I am very happy to kick off the first Tobacco File of 2024 and this first regular column in a little over half a year.
For background, the Tobacco Files is a column where I offer my impressions on certain blends and cigars. I guess you could say they’re reviews—my idea of it is a smoking journal turned outward. It’s more about casually relaying my experience with a blend than it is about coming to conclusions about good or bad, though you may get an idea of how my impressions do or don’t speak to your own preferences.
While I’ve continued with the column for special releases, I shelved the monthly installations, which feature two regular production blends, and often a cigar or two. But I’m happy to bring the monthly Tobacco File back, and for the month of January, I thought I’d use this return to dig into a blind spot that I felt I ought to explore—Lakelands. I believe the only blend under this niche I've smoked is Samuel Gawith Fire Dance, which was featured in the 16th Tobacco File. though I understand it to be loosely classified as such.
For the featured cigar, I choose something that felt on theme with these unique tobaccos—the flavor infused Acid Toast from Drew Estate.
Lakelands - a quick background
Lakelands are named for the pastoral Lake District of England. The small town of Kendal is located here, which is the home of the famous Samuel Gawith and Gawith, Hoggarth & Co. Not far from Whitehaven, an important hub for transcontinental tobacco commerce, Kendal came to hold a significant role in the pipe tobacco and snuff tobacco trade.
The mutual origin of the companies is a snuff business established in 1792 by Thomas Harrison.
After Harrison’s death, his son-in-law took work at the company, eventually inheriting it with the passing of Harrison’s partner, Mr. Brocklebank, circa 1850. Samuel Gawith died in 1865, leaving the company to his sons Samuel Jr and John Edward. However, differences arose and the brothers split the business, Samuel Jr taking the snuff operation, John Edward taking tobacco. They would both come to fill out the respective absences left in the separation. Gawith, Hoggarth & Co was born when another brother, William Gawith, took over John Edward’s business with his brother-in-law Henry Hoggarth.
In 2015, the companies merged, 150 years from their separation. However, while some operations were consolidated, they remain distinct brands, upholding the continuity of their individuality.
Lakeland blends often refer to certain Aromatic mixtures from either firm. Blends outside of the Kendal houses may also be noted for their Lakeland quality, but these are the manufacturers we most readily associate with the Aromatic niche. What characterizes this niche is the eclectic mélange of each Lakeland. These aren’t cherry or vanilla varieties, but each hosting a miscellany of flavors, usually described with tasting notes like floral, soapy, perfumy, fruity, potpourri, etc. It’s a provocative genre—with anything so unique, a polarizing effect isn't so surprising.
Gawith Hoggarth & Co - Ennerdale Flake
|Virginias, Burley, and sun-cured tobaccos with flavors of almond, vanilla and fruit.
I work the lid open with my pipe tool and no sooner than I register the familiar pffftttt of the seal breaking, I’m met with the sweet, floral aroma. I remove the classic Hoggarth factory illustration to find a tin of broken flakes. The shade variation is slight, mostly medium brown with some blonde and reddish tints.
Taking in that tin note further, I notice sweetness and an aroma reminiscent of floral-scented lotion. It's a familiar scent, but to find it in a pipe blend is new to me.
I remove a few pinches to prepare on my mat. Rolling the flakes between my fingers, it’s oddly hydrated yet dry to the touch. A soft fabric-y feel, but spongy and springy.
I pack as-is from the tin in my Captain Kidd Own Make, an estate pipe from a little known brand made by A Frankau & Co, more notably the manufacturer behind BBB.
Ennerdale is resistant to char straight out of the tin. But I give it a few gentle lights and tamps until I have a good even char on the surface. It's always good to be patient, but especially when working with something new. While usually I can glean how a tobacco I'm smoking for the first time might burn from feel, I don't have much precedence for this particular consistency. The lack of moisture to the touch clearly belies the actual hydration. Maybe this is due to the particular flavoring process as it compares to more traditional Aromatics.
