Welcome back to another episode of Tasting Notes. In this installment, I take a closer look at one of the most recent additions to the Savinelli tobacco portfolio: Janus. Often depicted as having two opposing faces, Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and endings, phases and transitions, and gates and doorways; Savinelli's tribute to his mythology is a fitting one, combining naturally sweet Virginias with two distinct varieties of vintage Orientals, and a touch of Perique, for a balanced and nuanced flavor profile, equally enjoyable at dawn as it is at dusk. Tune in for my full review of the blend, or snag a tin for yourself today.
Note: The following transcription has been edited for clarity and brevity.
[Shane Ireland]: Welcome back to Tasting Notes, everyone. So, I've had quite a few requests to review the new Savinelli blends — Janus, Juno, and Jupiter — since their release. I've been smoking through them a little bit and decided to start with Janus, which is called an Antique Virginia blend.
Just to give you a little bit of background, all three of these flakes are made in the US, by Cornell and Diehl, and it's sort of a continuation of a partnership with Savinelli for their tobacco line. Cornell and Diehl, for example, produces the Savinelli 140th Anniversary blend, which has become sort of a cult classic since its release. Naturally, Savinelli wanted to develop additional offerings with Cornell and Diehl as the blender, and with Jeremy Reeves at the helm. I really love that partnership, because, so far, all of the Savinelli blends over the past several years, have become cult classics. They have a cult following and have developed such because of the R&D that goes into these blends, and the thought behind them is really exemplary.
And what they've ended up with is a bunch of really unique tobaccos, which is just really special. So, for those of you out there who smoke Doblone d'Oro and Brunello flake, those are two of the ones with perhaps the largest cult following. They're really unique blends, and great changes of pace for Virginia guys and Burley guys. Doblone d'Oro is kind of like a hybrid Virginia/Perique, Virginia/Burley mixture. And these latest offerings are just as interesting, just as unique.
Now, I won't be covering all three today, because I want to space them out to better understand the nuances and differences between them. So, today, we'll just be discussing Janus. Janus, the Antique Virginia, is composed of a base of really high sugar content: bright Virginia from Canada, which provides a tanginess and an added zest and a bump in flavor. There's also a generous portion of Perique, which was hand-selected by Jeremy.
The thing about Perique is that not all Perique is created equal. It's much like aging wine in casks or aging bourbon in casks. Even if you make them the same way, all of these casks affect the product — where they sit in the warehouse, how they were made, and what went into them at what time of the year all affect the final product. This is all a natural product, so having Jeremy Reeves hand-pick his barrels of Perique makes a huge difference. Janus doesn't feature a heavy, heavy dose of Perique, but it's a little bit more than you might expect at your first smoke. And, honestly, it adds so much complexity to the blend, and is really, really a great bedfellow to the vintage oriental components that are in here.
One of those Orientals is Basma leaf from 2014, so there's some aged Oriental leaf, as well. What's interesting is that you don't really see a ton of Virginia/Oriental mixtures on the market that don't also include Latakia. And that is a space where Jeremy Reeves, and Cornell and Diehl, and now, Savinelli are flexing their muscles creatively.
Packaging & Tin Note
Janus comes packaged in a beautiful, round European-style tin, and all three of these blends, including Janus, are flakes. The tin note is just really lovely. There's a lot of bright leaf in here, too, but there's also a lot of chestnut to almost black leaf in the final, pressed product. It's deep and rich. There's a little bit of that Oriental note that comes out in full force: that sort of mustiness, that sorta sour flavor, which is something that you get in the smoke quite a bit, too. There is a citrusy component here, and I think that that is definitely from the bright Virginia leaf. But to my nose, it's definitely zesty, but it's not sharp and lemony, as far as a citrus flavor. Think more like blood orange, something a little deeper like a candied sweet.
This is a product and a flake for the purists out there. It's pretty much as natural as it gets, with several tobacco components and that's it. But the balance between those and the interplay between those components creates a pretty wide range of flavors.
I've been puffing on this bowl for a little bit, but let's talk about the first light. Right off the bat, there's lots of smoke. It behaves really well in the pipe. It's got a malty sweetness, at first light, and then, a constantly changing face of various flavors from doughy to floral and zesty. The flakes are beautiful and they break up easily; they load easily, they perform really well and stay lit really well in the pipe. This is an easy blend to nurse and slowly sip the smoke. If you want the complexity, I will also say that if you just puff on this, it's pretty forgiving and it will fade into the background elegantly. The only exception there, I think, is the strength.
Strength & Body
For me, this is one of the few tobaccos that occupies a perfect space on the spectrum of strength and body, for me personally. It is still an all-day smoke, but it is relatively full-bodied, and the strength is right over medium-full. So, for some folks, this might be a little on the strong side, first thing in the morning, but I think for a lot of seasoned straight Virginia or Virginia/Perique smokers, or those who prefer a fuller-bodied smoke, this is an all-day smoke. That said, it's not going to lose your interest. You're very much paying attention to this blend and it will force you, at certain times, to stop what you're doin' and take note of the complexity and the full flavor.
Getting into it a little bit more, that malty sweetness, that sort of tangy, kind of red Virginia character makes way for a bready and doughy sort of baked-goods kind of a thing. The bright Virginia leaf, which is high in sugar, is certainly present; you definitely get that sweetness, but it's not a cloying sweetness, by any means. It balances extremely well with the floral, almost earthy quality of the Turkish leaf. A little bit nutty, but a delicate nuttiness reminiscent of cashews. Once the Perique starts to amplify, around 1/4 way into the bowl, I start to notice the its character a little more. You get these nice fruity notes. The Perique is definitely there, but the spice is perfectly balanced. The retrohale is more like an incense kind of a spice, that's the Perique and the aged Basma sort of interacting together. You do get a little bit of a tingle on the palate, like that common peppery kind of a thing. So far, you've got the citrusy, blood orange kind of notes, which marries with the fruitiness and tang from the Perique, the Perique peppery spice, and the incense-like spice of the aged Basma. Like I said, there's a lot going on, but it is definitely refined; it is definitely well-balanced.
There's a breadiness and a doughy character that reminds me almost of a Marzipan kind of flavor. And, actually, I said cashew nuttiness earlier, but that Marzipan and the nuttiness are really closely connected in this blend; so in retrospect, there's even a Turkish Delight kind of a flavor when you examine the sweetness that's there. I'm almost getting a cornbread kind of a sweetness; there's a lot of those kinds of notes, nothing too bassy. It's mostly these brighter, bready flavors, with a little bit of zest, a little citrus with a little bit of spice.
Now, I know I say this a lot, but when it comes to this category of tobaccos, I think that this one has extremely long legs; it's gonna age very, very well. If you've smoked old Doblone d'Oro and old Brunello flake or even some of the original release of the Savinelli 140 Anniversary blend, you know what I'm talking about. These are rich, pure smokes for the traditionalist, for the purist, all of which age very, very well. There was a deft hand at blending these ones, for sure. And, honestly, I'm really excited to see what the continued partnership between Savinelli and Cornell and Diehl brings us in the future. I can't wait to smoke the other two, so stay tuned for future reviews. Thanks, everyone!