Tasting Notes: Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation Max Erik 1989

Welcome to another episode of "Tasting Notes." I had the opportunity to talk with a special guest, Erik Stokkebye of 4th Generation, about the latest core-line addition to the brand: Max Erik 1989, in honor of Erik's son, Max. We hope you enjoy this episode and give the blend a try for yourself.

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

[Shane Ireland]: Today I have a special guest with me. Erik Stokkebye of 4th Generation, welcome back.

[Erik Stokkebye]: Thank you, Shane. Happy to be here.

[SI]: Yeah, it's been a while since we've done one of these.

[ES]: Yes, it has.

[SI]: And today we have something relatively new to discuss. 1989, Max Erik's blend. Max, who is your son, was the inspiration for this blend. Apart from limited-edition, small-batch releases, this is the most recent introduction to the core line of 4th Generation pipe tobacco.

[ES]: Yes, and he's technically 5th generation. He's also in the tobacco business. He works for Scandinavian Tobacco Group and loves it. It was his first job and he's still with them, so he's doing quite well.

[SI]: That's fantastic. Before we get into the blend itself, I'm curious when the idea to collaborate with Max on a project came up and how you guys approached it?

[ES]: Well, I ran out of generations, obviously. So I told Max, "I'm thinking about doing a blend in honor of you." And he said that he was interested, but needed to check with his company first. And he did check and they were fine with it and off we went. And it's been really good. It's selling extremely well for us, and it started off very strong and it continued here, so I'm very happy with it.

[SI]: So how did you guys land on what the blend was going to be? Family, cut, and all those elements?

[ES]: We talked about different blends. Max is a cigar smoker and occasionally a pipe smoker, and he said, "I really like flake tobaccos." And I said, "Well, let's go in that direction then and see what we can come up with." This is what we came up with, and we both like it.

Max Erik 1989: A Flake-Cut Tobacco

 Tasting Notes: Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation: Max Erik 1989 | Daily Reader

[SI]: One more thing before we get into the blend itself, which I'm really enjoying. I can't begin to assume this for generations one and two, but if I was thinking about you and your father, it seems like Virginias and flakes, in particular, held a special place in the Stokkebye family ethos.

[ES]: Yeah, definitely. My father was a big pipe smoker as well. And maybe that's part of why Max, being the grandson, liked it as well. He remembered my father. I also have always enjoyed a nice flake tobacco, so maybe it runs in the family.

[SI]: Mm-hm. It certainly seems like, not just within the 4th Generation line, but in the Stokkebye brand in general, that they have been some of the most popular, loved, and classic products.

[ES]: Exactly.

[SI]: It was interesting to see another flake added because I have to say, personally, it's also where my taste leans, but aside from the limited editions, 1931 has always been a standout in the line for me. It has a mellow, Danish style to it. It's an all-day smoke. And I think that 1989 Max Erik's blend fits really nicely alongside the 1931, because on paper, like many blends, they could seem similar, but the experience is quite different.

[ES]: It is a different experience. 1931 does have some Burley in it. This does not. I would say 1931 is maybe a little bit stronger. It's not quite as mellow as 1989.

[SI]: Yes.

[ES]: However, they are similar because they're both flakes. But the taste profiles are different, I would say.

Tailor-Made For Straight Virginia Folks

[SI]: Yeah, I agree. And I think, pivoting back to what we're actually experiencing here, I want to get into the tin note in a second. 1989, for me, has more of the zesty, citrusy kind of flavors. You've disclosed that it is a mixture of Virginia grades from the Carolinas and from Georgia; well-aged, and aged in a brick for a long time before being cut. Is it safe to assume that we're talking about mostly brighter grades?

[ES]: Mostly brighter Virginias, yes. Middle-of-the-stock Virginias.

[SI]: Interesting.

[ES]: It's got a solid amount of sugar in there. On the other hand, it's mellow with a slight sweetness to it.

[SI]: For those of us who don't have your experience in tobacco, when you say middle of the stock, what does that mean for the actual smoker?

[ES]: The top leaves are usually the ones exposed to the sun and weather more, they're thicker, have a higher nicotine content, and more sugar at times. The middle of the stock is usually considered the better-quality leaves because they have more of a balance between their sugar and nicotine levels. These leaves are considered to be the better and usually also the more expensive part of the leaves.

[SI]: Interesting, yeah. We know that in cigar production, obviously layers from the top are used to add strength to a blend.

[ES]: Right, exactly.

[SI]: They typically aren't wrapper-grade or well-rounded enough to be the bulk of a blend. So that makes sense that on the pipe-tobacco side, the middle of the stock would be more prized, with slightly bigger and better leaves, with more rounded properties.

[ES]: Yes, exactly. More balanced.

[SI]: One more question about the actual leaves used. It seems that there's mostly bright grades. You can see here we've got a lot of Bright leaf. There is a little bit of some darker chestnut. So when you're talking about a mix of Bright grades, how much variation is there between what we would consider straight-up golden or bright Virginias and something that might approach orange or maybe slightly-darker, flue-cured grades? How strict is it when they're sourcing leaves like this to be able to say that it must be the lighter shades of the flue-curing process?

[SI]: Well, I think it all comes down to the grades. A grade will nominate what type of leaf that particular factory wants. Like I said, usually the middle leaves are considered the better leaves and better quality, if you will.

