Sutliff - SPS-17 Lavish English
Neither lavish nor particularly English, it is still pretty nice. It's VERY mild and very delicate, so it takes some rather contemplative quietude to enjoy. It's not something you'd smoke while engaged in any other activity. It requires your full attention to appreciate the fine nuance. It's not one that jumps out of the pipe. You have to look for it with some patience.
Drucquer & Sons - Casbah 100g
Growing On Me
So, I keep coming back to the Casbah, hoping it will grow on me, and it is, slowly. The tin note is still fantastic, oh, such promises it makes. The smoke is leathery, woody, spicy, creamy, nutty, smoky, a bit floral, definitely a firm member of the Balkan tribe. About the room note I must disagree with Smokingpipes, who rate it a 2: I have to give it a 4. It is NOT pleasant. It is tolerable. I thank my lucky stars that my HVAC's air handler exchanges huge quantities of air somewhat rapidly while I smoke the Casbah. Moreover, there is none of that very desirable aroma from the pipe itself when I smoke a bowl of Casbah. Usually one loves to waft and sniff the odd curls of smoke emanating from the bowl between puffs. This is a large part of the enjoyment. Yet, as it burns, the Casbah smells sharp, acrid, bitter, ammoniac. Thoroughly UN-pleasant, bordering on the intense. The flavors are all very nice, weaving, dancing through several discretely characteristic stages; but without the warm, bready, grassy, figgy notes of carefully selected Virginia leafs doing their thing in the background, one is robbed of half the experience. It is jolting to taste ambrosia on the palate and in the retrohale and then to smell bitter ammonia in the bowl. The Casbah is without doubt a very nice mixture, one I will continue to enjoy, but I can only agree with JassonWB's assessment that the dearth of Virginia leaf must be remedied.
Newminster - No.403 Superior Round Slices
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
Always the Best
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 amazingly 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
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
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
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.
Drucquer & Sons - Casbah 100g
There's something I don't quite understand about this one yet. There is a very heavy casing, smells boozy and sweet. Not as strong as an aromatic like, say, scarecrow, but definitely approaching that level. It's also difficult to light and keep lit, but I imagine that's easy to solve with some drying time. Make sure to rub out to a fine crumble. Now, the Virginias are very nice. The latakia is mostly a structural element, and it performs admirably. The orientals pair very nicely with them, and the ratio is definitely something to write home about, somehow quite different from most other balkans. It's like a boutique version of C&D's Super Balkan. The thing that throws me off is the heavy, boozy casing. Why would they have done that? If you want a boozy English, you already have Black Frigate, which is FANTASTIC. The same company makes both Pease/Draquer & Sons and C&D, so why the overlap? A balkan is never the same thing as a big boozy English navy flake. What gives? This stuff is really nice, I just think the strong, sweet casing throws off the delicate interplay between fine oriental leaf and latakia.
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.
Mac Baren - Navy Flake 16oz
I have a pound of this which has been aging in my cellar a few years. Every time I come back to it, it gets better and better. Curiously, it's best at the bottom of the bowl, where the sugars have all developed and the flavors married harmoniously. So good. So good.
Peterson - De Luxe Navy Rolls 50g
Yup. When you need to recalibrate your palate, you reach for this one. Everything you want, nothing you don't.
Cornell & Diehl - Virginia Flake
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 Sobranie 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
These Brits know what they're doing. Yeah, we invented Kentucky, but they're really good at it.
Samuel Gawith - Fire Dance Flake 8oz
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
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
FOR AN AROMATIC, this stuff is unquestionably the very best there is. Its note in the jar is the sweetest, creamiest, custardy-est, pastry-est, most orgasmically delicious heaven-on-a-cloud you could ever possibly imagine. If there are infinite universes, THIS is best aromatic in EVERY ONE 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 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. I shall return to this hallowed place, every year, to express my love for, and renew my fealty to, the one and only Sutliff: Crème Brûlée. Long Live the KING! Once upon a time I had SIX POUNDS of this jarred in my cellar, but many happy sessions have whittled that amount down to FIVE POUNDS. I may need to order another pound, just to keep up my cushion. I would never, ever want to run out of this.
Peterson - De Luxe Navy Rolls 50g
Decent Navy CoinCut
This is a fairly standard, fairly dependable VaPer navy coin flake. Virginias are matured, darkened, not bright or red. Perique is more fruity than spicy. Room note is excellent. From tin to tin there's not much variation. Very dependable in that you always know what you're getting. Nothing unexpected.
Cornell & Diehl - Haunted Bookshop
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
Still the best
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
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!
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.
Rattray's - Wallace Flake 50g
Quite Nice, PUF
Almost as nice as Peterson University Flake. Very nice. A go-to VaBur flake. And I love plum casing/topping.
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
Fragrant, creamy, rich, smooth, a bit spicy, sweet around the edges. So very good.
Peterson - 3 P's Peterson's Perfect Plug 50g
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
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
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
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
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
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
Cornell & Diehl - Night Train 16oz
I bought a pound. Excellent all-American blend
Lane Limited - BL/WB
Burley for Breakfast
Solid breakfast blend. Open your eyes with a bowl of BL/WB and a cup of coffee to start your day the right way.
Cornell & Diehl - Red Virginia Cavendish
Just like Sutliff 507-S
This is another one I keep trying to like because I adore cavendished red Virginias in many tinned and bulk mixtures. But, just like with Sutliff 507-S Stoved VA, no matter how I use this one, either as a blender or by itself, it just tastes gritty, musty, dirty. Like ash and mud. No matter the pipe: german clay, meerschaum, briar... I must order them both again, in smaller samples than 8-16 oz., to see if I just got a bad batch last time, the bottom of the barrel, etc.
