Other Good Stuff

Balkan Sobranie 759
Puffing on a big bowl of this is one of the finer things in life. It provides full flavour from the moment it receives the gentle stroke of a match. This dark brown tobacco is quite rich and heavy, as is its aroma, owing to its high oriental (including latakia) content. Still, it contains enough Virginia to have a lively flavour. The receptionist at work, who is generally anti-smoke, enjoys its smell, as it reminds her of being out in the woods with a campfire. It burns well, smokes smooth, produces a fine grey ash, and doesn't burn the tongue. Its slight bitterness is perfectly balanced by its slight sweetness. Not only is this excellent in a briar, it is great in a clay or in a corncob. '95

Bengal Slices
This is a wonderful blend for latakia lovers. Heavy, smoky, and rich-tasting, this smokes incredibly smooth. A great solution to any pipe that tends to smoke a bit hot. Its flavour is unified, to the point that it may come off as a bit flat at times, lacking a sufficient amount of the perky Virginias that many heavy latakia blends contain. Although the room aroma is similar to what one would expect given its flavour (smoky and earthy), the former is relatively mild in comparison with the latter. The less the dark-brown slices are crumbled before smoking, the more concentrated the flavour becomes. Burns slow, but well. '95

Capstan Medium Navy Cut
These long strips of English-made, Virginia-burley flake tobacco contain a variety of brown tones, from light to dark. A rich, sweetish, slightly fermented aroma greets you when you open the tin. This is one of those scents that has a distinctly plant-like aspect to it, and it is topped off with notes of something richer and almost chocolate-like. It is moist and sticks together well, but is not difficult to crumble up. Once the pipe is packed, a puff on the unlit tobacco provides the taste equivalent of the scent in the tin. Not only does the aroma in the tin remind me of Orlik Golden Sliced, but the smoke's taste also reminds me of it, although this is a little richer and less "green" in flavour. The smoke is thick and cool, rich-tasting, but not with a very heavy flavour. It possesses a certain neutrality in that it is neither sweet nor bitter; if one had to choose between the two, one would have to say that it is barely sweet. It has a stimulating sidestream smoke that tickles the nostrils quite nicely. This might suggest that this is a tangy, biting tobacco, but it doesn't bite the tongue at all. In terms of strength, this is a nice, satisfying smoke, a definite medium. Its subtle balance of Virginia and burley, smoothness and medium strength make it ideal for frequent smoking. I think this would be a great alternative for someone who is tired of aromatics, doesn't care for the latakia-based English blends and has found some Virginia blends to be too spicy. It leaves a light, natural tobacco aroma in the room that shouldn't disturb too many people. '96

Craven Mixture
This is reputed to be the famed Arcadia Mix around which the late 1800s' book My Lady Nicotine revolves. It's an interesting blend to say the least because there have been moments where I haven't thought it was that good and then others where it seemed excellent. While going through my 50-gram sample, it became mainly a morning or early-day smoke for me, in my 3/4-bent Genod pipe. It looks like a typical medium-to-full English blend: medium-cut, various shades and tones of dark brown punctuated by some lighter and yellower flecks. It's a fairly strong smoke, stronger than it is rich. Although it seems to contain a fair amount of latakia, it's not as soft as I might expect. On the other hand, it's not quite harsh either, although an unexperienced smoker could possibly find it harsh. It's this strength that isn't tempered by a heavy smoothness that I found slightly offputting at first. The flavour is quite unified and the smoke has a constant and consistent taste and body from start to end. I have a great deal of difficulty identifying the individual elements in this mixture. It might be the presence of a certain quantity of perique or burleys, or the lack or soft Orientals, or even the usage of a particular Virginia in the blend that gives this blend a strong, yet lively taste that grew on me. There isn't any of the natural sweetness in this blend that charaterizes many English blends, just straight, pure, strong tobacco flavour, and at times I have even found the taste to have a vaguely sourish note—which suggests perique to me. However, the more I smoke it, the more I like it. The smoke is of medium body, even though its flavour is full. When I try to think why someone would like this blend, it would inevitably be because it provides straight up-front tobacco taste in the English style, but without a heavy, creamy latakia or oriental character underneath. This means that it is somewhat sharper than many heavy English blends, though I still wouldn't characterize it as a sharp tobacco. Although I don't find to be a tongue-biter, I can imagine that constant smoking of this mixture would be pretty strong on the tongue in the long run. Leaves a strong English-style aroma in the room that, like its flavour, is full and bears no sweetness. If I try to compare it to other tobaccos I've had, I can't say that one comes to mind, but I could fathom it being a bit like Balkan Sobranie 759 in strength, but with all the rich, sweet Orientals subtracted. From what I understand, this is the same tobacco that used to come in a pink tin and is now only made occasionally. It was being sold in bulk by Blatter and Blatter, Montreal, but I've heard that it has become unavailable again. '96

Danske Club Black Luxury
This is an all-black, medium-cut cavendish blend from Denmark with a pronounced sweet, perfumy aroma. As usual, I have difficulty identifying the components of the aroma, but in addition to vanilla there might be a nut-like (almond?) flavour as well. Unlike many American black cavendishes, which are often moist and a bit sticky, this is a fairly dry tobacco that does not tend to clump together despite its casing. It follows that this is a dry smoke as well, as many Danish aromatics seem to be. It is mild on the tongue, but still a degree or two less than I expected. This blend actually has a little bit of punch for a black cavendish, probably due to the burley it contains. A slightly earthy flavour lurks beneath its sweet top flavour, which makes it remind me of Edward's Buccaneer and many of Cornell & Diehl's aromatic blends. It's fresh-tasting, not syrupy-tasting. As one gets further down a bowl of this stuff, this earthy flavour becomes a little more apparent as some of the aromatic flavour seems to fade and, especially, lose its sweetness. It's quite a nice smoke if you like aromatics at all—medium-bodied and cool-smoking by nature, although its mildness makes it easy for you to smoke it a little hot inadvertently. It burns down to a fine whitish-grey ash and leaves a notable vanilla-tobacco aroma in the room. Thanks Ken for the generous sample. '96

Edgeworth Sliced
Made in the U.K. "under licence from the successors to House of Edgeworth, Richmond, Virginia, USA," these long slices of light and dark swirls are moist, pliable, and break up easily. The aroma in the tin is mellow and slightly leafy. This is a simple, American-style burley blend that is subjected to pressing and aging in a way usually reserved for higher-end tobaccos. The processing seems to bring out the best that burleys have to offer. It tastes pleasantly nut-like and earthy, almost toasted, not really smoky, and even a little bit green. What it offers most is a concentrate of traditional burley flavour, with little of the bitterness sometimes associated with burleys. It starts out giving an impression of mildness. Then it slowly builds strength and, although the flavor doesn't really change, more of that traditional burley spiciness develops during the second half of the bowl. As well, a shade of that hollow flavor common in less-refined burley mixtures appears as one smokes onward. It burns slowly and produces a good quantity of cool smoke with a moist, almost creamy, feeling to it. This degree of body—roughly that of a medium English mixture—is rare in a burley blend. I don't detect any appreciable bite from this, even though the smoke is strong. Any smoke exhaled through the nose produces a tingle that perique fans would enjoy. Be aware that this is a very satisfying blend nicotine-wise that some might wish to smoke in a smaller pipe at first. It smokes dry to a fine, light-grey ash and leaves a rather neutral, but prominent, tobacco scent in the room. '97

Erinmore Flake
There's so much flavour in this Irish-style cavendish that it's way too much for many smokers. Some have compared the taste to Juicy Fruit gum, which is not too far off, although this is much richer than the gum. My guess is that there's liquorice essence in here as well. The added flavour seems to be in the form of essences and not a syrupy casing, so they blend in with the naturally sweet Virginia base. Unlike many American aromatics, the tobacco plays an important role in this blend. Further, the room aroma is not at all what one might expect: it is somewhat sweet and rich, but not fruity like its taste when smoked or its aroma in the tin. This is quite a satisfying tobacco and might be enjoyed by aromatic smokers who would like something stronger without going into latakia-based Englishes. On the negative side, I find it rather aggressive on the tongue, so I smoke it slow and not too frequently. Not crumbling the flakes too finely seems to help keep the smoke cooler, but makes the flavour more intense. '95

