Peter Heinrichs - Curly Special 200g
My first Peter Heinrich tobacco, and long awaited. I have yet to smoke it fresh, but I can say with certainty that Curly Special is amazing with five years of age on it. Spicy, earthy, fruity, slightly tangy, and a touch of hay are all present and make for one hell of a smoke. It says there is only Virginia and Perique in this blend, but I would love to know what varietals are used because the earthiness and spice is amazing. It seems like there is a very light touch of fire cured virginia in this blend, but I could be way off. Closer to mild than medium in body in my book, and closer to medium than mild on flavor, there is plenty to keep you interested here. From what I read there are some rough edges when fresh, but there are close to zero rough edges to be found when aged. Dry out 15-20 of these little coins and load them stacked into your favorite pipe for a long, glorious smoke that just gets deeper and more flavorful as the bowl goes on. This method is what pushed this blend over the top for me, and I want this in my cellar at all times now. Once I have the money I'll be cellaring a tin of this and the curly block. This is my kind of VA/per. Still moist after five years in the tin also.
Germain - Medium Flake 50g
Excellent Virginia Flake
A long awaited smoke. More of a shag than a flake, Medium Flake comes in extremely thin flakes that are largely in a shaggy clump. Upon opening the tin you're greeted by the signature aroma of Germain Virginias. Excellent. I packed and smoked it as a medium packed shag and it smoked wonderfully. Tastes much like the virginia in Dunbar and that is perfectly fine. Will be excellent with age. This blend has more style than most VA/pers. Will have a lot of extra depth with age. Smoked fresh I give it a 4.5.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Dark Flake Unscented
Powerful and Deep
Deep notes of dark fired tobacco and cigar in the jar, with a noticeable molasses or brown sugar that pleases. Im sure sweetness will come with age as it does with the other GH dark fired blends, but fresh there is nary a sweet note to be found, and that's ok. There is an abundance of dark fired and cigar flavor here as one would expect from a blend comprised only of dark tobaccos. Smokes cool and slow with a little moisture at the bottom, and requires a few relights possibly. Dark flake is strong in the nicotine department and will catch you off guard on occasion if you are not prepared with food in stomach. There are VERY few blends that have given me anything remotely close to nicotine sickness due to my absurd tolerance from both cigarette and pipe, but this is one of them. Small pipes will see this issue corrected. Very flavorful, very strong, but cool. However, I find I enjoy happy brown bogie and dark Birdseye more for flavor, and I think old dark fired is a good alternative with less nicotine and more depth of flavor. Really theres nothing not to like here, and I will continue to smoke dark flake when in positively craving dark fired and dark air cured, but in general I prefer the flavor of Birdseye and beown bogie. Your tastes May differ of course
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Glengarry Flake
Excellent Virginia Flake
Glengarry Flake is the third Lakeland blend I've tried thusfar, and is a worthy addition to my collection. The aroma in the jar is that of the Lakeland essence, though lightly applied. It is really pleasant and complimentary to the Virginia tobacco. The topping is not apparent in the smoke after the first few puffs, or at least not like that of the stronger Lakeland blends. Instead, it bolsters the sweet virginia flavor without subduing it, keeping it interesting from top to bottom. If you enjoy Gawith and Hoggarths bright CR flake then in my opinion you will like Glengarry even more. It is not one of my favorite GH blends, but I find myself smoking it frequently nonetheless. What Glengarry offers is a mildy sweet and tasty Virginia tobacco that is mild-medium in strength and nicotine, and blend that can be smoked several times in a day. I can see why it sells out quickly.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Ennerdale Flake
So begins my Lakeland Tour
I've tried most of the unscented Kendal dark fired tobaccos except for the flakes and plug, and enjoyed all of them a lot. I was reluctant to dive into the scented Lakeland blends due to what I've read, but after really doing some research, I pulled the trigger on ennerdale flake which is arguably the most scented. My worries were unfounded. I've been devouring this stuff at a record pace. The dressing is indeed very potent and apparent through most of the bowl, but near the bottom most of the flavor is that of the excellent tobaccos. It should be noted that I frequently smoke my pipe in multiple sittings, and if I do smoke it in one sitting the dressing remains fairly strong all the way to the end of the bowl. I think a person's level if satisfaction with this blend will come down to how much they love the aroma and flavor of the dressing, and people that only like tobacco flavors might be turned off, but in my opinion it's definitely worth a try. Especially if you smoke like I do. Satisfying in strength and nicotine, and a seasoned smoker could enjoy it all day as I have. While the dressing is heavily applied, it is natural and doesn't have the same chemical taste often associated with American aromatics, and for this reason I find Ennerdale a superior aromatic Virginia flake, as is the case with the other gawith aromatic flakes. Ennerdale came soaking wet and I dried it until it was no longer wet to the touch, but still noticeably moist when light lot rubbing my fingers against the grain. Considering the moisture content this flake smokes pretty dry, and when I got to the bottom of my pipe it was indeed dry, and I can only attribute this to the natural flavoring methods and natural tobaccos with an utter lack of pg. I just received 2 ounces each of Grasmere, Glengarry, dark, no 7, and Kendal flake and I can already tell I'll be hoarding pounds of GH flakes as soon as I responsibly can. What a delightful and unique aroma on each blend and very high quality tobaccos. Once I fully collect my thoughts I'll expand my review.
Orlik - Golden Sliced 50g
Fold and Stuff
I smoked my first pipe of OGS about a year ago and I've always been conflicted about how I feel about it. I won't get much into the taste, but I do notice what I think is a liquorice topping or something like that, and also a little pg I think. I have a much greater appreciation for this blend when I fold and stuff. If I rub it out beforehand it will burn hot and the flavor isn't as good, but with folding and stuffing brings out a lot of the sweetness in this blend. The Perique is primarily noticeable in the retrohale only, and I haven't noticed it in the flavor really. In my opinion, there are a ton of better va/pers out there in every metric, but OGS is a very economical flake that can give a sweet, haylike virginia smoke with a light topping that doesn't interfere much with the flavor. I'm not saying OGS is bad, and for lovers of golden Virginia tobaccos there is a lot to like here because this is a tasty and sweet bright virginia light vaper. For my tastes, however, the Dunhill Virginia's and vapers with more red Virginia and Perique are more up my alley. I will enjoy OGS occasionally when I'm looking for something milder. Smoke this one as slow as possible using the fold and stuff method for optimal results. Sipping will reward you with flavors you didn't know it had. Mild flavor and nicotine with medium body.
Mac Baren - HH Old Dark Fired Ready Rubbed
Mac Baren's Finest
I won't copy my Old Dark Fired flake review here, but instead make a few comments on the ready rubbed that I've smoked. I give sp.com 95% of my business because I think they have the best service hands down and I love this website. Recently I found a good deal on the ready rubbed and purchased five pounds. It came in a Mac Baren box with a heavy duty bulk bag contained inside that was tied off with a metal twist. I'm assuming any five pound order comes this way. What a glorious sight to behold. The aroma emanating from the bag is a pure dark fired delight with a nice cigar note that reminded me of dark Birdseye or other GH dark fired blends, and it also had the signature sour/vinegar note. The vinegar note is less pronounced when fresh. The ready rubbed tobacco is thick and there are pieces of rather large broken flake scattered throughout. To be honest this is the freshest ODF I have ever smoked, with most of my stash being a few years old. It really reminded me of a smoother version of dark Birdseye, and it was a very enjoyable smoke fresh and a little moist due to the high moisture content. Old dark fired becomes immensely delicious with a little age on it though, and I'll be looking forward to sampling it as the months go by. My previous experience with a more aged ready rubbed was nearly identical to the flake version, and I really couldn't make any notable discernments in flavor or aroma. I know some people say they think it's slightly milder, but I think that could be due to other variables like age and moisture content. Mac Baren hit a grand slam here. Lovers of dark fired rejoice and fill your jars with this beautiful tobacco! You won't be disappointed with the flake or ready rubbed, though on some websites the discount isn't really good enough to warrant purchasing anything but the flake. When you see that deep discount it is worth it, however.
Presbyterian - Presbyterian 50g
Oriental Forward English
These are my first impressions since I've only smoked a few bowls so far. I felt I would share my opinion anyways due to the few recent negative reviews. The tin I received came almost perfect for smoking right away, and there's a must aroma with notable Latakia. There was also quite a bit of flavor, with the musty and spicy orientals way out front with the Latakia and Virginia adding notable depth and flavor. Presbyterian has a flavor profile that reminds me of John Cotton numbers 1 and 2 , except with slightly more Latakia presence and as a result less musty and spicy orientals flavor. Mild medium in strength and nicotine, this one can definitely be smoked all day in my opinion. Maybe I got lucky with my tin, I don't know, but I enjoyed the smoke and look forward to smoking more soon.
A & C Petersen - Escudo Navy Deluxe 50g
Fold and stuff these delicious coins and you will be rewarded with a long, bready, fruity, sightly sour and spicy smoke that burns beautifully. It's not as delicious or interesting when fully rubbed out but it's still above average even then. Nice Perique presence that isn't overdone. GL Peases Navigator reintroduced me to the fold and stuff method, and I'm not looking back. Sometimes we need a reminder to slow things down and relax, and since this is a basic tenet of pipe smoking it is something we should always keep in mind. The benefit to slowing down scales disproportionately between blends, but in general Virginia and dark fired blends benefit greatly from a slower cadence, and the same is true for Escudo. One thing that's nice about Escudo is that it tastes pretty good fresh out of the tin. It tastes even better with a little age, getting deeper with just a little time. Also, though im praising the flavor with the fold and stuff method, it still tastes great when rubbed out and it really comes down to preference. I'm just really into folding and stuffing right now. For my tastes, Escudo is up there in terms of flavor and flavor profile, and when combined with overall availability of this blend I think it should not be ignored if you enjoy VA/per blends.
Seattle Pipe Club - Plum Pudding 8oz
Mild and Lingering
Plum Pudding is a mild-medium flavorful plug that provides a long and varied smoke. I have smoked more Plum Pudding and it's Special Reserve variant than any other blend, and I still find it hard to articulate my thoughts on it. Normally the flavor is smoky with Latakia, but not overpowering. The plum flavor infuses every puff but as the blend ages the flavor lightens and evolves a little, and now it reminds me of a lighter version of the new Bengal Slices topping. There is a BBQ and savory note from what I assume is the Virginias, and the Turkish keeps it interesting but I can't say exactly what flavor it adds. This is one of the interesting things about plum pudding. Most of my smokes are highlighted by a beautiful medium Latakia smokiness overlaying sweet and light BBQ Virginia flavors, with the Cavendish being barely noticeable and not unpleasant. Sometimes the Virginia is more present in my smoke, even to the point of challenging the Latakia. In these cases it reminds me more of a fuller Frog Morton with less stoved VA. It's possible that these flavors can shift mid smoke. I don't say these things to discourage people. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy the nature of Plum Pudding and all it's flavors, and I think it's one of the finest pipe tobaccos out there. There was a time when I worried my changing tastes would betray me and I'd be stuck with a couple pounds of Plum Pudding rotting in my cellar. It turns out my worries are unfounded, and my appreciation for PP and the other SPC blends is stronger than ever. Plum Pudding is mild-medium in strength and nicotine, and though it has a mild topping the flavors are very natural. Plum Pudding can be an all day smoke for the seasoned smoker and repeatable for most. As is the case for most mottled flakes like PP, crumbling and packing the bowl lightly gives the best smoking experience. I'm going to smoke this blend side by side with the special reserve soon to get a clearer picture of the differences. As of now I can say that the special reserve is smoother, darker, and deeper of flavor, with significantly better Virginia and orientals. Does that mean it's better in every way? It's really hard to say no, because the special reserve is in my top three of all time. That being said, the original is different, and I still find myself smoking it despite having a large supply of special reserve.
