Sutliff - Troost Match
I could place this blend right away. It is something of a bridge between two of my favorites: John Marr, which is a balanced Virginia blend with Orientals and a light topping, and Briar Fox, which is a well-balanced Virginia-burley with earthiness and tang. All of those elements are here in Troost Match. What you're left with is a good blend that keeps natural tobacco flavor at the center, with good flavor development and just enough sweetness to tie it together. Quality stuff.
Cornell & Diehl - John Marr
A Standby Smoke
John Marr is a medium-strength Virginia blend that leans aromatic in an easygoing way. All component tobaccos are present in the flavor, with Virginia taking the lead and the others in a well-balanced supporting role. Some thoughtful blending on display here. The casing is more vanilla than bourbon to me, but it's lightly done and is just enough to package the leaf with a sweetness not normally found in VaPers. This has become a standby blend for me, a "Virginia-plus" option that hits the spot.
Lane Limited - LL-7
Cocoa and Marshmallow
LL-7 is a tasty aromatic with cocoa and toasty marshmallow flavors and excellent burning characteristics. Upgraded to 4.5 because of the blend's exceptional consistency and the immediacy of the flavor on the draw. LL-7 joins RLP-6 and Stokkebye Optimum in my bulk aro rotation, with 1-Q and BCA falling below the cut.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Gold Vintage Cut
Update: With a little age on it, the cereal notes have receded, leaving a wonderful naturally sweet, golden toasted hay. Still excellent and getting better. --- A very nice tobacco with hay notes bracketed by touches of grain and tanginess. Not as bright and citrus as Orlik, but has a bit more spring in its step than some other pure Virginias. (This liveliness is likely to mellow with age.) For my taste, it compares favorably with C&D Bright Virginia and Mac Baren No. 1 Virginia. Although a ribbon cut, it packs in a spongy way, probably due to the moisture level, which is consistent with a recently produced blend. Burns well, no bite if smoked sensibly. It's a simple, high-quality Virginia that offers a welcome alternative to the flake format. Plenty to enjoy here.
Cornell & Diehl - Briar Fox 2oz
Natural and Balanced
Briar Fox delivers stout, well-balanced natural flavor. The Virginia tang and burley nuttiness are in perfect proportion, and it is pleasantly strong without overdoing it. The burn is excellent and requires little attention. Plenty smooth, too. As others have said, it's great with coffee. A quality, no-fuss staple for those seeking a sturdy, natural smoke.
Missouri Meerschaum - Great Dane 1.5oz
MM Great Dane is a delicious aromatic and a true-to-style Danish with excellent burn characteristics and plentiful smoke. I get caramel and nuttiness first, with cherry-vanilla coming in behind. As advertised, it smokes beautifully out of a MM cob (but really, what doesn't?). This one is a sleeper with unexpected quality and value.
Holger Danske - Black and Bourbon 50g
A Deft Take
A full-flavored take on bourbon that keeps the topping and the leaf in balance. Burns well, with good smoke production. Mildly sweet, with a savory, smoky edge on the draw that is a distinguishing feature. It maintains a harmonious whole throughout. Well done.
Mac Baren - 7 Seas Regular
Good, Not Great
There's nothing wrong with this blend. It's pleasant and well-behaved. A nice burn and absence of tongue bite make it a strong contender for the beginner. But it is very mild, and I can't reconcile that both 7 Seas and RLP-6 have three-star taste ratings when 7 Seas is clearly milder. If I were looking for an all-day smoke, that might give Seas an advantage, but when I want a flavor experience, there are several other blends I'd smoke before this one. My conclusion is that it's good but arguably overrated.
Ashton - Rainy Day 50g
Rainy Day has a nice flavor that lands somewhere in the middle of mango, peach and orange, but ultimately it is a touch too bright and Virginia forward for me. Unlike others, I find that it wants to run a bit hot. Some will like it, especially as a warm-weather aro, but not a must-have for me. Would love to see this topping in a blend with more Cavendish. Edit: One excellent use of this blend is to add tang to straight Virginias (e.g., Mac Baren No. 1). The bright fruit flavors naturally complement the Virginia profile, and you can add as much or as little as you like.
