Rattray's - Marlin Flake 100g
There isn’t much I can say that hasn’t already been said about this wonderful flake. Its flavor is medium, and its strength is just shy of medium. Room note is pleasant, but only to pipe smokers. Certainly worthy of being an all-day smoke. It’s become one of my favorites over the short six months since I first got my hands on some. This was love at first light. A lot of reviews call it a VA-Per, which I don’t classify it as because of the black Cavendish. It lends a certain flavor and mouth feel to the flake that brings it out of VA-Per territory, but in a lovely way. If you choose to smoke this in a dedicated Virginia/VA-Per pipe, you’ll notice a ghost when you smoke a plain VA-Per again. Overall, I love this stuff, and I’ll be back for more. I can only hope Rattray’s keeps it coming!
Mac Baren - HH Burley Flake 1.75oz
A Wonderful Flake
Nutty, mildly sweet, and oh-so satisfying, this is what I reach for when I crave a nice ‘honest’ burley. It is the high water mark for a burley flake. The flavor and strength are right at medium. Mac Baren presents these flakes in perfectly shaped and stacked form, which I love. Burley Flake behaves well regardless of how you choose to pack it. Rub it to ribbons, or fold-and-stuff like Mac Baren’s master blender Per Jensen recommends; both will yield a pleasant, no-fuss smoke. Burley Flake can certainly be an all-day smoke. Simple, yes, but so delicious—especially when given a year or two of age. Rating = 8/10
Cornell & Diehl - Sansepolcro 2oz
Decent and Unique
Last time this came around, I bought two tins. A unique blend, to be sure; cigar-like with a good amount of character. Flavor is medium-full and (N) strength is between medium and strong. The flavors are faintly reminiscent of those lovely, hard-to-find English-made tobaccos. The clove flavor is there, but not at all like you find in GH's Conniston or Bosun Cut Plugs. The one caveat for me was that I was hoping for some black Cavendish (per the ingredient list). There was no discernible amount of it; just a few tiny flecks in a whole tin. Some B.C. of the unsweetened variety would've rounded-out those 'rough edges' a bit and given it a more cohesive flavor profile (more like some of those elusive English brands' offerings). Not an all-day smoke, rather one to savor. Functionally, I found it works best in wide-chambered pipes. as the little leaves unfurl with a vengeance as they catch an ember. Sansepolcro is a very solid entry into C&D's Small Batch category, it's just not my all-time favorite. I am looking forward to opening the other tin I bought several years from now. Score: 7/10
Samuel Gawith - Full Virginia Flake 250g
Top of the Heap Virginia Flake
What they say is true. This is THE Virginia flake. There is no other all-Virginia flake with flavor like this. I'd attribute this primarily to the source of the Virginias, but also to the old-world processing methods of the Samuel Gawith factory. FVF is simply amazing stuff, and I highly doubt that any blender anywhere would be able to replicate—or even get within the ballpark of—this flake. The one and only thing that might put some people off (aside from its scarcity) is the difficulty of preparation. S.G. flakes are notoriously difficult to dry out, and this is no exception. Personally I have no issue with the prep time, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Again, what they say is true; FVF is the king of hot-pressed Virginia flakes. This is the polar opposite of those light, grassy, and citrus-y Virginia flakes, and I love it.
Samuel Gawith - 1792 Flake 250g
Possibly the Best 'Dark' Flake of All Time
1792 Flake reminds me of something you'd find in the pocket of a 19th century sailor. From the presentation to the aromas and flavors, everything about it seems to remind me of 'old school' tobacco. There aren't any flakes made outside of Kendal to compare this to, and like most blends from the Lakeland region, it's unique. If you're familiar with Gawith-Hoggarth's "Dark" flakes, this will be a familiar (but different) affair, including the nicotine punch. Open the tin and you're greeted with a row of roughly-cut, dark brown, almost black flakes. The tin note isn't terribly appealing; sort of like a barbecued old boot with a hint of sugar and spice. Aficionados will notice the Tonquin bean topping even before lighting it up. Once lit, your senses will be awash in delicious flavors you probably weren't expecting; the Tonquin bean is right there alongside the dark-fired smokiness, but with a bit of Virginia sweetness that rounds-out the profile. Dark-fired leaf doesn't totally dominate the flavor profile here, which is nice. The room note; file it under the category of "Divorce Tobacco". Moisture content is very high. I read many reviews that wrote-off an SG blend because the reviewer obviously didn't dry it out enough. These flakes need significant preparation time, period. To conclude, if you're looking for a flake that's bold and deep in flavor, with significant nicotine content, and an old fashioned appeal, this is your flake—so long as you don't mind a little prep time. No doubt that 1792's appearance, aromas, and flavors will take you right back to the good ol' days of pipe smoking.
Samuel Gawith - Best Brown Flake 50g
BBF: A Delicious but Misunderstood Flake
Best Brown Flake has a subtle charm that sets it apart from the many Virginia flakes out there. It is a broken flake, pale brown in color, somewhat mild in flavor, and easy on the nicotine. It's reminiscent of Capstan Blue Flake in many ways, but with that usual Samuel Gawith je ne sais quoi. BBF has a subtle but distinct brown sugar flavor in its topping that's just delicious—which is perhaps where the name came from—as well as notes of hay and nuts. Although the tin note provides me with a faint whiff that's reminiscent of Grasmere Flake, there are no flowery Lakeland flavorings in BBF. There's almost no potential for tongue bite. Room note is pleasant for pipers, but isn't anything special for non-smokers; those in my house say it smells better than cigarettes but not great. These traits make it a perfect early morning smoke, especially its mild character. I believe one of the key traits which sets this apart from Capstan or others in that vein is SG's source of Virginia leaf—Zimbabwe. Virginias grown in Africa are distinctly sweeter, often milder, and not quite as 'grassy' compared to their American-grown cousins. While SG's processing methods undoubtedly play a key role in the flavor profile, with few added flavors, BBF perfectly showcases the differences between Virginias from Africa and those grown in America and elsewhere. NOTE: Flakes from Samuel Gawith—as well as those from Gawith-Hoggarth—require preparation to get the fullest enjoyment out of. The processing method that SG uses involves lots of pressure and moisture, making for incredibly dense and damp flakes that stay moist for ages. If you live in a humid region, you'll need more than just air drying to get these flakes to a smoke-able consistency; ovens, microwaves, or even the vent on the dehumidifier works wonders on these babies. When rubbing SG flakes, you'll often find what looks like a single ribbon is actually several ribbons stuck together. Their density causes a lot of moisture to get trapped in them, and causes the tobacco to expand in your pipe—in turn causing the need for relights, moisture buildup, a gurgling pipe, etc. which is undoubtedly why I've read so many negative reviews about SG products. To make the long story longer, you'll need to dry this stuff out A LOT before you smoke it.
Cornell & Diehl - Poplar Camp
Another C&D Sleeper
After spending a few months with this, I can say without any reservations that it's one of the best and most unique bulk C&D blends. Unlike so many that taste similar to one another, Poplar Camp offers a refreshingly different flavor profile that's pretty rare among American blending houses, tasting almost English in nature. When I ordered it, I expected it to be C&D's own ribbon-cut iteration of PS Luxury Bullseye Flake or Davidoff Flake Medallions, and it is similar, but in the same breath it's very different. Tin note is similar to a VA-Per but with a smoky and earthy undertone. As for flavor, golden Virginias are the base, providing a pleasantly smooth, bready, and just a bit grassy backbone. The Perique is fairly tame, but adds a nice bit of peppery spice which has a lovely interplay with the other components. The unsweetened black Cavendish plays the key role in separating Poplar Camp from so many other variations on the Virginia-Perique model. Unsweetened black Cavendish is entirely different than its sweet and sticky cousin, and as it does in some other great blends, in Poplar Camp it combines with the other components to impart a somewhat rich, very smooth, a little earthy, highly savory, and ever-so-slightly smoky quality to the flavor profile. Note: Unsweetened BC is very underrated (and under-utilized) in my humble opinion. This somewhat unique flavor profile (at least among American tobaccos) is reminiscent of offerings from the now hard-to-find English marques such as Gawith-Hoggarth, Samuel Gawith, and JF Germain. Additionally, I'm so glad that C&D chose to leave out red Virginia for once, as they overuse it to a fault - making for a plethora of 'dry' tasting blends which are all too often harsh on the palate and unsatisfactory; golden Virginia is much more agreeable and nuanced. So, if you often find yourself hunting down new blends outside the aromatic circle like me, then Poplar Camp should definitely be on your radar - so long as you don't mind a touch of nicotine in your smokes, which in this case is right around medium strength (~5/10); average strength for a C&D offering. You guys hit the nail on the head with this one!
