Welcome back, everyone, to Tasting Notes. On today's episode, I have the pleasure of discussing the latest entry in the Warped line of pipe tobaccos, which is an ongoing collaboration between Kyle Gellis of Warped Cigars and Jeremy Reeves of Cornell and Diehl. A limited-edition blend releasing Friday, May 13th, Saint Espresso is an "exclusively different" Aromatic mixture that features three different and unique varieties of Cavendish, and is meant to evoke the complex, familiar, and comforting flavors of a good espresso or coffee.
Last fall's release of Scarecrow, which was another really interesting take on the traditional Aromatic, was received really well, and I think that has to do with the ethos behind the Warped brand. Warped's pipe tobaccos represent really unique takes on traditional genres, often with really interesting twists. Saint Espresso is exactly that: It takes the idea of an all-Cavendish blend and turns it on its head. It was also a fun passion project for both Jeremy Reeves and Kyle Gellis, as both have a lot of experience with coffee.
Indeed, Kyle owned a coffee roasting company back in the day, and Jeremy is a lifelong aficionado and hobbyist roaster — he was even a part-time barista at one point. Both Kyle and Jeremy have a lot of experience with high-end, premium coffee and wanted to see if they could really evoke that experience in a pipe tobacco. There are myriad coffee-inspired blends on the market, so the intent wasn't really that. Instead, they sought to recreate the experience and craft a blend that would pair exceptionally well with coffee, especially an espresso. And they've accomplished that through a really novel and exciting use of components.
Three Distinct Varieties of Cavendish
The smoking experience is very unique and very satisfying, but Kyle and Jeremy somehow managed to create that exceptional experience using only Cavendish, three different types of Cavendish to be exact. Cavendish essentially refers to a heat-treated tobacco, meaning it's subjected to a combination of heat, steam, and pressure to draw out the naturally-occurring sugars within the tobacco itself. Cavendish can be made from any base varietal, really, but the most popular base leaf is Burley. Saint Espresso, however, uses three separate Cavendishes made from three unique varietals — primarily, Cornell and Diehl's proprietary Red Virginia Cavendish. The same Cavendish that you can find in blends like Autumn Evening, C&D's Red Virginia Cavendish is made from Eastern North Carolina Reds, which results in a really great, full body that preserves some of the tannins and some of the tartness that's inherent in the raw leaf.
The second Cavendish varietal is a variant on traditional, unsweetened Black Cavendish that is made with a Kentucky-grown Burley known as One Sucker. A type of dark, air-cured tobacco, One Sucker is often used in snuff production and dry-cured cigar production, and is really similar genetically to what we know as Perique. It's nice and complex, with a lower sugar content and a higher alkalinity, which is an important aspect in Saint Espresso's incredible balance. The final component is a distinct Cavendish made from Dominican cigar leaf, which you can also find in Warped's popular Until The End and Kings Stride mixtures. These three intriguing and atypical Cavendishes combine to form a really good base, carrying the blend's signature flavors while also providing a strong backbone of complexity and natural tobacco flavor.
Tin Note and Moisture Content
One thing that I love about St. Espresso is that it's ready to go straight from the tin. It's a beautiful, lush Aromatic, but it smokes more like a Virginia or Burley sort of mixture, with an excellent moisture content right out of the tin. I don't really give this one any drying time. You'll also notice that the cut is a little on the wild side. There are some finer ribbons, but there are also some bigger chunks here, which slow down the burn and give it a bit more dynamism. So this one burns nice and slow and exceptionally cool. It has all of the characteristics of the Cavendish mixtures that you want with a little bit of something extra in the way of flavor and overall performance.
The tin note is outstanding. Right off the bat, there's an intense aroma of dark-roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and a little bit of vanilla, but there's also a hint of nuttiness and an earthy backbone. So it's well balanced, and isn't cloyingly sweet by any means. Rich, creamy, and naturally sweet, it smells like waking up in the morning with a fresh pot of coffee already on the stove. I mean, it's incredible.
