James Marc R.
About Me:
Husband, Father, God-Fearing Marine Corps Veteran.
Badges

Seattle Pipe Club - Down Yonder 2oz
Pressed 507-S???
Agree with W.W. - yep. In my opinion, that's EXACTLY what this is. I love Sutliff's 507-S stoved VA... one of the best, but to press it into a cake, tin it and charge $10/oz vs $3/oz for the bulk rough cut??? Come on... I mean the tin art is cool, but there's absolutely no difference in flavor. Does that empty tin really cost $14? My rating reflects the taste less the price and the idea/practice to sell the same item for $14 more - under the guise of something 'new'. Good product - questionable practice.

Rattray's - Bagpiper's Dream 100g
Light, Bright and Fruity
An excellent aromatic with a marked departure from American aros. The cognac is a prominent fruity flavor that I can only describe as 'tasting the smell'. It's not something you taste on the tongue but rather taste through the smell... odd, I know. It supports rather than overpowers the mixture of fine tobaccos, which are bright and sugary. A really smooth smoke with no bite. I think everyone should try this once so that they can experience what a true aromatic should be by comparison to the overly topped American aromatics. This is really well done.

Sutliff - SPS-2007 Bourbon
Sweet Bourbon
Yes, the tangy/oaky bourbon flavor is present, and so is the sweetness. This is a smooth, creamy, sweet smoke with a tangy bourbon flavor. There's not much tobacco flavor with this one, but people typically aren't after that with American aromatics. The sweetness comes through from the Black Cavendish and so does its cool creaminess. The burley and VA simply provide backbone and support the artificial bourbon flavor. I find this one agreeable and very good actually. Granted, C&D does real bourbon toppings better than ANY other manufacturer out there, with the tobacco flavor being first and REAL bourbon being supportive, but theirs has much more body and chewiness to it. Sometimes folks just want a light-bodied sweet alternative and this works. Compared to Stokkebye this has no bite and doesn't have the little needles from off PH poking at your lips and tongue. This is a good value for a light, cool, sweet and flavorful all-day mixture. There's very little nicotine in this that I noticed. Maybe 1 outta 5 in the nic meter.

Cornell & Diehl - Mocha
Snap, Crackle & Pop
This meets the expectations of Black Cavendish (BC); incredibly smooth, soft/creamy with an underlying sweetness and mouthfuls of smoke. BC is perhaps the smoothest processed leaf you'll ever smoke, and so from that perspective Mocha toes the line. However, the flavors of cocoa and coffee are subtle and natural. There's nothing artificial about this. I suspect Mr. Reeves topped this with a reduced syrup. There's no added sweetness from chocolate - just a touch of flavor of a dutched cocoa nuance... there's no added sweetness from the coffee either - just a subtle nutty/coffee flavor. It's wet. The initial light snapped and popped from all the moisture. It is what it is: a good Black Cavendish topped with real cocoa and coffee so to give subtle hints of other flavors. The room note is a mild sweetened one and the finish is clean and leaves a slightly sweet and nutty aftertaste. This is definitely an all-day tobacco with very little nicotine, if any.

Sutliff - Honey & Chocolate
Boozy Chocolate Liqueur
A boozy chocolate liqueur is the prominent flavor of this. It has a bite, but that will dissipate as it volatizes, as will the flavor. It's mild in body but assertive in sweet chocolate flavor... I like it, sort of. Good room note, but there's a bit of an almond note associated with this. As I've delved back into aromatics these past few months, this one is one of the better flavored ones. Comparing this to Mac Baren's Honey and Chocolate isn't fair. Granted, it’s been a long while since I tasted Mac Baren (MB), but it had a deep, natural flavor with much better leaf. The honey in MB was notable in flavor and the cocoa of that tasted like dutched cocoa. This is certainly more artificial by comparison, and the honey flavor is nowhere to be found. In fact, you might be better served by mixing a little Sutliff Honey in with this to achieve a true Chocolate and Honey flavored mixture. Nicotine is 0.5 outta 5... virtually-nicotine free.

Cornell & Diehl - Cordial
Aperitif???
If you miss Dunhill's Aperitif, this should suffice. Buttery, slightly tangy, semi-sweet and a light-handed application of latakia with a light body, mimic Aperitif. Three of the Dunhill/Peterson mixtures I absolutely love are Early Morning Pipe, Durbar and Aperitif. Durbar and Aperitif are not available in North America any longer, and while I still have a good supply of Durbar, my Aperitif is gone. When I heard this could be considered its replacement, I was interested. It's close. Now here's the thing with Dunhill/Peterson mixtures... they are sweetened artificially. Whatever their product is; English, VAPER, Scottish... they're all sweetened. Take a tin and open it up. Place the lid back on and seal it up. Place the tin in the drawer for a month or two. When you try it a month or two later, that sweetness will be gone. That's what Cordial tastes like... as if a tin of Aperitif had been opened and set aside for a while. I was able to reproduce a much closer likeness to Aperitif's sweetness by adding Sutliff 507-S Stoved VA. It imparts a heathered honey flavor (smoky/caramelized sweetness) which is missing from Cordial. The best I can gauge is about 20% or approximately 2 oz of 507-S per 8 oz of Cordial. But the downside to adding the sweetness of the VA mitigates the predominant buttery nuance of the Orientals. I don't want to mess with this, it's good in its own way. Essentially this is a less sweet Aperitif. The absence of the heathered honey in Aperitif will be missed. Nicotine is 2 out of 5.

Sutliff - Estate Blend
Cocoa, Honey, Anise, Bourbon and Vanilla
This is good... like really good. It's sweetened flavors are subtle on the tongue and the burley/VA fill the mouth with a spot-on medium body. It's similar to Carter Hall, but better. I appreciate the more assertive flavors in this and there's no off-gassing. The honey and anise flavors are assertive, the cocoa comes in second, followed by the tart bourbon and creamy vanilla. Further into the bowl the nutty burley nuance shows up. Sipped out of a pot, it's smooth and cool. I'm tempted to puff a little more as I like the flavor and mouth feel, but flavor is lost when I do. Don't expect the added flavors to be so assertive as to be considered a honey, chocolate, vanilla or bourbon aromatic. Rather, these are added in smaller proportions so as to support the burley/VA, and the proportions are perfect. Sip it, smoke it slow and cool and enjoy. The finish is a bit dry and leaves a buttery aftertaste. There's some bite to it. I smoked a few bowls of this throughout the day and experienced bite due to the PH. If not for the bite, this would be a 4.5 star mixture. Nicotine is 2.5 out of 5. I was feeling it by the end and starting to get that ball in the chest, or on the verge of hiccups.

Sutliff - 150 Mark Twain
Anise, Caramel, Cinnamon, Vanilla and Brown Sugar... With a Bite
The pouch note is a wonderful black licorice, caramel, vanilla sweetness, and the taste is very similar to the note, albeit there’s cinnamon in there too. I like this. To my taste this is a medium-bodied mixture but the flavor is very palpable. It’s a sweet tasting mixture comprised of brown sugar, anise, caramel, cinnamon and a touch of vanilla. Comes moist and drying it out will cause some of the flavor to be lost. Smoked cool and slow brings all of the flavors to light. Don’t age this… it’ll lose it’s wonderful flavors. It leaves a clean sweet finish in the mouth, but also bites. The PH isn't agreeable due to the toppings, and while drying eliminates much of the flavor, it really doesn't tame that bite much. Nicotine is negligible; 1 out of 5. Very pleasant.

Sutliff - 707 Sweet Virginia
Orlik Golden Slice in Bulk?
A candied VA, much like Orlik Golden Slice, but in bulk form. If you like Orlik then you'll like this. There's not much nuance one would expect from a rubbed-out VA flake, but the artificial sweetness is most certainly prominent. I expected a bready, grassy/hay with a honied sweetness, but what I tasted was more cellulosic with just a bit of hay/bread and white sugar with an occasional floral note. I actually like sweetened mixtures/blends, but it has to be done correctly with perhaps honey, brown sugar, sweetened spices or a sweetened bourbon, etc.. By no means is this bad. It's actually one that I could smoke all day and enjoy. It's just that there's nothing memorable or astounding that would make me want to buy large quantities and age it. Smoke it cool and slow for best flavor. I didn't get any bite whatsoever.

Peter Stokkebye - PS38 Highland Whiskey
Peaty Sweetness
I like the flavor of this, but the PH is off and its sharpness can bite a little. It's hard to find a good Scotch, whiskey or Bourbon topped mixture outside of Cornell and Diehl... they do it better than most but offer very few in bulk. This has a tinge of peaty tanginess from the Scotch, but it's balanced with the sweetness of the VA and cavendish. It's not a flavor powerhouse in the sense that the topping takes center stage, so if that's what you want - look elsewhere. This one is similar to Erik Stokkebye's Morning Blend, but this has a maple sugar sweetness and sharpness which contributes to bite, whereas Erik's is more natural, smoother, lighter and has a bit more authentic Whiskey flavor. Nic is 1 out of 5.

Solani - Red Label - 131 50g
Scotch? Meh... This is More Fruity
I don't like fruit in my pipe... no cherry, peach, apple, pineapple, mango... I'm good with Scotch, Bourbon, Whiskey, Vanilla, Cocoa, but not fruit. This was simply too fruity. I compared this to Scotty's Milk and Honey over at Pipes and Cigars - a true Scotch topped mixture which has a sweet peaty tang of a marked Scotch flavor, and this just doesn't compare. I guess if you like fruit in your pipe this is okay, but if you're looking for a Scotch topped mixture, this ain't the one. The Cavendish was overdone and contributed to dank body or emptiness.

Sutliff - Balkan S 957 Match
Burley + Orientals = DRY MOUTH
First puff brings forth that typical dry, musty, earthy sourness from Orientals, of which are not of a special varietal. The trick is to balance the nuance with a sweet, bready or herbal VA via bright leaf, reds or VA cavendish... this didn't happen. The proportions simply aren't good enough to balance. Add the burley and you now have a tannic mixture that pulls out any sweetness whatsoever and adds further earthiness which combined with the Orientals, yields DRY MOUTH. This isn't a contemplative mixture. In my opinion, it's a mixture concocted to be something different. If you like chewing walnuts, sesame seeds and following up with unsweetened oolong tea... I think you'll like this. I also think there’s a little perique in this. It’s not a quality perique as the toe jam, black pepper nuance is there without any of the plummy tartness. This just isn’t good.

Sutliff - Cringle Flake 2023 1.5oz
Plum Pudding Would be a More Accurate Name
Sweet dark fruit stewed in spices... brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, lemon rind... think fruit cake. The tin note is decidedly fruit cake and the flavor is all those aforementioned nuances . This never disappoints and I look forward to it each and every year. It's a clean/pure flavor, full bodied and the finish is sweet and clean - no lingering 'ashy-mouth'. The nicotine is light - 1.5 outta 5.