Esoterica - Dunbar 2oz
I Would Buy a Meerschaum Pipe For This
I'm really loving Dunbar right now. The tin note is similar to other VA/pers like Dunhill Dark Flake but I also notice a slight hint of apricot and a light fruit and very light fruit floral note. Seven varieties of Virginia that add a full spectrum of flavors, and each type lending a delightful flavor to this marriage of Virginia's and Perique. It is indeed a marriage, and with each puff you might taste citrus tea, sweet bread, a touch of hay, a sour tang, a beautiful floral note, and the underlying essence of treacle and dark fruits (allegedly). For some reason I'm always reminded of an ocean breeze when I'm smoking esoterica Virginias. Its weird, but there's something there that reminds me of salt water in the air (or smoke). The second half of the pipe is more reminiscent of a normal va/per but still carrying those same flavors, though now with more spice and melding of flavor. Here lies the reason why I think Dunbar is in a class of its own. It starts out as a showcase of Virginia complexity and diverse flavors, but with that special esoterica flavor, and this carries all the way to the bottom. There's simply something about that little extra twang and special flavor, especially further in, that keeps me craving this blend. For mild to medium bodied va/pers there's only one other that really adds that extra special something (so far), and that would be Rattray's Hal o' the Wind, which is also pretty damn hard to find, unfortunately. EDIT: I'd add C&D Sunday Picnic to make that the three best VA/pers in existence right now. Even though Sunday Picnic isn't strictly a VA/per, i still categorize it as such, and with a few years of age you'll be hard pressed to find a VA/per with such a delicious flavor. Plus it has the added benefit of being easy to find. I'll be getting a pound of each at the nearest opportunity. Dunbar is mild-medium in body and nicotine, and both packs and smokes well once dried. The combination of ingredients here make Dunbar a VA/per that is unique in flavor, and if you are a lover of va/per blends or even just Virginia tobacco in general I highly recommend that you seek Dunbar out. It is definitely worth the effort.
Cornell & Diehl - Pirate Kake 8oz
I Love The Smell of Creosote and Campfires in the Morning
I smoked a one ounce block of Pirate Kake in shot order now, in a variety of pipes. I am a Latakia lover. English blends are my favorite treat. It's my humble opinion that C&D has the absolute highest quality widely available Latakia on the market. It is wonderfully and potently fragrant, it's smooth and rarely bites, and it is easy to acquire. I love and appreciate the other varieties of Latakia in the market, but nothing can beat a good GL Pease or C&D English in pure delightful flavor (except for Plum Pudding maybe). Forgive my lengthy prelude. Pirate Kake is indeed jam packed with this delightful Latakia, and it's apparent when you rub out some of this lovely cake. Some may be surprised to see a healthy portion of Brown Burley and Turkish, but don't be fooled because Pirate Kake is a Latakia powerhouse. The primary notable tin note and flavors are or course, Latakia! The Burley and Turkish help to smooth out the smoke and add faint delicious undertones, but the Latakia is supremely dominant throughout the smoke, and never falters. The Creosote flavor is there, with a slight nutty undertone on occasion. In my opinion there is no sweetness in this blend but I don't mind. I intend to smoke half of my stockpile fresh, but I'm also looking forward to how PK will taste with a little age, and the Latakia softened a little. If you're looking for a delicious lat bomb then PK is your blend, but if you're looking for a lat bomb with a stronger Turkish presence I highly recommend Star of the East Flake. I foresee lots of Pirate Kake and Star of the East Flake in my pipe smoking future. Both are pure Latakia heaven when you are positively craving it. I'm also starting to appreciate exactly how smooth Pirate Kake is relative to how much Latakia it contains. It's pretty impressive.
Mac Baren - HH Old Dark Fired 3.5oz
Highest Caliber Pipe Tobacco
I have a strange relationship with Mac Baren's pipe tobaccos in general. Most bite me despite a slow and steady cadence. Some I wish had more natural flavors. Some I absolutely love. I've yet to smoke one of the HH blends that I haven't enjoyed,, however, and ODF is no exception. As a matter of fact, I think Old Dark Fired is their best blend. No... I'll go one further. I think Old Dark Fired by Mac Baron is one of the best pipe tobaccos in existence today, if not THE best. I tried ODF and Bold Kentucky back to back during my days of tobacco discovery, and I loved both of them, but as I now bore down on a select few to stock up on ODF has become the crown jewel of my collection. It really is that damn good. Most blends I buy a 1.5 or 2 ounce tin to try and if I really like it I'll buy a half pound, and on a singular event with plum pudding special reserve I purchased 1.5 pounds. Now, for the first time ever, I purchased five delicious pounds of the ready rubbed, and I'll be purchasing two (maybe 3) one pound boxes of the flakes next to make sure I never run out of ODF again. Eventually I'll snag a pound of the other HH blends as well. I know Mac Baron had a few tons of this fabled leaf in supply, so it should be in stock for a little while, but I'm not taking any chances after watching so many other blends go the way of the Dodo. Mac Baren's makes ODF in the English tradition, which involves steam pressing of the large blocks of tobacco. Old Dark Fired is loaded with savory, sweet, bbq, vinegar, and smoky notes that will delight the senses both before and during the smoke. Hands down, this is the most addictive tin note I've ever had the pleasure of inhaling, and it only gets better with age. The savory, sweet and smoky bbq and vinegar of the special dark fired plays magnificently with the sweet bread and lightly fruity virginias, and this marriage of flavors will confound your taste buds in the best way until the bottom third of the bowl, where the smoky dark fired starts to edge out the other flavors slightly. Despite that, ODF is unlike most other DF blends in that the bottom of the bowl isn't completely dominated by the dark fired, and though it does strengthen the deeper you go, it never gets harsh and the overall flavor remains intact which is impressive. I would argue that this blend is medium in both strength and nicotine, and for smokers of English style flakes, very easily an all day smoke (especially with a little age). Its really surprising how easy ODF is on the tongue while flooding the senses with a beautiful, deep, and unique dark fired flavor, while somehow not subduing the Virginias too much. Even acknowledging the high quality of Mac Barens HH line of tobaccos they have really outdone themselves here. If you like Dark Fired tobaccos flavors, and you haven't tried this blend yet, then you are doing yourself a disservice! I cant recommend Old Dark Fired enough (in flake or ready rubbed).
G. L. Pease - Navigator 2oz
Fold and Stuff
There is a learning curve to Navigator that is steeper than most blends. As stated numerous times in this review section, Navigator is best when smoked slow, and in my opinion the absolute best when folded and stuffed with kindling on top which will help facilitate a slower smoke. When smoked quickly the dark fired will quickly overpower and dominate your palate, or at least it did for me. When folded and stuffed, and smoked slow, the flavors really open up and the sweetness of the rum and VA flavors dance with the dark fired beautifully. No matter how slow you go, however, it should be noted that the dark fired is a large part of the flavor profile here, and it is done very well. Moisture level in my tin was perfect, and the nicotine medium. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this blend ages. Especially once the virginias get deeper and the dark fired softens a little and melds more. It should be a supremely delicious blend and would earn the final half star. Will update then.
Dunhill - Dark Flake 50g
Dunhill VAs = Gold
I remember the first time I walked into one of the more well known Pittsburgh b&m shops, and as I was discussing pipe tobacco with one of the pipe masters there he was heaping praise upon Dark Flake. It has taken some time, but now I understand why it's so great. Like most Dunhill pipe tobaccos, DF was underwhelming at first. I smoked a couple bowls and thought it tasted decent, if unremarkable, and put it in a jar for about one year. As far as I'm concerned, the only way to truly appreciate a dunhill tobacco is to let it age for at least six months. Preferably a year. The transformation is nothing short of amazing. Deep fruit and sour Perique aromas tantalize with every sniff, but in fact do not disappoint when smoked. Where DF truly shines is from about 1/3 to 1/2 into the pipe and onward. Sweet, fruity, slightly sour, and a touch spicy on the retrohale and tongue. What more can you ask for from a VA/per flake. After the requisite aging time DF is an easy 4.75 for me. It can burn a little hot, and the first half of the bowl isn't as flavorful and exciting, but the payoff is well worth it and dark flake is top to bottom delicious. Mild- medium to medium nicotine. With the slow motion disappearance of Dunhill blends I highly recommend stocking your cellar or trying this now. While you still can.
Cornell & Diehl - Mad Fiddler Flake 2oz
Powerful Comes to Mind
I'd venture to say if you love a good cigar but are still on the fence for pipes, this is your blend. That isn't to say that a cigar is the only thing MFF reminds me of . The tin note is that of cinnamon and spice, with cigar and Perique very present as well. Like others have said this is almost back C&D ready rubbed or very broken flake. From charring light till about just short of mid bowl you will pick up the cinnamon and Virginia flavors, but the deeper you get the more the kasturi/cigar and Perique take over. You will still get hints of Virginia near the bottom if you're mindful, but if you're expecting loads of Virginia flavor, this isn't it. In my opinion, Mad Fiddler Flake is an excellent showcase of the cigarlike Kasturi tobacco, and if you love Perique too then there is something for you here as well, especially deeper into the bowl. Lovers of strong and strong tasting tobaccos will delight in this blend, and even I tend to enjoy it more in my little Viking straight billiard, though if I'm feeling adventurous I'll load up my larger meerqueen and strap in for the ride. There is a LOT of nicotine here, and based on my limited experience I think MFF can throw down with the best of Gawiths powerhouses. All that being said I would tread lightly if you are sensitive to nicotine, and maybe pack your smallest pipe, but as usual I wouldn't recommend ignoring this one. I'm loving this aptly named blend right now.
Sutliff - Match Victorian
I tend to be a little wary of Sutliff blends containing Perique ever since my experience with SPC Deception Pass. The few and only Sutliff blends I tried that contain Perique have a powerful acidic/vinegar note when fresh. Sometimes, as was the case with Mississippi River, it goes away eventually or at least softens to the point where it's unnoticeable. With Deception Pass I can't even get through a single pipeful without suffering from harsh tongue bite. Elizabethan match contains a nice amount of Perique from what I can see, and the vinegar note is there, though challenged by some zesty fruity notes akin to apricot. I set out enough tobacco for several bowls and let it dry for 15 minutes, and when I loaded my pipe the vinegar aroma was still there, but softened a little at least. I'm sorry for the huge tangent here, but I figured this might be important for people with a sensitive palate. I smoked my pipe in three separate sittings, and each time the flavor was absolutely delicious, with sweet and zesty VA and Perique present in abundance. Each time I was left with a mouth feel that is usually a warning of impending tongue bite, but never being bitten. I'm not entirely convinced that smoking a pipe of this in one sitting wouldn't bite me, but this stuff tasted and smoked so good to me that I'm willing to divide my sittings, employ dgt, and cherish every puff. Elizabethan Match is very tasty, and though I've never had the original Elizabethan I can say this one is not reminiscent of the current version, and heres why. Dunhill Eliz has sweet bread notes while MATCH has sweet fruit notes. Dunhill Elizabethan has a little Perique spice while MATCH has the sour/vinegar tang and spice. Dunhill virginias are superb while Sutliff virginias are pretty tasty. I completely understand that MATCH Elizabethan by Sutliff was meant to be a tribute to the Murray's version and not the Dunhill Version, but that's not a useful comparison for 90% of new pipe smokers, hence the Dunhill comparison. As of now I still enjoy the dunhill Elizabethan quite a bit more, but I'm looking forward to popping my jar for a new taste once it matures for at least six months. I think it will improve immensely, and perhaps the vinegar edge will soften also. Definitely worth a try if you enjoy va/pers of a similar composition to Elizabethan, and even if not!
