THE PROFESSOR'S PIPE TOBACCO REVIEWS

Cornell & Diehl Tobaccos

P.O. Box 475, Morganton, NC 28680
800-433-0080
http://www.cornellanddiehl.com

These folks are worth trying out. They definitely have something for everyone: they blend their own and have a selection that is as extensive in the natural and English mixtures as it is for aromatics. Not only are they inexpensive, but Craig, who runs the place, is a pleasure to deal with. My overall impression of the blends that I've tried so far is that they are exceptionally clean and dry smoking, although I have run into a few that weren't as quite as rich as I somehow thought they should be. OK, OK, so I've smoked too much McConnell's Oriental Mixture and must come back to earth.... Any minor criticism aside, there are some real taste treats here waiting to be discovered and appreciated on their own merits.

TINNED BLENDS

Black Duck
This smooth, full-English mixture was drummed up with the intention of capturing the spirit of Rattray's Black Mallory, the way it used to be before it started being produced FOR Rattray's rather than BY Rattray's. Although I wouldn't call it an exact clone, it certainly fulfills its mission statement. To the eye, it's browner than the old Black Mallory and comes in a slightly wider, more crumbly cut. It also has an unusual, musty, almost salty, aroma before smoking that I can't identify, and which I have noticed before in some C&D tobaccos. I get the impression though that, in this blend, this mustiness translates into sweetness when smoked, as odd as that seems. Here, a dry, natural-tasting brown cavendish provides a bit of sweetness for the latakia and Turkish tobacco. Like the old Black Mallory, this is a blend in which there is depth of flavour, but the flavours are fairly unified. The latakia is dominant, but not overwhelming. Overall, the taste is a bit more refined and not as strident as that of many of C&D's bulk blends. Depending on your tastes, you might like this even better than Black Mallory as it's not quite so sharp on the tongue. This is a pleasure to smoke and I've even been told it smells quite nice by a number of bystanders (although it IS thoroughly an English-style blend). And whatever that pleasant musty aroma is, I don't taste it, but it seems to stick to my mustache after a smoke. '98

Brigadier
Here's another of those English-aromatic mixtures that I'm often attracted to. This one is heavier on the aromatic than on the English component, and all the more unusual since strong, fruity flavours rarely meet latakia in the same pipe. In the tin, I first thought I smelled a concentrated berry essence reminiscent of sugar-drink flavor crystals. You don't really smell the latakia in the tin, but its presence does make for a scent far denser than that of a typical aromatic. It has a crumbly, pellet-like texture owing to the cube-cut burley base, which means that it lights and burns easily. The punch of the burley combines with a good dose of spicy perique and the fruit essence, to create an extremely zesty, fresh-tasting mixture. The latakia in the blend isn't really tasted as a distinct element, but it does contribute to taking the rough edge off the smoke and to making it a little fuller. I smoked this a lot in a full-bent pipe and the sidestream smoke can really tickle the nostrils as it drifts around. This tastes lemony to me—though the flavouring is apricot-based—at least in the first half of a bowl full, and there is a slightly bitter taste that reminds me of citrus rinds. The flavoring seems to compliment and bring out the natural fruitiness of the perique in the mixture. As it is smoked, the nutty taste of the burley base becomes stronger and creates a fruit-and-nut flavor of sorts. It burns to a dry, medium-grey ash and becomes sharper at the bottom of the pipe. The room aroma while smoking is quite strong and distinctive, but its fruity scent should elicit a few compliments. It's a satisfying smoke that might be a bit strong for someone who hasn't smoked a burley-and-perique blend, but it's a nice change of pace. I originally smoked this in a pipe reserved for latakia blends, thinking that the fruit flavor wasn't all that significant. Over time, however, the pipe took on the distinctive taste. It took quite some time to remove it, and it's still not 100% gone. '97

Cross-eyed Cricket
This dark, English-aromatic hybrid has a pungent sweet scent in the tin that is suggestive of fruit, which the label describes as "rum punch." Despite its aroma, this blend is as savoury as it is sweet, thanks to the inclusion of latakia, Turkish and perique. The blend's base is black Cavendish, but not the gummy and sticky sort. Like many black Cavendishes, this blend produces a cool, creamy and thick smoke, but this mixture is much zestier and fuller than that. In the sidestream smoke, I find that the aromatic punch scent tends to dominate. Flavor-wise, the musty and smoky English-style flavors meld with the mellower aromatic qualities to produce a full-tasting, yet mild, smoke. I tend to like cross-over blends and this is no exception. After a lot of smoking, a bit of the aromatic quality did work its way into my pipe. '98

Pennington Gap
This zesty mixture will wake you up in the morning! It is a crumbly mottled black and brown, topped with a bourbon essence which, in the tin, is rather overpowering. When smoked, however, most of the bourbon vanishes under the nutty and spicy tastes of the burley and perique. Although there is some sweetness from the bourbon topping and the black cavendish to temper the spiciness, it's not much, and this is probably a little strong for a new pipe smoker. "Slightly peppery" would be the best two-word description of this light-bodied blend that is neither harsh nor extremely refined. The room aroma is fairly powerful and musty, and it bears just enough sweetness that it should be pleasant for some, but not all, of the folks who share the room with you. Tasty! '98

Rajah's Court
This light-colored tinned mixture consists of medium-cut, pale-through-medium brown tobacco, with darker flecks. The aroma in the tin carries the unmistakable leathery-smoky scent of an English blend, despite the obvious fact that it contains little latakia. Because it's fairly dry and includes a bit of broken flake, it has a rough texture on the fingers while filling the pipe. This is clearly a light English blend; if it were much lighter, it couldn't possibly have an English taste to it. It has a slightly buttery taste and a slightly musty taste, seasoned lightly with smoky latakia. It's slightly spicy as well, but I think this isn't as much a by-product of actual flavor as it is of the tangy Virginia tobacco base. The suggestion of spiciness plays off the suggestion of richness, which results in a very subtle complexity that I liked. The tanginess keeps it from tasting flat. I think this tastes best when the smoke is blown out through the nose, because doing so seems to accentuate the buttery taste. There is also a musty, partially roasted nut flavor lurking in the background here that I find appealing. These flavors all taste good to me, but diluted somehow. Note that this may well be just a reflection of my own inability to appreciate many lighter blends. It does take on a thicker flavor in the lower third of the bowl, and this is the part of the smoke that I preferred. This isn't smooth, but it isn't particularly harsh either. I would never call this a cool smoke, but it's still cooler to my palate than a number of blends that manage to maintain a certain popularity. For some smokers, I think the tang of this one might be interpreted as bite. Due to its relatively light flavor, it seems possible to actually smell this one somewhat while smoking, and this is the characteristic of this blend that I like the most. Smoke wafting directly off the top of the burning embers has a dense smouldering smell, but any which has mixed with the air somewhat before reaching my nose posesses a faint freshness that I really like. I doubt that smoking this blend would elicit any wonderful comments with regards to its room aroma (although I personally like it a lot), but at least it's a much cleaner and less pronounced scent than that produced by a typical heavy latakia mixture. A version of this review appeared in Pipes and Tobaccos magazine, 1998

