So, a few weeks ago I closed What I Smoked This Week with the news that the column wouldn't be weekly any longer. Though that was three weeks ago, starting today, I’m giving bi-weekly a shot. I think this should give me a good amount of time to sit with the blends a bit more and not be so rushed.
This change posed an obvious issue with the name, and What I Smoked the Last Two Weeks doesn't exactly flow. So we now have The Tobacco Files. Short, simple, wordplay. All my boxes are ticked.
|Combining Oriental and mature Virginia tobaccos with a generous helping of Latakia, Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation's Afternoon Melange is a classic English pipe tobacco blend in a ribbon cut.|
Afternoon Melange is one of three blends in a series that also includes 4th Generation Morning Blend and Evening Flake. After my first smoke, I could definitely see how it’s blended as a mid-day, medium English. Melange seems to have a moderate nic hit to it, and engaging weight on the palate, but not overwhelming. While the flavor profile gives you something sift through, it’s not a Lat bomb.
The tin note leans to the smokey side of the English continuum. It reminds me of Balkan Supreme in that way, as well as in texture—dry on arrival with a coarse consistency, seemingly brittle but you can roll it between your fingers without it turning to dust. As my nose acclimates to the forward Latakia's smokiness, a slight floral incense note comes through.
I pack my trusty Missouri Meerschaum Emerald Bent. Upon lighting, the Latakia is up front, smokey with a sort of buttery sweetness. The Orientals are herbaceous with a spice that’s felt in sinus—but not in a harsh way.
After that initial light and first few draws, the Latakia seems to lean and settle more toward the dry, woodsy side—or maybe it’s the tempering of the forward Latakia as the Orientals come more into resolution. I sense some dark fruit from the Virginias down there in the mix as well, and a bit of tartness. The smoke is creamy and thick.
The Orientals are present throughout, but seem to pick up a floral, slightly sweet note further into the smoke.
Afternoon Melange is very easy to keep a steady burn going with little drawing. In fact, it stoked so easily I had to be mindful while clenching, as the light yet consistent draw began feeding the ember a bit too much. But that's alright, the Emerald's bend makes it a decent clencher, but it's still on the heavier side—my jaw thanks Melange and it's eager combustion.
When the burn is this easy and the smoke creamy, my cadence is challenged by the impulse to puff puff puff. It's just so satisfying, I had to practice restraint.
I’d say Afternoon Melange hits that straightforward, classic, medium English profile almost right on—but that slight buttery sweet note gives it a little stamp of individuality. It’s an appreciable flourish, especially against the earthy and floral Orientals.
Although I’m a Virginia guy at my core (not just geographically), I still love a good English, especially because I get to smoke my English-dedicated Sasieni, which is just a joy.
So spending more time with Afternoon Melange, I don’t notice that sweet buttery note as much as I did with the first smoke. I get a little more Oriental spice and tang from the Virginias. I’m definitely coming to find more complexity here than my early impression let on. The Virginias also seem to surface more into the smoke—never seeming very forward, but still imparting subtle yet discrete flavors from the base.
I feel like this would be a good blend for a pipe smoker getting a feel for the “breath method” (keeping a smoldering, consistent burn by breathing through the nose as opposed to drawing through the mouth, to put it simply).
When I started pipe smoking, this technique felt somewhat counter instinctual, but I definitely understood its merit as it helped me skirt tongue bite and find more nuance in blends. It seemed that easily stoked mixtures were most effective in making the practice less conscious, whereas blends that were more fussy about staying lit were only made more finicky by the timidity of the technique. You know those frustrating dreams where you’re trying to run and it seems you’re getting nowhere? Kinda like that.
Those incense floral qualities do a great job in this blend of giving the curious palate more to sift through than woody, smokey Latakia, they add a good deal of dynamic. The Orientals seem to produce a slight sourness, intermingling nicely with the sweet tang of Virginias on which the dynamic leads play. I think I’d boot up the taste to 6 or 7 now, I’ll say 6 to split the difference from my earlier interpretation.
