EMPTY MIRROR
About Me:
Retired attorney, Zen student, amateur photographer and student of Russian Lit & language. "The mirror is empty. It's the thinking mind that is full."
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Hearth & Home - Fusilier's Ration 1.75oz
Smoking Potion #9
It’s easy to see why this Mixture honors Bengal Slices, which seems to be high on everyone’s list. As much as I like the Slices, however, I have found that the Fusilier’s Ration has really grown on me, to the point that I think I prefer it to the Bengal Slices. The tobaccos are essentially the same, but the flavors are not. I find the Ration a bit milder than the Slices, and I really like the way that the tastes are released in the Fusilier’s Ration, with its Anise and hint of leather. Happily, I do not have to choose between the two mixtures. But if I did, I think I would be seduced by the gypsy potion and take my pleasure with the warmth of her smoke.

Mac Baren - 7 Seas Regular
No. 7. Bingo!
This a berry nice pipeful! BlackBerry, that is. I don’t get the chocolate or vanilla so much, but I sure taste the berries! This is one of the first pipe mixtures I ever smoked and I find myself coming back to it more and more. If I have a go to smoke, this is it. Who knew you could do so much with Burley and Black Cavendish, in an aromatic sort of way?

Captain Earle's - Stimulus Package 2oz
A rose, by any other name ..
The cake comes apart into ribbons almost at a touch and the tobacco, once lighted, isn't hard to keep lit. What amazes me most, however, is how so much was created with so little. That is, primarily with Latakia and Orientals, as the Virginia mainly contributes a little sweetness that comes and goes as one enjoys the blend. I don't discount the Virginia, though. The sweetness is a pleasant background for the Orientals's spice. All in all, the good Captain's stimulus package offers one of the most pleasant smokes I have had this year and last year, and I hope to go on enjoying it for a good while. I don't much care whether it is called an English blend or a Latakia blend. Power to the taste! It's a perfect rose wreath for all of Captain Earle's good offerings, and my personal favourite.

Balkan Sasieni - Balkan Sasieni 50g
Not My Cup of Tea!
This is one of the first pipe tobacco blends I tried, and definitely the first Balkan. I was very disappointed. I thought then and think now that Balkan Sasieni is dry, insipid, and that if it didn't taste bad it wouldn't have any taste at all. On top of this, like an ungrateful dog, it bites! I chalked this up early on as a total lack of experience on my part, tried it again a couple of years later and still felt the same. Taste is so subjective that sometimes there is no accounting for it. That's my 2 cents worth, and that is probably what it is worth, but I feel strongly enough about it that I wanted to go on the record about this one. In ending this epistle, I would like to say that I like almost all of the other Balkan mixes I have smoked!

F & K - Black Bayou Mist
My Cup of Mist
This Black Mist begins with a woody sweetness, somewhat like a sweet mash that becomes minty, then somewhat peppery, and by the end of a generous cherrywood bowl is like a mild hot pepper that slowly sweetens again (at other times it starts with a nutty hickory taste). It is worth the time to dry the tobacco about 15 or 20 minutes before smoking. In my experience, this results in a lingering sweetness that is subtle but clear and definite. A very good smoke!

Mac Baren - HH Acadian Perique 3.5oz
Striking the Mother Lode
This is the best Perique-bearing blend I've had with Burley and Virginia in it, along with the Cavendish, Orientals, and Dark-Fired Kentucky. It is, I imagine, something like striking the mother lode in a gold mine and discovering that it is laced with silver, turquoise, lapis-lazuli, and amethyst, along with a rich vein of uranium. No wonder there's no topping here! With such a rich mix of tobaccos nothing more is needed.

G. L. Pease - Quiet Nights 2oz
Just About Midnight
This may sound a Little Off thé wall, in an Alice-In-Wonderland way, I feel like I am smoking the mix in a calabash pipe and tasting thé gourd it came from through the vine it grew on, tasting the Earth that nourishes it, spice and minerals and leaf: Virginia sweetness, Orientals, and the earthy Latakia smokiness, pinched with just a nip of Perique. This is a rich, slightly salty bouquet growing on grapevine and offering the leaf itself. A complex and smooth richness. I can’t imagine a mixture that fulfills the promise of it first taste with more fidelity than this. Lights and burns well. It doesn’t disappoint. Sip the vine and taste the gourd. You won’t be sorry. The quiet whisper of a pleasant night, full moon and light, even at half noon. "and He bid me taste of it, and 'twas— the Vine!" The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Edward Fitzgerald, who actually says, "and 'twas— the Grape!" but I claim poetic license, as some of us must do, truth be told, when we praise the Leaf and Pipe.

