McClelland - Craftsbury: Deep Hollow 100g
Truly the worst aromatic I've ever come across. Tastes like the contents of a chemistry set, mot even a hint of natural tobacco flavor at all. Usually I leave very deep and well-thought-out reviews, but this simply doesn't deserve my time, nor does it need one. Avoid this, you'll thank me!
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Rum Flake
My Favorite GH&Co. Flake
I don't like the Lakeland essence very much, and so I've avoided GH&Co., but this flake of theirs is on a different shelf. It's so satisfying, and it's sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. I didn't realize there was maple sugar in it until I re-read the description; that is the main flavor I taste along with the always top quality tobaccos that GH&Co. uses. While there is definitely a small amount of Lakeland essence, it's not enough to turn me away, and it compliments the other flavors nicely. When I first began smoking I thought this was pretty good, but now it's easily one of my favorites--and most definitely my favorite of the entire GH&Co. stable!
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 - 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 - Luxury Navy Flake
The Best Bulk VA-PER Flake
You can't go wrong with this stuff. The flavor's right in the middle of the grassy type and the malty type Virginia, and the amount of Perique is just right. I rate a blend as it is out of the package, and this one is great; but given time I can only imagine how well this will age. Great value for the VA-Per smoker, and by that I don't mean it's cheap—LNF is great, high quality stuff.
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
A Truly Wonderful Virginia
Recently opened a tin from 2015. Perfect little stack of flakes. A smooth and savory smoke with that natural VA sweetness. There's a lot of flavor here for just one component. Since it's hot-pressed, a lot of the harshness is removed and I wouldn't be surprised if a fresh tin is quite good as well (I'll soon find out). Another excellent offering from the HH lineup. Definitely a great one 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 flavor & aroma. This flake's dry aroma is marked by a very pleasant and unique note, reminiscent of honey, fresh hay, a touch of citrus, and maybe some liqueur. All of this translates to a very mellow smoke, but one that's FAR from puffing on hot air, as 400 is a very tasty flake! Speaking of hot, it burns quite cool so long as it's rubbed completely and properly prepped. However, it doesn't reject to the fold & stuff method—no black lattice of half-burnt baccy stuck in the bottom of the bowl, so long as you do it right (something many flakes cause with the F&S method). Although it's totally one-dimensional, it's exceptionally good. Additionally, it's consistent across different batches—not just orders, but totally different batches. This is one flake I love starting the day with because it's got flavor but the nicotine content is quite low. Some say it's sweet, but I hate sweet baccy, so I say it's mellow and tasty rather than sweet. The room note isn't going to win any awards or impress non-smokers, but you likely wont care after having a pipe of this stuff. This was one of my first flakes, and it's a perfect place to start if you've never had a VA flake before.
Erinmore - Erinmore Flake 50g
A Mellow & Delicious Flake; Erin- More Please! (recently updated)
A great all-day flake. Aged Virginias up-front, a Burley backbone, and a lightly-sweet casing that's ever-present but doesn't taste like chemicals. Erinmore isn't the grassy & bright type flake, but rather the richer & sweeter variety. The casing is immediately noticeable, but pleasant. When retro-haled, it has a mild peppery Perique-like tingle, yet it's very smooth at the same time. Unlike most Virginia-based blends I've tried fresh out of the tin, Erinmore didn't bite my tongue, even when pushed. The moisture content is similar to Samuel Gawith's flakes; damp. As many pipers mention, the tin note's like Wrigley's Juicy Fruit, but once it's dried & rubbed it dissipates—and once lit, there's no hint of it at all, none that I could detect. The Juicy Fruit type aroma is likely a combination of the casing and spending time in the tin. The Burley rounds-out the flavor and imparts some extra nicotine, which I'm happy with. For me it rates 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. that's really unlike any other blend out of seven other Virginias which I have in my stash. Putting it plain & simple, I just enjoy smoking this mildly sweet Virginia-Burley flake quite a lot. Quite often I find myself returning to my jar of Erinmore to dry-out & rub to unfurl delicious ribbons of consistently tasty smoking pleasure!
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!
As I'm learning that Burley and Black Cavendish are two of my favorites in a blend, for me Night Train is a perfect American-style blend. It's got that straight-up tobacco flavor going for it, yet it's pretty mellow in flavor, and has a little nuttiness. ¶ Generally, I shy away from—or go straight to the cellar with—any blend that has considerable Virginia content, because of the bite that most fresh bright and red Virginias cause me. However, there's none of that bite to the Virginias in Night Train, nor a sour "twang" I find in young Virginias. 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 easily without being overwhelmed. I find I gravitate toward the strongest blends, and I find this has just the right potency to be an all-day / everyday / anytime blend, as it's not overwhelming in large quantities—at least not for me. ¶ This one goes in the category of "old timey" blends; no nonsense, no gimmicks, no fake flavors, just good tobacco that is expertly blended. I must admit that I'm a Cornell & Diehl fanboy, and Night Train further cements their reputation—in a dead tie with G.L. Pease—as my favorite blender. My one and only complaint is common and has nothing to do with taste or quality; the cake is too crumbly & loose. I wish it'd be pressed tighter so you could slice off a nice flake of it with a knife—like you can do with G.L. Pease's cakes. With that said, this small complaint wont keep me from coming back to it again & again. ¶ Summing it all up, Night Train is one of those blends without any frills or added flavors. It derives its fairly complex flavor profile purely from blending several different types of high-quality tobacco, nothing more.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Dark Flake Unscented
Great Lakeland with a TON of Horsepower
I can definitely appreciate the quality of this flake, but it's got that GH&Co. Lakeland essence that you either like or don't. The strength is what attracted me in the first place, but it outdoes even the strongest of my C&D favorites. This flake packs a nicotine punch like no other. It'll leave you a quivering, shaky mess if you smoke it too fast. Its strength cannot be overstated! Sometimes I enjoy the taste during the smoke, but I'm still warming up to the Lakeland essence nearly a year after first trying GH&Co blends. Although it's named "Unscented", to me it's anything but. Its delicious initially pure tobacco flavor always has a floral finish—like smelling a bouquet of roses in reverse. Absolutely a top-notch blend though. There's no bite, lots of flavor, and nicotine lovers will rejoice in its power.
