Tasting Notes: 4th Generation Small Batch Resolution

Welcome back to Tasting Notes, everyone. Today's episode is very special, as I'm joined by tobacco legend and my dear friend Mr. Erik Stokkebye, who's here to help me discuss the 2023 4th Generation Small Batch Limited Edition blend. Now in its fifth edition, Erik Stokkebye's 4th Generation Small Batch Limited Edition project is an annual release we all look forward to every year, and especially this year's blend, as it marks the first collaboration between Erik Stokkebye and Cornell & Diehl's Jeremy Reeves. Tune in as Erik and I discuss the history of the project, this year's inspirations, and what you can expect in the tin.

Note: The following transcription has been edited for clarity and brevity.

[Shane Ireland]: Erik, thank you so much for being here on Tasting Notes. Today we're going to discuss something very special. Today we are smoking the 2023 Small Batch Limited Edition blend from 4th Generation. Before we get into the specifics of this year's blend, can you tell us a little bit about the 4th Generation Small Batch Limited Edition project? How did it start, where has it taken you over the years, and what's different about this year's version?

[Erik Stokkebye]: Yeah, it started five years ago. Originally I was working with Samuel Gawith, who produced the first three Small Batch Limited Edition blends, and the line became very popular. We wanted to continue the line, but due to production demands, they couldn't do it another time. So we approached Mac Baren and they produced last year's edition. And then, this year I thought, "Why not Cornell and Diehl?"

[SI]: Fantastic, yeah. So you got with Jeremy?

[ES]: Yeah, I got with Jeremy. I spent some time with him in the factory, and we came up with some different blends before we finally settled on this one, which is what we're smoking now.

[SI]: Nice. So every year's edition has followed the same idea. It's a Small Batch Limited Edition release, and a special tobacco that you've partnered with another blender to produce. Thematically, is there anything else that maybe ties all of these editions together? I remember that they've mostly been Virginia blends.

[ES]: Yeah, mostly Virginia blends, and and mostly flake cuts, because personally I'm a big fan of flake tobacco. So when I talked to Jeremy, I told him we should try to find the right flake for this year's limited edition.

[SI]: Fantastic. So one thing that's been really interesting about the Small Batch Limited Edition project since the beginning is the packaging. And that's certainly true for this year's blend, but the art in particular is really nice. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but the tin art was inspired by a very special oil painting. Is that right? Can you tell us a little bit about that?

[ES]: Right. So the ship that you see on the front of the tin was a ship that comes from the Island of Ærø, which is where my family is originally from. So going back many generations, one of my forefathers, Erik H. Stokkebye, was the captain of this ship called Resolution. It was a ship that sailed from Denmark to Norway in, I wanna say, the 1700s, and they brought up food and other things that Norwegians didn't have and traded them for timber, which they brought back to Denmark. Unfortunately, during one of the Resolution's voyages back through the North Sea, they ran into a fierce storm and the ship went down. Everyone on the ship, including my forefather, lost their lives there.

But the art for the label and box were both inspired by an oil painting of the Resolution that we inherited. If you go to the island of Ærø, you'll see a lot of paintings of these sorts of ships, and they were all painted the same way. They were painted from the side and then also from the back. And that is just the traditional depiction of the ships. So we inherited this painting and we still have it on our wall, so it felt appropriate to use it here.

[SI]: Well, it's beautiful. And so we have this beautiful presentation box and really premium embossed packaging, and I really appreciate that. We also have on the side of the gift box a Reader's Digest version of the story you just told as well. So my next question then is: Why Jeremy? What made you decide to work with Cornell & Diehl this year?

[ES]: Well, you know, I've known Jeremy for a long time, and I really like some of the tobaccos he produces and develops. And I just thought that could be fun to do something with Jeremy, and we had a great time doing this, and yeah, I just—

[SI]: Happy with the results as well?

[ES]: I'm very happy with the results and I think he did a fantastic job. And so it was the right thing to do.

[SI]: Absolutely. So before we talk about what we're tasting, let's just talk about components for a second. So in this blend we have Carolina Mahogany and Lemon flue-cured Virginais, as well as Orientals from both Turkey and Greece. And it's, of course, been pressed into a flake. So essentially it's a Virginia/Oriental blend, which is not terribly common on the market.

But really, what you end up with when you're talking about condimental leaf, particularly with the small leaf Oriental varieties versus something like Latakia or Perique, is a Virginia-forward mixture. It's a Virginia-forward mixture, but there's a little bit of something special, some added complexity. And the tin note was maybe what I was most impressed with right away.

Even fresh out of the tin, it's not very grassy. There are citrus notes, but I also get sort of that graham cracker character. There's a little bit of those cereal notes and a breadiness, but a little sweeter.

