A & C Petersen - Escudo Navy Deluxe 50g
This is often billed as the gold standard for VaPers, and I'd have to agree. It's really nice, can be smoked any time, and the coin presentation means it's consistent bowl to bowl. Just wish it were a bit cheaper, or sold in bulk.
Mac Baren - HH Latakia Flake 1.75oz
Nice for a change of pace
Latakia flake is another well-crafted, nicely presented, easy-smoking flake from MacBaren. I have been sampling quiute a few of their HH tins lately, and this one delivers a nice English taste from flake form. Despite its name, it is not overpowering with the Latakia leaf. It's nicely balanced, tart, and a good walking companion. The flake crumbles a little too easily (in my opinion) which makes loading it a bit messier than with other flakes. Still, once loaded it burns beautifully and slowly, and finishes clean. Worth your time.
Mac Baren - Vanilla Flake 1.75oz
An aromatic I can live with.
I don't usually smoke aromatics, but picked up a tin of this on a whim and I must say I'm really enjoying it. The moisture content right out of the tin is pretty low, which enhances its smoking properties though it does make the flakes very crumbly and a bit tricky to load, but once it's lit you are in for a quiet, smooth-burning and flavorful ride. I will definitely keep some of this around, and watch for similarly well made aromatic flakes from MacBaren. I would recommend this to my flake-loving fellows who get the occasional itch to re-live their pipe-smoking "youth" smoking vanilla flavored aromatics. It's the good stuff you remember, without the gooey reminders of what you didn't.
Erinmore - Erinmore Flake 50g
Once in a great while.
Once in a very great while, I get a hankering to give this flake another go, in part because my first taste was from a neighbor who gets it sent to him in large quantities from the Middle East where, apparently, it's a lot cheaper. So, there's a sentimental attachment to it. The flake itself, right out of the tin, is too moist for me, and I'm too impatient to rub it out and wait a while before loading a pipe. So, right away, I'm faced with having to light it four or five times before it's really cooperating. Once it's lit, I do get a wonderful, fruity aroma in the room and a smoke that is mild with a bit of a nic hit. For me, that initial burst is nice enough that it's what I remember about the flake. But there are lots of flakes with or without different flavorings that impress me more and come with less moisture. This one will remain a very occasional smoke for me.
Hearth & Home - Virginia Memory 1.75oz
Very similar to Luxury Twist Flake
I am an occasional fan of Stokkebye's Luxury Twist Flake, and especially to this type of "twist flake" presentation. It makes counting out the day's allotment easy, breaks apart nicely, and holds enough moisture to slow the smoking down. I purchased my tin elsewhere and it arrived at the right moisture level. That said, I'll probably stick to LTF when I get the hankering, as this is more expensive and too similar to justify the cost. It is a bit aromatic but not overpoweringly so, and I find it a nice change of pace blend.
Peter Stokkebye - PS52 Proper English
This one is well named. Everything a true English blend should be -- balanced, correct, smooth. That's doing it a bit of an injustice, since it really is a lovely smoke. "Proper," if you like, but the lady has her romantic, lusty side too. She just won't show it right off. You must be patient.
Sutliff - 523 Voodoo Queen
Fun little gal
How to describe this one? It's a somewhat English blend but with some broken Va. flake and some very subtle mocha flavoring that just wafts in and out during the smoke. I like this one quite a bit. It has a very distinct character, burns well, and the flavoring serves as just one more current in a swirling mix of flavors. Maybe not an all-day kind of blend, but we pipe smokers have many moods, and Voodoo Queen is one to keep around when you feel like something singular.
Sutliff - Lord Nelson
Round, well balanced English mixture
This has been a staple blend for me for some time, because I find I prefer my latakia as a presence, not a star. I suppose it is the nutty burley here that smooths out this blend, but the orientals, Virginias and the latakia all take turns vying for your attention. Good all day long, burns nicely once you're in, and leaves a very nice after-taste. I'm sold.
Cornell & Diehl - Constellation
Not bad,but slightly metallic tasting
I wanted to like this one, but there is a distinctive metallic taste to the two ounces I tried. With so many other similar blends, this one just won't rate a second purchase. I'm comparing it with Stokkebye's Proper English, which is about the same strength and latakia level, but without that metallic twang that I get only from Constellation.
G. L. Pease - Union Square 8oz
Wonderfully pure and delicious.
A full Virginia this well balanced and delicious deserves to be savored and sipped. I have been smoking this even in hot weather and it is a delightful companion. It burns very well after an initial char light, and the slightly loose and broken flake rubs easily and packs without fussing. The flavor goes to the darker, tangier side of Virginia for me and when sipped slowly it will yield up a lot of nuance and a very nice, satisfying aftertaste. I'm sure it would be even better with some age on it, but I don't believe it needs it. It's great straight out of the tin. Wonderful stuff.
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 pipe, 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 re-lightings, only tamping, 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. UPDATE: A customer service representative from Smoking Pipes saw this review, reached to me through email and offered to make this right. THAT, friends, is good customer service! I really like doing business here and SP's willingness to proactively help an unhappy customer is very much appreciated. Way to go!!!
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.
Blog's Commented on
A Closer Look At Aromatic Pipe Tobacco
- ► This is a nice primer on aro's. I'm still less likely to go there, but now you make it sound like a challenge to smoke them the right way once you know what you're doing.