Cornell & Diehl - Haunted Bookshop
A Quintessentially American Blend
Haunted Bookshop is everything I want in a Burley blend. It's nutty, spicy, smooth, and behaves very well in a variety of pipes. Its tin note is strangely reminiscent of an old book, but in a good way - which is probably where it got its name! The flavor profile is fairly simple, but it's not a one-note song. With a wonderful nuttiness, the Perique adding a lovely bit of spice, and bright and golden Virginias rounding-off the sometimes rough edges of Burleys, H.B. is a masterpiece of flavor! At a glance, it seems there isn't much Perique in it, but the flavor balance of H.B. is perfect. The one caveat is that it's strong in the nicotine department, about a 7 out of 10. For nicotine sensitive smokers, I'd recommend Briar Fox instead. As far as H.B. is concerned, it's by far one of C&D's best products. I've smoked about forty different C&D blends, and this is easily in the top five. Finally, H.B. ages very well - I'd guess because of its Virginia and Perique content - so it's definitely worth putting some in your cellar. After just a year, it starts to improve in both flavor and aroma. If you haven't tried H.B. yet, you're missing out! It's as American as apple pie - and equally as tasty!
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Cherry Cream Flake
Top-Notch Aromatic Flake
Of all the strongly aromatic GH flakes, this is my favorite. When I want a strong dose of added flavoring but I don't want sickly sweet, I reach for this. It doesn't taste anything like the artificial cherry flavoring found in the majority of cherry pipe blends. As with all Lakeland blends, it's hard to discern exactly what's going on in terms of the sources of the flavors, but the creaminess could be vanilla bean. Also like all Lakeland flakes, there is a lot going on here flavor-wise, but it combines and makes a cohesive flavor that's very pleasant. The flavor of this flake is unique even by GH standards, and nearly impossible for me to put into words. It is floral, not it's not soapy, it's sweet, but not a sugary sweet. It's a very well-balanced aromatic Virginia flake that manages to pack a ton of flavor but still allows the tobacco flavor past the menagerie of toppings. Its nicotine level is just below medium, and it produces very little to no tongue bite. This one isn't as sweet as Ennerdale Flake. For me it's the Goldilocks zone for a Lakeland aromatic—plenty of added flavor, but not so much as to overshadow the tobacco entirely (not counting the unscented flakes, which have just a wisp of the hallmark flavor). Certainly worth a try for the adventurous piper, and a must-try for fans of this great company.
Cornell & Diehl - Bayou Morning Flake 2oz
Very Nice, Really Stout!
Bayou Morning Flake is a delicious example of how red Virginias can be both strong and delicious. Of course, the Perique content here is quite high, and that really adds a kick. This blend is like a big rare steak with a spicy black peppercorn sauce; it's full of flavor. It's also full of nicotine, which makes it best for after dinner and for those who don't mind a bit of extra vitamin N fortification. Additionally, BMF ages incredibly well, and as the red Virginias turn brown, the Perique also takes on a richer flavor. For the pipers who love bold blends, this is not one to be missed.
Cornell & Diehl - Chenet's Cake 2oz
Although it's not made with the 'real' St. James Parish Perique, this cake is a treat for fans of the stout and smelly condiment tobacco. A healthy amount of Perique combines with Virginias to make a wonderful tin note and a cohesive flavor that's spicy, but not full of bite and it won't burn your nose hairs off. If you like the spicy side of Perique, you'll like this. It's not all pepper, but this is definitely more peppery than the mildly sweet, dark fruit variety, as C&D's Perique tends to lean. It does have a very pleasant dark fruit aroma though. This of course may change with time. Especially since this blend is from their Cellar Series, I'd imagine that with some age that it's going to transform considerably. The pleasantly bready, bright/golden Virginias make up a solid and tasty backbone of this cake. They didn't overdo it with the red Virginia content, and I'm glad for that. The golden Virginias and the Perique combine in a wonderful, 'high-octane' VA-Per that is faintly reminiscent of Elizabethan Mixture in its balance of naturally bready and spicy flavors, and in nicotine content. The nicotine is about 6 out of 10—not overwhelming but definitely noticeable. My tin was about nine months old, and it was a delicious smoke right out of the tin - so delicious that I had five pipefuls in one evening! Chenet's Cake is yet another winner in the Cellar Series lineup. As they say in Louisiana, "C'est bon!"
Drucquer & Sons - Trafalgar 100g
Rarely have I come across a blend that is so good with no age whatsoever. I popped the tin, filled my pipe, and fell in love; no waiting, no wondering if it'd be better in a different pipe, no wishing for something more, just a great smoke. This is English-style pipe tobacco done right. I love this blend for it's fairly simplistic flavor—like a VA-Per with Perique added. I've always had a thing for Turkish leaf, and there's just enough of it in this blend to make things interesting. The Latakia is balanced perfectly, and is neither over- nor underwhelming. Since buying a bunch of this, almost every time I get a craving for an English mixture, I reach for this. While the flavor profile is similar to G.L. Pease Piccadilly, it's markedly better on all fronts.
G. L. Pease - Telegraph Hill 2oz
Great Taste but a Lousy Presentation
This is a great-tasting VA-Per that leans toward the dry-tasting, grassy end of the VA-Per spectrum, not the hot-pressed variety. The flavors and colors of the Virginias are very similar to those of Union Square. There's just the right moisture level in it, and it's cut into very thin ribbons—bordering on a shag cut—and I really like that. It makes for a great burn and evenness of flavor. The nicotine strength is just south of medium, as is the flavor. Its Perique content is in the Goldilocks zone for a VA-Per. I do howver have a major issue with this blend; the Perique is cut poorly, and it has me scratching my head why. This particular 2oz tin is rife with BIG Perique stems. In the middle of my tin there was the remnants of a stem with veins, all curled-up, seemingly not even touched by the cutting machinery. With G.L. Pease, I've come to expect stems here and there, but these are unacceptably big, long, and (most importantly) un-smokable stems. A smoker shouldn't have to fish through a tin to remove stems, period. Because of this, I really can't give it a proper rating. Without all the stems, I'd give it a solid four star rating. Without a doubt, I'd buy more of this IF I were guaranteed that the stem content was cut down to an acceptable amount. Once I finished fishing out the stems and picked the leaves off of them, I can't deny that what I got was a delicious smoke.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Louisiana Perique Flake
Another GH Flake of Unparalleled Quality
This is top-shelf pipe tobacco. When it comes to flakes, GH is the cream of the crop. LPF is a very unique product, even by GH's standards, by way of the addition of Perique. This is not a typical VA-Per—GH's own take on the traditional VA-Per flake is different, but wonderful. LPF is a Virginia-forward, medium-bodied flake with no shortage of complexity in flavor and aroma. The extensive hot-pressing method which GH uses to make its flakes imparts very pleasant flavors to its Virginias, which are in full-force here. It makes for a smoke that's mellow on the tongue, yet very flavorful—indeed, you can have your cake and eat it too. Subtle flavors of pepper and figs from the Perique come through in every puff, just enough to make it really special and very enjoyable for fans of the 'truffle' of tobaccos. Golden brown, flue-cured Virginias are central to this flake, with a savory taste and zero tongue-bite. These Virginias are more on the savory end of the spectrum, and less grassy/hay-like. There is some noticeable Lakeland essence in this flake, and in my experience, it seems to refine and become more noticeable with time. Nicotine strength is about a 5 out of 10. Like most GH products, LPF's room note isn't likely to please non-smokers, but it's very pleasant to the piper. Overall, not a flake to be ignored by GH fans.