Erinmore Mixture
The first thing I notice about this blend is that its pouch aroma, and then its flavour, don't seem nearly as concentrated as I recall in Erinmore Flake. This is the ready-rubbed version, mainly yellowish medium-cut with frequent flecks of darker-coloured tobacco, likely black cavendish. As much as enjoy the intensity of the taste in Erinmore Flake, I find the lighter flavour of this version equally appealing and certainly more refreshing. The expected flavour is there—something that resembles a unified blend of pineapple and liquorice—but the taste of the sweet Virginia tobacco comes through quite well too, more so than in the flake version if I remember correctly. The body of the smoke is medium, perhaps even a little on the light side of medium. Still, it's not a weak smoke by any means—I find it quite satisfying and relaxing—but neither is it full like Condor or Saint Bruno. One of its better qualities is that the flavour is quite consistent from the beginning to the end of a smoke, without significant degradation of taste, the way many non-flavoured tobaccos smoke. Only as you get quite close to the end of a smoke does its flavour wane, and you then become quite conscious that you are indeed smoking Virginia. Because it is predominately a light and not-fully matured Virginia blend, it may have a tendency to bite your tongue a bit if you smoke it too fast (I wouldn't recommend it for outdoor smoking—the flake version would likely be a better alternative) or too frequently, depending ultimately on the sensitivity of your tongue. For me, this blend rides that line of being neither a smooth nor biting tobacco. Make no mistake about it, Erinmore IS an aromatic tobacco, but its distinctive qualities (it's a high-quality Virginia blend, not just an aromatic) seems to make it acceptable to some smokers of English blends and unacceptable to some who usually smoke aromatics. Some have rightfully pointed out that this blend, like many distinctive tobaccos, imparts a strong flavour to the pipe in which it is smoked and have suggested that a pipe should be dedicated to Erinmore only. I have found that Condor's even stronger flavour will cover up Erinmore's in no time at all. Erinmore Mixture burns dry to the bottom of the pipe and leaves me with a small, dry dottle. I found its room aroma to be pleasant: fairly mild and slightly sweet; I can't imagine anyone ever complaining about it. '95

Fox's Banker's Mixture
This is a ribbon-cut English latakia blend for those who like their tobacco with a rich and dark flavor. Upon opening the tin, one smells that intense and smoky, slightly sweet, slightly fermented aroma that characterizes many quality English blends. Its mottled appearance spans a range of browns from light to very dark. This heavy, smooth-smoking blend contains Virginias, Orientals and latakia in a very good balance. From its full taste, one might at first think that it contains more latakia than it actually does. The Virginias in the mixture lend a nice background sweetness to the smoky-spicy taste of the darker tobaccos in the mixture. The flavours are fairly complex, but well integrated with each other. The fact that it reminds me of Esoterica's Pembroke makes me wonder if maybe it has an alcohol topping like Pembroke (I doubt I would be able to identify it as such). Mild on the tongue, deliciously rich and burns dry. Unfortunately, it's difficult to obtain in North America; if you run across it, pick up a tin or two for later. You can order it from Dan Pipe in Germany though. '97

G. Smith & Son's Old London Mixture
An overall darkish brown, medium-cut mixture, composed of about 40% darker tobacco. In the tin, this medium-strength mixture has a rather sweet, nutty aroma that suggests the inclusion of a good quantity of high-quality Oriental and Virginia tobaccos. It is a rich-tasting English that bears some traits in common with McConnell's Oriental Mixture, but it's much less intense and invigourating, and it provides a much smoother smoke. It is perhaps akin to Rattray's Accountant's Mixture, although lighter in flavour and body, in that it is not as dark-tasting as it may first appear and in that it succeeds in giving a rich English flavour without being heavy or cloying in terms of latakia taste. Although I generally find this to be not more than a medium-strength mixture, depending on my mood or the time of day, I have sometimes found it to be a bit fuller, especially at the outset of a smoke. Being a smooth, medium-bodied smoke that is not overly strong, this would make an excellent all-day smoke for latakia and Oriental fans. Its flavour is not extremely contrasting, but one does pick up on the simultaneous variety of dark and light flavours, as well as the mixture of sweet, nutty and smoky aspects in the bouquet. I like smoking this in an Oom Paul-style pipe so that my nose gets to smell some of the smoke that rolls off the top of the pipe. It leaves a fragrant, distinctively English, aroma in the room that most people would find quite agreeable. From start to finish, it's a very consistent smoke, with little flavour variation, other than perhaps getting a little bit hot toward the bottom of the pipe, thereby causing some diluting of taste. It does burn quite well though and I find it easy to overheat it if I advertently begin to puff on it overzealously. Due to its pleasant flavour and good smoking qualities, I would definitely recommend this to someone wishing to experiment with English blends for the first time. At the bottom of your pipe, you are left with a fine, grey ash. From G. Smith & Sons, 74 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0BG. Many thanks to Ron Blackner, who has a web page that you must visit, for the tin of this; it's rather difficult to come by here in North America. '96

Gawith's Best Brown Flake
Body: 6/10
Nicotine Strength: 5/10
Flavour Depth: 6/10
Flavour—sweetness: 4/10
Flavour—fruitiness: 0/10
Flavour—floweriness: 0/10
Flavour—smokiness: 2/10
Flavour—mustiness: 7/10
Flavour—nuttiness: 6/10
Bite: 5/10
Room Aroma: Sweet-musty
This comes in long, wide slices, dark in colour with light speckles. It doesn't break up easily at all; it tends to crumble rather than flake apart. Lighting up is a slow process, perhaps I don't crumble it finely enough. My very first impression is that this is hot and not all that flavourful. I persevere. A mellow, earthy, almost burley-like taste is what I am receiving, with a pale sweetness blended in. I make a point of puffing as gently as possible. It's still a little hot, but I'm noticing it less now. The flavour seems infinitesimally richer with each small puff. Better yet, I'm picking up a little of its subtle, unique aroma, which reminds me of fresh whole-wheat toast with honey on it. I suddenly realize that the musty aroma has more sweetness than what I am actually tasting and that the heat of the smoke has just transformed into a slightly spicy seasoning. Out of the blue, the smoke has developed a nice body to it and I can tell that it's still slowly increasinging its flavour density. I'm feeling nicely relaxed too... this is proving to be medium-strength, though I was expecting less. This reminds me of a strong brew of orange pekoe tea (without cream or sugar)... somehow rich, yet always a bit watery and light at the same time—never as full-bodied as a cup of coffee. It even leaves a dryness on the palate that mimics the effect of several cups of black tea. The flavour doesn't evolve much in the lower half of the bowl, but the occasional puff is now suggesting more sweetness than ever. Also, the sidestream smoke, when I catch a whiff of it, seems far stronger than it was earlier. I haven't had a tobacco quite like this one before, where the earthiness is so pronounced (and one-dimensional, really) and yet so delicate at the same time. The puffs at the bottom of the bowl are quite tasty and its finish leaves me feeling that I just smoked a big, rich tobacco. Puffing on the pipe is still sweet even after all the tobacco has burned. The room aroma is nice and sweet in an earthy, leafy way, like autumn foliage. I'd never call this an exciting smoke, but it sure is an interesting and contemplative one. It took several bowls of this before I really started to appreciate it at all. Burns with no moisture build-up whatsoever. '01

Georgetown's Cube Cut
Perhaps typical for a cube-cut, medium-dark burley mix. Strong and unequivocally non-aromatic, with a distinctive heavy and tangy nutty flavour that I can find most enjoyable under certain circumstances, yet rather harsh under others. It doesn't even have the slightest hint of sweetness and it rides the line between being smooth and biting, probably depending on the smoker's individual palate. I find this to be a somewhat smoother and cooler smoke than the Edward's Colonial sample that I recently finished; they are very similar mixtures in terms of flavour. I smoked them in the same pipe, my Genod 1/2 bent curved-bore. The difference I perceived may be as simple as the fact that I've had this Georgetown Tobacco sample for probably about a year, so maybe it's mellowed out a bit. Or maybe my sample of Colonial was a little too dry. In either case, it's a tobacco with a strong natural aroma and contains a good helping of nicotine. It burns well due to its short cut-style, so take care if you're a fast smoker because it can become bitter-tasting in no time. Slow smoking guarantees full appreciation of the full nutty taste. I like its uncomplicated room aroma quite a bit, it reminds me somehow of my grandfather's old house. This is a pretty good tobacco, but I have a penchant for more complex aromas and flavours after a while. Burns down to a dusty grey ash. Thanks to Dr. Ray for the sample! '95

Georgetown's Night Owl
This is a smooth-smoking black-cavendish based blend with a distinct vanilla flavour and probably with chocolate as well. I always find chocolate flavouring difficult to identify—so I may be out of line here—but there is a flavour in this that reminds me of something I tasted in Finck's Imperial Chocolate. It also has a discreet tanginess that develops mainly during the second half of the bowl (could it be a touch of an alcohol flavouring?). Unlike many black-cavendish blends, this one is dry on the fingers and it smokes dry as well, reminding me of Russell's Quintessence #1. Medium-cut and consisting of about 80% black tobaccos and occasional light-yellowish speckles, this provides a rich-bodied, creamy, bite-free smoke that you could easily smoke all day. It is very mild in nicotine content, yet a satisfying smoke due to its fairly full body. Something I like about this blend is that I do seem to taste its aroma as I smoke, which although fairly sweet, still has a little bit (a very little bit) of a slightly musty tobacco aroma underneath that I find appealing. Then again, I have been smoking this in a short, stubby Royal Danish whose bowl sits close to my nose while smoking. I guess I have a bit of a weakness for black cavendish blends as far as aromatics go, but this is defintitely amongst the better ones I've tried, with its rich, full, and yet very soft, taste. In fact, it's soft enough that it's still a good smoke if you've been unfortunate enough to get tongue bite. It's one of the coolest smokes I've had in a long time. Very pleasant blown out the nose and it's even mild if inhaled. I suspect that the small quantity of lighter tobaccos in the mixture liven it up a bit, making it not as flat in character as some black-cavendish blends are. It burns down to a fine, pale-grey ash, mixed with a bit of dry dottle. Thanks Spiffyng for the generous sample. '95

