About Me:
From the SF Bay Area. I've smoked cigars for a long time, fairly new to the pipe. It's a lot of fun to try all the different blends.

Jake Wyatt - Fourth Dimension Toro
A Pleasant Surprise
I'd seen a few Jake Wyatt cigars at local B&Ms and always been a bit intrigued because they're so novel and attractive looking. That said, part of me wondered whether the cigar was more gimmick than good smoke. It's not. In fact, it's one of the best cigars I've had this year. It has exceptional balance, and quite a bit of richness for a Dominican puros. I get sourdough, a touch of caramel sweetness, and a pleasant, astringent citrus sensation. Some red pepper spice on the retrohale, but so intense as to run anyone off. I'll be checking out more cigars from Jake Wyatt and Tabacalera JVM. Box worthy for me, and an easy cigar to recommend to fans of LFD, and Arturo Fuente.

Espinosa - Sumatra Toro
Creamy, Medium-Bodied Cigar
The original Don Pepin Garcia-made 601 red labels were among my first favorite cigars (the current AJF versions are good too!, so I've always generally enjoyed most of the cigars Espinosa has released. The Espinosa Habano is a very good cigar at a reasonable price, and so I was quite looking forward to this one. I wish I had a Habano on hand to make a direct comparison, but I found the flavor profile to be extremely similar to the Habano. The Sumatra is a bit creamier, and maybe a bit lighter in terms of spice, but the brown sugar/molasses sweetness is the dominant flavor profile for me, which has been my experience with the Habano. I'm knocking it a star only because it runs an extra $2 for the Sumatra. That said, it's a very good cigar, and if you like the Habano, you'll like this one. It would also make an excellent introduction to Nicaraguan cigars for those coming from milder Dominican cigars in the sense that it is rich with flavor but modest with the spice and pepper. I recommend it.

Curivari - Gloria de Leon Gran Dominio Poderoso
Old School Presentation and Value
So I have to admit, I have always admired Curivari's approach to cigar making. The classic presentation, 10-count boxes, subtle band and box art, and a focus on Nicaraguan puros (with the occasional Mexican Maduro thrown in). This one hits all those notes. I would consider it medium-full in body and strength, exceptional construction. The flavor profile is predominantly milk chocolate, with some nutty notes (hazelnut, walnut). It starts off a bit sweeter, with a decent but not overwhelming amount of spice, and becomes a bit more dry in the final third. For the price, it's an absolute winner. I will also say that this 6 x 48 toro/corona Gorda size has lasted me over 2 hours of smoking time, which is kind of crazy. In a good way.

Illusione - Allegria Churchill
Allegria is a fitting name
I love these new Allegrias. I'd consider them a fair amount fuller in body and strength than the standard One-Offs, and spicier, but there is a lot of richness here in terms of flavor and aroma. It's more savory than sweet, and just a really nice cigar to spend a couple hours with.

HVC - Seleccion No. 1 Habano Poderosos
Great New Addition
SO I had an HVC Seleccion No. 1 back around Christmas time and really enjoyed it, so I grabbed another with my last SP order. When it arrived and I lit it up, I thought it was strange. It didn't taste like I remembered. And the wrapper sure was light and smooth-to-the-touch for a Mexican San Andres. I looked up my order and realized that they'd come out with a new version with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, and that's what I'd ordered. Well, like it's Mexican primo, it's pretty great! A great choice for anyone who likes fuller body and strength Nicaraguan cigars. A fair amount of spice and power, it surprised me with some stonefruit notes as well. As for, which version is better? Well, I'd like to get a split box and let them duke it out over 40 hours of smoking time or so!

Cornell & Diehl - Oak Alley 8oz
C&D's Masterpiece
Seems like C&D is famous for its burley blends. In particular, a certain kind of natural and rustic burley blend with formidable strength and a few rough edges. Think Haunted Bookshop and OJK. Oak Alley has many of the same components as those blends, but it is silky smooth and exceptionally balanced. It's sweet, sour, a bit musty and floral. Seems like every time I smoke it, I find some new aspect to appreciate. It comes in the standard C&D crumble cake which is a joy to work with. It's fairly stout, packing a nicotine wallop comparable to OJK and Redburn, maybe a tick less than JackKnife Plug or Burley Flake #3. I can't recommend it enough. I'm sure it ages gracefully, but I might never know as I can't seem to leave my tins alone long enough for them to make it past childhood.

