Davidoff - Flake Medallions 50g
Soft, sweet, grassy tin note dominated by the Virginias. The Perique is understated to the nose, contributing a mild fig aroma. Sliced twist tobacco that is extremely well-behaved in the pipe. Smooth and mild smoking with a medium perique zing. Delightful.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Louisiana Perique Flake
Relatively mild VA/Per with notes of honey, bitter cocoa and a touch of peppery spice. Long flake, medium cut. Folds well or easily rubs out. The perique flavor develops a bit in the bowl, but is never particularly strong. Somewhat astringent/sharp, with a minor bite.
Cornell & Diehl - Strathspey 2oz
Upon opening the tin, I was met by a strong, sweet somewhat floral scent, slightly effervescent and tangy, Orange Blossom, perhaps. This over-powering aroma was backed by a modest amount of a not-very-distinguished Latakia smokiness. Contrary to an earlier review, there is no peat nor whiskey/whisky in evidence. The blend itself is a mix of ready-rubbed flake, ribbon and rough-cut tobaccos. It came a bit dry in my tin, ready to smoke. The floral/citrusy note dominates in the early part of the bowl. About halfway through, the smokiness of the Latakia develops further, along with a bit of oriental spiciness making an appearance. Unfortunately, this does the blend no favors, as the combination of flavors and aromas does not work very well together. Adding injury to insult, a medium amount of both tongue bite and back-of-throat harshness were experienced. Strathspey seems to be yet another self-proclaimed "Scottish Blend" that has little in common with any of the others with similar claims. It is a medium-harsh smoke that delivers an odd blend of aromas and flavors.
McClelland - 2035 - Dark Navy Flake
Much Better Than it Looks
A wonderful pouch note, redolent of raisens, prunes, dark honey and spice, reminiscent of mince pie. The dark, broken flakes rub out with minor crumbling to a moist and slightly springy consistency that benefits from a little extra drying. The smoke is full, but surprisingly understated, adding just a bit of toastiness while preserving much of the fruit and spice. There is a minor, but undeniable, sharpness/acidity that will bite if smoked too hard, but all-in-all a nice blend. Four stars.
McClelland - VBC - Vanilla Black Cavendish
McClelland's VBC has a medium-heavy topping that adds a substantial vanilla aroma and flavor without much sweetness. The tobacco has a medium casing and is rather coarsely shredded, offering a cool, slow smoke. It makes a great blending component, and adds a relatively strong vanilla characteristic to your blend without adding sweetness.
Cornell & Diehl - Orion's Arrow
In muscle-car terms, Orion's Arrow is what one would call a "sleeper." There is a lot more under the hood than a look at the relatively bland exterior leads one to expect. The blend is an unprepossessing, medium brown, springy ribbon cut, exhibiting relatively little variation in color and texture. The pouch note is quite grassy, dominated by the flue-cured Virginias. The aroma is supported with a mild dried herb/leaves woodsy note from the Turkish and enriched by a very slight dried fruit tone, presumably from the perique. But, the proof is in the pipe, so pack it, light it up and ... bam! The blend just roars with power and the perique, reinforced by the turkish, leaps to the forefront. There's a definite role-reversal here, now the virginias are trying with some success to sweeten what has become a very peppery smoke. If it bites the tongue a little bit, it's only because I'm drawing too eagerly to explore the nuances of this interesting smoke. It's very good, IMHO, and I'm glad I tried it. I'll enjoy the rest of my sample, but I won't make it a regular, lest the over-the-top piquancy makes my regular blends seem bland by comparison. A solid four stars.
Sutliff - 523 Voodoo Queen
Sutliff Voodoo Queen is a very nice addition to the SmokingPipes catalog. It's not really an English, as it contains no orientals, yet it fits most closely in that category. The pouch note is rich and mellow. The mild grass-to-floral Virginia flake blends beautifully with a toasty/yeasty note from the medium Burley. The smokiness from the Latakia is detectable, but very minimal at this point. The Perique adds just a bit of stewed fruit. The mocha note is insignificant in the pouch. The Virginia flake is more finely-broken than ready-rubbed. It benefits from a little additional rubbing out, which releases more aroma from the flake. Lighting the blend really wakes up the Latakia, which remains mild by comparison to a "proper English," but adds a welcome dimension to the well-balanced flavor. The burley is the stand-out contributor: it makes the smoke seem much fuller and rounder in flavor than the typical light Latakia blend. The Perique is a supporting player. The coffee/mocha note seems to come and go now and then, but is not a big component. It's an interesting blend. A good choice for something a bit different now and again.
Lane Limited - Black Raspberry
I've developed a new appreciation for Lane's Black Raspberry. As previously noted, it offers a very juicy, intense, sweet and distinctly berry top note on a decent, if unassuming tobacco blend. It delivers a flavorful, but smooth and mild smoke with little harshness or bite when smoked gently. I recently began smoking this in a cob dedicated to the blend and the combination really shines. Raised to 4 stars.
Dunhill - Elizabethan Mixture 50g
Dunhill Elizabethan Mixture is a very good blend, but it is rather different than the catalog description and tin art would lead one to believe. The tin says, "Dark Virginia Tobacco with Louisiana Perique." Imagine my surprise to find a substantial proportion (maybe 25% or more) of flue-cured yellow Virginia. In fact, the dominant tin note is grass/hay. Not exactly the characteristic VA/Per expected. That being said, it is a very nice tobacco blend if smoked properly. It wants to burn fast and hot, and like most flue-cured light Virginia blends, will deliver a good tongue bite and little to no flavor when smoked too fast. In addition, the Perique is one of the sharpest, revealing its own teeth when pushed. But, when smoked slowly, it delivers a very rewarding flavor. Probably best for smokers who have mastered the gentle art of smoking yellow Virginias.