Cornell & Diehl - Bayou Morning Flake 2oz
Strong as an Ox
BMF is a delightfully strong blend, both in flavor and in nicotine content. If I were to compare it to any food, it'd be a giant steak, crusted with fresh cracked pepper. The tin note alone is an experience—aromas of dried figs, roasted nuts, and fresh honey delight the olfactories. These variegated dark brown (broken) flakes are moist and rub out easily; their cut width and light compression are unmistakably C&D. The flavor is strong and peppery, and it's consistently so throughout the pipe. The Old Belt Red Virginias aren't bready and hay-like as you find in lighter Virginias; they're savory, rich, and robust in flavor—something seasoned pipers are bound to enjoy. BMF's 25% Perique content also lends the flavor many positive characteristics typical of the unique component. It's right on the verge of being too much—just enough to make a radically bold flavor profile. The flavors and sensations of the Perique come through clearly, not muted in any way. The two components compliment one another perfectly. Naturally, the large amount of Perique makes this a very strong blend nicotine-wise. Contrary to what its name may suggest, it's more of an afternoon or after-dinner smoke. If you're not used to nicotine, it'll turn you into a boiled frog. Even the well-initiated piper will likely find this blend too strong for an "all day smoke". As with most all blends, flavor improves with age. I smoked my first tin over a nine month period, and the flavor got a little smoother, but no less bold. My overall opinion? This is excellent stuff; its strength will surprise even the most seasoned smoker, and its bold flavor profile will satisfy even the most demanding palette.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Gold
Unmistakably Gawith Hoggarth & Co.
When I first started smoking pipes, I really didn't like KG, but it grew on me. Its flavor is very simple; like bright Virginias without casing, which will taste very bland to the uninitiated. There is a mild Lakeland essence on it, but not much—my senses tell me it's rosewater. Once you get a feel for packing the shag cut, you'll find it burns evenly and easily to a fine white ash. While it's not as strongly flavored or complex as many GH favorites such as their flakes and ropes, most tobacco enthusiasts would probably be okay with this in their pipe. It's smooth, there's no bite, and it's not terribly high in nicotine (4/10). As with many blends, these characteristics improve with age, although the Lakeland essence is all but gone from mine by now. The room note wont make you any friends, but the pipe's for you, not them. With all of that said, Kendall Gold is fine stuff, and I like it in a little narrow-chambered cob in the morning.
Mac Baren - HH Acadian Perique 1.75oz
Another Tasty HH Blend!
When I first started smoking a pipe about a year and a half ago, I bought so many blends I nearly forgot about this one. I popped the lid on a jar of this I'd cellared for about a year and I was delightfully surprised by how good it was. Unlike it's name, it's not a Perique powerhouse, but rather a very nice, typical VA-Per in flavor and behavior. It's got that bready and dark fruit tin note than any good VA-Per usually has, and the taste is equally pleasant. I'd recommend it to anyone who's enjoyed any of the HH blends, and to VA-Per fans who want to explore new territory. Also worth noting is the lack of the usual "Mac Bite" that Mac Baren is infamous for. Finally, its strength, which is mild to medium, both in flavor and nicotine content. Another solid smoke from Mac Baren, if not a bit different than their usual fare.
G. L. Pease - Temple Bar 2oz
Interesting Experience, and a Strange Brew
A fellow piper gave me a tin of this stuff from 2015, and it was amazing; almost like McClelland 24; it was dark in color, rich in oriental flavor and delicious Virginias, with just the right amount of condiment Perique. Naturally, I wanted more, so I bought two tins dated 1/16/2017. I popped the lid on one immediately upon receiving it, and it was absolutely nothing at all like what I'd had in the other tin, not even in the same ballpark. So I opened the other tin, and same thing, So I gave it the benefit of the doubt and put the plugs in a jar for over a year and a half. I finally popped the seal on that jar yesterday, and to my dismay, almost nothing had changed. It's still a bit harsh, dry, and devoid of all the things I liked about the 2015 batch. Also, the color is still so much lighter than that 2015 batch. I don't know if it was just a bad batch of component tobaccos. I do know that 2015 tin was one of the best smokes I've ever had. It still may be worth a shot for Oriental fans. I say this because Greg Pease's recipes have been much, much more hit than miss for me. **IMPORTANT NOTE**: A very big thanks to SmokingPipes for giving me a refund for BOTH tins—over nine months after I bought them! These folks really love their customers.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Sweet Maple Twist
SMT is probably my favorite GH blend. It's not quite as strong as I expected it to be, but make no mistake, it's still strong. Unlike other GH offerings with Virginias, I actually taste them in this; I get the cigar flavors, but not quite as much as some others have reported. The maple flavor is just barely there, and it gets more noticeable and sweeter with time (at least six months or more) in the cellar. Some might find the prep to be a nuisance and the punch a little too strong, but for me, this is a pinnacle pipe tobacco. Additionally, if you enjoy Jackknife Plug, you're libel to go crazy for this. A personal all-time favorite. The one (and ONLY) downside to GH ropes is the prepararion; if you're not hip to taking time to prep your smokes, you're gonna hate this. However, for me, this is tobacco heaven.
Drucquer & Sons - Trafalgar 100g
Pinnacle of Pipe Tobacco
This is just excellent tobacco Greg. Thanks for making it.
Cornell & Diehl - We Three Kings 2oz
Great Blend for Any Time of Year
Echoing what others have said about this blend, it's very light on the added flavorings, and that's what I love about it. The Virginia gives it substance, but the mixture of Katerini and Black Cavendish really stands out and makes for a great flavor combination. Its allspice-style topping adds a nice dimension of flavors—none of that funny aromatic aftertaste (I'm very sensitive to those). Tin and room notes are reminiscent of spice cake or gingerbread that's just come out of the oven. It also has a fair amount of nicotine for an aromatic; about a 4 or 5 out of 10. Excellent blend for the holidays, or just to switch things up a little. Typically I hate these sort of blends, but I liked it so much that I bought a half pound! What's left of my first tin has aged noticeably as well.
Peter Stokkebye - PS80 Norwegian Blend
Delightfully Plain and Simple
Although it's quite different from what I typically smoke, I really like this one. No.80 / Norwegian Blend is unusual, and it suits the plain tobacco lovers—those who like minimal casings as well as those who like the taste of orientals straight-up. To some—especially those who like added flavors—it's going to taste a bit cigarette-like. But again, if you like that sort of plain "old world" tobacco flavor, you're going to find nuances and flavor qualities in this that others wont. Its low moisture content and shag cut is perfect for on-the-go smoking; a gentle pinch and pack into your pipe makes for instant enjoyment. It burns evenly and quite cool, leaving a fine white ash behind. Additionally worth mentioning is that it's an excellent mixer for strong blends, like Latakia-dominant, heavy Perique blends, or anything you find overwhelming. On a regular basis, I've mixed this with C&D Pirate Kake, and also experimented with Ten Russians and Plum Pudding SR, all producing tasty Englishes. It could also be used to give an aromatic more body and less added flavor. At any rate, if you're a fan of those "old world" style blends, #80 is a must-try, especially at such a friendly price. A fine smoke!
Mac Baren - HH Latakia Flake 1.75oz
A Lucky Shot
Naturally I was overjoyed when I got my tin and saw it was from 2015. I love how Mac Baren clearly dates their tins, and their neatly-stacked flakes have a wonderful appeal. This flake is almost all black in color, but it's not a 'Lat. Bomb'. The tin note has that spicy smokiness typical of Latakia, but with a distinct sweetness molasses/treacle, which could likely be exaggerated by its age. Its nicotine content is fairly low, about 4/10. Also, the typical 'Mac Bite' found in several MB blends is absent, which is great. During the first two pipefuls, I found it to be unremarkable and a bit flat in taste. When I came back to it a few months later, it was like a new blend with a really nice flavor profile of spicy, smoky goodness that's rounded out with a wisper of sweetness. I have heard others say they had a similar experience to my first impressions, but never got to the point of liking it upon revisiting it like I did. With all of that said, for around ten dollars, this flake is certainly worth a shot for fans of English mixtures. If it doesn't sit well with you, try it again at a later time.
Peter Stokkebye - PS402 Luxury Twist Flake
A Sweet & Mild Virginia Flake
Update: After trying GH Bob's Chocolate Flake, I find that Luxury Twist Flake has a topping that's quite similar - sans the Lakeland essence. This is a great flake with a beautiful presentation; LTF does not disappoint. On the other hand, it is probably not going to please Virginia purists with such a distinctive casing. The pouch/tin note smells like powdered hot cocoa mix and fresh-baked bread. Its room note is pleasant as well. Preparation is easy, and behavior is good. Whether you choose to rub it to ribbons or fold-&-stuff, it's hard to mess this one up. The smoke is creamy, with a flavor that's mildy sweet with hints of cocoa and brown sugar, and I find it to be almost entirely bite-free. Additionally, the nicotine level is very low—even a big pipe of this on an empty stomach wont make you dizzy or ill, making it a very agreeable flake. As for aging, blends that are good when fresh—especially Virginias—are a thing of greatness, and this is one of 'em. With that said, it absolutely gets better with age. Still, it's nice to buy fresh flakes and be able to enjoy them as is. LTF is a perfect blend for those who want a Virginia flake with a sweeter twist, and if you liked Luxury Navy Flake, it's likely you'll enjoy this as well.