[SI]: Right. So you're probably looking more for aspects like the sugar content and nicotine level than necessarily whether it's considered an orange or a bright leaf.

[ES]: I think considering the brightness and color depends on the aging aspects. The longer the leaf has aged, the more it's going to turn from bright to another shade.

[SI]: I find that interesting as a consumer because I think of the color parts of the grades as being so binary. Like, it's either red or it's not red; orange, or not orange; bright or not bright. But it doesn't quite work that way, right?

[ES]: No. There are tons of different grades in between.

[SI]: So something like this blend, even though the bulk of it is Carolina and Georgia, you're still looking at more than two grades of Virginia in here.

[ES]: Yeah, it's about 13 to 15 different grades that are blended.

[SI]: That's incredible.

[ES]: The wider the amount of different grades one has in a specific blend guarantees consistency over many years and crops.

1989: Citrusy Sweet Tin Note

[SI]: So enough of my novice questions. Let's see what we actually have here in terms of the tin note. We did talk a little bit about the appearance. These are really beautiful, delicate flakes that are mostly light in color. What I get right away when opening the tin is definitely citrus. It's got a little bit of a sweeter smell, similar to a candied orange peel. I also get a little bit of that graham cracker and tea biscuit kind of flavor.

[ES]: Yeah, I get that.

[SI]: It reminds me of plain tea biscuits/digestives. It's got black tea notes. Definitely the brighter, maybe more grassy and citrusy aromas. Yeah, I mean, if you're a Virginia smoker, especially a pure Virginia smoker, it's exactly what you want.

[ES]: You'll want to try this.

[SI]: Again, a really strong tin note. Heavy on the citrus side. A lot of brighter flavors, I would say.

[ES]: I would say so, yeah.

[SI]: And I think that comes through in the smoke.

[ES]: Yeah, it does.

[SI]: Interestingly enough, and again, I think this is something as a consumer that I value. So I was blabbing for several minutes there and not smoking my pipe, but a quick tamp and it's going again. The performance is as close to effortless as you can get in a pipe.

[ES]: That's the nice thing about flakes, I think. You can pick it right up and it stays consistent.

[SI]: Yeah. It's also definitely on the mild side. However, I would say that in terms of body, it has a good amount of creaminess. I would say it's mild in strength and medium -to -medium-plus in flavor and body. It has enough oomph that I feel like I could smoke this outside and still know what I was tasting and smoking.

[ES]: Yeah. And the aroma is good too.

[SI]: It's actually really good. I think for a straight Virginia, you can definitely get away with this in mixed company. In terms of the flavor profile, a lot of what comes through in the tin note is there. It's lightly floral and it reminds me less of the really pungent floral notes that we talk about with some Oriental leaf and some English-style flakes. This reminds me more of honeysuckle or how it tasted when, as a kid, you would chew on sweet grass. That kind of vibe.

[ES]: Yeah, exactly.

Sweet, Malty Flavors: A Dependable Virginia Blend

[SI]: There's a lot of sweetness, a lot of grainy, cereal-type notes, and malty flavors. Again, the citrus comes through pretty prominently. And I would say it's more of a candied orange peel than it is a lemon zest citrus. It's a really dependable Virginia.

[ES]: Yeah, it's definitely worth a try.

[SI]: I think if you're a Virginia guy, this is right up your alley. I think that this is a good candidate for cellaring as well. Blends like this are perfect for aging long term. You're going to get a little more caramelization and a little more richness in the long term, but still maintain the citrusy character and the grainy notes that you would expect. There's not a lot of spice on the retrohale, which, depending on what you're looking for, is sometimes a good thing.

I tend to smoke a lot of Virginia/Periques and sometimes I find myself reaching for something that is maybe a little less complex. I've only smoked a handful of both so far but I could easily see 1989 Max Erik's blend being something that I could smoke all day and not really think about. A blend that I could grab when I'm heading out for a couple of weeks or whatever.

Max Erik 1989: An All-Day Smoke For The Virginia Lover

[ES]: It's definitely an all-day smoke.

[SI]: Erik, I'm really digging this. It's right up my alley. Again, if you're a Virginia guy, try this. If you've been looking to transition into straight Virginias, 1989 Max Erik's blend is a really good candidate. It's super approachable, and super easy to deal with to rub out, pack, and light. It is very well behaved and very easy to wrap your head around.

But I also think that it has enough going on in terms of flavor and complexity that if you've been smoking for many years, you won't tire of it. It is a perfect all-day smoke. I'm curious, Erik, how does this blend fit into your rotation? And like I said, compared to the other stuff that you smoke, when do you reach for this, and why do you reach for it?

[ES]: I usually like smoking it after dinner. Not that you can't have it as a morning smoke, because it's mellow enough. But personally, I like it as an after-dinner smoke. That's usually when I smoke it.

[SI]: That's fantastic. 1989, Max Erik's blend. The latest core-line addition to Eric Stokkebye 4th Generation tobacco, tailor-made for the straight Virginia guys out there. And another slam dunk for the Stokkebye name, I'd say.

[ES]: Cool. Thank you.

[SI]: Thanks, guys. We'll see you next time.

[ES]: See you.

 Tasting Notes: Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation: Max Erik 1989 | Daily Reader
Category:   Tobacco Talk
Tagged in:   Erik Stokkebye Tasting Notes Video

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