PRETENTIOUS PEDANTRY
About Me:
Professor of higher learning and perpetual student of the noblest leaf.
Badges

Peterson - Old Dublin 50g
Mostly Unremarkable
High quality, good components, but uninspired blend. There's nothing "bad" about it, but there's nothing very good about it either. Something is missing.

Lane Limited - BCA
Ruined a Favorite Pipe
Not a fan of this at all. Smells great in the bag and the jar, but in the bowl it smells awful and tastes even worse. I believe there is some real vanilla in it, but there's also a very bitter, oily chemical all over it. It's horrid and it sticks to everything — prep surfaces, fingers, clothes, tampers, pipes. It ruined one of my most favorite pipes, even though it was only sprinkled in as a condiment. Can't exorcise it. It's so nasty, makes everything taste awful. I'll probably have to use the salt and alcohol treatment.

Peterson - Standard Mixture 50g
Nearly Perfect
Did not like it at first, but let it sit in a jar for a month and it was lovely. Now it's at the top of my list, among my most favorite English blends. I enjoy it much more than anything from Pease or C&D. No cellar is complete without it.

Mac Baren - Navy Flake 16oz
PG/VG Additives
All my Baren/HH flakes are drying out, due to nonsense additives. I just opened a jar with more than three years of age, and it's so dry the flakes are impossible to fold. They just crumble. I'm noticing this with all my Baren/HH: Navy Flake, Burley Flake, Dark Twist, Pure VA, Vanilla, Golden Extra (broken flake), etc., etc. They're all drying out despite airtight storage and the insides of the jars are clouding. When those two things happen together — cloudy jars and dried out flakes — you know they've used Glycols and other additives as humectants for false moisture and heavier weight. The flavors become increasingly bitter the older these additives get, because they go rancid. I'm not surprised, but I am incredibly disappointed. My stocks from 2020 and older are okay, but ones from 2021 and later all look like this. This is bad news. What a waste. Unless I learn that the issue has been resolved, I will not buy Mac Baren/HH again.

Cornell & Diehl - Super Balkan
Balkan-ish: Backwoods Balkan
A few years ago I gave C&D Super Balkan full marks, but today I give it just four. We all have our own definitions of "Balkan" but the classic definition is an Oriental-forward English mixture; that is, Virginia and Latakia setting the stage while the Orientals take centerstage. Super Balkan is not very Oriental-forward, as the Perique and Burley make rather loud contributions. Certainly we find both Burley and Perique in many English blends, the latter most especially, yet they are not supposed to steal the show in a blend labeled as "Balkan." The quintessential Balkan mix comprises the Big Three, i.e., Orientals, Latakia, Virginia, in that order. Super Balkan puts Burley in the driver seat with Perique navigating, while Virginia, Latakia, and Orientals act as mere passengers along for the ride. Consequently, it strikes me as more of an Americanized English blend than a true Balkan. It's very strong, loud, boisterous, rough around the edges, and uncouth — the stereotypical "Ugly American" on a trip across the pond as a tourist. It's good, and there's a role for it in any cellar, it's just not archetypal. It reminds me of something you might bring back from a visit with your estranged Appalachian uncle: a Backwoods Balkan. Homemade corn cob pipes, a mason jar of genuine moonshine, and a leather rollup pouch stuffed full of hand blended Backwoods Balkan, sure to knock you for a loop.

Mac Baren - Golden Extra 16oz
Mellow Burley
Dependable, consistent everyday burley blend. Nothing outstanding or special about it, just decent stuff. It's a little sweet, it's toasty, a bit malty, earthy, nutty, cool-burning. Not very full of body, I'd put it at 2/5. Strength likewise I'd rate it 2/5. It is a bit dry, so if you usually set out your tobacco to dry, you won't need to do that with Golden Extra. In fact, you could mix it with moister blends for a happy medium moisture. Finally, there is a lot of Virginia. It has that typically Mac Baren honey-sweet Virginia flavor.

Cornell & Diehl - Chopped Cigar Leaf
Great Condiment
Perfect as a condiment. I add a pinch to my favorite Balkan or English to shake things up a bit, and it never lets me down. Lately, I've also been adding it in with blends I don't like very much, and some of them are surprisingly quite good with this addition. I've been able to save almost a pound of tobacco from so many tins I was ready to throw away. Give it a try. It'll be like your favorite grilling spice or hot sauce, that stuff you put on everything.

Cornell & Diehl - Redburn 16oz
Good Codger Bait
Straightforward BurVa blend with DFK as a condiment. Tin/jar note is pretty full of molasses, not much "rum" aroma at all. Burley takes center stage from first to last, burning relatively coolly. Virginia adds a bit of sweetness to the burley's nutty earthiness. DFK adds a smidgeon of smoky depth. It's not very strong, basically a medium. It crumbles at the touch and packs like a dream, but you'll need to pack it tight and tamp very often to keep it lit. There's not much to dislike here, but the opposite is also true: nothing outstanding or exciting here. It's a straightforward burley blend, firmly in the center of the "codger" camp. Plenty of nutty, earthy flavor with some spice and a tiny hint of sweetness. Neither the rum nor the molasses show up in the flavor profile. Though it burns cool, it does burn surprisingly quickly. Burns down to the finest of ash. Leaves a nice "cigar" type aroma in the room, which is delightful to encounter upon reentering after having left the room for a while. Perfect for smoking any place where cigars are appreciated. I've had a pound aging in a jar for three years and it's mellowed a great deal now. Not very interesting or nuanced, just good smoke. It's an all-day smoke, a dependable staple for any rotation.

Foundation Cigar Company - The Tabernacle Broadleaf Corona
Fantastic
This one has to be my favorite stick. It's dark and oily and spicy and woody, but it's also creamy and it has some sweeter notes that balance out the spice. Great cigar to write home about, and it's a decent price too. Can't go wrong. This should be in your humidor.

Drucquer & Sons - Blairgowrie 100g
Meh
Tried it in 2021, wasn't a huge fan. It was okay then, but not great. I prefer big balkans and straight Englishes, not so keen on Scottish style blends with Perique. I vacuum sealed the tin I had opened, let it sit for two and a half years. From what I remember of it in 2021, it seems perhaps a bit more interesting today. Still not a favorite but I'll try to finish the tin.

G. L. Pease - Westminster 2oz
Average
With all the hype, I was expecting fireworks. I was expecting something really special. It's not bad, but it's not great either. It's decent, average. Not something I'll dream about or rave about or crave, though. I'll finish this tin and probably never think about it again. Although, I will attach a caveat. I thought the same thing about Peterson Standard Mixture at first, but it grew on me and I do enjoy that one now. This one is not as good as Standard Mixture. There's far too much antifungal spray in it. That stuff burns my tongue and it tastes so sharp. I can't stand it. Lately I've been processing my own whole leaf tobacco so I can avoid the antifungal/anti-mold sprays.

Rattray's - Red Rapparee 100g
Very Rattray's Very Good
There's always something different about Rattray's blends that you just don't get in anything that comes from the group that makes all the marques for C&D/G.L.Pease/Drucquer & Sons/etc. It's very premium. The first thing I noticed after the very intriguing bag note is that Red Rapparee has a great mouthfeel. I knew I was in for a treat right away. It has the perfect moisture right out of the tin/bag, it's full of body, yet still medium in strength. The flavors are full and wide and round, but not heavy. They don't slather the palate in tar and nicotine. I'm not usually a huge fan of cavendish in my English/Balkans, either because the blender used too much or used cheap, rough leaf, but cavendish is absolutely a winner in Red Rapparee. It adds the perfect texture, body, mouthfeel. I was so pleased from the first light. The Virginias are dark and mature, a little sweet. The latakia is not overpowering, just a little smoky. These all serve as a nice field for the orientals to play on. Floral, earthy, buttery, a little spicy, maybe a bit incense-y, complex but not overly so, not in a distracting way. It's just so good, so refreshingly different, so unlike anything that the popular production companies are doing. The stuff I smoked today was produced in August of 2021, so it's almost three years old, and it's been stored in its factory-original 500g bag in a walk-in humidor. I wouldn't have thought that was ideal, leaving it in the plastic rather than jarring it, but hey, it's really good.