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 75% Latakia advertisement on the tin. As far as C&D's products go, Greg Pease's Quiet Nights recipe has far more of that creosote/Latakia flavor up-front. While Pirate Kake is definitely a Latakia-based blend, it has those wonderfully distinct flavors of Burleys & Orientals, and those are really what "make" this blend. It is Lat-forward, but it's far from being a one-dimensional monster. Pirate Kake is yet another C&D that I come back to again & again. I liked this one so much I bought the half-pound/8oz tin, which I hardly ever do. Don't let those "Lat Bomb" reviews scare you away; there's bounty to be had inside this 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
An interesting Oriental, but it needs cellar time.
Bijou is an odd duck, though a very interesting one at that. A nice strongly flavored, medium-strength blend with an average amount of nicotine (N. level=5/10). Red Virginias give it a strong flavor. A very, very small amount of honey is detectable. The Katerini in this tastes different than in other C&D blends with Katerini—it's doesn't have that naturally tangy and sweet flavor. I realize this is from C&D's Cellar Series, but I rate a blend by how good it is when I buy it and smoke it. Other blends from the series are excellent fresh from the tin, and will undoubtedly age well, but Bijou seems to NEED time. C&D's estimated peak of 10-15 years is, in my opinion, silly. I can't imagine buying a tin of tobacco just to put it away for over a decade. At any rate, the Red Virginia in this blend (maybe just this batch (?)) seem to be just a bit too harsh. C&D has spoiled me with some truly amazing flavors, and initially I thought this was excellent. Now with more to compare it to, Bijou seems to have great potential, but it's sadly not amazing right from the tin. I have a second tin from a separate, fresher batch which I'm going to open—just to sample—and then jar & cellar it, so I may or may not change this review after trying that batch. In the meantime I felt I had to take half a star away for a bit of harshness that's not present in other C&D Katerini-forward products, including some of the Greg Pease recipes.
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
Exactly How a Rum Flake Should Be
I've enjoyed Rum Flake very much. It has a wonderfully complex tobacco flavor with very subtle notes of dark rum, and not sweet in the least. GH&Co. makes some amazing blends, with many having very strong & complex flavor profiles—Rum Flake is no exception. The tin note would have you thinking that it's going taste like rum, but it doesn't. As with all G.H.&Co. blends, the nicotine level is noticeable but not overwhelming in this one. Bite is mild; again, G.H.&Co. knows their stuff when it comes to curing and choosing good tobacco. As with all of their blends, I enjoy this one with a good dose of dark chocolate. But if your sweet tooth is for tobacco and not candy, then stay away; there's no sweetness here, only the savory taste of "rum-tinted" tobacco.
McClelland - Craftsbury: Frog Morton 100g
Good Intro to Englishes - Just OKAY Presentation
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
My favorite of all of Pease's recipes I've had so far, and one I can and do sometimes smoke all day long. After smoking it all summer long, I still go back to it constantly; therefore I've revised this review. Piccadilly is a perfectly balanced blend, with all the component tobaccos being noticeable in the right proportions, albeit in a very low-key way. However, it's far from just hot air! The Virginia taste is there but not harsh, while the Latakia rounds it out and gives it a mildly smokey/creosote flavor. Finally, the dash of Perique is like the salt & pepper, and gives it a wonderful aftertaste and great retro-hale feel in the nose. The casing is light and done right; mild notes of honey & citrus as mentioned by others. Absolutely nothing is overpowering here, yet it's full flavor—leave it to Greg Pease to do the seemingly impossible! The tin note would have you think it's got a lot of Latakia (it did for me) but it doesn't, and there's none of that creosote-like flavor like some Lat.-heavy blends have. The balance of flavors is just right, nothing is harsh, and the nicotine level is appropriately low. The description on the tin says there are notes of citrus, but they aren't noticeable unless you've got a very keen palate. Any of the casings in Piccadilly are very, very light—absolutely no gross chemical flavors, as with all of Pease's recipes. The one and only nit-pick worth mentioning is the occasional sticks & thick leaf veins I find in this and other Pease ribbon cuts, which is hardly a deal-breaker. This particular batch's ribbons were sliced nice and even, and thin too which I love. I don't give 5-star ratings without a VERY good reason, and Piccadilly earned it. Additionally, I've rarely bought large quantities of any single blend, but I plan on buying more & more of this—it's that coveted all-day smoke for me; mild, easy to keep lit, not too heavy on the nicotine kind of smoke that I just can't get enough of. Whether I'm relaxing on a Sunday morning like I am now or working and/or doing chores, Piccadilly's one of the few anytime & anywhere blends that I wouldn't want to run out of. If you're a beginner piper, although there are many great English blends to try first, this is #1 on my list of light Englishes. Amazing stuff and worth a try for any piper regardless of preferences.
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.