I'm hit with a lot to sift through right away. The initial profile doesn't betray the tin note, but I can also tell there are layers that will take time to pick apart. The body is bready, with berry fruity sweetness and citrus undertones. The dry, floral taste is a constant presence but not an obtrusive one so far, it wafts over the profile like a sheer veil.
There are honey accents I start to pick up on, and that bready base has a creamy vanilla sweetness. I notice more of a nutty Burley component that is a nice complement to the dry floralness. The latter becomes more centered in the second half of the smoke, which also sees a dimming of the berry and the base develops into a more woody, dark backdrop to the vibrant flavors.
One smoke in and I'm intrigued. Aromatic in the traditional sense of the word, Ennerdale really grabs the attention of the senses.
I will say, for Lakelands' reputation for potent flavoring, I expected something more obscuring of the tobacco flavors. The flavoring is true to its reputation, certainly not mild, but doesn't smother in Ennerdale.
Though a finnicky start to the first smoke of Ennerdale, there wasn't much issue with burn rate throughout the smoke, maybe a few more relights than average. Even still, I've worked with different drying times in the handful of smokes I've had since and have found a preference for a brief airing out—just twenty minutes and things become more fluent.
At the moment, I'm smoking Ennerdale in a recent acquisition, a handsome Peterson Kinsale XL 13—a spacious Bulldog with a P-lip. The shape is the same as the Baker Street design from Peterson's Sherlock Holmes Series.
One thing I've noticed as I've gotten familiar is how much more is going on with the fruitiness than gleaned from the first smoke. It's complex; my notes mention kiwi and apricot, which agrees with my current smoke. I think tropical could describe this aspect as well.
While what's most on show seems to change through the smoke, the floralness really lasts through to the end, which isn't always the case for flavoring as they burn off.
Another note to make, that nuttiness is far more of a player than I clocked in the first smoke. I think with the sweetness and fruit all about in the profile, I was looking more for those Virginia characteristics. Having become more familiar, the almond flavor, buttressed by the Burley, is a real star of this profile. Not that it's so loud (its nutty flavor after all, not easy to make almonds cloying), but more that it seems to be Ennerdale's differentia.
[Third entry for Ennerdale and Grousemoor side-by-side tasting notes below]
Samuel Gawith - Grousemoor
|Bright Virginias with flavours reminiscent of springtime on the moors with medium, sweet grassy notes.
After removing the lid—this one I was able to remove without a tool—I am again rushed with an engaging and unique aroma. Pulling the parchment aside and exposing the tightly-packed golden ribbon only delivers a greater perfumy waft my way. It’s very much a perfume, dry fruit, and floral scent.
Though the seal wasn't air tight, the moisture content seems perfectly hydrated to smoke as is. The long, bright shag is most abundant, but is joined by more coarse-cut reddish medium-brown leaf.
I opt to pack my Longchamp bent Billiard for the inaugural smoke. It has a nice medium sized bowl, which I do prefer with this long ribbon. Small bowls feel like they need a haircut, and wide bowls are just fussier in my experience with shag like this. Not a hard-and-fast rule, but enough of an experience that this seems like a sensible place to start.
The lithe ribbons reach up toward the flame before tamping down for a very easy char light, which is expected with these shag cuts.
Lighting back up, I first notice a tart fruitiness, apricot-like, and a toasty foundation. I can see how Grousemoor shares a tradition with Ennerdale, both in the base and the flavoring. The added flavors aren't the same, but they rhyme. I certainly think I'll do a side-by-side some time in my exploration this month to better contrast the two.
A voluminous smoke is produced, very satisfying, especially with the dispersal of these interesting flavors. Grousemoor is more Virginia focused, those bright attributes coming through. I get the floral character, and plenty of herbal character, like a very flavorful tea that carries through the olfactory when you bring that steaming mug to meet your mug. A very pleasant retrohale, lightly floral and woody.
I did get the vague taunt of tongue bite—usually a warning that it's not too late to be methodical and ease up. However, as I kept going, that growl became a snarl, became a bark, and well, if I want to taste tomorrow, I think I should give it a rest.