Savinelli - 145th Anniversary 2oz
Needs More Perique, Age
When I add 18-20% perique by volume, this blend becomes so much better. On its own it's pretty good already, but add in a fat pinch of long cut perique if you want a 5-star sleeper blend. There's already some perique in it, but not nearly enough. Add more and it unlocks the full potential of this gorgeous stuff.

Cornell & Diehl - Star of the East Gold
Not Star of the East
I like this a lot. First few times I tried it, I wasn't impressed because I was comparing it to Star of the East. But that's not what this is. It has almost nothing to do with it. As a blend on its own, it's fantastic. It's heavy on the Virginias and Orientals, barely any Latakia present, and that's okay. Stop comparing it to its namesake and you'll start to enjoy it. It is *very* dry, however, so it smokes a bit hot and fast.

G. L. Pease - Windjammer 2oz
Very Nice
With three years' age, it's very nice. A bit on the artificially sweet side, which makes me suspect more sugar and PG than real rum. The balance is great for the first half of the bowl, no one note overtaking the others. Each is detectable but none is separable from the rest. Room note is very inviting, especially upon returning after having left for a few minutes. This is owed to all that sugar and spice. Though the broken flake is rather dry, it is strangely difficult to keep lit, which makes tongue bite a risk. It works well in a tall, thin billiard, such as a Savinelli 706 or Bing's Favorite. **Edit: There's something bitter in it. About halfway through the bowl it gets incredibly bitter, staying that way all the way to the bottom. Maybe it's all that sugar and glycol burning. That stuff doesn't belong in/on/with tobacco of any kind.

Mac Baren - HH Pure Virginia 16oz
Dry and a bit boring.
I have three pounds of this stuff in my cellar. Took out a small jar, maybe 6oz, to see how the aging is going. They've been in there three years so far. I'm quite disappointed. Waited three years for dry and bland and boring. Sure, it's light and clean and grassy, but not much more than that. It might make a passable base for blending, but it's not good by itself. I sure do hope it's not all like this. What would I do with three pounds of dry, bland, boring leaves?

Rattray's - Wallace Flake 50g
Excellent VaBur
Almost as nice as Peterson University Flake (PUF). I have discovered the secret: it must be rubbed out very thoroughly and set to dry for at least 20 minutes. You could even use an herb shredder. Pop the flakes in there, give a few twists, then rub out further with fingertips. It's a bit lighter of body and nicotine than PUF, and the plum topping is less detectable in the bowl. It's like PUF "Lite" or discount brand. Still very good. I've got ten tins aging to perfection in the cellar.

Sutliff - TS-20 Louisiana Perique
Authentic
This stuff is top notch. Truffly, musky, spicy, fruity, umami. Everything you want. The *only* way to get better Perique is to buy it in whole leaf form, straight out of the barrel, from St. James Parish. I have several pounds of whole leaf Perique aging in my cellar like the finest of wines, waiting for blending. While it ages to mature perfection, I have Sutliff TS-20 and some long-cut and granulated Perique from C&D with which to develop my home-blend lineup. All around five stars. Can't go wrong.

Cornell & Diehl - Awakened Elder 2oz
A Bit Too Busy
First 1/4 bowl is promising. Very robust and tasty. Very musky. Perique dominates, which is nice. Truffly, spicy, salty Perique is always a winning component. Virginia plays a muted background role, darkened Virginias, not brights or goldens. The Kasturi cigar leaf is dominant, like cumin in a taco. It's the first thing that smacks me in the face right out of the jar, and in the bowl. Burley is good no matter what you do with it, I like it in almost anything. Cavendish is a little weird here, as there is already enough body from all the other components. It's not added for marshmallowy sweetness or creamy body because this is a salty savory meaty blend, so cavendish seems out of place to me. But then again, Lovecraft was all about the out-of-place. Latakia is inconsistent, barely showing up, just phoning it in. It's not a primary component, just a garnish. Overall, Awakened Elder feels too busy to me, pulled in too many contrary directions, elements fighting each other instead of working together harmoniously. Difficult to categorize, as it's not very English, not a Virginia, not a Burley, not Aromatic, and not "American" either. There's not enough of any major component to define it within that component's category. It strikes me as an "everything bagel" sort of thing, as if the blender took every tobacco he liked separately and decided to add them together. "If I like them independently, why not all at the same time?" Sure, that's the idea with these HP Lovecraft blends, high strangeness, ineffable weirdness, but weirdness for its own sake is just a gimmick. Doesn't do much for me. I'll finish my jar over the next week and see if my assessment changes any.

Cornell & Diehl - Palmetto Balkan 8oz
Better 2 Years Later
I tried mine for the first time in September 23. Smelled like metal, mushy canned green beans, boiled peanuts, mud, and fermenting boggy peat moss. Put it in the cellar for another six months, and it has improved. Orientals are still very sharp and tingly. That leguminous, metallic, beany musk has calmed down quite a bit. The sour grassiness of the red Virginias is becoming more prominent. This latakia does not evoke anything like old Syrian latakia, but it is different to what C&D usually uses. It's heavier and more oily, but without being as full of body. Still full of the anti fungal additive that burns my palate, unfortunately. I always seem to get tins fairly over-treated with that stuff. It's like greasy, oily talcum powder. What I taste the most throughout the bowl is stewed green peppers, which is not what I want from my balkans. It starts out quite wet with a fair bit of gurgle, but give it some time, and you'll get a nicely dry finish. Burns down to fine ash, with thousands of tiny sparkly bits from the baby powder.

Kramer's - Father Dempsey
Sandwich in a Blender
Father Dempsey is a decent blend but not great. It's a bit too moist, but that's better than being too dry. I believe its moisture comes from Glycerin, which isn't thrilling. There is also sugar syrup/invert sugar here, which I taste in the draw before I even light it. Also not good. The proportions are so "well balanced" that nothing stands out. They all muddle together. I don't taste the Virginias, the Latakias, and the Orientals, each distinct from the other. It's like a sandwich in a blender. You taste everything together, no one element separate from any other element. And the glycerin and sugar give it a heavy aromatic mouthfeel. This gives it a more American feel than a true English -- an "English" for people who don't like English blends. Non-English English. *Edit: the second half of the bowl is really great. Almost worth the first half of the bowl it takes to get there.

Peterson - De Luxe Navy Rolls 50g
Don't let it sit too long
De Luxe Navy Rolls is great stuff, but you should smoke your tin ASAP once it's opened. Don't leave it sitting in a jar, because those nice Virginia sugars will turn sour. Mine smells like the crab apples that fall off the tree and rot. Of course, I'm still smoking it, but it's not so lovely anymore. Once you pop the tin, smoke 'er till she's done.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Kentucky
Nice Burley
Comes without any lakeland weirdness. This is a major plus. Just pure Kentucky goodness. Use it for a good stiff kick in the mouth, for a quick nicotine boost, as a condiment to spice up your favorite OTC tin, or make it the base for a strong home blend. Can't go wrong. I love it when the Gawiths take a break from the crazy lakeland stuff and let the pure tobacco shine through.

Presbyterian - Presbyterian 50g
Still No Oriental Leaf
Tin says it contains a mix of Virginia and Latakia, nothing else. No orientals of Turkish, Macedonian, Greek, or any other variety. I talked to a blender working for the company who reports Zero Orientals, "read the label, brother! No orientals." It's very confusing why certain outlets choose to claim oriental leaf in the mix while others choose to agree with the manufacturer (and we should accept what the manufacturer says until we're given very good reasons not to). It's high quality and very tasty if you're in the mood for Virginia with just a pinch of mild latakia with a creamy marshmallow sauce. If you're seeking an English or a Balkan, this is not it.

