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9 of the Best English Blends to Try

9 of the Best English Blends to Try

Posted by Greg Rosenberg on 22nd Aug 2023

Table of Contents

  1. Presbyterian Mixture
  2. G. L. Pease Westminster
  3. Peterson Nightcap
  4. Sutliff Balkan Sobranie Match
  5. Cobblestone Pawn
  6. Cornell& Diehl Star of the East
  7. Seattle Pipe Club Plum Pudding
  8. Ashton Artisan's Blend
  9. Mac Baren HH Latakia Flake

9 of the Best English Blends to Try

In definition and in taste, English blends can be a controversial genre of pipe tobacco. Some pipe smokers are devout appreciators of the smoky Latakia, some are particular about its influence and role in a profile—for others, it’s a nonstarter. So long as you have any appreciation for the fire-cured Oriental, there’s a  pipe tobacco here that’s worth trying.

In its most quintessential form, we might think of an English blend as a mixture of Latakia, Oriental, and Virginia tobacco. The exceptions are plenty and it can be deliberated whether some tobacco mixture that plays about the margins of a traditional English blend should be labeled as such, or whether one that goes beyond these core components is better served by some term even more loosely defined such as American English, Scottish, or Balkan.

For this list, we won’t concern ourselves we'll avoid getting too pedantic. The mixtures in this collection of some of the best English blends certainly demonstrate the diversity that does exist within the genre, and each exhibit that familiar English charm while appealing to a range of preferences. 

Presbyterian Mixture

Presbyterian Pipe Tobacco

Tobacco Latakia, Oriental, Virginia
Cut Ribbon
Strength Mild - Medium

We’ll start with one from the pantheon of storied blends whose trademarks reach back to the early days of commercial blending— Presbyterian Mixture. Initially, this great English blend which William P. Solomon created for the Glasgow firm A. Gale & Co. Ltd. was not called Presbyterian. It was blended prior to WWI for the minister of the Church of Scotland, Reverend Dr. John White. The mixture, nameless at the time, was eventually introduced to Prime Minister Earl Baldwin, who became smitten and allegedly deemed the tobacco Presbyterian Mixture. The blend would come to be owned by Planta Tabak in the decades to come, until they left the tobacco business in 2019 and Mac Baren purchased their portfolio.

Presbyterian Mixture is a quintessential light English, which I use to mean an English that is mild in strength and with a Latakia presence that's noticeable but with an accenting role. In Presbyterian Mixture, the Latakia is minimal, adding a layer of smokiness that nicely pulls out some of the Oriental spice, but it is far from dominating or even taking a lead in the profile. Bready, sweet Virginias and woody, herbal Orientals are most prominently featured here. Presbyterian Mixture offers a mild, great all day smoke with some intrigue—not too complex but with some nuances that peek through.

G. L. Pease Westminster

G. L. Pease Westminster Pipe Tobacco

Tobacco Latakia, Oriental, Virginia
Cut Ribbon
Strength Medium

Westminster was created by celebrated blender G. L. Pease in homage to the original  Dunhill London Mixture, blended to the likeness of the Dunhill production, prior to when manufacturing was moved to Murray's. Released in 2007, this was the second blend to grace the Heirloom series, a collection of tobacco mixtures that, in Pease’s words, “are exemplary in their category, or those that blaze new trails.”

The Latakia is up front in Westminster, and is supported by buttery Virginias and woody, spicy Orientals. As one can expect from a G. L. Pease blend, there is a fantastic balance. Even with the Latakia’s rich and forward place in the profile, it doesn’t dominate, but allows for the complexities of the mixture to come through. Full flavored and smooth to the very end, Westminster is a take on a legend that solidified a place as a modern classic itself. 

Some of the more full flavored English blends can be quite strong in the nicotine department, as we'll see in this list. Westminster is a great pick for one who wants the flavor without too much heft; not to say it's mild, but not a bear either.

