Happy Holidays and welcome back to another episode of Tasting Notes. For today's installment, I have something very festive in store for you. As many of you know, I am mostly a Virginia and a Virginia/Perique smoker, but more recently I've been diving into the bountiful world of Aromatics. So, naturally, I was actually pretty excited to try Sutliff's recently released North Pole Peppermint Mocha. A festive, holiday-themed Aromatic, it immediately intrigued me, as I don't currently have anything like this at all in my rotation. I am going home over the holidays to see family, where I'll be in mixed company, and I thought it would be nice to have something with a really nice room note. But before I toted a jar across the country, I wanted to give it a fair try here in SC.
Well-Balanced Components and Excellent Cut
North Pole Peppermint Mocha is a recently released holiday blend from North Pole Peppermint Mocha, but unlike most of these seasonal mixtures, it's actually a bulk offering. A blend of premium Black Cavendish, Dark Burley, and some Bright leaf, it's flavored with a couple of different things, but most noticeable are notes of mint and chocolate. I think there's also a little bit of vanilla, and I do pick up on that in the smoke. The tin note itself is super distinctive and unique; I was kind of blown away at first and I had to do a double take, sticking my nose back in the bag a couple of times. The mint is very upfront and so is the chocolate. Together, it makes for something that is super reminiscent of, say, a York Peppermint Patty or an Andes chocolate.
So, for me personally, the aroma is super nostalgic and comforting — that combination of chocolate and mint with maybe a touch of vanilla and the tobacco notes underneath really captures the spirit of the holiday season. And that rings true in the smoke as well.
The cut is really uniform, with lovely long ribbons. It's just perfect for an Aromatic tobacco, really. For context for those of you who may not smoke Aromatics all the time, I give it the pinch test to see how it sort of unravels. If it really sticks together, I give it a couple more minutes of drying time, and when it almost instantly starts to unfurl, I know it's ready to smoke. Be careful not to over-dry this or any other Aromatic, because you end up losing some of the nuance offered by the top notes and the casings. The sweet spot is a nice balance of a really even and steady burn while still maintaining the full flavor of the blend. For me, I think my average dry time here was probably like five minutes or so. That doesn't sound like very much, but I do recommend giving it a little bit of drying time.
Chocolate, Vanilla, and Cooling Mint
Once you get this one going, if it's not too dry, the volume of smoke is very thick. It produces a lot of smoke. It's a really heavy, dense, lush smoke with a rich and full mouth feel, which is sort of complementary to the wider range of flavors that you're experiencing here. And those flavors are strong — I mean, we're talking about mint and chocolate. So the feel of the smoke and the overall experience really match the richness and depth of the aroma and the flavor that you're getting. I will say that I did anticipate a little more mint on the palate based on the bag note alone, but from the first light, what I noticed first was the chocolate. I was getting this really lovely, creamy, chocolatey flavor. The mint was there, but it was kind of always in the background, and I think it remains that way through most of the bowl. But on the palate and on the retrohale, it translates to more of a cooling effect than the strong, sharp flavor of mint.
Given the balance of the Black Cavendish to the other components, most notably the Dark Burley, there's just a lot of body here. It's dense, and rich, and lush, a really decadent smoke with a really decadent flavor, as well. I think this is a very unique Aromatic, not only because it hits those holiday-themed and nostalgic notes, but the feel and the experience is different from anything I've ever smoked. I have tried some mint-flavored blends, we've all smoked chocolate-flavored mixtures, but this one seems to stand apart from the typical fare. And it really comes down to the balance between those flavorings.
The blend is supremely balanced, from the components themselves to the expertly applied top notes and casings. Nothing here dominates your attention or gets in the way: It's a really harmonious aromatic, and a must-smoke for the Aromatic smokers out there. For guys like me who normally smoke Virginias, and maybe even English blends, this is worthy of trying during the holiday season. Everybody should have a really nice pipe tobacco with a lovely aroma to smoke in mixed company over the holidays. And there's just something about this, like I said, that is unique and different, but also nostalgic and comforting. This one really surprised me, guys.
An Aromatic Perfect for the Holidays
I am still trying to wrap my head around everything that I'm tasting here. The mint is ever present lightly on the back of the palate, definitely through the retrohale. The chocolate gets richer and creamier, and the sweetness is amplified as the bowl progresses. But I also pick up a wide variety of notes reminiscent of other baked goods and confections. There was a period where I tasted and smelled my grandmother's Snickerdoodles, for example. There's also some woodiness and boozy qualities here, which makes me think it would pair pretty well with a spiced rum or a bourbon. And underneath all of that, I'm still getting some pretty solid, toasted, roasted, and nutty notes, typical from the Dark Burleys and maybe a little bit from the Black Cavendish, so the tobacco base is firmly there.
Overall, Sutliff's North Pole Peppermint Mocha is a really harmonious, well-balanced mixture across the board. If you are a fan of Sutliff's Aromatics — and let's face it, they make some of the best on the market like 1M, Molto Dolce, Vanilla Custard, etc — then this is a must-try blend. And for everyone else out there who maybe doesn't smoke Aromatics that often, like I said, give this one a try. It's going to surprise you. It's got plenty of complexity to keep you interested. And I guarantee it's a crowd pleaser. Thanks, everybody. Happy holidays, and I'll see you next year.