Mac Baren - 7 Seas Regular 3.5oz
This is THE Aromatic
There's this smoky-chocolaty goodness going on here with hints of vanilla to beat the band. At times, it also reminds of Double Apple hookah tobacco (shisha)—which I realize sounds a bit contradictory. As another review said, "Ever eat birthday cake in the woods?" Well, it does taste quite a bit like chocolate cake with icing on top—at least, in terms of pipe smoke. I also get a hint of something fruity, like a mix of green apple and blackberry, especially in the aftertaste and tin note. Like all MB blends, you're gonna get "Mac Bite" if you push it too hard, but that simply encourages a better cadence. Dry it a little, light it well, sip it slow, and there's great enjoyment to be had. Furthermore, the aging potential—unlike some aromatics with very little—is great. I aged some for about 10 months, and the results were impressive. If you're a discerning aromatic smoker and haven't tried 7SR yet, it's time.
Cornell & Diehl - Star of the East Flake 2oz
Amazing English Blend
There are a lot of blends that feature just these three component tobaccos, but only Star of the East Flake does it extremely well. I'm a big fan of Turkish Orientals, and they really shine here. The stoved red VA is flavorful, and being stoved, adds a natural sweetness with body. Cyprian Latakia is used to great effect as well. As is the case with Kake, with its whopping 75% Cyprian Latakia content, Star of the East Flake is somehow just not overpowering. Even after countless bowls, I've had zero cases of "Latakia mouth" here. One thing to note: C&D uses red VA in a LOT of their blends, and sometimes reds can be overpowering, but not in this blend—at least none of the batches I've had. From what I understand, the flavor of red Virginia can vary greatly depending on the conditions under which it was grown—essentially making every batch a little different. The stoving process helps this, but it wont fix a bad crop. Thankfully C&D seems to be quite good at testing their components before bending. They make a great product! In my experience with two batches of Star of the East Flake, the red VA's been an excellent compliment and an essential counterpart to the other components in the blend. Finally, I'd like to weigh in on the Penzance comparison. Having smoked my share of Penzance, it's definitely NOT a Penzance replacement. Yes, it's in the same ballpark, but it's not in the infield! There are many subtleties which set it apart from Penzance—especially the type of Latakia and the use of red VA. With that said, Star of the East Flake is a wonderful and delicious English. It's aging potential seems incredibly good too. I hope C&D keeps turning out great batches of it, because I'll gladly buy again and again. I was very sad to see it out of stock while writing this review!
Peterson - Old Dublin 50g
The Rocky Road to Dublin..
Old Dublin is a very solid English with a lot of flavor. I like it a lot, but I didn't at first. Also, I never realized there was black Cavendish in it until I saw the description again here. After smoking it more, I realized it's there—rather than standing out, the B.C. flavor blends into the mix. Old Dublin was one of the first Englishes I ever tried, though at first impression, I didn't enjoy it much. When I got some from a friend that'd been aged for a five years, it completely blew me away. After that was gone, I went back to the batch I bought—which was only 3-4 months old—and it had already mellowed out considerably. Beginners take note – Latakia mellows-out considerably just a few days after the seal is popped, and even more so once it's given some time to cellar in a jar. Just a few months can change a blend with considerable Latakia content like this one for the better—from harsh to mild and creamy in a rather short time. So if you're initially turned-off by it, give it a chance! If you're looking into Englishes, this is one good blend to try. Dry it out well and give it a go!
Peter Stokkebye - PS41 Cube Cut
Bodacious Burley Blend
I love this blend! PS makes some great blends, and this is one of 'em. Its casing or topping has a very mild flavor that's nearly identical to the one that they use for LNF, and changed only by the component tobaccos. It's nutty and smooth, with hints of cocoa (read: hints. it is not an aro. by any stretch). It has that classic Burley blend flavor like Carter Hall—without going flat halfway through the pipe. Additionally, there's a good deal of Virigina flavor in the mix. It's got a flavor strength that's halfway between mild and strong, so it'll likely appeal to many pipers. It's nicotine strength is about 4/10; not strong at all but not "decaf" (de-nic?). This ¼" cut cubes are extremely compacted—almost like mini plugs! If you don't rub 'em out and simply dry them, a small pile in your pipe will provide a seemingly endless smoke, which requires almost no tamping (a huge bonus for travel smoking). The super-compacted cube cut is the only thing that will likely throw some pipers off—it takes a while to dry out if you don't rub the cubes out a bit. Once you figure out how you like to prep it, it's one heck of a good puff (yes, it's one of those). The reward outweighs any initial hassles. As with many tobaccos that require prep or significant drying time, how you choose to prep it will also change the flavor (it's not wet, just average moisture in very compacted cubes). This is an excellent blend for on the go smoking, given its long burn time, and it doesn't dry out crumble to dust easily either. It has a great pouch note, and that classic Burley room note to boot. This is everything you wish Carter Hall could be and more—just a bit more money, but worth every penny!
Cornell & Diehl - Briar Fox 2oz
Excellent, and it's easy to see why this was a personal blend of a famous piper.
This stuff is great right out of the tin, which of course is a huge boon for any blend. However, even with about six months of age, it really opens up. It's an excellent mix of Virginia and Burley. While that may sound a bit boring to some, it's not. There's a lot of flavor in this one, and unlike a good deal of the C&D plain/non-aro. blends, it wont make you dizzy from too much nicotine. An excellent blend for all pipers. If you haven't tried it, you're missing out!
Mac Baren - Scottish Mixture
They can take our lives, but they can't take our TOBACCO!!
All jokes aside, this is truly one of the best (semi) aromatic blends I've ever had aside from GH, SG, or JFG offerings. There's a wonderful mix of flavors here; hints of Scotch whiskey, brown sugar, and unsweetened black Cavendish on a bed of Virginia and Burley. It improves markedly with just a little age too; I noticed a big difference in flavor (Virginias mellowed out) after just five months' time, and after two years, just amazing. Well behaved in the pipe, just a little tongue bite potential, and a fairly friendly room note. Certainly worth a try.
Cornell & Diehl - Innsmouth 2oz
There's a Shadow Over Innsmouth, and it's Maddening
The deep truth is that there's almost no black Cavendish or Perique in this blend, but if you're interested, read on to the end. My ten months with this blend has been intriguing, and at some points, maddening. Ultimately, I was satisfied though. It was a lot like a Lovecraft story. Dreams of Kadath is truly amazing, and I assumed this would be akin to a mellower counterpart considering the Katerini and other similar components. I was wrong. Put simply, Innsmouth tastes like a ratio of 2:1 dark Burley and fresh Virginias, with just a hint of flavoring of fresh apples, but age brings out more mysterious flavors. It is devoid of that smooth, semisweet black Cavendish flavor, almost no peppery Perique, and there's only a whisper of Katerini's spicy tang. C&D uses Katerini often and to great effect, so I was a bit disappointed when I tasted so little of it in this one. Most of all, I think the absence of black Cavendish is what makes Innsmouth so flat and boring. The Perique content is weak to a fault, but the near-absence of BC is what saddened me the most. Nearly driven mad by the disconnect between the tin's description and contents within it, I grabbed a baking sheet and dumped out the whole thing under a bright light. Not unlike some crazed character of Lovecraft's, I searched through the flecks and ribbons—magnifying glass in hand—for a sign of anything black, anything. What I found was perhaps the most infinitesimal amount of what must've been one of the two components in question. After pressing it into a jar for cellaring (as I do with all ribbon cuts), I could clearly see the terribly sparse distribution of the BC and Perique; so much so that it seemed pointless—enough to cause that hallmark Lovecraftian insanity from wondering, "Why?!". I confess, I'm a Cornell & Diehl fan boy. My cellar is made up of more than 50% C&D. Loving their blends as much as I do, and being such a fan of the story "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", I wanted to like this stuff. It's not awful, but it's not great either. It begins a bit harsh, then mellows out and gives off a subtle green apple flavor. Contrary to the first reviewer's experience, I tasted no dark fruit (a la Perique) whatsoever. **After several more months**, I've revisited Innsmouth and noticed that it's improved with age. It's become smoother, with the Viriginias sweeter and the Burley is milder. Now it reminds me of Haunted Bookshop with a mild flavor topping of apple. I still taste absolutely no black Cavendish though. Strangely, something lures me back to it from time to time. It's good, it just needs time in the cellar, and its flavor profile doesn't fit the tin description. With all of that said, I'll give it 3.5 stars over my initial rating of 3. It's definitely a solid smoke; not worthy of my initial scorn. I'd just love to see it improved upon, as I know the masters at C&D make some truly excellent Burley-and-Virginia based blends.
