Introducing Small Batch: Sun Bear Tupelo, The Latest Iteration of C&D's Most Popular Summertime Blend

Introducing Small Batch: Sun Bear Tupelo, The Latest Iteration of C&D's Most Popular Summertime Blend

Small Batch: Sun Bear Tupelo is available as of Wednesday, July 26, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. EDT

What often differentiates good tobaccos from great tobaccos is nuance. It's the subtle alterations that commend a particular mixture, perhaps through a well-aged component, the minimalist addition of a proprietary top note, or the application of long-term pressure. It doesn't take much to modify a blend in interesting and gratifying ways.

Take Small Batch: Sun Bear, for example — it's a Virginia flake with just enough Orientals to enhance the blend with fruit and elderflower characteristics without dominating the overall experience. A hint of tequila accentuates the subtle elements of the Virginias and Orientals, and a whisper of honey supports the other components with its own natural sweetness.

This is the fifth installment of the summery mixture; its recipe remains the same from year to year except for the honey employed. That changes each summer, not in the amount used, but in the honey itself.

The first two years of the blend utilized honey harvested by C&D Head Blender Jeremy Reeves from his own hives. What followed the next year was Sun Bear Black Locust, using honey from Victor Seested of Maryland, whose bees harvested from the famous black locust trees of the region during their short bloom. The year 2022 brought us Sun Bear Mountain Flower, employing honey from Morganton, North Carolina, where Cornell & Diehl resided for most of its history.

Sun Bear Tupelo is this year's submission, commending itself with ethically harvested tupelo honey from the Register Family Farm in northern Florida.

Family Harvested in the Northern Wetlands of Florida

"It's a single-source honey," says Joseph Register, who started the business single-handedly after his military service, bringing on family members as it grew. "And it's more difficult than other honey simply because we have to find locations that are as close to the source of the nectar as possible. One of the most difficult things about being a commercial beekeeper is getting landowners to agree to let us put bees there. We have to find the flora that's producing the nectar that we want, and the bloom typically lasts from four days to two or even three weeks, if we're lucky. So we know when the bees need to harvest, but we have to explore to find out where, and then we have to find landowners willing to let us place bees on their property."

Many are more than willing. "Some of them," says Joseph, "just like the idea of what honeybees do for us in terms of pollinating fruits and vegetables and they know they're valuable and they want to support beekeepers in general. So we'll give them a case of honey and they let us put some bees on their properties for a few weeks, which is great. Farmers especially appreciate the process and benefit because the bees pollinate their crops. Not everybody benefits directly, but everybody benefits indirectly, by just having the bees exist."

The Unique Characteristics of Tupelo Honey

Introducing Small Batch: Sun Bear Tupelo, The Latest Iteration of C&D's Most Popular Summertime Blend

The tupelo gum tree grows only in the Okefenokee Swamp near the Florida-Georgia line and the Apalachicola River Basin in northwest Florida. These swampy areas are difficult locations, and obviously prone to flooding, but the effort is worthwhile because of tupelo honey's remarkable flavor.

One of the most difficult things about being a commercial beekeeper is getting landowners to agree to let us put bees there

"It's unique," says Joseph. "Tupelo honey is very sweet but doesn't have the strong flavors of buckwheat honey or something that is a darker flavor, but it does project very subtle flavors that are very appealing. They're lighter. They're not as harsh. So it does have a unique flavor; it isn't just simply sweet, and it isn't overpowering — it's just unique."

Another feature of tupelo honey is its unique stability. "Tupelo honey doesn't crystallize," says Joseph, "or it takes so long to crystallize that it may as well not crystallize. I have samples that are about a decade old that are still liquid."

It's a common misconception that real honey doesn't crystalize. "There's nothing more natural to honey than crystallization," says Joseph. "Crystallization is normal because glucose, which makes up the majority of most honey, is not very water-soluble." While mainly glucose, honey also contains a host of beneficial substances like enzymes, organic acids, vitamins B6, niacin, riboflavin, and minerals such as iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc, sodium, calcium, and copper. It's actually a very healthy food.