Grand Croupier - Boneyard
Great for the Price
As a lover of English/Balkan blends,. Boneyard got the better of my curiosity. I can't say I'm disappointed either, because the pound I received was rich with smoky Latakia goodness. Other than Latakia, there was a unique aroma throughout, from what I imagine is a large mixture of the different casings applied to the various blends. The pipes I smoked we're medium in strength, flavor and nicotine, perhaps edging towards medium-full. Mostly ribbon cut with the occasional chunk of a cake blend. If every batch comes like mine then Boneyard is well worth the price and I highly recommend giving it a try. It's hard to go wrong with this one.
Cornell & Diehl - Dreams of Kadath 2oz
Unique and Singular
Dreams of Kadath is powerful, complex, intoxicating, fragrant, and smokes like a dream also. I'm rapidly falling in love with this blend, and will be buying at least a pound of it as soon as I have the loot. Kadath is very fragrant, with fruity, boozy qualities that actually remind me of another favorite ... GL Pease's Gaslight, which leads me to believe that Katerini is the suspect, though I could be wrong. These delightful fragrances come through as delicious flavors in the smoke, bolstered by the Virginia, Kentucky, and Perique tobacco flavors that sometimes take over, and sometimes subside below. I attribute this beautiful interplay between delightful fragrances and delicious tobacco to the nature of a good plug tobacco, always mixing things up and keeping you on your toes. To cap it off, Kadath has a very strong finish that lovers of strong tobaccos will definitely enjoy. In my opinion this is a manly aromatic plug. One filled with aromatic tobaccos, and perhaps a little booze flavoring. Awesome.
Mac Baren - HH Burley Flake 3.5oz
Nice Dark Fired Presence
I'm not ready to write a full fledged review, but I can say without hesitation that HH Burley Flake is delicious and satisfying. The Dark Fired and Virginia are present in every puff, and in my opinion perfect quantity. Definitely good flavor from each of the constituent tobaccos here, with the strength increasing all the way to the bottom and the dark fired and Burley taking over near the end. I will be smoking a lot of this. Not like Solani abf at all in my opinion
Cornell & Diehl - Awakened Elder 2oz
Kudos to C&D for upping the moisture level of their new tins recently. I'm really enjoying the fact that the tobacco comes a little moist, as it's easy to get it to my desired moisture content after only a few minutes. After five minutes it's nice and springy, and after ten minutes it's perfect for my normal smoke. In my opinion this facilitates better aging also. Moving along... The tin aroma has a delicious Latakia aroma that is far from overpowering, and a noticeable spice overlaying the foundation of Burley and Virginia. No one component fully overpowers the next, and this is a common theme through the smoke also. Awakened Elder contains just enough Latakia to be present with every puff, and this is especially true as you progress through your smoke. The spiciness (assuming this is the katsuri), is also present throughout, infusing the smoke with a unique flavor that evolves into a spiciness on the tongue reminiscent of Perique near the bottom, though arguably much softer on the palate. The Virginias and Burley are also key players during the first half of the bowl, and with all these flavors going on I consider AE complex for an English, if you have the time to relax and pick all of the flavors out. The Burley is also noticeable near the end of the bowl, as burleys typically are, and you may get a hint of that Burley bitterness amidst the spice and Latakia. It's worth mentioning that Awakened Elder is soft on the tongue, and we'll balanced, perhaps thanks to the lower percentage of Latakia, and I think it could be smoked all day if you're a seasoned smoker. Nicotine is a touch above medium, but I need to smoke a few more bowls before I can commit to that ranking. That being said, I have a very high tolerance to nicotine and I was left satisfied. I'm looking forward to seeing how AE ages, and I suspect it won't take very long to reach peak age. Perhaps it will become a 4.5 or 5 star blend for me.
Samuel Gawith - 1792 Flake 50g
Intoxicating... in the best way.
The main difference between 1792 flake and other strong dark flakes is the heavy scenting/flavoring that is present with every puff, but the flavoring feels and is very natural unlike most regular aromatics. This means that you won't be tasting nasty chemical tastes and having that nasty mouth feel often present in the vast majority of aromatics. Like most SG flakes, this one comes wet, even in my 250g box/bag. The flakes are a dark brown (and long in the larger box), almost black in appearance, and they come more fragile than the unscented SG flakes, but that is no bother. The aroma upon opening the tin or bag is intoxicating and potent, and although I've never heard of a tonquin bean in my life you can consider me a lifelong fan. Sometimes I'll bury my nose in the tin and just inhale that sweet aroma until I can't smell anything. I think it's prudent to dry the flakes out before smoking, with my preference being dry to the touch, but with a little give. 1792 flake smokes like a dream, and I often find myself sending billowing clouds of smoke into the air from top to bottom with very few relights necessary. The nicotine level is high, and although it's not the strongest blend in existence, it most definitely packs a punch in both nicotine and body. For the smoker with a low vitamin N tolerance this is no problem, because 1792 flake tastes fantastic on the relight and even near the bottom of the bowl, where it can get a little bitter, the sweet stopping still comes through. I do think that there is something here for almost everyone, excluding only those with a very high sensitivity to nicotine. The aromatic crowd has the incredible tonquin dressing to enjoy, and lovers of rich, strong tobaccos will find plenty to enjoy as well. If you don't enjoy the topping I highly recommend Lakeland dark, as it fully captures all the flavors of these rich, delicious tobaccos without any top flavor getting in the way. For me... I'm going to have both on hand at all times.
Orlik - Dark Strong Kentucky 50g
Didn't meet my expectations
As mentioned in other reviews there seems to be some pg added (a little too heavily for my taste), and it takes forever to dry to my desired moisture level. For me the flavor, while good, was underwhelming and I always found myself wishing for a little more. I'm not sure if the topping obscured the tobacco flavors or added to it in any significant way, but nonetheless I was a little disappointed. All that being said, the actual flavor of the dark fired and Virginia is rather pleasant. The nicotine level seems akin to old dark fired or slightly less, which I would consider medium. Despite extensive drying time, moisture collects at the bottom of the bowl. It probably seems like I'm having a jolly old time ripping into dark strong Kentucky, but I criticize as a lover of Kentucky and Virginia's, and the flavor was much milder than the title suggests, as was the nicotine (which I enjoy). On a positive note the presentation of the flakes is excellent, and you'll find three neatly layered stacks of beautiful dark brown flakes with a golden stripe in the middle. There is a flavoring of maybe liquorice or anise as well that's done lightly. Near the bottom of the bowl it does gather some strength, but by the time I'm really starting to enjoy that flavor, it's finished. I don't see myself cellaring this blend but I will happily finish the few remaining bowls I have after a little time in the jar. If you like old dark fired but it was too strong in flavor or nicotine then dark strong Kentucky might be your blend, but for me the flavor was a little too muted for a blend built around dark fired tobacco. UPDATE: I'm currently reevaluating both Dark Strong Kentucky and Golden sliced by finishing both tins using different packing and pipe methods. I will update both of these reviews very soon, but for now I'll say that I am currently enjoying OGS quite a bit and to he honest I'm a little baffled.. pleasantly.
G. L. Pease - Maltese Falcon 2oz
Top Shelf English
It really surprised me that Maltese Falcon has such a mediocre rating here. For me it was love at first puff, and I've continues to enjoy it on occasion ever since. I've just finished my first tin, purchased last summer, and I have a couple jars in the cellar. Maltese Falcon is best fresh out of the tin, as are most blends that come in the American style of tin (especially c&d). As Greg Pease says, when you first open a tin, a delicate ecosystem has been exposed, and some of the more volatile and delicate particles, whether from the topping or aging process, will fade within a short period of time( I'm paraphrasing here). Whatever light topping that's added does fade with time, and gives a nice sweetness and spice that the description points out, but it is still a fantastic English smoke without that distinct flavor. Actually, with 6 months of age I found new life in this blend, and similar sweetness provided by the aging Virginia tobacco's. Many will likely disagree but with a little age on it Maltese Falcon has many similarities with Dunhills Nightcap for me. Obviously there is no perique in Maltese Falcon, but there is a subtle spice that doesn't fade with time, and a pleasant sweetness that I associate with aged nightcap. Nightcap is also stronger. Maltese Falcon is a medium strength English with a lot of style, and robust flavor for it's strength, and the fact that it can be smoked several times per day by the seasoned smoker grants it extra points for me. From first light to last puff I am always looking at my bowl, awestruck by how masterfully this English is blended. In my humble opinion, Greg Pease is "The" master of English blends and Maltese Falcon is just another top shelf addition to an already impressive lineup of GL Pease's English blends. Fantastic!
Dan Tobacco - Devil's Holiday 50g
Best tin note ever
I won't delve too much into this one but simply put... Devil's holiday has the best time note ever. For that alone it gets massive bonus points. In my tin I couldn't detect any propylene glycol, which is another plus. Smokes like a dream with no dry time. The flavor us absolutely phenomenal and lasts through most of the bowl. A must try aromatic
Esoterica - Blackpool 8oz
Not a heavy aro
I'm mostly a non-aromatic smoker but recently I've been throwing more aros into my rotation and enjoying it. Also I'm not a huge stoved VA fan, but i do smoke it. When I open my jar of Blackpool I get a pleasant aroma of sweet dried dark fruits and the characteristic treacle. The licorice is rather subtle. I dry my aros out extensively and for Blackpool it took about 45 minute to an hour or until it becomes more brown than black. At this point it packs and smokes very well, and the flavor of dried fruit, stoved VA, and just a slight touch of licorice and treacle. It can burn a little hit if you aren't careful but I didn't have any tongue bite. Definitely an enjoyable middle of the road smoking experience that is in my estimation aimed more at lovers of stoved Virginia and aromatic smokers. Personally I find it similar to kingsbridge and I prefer kingsbridge a little more.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Dark
Good for everything
Tobacco's like Kendall dark are the reason I love Sam Gawith/GH. It contains only dark, strong tobaccos, but the way it's processed makes it smooth enough to smoke any time and any way, whether morning, afternoon, or evening. Sometimes I even mix it 25 or 50% into my ryo cigarettes (when I smoke then) when I'm looking for something with a lot of flavor and strength, but I can't do it all the time as it packs quite the punch on the lungs. If you like flavorful, strong tobaccis you can't go wrong here, but by itself it may be to simple for some. I know some people think there is a Lakeland topping on Kendal dark and dark Birdseye, but I'm almost 100% sure there is no topping, and that the suspect is in fact the dark air cured that has a very unique aroma that is almost floral and sweet.
