The Tobacco Files 9 - Sutliff Uno & Presbyterian
Posted by Greg Rosenberg on 6th May 2022
The blends for this column were a lot of fun—a novel newcomer and a sanctified classic. I've been smoking Sutliff Uno and Presbyterian.
For a little context, Uno is the first of a six blend series, Birds of a Feather, that will be slowly rolled out over the next year. Blended by Per Georg Jensen of Mac Baren Tobacco, each blend in this series features at least one scarcely used varietal, or in the case of Uno, never before used—Katerini Perique.
Katerini, an Oriental sub-variety, was pressure fermented in the same process that Perique undergoes. I could go on about this fascinating innovation, but I already have! If you're interested you can read all about it here.
|A complex blend of 8 major blending tobaccos - with Katerini Perique (an oriental tobacco grown in Greece), St. James Perique, and Latakia in the front seat of the flavor profile. Supported by mellowing Virginias and a balancing Dark Fired Kentucky, the mixture results in a subtle peppery note and the deep flavor of fruit and raisins.|
So this will be my first time smoking Uno out of the tin.
As a cap to Per Jensen’s visit to Sutliff in January when he composed these blends, Sutliff hosted a panel of smokers to try them and offer their feedback. I participated in the smoking with five others, although I just took notes. As Per joked before skipping over me, “Greg, you are paid to say good things.” We were all given samples of each blend to take home and seal up, allow the flavors time to marry.
So I've been picking at that couple of ounces of Uno from time to time the last few months. But it's was pretty cool to finally see one of these blends in the tin.
The tin note is earthy with fermented fruit and that Perique spice. I rub out some of the crumble cake and let it sit. It’s decently moist. This was in the morning, and figuring I'd smoke after lunch, I gave it a couple hours to air out. I wanted to make sure I get a good burn rate. As is likely clear from the contents, this is a complex blend. I couldn't even be bothered giving it a blend type. But this is to say, while that easy burn is always conducive to a good smoke, it seems all the more crucial when a blend is balancing a complex profile, and Uno has a little of everything.
So, I'm about to smoke a new Sutliff blend, created by Mac Baren's Per Jensen, in front of the emblems of each of these brands. I'm even in the room where the blend was composed. If that all weren't thematic enough, I have my Georg Jensen Granat 78 packed to really mark the occasion.
After my char light it takes the flame easily and evenly.
Tangy, and earthy, fermented fruit and this sort of dark berry note mingle. A spice develops with the earthiness.
In addition to the Katerini Perique, St James Perique is another rarity in this blend. Most all Perique smoked today is Acadian. The St. James leans more into the spice, and that can be felt here, but contrasting with the sweet, plummy Katerini Perique, and a light smokiness from the Latakia. A light grassiness seems to wade about somewhere in there—Bright Virginias I presume.
There's plenty going on with the bold flavors and spicey varietals, but the nic hit is pretty down the middle.
This is one of those blends that can be defined by something as slight as where you draw the smoke. A bright citrus can be felt under the tongue. Floral accents seem to bridge the sweet and spice, the St. James lively in the sinus—bolstered by the Kentucky too I imagine. But the smoke is good and thick, likely the Black Cavendish supporting the diverse bouquet across the palate.
Sometimes I get a concentrated, bright sweetness at the tip of the tongue. It reminds me of that blissful little drop of nectar from a honeysuckle.
Fortunately for me, I was treated to a couple pipes with relatively wide chambers this week (thanks Ben), so I’ve gotten to enjoy this complex blend with those. I’ve written before that I would like to have pipes that offer a little more surface area for complex blends, but my tastes generally veer toward smaller, more clench friendly pipes. So this was a very welcome surprise. My Molina Tromba has almost exclusively been the workhorse of these blends.
I’m smoking from my new Genod Bent Pot, now my widest chamber. The fruit and sweetness are a bit more subdued this time around, it seems more spice and earth present. May be the wider chamber, may have something to do with this being the Genod's christening smoke. At any rate, Uno has been a pleasurable smoke through this week and I keep finding something new about it.
I've gotten more of a hint of that Dark-Fired Kentucky I believe, but with the fire-cured similarity of the Latakia, and the spice of the St. James, it's hard to say definitively where one varietal's attribute begins and another's ends, but the emergent profile is dynamic and rich.