Wessex - Curly Block 275g
Hype For THIS?
I see this came and went... again. I miss the days when you strolled into your tobacconist and everything under the sun was readily available and in large quantities; Penzance was sold in bulk out of a jar, Solani was stacked deep on the shelves, McClelland of every tin was stocked and available and every Sam Gawith, which we now call 'unobtainium', was easily within reach. Yes, even Mac Baren, and now STG to K&K, was well stocked and available in any quantity you wanted. The novelties like Gold Brick and Curly Block, which were once overlooked, now spark interest with their unorthodoxy, but they still fall short on the taste and mechanics. If you missed out, don't worry, you're not missing much. What bothers most isn't that these mediocre offerings are so elevated in demand, but rather that they are now so scarce due to Governments throughout the world dictating what you may or may not have. What we're seeing in this world today is such a dramatic departure from the liberties we enjoyed just 20 years ago... it's sad, really. Newcomers to pipe smoking live in a very, very different time in which waiting for years to over-pay for mediocre offerings has become normal. I have Curly Block in jars. It's not comparable to say, PS-403, which is so much better and easier to prepare and use. This has an artificial sweetness to it, which I encounter in most German tobaccos. Beyond that, it lacks cavendish to mellow and smooth the flavors. Don't expect the same creamy body you encounter in PS-403, this has quite a few harsh spots and has a 'raw' quality to it, which is why I've had a couple of these cellaring for almost two decades. It's quite potent in nicotine. I can remember cutting smaller and smaller slices and using smaller bowls to use this. It can be difficult to keep lit and the larger leaf pieces make tamping a pain.

Mac Baren - 7 Seas Regular
Brown Sugar, Butter, Vanilla, Caramel and Chocolate - Similar to RLP-6, But Softer
A little more burley in this than other 7 Seas aromatics, and so it comes across with a deeper molasses/brown sugar sweetness more so than honey. Granted, the caramel was a topping, but burley goes better with it than a Virginia Cavendish. This is sweet, creamy and flavorful. I taste brown sugar, butter, vanilla, caramel and chocolate. cool burning with a muddled finish but pleasant aftertaste. Doesn't get bitter and won't bite. There's very little nicotine in this.

Mac Baren - 7 Seas Black
Almond, Cocoa and Vanilla
This is a really good aromatic. Taste is predominately an almond cream supported by vanilla and a bit of cocoa... maybe a touch of blackberry in there too. It's sweet, fragrant and tasty. I puffed at a pretty fast pace and didn't receive any tongue bite, so the PH is good. Burns cool, creamy full body, medium/dry finish with lingering sweet aftertaste that leaves your mouth feeling a little coated.. not bad though. This is a really good cavendish done correctly. Impressive. Nicotine is nonexistent.

Mac Baren - Golden Extra
A Heather Honey Burley
If a creamy, honey-sweet burley with no bite is what you’re after, this is it. Burley, as I’ve experienced over 30 years of pipe smoking, has predominately had a brown sugar sweetness. Molasses has long been a casing agent for it and it’s little wonder that when sugar is added to burley, we get a brown sugar flavored tobacco. Cocoa powder is another usual ingredient to burley, but there’s none of that to be found in Golden Extra.. this is different. This is the first Burley I’ve had which tastes of honey… heather honey and no cocoa and/or coffee. Heather honey has a slight smoky flavored sweetness, kind of like the old method of boiling down maple sap with wood firing before the use of natural gas. Maple syrup used to have a smoky flavor to it… and I miss it. Anyways, Golden Extra is a sweet, toasted-oats burley, and it doesn’t grow bitter down the bowl. It maintains a consistent sweetness throughout and the finish is clean and bright. This is just so unusual to me… I’ve long grown accustomed to brown sugar, cocoa and coffee in a burley… and certainly not a burley so bright and sweet as this. It’s got some nicotine too… 2.5 out of 5 on the nico meter.

Mac Baren - Vanilla Cream
VERY Good Danish Aromatic
I like this A LOT. No bite, which is a first for me in Mac Baren mixtures. This is a very rich and creamy vanilla – think vanilla custard, but not so powerful as to overtake the base tobaccos. The room note is exceptionally good and so expect others to remark positively on it. Vanilla Cream has some initial sweetness; a little honey and fruit (blackberry) contribute to that sweetness alongside the tart/bready/grassy golden VA. The cavendish provides some smoothness and creaminess while the burley imparts some body. Halfway yields a more tart (blackberry/citrus) flavor with a consistent underlying smoky or stoved vanilla. This is mild and fresh, which is very different than the Vanilla Flake, which imparts more fermented tobaccos in the base. Don’t attempt to cellar this thinking you’ll age the base and improve their flavor… you’ll lose the vanilla. If aged tobacco with vanilla is what you’re after, go with the Vanilla Flake. This is very light on nicotine: 1 out of 5. I must state though that MacBaren has been VERY inconsistent in years past… many of their products, aside from the HH Flake which is topnotch, has caused much discomfort through tongue, gum and lips. Their PH adjusted through their casings has been horrendously inconsistent, which has me wondering why this one was so different. Did Jensen change their procedure or do they now have better employees which are paying closer attention? I’m going to order another 8 oz, and I hope it tastes like this.

Seattle Pipe Club - Mississippi River Special Reserve 4oz
Overpriced
This is good but certainly not so unique or qualitatively superior to justify the sale price of $10/oz. I expected a sweeter cake but encountered tangy and oriental-forward. Orientals and Perique do not do well when they both predominate a mixture… verdant spice, buttery, musty and black pepper simply don’t mesh well. Black pepper in oolong tea??? No… that just isn’t a good thing. There needs to be more bright leaf in this as the reds are mellow anyways, lack sugar and the pressing mellows it further into a woody note. The latakia is in the background and not out front, which I found pleasingly proportionate. I think there’s more cavendish in this than is being led to believe… there’s a ‘hollow’ body about this. The effort, I suppose, is to spread the other flavors and distribute, but it ends up being filler which simply removes any richness that other, well crafted mixtures, provide. This was a big letdown. As I’m nearing the bottom, it’s revealing that it definitely has too much cavendish. Shameful that a company would charge so much and incorporate such high amounts of cheap leaf. Plum Pudding is great and I had high hopes for this, but it underwhelmed big time. Nicotine is 1 outta 5… even that tells me there’s too much cavendish.

Cornell & Diehl - From Beyond 2oz
Well Done, Mr. Reeves... This One is Special
Tangy creamy and not an overwhelming smoke bomb, as typically found with Cyprian Latakia. The Latakia is soft and the Orientals are gentle, two flavorfully assertive leaves which are always difficult to balance and always battle in profile for center stage in modern mixtures. This is harmonious. Those Orientals are something I've not tasted in a long time; a soft, buttery, complex and herbaceous minty character harkens to the 1990's when varietal sun cured were plentiful. Cyprian Latakia has a very strong, cedar, sooty and inconsistent flavor, while this has much smoother - less assertive campfire note with an underlying sweetness. The cedar is still there, but it's balanced by other herbs and doesn't overwhelm the flavor profile. This Latakia falls somewhere between Syrian and Cyprian. There's a bit if plummy black pepper on the back end due to the Perique This is a new kind of Latakia flavor and I LIKE IT.

Mac Baren - Virginia No. 1
Sweet, Citrusy, Grassy... Will Bite
I've had newly tinned versions of this in the past and it checks all the boxes of a typical fresh VA; sweet, citrusy, grassy and a little spice. However, MacBaren introduces other - non tobacco components which alters PH and illicits major tongue bite. I recently cracked a tin from 2013 and it was incredibly candy sweet and virtually no spice and tongue bite. It had become very smooth and took on a bready/sweet flavor. Almost all citrus was gone. Nicotine on both aged/unaged is 2 out of 5.

Samuel Gawith - Squadron Leader 50g
Very Light English
Just cracked another tin of this and realized I haven't rated it. Honestly, it's not worth the price. There are SO MANY light english blends available at a MUCH lower price. The quality is good, but so Cornell and Diehl. The latakia is used lightly in this and so it's very complimenting of the VA and Orientals, which lead the way in a sweet/sour/wood/verdant way. It's a three star blend and so perhaps a smidgeon above average due to quality, but the price drops it a star. Nicotine is 2 out of 5.

Samuel Gawith - Full Virginia Plug 8oz
What the Hell?
What the hell, Smoking Pipes?! No email, no notification of this drop, of any kind??? People have spent literally thousands of dollars with you and they don't even get an inkling or polite heads up so they can plan??? At least some provide notification and a time when a new product is dropping. This has me seriously contemplating my loyalty and patronage. You know, tobacco pipes has been good to me... I need to share and spread the love anyways, so I think I'll spend with them going forward. Yes, those thousands of dollars spent that catapulted me to VIP whatever... is it gold or silver now? No matter, tobbaco pipes needs some business and they actually notify customers when something new is dropping. You're a multi-million dollar company, you can afford to lose $5-10k/year of my business, right? Merry Christmas! Oh, and for those Purple-haired Marys that wanna comment on this below... that wanna get knee-deep in drama that doesn't concern them... your slip is showing.

Samuel Gawith - St. James Flake 50g
The Best Virginia/Perique EVER
Sweet... grass, pastry, a sweet yeasty/malted raisin nuance, a slight tanginess akin to plums, caramelized sugar, coffee, even a few floral notes here and there. I don't get much black pepper from the Perique, but rather stewed fruit. The finish is clean and sweet and it leaves a decent room note, unlike many other perique mixtures. This is 'Top Shelf' pipe tobacco. Not much to add from what's already been stated; This is the pinnacle of a Virginia/Perique (VAPER). Hard to find, but worth the effort. Nicotine is 3.5 out of 5.

G. L. Pease - Union Square 2oz
A Bit of a Let Down, But Still Very Good
Not bad, but not great either. It has a great room note and the finish is clean, but I guess I expected more from a Greg Pease blend. It has the same nuance as Cornell and Diehl Red VA Ribbon and Yorktown... perhaps even a little less than Yorktown. I'd advise those two in bulk and cellaring rather than spending more $$ on this one. There's an added sweetness to this - perhaps invert sugar or honey? The bready, sweet, smooth and slight tanginess is there but not to any astounding degree. It's a more natural, albeit sweetened, nuance. There's a balsa wood flavor here and there which equates to a cellulosic, sterile kinda thing. If you want something special and memorable... Sam Gawith Full VA Flake and Mac Baren HH Virginia are the two which hold the crown. You know you've got something with those at first light. This is good, but don't expect that sweet-feed thing that makes your mouth water and say WOW... this just isn't it. It's solid/consistent, better than average and comforting, but so is Yorktown, at half the price. Nic is 2 out of 5.

Seattle Pipe Club - Hogshead 4oz
Worth $9/oz... Nope
I admit that I took the bait... a solid plug of old Virginia evokes fermentation and all the nuance that accompanies it; sweetness, bread, slightly earthy, grassiness and smoothness... a sweet feed like flavor... that's what we expect and desire and that's what drew me in. This, in my opinion, has these but not to a great degree than other - far less expensive flakes. I would expect, at this price, a top of the line VA, like no other, that far exceeds expectations and all other flakes/plugs on the market. It doesn't. A few that come to mind that are much, much better: HH Pure Va, Sam Gawith VA Flake, Gawith and Hoggarth Kendal Dark (not a plug/flake), GL Pease Union Square, Cornell and Diehl Opening Night... all of these exceed in nuance and value, that of Hogshead. This has more citrus than I would expect in an aged, pressed VA. That contributes to sweetness but also a spice that only exists in younger brighter leaf. It's not bad, but it's certainly not worth $9/oz when judging the flavor against other, less expensive VA that provide smoother, sweeter and greater depth. Based on taste and quality, this is a $16 tin priced at $40... outrageous. Nicotine is 3 outta 5.

