Palmetto Balkan by Cornell & Diehl Returns

Small Batch: Palmetto Balkan by Cornell & Diehl Returns | Daily Reader

Palmetto Balkan returns on March 26th at 6:00 p.m. ET on-site.

Known for many things, including barbecue, Myrtle Beach, the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hilton Head Island, sweet tea, college football, Charleston, boiled peanuts, and golf courses aplenty, South Carolina is also famous for its history of tobacco production. The balmy weather encourages the growth of tobacco crops and is also the home of Cornell & Diehl pipe tobacco, committed to creating the finest tobaccos possible with a deeply rooted affection for the Palmetto State. With this affection in mind, C&D has decided to revisit the Palmetto Balkan blend that was originally released in 2022.

What Exactly Is A Balkan Blend?

Jeremy Reeves, head blender at Cornell & Diehl, defines a Balkan blend "as a variation on the idea of a Latakia blend." Traditionally, the term Balkan was used to describe blends that more prominently featured Oriental tobacco along with Latakia and Virginia serving more of a supporting role. This is because Oriental tobacco comes from the Balkan region in Southeastern Europe, including countries such as Turkey and Greece. Essentially, Balkan blends come out of what is more readily available in the area. For more depth on the subject, Chuck Stanion wrote a comprehensive guide to Balkan blends that clearly explains and clarifies the true nature of a Balkan blend.

C&D released Small Batch: Palmetto Balkan in 2022 in honor of the tradition of tobacco in S.C. and now this enticing blend is back in another iteration for 2024, with the same components, flavor profile, and smoking properties as the last. The sole distinction rests in the Latakia utilized within this year's version: Turkish Latakia.

Turkish Latakia

Small Batch: Palmetto Balkan by Cornell & Diehl Returns | Daily Reader

In general, Latakia is often referred to when defining an English blend. Depending on the components within the mixture, different iterations have alternative primary focuses; for example, some English blends concentrate on the Virginias first, and then Latakia, while Orientals play a more supporting role within a Balkan. Historically speaking, when the English ruled over the colonies in what came to be the United States, Virginias were readily available and grown in the U.S., so they were featured heavily in English blends.

Within Small Batch: Palmetto Balkan for 2024, the Turkish Latakia was grown and processed in Turkey and also went through a labor-intensive, proprietary process at C&D before it was added to the blend, which was essential after the heavy fire-curing process the tobacco went through in Turkey. The overall flavor and character of the Latakia was improved, offering a more Oriental flavor that is reminiscent of Syrian Latakia from years past.

"We concocted an in-house process that takes a readily available Turkish-produced Latakia and actually renders it a lot closer to the wine-like and more fruit-forward characteristics of the old Syrian Latakia," says Jeremy. The result of this process is a less prominent, intense smoky character that favors a more red-wine, dark-fruit character mingled with that robust smokiness.

Components & Flavor Profile of Palmetto Balkan

some English blends concentrate on the Virginias first, and then Latakia, while Orientals play a more supporting role within a Balkan

Aside from the addition of Turkish Latakia to the blend, the components of Palmetto Balkan are exactly the same as they were in 2022: Mature 2018 Izmir and 2019 Basma varietals and top-tier 2017 and 2019 Carolina Red Virginias. The Oriental tobacco did not go through either of the proprietary processes of preparation. These Orientals bring a lot of citrusy, zesty notes, and an interesting spice character akin to baking spice and warming spice, nutty creaminess like cashews, and floral notes. Oriental tobacco is referred to as aromatic on the leaf side of the tobacco industry due to the prominent, pungent aromatic character they afford.

Mahogany Virginia grown in North Carolina plays a small supporting role in the blend alongside Red Orange North Carolina-grown Virginia; the latter is naturally fruity and peppery, with a spice akin to ginger or cinnamon. This offers a deep sweetness and a dark-fruit character that complements the Orientals wonderfully.

"The Latakia is really present and special," says Jeremy, "but its volume is definitely turned down from what you might see in a more Latakia-forward, English-style blend. The focal point is really on Latakia's character, being first an Oriental that has gone through a process to become Latakia, and the other Oriental components in the blend make up the lion's share."

While creating this blend, and, frankly, all of his blends, Jeremy emphasizes the importance of balancing components as he develops pipe tobacco at C&D.

"The most important thing to me is navigating how to get the flavor profile that I am trying to achieve, and that is all dictated by minor adjustments in the proportions of the types of tobacco that you're pairing and grouping together. I always start with the two that I imagine being the base of the blend," he says. "I knew I wanted to make this blend a Balkan, so Oriental was the lion's share, then Latakia, then more as a background and supporting role, the Virginias."

