Tasting Notes: Sillem's Black

Welcome back to another episode of Tasting Notes. Today marks the first episode in a new mini-installment. Over the next several videos, I will be reviewing the entire Sillem's portfolio, starting with Sillem's Black. I've been a fan of Sillem's mixtures for a long time, but honestly, I haven't explored everything that the blending house has to offer. So over the coming months, I'll work my way through the Blue, Green, and Red, then move over to the flakes and smoke the Commodore, the Councilor 1695, and Mayor 1814.

Sillem's Black which is a very unique aromatic; in fact, it is one of very few English aromatics on the market these days. English and aromatic are not necessarily styles of tobacco that are easy to make work and not clash. That said, there's a lot of good stuff out there that has both Latakia and a flavoring — Bob's Chocolate Flake is a good example. But what's so interesting about Sillem's Black is that it is not simply a traditional English blend with a little bit of sweetness added to it. It is what I would consider primarily an aromatic that happens to feature Latakia.

Now, that might not seem like much of a distinction, but it does make Sillem's Black an excellent crossover for English smokers who want something with a little sweeter aroma, as well as aromatic smokers who want to get into the world of Latakia. This is a tobacco that every pipe smoker out there should try at least once. Honestly, the first couple of bowls that I smoked out of this tin, I was just blown away at how different I found it from my original experience and how much I appreciated its sophistication.

Tin Design And Moisture Content

The tin and packaging on all of these Sillem's mixtures is just beautiful. It is similar to other products that come out of Germany, like Solani's 100 gram tins — there is a cellophane package in here, but it is not vacuum sealed. With that in mind, I do recommend that, if you're not going to smoke through all of this in a week or so, you move this tobacco to a jar when you get it, especially if you're planning on storing it long term. Aside from that, I do love the tins. The packaging is great, and although it's not vacuum sealed, the cellophane folded over and taped actually does a really good job at preserving moisture. And in the short term, the moisture level right out of the tin is perfect, if a little on the spongy side. I've had this tin open for a number of days, but I've never given this tobacco any drying time, during any of the times that I've smoked it — mostly because I really wanted to preserve that aroma. I do recommend the full moisture level out of the tin. You're going to get the best flavor and the most complete version of this blend that way. This one can be a little slow to start, but once it does start, it burns very, very coolly and very, very slowly.

The Cavendish and Latakia work to add a lot of flavor and a lot of body to the smoke, but they also slow things down and make it burn very coolly. This is a well-behaved tobacco in the pipe, but it does require a little bit of attention and a little bit of patience. It's not a plug and play, shag-cut kind of a tobacco where it'll keep lit no matter what you do. If you slow down and you let it kind of teeter on the edge of going out, the flavor is honestly outstanding.

Aroma And Tin Note

On the aroma, Sillem's Black is made of a large percentage of Cyprian Latakia. There's an equally large percentage of Black Cavendish, which is flavored and sweetened, and then there's a touch of Burley and a touch of bright Virginia to sort of round things out, add a little bit of body, a little bit of natural sweetness, and probably to distribute some of that flavoring too. But what you get in the tin, though, is remarkably interesting. It's a big wallop of Latakia. There's a distinctive woodiness and smokiness, a sort of camphor and campfire kind of a thing. There is a little bit of sweetness there, too. I think I detect what they say is honey.

They also say that this is flavored with honey and a fruit essence, and it does have this sort of cherry smell to it, maybe a hint of vanilla. It reminds me a little bit of bourbon — a sort of toasted, oaky, woody note with vanilla. I think the woodiness of the Latakia plays off of that too, but there's definitely something here that lovers of American spirits will appreciate. It's really deep, rich, and not too sweet. That's one of the things that I was really surprised by. With these sorts of blends, many of us who aren't avid aromatic smokers tend to expect levels of sweetness that border on cloying, and I don't get that from the smoke or from the tin note here. It's just a really rich, complex melange of aromas: cherry, vanilla, woody smoke, and a bit of a natural tobacco sort of sweetness like a Burley or a bright Virginia flake.

Once the tobacco gets going, the room note is fantastic as well. It reminds me of 965 if 965 smelled good, if that makes sense. You know, what if a really standard and sort of benchmark English blend had a better room note? For those of you who prefer not to smoke Latakia in the house or in mixed company, this might be one that you could get away with. I was smoking this earlier in the office and this one got a lot of compliments even though there's a high percentage of Latakia. It is a very unique tobacco, especially for those around you.

