Welcome to another episode of Tasting Notes and the next stop on my journey to smoke through all of Sillem's pipe tobacco portfolio. For this project, I decided to start with the brand's Aromatic range, which includes all of the colored tins: the Sillem's Red, Black, Green, and Blue. These mixtures have been cult classics since their release, and each of them brings something unique to the world of Aromatic pipe tobaccos.
In my previous video, I reviewed the Black and really enjoyed it. The interesting thing about that particular mixture is that it is an Aromatic that features Latakia; it's really well balanced and sophisticated, with superb smoking qualities. Well, today, I'm turning my attention to Sillem's Red, which like the Black is packaged in cellophane bags within a metal outer-case. I quite like the packaging on these tins, but for long-term storage, I would recommend taking the tobacco out of these bags and placing it in a Mason jar. That said, if plan on smoking through a tin fairly quickly — say, over a couple weeks — these actually do a surprisingly good job at maintaining ideal moisture levels.
With that in mind, I wouldn't recommend any drying time for Red or any of the Sillem's blends I've reviewed thus far. Right out of the tin, the tobacco has the perfect moisture content, especially if you — like me — smoke Aromatic blends only occasionally. I tend to give my Aromatics a little extra drying time simply because I'm used to the burning characteristics of Virginia flakes and English mixtures, but Sillem's Red is ready-to-go right out of the tin.
Tin Note and Components
Speaking of which, when you open a tin of Sillem's Red, you're immediately greeted with a bouquet of aromas.There's something really familiar about it, something nostalgic in a way. It calls to mind some of the classic, more fruity Aromatic pipe tobaccos. According to the tin, it's flavored with notes of apples, cherries, and mirabelle (cherry) plums. On the nose, there's a little bit of that medicinal quality, almost like a cherry cough syrup — but in a good way. It isn't a cloyingly sweet aroma, by any means, and there's a very good balance between natural tobacco flavors and the toppings themselves. So there's a sweet, grassy, citrusy, and Virginia-like aroma, too. And that's pretty indicative of what you can expect to taste in the blend.
The components themselves are quite interesting here. There's a healthy dose of double-toasted Black Cavendish, plus coarse-cut Bright Virginias and a sprinkling of small Virginia flake pieces. Those flake pieces not only add a really interesting visual element to hte blend, but they also enhance the natural tobacco flavor profile and keep the burn nice and cool. Sillem's Red is a really, really slow burn. As you work your way down the bowl, you'll find these wisps of a citrusy flavor (from the Virginias) that enhance the fruity notes and tame the sweetness a little bit.
Flavor Profile and Strength
Once you get this going, Sillem's Red is a really dense, billowy smoke. It has excellent burning characteristics; it burns nice and slow and cool. I haven't had any issues with moisture. I haven't had any issues with tongue bite or alkalinity or any of that kind of stuff either. Overall, this is kind of what I wish most of the traditional, cherry style Aromatics actually tasted like. There's such a great balance between the toppings and the tobacco itself. Even as early as a third of the way down, there are moments when you start to wonder if you're even tasting the cherry and apple top notes anymore; they fade into the background really nicely — providing just a little bit of extra sweetness, a little extra aroma, and extra intrigue over a really smooth and mild blend of citrusy Virginias and Cavendish.
For an Aromatic like this, I'm actually finding a little more strength and body that I would expect. I think those pieces of Virginia flake are contributing to that extra strength, and the double-toasted Cavendish adds a lot of body, too. I would classify it as somewhere between the mild to medium range in terms of strength. Coming off of Sillems's Black, which was incredibly complex and kept me on my toes the whole time, Sillem's Red is a little more comfortable. It's a little more like a worn-in pair of jeans. That bouquet of fruity notes I found in the aroma translates to the flavor, certainly, but there's a little bit of additional intrigue and complexity, especially when you start to get to those pockets of Virginia flake. Once you're into the bowl, you start noticing a little bit of baking spice and a little more of that citrusy quality bouncing off of the sweeter, fruitier notes. But it's all very well balanced, and those flavors can fade effortlessly into the background if you need them to.
Overall, it's just a comforting and traditional pipe tobacco experience. The room note is likewise excellent. Aside from the nondescript fruitiness, the cherry topping is perhaps the most prominent top note. There are these cherry cordial — and at some point, cherry cough syrup — kinds of flavors, but I don't get a ton of the apple or cherry plum. There is something that reminds me a bit more of, say, an apricot or a peach. There's definitely some flavors that are reminiscent of stone fruits, but mostly what I get is the interplay between toasted and brighter, grassy, natural tobacco flavors, elevated by a little bit of citrus and a little bit of cherry. Again, it's a super sophisticated profile.
Who's It For?
Honestly, this is an Aromatic mixture I would recommend to almost anyone, but especially to those who may have had not-so-great experiences with cherry-flavored Aromatics in the past. It's incredibly well balanced with plenty of natural tobacco notes, a lot of body, and a decent amount of strength for its genre. It burns extremely well.
I would also recommend Sillem's Red to a beginner smoker. I've talked a little bit in the past about how recommending Aromatics to a beginner is tricky because of the genre's typically higher moisture content, higher proportion of Black Cavendish (which burns a little differently. Pipe smokers who start out with Aromatics can often end up with sour smokes. They can over puff or smoke too much, too fast — leading to a hotter smoke and a lot of moisture issues. But Sillem's Red has a more delicate topping and plenty of natural tobacco flavors. The Virginia flake pieces really added to the whole experience, not just the flavor but the burn rate, too.
I think somebody who's still honing their pipe-smoking technique could still smoke this and get the aroma and flavors that they're expecting as a pipe smoker. It delivers really big, fruity, and sweet flavors, but the components, strength, and body can help temper the tendency to smoke a little too fast and a little too hot. It slows the burn rate down and provides smokers with enough natural tobacco flavor that it can serve as an excellent introduction to what quality, natural pipe tobaccos can be.