There's so much to discover in this blend, but the rich flavors are never cloying, always in balance. I think with big flavor blends are lively in different areas of a profile—sweet and spice—there can compete or they can contrast. I feel the latter in this case.
There’s a core, notes you can look for that greet you each smoke, but something’s still a bit different each time, always something to notice. It’s like the song you’ve heard a thousand times, but then one day you hear that subtle harmony in the background of the mix, or in a lower frequency range. It’s probably brought some fullness or stability to the ensemble all along, but this is the first time you hear it discretely.
One thing I've noticed in adjusting my approach with this blend through the last two weeks—I actually enjoy it a little more moist than was my initial instinct. I think being a bit less zealous with the drying out helped keep more of the sweetness and fruitiness present. I may have been taking it too dry before, losing some of those oils which hold much of the flavor.
Uno is wonderfully aromatic in the most deep, natural way. Rich, intricate, and balanced. It's a fantastic way to introduce Katerini Perique to the world, but it won't be the only blend including it in the series. We'll have to be patient for the next one. But where Uno is a complex array of varietals, this other blend gives us the opportunity for a more focused Katerini Perique experience. These will likely be the only blends to ever feature Katerini Perique, and I think it's wonderful that we'll have it sharing the lead as well as more-or-less taking the lead. We'll get the most out of it in different contexts while it's around.
|Latakia from Cyprus is carefully blended with US grown Virginia tobaccos to achieve a mild to medium strength mixture, making it the perfect introduction to English blend pipe tobaccos.|
We now move on to the classic Presbyterian Mixture. Now manufactured by Mac Baren, this classic has gone through a few iterations, as a blend is guaranteed to do with a history stretching back before the first World War.
So the story goes, Presbyterian began as a names blend that the Glasgow tobacconist Alfred Gale Sr. produced for the prominent Presbyterian minister, John White. White would introduce the tobacco Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin who would dub it Presbyterian Mixture. It would go to Imperial in ‘56, to Planta in ‘81, and Mac Baren would take up the brand with the closing of Planta in 2019.
The ribbon comes with a little moisture but not too much. The tin note is somewhat smoky, but fragrant and herbal. It has that tea note, heavy on the Oriental side I imagine. Lightly woodsy, but bright.
It’s a beautiful day, and I’m outside with my Kaywoodie White Briar and book ready to enjoy some Presbyterian Mixture.
Presbyterian greets with tart, grassy, and earthy notes. There is a buttery, salty tinge, with a vague smokiness. That Latakia is present, but it’s modest.
The Virginias give a hay note and are bright with a light sweetness – soft and a bit citrusy. A mellow, accenting tanginess subtly develops as the bowl burns down.
As the bouquet really comes into view I’m engrossed in this blend. Woodsy, smooth, slightly sour Orientals are prominent with a signature that may be the meeting of Oriental and Virginia – a dark bready, sort of rye note.
This seems to be an English on the mellow side, certainly not a Lat bomb. I perceived a bit more smokiness from the tin note, but that Latakia aroma has a way of asserting itself—it only lightly lingers in the taste. I do get an earthy, mustiness from the Latakia.
The Virginias and Orientals are a united force bringing a fantastic, muted emergent flavor front and center. Presbyterian's profile is consistent, uncomplex, and an individual within its niche.
Tart, citrus, and floral notes are subtle, standout pitches atop a herbal, grassy, earthy foundation.
Presbyterian is certainly an all day smoke, but it's especially lovely to lead off the day with a coffee or tea. I know, it's as obviously as it is cliché to say of a light English, but I don't often go for English in the morning. Then again, I'd just as well call this an Oriental based blend.
Concentrating on these two blends as of late, I feel quite spoiled. With the complexity of Uno offering so much to wade through, I thought maybe I should have done a simple Straight Virginia as the second Tobacco File blend. But in addition to being my kind of English, Presbyterian has proven to be an easy smoke. Tasty, interesting, unique, but modest. Simply good flavors, no song and dance. A friend to the palate that doesn’t ask much of it.
Until next time...
Uno will be live May 10th, so if you're at all interested in trying some of that Katerini Perique, mark your calendar.
Thanks for reading!
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos—firstname.lastname@example.org