The Tobacco Files 21 - A Look Back at 7 Blends Released in 2022
Posted by Greg Rosenberg on 22nd Dec 2022
Well, it's the last Tobacco File of 2022. Being that the year is coming to a close, I thought it would be fun to do a special column—a year in review. Instead of concentrating on two tobacco blends, I’ve been revisiting a handful of releases from over the year. I'll write a bit about each brand before giving some brief smoking notes on the blend.
I'll make note of some of the amazing limited releases in 2022, but I’ve chosen the featured blends based on availability. Most of them are regular productions, with a few limited releases that still have stock at the time of writing.
Sutliff Tobacco Company
The folks at Sutliff Tobacco Company had a year filled with excellent new blends, both as manufacturer and under the Sutliff brand.
A handful of these blends were the continued iterations of limited series. In 2022 we had the release of the third and fourth installations of the Barrel Aged Series. Most recently, the 2022 Cringle Flake was released, checking off a fourth year of another tradition. We were treated to other seasonal delights with Halloween Candy Apple and North Pole Peppermint Mocha.
Maybe most exciting of all has been the Birds of a Feather series. Sutliff kicked off 2022 with a January visit from their good friend Per Jensen, master blender at Mac Baren tobacco. Jensen concocted 6 blends during his visit, of which we’ve seen 3 released: Uno, Whimsical, and Aberrant (which means 3 still to go in 2023). With each mixture including at least one rare or scarcely blended varietal, it’s been an exciting series.
Limited releases are a great way to exercise more creative, niche approaches to blending that might be at odds with the contingencies of regular production, or to simply lean into the tastes and aromas we fondly associate with times of year. But it’s nice to see some regularly available blends too. In June, Sutliff expanded their Private Stock series with two such blends—Dark & Silky and Moroccan Spice.
Tobacco: Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Moroccan Spice offers a creamy, flavorful smoke, perfect for the appreciator of Aromatic blends that still wants an interesting mélange to pick though.
The profile has some similarities to Sutliff Christmas Spice—nutmeg and cinnamon—but leans a bit more into the spice element. I pick up on a clove note as well. A tart, woody, almond nutty ensemble almost gives the impression of Turkish tobacco. The amiable spices from the top flavoring harmonize eloquently with the nutty, woody Burley offering a rustic profile not often associated with Aromatic mixtures.
One of the highlights of 2022 for this pipe smoker was the introduction of Chris Morgan tobaccos, which are also brought to us from the Sutliff factory. This may be Chris Morgan’s first line of tobaccos, but his name is quite familiar to many of us in the hobby. He is responsible for the affordable and popular Morgan Bones pipes. He also carves high-grade, artisan pipes, putting those pristine blocks to good use.
As for these new pipe blends, I was especially taken with Jackalope, a Stoved Virginia plug from the Chris Morgan series. There is also the VaPer, Bayou Buck and the English mixture, White Rabbit. Since I featured Jackalope in a Tobacco File back around its release, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to return to White Rabbit.
Tobacco: Burley, Latakia, Oriental, Virginia
[Note: I'd love to say it was intentional, but assembling this blog, I'm just now noticing how apt my Weber is with this blend. Kinda has a bunny look, right?]
White Rabbit is a fine English blend with a temperate sweetness and just the right amount of smokiness to my taste. The Latakia is up front with musk and leather that affably mingles with tangy red Virginias and floral, earthy Orientals. There’s a delightful cream note—carrying that sweetness, a lilt of caramel emerges. Very gentle, even being pulled through the sinus, you’ll get a little more dark, woodiness of the profile, but no sharpness.
The Orientals offer floral and a little herbal (not acrid) bitterness. Burleys bring some nuttiness to the base and a little oomph—not much, but enough to take this blend to medium strength, if not a smidge shy.
There's an anise note that's a delightful companion to the forward smokiness—sort of reminds me of the modern Bengal Slices.
Seattle Pipe Club
When Joe Lankford introduced the blends that would come to be Mississippi River and Plum Pudding to his fellow Seattle Pipe Club members, there could have been no predicting where the venture would inevitably lead. The rise to prominence was meritocratic—a growing demand organically spurred by community chatter. Since these instant classic English mixtures hit the general market in the mid-2000s, the boutique has been a favorite among pipe smokers.