Samuel Gawith - St. James Flake 50g
First off I should say that my opinion may be a little biased here as I have a lot of love for all blends Gawith. The Virginia they put out is of optimal quality and has a unique strong flavor due to whatever casing they use and the variety of Virginia also. All that being said, St. James flake is slightly different for me. It comes in beautiful, long, very dark brown flakes, and when fresh it tends to be very moist and puts off a strong acidic or vinegar smell. Based on past experiences with blends purporting to contain St. James perique I can only conclude that this particular brand of vinegar aroma is being put off by the perique. Without significant air time (and in my case air time along with several months of aging), this can lead to a rather uncomfortable smoke. When smoked fresh, the flavor was fantastic, and the nicotine just right, but the acidity of the smoke was too high, and the worst part is the flavor is so good I would soldier on and get severe tongue bite. For me the experience is reminiscent of fresh Deception Pass or Mississippi River, both of which had a similar issue when fresh and needed significant airing out and aging. When this happens (at least for me), there is no amount of slowing down that will spare me from horrific tongue bite, but despair not fellow pipe smokers! Given the time it needs to air out and settle down, St James flake becomes a solid medium strength, deliciously flavored vaper with a very minimal chance for giving tongue bite(though I should state that I've been smoking in an off and on way, often putting down my pipe several times per bowl). Depending on whether you rub it our fully or into thick twigs it can smoke for less than an hour or well over an hour in my experience. I like to prepare mine a little crunchy, as it speeds up the smoke a little and gives large volumes of creamy smoke and tons of flavor, though more care is required to prevent bite. There is definitely a casing here that infuses the tobaccos with a dark fruity flavor and hints of chocolate in the background. There is also a slight sour note that remains regardless of how long you air it out or age it. The flavor of the Virginia here is much the same as FVF to my taste, which is a good thing. The perique, though present throughout, is more noticeable towards the bottom with added spice, and remains secondary to the fantastic VA flavor the whole time. Nicotine levels can be medium to high depending on your tolerance, so take it slow. I enjoy St James flake in a tall and narrow pipe like I do with all Gawith VAs, as it really let's that sweet and salty VA flavor develop. I almost hope that I've just been unlucky with my purchases and that I've been receiving abnormally high acidity batches, but I have a feeling this is just the way it comes. Therefore, if you have a sensitive palate then it becomes a question of if you mind waiting for the perique to settle down and smooth out or not. For me, it is worth the wait.
Cornell & Diehl - Sunset Harbor Flake 2oz
Yet Another Winner
As I purchased all the aged C&D blends at a local b&m shop one by one, the supply was getting low and I had to sunset harbor flake and rajahs court. I can say with zero reservations that both blends age to perfection and are incredibly delicious. Sunset harbor may be more gentle on the palate, but it packs a serious flavor punch, and that's really no surprise considering it's something of a rarity, with no Virginia or Burley and all Latakia, izmir and perique. At first I thought maybe there was an error in what I was reading, but upon cracking the tin open I feasted my eyes on broken flakes of near jet black color, and only the very occasional speck of brown. The tin aroma is an intoxicating work of art in and of itself, and I had to make a visible effort to break away and pack my first bowl. There's an almost fruity, almost rumlike aroma mixed together with a soft smoky sweetness of Latakia. I cannot wait to try this blend fresh, because after four years of aging the Latakia has softened noticeably, but dont let that deter you if you come across an aged tin. The aroma translates well into flavors, and the izmir is a real star here, as is usual when aged. Sipping your pipe will reward you with even more flavor, so even considering how gentle it is on the palate I'd heartily recommend taking it slow to extract every morsel of flavor out of this blend. On a final note, while I agree that SHF is a gem if a blend, it's hard to compare it directly to Penzance . I would definitely try both!
Mac Baren - 7 Seas Regular 100g
Excellent aroma and taste
I normally prefer my aromatics strong and natural, like Sam Gawith's 1792 Flake and Ennerdale Flake and blends like that. I'm not a huge fan of goopy, PG drenched tobaccos. Mac Baren's 7 Seas Regular is the chink in my American aromatic armor, and I nearly gave it away during Christmas to my cousin. I came home that night, unwanted tin in hand, and set out a pile to dry. When I woke up in the morning, the tobacco was dry but not crispy. This is the moment I realized I can enjoy a regular aromatic. The tin note is vanilla caramel heaven with a side of chocolate. The smoke is rich with these flavors, and when I smoke it in my car I leave the window cracked only slightly so I can enjoy the room note without smoking myself out. Drying out the tobacco for several hours yields a smoke with little to no steam or moisture at the bottom of the bowl. My only complaint is that it doesn't satisfy me with nicotine, but I can forgo that pleasure for a sensory delight here and there. Delightful.
G. L. Pease - Lagonda 2oz
Mild in strength yet full in flavor.
I've been wanting to try lagonda ever for months and I finally got my chance recently. I was expecting a heavy Latakia presence, and although the sweet and smoky delight is abundant, Lagonda remains cool, smooth, and varied. In other words, there is a lot going on here besides the standard Latakia and Virginia flavors. It was mentioned below that Lagonda is reminiscent of Meridian,and indeed some of the same orientals are used here, infusing every puff with a subtle sweetness (in concert with the splash of bright VA) and provides the smoker a delicious, lingering aftertaste if zesty, Woody and sweet smoke. Meridian is full with the delicious orientals varietal, whereas in Lagonda it plays a supporting and almost subtle role, albeit an important one. Another blend with similar flavor profile is quiet nights, which in my opinion is the true big brother to Lagonda. Quiet nights has more orientals and Latakia, and though it can be smoked all day, especially with some age, it is more of a treat to me. The balance of strength, flavor, and body in Lagonda is expertly crafted to the point of perfection. It can easily be smoked all day, or any time of day, with no bite and no harshness on the palate. Sweet and smoky Latakia on top, layered over sweet and zesty orientals and a base of quality red Virginia grants the smoker a deep and satisfying experience for those moments when you crave Latakia but just want something easy. Mild/medium nicotine.
John Cotton's - Numbers 1 & 2 1.75oz
Flavorful all day English
Despite having only smoked a couple pipes of this so far, I figured I'd comment due to the mysterious lack of comments. All I really have to say is... what a fantastically smooth and flavorful English blend here. Smoky and spicy with no bite at all, I believe this is achieved by russ oulettes phenomenal application of Turkish and Latakia in an impeccably fine balance, each complementing and amplifying the other without overpowering the other components or causing bite. John cotton's nos. 1 and 2 is an all day English that packs seriously good flavor. The Virginia provides a good backdrop for the Turkish and Latakia, which are delightfully spicy and smoky, especially on the retrohale. I just wish it had slightly more nicotine,.as it's more on the mild end of the spectrum. My tin came at the perfect moisture content for smoking, but I've had other H and H blends come dry before so u may need to rehydrate slightly. As I smoke more I can say this blend is an easy all day blend, and only gets more flavorful the further down the bowl you go and with each relight. JC no. 1&2 is one of those blends where I find myself puffing with greed, and with no bite, and am sad to find the bottom of the pipe. Wonderful smoke.
G. L. Pease - Sextant 2oz
I received this blend as a Christmas gift and cracked the tin straightaway. Manufactured in March so it had a few months to age at least. The tin note is divine, with sweet Latakia and rum aromas filling my olfactory senses. I packed my MM Elf, which is fairly deep and narrow. Moisture content is on the moist side of perfect and it takes the flame easily. The dominant flavor is Latakia and Virginia, with the rum a constant and delicious background flavor. The dark fired is detectable but more of an added spice than a key player here, and it works wonderfully in that role, slowly increasing as the bowl develops as one would expect. By midpipe Sextant is a rich medley of flavors, and everything melds together into one beautiful English flavor. It tastes eerily similar to my own personal English blend that just came off of 5 weeks in the press. Sextant is a full flavored English with a little extra (rum and df)... and it delivers. Medium in body, medium in nicotine, and rich in flavor, Sextant maintains this profile throughout. By no means a lat bomb, but neither is it an unassuming mild english, Sextant can be smoked multiple times per day but may be a little heavy for strictly all day. As I continue smoking Sextant it has taken on a quasi all day position in my rotation. I always have a pipe of Sextant nearby and I take a few puffs here and there as I desire. It maintains it's flavor well even after several relights for the most part Well done Mr pease I aspire to your blending prowess.
CAO - Colombia Vallenato
Pleasant smoke any time
Ive been sampling each of the CAO cigar blends one by one and I am never disappointed. You get a great value here at 6 dollars, and a premium cigar. The around the world series is no different, with the Columbian variety being a pleasant medium strength smoke that does indeed burn quite well. The flavor is of... premium tobacco.. a little nuttiness yes and a touch of spice and earth as well. Not overbearing but definitely a good afternoon or evening smoke for me so as not to overwhelm my palate.
Dunhill - Ye Olde Signe 50g
Delightful all day Virginia
I remember when I first started smoking a pipe and everyone recommend dunhill blends to me as the gold standard of pipe tobaccos. I picked up the bulk English blends and some Elizabethan to start. As a novice pipe smoker I can say I wasn't initially impressed and I couldn't help wondering what all the fuss was about. Fast forward to present and as I revisit those blends and new ones such as Ye Olde Signe I am consistently humbled and impressed. Dunhill tobaccos truly are top tier. Ye Olde Signe is described as a tasty Virginia with exceptional body and I have to agree. The red VA here is delicious out of the tin, but with just 6 months of age it is truly exceptional. Smooth and mild medium in strength, the flavor deepens as the bowl progresses and even more with dgt. If you're looking for a consistent, simple, flavorful, and easy pure Virginia blend and u require just that little something extra in the vitamin n department. You might be at the right place. Good as an all day smoke as it is easy on the palate, being both bite free and not overwhelming to your taste buds.
Seattle Pipe Club - Rainier Levant 2oz
A different nightcap
After smoking plum pudding and Mississippi River I decided I had to buy at least one tin of every spc blend, and rainier Levant was purchased for that reason. I thoroughly enjoy both a full and strong blend and English blends in general, so this one's a winner for me. Right now I'm alternating smokes between this and quiet nights and though at this point I feel quiet nights is my favorite of the two, rainier Levant I thoroughly enjoy also. It's a tight race for me, and though I haven't smoked enough RL to give my final judgement and review. I know enough to give it a positive review here. I smoked both tobaccos fresh and now with 6 months of age and for both the Latakia has softened a little and the virginias sweetened. The Turkish tobaccos are what distinguishes both of these blends from the pack for me. I don't know which orientals are used (maybe izmir and Macedonian?) , but both have a very similar flavor profile for me. There is plenty of Latakia here for those who crave it, and just enough sweetness to keep me puffing steady. I do think quiet nights edges ahead slightly for me because I feel the broken flake process and presentation really refines such a powerful and flavorful blend, and qn is the more balanced. In my opinion if you love one you'll love the other too. Superb flavors and the right amount of nicotine, while not exhausting my palate even after a large bowl. I don't think I could smoke it more than twice a day but maybe. Rainier Levant is rich in Latakia smokiness and sweet/zesty orientals, but I don't consider it a lat bomb. For me it's a very tasty treat to be enjoyed anytime, but for now mostly as my nightcap.