Red Stag
This is a medium English blend of a speckled appearance that contains both dark and light tobaccos in addition to the predominately brown ones. It has a typically English, latakia-spiced aroma in the pouch, highlighted by some of that musty aroma that I mentioned in my description of Black Duck. My sample came in a crumbly, uneven, medium cut that needed to be humidified before smoking. The description says that this contains "latakia, Turkish, red Virginia and bright Virginia flake." There is indeed sweetness from the Virginias at the beginning of a smoke, but this is an earthy sweetness that is not especially rich. This taste melds into the combined flavours shortly after lighting up. A marriage of flavours is well-achieved and no one taste stands out much in relation to the others. To me, this is a fairly typical medium English blend (a little on the light side of medium to my taste buds), earthier than some, sweeter than others. It has a certain degree of piquancy due to the Virginias used and a refreshing, spicy taste (provided, of course, that you like the natural-tobacco-plus-latakia combination). It's not as smooth and full as a heavier English mixture, but it's not as sharp as a pure Virginia. '97

Strathspey
This tinned mixture is billed as "heavy with latakia and deep Orientals," with a "wee dram o' scotch." So it may come as a surprise that upon opening the tin, a noticeable butterscotch aroma greets you. You may even wonder if an aromatic tobacco made its way into the tin instead of the English blend you had expected. But it's a musty butterscotch, so you decide this must be the right thing after all. It's predominantly reddish-brown, medium-cut leaf with lots of lighter and darker speckles. Once you start smoking your first bowl of this, you'll probably find that it tastes nothing like its butterscotch tin aroma. It is, after all, despite first impressions, an English blend, and a fairly perky one at that. To my taste, it's not quite as heavy on the latakia as the description promises. I would consider this to be a medium English, but not a weak one. The smoke is fairly smooth and rich, but not heavy. It starts out with a slight tang that fades after the first quarter of the bowl. This start makes me fear that it might bite, but it doesn't. It has a strong, dry, sandy taste that is slighty bitter on the palate, and occasionally almost grassy. At certain moments, it reminds me of a slightly diluted Balkan-type flavor. At other moments, I can smell a bit of the scotch aroma wafting off the pipe, even though it is very difficult to taste. A salty aspect seems to develop while smoking, particularly near the bottom of the pipe. No appreciable quantity of sweetness seems to mix into the taste from the black cavendish and scotch until after several bowls have been smoked in the same pipe. In fact, you'll probably forget that this is flavored once you get smoking. The added aroma does substantially affect the scent in the room while smoking, adding richness and making it less pungent. It burns perfectly to the bottom of the pipe, leaving a fine grey ash. A version of this review appeared in Pipes and Tobaccos magazine, 1998

BULK BLENDS

#012 London Squire
This is a black and tan blend of medium and wide cut tobaccos that is livened up by the occasional piece of broken flake. It is supposed to contain 40% latakia. Although it sounds like a categorically heavy blend, I would adjust that nomenclature slightly and call it a medium-heavy blend. I'm not sure if it's the latakia, the Virginias or the Turkish in this mixture, but something makes it just a little bit less full-flavoured and complex than what I would expect from such a dark blend. This is an observation though, not really a problem. In fact, those who like the flavour of dark latakia blends, but find them too cloying due to the fragrant Orientals and rich Virginias that are often used in such mixtures, might welcome this. It's a really smooth, relaxing, slow-burning smoke, with just a hint of sweetness and a slightly dry taste. It has a classic latakia aroma in the pouch, and in the room while smoking. This has come to be one of my favourite C&D blends. '95

#043 Bag Piper
This is a medium-light English-style blend that starts out fairly smooth (despite its burley base) and possesses an unusual underlying sweetness, despite its somewhat dark flavour. The sweetness might be due to the "secret ingredient which adds a distinct tanginess," as is described in the C&D brochure, (which is actually an herb known as deer tongue) or perhaps it's just the presence of a particular Virginia. This sweetness tasted almost creamy—dairy-like or vanilla-ish—at times, although the room aroma while smoking doesn't suggest added flavours. A non-smoking friend remarked that the aroma was rather spicy. This is a fairly fine cut that I found to burn a bit fast and get substantially stronger (in flavour and on the tongue) toward the bottom of the bowl. I enjoy this one as a change of pace. '95

#045 Trinidad
This is a light-coloured blend that I found to be unexpectedly satisfying. Since it is based on cavendish and burley tobaccos, with the addition of a fair amount of perique (no latakia), it is not rich at all. However, I enjoy how its peppery quality is offset by the blander cavendish. I only smoked this in a small pipe and I suspect that it would seem quite a bit stronger (too much?) smoked in a larger pipe. '94

#061 Stratforshire
Here's a true middle-of-the-road English blend for someone who likes latakia as a condiment, but not as a main flavor. This might also be the answer for the person who's looking for an English blend that shows off crisp, natural tobacco taste without being unduly strong. The Virginia base offers a clean and slightly sweet taste. In contrast, a hint of leathery smokiness comes from the latakia seasoning. Sometimes, especially in the upper half of a bowl full, its faint, natural sweetness stands out, while at other times, a more simple, toasted-oatmeal type of flavor dominates. Its slight tanginess does have the potential to get spicy, but unhurried smoking keeps it enjoyable and cool-smoking. The smoke is medium-bodied at most and not pungent. It is not strong in nicotine either. However, if it sounds bland, let me say that it isn't—the end taste is somewhere between simple and complex. In the pouch, it has an attractive speckled appearance, containing yellow-beige, light brown and blackish medium-cut tobaccos. It burns dry to a fine light grey ash and leaves a bland tobacco aroma in the room after smoking that just might cause someone to suspect you had been smoking cigarettes, even though the scent is too sweet and clean for that. A version of this review appeared in Pipes and Tobaccos magazine, 1998