The Crystallization Resistance of Tupelo Honey

Introducing Small Batch: Sun Bear Tupelo, The Latest Iteration of C&D's Most Popular Summertime Blend

"It differs with individual types of honey, but what happens over time," says Joseph, "is the dextrin solids from the sugar come out of the solution, and that's what we call crystallization." While glucose is not particularly water-soluble, fructose is. "A honey that has more fructose in it than glucose is not going to have that process occur. The dextrin solids aren't going to emerge and it stays liquid. So crystallization in honey is completely natural. I don't know where the idea that it doesn't occur in real honey came from, but it's pretty prevalent; I hear it all the time. When honey crystallizes, that tells you that it is real honey."

"Tupelo honey doesn't crystallize"

Tupelo, however, is a rare honey that resists crystallization. "The ratio of fructose to glucose is inverted with tupelo honey, so it creates a more stable liquid. That's one of the reasons that when you visit Europe, almost all the honey is crystallized. It's creamed honey, containing very small crystals. That's the way they package it because the cooler temperatures there — down in the 50s and low 60s — are very conducive to rapid crystallization. So they sell it as creamed honey. It's already crystallized. Liquid honey is kind of a U.S. thing."

Another aspect of tupelo honey is that it's difficult to produce, contributing to its rarity. "Nature can be an obstacle," says Joseph. "Everything has to be just right to get a good tupelo crop. If a storm comes in and blows off all the blooms in the river system, it's gone. Tupelo trees grow in the swamps and river system; the white tupelo tree likes wet feet, so to speak. It's a swamp tree, and we have to watch the water level. If the river rises, we have to get the bees out before the hives flood."

There are some years when everything seems right with the weather and locations, yet there is little nectar. Nature doesn't always cooperate with the ambitions of bees or the aspirations of beekeepers.

The Nature of Single-Source Honey

Single-source honeys like tupelo require some bee wrangling. "If the flow is strong and the plants are producing nectar really well, the bees will tend to stick with that one nectar source, but if there's a lot of competition, they'll go get other things. You have no control over what the bees are doing out there." Bees are notorious for disregarding verbal requests. "You want to get them in a yard that is surrounded by the nectar source that you want them to collect, but they can travel up to eight miles in any direction. Our job is to get them within a quarter-mile of anything they could ever need so that they can take more trips and be more productive. However, if the specific nectar that you're going for isn't producing very well, the bees are going to go look for other things and it's going to dilute the purity of the honey."

"Liquid honey is kind of a U.S. thing"

By locating the hives close to dense populations of tupelo trees, pure honey can be achieved. "The white tupelo tree," says Jeremy Reeves, Head Blender for Cornell & Diehl and a beekeeper himself, "grows in swampy areas in South Carolina and Georgia, but the growth isn't dense enough to be predominantly or entirely true tupelo. Versions of tupelo honey produced in South Carolina and Georgia do contain some honey produced from the white tupelo nectar bloom, but it is not 100 percent — the only area in the United States where the tree is densely populous enough for a pure tupelo nectar harvest is in Florida, and in only one particular region. Register Family Farm is the largest apiary in Florida that produces tupelo honey."

Tupelo Honey's Flavor Characteristics in Sun Bear

Introducing Small Batch: Sun Bear Tupelo, The Latest Iteration of C&D's Most Popular Summertime Blend

Small Batch: Sun Bear Tupelo is available as of Wednesday, July 26, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. EDT

Tupelo honey is clearly a superior product with its own specific character. It's a small component of Sun Bear Tupelo, but it makes a difference and differentiates this year's Sun Bear from previous years. "What I notice," says Jeremy, "is a more prominent citrus flavor and a more prominent creamy note imparted by the honey. But the blend is unchanged. Fans of previous iterations of Sun Bear will discover more prominent fruitiness, citrus, and distinct creaminess. One of the most interesting aspects of tupelo is that the citrus note veers more toward oranges rather than lemons, and its creamy character is extraordinary."