Amphora - Kentucky Blend 1.75oz
High-End Pouch Blend
I bought a pouch of Amphora Kentucky, along with the Burley blend, and found it to be an excellent, high-class dark-fired Kentucky based blend. Well, there are a few of those out there, but what separates this one is the price and pouch packaging. In terms of comparison, I would guess the proportions of DFK to VA leaf in this one would be similar to MacBaren's Old Dark Fired. The Amphora doesn't have as intense of a vinegar note from the casing that ODF does. In some ways, this tastes more like a slightly toned down version of MB's Bold Kentucky, which is a very good thing, in my opinion. It is earthy, smokey, a touch floral, with plenty of body. Medium to medium-full in terms of flavor, but the nicotine is right around the medium mark, maybe a bit past. Should be satisfying enough for the degenerates like me, but approachable for those who are sensitive to nicotine. Really, I think it's the DFK-based blend for everyone. And because it's a MacBaren product, we can look forward to regular and easy availability. It's probably a four star blend, but when I consider the price and availability, I feel it's worthy of the full five.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Dark Flake Unscented
Tyson Strength, Ali Finesse
This has become one of my favorite tobaccos and one I look forward to smoking for its wonderful flavor and formidable strength. I had always believed it was a mix of Virginias (India) and Dark-Fired Kentucky (Malawi), but I've also heard that the tobaccos are all Virginias. The manufacturer describes them only as... Indian air-cured and Malawi dark-fired. Regardless, this flake is loaded with flavor and body, and hell yes, nicotine. It takes a bit of work to get it rubbed out and lit but once you get it going, you'll find a blend that smokes cool and without bite. The flavors are dark-fired forward: smokey, floral, some "what is that" exotic notes, and cigar-like spice. Though labeled as unscented, there is a bit of the Lakeland essence, way in the background, but it only accentuates the floral and incense like nature of the smoke. In a nutshell, it's like HH Bold Kentucky/ODF, but more "Gawith-y." In terms of strength, it's top of the food chain. It's too good to deprive anyone, so you'll get no "experienced smokers only" jive from me. If you're sensitive to nicotine, smoke it in a small bowl. If you're a beginner coming from cigarettes with a nicotine tolerance, this will be your friend. It's wonderful. It most certainly does not "need work." Of course, my opinion is no more valid than anyone else's, but I believe everyone should at least try this.

Mac Baren - HH Bold Kentucky 3.5oz
Beautiful Kentucky Blend
I;ve recently come back to regular pipe smoking and gave up my cigarette habit. As a result, I have been exploring high nicotine blends for my morning withdrawals and coffee :-) So far, I've found that dark-fired Kentucky based blends deliver a wonderful combination of strength and flavor. This blend delivers on all counts. I find it's a great balance between the earthy element and floral element that Kentucky's can have. The flavoring here, if there's any, is far less notable than in Old Dark Fired, as are the VAs. This is similar to something like GH&C's Dark Flake or Conniston, but without any of the Lakeland notes, and the nicotine level strikes me as similarly high to those flakes as well. A real homerun for MacBaren, who seem to have access to tremendous DFK leaf.

G. L. Pease - Kensington 2oz
Perfectly Balanced
Bought this based off the Smoking Pipes series exploring Pease's blends. I recently returned to pipe smoking after smoking very sparingly over the past 18 months or so, and I find I enjoy blends that are more judicious in the Latakia than the bombs I preferred previously. This is a textbook example. The Latakia content in this blend doesn't seem particularly light or heavy. It's a perfect medium where it plays its role without showing up the other components. Overall, I find this blend more dry than sweet. I've never had a blend that better fits the Medium English label more perfectly. This blend can be enjoyed at any time of day except for when one wishes for a bit more nicotine. It's a beautiful thing when expert blending and quality ingredients come together like this. Highly recommended.

