Samuel Gawith - 1792 Flake 50g
This British Brisket Scores a “SIX”
This was the second Samuel Gawith blend I ever tried, and after I found Squadron Leader quite impressive, I pried open a tin of this. I was met with a heavenly tin note only rivaled in my nostrils by Cornell & Diehl’s Sun Bear and two blends not far removed from 1792 Flake itself: Peterson’s Irish Flake and Mac Baren’s Old Dark Fired. The stringy black broken flakes looked and smelled much like the blackened portions of brisket that I’ve eaten here in central Texas. Except this was tobacco blended by our cousins across the pond! My wife, who dislikes the tin note or pouch note of almost all pipe tobacco blends, confirmed the similarity in smell of 1792 to the local brisket we enjoy. She even loved the aroma. And what a delight was the smoke session that followed. The use of tonquin bean is masterful, the moderate but not excessive use of dark-fired Kentucky was blended in calculated portions, with both of these ingredients achieving an impressive spiciness. There’s just enough Virginia to turn up the sweetness meter to a notable level. Overall, what I tasted was a flake not as “rough around the edges” or strong as Irish Flake (which might be my favorite blend) but is still almost as complex. It’s perhaps easier to smoke than IF or ODF. Coffee, and not brisket, emerges in the aftertaste and especially the retrohale. A home run by Gawith! Or should I say, a boundary four, or a “SIX” by the English cricketeer! 5.0 stars.
Peter Stokkebye - PS400 Luxury Navy Flake
Cream Soda Surprise
After Bullseye, Luxury Navy Flake was just the second Stokkebye blend I ever tried, and the second VaPer I ever sampled. The creamy deliciousness of the flavor was almost unexpected. When I tried this, I had never quite tasted a blend so very creamy. And luxurious. Royal Yacht bills itself as Peterson’s (and formerly Dunhill’s) most luxurious blend, when I believe LNF is far more luxurious by comparison. I feel like I’m eating wedding cake, or sipping on a cream soda, except I’m puffing tobacco and I know it’s a VaPer, not an aromatic. One oddity of my experience (the first few bowls) was that after the tobacco was burned in the bowl down to scant dottle, or even fine ash, I’d find more greasy black tar in the chamber after dumping out the ash and returning to clean the pipe. Still, only a very minor inconvenience. The question that keeps returning to me with this blend is: can LNF really be improved upon? I’d say no. I’d hope that it would stay just as it is, and as it has always been. 5.0 stars.
Samuel Gawith - Squadron Leader 50g
Nigel Puffed That Blend Before Each Takeoff, In Case ‘Twas His Last...
Behold the first Samuel Gawith blend I ever tried. The blend in the rectangular tin, hidden behind a firmly-placed cardboard lid, is an impressive Jackson Pollock-esque pattern of black Latakia, light brown Turkish and bright and dark Virginias (I believe in that descending order in terms of proportion). The Latakia never leaves you, through each puff or retrohale, and though it’s the leader of this squadron, its victory only comes via its teamwork with the incense-like Turkish/Orientals and the sweet Virginias bringing up the rear. At least to this piper, pulling slowly on this blend will transform the flavor into, for fleeting moments, a sort of silky milk chocolate. In all, this mixture is medium in strength and body, like the relatively short-lived (at least in the RAF during WWII combat) Gloster Gladiator itself. Delicious, and I am keen on getting my claws on a tin of Squadron Leader Special Edition—so I can try the original blend seasoned with some peppery perique. 4.5 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Epiphany
No Eureka Moment Found, But One Pleasant Puff
Upon inhaling the pouch, I detected a slight sourness, probably from the Orientals. After ignition, I found the blend quite mild throughout, and what is key—without distinct taste. Burley (and not Latakia) was dominant, and though I’m foremost a burley smoker, this didn’t rise to meet the caliber of burley blends I often enjoy. The perique succeeds in spicing it up to a degree, and I felt this on my tongue and absolutely during my retrohale. The dottle did indeed burn down to a fine white ash in my chamber, as several other reviewers have noted, perhaps due to its high proportion of burley. That cigarette taste did surface in the last fifth of the bowl, further pointing toward a strong measure of burley. After several bowls, I did find that Epiphany can only be truly enjoyed when puffed slowly, and this is true for this blend more than many others. I often muse that there’s really so much competition out there with the sheer amount of great blends available: English, VaPers, burleys, Virginias, even aromatics. While I found Epiphany a decent blend, I don't plan to restock it. In terms of the other contemporary attempt to approximate the great Al Einstein’s go-to blend, Revelation, I plan to try Sutliff’s Revelation Match, with its measure of dark-fired Kentucky. Revelation Match might be my preference, as I love DFK and I feel this blend lacks a substantive amount of Latakia, so DFK might at least enrich it. Though it’s still not Latakia. And to me it’s the blender’s use of Latakia that is key in an English offering. I didn’t encounter my Eureka moment, but I did enjoy a pleasant smoke from this respectable blend. What salvages the blend from being unsatisfactory is its balance: it features seemingly equal portions of Latakia, burley, Virginias and perique. Perhaps my next experience with the blend will improve when I puff it out of my 1920s Comoy. In honor of none other than Professor Al, who puffed a similar blend in his Comoy’s from the same era—and not out of a cheap Dr. Grabow’s like the (also) great J. Robert Oppenheimer! 4.0 stars.
Presbyterian - Presbyterian 50g
A Heavenly Mix Produced For Over A Century...For Good Reason!
I came to this over-a-century-old blend later in my piping journey, but it was better late than never. I’m not sure as to Reverend White’s preaching abilities or his knowledge of the human soul, but he sure knew a thing or two about what constitutes a fine blend of tobacco. And Earl Baldwin knew a winner when he puffed one! The first thing that might strike you upon cracking the tin is the plentiful bright, light golden ribbons of Virginia. I can’t recall seeing an English so predominantly light golden. The second greatest share of ribbons are the jet black Latakia. The smallest of the three portions consists of the tan-colored Orientals. A very beautiful blend to the eye. The Latakia always remains present in the mild flavor, and the generous amount of Virginias ensure sweetness. But it’s the Orientals, despite their very modest proportion, that steal the show here, playing in your mouth with a woodsy mellowness. Presbyterian lives up to its reputation as a medium-bodied, medium strength blend that serves as a fitting introduction to a fledgling piper’s exploration of English. And while I don’t fancy Presbyterian quite as much as a few other English mixtures, like SPC’s Plum Pudding, Peterson’s Nightcap and Cornell and Diehl’s Super Balkan, Presbyterian holds a respectable spot in that cluster of choice blends jockeying for first place in the English section of my cellar. It’s supremely easy to smoke, and can serve as an all-day to those whose tastes veer English-ward. 4.5 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Carolina Red Flake 2oz
Fine, Sweet Tang Of The Carolina Old Belt
Through all my wide-ranging sampling of Cornell & Diehl blends, I’ve never been disappointed. And this latest indulgence was no different. Though I steer far more toward burley and dark-fired Kentucky, I do appreciate Virginias when blended right. This medium-strength, medium-flavored blend hit the mark like other C&D small-batch offerings. Jeremy Reeves confined himself to a limited medium: just painting with Virginia leaf (from one of America’s greatest tobacco regions, the Carolina Old Belt) and nothing else. There are no nutty burleys or sweetly sour Orientals to his behind, like improperly smoked meat can hide behind a strong barbecue sauce. And still, that blender maestro rendered a fine work of tobacco art. The hay is indeed present but what’s most notable is the sweetness of the Virginias and the tang of citrus (somewhere between orange and lemon) and I did confirm it—cranberries. Here’s to C&D, and Jeremy, you are the man! 4.5 stars.
Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation - 1931 Flake 1.4oz
How I Miss 1931...
Not the year—I’m not that old, silly. But my tin of 1931 is now empty and a bit of reordering is in store. The tin note of peach preserves smeared into toast echoes even past the char light and throughout the bowl. The sugar in those mature Virginias early on bit me (lightly) to remind me to slow down and savor. That peach-preserve toast flavor returned and luckily stayed. The pecan-like burley came through just in the right amount, mellowed out by softly sweet Cavendish. I’ve learned to trust the Stokkebyes’ blending prowess after they stunned me with my first bowl ever of Luxury Navy Flake. During my first bowl, I envisioned a young boy during the Great Depression, smack dab in 1931, savoring a slice of toast coated with peach preserves, knowing it was his entire dinner. Many years later, that same soul found a pipe tobacco that brought back that childhood memory with a flavor just as delicious. A bit too fanciful, I suspect. Even so, fellow pipester—pack and light, then taste and enjoy. 4.5 stars.
Mac Baren - HH Burley Flake 1.75oz
H.H. Burley Was One Fearsome Gunslinger...
