Here we go, the first Tobacco File since going from bi-weekly to monthly for the regular column (there will be bonus posts for some new blends). I have to say, I’m very happy with this format, I had much more time to dig into these mixtures. To think I started the Tobacco Files—or, "What I Smoked This Week" as it was called at the time—as a weekly post (hence the need for a name change).
Rattray's Marlin Flake
|This dark Flake is composed from dark Virginia, Black Cavendish and a hint of Perique.|
From Kohlhase & Kopp, we have the popular VaPer flake with a little Black Cavendish in the mix. I’m coming to this with excitement, these three components seem to be a recipe for success to my tastes—Sutliff VA Perique Crumble Kake, Davidoff Flake Medallions, Stokkebye 403, Two Friends Redwood; all favorites of mine.
Opening the tin I’m greeted with a folded paper wrapping sealed with a sheen, golden sticker. My mind instantly pulls to Orlik Golden Sliced, but peeling off the sticker and lifting the top, I find a much darker flake beneath.
By looks alone it reminds me of a Gawith flake; thin, firm, well hydrated. However, it rubs out very easily, not nearly as stubborn as Gawith straight out of the tin. It also didn’t need as much drying time as I expected, once rubbed out and aired for about 45 minutes it was perfect to my preference.
Exceptionally dark fruit, raisin tin note with that sneer of barn yard and fermentation. By no means a strong tin note. It’s not subtle with your nose in the tin, but not one that jumps out to greet you upon unsealing.
I pack up my Vauen New York 3428, a Rhodesian with a narrow chamber, which often suits me well for VaPers, but you never know. Earlier in the week I posted a column on Give Me Liberty, the new Virginia plug from Seattle Pipe Club—I had the same assumption but ended up preferring a larger chamber.
On the char I get ripe fruit, tartness, a fermented vegetative note.
Smoking on I pick up some grass, wood, a mellow sweetness, and a lemony citrus note. Sergeant Pepper isn’t in full march, but you don’t have to go looking for that Perique perk. Especially on the retrohale.
As the profile comes into fuller resolution, bread and tang seem to be central. There’s a malty quality I really love. Somewhere into the latter half of the bowl I notice the breadiness makes way for more of an earth quality.
A nice toasty aroma emanates from the bowl.
I haven’t had it in some time, but I’m reminded of Cornell & Diehl’s Kajun Kake, another VaPer, pressed into a dark hue (though, as the name suggests, a crumble cake).
This has been a very enjoyable blend. For past columns, I would be wrapping up at this point (about two weeks) but I’m glad I have more time to explore.
A larger bowl gives a bit more of the earthy side, something floral about it too.
I’ve noticed more sweetness in general that seemed somewhat meager in that initial smoke. It has the nice dark fruit from the Virginias, but also a bit of what I call the honeysuckle effect—when there’s a bright, somewhat concentrated sweetness on those sensitive areas of the tip and underside of the tongue. Much like that direct touch of nectar from a honeysuckle.
As I’ve gotten more familiar with the aroma, freshly brewed tea comes to mind. But I’m always a bit iffy on how I pick up on the room note of something I’m smoking.
Sometimes I even get a smoky note down in the mix, but not every smoke and I can’t really determine any common denominator as to when I do or don't, i.e., pipe used, cadence, what color shirt I’m wearing, if I’m putting off something important—you know, the usual factors influencing my taste.
One of my favorite things about the last month has been sitting out for a smoke in this mild weather. I’m not the biggest fan of the cold, so the ventures to the courtyard with my pipe and book will be infrequent soon enough. I must take full advantage.
So, of course I had to enjoy some Rattray’s pipe tobacco in my Rattray’s tobacco pipe at some point. Considering my reading material, maybe it should have been a Churchwarden. Perhaps blasphemous from a pipe smoker with a degree in English, but I’m reading Tolkien for the first time. Better late than never.
Marlin Flake has granted me many lovely smokes this month, and I’m sure many more in the future. It’s deep with wonderful flavors that are well balanced and smooth with a strength and taste that aren’t too shy or boisterous.
Sillem's Commodore Flake
|Sillem's Commodore Flake is a pressed blend of full-bodied, smoky Latakia with Kentucky and a dash of Black Cavendish.|
This will be my first Sillem’s blend, so I’m excited to see what this mixture of bold varietals is all about.