Sutliff - 507-S Stoved Virginia
I have wanted to like this one for a long time, but I can never make it work. No matter how I use it – either as a blending component or a whole bowl by itself – it just tastes like dirt. And I have a whole pound of it, so that's pretty disappointing. Maybe it was a bad batch? Perhaps I'll order another sample to see if there's a difference.
Former - Private Flake 50g
If You Like Aro VaBurs
For those partial to European style aromatic VaBur mixtures, this is one to try. Decent tobacco, aroma is not too syrupy or medicinal. Compares favorably with Sillem's Red. Fruity, nutty, creamy.
Cornell & Diehl - Black Frigate 2oz
Be-yoo-tee-full Rum Soaked English
Yup, definitely soaked in rum. Sweet and boozy. The first notes from the tin are incredibly off-putting! It reminded me of the candy corn topping from the highly aromatic Scarecrow, which made me worry this would be yet another candied aromatic taffy-bomb dripping with goop, but it's actually quite tasty and the tobacco flavors are very strong. The mix is Virginia-forward, Virginia-focused, but atypically Virginia. It's not the hay and grass and bread dough that one expects from a pure VA, or the grass and bread and stewed fruit of the VaPer, but rather, a dark, matured, almost fermented, deeply cavendished Virginia. Latakia plays mostly background notes here, a supporting role, while the delicately balanced orientals weave in and out, dancing lightly on top of the dynamic playing out between the Virginias and Latakia. One finds the orientals as a spice high up in the nose, just under the eyes, on the retrohale. The strength is quite something, very full bodied, lying heavily on the tongue (but without biting it), and I noticed a fair bit of nicotine whereas I almost never do with any other tobacco. All in all, this is an English mixture in the style of the booze-blasted navy blends of old. I just wish they would leave off the fake flavoring though. Just once, I'd like to try a tobacco like this one without all the chemical flavor tweaking. Pirates and privateers didn't have corn syrup and chemical flavoring agents, and I want to taste what they smoked. As that is not possible, however, I will keep this as a go-to navy blend.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Balkan Mixture 50g
Straight English blend, not a "Balkan" at all. There are no oriental tobaccos here, save for the Latakia itself, but that doesn't count because Latakia is its own category. In short, without any Turkish or other oriental leaf besides the Latakia, you can't have a Balkan. Read the components on the bulk listing of this same tobacco: just VA and Latakia, which is exactly what Gawith and Hoggarth list as the component ingredients even on this tin. "Balkan mixtures traditionally emphasize Orientals... a subtle variation but one that makes Gawith, Hoggarth & Co.'s Balkan Mixture an ideal choice for pipe smokers drawn to Orientals-centric blends." How can they make this claim, going as far as to call it archetypally Balkan, when the characteristic ingredient is intentionally left out?
Cornell & Diehl - Eight State Burley 2oz
Time Muddled Flavors
I reviewed this one when it was produced in 2021, and it was great. I rated it five stars. Almost 18 months later and the flavors are mellower but also muddled, less defined. The fine layers have all been stirred up. I have quite a few tins of this stuff though, so it should be interesting to see how each fares over the years. Four stars for now.
F & K - Sterling Balkan
As described. Worth a try, especially if you’re working your way through Smokingpipes’s balkan offerings, or if you’re just dipping a toe into the bog.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Dark
Packs a wallop
This is great stuff. I don’t often smoke it by itself, but I use it in a great many of my blending endeavors. Hearty, deep, smokey Virginia. Can’t go wrong.
McConnell - Black Flake 50g
Interesting, A Bit Too Light
One of the most bewitching, enthralling, perfect tin notes I’ve ever experienced. Dark stone fruit, grass, hay, citrusy sweetness, spiciness. But it’s ephemeral. Doesn’t last long once you open the tin. They do all reappear once you get it in the bowl, though. All components of the tin note are present in the bowl — grass and hay, citrusy sweetness, dark stone fruits, a little bit of that raisiny-bready signature “Virginia” flavor. It’s a bit light on the perique, imo, but the Virginias are delicate and light and fine, so maybe any more perique would have drowned them out. I’ve been on an English & Balkan kick for about a year and I wanted to change it up a bit with a dark, sweet, truffly VaPer, and I’m not sure this one hits the spot. If I were hankering for a lighter Virginia with the tiniest pinch of perique, this would probably be a great option. But it’s not satisfying my VaPer tooth. It’s good, it’s just typical of that Scottish style: bright, toasty, almost malty. And that’s not what I wanted when I opened this tin. So I’ll put it in my cellar right next to the Trafalgar and see what it does with some age.
Cornell & Diehl - Folklore 16oz
Folklore is something very special. I have been on a year long English and Balkan kick, and this is definitely not either. But the Kasturi does provide some comfortable familiarity for those of us who prefer the latakia and oriental leafs. It will take a few bowls before I can even wrap my head around this one. It’s very complex and interesting but still has that “comfort food” vibe to it. Another win for the Small Batch team.
Cornell & Diehl - Folklore 16oz
They sent out the email TWO DAYS in advance! That’s plenty of time for all the whiners to be on the site at midnight when the release goes out. If you wanted it that bad, you would have been here on time. To “what about Europe”, get over yourself. You had the same amount of time we all did. We got the emails, we marked our calendars, we stayed up late, and we were here on time, like you should have done. Take responsibility and stop your blubbering. Smokingpipes even limited sales to one per customer, which is a rare bonus lately. They gave you every chance and you blew it. Tough sh*t, boyo! You snooze, you lose.
Sutliff - Revelation Match
Better with Age
I reviewed this stuff a while ago, and my assessment was not glowing. Now that it's had some time to mellow in my cellar, it's a bit better. The plum casing/aroma complements the DFK and the bit of perique nicely. Yeah, it's a bit off the beaten path, but it's interesting. The mixed cuts make for easy packing, easy lighting, cool burning. What's more is that it's not too strong so you can smoke more than one bowl without blowing out your tastebuds or burning out your palate. It won't coat your whole mouth in tar, so you can go on tasting it with each successive bowl. The room note is not intolerable either. It's not top shelf, but definitely not bottom shelf either. Middle shelf.
