Sun Bears are omnivores, the smallest species of bear, and voracious consumers of honey, though they don't display a lot of fastidiousness and seem to enjoy eating beehives and bees almost as much as honey. They do not hibernate, possibly because they enjoy a constant sugar rush, and they hang out in southeast Asia, where they are endangered only by humans and tigers, who menace the bears independently, not cooperatively, but are efficient enough. Sun Bears eat fruits and bugs when they can't find honey.
Such a natural honey enthusiast is an excellent emblem for Cornell & Diehl's latest Small Batch release, Sun Bear. As subtle and delicate as Sun Bear's honey flavoring is, its nuances are significant. Jeremy Reeves, C&D's head blender, keeps bees, and it is his own honey that is used in Sun Bear, honey made from pollen collected by bees he has personally instructed to harvest only from the sweetest wildflowers and clovers, though there is some speculation regarding the bees' receptivity to following those instructions. Bees are willful, stubborn creatures.
But so is Jeremy, and if bees will take instruction from anyone, it's him. "Sun Bear is a very complex blend," says Jeremy, "very creamy and round, and quite a soft example of a Virginia Flake tobacco with a bit of Oriental. Besides the barely discernible honey flavor, it's been cased with fruity and floral constituents, such as elderflower, and a hint of tequila accentuates the fruity elements of both the Virginia and the Oriental."
Honey can alter its characteristics depending on the pollen collected, and Jeremy's bees forage in the deep, mystical forests of South Carolina, inhabited by flowers he has transplanted from Narnia, Faerieland, and Lothlόrien, it is presumed, though he denies it, claiming that his bees gravitate to the sweet clovers and magnificent natural wildflowers of the habitat.
Jeremy says that Sun Bear is unique among C&D's tobaccos, and while it may find a place in the Simply Elegant series, which is comprised of Virginia and Virginia/Oriental offerings, it truly is in a category of its own.
"It takes some of the ideas of a blend like Interlude, or Sunday Picnic, and pushes forward into different territory. I think it really showcases the red and bright Virginias that we use in the majority of our blends. They're the same tobaccos we use for G.L. Pease, Castello, and BriarWorks, and all the other brands we manufacture."
Not only does the blend emphasize the Virginia and Oriental leaf but demonstrates how a carefully formulated casing can augment and maximize new flavor elements. "Anyone who likes Virginias or Virginia/Orientals," says Jeremy, "will likely enjoy Sun Bear. People who are fond of aromatics but are considering branching out into subtler dimensions, with lots of tobacco flavor, may find some of the same deportment, though the sweetness of Sun Bear is quite refined and delicate. But if moderate sweetness is an important characteristic, then they might also be drawn to this subtle but amiably sweet flavor."
While complex enough to keep the smoker's palate occupied and interested, Sun Bear is also very easy smoking and a good all-day blend, interesting enough to smoke consistently, and smooth enough to want to. "It's the kind of blend that could really surprise people," says Jeremy. It isn't what's expected from its description. The flavors all work together, the tequila and elderflower and honey combining with the sweet Oriental and Virginia leaf for an unusual and refreshing flavor profile. It doesn't taste like an aromatic, but like tobacco with interesting sweet top notes. "I think it will appeal to a large number of people," says Jeremy. "It has a lot to offer all kinds of smokers."