Orlik - Golden Sliced 50g
Nothing Natural About This
Sweet honey. apricots, a touch of mango and a pinch of grass. If ever there was a ranking of light flavored candied Virginia, smothered in sugar and fruit, this ranks king among them. All traces of a natural tasting Virginia pipe tobacco have been driven out of Orlik through heavy case and topping. It's a decidedly artificial flavor through and through. Light, no nicotine, sugary on the tongue, burns hot... it's good for those that don't like the taste of tobacco. In all seriousness however, it's bad, like really bad. This is about as vanilla as a VA can get. Classic??? oh no, this is far from the classic Orlik of old. If you don't like tobacco and are looking for something that will keep the tobacco flavor out of your pipe, try this. But then why not just pop a sucker in your mouth and forget the whole pipe thing? Orlik is the 'tobacco' for the purple haired, skinny jeans crowd who don't know which bathroom to use and can't decide which of the 82,000 genders they belong to.

Peterson - Elizabethan Mixture 50g
Light on Perique - Woody/Earthy/Bready VA
This was light on perique, but its presence is certainly noticeable in both the plummy taste and high nicotine content. The VA is more earthy/bready/woody, and there's an added sweetness which no doubt is invert sugar. If you want something which taste just like it, has the same strength but has a more natural, albeit less pronounced, sweetness, try Sutliff's Dunhill Elizabethan Match... it's much, much less $, is sold in bulk and provides an excellent VA/Per. Nicotine on both the Match and the Peterson is 3.5-4 out of 5.

Peter Stokkebye - PS201 Black Cavendish
Smooth, Cool, Mildly-Sweet Vanilla
As Black Cavendish (BC) goes, PS201 is among the better but still far from being a top choice. It's not a pure and natural form like Gawith and Hoggarth's DVC, which I consider the pinnacle of cavendish, but this has a place in mixtures and/or straight smoking of smooth, cool, fragrant BC. I'm currently searching for a BC to add at 30% to Low Country's Natural Virginia & Burley. Low Country's VA/BUR is quite strong (a bit too strong) in body and nicotine, but it lacks sweetness. Although it would certainly elevate the nuance, the addition of G&H's DVC wouldn't subdue it much, and so I need some 'gravy' so to speak, that will sweeten. smooth and lighten it up a bit. PS201 is a contender as it will meet those needs, but its vanilla note isn't what I want. I'm, jsut not big on vanilla. C&D makes a BC that fits the bill without any added flavor, but Sutliff's B21 Black Spice actually meets everything I want with an added cinnamon, nutmeg sweetness. I think among BC, PS21 has a moderate sweetness when compared to say Lane BCA, which has a vanilla/liqueur flavor, but that singular vanilla note of PS201 is something you really have to like and want. This would be excellent in recreating Frog Morton though. Nicotine is <1 outta 5, no bite no matter how hard you push it, good moisture.

Sutliff - Cinnamon Delight
Where's the Cinnamon?
It's smooth and sweet, not too goopy, and is reminiscent of Sutliff's Stoved Virginia. It's not a bad mixture at all, just not what I expected. Sutliff puts out some REALLY BAD aromatics, but this is one of their better ones. It isn't the fake, goopy, overly-topped bland burley that we often encounter; this one has a good base of stoved VA. It's rough cut, moist and has a pleasant room note. Though I purchased this to mix with other components to smooth, sweeten and offer a cinnamon flavor and room note, which this doesn't possess. This has a bit of nicotine and I'd place it at 1 out of 5. The best cinnamon tobacco was made by Peter Stokkebye, but unfortunately it's no longer being made. The next best thing to Stokkebye is Russ Oulette's Anger's Dream. AD is actually one of my favorites and has a strong cinnamon note (along side the chocolate and honey) and smokes like Lane's aromatics: good body/strength, quality tobacco, excellent flavor and room note. Cinnamon Delight isn't one that I'll be reordering or using again. Though for some it makes a great change of pace for something like Lane BCA.

Peter Stokkebye - PS41 Cube Cut
Bright Flavor of Anisette & Citrus
Not impressed. It's a very bright flavor of anisette and citrus. Now don't misinterpret the citrus as sweet... it's a very bright flavor that I suspect comes from casing the Virginia leaf in citric acid. The anisette is in the background but nonetheless, it and the citrus sublimate the tobacco. The PH is off a little, as most citrus/anisette topped tobacco is, and so it will nip at the tongue a little. Sipped slow this reveals a bit of nuttiness and hay, but that damn citric acid ruins it. Cornell and Diehl cube cut is where you'll find a smooth, earthy, nutty, molasses burley. If I had to equate the two to something, PS41 is a bright, acidic, sweet lemon square, whereas Cornell & Diehl is a soft, smoothly balanced molasses/brown sugar cookie. It's not a bad mixture, and the cube cut is always a joy to load (just scoop), it's just not something I'd want to have around and hanker for. Smokes moist and hot. Sip it for best flavor and keep a pipe cleaner handy. Continuous relights are necessary. Pleasant room note. This reminds me of Mac Baren mixtures for some reason. Nic is 2 out of 5.

Arango - Balkan Supreme
More Virginia and Latakia Forward
I don't consider this a Balkan in the sense that to be Balkan is to have a profile in which Orientals are more forward than other components. The VA is considerably more forward than the Orientals and the cavendish supports and softens the sweet VA. There's less spice from the Orientals and the latakia is a little more robust in this too. If you're on the fence, consider this a sweeter, smokier and more mellow White Knight, of which emphasizes Orientals. To me this is a thinner, lighter, less dark-flavored Star of The East, albeit with a smidgen more Orientals. Considerable sweetness with this one and much less tangy, musty, buttery, spicy Orientals. Nicotine is 2 out of 5

Cornell & Diehl - Old College
Sweeter than Constellation and Less Latakia
I like this! This closely resembles Constellation, though it's more mellow, definitely sweeter and has less latakia. The burley can get a bit bitter towards the end, but smoked cool will help alleviate that. Whereas Constellation has a bold earthy/smoky profile that can be heavy on the tongue, Old College is essentially Constellation that's been mellowed by the abundance of cavendish, which allows for a lighter mouth-feel, body, and thinner flavor profile. A note on that sweetness: sweetness from the cavendish is different than say a virginia... it's less sharp. That difference is akin to candy (virginia) vs a pear (cavendish). Definitely an all day smoke. Nicotine is 2 out of 5.

Sutliff - Balkan S Original Mix Match
White Knight in Bulk Form
This is essentially White Knight in bulk form. Perhaps the quality isn't as good as the tinned version as this has a few rough edges, but side by side these essentially taste the same to me. It's a comfort mixture; softly applied latakia, verdant, buttery and slightly sour/spicy Orientals, and just the slightest sweetness from the VA. Less sweet than Balkan Sasieni and slightly less spice, but just as comforting. This isn't a latakia bomb by any means. Nicotine is 1.5 out of 5,

Balkan Sasieni - Balkan Sasieni 50g
An Odd Resemblance to Peter Stokkebye
Oh, it's Balkan. Like Prince Albert, the word 'comfort' comes to mind when describing this. The first profile you encounter is decidedly and overwhelmingly oriental; buttery, musty, sour and a bit of spice... typical nuance of oriental and very pronounced. Though there's nothing special about the Orientals used, they're pretty generic. There's very little sweetness but rather a woodiness and slight citric acid from the VA. The latakia isn't real heavy in this, but it's been applied in good proportion. I've always thought of Orientals as a musty old leather-bound library book. Kinda tastes like that would smell... dusty and old. I like this and give it high marks as it's a pure tasting mixture with little additives and the proportionality with which the leaves were mixed is very good. It possesses a natural smoothness and is quite mellow, but also has just the slightest of that bright-citrusy Peter Stokkebye vibe. The room note is a smoky, verdant - cedar. It's pleasant. It's one of the better - true Balkans I've had. I'm just not a fan of oriental in large proportions, and so I don't favor a Balkan. But for those that do, you'll enjoy this. Absolutely no tongue bite with this. Cup a Joe's sells this in bulk form. Nicotine is 1.5 out of 5.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Dark Bird's Eye Vintage Cut
Traditional and Pure
Fed /watered the chickens - let them out, two flakes of hay and a quart of grain for the horse - let him out, milked the cow and need to filter and heat it... but first I'm going to take a break. This is strong but not too strong. It's perfect in a small billiard for a short break. The nicotine will sate your craving but won't make you sick. The KDF isn't American and so there's no spicy, charred oak-like nuance. It's an assertive type of burley that's stronger and has better mouthfeel without the tannic, walnut like flavor of burley. It has a wine and clove like thing going on. It's a smoother version than the American and pares really well with VA. It's not overbearing and it goes nicely with the natural sweetness of the VA tobaccos used. This is one I can smoke while on the go or between chores. Nicotine is 3.5 out of 5.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Dark Vintage Cut
Rich, Deep, Dark & Sweet
I quite enjoy this. I may need to cellar a good amount as this shines in the simplicity of the flavor and cut. First light is delicately floral, but there's no Lakeland present. There's a natural floral quality to this. The flavor is a robust, deep, caramelized, sweet, richly fermented Virginia. The VA is quite rich. It came moist, and I presume had it been dry it would've lost some of its nuance. The cut is a little larger than shag, but not so as to be the ribbon we see in newer offerings. This allows for nice loading and consistent burn in the smaller billiard I prefer. It's a very natural flavor but there is something there... that floral note that I don't find in Cornell and Diehl VA. It can be an all day tobacco, but for most it'll be too strong and assertive. It leaves a round sweet finish. Nicotine is 3 out of 5. This would make an extremely high-quality component to add depth and sweetness to a mixture. It'll certainly impart quality to any lower quality leaf in the mixture.

Low Country - Natural Virginia & Burley
Tastes like Walnuts and Bread - at $20/lb You Can't Go Wrong
I like a good VA/Burley mixture. It's a very traditional combination that when naturally done, should be soft, slightly sweet, yield gobs of smoke and possess a toasted grain nuance with a kick of N. Well, for the most part this does that. There's little sweetness and the only exception would be the dark burley; it's more of an earthy/walnut flavor that replaces that toasted oat nuance, but I like it and it goes well with the bready Red VA. Dark burley is almost fermented to compost, so expect a strong earthiness and that dry/tannic/astringent kind of walnut flavor. You won't have any molasses or anise, which so many of the older - over the counter blends had... this is a pure tasting leaf. For the price you can't go wrong... $20/lb is a great deal on an everyday/all-day traditional mixture. Nicotine is 3.5 out of 5, so expect quite a hit on a very traditional and less expensive mixture.

McConnell - Scottish Cake 50g
Smooth Sweet and a Bit Tangy with a bit of Spice.
Not bad. The invert sugar sweetens this artificially but is tolerable for me; the plummy tanginess of the perique is there but lacks the black pepper spice; the Kentucky is supportive and lends only a slight nuance of spicy, smoky oak on the back end, but make no mistake... it's there and it adds a good bit of nicotine. My guess is it's African and not American. It's smooth enough to smoke all day and the lingering artificial sweetness keeps the ashy aftertaste away. Kohlhase Kopp is known for adding sugar, and that artificial sweetness can sometimes sublimate the natural nuance we get from VA. The Dark VA used in this is on the woody side. Added sugar isn't a bad thing, but I prefer the more rustic and natural flavor of Cornell and Diehl. Nicotine is 3 out of 5.