Peterson Nightcap

Peterson Nightcap Pipe Tobacco

Tobacco Latakia, Oriental, Perique, Virginia
Cut Ribbon
Strength Strong

From Westminster, it seems natural to take a step into the Dunhill legacy with one of the most exemplary English blends there is—Nightcap. Dunhill’s Nightcap has been a continuously beloved mixture through the Murray’s and STG eras of production, and was one of the handful of Dunhill blends revived under  STG’s Peterson Tobacco brand after Dunhill left the pipe tobacco industry.

Nightcap was released in 1951 beside Aperitif and Early Morning Pipe, the latter being a counterpart of sorts to Nightcap. Where Early Morning Pipe is a mild English that delightfully eases one into the day, Nightcap is a heavy, bold English crafted as the perfect companion to the waning evening, as one winds down or enjoys an after-supper smoke. Of course, Nightcap can be enjoyed any time the urge strikes, but you would do well to not smoke it on an empty stomach. The dark, woody smoke of the Latakia is front and center, supported by Virginia and Oriental tobaccos. Finally, this English is brought together with Perique, adding some spice and complexity to the mixture.

Sutliff Balkan Sobranie Match

Sutliff Balkan Sobranie Original Mix Match Pipe Tobacco

Tobacco Latakia, Oriental, Perique, Virginia
Cut Ribbon
Strength Strong

This match of the original Balkan mixture was blended by Russ Ouellette for the  Sutliff Tobacco Company and is based on the Balkan Sobranie mixture of the 1970s. Though we still have Balkan Sobranie, now a Gallaher production, it has gone through many changes in blending houses from the original. The Sutliff take has proven to be a notably well received match, which isn’t for nothing. The very claim of a "match" assures some cynicism on arrival. For my part, I can’t speak to the accuracy of the resemblance, but it is surely a great English blend by its own merits.

Orientals and Latakia are the main players here, as you’d expect from a Balkan mixture. Buttery, floral, and smokiness are in perfect harmony. Even though the Orientals and Latakia are most on show, they are balanced and give the base of tangy, woody Virginias room to come through.

Cobblestone Pawn

Cobblestone Chess Pawn Pipe Tobacco

Tobacco Black Cavendish, Latakia, Oriental, Perique, Virginia
Cut Ribbon
Strength Medium

Cobblestone Pipe tobaccos have come on the scene more recently. These recipes are produced by Sutliff or Kohlhase & Kopp depending on the series. A few of these mixtures have proven to be dark horses, found to be worthy contenders for rotation and cellar space. The Burley flake Hiking and the Aromatic Vanilla Custard are two such examples. But green as the brand is, the larger catalog is still unexplored by most pipe smokers, so I thought I’d highlight an English from the Chess series (from Kohlhase & Kopp) that I find wonderful and underrated.

The core English ingredients still take precedence in Cobblestone Pawn. Red Virginia with notes of wood and dark fruit play a forward role, well mixed with flavorful Orientals. Most notable is no doubt the bold Latakia. The other ingredients certainly bring a nuance and utility to how Pawn expresses, with Perique adding a fine spice and Black Cavenidsh effectively dispersing the flavors and introducing a creamy sweet undertone. All in all, Cobblestone Pawn is rich in flavor but maintains a respectable medium body. 

Cornell & Diehl Star of the East

Cornell & Diehl Star of the East Pipe Tobacco

Tobacco Latakia, Oriental, Virginia
Cut Ribbon/Flake
Strength Medium

Next we have Star of the East, a  Cornell & Diehl classic, and a real Latakia powerhouse among these mixtures. The ribbon cut is available in tin or bulk, so if you’ve only flirted with Latakia but want to try something truly Lat-heavy, this could be a good one to test the waters with an ounce of bulk—less expensive and less of a commitment than a tin. But if you are big on the Latakia, this may be one that hits just right. Per the tin description, the fire-cured leaf accounts for half of the tobacco in Star of the East.