#062 Byzantium
Welcome to a full-flavored English blend. This is roughly 60% dark tobacco with contrasting lighter strands. The texture is noteworthy: it's a rather coarse, long-cut mixed with crumbly tobacco. Because of this texture, it might not be the best mixture to smoke in a small pipe. It has a strong, leathery, almost salty scent in the pouch, which is quite enticing provided that you like this style of tobacco, as I do. If you don't like latakia, you don't stand much of a chance of enjoying this. Once lit, this reminds me of how Dunhill's 965 first tasted to me (which I haven't actually had for a few years), but less complex. Earthy, stout, spicy—anything but bland. Its flavor is unequivocally intense and lacks the tongue-biting quality of many lighter blends. I think this would make a great tobacco choice for a new pipe smoker who likes other intense taste sensations, such as chocolate, espresso, dark beer or cigars even. The perique is used in excellent balance here: enough to stimulate the palate, but not enough to produce a peppery or piercing smoke. Its rich, full-bodied smoke is quite consistent from start to finish—fairly smooth and dry-tasting, with little flavor change during a pipe full other than getting a little spicier toward the bottom. This produces an unmistakable heavy latakia aroma that you may have to apologize for if those sharing the room don't appreciate the warming scent of English-style tobaccos. A version of this review appeared in Pipes and Tobaccos magazine, 1998

#063 Bayou Night
This came in a flattened brick that is blackish-brown with medium- and light-brown flecks. Since the tobacco is pressed, but not aged for a long time in the brick, it flakes off easily into medium-cut strands. It smells slightly dark and peaty, and slightly sweet and fermented in the block, due to the perique that is said to account for 50% of the mixture. This is a quite a bit of perique! I generally approach perique blends with caution as I occasionally find them harsh. However, my initial impression upon lighting up was that this is NOT harsh. Further to my surprise, this remained true throughout the entire smoke, and it only became marginally tangier at the bottom of the pipe. The sidestream smoke has that pleasant, nose-tickling quality that perique is famous for, and although the smoke tastes very alive and full in the mouth, there is no bite to speak of. It's hard to pinpoint the taste of this one. There is definitely a very muted hint of dark raisin in the flavor, with a dull sweetness that is always present. Some of this is from the stoved Virginia in the blend, some of it from the perique. There is a mellow, earthy spiciness to this smoke, but no sandy or nutty taste to speak of. And it's only barely smoky-tasting. So, even though it contains latakia, it's not a "classic latakia blend with perique." I only taste the latakia as a major ingredient at the very bottom of the bowl, as much as I do realize that it contributes to the smoothness and rich body of the smoke. What makes it so striking is that its strong taste signifies for me a certain degree of harshness that is quite simply absent. I suspect that this would hold up quite well to regular smoking. This isn't a weak blend by any means, but it's an excellent example of how tasty perique can be. It could be very popular amongst English-blend smokers who would like less latakia, but no comparable loss of flavor or strength. It leaves a slightly sweet and musty aroma in the mustache and a citrus tang on the palate. A version of this review appeared in Pipes and Tobaccos magazine, 1998

#081 Balkan
Nothing special, but a pretty good middle-of-the-road, earthy English blend, yellow to black in colour. Neither too mild nor too rich nor too spicy. No complex flavours, not a particularly enticing aroma, no surprises. I enjoyed my sample, but didn't find it outstanding enough to want to order more. '94

#210 Berry Good
I was surprised by this one right from the first puff, as its name conjures up ambivalent memories of very heavily flavoured and processed, syrupy tobacco blends. I was a bit reluctant to try it, but it didn't smell excessively sweet in the pouch, so I proceeded without caution since it received recommedations from two respectable Finnish pipe smokers. In fact, it doesn't smell very fruity at all in the pouch. This may very well be an "aromatic" blend, but it's as dry-smoking as the English tobaccos that are my mainstay and, despite its added fruity flavour, it's not at all suggestive of a concentrated fruit compote; it tastes like tobacco too! The burleys in the mixture provide a certain flavour intensity that is heightened by, but not overpowered by, an equal intensity of fruit (supposedly blackberry, although I could never identify it as such) and vanilla. The overall flavour is quite mild; the flavourings being just enough to lighten and sweeten the smoke a bit. Mainly dark brown with some lighter reddish-brown flecks, it's a slightly irregular medium cut that burns clean to a dry, grey ash, to the point that there's almost none to be dumped out at the end of a smoke. Even puffing fairly slowly, I found it to burn a little hotter than I might like, but that might be simply because my sample was fairly dry (which is generally the way I like my tobacco), or it might be because of the blend's burley content. It has a light-to-medium body and is quite a stimulating smoke that doesn't produce the relaxation coma that some of my favourite latakia mixtures do. As for smoothness—well, it's not a tongue-biter in the way that burley blends can sometimes be, but if you're looking for a blend with a rich, creamy smoke that's really smooth, this isn't it either. While smoking, the flavourings seem to progressively disappear in imperceptible increments, so at the bottom of the bowl, the principal flavour is pure tobacco. It smells nice in the room while smoking, without giving off a sickeningly sweet aroma and leaves a predictable aftertaste: the tang of burley tinged with fruit-vanilla essence. If you generally find aromatic burley blends good, but occasionally too harsh or severe, this may be the medium-strength blend you've been looking for. Thanks for the sample Ilkka! '95

#225 Scottish Blend
Excellent. A sweet and natural, almost aromatic, yellow Virginia flavour dominates this blend. A crumbly cut which tended to burn a little fast for my taste. Not exactly smooth-smoking, but not overly sharp either. The addition of burley, to my surprise, has a positive effect on its overall taste, complimenting the sweetness quite nicely. '95

