Cornell & Diehl - Bayou Night
Read LOTS of reviews first
Just... no. I am writing this after the first bowl of a newly delivered 2 oz. bag, but Bayou Night has made quite an impression on me. I HATE it. I've never written that about another blend that I've tried, so this is a first for me. The bag note is just gross. I'd describe it as falling somewhere between a locker room and cesspool. Ugh! It motivates you to pack the pipe quickly so you can close that jar, that's for sure. It lights easily and burns quickly, which is a mercy because I did not enjoy anything about this tobacco. Its nicotine content is very high, as some have noted. It has a cigarette-y harshness and thinness, and the retro-hale is, while not as "scatological" as the bag note, distinctly unpleasant. To each his own. I will try again with this mixture but am not a fan. Yuck.
Cornell & Diehl - Star of the East Flake 2oz
Wanted to Love It
This is a very fine tobacco, and as full of Latakia as you're ever likely to want. In the end, though, it just wasn't for me. But I think a review should evaluate the blend itself, and Star of the East Flake is rich, very strong, and burns beautifully. If you like full Latakia, Balkan-style flakes, you will prize this. The flakes do break easily (to me this is more of a crumble cake than a flake) and it packs itself lightly into your pie, with plenty of air space. This may be why it burns so well. Personally, I found it overpowering. I smoke 4-5 bowls a day, generally of VaPers and lighter English mixtures, and this one was simply too much for me. I found it best outdoors where its strong smell could dissipate and its stronger flavor could be sipped more easily. I'm glad I tried it, for sure. But it's on to something else.
Arango - Balkan Supreme
Wonderful "walking mixture"
I think I found this mix from reading someone's review of something else that was similar but disappointing. But this fine balkan mixture is wonderful. The latakia is strong here, which you should be expecting, but there is enough roundness under it to support it and make it multi-dimensional. I enjoy this blend while walking my dog in the evenings, and it's a terrific companion because it doesn't need a lot of relightings, only tampings, to stay lit during our stroll around the neighborhood. I am comparing this mixture right now with a match mixture for Dunhill's My Mixture 965. One of them has to lose, but they're both really nice. I think I prefer the darker flavor and drier burning qualities of the Arango Balkan Supreme, but the fight ain't over yet.
Newminster - No.306 English Orient
Wonderful "committee" blend
There is plenty of room in the tobacco world for an English blend that insists on allowing all its components equal time. "Will the gentleman from Latakia kindly take his seat?" Newminster English Orient has a wonderfully round taste, where the Latakia is present in a supporting role. The addition of the turkish leaf and the cavendish make sure their dark companion doesn't take over, and that makes this blend delightful, especially earlier in the day. English Orient packs well, lights well (does need a char light) and burns cleanly. Save your "Lat-bombs" for later in the day, and enjoy this with coffee, while writing, or after lunch.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - John Aylesbury Midnight Blue Pipe Tool
This tool was nice while it lasted, but after less than a year the tamper foot has fallen off. For a $23 pipe tool, I'm disappointed that it fell apart after such a short time. I also caution that the tamper foot on this one is oval, not round, and it will not go deeply into your narrower bowls. I'd really like to find a nice pipe tool that combines the two necessary tools with a tamper that is smaller, and have it built not to fall apart. This one was a disappointment.
Cornell & Diehl - Billy Budd
Unusual, but nice
I was curious about blends that contain cigar leaf, and tried this one after reading several reviews. It grows on you and could be an occasional treat for those who like the heady aroma of cigar leaf, or as a blend to introduce a cigar aficionado to the subtler joys of pipe smoking. As this is the only cigar blend I've tried I can't compare it to others like the ones McClelland used to offer, but I might order this again in the winter time as an occasional change from my normal range of VaPers and English mixtures.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Brigham Green Pipe Tool
Right size, wrong shape
This is the style of pipe tool I prefer, but I don't like this one because the tamping foot is too large and too square to be useful. It won't even fit more than halfway into my smaller bowls.
Comoy's - Cask No.4
My eternal beloved
It's a pity that this flake is so often out of stock, here and elsewhere. I really love it, and I snap up what I can when it comes back into stock. If you like the "citrus-y" and "hay" types of Virginia flavors, Comoy's Cask #4 is worth your time. I prefer it to Stokkebye's excellent Luxury Navy Flake because it's a little tangier on my tongue, but LNF gets the call-up when CC#4 is on the "disabled list." Comoy's burns beautifully and rubs easily. Personally I don't fold-and-stuff it, as I think its flavor works better rubbed out a bit. But it's an easy, thin flake to do that with if you prefer. It's lemony, smokes clean, and is a wonderful choice any time. If only it were in stock more, it would be perfect.
Peter Stokkebye - PS402 Luxury Twist Flake
Great traveler, with a slightly sweet presence.
I like the convenience of the twisted flake for when I travel. If I'm going out for the day, I can confidently drop three or four flakes into my pouch and know I have enough for the day. This is another winner from Stokkebye, perfect as an all-day smoke. The smoke is rich and thick, and the taste is light enough for any time. It's part of my rotation, all year.
Newminster - No.400 Superior Navy Flake
Honey and Graham Crackers
I like this Virginia flake very much, particularly in the morning. It is light in body, very subtly sweet and easy to rub out into my briars. The flavor reminds me of graham crackers, with a very nice, understated sweetness. It's a nice morning smoke, stays lit and burns nicely but will get a littler hot if you push it. With a cup of strong coffee and a morning breeze, it's a solid start to the day.
Lane Limited - Crown Achievement
Full-flavored, nighttime smoke
This is a little too latakia-forward for my taste, but it is a well-behaved, cool-smoking full English mixture that you will enjoy if you like the Latakia "campfire" experience.