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The Tobacco Files 30 - Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia & Sillem's Mayor 1814 Flake

The Tobacco Files 30 - Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia & Sillem's Mayor 1814 Flake

Posted by Greg Rosenberg on 3rd Jun 2024

I opted not to write a Tobacco File for April. It’s a busy month with the Chicago Pipe Show, and I figured I’d be spreading myself pretty thin already. But rolling into May, things settle down and the spring heat keeps rising, prompting the question—what two pipe tobaccos should be featured for this month’s column? 

The springtime Straight Virginia is a convention for many pipe smokers, and I’m no exception. Albeit, Straight Virginias are some of my most frequented blends at any time, but I agree that they have a particular harmony with this time of year.

Earlier in the month, I revisited a blog that I originally wrote back in the fall, 7 Underrated Straight Virginia Pipe Tobaccos. I fully acknowledge the subjectivity of assembling such a list, but I think it’s a fun way to show some appreciation for blends that I find excellent but don't seem to hear much about. Anyway, I was revisiting this piece because one of the blends was discontinued and needed to be replaced. I thought, why not choose two of these? So, I did.

For May, I’ve been giving some special attention to two great Straight Virginias, Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia and Sillem’s Mayor 1814 Flake.

Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia

Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia Pipe Tobacco

Sutliff Sweet Virginia is a delight for Virginia fans. This is a broken flake that burns well, and the chunky cut keeps it from getting overly hot as long as you don't puff furiously. Notes of hay, grass, citrus, and honey are all noticeable in this pleasantly straightforward blend of flue-cured tobaccos.

Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia is a blend I was introduced to in August 2022 when it was featured as one of the Compare & Share Mystery Blends alongside Cobblestone Hiking. If you aren’t familiar, this is a monthly offering where selects two mystery tobaccos, one ounce of each, whose identities are revealed at the end of the month. So, my first encounter with this mixture was as an anonymous blend.

Here’s my impression of 707 Sweet Virginia at the time, before its identity was revealed:

Mystery Blend 2 [707 Sweet Virginia] is a very nice straight Virginia ready-rubbed. The char light instantly gave a baking bread toastiness. Grass, hay, citrusy sweet, bready, a little tart—seems to sit in the bright to middle Virginia continuum. Not much in way of the dark fruity notes. Reminds me of Mac Baren VA 1 or Cobblestone Knight.

Pre Smoke

Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia offers a unique cut for the blending house. Outside of ribbon, Sutliff is more known for their crumble cakes, though a few flakes grace the catalog as well. However, this sort of more traditional ready-rubbed, resembling Mac Baren Virginia No. 1 in its fine, mulch-like chunks, is an outlier on the Sutliff roster.

Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia Pipe Tobacco cut

The consistency is soft and flexible—hydrated but not moist—which offers very easy packing with no need to dry out.

Lighting up

Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia has offered a mostly consistent smoke at the light, though I’ve noticed a difference in how the profile changes (or whether it does at all) on different occasions. I most always note a baking bread toastiness to start, with the lilt of a molasses sweetness underscoring the rounded warmth of these characteristics.

Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia in Rattray's Butcher's Boy 22
Sutliff 707 Sweet Virginia in Rattray's Butcher's Boy 22

As the full profile comes into view, there’s a bit more contrast with the Bright Virginia’s citrus and vegetative notes. Some smokes, I’ve noted the latter to be somewhat stalky, but not reliably. Even now as I write this, consolidating my notes over a smoke of 707 Sweet Virginia, that vegetativeness takes more of a grassy character. Though I’m smoking in one of my wider chambered pipes—a Rattray’s Butcher's Boy—I think this difference is just a matter of the palate I show up to one smoke to the next.

Most often, the flavors that were somewhat enthusiastic at the onset mellow, uncovering a herbal character that brings to mind Orlik Golden Sliced. The more forward breadiness eases into a base of woody flavor and a graham cracker accent that seems to me is the settling of the warm, toasty-sweetness that introduced the smoke.

Sometimes I do find 707 Sweet Virginia meanders into the Red Virginia side with more of a tanginess and orange rind quality as it develops.

