Tasting Notes: Cornell & Diehl's Small Batch Steamworks

Hey everybody, I'm Shane Ireland. Welcome to another episode of Tasting Notes. Today, I have the pleasure to smoke and talk about the newest addition to the Small Batch series by Cornell and Diehl — Small Batch: Steamworks. Steamworks is an incredibly complex blend, both in flavor and in process and in the components themselves. There's quite a lot of components and craft work that goes into creating this blend. I'll come back to that in just a second but before I do that, let me talk a little bit about the tin and what's inside.

Steam-Based Artwork

Small Batch Steamworks Pipe Tobacco

The tin displays really cool artwork inspired by an old series of collectible cards that was published, I believe, in the late 1800s in Paris, France. Steamworks is a nod to both the process involved in creating this tobacco and the general theme of pre-industrial revolution and its innovation and the obsession with flight and steam-powered engines. So, again, it's sort of a nod to both how this blend is made, and the feeling behind it, this need to innovate, this need to push things forward, and to use steam-based technology to create something really interesting.

Rich and Zesty Tin Note

The tin note is incredibly rich. Mostly I'm getting a lot of that Virginia; there's a little bit of that zesty character, but it's mostly deeper than that. Deep like brown sugar, maybe a little bit earthy, and a variety of baked goods, such as breads that are on the sweeter side, like sourdough bread. There's a little bit of a tangy character and ever-so-subtle floral and earthy qualities of good Oriental leaf — I'll come back to that in a second — and genuine St. James Parish Perique. If you're a Virginia smoker, this is basically a heavenly tin note. Like I said, it has a fair bit of complexity in the tin note alone, but mostly it's a hint at how rich, deep, and full flavored this blend of Virginias, Orientals, and Perique really is.

Tobacco Cut

Small Batch Steamworks Pipe Tobacco

Before I get into components, because there's a lot to talk about there, I want to talk a little bit about the cut. These are absolutely beautiful flakes; because there's a heavily steamed component here, several, I should say, these flakes adhere very well. They're the perfect size and they rub out very easily. Now, it's going to feel a touch moist out of the tin, but I recommend no more than about five minutes of drying time. You're actually going to find that this burns incredibly slow, smooth, and flavorful at the moisture content, which is basically directly out of the tin. Steamworks is incredible upon first light. Before I really get into the flavors though, I want to talk about the components because there's a lot to cover there.

Steamworks' Components

Starting with the condimental leaf, right up front, you've got genuine St. James Parish Perique from 31 Farms. That is genuine Perique, meaning that it is grown, harvested, cured, and processed as Perique, all in Louisiana from Louisiana tobacco. Again, a beautiful component on its own, and it plays an important supporting role here, in my opinion. Additionally, on the component side, or I should say on the condimental side, you have three different vintage Oriental leaves. The first is an AG grade, which is the highest grade of Turkish leaf from Turkey, that is vintage 2005. AG actually stands for American Grade.

Back in the day, when the tobacco producers were in America, it basically had the highest demand for quality Turkish leaf. That was the top tier. It signifies the highest concentration of flavor and particularly of aromatics. You also have 2005 Black Sea Sokhoum and 2006 Katerini leaf making up the Oriental components within Steamworks. Just considering the Oriental components alone, you have a ton of complexity. These fine vintages and top grades of Oriental leaf really complement each other and add a lot of intrigue and aromatic complexity to the blend.

Even though we already have an impressive list of condimental leaves between the genuine St. James Parish Perique and the vintage Orientals, in my opinion, the stars of Steamworks are the six different Virginias included in the blend. The most heavily-stoved components are a blend of DH-17 dark Mahogany from North Carolina crop year 2017, and TBFO North Carolina tips and leaf grades from 2019. Those are stoved to the highest degree, nearly to the point of being black, and they're stoved as whole leaf. Then you have a blend of Virginia grades that are stoved to a little bit lesser of a degree, just a touch, and that is made up of a Virginia-grown Virginia, Orange grade from 2020, a North Carolina Orange-Red grade from 2021, and the same TBFO 2019 North Carolina grade that has been steamed to a higher degree and that's rounded off with a little bit of Georgia-grown Virginia Orange from 2019. In addition to the two separate groups of Virginias that have been stoved, whole leaf to different degrees, there is also an addition of some of that same Georgia-grown 2019 Virginia that is added to the blend without any stoving at all.