#272 Pasha's Dream
I was quite surprised by this blend as it is a fairly heavy English, although not heavy enough as to be cloying in any way. Its description as
A blend of Turkish, Latakia, Red Virginia, Kentucky Burley and Bright Strips. A complete long cut blend with the unique combination of rum flavor and latakia.
evoked in me images of something quite a bit lighter and more aromatic. It is a medium-cut blend that looks pretty dark overall, but also contains abundant flecks of medium-brown Virginia as well. The body of the smoke is full, not quite as full as 965, but it starts to approach that. And it tastes like a decent, gutsy English blend with relatively little bite, easy to exhale through the nose, but yet not totally overwhelming. But there is one big oddity in this blend: the addition of rum flavouring. I started smoking this in my new (estate) Brebbia OomPaul and didn't notice the rum topping much at first, although the smoke (and pouch aroma) did seem a little bit sweeter than what one might expect from an English blend with latakia presence. After my first couple of pipes, I was even asking myself why they even bother adding such a small quantity of rum essence. However, the rum flavour eventually seemed to work its way into the pipe and the flavour of the smoke, and I find it very pleasant. It nicely offsets the dark flavours and slight bitterness of some of the tobaccos in the mixture. The slight bitterness (probably the Kentucky Burley) that I mention gave way to a comment from a fellow pipe-smoker who enjoyed the pipe-full I offered him, but stated that it tastes like an American, not an English mixture. Now that I've run out of this blend, I just hope the rum flavour doesn't stay there forever. Then again, I'll probably be buying more of this one. I like it a lot and find I can smoke a lot of it! It burns clean and easily to a grey ash. Actually, the broken, finer-cut tobacco that tends to accumulate at the bottom of the pouch smokes a little fast and hot. This isn't a blend that will please English smokers who like their tobacco to taste absolutely 100% natural, but those who crave a hearty English with just a bit of added sweetness might find this to be an worthwhile discovery in their quest for the perfect blend. As for room aroma, it still smells like an English blend, with just that touch of sweetness that the rum flavouring provides. '96

#300 Apricots & Cream
I find it odd how much I enjoy this strongly aromatic blend since I'm such a big fan of heavy English blends. Of course, the question is "Why?" I think it comes down to the way in which this blend is aromatic. The flavouring used here is said to be apricot brandy, and its addition produces a unique, pungent, slightly sour taste that is quite perfumy on the taste buds. For some reason though, I don't recognize its flavour as actually being derived from apricots. It just tastes rather flowery to me, vaguely like hibiscus-flower tea. This flowery taste resembles in some ways that of some of the old-fashioned English non-latakia blends such as Bosun Cut Plug or some of the other Gawith and Hoggarth tobaccos. The comparison ends here at perfuminess though; the actual tobacco character of this blend is very different from any British tobacco I've ever tried. Apricots & Cream is practically devoid of sweetness on the palate, unlike most aromatics, which may sound odd. It's a lot like drinking a cup of unsweetened jasmine tea, but quite a bit stronger, both in terms of the flavouring and the good amount of tobacco flavour that comes through. I think it is this particularity, the way you taste the sweet-smelling flavouring agent without added sweetness, that provoked one person who disliked this blend tremendously to say that it tastes like dry-cleaning fluid. This is an all-dark tobacco blend, medium cut, dry to the touch, and of a blackish-brown colour. It comes off at first as a black-cavendish style blend, but more gutsy in terms of strength and tobacco flavour, with drier smoking-characteristics and minus the usual sweetness of black cavendish. Its strength and stimulating quality seems to come from the presence of a good amount of burley in the mixture. Although it's not a harsh or biting blend, I find it does tickle the throat a bit, and it lacks the smooth creaminess of many cavendish mixtures that would make it a truly mild blend. Its room aroma is sweet and very pleasant, but it's not overwhelming in the way that many aromatics can be. This is one of Craig's (who operates Cornell & Diehl) favourite smokes and I can truly see why. It burns completely dry to a grey ash. Highly recommended if you like a truly aromatic tobacco and are sick of the wet-smoking stuff. Thanks CS for the sample! '95

#305 Espresso
You don't have to open the pouch (or be very near it) to smell this, especially if it has just arrived! It might be named "Espresso," but I doubt I would have guessed coffee as its aroma. Instead, I smell something like burnt caramel and vanilla, with the addition of something dark like licorice or chocolate. Knowing that there's a coffee essence in the mixture, I can smell it, but it's definitely buried. Maybe I would have figured it out eventually, maybe not. When this arrived, it also had a cloying, fermented, sourish smell which dissipated after a few days. This semi-moist, medium-cut black cavendish tobacco is dark-brown and brown-tinged black, unlike the "average" American black cavendish mixture, which would be jet black and very moist. Given how intense this blend smells is in its pre-combustion state, it's odd how unspecific it tastes when smoked. "Dark and murky" would summarize how it tastes to me; the highlights of the pouch aroma really don't translate much into flavour. Not that it's tasteless, just that it's not as vibrant or as sweet as the pouch aroma suggests. Like a soup containing many ingredients, nothing really stands out. It produces a mild and smooth, no-bite smoke that's rich-bodied. It's a pleasant smoke and easy to smoke a lot of! Though it's not a complex taste, it's not entirely flat either. While smoking, I get an occasional whiff of the burning caramel aroma that I smelled in the pouch, but I can't say I can really taste it. Some of this scent lingers on my moustache as well and I like that. One of this blend's most interesting qualities is that its dark, rich taste is somehow reminiscent of latakia to me. If you like this and haven't tried a latakia-laden English blend, you should—just might discover an affinity for latakia! Like many aromatic tobaccos, some of its flavor and sweetness burn off toward the bottom of the bowl, but it remains a dry smoke with a fairly strong, but agreeable, room aroma. '97