G. L. Pease - Samarra 2oz
6 months can't come fast enough
I purchased this based on a review on this site. I didn't have any expectations here other than it being mild or medium in body and nicotine. I really enjoy this English by Mr. Pease. Age when smoked is very fresh so I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops with age. The tin description really nails it, as expected. It is quite smooth for the first half of the bowl, and the virginia and orientals are key players here, with the cyprian latakia lending it's sweet and smoky flavor. What happens when you reach the halfway point is why I really love this blend. The flavor and body deepen and intensify, with the perique starting to transform the flavor into a complex medley of tastes and aromas. At once, and with every puff it is mildly sweet, deliciously smoky, slightly but increasingly spicy, and certainly zesty. By the time I'm nearing the end I find myself puffing relentlessly, but it refuses to get hot. Samarra is very well done, and if you like a well balanced medium english with incredible natural tobacco flavors, exceptional smoothness, and a complex twist near the end you will definitely enjoy this blend.
Mac Baren - HH Bold Kentucky 3.5oz
Bold Kentucky!? Yes sir!
If you are a Dark Fired tobacco lover, it's hard to imagine you won't enjoy Bold Kentucky. BK is one of the first dark fired blends I tried, and it was an instant hit for me. I simply couldn't get enough of that BBQ, savory, slightly sweet and very spicy aroma in the tin and smoke. Bold Kentucky is dark brown, going on black from the high percentage of dark fired American and African (Malawi?) Tobaccos, but the golden Virginia does mellow it ever so slightly. The flavor during the first half of the bowl is pure heaven, with that savory BBQ and American spice really dominating the senses, and if you love dark fired tobaccos you will most likely be in love here. African dark fired flavors are in abundance here, with the American lending it's signature spice and smokiness. The second half of the bowl the strength really kicks it up a gear. Most likely you will need a few relights here, but it's not to the point of annoyance. All that being said, if you aren't a huge fan of dark fired tobaccos then Bold Kentucky may be a little too much for a regular smoke, but I would argue that even for those less inclined it will provide a deeply flavorful and potent occasional smoke. I simply love this blend and honestly I'm not sure whether or not I like ODF or BK more but right now I'm smoking boatloads of both and loving it. Each smoke is unique, and different notes pop up all the time. Sometimes I get stray cigar notes akin to GH brown ropes and sometimes the delicious Malawi dark fired flavors of Dark Birdseye combined with a subtle sweetness of Virginia that just puts me in heaven. Mac Baren's is hitting home run after home run with these HH blends, with Old Dark Fired and Bold Kentucky leading the pack. Both of these blends are top of the line and really without equal if you ask me. Here you have two blends (ODF and BK) that are supremely delicious, exceptionally smooth, nearly 100% consistent, truly bite free, ample in nicotine without overwhelming, and provide ultimate satisfaction. Bold Kentucky can be smoked more than once per day but for the vast majority of people is not an all day smoke. Old dark fired is your all day smoke if you enjoy this one like me.
G. L. Pease - Montgomery 2oz
Ages to perfection
I was lucky enough to be able to purchase a tin of Montgomery from 2006 a few months ago for a small premium. It was worth it. If you love Virginia flavor and you enjoy dark fired Kentucky then it's hard to go wrong here. With 11 years of age, the flavors and aromas of the VA and DF are married to perfection. From first light, you're instantly rewarded with sweet, smoky, and delicious special dark fired and a whole spectrum of Virginia flavors that starts on the lighter side. The basic flavor profile outlined above remains throughout the rest of the bowl, only deepening and intensifying the further you go. As a result, this singular blend of Virginia and dark fired consistently satisfies, and only gets better and better with every relight (exceptional flavor for those who employ DGT) . I find Montgomery to be an all day smoke that is mild in body, but not too mild. Mild in nicotine, but enough to satisfy. Mild to mild-medium in flavor, but never losing interest and always growing in flavor. Id really like to try this one fresh and cellar at least a pound. GL Pease strikes again... On a side note it would really be nice to have access to seven different grades of Virginia, or just the breadth or components available to blenders. There are more blending components avaliable than ever from what I read, but in my humble opinion there's still room for more. It's especially a shame that many small leaf varietals are so rare, even for master blenders.
Peter Stokkebye - PS403 Luxury Bullseye Flake
Sweet, tasty VA/Per
I first purchased a couple ounces of bullseye flake 6 months ago from a local smoke shop, and after smoking a couple bowls, I stored the remainder in a pint Ball jar and left it in my cellar to age. Smoked fresh it was not bad at all, but it lacked distinction from the pack. Recently I decided to give it another try, and I am very impressed. My 2 ounces came very moist, and I stored it that way because it seems to help facilitate plume/bloom (maybe I'm flat out wrong here but that's my observation), but after cracking the seal I spread out all my coins to dry. It took several hours, and eventually I thoroughly rubbed out my coins and evenly sprinkled the cavendish core over my neat pile. Even after such thorough drying I still let it sit out for 10 or 15 minutes before packing my pipe. I must say that it is worth the preparation. Upon first light I get rich dark VA notes of bread and hay, with an underlying sweetness that is just right and never too much. The perique lends a dark fruity flavor but is very mild tempered for most of the experience and there is virtually no resulting spice until the lastime quarter bowl. I've smoked a lot of elizabethan mixture recently so it's hard not to draw some parallels. When aged, both give that lovely, deep, rich red Virginia flavor I love. PS bullseye adds an extra dimension of added sweetness, and from what I can tell that sweetness only continues to deepen with age. Any inherent spiciness mellows with minimal age, and I really couldn't pinpoint any spicy qualities until the tail end of the bowl, at which point there was moderate spiciness which I quite enjoy. I end up dumping the last little bit of tobacco as it can get slightly harsh at the very very end, but the smoke is so cost friendly and delicious I don't even care. Requires very few relights when dried to the right moisture content. Nicotine level is on the mild side for me, but maybe mild medium. I will be cellaring at least a pound in the near future, as well as sampling their other offerings as so far this is the only blend I have tried of theirs.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Dark Bird's Eye
A dark and delicious dream
I've been making an effort to try all GH bulk blends, especially the strong ones, because they are just such amazing tobaccos in general. What I've found, generally speaking, is that while sharing many components and similarities they are all unique and singular blends to be enjoyed in their own way. Dark Birdseye might be the new crown jewel of my collection. Full, rich, deep, sweet, smoky, and spicy flavors of dark fired Virginia and Kentucky that's just burst onto your palate and give lasting flavor. Even after putting it aside for a few hours or a day it doesn't overpower. Strong enough to satisfy, smooth enough to smoke multiple times per day, and with enough dark virginia sweetness to keep bringing me back, I'm really enjoying dark Birdseye right now. When I put it down and come back I notice a very rich and delicious cigar aroma from the smoke that is just heavenly. As I near the bottom of the bowl the flavors deepen and the smoke strengthens, but since it isn't a super strong blend I simply enjoy the transformation. My batch came with the perfect moisture content to be packed and smoked right away. I tend to smoke this one in a meer or cob, and I pack it tight and filled to the brim. Rarely requires even a single relight based on my experience so far, and is one of the easiest blends to smoke that I've yet to put in my pipe. Leaves very little moisture in the bowl. Contrary to some of the other reviews, I don't view dark Birdseye as a top strength blend in the same league as brown twist or Kendall Kentucky. Yes it is on the stronger side but should be manageable to all but the most sensitive of smokers when it comes to nicotine, especially when smoked at a leisurely pace. You can always pack a smaller bowl if you disagree, but whether you like a large bowl or small I highly recommend giving this fine blend a try.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Black Irish X
Mild of flavor and strength
Black twist was the first GH twist tobacco that I smoked, and I've had some in a jar for several months now. Smooth, mellowed dark fired and Indian air cured flavors that in my opinion are much less pronounced than the brown variety. There's an aroma and flavor i can't describe adequately and others have done so well so I'll leave it to them. Though a worthy tobacco in and of itself I find myself reaching for the other GH dark fired tobaccos much more frequently. Black twist doesn't satisfy as much as I prefer for a regular smoke, but it is a tobacco that can be smoked all day. I like to blend black twist with Mac barens bold Kentucky 50/50 to liven the flavor and strength a little. The stoving changes the blend enough to separate it from its unstoved counterparts, and I would say if you like GH tobaccos but find them too strong then black twist might be for you, though it has a different flavor. Low moisture in the bowl for me, and above average number of relights especially further down the bowl. Rich and creamy smoke that should satisfy those with a predilection for medium strength natural tobaccos.
Seattle Pipe Club - Deception Pass 2oz
As with Mississippi River, Deception Pass had a strong aroma of vinegar when fresh out of the tin. For me that meant it was nearly unsmokeable for a while, though I did enjoy the flavors. DP needs considerable decanting time, and I opened my jar several times before leaving it to age. After several months the vinegar does mostly dissipate, but is still present. For that reason I can't smoke it all day, which is disappointing. The flavors are rich, with a considerable amount of perique up front and the orientals adding a unique spice. UPDATE: I've found a way to smoke this blend without destroying my mouth. Much like St James flake I give DP considerable time to dry, sometimes several hours, followed by a charring light and then several days left alone (at least 2). When I light it up the next time it is significantly milder on my palate, though much transformed in flavor, at least to my taste. Oddly (or maybe not), after this procedure DP has a very similar flavor profile to St James flake, though smoked fresh they are quite different to me. The orientals and Cavendish are less noticeable, especially the orientals, with the Cavendish giving the noticeable difference in flavor from St James. Don't get me wrong, they are two different blends with two distinct flavors, but I can't help drawing some parallels when both are dried to this degree. With the amount of preparation required I won't be reordering but I'll keep it as a rare filler smoke.
Seattle Pipe Club - Mississippi River Special Reserve 4oz
I have yet to try the original blend, though I intend to soon, but I jumped on the opportunity to get the special reserve whole it was available. Upon opening the tin several months ago I was greeted with a pungent vinegar aroma that was dominant. I've heard of companies using vinegar as an antifungal agent, so I'm leaning towards that being the reason as it was a thick, dark and moist cake. Similar to deception pass in that regard. Both need considerable decanting time to truly enjoy the smoke. When smoked fresh it did irritate my mouth, so decant I did, opening my jar every few days to let it breath. Fast forward 6 months. Now we're talking. The vinegar smell has dissipated almost entirely and I get a rich Latakia and sweet virginia aroma. After loading a fat pipe I sit back to enjoy and I'm not disappointed. What greets me is a unique blend of Virginia, latakia, and perique in near perfect harmony. I can taste each ingredient individually, but it is so masterfully blended and married that none of the ingredients overpowers the next. Sweet and smoky Latakia is present but not overwhelming, and the perique is there to lend some dark fruit and spice, but the high quality virginias are the ties that bind MR. There is another blend out there with a similar flavor profile but I can't recall it, and honestly that says something about MR. Plum Pudding will always be the crown of my collection but Mississippi River special reserve earned a spot in my rotation for the foreseeable future. Time to stock up.