Mac Baren - HH Latakia Flake 16oz
SOUR, Spicy, Salty, Savory
I wasn't a huge fan of this the first few times I smoked it, so I rubbed out six ounces into a ready-rubbed state, put it under pressure in an airtight container, and cellared it for three years. Now it's pretty good. I have another 2/3 pound in the cellar still in full flake form, will compare that later. For now, my ready-rubbed flakes are nice. It's got the dark fired burley very typical of Mac Baren and HH. It's got some very sour orientals. It's got some brisket-like latakia. And the Virginias are dark and matured. The result is one savory, salty, vinegary, barbecued, very American take on an "English" blend. It is not English at all, we just say that when latakia is involved, which is weird because Latakia is a port in Syria and not English at all. In any case, it's good. The sour blast tapers off quickly, making room for the bready figgy virginia sweetness, with smoky brisket latakia dancing in and out. It's much better after three years of high pressure cellaring, much more cool and mellow, but if you smoke it fresh you still might like it. Do NOT start here if you're looking for your first foray into "English" tobacco. This isn't English, it's an American slant on a quasi-English tradition.

Cornell & Diehl - New Market
Fans of Deertongue Enjoy
This is enjoyable stuff, especially for fans of the mysterious condiment leaf that is deertongue. Sweet, grassy, herbal vanilla, creamy, citrus. A nice Virginia blend with added body and a bit of extra sweetness.

Balkan Sasieni - Balkan Sasieni 50g
The Stand-Out Choice
I've been smoking Sasieni every day for a month straight, I just can't stop. It's the best Balkan available. The Macedonian orientals and the uniquely colorful, bright, peppery latakia provide an unrivaled experience, just as the ad copy claims. There is *nothing* better in the way of Balkan style blends. I wish I could find out exactly which latakia they use, and the oriental leafs, so I could experiment with them on my own. In the meantime, I'll keep smoking Sasieni. Nothing makes me happier. Sometimes I crave a bit of something heavier, and there are plenty of options for such a craving, but none is as complex, intricate, exquisite, and satisfying as Sasieni.

Samuel Gawith - Squadron Leader 8oz
Lakeland Deception
Requires significant drying time if you want to avoid tongue bite and relighting every one to two minutes. As always, Gawith uses very high quality Virginias, so you're getting something nice here. The orientals are also good but they're too scarce, and there's not enough latakia by half. In fact, there's almost no latakia, so it's not much of an "English" style blend at all. My biggest gripe is that it contains far too much Lakeland weirdness. Admittedly, the lakeland dressing applied here is comparatively slight, but it should not be here at all, as it is not in the description. Standard Englishes do not come with lakeland dressing. Neither Smokingpipes nor Gawith clearly label this one as Lakeland, yet the soapy, spicy, perfumey, shampooy aromatic flavoring is indeed present. It's the first thing you smell when you open the bag, it's the first thing you taste when you light the pipe, it stings the tongue and palate, and it ghosts the pipe the way lakeland does. It's not exactly "bad", it's sort of interesting, I even like it a little (I enjoy it in Firedance Flake, Brown Flake Aromatic, Bosun Plug, Dark Plug, Warhorse), but had I known it was a lakeland I would not have purchased it. I already have all the lakelands I need for now. Please be up front about which products include the lakeland craziness so we can decide when we want it and when we don't. Maybe it's cross contamination from their equipment? Who knows. Another shelf of jars going in the cellar to mellow out for a handful of years.

Tampers & Tools - 8deco Penner Tamper
For the Stylophile
I am a stylóphile, so this tamper is *the* perfect tamper for me. It has the weight and heft of a fine quality fountain pen, and can easily pass for one. My brother, also a fountain pen enthusiast, believed it was a pen when I gave him one as a gift. He was so impressed with the metal body pen, and then he unscrewed the cap to reveal a tamper. The cap does not post, as one reviewer here complains, but it doesn't need to because this is not actually a pen, it's a tamper. It does what it's intended to do. I love it. I have a few, one stays in its box for the collection, and one travels with me as EDC along with real pens. It's wonderful. Great gift idea for pipers who are also penners.

Balkan Sasieni - Balkan Sasieni 50g
7/5 Star Balkan
I need to recalibrate my standards and all my reviews. Balkan Sasieni is the archetypal definition of the Balkan mixture. It is simply perfect, and very different to everything else currently available. The tin note is beatific. The latakia used here smells sweet and colorful the way Madagascan black pepper (voatsiperifery) does. In the pipe, the Macedonian orientals dance across the tongue and leave a pleasant tingling spice in the mouth and nose. The Virginias used here serve primarily as a matrix or background support for the orientals and latakia, who are the uncontested stars of the show. Latakia and orientals dominate, but BS is not overwhelmingly powerful in body or nicotine. You can smoke it all day long. It isn't helpful to compare it to anything because it's a class unto itself, simply the best Balkan in existence. Every other Balkan mixture wants to be what Balkan Sasieni is. It is the yardstick by which every other aspiring Balkan must be measured. As regards storage and cellaring, it does change noticeably with age. The tin I currently enjoy was produced in July of 2021, and it is mellower, a little sweeter, and a bit rounder than some younger jars I have on hand. But if you enjoy and appreciate nuance, you will be well pleased with the effects that aging brings to Balkan Sasieni. I recommend it but I do so with a heavy heart, because I want it all for myself. To get the most out of this beauty, use a very wide, shallow bowl such as a Savinelli 316/Rossi 8316.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Gold Vintage Cut
Bulk Buy Gem
As with everything the Gawith companies do, Kendal Gold and Kendal Gold Vintage Cut are magnificent. Sweet and bright, fragrant and flavorful, a joy for the smoker and those around him. It's light in both body and nicotine, so it can be enjoyed all day every day. Upon opening the bag, you will note right away the quality for which Gawith is known. While Brights and Goldens are princes of the Virginia varieties, they can be mistreated or mishandled, leading to some less than desireable outcomes. But Gawith knows exactly what they're doing. They'll never let you down.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Gold
Gateway Puff
Every offering from Gawith Hoggarth & Co is worth a try, and this one is no different. As many of their blends are very strong, Kendal Gold is a good place to start for anyone dipping a toe into the British end of the pond who isn't sure about venturing into kick-your-ass territory. KG is mellow and smooth, bread and hay, citrus and just a bit of sugar on the tip of the tongue. Classic Virginia goodness that won't burn your mouth or punch you in the gut and turn you green if you forget to eat before puffing. Additionally, the choice of golden Virginias offers a sweeter flavor than most dark or red Virginias, so it's very inviting for beginners or anyone looking for something a bit milder. As with all GH&Co products, it only gets better with age, so squirrel some away in your cellar and you won't regret it.

Sutliff - Balkan II
Excellent
Another winner for Sutliff. It does require some drying time, otherwise it does not keep a light and will bite the tongue. The flavors however are particularly nice.

Sutliff - 503 Heavy English
Golden Goodness
The lemon Virginias make it special. I love English & Balkans that leave out the red Virginias. There's just something great that happens. Heavy English is light enough to be an all day smoke, but still has enough flavor to be satisfying. Room note is nice, I enjoy the aromas it leaves floating around my living room. I definitely recommend it to anyone who appreciates a subtly sophisticated English or Balkan blend.

Peter Stokkebye - PS306 English Oriental Supreme
Improves with Age
I put my jar in the cellar for two years, and I've been so pleasantly rewarded. Everything that was good about it when it was fresh is still good, but now it's even better. I wasn't expecting to see so much of a difference, but it's really striking.

Davidoff - English Mixture 50g
Yuck-ish
An English without orientals? Not for me. If a blender wants to leave out the orientals, he needs to add more latakia to balance out the lack and retain some of the smoke and spice. Yes, this one has some perique in it to replace some of the spiciness of oriental leaf, but it doesn't work for me. Add the perique if you want, but only in addition to the orientals. Never forego the orientals, especially if you're going to call it "English". The archetypal English blend requires orientals somewhere in the mix. As a cigar, this is interesting. If I imagine that I'm smoking a cigar, it's a bit better, making a bit more sense.

Davidoff - Royalty 50g
Excellent
Very close to English archetypal perfection. I've aged my current supply over three years and it is so beautiful, so nuanced, so complex. Highly recommend.