Sutliff - Lord Nelson
This stuff is maddeningly good. Smooth, creamy, spicy, smoky, cool-burning, sweet & sour… It has everything. What a gem!
Sutliff - Balkan II
Rustic yet Delicate
Sutliff knows what Balkans are about. Heavy on the orientals, latakia for support. Hits the mark every time. This is a gorgeous creation. Luxury blend, indeed.
Peterson - Sweet Killarney 50g
Delicious Burley Aromatic
It’s perfect. Prepare well, rub out to a fine grain. Pack lightly into a tall, narrow bowl. Sip slowly. It’s divine.
Peterson - Early Morning Pipe 50g
Even Better with Age
Early Morning Pipe is indeed the perfect wakeup smoke for the early morning. Located firmly within the English camp, the latakia in this blend will not disappoint lovers of the smokiest leaf. There is just enough Virginia to add some depth and some grassy, bready, sweetness; and the orientals add the perfect amount of delicate spice to waken and invigorate the palate. What’s more is that EMP gets so much better with age. It’s great right out of the tin, but gets even better with time — smoother, sweeter, more thorough marriage of flavors.
Sutliff - Cringle Flake 2021 1.5oz
Since having tried this a second time, I have been informed by the good folks at Smokingpipes that Cringle Flake is cased in vinegar. That explains everything. Just… Wow. I’m going to cellar both of my opened tins for a year and see what happens, hoping the vinegar settles down. I’ll review them again much later.
Sutliff - Cringle Flake 2021 1.5oz
Pure Vinegar, with Bubbles
After reading all the reviews here, I am very confused. The tin note ASSAULTS the nostrils with a very strong, sharp, SOUR vinegar, with carbonation bubbles. It smells offensive, like an over-fermented kombucha. And it tastes like salad dressing. Seriously, it’s like dipping a cigar in concentrated balsamic vinegar. It’s just nasty. Hopefully with some time the vinegar casing will die down and I can write a better review.
Peter Stokkebye - PS306 English Oriental Supreme
Very Balkan, Very Delicious.
Orientals reign supreme in this blend, redolent of glorious sourness and delightfully dancing spiciness. Everything is perfectly proportioned, perfectly harmonious. Beginning with a sour nose, it develops by turns into something alternatingly creamy, toasty, sweet, spicy, smoky, rich. It burns very coolly, gurgles but little, and leaves no moisture in the bowl. Once lit, it stays lit, and it burns down to fine ash. Of the utmost importance, it gives absolutely no tongue-bite. It satisfies while still remaining somewhat mild of body and nicotine. For me, Peter Stokkebye’s offerings are usually either hit or miss, and this one is a BIG hit. His Balkans and Englishes have all been big winners IMO, and English Oriental Supreme is a jewel in the Balkan crown. Absolutely top shelf, head of the class, cream of the crop, the 1%, the star of the show, the angel on the Christmas tree. EOS is everything a great English or Balkan should be (and yes, again, I locate it firmly within the Balkan sub-genre of the English camp because the orientals are emphasized far and away over the latakia; latakia is present, but serves only as a plinth to elevate the orientals).
Cornell & Diehl - We Three Kings 2oz
Oriental Aromatic Bliss
We Three Kings is just a little bit amazing. It is a lightly aromatic classic American blend with orientals forward. It’s brilliant. As punkrockpiper observes, even non-aromatic loyalists would approve of this one. It’s certainly a warm, relaxing holiday treat, but I would smoke this any time of the year. It’s particularly good for English/Balkan lovers who sometimes appreciate a break from latakia but don’t want to stray too far. The subdued aroma preserves and perhaps even enhances the delicate orientals on display here.
Bengal Slices - Bengal Slices 1.75oz
Loses Flavor Early
Has a sublime tin note. Beautiful balance of latakia and orientals. Cavendish is a bit heavy, but the virginia is nice. One problem is that it begins to taste muddy and ashy halfway through the bowl - even with a very shallow bowl, just an inch deep.
Sutliff - Balkan Sobranie Original Mix Match
Best of the Balkans
Of all the balkans available today, this one is simply the best.
Sutliff - 526 - Old Professor
Smoothly Soothing English
The rough cut of Old Professor deceives one into believing that the taste will likewise be rough, but nothing could be farther from the truth. It is perhaps a bit rustic, but it stays smooth and it burns coolly and is just complex enough. Latakia is the star of the bag/tin note and on the palette its influence is present but reserved. The oriental leaf adds some lively spice to keep things interesting. The Virginias add a mild sweetness but I don’t focus on them very much.
Cornell & Diehl - Snug Harbor
Snug Harbor is a fairly good, fairly average English aromatic. I am pleased to report that it is more English than aromatic, and that the latakias and orientals are not drowned out by the topping. Somewhat muted, perhaps, but not swallowed whole. It is pretty good, and I would smoke it again, but I like Kramer’s Cary Grant better.