#411 Constellation
Well, I've finally got this one figured out. For quite some time, I didn't think I liked it, but at the same time, there was something I liked about it. This is their heaviest latakia blend and it is mainly blackish in colour, flecked with some medium and lighter browns—medium cut. The dominant latakia flavour is smooth and dark in flavour and perhaps slightly mellowed by the presence of black cavendish and light Virginias. It's the addition of burley to the blend that I've had to get used to. It slightly cuts and infringes upon the inherent richness of the latakia. Depending on your own preferences, you may find this either good or bad. The burley affects the body of the smoke, making it a bit lighter and more lively tasting than such comparably dark blends as Nightcap or Bengal Slices. It also makes for a smoke that is somewhat sharper than I expect from such a dark mixture. Fortunately, this sharpness isn't apparent to my palate until the last third of the bowl, where it can also develop a somewhat bitter character if smoked too fast. In fact, this blend is not good in a pipe that tends to smoke a bit hot. I remember Ray Bromley mentioning that this blend reminds him of Rattray's Black Mallory, which I can understand due to its strength, black cavendish content and impending sharpness. Still, Black Mallory has a sweeter, more fragrant aspect that isn't present here. If I have dwelled excessively on Constellation's slight sharpness, it is simply because it sometimes seems inappropriate to my palate. It remains, nonetheless, relatively smooth smoking blend in the overall scheme of things. '95

#414 Oriental Silk
Right from the moment I opened the packet I received in the mail, I was drawn to this blend's appearance. It contains a full range of colours in the beige through dark-brown range, including distinctively golden, orangish and reddish tints. The lighter shades do dominate though. For the most part, the cut is short and somewhat wide, which, along with its colour, gives the blend a look that reminds me of chopped bread crumbs. Its fine, crumbly, dry and light texture mean that it would be easy to smoke this one too fast. It has no special, thrilling flavour and my first impression of it was simply that it is bland. Well, smoke some more and get used to its taste... The dominant flavour is a flat, but very smooth and faintly sweet-tasting, light-Turkish and light-Virginia base, pepped up by a decent helping of perique. The quantity of perique used is perfect as it doesn't make the mixture overly sharp. Occasionally however, I notice that the perique gets a bit concentrated toward the bottom of the bowl and overrides the pleasant, mild taste of the base tobaccos. This is about as non-aromatic as one can get in a natural tobacco. In the pouch, its aroma reminds me somewhat of a cigarette tobacco, but richer and sweeter. In the room when smoked, it also has a clean, natural-tobacco aroma, which doesn't seem to linger as long as many. While it lasts, it seems to be my favourite blend for filling my half-bent, curved-bore, Genod pipe, which I savour lazily along with black coffee on weekend mornings. '96

#416 Plantation Evening
First of all, the contrasting, speckled appearance of this coarse-cut mixture is appealing to me, with its light browns and near blacks. It contains just enough latakia and perique to make it a bonafide English-style blend, but it's not heavy or harsh. The base flavour is a semi-sweet Virginia which is largely responsible for the mixture's underlying sweetness and refreshing character. This is further enlivened by the perique in the blend, but then smoothed out a bit by the added latakia and Turkish tobacco. The result is a smooth-smoking, yet slighty piquant English smoke of medium body and strength, perhaps a little on the light side of medium. In contrast, it has a rather full flavour, making it perfect for those who like mild, but not bland, English blends. The commercial description of this is quite accurate:
...an outstanding, middle of the road English blend with a delightful flavor.
It reminds me, in different ways, of several tobaccos that I like: it's somewhat like a fuller, richer version of Stanhope (#502); it's like a slightly more piquant and less sweet rendition of Blatter & Blatter's Mild English; it's also like Dunhill's Early Morning Pipe in terms of strength, but less dark-tasting, with fewer orientals and with a sweeter Virginia background flavour. The irony of this very pleasant smoke is that the mixture's recipe was the result of a blending accident (if you ever speak to Craig don't tell him that *I* told you this!). Just goes to show that certain accidents can lead to something good... Of course this smokes clean and dry to a fine, grey ash. It leaves a distinctive, clean English aroma in the room that is strong enough that I get a good sense of it while smoking. Enjoy! '96

#426 Jamaican Rum
This was originally a custom-made blend for a tobacconist somewhere, but has since been incorporated into C&D's regular line-up. It is a medium-to-dark brown burley and Virginia mixture of a varying texture: coarse-cut, ribbon-cut, short-cut and the occasional piece of broken flake. The pouch aroma is sweet, with a distinct vanilla-caramel scent, like a cake from a bake shop. When smoked, the casing is not quite as powerful as might be expected. I know I'm supposed to say that it smells like rum, and maybe it does, but I have a tough time distinguishing between certain types of flavourings—the rum is probably an integral part of the taste that I call "caramel-like." Its brown-sugar character compliments the base tobaccos' somewhat toasted flavour very well as opposed to overtaking it. The balance here is nice, between the natural sweetness of the Virginias and the spicy notes provided by the burley. It's a fairly smooth-smoking blend, medium in strength, medium in body. As you get further down a pipe full of this, the burley in the blend becomes a little spicier, almost peppery, but not quite biting. Although this is only a semi-sweet smoke to the taste buds, the room aroma while smoking is quite sweet and aromatic. It burns to a fine pepper-and-salt powder. Like many mixtures that contain a generous amount of burley, this is a refreshing, stimulating smoke. '95

#501A Plum and Rum
This is a similar tobacco to #300 Apricots & Cream, a dry (and not sticky), black cavendish base that I presume is made from a burley base. Like Apricots & Cream, it combines a fair degree of strength with an overall mildness and nice aroma. The aroma and flavour are a bit perfumy and a bit musty and not really sweet—a very pleasant combination that allows some natural tobacco taste to come through the casing. What I find interesting about this blend is that I identify neither plum nor rum as flavours (I have a really difficult time identifying many aromatic flavours). In comparison with Apricots & Cream, its aromas are much less intense and better integrated, although similar in character. I mentioned in my review of Apricots & Cream that certain aspects of it reminded me of some British tobaccos. Well, here I find it even a bit more so. There's something about this one's flavour and slight tanginess that recalls British blends like Condor and even BK (Bulwark) Flake to a certain degree, especially as the flavour becomes more concentrated further down the bowl. Craig ascertained for me what this is; it's the presence of some anise in the casing, which is commonly used in flavouring British tobaccos. This isn't a weak tobacco; it provides a medium-bodied smoke and a bit of that punch and "throatiness" that is burley's own, but without being harsh. The room aroma, while perfumed, is as pleasantly musty as its taste. This is one blend that I find tastes a lot like it smells in the pouch and in the room after smoking. I'm quite happy smoking a big pipe full of this in my Ben Wade freehand. '95