Flavor Profile

Like I said, this really reminds me of 965 in aroma, but also in flavor. It's a really balanced, creamy, and smoky English mixture with just a little bit extra — a little more nuttiness than I normally would expect from an English mixture. There's a creamy quality to the smoke, which itself is quite thick and billowy. Obviously, the woodiness and campfire quality are certainly present on the palate, but there's also a pretty pronounced vanilla note. Again, I keep coming back to bourbon — those tell-tale notes of vanilla, oak, and woodiness — but there's also a pretty distinctive cherry cordial kind of a thing going on. It's not like cherry flavored tobacco in my experience. It's a little closer to cherry liqueur or a chocolate covered cherries. There is a medicinal quality to the flavor, and that's something that I've always noticed in Latakia mixtures: they remind me of Islay and heavily peated Scotches. I will say that this also makes my salivary glands fire. It's not a dry finish. it's actually a pretty sweet finish, but there is a little bit of that warming spice kind of thing, as well as an incense-like quality to the smoke.

At moments, I feel like I'm tasting hazelnut. In others, I feel like I'm tasting like moss and really earthy flavors. We throw around the word "balanced" quite a lot when we talk about whiskeys or tobacco or cigars that have really distinctive qualities but are all harmonious. And that's exactly what you can expect from Sillem's Black. It's basically a stroke of genius in my opinion. I honestly think that this is one of the most unique products out there. It's something that almost everybody could enjoy. It's reviewed very highly, and a lot of people like it. It's very popular for a good reason, and I'm glad that I revisited it because this is one of those that's definitely more than the sum of its parts.

Strength

While the flavor continues to surprise with each new bowl, one thing that I've found to be sort of central to every bowl that I've had is that Sillem's Black has a distinctive dessert quality to it. The closest thing I can compare it to, if I had to sum it up, is Black Forest cake — this heavy, rich chocolate note with a very natural cherry flavor. Smoking a bowl fo Sillem's black is like having a sizable slice of Black Forest cake for dessert and following it up with a glass of brandy. It is quite tasty and almost addictive in its richness and complexity, which makes it a great blend to smoke at the end of the day. It's also firmly in the medium strength and medium body area of the spectrum, so I think that everyone, including those of us who may like to smoke things a little bit heavier in the strength department, can still find this enjoyable.

Concluding Thoughts

I highly recommend Sillem's Black to everybody out there, not just Latakia smokers, not just aromatic smokers. If you're a fan of tobacco, you should be smoking Sillem's Black, or you should at least try it. This was a really unique experience, and I look forward to getting to know this tobacco even better.

I'm smoking this in an Old German clay pipe. I started smoking this in my clay pipe a couple of days ago, because I wanted to really get an idea of what the flavor was like without any sort of coloring from corn cob, briar, or other materials. The complexity that I'm getting is peak levels of intrigue and complexity. There are so many notes and so much going on here, but it is very balanced and neither cloying nor fatiguing on the palate. Honestly, in my opinion, this may be the best room note that I've ever experienced from a Latakia blend.

One final note: For those of you who are lamenting the loss of the Frog Morton line, I won't say that this is a match for any of those, but if you enjoyed the original Frog Morton, Frog Morton on the Town, or Frog Morton Cellar – the ones that had a little bit more sweetness to my palate than Across the Pond and some of the others – I think that Sillem's Black is one blend that you should try. Again, it's not gonna be a one-to-one match, but it can scratch that same itch when you want a little bit of that rich, earthy, woodiness from the Latakia with a little sweetness, a little extra aroma, and a little magic that makes the experience more interesting than your average pipe tobacco.

Sillem's Black

Sillem's Black

Category:   Tobacco Talk
Tagged in:   Reviews Sillem's Tasting Notes Tobacco Video

Comments

    • Matt_M on May 7, 2021
    • Shane,This is another excellent review! You have me convinced. The comparison with Black Forest Cake sold the blend to me.

    • Mark S on May 8, 2021
    • This is an outstanding review. Perhaps the finest I have seen in the realm of pipe tobacco. What I take away from it is that Sillem's Black gives the flavour and depth of a classic English mixture like Dunhill 965, with a sumptuous aroma and creaminess that tames the over-filling character of many latakia-laden blends. That sounds like quite a marvel.

    • Jerry S on May 9, 2021
    • Yes, this blend is highly regarded. Perhaps so much so, that it was 'out of stock' in the U.S. for almost a year.

    • Mountain Guerilla on May 11, 2021
    • I should know better than to listen to these at work. It's torture. Shane, well done as always!

    • Eric F on June 6, 2021
    • Sillem's Black has been my #1 for years. I like to try out others but I keep returning to this one, especially when I'm in the mood for a long, relaxing smoke.

    • William K. Bottarelli on August 26, 2021
    • I really enjoyed Lane Limited Crown Achievement, which is unfortunately no longer produced. I will try Sillem's Black hoping it will be a good substitute!

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