Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Glengarry Flake
“Put That Coffee DOWN!”
If you puff this one as I did during mornings, over coffee, you want to give this medium-bodied GH flake your full attention, or enough of it. So as Blake (Alec Baldwin) yells in the classic film Glengary Glen Ross, “put that coffee down!” And light up, and see if you get the same impression I did. Am I missing something? I found this flake not complex or excellent, but satisfactory. I do like its wheat toast flavor with a touch of cinnamon. Not a Gawith Hoggarth standout, yet no dud. 4.5 stars.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Dark Bird's Eye
Your Eyes Will Be Beady As A Bird’s From The Full-Nic-Throttle
Now this is a resounding example of why I love Gawith Hoggarth. I had waited months to get my claws on some of this blend, but upon checking my email I saw the good news from our allies over at Smokingpipes. The pouch note smelled just like many of their other blends, but upon that char light and the ensuing two puffs, I immediately what all of the DBE talk was about. I also knew I was puffing quite a stout blend, as are Gawith Hoggarth’s Brown Twist and Brown Bogie and Samuel Gawith’s Brown Number Four. The nic-hit sure comes early with this one. While not the strongest blend out there, suffice it to say that DBE certainly has your nicotine needs covered. I quickly learned that if one puffs too fast, the flavor levels off and loses some of its fullness. Puff slowly to appreciate this one for what it is: a strong BurVa shag blend that tastes not like cocoa or coffee but natural fine pipe tobacco with that unmistakable brown sugar-like Gawith Hoggarth topping. 5.0 stars.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Brown Twist
“Gawith H” At Its Greatest
My very favorite Gawith Hoggarth blend. Beyond its fraternal twin, Brown Bogie, which I love but only when I want to bring out my Neerup tobacco knife and cutting board. Beyond Kendal Dark and Dark Bird’s Eye, which also I love. These irregularly cut little coins never fail to please with their sweet subtle barbecue-like flavor (though not as intensely oaky and barbecue-like as my beloved Peterson’s Irish Flake). I have a high nic-tolerance which allows me to puff this with ease, though I usually do this after a full meal as to not push my luck too much. I will say after I end my night with this one and lay on my bed, my wife (if awake) will groan over the strong tobacco aroma/stench on me. I just chuckle and pay no mind. There’s no preventing me from getting twisted by the lovely Brown Beauty! Now Brown Twist versus Irish Flake, that’s an epic matchup. Best not to choose a favorite there. It’s like Shakespeare versus Dante or Dostoevsky versus Tolstoy. Why choose when you can enjoy either at the moment of your choosing? 5.0 stars.
Warped - The Red Hunt 2oz
Sample This, And Discover Why It’s Often Sold Out On Smokingpipes
Well, now I see why it’s almost perpetually sold out on the Smokingpipes site. One of the best VaPers in existence. To my tongue, certainly the most PLEASANT. The tin note alone preps you for what you know will be a great experience: a flavor of maple syrup, with perhaps a tinge of vanilla, in this medium-bodied smoke. I cannot detect any spice from Perique—any I haven’t contracted Covid and suffered weakened taste buds! 5.0 stars.
Orlik - Golden Sliced 50g
“Smoked by all shrewd judges” and discerning pipers
This generations-old classic of honey, citrus (orange) and toast delivered in a VaPer flake has held its popularity for good reason. And just because it’s enjoyed that popularity among masses of pipesters doesn’t take away from its quality. Ironically I came to this late, and was able to enjoy a tin aged for about three years. Three more years and surely three times three would have enhanced it further. A great flake to break the intensity of many consecutive bowls of dark-fired Kentucky, robust burley or BurVa blends, or my more stout English blends. Like many, the Perique in this flake goes unnoticed on my tongue. Interestingly, I can puff this one quite fast and not suffer a bite. Just as much, I appreciate the honeyed and slightly orange-citrus flavor without feeling I’m tasting something artificial or chemical. Simple but superior. 4.5 stars.
Stands & Pouches - Neal Yarm Solid Back 96 Pipe Eight Tier Stand Mahogany
Functional Work Of Art
Like a great pipe, this is a functional work of art. So much so, that I bought two of them. And I even delayed reviewing this until I acquired both of these 96-pipe racks that were available! Neal Yarm is quite the artisan, and I certainly have no complaints. The size is not clumsy, and in fact it’s compact for the number of pipes it accommodates. The woodwork on the mahogany here is stellar, the use of felt in the holes is just right, and the spacing between each slot is adequate. Yes, your churchwardens and perhaps some of your semi-churchwardens won’t fit (though the top shelf can hold longer pipes), but all of my large-bowled smokers I wanted to store in this rack fit just fine. And mahogany? I just had to pounce. I hope Smokingpipes restocks this exact rack and several of my fellow pipe aficionados (with large collections) scoop them up. You won’t regret it. Well done, Mr. Yarm! And kudos to Stephen Mawby’s top-notch Customer Service team that packages these beauties with expert care. 5.0 stars.
Five Brothers - Five Brothers 1.25oz
Raised And Toughened By Five Brothers On The Frontier!
Try this, and after you’ll feel like you were playing hard and roughed up a bit by five older brothers there on the old frontier! This pure burley shag, apparently devoid of any topping, has only four Smokingpipe stars for strength. But after a Size 5 bowl of this you might swear it deserves five or six. It rivals in strength Gawith Hoggarth’s Kendal Dark, Samuel Gawith’s Brown Number Four rope/twist, and Mac Baren’s HH Rustica. For Five Brothers is already heady stuff, but it is rendered unlike those blends in hairlike shag form. Many smokers will puff this a bit too fast and as it burns fast, it delivers that nic-hit that much faster and harder. This is sound for what it is, a pure burley shag tasting of sheer natural tobacco, with a pouch note of black pepper and cupboard spices (perhaps cayenne is in there somewhere). But it’s the flavor of black pepper (and nothing like Perique pepper) and a trace of saltiness in the mouth that to me keeps this blend from its full potential. Those flavors, besides its sheer horsepower, are good reasons to smoke this after a good-sized meal but also importantly to relegate this to an occasional bowl. Regardless, Five Brothers isn’t for the faint of heart. It is also definitely a cut above other drugstore blends with their often sugary, artificial-tasting toppings. Knowing this one’s been sold since the late nineteenth century, I can’t help but imagine this having filled the pipe chambers of Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill Cody, and other men who settled the West. Great for the price and a worthy choice for the burley aficionado. 4.0 stars.
Cleaners & Cleaning Supplies - White Elephant Bristle Pipe Cleaners (80 Pack)
No Tacky White Elephant Gift Here
These are there for me when Blitz bristle cleaners sell out. They have more cleaning power than Brigham’s bristle cleaners and are gentler than the BJ Long bristle cleaners. But to me they don’t quite have an edge over Blitz bristles, though to some there is a quality or effectiveness difference there. These clearly are forty cents pricier than the Blitz ones. One thing is certain—these are of top-notch quality. Don’t be shy about punching that buy button! 5.0 stars.