#502 Stanhope
This is an attractive mixture of yellowish brown, medium brown and black tobaccos in a longish medium cut, with the occasional piece of broken flake. The dominant flavour is that of Virginia + perique, but this isn't as heavy in perique or as sharp as the "Virginia + perique" description might suggest. The Virginia base is a naturally sweet one with a vibrant flavour that is almost, but not quite, fruity. This base is balanced with just the right quantity of perique (and perhaps a dash of latakia) to make a spicy smoke that tickles the tongue without burning it. The taste and aroma of this medium-bodied smoke are both refreshing and clean. Once again, the quantity of perique adds just enough strength so that a pipe full of this is relaxing, but it won't knock you over. It's a medium-smooth smoke, although not quite to the point where I would call it mild. There are no additional surprises as you smoke this one—the flavour remains quite constant from start to end. I am surprised I enjoy this one so much, but it just seems to achieve an almost perfect balance of sweet and spicy flavours for my palate without biting my tongue. It burns clean and dry to a fine whitish ash. Very highly recommended if you're searching for a flavourful, yet not overpowering, non-aromatic mixture. '95

#504 Balkan
This is a strong, spicy and, if you're not in the right frame of mind, harsh smoke. It looks innocent enough with its coarse-cut, reddish-brown through blackish tones and a dash of yellow thrown in. It has a very natural taste and tends to bite; it lacks the refinement that I expect in a blend named "Balkan," which I've come to associate with smoother, more complex, blends like Balkan Sobranie. It doesn't have any sweetness at all, despite the presumed presence of Turkish and Virginia tobaccos. As I finish off my 2-ounce sample, I realize the blend has attained an excellent balance in flavours in the sense that I still can't figure out what I like and what I don't like in it. Its strong, natural tobacco taste is almost cigar-like at times, and even though it's described as "a traditional English mixture heavy in latakia," the latakia component is to me merely a heavy spice amongst other strong flavours (burley, red Virginias, perique?). Anything in this mixture that suggests mildness may serve as a good background, but is quickly covered up by the stronger elements. However, I look forward to an occasional bowl of this for its heavy flavour and body (but not for its bite) at the right time of day—like now, late at night. Its high nicotine content makes it something to be smoked slowly in a small pipe if you are used to lighter blends. I think cigar smokers might really enjoy this one a lot. Still, its heavy room aroma reminds me of strong cigarettes—but in a purer, not stenchy way. The taste and aroma of this mixture is strong enough that I am quite aware of its room aroma as I smoke it, unlike most pipe mixtures. Due to its strength, I tend to follow up a bowl of this with something lighter and creamier, like something black-cavendish based. As with most C&D;tobaccos, it burns dry and clean to a grey ash. This reminds me in many ways of The Smoker's Saint James, a heavy perique blend whose slogan is "this one will get you!" '95

#505 Super Balkan
By the name, I expected something dark and rich. Instead, this is a medium and dark brown blend with a natural, slightly bland, nutty-flavoured base, enriched with latakia. However, the flavour does get appreciably richer as it is smoked. Pleasant smoking and leaves a subtly sweet aftertaste that I like a lot. Although I wouldn't call this blend sharp, I wouldn't call it mild on the tongue either. '94

#506 Winthrop
A heavy medium-strength blend with a rich, tarry flavour similar in some ways to Dunhill's 965, except lighter, drier and less bitter. I enjoyed this one, but wouldn't say that its aroma is particularly appealing, as much as I like the smoky aroma of latakia. A dark-coloured mixture that burns well. '94

#507 Shandygaff
Now here's another of those complex flavours that really makes my tongue happy. From its description as a blend of Dutch, Turkish, burley and perique (no latakia), I could never have guessed how it tastes. The base flavour is rich, sweet, mellow and caramel-like in flavour, but mild and not at all candy-like. In this, one perceives subtle notes of nuttiness and pepperiness. However, as with many blends that contain burley and perique, a not-so-subtle spiciness develops in the second half of the bowl. Here, the spiciness comes as a bit of a surprise after the more dominant sweetness of the first half of the bowl. Overall, this is a very satisfying blend with a distinctive flavour and aroma that are both strong and subtle. I enjoy this a lot and would probably smoke it more often were it just a little milder on the tongue (maybe I just need to add a bit of latakia to get my fix!). Still, it tastes great, and I went through my 2-ounce sample more quickly than usual, so that means that there's something I definitely enjoy in this blend. It comes in medium to dark-brown flecks and smokes dry to a grey ash. '95

#515 Black & Tan Cavendish
A fairly dark medium-cut cavendish-type tobacco with some lighter leaf as well. Although it contains a lot of black cavendish, it's not wet like most black cavendish tends to be. In the pouch it has a distinct brown-sugar-and-nut aroma that smells more rich than sweet. Because it's dry, it is easy to light and burns easily. The caramel-like flavoring adds more aroma than flavor and is an excellent complement to the dark burley taste that comes through. Like a good cookie, it seems to contain a shot of vanilla as well. Overall, the flavor is rich, only slightly sweet, and the smoke is medium-thick. The burley in the mixture gives it a certain zest and strength that lighter aromatics don't possess. Toward the bottom of the pipe, the aroma wears off and it smokes a bit stronger. Leaves a strong, rich scent in the room and burns to a dry, dark grey ash. '98

#531 Yale Mixture
This is an excellent choice for a English blend that is medium, with a tendency toward heavy, that is neither harsh nor weak. It offers an interesting combination of Virginia flavours, that range from slightly sweet, but not really fruity, to dry and somewhat musty. Perhaps best of all, it's a pretty smooth smoke that's bursting with natural tobacco flavour without being cloying. Still, it includes just enough latakia to achieve a balance, so it remains a refreshing, rather than overly heavy, smoke. It does indeed come pretty close to the original Craven Mixture. In short, although the taste of the two is quite similar, the C&D version is slighly flatter and sandier tasting. The original Craven has a slightly more lively and heavier flavour with a subtly bitter aftertaste. Even though the body of the smoke seems more or less the same in the two versions, the original Craven is a bit sharper and less refined tasting overall, and is possibly a stronger in nicotine too. I can't quite detect what it is in the original Craven that gives it its fuller taste. It's almost as if it might just contain more perique, but I suspect that the reality is that there is some additional aging and some different Virginias (and maybe even a bit of well-integrated burley) which produces a degree of unity in flavour that we don't find in the Yale Mixture. For anyone with a sensitive palate, this is a better choice than the original Craven. It's a medium cut, medium-dark brown mixture that smokes very dry and clean to a fine white ash. A very pleasing smoke for those who like English blends. '95