Steaming Combinations

I spoke to Jeremy about this, and his thought process was that the Georgia leaf doesn't have the highest sugar content, falling at around the 17% mark, yet when this particular Red Virginia is smoked alone, it comes across as being exceptionally sweet. It's perceived by the smoker to be even sweeter than some of the other Bright Leaf that Cornell and Diehl have used that have nearly double the sugar content. So, the thinking there is that you have different grades, different methods of steaming that really allow the full spectrum of what Virginia Leaf has to offer from the super dark steamed, which is rich, deep, and maybe loses a little bit of that sweetness as well as a little bit of the strength.

Building upon that, another group of Virginia grades, some of which are the same as the ones that have been stoved the most, are stoved to a lesser degree. This leaves more of the characteristic of the natural leaf intact but still provides added depth, smoothness, and complexity. There is an addition of a portion of that Georgian 2019 Red Virginia at 17% sugar that is not stoved, which sort of amps up the sweetness and really delivers all of that deep Virginia complexity.

You've got the whole spectrum here and that sweetness is the top note that brings it all together. I mean, right off the bat: the depth of flavor, the maturity of this blend, the condimental leaves, the complexity, it is aromatic in the sense that the Turkish leaf is naturally very aromatic. It's nutty, woody, deep, and bread-like. It's very pleasant, very pronounced with natural sweetness, and very dense on the palate. It throws off a ton of smoke and provides a citrusy zing with a subtle tangy character that I associate with a lot of stoved Virginias and with Red Virginia in general. It's all balanced by just a touch of citrus. It's more like orange zest than it is anything on the lemon side of the flavor spectrum.

Steamworks' Burning Potential

Small Batch Steamworks Pipe Tobacco

Steamworks burns incredibly slowly. This is one that I would recommend smoking in a small-to-medium sized bowl. Even when you've really backed off on your cadence, you're going to get a lot of smoke out of this one. There's no need to puff away. The grace and the finesse of this blend is most noticeable and most enjoyable when the smoker is really taking things slowly. Today, I'm smoking Cornell and Diehl's Small Batch Steamworks in a little bent Dublin by Brad Pohlmann.

Steamworks is an Essential, Must-Try Blend

Jeremy Reeves has created something truly special with Steamworks: a stoved Virginia flake that is the sum of several different grades and several different processing methods. You end up with a stoved flake that is easy to handle, easy to prepare, easy to light, and that burns elegantly, effortlessly providing the deep flavor and sweetness that is most often associated with well-aged Virginia flakes.

If you're a fan of stoved Virginias and darker Virginias in general — blends like Samuel Gawith Full Virginia Flake, or maybe some of the older McClelland stoved Navy Cavendish and Dark Star — or if you are looking at your supply of Cornell and Diehl's Anthology dwindling in your cellar, I would say that Steamworks is a must-try. Really, it's a must-try for any pipe smoker.

If you want to experience what super high-quality Virginia should be and should taste like, this is the best way to learn. Additionally, I fully expect Steamworks to be at the top of the list for those of us who prefer to cellar deep and try things as they evolve over the years. This one is going to change beautifully and elegantly, for a long time. Thanks so much everybody. Make sure you give Steamworks a try and make sure you get a couple of tins to add to the cellar. You won't be sorry. See you next time.


    • Peter on August 28, 2023
    • Hi Shane, really enjoyed the review, the only issue I have living in Australia, Oz, The limit on the supply x tins per day is hard to do. Sounds like I will need to order some as I missed out on the 1st round being offered. I am a huge fan of flake tobacco so I was disappointed to miss out. Guess there is always tomorrow ??Peter

    • Keith R. Walter on September 23, 2023
    • I missed out on the first release of Steamworks. Do you have any indication when the next release will be. The reviews are fantastic! Can’t wait to acquire some of this seemingly wonderful blend!Thank you,Keith

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