Mac Baren - HH Bold Kentucky 1.75oz
The Boldest Kentucky—Of The Dark Fired Variety
As a Dark-Fired Kentucky lover, who fell in love at first puff, I have smoked through many a tin of Irish Flake, John Cotton’s Kentucky, and Mac Baren’s Old Dark Fired and Bold Kentucky, Samuel Gawith’s 1792 Flake. I’m most likely leaving out one or two. I love them all and appreciate their differences. But Bold Kentucky? That is what I go to when I want the most powerful DFK experience, with just a very minor addition of sweet Virginias in the mix. Of course, you know that with a higher percentage of DFK and with a lower percentage of Virginias per flake (as compared to the aforementioned blends), you are going to feel some serious firepower. This is Mac Baren’s Old Dark Fired with a bit less Virginias, decreasing the sweetness, while turning up that smoky barbecue flavor of DFK and something you’ll experience quite vividly, viscerally. That nicotine blast, which Mac Baren ratchets up here to full-throttle. Mac Baren achieves what I believe it hoped for here: to deliver a more powerful version of ODF, knowing that to do so would mean less Virginias and more DFK per flake. Try it, if you dare. At least keep it for those nights, and perhaps days, when you want to receive the utmost DFK experience, or to intake almost enough Vitamin N to kill a mule. As a reviewer shrewdly observed, this is an easier way to enjoy that flavor you might be chasing while trying to secure those evasive tins of Samuel Gawith’s ropes (especially Brown Number Four) and Gawith Hoggarth’s Brown Bogie. I’ll say what so many (and probably you) know to be true: Bold Kentucky is ideally enjoyed after a decent-sized meal. Else you might be found sitting down on the pavement, disoriented and “tired from the heat.” 5.0 stars.
Warped - The Haunting 2oz
Haunted, You Just Might Become
Go ahead and try it. You just might become haunted. Not as haunted I was that I didn’t cellar more tins of Esoterica, or buying any more tins of C&D’s Sun Bear, or from not pouncing on certain pipes when I had the chance. But you might feel haunted that you didn’t buy more of tins of this blend to smoke, and to get a head start on aging. Because once again, tobacco titan Kyle Gellis scores another direct hit with his undisputed blending prowess. The tin note emitted a very mild cigar aroma, but when I fired this up and started to generate some plumes, for a second I wondered if this was the incense of the cigar gods. That criollo cigar leaf does the heavy lifting, providing spice and body. The Virginias make more of their sweet presence known as you burn more into the bowl. They are there to play a smaller but key role, helping deliver a flavor and room note that at times reminded me of incense from an abbey’s church I’d attend while growing up. It’s not hard to make this cigar lover come back for more. This is yes, like enjoying a fine cigar, but to me, even better. I’ll be ordering some more to allow for some aging—especially for the Virginias inside. And some tins for imminent enjoyment. 5.0 stars all right!
Samuel Gawith - Cabbie's Mixture 50g
The Elusive Cabbie Found Me At Last
I’d tried to get my claws on a tin of Cabbie’s Mixture for many months, to no avail. When I finally did, I found the blend solid, just not quite as impressive to my tongue as such world-class Samuel Gawith knockouts as Brown Number Four, Full Virginia Flake, 1792 Flake and one I have an affection for that many don’t find so amazing: Sam’s Flake. Upon cracking my lone tin of Cabbie’s Mixture, I chuckled affectionately when pulling out what Samuel Gawith intended to be “coins”. SG’s only coin mix is more like a mangled coin verging on tangles of ribbons, but I don’t mind. I can’t think of another blend rendered in this form, and it’s the only SG blend involving coins (or quasi-coins). Anyway, I found the tobacco was moist, but not as moist as I’ve found SG’s rope blends from their tins. The flavor was wheat toast with a decent amount of pepper and something like cinnamon or another mild spice. Every few puffs I could swear I could taste a bit of plum or fig jam on that toast. The body and nic-hit and flavor, like the room note, are uniformly medium. If you’re a VaPer-lover, or if you love SG as I do, you should try this, as difficult to obtain as it can be. One thing I’ll say about this one: it is indeed subtle, and despite only consisting of a VaPer’s two usual leaves, it is complex. 4.5 stars.
G. L. Pease - Sixpence 2oz
Sometimes That Second Chance Means Everything
There are many songs I like that I didn’t quite appreciate on my first listen. Same with several other things. Within the realm of pipe tobacco, Escudo and G.L. Pease’s Sixpence are notable examples. I came to fancy Escudo on that second bowl, and with Sixpence, on that second tin. I first sampled Sixpence in spring 2020 and though I finished the tin within a few days, it did not impress me, and in a way I was simply trying to get rid of it. I don’t know what happened, if its ingredients were not blended to its standard measurements, but I didn’t reorder another until March 2021. I’m thankful I did. For I favorably reviewed a few other Pease blends and looked up the components of Sixpence. Wait—Dark Fired Kentucky, Perique and Black Cavendish? Those are among my favorite components. What could have gone awry? This didn’t seem right. Suffice it to say that second tin, ordered one year later, gave me all I had hoped for. The tin note contained something that at first smelled funky and Camembert-like (something I love in Warped’s Kings Stride and Tabac Manil’s four blends). Then I sniffed again, and again. That funky smell was imagined; the true tin note was a strong one or rum, whiskey, or both. That liquor element continued past the tin note and char light and down to the bottom of the bowl, and this proved consistent with my ensuing smoke sessions of Sixpence. So in this way, this broken flake is akin to the Navy flakes I’ve enjoyed. But there ends the similarities with said Navy flakes. For here the Perique is dominant, the DFK plays a strong supporting role, and the Virginias are there to sweeten everything and the Cavendish enriches it and mellows it out. Pease actually delivers an impressive medium-strength and medium-bodied blend hard to fit into a category. Aromatic or English it clearly is not, and it’s more multifaceted than a VaPer or a BurVa. I’ll soon be buying ten or more tins to stow away in my study’s closet (this pipelover’s cellar). There’s one caveat to this one that I remind myself of, and you may find the same. If you don’t fancy a rum or liquor topping or flavor in your pipe tobacco, then don’t smoke bowls of these back-to-back or consecutively. Smoke a bowl of Sixpence and then puff other blends and come back another day for a bowl of this. At times I feel Pease topped it with too generous of a portion of rum, and I can taste it throughout the bowl. 4.5 stars.
Peterson - Sherlock Holmes 50g
Aromatic Or No—That Is The Question
I feel that fiction’s most celebrated detective woukd have puffed this not as his all-day but as his occasional aromatic treat, often paired with his glass of cognac. Or is it an aromatic, or just a BurVa with a pleasant, pronounced white wine and apricot topping? Good question, and I’ve that perhaps does not require an answer. Still, I puff this only in my meerschaums. Back to Holmes: his all-day was a shag, not cut into ribbons like this, and it was dark, not light to medium brown. I imagine his go-to being most like Gawith Hoggarth’s heady shag blend, Kendal Dark. Regardless, this is bound to be an enjoyable smoke for most pipesters, namely those experienced ones disposed to aromatics but not of the SuperValue drugstore variety or those that beginners often start with, drenched in unknown sugary chemicals. When I’m in a fruit-forward blend mood, this is at the top of my list, along with Cornell & Diehl’s Founding Fathers and W.O. Larsen’s Signature. 4.5 stars.