Newminster - No.306 English Orient
Goopy, Sweet, AROMATIC Sugar-Bomb
The description says “non-aromatic”, but that is 100% false advertising. This is definitely an aromatic; there can be no question about it whatsoever. It is SOAKING WET, gooey, goopy, overly sweet, medicine-y, absolutely DRENCHED in vanilla, marshmallow, caramel flavors like a children’s breakfast cereal with a ridiculous cartoon character on the box. Latakia is barely even detectable. The orientals are drowned out almost completely in the sea of syrupy caramel goo. Rude cavendish overpowers everything else while burley and Virginia play a rowdy and unruly supporting role, egging on the belligerence of all parties to this travesty. Everything “English” and “Oriental” — i.e., refined and subtly exotic, respectively — is savagely beaten into submission by the clown show of cotton candy carnival flavors. Why would Newminster pull the proverbial wool over our eyes, working so hard to convince us that this is not aromatic when it so clearly is? It’s covered in sugar syrup! I’m so confused and disappointed. When this super-soaked aromatic blend first showed up on my doorstep, I contacted Smokingpipes to express my confusion because the description clearly says “non-aromatic”. I did not even have to ask, Smokingpipes sent me a replacement the same day (thanks guys! excellent customer service). But what showed up in the replacement package was the selfsame sugar-coated, gooey, goopy, caramel-vanilla-marshmallow mess. What is happening here? It’s like living in Bizarro World. But since I have received the same aromatic ab0rtion twice in a row, both times under the label of Newminster no. 306 English Orient, I can only conclude that this is in fact the genuine article, and that Newminster is reeeeeally stretching the definition of “casing”. Most of us can tell the difference between an aromatic and, say, a Virginia that has been heavily cased. Take for example Newminster’s own #400 Superior Navy Flake. It is technically not an aromatic, but it does smell like a sugar factory in the bag or tin because of the casing process. However, the flake is relatively dry because it is not topped with heavy flavors and syrups. And I love Superior Navy Flake! I have four pounds of it in my cellar. And I have many other flakes, cakes, ribbons, ropes, and coins which do evince an application of a sweet casing but which are not goopy, sappy messes because casing is not topping. But English Orient is not just heavily cased. It seems also to be topped with a sea of sugar flavor goop. I will give it half a star for the very nice orientals they used, but they ruined them by brutalizing the mix with all the childish candy flavors. How could anyone do that to something so beautifully complex? It’s like taking a gorgeous filet mignon or aged flank steak with rare truffle sauce, and then dumping ketchup all over it. What a tragedy. What a loss.
Kramer's - Blend for Cary Grant
This is English aromatic done exactly right. The aroma is almost unnoticeable in the bag note. Just barely enough to let you know it’s there. No single leaf stands above the rest, and you can actually taste the tobacco. The cavendish is creamy and a bit nutty, the Virginia is sweet, the latakia is there for support, and the orientals never get lost. It’s simply amazing. I didn’t even smell the Irish until halfway through the bowl, when it gave a nice mellow finish to the whole project. Nothing here will make you go “Wow” or slap you in the face. It is all very subtle, very soothing, very harmonious, incredibly understated. This is by far the very best English aromatic I have ever tried. I imagine my four ounce purchase will not last long. Full marks.
Sutliff - SPS-17 Lavish English
Aro for English Lovers
I was a bit hesitant about this one when I opened the bag. It’s a bit goopy and perhaps a bit overly sweet smelling. I thought the orientals would surely be drowned out. But I have been pleasantly surprised. The flavor greatly subsides after a few minutes but until then it is a delicate work of art. Maybe with a bit more drying time the orientals will shine through even more. It is interestingly complex. If you don’t like it at first, give it a few more minutes. The flavors develop with time.
Sutliff - 503 Heavy English
Cool and Easy-Going English
Sometimes it’s nice to smoke something that doesn’t stick to your tongue and palette, something that allows you to smoke bowl after bowl. That’s what you get with Heavy English. It straddles the fence between English and Balkan, burning coolly and mildly.
Cornell & Diehl - London Squire
Yes, there are orientals here
When this blend was first formulated by Amar Blends Co., it had orientals in it. But C&D bought the rights to the blend and now the description lists no orientals. Without orientals it could absolutely NOT be called a balkan. But because they are calling it a balkan that has to mean there are orientals in it. And on closer inspection we reveal that oriental leaf is definitely a part of the blend. Search your stock: wherever you see green leaf, that is Turkish/oriental. But perhaps they do not list it because there is so little of it?
Peterson - Early Morning Pipe 50g
Sets a High Bar
Medium of body and flavor, yet somehow still “light”. Virginias are prominent without drowning out the very nice, very delicate orientals. Just enough latakia is present to support the orientals without overtaking them. This stuff is brilliant. It makes me want to reevaluate all of my previous 5-star reviews of other marques and blends. Peterson/Dunhill does set the bar quite high. Early Morning Pipe is indeed the perfect English eye-opener.
Peter Stokkebye - PS52 Proper English
I’m giving this one another review. After having been on a balkan kick, this one goes near the top of my list of English blends, because the orientals are so forward. There’s something special here, something sweet and buttery, not altogether characteristic of most oriental/balkan blends I’ve had lately. It starts off sour, then it gets buttery smooth, then it ends on a peppery finish. I would love to know where Stokkebye got these orientals from. PS Proper English is gorgeous.
Cornell & Diehl - Engine #382 2oz
If You Like Deertongue
This stuff is fantastic if you have been initiated. If you are familiar with the magical condiment leaf, you will love Engine #382. It is a bit more complex than might be called for as a first introduction, but if you are already acquainted with deertongue, this one is a winner.
Presbyterian - Presbyterian 50g
Why doesn’t the tin list any orientals in the mix? My tin just says Virginias and latakia. But it does look like there is a tiny bit of oriental leaf in there. The tin note is pretty great. Whatever topping or casing they use is very creamy or marshmallowy. It smells of flavored cavendish, even though there’s none in it. The yellow/golden Virginias are incredibly mellow and very sweet. The latakia “tips” are barely present, just enough to lend the definitively English character. And the orientals are hardly present either. I’m not really sure how I feel about it. It’s almost a hundred years old so a lot of people love it. It’s different now because Mac Baren makes it, but people still love it. I guess it would be great if you couldn’t decide whether you wanted a Virginia blend or an English one, because this one straddles the line.