Melange is a more static blend than I initially thought. Some blends have profiles that take you on a journey through a smoke, some hold you in place. Neither is a bad thing, I imagine both have their place in most pipe smokers appreciation. But some blends have a complexity that give the impression of a changing profile, but as you experience it more, you adjust to what gets you the most out of that blend and the nuances come into resolution. The more I smoke Afternoon Melange, the less those Oriental and Virginia subtleties seem to develop, and the more it seems they are present from the onset, making for a very consistent, dynamic smoke. I guess it's like stepping out of a dark room and into bright daylight—things clear up with some time to adjust.
|A thick sliced, broken flake in the Scottish tradition. Ripe red Virginia tobaccos are combined with a generous measure of fine Louisiana Perique and then pressed to marry the components and deepen the flavors. The cakes are sliced and gently broken before tinning. Fillmore presents an elegant sweetness and delightful piquancy, enhanced by a creamy richness that develops throughout the bowl. Sit back, and enjoy a lovely, leisurely smoke!|
Fillmore I was very excited for. I’m a big fan of what few G. L. Pease blends I’ve had, so trying new mixtures from that marquee is more than welcome. Additionally, I have a particular affinity for Virginia and VaPer blends, as you may be aware if you’ve read past columns. The addition of Latakia here piques my interest. Let’s see what Fillmore’s about.
The tin note has that Virginia bouquet—vinous, fig, grassy, fermented. As I sit with it, a little lemon seems to arise. I can't say I make out much that I identify as the Latakia.
Prepared as a beautiful broken flake, I barely break it up at all to pack it. I give it a charring light and it takes a flame with ease.
A good VaPer on a good sunny day. Spring has sprung.
I went out with my Tsuge, my book, and my coffee this afternoon, ready for my first taste of Fillmore.
We start off with a very pleasant sweetness, almost honey-like, as the Perique spice grows and engages the olfactory above fruity, tangy, and earthy notes. The Perique presence in this blend is quite high. The balance of sweet and spice here is phenomenal. Every few draws I get an ambrosial, smooth bready note, a toasty warmth.
The tin description doesn't lie when it says the Fillmore is a developing creamy smoke through the bowl. It's a tame burn with a dense smoke.
Similar to Melange, Fillmore keeps a light easily, but it burns quite slow. Perhaps that's the flake cut. At any rate, this is a great blend for a long smoke, especially sitting out in the sun. Is it the combustion or time itself slowing down? I'm not sure, maybe both.
This is one of the more Perique-heavy blends I've smoked. Despite that significant Perique presence, it doesn't overpower as the Virginias are vibrant with flavor. A wonderful harmony of earth and tanginess. The Virginias also seem to carry some bready notes with a hint of savoriness which I'm imagining is imparted from the small portion of Latakia.
It's a blend you really want to slow smoke to get the most out of. It's not so much that it's super complex (though there is certainly complexity to it), but the way these Virginias and Perique compliment, and with the trace Latakia, you can really explore the profile, it's one to try again and again and really come to know for it's subtleties.
It's been my experience that the spice becomes more concentrated through the smoke in a narrow bowl, but the Virginias sustain and you keep more of that dynamic through the smoke in a wider bowl.
A bright and lively sweetness under the tongue, earthy spice from the Perique wades through the olfactory, everything has its place in this mix. G. L. Pease—the George Martin of pipe tobacco blending?
I imagine you have to be a big lover of Perique for this to be an all day smoke. In fact, you likely need to be a moderate lover of the spicey varietal to tolerate it at all, but if it is your thing, this is sure to be an enjoyable experience.
Until next time...
I think these were a great two blends for the first non-weekly column. For me, they both ended up being blends that, while very different profile wise, were similar in their moderate complexity that took a little more time to understand. I was hoping the extra week between blogs would give me the chance to dig in a little more, and that certainly was my experience with this installment.
I'll be back in two weeks with another Tobacco File, one I'm especially excited for because it will feature a blend that is yet to be released that I've already been enjoying!
Should I try a new sign off phrase?
Put that in your pipe and...file it.
Too bureaucratic, I'll figure it out one of these days. Thanks for reading!