Alright, let’s have a little fun here. There’s excellence to be found in tobacco blends from all over the globe but categorizing our favorites in varied ways provides the piper a method of talking about difference and distinction. It’s what allows us to put disparate elements into new conversations and refine our thinking around all the assorted aspects of our favorite pastime.
Up for consideration today are European vs. American tobacco blends. We’ll be clear from the outset: all of the contenders are champs. There are fine blenders on both sides of the pond, and you’d do just fine smoking any one of these excellent tobaccos. But for the sake of friendly rivalry, for the sake of sport, let’s tour through a stacked fight card and see how the challengers measure up in the arena.
Before we begin, a general word on the history of European and American tobaccos. For the purposes of these bouts, we’re allowing American blenders the use of English blends, a widespread tobacco category marked by the presence of Latakia, along with variant Orientals, Virginias, and Perique. A cross-pollination of style and technique is just one majestic attribute of the tobacco blending world as makers are influenced by the techniques, legislative restrictions, and palette profiles they encounter abroad. For our purposes, where the tobacco is crafted now is the principal arena of contest.
European vs. American Blends with The Aromatic Dessert
Sutliff Private Stock Molto Dolce Pipe Tobacco - 1.5 oz vs. Gawith Hoggarth & Co American Delight Pipe Tobacco
For the crowd pleaser tobacco, the one your spouse doesn’t mind smelling up the backyard, the one that carries pure nostalgia with its wafting aroma, we turn to Aromatics. Tantalizing beyond just pure taste, Aromatic tobaccos tap into the wide sensory palette of smell to bring us their unique and pleasing profiles. The volume of Aromatic tobacco on the market is vast, but we have two special candidates, one European and one American, to compare and contrast.
From the USA, Sutliff’s Private Stock Molto Dolce, blended by Carl McCallister. A truly special and especially creamy blend composed of Black Cavendish, Burley, and Virginia tobaccos, this Aromatic is masterfully blended with vanilla, honey and caramel. The room note is to die for, and the mild smoke better than a dessert bar. That’s Molto Dolce.
But our European blenders have a roster of their own exceptional Aromatics to consider. From Gawith Hoggarth and Co. comes the American Delight Pipe Tobacco. Similarly composed of Burley and Virginia, American Delight opts for a straight Cavendish as opposed to Black Cavendish. Similarly flavored with caramel and vanilla, the strength of this blend checks in a little lighter than Sutliff’s Molto Dolce.
Both Aromatics are worthy. Both are ribbon cut and offer prevalent room notes of vanilla and caramel. The Black Cavendish contained in the Molto Dolce suggests smoking with a slower cadence than the American Delight, but also affords an excellent carrier for the flavoring. Try them both, but start with Molto Dolce.
The Literary Blend
Few sources of relaxation integrate as seamlessly as a pipe and a good book. The contemplative benefits of pipe tobacco, the slow ease of a refined smoking cadence, and the solitude of an evening with your pipe are only enhanced by the unparalleled pleasures of a stellar novel or memoir. For all the readers who find solace in the pipe, it’s no surprise that many of history’s favorite authors and thinkers likewise turned to tobacco for peace and inspiration. The blue-chips are well-known: J.M. Barrie, Bertrand Russell, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. While historical portraits documenting many great authors’ love for their pipes are easy to come by, their tobacco preferences are harder to track down. Except for a few, including the visionary modernist author, William Faulkner, and the paradigm-shattering Albert Einstein.
That brings us to the tobacco, and Peterson’s My Mixture 965. Hailing from the UK, and one of Faulkner’s reported tobaccos of choice, Peterson revived the classic Dunhill blend when the latter went the way of the buffalo. A smooth but punchy English, My Mixture 965 is constructed with Orientals and the oh-so-perfect amount of Latakia, along with Cavendish to help deliver an ultra-smooth smoke. You or I may never write like Bill Faulkner, but at least we can smoke like him.
On the American side of the ring we’ve got one of Einstein’s supposedly favored tobaccos; a revisitation of a Philip Morris classic named “Revelation.” The Cornell & Diehl revitalized blend, aptly named “Epiphany,” features ribbon cut Burley, Virginia, Perique, and Latakia tobaccos that all contribute their brilliance to this elegantly orchestrated work of art. If you like your tobacco fresh and invigorating with the lightest bit of spice and the rich woodiness of Perique, get ready to have an Epiphany.
Science or Art? Math or Literature? Germany or Yoknapatawpha County? Perique or not? The last is really the major question if you’re picking between these two excellent blends. Peterson’s My Mixture 965 is judicious with the Latakia, as the C&D is with its dark, fruity Perique. One thing is for sure: both blends are complex, befitting of the great minds that consulted them for inspiration.
The Morning Smoke
Very few moments of the day are as necessary or as anticipated as the morning smoke. Before the bumper to bumper, before the rat race, before the day’s chaos, a morning pipe fortifies the piper for whatever the day holds. That means it’s essential to start with right blend. You need something mild, not too complex, easy on the palate, smooth, and that complements your morning coffee or tea. So, for your consideration:
All the way from Denmark, we’ve got another candidate from Peterson. Peterson’s Early Morning Pipe Tobacco is light and delicious fare, with a touch of pleasant sour and sweet; the ideal bit of tang to perk up your palate first thing. A definitive light English with Cyprian Latakia, Orientals, and Virginias, this classic tobacco is a charmer for its formidable smokability, its agreeable room note, and its complexity while remaining mellow.