My first thought is that I may want to try a looser pack. I will generally pack shag tobacco a bit more densely because it often has such an accommodating burn. That usually works for me and is what I tried here, but there are always exceptions to these things.
My big take away from Grousemoor is that it has that Lakeland essence (to the extent I understand it with my limited exposure) but seems to flirt with the style instead of embracing it totally. There's plenty of Virginia character, topped with the floral and herbal flavorings.
That Virginia brings a good deal of bright grass and citrus to the blend. Between that and the unique flavoring, there's a wonderful lemon-grass taste. But it sits more in those flavors with floral accents, not so much a perfuminess to it, which I suppose is why I feel this might be a more marginal example of the Lakeland essence.
As for that bite, for whatever reason, my current smoke in my Missouri Meerschaum Diamondback is the first that has totally kept it at bay (though some smokes have been more manageable than others).
I'm not sure how to account for that, it's the first smoke I've had in a cob, but I've never experienced a cob being the exception to an otherwise bitey (to me) tobacco. I do think this is a chemistry issue. Looking through reviews of Grousemoor, just about the only time bite is mentioned is to comment on its lack thereof. Sometimes it's just not a match, but I'm quite interested with this profile and will see if I can't find the angle by which to approach Grousemoor for a gentler result.
By no means a heavy-weight, I have been pleasantly surprised to find a bit more strength in Grousemoor than a expected from a bright-leaning Virginia of this sort.
Ennerdale & Grousemoor - comparison
Smoking the two Lakelands for comparison, I stand by my earlier claim that while distinct, you can certainly see where tradition is shared.
Ennerdale I find leans more into an Aromatic quality in its vanilla and unique fruitiness. Its Lakeland nature is also more defined in that floralness, but the almond nuttiness brings something individual to Ennerdale, even within its niche. With that bready base and vanilla, Ennerdale has a more rounded flavor overall.
Grousemoor comparatively has more of a bright base to it, offering that grass and citrus. Lemongrass is often attributed and I think that's a good descriptor. With this smoke, I'm not getting bite, and I experienced a few bite-less bowls since the last entry. I actually found more taste and strength in Grousemoor, which was a bit surprising just based on the more bright character.
The Acid lineup features flavor infused cigars. They're distinct from traditional flavored cigars in a similar way that Lakelands are from traditional Aromatics. That is, instead of the more civilian flavorings of vanilla, cherry, mocha, and such, they are imbued with enigmatic bouquets from herbal and oil essences.
Acid by Drew Estate Toast Toro
Wrapper - Nicaragua
Binder - Nicaragua
Filler - Nicaragua
Size - 6 X 50
Just opening the box to this one, and I think I'm walking through the botanical gardens.
A nice, dark wrapper with a double cap, all seems right with construction. The wrapper gives off that floral, herbal essence, and a bit of a cologne scent.
Lighting up, the Acid Toast isn't as instantly aromatic as I expected. But there is a sweetness that is left on the lips from the flavoring on the cap. The first note I get is a spice that isn't the peppery or kitchen spice I'd expect from a traditional cigar. It has a clove taste and a physical sensation reminding me of a muted Djarum filter-cigar.
The flavor coming more into view, I get earth, somewhat mineral, with sweet accents. There is that toastiness the name suggests, though subtle. Oak develops into the second third and the spice shows more flavor with a potpourri quality.
The Acid Toast ends with a drift into more traditional cigar character—a dark, woody maduro flavor. The clove and floralness remain, though dimmer than before.
I did need to address an uneven burn that developed in the first third, but I let the cigar idle in the ash tray between puffs with the slow-burning-end down and it evened out nicely without needing a correcting light.
Until next time...
It's certainly been an exploration this month. I'll have to feature other Lakelands in the future so that I can come at them with a little more background. At any rate, I'm looking forward to bringing back the monthly column and trying some new things.
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos? Please send 'em my way—email@example.com.