Astley's - No. 44 Dark Virginia Flake 50g
This Virginia flake is one of the best, and it ages so nicely. I have some from several years ago and it's incredibly good. It's also pretty robust for a plain VA flake. I have no idea what the other reviewer who gave it a half star rating is talking about. The recent batch was fine. Astleys just needs to make more and send it stateside!
Cornell & Diehl - Exhausted Rooster 2oz
One Tasty Bird!
Some great flavors going on here. I'm about halfway through my tin, and I have nothing but good things to report. A wonderful blend; all the components and added flavors are in perfect proportions. There's clearly an added flavor but it's very mild, and it compliments the component tobaccos wonderfully. I was apprehensive when I first broke the seal—thinking I'd bought an aromatic—but it didn't translate to a fruity nor sweet smoke. After two days that berry smell mixed in with the nice component tobaccos' aromas. This blend is where the line between Burley and Virginia gets blurred (at least for me), and per usual, the Perique is the proverbial salt & pepper on top of the dish. The nicotine level is about a 5/10, maybe 6; it's not crazy. Considering it was blended for the Chicagoland Pipe Show, with favorable flavors and a medium strength, it seems to me that this will agree with a lot of different palettes. I'm a huge C&D fan, having bought and smoked about 30 of their blends, and this one's easily one of their best.
Cornell & Diehl - Burley Flake #1 2oz
A Very Robust Flake
I'm a huge C&D fan, but I'm not as enthusiastic about it as the other reviewers. BF#1 is sort of like ODF without the dark-fired flavor, and it has some very nice qualities. It's a solid Burley blend right out of the tin, but I think some cellar time will raise it to the same level as my favorite C&D blends. With BF#1, I was tasting mostly a very "raw" Burley flavor that didn't have a whole lot of depth; I could taste Perique, but the Virginias were largely overshadowed by a very strong—and what I believe is a bit too fresh—Burley taste. My main gripe is this "sharp edge" it has. It gives me a very unpleasant sting in the nose when I retro-haled/snorked (not the peppery Perique tickle but a sting), even as I was more than halfway through a large pipe of it. These are my first impressions after a week with it. Because of all the great reviews, and my mixed feelings, I will definitely be revisiting BF#1 again and possibly replacing this review with a new one. Final Note: Mixed it with Pirate Kake and the result was very tasty.
McClelland - Craftsbury: Deep Hollow 100g
A Decent Aromatic
Originally, I gave this a scathing review, but after trying it again with an aromatic-loving friend of mine, it's undeniable that it didn't deserve such a low score. The main reason I didn't like this initially was because the flavoring reminds me of double apple hookah tobacco. However, as I discussed with my friend, that's not necessarily a bad thing! Additionallyrics, it's smooth and smokes very nicely (no bite, burns all the way through). It's really a shame about McClelland, and when I saw my badly written review I had to amend it. We'll miss you folks!
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Rum Flake
My Favorite GH&Co. Flake
GH makes some extremely high quality blends, and they have a well-deserved reputation. Because I don't like the Lakeland essence very much, I've often avoided GH. However, this flake is markedly different than the others I've had. It's rich with those "old world" flavors, rum, and is mildly sweet (read: sweet for GH). I didn't realize there was maple sugar in it until I had some that was aged for three years; the maple topping is very subtle when fresh. It comes out even more when it's aged for ~6 months or more. While there is definitely a small amount of Lakeland essence, it's just barely there. This flake will likely agree with those who're on the fence about the Lakeland essence. The one and only thing I wish they'd do with this blend, is to let it age a bit before sending it out. The maple flavor comes through in full force when given some time in the cellar, and it's one of the most satisfying smokes I've ever had. All the same, it's a fine smoke when it's fresh, but it goes from fine to incredible with some age—a truly amazing transformation.
Cornell & Diehl - We Three Kings 2oz
Perfect Blend of Spices & Sweetness
One of C&D's excellent lightly aromatic blends; possibly the best of the lot. It'll sit well with nearly anybody who smokes a pipe, and the room note will also please those who don't. The flavor's about ¾ straight-up tobacco and ¼ added flavors of honey, allspice, and a speck of vanilla. The Virginia's just right (no bite), but the Katerini are what makes this stuff stand out from other Cavendish blends; it imparts a natural spiciness. Additionally, C&D's Black Cavendish is the best I've ever had. It's just a tiny bit sweet, and that's a hard line for a blend to walk. We Three Kings is excellent stuff. Three types of tobacco, each fit for a king, all in one tin. Although its aromas go very nicely with the Christmas theme, I'll happily smoke it year-round.
Peter Stokkebye - PS403 Luxury Bullseye Flake
Coins of Joy
All the crazy adjectives have already been used; it's amazing stuff, period. Possibly the finest creation from Stokkebye, the Bullseye does not disappoint. Likewise, it deserves its "Luxury" namesake. At first I thought there wasn't enough B.C. in the center to really make a difference in flavor, but boy was I wrong! These coins are a top-notch VA-Per blend wrapped around the best unsweetened B.C. on Earth. They wont disappoint, and if VA-Pers are your thing, you're gonna love what these coins bring to the table. I usually have at least something negative to say about a blend—even some of my favorites—but I've got nothin'!
Peter Stokkebye - PS400 Luxury Navy Flake
A Great Navy Flake
You can't go wrong with this stuff. Open up the bag and you smell what you'd expect; bready Virginias, rum, and a bit of that Stokkebye sweetness. The flavor's right about in the middle of light n grassy and the dark and malty type Virginia. I rate a blend as it is out of the package, and this one is great. Given time I imagine it'll age well. A great value for the Virginia smoker as well.
Lane Limited - BCA
The Black Beauty of Blends
One of the best sweetened black Cavendish you'll ever get your hands on. It tastes as good as it smells, it's not overwhelmingly sweet, it behaves well, and is perfectly suited for mixing and/or blending. Buy some and you wont regret it. As an additional note, in the first months of my piping journey I found this a perfect mixer to mellow-out the stronger blends, and I'd imagine others will enjoy it for that purpose as well. Finally, it must be said that this is delicious on its own, and it's not to be understated as a blend just for beginners or simpletons. I keep a big jar of it right next to all of my top-shelf favorites.
Mac Baren - HH Old Dark Fired 1.75oz
Bliss in a Tin
Haven't had a single bad tin from the HH line. There's the usual MB stack of perfectly cut flakes inside with a great dark-fired aroma. Smooth, stout smoke with no bite that left me nicely relaxed; a perfect marriage of dark-fired Kentucky Burley and flue-cured Virginia. For any well-traveled, discerning piper this is a must-try.
Mac Baren - HH Pure Virginia 1.75oz
Great Straight Virginia Flake
Recently opened a tin from 2015. Perfect little stack of flakes. A smooth and savory smoke with a hint of that natural VA "sweetness". There's a lot of flavor here, considering there's only one component. Since it's hot-pressed (likely with steam), a lot of the harshness is removed, making a fresh tin nearly as mild as a three-year-old one. Another excellent offering from the HH lineup. Finally, worth mentioning is that the flavor is reminiscent of Old Dark Fired, without the fired. A great blend to cellar away for a rainy day—the result is delicious!
Seattle Pipe Club - Plum Pudding Special Reserve 4oz
Flavor Practically Bursting from the Tin!