Cornell & Diehl - Pirate Kake 2oz
Pirates, Pipes, & Créeosote
Pirate Kake starts off tasting like a lightly salted, buttered biscuit, the butter making a creamy filling for the pastry. Another draw on the pipe and the taste changes to that of a herbaceous confection and a middle filled with tuberous roots that are nicely toasted to a slightly bitter but still tasty treat. Each breath of the smoke leads me on. I suspect that how much one likes Latakia is in direct proportion to how much one will like the cake. The smoke from the Pirates Kake draws me in. And on. I don’t resist. The process is something like consulting the I Ching— each sip of smoke is a new slice of life, each new line builds a hexagram. Is it showing me a possible bitter ending and a more propitious way? In any event, it’s change, and change within change, moving from Burley to Latakia to Turkish— the wisdom of the Orientals, coupled with the taste of the ages. Life is a novel by PKD. A single step goes in all directions.

Captain Earle's - Ten Russians 2oz
In the Sea of Japan
A great sour note of sweet Virginia tolls the bell that makes the smoke ring. The taste puts me in mind of a campfire made of buffalo chips with a little creosote. And a lot more horse manure mixed with a coating of trail dust. Maybe I only wish I were tasting these things, but the tobacco, the odors, and the tastes that are singing in my ears are as real as anything else. There is Perique here too, though it gets no billing in the credits. Overall, this blend is a little hard to light, but once done there’s fire in the hole, along with a salt-and-pepper ash that belongs on a volcanic beach. If I ever see and taste some of the places again that are here in the smoke, I hope I’ll have a pipe of this mix with me, as sweet and as sour as it is. The pirates are in the Orientals, and they sing. The pipes are mine. The Latakia smokes, and the smoke rings. To paraphrase an old Russian saying, Один хороший дым стоит тысячи слов: “One good smoke is better than a thousand words”

Captain Earle's - Private Stock 2oz
A Pipeful of Pleasure
'Private Stock' is another offering from the precocious Captain Earle of 'Ten Russians' fame. As 'Board_Stretcher' observes in his review, "'Private Stock' has a somewhat smokey jerkey taste," which I echo here. Once I got the bowl lit it took me 3 or 4 relights to keep it alive. For me, the "smokey jersey" taste became more of a barbecue flavor, with an overtone of cinnamon. It seems to me that the spiciness comes from the Orientals, which are the star of the show, backed up by the Perique, which nips the tongue with its little tap steps. The Latakia mainly makes itself known in the relights and the clouds of smoke that go with it. The Virginia is a blending agent that I am not overwhelmed by, which means that it's doing its job perfectly. All in all, it's a very pleasant smoke, one that would go well with anything from a good beer to a single malt, such as 10 year old Glenmorangie to an older Talisker. I'm not ready to smoke it all day, but I can easily see smoking it every day. A damn good pipeful!

Bengal Slices - Bengal Slices 1.75oz
Whichever way you slice it...
I smoked a pipe for a couple of years, quit, then picked up the pipe again about a year ago. So I'm not too experienced but not quite a novice either. One of the more pleasant surprises I've had this time around is Bengal Slices. It's slightly sweet and nutty, with what I first thought was a peppery note but which I now think is a bit of spice from the Orientals that stays after smoking and leaves a nice lingering scent in the room, which my wife likes. This is all I feel qualified to say about it, and part of that is thanks to what I've learned from reading the notes made by others who kindly share their experience in their reviews. I'm an old guy and still somewhat new to the pipe, but whichever way you slice it, it's still damn good tobacco. How much is one's experience of the taste coloured by the pipe, whether it's briar, Meerschaum, or wormwood, etc? I suspect it's still a good taste, whatever the vehicle you choose. I'll give Bengal Slices 4.5 stars; would probably give it 5 if I were more sure of the validity of my opinion. What fun!

Nording
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