Sutliff - Balkan Sobranie Original Mix Match
Oriental Balkan Perfection
First, I have not tried the original BS, but that’s not important. This match from Sutliff is amazing on its own, regardless of whether or not it really matches BS. It is sweet and sour and spicy, smooth and creamy and delicious, so contemplative and relaxing. It’s definitely not a powerhouse, which is a good thing. It’s mild enough that you can really taste the orientals, the star of the show by far. The latakia is present but it just supports the orientals. And the virginia gives it the perfect balance of grassy sweetness to round out the spice. Lately, I usually go for balkans and Englishes with burley (e.g., Sutliff’s companion to this blend, BS 759 Match), but leaving out burley or cavendish helps to put the orientals on center stage, which is great because whatever orientals they use in this blend are uncommonly nice. They have this beautiful sour tang, almost savory. As Old Timer…’s review points out, many relights are needed as it is quite a task to keep it lit, but that does not seem to affect the flavor much. The smoke is cool and rich and flavorful. It is a bit wet, even after rubbing and setting out to dry for 20 mins. But that problem is easily solved with a wide and shallow bent pot pipe. Full marks for a gorgeous smoke.
Drucquer & Sons - Blairgowrie 100g
Peaty Scottish Cake
It does remind me somewhat of McConnell Scottish Cake, just without the burley. It’s like a toasty VaPer sprinkled with a bit of latakia and orientals as a garnish. It’s smooth, grassy, and bready, with notes of raisins or dark stone fruit — almost everything we appreciate about our Virginias and VaPers — and they manage to get a sort of toasty, earthy, nuttiness in there without the addition of burley; it’s very peaty. I think that must come from the dry aging which comes along with being packed and shipped in tins which are definitely NOT vacuum sealed, and never have been, as reviewer GLPease reminds us. So if you’re looking for something inclined towards the English side that isn’t all the way English, maybe something with just a bit of an English accent, you should give this a try. It’s very smooth, not very heavy, and it has some complexity too. The latakia is present but not at all heavy or emphatic, and the orientals show up as kind of an ethereal phantom, something you just barely notice out of the corner of your eye (or, palate, I guess). The latakia and orientals serve to elevate the VirginiaPerique rather than make a showing of their own, like an ottoman that the Virginias and perique rest their feet on. It’s really quite interesting. Blairgowrie will likely not satisfy the craving for a big, bold English or a spicy, incensey Balkan, but if you are a dedicated Virginia/VaPer fan considering a venture across the pond into latakia territory, Blairgowrie is a very good place to start.
Mac Baren - HH Balkan Blend 3.5oz
Big n’ Burley Balkan
Like most every HH mixture featuring burley, the burleys here are the only constant presence. It remains earthy and nutty for the duration of the bowl, opening up the experience and then ushering it out the door at the end. Very nice orientals tickle high up in the sinuses right away, starting the show with a bang just below the eyes and then slowly fading into the background. The latakia is present as a harmonizing and supporting player instead of a lead, which is exactly what you want in a balkan. These virginias are rather bright and sweet, which is very tasty can play a bit of havoc on the tip of the tongue if you’re not careful. HH Balkan Blend is significantly different from most of what Sutliff does with its burley-balkans. The tin note is sweet and round and barbecue-like, calling to mind a nice dark fired Kentucky( I had to double check the tin just to make sure they hadn’t snuck any in there). I was just reviewing Stokkebye Proper English and wishing it had some burley in it, but now if I ever want a balkan with tons of nutty burley I can turn to HH. Sutliff Crumble Kake English #1 and Sobranie 759 Match are still my daily go-to balkans, but I will definitely continue to keep HH balkan blend around for those days when that big burley craving hits. HH is not what many would regard as a “top shelf” marque, but it is incredibly reliable and consistent. For what it is, this blend is close to perfect.
Peter Stokkebye - PS52 Proper English
Turkish Forward, Very “Stokkebye”
This is very Stokkebye. It just has that Stokkebye je ne sais quoi. The Virginias are very fine and subtly sweet; the latakia is uncommonly mellow, taking a place way back there in the nosebleed seats; while the incense-like, almost floral orientals steal the show. At the moment I find that I prefer an English with burley — such as Sutliff’s English #1 or their BS 759 Match, or even H&H’s Blackhouse if I’m in the mood for some cavendish — but that preference does not diminish the quality of what Stokkebye has here. It’s as if orientals serve as the base while latakia and Virginia play a much smaller, merely supportive role as condiments, or even garnishes. So if I were in the mood for a bowl of something mostly Turkish, this is what I would probably reach for. For now I’ll stick to big burley balkans, and I’ll cellar this one for a year or so to see how it does with some more time.
Arango - Balkan Supreme
The Samsun in this mixture is incredibly interesting. It’s very spicy in a way that I definitely like. Its aroma is like incense, which is a prized characteristic of fine oriental tobaccos. The way it works on the palette is a bit like wasabi, the way wasabi is spicy not in the mouth but high up in the nose, just beneath the eyes — which, again, is one of the defining characteristics of oriental tobaccos. And it tends to take over the whole bouquet in this mixture. But, then again, that is pretty much exactly the definition of a Balkan: a latakia & Virginia blend that emphasizes the orientals over the latakia, using Virginia to activate the front of the tongue and add some sweetness, while the latakia is just there to support and emphasize the orientals. My one complaint is the cavendish. The cavendish used in this mixture is just all wrong for me. Combined with the orientals, including the very nice incensey Samsun, it comes off as very rough and sharp. One-sided. Unbalanced. Too much of a one-note chord. If you like your balkans rough, sharp, earthy, spicy, floral, then this one is for you. But for me it has too much cavendish competing with the Samsun. In a balkan, the cavendish is added to round out the palette and add a creamy, fuller mouthfeel. But you can do a very similar thing by adding burley, and I would like this one a lot more if they had used burley instead of cavendish. Good examples are Sutliff Balkan Sobranie 759 Match, Sutliff Crumble Kake English #1. These use burley instead of cavendish and I really like them. Hearth & Home’s Blackhouse uses both cavendish and burley, and gets great results too. Those three are my go-tos at the moment. So, Arango is very smokeable, but not a favorite.