"... the only area in the United States where the tree is densely populous enough for a pure tupelo nectar harvest is in Florida"

Small Batch: Sun Bear Tupelo is a limited edition of 20,000 tins. "Our first batch of Sun Bear," says Jeremy, "was in 2019, and we made 4,500 tins. They disappeared quickly and the message was clear that the pipe community had a lot of interest in this tobacco. We needed to make larger batches if we were going to do this again."

Sun Bear has been popular, says Jeremy, perhaps even more so than Carolina Red Flake. "Carolina Red Flake was for a very long time our flagship Small Batch. It remains very, very popular for us, but I think that Sun Bear carries an even broader appeal. I think that it is actually fair to say that Sun Bear rather than Carolina Red Flake is truly our flagship Small Batch now."

Fans of previous iterations of Sun Bear will discover more prominent fruitiness, citrus, and distinct creaminess.

Jeremy receives continuous inquiries about the next Sun Bear throughout the year. "I get emails and chats from users on Instagram all the time asking, what's this year's Sun Bear going to be? What's the honey? Where did it originate? And I find ways to let them know not to worry, something's coming. It's really special, but we want to play our cards close to the vest on this. But people are intrigued by beekeeping generally. And I think that it is an important topic of conversation given how important to the human food supply bees are. Bees play an absolutely indispensable role in the pollination of fruits and vegetables that we rely on for food sources."

A Continuing Conversation About Bees

Introducing Small Batch: Sun Bear Tupelo, The Latest Iteration of C&D's Most Popular Summertime Blend

We all know that bee populations have been diminishing, and it's an alarming circumstance. "Over the past several years," says Jeremy, "what has brought the bee population back up in states all over the country is not natural wild bees, but beekeepers keeping colonies. Beekeepers are essentially closing the gap and replenishing a portion, not to the degree that it needs, but individual beekeepers are really what is sustaining the bee population in most states now.

"So I think that that's an interesting topic of conversation and something that people are becoming more aware of and realizing that if we like apples, we need bees. If we like almonds, we need bees. And peaches, pears, squash, all of these things that rely almost entirely on the natural pollination process that takes place when a bee harvests nectar. People have become more and more aware of this, and I think they're more and more interested in products that promote bee sustainability."

For Sun Bear, C&D purchases only a few dozen pounds of honey each year. It is not heavily used in the blend, instead providing a subtle, nuanced delicacy that appeals to many smokers. "While buying that amount of honey every year for a special project," says Jeremy, "doesn't necessarily sustain any one apiary, it is an opportunity not only to support a beekeeper who is well attuned to their craft and who is virtuous in the way they perform that craft, but it's also an opportunity to provide a product that is a vehicle for conversation for people who are interested in the sustaining of bees as a life form and as a force in the ecosystem on this planet. I think that there's a lot of appeal to that product, and there's a lot of appeal to other things that those people might do in their lives that help sustain the bee population."

"People are more and more interested in products that promote bee sustainability."

Bees are obviously essential to the foods we rely upon, and they're even more fascinating when their honey can be employed to elevate our smoking tobacco. Like every living person on Earth, Sun Bear Tupelo benefits from the tireless industry of bees.

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Blending Cornell and Diehl Small Batch

Comments

    • Blue Falcon on July 21, 2023
    • Thanks for the great news Chuck!!!!

    • Lori Gregor on July 22, 2023
    • Beautifully written article Chuck, you brought us there, yet again. Have a wonderful day. Best - Lori

    • Dethmutt on July 22, 2023
    • Yes!! cant wait.. Black Locust was by far my favorite so far. Lets see if this one can dethrone the champ!