Peterson - Flake 50g
Behind That Flat Name, Greatness Was Hiding
For quite some time I delayed trying this blend, for two reasons. First, the name seemed boring and flat compared to other old Dunhill brands, and somehow I imagined this blend being a dull smoke compared to Irish Flake, University Flake, Royal Yacht or Deluxe Luxury Rolls. This assumption I believe was more subconscious or subliminal than anything. Secondly, since my tastes skewed burley-ward, and also toward Dark Fired Kentucky, Orientals, and Black Cavendish, I knew I’d eventually try Flake, but assumed the performance would prove none too inspiring. After all, it was composed purely of Virginia. And it wasn’t cured or stoved that I knew, like the rope blends from SG and GH. Well, I was certainly wrong. What was I thinking? Or rather, not thinking? I feel like this was Dunhill’s (and now Peterson/STG’s) own version of Samuel Gawith’s Full Virginia Flake. Which to me is a stunningly delicious, pure Virginia flake (perhaps with a touch of that distinct topping found in Samuel Gawith and Gawith Hoggarth that most seem to love or hate). Instead, here we have a conservative foil to FVF, a blend where the topping perhaps isn’t quite notable or identifiable. What you do have is an impressive spiral of lemon citrus intertwined with grass/hay and then malt. It’s like a slightly citrusy yet vaguely tea-like, lightly malty brown ale. Sip this slowly and you won’t just skirt tongue-bite, but you’ll fully take in the medium-strength, simply yet delicious, and above all pleasant experience of Peterson Flake. As you do, you just might remember what you already well know: this is a flake, especially since it’s pure Virginia, that will improve considerably with age. Cellar this blend—if you can avoid smoking it all, of course! 5.0 stars.
Pipe Accessories - Scott Tinker Contrast Blast Briar Flake Tobacco Plate
Tinker Around...In The Best Possible Way
Could this plate be a tad larger in diameter, to hold more tobacco? Yes. Can it blow away with even a small gust of wind? Absolutely. But does Scott Tinker deliver a beautiful touch of class to keep and use (primarily indoors) for any devoted pipester? He sure does, and I’m glad I ordered one of the three available at Smokingpipes. Pipe tobacco plates are not very easy to come by, and those fashioned from briar and exhibiting impressive ring grain and a beautiful finish are not, either. I myself have never seen one before this. Heck, I’m proud of this new gift to myself. And now I can throw away my sheet of worn, tobacco-stained paper on my tobacco table. Good riddance! 5.0 stars.
G. L. Pease - Fillmore 2oz
Fillmore, More Than Just A Mediocre President
Millard Fillmore, last of the Whig Party Commanders in Chief, is not a US President that has enjoyed fame or much credit in American history. But the pipe tobacco blend sharing his surname sure as hell is no middling blend. I consider this a solid VaPer, even a good one, worth the first try and I’d argue worth at least a second purchase. Which takes precedence here, which shines more in the foreground, the sweet Virginias or the pepper of the Perique? I’ll let you be the judge. This is like a harmonious marriage in my estimation, of a sweet, kind person married to a vivacious person brimming over with sarcastic wit and feistiness. It’s somewhat better after I smoked a bowl or two, cellared it, and revisited it after many months. I suppose, as with most blends. As another reviewer noted, there’s a creaminess there, and a balance. The perique doesn’t overwhelm, over even dominate the flavor. Just that pleasing confluence of sweet and spice than any VaPer worth its mettle should possess. And it will not “bite”, even if at times, unwittingly, you vigorously puff. 4.5 stars.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Dark
Gawith...Hoggarth...And All’s Right With The World
A remarkable pouch note greets you, as with so many other Gawith Hoggarth greats. Something between smoked beef, spices and fresh leather fills your nostrils. I know this is a Gawith Hoggarth product, but if you’ve puffed through a lot of Samuel Gawith blends, this distinct scent might remind you of what might be SG’s masterpiece, another pure Virginia offering, the barely obtainable Brown Number Four rope/twist blend. This similarity might strike you in the pouch note but also in two other areas: Kendal Dark’s rich though simple flavor and its quite heady nicotine blast. Though I originally preferred GH’s more complex and medium-strong burley-Virginia blend Kendal Mixed as more of a go-to, Kendal Dark soon replaced it, and stands as the GH blend to which I keep returning. It’s there for when I seek a powerful smoke session paired with strong, simple flavor—preferably after a meal. One large bowl of this will have me set for quite a few hours! Once again, Gawith Hoggarth proves it can significantly brighten one’s day in a short amount of time. 5.0 stars.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Gold
Meet The Shagarific, Golden-haired Miss Kendal
Here you have a unique blend that shouldn’t be missed. In your kissing session with this English lass Miss Kendal Gold, know that she won’t be like many other blends. Imagine her as a young Sienna Miller, with those mixed light blonde and dirty blonde locks to match. If you kiss too fast, she just might bite down on your tongue in warning, ever so slightly. But it’s naught too serious, for when your time with her is over, your tongue won’t hurt a bit. The mere look of those thin and wavy strands of blond and very light brown hair is a beauty to behold, and you sure will remember it. But what will be most unforgettable is she tastes like the finest hay and honey one could find from the English countryside. A less intense experience than one might get with Miss Kendal Mixed, but perhaps more memorable and unique. 5.0 stars.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Mixed
“Shag” ‘Til You’ve Had Your Fill—With Kendal Mixed!
An intriguing blend, this is. Shag, like cube cut, isn’t the most commonplace style you see anymore. This shag is almost like thick hair, and in its pouch it smells very much like cigar leaf, while being very moist and seemingly a bit sticky. Haven’t encountered a shag blend before that shared all of those characteristics. The cigar-leaf pouch note quickly gives way to that old Kendal flavor featured in varied forms in Samuel Gawith’s Brown Number Four (one of my all-time favorites and as hard as hen’s teeth to find) and in a few other SG blends like 1792 Flake and Sam’s Flake. Like most Gawith Hoggarth and Samuel Gawith blends, Kendal Mixed is both quite moist upon first opening, and when lit, possesses no bite but sends a mild burn through the nasal passages. One reviewer is right in that the tongue feels quite dry after a bowl. The flavor is smoky and nutty courtesy of the burley and slightly sweet from the Virginias. Much of this burns down to a fine white ashen dust, perhaps a testament to its purity. The main question I have with this blend regards its strength. Is it as nic-heavy as many reviewers hold? Smokingpipes has it more as a medium-strength blend, with Gawith Hoggarth’s and SG’s rope/twist blends being significantly stronger in Vitamin N. I’ll leave it for my fellow pipers to judge. I’d put it at medium-strong, maybe adding one more yellow dot to its current three. Or perhaps I’m just losing my edge! Regardless—I thoroughly enjoy this blend. Do try! 5.0 stars.
