G. L. Pease - Union Square 2oz
The tin note backs up the claim about Union Square being a blend of unadulterated virginias. In the tin, it offers a very pure, understated, fermented hay, grass and honeysuckle aroma. The sweetness is embedded deep into the smell. First light and the first 1/4 of the bowl tells an entirely different story, though, as it is pretty flavorful from the get-go. Probably the most surprising element of the flavor profile is the oh-so-welcome virginia sweet spice. It's a taste that I am absolutely in love with, and one that I regularly look for in every bowl of virginia flake, from any blender, I smoke. In Union Square, it maybe the only constant that accompanies tens of other variable nuances that come in and fade out during the smoke. And the best part is, it stays with you throughout the entire bowl. My Savinelli Tundra 673 Smooth loves almost all virginia flakes (it is the very pipe I first fell in love with the Dunhill Flake) but that pipe + this blend is almost guaranteed virginia nirvana! Another surprising aspect of the experience is the coolness of the smoke. My 673 Tundra is a smooth finish, and smooth finish pipes usually get hotter than rusticated ones, regardless of your technique. Not with this blend. It never gets any hotter than that pleasant warmness that is a part of pipe smoking enjoyment. Tongue bite is so absent that you might even forget being bit in the past! Preparing this tobacco is also very straightforward. It comes pretty moist, mind you, but I've found out that drying it out is completely unnecessary, as is rubbing it out; simply take 3-4 stripes of flakes (this is a broken flake, so the strips are pretty thin and crumbly) and fold and stuff, snug but not tight. Even despite the moisture level that might intimidate even the experienced virginia flake smoker, it lights up and stays lit very very easily. Cadence is not critical but retrohaling is: the more you retrohale, the more flavorful Union Square becomes, and it starts rewarding you with mild but obvious flavors of vanilla-iy chewing gums of the past (not the sugar-free, overly sweet stuff we have nowadays.) It burns very slowly, and even in a pipe as small-bowled as the Savinelli 673, it takes about 1.5 hours to turn into pure ash. The finish does not get bitter as it usually does with even the best virginia flakes. My tin was pretty fresh, and I can't imagine what some aging can do for this stuff (although I am seriously intending to hoard some and find out!) No, it is not for the newbies, and nor it is a way to ease into virginias for the smokers of aromatic cavendish blends; but it is pure virginia nirvana for the experienced smoker.
Newminster - No.403 Superior Round Slices
My favorite.. like nothing else..
I keep around 10 blends in my rotation but this is my favorite. Some people liken it to the current (orange) version of Three Nuns but I beg to differ. Both Three Nuns and 403 share similar ingredients but they taste different. The dark fired Kentucky in 403 is not what we are used to tasting in the likes of Orlik DSK, HH ODF, you name it - it provides a serious dose of woodsy spice, almost bordering on a good Dijon mustard in the retrohale. The tin note is almost identical to Wheaties cereal. The taste profile is built upon the sweetness of the top quality and grassy VAs, which provide a very balanced and consistent sweetness in the background, with pops of delightful brown sugar taste every now and then. Somewhat forgiving to indulgent puffing, but still at its best when sipped. Never bites or gets bitter if packed right (loosely) - and for me the only way the pack this tobacco is to asymmetrically stack a few coins, roll and then stuff with the bottom half less dense and the top of the bowl denser. Oldest I've smoked had 6 months of aging in the jar with no mind-blowing improvement but I suspect it will improve with more time. If you want a tobacco with balanced sweetness and serious woodsy spice, then look no further. Happy smokes everyone!