Everything positive that's been said about this stuff is true; it's like the original but a little stronger and even more flavorful. Inside the tin is a giant crumble cake that's incredibly dense—and its full of strong, savory aromas and flavors. It burns forever! Ash is always fine white with zero dottle, so long as it's given proper time to dry. Great blend for when you want an English with a LOT of flavor. I like the original too though; I'd say this one might be too heavy for some, but I like my blends STOUT. Unlike the original, it's a true cake in that it's all once big piece, not several thin cakes. The only criticism I have is that S.P.C. should wrap up their cakes in paper like other blenders. Seems a shame to let these beautiful cakes bang around inside the tin, as sometimes they get a bit crumbled. Anyway, great show. Hopefully S.P.C. can keep 'em coming because I'm certain they'll keep selling!
Cornell & Diehl - Pegasus
A quintessential Burley blend; simple, smooth, and satisfying. Leaves the room smelling great too. This is essentially what I wish Carter Hall was more like; smoother and doesn't fall flat halfway through the bowl. The Burley is the main flavor. The Virginia is a condiment in Pegasus, not a major component, and adds just a little hint of natural sweetness (not much). This Black Cav. is unsweetened, so it doesn't stifle the natural flavor, and it's used very sparingly; just a few tiny flecks here and there. I get an occasional, ever-so-slight taste of a honey-vanilla sweetness--so faint that it could simply be the quality of the Burley. No bite, which is welcome in any Burley blend. Mild on the nicotine front. Bob was a genius blender, and I'm so glad that C&D carries on his legacy by continuing to make Pegasus. I hope they keep it up!
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Amber Straight Filtered Stem (for Missouri Meerschaum)
These little things are so great. I like to be able to choose my color of stem for my M.M. cobs, and I usually prefer the amber ones. Thanks to M.M., they always fit and they make my pipe look just the way I like it. I only wish SmokingPipes could keep more of these and all of the M.M. cobs in stock!
A & C Petersen - Escudo Navy Deluxe 50g
Escu-sed its way into my rotation!
Best VA-Per I've ever had straight out of the tin. It has both the savory and grassy flavors just right. Tin note is a rush of fresh fruits, dried fruit and hay. There's no doubt it'll get better with age but it's great right from tin, and that's an excellent quality to have in the world of VA-Per's. Also, it's light on nicotine. I'm absolutely in love with this stuff! Makes a great all-day smoke; never leaves me feeling sleepy. The one & only downside is not having a bigger tin available.
Cornell & Diehl - Dreams of Kadath 2oz
An Elegant Eldrich Sandwich
A tight-pressed plug with flavor of monstrous proportions. The light but unique casing adds a distinctive flavor of raisins, apple cider, and cinnamon, while letting the menagerie of component tobaccos to really shine. Imagine Plum Pudding with Latakia swapped for Dark Fired Kentucky, and with a clearer note of [Katerini] Orientals. Tin note is a tornado of aromas. Room note is equally nice, and doesn't linger like other DFK-forward blends. The tiny amount of Black Cavendish is of the unsweetened English variety. Fairly strong nicotine content, about 7/10 and likely boosted by the Burley content, which is subtle in flavor. Like H.P. Lovecraft's great short stories, the experience of smoking this blend has a beautifully dark & mysterious side to it. Lovers of simple & straightforward blends will appreciate this one, as the flavoring is subtle. This is one plug I sincerely hope sticks around for a long time. Another great product from C&D—you can't go wrong with these guys.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - Brigham Bristle Pipe Cleaners (75 pack)
The Perfect Pipe Cleaner
Pipe cleaners are very important, and it's best to have both soft and stiff bristled ones. These are PERFECT for when you want some more oomph to scrub a stem, air channel, clear a draft hole, or scrub the ash off of chamber walls. Their wire is just right too. The B.J. Long brand's version are a bit too stiff for comfort—I worry they might scratch-up the interior of acrylic and vulcanite. These Brigham Bristles have just the right stiffness. Grab a pack of these and keep your favorite pipes clean and safe from any damage!
Cornell & Diehl - Riverboat Gambler 2oz
One exceptionally good blend, and a testament to how great Bob Runowski was at blending. So full of flavor, and it's a nice mix between heavy/rich and light. The tin is full of mahogany-colored ribbons and specks of black Perique, and its note is heavenly with that semisweet smell of Burleys and Orientals, and that "dark" and peppery Perique smell. The taste is similar to the smell, and all components shine through in the flavor equally, with the Perique at medium strength. The nicotine content is right in the middle at 5/10; not strong but not weak either, making it suitable for all pipers. Room note will be pleasant to pipers, while entirely tolerable for non-smokers. I enjoy wafting the smoke right into my face for a second whiff—it smells that good! This is definitely one to stock up on, and the only bummer is there's no 8oz tin.
G. L. Pease - JackKnife Plug 2oz
Dark Fired Pleasure
Easily one of Pease's best recipes, this blend of fantastic DFK & Red VA flavors fills my senses to the brim with notes of robust savory tobaccos. The tin note is admittedly a bit strange; it smells exactly like barbecued meat, but as soon as it's sliced and dried the smell goes away and out comes the tobacco. This casing seems to only bring-out the richness of flavor in the component tobaccos—enhancing their flavors, not dampening them. Nicotine-wise, JackKnife has a noticeable kick; medium-high at about a 7 or 8 out of 10. Recently I've had this every day after dinner, and it always leaves me with a delightful feeling of a warm & sleepy relaxation. The initial flavor during the char-light is very strong (almost cigar-like) and that might be a turn-off, but it goes away very quickly—as soon as the ember takes—and the result is a flavor I've fallen in love with. The retro-hale is blissful! I'm very scrutinizing in my reviews, so 4½ stars from me is a rating of complete and utter praise. Therefore, Jackknife is absolutely worth a try if you like 'em stout & savory over mild & sweet.
Cornell & Diehl - Gentleman Caller 2oz
A Deertongue VA-Per ~ Truly Unique & Tasty
Essentially G.C. is a nice Va-Per with a deertongue herb topping, and it's wonderful. Fresh smell of deertongue mixed with notes of quality Virginias and Perique translates to a wonderful smoke. You simply can't go wrong with this stuff if you're looking for something new and interesting. Unlike Crooner, it's not Burley-forward and doesn't have that distinctive smell of alfalfa and dried farmer's hay. ***I highly recommend buying a cob for this blend*** because it will GHOST your briars to the point of no return. For the best possible experience with Gentleman Caller, buy a new M.M. cob dedicate it solely to this blend. M.M. cobs are such a great value, and this blend tastes amazing in one anyhow.
Cornell & Diehl - Crooner
Simple & Pleasant
Like Bing Crosby, it's unique but simple. Because deertongue is an herb—not a type of tobacco—I was very interested to smoke this, as no other blends I know of utilize herbs. Tin notes of hay, alfalfa, and plain Burley set it apart from all others. The flavor is plain Burley with a grassy herb twist and no more; its casing rounds it out but is ultimately very light. The deertongue is not too strong in flavor or content. A note of vanilla has been mentioned by others but I don't taste it. There's a definite "Old World" feel to Crooner. Imagine Carter Hall with a lighter casing and a smell and a note of an alfalfa-like herb. There's a hint of cigarette here too, but it's not crazy. Because of deertongue, the room note is also unique, but most non-smokers typically don't like it; the tin note is a different story. It's easy to see why fresh deertongue plants were used as air fresheners by the native Americans and settlers centuries ago. I'd imagine natives and the early settlers would've been familiar with a combination like this. Overall, I like Crooner, but I prefer more depth—it's a bit too plain for my everyday smoking preferences. With all that said, it's absolutely worth a try if the aforementioned characteristics sound good to you. As with all of my reviews, I'll rewrite it when I smoke more over time, and also after I smoke C&D's other deertongue blend, Gentleman Caller.
Pipe Tools & Supplies - 8deco Lucky 8 Tamper Sea Green Swirl
Very Nice Tool
The color and shape caught me hook, line, and sinker. But what surprised me most was unscrew the knurled grip on top; it reveals a very nice little poker. After using it for about 100 bowls over 3 months, it's worked well for me. In the damp conditions here on Cape Cod there is no sign of the metal corroding or wearing—seems the plating is solid. The one and only thing I didn't like was that the size of the tamper foot is a little large, so mind the size in the description. If you like French pipes like me, or tapered bowls, the foot of this tamper might be a bit too large for your pipe. An upside to the foot is that there's a nice splay of holes like a shower-head, and the underside is riffled like a fan, so it doesn't snuff out your ember. This is a great product, and I'll definitely be buying another one in the future—though definitely a different color just for fun. 8deco definitely turns out some nice tampers from what I'm hearing from others who bought 'em too, and the price is right. There's no sense in paying loads of money for something so simple as a tamper. Great job 8deco!!