Peterson - Early Morning Pipe 50g
Perfection
Holy Moly. Wow. I've aged a few tins for two years and it is fantastic. It's on the lighter side of medium in strength, the room note is wonderful, and the taste is medium. The bright Virginias really make this blend special. Naturally sweet, bready, buttery, grassy. The latakia is just the right amount, and it's rounder and fruitier than typically creosote latakias. It's mild. And the orientals are relatively mild as well, but somehow they add up to something more than the sum of their parts. I've been smoking it every day since I popped the jar open. It will be gone soon, and I'll be disappointed.

Sutliff - Lord Nelson
"Perfect"
Lord Nelson is among the most dependable, beautiful, and satisfying Balkans you could ever smoke. I have some every day, and it gets better every time I smoke it. I just bought another pound. It's the lemon Virginias that play so nicely with a very mellow, almost "fruity" latakia - fruity in the way that madagascan black pepper is fruity. There aren't many Balkans or even English blends using all lemon Virginias and no reds, so this is a hidden gem. One of the most unsung blends available, one of the best secrets there is. I hope it never goes out of production.

Mac Baren - HH Balkan Blend 3.5oz
More BurVa than Balkan
Two years ago I enjoyed HH Balkan Blend a great deal. Today, perhaps due to the changing character of the aged blend and perhaps due to my own evolving tastes, I enjoy it less. The first thing to reach your nose from the jar is honeyed burley and a note like dark fired kentucky. MB is famous for its burleys and cavendish so that's no surprise – play to your strengths, right? But there's not enough oriental leaf here for it to fall under the balkan umbrella. The latakia is neat, sweet and smoky like barbecue instead of bitter like creosote, and it works with the burley and the bright virginias. It's a round, sweet, nutty, earthy blend with a little bit of smoke from the barbecuey latakia. But the orientals have faded. Now it's more of a colonial style blend than a balkan. It's still relatively good, just much more burley and virginia than anything else. A decent BurVa, but if you want a Balkan then aged HH Balkan probably isn't the one.

Cornell & Diehl - Bright Virginia Ribbon
Fantastic Blender
For a nice, sweet, tangy, stiff Virginia blender, reach for this one. I have a couple pounds in the cellar at all times.

Cornell & Diehl - Palmetto Balkan 8oz
Very, Very, VERY Weird
First thing I smell in the tin is vegetal and metallic, like the smell you get when you open a can of green beans. I thought something had gone wrong and my tin was rotten. I took a deeper snuffle and was baffled to find boiled peanuts as a second primary aroma. So, the first three notes are mushy green beans, boiled peanuts, and cheap metal. Behind that there is some spice from the latakia, some floral earthiness from the oriental leaf, and some tangy sourness from the red Virginias. The whole chord is relatively "dark" and wet smelling, evoking boggy peat moss and the stink of decaying autumn leaves and dank mud on the forest floor. There are smaller notes of citrus and black pepper, some smoke and leather, but the overwhelming character of this blend is old, fermenting vegetable matter. Musty, wet, soily, moldy. I don't see any mold, because I see a truckload of the greasy antifungal powder all over these ribbons, but it sure smells like it. Funky. Cheesy. Bean-y, leguminous. I wish I could lay hands on a sample from a separate batch or two, because I CANNOT figure out what C&D's blenders were trying to accomplish here. It is very weird, very different, and perhaps it might even become a bit interesting once it's had enough time to settle. I say "settle", because "mellow" isn't the right word. It's not rough or strong or overbearing, it's just so damned weird.

Sutliff - Balkan S 957 Match
Best of Mild Balkans
BS 759 Match is the best mild Balkan blend around. The orientals are sour and floral and earthy and delicate, and they take centerstage, as oriental leaf should do in a Balkan blend. The latakia used here is sweet, a bit more like DFK than the creosote smokiness of the latakia you find in Pirate Kake for example. Burley imposes some cool burning order while Virginia sweetens the pot and adds those archetypal grassy-hay-bready-citrus notes. I could smoke this one all day, and I do. The flavors are so nuanced and interesting, and they develop and evolve without transgressing the major chord. Earthy and floral, buttery smooth, creamy, nutty, spicy, sour, and smoky. It's so satisfying. Doesn't pack a wallop, so if you want something stronger go for Casbah or Ten Russians or Blockade Runner. But if you want a perfect all day Balkan english blend, this one's the winner.

Cornell & Diehl - Stratfordshire
Not as Good
After just a few weeks in the jar, the flavors have changed quite a bit. No longer as good as it was when it was fresh. The flavors have become less married, less balanced, more separate, more pronounced in their disparateness. They don't meld anymore, and they take turns performing centerstage. Curiously, the first flavor coming through is the cavendish, with its dirty, soily, gritty taste. Next the latakias and orientals, then the virginias. Eventually the virginias and the cavendish develop a sort of interplay, but all four show through by turns and no puff or sip is ever the same as the last. If you want to play guessing games, go for it, you'll probably like this one. Not for me, though.

Cornell & Diehl - Red Odessa
Interesting
The shag cut virginias do something nice for this blend. Some of the leafs have a chunky cut for slower burning but a lot of the virginia has a shag cut, making those bready red virginias pop. It's interesting, definitely worth a try. Good for a bulk blend.

Foundation Cigar Company - The Tabernacle Havana CT-142 Toro
Fantastico
¡Super bien bueno! This is one of my favorite sticks of all time. It's not a blow-you-away smoke, nothing earth shatteringly original, but it's so good. It hits all the marks, excellent flavors developing through the stick, consistent wraps, consistent burn, sweet, dark, smooth, spicy, and one of the best room notes you will ever find. So damned good.

Foundation Cigar Company - The Tabernacle Broadleaf Toro
Excellent
One of my favorite sticks. So full of flavor. Cannot go wrong with these.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Rum Twist
Choices, Choices
Gawith makes the world's best rum blends in every category. I'm a diehard fan of their Navy Flake, having already pledged my eternal fealty. But for pure Virginia rum aromatic blends? Yezzir, this here's the champion. You cannot show me a better pure virginia aromatic with rum, especially one this strong that maintains its incredibly robust character through the entire bowl. An Old Style thick twist of Virginia tobacco, strong, creamy, grassy, bready, sweet, just a bit spicy, burning cool all the way to the bottom of the bowl and delivering a swift nicotine kick straight to the pants. This one's a gem, boys. Holy cow. If I didn't love balkan English blends so much I'd convert to Virginia right now, on the spot, and this one would sit at the head of the table.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Sweet Black Cherry Twist
Food for the Pantheon
Dear, sweet God in heaven. I love this ambrosia. The strongest "aromatic" you will ever find, a pure Virginia aromatic. Smokes cool in the pipe if you sip it, the virginia stays sweet and flavorful until the last bit of fine white ash, and the room note is very agreeable. If you enjoys cigars in addition to pipes you'll probably love this. I don't deserve it but I want more. I want the whole US consignment. My rope has been cellaring for a few years now and it's perfect. Time to get a new one and start aging it.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Whisky Twist
Excellent
My rope has been cellared for almost three years now, and it is perfect. I want to say it couldn't possibly get any better than this, but I believe it may at that. I can't smoke much of this at a time because it is *really* strong, so it will age several more years before I get all the way through it. If you can ever find it in stock, grab it. Grab it up in a hurry, because you won't find many tobaccos like it.

Samuel Gawith - Navy Flake 50g
Perfection
America started this whole tobacco thing, but those Brits win the contest, hands down. This is by far the greatest navy flake currently in existence. Both sister companies Sam Gawith and Gawith Hoggarth always use the very highest quality leaf as nothing else will suffice. They give it that Old World royal treatment. More than a touch of class. This had been fit for the Queen and now it's fit for the King Himself. As companies the Gawiths represent the absolute standard for excellence, the index, the highest benchmark one could aspire to meet. As always, this blend provided truly remarkable tobaccos, exciting flavors, intoxicating aromas, satisfaction guaranteed. Smoke so thick and creamy you need to chew it. Virginias so grassy you'll think you've been transported to a meadow in the North Riding (that's Cornwall for you yanks). Latakia so damned smoky-spicy delicious it'll curl your toes. And finally, take care, boys: there is so much booze in this stuff it will make you tipsy. Such a treat, such perfection. When I crave a navy flake with all the classic components -- Virginia, Latakia, and a cask of sweet rum -- I never reach for anything else. All the pretenders should wave the white flag, pack it up, and go home. The real one has arrived. Accept no substitutes.