This English mixture leans to the wood and leather side of the genre, but more than anything, it encapsulates that "campfire" smokiness. The Stoved Red Virginias take a little time to come through, as you acclimate to the full flavor of the Latakia, but its utility in the blend is noticed right away with the lush smoke Star of the East produces. Once those base components come more into resolution, the Virginia offers a bit of tang and wood in the profile. This creates a fine base for the flavorful Orientals whose floral and spice become evident through the smoke, creating more harmony than you would think attainable from a Lat-bomb.

In addition to coming in both ribbon and  flake cut, there’s Star of the East Gold—a well executed reinterpretation that may be more amenable to the appreciator of Latakia who isn’t quite a fiend for it. Star of the East Gold sees Red Virginias, Stoved Brights, and Orientals mixed with a fair but more conservative portion of Latakia.

Seattle Pipe Club Plum Pudding

Seattle Pipe Club Plum Pudding Pipe Tobacco Tin

Tobacco Black Cavendish, Latakia, Oriental, Perique, Virginia
Cut Cake
Strength Medium

Seattle Pipe Club is a purveyor of modern classics, and none have been more of a marvel of boutique blending as Plum Pudding. Created by the late Joe Lankford, it was the follow up to his and Seattle Pipe Club’s first success, Mississippi River, and while both still enjoy wide recognition as two of the best English blends available today, Plum Pudding really catapulted the brand.

Stone fruit sweetness from the Red Virginias is superbly balanced with woody Latakia. Herbal spice from the Oriental component introduces flavorful complexities, as does the light yet noticeable Perique, which offers a spice of its own and deep plummy notes. The blend is smoothed and brought together with the addition of Black Cavendish, which also adds some sugary sweetness.

What’s more, there are several varieties to explore. In addition to the original, there is the Special Reserve and—my favorite—Plum Pudding Bourbon Barrel Aged.

Ashton Artisan's Blend

Ashton Artisan's Blend Pipe Tobacco

Tobacco Latakia, Oriental, Perique, Virginia
Cut Ribbon
Strength Medium-Strong

Ashton’s Artisan’s Blend is another superb full-body English that may be a bit hefty for those with a preference for mild blends. But if you like your flavorful Latakia blends with some oomph, this is likely among the best English blends for you.

The campfire smokiness and musk comes through immediately, with the Oriental just behind offering a floral spice and incense. The Virginias provide a smooth base with tangy sweetness and bready notes. Finally, there is an added spice from the Perique, which also contributes some of that boldness to the body of Artisan’s Blend. Truly an English blend that effectively brings balance to complexity.

Mac Baren HH Latakia Flake

Mac Baren HH Latakia Flake Pipe Tobacco

Tobacco Burley, Latakia, Oriental, Virginia
Cut Flake
Strength Medium

Finally we have HH Latakia Flake from Mac Baren.  Mac Baren’s HH series was created by Per Jensen to showcase the inherent character of tobacco types. Each blend in the series is without top flavoring and uses a minimal amount of casing to balance the profile without detracting from the natural flavor. Debuted in 2014, HH Latakia Flake is certainly a success in parading the fire-cured leaf essential to English blends.

In HH Latakia Flake, we have a mixture of Latakia and Orientals atop a Virginia and Burley base. The mixture is hot pressed and sliced into pristine flakes in the Danish style we expect from Mac Baren. The body of HH Latakia Flake is buttery and nutty with Virginias bringing dark fruit and tang. It’s a great foundation on which we have the smoky BBQ and earthy spice from the Latakia and Orientals. Despite being a blend that showcases Latakia, the condiment is far from eclipsing. The well balanced mixture is certainly helped by the mellowing and melding from the hot pressing.

One of the most interesting aspects of pipe smoking is the vast selection. We have all these blends that have a common thread running through them that justifies some categorical umbrella, yet each has an individuality about them. It seems intuitive that with a few varietals, the limitations would be reached rather quickly, but it's just not that simple. Grades of the leaf, ratios, casing, and other particulars of processing ensure a world to explore, and the best English blends are those that satisfy that familiar taste, while gratifying us with a profile that stands out in its own way. Hopefully some of the blends do just that. 

9 of the best English blends to try