Grand Cut
A British Virginia-based tobacco of the old style. This comes in flake form in an attractive medium-to-dark brown colour that has a distinct orangish cast. There are also some lighter yellowish flecks from the inclusion of some stem material. Where the slices appear darkest, the tobacco has the appearance of having been melted together; the lighter portions come apart more easily while rubbing out. Its pouch aroma is a little bit perfumy, a little bit spicy, and a little bit sweet, but not fruity. Based on these observations, I was expecting something with at least a slight bite to it and of a strength that leans on the mild side of medium. However, I find it more satisfying than that, as I find numerous British blends of this style to be. Although it does have a slight, but not irritating, bite, this is a smooth-smoking blend that is on the fuller side of medium as far as strength is concerned and makes for a nice, slow, relaxing smoke. The flavour mimics the pouch aroma, with its subtle spiciness dominating overall and providing a lively flavour, which makes me guess that the mixture contains some perique. In fact, its flavour is somewhat like a heavier, richer, more mature version of Cornell & Diehl's #502 Stanhope. The smoke is quite rich and medium-full in body, almost buttery in texture. Although I generally smoke my tobacco fairly dry, I noticed that this one seemed to smoke a bit smoother and had less tendency to heat up at first, while my sample was a bit moister. It begins creating a fine, white ash right from the beginning and it burns cleanly and slowly all the way to the bottom of the pipe. While not excessively strong, it is strong enough to perhaps surprise a new pipe smoker, especially given its outwardly mild character. Thanks to Mark Shelor, I have learned that there is a copy of an old advert for Grand Cut in the Winter/Spring 1994 edition of The Pipe Smoker's Ephemeris, which was supplied by Mr. Robert Hahn of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. At the time the advert was published, this tobacco was "issued by Godfrey Phillips Limited." I don't know who manufactures it today, but Ron Blackner (check out his Pipe and Pouch web page) has informed me that Grand Cut is available at Josiah Brown Tobacconist, Nottingham, England, in loose form and that he once spotted it in tinned form somewhere. Unfortunately, Josiah Brown does not have a tobacco-export licence. It has a pleasant room aroma that is a bit sweet and quite mild and unobtrusive. Thanks much to Tony Curley for introducing me to this delicious blend. '96

Indian Summer
This wide-cut aromatic tobacco, made in the United Kingdom, is "Indian-cut" and "refined with tobacco cultivated by Amish people," according to the pouch. Its distinct reddish, golden-brown colour reminds me visually of some bulk burley mixtures I've seen in jars in tobacconists' shelves. The occasional fleck of dark tobacco appears just frequently enough for you to assume that it occurs naturally in the mixture. The A.I.T.S. index says that Indian Summer includes "flue cured Virginias, Burleys, Oriental, and a mixture of fired and air cured leaf." What the added flavourings are, I really can't tell—probably a mixture of fruit and flower essences. The result is very strong, perfumy and potpourri-like, but neither syrupy nor intensely sweet on the palate. It's not nearly as fragrant on the taste buds as it in the pouch. Something in here has an almost lemony-fresh, air-freshener-like quality to it, which I find unusual in a nice way. As for actual tobacco flavour, forget it—this one is purely for aromatic lovers. It smokes quite mild strength-wise, without bite, and with just the slightest "zing" to it (mild enough to smoke on an empty stomach!). It produces a smoke of reasonably rich body considering its mildness. Still, it's easy to smoke this one fast and a little hot since it's so light. It smokes fairly dry for an aromatic, moreso than American aromatics like Captain Black, but a little moister than Cornell & Diehl aromatics. Toward the very bottom of the bowl, it does get moister in the pipe and the essences become slightly bitter, but not to the point of becoming unpleasant. Slower smoking does help to prevent this. Although not as aggressively aromatic as a tobacco such as Erinmore, its scent will remain in the pipe for a few bowls. I had this pouch for about a year, during which time it did become fairly dry once. After re-humidification, it tended to remain moist for a long time, even when there wasn't much left in the pouch, which suggests that it contains additives of some sort. It leaves a rich, slightly sweet scent in the room after smoking that is not nearly as perfumy as might be expected. I've never seen this tobacco for sale in North America; my pouch came from Germany (thanks Ken). '96

Japan Tobacco's Asuka Smoking Mixture
This is reputed to be the heaviest latakia blend offered by the Japan Tobacco Company. It's a medium-cut mixture of medium-to-dark brown tobaccos that contains Virginias, Orientals and latakia, in a proportion that reminds me quite a bit of Dunhill's Early Morning Pipe. Like Early Morning Pipe, it's full and natural tasting with just a touch of a bittersweet nuttiness, but medium rather than full-bodied and with a slight tang to its flavour. However, Asuka is more aromatic and a bit darker in flavour. I think that there is some kind of topping being used here to sweeten the flavour and aroma a bit, but it's nothing that is sugary or clearly identifiable to me, and it's not enough to make this blend be anything other than a decent, medium English blend. I suspect the possible addition of an alcoholic spirit, such as cognac, for this extra flavour. I offer this "wild guess" because there is a similar fragrance and flavour that comes through in Esoterica's Pembroke, which is a cognac-flavoured English blend. The only way I can really describe this flavour overlay is by saying that it resembles tasting that fermented aroma that you often smell upon opening a tin of tobacco—except that in many cases, this fermented aroma doesn't penetrate the actual taste of the smoke in any obvious way. I suspect the presence of a small quantity of burley in the mixture due to the slight tang it leaves at the back of the tongue. This provides a nice, smooth, satisfying smoke without being at all heavy. To me, it's a lot like Early Morning Pipe, but a bit more vibrant in flavour and simply a bit better overall for my tastes. It burns easily, but not fast, and reduces to a light grey ash. I am not aware of any store where this can be purchased outside of Japan. However, Monoyama is available in the USA. '95

Japan Tobacco's Momoyama
Welcome to Japan Tobacco's oldest pipe tobacco, produced since April 1934. This ribbon-cut, medium-to-dark brown mixture has a subtle, fermented sweetness in its aroma that I can't quite place. Suffice it to say that it (possibly a rum and fruit combination according to Shigeho-san) tends toward the sweet and not toward the sour. This sounds sweet and heavy, but it's not. It's a clean taste and, as a smoking experience, it's somewhat reminiscent of Amphora Red, but much less perfumy and less sweet. I would call this "semi-aromatic." The smoke is lively without being harsh, and a decent, simple tobacco flavour comes. This blend does have a kick and a medium-light body, which makes me aware that I am smoking a mixture containing a lot of burleys. Shigeho-san's translation of Momoyama's description says that it's "Mainly of Brights, with Burley, Oriental, Perique etc. and some casing added." It is a very well-balanced mixture in that no one element stands out, but it's not as complex as the description might suggest. Those most likely to enjoy this would probably like the Dutch cavendish blends and natural, non-latakia mixtures—some smokers might find it bland. It's definitely worth trying though. It smokes clean to a dry, medium-grey ash and leaves a genuine, slightly sweet, tobacco aroma in the room where it was smoked. In the USA, Momoyama is available at S & R Pipes and Pleasures, 4244 E. Main St., Columbus, Ohio 43213. (800) 828-2535 or (614) 235-6422. Thanks Shigeho-san for the sample! '96

John B. Hayes' Tom's Red and Black
I like this one because it provides matured red Virginia flavour and with a good amount of sweetness with less bite and more body than some similar mixtures. Still, it is by no means mild on the tongue. In this satisfying tan-through-dark-brown blend, fruity red Virginia is mixed with a good helping of darker, richer Virginia similar in flavour to Dunhill's Royal Yacht. This is another one that I seem to prefer as a morning smoke. I also like it when I think a bowl of Royal Yacht would be appropriate, but when I would like a little less kick. Burns well, best smoked not too fast. From John B. Hayes Tobacconist, Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax, VA 22033. (703) 385-3033. '94

