Friends, today we turn our appreciative palates to Sutliff Tobacco, a stalwart blender and distributor that marries two qualities rarely found in one company: innovation and consistency. But where to start with Sutliff? The great weight of its 171-year legacy? Or the depth of its product offerings, which range from pleasing aromatics, to quality matches of discontinued favorites, to solid English blends admired by veteran tobacconists? Take your screen to the porch or your lounge, pack your briar of the day, and let’s take a dive into the fascinating history of this storied company. Afterwards, I’ll link you to some of my favorite Sutliff blends to get you started. And good news here—Sutliff boasts a serious roster you’ll not soon extinguish.
Sutliff Tobacco Company was founded in 1849 in San Francisco. From its first customer-facing retail store, Sutliff stocked pipe tobacco and cigars. Successful, yes, but it wasn’t until the development of a special blend with the alluring, alchemical title, “Mixture 79,” that Sutliff really took off. Sales boomed off “Mixture 79” throughout the late-1930s and 1940s, prompting Sutliff to relocate to the thriving and tobacco-friendly Richmond, Virginia in 1953.
Sutliff’s growth in Richmond marked a new strategic opportunity: acquisition. Sutliff’s first purchase was the Heines Blend; its first, but not the last. Time marched on in the 20th century, and so did Sutliff—through the Depression, two World Wars, the Kennedy assassination, and the first cassette tape—which brings us to an important historical moment in 1969. No, not Woodstock, nor the introduction of the Trans-Am Firebird, nor Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first steps on the moon. No, for our purposes, 1969 is when Consolidated Cigar Corporation proposed acquiring Sutliff and its subsidiaries. Juiced by the deep pockets of the well-established CCC, Sutliff pursued new horizons in experimental blending, along with distinct private-label opportunities. These included the use of a Cavendish Cut instead of Sutliff’s traditional Burley Plug-Cut, marking an evolution in the brand’s smoking experience.
The ensuing decades brought along additional strategic acquisitions, especially in the late-80s and early-90s, when Sutliff developed its bulk distribution through Milt Sherman Pipe Tobacco, Century Tobacco Company, and the domestic operational strengths of A.C. Peterson. New flavors and package styles were further developed in 2008–2010, including a choice selection of tinned tobaccos under the Sutliff Private Stock label, which is counted among the best English Style traditional mixtures available.
Then, in May of 2013, a monumental event in Sutliff’s history occurred. Mac Baren, a storied Denmark tobacco company established in 1887, purchased the pipe division of tobacco giant, Altadis. This acquisition included Sutliff. Given its success and established reputation, Sutliff continued its production while also serving a strategic role as the domestic importer for Mac Baren’s excellent tobacco.
With 171 years of innovating blends, improving process, and continually delivering fantastic products, Sutliff knows a thing or two about great tobacco. Let’s tour through a couple of TobaccoPipes.com’s staff favorites and best-sellers to explore the considerable delights of smoking Sutliff.
You know those occasional lovely moments where non-smokers stop you to compliment the aroma of your tobacco? Prepare to please (and be pleased) with Sutliff’s Molto Dolce. “Molto Dolce” is Italian for “very sweet,” and this delicious aromatic blend satisfies like a Venetian scoop of gelato. Blended by Carl McAllister, a legendary tobacconist who started at Sutliff in 1977, Molto Dolce is part of Sutliff’s “Private Stock” line. The blend consists of ribbon cut Black Cavendish, Burley, and Virginia with delicious notes of vanilla, honey, and caramel. A mild smoke with extremely pleasant room notes, this blend smokes beautifully and stays cool throughout, staving off tonguebite. For those who prefer non-aromatics, try your hand at out-blending Carl McAllister and combine Molto Dolce’s unique notes with your favorite non-aromatic for slightly-muted notes.
Give it a go with a 1.5 oz tin of Molto Dolce
Sometimes you need seconds for dessert. Sutliff has you covered. Vanilla Custard Cream Pie contains a mix of Cavendish, Burley, and Virginia tobacco, offering the delicious notes alluded to in its name, and complimented beautifully with a strong espresso. This ribbon cut blend is mild and without any bite; a soothing smoke for that wind-down time after a hectic day. Like Molto Dolce, this tobacco is another great option for blending with your favorite non-aromatic for the benefits of its delicious flavor in a slightly-muted context. Some of our reviewers consider it sublime, and who are we to argue?
Good news for you sampler-smokers out there—try out Vanilla Custard Cream Pie in a 1.5 oz starter. Then, when you’re ready for more, you can pick up 8 oz and 16 oz bags.
Remember to thank the heavens for Carl McAllister when you’re saying your pipe prayers. Also responsible for Molto Dolce, Mr. McAllister has delivered us Crumble Kake, a blend heavily in rotation by the author of this article. Composed of Burley, Latakia, Turkish, and Virginia tobacco, Crumble Kake arrives in an elegant tin with two thick cakes. Flake off a couple sections, fleck them out, and let them dry for a bit if necessary. The earthy flavor with hints of wood and citrus provides a tasty and mellow blend perfect for that slow-burning decompression-session we all know and love.
Ready to fire up this blend? I know I am. Try out a 1.5 oz of Crumble Kake
A careful match to the discontinued Dunhill Nightcap blend, Sutliff’s offering is composed of a full-bodied mixture of Latakia, Turkish, Perique, and Virginia ribbon-cut tobaccos. With great room notes, pipe aficionados will find a welcome return to the phenomenal flavors of the old Dunhill stalwart. A mid-strength blend, you’ll enjoy fabulous hits of sweetness amidst the rich, smoky body.
Like the Vanilla Custard Cream Pie, you can try out a 1.5 oz pouch before taking the welcome plunge into a 16 oz bag of Dunhill Nightcap English Match
A mild to medium aromatic with an aged sweetness, delicious tinges of vanilla, and just the right punch of Latakia, some reviewers have drawn comparisons to the fantastic (and now discontinued) Frog Morton. Easy to return to throughout the day, this light but mature ribbon cut English makes for a richly dependable and pleasurably earthy smoke.
Pick up a 1.5 oz tin of Private Stock Eastfarthing