Peter Stokkebye - PS31 Optimum
Light and Easy
A light and easy aromatic, well balanced, burns well. A reserved Chambord vibe. Virginias are nicely present - or at least not buried - which you don't always find in an aromatic. A straightforward, quality blend that is effortlessly pleasant.
Davidoff - Danish Mixture 50g
Nutty and Elegant
A tasty, elegant and substantial blend. It leans to nutty burley flavors, black walnut in particular. It lacks the fruity notes that I expect in a Danish, but I don't count that a fault considering what it does deliver. Minimal flavor development throughout the bowl. Mechanics are good. If you want to sweeten it up, blend with Lane BCA for a nice, well-grounded aromatic.
Peter Stokkebye - PS9 Vanilla Creme
Like the reviewer Dean M., I get no vanilla here. It's a basic Virginia-burley flavor. Burns ok, not unpleasant, but hardly as advertised.
Dan Tobacco - Da Vinci 50g
Dan Da Vinci is so well done. It's flavorful, complex, and aromatic in a natural way. I don't taste wine itself as much as an elegantly sweet woodiness that somehow does evoke an old-world spirit. The flavor is constant and the burn very good. Will buy the large bag.
Tabac De La Semois - Le Petit Robin 100g
A Class of One (Revised)
Update Oct. '22: Sadly, I've come back to reduce the rating from 5.0 to 3.0 based on my second purchase of LPR. This run lacks the subtle complexity of the previous brick and instead is one-dimensional, even somewhat harsh and bitter starting one-third of the way in. It is fair to recognize that a smaller-scale artisanal product is subject to variance, so I hope to have a future batch that measures up to the wonderful first brick I purchased last year. The sun shines; the rain falls. (Original review) This is just to concur with all the praise of this rich and nuanced tobacco. I agree in particular with Mart V's writeup, especially his observation of "malty bread" at the core. Earthy, floral, subtly sweet. Really like nothing else, an elegant tour de force.
Oliva - Connecticut Reserve Petit Corona
Good Short Smoke
As with many things, one's opinion here will come down to needs and expectations. For a mild smoke in a smaller format, the Oliva Connecticut Petit Corona is a winner. Unlike another reviewer, I found the flavor to be perfectly fine, with a solid basic tobacco body accentuated by a mild nuttiness and a bit of pepper to complete the profile. It's not a large cigar, nor a maduro flavor bomb, but it is a satisfying smoke in a smaller format that will not require a big time commitment. Construction and burn are good, though the draw leans toward tight. (Don't try to punch it; guillotine all the way.) Four stars for being a good smoke overall, and for occupying its niche in fine form. No hesitation to buy again, especially for those times when I want a ~20-minute cigar experience with no fuss. (PS: As a small cigar, this one seems especially susceptible to changes in humidity.)
CAO - Eileen's Dream 50g
Eileen's Dream is a tasty blend. Imagine the classic Lane RLP-6, but sweetened with Irish cream and chocolate. It maintains this flavor throughout the smoke, but it can run hot if you're not careful. But if you keep a good cadence, there is plenty here to enjoy.
Mac Baren - HH Balkan Blend 3.5oz
A Gentle English
HH Balkan is a beautifully blended, smooth English, but the overall intensity of the Latakia is less than in other English blends. In my book, this is a good thing, giving an English option that is both top-quality and easygoing. It's a bit like the difference between Scotch neat and Scotch-and-soda: Both are good, and you might prefer one over the other depending on circumstances. Between HH Balkan, Kramer's Father Dempsey, and Bengal Slices, my English needs are more than met. (Update: I like this so much that I ordered a pound to cellar.)
Cornell & Diehl - Three Friars
One to Grow On?
Update: This wasn't coming into its own, so I blended it 50/50 with C&D Bright Virginia for a nice Va with a bit of burley body and pleasant trace of sweetness from the subtle casing. ----------- I'll come back to this, because 3F seems like a blend that could grow on you. The perique and burley are in wonderful balance with each other, though overall I might like more Virginia. Still, this is nice as a straightforward, naturally presented burley blend, and is something I will go to before, say, Haunted Bookshop (I'm not that much of a burley fanatic.) Variety is a good thing, and while I'm not ready to rave about it, Three Friars deserves a few revisits before final judgement.
Peter Stokkebye - PS400 Luxury Navy Flake
There's not much I can add here. It's a textbook, perfectly constructed navy that is delicious and smokes well. An incredible value. Can't go wrong.
Mac Baren - Royal Twist 3.5oz
The Virginia We Need
A delicious blend with wonderful flavor development. The casing is simple and subtle, like a wisp of sweet cream. This flavor marries with pastry-like Virginia on the draw, making for a smooth, elegant entry. From there, an excellent body unfolds, with toasty Virginias and flavors of nuttiness and grain. The DFK is clearly boosting the flavor here but is not forward - a mark of a well-considered blend. Perique steps up in the finish to put an exclamation point on the smoke, with a perfect level of peppery snap on the retrohale. The burn is good but, not surprisingly, requires some care to keep temps within bounds. In short, this is not your ordinary VaPer; it is a deft blend that showcases the Mac Baren sense of proportion. I would love to see this one move into regular production. PS: I've tried a few Mac Baren blends, including Mixture Scottish, Mixture Modern Danish, Original Choice, HH Old Dark Fired, and the MB-produced Newminster Danish Gold. For me, the Royal Twist is a close #2 behind Scottish and would certainly be a regular in my cellar.
Cornell & Diehl - Speakeasy Navy Blend 2oz
A Solid Option
A very good Navy flake, stout and nicely constructed. It tastes good, burns well, and delivers a good shot of nicotine. There are many navy flakes to try, but Speakeasy is a perennial good bet.
Newminster - No.48 Danish Gold
Balanced Flavor, Nice Burn
A great blend. The tobaccos are balanced and complementary, and the casing is tasty and reserved. Subtle raisin, plum, and vanilla caramel at the top of the bowl, with cocoa and burley edging forward later on. Excellent even burn, stays lit and is reasonably forgiving on cadence. I put this in the same general category as Mac Baren Danish and Peterson's Connoisseur's Choice, and I give it the edge on burn characteristics, overall steadiness of flavor, and bulk buy value.
Holger Danske - Mango and Vanilla 50g
I will give this tobacco two plaudits up front. First, it is exactly as advertised. Second, it is some of the best-burning tobacco I've encountered, with the caveat that, with a hefty proportion of Virginia, you can easily over-draw it into burning hot. But once it was lit, it kept going with no trouble. It almost smokes itself. I bought this to mix a little more flavor into Orlik Golden Sliced, and the experiment was a success. Instead of diluting the Danske, a 50/50 blend brought out the flavor in a way that was more than the sum of its parts. Just be aware that this concoction wants to run away from you, so you need to maintain a careful cadence. If you think you'd like this tobacco, you most probably will. It's a blend that manages to be exactly what it sets out to be.
Mac Baren - Danish Mixture Modern 3.5oz
As noted, Danish Mixture is lighter, brighter, and a bit sweeter than Scottish Blend. Danish features notably less of the burley body, which shifts the blend to the Virginia end of the spectrum. There is a hint of spice in the retrohale. By comparison, Newminster No. 48 Danish Gold is at least as flavorful, doesn't run quite as hot, and is available with bulk pricing. I went back and forth between the two for a month before giving the edge to Newminster.
Orlik - Golden Sliced 100g
OGS is a pristine rendition of Virginia. It's exceedingly clean and approachable, with naturally sweet hay, raisin and tea flavors with lemony brightness at the edges. A wonderful smoke.