Josiah Brown's Nutty Mix
Upon opening the packet, I immediately loved this blend's pungent leathery aroma, which reminded me a bit of McConnell's Oriental Mixture or some other highly fragrant English blend. Prepared to relish a latakia-laden evening pipe, I was stunned by the taste that was produced when the tobacco succumbed to the flame of the match. The first hit of flavour was not Oriental in its inspiration, but rather came from the blend's fully matured Virginia base, whose creaminess recalls varieties such as Condor, Digger or Bosun Cut Plug. The smooth-smoking, aromatic quality of this base is omnipresent throughout the smoke, and it times it seems to dominate the overall flavour, however, the darker oriental tobaccos are equally assertive. The result is an unparallelled full, nutty taste that has got to the richest taste sensation I've yet to experience in an English latakia blend. This is also quite a heady tobacco and not the best thing to smoke on an empty stomach. While smoking this at a bar one evening, two people commented that its compelling aroma—which is simultaneously woodsy and "Condoresque"—smelled like incense. Medium-cut, with the occasional piece of flake tobacco still partially intact, this blackish-coloured blend with reddish brown flecks burns slowly to a perfectly dry, fine white ash. From Josiah Brown Tobacconist, 7 Market St., Nottingham, England NG1 6HY. Tel: (0602) 417308. '96

Josiah Brown's #10 Mix
A very smooth smoking English blend with latakia, but not a big quantity of it. This is medium-flavoured, leaning toward light, but doesn't have the sharpness of many lightweight blends. The predominant flavour is a velvety Virginia with a slightly creamy and grassy taste that reminds me somewhat of Rattray's Old Gowrie. Perique is present in good measure to give the mixture some life, but does not torch the tongue, due to the mild base. The overall impression is one of unity and moderation without the slightest compromise in its savoury, not sweet, flavour. For a medium-strength, perique-spiked mixture, this reddish-brown, flecked with black tobacco is quite impressive in the way it incorporates smoothness and subtlety of flavour. It reminds me quite a bit of Sullivan's Gentleman's Mixture. From Josiah Brown Tobacconist, 7 Market St., Nottingham, England NG1 6HY. Tel: (0602) 417308. '96

London Castle Aromatic
Although it says aromatic on the tin, it certainly is difficult to detect; any added essences are very well assimilated into this light English mixture. I don't know if this is the same thing as the London Castle Mixture that is listed in the A.I.T.S. index or an aromatic version of it. This is a fairly coarse, crumbly cut of contrasting colours that range from very light browns to medium reddish-brown and to dark brown. The aroma in the tin reminds me a great deal of Early Morning Pipe, slightly fermented and rich-smelling. The two blends certainly share some of the same ingredients, but this one has a much drier, lighter taste that has a distinct toasted, nutty character and is less rich and less bitter. The flavour is delicate, but not bland. It has practically no sweetness, and although it's a light-bodied blend, it doesn't bite at all and has a clean, refreshing taste whether inhaled or blown out through the nose. It contains some latakia as a spice, but just enough to complement the other orientals. It does get a little richer-tasting further down during a pipe full as the oriental and latakia flavours develop and concentrate somewhat. In fact, its body seems to transform from light to medium during the course of a smoke. I find this to be a very pleasant smoke that isn't compromised by its mildness. It burns very well to a grey ash and leaves a pronounced, but light, toasted aroma in the room. '96

MacBaren's Plumcake
A medium-cut, golden Virginia-based blend with a bit of darker tobacco mixed in. It has a nice, naturally sweet pouch aroma that is almost fruity. It seems that a very light casing has been added to this blend to compliment the natural Virginia sweetness. The tobacco's flavour is rather plain and light, but fresh, and you do taste some of that subtle fruitiness that you smell in the pouch. It starts out a little bit sharp, but appears to get smoother as it is smoked. I think that this illusion of smoothness IS an illusion as this is overall a rather sharp blend on my palate. As you smoke a pipe full of this, the flavour becomes more concentrated and, at times, more tangy and almost citrus-like. This more concentrated taste is what produces the illusion of smoothness. Quite delicious actually and appropriately named "Plumcake." It's a light-to-medium bodied smoke that you will want to savour slowly so as not to scorch your tongue (and even then...). '97

Mick McQuaid Square Cut
Dark brown with orange and reddish tones, but with some lighter flecks, this tobacco comes in short flakes, about 1" long (about half the length of the typical flake). It rubs out quite easily and has the heavy, rather aromatic, fermented pouch aroma of many old-style British blends. The flavour is that of well matured Virginia through and through. It is less aromatic however than many other of the more popular heavy Virginias that come to mind—Condor, Saint Bruno and Erinmore. This is very strong (lots of nicotine) with a straightforward, uncomplicated matured Virginia flavour that attains a kind of neutrality in that it is neither harsh nor sweet. The smoke's body could be described as somewhere between medium and heavy. Although it's reasonably smooth on the tongue, the smoke rising from the pipe itself is quite sharp as it hits the nostrils. I've been smoking this in a bent Peterson with a bowl that is fairly close to my nose and I think it might have been a better choice to smoke it in a pipe with a bowl further from nose's reach. I find its strength and simplicity make it the perfect end-of-the-night smoke when I'm not craving any particular aromatic or latakia flavour but desire a very relaxing smoke. This means that it's ideal for anyone who enjoys well-matured Virginias, but sometimes finds them too sweet or heavily flavoured. It burns very well, so it could be easy to smoke this a little hot, but it's generally a fairly cool smoke. At the end of a smoke, which I find very pleasant, you are left with a small quantity of dry greyish ash and an old-fashioned room aroma. However, it leaves a strong burnt taste in the pipe that is quite difficult to get rid of. A rare find in North America; I found this at Grant's, 562 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94104, (415) 981-1000. '98

Ogden's BK (Bulwark) Flake
Blackish brown and reddish brown, thin slices of old-fashioned, English-style Virginia tobacco that rub out quite nicely. This is one of the stronger English flakes I've had so far. When I first received my sample in the mail, its pouch aroma was very strong with that perfumy or soapy aroma that English Virginias often have. Something about this one's aroma struck me as fruity, almost as if it contained some kind of concentrated orange essence. I found it overwhelming to the point of being almost sickening. Now, a couple of months later, some of the top aroma has dissipated and I find it most pleasant. I smoked my first bowl of this in a small pipe the day I received it, but it was too early in the day for me to be smoking such a strong tobacco. This mistake combined with its strong aroma while very fresh, left me with a bad impression. I came back a month later only to find that I actually like this blend a lot. First of all, you have to really like nicotine to like this blend—it will relax you. Its flavour reminds me a bit of Saint Bruno, somewhat tart, fruity and wine-like, and with a very subtle nutty character underneath. In terms of body, its smoke is a bit lighter than Condor, and a bit sharper. However, its sharpness is refreshing in the way it tickles the tongue—and the nose as stray smoke drifts around. At first, its strength of flavour while in the mouth makes it seems like it might bite, but it doesn't. Its refreshing taste might be due to some perique in the mixture, which wouldn't surprise me because there is a peppery taste mixed in here as well, but I would expect a perique blend to have more bite. This burns very well, but slowly, to a pale grey powder, and it's a joy to sit down with and smoke slowly. It leaves a heavy, nut-like aroma something like that which Saint Bruno leaves behind, although a little bit sweeter to my recollection. '96

Orlik Dark Strong Kentucky
Body: 6/10
Nicotine Strength: 5/10
Flavour Depth: 6/10
Flavour—sweetness: 6/10
Flavour—fruitiness: 0/10
Flavour—floweriness: 0/10
Flavour—smokiness: 5/10
Flavour—mustiness: 7/10
Flavour—nuttiness: 7/10
Bite: 4/10
Room Aroma: Musty-sweet
The name might be intimidating, but it's nothing to be afraid of unless you only smoke very mild tobaccos. This is a designer tobacco if there ever was one: it comes in blackish-brown slices, each of which bears a wide medium-brown stripe running down the middle. A strong caramelized-sugar aroma exudes from the tin and you wonder which pipe to smoke this in, thinking that perhaps this is a highly flavored tobacco. Any confusion is resolved when you light up and are greeted with a pure, semi-sweet tobacco taste. That burnt caramel scent does translate into flavour and it never completely disappears, but it lingers discreetly in the background. The smoke is spicy and creamy, with a quiet richness that recalls a gutsy cavendish, or perhaps a light Virginia. It's not a really complex smoke, but interesting nuances of dark chocolate and roasted nuts do develop while smoking. Of course, the flavour becomes more concentrated deeper in the bowl, but it also takes on a fullness—and sometimes a mellowness—that was absent at light-up. This blend contains no latakia, but its satisfying depth of flavour reminds me more of a light-to-medium English mixture than anything else. It tastes rather dark and a little spicy overall, and it can pick up a stout, bitter quality if I smoke it in a large pipe. Best of all, there's not much bite in this medium-strength blend, just a pleasant tanginess. If you find your favorite cavendish blend a little bland or unsatisfying at times, this is worth a try. I also suspect that many Virginia and English-blend smokers might enjoy this. It leaves a light-grey ash in the pipe, an irresistible, sweet taste on the moustache, and a pleasantly musty, classic-pipe-aroma scent in the room. '02