Like Rattray’s, Sillem’s tobacco is also blended at Kohlhase & Kopp. I’ve found myself enjoying a lot of their productions of late. I recently wrote about some great new (to the US market) Charatan blends from the German blending house, and have had some great smokes from the Cobblestone Chess Series. Let’s hope the streak keeps strong.
Commodore Flake is wrapped up the same as Marlin Flake, but certainly doesn’t make me think of Orlik, as I can already smell the smoky, earthy aroma.
The strips are very dark and seem to have a good deal of moisture. As I sit with the tin note I find some more interesting and subtle qualities—a bit of anise, almost a root beer note without much sweetness.
Commodore Flake crumbles easily into medium strands—reminds me of Mac Baren Old Dark Fire Ready Rubbed but with a bit less robust consistency. Much like Marlin Flake, the hydration upon rubbing out was a bit deceiving. When I test the leaf after just under an hour of airing it out, it’s at a fine moisture for smoking. Maybe it’s something about these dark flakes that tricks my mind into thinking they’re more wet than they are.
I’ve packed my Little Devil Cutty Cob from Missouri Meerschaum for the inaugural smoke.
From the first light this is clearly a flavor rich blend. I first notice the smoky, woody Latakia with a hint of cocoa. A sweet grass and floralness contrasts. More of that floral component and a woody incense flavor rise.
Definitely one of those where the English category is a “good enough” label. Latakia is absolutely forward, but I would be just as happy slapping “Other” on the blend type.
And though it’s Latakia forward, it’s not overwhelming or dominating. It seems meticulously trimmed in all the right places by the other flavors to be showcased without being monotone.
I will say, I would have done well to have smoked this one closer to after lunch. There’s a heavy nic hit here.
This is a fascinating blend for which I don’t really have any point of comparison. Even a unique blend usually invites comparison to something else I’ve had, but Commodore seems to be an island.
This dark, full-bodied blend of two forward fire-cured varietals makes one brace for a real kick. And it’s not without kick, but it’s surprisingly smooth and rounded. I expected the Black Cavendish would mostly be playing a role in the volume of the smoke and taming of the other tobaccos, but it really engages with the profile, a subtle creamy vanilla hit. This is a rich and deep blend.
Commodore Flake seems to be agreeable and consistent in most any pipe for me. Narrow or wide chamber, I seem to get that same profile.
I can’t tackle a Latakia heavy blend without packing one of my favorite pipes, which is dedicated to the smoky stuff (or it’s supposed to be, I’m not a very zealous pipe dedicator), my Sasieni One Dot. Enjoyed on a lovely mild night.
With any blend, the more you try it the more you’ll get the nuances, but especially with rich ones in my experience. I suppose there’s just a lot to notice that doesn’t need uncovering, but as you acclimate, those subtleties peek through. I feel I might still have more to find in Commodore.
I started the month intrigued but not sure if this was up my alley as a matter of personal taste. Now I think it’s something special. You don’t hear a whole lot about Sillem’s tobacco, I think I ought to make my way through some of the other offerings.
The last few weeks I’ve been working on a piece on the history of Arturo Fuente Cigars, and of course, I smoked a few through the process. The 8-5-8 really stood out, an excellent smoke.
Here are my smoking notes—
Arturo Fuente Flor Fina 8-5-8 Corona
Wrapper - African Cameroon
Binder - Dominican
Filler - Dominican
Size - 6 X 47
- Starts with a lot of flavor. Bready, sweet, oak, and baking spices
- Light citrus develops
- A toasty fragrance is about, and dark cocoa comes into the mix
- Going into the second third sees a development on the earth side
- I notice a little bit of a roasted, nutty flavor that I’m very pleased by
- The medium strength becomes apparent here
- I get a mineral undertone
- Stays pretty consistent through the last third, however there is a rising pepper and earthiness.
Until next time...
I’ll be back in a month with another two blends and a featured premium cigar, but I imagine we’ll have a bonus column with some fun new offering somewhere between. And I have a couple new pipes I’m excited to smoke as well.
Happy fall, enjoy some spooky smokes.
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos—firstname.lastname@example.org.