The Tobacco Files 25 - Peterson Sherlock Holmes & Samuel Gawith Brown Sugar Flake
Posted by Greg Rosenberg on 2nd May 2023
It’s been a busy April at TobaccoPipes and it all culminated with the Chicago Pipe Show over the weekend. I generally like to feature regular production blends for the monthly Tobacco File and save special releases for the irregular, one-off columns. I was going to write one such column for Samuel Gawith’s Brown Sugar Flake, but with the restraints of time, I opted to make it one of the two blends covered here in the monthly column.
So, I apologize that one of these tobaccos came and went within April, but it will hopefully return. Our first blend is readily available however, Peterson’s Sherlock Holmes.
Peterson Sherlock Holmes
|A mixture of an old Irish recipe dating back to 1889. It is one of the finest tobaccos smoked in the time of Sherlock Holmes. The straight Virginia blend possesses all the natural flavour associated with Premier Virginia tobacco.|
Though there's no Latakia or Oriental leaf here (as one might expect given the association between England and the eponymous detective), Peterson's Sherlock Holmes is purported to be a recipe that dates to 1889, two years after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Holmes in A Study in Scarlet.
A previous tin description of this blend mentions Burley, though the current description calls it a straight Virginia, so I've left Burley out of the components above. That said, I figured I should clear that up as you may see the tobaccos listed differently elsewhere. I'll be looking for any discernible Burley as I get familiar.
I break the seal and remove the liner which shows an attractive tobacco plant illustration. I find plenty of golden, long-cut ribbon, with just a bit of red and medium-brown, densely packed in. I fluff up the top layer to allow the leaf to air out some.
The tin note is singular; a fruity, berry aroma.
The moisture of the leaf is about where I like it, maybe a tad beyond, but not by much. It may even be preferable—often my preference fluctuates with cuts like this. Long ribbons often have an agreeable burn, but too dry and it can be easy to take them from a flavorful smolder to an acrid ember.
My first smoke will be in my Lorenzetti Avitus 49. This petite Acorn has been a trusty conveyance of straight-forward flavor profiles. I don't know if that's necessarily what we have here; the topping is evident from the tin note and there's a good deal of uniformity in the leaf, but my hunches aren't backed by as sagacious a mind as Holmes'.
From the start, a tart berry flavor comes through. I get something a bit tangerine from it as I keep going. The top flavoring certainly isn’t hidden but it’s not overly emphatic either.
Grass, citrus, and bready Virginia notes all have a place, and as I smoke it, the line between the topping and the natural Virginia sweetness is dim. The flavoring seems to be thoughtfully devised to sit with the blend, not on it.
That top note is nagging me. Not that the taste is disagreeable; sometimes a taste elicits that annoyance of a word on the tip of your tongue that you just can't pull from memory. I think there's particular association I have with this flavor, maybe even a different blend, but I cannot place it.
Anyway, maybe it will come to me later on, but enjoy I it and that's what matters.
A pretty straight forward first impression.
My notes on Peterson Sherlock Holmes since my first impression name a few different blends that come to mind in trying to pick out that flavoring.
- Reminds me of Presbyterian Reformation. Has a Danish Aromatic taste to it
- Sort of a floral fruitiness. Samuel Gawith Fire Dance?
- Fruit and honey, similar to Savinelli 140
As I'm currently enjoying Holmes in my Missouri Meerschaum Kingston Cob, that association with Savinelli 140 resonates. Maybe the similarity in cuts bolsters the association, but I’m certainly getting a honey quality with Holmes that didn't register in my first impression.
Peterson's Sherlock Holmes has quite a bit more oomph—more weight on the palate and sinus—than it initially let on. Not that it’s especially stout. It's just one of those friends with a languid hello who gets comfortable and a little bolder with time. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was Burley imparting some of that weight, but can’t say I notice it explicitly in the flavor.
Speaking of which, the flavor doesn't have the arc that the strength seems to. Not that it's static—I do get some variance in the profile throughout the smoke—but a level enthusiasm is maintained in the taste department. I find Holmes to express a bit more Virginia brightness to begin with, but get a Red Virginia dark fruit and an earthiness developing soon into the smoke that I was less perceptive of in my initial impression.
All in all, it has been an enjoyably uncomplicated blend, but a few other impressions have developed—
After smoking Peterson Sherlock Holmes at different moisture levels, my preference is actually to lay it out for very little time, if at all; maybe fifteen minutes. It dries quickly, which is unsurprising for this springy, thin cut, and as I thought might be the case, it has an easy burn that benefits from a little resistance. In my experience, Holmes has insisted on a tempered cadence to keep a good steady smolder. Smoking much drier than out of the tin and I tend to over-stoke it.
For Fans of...
- Savinelli 140th Anniversary
- Moreso speaking to the topping here. 140 has a bit more complexity from the Oriental and Kentucky components.
- Peterson Royal Yacht
- Maybe a bit of a reach, but could see it as a less strong/more flavored option for something in that vein of Virginias.
