Boy have I been excited for this one, and it has not disappointed. The fifth of six in the celebrated Birds of a Feather series—created by Mac Baren master blender Per Jensen in collaboration with Sutliff tobacco—we have Anomalous.
For the full story, you can read our piece on the making of the Birds of a Feather series, but the gist of it is Per Jensen spent a week at the Sutliff Tobacco building in January of 2022 where he developed six blends, each of which use at least one rare varietal. One of those rare varietals was used for the very first time in the first release, Uno, and now we have the second and likely last blend to ever use it—Katerini Perique.
Again, you can check out our deep dive into Katerini Perique, but in short, Mark Ryan of L.A. Poche put a high grade of Katerini—an Oriental sub-varietal—through pressure fermentation in the same way that Perique is processed. The result is something truly special.
Sutliff - Anomalous (Birds of a Feather)
|A special crumble cake blend featuring Katerini Perique, an oriental tobacco grown in Greece. Katerini perique has a lighter taste than normal perique, and as an extra grain, it develops a deep raisin/fruity taste. The Katerini perique is blended with Red Virginia, a fair amount of Virginia Cavendish, and a bit of high-grade Burley. A blend with lots of Virginia sweetness and the unique taste of raisins/dark fruit coming from the Katerini Perique.|
One thing especially exciting about Anomalous is how the Katerini Perique is highlighted. Seeing as though Anomalous and Uno will likely be the only two blends to ever include the varietal, it seems reasonable that—to make the most of the opportunity—the two blends should be quite different, giving us the chance to see it at play in different contexts.
Uno was a fantastic mixture, but everyone was invited to that party: St James Perique, Katerini Perique, Kentucky, Latakia, Virginias, and Cavendish. Anomalous on the other hand offers the novel tobacco as the seasoning on a quintessential base of Red and Stoved Virginia and Burley. The Katerini Perique is more on display here, and we get to experience it in a whole different light.
This won't be my first time smoking Anomalous, as I've had samples of these blends since the developing of the series, but I had a significantly smaller amount of Anomalous and Paradoxical (which will be the final release) so I wasn't able to stretch them out as far as the previous releases.
Of course, the tin art has been a much appreciated aspect of the series, and there's something exciting about seeing that tin for the first time, even when you've smoked the blend before.
Popping the tin, I'm greeted by some classic Sutliff Crumble Kake style cake—slabs as a call them.
The tin note provides a floral, herbal scent with a light vinegar and spice to it, but subtle all-in-all. Not the potent commotion that some blends expel at the break of the seal.
Rubbing out the cake, there's a significant amount of dark leaf, suggesting a decent portion of Katerini Perique and/or Stoved Virginia. It crumbles into somewhat small flakes, making for an easy gravity pack, as is generally the case with the Sutliff Crumble Kakes.
The moisture is a bit higher than is my preference, but I go ahead and pack it and will adjust with later smokes.
As has been my tradition with each inaugural smoke from the Birds of a Feather series, I've packed Anomalous in my Georg Jensen Granat 78.
I give two light-and-tamps to get a good, even char on the pack.
A floral sweetness is quickly noticeable, with citrus and Red Virginia tang. Stone fruit, currant, and dark berry are up-front. A warm baked bread and lightly grassy base. Red Virginia vinegar offers a pleasing dynamic, not especially acidic like you get from some Sutliff Red Virginias.
Anomalous expresses that direct and bright sweetness to the tip of the tongue—what I like to call the honeysuckle note, as it reminds me of that blissful bead of nectar coaxed from the shrub's flower. Though the weather doesn't seem to know it yet, we're less than a week from spring, and Anomalous has me eager for the tranquil, sunny smokes to come.
Smoking on, I make out a bit of cedar woodiness from the Burley, though it seems the air-cured leaf is present in small measure. I get a light spice in the nose going on, but very mild. Perhaps carried by the Burley, bringing a bit of body and strength to the blend, the spice has some wood and incense, seemingly from the Katerini Perique.
To my preferences, Anomalous certainly benefits from some drying time, but doesn't need too much. I give the broken up cake about 30 minutes of sitting out and get an easy, consistent smolder. With the bit of drying, it doesn't even seem moist so much as a bit oily, and I wonder if there might be a light top flavoring. If so, it'd be very light, but maybe that floral note.
At the moment, I'm enjoying Anomalous in my Missouri Meerschaum Diamondback cob. It has proven to be a very consistent blend from pipe to pipe. It does offer a slow burn rate, so if not expecting a long smoke, I go for a more medium sized chamber so as not to waste.
The Katerini Perique is wonderfully on display in Anomalous, and offers those dark berry, floral, incense, and herbal notes. I feel the Katerini Perique and Stoved Virginia are especially mutually complementing.
Sutliff Stoved Virginia has a bit of an identity of its own to me—herbal, citrus, caramelized sweetness. The best highlight of this is the straight Stoved Virginia of Sutliff manufacture, Chris Morgan Jackalope. I notice a similar component in Anomalous that reminds me of Jackalope, which I appreciate. I'm not sure if it's something to do with a casing or the particular Virginia(s) used, but I get more of a complexity than I expect from Cavendish. At any rate, the Stoved Virginia and Katerini Perique seem to overlap in some qualities, which accents some of the essential parts of the profile.
My reductionist sum-up—Anomalous is black tea with a lemon brightness.
It's difficult to say—I'm a big fan of Uno—but I think this is my favorite of the series. But I won't dwell on a question that doesn't need answering. That fact is I enjoy all of these blends very much and having a few tins of each put away, I'm just glad I'll get to enjoy them all for some time.
Until next time...
That's that for this penultimate bird. Paradoxical, the final Birds of a Feather blend, will be released in May. However, Sutliff has revealed there will be another Per Jensen collaboration series to come. In April, Jensen will once again be visiting the Sutliff factory to develop a new set of blends for a second signature series. Just as last time, this will culminate in a smoking panel where guests will be given the opportunity to try all of these blends well before they're released.
From the Sutliff Facebook page:
So...who wants to join us on Tuesday, April 25th from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. - right here at the Sutliff Factory in Richmond, Virginia and be the first to review and have access to these delicious blends and spend time and have lunch with Per Georg???
Space is limited to 20 guests and seats will be filled on a First-Come-First-Served basis. If you are interested please call the office at 804-233-7668 x228 or email email@example.com. Again space is limited so you must act fast. But we ask that you please make sure you can definitely attend so we give everyone who wishes to spend the day with Per the opportunity to do so!
Maybe I'll see ya there!
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos? Always welcome—firstname.lastname@example.org