Velvet - Velvet 12oz
After 20 years, and after having gone through every proverbial phase of pipe smoking- from aromatics to English, to fine aged Virginias... I came back around to old-fashioned, lightly topped burleys. Of the many great OTCs, Velvet is my favorite. Lane Limited (and STG) have brought the blend back to its original formula. A simple loose (rough cut) brown burley topped with a very light note of licorice and maple sugar. But the taste and smell is all its own- sometimes described as something like old crayola crayons or the aroma of Play-Dough... it has a delightfully old-timey room note and an aroma that the pipe smoker himself can enjoy as much as the smooth burley flavor. It never bites, smokes cool, and is the very definition of consistent from bowl to bowl and tub to tub. I go through a 12oz can every month and those aged virginias and complex englishes sit idly in my cellar while I keep cracking open tubs of Velvet. I can't say how much I love this stuff. It rings every bell for me and I find that I deeply enjoy it more and more with every bowl. I guess some of the best things in life don't need to be complicated... or expensive... or hard to find.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - 8deco Bamboo Tamper
Best Value, Great Tamper!
What to say about this little guy except that it is always the tamper I reach for first. It's cheap... but it really does an incredible job doming the tobacco and ash for a great burn. The bamboo is sturdy and the cut end scrapes wonderfully, doing very little to harm cake or bowl. I love love love love love LOVE these tampers above all others!
Pipe Tools & Supplies - John Aylesbury Red & Black Pipe Tool
One Of The Best I've Had
A fantastic, sturdy, reliable tamper with snap! The broad, oval tamping foot does an excellent job, and the scraper and pick tools (which lock in and out of place beautifully) tuck away masterfully so that this guy can get all the way to the bottom of any pipe with no trouble at all while its nice (but still very comfortable) heft does all the work for you. Fits snugly in any pocket just like any good knife. Also, as an aside... the finish on this is much nicer than the picture shows, durable and scratch resistant, and sports an almost glittery, metal chip-like shine. Much nicer than I expected!
Cornell & Diehl - Sunset Harbor Flake 2oz
Dark, Soft, and Creamy
In a world full of blends, and where imitations and slight variations on the same old formulas run rampant... sometimes you run across something very special. Something unique, something that delivers a consistent, satisfying smoke unlike the rest. SHF is a delightfully rich and creamy flake that crumbles almost on command into a perfect, slow-burning smokey, sweet treat with a subtle yet potent amount of vitamin N. It really is something that snuggles into your pipe and takes you somewhere on the edge of dreams when you're in the mood for such things... but it isn't complicated. In fact, SHF requires almost nothing besides an occasional gentle puff to remind us all why we smoke a pipe. Really an excellent, excellent blend that is shamefully overlooked. 10 times the blend Esoterica Penzance is on its best days. SHF is more masterfully blended, smoother, creamier, more robust... and above all more reliable... and of course... much... much cheaper. Try some and you won't regret it!
Sutliff - #600 Mixture 79
An Eldritch Enchantment
Everyone seems to have an opinion of this tobacco, and many of those opinions are almost laughably negative. Not because this time honored blend is actually so horrible, but because as you read those reviews, you find that almost none were written by anyone who's given Mixture 79 more than a passing whiff or puff. And what do you find with, and beyond that passing whiff or puff? Something wholly unique and almost otherworldly in its unusual flavor and profile. Mixture 79 is a very old American burley nod to the very richly pedigreed English aromatic tradition: the lakeland essence. The classic American burley is smooth, nutty and absolutely consistent, and the topping... it may repel at first as its floral, licorice, root beer like essence is so unusual to the modern American palate. But with a little time, that aroma, along with the loyal, dependable classic burleys begin to haunt you. The title of this review is a reference to a very appropriate comment I once heard about this blend. That comment was something to the effect that "Mixture 79 is like H.P. Lovecraft in a pipe". I don't recall how it was meant in context, but it works very well to describe this blend because like Lovecraft, Mixture 79, despite being slightly off-putting, or even offensive initially proceeds to draw one in with its evocative, ancient, and rich atmosphere and history. It is a dark, lilting, and perfumed love-letter to the very history of pipe smoking. The topping is extremely well balanced, the smoke is rich, cool, and mysteriously fragrant, and the lineage of the blend itself is almost without compare on this side of the Atlantic. I have been smoking a pipe for 15 years, and have tried everything from Penzance to 5 Brothers. I love a little of everything, but Mixture 79 will never be far from my side. Simply put, if the sound of a uniquely American effort to impart the lakeland essence into a smooth, cool, and flawlessly consistent all-day smoking mixture appeals to you, you will LOVE Mixture 79. If it doesn't... there are hundreds of other blends to choose. But while many, many of those so called timeless masterpieces have faded away and are now lost... The dark, eldritch allure of Mixture 79 has kept it in production for 100 years or so and counting.
Cornell & Diehl - Mississippi Mud 8oz
Evocative, Dark, Rich, SIMPLE
Mississippi Mud is a tobacco that tells you everything about itself on the first date, and years later is still the blend you first met. It isn't very nuanced or unnecessarily complicated. It is dark, flavorful, smoky, earthy, and delightfully cool and creamy. The unsweetened black cavendish sees to the mellowness and consistency from bowl to bowl, the perique gives it a slight oomph, and the latakia washes over you in a mild, broad way that you slowly sink into. It is absolutely, unashamedly one-dimensional overall, but a faithful, richly flavorful, and unusually satisfying blend. It will never be out of my rotation as long as they keep making it! If you like latakia and perique, and appreciate a smooth, creamy mouthful of earthy, flavorful smoke... jump onto the riverboat on the tin and sink into that delicious mud!
Cornell & Diehl - Shandygaff
I have always loved the occassional salty aftertaste of some tobaccos, and I ordered Shandygaff hoping to find a blend that emphasized that quality. I WAS NOT DISAPPOINTED! This blend is the DEFINITION of savory and salty. The previous review that mentioned a cedarwood pencil shaving taste, and those that noticed brinyness and a lack of sweetness were all correct! This is the tobacco I have been searching for these last 15 years! I will never be without it again!! WONDERFUL STUFF!
McClelland - Craftsbury: Frog Morton on the Bayou 100g
An old favorite
Froggy's time on the bayou was one of my first forays into English/Balkans 11 years ago. My tastes have evolved, but this is still an old standby for me. It is an unpretentious, smoky pleasure with a dash of sweet perique that throws just enough diversity to the smoke to keep it from being boring. It has some of its brand's less than ideal characteristics, like a few too many inclusions and an uneven ribbon cut, but the good outweighs the bad in this enjoyable mixture. The tin speaks true, even though it's no longer my favorite, it is one of the most calming blends I have ever enjoyed.