Excellent Aging Properties & Mellow Mouthfeel

These Orientals bring a lot of citrusy, zesty notes, and an interesting spice character

Palmetto Balkan is prepared to age gracefully. The previous iteration in just two years has made ample progress, according to Jeremy. "Oriental has the unique characteristic of really being focused on engaging the olfactory senses when you're smoking. So a way to judge where they've come to is by the aroma. I'm pleased with the progress it's made." Age on Orientals provides the opportunity for fermentation to occur. The blend has morphed in the past few years, and will continue to meld all those flavors. "I would say it will probably peak around five-to-eight years of age," he says. "The last iteration to this iteration's components are unchanged entirely, aside from Cyprian Latakia becoming Turkish Latakia. So this batch should age in a similar way."

As for the mouthfeel, Jeremy describes the smoke as having a bit of weight and density to it on the palate. "It's round with no sharp edges to it. It's got lots of complexity from the Orientals and their interplay with Latakia and Virginia. I find it soft on the palate, mellow, and delicate enough for a morning smoke. It may be too light for some to follow up after dinner. I think it's a smoke that's well-suited to warmer weather." Palmetto Balkan is an ideal smoke for those who find Latakias typically too heavy; the Latakia incorporated within this blend is not.

"It produces really thick, rich, and cloudy smoke. The initial flavor character is really driven by the Orientals, so that is where you are going to see a lot of the floral and lighter citrus notes figure more prominently. As you progress, those attributes will become darker and develop into more tea-like characteristics, dried spices, and a little deeper flavor extraction," says Jeremy. The burning properties are great on this blend as well. "It's easy to light and keep lit."

Oriental has the unique characteristic of really being focused on engaging the olfactory senses when you're smoking.

Palmetto Balkan continues to change throughout the bowl, with deeper flavors the further you smoke. "The smoky character of Latakia will grow a bit. A whole melange of lighter, floral, more airy notes, deepening and darkening as you progress. By the end of the bowl, you're getting those baking spices and molasses flavors. There are even notes of wood and leather, and the smoky character will have also built quite a bit from the Latakia," says Jeremy.

The Inspiration For Palmetto Balkan's Return

South Carolina's mild winters and long summers inspired this blend, which is ideal for smoking in warmer climates. Utilizing a proprietary process to achieve the same flavor profile and character of Syrian Latakia, Palmetto Balkan is something singular and unique. "I think we came up with something quite special," says Jeremy. "It harkens back to Balkan mixtures back in the day when Syrian Latakia was still available."

As you progress, those attributes will become darker and develop into more tea-like characteristics, dried spices, and a little deeper flavor extraction

After the success of the original Palmetto Balkan, C&D knew it should be a blend to return to in the Small Batch realm. "We have grown a stable of Small Batch blends so we can have some that we don't do every single year. Then, we can bring them back. And we thought it was time to bring Palmetto Balkan back."

This dynamic blend appeals to an array of smoking audiences.

"Fans of the old Balkan Sobranie will do well to try this. People who enjoy many of the European-made English offerings from the '80s and '90s would like to try this. Those things are harder to find. For those who are curious about trying a Latakia blend but are sensitive to heavy hands of it will find that Palmetto Balkan is a much easier path to experimenting with the varietal," says Jeremy. "People who smoke in warmer weather and are fond of Latakia would find appeal here as well as people who like Virginias but, once again, want to experience Latakia sometimes but don't want a heavy hand of it too."

Utilizing a proprietary process to achieve the same flavor profile and character of Syrian Latakia, Palmetto Balkan is something singular and unique.

This delicious blend represents the tradition of tobacco production in the Palmetto State, home of C&D, and uses current ingredients to strive to achieve the flavor character of the older versions of Balkan blends that were so revered, all while implementing a proprietary process to attain the optimal flavor and smoking experiences we've come to expect from Cornell & Diehl. Small Batch: Palmetto Balkan by Cornell & Diehl returns on March 26th at 6:00 p.m. ET on-site.

Small Batch: Palmetto Balkan by Cornell & Diehl Returns | Daily Reader

Comments

    • Wally Root on March 24, 2024
    • Hi, I'm very interested in buying 2 8oz. cans of C&D Palmetto Balkan and wanted to ask if I could pre-purchase them? If not, can you tell me what time it'd be at the release sight on the 26th. In other words, what's the time difference between Pittsburgh, Pa., and the release sight if any. Thanks.

    • Randall on March 24, 2024
    • It is stated right at the head of the article! “Palmetto Balkan returns on March 26th at 6:00 p.m. ET on-site.” Highly doubtful that you can pre-purchase.

    • Darrell Hute on March 24, 2024
    • I want to get more of this

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