Newminster - No.400 Superior Navy Flake
The Best All-VA Flake
#400 deserves it's "Superior" namesake, as it's one might fine flake. It's beautiful simplicity. No fancy blending recipe, just a great mix of Virginias with an excellent top flavor and an aroma that makes my eyes roll with pleasure. This flake's dry aroma is marked by a very pleasant and unique note, reminiscent of honey, fresh hay, and a hint of citrus. All of this fancy talk translates to a mild smoke with a noticeable added flavoring, and a very low nicotine content. Speaking of hot, it burns quite cool for a VA flake. It's well-behaved too; I like to rub them to ribbons, but it won't reject to the fold & stuff method. Although it's fairly one-dimensional, it's exceptionally good. The room note is more pleasant than other VA flakes I've smoked around non-smokers. Newminster #400 was my first flake tobacco, and it's a perfect place to start if you've never had a VA flake before.
Erinmore - Erinmore Flake 50g
A great flake that I find myself returning to again and again. Aged Virginias up-front, a Burley backbone, and a lightly-sweet casing that's ever-present but doesn't translate to a chemical-like flavor at all. Erinmore isn't a grassy and bright type flake, but rather of the richer and more savory variety. The Erinmore top note is immediately noticeable, but pleasant. As the flake ages, that Juicy-Fruit smell and taste fade away. When retro-haled, I get a mildly peppery, Perique-like tingle, yet it's very smooth at the same time. Unlike many Virginia and Burley blends I've tried fresh out of the tin, Erinmore didn't bite my tongue at all, not even when pushed. The moisture content is similar to Samuel Gawith's flakes, but they're much easier to prepare. As many pipers mention, the tin note's like Wrigley's Juicy Fruit, but it fades with drying time and (as previously noted) with aging. The Burley rounds-out the flavor and imparts some extra nicotine. Indeed, I was surprised by the nicotine content of this flake; it's stronger than I expected. I rate it 5 out of 10 on the nicotine scale. Finally, the room note is pleasant for the piper, when you get a whiff of it in the air it's nice, but non-smokers probably won't care for it. Putting it plain & simple, I really enjoy this super-savory flake. When I can't decide which blend to smoke, I often find myself returning to Erinmore Flake.
McClelland - M55 - Georgia Cream
Hands-Down, the Most Disgusting Aro I've Ever Had!
I'm an English smoker through & through, but I still enjoy a sweet or mild smoke now & then, but NOT this one! Georgia Cream wins "The Lemon Prize" of all the blends I've ever tried. Agreeing with Erik J. below, the odor is offensive in that chemical, cheap perfume sort of way. When smoked, the flavor is positively disgusting—I'm so glad I smoked it in a cob, and it even ruined that (which is not an easy thing to do). Georgia Cream belongs in a potpourri container on the back of a toilet, not in a pipe. I really don't know what the folks at McClelland were thinking when they mixed this one up; then again, a LOT of their tin blends stink like ketchup anyways. The stink of this tainted the entire box and everything in my order, even after being double-wrapped at my request by the great folks at SmokingPipes! It's truly unbelievable that anyone would think this a good thing to smoke, no less a successful blending company! It also stunk-up the entire room where I keep my tobacco for about three days before I finally put it in a large medicine bottle and put it FAR away from anything I'd ever consider smoking. Even if you like really sweet and mild blends, I can't imagine how anybody could like this compared to other blends out there. McClelland ought to discontinue this ASAP to protect their legacy..or....yeah...it's gross. I'm not one to give ridiculous ratings to blends, and I always give each blend a chance, but this is utter garbage. Please take my word for it and save your money; it's THAT bad!
Seattle Pipe Club - Plum Pudding 2oz
My First Tin: A VERY Nice Smoke with Mediocre Presentation
Plum Pudding is a great smoke—no, it's an excellent smoke. I think I like this one more than the Soecial Reserve, as it's not as strong in flavor. It's got a layered complexity that so many pipers want in a blend. I love the room note, but non-smokers hate it. One thing threw me off; I thought I was getting a proper crumble cake like C&D makes (a big pressed hunk of tobacco). Instead, P.P. is full of these 1/8th-inch-thick cake-flake hybrids. They have a grain so they're sort of like flakes. They look very nice; mottled in color with all five of its contents visible. The tin note is very nice as well; full of savory tobacco aromas, not just a Latakia assault. The new tin artwork is great—the one I got is not the style pictured above, but the far more elegant and more recent design (almost the same as the Special Reserve), which is a pleasant addition. It's just that the tin is too big for big for its contents; SPC should wrap these little cakes in paper so they're not banging around in the tin. That's my only big complaint--that and the small output. It'd be great if this was on hand more often!
Cornell & Diehl - Night Train 2oz
Get Me a Boxcar!
Night Train is a perfect American-style blend. It's got that nuttiness you expect from Burley, with considerable body added by the Viriginias, and the small amount of Perique in it is like pepper on a perfectly cooked steak. While others have rightly pointed out that Night Train has a good amount of nicotine content, it's a blend that any seasoned tobacco smoker should be able to enjoy without being overwhelmed. It's not anywhere near as strong as C&D's Kajun Kake or Bayou Morning Flake. I gravitate toward mostly medium-strength blends, and I find this has just the right potency to be an "all-day" smoke, as it's not overwhelming in large quantities—at least not for me. This one goes in the category of "old timey" blends. There's no nonsense, no tricksy gimmicks, no fake flavors; it's just a great, expertly blended cake for the pipe. Night Train's room note will usually sit well with non-smokers' noses, and delight the pipers and smokers in your company. Additionally, aging this blend produces fantastic results. Finally, in the interest of fairness, I must admit that I'm a total Cornell & Diehl fanboy; I love their blends. For me, Night Train further cements C&D's reputation as my favorite blending house.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Dark Flake Unscented
Nullified by Nicotine: The Strongest Flake on Earth
DFU is a blend I've had a rocky past with. At first, I simply couldn't enjoy it at all because of its strength; this flake has more nicotine in it than any tobacco I've ever smoked, period. Even the strongest of C&D's catalog or Mac Baren's Bold Kentucky don't match up to the power this flake possesses. In the few instances when I've gotten DFU to behave well, I've found it quite cigar-like in flavor. Additionally, it's the only GH&Co blend that bites my tongue, but I also find it hard to keep lit, so that obviously contributes to the latter. With that said, the composition of these flakes is much like other flakes from GH&Co., that is, beautifully crafted and made up of fine quality tobaccos. However, even for my well-adjusted tolerance, the nicotine content of this flake is just too much to be enjoyable. But the good flavors are there...IF you can handle the strength!
Cornell & Diehl - Pirate Kake 2oz
Superb Swashbuckling Smoke
I bet this would be more popular if it didn't have the Jolly Roger and the mention of 75% Latakia content on the tin. As far as C&D's products go, Greg Pease's Quiet Nights recipe has more of that creosote/Latakia flavor up-front. With that said, it would be lovely with just a little more Orientals in the mix; say, 50% Latakia with the deficit filled with Turkish leaf. Pirate Kake is definitely a "Lat. Bomb". Although the Burley adds body, it's the distinct flavor of Orientals in the mix which makes this blend enjoyable beyond just tasting like a smoky campfire. There's bounty to be had inside this little treasure chest!
Esoterica - Penzance 2oz
Truly Amazing Smoking Experience
The hype is sky-high but it's for a good reason. It is other-worldly, and it makes you wonder just what is in there! Although some other blends do come in the same ballpark, they never come very close to the real thing. This is like nothing you'll ever smoke, and you'll likely never smoke it unless...nope..just move on, there are lots of other good blends out there (just none exactly like this one). I've heard about pipers paying immense amounts of money for just tiny amounts of this blend, and personally I find it a bit ridiculous. Any company in their right mind would make more, export and triple the price, and make a killing. On that note, it seems that maybe this rather small company has run-out of whatever they need to make Penzance; that may explain its disappearance. If it ever comes back, I highly doubt it'll be exactly the same as the originals. The taste is obviously not due to some secret sauce, but rather a mixture of amazing tobaccos. Although everyone is entitled to an opinion, the reviews like the ones titled "Overrated!", and especially the one titled "Penzac" with 1.5 stars—likely are from complete amateurs or non-pipers. Maybe they're trying (in vain) to keep the hype down, or they broke into Daddy's stash one day after running out of shisha or hash and were disappointed, or got ripped-off on eBay. I do wonder how many jerks there are hoarding this stuff in their stashes who don't fully appreciate its beauty and are letting it rot & wither away. My cynicism aside, I was over-the-moon with happiness to have been able to get some—enough to really enjoy it too—but it'll never be enough! Maybe one day another blender will come up with something which is comparable to Penzance, but nothing comes close to the 2010 batch I had—according to 1,000 or more pipers' opinions who say the same. I doubt that many folks' opinions could be wrong. All in all, it's a chimera and an enigma. Also, as I said previously, it's worth looking elsewhere to try other blends to enjoy, as there are hundreds of them and many are wonderful.