Orlik Golden Sliced
In the 50g tin, this comes in wide, rectangular slices that peel off from the pile like Post-It® notes. In the tin, this smells sweet and musty, with a slightly plant-like aroma. It combines medium- and dark-brown tobaccos and light-coloured, birdseye cross-cuts. It flakes apart easily and has a soft texture. My tin had been open for a couple of months and the tobacco still didn't dry out very much, to my surprise. It has a bland, earthy taste while in the pipe awaiting the charring light. Upon lighting up, one notices its plain, natural tobacco flavour. I detect a certain greenish flavour, that I seem to remember in Rattray's Old Gowrie and guess that this is a Virginia blend that might contain some burley. The smoke is fairly thick and rich in texture, though light, simple and slightly sweet in flavour. Now this is a tobacco that really "just tastes like smoke," as I've heard exclaimed before with regards to certain blends. Although understated, it's not boring. This smokes like the Danish tobacco that it is, in that it has a certain vibrancy and produces a tingly sensation when sidestream smoke first makes it way into the nostrils. I expected it to bite after a few puffs. Nope... in fact, it's really quite a smooth smoke. And an enjoyable one too, in terms of its rich body, despite its absence of flavour. My only criticism, and a minor one at that, is that on occasion I have found it to smoke a little wetter than I would like. This is medium strength at most and not for the aromatic smoker. The room aroma reminds me almost of cigarettes, but without the acrid quality of cigarette smoke. '97

Peterson's University Flake
Body: 8/10
Nicotine Strength: 7/10
Flavour Depth: 9/10
Flavour—sweetness: 6/10
Flavour—fruitiness: 7/10
Flavour—floweriness: 3/10
Flavour—smokiness: 5/10
Flavour—mustiness: 7/10
Flavour—nuttiness: 8/10
Bite: 5/10
Room Aroma: Musty-sweet
The tin opens to reveal dark, reddish-brown slices of a dry, easy-to-crumble texture. A peaty tobacco aroma reminds me instantly of Edgeworth Sliced and a distinctive, fruity top note triggers confused memories of Amphora Red, Saint Bruno and Erinmore Flake. Raspberry? Orange? Pineapple? Could this be a candy-like smoke? It sure smells like it, but I hope not—that's not what I was anticipating. Well... The first few puffs and their sidestream smoke can deceive with their sweetness. However, the experience of a high-quality burley smoke kicks in rapidly and takes over. As is traditional with many fuller British flakes, the aromatic flavouring here is ever-present, but the gutsy tobacco taste is even more important as it deepens and mellows out while smoking. The strength and gentle spiciness that accumulate make this another tobacco-lover's tobacco. This is one of the few flakes that I've tried that is built on the dense, nutty flavor of matured burley and the result is quite successful. Slow- and dry-burning with lots of body, I especially enjoy this as a relaxing late-night smoke. The room aroma that it produces is as pronounced and pleasant as its flavor. '02

Player's Digger
This dark-brown flake tobacco packs a nice punch and is naturally sweet. If you look closely, you might even see small sugar crystals on the aged Virginia-burley slices. Upon opening the package, (I like the little 25g box), one immediately smells its fermented, almost flowery or soapy aroma, which transfers quite accurately to the smoke. The flavour is not as rich and fruity as I had expected from an aged Virginia, and after the first bowl, I really wasn't sure. However, it is not the tongue-stinger that I had expected, and after a couple more bowls, I'm quite sold on it. It does get a bit acidic toward the bottom of the bowl, which for some reason affects the back of the mouth more than the tongue. I have been complemented on its slightly sweet, but not overly heavy, room aroma several times. The strangest thing is that a co-worker has became quite fond of mixing it half-and-half with his Drum tobacco for hand-rolled cigarettes. It burns well and should be smoked slowly to preserve its pleasant taste. '95

Roberts' JB Blend
This is a predominantly ribbon-cut English-style blend that is about 40% lighter tobaccos and 60% dark red and brown. Although it's a latakia mixture, it's immediately noticeable in the pouch that it gives off a sweetish scent. Upon further sniffing, one perceives an almond-like aroma that is stronger than anything else. In fact, I suspect that this might not be categorized as an English blend if it were given to someone with no description of what it is. Once it's lit, it's apparent that it's fairly mild and smooth. Since it's supposed to be an English blend, you will smoke it in a pipe reserved for latakia mixtures, which will add more latakia taste to it than it actually has. "Almond-like" is my interpretation of how the cavendish base smells to my nose. It also tastes almond-like to me (fresh almonds that is), a very pleasant, ever-so-slightly sweet flavour that harbours no bitterness whatsoever. My guess is that this nutty character means there is a lot of mild burley in the cavendish base. A nice helping of latakia and maybe some other Turkish tobacco adds fullness and a rich flavour to the smoke. It is also a bit tangy, probably from some added (red?) Virginias. I enjoy this a lot because, even though it is quite mild, the smoke has a creamy body that is much fuller than the smoke is strong. This would be a great choice for someone experimenting with English mixtures or someone who generally likes the taste of latakia but finds many English blends to be bitter. It leaves a slightly sweet, slightly smoky, tobacco aroma in the room and burns to a dry, light grey ash and a small dottle. Roberts' tobaccos are available from Edwards' at Village Court, San Antonio and El Camino Real, Los Altos, CA 94022. '97

Russell's Quintessence No. 1 (Red)
This Danish-made mixture—"a super mild aromatic Black Cavendish bulk cured for several weeks," as the tin says—is the kind of tobacco I think a new smoker should start out with if s/he plans to start with aromatics rather than natural or English blends. And because it's all good-quality tobacco, it would make an excellent all-day smoke for an experienced smoker too, provided of course that s/he is inclined to smoke aromatics. It's a rich, fairly cool-smoking blend due to its black cavendish base, perhaps 60% black, maybe more, mixed with some light Virginias to liven up the flavour a bit. Of course it contains a fairly heavy vanilla flavour like most black-cavendish blends, but it's not a cheap taste. It is a sweet smoke, (how could anything with a black cavendish base be otherwise?), but not excessively so and not at all syrupy. It smokes quite dry, surprisingly so for a black cavendish blend, and burns very well to a practically non-existant grey ash. The dryness, sweetness, and medium body of this blend make for a very good balance. It's one of the few aromatic blends I've tried so far that I could imagine smoking in a big pipe over a long period of time. The smoke has a nice body, that typical black-cavendish smoothness, but I suspect that the light Virginia in the mixture would be fairly sharp on its own. When I blow the smoke out my nose, it's just a bit more perky than I expect from a smoke in which black cavendish dominates. Unlike a number of black cavendish blends I've tried, this one is quite satisfying, and I suspect it is the light Virginia component that makes it so. Here, I'm referring to a mellow kind of satisfied feeling, sort of like a much lighter version of the effect that latakia blends can have—not the kind of nicotine rush that some burley blends produce. And, unlike some aromatics that just come off as too light for my palate, I don't get the urge to smoke this one really fast or to inadvertently and automatically inhale it. I would never have tried this mixture had it not been for a most enthusiastic gentleman whom I chatted with during a visit to The Smoker, in Albany, NY (one place where this tobacco is available). This is his favourite tobacco (or one of his favourites) and he insisted that I try it. So, before leaving the shop, he left me with his half-smoked tin of the stuff. A big thank-you to him for the kind gesture and good tobacco! '96

S & R Pipes and Pleasures' Old English
Rich and full and oh-so-smooth, this is the way a heavy latakia blend is supposed to be. It comes in quite a broad, thick cut that may take several matches to get lit, but it's well worth the effort. Wide strips of black and yellowish tobacco makes this a hearty-looking blend as well. Its rich latakia-laden pouch aroma translates perfectly into the smoke's flavour and room aroma. It is very dark and has not even a trace of harshness, probably due to a good selection of Turkish tobaccos added to the mixture; it inhales easily. Once lit, it burns well, but doesn't overheat, nor does it become unduly harsh or bitter toward the end of the bowl. I've been savouring this in a big bowled Blatter pipe. The intense latakia taste, which is smokier than it is tarry, dominates the other flavours but remains gentle without becoming rich and creamy the way Ashton Celebrated Sovereign or Bengal Slices sometimes come off. It's a dry mixture on the fingers and on the palate and leaves a rich long-lasting latakia flavour in the mouth after smoking. If you love heavy latakia blends that are especially smoky in character, then this one is for you. Its room aroma unequivocally says latakia, but it has a slight sweetness to it. What a beautiful smoke! I easily can see why it's Jack Tompkins' smoke of choice. Reminds me a bit of Rattray's Accountant's Blend, but much more lively in flavour. From S & R Pipes and Pleasures, 4244 E. Main St., Columbus, Ohio 43213. (800) 828-2535 or (614) 235-6422. '97

Sail Black Cavendish
Body: 6/10
Nicotine Strength: 5/10
Flavour Depth: 6/10
Flavour—sweetness: 6/10
Flavour—fruitiness: 7/10
Flavour—floweriness: 7/10
Flavour—smokiness: 2/10
Flavour—mustiness: 4/10
Flavour—nuttiness: 3/10
Bite: 4/10
Room Aroma: Sweet-musty
This smells like a pastry shop in a pouch. Yum! In the back of my mind though, I'm wondering if this is the kind of sticky pipe tobacco that I'd rather smell than smoke. It's fairly moist and cut wide, but unlike many black cavendishes, it looks more dark brown than black. It also includes up to 20% lighter leaf, so it's not just straight-up black cavendish. To my nose, there's at least vanilla, almond, and chocolate, as well as something a little alcoholic (brandy?) in this concoction... probably a hint of cherry too. A mellow, fluffy smoke is launched thanks to my Zippo. This smells nice and is very easy to smoke. I taste some of the flavouring too, at least for a while. As the tobacco burns downward, a nutty, burley taste begins to shine through and it becomes a notch or two zestier than what I was expecting. A little of that pleasant burley buzz sets in too. Near the bottom, the flavour is uniformly full and dark and just a little hot-smoking. Overall, a pretty nice experience and the room smells great. '01

Sail Regular
Body: 5/10
Nicotine Strength: 6/10
Flavour Depth: 5/10
Flavour—sweetness: 4/10
Flavour—fruitiness: 1/10
Flavour—floweriness: 0/10
Flavour—smokiness: 3/10
Flavour—mustiness: 6/10
Flavour—nuttiness: 6/10
Bite: 5/10
Room Aroma: Musty-sweet
An intense anise aroma wafts out of the little yellow pouch. There's got to be some chocolate in there too! This brown cavendish has a few shreds that aren't completely rubbed out and it sure smells like it's going to taste sweet... Once fire hits it though, it gives a clean, dry tobacco taste right away, with a just a nice hint of sweetness in the background. The simplicity of this is mellow and charming at first, but it soon becomes apparent that the burley in the blend provides a good kick that isn't going to let up. I find that I forget about that hint of sweetness after a third of a bowl or so. A denser, more peppery sensation starts to dominate. No amazing, refined flavour comes out of this, you just get more. Sometimes I find it develops a little sweetness near the bottom of the pipe, but more often than not, I mostly notice the strength it has amassed. I really like a plain and refreshing smoke like this from time to time. This burns quite well, so I pay special attention to not allow it to overheat—if my tongue is sensitive, I find it can bite a little. I love the musty old-time pipe aroma that this leaves in the room as it smoulders away to a fine, grey ash. '01

Saint Bruno
Dark-brown slices with reddish streaks and yellowish flecks that crumble up nicely into thin strands of an overall deep red colour. In the tin is that strong, fermented, wine-like aroma that characterizes many matured Virginias, yet this one is a just little less sweet, rich, and heavy than Condor. I feel it needs to be compared to Condor since many smokers who are partial to one of these blends seem to like the other, from my limited experience. Saint Bruno has a slightly more sour and nutty note to its aroma and flavour than Condor, but it is still a tobacco with a fermented-fruit type of flavour. I particularly pick up on Saint Bruno's nutty after-character, not at first, but toward the bottom of the bowl and especially after it has been smoked in the same pipe for a while. It is medium-full in body and emits a smoke that is slightly sharp on the nose, but mild, yet full-tasting, on the tongue. It has a tangy, natural sweetness that is quite appealing, but which might surprize those who are used to smoking more heavily sweetened aromatics a l'Américaine. It also contains quite a bit of nicotine and would be best enjoyed in a smaller pipe if you are used to weaker blends. The main complexity in its flavour is the play between its rich and almost juicy top flavour and its underlying tanginess. Although this doesn't sound like a lot, it's an intensely pleasant and satisfying smoke when smoked without haste. Its room aroma when smoked is surprisingly different, not fruity at all; here the nutty aspect comes through again. I personally find its aroma quite pleasant, sort of reminiscent of an old house, but a non-smoking friend who usually enjoys the smell of my pipe says that the smoke from Saint Bruno reminds her of a wet dog. Take your pick! As well, it burns dry to a grey ash. A grateful thank-you to Mark Shelor for the tin of this stuff! '96

Schürch's Pirite
Here's an English-aromatic hybrid that is mild as well as flavorful. The combination of light, medium and dark tobaccos in various cuts and its dry appearance make it look like a typical English mixture. It gives off a somewhat sweet, but not especially distinct, scent that obliges the nose to question whether or not this is an aromatic. No pungent latakia aroma wafts out to definitively identify the blend as an English. Once in the pipe and lit, it produces a creamy, tangy smoke, revealing its Virginia base. A well-balanced spice mix of latakia, black cavendish and perique provides a continuous and satisfying flavor boost throughout the duration of the smoke. Most notable (and pleasant) is the faint, coconut-like taste of the black cavendish that peers through every now and then. This sweet touch also makes the room aroma quite sweet for an otherwise savory, natural smoke. Available from Synjeco. '00

Schürch's Sangstone
This creamy-tasting, medium English blend tends toward full flavor. It's spicy, but not harsh, and satisfying, though not knock-you-out strong. Serious fans of complex latakia mixtures could really enjoy this. Its uniqueness lies in the way that the full-bodied, smoky taste is complemented by a distinct natural Virginia sweetness that just doesn't go away. These qualities alternately draw my attention while I smoke. The flavors intensify greatly in the bottom half of the bowl. It's rich enough to be a most relaxing smoke, yet zesty enough to be somewhat refreshing at the same time. Burns easily owing to its medium-fine cut. Available from Synjeco. '00

Skandinavik Mildly Aromatic
Surprisingly similar to Skandinavik Natural, but not a "light" version of the "Natural" blend. That delicious raisin-like pouch aroma is still there, but a touch sweeter and fruitier this time. The tobacco appears to be the same cut and dark, golden colour. Even though the pouch does say mildly aromatic, I was still expecting something more heavily flavoured and sugary. Immediately upon lighting up, one does notice a distinct difference from the Natural variety. Puffs of smoke with a marked fruity aroma waft past the nose, yet the flavour of these essences is barely discernable to the taste buds, as if someone else had lit just up a pipe full of aromatic tobacco in the room. As one smokes onward, the fruity aroma seems to dissipate for the smoker, perhaps because its non-aromatic flavour overrides it. I've been told this smells like cherries, which is odd to me since I can't quite envision myself walking around puffing on a cherry blend (I've never had one that I enjoyed all that much). Like Skandinavik Natural, this is a satisfying, somewhat spicy smoke with good body (for a non-latakia blend) and a relatively neutral tobacco taste. It gets a little richer and fuller as it is smoked. I first tried this after smoking a few pouches of Skandinavik Natural and found the difference between the two to be subtle. So after a few pouches of Mildly Aromatic, I decided to go back and try the Natural again. The difference still wasn't enormous, but the Natural seemed decidedly blander and less seasoned than the Mildly Aromatic, but not really less sweet. I'm smoking quite a bit of this these days; maybe it's a summer thing... Perhaps the most unusual characteristic of this semi-fragrant blend is that it leaves no "aromatic tobacco" scent in the pipe—this quality appeals to me immensely. Have you ever wanted to smoke a non-aromatic tobacco which folks around you would think is aromatic? This might be it. And it burns dry to a fine, salt-and-pepper ash. '97

Skandinavik Natural
What a nice, natural raisin-like aroma in the pouch! This is a moderately dry, ribbon-cut tobacco of a darkish-medium brown colour, somewhat contrasty due to the presence of dark and light tobaccos. Although the length and width of the tobacco are consistent, many fragments of broken flake create an uneven texture. Upon lighting up, some of that sweet fermented aroma is passed on to the smoke's flavour. Subtle, but delicious to my palate. My first impression of this blend was that it had a somewhat spiky, peppery quality and I began to think that this might be yet another rather sharp Danish tobacco. However, its vibrant taste stops there, remains vibrant, and doesn't really bite. Actually, I find it to be on the threshold of biting and non-biting... I believe this is a Virginia-burley mixture (in very good balance I might add) with its fairly mild taste and stimulating sidestream smoke. As one smokes a bowl of this, the slight fruitiness melds into a more dominant, simpler, light smoky flavour. It also becomes smoother as one progresses through a pipe full. The smoke has an enjoyable texture, not as thick as a latakia mixture, but not as thin as some lighter mixtures. It's a tobacco you can absent-mindedly puff on steadily without it becoming significantly harsher, unless you overheat it of course. It might have a slight casing and/or sweetening agent added, but it doesn't have any distinct flavour that suggests additives. The aroma it leaves in the pipe is a neutral, slightly burnt smell and this pretty much sums up how the tobacco tastes when one reaches the bottom of the pipe. I don't know how an audience would receive this blend's non-sweet, all-tobacco aroma. It's another of those mixtures whose room aroma reminds me of non-acrid cigarette smoke. I'm surprised by how much I enjoy this non-latakia blend. I like it enough to have purchased it several times now and I'm not the slightest bit tired of it yet. '97