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    2020 Pipesmoking Resolutions
  • ► Just a couple for me;1. Get a meerschaum.2. Get a Scottie Piersel with one of those awesome pencil shanks3. Try to attend some pipe club gatheringsAnd finally... I want to lower my nicotine tolerance to a more reasonable level. As it is, I need super high octane blends like the ropes and Gawith dark flakes in the morning. I'd like to get to a point where a regular Virginia or Burley blend satisfies my cravings well enough.
    A Rekindled Love of Burley
  • ► I suspect that like a fair number of people, I was turned off from burley when I first started smoking a pipe. It never seemed to get the love that VA-based or English blends received. I think I fell victim to not taking what I read with a grain of salt. Eventually, I begin to experiment with burleys and found that I truly enjoyed them, from the semi-aromatic "codger" blends to the lightly cased flakes like Solani ABF to the more unflavored, natural blends like so many C&D burleys. And of course, I love the dark-fired Kentucky based blends. Right now, my favorites are MacBaren's Bold Kentucky and HH Burley Flake, Amphora Burley, Watch City Slices, and C&D Big N' Burley. Still love VA-based blends and Latakia blends, but I'm glad I opened my mind to burley, as I usually begin each morning these days with a stout burley blend and some coffee.
    Doting On Dottle: Advice On Smoking To The Bottom Of The Bowl
  • ► Lots of great information here. I think it's important for newer guys like myself to hear from a vet like Jeff Gracik that smoking a bowl until nothing is left but fine grey ash is something that isn't always attainable even for experienced smokers. I know when I first started I read a lot of "fine, gray ash" stories on tobacco reviews and the like and wondered why my bowls still had some black ash and wet dottlish bits of tobacco even after I kept re-lighting and puffing like a train near the bottom. I'm not saying some guys don't get those fine, gray ash finishes, but they're not necessary to indicate a bowl well finished either, and I think that's important to know.The common thread of advice seems to be to keep smoking as long as the tobacco tastes good and doesn't require too much effort to take a light and keep a smolder. I think that's something I'm going to start paying more heed to myself.
    How to Pronounce Pipe Maker Names
  • ► Great article. Have to admit there were more than a few that I was way wrong on!
  • ► How about Mastro de Paja? I've been pronouncing it like it's Spanish (think Baja with a p), but looking over this list, is it Pah-yah? Pah-jah
  • ► Guayaberas are wonderful, and if you buy a non-linen version, they won't wrinkle or fall apart in a washer and dryer. Truly, the perfect shirt for a smoker. You could have a pipe in one pocket, a couple of cigars in another. How about a pocket for tobacco? Check. And maybe one more accessories? No problem. You're all set for any contingency. I tried linen versions at first, but I am also lazy, not to mention sloppy, so that didn't work.
  • ► Yo Jim, a Guayabera is a Cuban-style shirt, also popular in other parts of Latin America. They usually have 4 pockets. One on each breast, and 2 directly below those. In the illustration at the top of the article, the gent holding the bulldog pipe is wearing one.They're comfortable in the heat, and very handy for smokers.
    Raising Orlik
  • ► Sometimes I get a little hacked off by how often some of the popular VA flakes are out of stock. Then I remember you can't hardly take a step in a tobacco shop (or a click in a virtual shop) without stumbling over a tin of Orlik Golden Sliced. Orlik Golden Sliced is delicious. And available. And budget-friendly. I don't know what else you could want out of a tobacco.
    Savinelli: A History Of Making History
  • ► The first briar pipe I ever bought was a Savinelli Unfinished Lumberman (802KS?). It is still my favorite pipe to smoke. I do wish they made more unfiltered pipes, though.
    Silver Gray: American Hybrid
  • ► Really enjoyed learning more about Ms. Gray. I noticed when her latest batch of pipes hit the store, they were gone within a day. She must be popular. I really like those Hawk Egg shapes.
    Smoke Rings: Aganorsa Leaf Cigars
  • ► Aganorsa Leaf/Casa Fernandez cigars are killer. Of course, they manufacture the cigars for some of the most highly regarded brands, but their own lines tend to be very special themselves. The prices are very attractive for the quality. My favorites are the Signature Selection and the regular Miami line. Need to try the Miami Anniversario versions.
    Tasting Notes: G.L. Pease Penny Farthing
  • ► Great rundown, Shane!I have experience with shag cuts from when I used to hand roll cigarettes. I've smoked them in a pipe as well and enjoyed them. I am glad to hear this one has a bit of strength as well, since I find myself craving a bit of nicotine, particularly in the morning. And I really like the VaPers that have a bit of dark-fired tobacco in them as well.Can't wait to give this one a try.
    The Silver Pipe of Wampanoag Legend
  • ► My initial thought when the warrior's wife decided to keep the pipe for herself was, "Good for her!" I hate it when the moral of the story is the opposite of all my instincts. Ha!
    Wilderness Pipe Cleaners
  • ► I've never smoked a pipe with a hobo, but I remember reading something described as a hobo trick. Grip the bowl of the pipe with your palm covering the chamber. Lift it about head high and snap your wrist downward like you're throwing a curveball. It works alright in a pinch, and I like to imagine my spittle bending just like a Clayton Kershaw hook.