Dan Tobacco - Bill Bailey's Balkan Blend 500g
Very Scottish
Not great. I feel a bit deceived by the manufactured scarcity of this blend. It's not very English, but rather incredibly Scottish. It's a very peaty, toasty, malty, salty Scottish VaPer with some soapy, dried out latakia. Orientals are barely detectable, drowned out by the DFK and perique. The virginias aren't very good either. Mostly brights and lemons that clash with the soapy, ashy (=over cured) latakia. I'm disappointed because this stuff is NEVER in stock and I've been waiting several years for it, so I bought the 500g bag. Mistake? Maybe. Definitely maybe. An old tin that I had a little while ago tasted a bit better though, so I'll give this half kilo some time in the cellar to see what develops in a few years. Fingers crossed. Hoping I don't wind up with 500 grams of useless mattress stuffing. **All that said, I do award major points for the lack of Microban antifungal. Unless Laudisi is opening up factory sealed packaging and adding the Microban treatment in themselves, it shouldn't be there. And if it is there, it is so minimal that I haven't found any yet. I just jarred up half a kilo and none jumps out at me. As Microban looks like greasy talcum powder, smells like bitter apple and vinegar in its raw form and burning tires and aspirin during combustion in your bowl, and there is always a chunk or two in every tin or bag, the few tobaccos without it (only the UK and European imports) always taste so much more natural.

F & K - Sterling Balkan
Interesting, but Mostly Charcoal
Another update: After a very thorough inspection and several probationary bowls, I find that my half-kilo bag is more than half full of charcoal, just like the several ounces I bought a couple years ago. It smells very nice, and some of it even still looks and feels like latakia, and it doesn't just crumble immediately into crumbs and shards, but all it does in the bowl is get hot. It doesn't smoke. It doesn't burn. It doesn't give off aroma. It doesn't have any flavor. It just sits in the pipe and *cooks* the wood and the small percentage of viable tobacco in the mixture. If you're not careful it will cook your stem and your mouth too. By weight and by volume, it is more than half charcoal. What a ripoff. I will never buy this junk again.

Rattray's - Black Mallory 500g
Best Standard English
Very good, very different. So refreshing to take a break from the G.L.Pease/Drucquer/C&D=Laudisi monopoly. Relatively full bodied without coating the tongue and palate. Smoky and spicy, sour, and also very sweet without a cloying, fake taffy topping. Also, the antimicrobial used by all of Laudisi's companies seems delightfully lesser in quantity if not entirely absent here.

Drucquer & Sons - Levant Mixture 200g
Rustic Powerhouse
Very good, very exemplary Balkan. Each note in the chord is well pronounced, yet none drowns out any other, working together in harmony and complementarity. On the whole, the blend is excellent while also very rustic, very rough around the edges. Whereas something like the Casbah is sleek and smooth, this one is very rough. If Casbah is a newly polished Cadillac, this one is your dad's old 4x4, covered in mud, rust holes through all the floorboards -- there's no substitute for it when you need to tow something heavy and dirty, but you wouldn't drive it to pick up a girl on a first date. Each one has its role, each one gets the job done, but they do very different things.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Dark Bird's Eye
Holy Smoke, Indeed
Dark Bird's Eye is divine, perfect, archetypal. All tobacco is technically American but those Brits sure do it well. They do it better than we do over here across the pond in the shallow end. Just a little embarrassing, that we invent tobacco smoking but they take it from us and do it better. They've perfected it. All of my very favorite blends are from England.

Captain Earle's - Ten Russians 8oz
Ties with Casbah
Like Casbah but with a lot less of the fake boozy top note they pour all over that stuff. The exact same top note is used here, just a lot less of it. Same orientals here, just a slightly smaller proportion. Different ratio of Virginias here, and a bit more latakia. It's fascinating what will happen with just the smallest tweaks to the recipe. Ten Russians is very good, I have almost a pound in the cellar and I will grab another pound for later. The thing that disappoints me however is that all these "separate" companies are all really the same company. Laudisi (i.e., Smokingpipes) owns and/or controls most of the big ones: C&D, G.L. Pease, Two Friends, Captain Earle's, Castello, Briar Works are all sub labels of the same conglomerate company, and even Sutliff/Mac Baren are subsidiaries or affiliated partners. There are companies which have been around for hundreds of years and, hence, are much older than Laudisi and not outright owned by them, such as the two Gawith companies and Peterson just to name three, but Laudisi still maintains monopolistic distribution agreements with most of them. Consequently, all these companies source from the same farms, the same tobaccos, and use the same four master blenders, so they all taste the same. And this makes sense because they simply are exactly the same. There is no choice, only the illusion of choice. You like Captain Earle better than Drucquer & Sons? Wrong, they're exactly the same. Same tobaccos from the same farms blended by the same blend masters. I spend about a thousand dollars a month here, so obviously it's not that bad, but the whole illusion of choice thing is very frustrating. Of course I'll keep buying, keep consuming product like a good little piggy, but I will also keep wishing there were more genuine variety and competition. 4.5 stars because the blend is nice and they used less of the sugary chemical topping.

Cornell & Diehl - Black Frigate 8oz
Big n' Boozy English
Top of the line English with big rum flavor. HOWEVER... I wish they would use only real rum and leave off the fake, sugary, taffy, candy topping. It's one of the same ones they put on Drucquer's Casbah. The rum flavor is there in the background, because they do indeed soak in rum a portion of the tobacco used for this blend, but then they apply a sickly sweet topping to "seal in" the rum flavor. The result is an undeniably smooth blend with lots of character, some nice interplay between the components, but IMO lacking sufficient oriental leaf. It is a great smoke, and I stock a pound of it in my cellar so I always have some on reserve, but the gooey taffy topping results in the subtraction of a whole star for me. If they would leave off the chemical flavoring agents this would be a five star smoke. It loses still further for me because the chemical agents positively ruin the aroma.

Sutliff - Crumble Kake Virginia Perique 1.5oz
Very Average
Not much special happening here, especially from a premium tinned brand. The virginias are mellow with a little sweetness, not very bright but instead dark and rich. The perique is barely present, just detectable. Neither shines, neither stands out. They just sit in the corner like two very quiet dinner guests whose personalities gel together harmoniously, but probably only because they have no personality to speak of. They don't offend, but they don't entertain or contribute to the conversation either. Above all what we have here is a very mild, muted blend that doesn't do much for the palate. Age doesn't help either; it only makes the blend even more mellowed out and muted and boring. Granted, I've preferred English/Balkan blends for years now, but I do still appreciate a good VaPer, VaBur, or straight Virginia. This one just isn't it.

Sillem's - Black 100g
Rare and Interesting
It is very rare that a tobacco straddles the line between aromatic and non-aromatic, while still doing both well. This one does it somehow. It has great tobacco - spicy, sharp, creamy, round, nutty, sweet, smoky, just full of tobacco flavor. And it also does the aromatic thing very well too, being topped with a fruity, creamy, almost marzipan or amaretto flavor, which does not blur out the tobacco flavors and aromas. If I had to criticize it, I would point out that it's very light in body; I want it to be stronger. It's a lot stronger than the average candy-bomb aro from Sutliff or C&D, but that's not saying much. Smokingpipes rates its strength at a 3 and that's fair. I just wish it were a 4 or 5. It is very good though. It comes in a chunky, rustic ribbon cut but I needed to rub it out still further to fit in my little Peterson 406, a pipe I've dedicated to English aromatics. Moisture is a bit dry and it is tough to keep lit. All in all I definitely recommend it. It lives up to the hype. As good or better than Sillem's Red.

Cornell & Diehl - Bijou 2oz
Excellent
Archetypal Virginia/Oriental blend with a touch of honey-flavored topping. Great stuff. Katerini pairs well with the VA leafs they chose here. Cellar some for a few years and it will be even better.