G. L. Pease - JackKnife Ready Rubbed 2oz
This Ready-Rubbed Has You Ready For Bliss
When I spotted GL Pease’s Jackknife, I assumed I’d like it overall simply based on the ingredients. Burley and dark-fired Kentucky? With a smaller addition of Virginia? Sounds like some of my go-to favorites. I hit the buy button. I think I might even prefer this to Sansepolcro, the small batch charmer from one of my favorite blending houses, Cornell & Diehl. A blend I’ve both smoked and cellared. In that blend though, there is Black Cavendish and the Virginias play a larger role. Yet, I’m far more a fan of burley than Virginia. I prefer string blends and Jackknife is a notch stronger than Sansepolcro. Thus the opening for Jackknife presents itself... I can puff Jackknife faster than my rubbed-out Irish Flake, one of my top favorites. This offers practical value, as I can opt for Jackknife on my smoke breaks during the workday to get that special combination of flavors I love: barbecued brisket, toast, nuts and hay, with a hint of chocolate and coffee here and there, and a touch of spice. To my mouth, the dominant flavor, however, is that of a sandwich of barbecued brisket on toast. 5.0 stars.
Samuel Gawith - Sam's Flake 50g
A Flake Fit Not Just For Mayor, But A King
There must be some good reason this blending house attached its founder’s name to this blend. Though found in SG’s “Kendal Mayor’s Collection”, it might cause you to wonder if it has higher aspirations! This is more complex than SG’s Best Brown Flake and Full Virginia Flake, but it might not be the tour-de-force that FVF is. Still, I puff this third Virginia blend more often as it seems more robust and complex in flavor, due to the Orientals in the background and the tonquin bean topping that to me enhances the flavor but doesn’t overwhelm the other elements. This could easily be an all-day. But though that tonquin bean doesn’t drown out all other elements within this blend, I do think that to enjoy this offering, you must be able to enjoy tonquin bean. If you don’t, this offering might be a fit for Sir Sam, but not for you. 5.0 stars.
Samuel Gawith - Best Brown Flake 50g
Not Sammy’s Best Brown Flake, But It Still Scores Five Stars
In all of Samuel Gawith’s body of work, Best Brown Flake (with its braggadocio-rich name) might play second fiddle to the magnificent Full Virginia Flake. But in my world, it still clocks in at a full five stars. And if not, at least four-point-five. And not because of the fact I’m an Anglophile who loves Samuel Gawith’s blends. With Best Brown Flake, Samuel Gawith delivers an excellent medium-bodied Virginia broken flake. I might be wrong, but the brown sugar, honey, citrus and grassy hay notes all seem to result naturally from inside of the prime Virginia leaf here, and not from any mystery toppings. The tin note is to me very much like green tea, with Full Virginia Flake smelling like green tea mixed with some unknown other tea variety. Green tea is not as present, however in the flavor post-char light. Instead you get the flavors I mentioned before. This easily could become an all-day, with its mild nicotine levels and mild flavor, but it is at least an ideal morning puff for a pipester with Virginia on the mind. Rub this out and dry for a couple or few hours before packing the bowl, for best results. 5.0 stars.
Samuel Gawith - Full Virginia Flake 50g
The Brits Finally Reclaimed Virginia
Well now! It appears the Brits finally recovered one of their oldest colonies—Virginia! As a burley lover, I can still appreciate a great Virginia blend, and clearly you have one here. It’s simple yet savory: sweet, tea-like not just in the tin note but this “tea-ness” persists in the flavor. Those incendiary, burning sensations played in my mouth—that was merely the sugar (found in a higher level in Virginias than in burley) heating up on the roof of my mouth, along my tongue and in my nasal cavities, cautioning me to slow my gallop to a steady plodding. That tin art—well this is, after all, what Conan Doyle had as Sherlock’s preferred blend. As for the tin note: it’s somewhere between a green tea and some other type of tea. I placed my nose well into the tin against the great leaf and inhaled many a time. It’s tea every time. Definitely an agreeable feature. Though this does not resemble my go-to blends, I believe Samuel Gawith achieves its goal with this offering: to produce a perfect, natural medium-bodied Virginia blend, riding confidently on its own natural merits, unadulterated by toppings, Lakeland or otherwise. 5.0 stars.
Samuel Gawith - Grousemoor 50g
“Gross More”, It Thankfully Wasn’t
When I cracked this tin, I inhaled profoundly. Once, twice, thrice, and again. Aromatic I knew it was, but what sort of room note would ensue if ignited this English lass? It’s perfumed nose repelled me the first night. But the next day I resolved to give her some due diligence. And I’m glad I did. Upon cracking the tin, my eyes were met with a mixture of beautifully golden, light brown and tawny ribbons. That same perfumed scent again. After packing my meerschaum (did you think I’d use a briar with this?) and sparking the char light, I quickly sensed that this would be one of those cases of my repulsion at the tin note not matching up with what followed ignition. Upon first smelling the inside of that tin, I sensed I’d soon be giving this a 3.5 or 4 stars. Well, that gladly didn’t quite come to pass. The faint flowery vanilla Lakeland toppings (and the more generous additions of orange blossom toppings) many of the more conservative pipesters like to deride—well, they are what defines and dominates this blend. You probably will either like them or strongly dislike them. Grousemoor isn’t for everyone, but Samuel Gawith achieves what it sets out to accomplish with this blend. Just as I believe SG delivers the ideal rope/twist tobacco with Brown Number Four, the ideal medium-bodied Virginia Flake with Full Virginia Flake, Grousemoor wins its division: a technically Lakeland aromatic. Be sure to puff slowly, for with its sugary toppings, and the sugar organic/native to the Virginias, Grousemoor can bite your tongue a bit in warning. But nothing close to what many aromatics will do. Bottom line, you have a fine, top-notch aromatic here. 4.5 stars.
Samuel Gawith - Black XX 50g
Tobacco As Barbecued Burnt Ends and Grill Grease
Black XX was the second rope or twist tobacco I ever tried, right after Samuel Gawith’s tour-de-force, Brown Number Four. But with a name resembling some deadly rat poison, I knew this offering would be both strong and polarizing. Like Grousemoor or the SG’s Lakeland blends, you most likely will either really fancy or dislike this black rope blend. Some reviewers were not incorrect when they wrote this blend will taste at times like burning plastic and at times like really fine barbecued beef “burnt ends”. But luckily for me, it was far more of the latter. The burnt plastic taste may surface near the beginning of the bowl, but keep puffing and you’ll get that flavor of burnt ends from some solid Kansas City barbecue joint. Admittedly, at certain times you will experience a third taste, and not a savory one, as if you licked the barbecue grill after your meat was cleared off and the fire had cooled. Burnt beef taste fused with WD-40 grease and congealed beef fat. Why would I subject myself to this, or pay for such tobacco, some will ask themselves. Well, you could still cut, dry and mix this blend with your Samuel Gawith’s Brown Number Four and create a sort of “Black and Tan beer” version of tobacco. Bolder, richer, mellower and more bitter in taste than pure Brown Number Four, but slightly less nicotine. And Brown Number Four sure delivers Vitamin N in spades! Also with every tin of Black XX you purchase, you are encouraging the survival of rope/twist tobacco, a centuries-old tradition the English thankfully keep alive. And how many other actual black tobaccos have you encountered. Unique, SG’s Black XX certainly is. 4.5 stars.
Samuel Gawith - Brown No. 4 50g
Welcome To Rope Tobacco Heaven, Level Four
Here’s a tin you might have to fight, and fight hard, to obtain, but any very serious pipesters should. It’s worth at least one try. Old Brown Number Four will transport you to the forth level of Paradise, but it must be cut, dried out and packed just right. I achieved this only on my third smoke session of this blend, after “The Great Gawith Smoke Session That Wasn’t” and a retry of the same bowl the following morning. Admittedly, in my first session I packed the bowl just too tightly, but just as mistakenly, I packed it minutes after opening the tin for the first time. I expended almost all of the butane in my pipe lighter in a futile attempt to keep my meerschaum’s bowl lit. I soon put the pipe aside, and cut up another small section of the rope and let it dry overnight on my foyer’s “tobacco table.” My wife was struck by the strength of the drying tobacco’s aroma, something between pure, natural tobacco and barbecued beef brisket. She was standing about eight feet away in another hallway. Never before had she commented on the scent of any drying blend atop my table. Early the next morning, despite sitting out overnight, my packed meerschaum didn’t burn that well in my second smoking session. It was only in my third session, when I then loosely packed the portion I’d dried overnight into a briar, that I fully experienced this blend in all of its old-fashioned Kendal glory. Pipesters disagree on the complexity of this blend, some calling it magnificent (due to its rich flavor) but still one-dimensional. But all will testify to its sheer strength. It’s best puffed after a decent-sized meal and probably best after dinner—an evening smoke. Regardless, of all twist blends, this is the one that to me best celebrates that rope or twist tradition that only the English seem to keep alive. That following morning after breakfast, that loosely packed bowl of dried-out twist burned better and I reached that pipester nirvana I’d sought. Retrohale at least once, feel it burn past your nasal cavities as it leaves your nostrils, and fully take in the flavor and it’s true scent. And then you’ll find the reason this blend, at least in the tin form, sells out so soon after being posted on a vendor’s website. 5.0 stars.
Mac Baren - Burley: London Blend 3.5oz
A Fine London Chocolate Stout—In Tobacco Form
Distinct chocolate tones reveal themself in the tin note, and that chocolate persists past the char light, enduring until the last ashy traces in the chamber. This isn’t one of those many blends where the strong tin note vanishes after that first or second draw of smoke. It will be your friend throughout your smoking session. And while Mac Baren’s London Blend may not be deemed an aromatic, that chocolate flavor nevertheless is quite dominant, admit it. Mac Baren’s London Blend is like a cousin to Solani’s Aged Burley Flake, though probably a notch lower in quality, and I believe milder and sweeter in its chocolate taste (Solani’s ABF has many coffee tones, too). MBLB is as close to sipping Kahlua as I’ve found in smoking a pipe tobacco blend, but I happen to appreciate chocolate and chocolate tones in pipe tobacco, and I am a dyed-in-the-wool burley aficionado, so for me this is one grand treat. I missed the blend when it was discontinued, and always wished I stocked some in my cellar. When I happened to receive a surprise email from the Smokingpipes crew, I leaned in hard. Some might deem it a bit aggressive but I secured 11 tins over the next week. Enough to sip from every once in a while over the next decade. If Mac Baren’s business acumen is as shrewd as I think it is, they will launch another limited release of this “discontinued” blend in a year or two via Smokingpipes! 4.5 stars
John Cotton's - Double Pressed Kentucky 1.75oz
A Smooth DFK Standout Raised From The Dead
I would deem this crumble cake not great or exceptional, but still solidly good. While it seems a bit flat or uninspiring compared to the very well-rounded dark-fired Kentucky blends I love (Peterson’s Irish Flake, Mac Baren’s Old Dark Fired, Rattray’s Stirling Flake, and Gawith’s 1792 Flake), I am glad Mr. John Cotton went the way of the Biblical Lazarus. Now pipesters can enjoy a lighter, milder, dark fired Kentucky, free of the rough edges one often finds in those more robust DFK blends, namely Irish Flake (still my favorite DFK). I’ll raise my pipe for a second in cheers to those “mild DFK pipesters”, in celebration that Russ Ouellette and Standard Tobacco of Pennsylvania resurrected this blend from decades of discontinuation for enjoyment today. 4.5 stars.
Tabac De La Semois - La Volute 3.5oz
My Preferred “Plume” From Vincent Manil
La Volute, or The Plume. This was the last of the four Vincent Manil blends I ever had the pleasure of sampling, and Lord am I glad I did. And I am grateful for not just Manil himself but also the New York Times writer who brought his popularity to American pipesters, for without that piece some years back, many on my shores wouldn’t know of Sammy Hagar’s doppelgänger and his often hard-to-find blends showcasing the Belgian varietal burley leaf, Semois. Don’t let the box note deter you. And it does come packaged in the form of a paper brick, containing a ribbons pressed into a brick-sized crumble cake. It does smell like musty barnyard hay. Just, if my nose is trustworthy, not quite as barnyardish as the brick note of Tabac Manil’s blends La Brumeuse and Reserve du Patron. Pack these quick thick, dry, and often long ribbons (that more resemble mahogany wood chips and shavings than tobacco) not as tightly as you would with those other two Manil blends, nor tamp as frequently. These won’t burn quite as swiftly. In fact, the burn rate on this is as slow as you’d find with the thickest ribbons, though not quite as slow as with a flake. Scores of reviewers have attempted to describe this unique, earthy flavor, and the descriptions are widely varied. Here’s mine: that pure untopped Semois leaf comes out tasting like mixed nuts (not peanuts, however) with just the slightest trace of Camembert or Roquefort cheese. The moldy cheese element is just not as strong in La Volute as one finds in La Brumeuse or in Reserve Du Patron. Regardless, intuition tells me most pipers will either really fancy or really dislike this offering. But I sense most pipe tobacco connoisseurs will love it and at least value the first smoking session with this blend. The experience is unmatched: puffing a hard-to-obtain blend from an uncommon burley leaf, farmed, harvested, dried and prepared all by one person. If you’re a burley aficionado and if this passes your test, you might want to save this blend for a Friday or Saturday night, or a weekend, or when your spirits are feeling low. I break out my four Tabac Manil blends only when I want my smoking session to be a special one. I used to do the same with Cornell & Diehl’s short-lived knockout, Sun Bear, before it became unobtainable. When I want that full-throttle barnyard hay/mixed nuts/Roquefort cheese flavor but in a longer smoking session, I’ll reach for La Volute over its siblings. 5.0 stars.
