet hay and molasses, touch of black pepper. Nothing too fruity, making it distinct from Marlin Flake, Wessex Campaign, and Samuel Gawith FVF, which are comparable in genre. This seems to take a lighter, more sophisticated approach, seeming to me more of a red flake than a true Dark. All in all, it's an eminently smokable tobacco, with minimal drying time (one of the best things about Dunhill products), a slightly distinctive but still very traditional flavor profile, and a nice depth that responds well to sipping. For me the closest comparison is the vastly underrated HH Pure Va from MacBaren, but this doesn't have quite the amount of spice and has a touch more sweetness. Bravo Dunhill. Must Try.
Brigham - Klondike Gold 50g
Good, but Linear
This could possibly be your signature smoke, if your palate runs toward a very nice, but rather linear, sweet-feed and hay flavour. I was very impressed with the tin note, and the construction of the flake, as well as the burning characteristics. This might be a fantastic ager, but it didn't catch my interest quite enough to make it to the cellar. However, I could see this being someone's favourite, just like I could see Dunhill Flake being someone's favourite--not complex, just the right flavour. Enjoy!
Cornell & Diehl - Carolina Red Flake 2oz
This is what Sophisticated American Blending Tastes Like
I have, so far, been disappointed in the raw, dusty, burley-heavy American tobacco scene when it comes to Virginias, with the exception of McClelland. But this is wonderful, composed, but with that American "rawness" readily available. It comes across in the nose, a bready, earthy, simple dried plant essence, but instead of dominating the tobacco, it's a top note to a composed, gentle, and fresh red Virginia. Yeah the dried fruits are there along with the citrus and hay, the traditional red VA flavors. Interestingly fir a low note there is a hint of cocoa and for a mouthfeel an almost soapy astringency... but very pleasant. Different than almost any flake I've smoked. The only drawback is, because it is so easy to burn evenly, and comes in the tin ready to pack, it does burn a little fast for most flake users--and it is a little difficult to really get a rhythm with it that will reveal all the flavors. Definitely a flake for your small pipes, I am damn glad I bought several tins of this before it disappeared forever. Bring it back, C&D, as a permanent offering, and you have at least one lifetime customer.
Cornell & Diehl - Briar Fox 2oz
If you are a C&D fan, this makes perfect sense. You're probably in love with Burley and can't wait to get through the VA to that nutty, chocolatey goodness. But I am a VA man. I like my VAs to be slightly sweet, with some natural depth to it, which can be enhanced by the very careful application of Burley and/or Perique to bring out the heart of the VA, like adding salt and pepper on a beautiful piece of beef. Cornell & Diehl certainly use high GRADE Virginias, but for me, the question remains open as to whether they use high QUALITY Virginias. I feel that the Burley here is a bit of a crutch to support a Virginia that is really too simple to use in what is supposed to be a "Virginia" blend. Don't get me wrong; It isn't even close to being a "Bad" tobacco. It's even quite nice, if one dimensional. The issue I have with Cornell & Diehl isn't their obvious attention to the tobacco, but rather if they truly love & understand any tobacco that is not Burley. I for one feel that, like all of their Virginias, even their pure ones (with the exception of Bijou, which is phenomenal), Briar Fox is a great tobacco which fails to deliver the "Virginia" experience: depth, sweetness, and grassiness. Together.
McConnell - Scottish Flake 50g
Top Ten Tobacco
McConnell Scottish Flake and Scottish Cake are truly, uniquely magnificent. As an everyday pipe smoker, I am hard pressed to 1.) find a blend which displays mature flavours even while young 2.) find a blend which is neither too strong nor too light 3.) find a blend which has adequate complexity and strength, but will gracefully fade into the background if needed, and 4.) find a blend which really just tastes like good tobacco, instead of having a more distinctive flavour which, while excellent, bores you after 5 tins (I'm looking at you, Wessex Brown). If you are a VA smoker, don't try this--don't buy it. I don't want it to get too popular, I want all of it. It is too perfect to share. 10/10, will buy again (and again and again and again)
Samuel Gawith - Cabbie's Mixture 50g
Into the Rotation?