Samuel Gawith - Navy Flake 8oz
Brilliant. Best English Navy Flake Available.
Gawith is the undisputed King of English navy flakes. The smoke is so thick, so full bodied, you can chew it. The rum topping is goldilocks, just right, dances in the background on the very tip of the tongue and shines in the retrohale, nowhere appearing as a goopy, syrupy, sugary, taffy bomb. It smells and tastes like real rum, not some chemical concoction. The latakia here is just barely enough to make itself known as a player in the harmony, not center stage, not in your face. It's just enough to frame and support the Virginia leaf. As in all Gawith products, the Virginias used here are of the highest quality available, sweet and grassy and spicy, bready and bright and citrusy, but then also dark and mature and musty with notes of stewed figs and stone fruits. SmoPipes rates the strength at a level 4, and a Gawith 4 is much stronger than a Drucquer or Sutliff or C&D level 4. It's very strong. But it's not club-you-over-the-head and leave you knocked out strong. It's perfect. It's so incredibly good I can't even wrap my head around it yet. It's absolutely the best English navy flake I've ever had, and I've had all of them. It's the B.E.S.T. Without question. I wish there were more available. Around Christmastime I was lucky enough to snag this one and a Firedance Flake. It's such a rare and special treat, I can't believe I scored eight ounces. I would buy five pounds if it were available. Six stars.

Cornell & Diehl - Tuggle Hall
Interesting
Who would have guessed that latakia, perique, and white burley, without any virginia, could be so warm and smooth and inviting? Perique and latakia are both spicy, so one might think that these two would compete for dominance, but instead they complement and enhance each other. The burley works as a matrix or substrate, framing and rounding out the pairing. It burns super cool, no bite, lots of flavor, medium-full in body. I did need a few relights and had to drain the gurgle a few times, but at the end of the session my bowl was left bone-dry with no moisture. And there wasn't any heel or dottle, just a fine grey ash. Finally, without virginia one might expect a powerfully pungent room note but, quite the opposite, the burley makes it very inviting. Tuggle Hall is NOT fancy, it's not sophisticated, it's not innovating or breaking new ground -- instead, it feels like kicking off your shoes and putting your feet up at the end of a long work week. It's an unpretentious take-me-as-I-am comfort blend that doesn't take a gourmand's refined palate to enjoy. It's the everyman's staple blend, a no-nonsense, niche-less anytime blend that smokes all day.

Cornell & Diehl - Pirate Kake 16oz
Superb
I've been aging a pound of this for several years and it is wonderful. Superb. Fully married flavors, somewhat more mellow, sweet and smoky and full bodied. It's just beautiful. Piney, nutty, buttery, a little pop of spice from the orientals. The latakia is of course the star of the show, but the burley is not overwhelmed by it and the orientals make for a very elevating condiment. It is a bit moist, but that appears to take nothing away from it. The harmony is simply blissful.

Sutliff - SPS-17 Lavish English
Very Nice, Better with Age
"Lavish English" is both lavish and English, so the name works. It's not at all strong, light in both body and nicotine content, but there is some satisfying spice that will keep your interest throughout the bowl, owing to the quality latakia and oriental leaf used here. The aromatic topping is fantastic in the jar, pleasant in the bowl, and positively inviting in the room note, complementing the sweet virginia leaf rather than covering it up. The topping also makes an appearance on the palate as well, adding some extra depth and dimension to the standard flavors of a light English blend. Whereas most aromatics have no flavor at all, this is one you can actually taste. I've been cellaring mine for a few years now and it keeps getting better. I recommend it as a must-have staple for any well rounded cellar.

Drucquer & Sons - Casbah 100g
Drucquer's Best
The Casbah is simply the best Balkan there is. I would be incredibly happy if nobody bought it so I could negotiate a bulk purchase of their entire quarterly output. I want all of it.

Newminster - No.403 Superior Round Slices
Great
Hard to keep lit but, when it is lit, it's very nice.

McConnell - Scottish Cake 50g
Still Not a Fan
For my evening pipe I was looking for a blend with these components -- Virginia, Perique, Dark Fired Kentucky -- so I reached for my jar of McConnell Scottish Cake, but it's still not doing much for me. It's mellow enough yet still has some kick, which is nice, but it doesn't have much flavor. With perique and DFK I always expect a flavor-bomb. Stewed fruits and umami spice from the perique, smokey robustness from the DFK, darkly sweet grass and hay from the dark Virginias. I'm just not getting those from MSC. It could be the pipe, a Peterson 150, perhaps a bit too shallow and not narrow enough to let the Virginias do their thing, but somehow I doubt it.

Hearth & Home - Black House 1.75oz
Does Not Age Well
My first review below still stands, but only applies to freshly opened tins. I revisited a few I had jarred for aging and was sorely disappointed. Everything turned sour and grey and bland and gross. Open it one tin at a time, and smoke it all right away. Do not jar for aging, do not try any of your favorite tricks. Just open it and smoke it if you want to enjoy it. — Black House is simply beautiful. I went on a Balkans-only kick for about a year, then allowed Englishes into the rotation, and Black House has always been among the very best. I have since diversified my rotation to once again include Virginias, burleys, dark fired Kentucky, American/codger mixtures, and the odd aromatic, but Black House is still top shelf. It never disappoints. Leathery, oily, smokey, a little spicy. Burns cool and slow, smells great, tastes like a dream. Virginias for bready, grassy notes and a little sweetness; black cavendish for mellow creaminess; burleys for cool-burning balance and structure; latakia for leathery smoke and definition; orientals for spice. And I don't always like perique in my Balkans, but it works here. It adds depth, plays well with the Virginas, and it adds another dimension to the spice of the orientals. Oriental spice tickles the high notes while the perique spice thrums a bit lower. It's just beautiful. You can never go wrong with BH, especially as a final contemplative bowl to close out the evening. Then you can sleep like a prince and start the next day with a little Early Morning Pipe. EMP as an opener and BH as a closer, a winning team.

Mixture No. 79 - Mixture No. 79 1.5oz
Surprisingly Nice
I bought six pouches of this stuff just over two years ago and never tried it, never did anything with it, so it's just been sitting in my cellar. By chance I decide to give it a whirl today, and it's great. I've been missing out. It's really good. I'm not a huge aromatic fan but I do love burley mixtures, and this one doesn't sacrifice the quality burley to deliver a nice aroma. The topping is lovely in the tin/bag note, not an overwhelmingly strong or medicine-y punch in the nose as many aromatics give you, and its flavor in the bowl is rather subtle. It doesn't drown out the natural flavors and aromas of the burley, which, IMO, is one of the most versatile and underrated leafs on the scene. Sutliff uses some quality stock in this mixture too, so there's much to be explored and enjoyed here over two or three bowls sipped in a row. I applaud Sutliff's choice to stick with straight burley instead of adding cavendish or virginian leaf. It redounds to the very classically American, i.e., "codger" character of the mixture, which immediately transports me to an idyllic, sunny, summer day on the farm. I can hear the grasshoppers in the field and smell the tall grass. I can see puffs of dandelion pollen wafting by on the lazy breeze. It's the perfect thing to break in a new cob. And since I like it so much, I think I'll buy some more just to see if perhaps I've let it sot too long in the plastic pouch. Maybe it's even better if I jar it fresh and age it that way. Yes, yes, this definitely calls for more research.

Sutliff - Z92 Vanilla Custard
New Convert
Wow!!! I have been a longtime devotee of Sutliff's Crème Brûlée, boasting a remainder of five pounds in my cellar, having smoked a whole pound over two years. But vanilla custard is inarguably better! Yes, it is different, so "better" is sort of an inappropriate term here, but it really is overall better. Holy moly. I better stock up.

Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust - StillWell Star Navy No. 1056
High Hopes...
I applaud what this blendmaster is trying to do, but for me it comes across as trying to do too much. Mixing pipe tobacco with cigars is a great idea, but since they are quite essentially different in many respects, you need to come down firmly on one side while giving a slight tip of the hat in the other's direction. This stick rides the fence, achieving neither pipe tobacco nor cigar status with any certainty or panache. The rum casing/topping used here does not complement the leaves they used. The tobaccos are good enough but not very special. If this were a pipe blend I wouldn't like it because it's not nuanced enough and sort of muddled. But I don't like it as a cigar either, because it transgresses the boundaries of the cigar archetype without giving us anything in return for what we lose, there's no payoff. It's too afraid to be one thing or the other so it achieves neither. It's a decent enough stick, mild and mellow and enjoyable enough to finish once started, but not something I would reach for again because I craved it, because I couldn't stop thinking about it or because it had become a necessary staple of my rotation. It doesn't do anything memorable for me, other than its soaring heights of mediocrity -- especially when considered in light of the premium price point. Ouch. About halfway through, it does develop a nice little nose with some pleasantly interesting notes, and the orientals are just detectable if you seek them out. The Virginias start to do some nice things too, at just about the same point, but they can't caramelize as well without the pipe. In spite of these drawbacks it is good enough to maintain the minimum interest necessary to finish it in a single sitting. It is by no means a "bad" smoke. It's just so safe and middle-of-the-road that it's almost boring. Too safe. When a blender says he's out to shake things up, one expects big, bold moves. But this changes nothing. It's just another Thursday.

Drew Estate - Deadwood Sweet Jane
Always One of the Best
Sweet Jane from Deadwood at Drew Estate is consistently one of the best sticks on the market in the last decade. When you pick one up, you know what you're going to get: reliable quality, dependable flavor and aroma, an eminently enjoyable experience, every single time. There is no beating the Nicaragüense components - they lend themselves to crafting cigars of absolutely every genre, and they make for a winner here, as well. The rugged aromas out of the box are intriguing. The sweetened cap is inviting, and the sweetness really does last, enduring for the whole length of the smoke. The dark mystery of the oily Maduro wrapper adds to the visual experience, while also bringing a pop of spice that plays well against the sweetened cap. The overall strength of the cigar is mellow, but it does not sacrifice even a modicum of flavor to get there. In fact, the mellower strength allows for more subtlety, for a much more nuanced discernment of complexities on the tongue, the palate, and in the nose. When your taste and olfactory senses are not bombarded with quite so much tar-intensity, you are able to taste a lot more, to allow the flavors and aromas to develop and play naturally on the tongue and palate before needing to expel the smoke, to hold it much longer in the nose and to enjoy a slower and more controlled retrohale without the risk of burning the nasopharynx or the nasal mucosa. Pipe smokers will really enjoy Sweet Jane, as smoking pipes teaches us to recognize, identify, and enjoy the many divers and unique notes that form the chords which our blenders compose for us, and no less care has gone into the process of designing, sourcing, selecting, and blending the high quality tobaccos that make up this little gem. If you like cigars, it's a no-brainer, you'll love these. If you are a seasoned pipe smoker? You'll enjoy them even more. These are designed for you, the discerning smoker who knows how to enjoy true top-shelf tobacco. Just be careful! Jane is a most enthralling lover: once you step out with her, you may never want to *leaf* her.

Cornell & Diehl - Virginia Flake
Surprisingly Good
This stuff is scary good, especially for a bulk broken flake. Holy moly. Sweet grass, hay, citrus, fresh baked goods, wow. Very tasty. Enthralling bag/tin note. Very happy I bought the whole pound bag. It pairs VERY well with a helping of perique and a little pinch of burley. So good. Burns down to some of the finest ash I've ever seen. Extra half star.

Sutliff - Balkan S Original Mix Match
Still a Favorite
Still a very nice go-to comfort mix. It's not fancy, it's not spectacular, but it presses all the right buttons. The older it gets in the cellar, the easier it is to keep lit, and the sourer the orientals get. It's a slow-smoking beauty. One of Sutliff's best. Compare with BS 759 Match from the same label. Which one do you like better?

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Kentucky Vintage Cut
Old Faithful
These Brits know what they're doing. Yeah, we invented Kentucky, but they're really good at it.

Samuel Gawith - Fire Dance Flake 8oz
Very Interesting
Tin note is incredibly enticing. Blackberry vanilla brandy? Yes, please. Count me in. These Virginias are of very high quality, as is typical of Gawith; they're sweet and a little spicy. There's something a little medicine-y or chemically, just floating around the top notes of the bouquet. Is it lakeland essence? Tonkin? Artificial flavoring? The overall taste is medium to medium-strong. Strength is on the lighter side of medium. I was expecting the body to be slightly fuller, given Smokingpipes' strength rating of 3 but it is by no means weak. Room note is definitely very nice. It's so interesting. Maybe a little confusing? Perfect for relaxed contemplation, even if only spent in trying to figure this stuff out. I do recommend it. It's aromatic enough for aro fans, and there's enough substantive Virginia here to satisfy those who like classic non-aromatics. Are the earthy, floral, medicine-y notes the lakeland essence? I can't be sure as I've only tried one or two before. I recommend this to anyone looking for a challenge. It's so hard to figure out, but it is sure a lot of fun trying.

Missouri Meerschaum - Washington 5th Avenue Straight (6mm)
5 Star Customer Service
Pipe showed up with a bit of a problem, not exactly catastrophic, but very inconvenient. Contacted the good folks at Smokingpipes and they stepped in to fix it immediately. Excellent service, great company. Can't go wrong.

Falcon - Plymouth Smooth
Damaged Threads, Poor Seal, Weak Draft
Arrived with threads in poor shape, thought I'd give it a shot anyway as all four Falcon items I ordered were of the same relative level of poor quality. Neither bowl makes a good seal on either stem, and there's chips and cracks in the rim of the briar. Looks to be either very old stock or returned and reconditioned. Since everything was sort of the same, all of a piece, I looked at it as Falcon's quality standard and not an aberration. The idea of stems with interchangeable bowls is a neat concept so I gave it a whirl. It's unfortunately a no for me. I can't believe Falcon claims to be the best selling pipe brand in Britain/UK. Seems doubtful. When the broader UK has Dunhill and Ashton *and* Peterson, what would they want with this? Laudisi is a British company, so I should ask someone there.

Peterson - Early Morning Pipe 50g
Great Eye-Opener
This stuff is great. It's been mellowing in my cellar for just over a year, and it's fantastic. Not too sweet, and somehow not too savory even with the latakia and orientals. Opens the eyes and wakes up the palate for the rest of the day. Works best in a conical bowl, wide and shallow.

Sutliff - Creme Brulee
Still the BEST Aromatic
*For an aromatic* this stuff is unquestionably the very best there is. Its note in the jar is the sweetest, creamiest, custardy-est, heaven-on-a-cloud imaginable. If there are infinite universes, this is best aromatic in all of them. Travel with Rick n' Morty through a puddle of portal fluid to any universe among infinity, and Crème Brûlée will be there, reigning as the eternal intergalactic champion of aromatic pipe tobaccos. Sweet, creamy, sticky, sugary, evocative of the best French custard dessert you've ever had, Sutliff has earned a place in heaven for this one. Just so I am not accused of being over the top (ha, yeah right) I will say that the flavor is a bit lacking. It doesn't taste like much, but that's what you get from aromatic pipe tobacco. You're in it for the aroma, not really so much for the flavor. That point not withstanding, the bit of flavor that it does bring to the table is excellent. There isn't much of it, but what is there is as delicious as the aroma. Now, for a final disclaimer, please do not try to compare it with English, Balkan, Burley, Dark Fired Kentucky blends, because this is an aromatic. So, take this review for what it is, a rating of an aromatic tobacco. Once upon a time I had SIX POUNDS of this jarred in my cellar, but many happy sessions have whittled down that number to just FIVE POUNDS. I may need to order another pound, just to keep up my cushion. I would never want to run out of this.

Cornell & Diehl - Haunted Bookshop
Good stuff
For burley lovers, this one's a keeper. All these people saying it tastes like cigarettes? They have no palate! Sure, it's like a cigarette in that they both have tobacco. That's as close as the comparison gets. It tastes nothing like cigarettes. Nutty, earthy, buttery burley; fruity, spicy perique, and just a pinch of Virginias. It's a burley-smoker's comfort food. It's nothing fancy, nothing to marvel at, but definitely something you can reach for again and again. It's great. Also, I reviewed this two years ago almost to the day, and it does cellar well. It's been marinating for two years and it is very nice. Again, if you think this tastes like cigarettes, you have no palate.