Though particularly praised for his English/Balkan recipes, Lankford brought us a line up of several other superb blends of various genres. However, never a straight Virginia—not until 2022. It was this year that we got two—Hogshead released in May, followed by Give Me Liberty in September.
Regretfully, 2022 was also the year the pipe community was dealt a great loss with Lankford’s passing. We’re ever grateful to him for his unimpeachable contributions to this pastime.
Type: Straight Virginia
We aren't getting so many regular production blends these days, so even though I've featured Hogshead and Give Me Liberty in past Tobacco Files, I definitely wanted to include one on this list. And I mean, I really don't need an excuse to smoke more Hogshead, but it doesn't hurt to have one! It's been a favorite of mine since its release, so let's loop back for a little more praise.
A depth of tang, bread, citrus, and plummy dark fruit alight on the palate, pulling this Virginia plug together. Red Virginias take the stage but are certainly not the whole story. A light vinegar note becomes noticeable. Below are fermented vegetative notes and woodiness. For all it's depth of flavor, Hogshead is well grounded in a dark, woody foundation. Even the brighter Virginia notes of citrus and grass are rounded; apparent but congruent. Everything is dynamically pulled together without forfeiting distinction.
Especially gratifying is the slight spice you get in the sinus—I do love a dark Virginia that asks a little tolerance of you.
I get a little more citrus from the narrow bowl, but something wider expresses the nuance in the wood and earth foundation that I like and presents the fruit and fermentation a bit more vim.
Cornell & Diehl
Cornell & Diehl certainly gave us much to appreciate this year. For one thing, there’s all the great tobaccos we saw come through the Small Batch series. Some of these kept with tradition, introducing past blends with tweaked recipes—8 State Burley, Sun Bear Flower Mountain, Carolina Red Flake. But we also saw two brand new Small Batch blends added to the line up (and perhaps will be the first editions of new recurring blends of their own?)—Folklore and Palmetto Balkan.
We also got two regular productions. One, albeit a reformatting of a classic, was Haunted Bookshop Cake. The other was very special, the 30th Anniversary VaPer—Anthology.
Anthology doesn't just mark the milestone of three decades of Cornell & Diehl history. It's also the inaugural blend to showcase the blending house's proprietary Perique. Through the collaborative efforts of head blender Jeremy Reeves and 31 Farms (that would be one farm named 31 Farms) in St. James Parish. Years of effort have culminated in the manufacture of genuine St. James Perique exclusively made for Cornell & Diehl.
Tobacco: Perique, Virginia
Lighting up, there's a flavor blitz of tang, dark fruit against cedar wood—floral accents abound. Tart and citrus are well represented. Genuine St. James Perique adds the perfect amount of earth and pepper without muddling the Virginias' complexity. With the rustic red Virginias bringing a depth of body and flavor, the bright Canadian Virginias offer dynamic citrus high notes. There’s a little bit of the red Virginia vinegar, but just a tinge, a light acidity.
I feel there's something orange-y about Anthology. Not like artificial flavoring but as if you could accent a VaPer with an orange slice as you would a beer.
G. L. Pease
G. L. Pease is a staple of the pipe tobacco community. His vast knowledge and sage understanding of tobacco shines through as much in his blends as it does in his captivating writings on all things pipe smoking. He appreciates the art with a thoughtful, scholarly, and romantic vision that’s contagious and makes many of us remember the depths of this fascination we share.
The last time we were graced with a new offering from Mr. Pease was the excellent English, Windjammer, back in February of 2021. It seemed 2022 may close on us without a new mixture from the creative virtuoso. Luckily we ended up with Bankside, the first installment of the highly anticipated Zeitgeist Collection. Bankside is a modern take on the classic VaPer profile.
Type: Virginia Based
Tobacco: Kentucky, Latakia, Perique, Virginia
This new offering from Pease is a mixture of bright and red Virginias, Kentucky, Latakia, and that proprietary Cornell & Diehl St. James Perique.