#532 Crowley's Best
This medium-cut, black-and-tan mixture is not lacking in spiciness, to say the least. It is peppery and packed with perique, if not a bit harsh, so don't smoke it fast, which is easy to do as it burns very well. Latakia augments its dark flavour and burley keeps it spicy-tasting. There are no sweet Virginias in here to soften up the taste. It starts out strong and finishes strong, like a good shot of espresso. You have to like perique to like this one and you also have to like the earthy taste of natural burley; it makes me imagine what Dunhill's Nightcap might be like without its rich Orientals. '94

#700A Dark Chocolate
A fairly short, wide-cut tobacco of a more-or-less uniform, dark, earthy brown colour. Yes, you might even say it looks a bit chocolaty. It has a pouch aroma that I find quite appealing, but it's not so much chocolate that I smell, but a slightly musty and sweet aroma that has undertones of burnt sugar. It's a dry, not sticky, aromatic with a burley cavendish base that combines a degree of mildness with typical burley punch. Interestingly enough, I never really taste much of the chocolate topping itself, but the chocolate does mix nicely with the natural burley flavour to produce a uniform, dark, nutty flavour. It's just sweet enough to complement the flavours and not more. The smoke is medium-bodied, perhaps even a bit on the light side, so it's not a really rich smoke, but its dark taste and satisfying character gives it the illusion of being a bit fuller than it actually is. It's quite a refreshing smoke, which makes it a great occasional alternative to the darker, fuller mixtures I often smoke, especially on a hot summer day. Still, it's a burley-based blend, so it doesn't have all the smoothness of some Virginia cavendishes. This becomes especially apparent after the half-way point of the bowl, where the spiciness of the burley comes out and it may smoke a little hot if you're not careful. There is also some potential here for tongue-bite, but it's still a decent smoke. The chocolate casing loses some of its strength after a while, but it takes on a slightly caramelized taste, which also is quite complementary to the smoke's flavour. However, an aftertaste from earlier in the smoke remains on the tongue, and a dark caramel-like scent remains in the moustache, providing a subtle contrast to the sharper, more natural burley flavour of the second half of the pipe full. The room aroma is very nice, just a little bit sweet and nutty, and not really heavy. Even though burley blends aren't really my favourites, I find this one to be "worth the detour," as we say in French. '95

#811 Conan Doyle
Although I'm generally not a burley fan, I admit (and am surprised) that I like this medium-strength blend of unsweetened dark burley and latakia quite a bit as an occasional smoke. The rich and smooth character of latakia is the perfect complement to burley's slight sharpness. The total flavour is fairly strong and nutty, almost sandy at times, complete with some of that bite that is burley's own. This blend—medium and dark brown with some lighter flecks—comes in a crumbly, medium-fine cut, which is a bit too fine for me, but does guarantee good burning. '94

#813 Professor
Dark brown and rich, smokes fairly smooth and slightly sweet, but offset by the spiciness and bite of perique. A very satisfying blend with a fairly strong English-style aroma, reminiscent perhaps of McConnell's Oriental Mixture, but stronger and without all the fragrance of abundant Orientals. I was smoking this in the corridor at work one day and one of my bosses, a non-smoker, complimented me on my pipe's beautiful aroma. A minute later, a cigarette-smoking employee passed by and made an ooh-what-a-stink comment before she saw me still puffing away. One of the more vibrant of the C&D latakia blends I've discovered. '95

#816 Unique
Medium brown, medium cut, medium strength. The flavour is fairly mild and unified, if not a bit bland, with the burley component contributing a slight sandy taste. There is little natural sweetness to be had here. Latakia is not at all dominant in this blend; it is a spice. It produces a mild, slightly sweet aroma when smoked. I found this to be quite good although entirely unspectacular. '94

#905 Vanilla Cavendish
This is one of several of their vanilla offerings. Fairly wide-cut, light to medium brown burley strands are perfumed lightly with a sweet, mild vanilla aroma, without in any way masking the natural tobacco aroma. This lightweight tobacco comes quite dry and smokes well that way. When lit, it might come as a surprise that the dominant flavour is a not-so-subtle, natural, burley taste. The way that the vanilla essence interacts with the burley flavour is actually quite noteworthy and adds a subtle level of complexity to a blend that is otherwise of a rather uniform character. During much of the smoke, the vanilla can be practically forgotten. From time to time however, one notices a sweet undertaste, in which one only occasionally detects the presence of vanilla. Aromatic smokers who require a heavy, sweet, taste probably won't become aficionados of this blend, but those who appreciate the natural flavour and light body of a slightly sweet and peppery burley mixture should find this to their liking. This blend burns quite well so it requires slow smoking for maximum enjoyment. For a burley-based blend, it's fairly mild, but it's nonetheless typically a bit tangy on the tongue and rich in nicotine. I find it to be a very pleasant smoke overall and I like the subtle vanilla aftertaste it leaves in my moustache. I also enjoy its lingering room aroma, which is a fairly pronounced tobacco scent tempered with just enough vanilla to freshen it up. '95

#908 Scanlish
I find this tobacco attractive because of the red-to-orange tinge of its light-through-dark-brown, medium-to-large-cut strands. It would qualify as a medium-strength English, and its pouch aroma is consistent with this, but that designation makes it sound blander than it actually is. It contains a decent amount of latakia, but not enough to send the toasted, and slightly creamy, taste of the lighter base tobaccos to a back seat. Although this is largely a Cavendish base, it is nutty and not at all sweet, making it a cleaner, drier-tasting smoke than the many English blends that include a sweeter, richer Virginia base. An interesting flavour contrast exists between the light and dark tobaccos in this mixture, probably facilitated by the fairly large cut: my perceptions of this blend while smoking it can alternate between that of a full-flavoured latakia blend and something much lighter and a slightly sharper. It smokes smooth and has a subtle bite to it that is pleasant, not irritating. The room aroma is typical for an English blend, but milder and less fragrant than many. Despite all its good qualities, I'm not drawn to the pouch of it very often; it lacks a certain distinctive strength that I usually look for—be it in terms of sweetness, richness, sharpness or creaminess. '95