Mac Baren - Mixture Scottish Blend 3.5oz
A Stately Aromatic
Mac Baren Scottish is a stately aromatic that uses quality leaf and a light hand on the casing. The solid body is of bread, oats, and anchoring earthiness from the burley. The sweetness is present but restrained, with toasty honey flavors. A small measure of dark-fired adds hints of smokiness and vinegar often found with DFK. It can smoke hot and in my experience is very responsive to tamping. Before relighting, give it a puff or two and it might well spring back to life.
Cornell & Diehl - Visions of Celephaïs 2oz
Bold and Idiosyncratic
Yes, grape. But also woody earthiness and a wonderful body of cracked wheat and pumpernickel. No bite, burns very well. Certainly weird, but unabashedly flavorful and creative. (Smoked in a cob.)
Cornell & Diehl - Granby Station
Decent But Generic
I could not pick out vanilla and applejack, only a light and variable sweetness. Maybe it was just this run, but Granby Station didn't seem to have a clear sense of identity.
Peterson - Connoisseur's Choice 50g
Refined and Fruity
An enjoyable blend that balances fruity flavors, custard notes and natural tobacco toastiness. It has a bright tang up front that moves gracefully into the rest of the palate. Room note includes toasted marshmallow. Smokes well, smooth, well behaved. Update: After some time with this one, I conclude that it is not as consistently enjoyable as several other aromatics. There's some kind of variable mojo at work that will produce a satisfying smoke one time and something slightly lacking the next.
Lane Limited - RLP-6
Great Burn, Good Flavor
RLP-6 tastes good, smells great, and burns exceptionally well. With a bit more smoking experience, I've notched it back from 4.5 to 4 stars on flavor, which is nice but fairly simple overall. To me, it's straightforward burley and cocoa. The burn characteristics remain excellent.
G. L. Pease - Windjammer 2oz
A skillful and imaginative take on navy flake. On a freshly opened tin, I get stewed prunes and funky Roquefort cheese up front, with that tangy note later settling into rye bread, sour cherry, and even creamed spinach. With age, the blend settles in well, but I think I prefer the sassy presentation when it's fresh. This is a must for Virginia smokers, and a strong do-try for everyone else.
Blog's Commented on
A Dedication to Tradition: Peterson Deluxe Classics
- ► @Dan: Thanks, and I agree with your preference for acrylic stems. Slightly less than half of my collection are cob pipes, and each of those features an acrylic Forever Stem. About half of my briars are acrylic, too. I think I prefer a fishtail to the P-lip, but it's not a deal breaker for me. Both the 150 and B10 are available in Peterson's Irish Harp line with acrylic, but I don't think a vulcanite P-lip would stop me from purchasing the 408 smooth out of this Deluxe Classic line (which would likely be the most I've paid for a pipe).
Italy, July, 2021: A Pipe Travelogue
- ► A fantastic behind-the-scenes. Thank you for taking the time to write this up. It's great to see the relationships behind the business. (Bravo to Castello for doing everything they could under tough circumstances.)I'm interested to hear about a "shape revival" with the Savinelli models. You mention the 404, which I recently bought from you in the Oscar Lucite finish. That's a great smoker, and being somewhat on the trim side, is an excellent pouch pipe. A perfect candidate for a refresh.Continued safe travels.
Obsidian Oil: The Solution to Stem Oxidation
- ► I bought some Obsidian Oil earlier this year, and so far so good. I really try to buy acrylic stems, but exceptions for me are most Peterson pipes and the Savinelli Roma series. So far, I've used it only as a preventative treatment; I haven't had to bring anything back. It's one of those things like pipe sweetener that's nice to have around to get the most out of the hobby.
Top 15 Budget-Friendly Pipes
- ► Between small chambers and bent stems, several of the examples here are not ideal for beginners. For a straightforward experience, I recommend a straight billiard for the beginner; e.g., the Rossi Notte 101 is a great choice.