    • Bob on July 22, 2023
    • My experience with the black locust version was superb and I am going to look forward to this version.The use of regional ingredients from small producers adds a nice sense of supporting the community!

    • Levi on July 22, 2023
    • Got my can today. Looking forward to it!

    • Olmstead on July 23, 2023
    • I must have totally missed something because I never got a release date, I just saw the video about it yesterday on YouTube, and it's not on the site. Would've loved to have bought a tin. Kinda wish you guys had mentioned the release date!

    • Olmstead on July 23, 2023
    • I'm still wondering why I never got a release date notification for this stuff. I really loved the last two iterations; would've loved to try this year's version!

    • Olmstead on July 23, 2023
    • I'm still wondering why I never got a release date notification for this stuff. I really loved the last two iterations; would've loved to try this year's version!

    • Andy Wike on July 23, 2023
    • @Olmstead This blend hasn’t launched yet. The release date is Wednesday, July 26th, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. EDT. It’s mentioned in the captions here, but we could’ve made that clearer, for sure. Sorry for any confusion!

    • Paul M on July 23, 2023
    • I am loving that there are so many people commenting that can't read-- I'll have the max limit tin order this week for sure.

    • Matt_M on July 23, 2023
    • Mr. Wike and Mr. Smith,Thank you for responding to Olmstead. I hope that appropriate attention is being paid to Levi, the poster who claimed (or appeared to claim) to have received a can prior to release.For my part, I am looking forward to the latest version of Sun Bear. I (along with many other pipe enthusiasts, I am sure) appreciate the appearance of a hard-to-find, rarely available blend. It adds zest to the search for good tobacco. It also adds frustration and screen addiction, but that is another matter.All of that having been said and while recognizing the financial limitations on producing a small-batch product at scale, I wonder if someone might pass a note to Mr. Jeremy Reeves (master craftsman, tantalizer, he who must be named, etc.). The suggestion is this: how about a retrospective? Would it be possible to recreate some of the batches of the past and to sell them as "sets", as bundles that include two to four ounces of each of the rarely available recipes?I would happily pay for such a set of exemplars of the Sun Bear series. There are also some of the Christmas themed aromatics that I did not get a chance to purchase.Best wishes for happy smoking, M

    • Olmstead on July 24, 2023
    • Matt_M, that's what had me so confused, so thanks for being kind about it; yes, that guy claimed to have a tin, and I made the knee-jerk reaction figuring I'd missed out on it. Granted, I should've read the entire article, but figured that watching the video with Jeremy in it was sufficient to school me on the blend. As I think I mentioned (and didn't mean to post 3 times; something's up with this site in Safari), I have Black Locust and Mountain Flower, and I absolutely love them. As far as any Small Batch blends, this is the only one that I really love since I'm a huge fan of the Virginia-Oriental combo. I'm now wondering if a bit of Sunday Picnic is similar to these. Anyways, thanks Matt_M. Again, didn't mean to triple-post or cause a fuss! Happy smokes to everyone.

    • Olmstead on July 24, 2023
    • Thank you Andy Wike as well. Very much appreciated. Really enjoyed the YouTube video with Jeremy too so pass it on. You guys are all great over there.

    • Turd F on July 24, 2023
    • Puzzles me why people feel the need to buy the maximum limit possible. Seems like everyone has gotten on the ego train and decided to look out for numero uno. Probably the same people who made it difficult for others to get ammo, knowing full well they’d be too chicken to help out a neighbor if shtf.

    • Blep on July 26, 2023
    • Speak for yourself 'Turd" - what a nonsense boomer projection post if I ever saw one.

    • ShugPhD on July 26, 2023
    • Great writeup! Interestingly, there are no "wild" honeybees in North America. All our honey bees are imported European honey bees so bees living outside a beekeepers care are technically feral livestock

Join the conversation:


This will not be shared with anyone

challenge image
Enter the circled word below: