Welcome back to another episode of Tasting Notes! As I mentioned in a previous episode, I've been working my way through Erik Stokkebye's recently added 4th Generation bulk blends. While certainly enjoyable anytime, each of these three blends is designed to be smoked at specific times throughout the day, essentially being "Morning," "Afternoon," and "Evening" smokes. It's been quite a lot of fun experimenting with these tobaccos and experiencing them exactly as the blender intended.
So today, I'm smoking the Afternoon Melange, which is a medium-English blend containing a pretty significant portion of Latakia. Among these three recently added bulk blends, it is arguably the strongest in terms of flavor, not necessarily nicotine, and as an afternoon smoke it's just excellent. I've found that it offers a much welcomed pick-me-up after lunch, and afternoons are just a really good time to enjoy something like this. I think Afternoon Melange is quite similar to Dunhill's Aperitif in that way; it's meant to be experienced before dinner as opposed to Nightcap at the end of the day, when you're in need of a stout and full smoke.
Cut and Aroma
Afternoon Melange has a really beautiful cut; the moisture level is perfect right out of the package as well. I've smoked this blend quite a lot over the last few weeks, and I've never given it any drying time. I just load it up directly, and the results have been great.
Just looking at the mixture, it's obvious that there's a good portion of dark leaf in there. The advertised healthy dose of Latakia definitely comes through in the aroma and in the flavor of the smoke, but you can visually see its presence in the mix as well. There's also a lot of medium brown and chestnut colored leaf, and overall, it's split nearly half and half between the really dark tobaccos and leaf that's medium in tone and lighter, which is your Oriental and Virginia components.
The tin note itself, before you even light up, can seem a little unassuming. It definitely smells like a medium-English, with tell-tale loamy and peaty kinds of notes as well as a healthy backbone of campfire smoke and a lot of woodiness. But along with those earthy, loamy, and peaty aromas, there is also a musty, almost incense-like earthiness that suggests a decent portion of Oriental leaf in combination with the Latakia. I will say, as I've been smoking through my sample, that the aroma itself is not nearly as interesting as the experience. It just smells like what you would expect from a medium-English: very pleasant, comforting, and familiar. But the actual smoking experience is much more nuanced and unique than the tin note indicates right away.
The first thing I've noticed in each bowl of Erik Stokkebye's 4th Generation Afternoon Melange is the balance. This is an extremely balanced blend. You, of course, have that big helping of Latakia, with its signature woodiness, smokiness, and peaty and loamy flavors, but even from the first light, they're almost in the background. It is a dense, luscious, and creamy smoke on the palate, but it's also quite complex — with these floral and incense-like notes, as well as a fair amount of sweetness nudging my attention front and center. With many medium-to-medium-full English mixtures, I tend to get the Latakia's sharpness and woodiness right up front, with the other flavors in a supporting role. With Afternoon Melange, however, that paradigm seems somehow reversed to me. I get that delicate sweetness and vague nuttiness and earthiness from the Orientals. It's a little musty, a little tangy, a little sour. It's almost like the woody and smoky Latakia elements are just the foundation here, and that stays quite consistent throughout the bowl.
And here's where the complexity comes in. With the Latakia taking a step back and serving as the background, other flavors rise to the surface. There's a little bit of clove that reminds me of mulled wine on the retrohale. There's also just a tiny bit of a floral note, almost like rosewater. There's a nuttiness, too, that reminds me of Turkish Delights or Marzipan, but the overall balance here is just remarkable. It is a very soft experience, but definitely full-flavored.
Body and Strength
When it comes to strength, I'd classify Afternoon Melange as medium. As I've mentioned before in some other videos, this sort of contradicts popular mythology around dark blends. When there's a higher proportion of dark leaf, specifically Latakia, in a mixture, we tend to immediately think that it's a stronger, fuller blend. Given that Latakia is among the pipe tobacco components with the lowest nicotine levels, that's just not the case. It can be quite full in terms of body and flavor, but quite low in nicotine and overall strength. And Afternoon Melange is just a great example of that.
This is one of those English mixtures that offer a lot of weight on the palate; it's a dense, creamy smoke with a lot of flavor and character. But the actual strength is right on par with what I'd consider a medium, all-day smoke. Depending on your preferences, it may be slightly stronger than you want in the morning, but if you're used to smoking things like Early Morning Pipe or Presbyterian, Afternoon Melange could certainly be your next go-to all-day blend.
So overall, Afternoon Melange is an excellent option for those in search of a medium, all-day English blend. Even better, it's readily available in bulk, which could save you quite a bit if it becomes a regular in your rotation. Give it a try, and let us know what you think!