Tabac De La Semois - Le Petit Robin 100g
A Smoke As Fast And Beautiful As A Little Robin
Le Petit Robin, or of course, The Little Robin. This was the third Vincent Manil blend I ever had the pleasure of sampling, and Lord am I glad I did. And I am grateful for not just Manil himself but also the New York Times writer who brought his popularity to American pipesters, for without that piece some years back, many on my shores wouldn’t know of Sammy Hagar’s doppelgänger and his often hard-to-find blends showcasing the Belgian varietal burley leaf, Semois. That musty barnyard hay scent mixed with a floral tea-like quality dominates the box note and is present in each puff. It really is the most floral and herbal tea-like of Tabac Manil’s creations. And it does come packaged in the form of a paper brick, and it does smell like a bit like musty barnyard hay, just nowhere near as much as you’ll find in Tabac Manil’s blends La Brumeuse and Reserve Du Patron. Pack this finely cut shag on the tight side, and you might want to tamp frequently. This shag burns swiftly. Far faster than the other Tabac Manil blends I mentioned—as fast as a little robin in flight. The blend is medium-bodied, with a medium nic-hit, as opposed to all other Tabac Manil blends, including La Volute. Intuition tells me most pipers will at least somewhat fancy this blend. But I sense most pipe tobacco connoisseurs will enjoy it and at least value their first smoking session of LPR. The experience is unmatched: puffing a hard-to-obtain blend from an uncommon burley leaf, farmed, harvested, dried and prepared all by one person. Now what Manil blends that Semois with, apparently some unknown Oriental blend—that is the mystery with LPR. If you’re a burley aficionado and if this passes your test, you might want to save this blend for a Friday or Saturday night, or a weekend, or when your spirits are feeling low. I break out my four Tabac Manil blends only when I want my smoking session to be a special one. I used to do the same with Cornell & Diehl’s short-lived knockout, Sun Bear, before it became unobtainable. 5.0 stars.
Tabac De La Semois - Reserve du Patron 3.5oz
Straight From The Owner’s, Or Top Client’s, Reserve
Reserve Du Patron, or Owner’s Reserve. Or Top Client’s Reserve. However you choose to translate this, you just might feel the superiority and uniqueness of this blend after that magical first char light. This was the second Vincent Manil blend I ever had the pleasure of sampling, after La Brumeuse, and Lord am I glad I did. And I am grateful for not just Manil himself but also the New York Times writer who brought his popularity to American pipesters, for without that piece some years back, many on my shores wouldn’t know of Sammy Hagar’s doppelgänger and his often hard-to-find blends showcasing the Belgian varietal burley leaf, Semois. Don’t let the box note deter you. And it does come packaged in the form of a paper brick, and it does smell like musty barnyard hay. Pack these long, dry ribbons (that more resemble medium-cut mahogany wood shavings than tobacco) on the tight side, or tamp frequently. They’ll burn swiftly. Probably faster than the long ribbons of La Brumeuse (essentially the same blend but in a thick cut) and not as fast as the shag cut of Le Petit Robin, which is a different blend entirely. Scores of reviewers have attempted to describe this unique, earthy flavor, and the descriptions are widely varied. Here’s mine: that pure untopped Semois leaf comes out tasting like mixed nuts (not peanuts, however) with just the slightest trace of Camembert or Roquefort cheese. Intuition tells me most pipers will either really fancy or really dislike this blend. But I sense most pipe tobacco connoisseurs will love it and at least value the first smoking session with this blend. The experience is unmatched: puffing a hard-to-obtain blend from an uncommon burley leaf, farmed, harvested, dried and prepared all by one person. If you’re a burley aficionado and if this passes your test, you might want to save this blend for a Friday or Saturday night, or a weekend, or when your spirits are feeling low. I break out my four Tabac Manil blends only when I want my smoking session to be a special one. I used to do the same with Cornell & Diehl’s short-lived knockout, Sun Bear, before it became unobtainable. 5.0 stars.
Tabac De La Semois - La Brumeuse 3.5oz
My Foggy Delight
La Brumeuse, or The Fog. This was the first Vincent Manil blend I ever had the pleasure of sampling, and Lord am I glad I did. And I am grateful for not just Manil himself but also the New York Times writer who brought his popularity to American pipesters, for without that piece some years back, many on my shores wouldn’t know of Sammy Hagar’s doppelgänger and his often hard-to-find blends showcasing the Belgian varietal burley leaf, Semois. Don’t let the box note deter you. And it does come packaged in the form of a paper brick, and it does smell like musty barnyard hay. Pack these long, dry ribbons (that more resemble mahogany wood shavings than tobacco) on the tight side, or tamp frequently. They’ll burn swiftly. Scores of reviewers have attempted to describe this unique, earthy flavor, and the descriptions are widely varied. Here’s mine: that pure untopped Semois leaf comes out tasting like mixed nuts (not peanuts, however) with just the slightest trace of Camembert or Roquefort cheese. Intuition tells me most pipers will either really fancy or really dislike this blend. But I sense most pipe tobacco connoisseurs will love it and at least value the first smoking session with this blend. The experience is unmatched: puffing a hard-to-obtain blend from an uncommon burley leaf, farmed, harvested, dried and prepared all by one person. If you’re a burley aficionado and if this passes your test, you might want to save this blend for a Friday or Saturday night, or a weekend, or when your spirits are feeling low. I break out my four Tabac Manil blends only when I want my smoking session to be a special one. I used to do the same with Cornell & Diehl’s short-lived knockout, Sun Bear, before it became unobtainable. 5.0 stars.
Three Nuns - Three Nuns 1.75oz
C.S. Lewis Knew A Few Things—Like “Three Nuns”
This underrated medium-bodied blend is surely worth ordering, even if only one tin. It was a favorite of C.S. Lewis for good reason, after all. These coins seem simple in composition—sweet Virginias with a center of dark-fired Kentucky—but it produces a simple enjoyment that’s worth recommending. Your first contact with Three Nuns regular will probably involve a sniff or two of the product upon cracking the tin. Notes of figs or fruit cake hit your nostrils. But it’s the char light that reveals the blend’s true character: fig bread mixed with the nut-like quality of the burley fused with the coffee and chock flavor that is borne of the dark-fired Kentucky (without the smoked meat flavor that often comes with DFK). I can’t help imagining in a Danish cloister, called the Mac Baren Convent, three nuns are having a grand old time enjoying a breakfast of fig cake, nuts, coffee, and a bit of chocolate. And you can, too. 4.5 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Mad Fiddler Flake 2oz
Fall Willingly Under The Spell Of The Mad Fiddler!
The tin note here is strikingly boozy (with a rum/whiskey hybrid aroma) and reminiscent of a cigar-leaf-forward cousin of C&D’s highly unique Dreams of Kadath. Upon ignition, you’ll revel in the fine cigar scent from the Kasturi leaf, the nondominant but obvious traces of sweetness from the Virginias, the fermented Cavendish (further contributing to the boozy flavor). The Perique is added in just the right measure to add spice and rich flavor. This medium-bodied treat seems like tobacco blend-maestro Jeremy Reeves’ performance at the Cigar Leaf Blend concert, after his pal and occasional collaborator, the blending master Kyle Gellis exits the stage. Light her up, lean back, puff—and take in the beautiful notes from Reeves’ fiddle! 4.5 stars.