Tart, vegetation, wood, and a tingling spice introduce this blend with a sense of immediacy and confidence. Blends often develop into themselves, slowly but surely. Like a movie, sometimes you watch a whole hour of slow burning set-up that’s well worth the pay off; sometimes the first scene puts you right in the thick of things. Either is great when executed right. Bankside puts you right in the thick of it and does it well.
Bankside plays in the middle ground—never so dark or so bright. But that metaphoric range (bright-dark) in describing taste only takes us so far, as "middle ground" certainly shouldn't be taken to mean "dim". The flavors that play in this range without crowding is truly one of Banksides great charms. Floral, woody Dark-Fired Kentucky is a compelling ambassador between the Virginia tang, citrus, and vegetation and the earthy, lightly plummy St. James Perique. The Latakia accents with woody, smokey notes and a light sweetness.
Artfully crafted, thoughtfully balanced, it has Pease prints all over it.
|The last two blends will be those limited production blends that are still in stock at this time.|
Cobblestone is a relatively new brand, with blends coming both out of the Sutliff and Kohlhase & Kopp factories. The brand has continued to garner recognition, especially with the Indulge line of sweet, rich Aromatics and the Outdoor line of a more natural oriented, diverse line up (Cobblestone Hiking from the Outdoor series has especially turned some heads as another option in the Edgeworth Burley Slice style that's not as elusive as its peers.)
But this year we saw the limited release of the Aromatic Cobblestone no. 22 Crumble Cake—I believe the first blend from the brand outside of a series.
No. 22 Crumble Cake
Tobacco: Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavor: Fruit, Honey
The slab-like crumble cakes are easy to prepare and despite the top flavoring need no drying time. From the tin note I pick up on an assortment of sweetness: vanilla cream, citrus, and a berry fruitiness I find tropical. It actually reminds me of another limited release from this year—Presbyterian Reformation. Despite the noted mocha flavor, I found it to have more of a berry taste.
Lighting up definitely shows that fruity side, but there's more of a warm honey, caramel sweetness, as well. A butterscotch note that reminds me of Mac Baren Vanilla Cream. That berry note is certainly there, actually somewhat raspberry to my taste.
I get some of the nutty, lightly woody Burley and grassy Virginias, though they are quite subdued by the top flavoring. Don't notice much in taste from the Black Cavendish, but would guess it's holding up much of the flavoring, and certainly lends to Cobblestone No. 2's creamy delivery.
Vauen is best known for their pipes. The German manufacturer offers diverse designs which range from traditional to art deco to Shire-stylin’ Churchwardens (in fact, they created the pipes used in the Lord of the Rings movies.)
But they also have some great pipe blends, which are manufactured by Kohlhase, Kopp & Co., the German blending house, which famously produces such brands as Rattray’s, Ashton, Astley’s, John Aylesbury, Robert McConnell, Wessex, and more.
Tradition No. 2
Type: Virginia Based
Tobacco: Kentucky, Perique, Virginia
A mixture of 100 grams (about 3.53 oz) of ribbon, coin and even some cube cuts are packed in cellophane before being closed in a rectangular tin sporting the image of a classic 1920’s Vauen ad. A neat presentation to be sure, but it’s not all showmanship for the blend.
With Vauen Tradition No. 2, we have bright and red Virginias most featured with Perique and Kentucky as subtle condiments, but certainly enough to pepper in some nuance.
The brights I notice first— hay and light herbal notes, a bit of lemony grass. With the reds, a toasty breadiness emerges as well as some tart, dark fruit. Also noticeable is a floral quality that I imagine the Kentucky brings to the table, but get the sense the Virginia is supporting.
In the first few minutes the Perique seems to become more noticeable, offering more sensory than flavor aspects to the experience, but I soon pick up a little of that Perique mushroom-y, woodiness. As I further acclimate, I get more of the impression that the dark fruit is a bit of a harmony between the darker Virginias and Perique.
Here's to another year of great blends, familiar and new. Hope you wrap 2022 up with all good company and good smokes.
I'll see ya in 2023!
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos? Always welcome—firstname.lastname@example.org