Sutliff - Balkan Sobranie 759 Match
Very Tasty, Complex
This is really a very good balkan blend. The burley gives it structure, the Virginias give it a bit of soft sweetness, and the latakia is a sound base. But the real star here is the orientals. I can’t identify which ones they used, but they are so complex and they continue to develop and unfurl throughout the bowl, it’s just wonderful. Very different from many of the other English/Balkan blends I’ve been smoking. Perhaps a bit more balkan than English? These orientals start out with a great sour note on the first light, then they provide exotic spice in the middle of the bowl, and then something magical happens in the last third of the bowl. They soften out and become more round and mellow. So curious, so relaxing. Very tasty. Incredibly pleasing. I’m only 39 so I have not had the original that this blend was created to match, but what an excellent smoke, regardless of whether or not it successfully recreates its namesake. It’s good enough to stand as its own achievement.
Sutliff - Crumble Kake English #1 1.5oz
Exceedingly Mellow English
Another win for Sutliff’s Crumble Kake label. On my first try I thought there was not nearly enough oriental leaf or latakia to call this blend a balkan, but whatever you call it this stuff is fantastic. It is one of the mellowest, smoothest, most soothing medium English blends I have ever had. The red virginias from Sutliff are always flavorful - hay, grass, bready, a bit raisiny. A very nice burley gives it structure and ensures a slow, cool burn. Choice latakia gives it definition. And just a bit of oriental leaf is sprinkled in as a zesty condiment. If you don’t taste the orientals right away, smoke more slowly and allow them to develop. SCK English #1 is best enjoyed right at the edge of extinguishment. Right at the edge of needing to relight is when it’s at its most flavorful. That’s where the harmony lives.
Warped - Scarecrow 2oz
I was blown away by the tin note. Somehow they got a very “goopy”, liquory, candycorn aroma without making the tobacco itself goopy, like Sutliff Creme Brûlée (which is another favorite of mine). The topping is excellent, but, as with all aromatics, it evaporates within two minutes. And that’s when you need a superior tobacco base. If your powerful aromatic topping is concealing a bad blend job, once the topping evaporates you’re left with a disappointment. I can’t describe what went wrong with Scarecrow. You can tell there is some quality tobacco here, but the blending is just off. It tastes dirty. Like smoking hand processed boutique tobacco that someone stored on the dirt and didn’t clean before processing. These burleys are incredibly *raw*. And the addition of Red Virginia cavendish was just a bad choice to go with such raw burleys. They both taste like dirt in their own way, so why would you put them together? The only real saving grace was the Virginia, but the other two really drown it out. But the nicotine is a blast to the face. Seriously, I use a ton of nicotine so I have never felt nicotine effects from pipe smoking, but this blend nearly gave me a stroke. The “nic hit” packs a wallop. So if that’s something you’re after, give scarecrow a try. Not for me, though. Shame too because I have three tins of this stuff.
Hearth & Home - Black House 1.75oz
I give this one five stars because it deserves six stars for what happens in the first 3/4 of the bowl, and then it loses a star in the last 1/4. But that still makes it a five star blend. From the smokey, earthy, sour-sweet tin note; to the spicy, raisiny, figgy, smokey, bready, nutty, truly Balkan flavor three quarters of the way through the bowl, this stuff is top notch. Yes, the tin note is blissful. The first charring light is smooth. The medium strength is satisfying, without coating the roof of your mouth with tar and nicotine. The flavor profile is colorful and brilliant. It is everything you want in a balkan. At first I wanted less cavendish and more Virginia, but towards the middle of the bowl everything melded together exactly the way it should. The latakia is a constant presence. Burley gives it structure. The orientals stack up on top of the latakia for that ineffable something that makes oriental tobacco what it is. And the cavendish and Virginia work together as a sort of matrix into which the rest is woven. Blackhouse is absolutely a new favorite. It will be gracing my evening pipes for weeks to come, following the Plumcake of my mornings. Now, the sad part. The last quarter, or maybe the last fifth, of the bowl was not very good. Yes, there was a reminiscence, a memory of the greatness from the first 4/5 of the bowl, but mostly it tasted of freshly doused campfire. Wet, stale woodsmoke. Which is curious because I was using a small bowl, a Peterson system 303, which always smokes very dry. Indeed, even this time it did smoke very dry, but the end of it *tasted* wet. There was not really any moisture left in the bowl but it tasted wet. Like when you toss a bucket of water on a campfire, or when you wake up in your tent to find out it rained all night, that smell when you approach the previous night’s campfire pit to find the coals and ashes soaking wet. That smell of fragrant spicy fire logs having been extinguished by a prolonged rain. So the end of the bowl was a disappointment, but nothing so perfect can ever last. Edit: I find that this stale, wet taste shows up in every balkan or english blend that uses cavendish. When cavendish burns down to the end of the bowl, it tastes wet and nasty. All of my balkans and englishes taste this way at the end when they contain cavendish. So I mostly try to avoid balkans with cavendish. It just seems to ruin everything. It might provide a toasty-ness or a marshmallow creaminess for 3/4 of the bowl, but, in my estimate, it’s not worth it. When that last 1/4 of the bowl is THAT bad, it’s just not worth it.
