On this episode of Tasting Notes, I'm joined once again by my favorite Guest Taster and very good friend, Jeremy Reeves, head blender of Cornell & Diehl. Today we're going to be reviewing one of the two latest releases from Warped: Kings Stride. Taking its name from Kyle Gellis' limited edition Cabernet Sauvignon, Kings Stride is not a cigar or crossover blend in the traditional sense; it combines fine Virginias and matured Burley tobaccos (aged five years) to create its base, bolstered by St. James Perique and unique cigar-leaf Cavendish, created by pressing and steaming Dominican cigar leaf, which adds body and nuanced complexity to the smoke. Tune in as Jeremy and I smoke through a bowl of this fantastic blend, offer our thoughts, and learn a little more about the blending process.
Note: The following transcription has been edited for clarity and brevity.
[Shane Ireland]: Kings Stride was intriguing on paper, but I did not expect it to be, maybe, the front runner, for me personally. And honestly, the more I've smoked now, and I've been smoking through most of this tin since the release, it's is definitely unique and definitely not what I expected at the same time.
Before we get into it, I'd like to point out that this, out of the Warped blends we've seen so far, is technically the first one that doesn't have a cigar leaf component in the traditional sense. It doesn't have straight cigar leaf in it. What it does have, is a proprietary Cavendish that was made using Dominican air-cured leaf. So, we'll talk a little bit more about that in a second, but it's also a full, rich blend, in terms of flavor and also in terms of strength; probably medium-full? Pretty good amount of Perique in it, right?
[Jeremy Reeves]: Yeah, over, over 15%. So fans of things like Chenet's Cake, Haddo's Delight... Fans of old Escudo, will likely dig this blend. It's got a full portion of Perique, to be sure.
[SI]: But that cigar Black Cavendish interacts with the Perique in a really interesting way; all the flavor of the Perique seems to stay, but the sort of spiciness of the Perique is absorbed into the Cavendish. Think about it like an audio file: Perique has like these very spicy notes and these very fruity notes, but the Cavendish has sort of compressed all of it to the point where it's nice and even. And really, this tastes to me like a Perique blend that has like 10 plus years of age on it. Instead of the really spicy notes, or the dark fruit notes being really pronounced, this is more like an even keel. Like, the spice is gentle and honestly, on the palate, I get almost none. Only a tiny bit on the retrohale. If you asked me how much Perique was in this, I would have guessed like 5%; it's really odd.
[JR]: But the flavor of the Perique, I think, is so pronounced that you get a cigar-like tone to it. It's like a deep Maduro kind of cigar flavor, I think. But yeah again, the spiciness is really down played, almost, gone entirely. It's creamy.
[SI]: Very creamy. It's also earthy in a lot of ways that remind me of a Maduro cigar, as well. I think some of that's probably due to the aged Burley component in there. What is that, a 5 year old crop?
[JR]: Yeah, the crop's from 2013. It is a white and dark Burley mix.
[SI]: Ah, okay. I ask because you do get a little bit of that nuttiness and you do get a little bit of that earthy flavor as well. I think it's a dynamic smoke, and like I said, the strength is medium-plus. So, having said that, if that's what you're normally into, this could be an all day smoke for you. I don't think that this would fatigue the palate; I think that it would be a great first smoke of the day, but I think it would also be a nice pair with tea or a nice nightcap. I'm also really interested to see how it'll age. This is basically a standard crumble cake; you can break it up by hand, but it will be interesting to see kind of the fruity notes develop with a little bit of age. And along the lines of Warped's mantra, you know, "be exclusively different," I am really surprised at the complexity of that cigar leaf Cavendish component, because it's also unflavored. There's no flavoring.
[JR]: No flavoring, no casing.
[SI]: Yeah, so it's literally just the processing of steaming and pressing that cigar leaf into Cavendish, which is not terribly dissimilar from how the Maduro process works. So blending with Kyle: where did you guys end up on this blend in particular? You've done a couple so far together.
[JR]: Yeah, so, we looked at leaf, of course. Kyle's a tobacco guy; I'm a tobacco guy. And as we were getting to know each other, the first thing that we really felt like we needed to do, was go and look at a bunch of different types of tobacco. He was really interested to see this Black Cavendish that was made with cigar leaf. It was a totally different, totally unique kind of product from anything that he had ever come across. And, so, from that we brainstormed what we could do that wouldn't necessarily be another traditional cigar blend, but one that took that cigar component in a new direction. And, so, we landed on this blend after adding a fairly full portion of Perique — which is a tobacco that Kyle hadn't ever experienced before either. Marrying these two things together in unique way, that's what makes the blend; it's those two components with Burley and Virginia kind of on the sidelines, offering some support. But it's really about the interplay between the cigar leaf Black Cavendish and the Perique.
[SI]: It's really interesting too, because if I were tasting this blind, I would have a really hard time pinning down what I was tasting. I think I might have guessed a little of bit of Burley, a little bit of Perique, and a little bit of Virginia, but the cigar Cavendish doesn't add a prominent cigar type of flavor necessarily. You know, I wouldn't classify this as a cigar blend. I would classify this as, maybe, a Burley or a Virginia — somewhere in between. But, when you know what you're smoking, and you start to think about it, you do recognize the earthiness that comes out of that, and I guess a little bit of that chocolatey sweetness, too.
[JR]: Yeah, it does remind you a little bit of a Maduro. A Maduro cigar.
[SI]: But, it's still different and it's still unique. But, yeah, I think you guys hit it out of the park with this one. And I'm really excited to see what comes next, as usual. And a special thank you to Kyle and the Warped team for this blend as well.