McClelland - Premium: Best of Show 50g
The aroma and flavor is so good with best of show that I reach for it more than any classic aromatic. To me it smells and tastes like a cross between vanilla, nougat, and caramel, and that flavor carries well through most of the bowl. Unfortubately for me there's just not enough oomph in nicotine or body to satisfy me on a regular basis but on occasions where I want something extra smooth and mild I'll go for this. Doesn't bite me as much as most aros either. Quite good for an occasional treat and if u love aros...this must be a treasure for u.
McClelland - CORPS: Vanilla Ice 50g
In my early piping days I ran across a video where someone was singing vanilla ices praises so I had to try a tin. It succeeded in confirming that I am not a fan of traditional aromatics. Vanilla ice smells incredible in the tin, and when smoked fresh a reasonable portion of that aroma translates to the taste. The pros end there for me, as a chemical flavor is also abundant in my opinion, and is more noticeable as the flavor weakens with time. Something about aromatics doesn't agree with my mouth. It could be the normal abundance of propylene glycol or other chemicals I'm not really sure, but I can't smoke multiple bowls without irritation. Con number two is the absence of nicotine. I smoke for flavor and aroma but I also smoke because I love a good dose of nicotine, and vanilla ice doesn't scratch that itch (nor most aros). Another problem for me is the lack of flavor. What little flavor I do taste is great but its weak for me. The combination of critiques above is why I generally don't review or smoke aros but I do have my select few that I enjoy, such as the occasional pipe of 1Q or Best of Show. Or The Virginia Cream (delicious).
Dunhill - Elizabethan Mixture 50g
Top Quality VA/Per
After a year of smoking this blend, at first occasionally and now regularly, I now have a much greater appreciation for this blend. Elizabethan has proven itself capable for every occasion. It is my doppelganger of tobaccos. It has delicious flavors of sweet bread and hay that continue to develop through mid-bowl, with a wonderful perique spice intervening near the bottom. The magnitude of this blends convenience can't go understated. Elizabethan packs, lights, and smokes like a dream. The flavor and nicotine always satisfy me, and to this day I still find myself surprised with the consistency of the delicious flavors and moisture. I consider this blend mild-medium in body, medium in nicotine, and medium in flavor, especially with some age. Speaking of age, Elizabethan doesn't truly shine until it has a solid six months of time in a jar. I empty the contents of one tin into a 16 oz. Mason jar and leave it to age for at least six months. In my experience 50g per pint sized jar is the optimal ratio of tobacco:air for this blend, and it will develop tremendous flavors during this short time. I'm currently running an experiment with two 50g tins in one point jar, and a side by side comparison reveals that there is a big difference in color and (I'm assuming) flavor. The extra oxygen seems to accelerate the process possibly, but I'll add the results here once I crack them both open and taste them. I did not find this blend anywhere near as enjoyable fresh out of the tin as I did with a little age on it, but your results may vary. I will be sad to see Nightcap and Eliz go when Dunhill is discontinued soon, but at least we have been given ample warning and plenty of time to cellar our favorites, unlike McClelland. Now is the time!!
Samuel Gawith - Navy Flake 50g
Fvf plus rum and lat
Sam gawiths navy flake is not what I expected, but that isn't a bad thing here. I assumed there would be a stronger Latakia presence but instead there is just enough to lend some flavor and complexity. The first half of the bowl brought more up front Latakia aroma and light on the Virginia, with the rums sweetness coming through quite nicely. The room note is quite pleasant here, evoking memories of pipe smoke in my childhood. As the bowl develops into the second half the sweet and salty bread gawith virginias really take over for me, with the Latakia and rum taking a step back but still present in a more subtle way. The dynamic here lasts throughout the remainder of the bowl, and I found myself greedily puffing for more, when in the first half I was about to put it down for some dgt. To me SG navy flake is a sleeper blend, and continually grows on me. I love FVF and it not only scratches the same itch but adds a little complexity. With that being said I don't think it truly earns the 4th dot for flavor, though I can imagine with a year or two of age on it navy flakes flavor will indeed deepen and become sweeter. Like most gawith virginias this one has a tendency to bite me if I get carried away even remotely, and therefore it remains an occasional treat. It's worth trying for sure.
Cornell & Diehl - Bayou Night 2oz
Potent and delightful
Bayou Night was one of the first c&d blends I tried, and I couldn't be happier that I did. The tin aroma is intoxicating in the best way, bombarding my olfactory nerves with deep notes of fruity and spicy perique along with the delicious burley. When dried out some the aroma gets downright strange yet still wonderful. It smokes fantastic, with the perique out front and the Turkish and burley never far away. Bayou Night may be too potent for new smokers, but for the initiated it is deeply satisfying and I found myself reaching for it every night and sometimes first thing in the morning even. It's worth mentioning that this is quite different than Bayou morning, which is also quite powerful. I recommend trying both if you love perique.
Cornell & Diehl - Granulated Perique
Pepper and Spice
Another solid blending tobacco from C&D. When I got my shipment in I immediately put my nostrils in the bag to have a smell, only to pull them right back out.in surprise as this stuff had an almost ammonia-like feel when I inhaled the aroma (not I sniff ammonia often). Lots of pepper and spice in the bag note, and a quality to it that steals your breath if you inhale too deeply, it is of my understanding that it needs a little jar time fresh which is exactly what I did. After a couple months that negative component does tone down a lot but at heart the granulated perique here is quite peppery. Not to be deterred I've used it in quite a few blends, with the peppery notes in mind, and have had several successes. Over time I've noticed the blends I use it in gain a sort of apricot note, which does translate faintly to the smoke. When used with these atrributes in mind I enjoy it. Commonly I do use mcclelland perique and sutliff long cut perique for their fruity, mushroom notes. It all depends what you're looking for. I haven't tried the long cut but I'm assuming it's more in line with the other long cut brands. This stuff is very easy to blend with due to its cut.
Cornell & Diehl - Black Cavendish
An essential tobacco in every blenders arsenal. I frequently use this black Cavendish in my blends and in small quantities it seems to always improve whatever I'm blending. Like the last reviewer said this really is a blender. It tastes good by itself but it's a little too boring to be more than a very occasional smoke. C&D black Cavendish is the glue that binds several.of my blends together. Fantastic as a tool to carry flavor, smooth out a blend, or maybe even slow down a blend a little. Haven't attempted to make any aromatics with it but I'm sure it performs admirably. Comes moist like perique and has an oily texture.
Cornell & Diehl - Latakia
Of all the pure blending Latakia I've smoked and blended with C&D sells the best on the market in my humble opinion. Perfect moisture content for blending, and will take on a little moisture when distilled water is added to moisturize a new blend, making sure it doesn't just fall to the bottom. The cut itself also contributes to that end, and is rather small but somehow just right. Cool smoking, supremely pungent and aromatic, and full bodied. Pound for pound the most aromatic Latakia I've smoked. I love blending with this stuff, and indeed have crafted several blends with it that I thoroughly enjoy. A little too potent to smoke regularly solo, but worth sampling to fully understand what it brings to the table. There's not much else to say here. High quality tobacco.
Brebbia - Latakia Flake 50g
Lat bomb of the cyprian variety
I've only smoked a couple bowls so far but I feel it's worth mentioning that there is a nearly imperceptible quantity of Syrian Latakia in this blend so if ur purchasing for the Syrian keep that in mind. To me there is a whisper of the wine like character I'm the first quarter of the bowl but soon after its completely drowned out by the raw power of cyprian latakia, of which there is plenty. Rich, dark brown flakes, the tin note is reminiscent of old ironsides but only slightly. Also if ur looking for a penzance replacement this isn't it either, at least as far as flavor profile goes. I will say, however, that there is big flavor here so in that regard alone they share one similarity. Latakia flake lacks orientals and is very straightforward and blunt, with powerful Latakia Virginia flavor. To me the Virginia sweetness isn't there and therefore I'll be leaving it in the jar for 6 months to let them sweeten some. If u love pure English flavor there this flake is the bomb. Tons of Latakia goodness melded tightly with the Virginia, it satisfies that craving and also satisfies with medium nicotine. More of a fvf Virginia flavor and less of a light VA flavor for me, but married well. Smokes well and completely from top all the way to the very bottom. No bite but very strong in body when fresh. This is a treat not an all day smoke.
Balkan Sobranie - Balkan Sobranie 50g
Finally I snagged a few tins of this blend. I'll start with the presentation in the tin. When I first opened the tin and looked at the contents I was a little surprised. First the mixture is not homogeneous in any respect. The Latakia is significantly more dry than the virginias and orientals, and perhaps because of that the mixture is not well blended. Therefore I embarked upon a first in my piping career... I emptied the contents into a mixing bowl and began thoroughly mixing the contents, first by lightly tearing some of the longer shag strands and then pulling the Latakia from the bottom and sprinkling it throughout. Finally, with my Sobranie blended to my satisfaction I jarred it and set out enough to fill my rather large Meerqueen bowl. Again the Latakia had a tendency to separate but with a thorough mixing it is much improved of you stay vigilant! Like most germain produced tobaccos sobranie dries to a certain point in a rather short time, and I find 20-30 minutes brings it to a nice moisture level, being slightly dry but having that oily texture. Presentation, blending, and moisture aside I put flame to tobacco and it took it quite readily, giving nice volumes of fragrant smoke. It's clear to me that smoked fresh this is no lightweight English/balkan. The sweet, smoky, woody germain Latakia is present with every puff and very enjoyable. The virginias provide a solid backdrop for the supporting cast of Turkish tobacco of which, to my tastes at least, Smyrna (not izmir) is the star. To me the (alleged) Smyrna provides a delicious musty, spicy note that I don't have the pleasure of tasting often. The virginias are present and provide their own standard notes for the first half of the bowl, but as the smoke strengthens they fall deeper into the background and the smoky, spicy flavors take over. Another reason I think it's Smyrna, and please correct me if it isnt, is that when smoked fresh it is a little harsh on my tongue and palate. I didn't get tongue bite, but if I smoked multiple bowls per day I would, which reminds me of said Turkish at least until aged some. Despite all of my gripes with the blend I thoroughly enjoy the flavor, and imagine it will become significantly better with age and added complexity. Fresh... it is fairly straightforward, a little harsh, full flavored English tobacco.
Samuel Gawith - Lakeland Dark 50g
Deep and satisfying
Dark and strong dark fired Virginia and Kentucky (malawi?) Tobaccos with a brown sugar/molasses aroma that I enjoy. Beefy, creamy, smooth, thick smoke for the first half of the bowl, and then it gets stronger during the second half. At the bottom of the bowl it can be a little harsh, but not uncomfortably so. Needed a little drying time as usual but smoked very well once dried to proper moisture levels. It's a proper morning and gold night smoke for me, with the nicotine level being on the higher end and very satisfying. I enjoy this more than 1792 as I love brown sugar and molasses both more than tonquin, and while I also enjoy the tonquin topping of 1792 the good pure tobacco flavor is always there with Lakeland dark, and not obscured by the casing or topping. No subtleties here, just good, flavorful, strong tobacco.
