Classic OTC Blends: Sutliff's Mixture No. 79 First Impressions

Sutliff pipe tobacco has become a staple across the pipe smoking world, filling personal cellars as well as tobacco shops since 1849 when H.W. Sutliff founded the Sutliff Tobacco Company in San Francisco, California. From the mid-19th century until the early 1900's the company primarily operated as a retail establishment, selling cigars, pipe tobacco, and providing other retailers with high-quality blending components and premixed pipe tobaccos. In 1933, Sutliff experienced major growth when it began producing its flagship pipe tobacco: Mixture No. 79.

History of Mixture No. 79

The blend was a massive success and demand for Mixture No.79 grew throughout the '30s and '40s. Needing a larger manufacturing facility and wanting to further expand its presence in the American pipe tobacco market, the company searched for a new home. Sutliff's location on the West Coast was far away from the tobacco fields and warehouses in the southern United States where the company purchased most of its tobacco. Shipping tobacco over such a large distance was expensive and there was always the possibility that product could be damaged or ruined depending on the surrounding environment or how the tobacco was stored.

In 1953 Sutliff moved to Richmond, Virginia, where it has remained ever since, and Mixture No. 79 was such a popular tobacco that the factory was originally designed and constructed for the dedicated purpose of manufacturing the singular blend. Mixture No. 79 has been a predominant tobacco landmark for so long that many pipe smokers, myself included, have overlooked it. I decided to try this classic, historic blend to see for myself why Mixture No. 79 has endured for so long and share my own experience with it.

Components & Cut

Mixture No. 79 is an old-school Aromatic that consists of toasted Burley cased with hints of anise, whisky, and natural vanilla. Unlike other Aromatics, the Burley for this blend isn't dipped or sprayed with casing; it's actually conveyed through a bath of casing and dried over an extended period on a 60' bed dryer — caramelizing the leaf without diminishing its top notes. It's a unique process as the tobacco is fully saturated in the casing and given ample time to dry, allowing the flavors to further marry and integrate in a richer, deeper way. The leaf is never shocked by being exposed to high temperatures or flash dried, providing a flavor profile where both the natural leaf and the added flavorings can shine through.

The blend is presented in rough-cut form with most of the Burley cut into thick chunks while some smaller ribbon pieces of Virginia tobaccos are also present. For me, the initial moisture content from the pouch is somewhat high, though it smoked just fine when I packed it into my Missouri Meerschaum Country Gentleman, but I found that it smoked best after some drying time, requiring significantly fewer relights. Typically, I'll put any new tobacco I open in a mason jar out of habit and fear of the blend drying out, but I found that Mixture No. 79 retained its moisture exceptionally well as I smoked my way through the pouch over the course of several weeks.

Tin Note

Upon opening the pouch, I picked up a strong, yet pleasant licorice note from the anise casing that also reminded me of root beer, closer to sarsaparilla thanks to the vanilla flavoring. It's distinctive and unlike any other Aromatic tobacco I've ever experienced, as the flavors are more natural and inviting than in some that can reveal an artificial character. You'll enjoy this tobacco immensely if you already like those types of flavors and I feel the main reason the reviews for Mixture No. 79 can be so polarizing is that some pipe smokers either didn't know what to expect when they tried this blend for the first time or weren't fans of the flavors used in the casing.

Flavor Profile

After the initial lighting, I detected some of the familiar cocoa/nutty notes from the Burley but with a stronger, chocolaty undertone that offers a lot of creaminess that departed from the licorice smell I detected from the pouch note. The licorice flavor still comes through, but it's more subdued compared to the notes of chocolate and root beer I was picking up. Along with the nutty notes, I sensed some underlying floral-like flavors that reminded me of the Lakeland tobaccos produced by Gawith Hoggarth and Co., but in a much more subtle manner. Mixture No. 79 has a distinctive flavor and aroma, so it may be a good idea to smoke it in a pipe that you have dedicated to Aromatic blends. Many reviews online indicate that Mixture No. 79 has the potential to "ghost" a pipe, meaning the flavor can remain in the bowl and impact other blends that are smoked in the same pipe.