Samuel Gawith Brown Sugar Flake
|Virginia Flake with Cavendish, Oriental, and Burley|
Brown Sugar Flake was initially launched as an exclusive offering for The Danish Pipe Shop. Supposedly, the folks at Samuel Gawith and Sutliff discussed bringing a run of Brown Sugar Flake to the US market, to which the Danish Pipe Shop gave their blessing. However it came to be, many are glad it happened, and I'm certainly among them.
I open the tin to find the quintessential Samuel Gawith flakes, sturdy and pressed thin yet dense.
Taking in the tin note, I notice citrus, herbal tea, molasses. I'm reminded of Orlik Golden Sliced but a bit more assertive. As I understand it, Brown Sugar Flake takes inspiration from Orlik Brown Sliced. I haven't had this bygone mixture, but if it's fair to call Brown Sliced the molasses-y cousin of Golden Sliced, these flakes in front of me seem to fit the bill.
As has been my custom, I don’t dry the leaf long, if at all, for the first smoke. It seems pretty clear that I should in this case, which is expected for Samuel Gawith, but I’ll keep to my ways and will adjust accordingly with proceeding smokes. For the inaugural smoke, I pack up one of my favorite estate pipes—a Duke of Dundee bent Billiard.
As expected, things were a bit temperamental getting started. I find it’s easy to over-stoke when trying to get an initial light going with leaf that doesn't want to take a flame, so I'm mindful to patiently give as many char lights as I need for the tobacco to graciously relent. Soon enough I coax out a decent smolder, bringing a toasty note and caramelized sweetness.
There’s a pleasant spice from the Oriental in the sinus, and clear evidence why it’s named Brown Sugar Flake. Bread and molasses sweetness are in effect. There’s a woody, Burley character to the base.
Some blends are finicky to smoke right out the tin, but not futile. Stubborn doesn't always mean unmanageable. But right now, that smolder does not want to keep, and while I'm not averse to some relights, Brown Sugar Flake really does need some time sitting out before packing; for me anyway.
I’ve now had a few smokes of Brown Sugar Flake—giving some time to dry makes a world of difference. I think I'll make an exception to the smoke-fresh-and-adjust-from-there routine in future cases like this. Samuel Gawith's flakes ask for a little more, and I don't see why quality tobacco shouldn't.
My notes from the first entry before things got too cumbersome hold up. Sweet and toasty and accurately named. Brown sugar in congress with the Oriental herbal spice makes for something special. Much like my impression from the tin note, the smoking experience too gives me a sense of a built up, more complex Golden Sliced. It takes the sweet and the herbal and adds spice and more of a fullness. The spice is to the woody, zesty side. With a Virginia citrus note, it's not unlike a delightfully herbal tea, slightly bitter with a squeeze of lemon.
There's a floral note here and there, some grassiness and hay in the base. A very gratifying blend.
My current smoke is in my Rattray's Butcher's Boy. I'm enjoying it, but I think I have a preference for narrower chambers with Brown Sugar Flake. Not a hard preference, but for whatever reason, my average sized bowls seem to be most obliging. I tried Brown Sugar Flake again in my Duke of Dundee, this time having been dried some, and it was perfect.
One thing I’ve had to be mindful of with these smokes is packing so that there isn't too much airflow at the bottom of the chamber. I don’t know if this is a common experience, but for whatever reason, I can often overestimate how densely I'm packing with a rubbed out flake of this sturdy consistency. I imagine this is because, once dry, there isn’t a lot of pliability to the the leaf, so making sure there’s some more coarse material layered throughout has worked well for me. Doing this, gravity packing with the lightest tamp is just right.
Brown Sugar Flake still needs a few more than the average relight, and still asks for some patience getting started, but nothing near unmanageable.
I thought I'd smoke Brown Sugar Flake side-by-side Gawith Hoggarth Best Brown No. 2 which I recently opened. They're distinct blends but in a similar vein and I find that I get a better sense of the subtleties of a blend by exploring where it differs from something similar.
I found Best Brown No. 2 to be a bit sweeter than Brown Sugar Flake, with less of the zest and spice (which makes sense as Best Brown contains Virginia and Burley—no Oriental like Brown Sugar Flake). Best Brown No. 2 also has more of a vegetative, grassy base.
For fans of...
- Orlik Golden Sliced
- Maybe Orlik Brown Sliced even more so, but I can't attest to that.
- Gawith Hoggarth & Co Best Brown
Until next time...
Again, it's been quite a busy month so I didn't get to a featured premium cigar this time around, but I will say that for our Compare & Share Mystery Cigars this month, there was one I enjoyed immensely, the identity of which was revealed yesterday—Casa Turrent 1880 Oscuro Perfecto. A nutty, woody perfecto I highly recommend.
I'm currently getting reacquainted with Paradoxical ahead of its May 17th release. This is the final tobacco in the Sutliff/Per Jensen collaboration series, Birds of a Feather—so, look out for a bonus Tobacco File on that soon.
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos? Always welcome—firstname.lastname@example.org.