A True Coffee-inspired Experience
One other thing about St. Espresso that I think makes it unique in the world of Aromatics is that it actually tastes like it smells. And that's a particular pain point that I've heard from smokers of various backgrounds and preferences over the years: that Aromatic tobaccos often don't taste quite the way that they smell. They can still taste great. The room note can be completely different from what the smoker is actually tasting on the palate, but there's sometimes a bit of a disconnect between what you smell in the tin, what your company smells in the room note, and what you're actually tasting. For me St. Espresso is maybe one of the only Aromatic tobaccos that I've ever smoked where the tin note, aroma, and flavor line up exactly.
So let's get into how it smokes. Even from the charring light, it's creamy and sweet, but not too sweet. It immediately calls to mind roasted coffee and chocolate. There's a little bit of an earthy quality and a slight bitterness, which works really well to offset some of the sweeter notes and flavors of chocolate and vanilla. The acidity in that tartness offsets some of the richer notes. Aside from those initial hints of roasted coffee, chocolate, and vanilla, there's also a richness reminiscent of caramelized sugar. I do get a little bit of tartness or tanginess, and a little bit of a citrus characteristic too, which I'm attributing to the Red Virginia Cavendish. Taken all together, it really does evoke the experience of enjoying a good espresso for me. It has equal parts of this citrus-like acidity as well as notes of caramelized sugar and a lot of richness, and these three Cavendish varieties really play well with the chocolate and the vanilla flavoring.
Surprisingly Strong and Full-bodied
In terms of overall body, Saint Espresso is medium to full. There's more body here than you'd expect from an Aromatic or from a 100% Cavendish mixture. It's also stronger than you would expect. It's by not means strong or overpowering, but I would rate it a hair above medium or medium-plus in strength. That unexpected strength really surprised me, so I asked Jeremy Reeves about it. Really what's happening here is that the base varietals used in these three distinct Cavendishes are more alkaline than typical Cavendish bases, which gives the smoker the impression of increased strength. The alkalinity basically affects the way that your body absorbs the nicotine, so although Saint Espresso is an all-Cavendish mixture, it does have a little bit more strength and a little bit more body than one might imagine.
That said, it's still an all day smoke, for sure. If you're like me and you find that Cavendish blends typically leave you wanting a little bit more in the way of strength and body, then Saint Espresso is going to deliver in a way that will likely surprise you. It smokes in a way that I thought impossible for a Cavendish mixture to.
A Crossover Aromatic Unlike Any Other
I'm even hesitant to refer to this as a true Aromatic, because I think it really is more of a crossover blend. There's enough natural tobacco flavor in the base, and enough complexity from those three distinct Cavendishes, that I think any smoker out there is going to find this enjoyable. You don't have to be an Aromatic smoker to enjoy this one, but if you are a regular Aromatic smoker, Saint Espresso is going to blow your mind. It's rich and creamy in a way that actually does remind me of coffee. More than anything, it reminds me of an Affogato, which is an espresso poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The vanilla notes here are very noticeable, but so too are these notes of roasted coffee and dark chocolate. But it's not cloyingly sweet at all; instead, it has a complex, revolving door of slightly sweeter and more bitter notes. For every hint of sweetness, there's a hardier rich and earthy note.
Overall, I expect Saint Espresso to perform really well in a variety of pipes and chamber sizes. I've been smoking it mostly out of a clay pipe because I wanted to try to pick up the sort of nuance and the difference between these three distinct Cavendishes. But I've found that it smokes great in a briar and perhaps even better in a meerschaum.
It's also worth mentioning that Saint Espresso's room note is incredible. This is one of those rare blends where you're not only likely to get away with smoking it in mixed company, but it's something you'll probably get requests for. If you have people in your household or around you who are sensitive to pipe tobacco or just tobacco in general, Sain Espresso is one that they'll likely wish that they could put into a candle and have burning all the time. Just an incredible room note alongside an incredible flavor. A special thanks to Kyle and Jeremy again for another super interesting and unique entry into the Warped pipe tobacco line. I can't wait to see what those two guys come up with next.
Tagged in: Cornell and Diehl Jeremy Reeves Kyle Gellis Reviews Tobacco Video Warped