Concluding Thoughts

For me, Mixture No. 79 provided a fairly traditional Burley smoking experience, though the casing makes things even more intriguing and it would be interesting to see how the flavors can change or evolve with some age. It burns quite nicely and fairly slowly, which helped with detecting some of the blend's underlying complexities and allowed for further enjoyment of the flavorings used. I feel it helped that the tobacco was a chunkier rough cut and didn't burn too hot and was never harsh, though it certainly can be if pushed too hard.

Like many classic, over-the-counter blends, Mixture No. 79 comes packaged in two forms: A 1.5-ounce pouch and a A 14-ounce tub. If you primarily smoke Aromatic blends but have never tried Mixture No. 79, I strongly encourage you to try it, especially if you're looking to smoke an Aromatic that comes across as more natural, as the casing complements the blend without overpowering the base tobaccos. If you love strong, natural Burley blends and want to try something a bit different that has the potential to be pleasant around non-pipe smokers and can be enjoyed any time of day, Mixture No. 79 is certainly worth checking out. It's also a classic, historic blend that helped make Sutliff a major name in the industry and was the best-selling tobacco in the United States for decades.

Have you ever tried Sutliff's Mixture No. 79? If so, what are your thoughts on it? I would love to hear your opinion!

Comments

    • Mark S on October 7, 2020
    • The side-stream aroma from 79 is luscious. And very distinctive. You can understand why this became a legendary aromatic.I smoke this in bulk (Sutliff #600) because it seems richer, juicier, and more flavorful than the pouch version. Very cool smoking and slow burning. No pops and sizzles.The only downside seems to occur when smoking too much of it: the taste buds start to lose their keenness. But a few bowls of Golden Extra will fix that.Aromatics are fantastic when you haven't smoked them in a while, but a steady diet of heavy aromatics can wear out your nose and taste receptors.

    • Lee Brown on October 10, 2020
    • I guess like so many...er...mature pipe smokers of a certain age, I started out with Mixture 79 when I began pipe smoking. One of the main reasons for starting with 79 was the fact that everyone sold it (candy stores, newspaper kiosk, drug stores, etc.). The second reason was that the aroma was so pleasing for those around you. Over time I moved to other aromatic tobaccos. Your taste changes over time and now I'm into the english tobaccos. Though I haven't smoked 79 in decades, I remember of it fondly. I guess you truly never forget 'the first one'.

    • Sean on October 11, 2020
    • Nice write up. I have a cob dedicated to this blend. I don't smoke it often but when I do it tends to be a part of the rotation for a week or two

    • Kenneth on October 11, 2020
    • I have been looking for an aromatic that does not smoke real wet and was wondering about this. For the people who have tried it does it meet my criteria? I usually smoke non-aromatic English blends. Thank you.

    • Joseph Kirkland on October 11, 2020
    • I passed through Mixture 79 in 1960-61. It was better than previous drugstore tobaccos. But, in 1962 I found English tobaccos, primarily Balkan Sobranie and Rattray’s Black Mallory. Never go back; go forward.

    • W. ADAM MANDELBAUM on October 11, 2020
    • 79 should be 86'd from the world of tobacco. If it isn't the next worst smoke to the god awful Captain Black, it'll do until that comes along. Other than that, it's pretty good.😋

    • Mike on October 12, 2020
    • If #79 is the one that made it to market, I shudder to think how abominable #s 1-78 must have been. I recall sampling this along with most other mainstream blends back in the 70s - Amphora, Sail, E.G. Robinson, Kentucky Club, Briggs, SWRaleigh, PA, etc etc; the degree of unbearableness resident in Mixture #79 could not be approached by any of them. Holiday and Field & Stream were better than this stuff, and I hated Holiday and Field & Stream. If you like Grousemoor, you'll love Mixture #79.

    • phil yearout on October 12, 2020
    • What I remember from years ago about Mixture #79 is that it tasted like soap. Never went back.

    • Mark S on October 14, 2020
    • @Kenneth Even though the unburned tobacco is moist, it burns to a dry powder without any pops or sizzles. At least that's my experience with the bulk version. What also surprises me is how slowly it burns: a medium size bowl in an MM Washington lasts me about an hour. I can understand the negative comments about 79 because, years ago, it was truly bad. But that's not the case any more.

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