McClelland - CPCC: New Century 50g
A good tobacco blend reminds me of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. As a dance team, they were two very distinctive individuals, very different from one another in style and character, yet they could come together and dance beautifully in a very balanced way. McClelland's CPCC New Century is a bit different. This blend is more like a marriage than a team. More than "balanced," the individual elements are closely melded. Nearly perfectly so. It almost seems as if the blend has given birth to some new kind of leaf that offers a union of all the characteristics of the originals. Yes, the expected characteristics are all there: spice, floral and smokiness. But, rather than dance in counter-point to each other, they intertwine -- enveloping and supporting each other. The resulting synergy is sublime. The can says it all: "Smooth, Rich, Mellow." I rarely give a tobacco 5 stars, but this one deserves full marks.
Cornell & Diehl - Bayou Morning Flake 2oz
Cornell & Diehl Bayou Morning Flake is a very thinly-sliced flake that is one of the best-behaved in the pipe that I've encountered. It just smokes really nicely, no matter how you prepare it. The Virginias are a middle-of-the-road blend that leans more towards the delicate end of the spectrum. The Perique is sharp and quite forward, but doesn't totally overpower the Virginia. All-in-all, a pleasant, peppery, wake-up call for Perique lovers.
Planta - Anno MMXIII (California Dream)
Bright but Acidic
Planta's Anno MMXIII California Dream has a top note that is very nice. The topping is distinctly and accurately orange. Tart and clean, not syrupy or like a heavy liqueur. Think early season Valencias, not ripe Washington Navels. The tobacco blend is very forward on the yellow Virginias and pretty heavily-cased. While the topping complements the yellow Virginias nicely, the blend smokes rather hot and bitey -- in spite of the Black Cavendish content. All-in-all, it's a bit too tight and acidic as-is. Blend it or smoke it very gently for best results.
Peterson - Old Dublin 50g
Nice Light English
Peterson's Old Dublin is a light English blend. The tin note is pleasant, with the expected mellow smokiness well-balanced by a sweet floral character. The dash of Basma adds a subtle spice. The tobacco is mostly a fine ribbon cut, with yellow flue-cured Virginia somewhat dominant. It smokes like a light Virginia -- moderately sweet and hot. A bit of Black Cavendish is added to the modest amount of Latakia to further cool the Virginia. A nice blend that has a character all its own.
McClelland - Personal Reserve: St. James Woods 100g
One of the Best
McClelland's Personal Reserve: St. James Woods is arguably one of the two or three best VA/Pers currently available. The blend is a relatively thick-cut flake, roughly broken. The tobacco is well-behaved - easy to rub out and smokes well. The Virginias are full and extremely flavorful in the McClelland style. The tin note exhibits a very distinctive sweet/tart stewed fruit tang. Fully rubbing the flake out mellows this tartness and brings out some spice. This is a relatively robust VA/Per offering a full measure of saucy Perique.
McClelland - 2015 Virginia-Perique Flake
Good Bulk Option
The 2015 Virginia-Perique Flake blend is a mild VA/Per that is an approachable smoke and springs no surprises. It is well-known that most Virginias from McClelland exhibit a distinctive, signature tang that can evoke an aroma often described as ketchup and/or stewed fruit. The 2015 blend is no exception. A tin note of dried fruit and spice transforms when the tobacco is rubbed out, warm and flexible. It is then a fuller, richer note that is clearly like ketchup to my nose. A modest amount of Perique contributes to a sweet/spicy smoke that fans of McClelland Virginias should like quite well. One of the best bulk VA/Pers, IMHO, but a little light on the Perique.
Peter Stokkebye - Luxury Bullseye Flake
Kind of Gimmicky
Luxury Bullseye Flake offers a great tin note that evokes the smell of mildly spicy fruitcake. I had my wife smell it and she said, "Christmas!" However, it is not a very well-behaved tobacco in the pipe. The Black Cavendish core remains damp and sticky and will not rub out properly, instead forming gummy little wads. A bit too wet to fold and stuff, I found the coins impossible to dry evenly. I finally cut some coins into small cubes and then dried it. The smoke was fine, but nothing special and pretty light on the Perique. Too much trouble for too little reward.
A & C Petersen - Escudo Navy Deluxe 50g
The current manufacturer's take on Escudo Navy De Luxe is a surprisingly mild and well-mannered VA/Per that exhibits near-perfect balance. The tobacco is well-behaved in the pipe, either rubbed out or simply stuffed. However, it is a quite middle-of-the-road smoke that lacks any real distinction in either the Virginias or the Perique.
McClelland - 5125 - Coyote Classic Full
Good Value Blend
In contrast to this tobacco's name and description as "full" and "stout," 5125 - Coyote Classic Full is a relatively mild/medium blend that exhibits a good smokiness well-balanced with a distinct floral note. The Virginias contribute their characteristic sweetness that works well in the blend -- they do not exhibit the signature McClelland Virginia tang. The blend delivers a mildly sweet smoke with a rich, rounded mouth-feel, albeit exhibiting a small amount of harshness. Pretty good for a bulk blend, this tobacco might be a candidate for a value choice in a rotation.