Dunhill - Nightcap
Lovely with a little age
Like all of the dunhill blends I've smoked Nightcap is good when fresh but not amazing. Good Latakia flavor and a hint of perique with the Virginia providing nothing more than some balance. Also it's not as smooth. My new Dunhill cellaring policy (if not already aged and for tins at least 5 years) is to transfer the contents to mason jars, leaving plenty of room for air. From my experience exposure to air and good aging in a jar seems to provide the best results. Fast forward 6-12 months and Nightcap goes from a 3 star blend to a 4.5 star blend, with a level of smoothness that enables you to smoke this all day. The virginias gain a sweetness, and the orientals a slight tart quality, and the perique is smooth and unobtrusive, adding complexity without being too spicy. Enough nicotine to satisfy the experienced smoker. Yes there are more flavorful, rich, and satisfying English blends out there, but what Nightcap lacks in those departments it more than makes up for with its efficient and easy smoking qualities. Easy to pack, easy to light and smoke, and consistent, above average aroma and flavor make Nightcap hard to be without. Nightcap is an incredible blend that is very consistent and always satisfies,and I really enjoy how Perique transforms a blend as you get deeper into the bowl. For these reasons Nightcap easily earns a 4.5 rating and I would give it 4.75 if I could, but I can't give it a solid 5. There are just too many other amazing English blends out there, but nightcap will always have a special place in my rotation and will always find it's way into my bowl when I can't decide which English to smoke.
McClelland - Craftsbury: Frog Morton 50g
All day mild with flavor
Like all the frog morton blends mcclelland really hit the mark. If you're searching for a mild flavorful English that has Latakia flavor without overpowering then frog morton is a good start. For the longest time I thought I tasted black Cavendish here, and maybe there is, but this is 95% stoves Virginia and Latakia with a sprinkle of bright Virginia or maybe some sun cured leaf? I'm not sure which. Sweet and smoky in both tin and smoke, and easy enough in the palate to smoke all day. Sometimes I enjoy the simplicity and mildness, but I prefer to rotate between ATP, OTB, and Cellar frog morton blends equally, so I don't end up smoking any of them too often. I have been reaching for milder blends more often as of late, so perhaps I'll change. Slow burning and mild on nicotine.
McClelland - Craftsbury: Frog Morton on the Bayou 50g
Smooth yet flavorful
This is one of the first blends I ever purchased right behind FM Cellar. The FM series remains to this day among my favorites of the McClelland nonaromatic lineup. Like the others On the Bayou is very mild and smooth, and is a good all day any time smoke. The difference for me is that it still has plenty of flavor, where some of their Virginias have too mild of a flavor for me all the component tobaccos are easily picked out here, and the addition of perique is a welcome one. This is easily my favorite next to Across the Pond. It really reminds me of Mississippi River but milder. Same flavor profile for me though. Generally I prefer hearty strong smokes but when I want something easy on the palate but still packing flavor this is where I reach. Mild nicotine also
Cornell & Diehl - Dark Fired Kentucky
Low moisture content like most c&d blending tobaccos. This is unadulterated Kentucky dark fired, and as such it is very smoky in aroma and flavor. The aroma out of the back is of a woody smokiness that is a little spicy and very pleasant if strong. Comes in a coarse, almost ready rubbed cut. By itself it is quite strong, and only gets stronger as the bowl progresses. It takes the flame very easily but requires a few relights. Personally I don't recommend smoking straight after the first tasting bowl, as the smoky flavor will dominate your taste buds. Nicotine is pleasantly high. As a blender this is much better in my opinion. I've found a couple blends where I really enjoy the addition this brings, but be careful because a little goes a long way here, and the dark fired can quickly overpower everything after the first quarter of half bowl if u aren't careful or best case get thag bitter taste. When applied in the correct proportion it adds a wonderful wood smoky, spicy flavor and some body to your smoke. I'd like to age a large quanta of this to see how it is after a year or two. I imagine it will be incredibly good with a little age to smooth it out.
Cornell & Diehl - Red Virginia Ribbon
Unadulterated VA Goodness
Purchased for blending. Like most of the other c&d blending tobaccos this comes at a low moisture level out of the sealed bag, and is ready for blending immediately if desired. No casing or topping means pure red VA flavor and aroma, with deeper grass and hay notes than the bright VA and some sweetness as well. As states in the description this ages well, and with only a couple months in the jar at the same moisture level it came as, my jar had a lot.going on for only 2 months. When I popped the seal a burst of gases filled my nostrils with sweet and sour hay notes immediately. I can't wait to see what 6 months brings. I really want to get 5 pounds of this stuff so I can have a few pounds aging at all.times... soon. By itself it smokes great, with no relights, a fast burn rate, no bite, and good flavor. I love it as is, but I love it even more as a blender. Thanks to c&ds exceptional red VA and Latakia (really all.of their blending tobacco), I've been able to blend up some truly wonderful English mixtures. I can't get enough. I just started pressing my first quarter kilo batch of my best English blend yet. I can't wait to see what 3 weeks of pressing will.do for it. Ty c&d for the quality raw materials
Cornell & Diehl - Bright Virginia Ribbon
Quality unadulterated bright VA
I purchased a pound each of bright and red VA.for blending and both are pure, unadulterated tobaccos. Oftentimes I feel people misuse the word when describing Virginia or burley blends (even McC virginias?), but here I use it in the truest sense. No casing or topping to be found here. Moisture out of the sealed bag was dry but not too dry, and consistent with all c&d blending tobaccos with the exception of perique and black Cavendish which makes sense. Bag aroma is as advertised with grass, hay, and a little citrus, with all of these translating nicely to the smoke. Smokes smooth and fast as is, and is rather enjoyable by itself with a low to mild nicitinerary presence. For blending it is just as good, though admittedly it has played a small role most often (so far) in my blends up to this point. As a side note I noticed that smokingpipes.com rated this a solid 4 across the board for strength, room note, and taste which I assume is an error. Cornell and diehl blending dark fired has an equal rating and rhetoric red VA has solid 3 stars.
Lane Limited - Crown Achievement
Seat at the bonfire
One thing I love about B&M shops is the probability of finding some finely aged tobaccos. I purchased a few ounces bulk at my local b&m shop because when I removed the lid for a whiff the aroma that greeted me was not only rich and incredible, but unique in a way that brought back memories. I think this particular batch had a few years on it, and the smoothness of it is fantastic. The tin aroma is redolent of fine Latakia and orientals with a pleasant hint of charred/burning fragrant wood smoke that triggers memories of autumns and winters paat. Thankfully the tin aroma translates quite well to the flavor, and provides a smooth, rich, fragrant smoke that leaves me wanting more when the pipe is finished. No tongue bite at all, and smokes very well and even. I'm not sure what there is to dislike here. Maybe it could use a little bit more nicotine, but then it wouldn't be an all day smoke, and for me it is right now. The first lane blend that truly satisfied me and showed me that they do have more than budget friendly average blends. Average nicotine.
McClelland - Blenders: Oriental 50g
I purchased a couple fresh tins with minimal age from the sp.com store for blending purposes. The tin aroma is pleasant with a sweet and tangy note, but I don't associate it with the McClelland tang. The Oriental blend us composed of at least 3 varieties of small leaf Turkish tobacco, though which varieties they are I am not knowledgeable enough to discern. To me it is a modern day tragedy that all the different varieties of Oriental tobacco are so rare that most people will never have a taste. I have yet to mix these with a non-English blend, but it's safe to assume they are superb with virginias too. Mixing some of these orientals with a little c&d izmir in my personal English mixtures has been nothing short of heavenly. Without them my English blends were good, and I enjoyed smoking them more than most of my tinned english, but with them... incredible. It's almost magic. They add something to my English mixtures that makes me puff hungrily for more, especially in concert with a little of McC blending perique. Add a litylr G&H brown Cavendish and u might just be in heaven. If you blend your own English mixtures don't hesitate to purchase these orientals.
McClelland - Blenders: Perique 50g
Pungent and Delicious
I snagged a tin of this at one of my local b&m recently for use in my own blends. The tin had a couple years of age, but nothing special. Tin presentation is plain, which is representative of the contents within as this is a singular tobacco and not a blend. Upon breaking the seal a burst of sweet gases rushed to my nostrils and filled them with a deep, fruity, intoxicating, smooth, peppery, fermented aroma that was superb. More than a hint of spice can be found underneath, and the alive translates well to the flavor, especially in the retrohale. The smooth, deep fruit aroma leads me to the conclusion that the perique had some maturity. Smoked by itself it was fantastic, but used in several of my blends and compared to some other varieties of perique, I noticed myself reaching for the McClelland blending perique almost every time. Over time the fruitiness in the tin note seems to have lessened ever so slightly and im not sure what to make of that. For the batch I purchased it is of superior quality and flavor. I will be purchasing more here soon. In bulk.
McClelland - Personal Reserve: Blackwoods Flake 100g
I purchased a somewhat recent tin from one of my local b&m and decided I had to try it a few times before putting it away for long term aging. As usual the tin art is fantastic, and the tin note is just wonderful. Fruit and vinegar and a little spice. It is indeed a broken flake presentation, and requires a little work to fully rub out. Dried for a couple hours after rubbing to get the moisture level I desire. I notice here as with many of their blends their seems to be a mild application of a humectant... maybe a very mild usage of pg maybe. Don't quote me in that. It's not natural though. The flavor and aroma is quite similar to the tin note off the start, with an extremely mild but tasty Virginia flavor underneath. Unfortunately the flavor peaks early for me, and I'm left with a stray taste here and there. Using several methods to coax out more flavor, including dgt, I couldn't find the full flavor everyone mentions. The flavor was elusive and fleeting when it did appear. Maybe it's because there isn't significant age on my tin, but this is a problem I find with many McC virginias, sans dark star. Also it must be noted that like most of their VA this needs some air time/decanting. I desperately searched for what everyone else has found in these, but I'm left with the realization that, for now at least, my tastes lie elsewhere. I find bwf too mild like almost every McC VA. I do get a taste of the flavor when taking a swig of water though. Small victories... I'll stick with McC aromatics.
Esoterica - Cardiff 8oz
Since there are no reviews I'll share my impressions after a few pipes. For the batch I received it required very significant drying time. I don't think I've ever spread out a shaggy cut overnight for more than 8 hours until now. After 12 hours I think this could have been dried at least another 6 before I would call it dry. The casing and topping remained quote fragrant even after this time. Make no mistake there is a very noticeable casing/topping of what I perceived to be sugar and honey topped with a not insignificant amount of licorice. With each passing puff and retrohale the aroma was quite distinct, but pleasurable. A noticeable florally note is there also. The flavor of the tobacco itself was delicious, and standard for brighter VA varieties, with grass and hay prevalent. Nicotine was there but mild, or maybe medium if you're sensitive. Smoked like a dream down to fine white ash with no relights. Best results in my meerqueen, with the Virginia flavors really shining. In comparison to Brighton and Tilbury I think Cardiff is the least enjoyable of the bunch if you're looking for a pure Virginia smoking experience. Brighton gives the pure Virginia flavor, and cardiff is a sweet blend, exceptional in its own right. If you enjoy licorice and sweet floral qualities then you will enjoy this over Brighton in my opinion. Tilbury is my favorite of the bunch, with less added essence and stronger body to satisfy. Why 3.5 stars? Clearly it's a high quality blend. With the casing /topping it has I had some mild discomfort while smoking, but it did not evolve into bite. Nonetheless it makes it harder to enjoy. Paired with the extraordinary prep required and somewhat misleading description, I was left a little underwhelmed. You may not feel the same discomfort and enjoy it more. Definitely worth are try.
Cornell & Diehl - Sansepolcro 2oz
Pipe Used: Briar, Cob, and Meerschaum. Age when smoked: fresh (1 year after production?). Moisture content in the tin is perfect for smoking immediately. I don't agree with this being a ribbon cut. In my opinion it is a ready rubbed blend. Personally, I was giving it a very light and quick rub and load my pipe with medium pressure, although I'm finding I like it more when I just load my pipe with zero manipulation of the tobacco. It takes a few lights to get it started but once it takes the flame, I had very few relights. Will you like this blend? If you are a big fan of dark fired tobaccos and enjoy some strength in both nicotine and body then I'm fairly certain you will enjoy Sansepolcro. As a lover of all types of dark fired I enjoyed this blend from the start, but I'm enjoying it more and more with each passing bowl. It seems like an acquired taste almost. I understand this is why people usually don't review tobaccos without smoking a tin first, as often a handful of bowls isn't enough to truly taste and understand a blend, and for me this rings true with Sansepolcro also. Finding that sweet spot for packing density and pipe used has opened up new flavors for me, and I now get the cloves aroma mentioned in the description, though mainly in the retrohale. The dark fired within shares many similarities with american DF, but it is indeed unique, and in my opinion maybe a little more mild and agreeable as an all day smoke (as I have been with this blend). The dark fired doesn't completely dominate the blend. Starting out you can really taste the rich virginia flavors, and just a hint of dark fired spice. As the bowl develops, that spice builds in strengt, ending with a crescendo of flavor and strength that I've come to quite enjoy. If you like medium/strong blends and dark fired then do yourself a favor and pick up a tin, or if you enjoy an occasional smoke that has spice and strength. However, if ur looking complexity this isn't it. Imo. There are subtleties to the spice but that's where it ends for me.
Cornell & Diehl - Sunday Picnic 2oz
A True Sensory Delight
I had the pleasure of finding a tin of Sunday Picnic and Blockade Runner both tinned in 3rd quarter of 2013. 4 years aged this tobacco was stunning. After popping the tin and hearing those gases escape I put nose to tin and was instantly greeted with an intoxicating aroma of fruity, spicy goodness. Immediately I packed a bowl and never looked back, smoking the tin straight through in an attempt to fully enjoy the aged quality before it dissipated. Mostly I succeeded, but by the time I finished some of the finer, more volatile flavors and aromas had gone to the heavens. Nonetheless Sunday picnic is fantastic no matter how you smoke it. Well balanced, it is sometimes hard to pinpoint the exact flavors here (a true marriage once aged). A little fruity and spicy from the perique, especially as the bowl develops, and a flavor I can only describe as toasty, with the golden virginia providing a solid base. The flavors just get deeper and better if using the DGT, and it's nearly impossible not to savor every last sip near the bottom of every bowl. I haven't smoked Sunday Picnic fresh, but I will be soon, and I'll be cellaring several tins so I can chase that magnificent flavor once more. EDIT: I decided to simply cellar a pound instead of smoking it fresh. I'm sure it's mighty fine when fresh, but the aged version is truly one of a kind. Highly recommended.
McClelland - 40th Anniversary 100g
I feel i should preface these impressions by saying I really dont like McClelland virginias too much. Often i find them lacking in flavor and strength, and theres just something about their casing/fermentation process i cant enjoy. Enter 40th Anniversary. The red virginias within are in a league of their own and truly exceptional. Yes, this most definitely has the McClelland taste and aroma, but the pure sweet virginia flavor really comes through for me here. I wouldnt say its huge on flavor but for mcc it is. With a couple years of age this will be absolutely superior. Good moisture content right out of the tin. I also recommend fully rubbing it out with minimal dry time of maybe 5 or 10 minutes if at all. I packed my fresh meerqueen meer and thus began my journey towards truly appreciating this quality virginia. A long, neverending journey because this tobacco just doesnt want to quit. I smoked for well over an hour with a full pipe and also reaped the benefits of the delayed gratification technique which works wonders here. Again, for my personal taste mcc virginias fall short but 40th anniversary is a grand slam, instantly earning a spot in my top tier virginia flakes. Do yourself a favor and try some if ur on the fence based on past experiences. Top quality.
Peterson - Irish Flake 50g
I really need to try more Peterson offerings. Somehow Irish Flake is the only Peterson blend I've tried and I always enjoy it thoroughly. The anise/liquorice topping is present with every puff without being overwhelming, but if you really don't like anise or toppings then you might be turned off. The topping does dissipate with time, however, and in a years time becomes faint and the primary flavors are that of sweet and Rich Virginia and dark fired. Irish flake is strong in nicotine but not overwhelming for the seasoned smoker. A fine balance of dark virginia and sweet flue cured with enough dark fired to make it plenty interesting, irish flake hits most of the right notes for me. The flavor is solid and the topping persists but it doesnt wow me. Nonetheless i fond myself reaching for this on many a morning smoke. On a final note this can be a little harsh, often not noticed until the next morning or later with a slightly raw throat sometimes. Excellent stuff. Addendum: a couple tins later and some age on my most recent jarred tin and I have to bump this up a couple notches. The flakes have darkened a little more in some places to near black and a couple patches of bloom/plume have developed. After a coming back to IF from a small break I realized how much I missed it. When I put flame to pipe I got a wonderful blast of sweet virginia and smoky dark fired flavor reminiscent of ODF by Mac baren and more so than before. The top note really dissipates over time but does remain faintly present and much more complementary to the tobacco flavor. I need to buy more of this and ODF immediately..
Seattle Pipe Club - Plum Pudding Special Reserve 4oz
Ive smoke about a quarter pound of regular and special reserve plum pudding now and they share a common thread... they are absolutely delicious. I do prefer the special reserve for it's added smoothness and depth of flavor. Normally i just prefer to slice off a slab and loosely crumble it into medium to large sized chunks for a solid 1.5 hour smoke. A word of caution: only prepare what u intend to smoke for the next pipe or day at most. I made the mistake of preparing half the brownie since i was smoking so much of it and then i ended up putting it aside for a couple months. The plum flavor will dissipate during that time. Smoked fresh the plum flavor is absolutely fantastic and is a companion from first light to last puff. Rich, smokey, mesquite, spicy, smooth, and truly a melange of fine smoky and plum flavors that is intoxicating in the best way. I dont deliberate on the flavors im tasting here, i just lounge in my chair and drink it all in and relax. A little mesquite here, a lot of campfire and leather there, and some spicy perique and cavendish throughout. Make no mistake though, this is more enjoyable with the plum flavor present and accounted for. If you like a rich english smoke its hard to go wrong here. Medium in body and mild in nicotine from my experience. Even after several relights it maintains its flavor and body without getting harsh. Special reserve ages magnificently, and gets even smoother and more rich/complex in flavor. In my opinion this is the best that SPC has to offer hands down, being a true stand out blend. If I may be so bold... both this blend and the original are easily in the top 10 best blends currently in production and for my preference top 3( even over penzance). As a lover of pretty much all tobaccos, and a guy whose rotation and preferences are forever shifting and exploring new blends, PPSR always finds ito way back to the top of my rotation. If you like English tobaccos I highly recommend trying this one. It may be a little pricey but it's worth every penny. ADDENDUM: In the time since I first smoked these blends, I've learned that I largely dislike the processing done on most* Sutliff and McClelland blends. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoy PP Special Reserve and other blends from these companies. Generally speaking I do not, however, so I figured it might be a good idea to add this info in case there are people with similar likes and dislikes. My opinion of PP Special Reserve remains unchanged for now (I'm about.to pop a fresh tin and begin the journey side by side with aged regular PP), and that is to say that it is pretty awesome stuff and extremely smooth. It might be impossible to make this one bite, once dried correctly. Seriously.
McClelland - Red and Black 50g
As stated you can mix and match the precise quantities of red and stoved VAs u want in each bowl. I prefer to go with approximately 60/40 red to black. I should preface my opinion by saying there is nothing inherently wrong with this tobacco. It is as advertised. Moisture content is good, and i only left it out for abiut 15 minutes before packing, though i could have waited 30 to 60 for a dryish smoke. I think this will benefit greatly from age as expected. It might also benefit from some airing out to arrest the fermentation process. For me this was a very average smoke. It is mild in flavor and nicotine, bestowing little flavor until approximately halfway through the bowl, and for the second half granting a mild mcclellands virginia taste. That is, to say, the flavor does deepen but it is never strong regardless of how slowly you sip, and this is one slow smoking tobacco that will easily give u over an hour of smoking time with a medium sized bowl. Sweet, vinegary virginia flavor. Red and black is not gentle with my gums either, though it didnt bite me after one bowl. If you have sensitive gums this will irritate you if u smoke it all day. Im not sure but this could be eased up by airing it out a little occasionally. Nicotine is present but not entirely satisfying, this tobacco just left me wanting for more. Left me wanting for c&d or pretty much any other virginia, or a nice rich pipe of strong english. This is a perfect example of how subjective our pipe smoking experiences can be. Not particularly bad, but not particularly good or satisfying either. Average at best, with mild discomfort. As a side note i do enjoy some of the richer aged mcc. Vas like dark star, though still far from my favorite.
G. L. Pease - Sixpence 8oz
This review is for the 2 oz. Tin. The tin note is just wonderful. I wish i could inhale that scent forever. Fruity perique notes and wood smokey dark fired aroma combined with the hay notes of VA. The best part is this translates very well to the flavor of the smoke. The tobacco itself is a well presented broken flake, and comes just a touch moist. However... I just give this tobacco a gentle rub and pack it straightaway and gently with no drying time, and In my opinion this is the way to go. This will cause a moderately wet smoke but for me, its really not a hassle and I want every last molecule of flavor to make it to my tongue and nose (not too wet or a smoke). Just like the tin note the flavors that wash over the senses are a woody smokiness and light to medium virginia hay flavors, and just enough fruity and spicy perique to really round out the experience. Theres also a creamy flavor that reminds me faintly of The Virginia Cream, which must be the virginias, and also a spicyness. Sixpence is a masterpiece. If Bach were a modern tobacco blender he would bow to Mr. Pease for engineering this symphony of flavors, balanced just right. It is the gold standard of dark fired and perique blends, and out of all that ive tried is my new favorite. Below I saw this compared to Gaslight, and in a sense i can understand it because both are uniquely mysterious and delicious, but i feel this could easily be an all day smoke where gaslight is strong enough to stay an occasional delight, or perhaps once a day. If you love the flavor of good american dark fired and virginia then do yourself a favor and try this blend. This is a 5 star blend. The only reason i docked a star is that i had some issue with my 8 oz. tins being too dry to recover and smoke, but smokingpipes service was above and beyond and they helped me resolve my issues and assured me that the issue is known and being corrected. Customer service has been very helpful. A++. Consistency is important, and though my issue was an anomaly i have to consider it. When i receive my new 8 oz. Tin in my next order and try it out i will put Sixpence in its rightful place with 5 stars. I look forward to it.