[ES]: A little sweetness to it, yeah.

[SI]: Yeah, there's also maybe a little bit of an earthy character, as well as a little bit of a floral character. I find that those Oriental components do come through just a touch in the tin note; I think they come through more in the smoke.

[ES]: You could definitely taste the Orientals when you smoke it.

[SI]: Yeah, especially when you get a little bit further down the bowl. And I'm curious if you're picking up anything else, but for me it's graham crackers and lemon cookies with maybe a little lemon zest or orange zest.

[ES]: Yeah. That's pretty much what I'm picking up too. Definitely some sweetness to it, but yeah, think that's a pretty good description of it.

[SI]: One thing that I'm curious about that I haven't tested yet is the room note. I feel like this is a blend that you're likely to be able to get away with in mixed company. It's pleasant but it's not an overly pungent room note either. Overall, it's on the delicate and refined side.

[ES]: It is. And very tasty, I think. It really is. It's like an all-day smoke that you can really enjoy. And I do pick up the Orientals pretty well.

[SI]: Yeah, there's something a little bit perfumey about it. Something slightly floral. You have some of those almost incense-like notes, especially on the retrohale. But it mostly reminds me of lightly sweet cookies, like the little butter cookies. You know what I mean? They're not super sweet, but you get that sort of caramelized sugar sweetness on top of the grainy and yeasty notes.

[ES]: And the Orientals are very aromatic in themselves, and you can really pick that up as well I think. So it's really, really nice.

[SI]: For sure. I think this is something that any Virginia smoker is gonna be able to sink their teeth into. But here's the interesting thing for me. So quite a lot of people use the term Danish flake or Danish-style Virginia. And typically, again from my experience just based on what I've smoked, that tends to comprise lighter grades, you know? They tend to be more of an all-day kind of smoke, focusing less on strength and more on sweetness and a smooth profile.

[ES]: Exactly.

[SI]: And so one of the reasons why I think Jeremy's approach to blending has been so effective, and why it's really cool to see you guys come together and collaborate, is that's what you essentially have here, but done in the C&D way. In my opinion, this is really Cornell and Diehl's version of a Danish-style Virginia flake. You have the ability to smoke this all day; none of the flavors are overpowering. But at the same time, I tend to get more body out of this tobacco than I get out of some of the Virginias that are produced in Europe, for example.

[ES]: Yeah, yeah. It's got some strength to it. And what's interesting, also, I was just thinking about this looking at the motif of the ship, is that flake tobacco was used as money on the boats in England originally.

[SI]: Really?

[ES]: Yes. Going back far enough, you know, 200 or 300 years, English sailors used flakes to trade off bread or whatever. And they gave flake tobacco as currency. And on the boats they didn't have a lot of room, so flake tobacco was the ideal type of tobacco to have because it was compressed.

[SI]: It helped preserve it, too. It held the moisture a little bit longer, etc. Yeah, definitely. So as this bowl is progressing, I'm getting more of those sort of like toasted flue-cured notes. The base notes seem to be deepening a little bit. Again, I would still describe this primarily as an all-day smoke for a Virginia lover, but I do think that guys who are used to more robust flavors, maybe Burley smokers for example, would also really enjoy this as a change of pace.

This could stand up against a cup of coffee and those brighter, zesty and citrusy notes would still ring through; it would pair really nicely. Also, in terms of aging potential, this blend has long legs. This is going to change a ton in the first two to five years. And I think by the time you're talking five to 10 years, it's gonna be so rich, so sweet.

I think that anybody out there who smokes anything close to Orlik Golden Sliced, or Fribourg & Treyer's Cut Virginia Plug, would really love this. But even if you are a Capstan Blue smoker, this would be something that you would likely really, really enjoy.

[ES]: Yeah, I agree. They would really like this.

[SI]: It's got that little something extra. And with Capstan, it's Tonquin — that little bit of vanilla-like character. And here it's more citrusy and a little bit more nutty maybe.

[ES]: Yes, and earthy, I would say.

[SI]: And earthy, for sure. So if any of those are in your wheelhouse, this is a must. I think you guys hit a home run with this one for sure.

[ES]: I think it's really nice. I've really enjoyed it.

[SI]: Fantastic. Well this Small Batch Limited Edition Resolution blend will be available on Friday, March 3, so keep an eye out for it here at Smokingpipes and pretty much wherever else fine pipes and tobacco are sold. Hopefully the first of many collaborations between Jeremy Reeves, Cornell & Diehl, and 4th Generation. Thank you so much again, Erik. I really appreciate you taking the time.

[ES]: Thank you. I appreciate it.

4th Generation Small Batch Resolution


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