...and he handled his Colt Peacemaker, Remington 1858 Army, derringer and boot throwing knife with ease. He was even deadlier than he appeared. So it is with Mac Baren’s outstanding medium-bodied HH Burley Flake. It’s expert handling of nutty dark burley, combined with its flawless wielding of ripe Virginias and dark-fired Kentucky, make for quite a force to be reckoned with. But have no fear—Cowboy H.H. Burley is on your side! The woodsy flavor is really melded with citrus (more orange, to my tongue) and coffee and dark chocolate flavors. This blend should prove even more addictive than Vitamin N herself! 5.0 stars.
Dunhill - Three Year Matured 50g
Miss Royal Yacht’s Less Celebrated But Intriguing Cousin
For an hour you’ve been dancing at the English manor’s annual ball with Miss Royal Yacht. In personality, she’s not necessarily complex and or multidimensional, but she is beautiful and is one smashing dancer. Miss Royal Yacht goes for a bathroom break and to then get another cocktail, and she urges you to dance with her cousin in from across the countryside, Mav (Mature Aged Virginia). Mav is cute, but less eye-catching than her more popular cousin. But you both head out onto the floor and within seconds you’re impressed. Although Miss Royal Yacht is a better dancer, you find Mav has a few more dance moves and despite that she’s not as attractive, definitely possesses a sort of je ne sais quoi. As you chat afterwards at the edge of the dance floor, she does reveal a few intriguing traits you didn’t find in her sister. But Miss Royal Yacht returns and you never again dance or chat with her cousin Mav again... That is how I regard Dunhill’s discontinued blend, Three Year Matured Virginia. Royal Yacht is a better blend, and I’ll be puffing her for decades longer. Yet Royal Yacht consists of pure Virginias, and despite its greater stature, it is not quite as complex as TYMV, which has more ingredients. There are the Virginias, but there’s a small bit of Orientals thrown into the mix, with the lightest fruit topping (you can detect this first in the citrusy tin note). My future dances with Cousin Mav will be few in number, as I’m on my last tin. But she’s a pleasant interlude, every few months. 4.0 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Billy Budd
Does Herman Proud
My two clues that this was going to be a good blend were first that it’s offered by Cornell and Diehl, my favorite tobacco blender/distributor, and secondly, that the blend bears the name of Herman Melville’s greatest novella. Now, I’ve seen C&D grace certain blends with Melville references, like Redburn, which I also reviewed. But Billy Budd is an American masterpiece—so the anticipation was building. My first bowl, and all that came after, were gratifying enough to even exceed my expectations. I haven’t enjoyed an English blend that employed natural, unadulterated cigar leaf. It takes the edge off of the generous proportion of Latakia. The sweetness of the bright Virginias and the nuttiness of the burley help out in this regard as well. What you then experience is the opposite of a harsh Latakia bomb, and the opposite of a weak blend low on flavor. Billy Budd boasts a world of flavor, a brawny room note and a strong yet not vastly muscular nic-punch (like C&D’s Super Balkan). I suspect Billy Budd has edged out Seattle Pipe Club’s Plum Pudding as my favorite English blend, which had previously edged out Peterson’s Nightcap. But what’s even better is that none of the three are limited releases, and I can continue to enjoy all three. I bet Jeremy Reeves’ pal Sailorman Jack felt honored by this blend mixed first for him. 5.0 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Granby Station
The Train’s Departing Granby Station, And I Want To Be Aboard
This aromatic with a pouch-note of vanilla and applejack may bear a name of a Colorado train station on the edge of the Rockies, but to my nose, tongue and mind it’s different. When I inhale the open pouch and later puff away, I smell and taste a light hint of maple syrup. That combined with a name that sounds like a New England train depot brings me back to my years as a young man in New England. I feel like I’m back in New Hampshire on the Amtrak Downeaster. Great memories conjured by a solid aro blend. The topping only reinforces the bright sweetness of the Red Virginias and the mellow sweetness of the Cavendish. The addition of perique adds further complexity and a satisfying spice on the tongue and at the back of the throat. I’m not a usual consumer of aromatics, but this is one of the few I enjoy slipping into my rotation from time to time. Granby Station, all aboard! 4.5 stars.
Sutliff - 150 Mark Twain
A Blend Misnamed
There’s a nice nose on this one, in the pouch, where it’s quite moist. But post-char light, you might enjoy the creamy amaretto room note just as much, but otherwise grow disappointed. I believe Sutliff should have not slapped Twain’s venerable name on a mediocre aromatic, with weak flavor, but instead something that approximated Twain’s favorite, Players Navy Cut—a more natural Virginia/Burley blend with a very light rum topping. I might seem curmudgeonly on this one. I admit I am not a fan of aromatics, but every several months in my rotations I return to them to sample a few blends. And I had to buy a couple of ounces of this one, simply for its name. 3.5 stars.
Seattle Pipe Club - Plum Pudding 2oz
As Much An English Masterpiece As Hamlet or King Lear
If you’re new to this blend, the rectangular crumble wafers just might smell so good in the jar that you contemplate tasting one. But you resist, break a few up, and pack your bowl. Mere seconds after ignition, you realize this is the smoothest, most delicious English blend you’ve ever enjoyed. It really is as delicious as plum pudding. And it is oh so smooth—as smooth as a glassy, waveless Puget Sound. Joe Langford of America’s most renowned pipe club fights this conquest over your taste buds and nose with all conceivable weapons in his arsenal. Virginias, Black Cavendish, Perique. Latakia and Orientals. Most blenders don’t work so many different leaves into an English recipe. And it quite expertly addresses a major test of any English blend: the blender maintains control over the Latakia, and does not allow it to run riot. That smoky taste sits tranquilly at the back of the throat while you draw with moderation. It tastes like one of many ingredients in this blend, which is more smooth and easy than anything. If you’re looking for an absolute Latakia bomb, look elsewhere. And if you love oak bomb red wine, too, you can find them in the Cabernet Sauvignon aisle. But don’t expect them to be on the top shelf! Truly, Seattle Pipe Club’s Plum Pudding is a veritable English masterpiece. As much as Hamlet or King Lear, or the collected Keats. Just rendered in tobacco form! 5.0 stars.
Books - Father the Flame DVD
True Feast For Pipe-lovers
If you love pipes like I think you do, treat yourself to this excellent documentary on the subject. You’ll find briar-cutter-to-the-pipecarving-stars Mimmo Romeo, celebrated American carvers Lee Van Erck and Jeff Gracik, captain of (pipe) industry Sykes Wilford, the Ivarsson family dynasty, Japanese pipecarving master Hiroyuki Tokutomi, and Antoine Grenard, head of the legendary Chapuis-Comoy pipe factory in the birthplace of the briar pipe, St. Claude, France. I would venture to say this film will prove enjoyable even for those who don’t smoke pipes. I’d love to see a sequel or companion piece to this documentary, as a director can address limited subjects and figures within a 78 minute documentary. There’s so much one can touch on, really, from the generation-old mystique of Dunhill and Peterson, to the renaissance of artisan American pipemaking (particularly in sandblasting), to the ongoing Golden Age of Danish and Japanese artisan pipemaking. The post World War Two rise of Italian pipemaking, first via Castello, would be also an interest subject. I will be keeping a keen eye out for that release, should it ever come. 5.0 stars.
Peterson - Nightcap 50g
Meet Dunhill’s Stout Old English Bulldog
This blend was the last English-style blend I ever tried in the Peterson/STG line, and I’m glad I tried it last. I had smoked Early Morning Pipe and “My Mixture 965” many times before my first char light of Nightcap. I’d fully understood Peterson/STG’s interpretations of medium-bodied, medium-strength and mild English blends, and as I lean heavily toward strong blends, I wanted Nightcap to be special. And special it was. And it’s simple to grasp how this blend is ideal for an evening bookend of a day (especially involving several bowls of other milder blends). If the tin note of EMP is of a pine and cedar thicket near a roaring campfire, and My Mixture’s tin note is inhaling a foot away from its smoking embers, then Nightcap’s tin note is breathing deep up an inch away from a charred ember as releases just the slightest bit of smoke. The flavor is smoky indeed due to the heavy inclusion of Latakia. But it’s the sprinkling of peppery Perique that distinguishes this blend, and I like this move more than the blending of Brown Cavendish in My Mixture 965. The Orientals and Virginias balance out the Latakia and Perique, making for an English-lover’s essential. 5.0 stars.
Comoy's - Cask No.7 3.5oz
All “Baguette Et Vin Rouge”
I feel like this easily-smokable blend is the first cousin, or even the sibling of Escudo Luxury Navy Flake. The coins in the tin, and rubbed out and smoked, both smell of a crusty wheat baguette and red wine. But more baguette than wine. This stands as the moistest blend I ever opened, but it was not difficult to ignite and to keep lit. I’ll add that I opened this first tin seven months after I received it. Overall, it’s lacking greatness, but it proves a decent blend. 4.0 stars.
Peterson - My Mixture 965 50g
Not “My Mixture” (Yet) But A Damned Good English
While Early Morning Pipe carries a tin note of barbecued meat and the air near a crackling campfire, the tin note here is something inhaled close up to the burning campfire embers, due to the heavier presence of Latakia. I’ll credit the Brown Cavendish with mellowing out the smoky Latakia in this blend, and rendering it—while still technically full-bodied—not quite as full-bodied as it could have been. The strength or Vitamin N-punch is lighter than what you’ll find in Peterson’s Nightcap, and certainly in Cornell & Diehl’s Super Balkan. I feel that this blend grows on me further with each bowl. I vow to keep it cellared for as long as I can hold out, to find just how much better it can become. This is a very good blend, and I can completely understand why it’s been such a classic for over five generations. 4.5 stars.
Peterson - Early Morning Pipe 50g
An EMP Not To Fear, But To Enjoy!
Preppers talk often about us suffering a potential EMP, but they just might find this EMP a most pleasurable experience. And the blend was aptly named, nearly a century ago. For Early Morning Pipe is a choice way to kick off one’s day of “pipe tobacco appreciation”. There are more than a few times throughout the bowl where the sweetness of the Virginias and Orientals rise to prominence to meet the smokiness of the Latakia, which in this medium-bodied blend are quite mild. The nic-punch is quite mild, to boot. The tin note is as much barbecued meat as that innocuous English tobacco campfire aroma. Kudos to Peterson/STG for preserving both Dunhill’s tin art and it’s very old recipe. 4.5 stars.
Mac Baren - HH Rustica Flake 3.5oz
Raleigh Would Recognize This At First Puff
When Sir Walter Raleigh returned to the court of Queen Elizabeth I from his explorations of coastal North Carolina, he popularized the rustica tobacco leaf he brought back with him. But the very potent rustica blends he obtained from the natives were not the only blends in his pouch. He was known to light up the smoother and milder nicotiana tabacum blends his Spanish rivals cultivated in the Caribbean, and he and other English sea-dogs like Sir Francis Drake had pirated them from Spanish ships. Surely it was early in his smoking days that Raleigh blended the two leaves together. And that is exactly what Mac Baren did in this rare treat of a limited release through its celebrated HH line. HH Rustica is a blend the sea legend would probably recognize as something like he had blended himself. The Virginias and burley lessen the octane of the blend, from what it would have been had it been pure rustica. The room note is just slightly pleasant, and not necessarily fragrant. The flavor is more that of toast than anything. Perhaps a freshly baked roll of dark wheat bread—but at times when I puff harder, I taste something woodsy, like freshly-cut pine. I should mention I’m partial to burley and dark-fires Kentucky, and strong blends in general. I bought many tins of this, over a few orders, knowing both that HH Rustica was a limited release and it isn’t the easiest feat getting one’s hands on nicotiana rustica. I have wanted to sample that less common tobacco variety smoked in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Russia, and the Middle East. This I made my move. In fact, I have more tins of HH Rustica than any other blend in my cellar. I crack into it only on certain occasions. Though I rub out its flakes, I’m glad it’s not in ribbon form, which would tempt me to smoke the bowl faster. Possibly inviting dizziness and even vertigo in the process! 4.0 stars for the tobacco itself, 5.0 stars for the quality and rarity of the experience.
Pipe Accessories - Peterson Avoca Tobacco Box Pouch
A Wee Bit Of Eire, Right Over Me Heart
Despite how this item looks in the photos, it seems more like a wallet for tobacco, when it’s closed and resting in your palm. But once opened, it does hold a decent size of the divine leaf. This tobacco wallet with its emerald green inner liner fits easily in my front or rear pocket, and often in my inner breast pocket or shirt pocket. It was easily worth its low price. I have not owned or used it long enough to see any inner or outer wear, so I don’t know if the liner will wear out. Even if it does—it’s a mere 36 bones! 5.0 stars.
Pipe Accessories - White Spot 5 Pipe Zip Case Black
The Jaguar SUV Of Tobacco Pipe Travel Cases
This case was well worth the coin I spent on her, with the top-notch English artisanry and craftsmanship on this luxury leather Dunhill accessory. I expect this beauty to be in service for several decades more, carrying five pipes and tobacco pouches, tampers, pipe cleaners and pipe cleaner sleeves, and maybe a metal shank brush or two as I head out on any overnight or extended trip. I looked hard for a bag that could carry five pipes, as many will only carry two to four. Also, this stunner can accommodate two to three tobacco pouches. I can easily foresee this lasting me until my last day, and being a great accessory for my son. 5.0 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Super Balkan
Your Balkanization Will Be Complete
Now here is one complex, and also very potent, English blend by the tobacco masters over at Cornell & Diehl. So many ingredients are thrown into the mix; perhaps we are only missing Black Cavendish and a few other Oriental varieties (we do have Latakia and Turkish, clearly). There is burley, Virginias, perique, and of course, more than a fair share of Latakia. That last component, one might expect, is very dominant in both the pouch note, tin note, room note, and on the tongue as well. If Morley’s Best has a pouch note of a pine and cedar thicket beside a roaring campfire, then the pouch note of Super Balkan is the roaring campfire itself. One important thing to note: while this blend is Latakia-forward and leaves a Latakia-laden aftertaste, it is not a Latakia bomb. And I suspect we both have sampled one or more of those, perhaps in our first days of sampling English blends! The blend burns cool. It’s nic-hit is prodigious, and Super Balkan is a bit stronger ribbon cut than the strongest burley RIBBON I’ve enjoyed (like Old Joe Krantz or Haunted Bookshop). Hell, it rivals HH Rustica by Mac Baren for sheer punch. On an empty stomach, it might even leave you balkanized, or broken up, disintegrated! 4.5 note.
Cornell & Diehl - Morley's Best
Magnum Opus Morley
I’m an ardent fan of Bob Runowski’s blends, and have smoked lots of his other creations through Cornell & Diehl. Old Joe Krantz and Crowley’s Best are among my favorites, and I truly appreciate Haunted Bookshop, my first burley. Morley’s Best easily became another favorite, but more importantly, I understood mere seconds into my first bowl why many deem this blend “Runowski’s Best”. I should add that I say this as a burley lover who isn’t typically as passionate about English blends. The tin note will convince a newcomer that it’s a straight-up English, maybe of the mild variety. But soon after igniting it, one of the more notable traits of the blend become clear. The Latakia merely kisses the burley, as does the Virginia. And the Latakia does not dominate or even vie for control—and no “Latakia bomb” here! Runowski in effect produced a burley-lover’s English, and quite possibly his masterwork. It’s also telling that Runowski must have been quite a fan of American writer and pipeman Christopher Morley. Haunted Bookshop and Shandygaff are Morley novels (and two of my favorite blends). And for this blend to carry the name “Morley’s Best” signals C&D’s clear confidence in the quality of their tobacco and blending. That confidence is surely justified! 5.0 stars.
Peterson - Irish Dew 40g
The Peterson Rifleman Finally Suffers An FTF
I’ll first say that I’m an avid fan of Peterson/STG, as I am of Cornell & Diehl. I’ll try every blend these companies produce. But Irish Dew did not prove to be exactly dew-like, if you catch my drift. The ribbons are nice to the eye, thick strands of dark golden brown. But the room note at char light is cigarette smoke. Soon after the char light it was still apparent I wasn’t pleased. Though this is supposed to be an aromatic, I could identify that vanilla and chocolate flavor only halfway through the bowl, and it proved elusive as it disappeared after no more than two draws, then returned about ten minutes later, then vanished and never again resurfaced for the remainder of the Group 5 bowl I was smoking. A recurring thought through the three bowls of Irish Dew I’ve smoked: “Did Peterson really blend this? I guess it did...” For the entire blend seems uncharacteristic of them, in terms of its quality. It seems more akin to cigarette tobacco than to its sisters, Irish Cask and Royal Yacht. Well, even the best actors often deliver a dud film, or a “bomb”. And even the best rifleman or gun expert can experience an FTF—a failure to fire, or a failure to feed. This is that moment for Peterson, I believe. 3.5 stars.
Savinelli - Brunello Flake 100g
Brunello Flake has a tin note that seems all Raisin Bran with some added strawberries. Yes, it is comprised of “sweet, tangy Virginias and cool burning burleys” and it’s rounded out by the Orientals, in this case Macedonian. It’s not comprised of substandard ingredients. But my several attempts to reevaluate the blend have resulted with the same impression. I find it overrated and not complex, and underwhelming in the mouth, aftertaste and room note. I do like how its flakes are delicate and come apart easily. I know this blend has its fair share of fans and those who at least smoke it intermittently, but I did try. I’ll cellar it, and return to it in several months or a year. 3.5 stars.
Rattray's - Stirling Flake 50g
A Nearly Sterling But Still Powerful Foil To Its Sister, Irish Flake
Stirling Flake is like that very pretty, less curvaceous and less headturning sister of the spitfire, Irish Flake. The two share more than a passing resemblance, but there are differences, setting them apart, though both deserve the keen attention of many. Stirling Flake is to me less complex, with possibly one less ingredient than her sister. Irish Flake is a slightly cheaper date, has more eye-popping curves and is far flashier with her Dark Fired Kentucky, burley and Virginias and a more powerful room note. But Stirling Flake is well-developed and complex still to an advanced degree with equal parts flue-cured, fire-cured, and air-cured, like Irish Flake. Lady Stirling doesn’t come on as strong as her more exciting and extreme sister, who is still my favorite blend. But Stirling to many might be the more viable mate. I’ve dated Irish Flake far more, but Lady Stirling might become my preference eventually, one never knows! 4.7 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Crowley's Best
Sleepy Jim Returns To Carry It Across The Line
Like another unique C&D blend, Morley’s Best, Crowley’s Best smells in the pouch as much like an English tobacco as Early Morning Pipe, or Nightcap. You sniff again, and know you’re smelling Latakia. But you’d understood this was a burley when you placed the order...you lean closer...you can see the black ribbons amongst the comparatively greater portion of the dark brown burley. And when you ignite said ribbons, your impressions change. This is no English, but instead a burley blend seasoned by a small portion of black Latakia, making for a smooth smoke, featuring an uncommon marriage in a burley. But you know, Sleepy Jim Crowley was himself an uncommon gridiron legend. I’m glad C&D honored him with his own blend. He returns from the grave, and football heaven, to carry it across the goal line with this one. 4.5 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Sansepolcro 2oz
Behold Sin-Sepolcro, My Guilty Pleasure
I’ll try every C&D blend at least once, and have always been gratified enough to reorder each one. With their small-batch blends in particular, C&D has scored some real knockouts. But this blend caught my eye with its Italian dark-fired Kentucky. To me, DFK and not perique is the “truffle of tobacco.” And gratify, Sansepolcro did. With its tin note of a fresh crusty baguette and the slightest aroma of coffee, I imagined I was enjoying breakfast overlooking a Tuscan landscape. This scent carried over to the flavor as I puffed away, and at times retrohaled, something I do only with few blends (and not perique-heavy ones). The citrus is there but plays with subtlety. The red Virginias provide mild sweetness, the Cavendish with a degree of mellowing, but it’s the DFK that is slightly dominant. I take heart that I’ve been able to order several tins, rather than just one (as with Sun Bear) before the sold-out stage. The aging has just begun! 4.5 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Virginia Gentleman
A Famous Virginia Gentleman Who’ll Never Get Cancelled
The ribbons of bright, golden Virginias, dark brown burley, and brown Turkish is pleasing to the eye, and though not necessarily savory or delicious on the tongue, make for a pleasant, easy smoke. This has no ambitions to be a keenly flavorful and complex blend, like Orion’s Arrow or Poplar Camp. It succeeds in its aim: to deliver that pleasant, easy, Virginia-forward blend that our founding fathers surely puffed—their blends that carried no toppings. No added essence of fruit or liquor, nor honey or vanilla. Just unadulterated old-fashioned Virginia-forward American pipe tobacco with more than a little fresh hay flavor. An added bonus is it won’t burn as hot or bite like pure Virginias or aros. I imagine the Genius of Monticello and the Old Warrior of Mount Vernon nodding in approval. 4.0 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - John Marr
Johnny Marr Is One Rich And Smooth Fiddler
The sweet, slightly fragrant pouch note gives little hint as to the rich and smooth performance that follows. Fiddler Johnny Marr works his strings of Turkish Orientals, red and bright Virginias, nutty burley, mellow Cavendish and spicy perique to keep your attention riveted but your imagination soaring. You might find yourself craving bourbon and vanilla ice cream—perhaps a Bananas Foster—and I think you know why. You’ll be happy you attended the show! And Johnny will play YOU like a fiddle—in the best possible way. 4.0 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Orion's Arrow
Get Shot Through By Orion’s Arrow; You’ll Enjoy It!
The slightly sweet bag-note gives way to a most pleasant smoke of this well-balanced medley of red and bright Virginias, peppery Louisiana perique and subtle, sour Turkish. Puff slowly to fully appreciate; press the accelerator too hard and it might bite (ever so little). Just enjoy at a relaxed pace and contemplate—this blend should be celebrated in the stars with its own constellation! A bag I will surely restock and return to. Next time I will try to let it age in the cellar, rather than exhausting it so swiftly. 4.5 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Haunted Bookshop
Runowski Runs The Table—Again!
This blend kicked of my wide-ranging love affair with burley, leading to my dalliances with many burley blends, and strong blends in general. Whenever I return to spend time inside the Haunted Bookshop, it’s always a nostalgic moment. The literary name for the blend, after the Morley novel, attracted my attention. My bulk purchase (I’ve never sampled the tin form) was well worth it. It’s true that the bag note isn’t remarkable or even pleasant. Just a straight-up natural burley scent, with its faint nuttiness. After the char light, the smell and flavor is fair. At that stage, it can smell and taste of cigarettes. But a minute or more into the bowl, and namely when I draw deeply and let that smoke build at the back of my mouth, it’s then that I can savor the full force of burley nuttiness. A different nuttiness than in one of my top favorites, Old Joe Krantz, another Bob Runowski great. It’s when I do those deep pulls from the pipe, then hold the smoke inside my mouth for a several seconds, that I fully appreciate the blend. The nic-blast is, as we southern Louisianans say, just the “lagniappe.” The cherry on top, the welcomed something-extra. 4.0 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Exclusive
Join The Exclusive Club Of Perique-Loving Pipesters
Here (along with Poplar Camp) is a top-contender for perique-heavy champion of quality VaPers. I believe it—that the “truffle of tobaccos” or perique comprises half of this blend (though my personal truffle of tobaccos is dark-fired Kentucky). And whereas the tin-note or bag-note is not the most pleasant—it might smell more like dried cat food—of what import is such a scent anyway? The blend’s smoking property is the thing, and with Exclusive I’ve found quite a great blend, indeed. Sweet Virginias are enriched by mellow, smoky Black Cavendish and a second helping of peppery perique to deliver a most enjoyable smoke. Perique dominates the aftertaste and the retrohale, should you be so bold as to take that route. This all makes for a stout, robust blend with a robust Nic-punch. One great question—which is better, Exclusive or Poplar Camp? Does one really have to decide? Puff ‘em both and enjoy! You’ve joined one exclusive club. 4.5 stars.
James J. Fox - Provost 50g
Cavendish Brings Up The Cavalry!
I was fooled by this blend. More than any blend ever fooled me. For I figured it was a Latakia-lover’s Virginia, almost a mild English blend, and that Latakia was present but mild—but still the dominant component of the blend. But there is actually no Latakia herein—it’s merely a good Black Cavendish, sweetened by some good Virginias. Still—if you’re a lover of Latakia, Cavendish, or English, but want such a flavor at a mild level and in a Virginia ribbon, here you have a winner. A pleasurable puff. 4.5 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Oak Alley 2oz
Your Oak Alley Tour Ends, You Reach Into Your Breast Pocket And...
Your wife and kids have bugged you all spring to take them on a tour of the most iconic Southern plantation, so you relent. Besides, you do like architecture and history. Once the tour ends on the front patio, and tourists stand chatting and snapping photos, and your wife is distracted getting the kids in line, you reach into your coat’s breast pocket. You extract your pipe and small tobacco pouch of C&D’s Oak Alley. You quickly pack the bowl. “Honey—here?!” your wife says. But before she can say more you’ve lit the bowl, sending up thin black curls of smoke from the char light. Why? Because it’s the perfect moment! You let your gaze drift over the long row of Southern live oaks and a green meadow to its side. You contemplate the dual nature of the place: both the estate’s grandeur and the pain suffered on its grounds. I am partial to this crumble cake, and not because I’m a native Louisianan. I’ll try every C&D blend at least once, and this one impressed me with its multiple facets, or rather, layers. Yes, the tin note is not noteworthy, just that natural cigar tobacco scent with some faint sweetness mixed in. But as you work your way into the bowl, there’s the sweetness of the Virginias layered atop the stronger taste of woodsy, nutty burley. Then there’s the layer of Turkish Katerini with a dash of peppery perique brought to you by St. James Parish. Hardcore Cajun country, if you know the spot. I easily puff this one all day, and I have. A very good blend. 4.5 stars.
Peterson - Royal Yacht 50g
Puff With George V and Alfred Dunhill Aboard The Royal Yacht!
Summer 1919. The wooden, 110-ft yacht plows through the English Channel. You sit on deck with a a cluster of dukes, earls, and even King George V, a passionate smoker, puffing his gold-accented Barling Rhodesian. Sitting beside you is a slender, middle-aged man in a straw boater hat and white linen pants and shirt, puffing a beautiful billiard with a black stem punctuated by a single white dot. You pack your bowl with the new blend the man in white has provided everyone. No one speaks of the entire generation decimated in recent years in the Great War, or the King’s own feats in its battles. You just puff the mild blend, which really comes to life in the bottom half of the bowl. “Now you’re tasting it, good sir,” the man says, turning to me with a nod. “I’m Alfred Dunhill. This is my latest blend, AC429. Blended in my shop on Duke Street. And I’m trying to convert our Highness to my newest pipe, the Shell Briar.” Well, all right. This isn’t quite how it happened, but in another reality it could have. Puff this blend and hell, you play the King! This very old showcase of yellow and bronze Virginias was the second blend I ever tasted from Dunhill, packaged now as a redux from Peterson/STG. At first I deemed it mild and underwhelming for its reputation. But I noticed that in the lower half of the bowl, the tobacco comes alive and a coffee-like and creamy flavor is unleashed on the tongue. At times that taste starts earlier in the bowl, the better my packing job goes. With that flavor, I see how Peterson dubbed this “Dunhill’s most luxurious tobacco.” 4.5 stars.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Brigham Bristle Pipe Cleaners (75 pack)
Great Bristle Cleaners To Add To Your BJ Long Bristle Stash
These pipe cleaners are great to add to your stash of those heavy-duty bristle pipe cleaners sold by BJ Long. I never used bristled cleaners inside my stems (whether vulcanite, acrylic, polyester or horn) but these are my top choice when I want to clean a shank and drafthole, but not yet give them the complete, intensive scrubbing a BH Long bristle cleaner provides. It’s surprising that Brigham can score so well with their bristle pipe cleaners, and fail so horribly with their regular Churchwarden pipe cleaners (see my other review, “Folds Like A Cheap Suit”). 5.0 stars.
Peterson - Irish Cask 50g
Sturdy Old Irish Oak
This was the first Peterson/STG blend I ever tasted (funny how many other reviewers state the same), after I found a local tobacconist puffing it as he worked. I was taken in by that room note, and felt compelled to inquire. After I burned through many tins of Irish Oak, now Irish Cask, it became my gateway drug to Peterson’s other tobacco offerings. But I never forget to partake of this blend, sturdy and true, indeed like the strong boards hewn from a massive oak. I should admit that I’ll cellar it, and then end up succumbing and I’ll plow through it, while taking breaks to enjoy other blends. So I’ve never been able to enjoy it aged! Here are some components here in these ribbons I don’t see much in other blends, at least that I can recall: Orange, Zimbabwean, not just burley but Thailand burley. The Virginias, Black Cavendish and the black perique I am of course used to enjoying. This makes for an (at times) nutty, haylike and slightly sweet flavor—nothing too extreme in any direction. The perique is not generous enough to render it too peppery. Not sure that the name change is a fitting one; Peterson says it’s kept for a time in sherry barrels but I wouldn’t have guessed “casks” or “barrels” or “sherry”. But I’ll buy them on that, like I’ll keep buying the blend. Peterson/STG, like Cornell & Diehl, has always steered me right. 4.5 stars
Peterson - University Flake 50g
Nicotiana Tabacum Zinfandel
Considering I gave up drinking a couple of years ago, I suppose this is the closest I’ll get to sipping a glass of sweet red, perhaps a rose or a Zinfandel. That aroma is very present in the tin note but decreases greatly once you are puffing away at your pipe. Still, this is a medium-bodied blend with a subdued grape flavor that soon after the char light, gives way to a mild coffee flavor. I once went bowl after bowl on this one, day after day, for about a week. But I was seduced back by what I consider better and bolder blends: Irish Flake, Solani Aged Burley Flake, and Old Joe Krantz, which I will burn through all day. Yet I do gladly return to University Flake from time to time, with its mixture of burley, dark-fired Kentucky and mahogany (I haven’t found that in other blends). That topping is something else, though. I do something I haven’t done since I was a very young man at university—smell my fingers with reverie and nostalgia!
Cornell & Diehl - Sun Bear 2oz
My only regret with this blend is not having purchased several tins on first sight. Because I knew what I was seeing, another Cornell & Diehl limited release concoction that was sure to prove a little piece of magic. And magic it was. It was a delightful tease, as it sold out so quickly. Honey heaven, it sure was. I would have guessed bourbon over tequila was included in the topping but upon smoking it, I could detect it in the blend, along with the elderflower the C&D marketing spoke of. Jeremy Reeves might as well be a James Beard Award-winning chef of tobacco blends, as it’s not that he didn’t just not disappoint with this blend. He left me enthralled. Upon cracking open the tin, I smelled a strong aroma of honey and a touch of some liquor—bourbon? It also smelled like the Nabisco Fig Newtons I’d eat as a boy. The honey so present in the tin note was sustained on my tongue throughout all stages of the smoking bowl. I didn’t want it to end, and smoked each bowl far slower than I normally do. With this blend, I could have easily become like literature’s most famous detective, keeping my dottle to combine and then light up on a later date. 5.0 stars
Erinmore - Erinmore Flake 50g
Yes, the tin note does smell quite impressive. Floral and fruity—flowers and cut pineapple slices. I found myself holding a small wad of the rubbed-out flakes to my nostrils and just took it in, between bowls. This floral fruitiness is in the room note and upon puffing, on the tongue to a significantly lesser extent. But the smoking, to me, was still somewhat pleasurable. But as the bowls burned down, I would find the taste of coffee with sweet and floral notes give way to a bland, slightly bitter (but not unsavory) taste. I won’t restock this, or if I do it will be one tin to crack open every several months. But I didn’t find this bad tobacco, just not exciting or exceptional. If I gave this 4 stars, then that would make the sweet and fruity stunner Sun Bear, to me, about 5.5 or 6 stars, and I can’t technically give that here. 3.5 stars it is.
A & C Petersen - Escudo Navy Deluxe 50g
Stalwart Legend, And You Know Why
This is a long-renowned blend that invites the reviewer to dig deep into his linguistic quiver. Because Escudo Navy Deluxe isn’t a VaPer that jumps out at him with anything very distinct, like the VaPer pepperfest (in a good way) Poplar Camp. It doesn’t exude a keen tin note or distinct flavor on the tongue like Briarworks’ VaPer, Back Down South. Escudo is a comparatively old blend, and is more of an old-school VaPer, more subtle and not extreme, not blown out by perique like many newer blends, in the same way that older India Pale Ales didn’t try to mow you down with hops (like many do today). Its tin note is not distinct; it is instead very subtle and subdued. To my beak, it is of hay and is very faintly fruity with a tinge of black pepper. As I break up the coins and puff I detect two levels: that mild hay mixed with fresh bread, and then the light layer of black pepper. Escudo’s imminently easy to smoke, and I see why thousands of pipers going back five generations have stocked and puffed this, and why many who have piped for decades more than myself claim this as their all-day. Interestingly, my first bowl didn’t charm me outright. It was just one of those blends. But after two or three more, I “got it”. And after I aged it, I understood it even more. I’ll always keep some Escudo in my cellar, for both short-term and long-term enjoyment. Because I just have to! 4.5 stars
G. L. Pease - Cumberland 2oz
This Cumberland Has No Gap!
This VaPer is one of those sleeper blends I didn’t warm up to so much at first try (such as Escudo Navy Flake, James J Fox’s Provost, etc.), but bowl by bowl I came to truly appreciate. Infantry of mature and red Virginias carry this victory, with perique and dark-fired Kentucky comprising the light cavalry on the periphery. And while G.L. Pease hasn’t delivered quite the number of great victories, to my liking, as Cornell & Diehl or Peterson has, with this blend they’ve made me smile, bowl after bowl. At times while puffing this I contemplated the name and the general makeup of the blend and I imagined America’s fighting men puffing their Virginia tobacco as Burnside faced off with Frazer in the Battle of the Cumberland Gap, 1863. Rare insofar as it was a bloodless battle. I know...a bit fanciful, but so goes a typical smoking session in my world. This will mantain a spot in my cellar as something I reach for when I want a smooth, easy smoke. 4.5 stars.
Solani - Aged Burley Flake - 656 50g
An Albrecht Durer Masterwork In Burley Flake Form
This stunning German masterpiece holds a spot in my top cluster of favorite blends. I know I’m only one of thousands who feel the same way, so it’s no surprise why it’s often sold out on the Smokingpipes site. White and dark burley and more burley coalesces to form a blend that can take its smoker to the moon. And I don’t mean with it’s clearly potent Vitamin N blast. These moist flakes, coffee-like in the tin note and coffee-like (at least to me) during the smoking and in the aftertaste, achieve that end through sheer flavor and smoothness. It’s a brilliant concoction, a sum of many carefully blended parts, almost as if a great drawing or painting by Renaissance master Albrecht Durer was transformed into tobacco form, for our pleasure. 5.0 stars.
Savinelli - Jupiter 2oz
Blended By Savinelli For Mt. Olympus
Behold my favorite Savinelli blend. Burley fans might delight in this one, as I do. For burley leads the advance, with red Virginia and dark-fired Kentucky following the charge from the rear. I agree with Eddie K’s review: for maximum enjoymentt, how one smokes these easily-broken flakes is pivotal. This is Jupiter’s own blend and he puffs from his Sixten Ivarsson and Jess Chonowitsch briars slow and steady, savoring it, and the bowl isn’t packed too tightly. Maybe a touch of hickory barbecue sauce in the aftertaste, due to the dark fired Kentucky. Though at times I get coffee, too. 4.5 stars.
Peterson - Elizabethan Mixture 50g
The Bard Of Avon Would Highly Approve
Several times I’ve contemplated the tobacco that found its way into thousands of clay tavern pipes in the Elizabethan Age, all over Western Europe, really. We know the English explorer that popularized it, we know the Frenchman who was key in doing so in Continental Europe. But from the 1580s to 1603, when William Shakespeare’s literary powers were arguably at their height, what were the English people puffing? Those mostly broken clay pipes found in 2015 in the soil behind William Shakespeare’s house in Stratford-Upon-Avon in Oxfordshire—what mystery stuff was smoked inside those bowls? Much of it was probably pure Virginias, some was probably blended with burley and Cavendish or some blends were possibly the last two married together. Some of the first tobacco was the the extra-bold and rough-hewn Rustica. But Peterson has here is the old and widely-loved Dunhill recipe, showcasing fine and dark Virginias—but with a dash Louisiana perique. It does make for a delicious blend. But however mild the perique spice is herein, those Elizabethans never puffed Louisiana perique, something developed later and by another people. Still—what’s not to like about Elizabethan Mixture? This finely-cut ribbon could easily be your all-day, especially if you’re a Virginia aficionado. If you love your VaPers, this medium-bodied or even mild VaPer is easy to puff and easy to really love. Because “Virginia is for lovers” and perique can be, too. 4.5 stars.
BriarWorks - Back Down South 2oz
King Among My VaPers
This concoction just might be my all-time favorite VaPer, and this is one reason that once I twist open that little Kerr Mason jar, it’s not long before it’s depleted. The lovely tin note soon gives way to a most pleasant smoking session. Sweet and slightly spicy Southern classic. Aptly named! Sometimes for an enhanced smoking experience, I’ll sit in my rocking chair on my front porch, puffing this blend, listening to the Kings of Leon song by the same name. A song of yearning. I’ll remember my years living in New England, California and Spain, and despite all my great adventures there, I knew I was destined to return to my native South. But wherever I’m puffing this blend, and whatever I happen to be listening to, I deeply enjoy cracking open that little jar and taking in that aroma. I’ll second the reviewer here who said it smells of orange soda, and another, that there’s a very faint scent of bourbon mixed in. To me, though, it smells more like a liquor than orange soda. These broken flakes are some of the moistest that I order, of all my blends, and might they crumble the easiest of all my flakes. I already start to miss this one greatly when the jar is nearly depleted. I should add that I’ve never cellared Back Down South long enough to sample it after significant aging. I end up cracking it open soon after receiving it and it becomes empty in a matter of days! The acute sweetness of the Virginias are blended with just the right kiss of Perique to spice things up, but not render the blend significantly spicy. The balance of the two keeps me returning, time after time! 4.5 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Founding Fathers
Aro-fan Or Not, Give This Monticello-Mixture A Light
Whether or not you’re a puffer of aromatics, give this blend a try. I certainly am not big on aros, and until this last year, I smoked my last aromatic over a decade ago. But I came to think I was disregarding a whole side of pipe tobacco, and I ordered about eight to ten bulk aromatic blends from Smokingpipes. I was quickly charmed by this blend, and not due to my identity as a history buff. The tin note is pleasantly fruity, but gave no sign of being a fruit bomb. It wasn’t: the mild fruit-like flavor, whether pomegranate or Turkish apricot, remained present throughout each bowl I enjoyed. I’ve often wondered what the Founding Fathers puffed in their clay pipes. Perhaps often straight Virginias, perhaps Virginias blended with burley, perhaps a little “hemp” here and there! But this burley and Black Cavendish blend, infused with that mystery fruit topping, might be close to the mark. I might add that of all of those eight to ten aromatics I purchased, I enjoyed this one the most. 4.2 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Poplar Camp
Prime For Perique Fans, And Not A Perique Bomb
Now this is some good stuff. Perique is blended with the Yorktown, increasing complexity and flavor, but it’s not pushed to the point of peppery overload. The blend is as pleasing to the eye as to the tongue: all bright haylike Virginias, dark Cavendish and dark burleys and darker Perique. This combines to make a pleasurable smoke, and in my mind I’m 29 again, camping with my pals back on the shores of the Ammonoosuc River, puffing my corncob under the canopy of birches and poplars.
Daughters & Ryan - Picayune 40g
Full-force N’awlins Creole Pepper Assault
Ah, Picayune tobacco. Self-acclaimed as “The Pride Of New Orleans”. As a native New Orleanian, born and raised, I heard colorful tales for decades of men smoking the notorious blend called Picayune. My best high school pal, my grandfather and my uncle relayed the stories as well. My grandfather’s coworker regularly smoked rolled cigarettes with the heady stuff within. Many of these stories involved the smoker offending others with a noxious and overpowering room note. But what all such tales had in common was the tobacco was smoked in cigarette form! I don’t know what those old-school New Orleanians were thinking, as this is sold as pipe tobacco for a reason. I didn’t try this until my early forties, when I was an experienced pipe smoker and had indulged for over a decade in many different blends of pipe tobacco. I can’t say in honesty that it’s pleasurable. In fact, I can I recall only enjoying one of my many bowls of this tin. Well, with the first bowl in the morning, I’m less prejudiced and far more forgiving. But the rest of the times it burned down to a fine white ash in my pipe’s chamber, almost as if it was shag. After each of those bowls, I deduced that this burley/Virginia/perique/Turkish creation isn’t a horrible or even bad blend. Just not balanced, not flavorful, and not enjoyable for me personally. Sometimes I think there’s enough peppery perique in this to kill a mule. Though perique-aficionados may be far more on board with this blend. And that one time I retrohaled? I chuckled, feeling the keen burn in my throat and I remembered those hardcore New Orleanians from generations before. I probably won’t restock it, but it was worth the adventure! 3.0 stars.
Mac Baren - HH Old Dark Fired 1.75oz
Mr. ODF, Old Distinguished Friend Who’ll Always Be There
For a few weeks after I partook in a MacBaren sale, this was my all-day, replacing my beloved Irish Flake as my top Dark Fired Kentucky-driven burley blend. But alas, my cheating ended and I returned to my Peterson lass. And not just because Irish Flake became the cheaper of the two. I believe IF is just as stout in terms of potency, has a stronger room note, but most importantly, IF is more complex, with more ingredients (and I like these ingredients). Still...MacBaren ODF is very similar and is worthy to be enjoyed in and of itself. I’ll return to dally with ODF here and there, especially during a MacBaren sale. I still feel it’s Mac Baren’s finest blend. 4.5 stars.
Pipe Accessories - Dunhill Terracotta Stand Up Pouch
The Rolls Royce Of Tobacco Pouches
My nicest tobacco pouch. The leather work on this is stellar. I bet this will last decades without peeling or cracking inside. The terra-cotta color commends it, too. Another plus is that it stands on its own, atop your table as you smoke or as you fill it. One caveat: the picture suggests that it bears the Dunhill name, but mine came merely showing “The White Spot” logo Dunhill somewhat recently adopted. Nevertheless, great pouch, and great way to celebrate the legendary English marque.
Ashtrays - Savinelli Ceramic 3 Pipe Black Ashtray
Tip-top Utilitarian Value With Good Style
I like this ashtray so much that I persuaded my pipeman uncle to order one from Smokingpipes as well. Few pipe ashtrays accommodate three pipes, but this one does. And its sleek black color and Savinelli logo make for a handsome piece. I’ll note that the other colors it comes in are also quite nice. It doesn’t exactly break the bank, to boot.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - 8deco Club Tamper Redwood
Not Lacking In Form Or Function
One distinct feature of this tamper in terms of form is its vented foot, not something I find on most tampers. Compacting the burning tobacco without stamping it out is a worthy pursuit, and this tamper’s good for that. Its internal dottle pick is what you’d find in most tampers. But the redwood shaft...that’s what distinguishes this little charmer in terms of form, or better yet, style. Redwood is certainly not the most common wood in either construction or artisanry. So to me, this tamper is a delight to behold (just careful as it’s not hard to scratch). Those nostalgic for Northern California and the Pac Northwest, I can imagine, would find this little number even more charming. And still abundantly affordable.
Peterson - Irish Flake 50g
“Irish” Flake? Nay, Southern Masterpiece!
I know this one’s blended in Denmark, and perhaps even despite its name, traces its lineage to a Dunhill recipe once blended by Englishmen. But Irish Flake, my all-time favorite pipe tobacco blend, is a veritable tour-de-force of Southern tobacco varieties, from sweet Virginias to nutty but robust dark burley to a mild but subtle Cavendish, to the powerful Dark Fired Kentucky that might bring to mind barbecue sauce and smoked meat. I’ll second what one reviewer claimed, that smoking this can be an almost shamanic experience, and not because of its robust Vitamin N punch. I’ll never forget firing up my first bowl of IF, when I was seeking a bit of inspiration. One of my top five favorite puffing experiences! It since has become not my all-day, but I will enjoy on to three bowls a day of this, along with other blends. This one is probably best enjoyed after a good-sized meal, due to its strength. And for this and other reasons, it is indeed as Peterson’s marketers hold, meant for the experienced pipesmoker. 4.9 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Dreams of Kadath 2oz
The Psychedelic Party Punch Of Tobacco Blends
Now here’s a blend so easy to enjoy but considerably more challenging to describe. This Cornell and Diehl curiosity in plug form is a fruity amalgam of many different tobaccos, from Virginias to burleys to perique to Orientals. My first sampling of this blend remains one of my most memorable pipesmoking experiences. The blend is so fruity and as one reviewer aptly described, “boozy”, that I wondered how much it would affect the future flavor of the briar I’d used. For a time, I only smoked it in meerschaums as it seemed so like an aromatic. But aro it is not—much of the strong fruitiness is confined to its tin note. Once lit, it’s far more subdued in the mouth and in the nostrils. Still, its topping (or toppings) seem so distinct that DOK is “out there” in relation to the vast majority of pipe tobacco. Those who most appreciate both the tactile experience of handling whole tobacco leaves (twigs, veins and all) and also cutting from a plug—will love this blend. 4.8 stars.
Savinelli - Doblone d'Oro 100g
Not Quite 24K Tobacco Coins, But Certainly Not Fool’s Gold, Either
Once my favorite of Savinelli blends, the old Golden Doubloon has become after several tins over this year, a respectable but at times inconsistent blend I partake in every few weeks (of Savinelli’s tobacco, I now most enjoy its Jupiter blend). Still, Doblone D’Oro remains a good blend, which I enjoy more than Savinelli’s Brunello Flake, but its place in one of my top five tobacco blends has fallen somewhat. Consistency isn’t a virtue of Savinelli’s pipes, I’ve found, and the same holds true with this tobacco. Some of their pipes and tobacco is mediocre, and some blends and pipes are very good. Doblone D’Oro is to me hard to qualify—it’s somewhere between those two points. I would deem this blend complex, even. It’s drier than most and spun into coins, unlike most blends. The nutty burley is playing chords in the foreground, with the sweet Virginias playing further behind, and the dark-fired Kenyan leaf and the Perique spice strumming away a few steps behind. I hesitated to throw this thought out there but it’s been recurring in my mind through four 100 gram tins of Doblone D’Oro—this blend at its best can be complex and a balanced spicy-sweet on the tongue. But at its worst, it can be inconsistent and taste at times like a citrusy and slightly spicy cologne. Yes, I did say cologne. Sweet and fragrant and a bit tangy. Not always, but at times. I just don’t want to ever have tobacco taste like I’m sipping from my little bottle of Burberry! I’ve smoked through over 120 various blends now, and overall the sweet-citrus-and-spice taste is a bit too dominant for me, in this blend. Even so, this scratched and worn golden coin is still gold, and the old Italian bullion coin will always be hidden away in my house for when I need it. And it shines much brighter, I find, if it’s my first smoke of the day. 4.1 stars.
Castello - Fiammata 2oz
An Unexceptional, But Still Decent Blend
I can see how Castello pitches this as a mild VaPer that would go well with a morning cappuccino. To me, it is unexceptional, but not a bad blend. Even so, with so many knockout blends out there, I’ll pass on restocking this. I did want to like it more, as I love Castello pipes. 3.75 stars.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Savinelli 6mm Balsa Filters (100 Count)
The Right Amount of Balsa For The Bucks
This box contains just the right amount of 6 mm balsa filters to purchase for my Savinellis. There are some weeks when I’ll puff several Savinelli pipes each day, and just in general, I’ve found that I run through the smaller packages too fast. This one is just right for my “gentleman’s drawer.”
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Blitz Pipe Cleaners (80 pack)
These Babies Will “Blitz” The Scheisse Out Of Your Pipe-Gunk
After using pipe cleaners from many different manufacturers, from B.J. Long to Brigham and others, I stumbled upon these fine Swiss maidens. What an opportune discovery! No pipe cleaner has scrubbed the stems, mortises, shanks and draftholes of my pipes with greater effectiveness. They are not too rigid, and not too flaccid (like I unfortunately found with Brigham’s Churchwarden pipe cleaners). They aren’t as soft as B.J. Long’s “regular” pipe cleaners, as they have some added bristling, without being full-on bristled. Here is a case in which you get what you pay for—the extra quarters you will spend on Blitz cleaners over their competitors are worth it.
Smokingpipes Gear - Smokingpipes Baseball Cap (with Pockets)
Fun And Full of Possibilities
This is a unique cap, not only for the nice oatmeal color, or the fact that it’s not another trendy “trucker’s cap”. It bears Smokingpipes’ great logo, and also features a pocket and Velcro holder on one side and a small zippered pouch on the other. What this means is there are many possibilities as to what one can do with both features: stow away a tamper, a pipe lighter, a half ounce of tobackee, or even as the ad wisely notes, clandestine cash as you leave your wife behind for a pipe show or your favorite tobacconist. Your accompanying receipts can also hide inside (queue mischievous laughter). In the Velcro holder you can place a few pipe cleaners, or a pen, so if at a major pipe show, you stumble upon Jess Chonowitsch, J.T. Cooke, or Vlad Grechukhin, you won’t be at a loss for an autograph! Last but not least—I am an enthusiast of certain hobbies, artists, and companies, and I enjoy repping some of the aforementioned. Smokingpipes has played a huge role in my development within the hobby, and my enjoyment of it, and I felt I should sport the cap in public. The comments I expected did ensue, and I explained Smokingpipes and its offerings to several friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. It’s been a fun cap to wear.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Tsuge Bamboo Tamper
If You Collect Tampers, Or Own Several, Add This
Here’s the sole shining example of Eastern elegance and organicism in my tamper collection. Beauty in simplicity. It’s worth the low price, and should last decades. Just ensure that the dottle is wiped clean from your pick before you screw or back into the tamper, as the chamber is quite narrow (difficult to clean). For those who want such a tamper they can affix to a keychain, Smokingpipes sells those, too. A great option!
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Sillem's Black Pipe Tamper
The Steinway, Or Rolex, of Pipe Tampers?
I had my eye on this beauty for a couple of months while I mulled taking the plunge and forking over 284 bones for a pipe tamper. But after looking into Sillem’s storied history and reputation, and sneaking glances here and there at this German temptress, I made my move. It was worth it—I use it on spontaneous occasions when I want my pipesmoking session to seem more memorable. Thank God I’ve never dropped it on the patio pavement! The dottle pick is standard in its shaping but still handsome. The round top is of a shape I rarely see atop tampers, and in sterling silver, even more seldom. Being silver, the round top will cloud, but there’s always polishing! Speaking of—it’s the application of the sterling silver and the handmade enamel work that make this item extraordinary, and priced accordingly. I’ll be using this upper-echelon tamper several decades from now, and it will probably find its way eventually to my son, and then my grandson. Until then, I’ll use it on certain occasions. And otherwise sneak an admiring look its way, here and there.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Peterson Sherlock Holmes Pewter Tamper
A Curiosity Worth Purchasing
As a boy I loved reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but I found as a pipesmoking adult, it grated on my ears when someone called me Sherlock while I puffed Calabashes, or even non-Calabash bent pipes. I suppose this was one reason I veered away from Peterson’s Sherlock line of pipes, especially with their accompanying inscriptions. But this tamper? I had to buy it. First, it’s pewter. Not much pewter items fashioned out there these days. And I was raised in a home with some British pewter antiques in the dining room. Secondly, the face has a gothic feel to it, especially it’s profile view, and the fact that he’s puffing a pipe and sporting his famed cap? The sale was “closed”. And no regrets with this purchase and its low price—despite there being no internal dottle pick.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Abe Herbaugh Smoke Resin and Antique Brass Tamper
Honest Abe Will Steer You Right
I jumped at the chance to purchase a pipe tamper fashioned by a pipemaking artisan of Herbaugh’s standing. I vacillated a bit between this smoke and antique brass one and its jade sibling, but elected this one in the end. Glad I did. The gray swirling polymer resin (of course symbolizing pipe smoke) seems pretty creative, and it’s easy on the eyes. The antique brass foot is fetching, too. The nail-like pick inside gets the job done with the dottle. Importantly, the tamper twists to stay shut, and won’t come open when you don’t want it to.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Neerup Long Brush 2/Bag
“Dependable For Most Interior Pipe-cleaning Tasks”
I’m glad that I scored these two reusable steel brushes. They’ve greatly helped with all my attempts through mortises, shanks and a few draftholes, though there was one elusive fail: the goopy tar-obstructed drafthole of my Peterson Pub Pipe. For that, I’ll just find some thinner and perhaps more rigid steel brush. Even so, the rock-bottom pricing and solid engineering make this two-brush set a worthy acquisition for any serious piper.
Pipe Accessories - Peterson Avoca 2 Pipe Bag
This Lil’ Irish Rover’s Worth The Greenbacks
This is the smaller of my two pipe bags, and like much of Peterson’s pipe accessories, is nicely priced. Quality brown leather and the Peterson logo zipper fob are big pluses, along with the two leather loops for your pipes’ shanks and the compartment for your tobacco pouch and a smaller one for your pipe lighter and tamper. Great for tossing in the backseat or into your luggage when you’re off for a short trip. I’ve received several compliments on it, and of course, often an inquiry or two.
Pipe Accessories - Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation Pipe Cleaner Sleeve Red
“Ideal For A Small Pipe Cleaner Sleeve”
This sleeve is smaller than it looks, but it accommodates a decent cluster of pipe cleaners. I fancy the russet color, the soft-but-not-too-soft feel, and the cursive Stokkebye signature on the logo. Importantly, due to its small size, it can easily fit into my breast pocket or even my smallest pipe bag.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Neerup Shank Reamer
“Good For Shanks, Not Draftholes”
This tool has proven effective on shanks. It’s really nothing more and nothing less. Here’s an anecdote that might help those hoping to use this on an obstructed drafthole: My Peterson Pub Pipe was one of my workhorse puffers—until it wasn’t. I understand Oom Pauls and pipes using the “Peterson System” may experience stoppages or tar buildup, not as much in the shank, but in the airway just north of the drafthole. But my Neerup steel pipe brushes wouldn’t unblock said obstruction, and though for a moment I was tempted to try this shank reamer, I realized that this 3 mm shank reamer would also prove unsuccessful. Even more, trying this on a draft hole is asking for trouble, and it will likely damage the pipe. It seems that Neerup made this reamer square, and not cylindrical/round, so one can turn it inside the shank and remove carbon—not clear out an obstructed drafthole.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Czech Pipe Tool
“Function Over Style”
I’ve bought two of these as gifts for friends I got into piping. It was my first pipe tamper, long before I waded into the waters of Sillem’s, Dunhill, Abe Herbaugh, Tsuge and Peterson tampers. The ubiquitous Czech Tool is not the most handsome tamper, but I’d be hard-pressed to find one with more utilitarian value. This three-part tool is solid, the scoop/shovel is not too large and like the pick, it’s effective. The Czech Tool is cheap as hell, and you can drop it a dozen times on your patio and not feel remorse! I still use it daily for its scoop alone, and in certain rare situations, its pick, to enable airflow deep into a bowl I’ve packed too tightly.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil 15ml
“Got Vulcanite? Need Obsidian Oil!”
Assuming you aren’t just an owner of acrylic-stemmed (most likely Italian) pipes, you need to guard weekly against oxidation creep on your vulcanite stems. This comes with the territory, as so very many great pipes have vulcanite stems. I’ve found this particular obsidian oil is the most effective for the chore. The price is worth it. And the lavender scent will please you as you let the oil work its magic on those stems!
Cornell & Diehl - Redburn 2oz
Fair At First, Solid At The Finish
When I spotted this blend on Smokingpipes, it had me at hello, namely because I’d purchase anything named after a Melville novel or novella (see the English tobacco blend Billy Budd). Especially if it is blended by Cornell and Diehl. My first bowl or two of this crumble cake seemed fair, mediocre. Perhaps because I’d just finished a tin of Oak Alley, which I really enjoyed. I’m partial to strong blends and OA seemed more robust. But after several bowls of Redburn, I came to appreciate this happy marriage of Mr. White-And-Dark Burley and Mrs. Red and Bright Virginia. Mr. Burley wears the pants in this union, if you catch my drift. And rum punch is served at the wedding. Dark fired Kentucky barbecue and molasses cookies for the feast! I had this same reversal of opinion, after all, with my first several bowls of Escudo Navy Deluxe—a classic for good reason. Not all blends will charm me at our first meeting. Judgment is best after several bowls anyway, especially after airing out the tobacco in question, which helped with this one. Redburn is not exactly mild in strength (it is indeed robust) or underwhelming, in terms of quality. On the retrohale, I tasted coffee. A plus for me, as I’m a coffee fanatic. I’d restock this. Once again, nice shot, Cornell and Diehl! 4.1
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Dunhill Junior Black Pipe Tool
Quickly Became My Go-To Tamper
Whereas this might be the smallest tamper I’ve ever purchased, this Japanese-made piece quickly became my go-to. It fits in all pipes, from a Group 1 or 2 to a Group 6. The pick inside is a nice one, and the tamper easily stays shut tight. The shaft of the tamper is high quality plastic and if you drop it on the pavement—it’s okay. It won’t ruin your day. It’s not like you dropping a very pricey, handmade tamper, like an olivewood tamper by Castello or any sterling silver and enamel tamper by Sillem’s. Also—it’s great way to rep such a great marque. It may be small, but at least it’s not one of those ubiquitous tampers that look more like lipstick!
Ashtrays - Comoy's Ceramic 3 Pipe with Cork Knocker Ashtray
Commemorate “Old Comoy’s” In Style
Great pipe ashtray! Most offered will only accommodate one or two pipes, but this will clearly allow for three. The handsome royal blue is striking and I fancy the logo, commemorating the days when the then-English Comoy’s quality was higher.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Brigham Churchwarden Pipe Cleaners (24 Pack)
Folds Like A Cheap Suit
Caveat Emptor! These folded like a cheap suit, right when I needed them the most. Footnote: the poor quality of these Churchwarden pipe cleaners, however, in no way represents the pipemaking prowess of this marque. Nevertheless, I hope the powers-that-be at Brigham read these reviews and tweak their quality control on their pipe cleaners.
Cornell & Diehl - Briar Fox 2oz
Peter Heeschen’s Fave For Good Reason
The grassy sweetness of the Virginias dovetail with a good amount of pecan-like burley to deliver a respectable blend, mild in taste but not in potency, packaged in a nice, compact crumble cake form. It is also sweet and haylike compared to my more robust all-day: Old Joe Krantz. But not quite satisfying enough to dethrone it. BF’s tin note is also very pleasant, unlike with OJK, and even carries a vaguely fruity aroma. All that being said, if BF was good enough to be Danish pipecarver Peter Heeschen’s “all-day”, it’s good enough to always maintain a spot within the cellar of this lowly piper. Near my two Peter Heeschen pipes! 4.2 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Shandygaff
“The Tobacco of the Sea”
While enjoying this unique blend, you just might feel like Captain Ahab puffing away as he pursues the White Whale through the North Atlantic waves. Or less dramatically, you might feel like you’re sipping a ginger beer or Moscow Mule at the beach. Because reviewers nailed it when they wrote that ginger and salty sea air collide in this blend. For someone who is landlocked and misses that remarkable New England and northern Florida seashore air, this has proven to be great comfort. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a burley lover, and here we have burley rendered even more enjoyable by the addition of Turkish/Orientals, and seasoned additionally by perique. I can see why Cornell and Diehl purchased this old recipe to keep it alive. It’s worth purchasing a bulk ounce to try, and if you’re like me, you’ll soon after go in for several ounces, stowing it in your cellar. 4.3 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Old Joe Krantz 2oz
All Hail Bob Runowski’s Grandpa Joe!
I give thanks tobacco blending virtuoso Bob Runowski had such a cool grandfather, not only because he inspired his grandson to get into the hobby, but because he inspired Bob to recreate his grandaddy’s all-day blend, which in turn, has become mine. Lovers of “cigar tobacco” pipe tobacco will delight in this blend, probably even more than they will in Briarworks’ Country Lawyer. It’s right there in the pure tobacco tin note: not a pleasant one, but unadulterated and without frills. But if you’re also a burley lover, once you light up your first bowl of OJK, you’ll be transported to the lower reaches of heaven amidst an aria of dark burley, some help via sweet red Virginias in the background, and with a decent seasoning of spicy perique, as you rise on a thick cloud of nicotine. For the record, Peterson’s Irish Flake and MacBaren’s HH Rustica are two of my top favorite blends, if that tells you anything. Unlike those, OJK’s ribbon form is easy to pack and light, and while less complex, it’s easier to pack and puff. For those who, like me, lean towards burley over Virginia, English, or aro blends, and don’t mind a generous dash of perique, Old Joe Krantz just might become a staple of your cellar. 4.5 stars.