All in all, it's a wonderfully straight forward Virginia that offers an unpretentious highlight of the flue-cured leaf's charm. I think it may get overlooked a bit in the popularity of Sutliff's 507 Virginia Slices, which is certainly worth the attention it gets. But 707 has a character of its own, and is similarly a great value as a bulk offering.

Strength:   ◙◙○○○○○○○○
Taste:      ◙◙◙◙○○○○○○

Sillem’s Mayor 1814 Flake

Sillem's  Mayor 1814 Flake Pipe Tobacco

Selected matured Virginias aged for a long period under pressure. This blend offers a subtle aroma of honey and orange.

Sillem’s is a historic name in tobacco, but their modern blend catalog doesn’t seem to get mentioned too much.

I first tried 1814 Flake some time back on a whim, compelled by a positive experience with another Sillem's blend. I had just revisited Sillem’s Commodore Flake for the first time since I wrote about it in a Tobacco File. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it, which prompted the thought, is this the only Sillem's blend I've tried? It was, so I went about fixing that with Mayor 1814. It’s about 180 degrees from Commodore Flake in terms of style, but it was yet another Sillem’s that seemed to be deserving of a bit more buzz than it was getting.

Pre Smoke

With Mayor 1814, we have some very nice looking flakes, pressed tight and sliced thin in the European style. They’re nicely hydrated, though maybe a little beyond what I prefer. I’ve rubbed out flakes to pack instantly over the month, and I’ve given some dry time. My preference leans to giving them some time, but the difference isn’t night and day.

Sillem's Mayor 1814 Flake Pipe Tobacco cut

Lighting up

Mayor Flake starts off with a very satisfying depth of flavor—plummy, tangy Virginias really come through. I find it leans darker compared to 707 Sweet Virginia, but isn’t totally without the Bright Virginia attributes of citrus and a light vegetative side. The more Orange/Red Virginia tones do seem to feature more prominently as the profile settles, which is harmonious with a fruity sweetness that may be attributable to a slight top flavoring.

Sillem's Mayor 1814 Flake in Duke of Dundee bent Billiard
Sillem's Mayor 1814 Flake in Duke of Dundee bent Billiard

Mayor Flake has been pretty consistent from smoke to smoke with the exception of some nuance that I more attribute to a neutral palate than any other variable. So for organizing my thoughts on Mayor Flake, I’ve opted to pack a right down-the-middle reliable pipe, my Duke of Dundee bent Billiard. This is just one of those unlikely favorites, an estate pipe from a long bygone budget brand I picked up to practice restoration on, but ended up one of my most amiable smokers.

There’s definitely more of a weight to Mayor Flake than to 707, it sits heavier on the palate and I get more of a pinch to the sinus—something I appreciate in darker Virginias. It’s not harsh, just a bit of grit. I would still consider it a bit below medium body in general, but it can be difficult not to contrast with the other blend I’ve been frequenting.

Sillem's Mayor 1814 Flake in Northern Briars Regal Rox-Cut Bulldog
Sillem's Mayor 1814 Flake in Northern Briars Regal Rox-Cut Bulldog

Something about Mayor 1814 Flake makes me think of Cornell & Diehl’s Carolina Red Flake. I think it’s something in the woody, tangy, sweet Virginia character, but Mayor 1814 is much lighter in body and the sweetness is different. Not as much natural Red sweetness, the flavorings play more of a role in Mayor’s sweet side.

I see the flavoring identified as orange and honey from others’ accounts of Mayor 1814, which I certainly have no trouble believing is accurate (it’s how the tin descriptions characterizes the aroma after all). Some smokes I find an apple-like flavor there too, though that may be a poor approximation of something particular that I just can’t put the right descriptor to. But I can say, it’s an aspect of Sillem’s Mayor 1814 Flake’s individuality as a Straight Virginia flake.

Strength:  ◙◙◙○○○○○○○
Taste:     ◙◙◙◙◙○○○○○

Until next time...

It's always a delight revisiting some great blends that I've not returned to in some time. I'm looking forward to expanding the Underrated blog series into other genres and exploring those blends in more detail in future Tobacco Files. 

As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos? Please send 'em my way—