McClelland - TQ - Top Quality Gold & Toasted
Pleasant Aro. with a Strong Flavor, Scent, and Room Note
This is a perfect one to try if you like mild & sweet blends, and the aromas both unlit and lit are very pleasing. The name does it justice as well, as it almost tastes like a plate of French toast with maple syrup and a touch of cinnamon; it's truly amazing how good this smells & tastes. I've yet to come across a single person—both smokers and non-smokers—who haven't loved the smell of both the tin note and the smell of its smoke. By far the best aromatic offering by McClelland.
Cornell & Diehl - Bijou 2oz
A Supreme Oriental Blend
Bijou is delicious, but it really needs time in the cellar. The difference between it fresh and aged is like night and day. After about a year in the nice full-flavored, medium-to-full strength blend that is truly blissful. Fans of Oriental-forward blends are sure to enjoy this one. Red Virginias boost the Katerini to delicious heights. A small taste of what is likely a honey topping is detectable. Bijou has a noticeable amount of nicotine; about 6 out of 10. Other blends I've had from the Cellar Series were fine fresh from the tin, and naturally they aged well, but Bijou really seems to NEED time.
F & K - Lancer Slices
Delightful English Blend
One of a handful of my favorite English blends. It has a rich, full-bodied flavor—one mostly composed of Latakia but also a deep earthiness. I like my blends strong, and I'd place the nicotine content at ~7 out of 10. The one and only thing I wished it had was slightly better presentation. Lancer Slices are the torn-up flakes which many of us are used to seeing, but in bulk they tend to fall apart and get quite a bit of chafe at the bottom of the bag. I would prefer these in actual slices or flakes (think SPC's Plum Pudding or the thick flake of Samuel Gawith's S.J.F.). All the same, I like it very much. Lancer Slices have quickly become an everyday blend for me, but that may not be the case for many, being rather heavy with both Latakia and nicotine. If you love English blends, I suspect you'll enjoy these.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Rum Flake 50g
My Favorite Rum-Topped Flake
I've enjoyed Rum Flake very much, especially when it's been aged. It has a wonderfully complex natural tobacco flavor with subtle notes of dark rum, and is not overly sweet in the least. GH&Co. makes blends with strong and complex flavor profiles—Rum Flake being no exception. Unlike some of their offerings, Rum Flake isn't cigar-like at all. To the uninitiated, the name would have you thinking that it's going taste like rum, but it really doesn't. As with most all G.H.&Co. blends, the nicotine level is noticeable, but in this case it's not overwhelming or even high (about 6 out of 10). Tongue bite potential is minimal. Overall, I'd label it an exceptionally good, and highly recommended blend for the experienced pipe smoker.
McClelland - Craftsbury: Frog Morton 100g
Great Intro to Englishes
Frog Morton is the blend I credit with getting me into English blends—which I now love. If you want a mild blend this will satisfy; a genuine tobacco flavor that doesn't send your head spinning with nicotine, nor bite your tongue. The tin note is somewhat sweet and pleasant; not an overwhelming campfire smell as with most blends containing Latakia. I don't smell the trademark ketchup odor in this McClelland blend. The Latakia shines through just enough and isn't overpowering, which makes it a great place to start. This is the mildest tasting Latakia I've ever had. Definitely a great blend for newer pipers to try, or to dip your feet in the English pool without getting blown-away by unusual and strong flavors. ADDENDUM: There's one thing I really do not like about F.M., and thus why I had to take half a star away. Frog Morton doesn't burn very well—regardless of how I prepare it. No matter if I dry it out a little, a lot, or not at all (would not recommend the latter), it just DOESN'T burn all the way. Every single time I've smoked F.M. it leaves behind unburnt pieces of tobacco, and doesn't finish nicely like the better blends I'm discovering on my piping journey. The processing of one of the components in this particular blend created rock-hard hunks of black-ish colored tobacco; my guess is that it's Latakia that's been over-cased. Perhaps chopping it up on a cutting board with a sharp kitchen knife would alleviate this issue. With that said, F.M. is advertised as ribbon cut, and there are no ribbons to be found—only chunks. As with all ribbon cut blends, it should be ready to smoke "as is" without further preparation. F.M. is indeed a very popular blend for a reason; the name undoubtedly attracts Tolkein fans and lovers of "The Hobbit" films. Also, some seem to truly enjoy smoking it. Unfortunately, after smoking so many more blends since I first tried it, I can't say that I do anymore.
G. L. Pease - Piccadilly 2oz
THE All-Day English Blend
One of my favorite G.L. Pease blends, and it was the first of many English blends I tried when I began smoking a pipe. After smoking it every morning for an entire summer, I still go back to it constantly; therefore I've revised this review. Piccadilly is a well-balanced blend, with all the component tobaccos noticeable in the right proportions, albeit in a rather low-key fashion. Upon opening the tin, the Latakia note is strong, but it's content is rather low; just enough to let the Perique shine through. The Virginia flavors are savory and on the grassy side, lending it body. The three components create a flavor all their own instead of being outwardly noticeable on their own. The casing, as with most G.L. Pease blends, is light. There are very mild notes of a honey & citrus topping, as mentioned by others. Absolutely nothing is overpowering here, yet it's got a lot of flavor—leave it to Greg to create such blends! The balance of flavors is just right, nothing is harsh, and the nicotine level is appropriately low. This is very similar to Greg's newer blend called Trafalgar with Drucquer & Sons; carrying a similar flavor profile and namesake. For fans of old world style Englishes, this is certainly worth trying.
CAO - Eileen's Dream 50g
A Truly Unique Aromatic
This is a great blend for those who love sweet and/or very unique smokes, and the company's description of the flavor is correct. It's got a Vanilla/Rum/Chocolate thing going on, and is almost like a sip of Bailey's Irish Cream, but in smoke form. Founder Cano A. Ozgener himself would've been happy to put this in his own pipe, if he was a fan of sweet aro's. Few pipe and/or cigar smokers know that Ozgener was actually a pipe-maker and a pipe enthusiast many years before the company became so well known for their delicious cigars. When I first got back into piping, I had to try these CAO blends because I'd always been a fan of their stogies. While this is far from a CAO cigar, being a real sweet one, it boasts a very unique flavor that doesn't feel "fake" or like loads of chemicals. Though it is reminiscent of hookah tobacco, especially with its goopy-wet presentation. Still, even the pipers who usually stick to non-aromatics can and have enjoyed Eileen's Dream. Be warned that it'll ghost a pipe to death though, so if you're a non-aro. smoker like me, use a cob, or an old and/or dedicated aro. pipe. Be prepared to dry it out for at least a day too, because drying it too quickly will ruin the casing. Overall, a well-done, sweet, and quite unique aromatic that even for a non-aro man like me provides a pleasant smoke on occasion.
CAO - Moontrance 50g
1-Q Gone Wrong
After smoking some of the world's best pipe tobacco blends in the months since trying this, I came back to this and couldn't open the tin without being put-off by the smell. To echo my title, it smells and tastes like a bad batch of Lane 1-Q. If you compare this side-by-side with 1-Q, you'll instantly see what I'm talking about. The aromas and smells are similar to 1-Q but not in a good way at all. Worse still, it doesn't burn well at all, and requires almost constant relights despite drying or not (and everything in between). As with all CAO blends it shows up too wet as well. I'd certainly choose ANY good ol' fashioned drug store/OTC blend over this, which is basically cheap tobacco in a fancy tin. If you're thinking of getting this, just get Lane 1-Q instead—you'll be happy you did.