Burley Bias
Burley Bias by Truett Smith - Smokingpipes.com

I've never liked Burley-based blends. All the mixtures I've tried seem to fall flat, never delivering on those "nutty chocolate" flavors that so many reviews lauded. To me, Burley tobaccos offered only what I could describe as a burning flavor; I could taste something burning, but that's all I could perceive, the lack of discernible flavor characterizing the leaf within the chamber more than an actual flavor itself.

This was all true, that is, until I smoked Peterson's Irish Flake. A triumvirate of equal parts Burley, dark-fired Kentucky, and Virginia tobaccos, this blend presents itself in dark, thin flakes with a rich tin note of deep, cocoa sweetness and a slight scent of anise overtop.

I had enjoyed this same tin note in plenty of other Burley blends, however, so while it was delicious, I remained skeptical. Upon lighting, though, I was met with a flavor that coincided with the tin note better than any other blend — a rich, earthy foundation was stacked with slight sweetness and roasted notes on the retrohale, and this profile maintained its consistency throughout the bowl, never becoming harsh or losing its strength and robust flavor.

I guess there was now one Burley blend I liked.

I had tried several Burley-based blends, and a distaste for all of them had incited within me a contempt for the tobacco as a whole.

It's interesting these categories we often subscribe ourselves to — in all areas, not just pipesmoking — defining ourselves by our dislikes and easily allowing them to inform our decisions through bias and assumption. "I don't like seafood." "I hate tobacco mixtures with Latakia." "I only listen to such-and-such genre of music." While preferences are natural and, in most cases, uncontrollable, we run the risk of pigeonholing ourselves into confined boxes that can result in a defiance toward trying new things.

Such was the case with me and Burley. I had tried several Burley-based blends, and a distaste for all of them had incited within me a contempt for the tobacco as a whole. That assumption, then, informed my smoking habits, my buying habits, my sampling habits. Someone might recommend a tobacco to me, but upon seeing Burley as a key component, I would easily dismiss it with no time spent debating.

At one point in the past, our preferences were not yet formed. A "first time" must occur before we can like or dislike a tobacco, or a song, or a cuisine. For me, then, the cliche "Don't knock it 'til you've tried it" holds true, and my experience with Burley and Peterson's Irish Flake humbly taught me that the adage can't be only applied to tobacco families. Each individual blend must be given its chance to impress.

Regardless of manufacturer or components used, you can't truly know if you'll like a blend until you try it, and with aging tobacco as a factor, a freshly opened tin might improve over the years. Step outside your perceived preferences, and try new blends. You might often find that your bias is confirmed, but, then again, you just might be surprised.

Category:   Tobacco Talk
Tagged in:   Editorial Pipe Culture Tobacco


    • Eric B on September 29, 2019
    • Burley is definitely a favorite of mine, but virginias haven't been as much. Lately I've been challenging myself to find virginia blends that I like, and it is slow but steady progress. Lots to love, just gotta find the flavor profile that works.

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