The smoothness doesn’t stop across the Atlantic. For our US contender, we have a terrific candidate from Sutliff Tobacco—Red Virginia Crumble Cake. Composed of naturally sweet Red Virginias, this toasty, grassy cake-pressed tobacco is exceptionally smooth and carries the perfect hit of electric tanginess; an ideal selection for that first foray into the day’s smoking. The cake is masterfully composed too and flakes apart easily; no stress packing your first bowl.
This one’s a tie. Peterson’s Early Morning has a grander share of devotees, and a more complex profile for a morning blend, but Sutliff’s Red Virginia Crumble Cake provides such a consistent, cool, and mellow smoke that when it comes to starting the day off right, you can’t go wrong with the Cake.
For the veteran piper, the experimenting newbie, and all of the pipers in between who prefer a bit more power in the bowl, we need the heavyweights. These are the tobaccos that require a full stomach, a moderated cadence, and an attunement to what’s going on behind the scenes of a potent blend.
First in the ring is Mac Baren’s reanimation of Bell’s Three Nuns. A classic then and now. Hailing from Denmark, the original Three Nuns was a favorite of none other than the patron saints of pipe smoking, C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien. A full and powerful tangy/nutty blend built from Dark Fired Kentucky & Virginia, you’re in for an exceptional smoke that just may have you seeing lions, fauns, dwarves, dragons, and silver chairs.
On the opposing side, another worthy stalwart: Cornell & Diehl’s Billy Budd Pipe tobacco. Named after Herman Melville’s exquisite short novel, Billy Budd, coarse cut Burley, Cigar Leaf, Latakia, and Virginia pack all the punch of the book, including a mega hit of nicotine following the Latakia-forward blend. This tobacco wakes up the piper like a cold sea spray, and you’ll love every minute of it.
Billy Budd comes in heavier than Three Nuns, but what the latter offers in a nic hit and Latakia, it makes up for in delightfully tangy Virginias and smoky Dark Fired Kentucky. If you’re a fan of cigars, you’ll love Billy Budd. If you want to ratchet down the intensity just a smidge, you’re in blessed hands with Three Nuns.
Just like that morning smoke that sets the day toward true north, the winddown smoke is an essential moment of the piper’s day. It’s the reflective window where tribulations come into perspective and the to-do lists of the future reorient themselves to a manageable state. Picking the right tobacco for this sacred smoke is essential. Here are two deserving options for that send-off bowl.
From over in Denmark and the mighty Peterson, any piper cracking Nightcap is in for one of the best tobaccos the pipe world has to offer. A titan of the English set, the original Nightcap was blended by Dunhill before Peterson recreated the classic to great aplomb. Crafted from Latakia, Perique, and Virginias, this ribbon cut tobacco is best enjoyed with a fine scotch.
On to the American side of things. From the magnificent blending mind of G. L. Pease comes Haddo’s Delight. A proprietary process for adding subtle brandy and plum flavoring mixes-in with the rich Perique, a dash of Burley ribbon, and Green River Black Cavendish. The aroma is exquisite, the tobacco nuances are rich and interesting, and the final product is dark, fruity, and rich. An American homerun.
Nightcap is an undisputed classic, and it’s hard to imagine anything dethroning it as a drifting-off blend. But for the piper who wants an alternate wind-down tobacco that brings an extra measure of fruity complexity and gentle sweetness with its power, Haddo’s Delight is true to its name.
The Lunting Blend
We’re advocates for taking a pipe on the go, and the pipe world has an entire practice dedicated to just that. Lunting is the art of piping on a walk. There’s even an entire society dedicated to the art. Whether you’re lacing up hiking boots and grabbing a walking stick to really take nature by storm, or simply walking around the lake to take a break from city life with a lit bowl, lunting marries the joys of diverse pleasures. To enjoy them to the max, the right blend is necessary. Let’s take a look at a couple stars.
A Mac Baren favorite out of Denmark, Capstan Gold Navy Cut Flake tobacco is a perfect choice for an all-day smoking blend, including on the go. Straight Virginias provide a cool and naturally sweet smoke. Best of all, the tobacco is slow-burning, meaning that repacking is kept to a minimum. Mac Baren’s Capstan is a re-creation of the Original Capstan Blue, and when it hit the scene, pipers everywhere rejoiced.
For our American lunting offering, we have a worthy Burley tobacco by Briarworks. Blended by Cornell & Diehl, Briarworks’ Country Lawyer is complex and interesting, offering plenty of variance in its cigar leaf, Black Cavendish, Burley, Dark Fired Kentucky, Orientals, and Virginia tobacco for you to consider as you stroll. A mid-strength tobacco, pack some trail mix so you don’t keel over as you walk.
It’s easy: we all win when lunting. But purely for the purposes of maximizing pleasure and minimizing distractions, the slow burning Capstan, while a little more complicated on the pack, is easier on the stroll. Might we suggest the Briarworks for a second bowl when you break for lunch?
The well-versed piper smokes widely and samples with an open mind, in the context of other blends, and in the right place and at the right time. While it’s true that any good tobacco will serve when we need to light a pipe, make discerning choices about your blends, pairing them as optimally as possible with the occasion, the mood that strikes. European or American—greatness in tobacco has happened, and is happening, all over the globe.