A&C Petersen - Escudo Navy Deluxe 50g
Needs to be Aged
Tin note is fruit cake or sweet feed, but the smoke is a tad harsh and one dimensional. This one is definitely a young, grassy version of a VAPER that lacks sweetness and complexity. Age would transform the grassy VA to a sweeter, smoother and more bready VA, which I think goes so well with perique. But I'm not sure it's worth the added cost over say, Stokkebye Luxury Navy Flake (LNF). Cellaring this could get expensive, and who wants to wait years for something you could enjoy now AND years later? That's why LNF is my choice over this; it's honey sweet, smooth, a bit grassy but also has a pastry-like nuance. While LNF doesn't have quite the black pepper that Escudo has, that fine for me. But the #1 VAPER is Sam Gawith St James Flake... by far the best. Add some age to this and I suppose this would be a 3 star product.

Cornell & Diehl - We Three Kings 2oz
Replaces McClelland's Holiday Spirit
Woah... this is some fine tobacco. The spices used in conjunction with the leaf is at another level. These aren't artificial flavorings... this are natural and robust spices cooked down and condensed for use in the topping. Yes, it's light on added flavorings and is tobacco forward, but the delicate use of cinnamon, allspice and vanilla is deliberate and refined. It enhances rather than sublimates the tobacco. The vanilla is most pronounced in the tin note, but isn't so prominent in the smoke. Holiday-spiced pastries is what this immediately conjures in flavor and room note. Smooth, sweet, tasty, slightly floral/herbaceous, and very, very satisfying. Like all C&D, this is a natural tasting and pure product. The nicotine is about 2 out of 5, so it will sate after a meal but won't cause a ball in your chest or turn your stomach. This replaces McClelland's infamous Holiday Spirit.

Drucquer & Sons - First Amendment 100g
Smooth and Rich
It's difficult to grade anything Greg Pease puts out at under 3 stars. Darn near everything he/C&D releases exhibits the finest in the market. The presentation was nicely stacked, loosely-pressed cut flakes of perfect moisture. Burley is decidedly American and substituting that for Orientals reduces the complexity of flavor a little, but it also introduces a smooth, earthy, toasted grain and tannic black walnut flavor which enhances the other components. There's a rustic quality to this mixture that denotes a purity with very few, if any, additives. Yet there also exists an extremely refined and deliberate effort to convey a harmonious taste experience. The Red Virginia is most pronounced and has the marked bready/pastry flavor with little sweetness, and that compliments the burley very well. The cavendish in conjunction with burley and Red VA yield a very mellow and soft effect - tempering the earthiness of the burley. The latakia is added in smaller proportions and exhibits only the slightest smoky/campfire note in the background. This room note and 'taste of the smell', reminds me of an old book. I really like mixtures with a light hand on latakia - unless it's a really sweet mixture like say, Star of the East. The perique is light too, and doesn't exhibit a prominent spicy-black pepper nuance. The nicotine in this is actually pretty stout; 3 to 3.5 out of 5. I'm not sure why the strength was listed at 2 as you will definitely feel the nicotine.

G. L. Pease - Haddo's Delight 2oz
Bread, Fruit and Little Cocoa
The bready, smooth and semi-sweet red VA are prominent. A smidgeon of sugary sweet citrus brights appear now and again too. The burley lends dryness, a walnut nuance and a bit of a toasted oats flavor. The cherries from the spiced rum are prominent and match well with the raison like perique. I detect just a little black pepper from the perique now and again and it gets stronger halfway through the bowl, but nothing that would tingle the nose or offend the palate. The cocoa is detectable at lower temps but disappears if smoked too hot. The quality is of a smooth and somewhat mild aromatic, but the strength of flavor and nicotine is medium. I've often found that the higher quality blends/mixtures are medium in flavor and body, but lighter in nicotine. This has a decent finish, though somewhat tannic depending on your companion drink. I'd place the nicotine level at 2.0-2.5 out of 5.

Cornell & Diehl - After Hours Flake 2oz
Red VA with Spiced Rum
The VA is slightly woody with a smidgeon of sweet citrus from the brights. I appreciate a red VA with a bready/pastry-slightly sweet nuance... this one was decidedly woody. The tin note is spiced rum with a bit of caramel; initially I can detect star anise, cinnamon and cherries as the spiced rum, with the cinnamon becoming more prominent in the latter half of the smoke. The rum is not boozy like say, Sextant. The caramel adds a bit of soft caramelized butter flavor here and isn't consistent in the least. Smoke it at a low temperature to get all the flavors otherwise Virginia can get ashy. The nicotine is 2.0-3.5 out of 5. There are times when it hits me a little harder and I feel like it's 3 or 3.5, so that's why it's such a wide margin.

Daughters & Ryan - Two Timer
Pure, Fresh and Clean
Like Three Sails, this tastes incredibly fresh and pure. This is what burley tastes like when you pull it outta the barn, stuff the pipe and smoke it. Very fresh and natural. I've grown my own burley, cured it and smoked it uncased. There's no sweetness and it has a very prominent walnut flavor. This one has been cased and preserves the natural flavor, though the PH wasn't neutralized. This too can bite as the PH is off, so be cognizant. Nicotine is 2 out of 5.

Daughters & Ryan - Three Sails
Raw Tobacco
This is about as pure a flavor as you can get. Tastes like it was just removed from the oven after harvest. Sweet, grassy and very fresh tasting. No toppings, just clean and very natural tasting. Careful... it can burn hot and the PH will nip at your tongue. Nicotine is 2 out of 5.

Presbyterian - Presbyterian 50g
Major Issues with PH
This left my mouth sore for a few days and I couldn't smoke anything during that time. The PH tore up my tongue and lips worse than MacBaren. Perhaps it was a bad batch... don't know, but it was so bad I resealed the tin and it's sat in the cabinet for the past 5 years. I remember the Orientals being prominent, which was nice, but White Knight has a similar dominance and is super smooth. Wish I could remember more on flavor, but with such bad memories of this one I'm not pulling it out and going through that again.

Mac Baren - HH Pure Virginia 16oz
Perhaps the Best Virginia Flake
Mac Baren’s HH Line has achieved the halcyon of Germains and Gawith. Perhaps it’s the century old steam press they acquired to manufacture the HH line, or perhaps it’s the sourcing and blending... maybe it’s the combination of these. No matter, the entire HH line of flakes are among the most qualitative products manufactured by Mac Baren or any blending house for that matter. Unlike Germains and Gawith, HH is readily available and reasonably priced, which in my humble opinion, moves it beyond either of the former to a level not seen among Houses since the early 2000’s. Now, about HH Pure VA; A high quality VA Flake is a real treat, and this is one of them. The steam pressing removed the sharpness that accompanies brighter, fresher VA, and deepens the flavor profile while adding a bit of caramelization. This has a very clean, deep and round profile. There's the highly sought after malted/fermented VA nuance; it's delicately sweet with a slight honey flavor, bready/pastry and has a marked grass/hay nuance with just a tiny bit of citrus. Then of course there's a slight floral note on the back end which is typical of Virginia. The finish is crisp, sweet and clean. It's incredibly smooth with absolutely no bite. The nicotine level is medium to medium-strong strength with a nice 3 out 5 nic strength. This is a great after-dinner smoke that rivals Sam Gawith FVF, and in many respects, is superior. I prefer this after a full-flavored steak dinner. The smooth and mild sweetness provides a great finish to counter the savory steak. Add to that a satisfying nicotine strength, and it pairs so damn well.

Seattle Pipe Club - Plum Pudding Special Reserve 4oz
Sweet, Tart, Charred Cedar
Fresh this is sweet, but if the plug dries out then the invert sugar used seems to volatize and it very tart. This reminds me of Bill Bailey's Balken Blend by Dan Tobacco. Actually, it's an exact match to me. The balance is good and it's a wonderfully complex smoke; each leaf carries it's own nuance and they do appear separate and well supported from first light to the heel. The Latakia is in wonderful proportion to the mixture and I love how the charred cedar plays with the cavendish, perique and other leaf. I don't know that I'd cellar a lot of this. Bill Bailey is better for bulk, but this is a tad better for a select smoke. There's just not enough qualitative difference to justify the price difference if you're looking to cellar, but hey... that's a personal choice. The nicotine is 2 out of 5... not particularly strong, but it'll sate the average.

Sutliff - Cringle Flake 2021 1.5oz
Christmas Pudding
A rich, dark, densely-flavored flake that in the tin, has the fragrance of the classic English Christmas Pudding; spiced raisins/fruit, brandy, pastry and brown sugar. Although it possesses no brandy, the deeply fermented leaf exudes it. The flavor is on par with the tin note; rich, smooth, fermented sweetness with spiced fruit. Though that spice you smell in the tin translates to a very slight black pepper on the retro, and while it can tingle the nose, it certainly isn't a sharp or stinging pepper that one may encounter in younger Perique. The VA is more bready and a bit herbal, but it's incredibly smooth. It's flavor is dark, dense and thick, but surprisingly the body isn't overly heavy. towards the heel it gets sweeter and, for lack of a better word, more 'tarry'. Some don't like that, I do. Nicotine is 2.5 out of 5

Missouri Meerschaum - Lord Morgan 1.5oz
Very Nice Tin Art
*UPDATED* The tin art is classy and very well done. I was able to acquire a couple tins through a competitor. It's soppy wet and exudes bourbon. While drying does allow it to stay lit, it loses some of the bourbon flavor. This has great flavor but little sweetness and depth. There's a very assertive cinnamon note, which is pleasant combined with the bourbon. The Orientals aren't verdant or herbal; the VA is woody and bready; the perique is hardly noticeable but possessed a little tartness. The Burley was on the lighter spectrum and lacked that molasses/brown sugar familiarity. The latakia is good - which the bourbon and cinnamon supports and compliments. It's basically a smooth, strong bourbon, cinnamon and latakia flavor. I love the heavy bourbon and cinnamon flavor, and the room note reminds me of one of the old civil war homes we visit each fall. I like this. One of the better ones that I could smoke each and every day from here on out. Perhaps even one of my favorites. Depending on what you want or expect, this may be just the ticket; a woody campfire steeped in spiced bourbon with very little sweetness. Nicotine is 2 to 2.5 out of 5.

Bengal Slices - Bengal Slices 1.75oz
Assertive Anise Topped English
Bengal Slices is slightly sweet and has an assertive anise topping. I expected the Latakia to be strong as a lot of the reviews stated as much, but it wasn't. The Latakia isn't nearly as strong a proportion in the mixture as Star of the East. The VA and Orientals are forward in this and so it has that bready/verdant character which is supported by the latakia. I like the smaller proportion of Latakia... this is really well done. The cavendish contributes to a smooth, semi-sweet creaminess. I quite like this, but I much prefer the Bengal Slices Single Barrel. The Bourbon version takes this to a completely new level, and rates 5 stars ++. The nicotine in this is light and is around a 1 out of 5 level. It's one I choose for flavor... perhaps among the very best in flavor and it's certainly not a mixture I'd choose for a nicotine fix.

Peter Stokkebye - PS402 Luxury Twist Flake
Caramel Milk Maid
The aesthetic of the flake is beautiful; the marbling of brightly colored leaf throughout a darker background is a wonderful presentation. Luxury twist has a caramel like topping that's quite sweet and reminds me of the Milk Maid candy with the caramel on the outside and cream in the center. Yes, there’s a definite caramel cream taste to this and because of that there’s an artificial flavor and sweetness to this. I also pick up a bit of pastry (bread) and brown sugar, but most of the natural flavor is sublimated by the sugar and flavor of the topping. It’s light-bodied, smooth, sweet and creamy with a light lingering sweet finish. It possesses very low nicotine, and coupled with the body and finish, this is an all-day smoke. If you want a break from the heavier, more natural tasting, and less sweet (albeit naturally sweet) VA flake such as Sam Gawith or Mac Baren HH VA, try Luxury Twist Flake (LTF). Nicotine is 1.5 out of 5. Puff lightly and smoke it cool for best flavor.

Dan Tobacco - Treasures of Ireland: Galway 50g
Very Nice Aromatic
Like many of Dan Tobacco's aromatics, it's a very natural tasting mixture with the tobacco up front and mild. Differing from an American aromatic - the flavoring in Galway compliments rather than overpowers and hides the leaf. This one in their series has a soft vanilla and slightly sweet/tart blackberry nuance in the background. These meld very well with the grassy Virginia and the black cavendish smooths everything out to yield a sweet, smooth and mellow smoke with a great room note. Right after they ceased to produce this in bulk, I went online and found a pound of it. I placed it in my cart and just as I was about to checkout, someone else got it. Well, I went up to my tobacconist a week later and wouldn't you know it... there it was. They had bought the last pound. Only they were charging 5Xs the price and selling per oz. I've not purchased from them since. What are the odds? The nicotine in this is mild and comes in at 1.5 to 2 out of 5. It's not nicotine free like the American aromatics, which is why I really value and enjoy these Europeans aromatics; flavorful in a natural way with just a touch more nicotine.

War Horse - Green 1.75oz
STRONG Nicotine... Like St Bruno in Plug Form
I want to preface this by stating that the 2.5 rating doesn't mean that it's an average tobacco among other blends and mixtures. This rating indicates an average rating for MY TASTES. If I absolutely loved and preferred the flavor of St Bruno for instance, this would be a 5 start rating. Based on it's form, proportions and flavoring, this is also a 5 star tobacco. It reflects Oulett's expertise and creativity. I just prefer English. Now the description: Tonquin like flavor in a very dense plug form. The tonquin is like a vanilla/geranium/anise//fruit flavor... either love it or hate it. Like all of Sutliff offerings, it also has that almond naunce. The plug is very dense and requires a knife to shave pieces off. The Kentucky Dark Fired lends a strong bitter oak flavor and given that it's a plug, that Dark Fired kicks the nicotine up to a 4.5 out of 5 level. Just don't smoke this in an empty stomach. This is effectively St Bruno if it were in plug form... perhaps a bit sweeter. This is officially an aromatic, and appropriately so, but don't think of this as an aromatic in the American sense like a Creme Brulee. This is nothing like the weak, bland American aromatics doused with artificial flavoring and propylene glycol to cover inferior-grade cavendished tobacco. It's a traditional aromatic in the sense that another non-tobacco component (flavoring) has been added. Russ Oulette if among the great blenders, and we're fortunate to have him among us. Unlike Greg Pease, he's very much open to direct discussion each week. He's very approachable, informative and transparent in his thoughts on leaf. He doesn't get the notoriety or praise that Greg Pease, Jeremey Reeves or Per George Jensen gets... but he is in my opinion, perhaps in the top 4 of all time. If you like St Bruno, give this a go, but just remember the nicotine strength. I think if devotees of St Bruno knew of this one, it would be on perpetual backorder. Oh, and this one doesn't age any better. A 5 year old tin tasted just like a fresh one.

Granger - Granger 7oz
Like an Older Prince Albert
Granger reminds me of two other tobaccos: The old Prince Albert (1930's version) and Sutliff Great Outdoors. It's practically a dead-ringer for the latter, yet is a shade more harsh and lacks the birch root. I recently popped a 1936 tin of Prince Albert. It was strong anise, cocoa and a touch of bourbon... nothing like the PA today. The cocoa in the old PA was a very pure flavor - similar to tasting the ground cocoa powder used in cooking. Well, Granger tastes very similar to the old PA; strong anise and pure cocoa. The bourbon's not present in this, but the anise and cocoa are strong. Like the 1936 PA, the PH of Granger is a little on the alkaline side, so it does tingle a bit, but not so great as to bite the tongue. A good all-day tobacco with a touch of nicotine. The nic level is 1.5 - 2 out of 5, so it won't make you nauseous yet will gently sate any cravings.

Cornell & Diehl - Star of the East Flake 2oz
MERCY... Better than Penzance
The best of all time, period. I could smoke only this for the remainder of my of my life and be perfectly content. The flavor exhibits a dark, rich and sweet profile with a velvety mouthfeel. Consider a black cauldron of spiced and sugared plums slowly stewing and caramelizing over a smoldering smoky campfire while surrounded by a dark, musty and moist woodland. Elements of Pinot Noir and caramelized fat on a meaty steak appear now and again. The flavor is consistent down to the heel. The primary differences between the flaked and ribbon cut: The flavor profile of the flake is much denser and far richer and with greater sweetness. The Orientals in the flaked form are far less sharp and less fragrant than the ribbon, though they still posses a verdant nuance, but not to such a high level of distinct floral and herbal levels as the ribbon. The mouthfeel of the flake is creamier and certainly what I would call "velvety". The ribbon is still very creamy, but the flake is more so. This does border on a Lat-bomb. I've smoked a pipe since 1995, and over the decades I've smoked literally hundreds of mixtures and blends, which is the fun part of this 'hobby'. But along the way I discovered a favorite... Star of the East ribbon cut (and now SOTE Flake). I've got pounds of the ribbon cut cellared, and it ages marvelously. The flake provides a glimpse of what the aged ribbon cut is like 7 years in. Age this for at least 5 years and it becomes something really special and rewarding. If there was one mixture that was truly comparable to Penzance, SOTE Flake is the one and only, but it's BETTER than Penzance. Even fresh it tastes much like the 8 year old Penzance I just finished. Penzance leans more grassy VA than SOTE Flake, and lacks both the herbal note of the Orientals and the dark fruitiness. Rather, Penzance is more candied and grassy. I can see where someone who likes less Latakia, strength and body would enjoy Penzance more, but I relish the darker profile and higher strength of SOTE Flake. Both leave a sweet finish on the tongue. The only drawback to this flaked version... it's more expensive than the ribbon cut, harder to keep lit and can't be obtained in bulk. But damn... this is GOOD. Nicotine is a little stronger than the ribbon cut and is on the stronger side of moderate with a 2.5-3 out of a 5 nicotine level. This is the one.

Sutliff - Eastfarthing 1.5oz
VERY close to Frog Morton
A bit sweeter, lighter and the room note is most certainly better than Frog Morton. This lacks the body of the stout VA that FM provided, and the latakia is in smaller proportion that FM. BUT, I like this better. FM left me with a creosote tongue and the vanilla in FM was very slight - almost drowned out by the higher latakia. This is a sweeter, bolder tasting vanilla with a lighter latakia presence. That latakia that plays in the background compliments the vanilla so very well. It leaves a sweet finish in the mouth and the room note is a sweet vanilla note with a slight cedar fragrance. Mixing this with a little Sutliff 507-S Stoved Virginia provides more body, nicotine and depth of flavor, though you sacrifice what little Latakia is there. Nicotine is 1 out of 5.

Sutliff - Great Outdoors 1.5oz
Not Great... but Not Bad
There's so many other, better blends out there. If you crave the anise and birch root, seek Mixture No 79, It's better than this in that regard, and much sweeter than Great Outdoors. This has a moderately stronger anise and perhaps a little yellow birch flavoring to differentiate it from others, though not as strong as No 79. It lacks depth. It has some broken flaked pieces of burley in there too. Good room note and light bodied. There's something else in the room note... I've smelled it in the ACID cigar line too.. something botanical and almost perfumed. The finish leaves a lingering freshness with a light sweetness. Not one I'll reorder and a prime example of a blend smoked one time and the last time. Nicotine is 1 out of 5.

Sutliff - Crumble Kake English #1 1.5oz
NOT a Penzance and Not Really a Good English
Can't believe I bought two tins of this... It's difficult to comprehend how someone could compare this to Penzance. From a linear perspective; it has Latakia, VA and Orientals... it's a loose flake...but similarities end there. The VA isn't nearly as remarkable or sweet as Penzance, and the Latakia in #1 is in noticeably stronger proportions than the former. Penzance places an emphasis on the sweetness of the VA, followed by an ever so slight and finessed verdant spice of Orientals, and lastly the Latakia is supportive and never overwhelming. Sure, the burley lends a little body to #1, and perhaps that's what's causing this to be so bland. A cinnamon roll without sugar is still a cinnamon roll, but that doesn't mean it's a GOOD cinnamon roll. #1 just falls short of many, many other English. It's bland, a bit cellulosic at times and not in the least bit sweet. Consider Pease's Westminster... now that's a sweet flavored English that if pressed into a flake could easily pass for Penzance. Want something even better than Westminster and you crave latakia? Star of the East Flake... that's the pinnacle. Sorry Sutliff... I'm not a fan of the flavor, but I do like the loose flake, so a 1/2 star for that. I'll bear down and finish the first tin, but the second will most likely collect dust for well over a decade. Nicotine is 1 out of 5.

Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation - Afternoon Melange
Reminiscent Murray's Dunhill Standard Mixture
This is very reminiscent of Murray's Dunhill Standard Mixture; mild, natural tasting, light hand on the latakia, a little more forward on the Orientals and VA. The VA is a mixture in flavor of an herbal VA cavendish and bready-stoved VA. The Orientals are more forward; verdant, herbal, musty and while Oriental can be sour, these are more sweet. Oriental reminds me of old library books... that musty smell of dust, leather and old paper. Although I state 'natural', there's an artificial sweetness in this that tingles the tongue... maple sugar perhaps? It doesn't detract form the natural taste, but you'll know it's there. I will note that the cut is awesome! I love this finer cut. Nicotine is 2.5 out of 5. The higher nicotine caught me off guard, but then it does have less Latakia so I should've been prepared for that. I like this one. It's not very often that you have an English with a good amount of nicotine.

Cornell & Diehl - Big 'n' Burley
Think Black Pepper and Walnuts
Whooo Boy... if you're a light-weight on nicotine, don't do this one. Seriously, it'll make a ball in your chest and turn you green. Earthy, woody and fermented Dark Burley means no sweet molasses; Orientals add a bit of sourness and, as DK stated, a bit of walnut nuance; the Latakia is minor but noticeable and in very good proportion; the Perique is peppery - akin to black pepper, and it's a bit harsh at times. It's the perique that keeps this from being a better mixture. There's absolutely no sweetness, but adding a bit of red or bright VA changes that. The bitterness is tolerable, but the nicotine level is POWERFUL. Small bowls are a must with this and I prefer Scott's burners: an old classic shaped french stummel in small proportions. This will grow hair on your toenails... tread carefully. Nicotine is 4 out of 5.

Peter Stokkebye - PS23 B & B
Sweet, Mild, Cool and Smooth
This is a mild aromatic that's subtlety sweet, very smooth and has a remarkable room note. It's actually similar to Lane's RLP-6, though RLP-6 is better, in my opinion. There's no bite and has a very natural flavor (unlike many other aros). I get a fruity vanilla rather than just vanilla, which is a bit disappointing as I don't like fruit in my pipe. Stokkebye's aromatics are better than most we encounter and offer a pleasant break for us non-aromatic fans. Again, Lane makes some of the purest flavored aros and so I much prefer those over Stokkebye's, whereas Stokkebye is better than Sutliff. There's no nicotine in this. 0.5 out 5 on the nicotine scale.

Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation - Morning Blend
Brown Sugar & Bourbon
I don’t smoke many aromatics as I much prefer unmolested English, Burley and VA flakes, but this is actually exceptional. This has such a smooth, mellow flavored quality. The bourbon is brown sugar sweet with a bit of the typical whiskey/bourbon/scotch woody/oak/sourness. Oh yes... this is sweet and VA leaves a natural sweet finish in the mouth afterwards. There’s a hint of a vanillaesq note here and there, but certainly not a nuance that pushes this into a vanilla flavored mixture, it compliments the bourbon. Absolutely no bite whatsoever on my sensitive tongue, and it smokes relatively cool for what it is. The room note is amazing, as the Mrs remarked that she liked the sweet smell of it, whereas she normally remarks that my typical English reminds her of a horse stable. To me, and for those that have visited whiskey distilleries, you’ll definitely pick up an oak like whiskey cask smell in the room. I really like the cut of this; it’s a touch larger than shag and allows for a nice pack and burn. I really can’t find much wrong with this. It’s mildly flavored and doesn’t overwhelm, and perhaps the only fault that I can find is just that... it lacks nicotine. I’d say it’s about 1 outta 5 on the nic scale, which is actually a good thing for some. This is quite simply a light, mellow, sweet and very well developed flavorful smoke. Well done, Erik.

Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation - 1931 Flake 3.5oz
Honey Sweet Bread and Hay
Great room note. The flavor is honey sweet, bready and predominantly hay-like. The mouthfeel is ph neutral, smooth and creamy. The use of cavendish is really what sets this apart. This is my favorite smoke after eating a steak... the sweetness balances the savory steak and provides just enough nicotine to satisfy. I really wish this was a bulk item... I'd cellar pounds. One of the best VA/BUR our there - bar none. Nicotine is 2 out of 5.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Scotch Flake
Same as Curt's Review: Mild Sweetness, Grassy, Bran, Sweet-tea... No Bite
Reminds me of Gawith Bothy Flake. "Mild sweetness between grassy and bran notes, sometimes like sweet-tea. There is no bite."

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Best Brown Flake #2
Tart and Citrusy Sweet
No Lakeland. Yep, it's tart, but it has a sweetness that balances that a bit. There's no spiciness associated with the VA, which I suppose is in higher proportion to the burley, which calms, smooths and provides mouthfuls of smoke. It's not bad... a touch sweeter and certainly more tart than Gawith's Full Va Flake. It's also much weaker and certainly less flavorful than FVF. Nicotine is 2 out of 5.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Rum Flake
Good but not great
Very slight Lakeland note. Slightly sweet. Seems like the sugars have changed to starch. Sure, the burley's there and provides body, but there's no molasses with it. It isn't the typical American Burley but something stronger. Maybe a touch of Dark-Fired? The VA is good, but there's very little by proportion. If you want a good Rum-topped burley/virginia, look to C&D's Redburn. Seriously, C&D is unmatched when it comes to toppings. This one has more anise (a common component I'm finding in all of G&H's offerings), and I don't taste any rum. There's better burley/VA flakes out there, namely from Mac Baren. This is good, but it's just not great for the price. Nicotine is a bit stronger than I thought... 3 outta 5.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Scotch Mixture
Mediocre American English
No Lakeland. It's soft and has a lighter Latakia presence. The lack of Orientals means it doesn't possess the verdant, sour spice that adds dimension. When done correctly, American English can be wonderfully flavored and yet soft in PH, yet if too much cavendish is used it runs the risk of being bland. That blandness lends to mediocrity and nothing notable, which is what's occurred here. The burley lacks the molasses note we're accustomed to and the cavendish is used in too great a quantity. There's little sweetness, though the caramel nougat is in the background and is detected only when smoked cool. There's no grassiness from the VA... it's just a rather bland mixture. here's the thing: Every time I pull this out and smoke a little, the first 1/4 of the bowl I'm thinking: "I need to stock up on this stuff." Then, about half-way through, I'm thinking "why did I want to stock up on this, it's not that great?" It's like that every time. The nicotine is light; about 1.5 out of 5.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Kendal Dark
Dark VA with Cocoa & Anise
There's no Lakeland in this. Unlike our C&D or Pease mixtures, this one is much less tangy than a red VA, and possesses no citrus from the bright VA. Perhaps it's the casing but this is woody sweet with a slight anise flavor. It's a little one-dimensional in comparison to the more complex flavors of the Red and Bright VAs. This also possesses a decidedly cocoa flavor to it... wow, I could really taste the chocolate after sipping this and then after a sip of coffee. The mouth feel is creamy and doesn't posses the sharpness we encounter in most VA. Because of this, it won't wear out your tongue and we can smoke this one all day. I usually equate anise and cocoa with burley - not virginia, so it was a little different but pleasant (think sweet chocolate licorice). I absolutely love the shag cut; packing is easy, it burns steady, albeit quickly, stays lit longer and produces gobs of smoke. Sip it. The shag cut will heat up quick, turn ashy, harsh and you'll lose the nuance. The nicotine is stronger than most, and I'd rate this one at 3 out of 5. One to have with a black coffee, but not one I'd consider as an after-dinner tobacco.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - DVC
One of the Best Cavendishes
No Lakeland in this. Like all cavendish, this is smooth/creamy, cool burning, mild, pleasantly sweet, and it yields a splendid room note. The thing that sets this apart is a fermented quality; it has this manure like note that I find in high quality and deeply fermented tobacco. There's a slight cocoa and anise note here and there too. This is really good. Seems more authentic then say Lane BCA, which leans heavily towards artificial. I think this is one that I could smoke on it's own. In a blend, it wouldn't remove quality from other components, and may even elevate the blend. really good stuff! Nicotine is 0.5 - 1 out of 5.

G. L. Pease - Ashbury 2oz
Comfortable yet Distinguished
There's a traditionalism and sophistication conveyed with Ashbury, traits which distinguishes it from the louder and more modern products that can overwhelm the tongue with Latakia. Ashbury is a departure from the dark-flavored, heavy latakia English mixtures we encounter today, and so Ashbury conveys a comforting lightness befitting of an all-day English mixture. Although lighter, it's a remarkably refined mixture which is richly aesthetic and generously flavored. It possesses a more pronounced Virginia flavor, slightly less Oriental and just a pinch of Latakia. The Orientals support the dominant VA and are redolent with a woody, verdant/floral incense. They are slightly piquant and savory. The dominant Virginias are of extremely high quality and reveal a soft pastry like sweetness with occasional sparks of sugary bright citrus to counter the dark, creamy, leathery, cedar-laden smoky Latakia, which is applied very sparingly. This light-handed application of Latakia complements the latter components so well, and it's this balance against the Virginias which reveal the expert hand in blending and allows for back to back bowls without overwhelming. The aggregate of such consummately refined leaf suggests… no, obliges with a slow contemplative smoke. Light to medium body and nicotine (2 out of 5). This is the epitome of traditional English mixture.

G. L. Pease - Gaslight 2oz
Smells Like a Barn Stable... Which Means It's GOOD
Amazing... this truly is amazing tobacco in a very traditional English form. Smells of horse stable; wood, sweat, hay and manure, which in tobacco language means GOOD. This is such a wonderful 'slow your roll' tobacco; sit back relax and explore the tangy VA, musty and buttery Orientals and cedar-laden Latakia. There's little sweetness from the VA, but what is there is sufficient. The plug form allows one to carry this about easier than loose cut. The plug isn't terribly dense and consists of larger leaf. Be careful not to pack too tight; larger cut leaf like this requires a loose pack. The Latakia is assertive, though the VA and Oriental are in greater proportions. I would call this a Latakia bomb, in the same vbein as Pirate Kake, but slightly more VA. It does something to the back of my throat... dries it out, coats it, something I've not experienced before but similar to what others have experienced. If it weren't for that, then it would definitely be 5 stars. Nicotine is 2 out of 5

Cornell & Diehl - Chocolate Cavendish
Comforting
Sweet, Smooth and Chocolatey. This possesses an incredibly smooth mouthfeel with a milk chocolate creamy sweetness. Wonderful smoked neat and very similar to Prince Albert, this replaces the toasted oats of PA with hay. Used as a component to another mixture, this imparts smoothness, sweetness and noticeable chocolate note. I prefer this neat, but when added to English mixtures the chocolate goes well with Latakia and the smooth cavendished VA, mitigates any sharpness from a fresher Oriental or bright VA. Absolutely no bite and virtually no nicotine. Nicotine is 0.5 out of 5.

Cornell & Diehl - Briar Fox 2oz
Comfort is: Bib Overalls and Briar Fox
Gimme this, a cup a coffee and my worn bibs... and I'm in my happy place. Briar Fox is a high quality, clean, unmolested and natural-tasting mixture. A good molasses flavor in this, and it's is as good as it gets when it comes to traditional burley pipe tobacco leaf. It provides a comfort similar to that of bib overalls and is a step up from those OTC burley blends in form, feel and flavor. Nicotine is 2 out of 5.

Cornell & Diehl - Stratfordshire
An Unstoved Westminster?
This is really a very good English. Considering the profile and price, this is better than most tinned mixtures such as EMP, Standard, Distinguished Gentleman, etc.. It's a very bright, smooth and mild English. Imagine Westminster without the stoved depth and sweetness from cooked Orientals and VA... that's this. The uncooked Orientals are assertive. Their freshness tingles the mouth and bursts forth with a bright and nuanced verdant effervescence. The cavendish acts to tone down the Orientals and VA a little and give the impression of an aged mixture, while also adding a touch of sweetness apart from the VA. The Latakia is light to moderate and doesn't overwhelm. Remove the cavendish, stove this mixture, and you'd have Westminster. I prefer this to Cordial. This use of cavendish and lesser Orientals provides a smoother and slightly more sweet English. Nicotine fairly light and is 1.5 to 2 out of 5.

Cornell & Diehl - Latakia
Cool, Rich and Fragrant
A high quality and sought after leaf, Latakia should be smoked neat by everyone in order to better understand it's nuance and contribution to pipe tobacco mixtures. Sadly, I can imagine world events and politics eventually removing this leaf from the world, and so it's prudent to cellar at least a pound to have on hand. The mouthfeel is silky/creamy and dense with absolutely no PH issues. It smokes very cool. The flavor is as what we all know it to be: campfire. It's a rich and robust flavor of cedar, some other herbal and woody notes, and charcoal/creosote. The room note is pungent; a bit like a horse stable with a mixture of manure, fermented hay, wood and horse sweat. Very little nicotine. I didn't feel anything after one bowl, so I'd place the nicotine level at 1 out of 5, or perhaps even less.

Cornell & Diehl - Red Virginia Ribbon
Woody, Tangy and just a Smidgeon of Sweetness
This originates from further up the tobacco plant. The three star rating doesn't reflect the quality, which is high, but rather my taste preference. The mouth feel is silky and the PH is good. This is far less sweeter than bright or lemon VA, and is predominantly more woody, a bit tangy (no citrus) and has far less grass/hay nuance. The sweetness is there, but not at a remarkable level. This profile changes a little further into the bowl and becomes more earthy and ashy. Used for subduing the brighter notes of a mixture while maintaining a lighter character, this can add a smooth, woody tanginess to offset sharper profiles. Nicotine is 1 out of 5.

Cornell & Diehl - Bright Virginia Ribbon
Bright Nuance; Sugar, Grass and Citrus
There's a bit of citrus astringency in the mouth, but that's to be expected. Otherwise, it’s remarkably smooth. Grass/hay, sweet and a bit of citrusy tartness are all present. These are all sharper in their flavor profile than Red/Mahogany VA, and they contribute to a 'brighter' profile to the leaf. Deeper into the smoke, the grassy character becomes slightly more bready and the citrusy sharpness less so. Like Izmir, this is one we can smoke neat, and it's bright and sharp flavors are sure to freshen or brighten any mixture, though bear in mind that the brighter and sharper flavors will change half way through the smoke. The bright leaf is obtained from the middle of the plant and are among the highest quality. Nicotine is light; 1 out of 5.

Cornell & Diehl - Izmir Turkish
Exotic; Akin to Milk Oolong Tea and Hay
This is NOT a mediocre leaf, and it's an absolute pleasure to smoke, and one of only a few to be smoked neat. It possesses a silky/creamy mouthfeel, while the taste encompassed in that creaminess consists of a buttery verdant sweetness, with just a touch of woodiness... akin to Milk Oolong tea and hay. I expected more sourness, but received none. I detect the slightest bit of spice, but no sharpness, At times, it goes right to the edge but never gets sharp. The room note is light; verdant and slightly woody. Nicotine is a bit stronger than expected, but then I'm smoking this on an empty stomach, and so I'll place this at 2.5 out of 5.

Gawith Hoggarth & Co. - Bright CR Flake
Grassy, Floral and a Bit Sweet
If you’re looking for a fermented, grassy/alfalfa-hay nuanced VA, look no further. It has a gentle sweetness and a very light Lakeland floral quality. I don’t detect the typical sharpness from a brighter, acidic, sugar-laden VA. This is fairly smooth for brights. A stark contrast from Mac Baren’s HH VA, which is earthy/dark and fermented. Further into the bowl, the Lakeland becomes cloying and a bit stronger for me (not a fan of geranium oil). This is most certainly brighter in flavor than HH VA. Nicotine is 2-3 out of 5.

Mixture No. 79 - Mixture No. 79 1.5oz
Wow... this is Surprisingly Good
I guess I'm surprised due to the negativity in the reviews and because it's an inexpensive tobacco. It's really pretty good; smokes sweet, light and offers a pleasant room note similar to kettle corn and toasted marshmallows. The pouch note is Birch Beer and anise. Birch Beer tastes like a combination of root beer and wintergreen, so this is definitely birch sap extract. This flavor doesn't come across in the smoke as strong as the pouch note, but smoked at a lower temperature certainly coaxes more of that flavor. There's bit of perfume or floral nuance on the back end too. Not Lakeland strength but it's there. I do not like Lakeland, so if I like this then it isn't a perfume-laden, geranium oil mess like some of Gawith's Lakeland scented tobaccos. Push it and puff a little faster will negate the wintergreen nuance and reveal more molasses and anise. The molasses and anise, which is ever-present, marks an old fashioned quality to this. No bite, no PH issues, just smooth and mild. Definitely an all day mixture with a distinct flavor. Think I'll buy a tub and a dozen more pouches. Nicotine is 1 out of 5.

Peterson - 3 P's Peterson's Perfect Plug 50g
Like Smoking Chewing Tobacco
Boy, this one is stout. I don't get the medium rating. I smoke some pretty rich mixtures and some with a good amount of nicotine, and this one hits me harder than most. Initial light brings anise with a bit of baker's cocoa, which marks the burley, while the VA is very fermented, earthy and woody. Further into the bowl, those notes dissipate and it gets sour. There is this sort of a cross between chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco, so it kind of tastes like you're smoking chewing tobacco at times. To be honest, it's pretty uneventful and not nearly as flavorful as most pipe mixtures out there. I just wanted to try this. Imagine HH VA with a helping of burley... the burley kinda ruins the flavor but gives it substantial body. A higher amount of tobacco is used to make a true plug like this, so it's no surprise that this is pretty steep in nicotine. I'd place the nicotine level at 4 out of 5.

Cornell & Diehl - Eight State Burley 2oz
An Elevated Burley
Smells like fruitcake. After allowing this breath for a month and coming back to this, I love it! It's a semi-sweet, floral and exotic mixture with a strong base of burley. A blend of burley and Orientals exhibits a unique character and spin on a traditional American burley smoke. Smoking this at a very low temperature coaxes considerably more flavor, while a higher temperature causes it to become muted and acrid. The Orientals are prominent; herbal and slightly sharp, yet sweetened and supported by the Virginia. The cavendish smooths and brings flavors together. The burley provides backbone and a bit of cocoa, toasted oats and earthiness. This is really well done, Jeremy. Just goes to show that allowing a mixture to breath and/or coming back after a while makes all the difference. Nicotine is 2 out of 5.

Cornell & Diehl - Canal Boat 2oz
Beautiful, but Smoke it Slow for Best Flavor
This is very good! The latakia is there in small measure but it counters the sweetness of the cavendish and elevates the burley. It's such a joy to handle; the cubed burley and smaller cut latakia and cavendish makes this so easy and clean to load. Having a good burley, black Cavendish and latakia mixture is a real treat in the simplest of forms. Let this breath for a week or two after opening. There were times I got a big hit of cocoa, not a natural nuance from the burley, but rather an applied distinct chocolate flavor. Smoke at a moderate pace and you'll be rewarded with a richness comprised of smoky, toasted oats with a chocolatey flavor. Pushed or smoked too hot, and it'll get acrid and harsh. It's a great Autumn mixture. Nicotine is 1.5-2 out of 5.

Samuel Gawith - Full Virginia Flake 50g
The Benchmark for VA Flake
FVF is a high nicotine flake with a full and round flavor. The Virginias in FVF are redolent of hay, yeast, sugar, citrus, spice, wood, earth and pepper. All nuances are a consistent flavor and aroma from start to finish. But, there are rough edges and an underlying harshness that nip and tingle the palate. These lend to discomfort in what should otherwise be one of the most comforting and tasty flakes available. This is either from the chemical topping used and/or, as I suspect, more bright leaf VA are present. 5 years of cellaring will mellow much of the harshness associated with these, but why wait on cellaring when there is an alternative? That flavored topping is what I suspect a German manufactured "Aged Virginia Flake" liquid flavoring solution. Throughout pipe tobacco history, it's affirmed by all that Gawith Manufactures some of, if not, the best flakes in the world. Rare and highly sought after, consider your self lucky to obtain measurable quantities. FVF is the benchmark of super high-quality Virginia Flake, and all others are measured against this wonderfully traditional and old recipe. For me, it's a great smoke with a few negatives that can be countered with another brand of flake. Though I still keep modest amounts in the cellar if only for tradition. If you'd like to have a real treat, albeit slightly less flavor and strength than FVF, but considerably smoother, try Mac Baren HH Virginia Flake. It won't give you the strong punch of flavor and nicotine, but it does provide a smooth, consistent profile that's more acceptable for every day enjoyment. Nicotine is 3.5 out of 5.

Mac Baren - HH Pure Virginia 3.5oz
Perhaps the Best VA Flake
Mac Baren’s HH Line has achieved the halcyon of Germains and Gawith. Perhaps it’s the century old steam press they acquired to manufacture the HH line, or perhaps it’s the sourcing and blending... maybe it’s the combination of these. No matter, the entire HH line of flakes are among the most qualitative products manufactured by Mac Baren or any blending house for that matter. Unlike Germains and Gawith, HH is readily available and reasonably priced, which in my humble opinion, moves it beyond either of the former to a level not seen among Houses since the early 2000’s. Now, about HH Pure VA; A high quality VA Flake is a real treat, and this is one of them. The steam pressing removed the sharpness that accompanies brighter, fresher VA, and deepens the flavor profile while adding a bit of caramelization. This has a very clean, deep and round profile. There's the highly sought after malted/fermented VA nuance; it's delicately sweet with a slight honey flavor, bready/pastry and has a marked grass/hay nuance with just a tiny bit of citrus. It's incredibly smooth with absolutely no bite. The nicotine level is medium to medium-strong strength with a nice 3 out 5 nic strength. This is a great after-dinner smoke that rivals Sam Gawith FVF, and in many respects, is superior. I prefer this after a full-flavored steak dinner. The smooth and mild sweetness provides a great finish to counter the savory steak. Add to that a satisfying nicotine strength, and it pairs so damn well.

Cornell & Diehl - Poplar Camp
C&D Sleeper?
Yep. This is good fresh, but man... with these golden VAs, this is gonna age to something next level. Excellent quality; a true high-quality bulk blend, which is rare among most houses, but not C&D. C&D makes the most nuance rich blends with a pure, unadulterated flavor. This is a fresher version of a VA/PER flake. Instead of fermented bready sweetness, it's more grassy and refreshing. Beware, it'll bite as the brights are sharp and sugary. Much easier to keep lit than a coin or flake, but the tradeoff is again, less bready and fermented sweetness and more sugar. The Perique is minor and offers just a touch of spice. The unsweetened black Cavendish, which has the characteristics of the old blending houses, and which C&D does so well, adds smooth creaminess which goes so darn well with the fresh, sharp, grassy VA and slightly spicy perique. Definitely one to cellar and will most assuredly get even better with age. Nicotine is 2 out of 5.

Peterson - University Flake 50g
Decent Plum/Huckleberry-Topped Flake
They state plum, but it reminds me of huckleberry. The fruity topping is always present and adds the least bit of fruity nuance on top of a predominate woody and earthy mixture. It's not a sweet/fruity addition - just a smell that you can sense. I wouldn't classify this as medium strength, but rather medium/strong. The nicotine is there and you'll feel it first thing in the morning. Nicotine is 3.5 out of 5. I like Virginia/burley mixtures and especially flakes. But, I don't like fruit in my pipe. Vanilla, cocoa, coffee, whiskey, bourbon... these are my preferred flavors with VA/BUR Flakes.

Esoterica - Penzance 2oz
One of a Kind
Believe it or not, this used to be sold in bulk. I purchased a pound of it in 2013 from my tobacconist and just finished my last bowl. Penzance is/was truly a unique mixture. The VA used was like no other I’ve had; very mellow and incredibly sweet without any of the bite/tingle typically experienced with high-sugar content leaf. The lingering aftertaste was pleasant and sweet... sugary sweet, and similar to sucking on a hard candy. The flakes crumbled so easily that if you tried to pick one up it would fall apart. C&D does flakes much the same way in which they seem so fermented they barely stay together and just disintegrate when handling. The Latakia is minimal and squarely in a support role. It's nothing so heavy as say, SOTE. It’s a creamy and mildly fired Latakia. The Orientals are what I can’t quite figure... like the VA, it’s fermented and smooth as well, lacking any spice and don't posses the floral and herbal qualities we expect. I suspect this may be a varietal that’s since become extremely rare or even extinct. Perhaps that's why this isn't produced at large batches any longer. This company could make so much money of they increased their capacity, and I think they know it. That's why I believe this is more a varietal issue, and we know that any change in leaf, particularly in the Orientals or VA, would make this an over-priced run of the mill English. I haven't had any manufactured post 2012, so I can't comment on the newer versions. I will say though, Star of the East Flake has many of the same qualities as Penzance, and also many that place SOTE Flake above Penzance. That's right... SOTE Flake is better than Penzance. Penzance isn't a powerhouse in strength as the nicotine is 1.5 - 2 out of 5. The flavor is full and the body is medium.

Mac Baren - HH Bold Kentucky 1.75oz
Earthy, Woody with Underlying Sweetness
As stated in another of my posts, Mac Baren has attained the halcyon of Germains and Gawith. HHBK is yet another stellar product in MB's HH line, and is of the highest quality. It's one of the most unique flakes not only in their line, but across all house lines. The only other flakes comparatively in boldness and nicotine strength, would be G&H Dark Flake Unscented or Peterson's Irish Flake. HHBK has a full, bold flavor. It's earthy, woody and the Virginia provides an underlying and consistent sweetness. Now when I use the term 'woody' in describing this, think about how when you're smoking meat with smoldering oak chunks and it coats the meat with an 'oaky' flavor... that's what you get in this. Hot pressing melds these flavors and mellows the mixture thereby removing rough edges. Luckily, this lacks the vinegar that predominates in HH Old Dark Fired (can't stand that), but still possesses an oak-like bitterness now again as only Kentucky can provide. Sipped and smoked cool, as in pulling when the smoke gets thin, will yield great flavor. Too much puffing or pushing however, will only bring a sour bitterness that borders on rancid. The nicotine in this is perhaps the most potent I've had - aside from GH Dark Flake. Nicotine is 4.5 - 4.75 out of 5. This is stronger than HH Rustica and far better in flavor. I love the clean taste of MacBaren's HH line, and the presentation of their flakes; wrapped in gold paper and so cleanly cut and stacked, is appealing and denotes a special - high quality product for pipe smoking. I am putting POUNDS of this in the cellar.

Mac Baren - HH Latakia Flake 3.5oz
Penzance Replacement? No. This is it's Own Thing
Allow it to air out and the Orientals become more assertive and compete with the VA for top spot. They are a bit spicy and tickle the tongue, but a musty sourness is the primary nuance from the sun cured. I wish this had a sweeter VA... it would be amazing, but what is there is very earthy and woody. The typical VA sweetness, grass/hay and bread are missing. The Latakia is actually pretty robust in this. Not a Lat bomb, but pretty darn close. I think it's heavily fired. This is a decent smoky, verdant, woody, earthy mixture. The VA was too muted by the pressing and not nearly sweet enough. I swear that Penzance has sugar added. Had it been sweeter and the VA more bready and less muted, it would've been a dead ringer replacement for Penzance. Nicotine is 1.5 - 2 out of 5.

G. L. Pease - Sextant 2oz
Sweet, Woody and a Good bit of Strength
The tin note is WONDERFUL. If you want an assertive rum-flavored English mixture, this is it. Sextant has a good dose of rum and melds very well with the components. The VA is woody and fermented sweet, which is balanced by the ever so slightly sour, charred oak of the Kentucky Dark Fired, which provides more nicotine. Dark Fired can be overdone, and we see it overdone in A LOT of mixtures. Here, its been done marvelously and in small proportion. It complements... it never overpowers. The Orientals are musty and add a bit of herbal quality. The Latakia is in the background. The nicotine is 3 - 3.5 out of 5. The nicotine is fairly stout in this mixture so tread carefully and smoke small bowls if you're sensitive to that.

Sutliff - Christmas Spice
A Smoke for Others in the Room
Resembles a lighter bodied Lane RPL6 with a dose of cinnamon to differentiate it. It's essentially a light-bodied cross between Angler's Dream (less vanilla with cinnamon) and RLP6 (caramel and heavy vanilla). I enjoy trying new tobaccos, that's part of the fun of this hobby. But some are just for fun and won't make it into one's rotation... this is one of those for me. Sure, I'll smoke it from time to time. The fragrance and artificial sweetness on a light smoke is pleasant from time to time, but not something I want every day. Lane and Hearth and Home have more tobacco flavor, are less sweet and are stouter in body. This however, is much lighter, artificially sweeter and the toppings cover all traces of tobacco. The room note is wonderfully sweet and enjoyed by those who crave the nostalgia of a warm, sweet smell. Nicotine is 1 out of 5. If you want a light bodied, low nicotine, very sweet cinnamon/vanilla with no tobacco flavor, then give this a try. This should fit the bill. It's not bad, as a matter of fact it's better than most of Sutliff's aromatics. It's a good tobacco for a beginner and has virtually no bite.

Samuel Gawith - Navy Flake 50g
Sam Gawith VA with Rum
The earthy, fermented and bready sweetness of the Virginia is complimented by the slightest amount of Latakia, which lends complexity to the richness of a fermented Virginia. The rum is assertive and boozy at first - not aromatic, and supports the other two components very well. VA can smoke a little spicy at times, and this one does nip a little at the tip of my tongue, but certainly doesn't bite. Also, VA typically has a thin smoke, so don't puff and puff hoping for thick, mouth-filling smoke like burley. You'll ruin the nuance and get nipped. With lots of choices, why is this one worth trying? Gawith VA flake of course. There's no other manufacturer than does VA flake like Sam Gawith. It's in its own class, and the addition of Latakia in such small amounts melds so darn well with that sweet, deeply fermented depth of flavor of a Sam Gawith VA. Full flavor, thin body, nicotine is 2.5 out of 5.

Hearth & Home - Fusilier's Ration 1.75oz
2nd only to Special Reserve
Loose-pressed, this deep, dark, rich, sweet, and thick flavored blend has a medium nicotine kick. Cool-smoking with a thick, mouth-filling smoke combined with that sweet topping is absolutely marvelous! The latakia is mellowed, the VA is fermented sweet, the Orientals aren't spicy but rather decidedly herbal and woody, and the cavendish provides a sweet, smooth and round mouth feel. The aromatic element is what sets this apart. It's such an amazing composition of natural-tasting topping components that are completely harmonious with the natural tobacco flavor. While the toppings take this to the next level, without them it would be an extremely well-done and expertly-composed blend, regardless. I taste anise, vanilla, prune, plum or brandy? I have no idea... I'm thinking brandy as I pick up an oak nuance and fermented fruit rather than a linear plum. There a chewing tobacco flavor here that tells me anise is part of the toppings, and there is a vanilla note or it could be clove. Hard to tell as vanilla and anise, when combined, have a clove flavor. I also detect a slight perfume note. Not like G&H geranium oil, but there's definitely a slight floral nuance... could be the Smyrna? In my 26 years of piping, this is my #2, second only to the Special Reserve and Maltese Falcon. FR Special Reserve has better, well-aged VA, and that quality comes through loud and clear. The Special Reserve tastes exactly like my 8 year old Penzance due to the higher quality VA, but the topping places it squarely in the #1 spot for me, tied with Maltese Falcon. Oh man... if Smoking Pipes carried the Special Reserve, it'd be constantly sold out.

Peterson - My Mixture 965 50g
A Sweet and Linear Oriental Mixture
Similar to Rattray's Black Mallory, but 965 lacks the sweetness and complexity the VA offers. This one just seems too one dimensional and so the linearity of 965 is best suited to those who prefer Orientals. Simplicity is a good thing so long as it's the leaf you appreciate the most, but Orientals just aren't my thing. The Latakia is slight and the cavendish tends to overwhelm at times. But make no mistake, the Orientals are out front and herbaceous, spicy, sour and musty. Cavendish is a funny thing: in proper proportion it can pull a mixture together and spread flavors. If not adequately apportioned, it will result in an empty, dank and hollow mixture, which is what has happened here in 965. Nicotine is 1 out of 5.

Rattray's - Black Mallory 100g
Good Flavor
Way too much cavendish. This has a 'hollow' like body as the proportion of cavendish is much too high. Too one-dimensional; cavendish and Latakia. The Black Cavendish delivers some artificial sweetness. When pushed it can have a remarkably thin and paper-like flavor. The Latakia is moderate with more emphasis on the Black Cavendish. VERY similar to Peterson's MM965, but sweeter (artificially). Cornell & Diehl’s Constellation is also similar, but Black Mallory has less Latakia, and more cavendish and is much sweeter than Constellation due to the addition of invert sugar. Constellation is deeper in flavor. I still prefer Constellation however, as the Orientals clash with my PH and C&D manufacturers a much more pure product.

Mac Baren - Mixture Scottish Blend
Wonderful Room Note and Flavor - Honey and Spice
Honey, oak, grass and bread. There's an assertive honied sweetness to this that pairs with the grassy and bready VA. A woody and Oak-smoked nuance from dark-fired rises from the background every now again and projects a bit of acrid, woody, earthiness that balances the sweetness. I detect cinnamon or nutmeg, and it's stronger at times. The room note is beautiful and one of a kind... VERY comforting and pleasant. It's akin to baked bread with a honey scent, and just a touch of woody oak. It's a unique and pleasant aroma which I and others adore. Those two qualities provide the stars, and it ends there. This will bite the crap outta your tongue, lips and gums. Even after aging for twelve years, this must be sipped and yet it still hurts and leaves the tongue raw. The additives are what's doing it, and MacBaren is known for adding a multitude during casing that plays havoc with my PH, apart from their HH line of course. If Per George Jensen would adjust the casing and bring the PH to neutral, I'd probably smoke this daily. Filters help a little, but not much. Besides, they remove intricate nuance that allows me to appreciate the flavors and so I don't use them. The nicotine is mild, but the last 1/4 of the bowl asserts more of it. Nicotine is 2.5 out of 5.

Mac Baren - Latakia Rolls 3.5oz
Mac Baren Strikes Again
The Kentucky Dark Fired is balanced very well with the Latakia and VA. None take a leading role. The Latakia (smoky, campfire, leather, cedar-essence), balances with the sweet and sour, oak-laden, tangy Kentucky Dark Fired. The VA are tangy, woody and offer a bit of sweetness and spice. The balanced nuance is sweet, smoky, sour/tangy, woody and spicy. Oh no, the dreaded Mac Baren toppings are showing. Maple sugar, alcohol, and a multitude of other additives are clashing with my PH. Those spicy, needle-like prickles on the gums, tongue and lips are returing. I was given one tin and am glad I didn't purchase this. I enjoy MB HH - immensely, but this and the other MB products just don't appeal to me. The flavor and balance of this are good and the method of producing roll cakes are truly remarkable. Two stars for these attributes. But the toppings have ruined what was otherwise a 4 star mixture. For those that don't struggle with the PH thing, I think you'll enjoy this.

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