Busy, busy, busy — that's been things around here of late, even more so than usual. Nonetheless, we still managed to slip in some time for me to wander around the warehouse in search for something special, and for several others to be press-ganged into smoking it. And, as usual, time for Andy to make several poor attempts at getting me to name the picked blend before he's submitted his review as well. Eventually he'll learn that just guessing various names in a conspicuously played effort at inconspicuousness isn't going to get him anything more than a blank stare, a slight raising of eyebrows, and a casual refusal to take the bait.
Anyway, having made fun of Andy, on with it:
Upon the charring light, I was greeted by a flavor that is rather rare in my pipe smoking: saltiness. This was pleasant and not unlike salted caramel or bacon and maple syrup. Sweet and salty, but pronouncedly salty. Hmmm. Now, I set the pipe down for a minute or two, as is my usual lighting custom following the char. When I took up the pipe again to apply the 'true' light, the salty flavor had waned a bit but was still noticeable.
After a few puffs, the sweeter elements of the flavor came to the foreground a bit more; caramel and apple, vanilla, and allspice all made their little appearances here and there, with the lingering salty taste well in the background with the occasional little tangy sour note weaving in and out. There wasn't much nicotine to speak of, and the heat on the tip of my tongue indicated to me that I shouldn't puff harder looking for more satisfaction on that front. Sweet bright VA and Turkish both made notable impacts on the flavor, but the topping seemed to dominate the smoke, pushing the actual tobacco flavors into more of a supporting role. I could feel the white Burleys more than tasting them, with a slight stringency and tongue-drying effect that I find to be common where lighter Burleys are present.
As the bowl progressed, there wasn't much change in the flavor profile, and the occasional tang, the intermittent saltiness, and the caramel, apple, and allspice flavors all seemed to weave in and out in a very steady, predictable and pleasant way. This is not one that I am particularly taken with for the chilly season, but I think in warmer weather I will probably try it again — once we learn what it is.
So with nostalgic sweet nothings running through my head, I began the charring light. The vanilla tones were definitely there, yet there was also a strong Burley flavor, slightly nutty and earthy. It was pretty obvious right then and there that I'd have to sip this one. And so sip it I did. After setting it down for a few minutes, I re-lit to find that vanilla flavor once again, and this time, with a slower rhythm, it became far creamier and enjoyable. The room note was phenomenal, like freshly baked cookies and vanilla cupcakes — not my normal choice, but it was a nice change.
The flavor was fairly consistent, perhaps dying out a bit near the bottom of the bowl. Overall, I'd say I enjoyed this blend. It's definitely not something I'd reach for everyday, but for a mild, aromatic smoke, I wouldn't think twice about giving it another shot. If I had to wager a guess as to which blend this is, I'd suggest Sutliff's D40 Vanilla. The cut is similar, and much like D40, there doesn't appear to be any black Cavendish. But that's just my guess.
Tin note is like apple pie — vanilla and a touch of cinnamon, though the initial light doesn't bear either, being sweet but in a more subdued way. Second light definitely revealed more of the topping, but this time not cinnamon, more vanilla, or even vanilla custard. As the bowl smouldered on, the topping didn't burn off per se, but more gave way to the natural sweetness of the tobaccos themselves. I've hung around while both Andy and Jeremy smoked this though, and I noted that the room note was persistent throughout their bowls.
The smoke was cool, and thankfully not lacking in body, especially for an aromatic, where I personally like a creamy texture to the smoke. Nicotine was on the low side, but I didn't find myself unconsciously reaching for the ashtray to tip this and find something stronger, so it obviously has at least a little.
Overall, it was a good smoke. The vanilla was pleasant and not overpowering, just enough to provide a good base note to the top and middle notes of the tobacco. If I had to guess I'd say this was Cornell & Diehl Bulk 905 Vanilla Cavendish, based on my confusion over the leaf being used, and the fact that C&D uses a red Cavendish, which would fit the profile.
Results? Everyone was wrong, just as I like it. The actual answer is: Dan Tobacco's Sweet Vanilla Honeydew.
I'll give credit where credit is due, though. If neither Jeremy, whose knowledge of tobacco is very broad and deep indeed, nor Adam Davidson, whom I showed the blend to yesterday, and who happens to possess an uncanny ability to accurately identify things by scent (and who has been working here for nine years) could guess it, well... then I'd say this was a blend you'd have to have directly experienced before. Certainly it's no Black Irish X.