Carter Hall - Carter Hall 1.5oz Pouch
Be A Drugstore Cowboy And Just Try It
The old “Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it” adage rings true here, with this mild blend its mockers malign as “cheap drugstore pipe tobacco.” But friend of the pipe, be a drugstore cowboy and sample this generations-old BurVa, once a staple in drugstores and groceries, but in recent years harder to find. It’s worth a try, for at least as a devoted pipester you can submit yourself to an important test: can you bring an open mind to trying an OTC pipe tobacco blend that scores of pipe tobacco connoisseurs tend to deride? The aftertaste proved inconsistent: at times I disliked it and at times I liked it—and the sugar from the Virginias and to a greater extent the topping can give you tongue bite. I notice it burned my nasal cavities a bit, too. Still, I do prefer it to the recent incarnation/version of the old British OTC blend, Gold Block. And importantly, I’ve smoked through pouches and tins far more respected that I found less enjoyable than Carter Hall (most were aromatics). The flavor was above decent. I’d be a liar if I gave this blend three-and-a-half stars. I’ll give it four.
Warped - Kings Stride 2oz
The Emperor’s Old Clothes Are Still...Those Of An Emperor
The medieval king’s ermine robes might carry a cheesy scent, but he sure walks with a proud regal gait! Somehow I thought my first impression of the tin note would be original in stating that it smelled of Roquefort cheese, and maybe even Limburger. But I found reviewer Don A. caught that a while back! It was strong in my nose, and when I left a cluster of this blend on my foyer table and returned the next morning for my first puffing session, the entire vestibule smelled like a cheese tray! This unique medium-strength offering proved to be another stunner by blending kings Kyle Gellis (of Warped) and Jeremy Reeves (of Cornell & Diehl). It’s undoubtedly the pressed, steamed and fermented Cavendish of the cigar leaf that achieves a slightly funky (albeit pleasantly funky) flavor long past the charring light. Almost as if the blend has a topping of Parmesan truffle aioli! This flavor is mixed with subtle traces of—I agree—chocolate and dark fruit. As a lover of chocolate and blue cheese, I enjoyed every bowl of this beauty. The sweetness of the Virginias and the nut-flavor of the burleys, seasoned with a dash of Perique pepper, only reinforce this blend as one of my new favorites. And I do feel like I could walk with a king’s stride after each charring light. Now KS is a constant component of my tobacco cellar. 5.0 stars.
BriarWorks - Country Lawyer 2oz
All-Day Blend of Lamar Whittington, Esq.
In the countryside miles outside Nashville, Lamar Whittington, Esquire works on his legal briefs and cases all day at his roll-top desk, with black coffee all day and finishing up with bourbon from his pewter mug. But all throughout, he’s puffing his favorite blend—this one. And I must say I enjoy it, too. Many months back, I found it but a decent blend. Though I was a cigar smoker for decades, I ironically did not take as well to pipe tobacco that showcased cigar leaf. Puffing through several outstanding tins of various Warped pipe tobacco blends won me over, and when I returned to Country Lawyer, I appreciated it far more. The Tennessee blending studs at Briarworks have done it again! There are many chords in this fine song, from nutty burley, to fermented Black Cavendish, to sweetly sour Orientals, then sweet Virginias and smoky, barbecue-like Dark Fired Kentucky, to pure cigar leaf. Those partial to a natural, unadulterated topping-free tobacco flavor, and cigar leaf in general, will cotton to this blend. 4.5 stars.
Warped - Until the End 2oz
A Cane Corso In Tobacco Form
Tobacco blending master Kyle Gellis had it right when his marketing used the famous battle dog of Roman Legionnaires—the feared Cane Corso—in the logo for this blend, now my preferred Warped tobacco product. For along with my favorite blender, Cornell & Diehl’s Jeremy Reeves, he has produced a blend that should prove a constant companion for the experienced pipe smoker until his last day. And they delivered a blend every bit as stout and helpful to its owner as the Cane Corso was. Virginias do add some sweetness to a blend otherwise earthy, deep and robust with its generous portions of sun-grown Ecuadorian cigar leaf and its mild version of Italian dark-fired Kentucky, bolstered by Black Cavendish cigar leaf. The more bowls I puffed of this, the more I realized with a grin that like the Cane Corso, this blend will always be in my tobacco cellar—until my own end. 5.0 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Night Train 2oz
The C&D Express Comes Down Those Tracks Hard And Fast
A freight train is plowing through the night. And I’m not referring to the night train Axl Rose sung of, or that rotgut red wine by the same name. This is a night train of the C&D Express, and it’s bearing bags of nuts (burley), containers of black pepper (perique) and mellow herbs (Black Cavendish)—and bales of hay (Virginias). The tin note on this one carries a bourbonlike scent, and upon breaking apart the crumble cake within, to the eye there’s much bright Virginia to be seen. This train is moving fast, powered by considerable shovels of nicotine into its oven. Its room note at its worst smells intermittently of cigarette smoke, but I find the flavor is more dominated by sweet Virginias than nutty burley or peppery perique. Not my favorite C&D blend, or the most flavorful, but surely a solid one worth trying, and reordering. 4.5 stars.
Warped - Cloud Hopper 2oz
“What’s In A Name?”
A bold, outstanding tour-de-force from Gellis and Reeves, and aptly named. You’ll find yourself bouncing from cloud to cloud up there in the ether on a wind of flavor—not due to toppings but instead rich air-cured Italian, fine and earthy Dominican cigar leaf, choice red and yellow Virginias for sweetness and Perique for spice, seasoning. Cream and coffee is all there in each puff and the full richness of the flavor can’t be denied in the retrohale. My favorite Warped pipe tobacco blend yet! God bless ya, Kyle and Jeremy. 5.0 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Crooner
Bing Lives On, In Your Ears and If You’re Lucky, Your Pipe Bowl
Bing Crosby lives forever through his films and of course his music, especially surfacing every Christmas season, but few know that his spirit will also endure through the generations with this resurrected burley blend. For some of his closest friends provided to Cornell & Diehl this recipe of Bing’s all-day favorite blend, and we know C&D isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The cube cut format ensures Crooner smokes easy and uniform down to its ashy end. The addition of the Deertongue herb (certainly not a common blending ingredient) is what makes it rich and unique, as C&D delivers a pleasantly pungent room note and a flavor both woodsy and nutty (with the burley) and fused with, via the Deertongue, vanilla and something faintly buttery, or of buttermilk. Like so many old-school Irish-Americans and Irishmen of his generation, Bing enjoyed a tobacco pipe. But he was one step further in that he was truly a passionate pipester, and so many photos through the decades captured him puffing away at so many pipes. I like to think that when that heart attack felled him on that golf course in Spain in 1977, he was puffing this very blend in—of course—one of his long-shanked Canadian smokers. In every smoke session with this timeless blend, my thoughts return to that timeless crooner, his voice as strong and rich as his favorite tobacco! 5.0 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Riverboat Gambler 2oz
Pierre LeRoux Was A Riverboat Gambler, And He Had This Special Blend...