I'm pretty damn picky about my VA flakes, finding most of them lackluster. This stuff is good. Plummy, spicy, animalic are the bigger notes. An excellent departure from Samuel Gawith's routine style. Will do better with age, needs drying time. Really quite pleased, well done. An excellent and distinct addition to the genre. R
Dunhill - Ready Rubbed 50g
Nothing Crazy, But Well Done
This is the tobacco to get people into Virginia Smoking. Why? Because it is super easy. Easy to pack, easy to burn, versatile, not big on flavor, not big on nicotine. That's how it is. Slight vanilla note, nice woodiness, nuttiness. But come on, see it for what it is. This is a very high-quality all-day smoker that doesn't ever force itself upon you. I recommend it constantly to pipers who want to get into higher-end stuff. And it works every time.
Samuel Gawith - St. James Flake 250g
This stuff is well-deserving of its reputation... both the good and the bad. When you hit it, it's complex, deep, almost frightening and brooding, with a sweetness that entices you back into the swamp. But it's inconsistent, and very difficult to work with, and will burn like an inferno if you're not careful. What can I say? Skill rewards smokers.
Peter Stokkebye - PS400 Luxury Navy Flake
Good Cheap VA
Good for bulk. Nothing special. Rum bites a bit. What else to say? Tastes like Stokkebye: hay, butter, leather, horse. Pleasant but not a standout, frankly.
Samuel Gawith - Full Virginia Flake 250g
Ah, What a Great Thing
What is there to say about a legend? Simple advice: Air-age it in a jar (a year and a half will do). Rub it out fully. Let it dry. Smoke it in a bowl no bigger than .78 inches. This stuff continues to impress. It's difficult, temperamental, inconsistent, super-hot burning, and just generally grumpy. But there is a reason that we love him. He's a real man, with a gentle sweet streak a mile long, with the depth of a well, and about as much class as the Prince of Wales. LEARN TO LOVE HIM. LONG LIVE THE KING.
John Aylesbury - Classic Flake 50g
Hey! This is really unexpectedly good. I was fairly impressed, had a lot to share with Cut VA Plug from Fribourg & Treyer. Same stewed tomato, blackcurrant, top-notey complexity. Great stuff, high quality, very solid for VA smokers.
Reiner - Blend No. 71 100g
Good for Every Day Smoking
This is on the savory side of the yellow VAs, with a noticeable black pepper note in the tin and on the tongue. The burley will nip you if you start ignoring your cadence, but generally this is a happy, easy blend to hang out with, especially on a hot day. Quite refreshing and sharp in almost a hoppy, citric way. Good stuff.
Rattray's - Hal O' The Wynd 100g
Great. Just Great.
VA smoker? It behooves you to try this. This is one of those great and noble tobaccos which just tastes like tobacco with maybe some extra spice to keep it interesting. This could be your all-day, every-day thing. Does it stand out for its complexity? Nah. But it is strong as far as nicotine goes, and spicy, and boy does it burn like a champ. But dry it first, because this stuff comes WET.
Wessex - Brigade Campaign Dark Flake 50g
You Like Marlin Flake?
It's similar in style and presentation to Marlin. Age it, dry it, you know the story with Dark VAs like this. It's pretty darn good, even great. But you do have to be patient with it because it can be a little sour to start out. Give it time, lots of stewed fruit flavors make it distinctive and nice for a treat when FVF or Stonehaven is a little too sweet for you.
Dunhill - Elizabethan Mixture 50g
Hey, Not Bad
It's fine. Burns really fast, but very evenly and gently if you're not a chimney. Good flavor, nothing new or crazy. Fair bit of nicotine. Perique makes a gentle but frequent appearance as tart fruit. Brown VA is typical Dunhill dusty but high quality. Just, you know. Pretty good.