Mac Baren - Plumcake 3.5oz
A New Favorite Medium Smoke
I was cautiously optimistic about trying this blend because Mac Baren, a Sutliff company, is hit or miss. Their products are usually either really good or not very good at all. Few and far between are their offerings rating at “just okay”. There’s not much middle ground. But I was pleasantly surprised. The tin note does *not* smell like goopy fake medicine-y aromatic topping. It smells of deep, rich, classic tobacco, and a bit of subtle sweetness from the rum. It is a bit moist right out of the tin, so I will definitely lay it out to dry for half an hour before my next bowl. But what a bowl! It’s perfect for waking up with a cup of coffee. No one tobacco is forward, drowning out the others; instead, they all work complementarily to produce a very harmonious chord. At no point could I say, “oh, there’s the Virginia” or “now I taste burley” or even “there’s the latakia”. I could never single out an individual tobacco. For the duration of the bowl, I could taste every one of them at the same time. It very classic and very “American”, as there is not much latakia here. I do love me some very heavy latakia, and at first I wanted more in this blend, but it was so perfectly harmonized that I think adding anything to it or changing the proportions would have tipped the scales and thrown off the balance completely. It is not strong, but not weak either. It is right there in the middle. So if you are looking for a shocker to slap you awake in the morning, this is definitely not the one. But if you want something medium bodied with classic tobacco flavor and the subtlest bit of sweetness, this will be a go-to blend for you. Also, for those thinking about a foray into English or Balkan territory, considering a taste of latakia, you simply must try this. Plumcake is a perfect introduction to that venerable old leaf, an encounter proving that latakia is as versatile as any other tobacco, not something to be relegated to overbearing, overwhelmingly strong blends. Latakia is for everyone, and this Mac Baren offering proves it. My morning pipes will feature Plumcake ever more often in the future. -- Edit: to all these reviewers claiming tongue bite, you must be doing something wrong. I experienced one of the most soothing smokes of my life with this blend. A fantastic room note, flavorful but not heavy smoke, a very cool burn, a slow burn. It was gorgeous. If you’re getting tongue bite, it’s almost always your own fault. Smoke more slowly, smoke cooler, smoke drier. Try laying out the tobacco to evaporate moisture. Try a deeper, wider bowl and a longer stem. Don’t over-pack, and don’t pack too tightly. Apply flame a lot less frequently. Sip-don’t-gulp. And, finally, just relax.
Sutliff - Crumble Kake Virginia Perique 1.5oz
Sillem's - European Blend: Copenhagen 50g
Overwhelmingly GREAT Aroma, No Flavor
So…. I was so excited for this blend. It is hard to find true aromatics with real strength and depth. Try searching Smokinngpipes for an aromatic at the 3 level and you will find a handful. Level 4? Only several. Level 5? I think that number is zero. The aroma of this blend is, by far, the best I have ever found. Just, wow. And the taste you get when you pack the pipe and sip before lighting is also fantastic. Even the first few puffs deserve an award. But all the flavor evaporates in two or three puffs, and then it tastes medicine-y, and the tobaccos taste like a light cigarette, like a Lucky Strike. The room note, again, for the first few puffs, is delightful; but after the topping evaporates, it’s like the room note from a “nice” cigarette, a high grade cigarette. It does not stay lit, requires constant relights. I was so, so very excited for this tin, but the greater the excitement the harder the letdown. Such disappointment.
Cornell & Diehl - Red Virginia Ribbon
Very nice reds, sweet and hay-y, and a bit stronger than the Sutliff RVR. An excellent blending component.
Cornell & Diehl - Super Balkan
A Go-To Balkan
I have had this stuff sitting in my cellar for a year, never tried it. And now I’m kicking myself for all the time I’ve been wasting. I could have been enjoying this gorgeous blend the whole time. There’s nothing wrong with it. Absolutely nothing I can fault. It’s perfect.
Seattle Pipe Club - Plum Pudding Special Reserve 4oz
Okay, so I reviewed this stuff about a year ago and I didn’t like it at all. I gave it another try and now I think it’s excellent. There is really nothing I would change about it. I *might* sprinkle in some more red Virginia, but that’s something I can do at home. The tin note is enticing; the bready, grass-and-hay of the Virginias is addicting; the raininy Perique is enthralling; the smokey, piney Latakia is well-proportioned and adds beautiful complexity. If you like the Northwestern style of VaPers, this one will never disappoint. Stock up. Cellar a tin for a year or more and it only gets better.
Sutliff - John Rolfe Match
Very Excellent Aromatic
This is a jewel in the crown of C&D. A perfect VaBur aromatic. It is difficult to find a real aromatic boasting the strength and depth of John Rolfe Match, especially without latakia or DFK. The Virginias are very forward — sweet, grassy, figgy, bready — while the burleys add depth, structure, and a bit of complexity. The moisture is just right, even straight from the tin or bag. The brandy topping is salient but not overpowering, never cloying, never hiding the beautiful tobaccos present here, and definitely not even a bit “medicinal”, as some aromatics can be. This blend may be a bit tough to keep lit, especially if you sip slowly to get the best enjoyment without the bite, but that is not a hard problem to solve. Use a wide bowl to allow for the evaporation of moisture, or use a system pipe or reverse calabash, anything to allow for a slow burn and to mitigate the collection of too much moisture. To sum up, this is an A1 aromatic: delicious, classic Virginias and Burleys; a room note you would pay to have floating around inside your home; no bite, fuller bodied than most any other sweet aromatic; you just cannot beat it. Perfect as a dessert smoke, a nightcap, an accompaniment to pancakes or sweet coffee, or as an anytime all day smoke. Full marks.
Newminster - No.400 Superior Navy Flake
Simply the Best
This is hands down one of the best flakes ever. It’s all Virginia, no burleys getting in the way of the figgy, bready, grass &hay Virginia charm. It is so, so nice. Warm, sweet Virginia. Doesn’t get any better. Oh, but if you add just a tiny pinch of Perique???? 10/10 VaPer.