#965 Tuggle Hall
This is their version of the famous Dunhill 965. It's been a while since I've had the real thing, but I do remember it as being a lot like this. There is definitely something appealing to this blend and its rich pouch aroma, which is as pungent and pleasant as the smell of leather. If I kept a pouch of this in my shirt pocket all day, within smelling distance, I think I'd want to smoke it constantly. As a heavy English blend, it is quite different from the more fragrant Virginia- and oriental-based varieties. This one is totally savoury in character, with only the most meager hint of sweetness coming from the natural cavendish base that softens the latakia and perique flavours. I notice the perique's presence the moment I light up and really like how it immediately wakes up the palate without scorching it. This stimulating quality carries through the smoke all the way to the the bottom of the bowl, with the latakia adding a lot of body to the dark taste. I suspect that some wouldn't like the aroma of this one as it is smoked; it is particularly strong and smoky wihout being at all sweet (although personally I find it a very appealing smell). In fact, there is something rich, full and lingering—dare I even say masculine—about this blend's aroma and flavour that reminds me a little bit of cigars. It has a nice shredded appearance, with colours ranging from a dull reddish brown to blackish brown, and burns cleanly down to a fine ash. I do find it bites a bit however; my final bowl from the bottom of the pouch was a lot stronger than I had expected; I guess there were a lot of fine grounds of perique awaiting me there.... '96

#968 Odessa
I love the slight musty, darkish aroma of this blend in the pouch. It runs the gamut from lighter beige tobaccos through to darker reddish tones and almost black. A rather large medium cut, this blend has excellent burning properties, to the point that I always find it burns a bit fast. This is supposed to be a copy of Balkan Sobranie white pouch, but since I've only smoked Balkan Sobranie 759 to date, I can't say for sure. However, I suspect it's not a perfect copy. This blend combines light-bodied and heavy-bodied tobaccos in a slightly bitter English-oriental-perique blend where latakia is present, but not at all dominant. It has a fairly heavy musty flavour that almost comes off as cigar-like to me at times, but at other times, I just find it strong-tasting and not particularly delicious. With its total lack of sweetness, it reminds me a great deal of #504 Balkan, but just weaker and not as harsh. Somehow, for the strength of its flavour, I want something a little bit smoother and richer-bodied than this. It may be just my smoking style combined with this mixture or the pipe I've been smoking it in, but this tends to bite my tongue a bit, especially while lighting up. It's a very consistent blend in that its musty pouch aroma translates into the flavour and the heavy room aroma. I like this kind of aroma myself (I'm sure though that it wouldn't draw a lot of favourable comments from by-standers) and enjoy the occasional bit of smoke that comes past my nose while smoking it. In fact, I enjoy the aroma much better than its actual flavour. I notice that the smoke is strong enough that I don't have much temptation to blow much of it out my nose. Although it's a dry natural smoke with a good kick to it, I should take more of a liking to it, but it's just not the one for me. Burns clean to a fine ash that is partly white, partly darker grey. '96

#970P Pirate Kake
This blend is composed of 70% latakia, which is great for those of us who enjoy the smooth, smoky, distinctive taste that latakia offers. It comes in a pressed form and needs to be crumbled up a bit before smoking. It is quite dark in appearance, with occasional reddish-brown flecks of lighter tobaccos. In many respects, it is reminiscent of Bengal Slices, with its strong, dark, yet soft taste and its slow-burning properties. In comparison though, it lacks the aged character and that many tinned tobaccos have, as well as the almost chocolate-like quality that sometimes comes through in heavy latakia blends like Bengal Slices, Esoterica's Margate. Here, smokiness of flavour predominates, which reminds me a bit of Balkan Sobranie's 759. My sample was a bit dry, and I found it slightly bitter tasting at first. After moistening it a bit (I do like my tobacco fairly dry though), it became much sweeter. A bowl of this can last quite a while, depending on your smoking style. On one hand, it is slow burning and goes out fairly easily, waiting to be re-lit at your leisure. On the other hand, if you tend to smoke a bit fast or hot, or are smoking outside in the wind, its slow-burning character makes it an excellent choice. As you smoke it and tamp it down, a fine white ash develops on the top of the burning tobacco and at the end you are left with this white ash and perhaps a little bit of black dottle. The flavour remains quite constant from start to end, with only a slight increase in strength toward the end. It's not a complex-tasting mixture, with only a bit of Virginia and Turkish to lighten and complement the basic latakia flavour, but it's a very relaxing and comforting smoke. Although full-flavoured and not for the weak, it is not harsh on the tongue (although it does have a pronounced drying effect on the mouth) and it is even quite pleasant exhaled through the nose. Of course, the room aroma is smoky latakia all the way. '96

#972 Three Friars
This is their clone of the famous Three Nuns tobacco and I must conclude, having compared the two, that this is a pretty good match tastewise. However, in terms of body, I find this version to be a bit fuller than the original; in fact, I personally prefer this. This doesn't come in sliced rings like the original does, but rather as a medium-cut mixture which contains the occasional piece of broken flake, and which spans a range of reddish-browns to black, with a bit of yellow tossed in. It's a fairly strong, but well-balanced mixture, with an English taste that combines a bit of Virginia sweetness with a bit of the pepperiness of perique and, I believe, some latakia as well. It's a bit along the lines of #531 Yale Mixture, but with more emphasis on spiciness and with a greater contrast between the sweet and peppery elements. What I like about this satisfying blend is that it seems to attain my palate's threshold for perique content without going past it, and perhaps that it's a perique blend that has almost as much body as it does flavour. I enjoy blends that are spiked with perique, but find that many heavy perique blends (such as #967PV), even though I like their tastes, just bite my tongue and become blatantly unpleasant if smoked more often than infrequently. This one, although not really mild on the tongue and can't really be counted amongst the family of smooth-smoking tobaccos, is not overtly agressive either, just pleasantly stimulating. Balance is really the key here; while there is always the lingering pepperiness of the perique, there is always a hint of Virginia sweetness as well. As with many perique mixtures, it does become a bit spicier toward the bottom of the bowl, but the flavour remains constant. This might be a bit strong for a beginning pipe smoker, but would be ideal for someone wishing to venture into more strongly spiked English blends without going all the way to the deep end. This burns well and clean to a dry, fine light grey ash. '96