Three Nuns - Three Nuns 1.75oz
Not Bad, But Not Good, Either
Has the world run out of Perique? No? Then why oh why in God's name would you take the Perique out of Three Nuns? Let me be clear. I've had the old stuff. Now, I know it was like fifteen years old and that had something to do with it, but this is utterly unrecognizable. This tastes like MacBaren Roll Cake, except even hotter-burning. The old stuff tasted like a library. This tastes like leather. The old stuff tasted like class boundaries. What have you done?
Capstan - Flake Blue 1.75oz
My Own Opinion
One can easily tell that this is a high quality tobacco. It is very nice and simple. Please try it. I, however, hate it. Something about it just doesn't agree. I'm picky, but I'm not THAT picky. I find this to be really offensive to my palate. Now I'm really sad, because Tolkien smoked this and to say I'm a Tolkien fan would rank among the world's greatest understatements. Guess we have different palates. Sorry, old friend.
Mac Baren - HH Pure Virginia 1.75oz
Disagree with the Reviewer Below
Look. I like Virginia. I like, really like Virginia. And to tell you the truth, usually, I'm not a huge fan of MacBaren. They make some great stuff, sure, but the leather/cologne/savory/bitter thing is not for me. This, however, entered my top ten list. But only on the second tin. Because it takes some getting used to. It doesn't taste like other MacBaren VAs. It also doesn't taste like Escudo, or Orlik, or Navy Rolls, or McConnell's, or Rattray's, or... you get my point. What the blender did here was do the impossible: make a new profile for a VA tobacco. So you have ash, iron, leather (it is MacBaren, after all), but also some plum, cherry, even apricot I got off of this one. Without being sweet, but instead, a slight bit sour. I really, really like it. I bought thirty tins of the stuff. I will say, it is not an all-day smoker. It is pretty strong, and pretty full-flavored, so watch out. This bears a full rubbing out and a pretty rigorous drying before it can be appreciated with aplomb. I had great results taking it out of the tin and putting it in a jar to air and age a bit. I hope that the below reviewer gives it another chance. Likely it's a palate thing. And you, reader. Give it a chance. It's weird, but not offensive. It won't ghost your pipe. And who knows, you just might grok it. EDIT 5/12/16: This has become one of top five tobaccos. I still dry it, but not as much, because you lose the huge sweetness that occurs with two months in the tin. I have smoked as much as 4 tins a week of this thing. It's absolutely magnificent--it does take some getting used to, but try it in a smaller pipe with a medium to long stem. Can't recommend this enough.
Wessex - Brown Virginia Flake 50g
Really Not Bad, But Not Forever
You get tired of this. It's a little sharp, a little citric, and ages okay. Very distinctive taste, though, and obviously very high quality tobacco. A Virginia lover should try this, especially if you're into MacBaren's Modern Virginia, but want something with a little more depth and panache.
Wessex - Gold Brick Virginia Plug 100g
Takes Time, But Pretty Good
I shag this to get it to burn well. It took me 1.5 bricks to get it right, but there you are. Really, not a stunner, with a slight metallic edge (pleasant), and a hay-like sweetness which is never overpowering. Great VA if you run out of better tobacco (harsh, but there it is), because it's good and it will keep forever and a day, even if you leave it on your desk for two weeks (woops). I'll never reach for it first, though. Fun to use.
Dunhill - Royal Yacht 50g
Empty of real Merit
People seem to have strong opinions of this. Let me correct something; this is not full-bodied. It's high in nicotine, and thus "strong", but the predominant flavor of Royal Yacht is...hay. That's right. It tastes like hay. Don't fall for it, this is one of the flattest VAs available. I've smoked 5 tins of this, 2 massively aged, and I just don't get it. Probably just my palate, but I've tried literally hundreds of VAs and Va/Pers and Va/Burs and everything in between and usually I can find something to like, even to love about a tobacco. This is just... boring.
Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation - 1931 Flake 1.4oz
Decent Quality; A Little Flat
Stokkebye is legendary, but this falls far short of real excellence. The cavendish really gets in the way of proper aging, and the burley just sits there, giving a sort of hollow woody note that doesn't really belong. Smoked new, it's really not good at all, but that's common even for the great VAs. Smoked aged, it's tolerable, but never a standout.
Dan Tobacco - Tordenskjold Virginia Slices 50g
Better than Mediocre
But it doesn't step into the top ten. A little spicy, burns pretty hot, decent nicotine, not a lot of depth. Some very pleasant honey notes, but that's kind of it. Easy going, but again, doesn't step into the rotation unless I wanted to smoke without really paying attention.
Orlik - Golden Sliced 50g
One of the Greats
Top ten? Definitely. Top three? Probably not. This stuff is good. It's good in the cappuccino sort of way. Drink it all day, never bothers you. Orangey, maybe bergamot, lots of hay of course. Great ager. This is a classic; my recommendation is redundant.
Dunhill - Navy Rolls 50g
Boy am I glad they put this out. Started to feel that Dunhill was addicted to Latakia and strange ready-rubs like Yacht. Look, this stuff is great. There's not a lot of complexity beyond the normal excellent Virginia: sweet feed, molasses, hay, old leather, maybe some sort of dark, dried fruit. The overwhelming impression that I get, however, is of tobacco. Irreducible, irreplaceable, perfect planty tobacco. To me, there is no higher praise.
A & C Petersen - Escudo Navy Deluxe 50g
What Else is there to Say?
This is what tobacco tastes like. It is very very good. That is all.
McConnell - Scottish Cake 50g
After Hundreds, A Standout
Fried Chicken. Plums. Sweet Feed. Not things that one would think go together beautifully. But this 'n' more is what you'll get from this stunner. Definitely dry this guy down a bit, rub it out gently. I've tried literally hundreds of Va and Va/Per blends in a desperate search to find what tobacco tastes like. This is it (along with Deluxe Navy Rolls and Escudo after 1.5 years). Why is this not more sought-after??? I'm not complaining.
Fribourg & Treyer - Cut Virginia Plug 50g
8 years searching for the perfect Virginia flake was not wasted when I tried this tobacco. The only negative thing to say is that it misbehaves in certain bowls, but I can't figure out a system to it at all. But when you hit it just right--I can't describe the beauty of the flavors. There is a mellow hay-like sweetness which conceals stewed fruit and a tomato-like acidity, and a touch of smokiness finishes it off. Not terribly complex, and very mild and delicate, but if Virginia is the queen of tobaccos, the Fribourg & Treyer Cut Virginia Plug is her most precious child.
Dunhill - Flake 50g
Don't Mistake the Purpose
Is this Virginia a paragon of complexity? No. Is this Virginia full-flavored and fascinating? No. Is this Virginia one of the simplest, most elegant, refined, and gentle flakes available? Absolutely. Please don't expect a Kendall flake or a brown Virginia. This is a lemon VA, a yellow VA. Expect lemons and beeswax and hay and white pepper, just like all yellow VAs. In this category, it is one of the top 5 made--not because it is mind-blowing, but because it is dependable, consistent, old-fashioned, and delicious.
Tampers & Tools - 8deco Classic Tamper Gold Diamond Cut
Best Tamper Company
I smoke about 10 bowls a day, and I am neurotic about tamping. I've just given up on high-end tampers and generally use a pipe nail, or a Czech tool on my keychain. But this tamper... Not only does it match the Dunhill Gold Barley pattern (my favorite), not only is it huge--both the handle and the tamping surface--not only is it perforated, making it easy to keep your ember lit...the tamping surface is also DOMED so that your tamp is absolutely perfect. Tobacco is not espresso--it needs to have a dome shape in the bowl to prevent coning. Whoever designed this tamper was a frequent smoker who knew exactly what he or she was doing. I will only buy 8deco tampers from now on.