Shifty-eyed Cajun riverboat gambler Pierre LeRoux sits at the round table with his three poker rivals, his boot dagger and derringer out of sight but not out of reach, his Remington sidearm a bit more noticeable, his playing cards in hand. He puffs away at his all-day from his meerschaum pipe, fashioned in the likeness of a tempting siren. He was sure that morning to bring a pouch of his favorite blend—full-bodied but easy and mellow to ensure it doesn’t dominate his swigs of whiskey but compliments them, and not potent enough to make him feel light-headed while facing off for the winning pot, which builds by the hour. This is that blend, and I thoroughly enjoyed it (even if LeRoux’s but a figment of my imagination). First its pleasant tin note—fragrant but not exactly fruity. It’s more vegetal, like sweet hay and slightly-sweet salad. Like Oak Alley, this is a good old rough-hewn old American-style tobacco, a cornucopia of burley, sweet Virginias that are evident on the tongue, along with peppery Perique. Orientals round out the mellowness, and add complexity. There’s no topping or flavor of coffee or chocolate, as we find with some burley blends. With this offering, you’re tasting just the natural flavors of its few components. I favor this blend, just not as much as Cornell & Diehl’s other burley stunners, like Oak Alley, Old Joe Krantz, and Briar Fox. Riverboat Gambler could easily serve as my all-day smoke (every several days, that is) as it’s so mellow and easy to puff through many successive bowls. Another strong performance by Cornell and Diehl and its late blending virtuoso, Bob Runowski, and apparently his collaboration with Craig Tarler. 4.0 stars.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Burley and Bright
Trusty Ol’ “Burley And Bite”
Gawith & Hoggarth never disappointed me, and this BurVa blend proved no exception. First, the appearance when pulled from the pouch was easy on the eyes: lots of light caramel color (the light burley) with a substantial portion of an even lighter gold (these were the bright Virginias). In review I’ve seen many debating as to whether this blend is rendered in ribbon or shag form. It seems as ribbon as any official ribbon cut I’ve smoked, and not fine or thinly cut to be true shag. Regardless, here’s a blend to absolutely smoke at slow tempo, like one should do with any shag. For not only will the show be over far too soon—you’ll also get bitten and get burned (tongue-wise) by ol’ Burley & Bite! I’ve so enjoyed my many smoke sessions of this offering and I can testify that as I puff, I’m continually reminded to not get too ahead of myself with my “puffing pace”. This is not a pure burley; the considerable amount of bright Virginias and perhaps the sugar in the chocolate and vanilla topping ignite tiny heat-spots on my tongue and in various parts of the roof of my mouth almost like a glowing constellation of stars. This is a warning and can be endured. But just a bit faster and tongue-bite would commence, and then I’d really feel the blend clamping down on me, and my next bowls of the day would be half-ruined. I can’t taste the vanilla in the topping nearly as much as the milk chocolate, which it possesses to a notable degree, along with the sweet grassy haylike flavor of the bright Virginias. And though Burley & Bright like many burley-heavy blends will burn down to a fine ash, it doesn’t lose taste in the last quarter of the bowl, but keeps those two layers (milk chocolate and sweet grass/hay) prominent on your tongue until the sad end. I do love thee, Burley And Bite...just please don’t bite! 4.5 stars.
Gold Block - Gold Block 1.75oz
The Aging Pop Star Emerged From Retirement, And...
Gold Block is like an aging pop star who had gone into retirement, after enjoying great fame for decades in England. And once the old pop idol is resurrected and pushed by his new producers into a new market and style, it becomes apparent he cannot hit much of his previous range and has lost much of his vocal and performing skills. And then the singer once again re-enters retirement... Mac Baren should have left its hands off this once widely-consumed blend if it wasn’t going to keep the old recipe, or improve upon it. And while I never sampled the pre-Mac Baren version produced by Ogden’s of Liverpool, I’ve read scores of reviews from pipesters who smoked both. The great majority claim that the Mac Baren version is nothing like the original, and is a shadow of its former self. I spotted this Gold Block flash sale on Smokingpipes and was excited that these tins dated to January 2016. I almost purchased many after learning that Mac Baren was discontinuing the blend. Then my inner skeptic chimed in: why would Mac Baren kill this offering if it was successful (after there was a large fan club of the original), and why was Smokingpipes offering this limited release at 50% MSRP? I updated my order to only one tin. But I remembered how wildly popular the original over-the-counter version was in England for many decades, and I eagerly awaited my delivery. And alas, I cracked open the tin... The paper inside the tin was stained as one often sees in long-cellared blends. The note was so pleasing, almost like a fresh grapefruit. But that is where the pleasure ended. I could find scant flavor or any room note, bowl after bowl. The back of my throat rebelled a bit against me—it burned almost as if from much Perique, though I know there was no Perique within. My mouth tasted bad cigarettes, and such a taste is not why I puff so much pipe tobacco. I’m a burley lover, and I know some burley can at times smell of cigarettes, but not like this. Besides, burley doesn’t comprise most of this blend. Mac Baren can truly deliver some fine premium blends (Old Dark Fired, Bold Kentucky, HH Burley Flake, HH Rustica, etc.) but this contender doesn’t join them in the winners’ circle. 3.0 stars.
Cornell & Diehl - Pegasus
You’ll Be Borne Aloft...On Wings Of Burley!
Tobacco-blending legend Bob Runowski produced some of my favorite go-to blends, and Pegasus was but the first of his I ever tried. If you’re a burley aficionado, this blend shouldn’t disappoint. It’s an easy blend and smoke. The pouch note/tin note is typical of most burley blends with little or no topping: just that natural, somewhat rough barnhouse scent. The flavor begins right upon the char light and is sustained throughout the bowl: pure burley nuttiness with a bit of sweetness from the Virginias, and mellowed by the Black Cavendish. It’s not as strong, nutty, or nicotine-rich as Runowski’s Old Joe Krantz, but it’s a notch milder and thus for many, easier to puff. You just might feel like you’re flying, coasting through the air, like the mythological centaur that gives the blend its name. The late Bob Runowski effected this by employing several weapons in his blending arsenal: three burleys, two Virginias and then of course, a touch of Black Cavendish. And it’s evident on the tongue, nostrils, and in the worthwhile retrohale. 4.5 stars.
Mac Baren - Golden Extra
There’s nothing really fine or distinct about this BurVa blend. There’s a good pouch note to be found in Golden Extra—I’ll give it that. Otherwise I encountered a smoke more akin to cigarettes than good pipe tobacco, primarily in the feeble room note. The blend also does lack taste and flavor, though at times, usually commencing mid bowl, you can taste nutty burley that strengthens into a slight cocoa flavor. But I find I almost have to hunt for its virtues—as I try to capture or fathom this blend, to gauge its taste and room note. But in the end I’m likely hunting for something that isn’t there, at least to my beak and mouth. This blend doesn’t approach Mac Baren’s HH line, where you’ll find its elite soldiers: Old Dark Fired, Bold Kentucky, and Rustica. Still, Golden Extra isn’t a bad blend, just not a very good one. 3.5 stars.
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.
Stands & Pouches - 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.
Stands & Pouches - 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.
Cleaners & Cleaning 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 enjoyment, 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.
Stands & Pouches - 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.
Tampers & Tools - 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.