Solani - Virginia Flake - 633 100g
Just "Good" Va
It's a good-enough Virginia. The tin note is really something spectacular, something bright and special. In the pipe, though, it's just good. It's a decent enough bright/lemon/yellow Va flake. There is some perique there, but not really enough to call it a VaPer. It's almost more of a pure Virginia.

Seattle Pipe Club - Plum Pudding Special Reserve 4oz
Very Good
I've had a jar of this sitting in the cellar for a few years. It comes out on special occasions and it's still just the best. It gets mellower, more complex, even more flavorful with time. So good.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Burley and Bright
Meh, Okay
It's pretty bitey. It bites. Really enjoyable tin/jar note. Smells incredibly good before lighting. Surprisingly spicy on the lightup. Room note is nice. Chocolatey and vanilla. Decent Virginias, burleys not so good. It burns really hot, really fast. Hard to keep lit, especially if you try to smoke it at a slow enough pace to enjoy the flavors and keep from getting tongue/palate/mouth bite. Much nicer than the "cigarette" some reviewers have assessed it to be, but not great. Best thing is the tin note and the room note. I might keep it around to use as potpourri.

Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust - Muestra de Saka Unicorn Diademas Deluxe
Waste of Money
Some mold on the case and cellophane. Arrived with wrapper leaf cracked in two places, at the shoulder and the foot. Impossibly tight draw. Uneven burn, thing canoed all the way up, due to an uneven roll. First few minutes smelled rotten, like dirt and diesel fuel -- either due to the excess of binder glue I found on the foot, or the mold. The flavor did become interesting, mellow, round, buttery, nutty, for a few minutes. But it was not complex at all. Unfortunately a one-note song. It's a decent note, but definitely not worth $100, or the $80+tax I paid for it on sale. Very disappointing. There are some really nice Nicaraguans out there for ≈$20 or less. Try Montecristo Pilotico by Pepe Mendez. Especially given the quality control problems, this ain't no unicorn. Just a kudu with a broken horn. Two stars is pushing it. Edit: Smokinngpipes did refund my money for this one, which is great.

Mac Baren - HH Bold Kentucky 16oz
Bold, Buttery, Barbecued Brisket
My first time, I did not expect to enjoy this. I did not like the idea of barbecue sauce and fatty, drippy, burnt, oily MEAT in my pipe! It just seemed WRONG. But I tried it on a whim and it turned out to be so, so right. So seductive. Perhaps still a bit wrong, but wrong in all the right ways. It's like a deep, dark, shameful secret thing you love doing every chance you get but don't want anyone in your family to find out about. I'm a closeted DFK lover, and the taboo of it is exhilarating.

Newminster - No.403 Superior Round Slices
Addictive
Fragrant, creamy, rich, smooth, a bit spicy, sweet around the edges. So very good.

Peterson - 3 P's Peterson's Perfect Plug 50g
Pretty Great
Still trying to figure this one out. It's a bit hard to process into smokable form. Either it's beef jerky or it's fruit leather. Either way, it smokes wet and when the gurgle sits in the bowl it makes the rest of it bitter. No matter how long I leave it out to dry (up to six hours), it starts out awesome but then turns muddy and bitter. Once I figure out how to dry it a bit better it will be a near-perfect burley blend. I love the way the plugs store and age, I just need to figure out the preparation.

Cornell & Diehl - Yorktown 2oz
Very Decent
Classic VA blend. Very round for a straight VA with such full body. Surprisingly unsweet, however. I was expecting a fair bit more sweetness but this one is very savory, and the first half of the bowl is spicy. It does have all the Virginia markers though - hay, grass, bread, even a few citrusy notes here and there. But all the stoving C&D does makes this one very earthy and "dark", not very bright. Decent stuff, glad I bought a pound of it to throw in the cellar. Oh, also, it seems very dry but that's how it's supposed to be. The bulk bags and the tins all show the same level of near-brittle dryness, but it smokes excellent this way. Can't wait to see what it does in a year or two. It will make a nice blending component. A nice base for some perique and burley, maybe a little oriental leaf.

Cornell & Diehl - Cavendish Cut Burley
Decent Stuff
Classic burley-forward blend. It burns a little fast, but not too hot even so. Sweet and sour, very nice room note. I can see this making a valuable blending base.

Seattle Pipe Club - Plum Pudding 8oz
Not as Good as Special Reserve
There is indeed something ineffably alluring about Plum Pudding. It's really good. But not as good as the Special Reserve version. Now that stuff is amazing. But the regular version is not as strong, so it's more of an all-day smoke. If you want to enjoy Plum Pudding all day, Special Reserve is too strong. So the regular version is an option if you want to smoke it all day.

Indian Motorcycle - Habano Churchill
Expensive Yuck
Premium price for this stick, but what you get is bargain basement throw-aways. I've had dollar sticks that were better than this. Muddled flavors, tarry aroma, draw gets tight after the first inch. Tastes like a wet paper bag. Whoever put this together is very confused, tried to do too many contrary things with it. I'm really happy I only bought one of these.

Cornell & Diehl - Pegasus
Classic Enjoyment
Sometimes you just can't beat the blissful burley of a classic American blend. Delicious Virginias meet woodsy Burleys, while a bit of Cavendish rounds things out (at first). I can see why this has been such a long-running blend from C&D. I love it. I can't put my finger on the casing, it's very subtle, not aromatic at all, just enhances the natural tobacco flavors. The room note isn't half bad either. Very nutty and light. The cavendish starts to wilt and taste muddy a bit early, but that's my only gripe.

Filters & Adaptors - Nording Keystone Filters 100g
Fantastic
I'm not sure how I've gotten along all these years without these little beauties. They make for the coolest, driest, most flavorful and enjoyable smoke I've ever had. No more moisture pooling in the bowl and needing relights to ruin the bouquet. Far, far less gurgle. Almost none at all. I will never smoke without them. They solve so very many problems. Three cheers

Rattray's - Westminster Abbey 100g
Decent Halfway Aromatic
I'll call it a "halfway" aromatic because they've tried to meet somewhere in the middle between the dedicated aromatic which hides bad tobacco under goopy sugar syrup, and the non-aromatic which uses no sauce at all and relies on high quality tobacco. Rattray's apparently starts with good tobacco, which is evident from the first pop of the tin, and has not soused it in heavy syrup. The caramel casing and topping is not sweet, does not "taste", but only leaves a favorable room note. The virginias in this blend are decently bready, grassy; the burley keeps it cool; and the black cavendish carries the caramel. A decent middle of the road aromatic, approachable even by those of us who do not like overly sweet, sticky, candied, sugar-bomb aromatics, who prefer always to taste the noble leaf no matter what we smoke.

Sutliff - Duke Albert
Nice Mellow "American"
Not very "aromatic", which in this case seems like a plus. Mellow, ever so slightly sweet Virginias, curiously floral burleys. Not much aromatic topping present, certainly not enough to act as a flavoring or sweetener on the tongue. Very classic tobacco taste. Smokingpipes rates it 3-1-3, and I agree the room note can be rated 1, but the strength is not. 3 and neither is the taste. I'd make this one a 2-1-2. It's a good all day mixture, great room note.

Presbyterian - Reformation 50g
I don't get it
Not sure what all the fuss is about. I think people like it because they're supposed to. They assume, "well it's a very longstanding and much-loved recipe so it MUST be good". But it's not that great. It's just okay. Good virginias, not much else going on. Smells great, but sort of a letdown.

Cornell & Diehl - Redburn 16oz
Big Love for Burley
Big'n'Burley blend. Can't go wrong. Try this if you like the barbecue smokiness but don't like latakia

Lane Limited - BL/WB
Burley for Breakfast
This is a very solid "breakfast blend", always a great choice for your first pipe of the day. Bowl of cereal? No thanks. Have a bowl of BL/WB instead to start your day the right way. Pairs well with coffee!

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