Sherlock's Haven's Bohemian Scandal
From Sherlock's Haven, San Francisco. This is a hearty, full-English style blend that includes burleys in addition to the more typical English recipe of Orientals + Virginias + latakia. It's a medium-cut, mostly dark mixture. Due to the liberal quantity of burley that it contains, this blend is not quite as rich in body as many English blends of a similarly dark color and full latakia content. Some might therefore prefer to call this an "American" mixture. At the outset of a bowl of this, an intense nutty taste resulting mainly from the burleys and Orientals is dominant. It proceeds to become a bit more stout and slightly bitter further down a bowl full. The high latakia content ensures that it be a reasonably smooth smoke, but the burley keeps it strong and perky tasting. This is a very strong-tasting tobacco that would be best enjoyed by those who like the taste of both dark burleys and full-English blends. '96

Sherlock's Haven's Mycroft's
From Sherlock's Haven, San Francisco. The flecks of this medium-cut blend span the full range of light brown to nearly black, with a concentration of reddish medium-brown tones. This satisfying, first-class oriental mixture contains a reasonable amount of latakia and provides a smooth, ever-so-slightly sweet smoke with just a bit of bite at the end of a smoke. Its strength is somewhere between medium and full, leaning toward full—regular smokers of English blends would probably class it as medium, smokers of lighter blends would find it full. Its rich taste is nuttier, cleaner and not quite as vibrant or as heavy on the palate as blends like Sobranie's 759 or McConnell's Oriental Mixture. As someone who really enjoys orientals, I find this blend's heavy room aroma, which is as nutty as it is smoky, to be especially pleasing. '96

Sinclair Flake
Now discontinued. An Irish-style cavendish along the lines of Erinmore Flake, but more subdued. No latakia here—medium reddish-brown flakes—but a very satisfying blend nonetheless. I have enjoyed this often as a morning pick-me-up with tea. It manages to be sweet and a bit fruity without being at all candy-like, in the way that many herbal teas do. The sweetness is more manifest in the aroma and aftertaste than as a sensation of something sugary hitting the taste buds. The light fruitiness is balanced by a slight sharpness, which I find quite complementary, whereas in some blends, sharpness is a purely negative quality. Burns easily and, because of this, it is best smoked slow and savoured. Leaves a fine white ash and a fragrant, fairly heavy aroma in the room. '95

Smoker's Haven's America's Best Blend
With such a pompous name, this stuff had better be good. Well, it is. This is a medium-full English blend that is ribbon-cut for the most part and with a distinct, mottled appearance due to the mix of blond, medium-brown and black tobaccos. It has quite a spicy, woodsy taste, a nice balance between high-quality, smoky latakia and complementary Virginia sweetness, as well as some Turkish I believe and perhaps even a smattering of perique. The lively flavour of this blend is very similar to The Smoker's Smoker II, but is perhaps a little sharper and not quite as full. Although I like the blacker, more mellow English blends a lot as well, if not more, I like how the pronounced latakia flavour in this one becomes so zingy tasting. In this respect, I am reminded of such vibrant, but richer, blends as McConnell's Oriental and Balkan Sobranie 759, or perhaps what C&D's #416 Plantation Evening would be like if it contained more latakia. I suppose this really is a full English, at least in flavour, but the body of the smoke is more medium than full, reflecting the lighter Virginias in the mixture. It really is a nice, relaxing latakia-flavoured smoke with a decent strength, but one that would probably appeal most to those who prefer a medium-bodied smoke to a heavier, more velvety one. Burns clean and dry to a fine, grey ash. Leaves that beautiful, smoky latakia aroma behind in the room upon smoking. It is definitely very good. But I think I have the right to sue them for calling it America's Best, since it's not my absolute all-time favourite. Thanks BigJack for the tasty sample! Smoker's Haven is at 1097 Bethel Rd., Columbus, Ohio 43220, (614) 538-9534 or (800) 604-5900. '96

Smoker's Haven's Cliff's Blend
This is a medium-cut English blend of rich-looking, contrasty colour: roughly half reddish-brown and half blackish in colour. The distinct aroma of latakia is obvious in the pouch, but there is also something sweeter and more subtle than latakia in there—I do remember that the blend's description listed among its ingredients a variety of not-so-common Oriental tobaccos such as Xanthi. Although undoubtedly dark in taste, this is extremely mild and an incredibly smooth smoke. Still, it doesn't smoke flat. The smoke seems thick, but it also has a light, creamy quality to it, which I believe is due to the Oriental leaf in the mixture. In this way, it reminds me somewhat of Fox's Banker's Mixture, but a bit lighter on the latakia. It even reminds me of Blatter Reserve, but without the slightly aromatic component. What makes this stand out from a lot of English mixtures is its complex, underlying roasted-nut flavour, which is quite different from the simpler, hollower nutty taste that burley tobaccos will often lend to a blend. This is an an extremely well-balanced blend with excellent smoking qualities. Don't let its dark colour turn you away: this is among the smoothest of full-English mixtures you will encounter. A good choice for someone who likes the taste of latakia and by no means too strong as a morning smoke. Burns clean and dry to a fine salt-and-pepper ash and leaves a rich English-tobacco scent in the room after smoking. Smoker's Haven is at 1097 Bethel Rd., Columbus, Ohio 43220, (614) 538-9534 or (800) 604-5900. '97

Stanwell's Rose and Crown
A somewhat moist, dark reddish-brown, broken-up flake with lighter and darker coloured fragments here and there. My sample of this required minimal rubbing out prior to smoking, since much of the broken flake was of a short stubby cut already. This is a very aromatic Virginia that reminds me in many respects of the love-them-or-hate-them Erinmore tobaccos in its intensity. Its aromatic qualities are very rich, seemingly based on a raspberry flavouring, but without the cheapness of taste that I expect from heavily flavoured mixtures. This is probably in part because decent-quality, sweet Virginias are what's holding the mixture together. Medium body and pretty smooth smoking, I'm surprised I like this one, since I generally don't care much for heavy fruit-flavoured blends. Its distinctive taste actually reminds me more of raspberry pie than just raspberry flavouring and there's something vaguely flowery about its aroma that my nose detects while smoking, although I don't actually taste this floral character at all. Its smokes like a good Virginia—relatively cool on the tongue if smoked slowly, but will bite a bit if allowed to overheat or if the tobacco has dried out too much. The fruit flavouring remains throughout the smoke, but slowly dissipates somewhat during the second half of the bowl. At the end, the extreme dryness of the smoke on my mouth reminds me that, ultimately, I'm finishing off a bowl of Virginia. Weaker than strong in terms of nicotine, this is a just a relaxing smoke, but not overly so. It leaves its marked aroma in your moustache and in the room, but the room aroma isn't quite as heavy or cloying as you might expect given the density of its taste. I can't imagine anyone complaining about its aroma, but I'm sure there is someone somewhere that would... It burns clean and dry to a very white ash that intersperses with the blackish flecks of any unburnt tobacco. Thanks Spiffyng for this most enjoyable sample! '95

Stokkebye's Twist Flake (PS402)
Body: 5/10
Nicotine Strength: 5/10
Flavour Depth: 4/10
Flavour—sweetness: 6/10
Flavour—fruitiness: 3/10
Flavour—floweriness: 5/10
Flavour—smokiness: 1/10
Flavour—mustiness: 2/10
Flavour—nuttiness: 3/10
Bite: 8/10
Room Aroma: Sweet
These medium-dark, one-inch-diameter slices have a twirly, zig-zag grain and beige birds-eye speckles to make them attractive. Their texture is soft and they rub out easily to a coarse cut that is perfect for slow smoking. The tobacco smells sweet and buttery, and generously offers scents of coconut (vanilla flavouring often smells like coconut to me) and something deeper, like chocolate. It is a fairly sweet smoke, but not as much as the scent in the pouch promises. Much of the flavouring seems to burn off and become part of its fragrant sidestream smoke. What really dominates is a caramelized-sugar taste, nicely balanced by some light and clean tobacco flavour. The smoke is of a dense, medium body and has a satisfying kick that suggests the presence of burley in the blend. It also has a bit of a bite, which adds freshness to its flavour and makes this a nice hot-weather smoke for me. It might be too spicy for more sensitive palates, however. The flavourings fade and almost disappear after half a pipe-full is smoked. Unlike many flake tobaccos, this one does not develop additional richness as the bottom of the bowl is approached; in fact, I find it becomes progressively less complex. Still, I like to smoke this on occasion, and have been doing so for several years, usually as a mid-day or mid-evening smoke. In many ways, this reminds me of Dan Pipe's Sweet Vanilla Honeydew. This tobacco could be a crowd-pleaser and thus an asset to those pipe smokers who need to flatter their entourage. Bystanders won't realize that your tobacco is much more robust than the heavily flavoured mild cavendish that they think you are smoking. This tobacco burns clean and dry to a salt-and-pepper ash and I enjoy the caramelized-sugar scent that it leaves in my moustache. You might have already smoked this without knowing it... It's available loose in the jars at many smoke shops, under whatever name the shop chooses to call it. '02

Sullivan's Gentleman's Mixture (Original)
This is a tobacco of contrasts that I seem to smoke most often as my first pipe of the day, especially on weekends (who knows why?). The base flavour is a dry-tasting (bright?) Virginia base that is neither rich nor smooth and is practically devoid of sweetness. On top of this, and in complete contrast, is a perfumy and slightly sour component, an Oriental perhaps that I can't identify (?), which gives the smoke an aroma that one smells more than tastes. The presence of perique adds a distinct pepperiness and furthers the contrast between perfuminess and earthiness. My first two pipes of this were not at all tasty, as I smoked it in pipes that had an incompatible flavour. Overall, this medium brown, medium-cut tobacco with darker flecks (and, occasionally, a bit of sugar crystallization) is good, although a bit on the sharp side for me. '96

Three Star's China Black Vanilla Burley
Dry, medium-cut, vanilla-flavoured burley tobacco in two rich reddish-brown tones, one a bit darker than the other. This smokes dry, clean and smooth, with no bite. I wouldn't have thought that this mixture contained Oriental tobaccos, but the pouch says it does. It's probably a small amount, just enough to give the smoke a little extra body and smoothness. What I like about this is that it is not a sweet and cloying blend. The vanilla acts more like an essence than a syrupy casing. It is much more present in the aroma and perfumed aftertaste than in the actual flavour. The end result is that it still has lots of that refreshing, nutty tobacco taste that is particular to light burleys, so it should appeal to many folks who like real tobacco flavour in addition to sweet aromas. When smoking, the room aroma has lots of that vanilla aroma that almost everyone likes, but just as much of that long-lingering natural burley aroma. As with most burleys, this burns well and contains a fair amount of nicotine. A light-bodied, energizing smoke. Available from Iwan Ries & Co., Chicago and elsewhere. '96

Three Star's China Black Whiskey
Although the pouch declares "Golden cavendish with Oriental," this medium-cut aromatic blend is overall quite dark looking, probably through liberal addition of black cavendish tobacco. It has a pronounced sweet-musty aroma in the pouch that is presumably that of whiskey or some facsimile thereof. I'm not a whiskey drinker, but this doesn't smell much like whiskey to my nose for some reason. Not only is it quite moist when the pouch is first opened, but it remains that way for a long time afterwards. The taste is an even balance between sweet and earthy, without highlights, and with a decidedly musty aftertaste. This smokes smooth and is very mild, but it is a decidedly wet smoke that has little tobacco flavour. If you can't cope with a wet smoke, you will not find this acceptable. Aside from its unfortunately high moisture content, the flavour is an interesting one in the way that it is aromatic, yet neither flowery, fruity, vanilla-saturated nor sugary. A distinctive savory and slightly sweet aroma lingers in the room after smoking this. It is often sold in buy-one-get-one-free, double pouch packs in the USA. '97

Tinderbox's Philosopher
This is categorized as an English blend because it contains a discernable amount of latakia, but some might call it "American" in style due to its moist, mild base (which seems to stay moist forever). The mixture is about half medium-brown tobaccos and half black, all in a coarse, wide cut. Those used to heartier English blends might be surprised at the sweetness and relatively light latakia aroma in the pouch. Although the taste is smokier than the pouch aroma would suggest, the mildness of the Virginia and Oriental base tobaccos produce a light-to-medium, not full, smoke. It also seems to contain black cavendish, both for sweetness and for accentuating the dark, latakia flavour in the mixture. It's a surprisingly light smoking experience for a latakia-flavoured blend. In fact, the soft texture of its smoke is almost reminiscent of aromatic blends such as Lane's 1Q. It's extremely mild if blown out the nose, and doesn't seem to contain much nicotine, but I find it has more bite than many heavier English blends, even though it burns cool and slowly. It leaves a dry, smoky, and slightly sweet aftertaste and its room aroma is similar. It is rare to find a mixture with so much suggestion of latakia flavor, so much smoothness, yet so little comparative fullness. '97

Trinity East's #326
This is a commercial-grade aromatic blend of that all-American, Captain-Black style. A stringy, medium-cut reddish Virginia cavendish is mixed with perhaps 25% black cavendish and heavily cased with a vanilla (and perhaps a bit of chocolate and/or liquorice and/or who-knows-what) casing to produce a (permanently?) moist tobacco that feels soft and silky, almost oily, on the fingers. It produces a smooth, very mild, and fluffy smoke that you could smoke non-stop if you didn't tire of the caramelized vanilla flavour and aroma first. Although it is a moist, cased tobacco, it smokes fairly dry. Its flavour is predominantly that of the sweet casing. At first the vanilla is more prominent, but the caramelized taste takes over while smoking. Still, the vanilla essence remains in the back of the mouth as an aftertaste, both at the end of the smoke, or between puffs when smoke is emptied from the mouth. Best of all, this blend doesn't get wet and bizarre-tasting after your pipe is half-smoked like some heavily cased blends. All that occurs is that the caramelized flavour intensifies, without any obnoxious bitterness, and a little bit of actual tobacco flavour even comes through at the very end of the smoke when all the casing is burnt off. This mixture burns quite well and leaves a blackish, dry dottle mixed with white ash in the bottom of the pipe. The room aroma is as sweet and fragrant as you would expect, almost incense-like. Aficionados of creamy, sweet aromatics would love this one. Similar to Captain Black Royal in style and flavour, this one seems to have better smoking qualities, without the compromise of character that I perceived in Finck's Generic Captain Black clone mixture. Very similar to the popular Lane's 1Q mixture. Thanks to Spiffyng for the sample. Trinity East Smoke Shop is located at 215 Sunrise Hwy, Rockville Center, NY 11570, (516) 678-1822. '97

Troost Special Cavendish
Open a pouch of this and smell the fragrant, but not sugary, aroma. The flavoring employed is a distinctive recipe that's rather hard to break down into its individual ingredients. To my nose, there's a good amount of chocolate for fullness, perhaps a bit of licorice, almond and at least one variety of fruit, maybe even cherry, This may sound like candy, but it's far better than that—one smells fermented tobacco aroma in there as well. The texture of this blend is that of a flake tobacco that has been unevenly crumbled up, almost as if it had been done by hand. It was quite dry in the pouch each of the three times I tried it in 1997 and it tended to dry out quickly once the pouch was opened. Upon lighting up, one notes that this does not taste sweet as might have been expected. Instead, the flavorings add a flowery aspect to the nutty taste of the base tobaccos, Interestingly, more of this aroma is experienced later as aftertaste than while actually smoking, The smoke has a creamy fullness to it, suggesting Virginia tobaccos, and a zestiness that suggests burleys. These two qualities coexist in good balance with each other, such that this is neither a heavy nor biting mixture. It's a notch or two stronger than a mild tobacco, but it doesn't smoke harsh. Overall it is reminiscent of Amphora red in character, only smoother, richer and cooler smoking. This one should have a lot of fans: aficionados of flavoured tobaccos would probably enjoy this step toward a more natural-tasting mixture and smokers of natural blends who like clean-smoking aromatics should find this appealing. It leaves a rich and slightly musty scent in the room after smoking which, although pleasant, does indeed smell like tobacco and won't likely be mistaken for cookies baking in the oven. '99

Wild Geese
A non-sticky cavendish mixture from Germany with a contrasty appearance. It contains a rather complete spectrum of tobacco colours: from pale yellow to reddish-brown to blackish. The cut is overall somewhat erratic: wide and chunky, sometimes short-cut, sometimes long. In the tin, it has a sweet aroma that I can't identify. I do however recognize this fruity-flowery smell, whatever it is, as being in the same league as that of Germain's No. 7. Once lit, it proves to be quite smooth and without even a trace of harshness. Natural tobacco flavour here is practically nil. The dominant taste is that of the added flavourings, but it's very well balanced and refined in nature—not heavy or overly sweet. Sniffing the sidestream smoke while puffing away, I find it has a pleasing, slightly musty aroma in addition to its sweetness. Although mild, the Virginias in the mixture produce just enough piquancy to keep it from tasting flat. It's a fairly light-bodied smoke that burns absolutely dry—and cool due to the wide cut—to a fine light grey ash at the bottom of the pipe. This is listed in the British A.I.T.S. index, but doesn't appear to be widely available in North America. I purchased this at Jon's Pipe Shop in St. Louis, MO. '97