Old German Clay - Flowing Fountain (Black)
I had to give this pipe another shot. I do still think it’s cheap and low quality, but there are a few pros to offset the many, many cons. The first thing to take note of is that it does give a very dry smoke. This may be due to the small size of the bowl — its not being able to hold much tobacco — or it may be that the clay absorbs moisture, or both. But the smoke is indeed very dry, which is great. Next, it does hold a light well. Whether yours does or not will depend on your tobacco, your packing method, your smoking speed, etc., but if you use all the conventional techniques — smoke slowly, sip-don’t-gulp, etc. — it will hold a light quite well. Now, onto the cons. It is fragile as hell. It will break. The bowl might even crack on its maiden voyage. The bowl is quite small. The bowl gets very, VERY hot. Finally, the worst thing about this pipe, which is indeed rather catastrophic, is the damage it does to the taste and aroma of very fine tobaccos! It tastes and smells like a kiln, like burnt clay. It stinks. You will still taste your tobacco, of course, but it will taste like a dirty cigarette from a corporate machine factory. It might taste like a relatively fine cigarette, depending on what you pack into the bowl, but we smoke pipes because they smell and taste so much better than cigarettes. In summary, it’s inconvenient because it’s too hot to handle by the bowl and too delicate to handle in the manner of most any other pipe; and it utterly destroys the complex taste and nuanced aroma of your fine tobaccos, which completely defeats the purpose of pipe smoking. They smoked these things in the 1800s and earlier because they were cheap and easily made and readily acquired by even the lowliest of peasants. These days, with pipe smoking having seen an economic reversal — having gone from being a treasured smoking option of the proletariat to becoming ever more expensive and supplanting the cigar as the favorite of the rich capitalists — if you can afford to smoke a pipe, you can afford to smoke a REAL pipe. German Clays are a kitschy curio these days, a quaint reminder of earlier times, and nothing more. As functional tools, they are terrible. Yuck! Leave the “oily, black clay pipe” firmly in the pages of Doyle’s Holmes, in the 1800s, where they belong.
G. L. Pease - Stratford 8oz
Very Nuanced, Delicate VaPer
This is by far one of the best VaPer blends I have ever tried. I’m so happy I bought the 8oz tin. No cloying tin note, just a fresh, harmonious chord of well aged classic tobaccos. The ratios are spot-on: the red Virginia base is gorgeous; the bright Virginia, about which I was admittedly worried (I like red much more than bright), provides an excellent counterbalance; and the perique is just right, juuust enough to liven it up and give it that figgy, raisiny, fresh baked bread aroma we VaPer lovers cannot do without. It is a bit moist right out of the tin, but that’s not really a problem if you use a large enough pipe and take it slow. It’s full bodied and yet still very mellow and inviting. Finally, the room note is HEAVENLY. I’m smoking this INSIDE my apartment right now, and it smells incredibly pleasant. Smoke around non-pipe-smokers or even non-smokers with no fear. GL Pease has worked their magic yet again. This is going into my full time rotation.
Cornell & Diehl - Riverboat Gambler 2oz
Nutty, Complex… Soapy
This is certainly a very classic-type non-aromatic blend, with burley and cavendish very forward. The Virginias are barely present. Turkish leaf brings in some interesting complexity but it has a soapy finish. If you like burley/American type blends you should find it quite excellent. For me it rang a bit flat or hollow. Better for fall or winter, not much of a summer blend. I have five tins of this stuff, most likely going in the cellar. Perhaps age will liven it up or mellow it out.
Peterson - De Luxe Navy Rolls 50g
Not So Navy, Definitely DeLuxe
So, this is not much of a “navy” type blend, but it very much a deluxe smoke. It is mild, citrusy, fermenty, bready, hay-y, toasty, delicious. The tin note is a thing of beauty, like the comfort food you reach for to tell you everything’s going to be okay. It crumbles into perfectly sized shreds for easy packing. It keeps a light relatively well, which will depend on your pipe and your packing style. The best thing about this blend is that comforting flavors and aromas stay consistent from first spark to last ash. It’s a mellow all-day smoke. Perhaps a bit mild for some, but, as I said, it’s comfort food. Four stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Eight State Burley 2oz
King of Burley Blends
I won’t spoil it for you. This stuff is superb. As a vibrant melange of many different burleys, it is such an achievement. Harmonious. Gorgeous. A category unto itself.
Comoy's - Cask No.12 3.5oz
Bland, sour, flavorless.
This stuff is nasty. Imagine a cheapo gas station cigar that got wet and sat at the bottom of a sweaty gym bag for about a week. Sour and muddled and dirty. And I would definitely not call it an “aromatic”. There’s no tin note at all and no real aroma in the bowl, except for the fermenting ammonia smell, and it certainly offers no flavors of caramel or vanilla. Even though the tin was sealed, all the ribbons are stale and “salty”. I was terribly excited for my first Comoy’s experience given their good name, but now that I’ve had this experience I will stop working so hard to get my hands on their navy flakes. What a disappointment. I’ve got half a pound (two tins) of yuck and I don’t know what to do with it because nobody I know enjoys sour, vinegary, ammoniac, bland, stale tobacco.
G. L. Pease - The Virginia Cream 8oz
Excellent VA Blend
So, the first tin of this stuff I opened had a spot of mold in it, about the first 1/8th of the can, but the great folks at SmokingPipes replaced it for me with no hassle. These are truly good people. Now, as for this blend, it is very good. Like the label says, there is something “creamy” about it without being a “custard” or “vanilla cream” aromatic. It is very much a red Virginia blend, and smokes like a Virginia blend and not an aromatic. The warm, bready, figgy creaminess is maintained throughout the experience, enduring from first light to final puff. If you want a bit of creaminess without resorting to a goopy aromatic, this is the stuff for you… and definitely for me.
Sillem's - Red 100g
Very, Very Good
This is a very, very good aromatic. Don’t let the tin note put you off. It is very typically “American”. It does ghost your pipe, however, so be aware. Don’t use it in a pipe you want to use later for more subtle and complex blends. Use your dedicated aro-pipe for this one.
Slicing and Dicing Plug Tobaccos
- ► The article says the tobacco in the picture is Gawith Cob plug; is that right? It looks *really* good.