We’re back with yet another bonus column for the Tobacco Files, which means I’ve been digging into a new, soon to be released, tobacco blend. That new blend of course is this year's Cringle Flake, the annual offering from Sutliff Tobacco. The first year, released in 2019, featured a mixture of only Red Virginias, but for the last two iterations, we've seen a mix of matured and lightly stoved Red Virginias with 2003 Perique.
It seems this year's Cringle Flake uses the same ingredients as 2021; Reds with 20+ years of age on them and that 2003 Perique, now with 19 years on it (2020 used 10-year-old Reds, it seems somewhere along the way this older stock was procured to make the annual release extra special).
Sutliff Cringle Flake 2022
|After being aged for over 20 years, US grown Red Virginias are Cavendished and combined with Mark Ryan's 2003 Perique to create a one-of-a-kind vintage blend. The whole leaf is then pressed and sliced into broken flakes to provide a smoke that harkens back to the "good ole days."|
Entry 1 - Pre-smoke
I’m going to do things a little differently this time around (and likely going forward) with the Tobacco Files format. Entry 1 will only contain pre-smoking information such as presentation and tin note. I’ll do my first entry actually digging into the smoking notes after having experienced Cringle Flake a few times.
I open the tin to find some classic Sutliff cuts—sliced into thick cake-like flakes that easily crumble down.
But the first thing I notice is the tin note—I need not bring my nose to the open tin. The moment that seal was broken I could smell the fermented, vegetative, barnyard bouquet from that aged Perique. I’m sure there’s more to it than that, I think I make out some wood and acidity, but it'll likely take some time airing out for me to access what nuance might be behind the imposing Perique.
Breaking up the flakes, you get rather long strands of the Red Virginias and a good scattering of Perique, cut quite small. I imagine it might be easy to pack this with the larger strands, neglecting to get those smaller particles that fall to the bottom, so I take care to get pinches of the fine Perique layered throughout the chamber.
This is hardly a departure from my normal routine—anytime I have a blend that's cut somewhat thick, or that I'm packing in chunks, I like breaking down some of the leaf to smaller pieces that I'll use to fill space without tamping the larger pieces too dense, which can easily compromise a good airflow.
On the other hand, this could be an opportunity for some to experiment with how much Perique they’d like—similar to how one might approach the concentrated center of Black Cavendish in certain coin cuts (Charatan Rolls, or McConnel Highgate, for instance). But honestly, this Perique seems so potent, it will certainly have a say in the flavor just by the marriage within the airtight tin.
Well, I have my Longchamp packed up for my first bowl.
From the first smoke it became clear that, while the Perique was heavily featured in the tin note, there was a lot more going on in the profile. I should also say that, having given the tin time to air out, a bit more clarity came through in the aroma; namely that vinegar note common to Sutliff Red Virginias.
Cringle Flake greets with rich, stewed fruit. Tangy and woody with a dark, herbal spice. The profile is deep with harmonious, bold flavors. This can obstruct subtleties in the first few smokes but the more I’ve familiarized myself with Cringle Flake, the more there’s been to find. Notably a citrus, grassy, vegetative undertone—the brightness of which is a welcome contrast to the wood, dark fruit and spice that are most on show.
The Perique certainly adds a bit of pepper, somewhat lively in the sinus but not so vigorous as to turn off most smokers appreciative of a little kick. The strength seems solidly medium, but taste a step or two beyond.
That vinegar note comes through subtly in the profile. It plays a nice role in drawing out the tangy Red Virginia without cutting too hard. I don’t mind when the vinegar is more generously applied, such as with Sutliff’s 515 RC-1, but the acidity can be assertive and undercut the subtleties of an otherwise dynamic mixture. This can be perfectly acceptable depending on the blend, but the cooperative, accenting role it takes here is a terrific contribution.
The burn is very agreeable. I thought it might need some dry time when I first rubbed part of a flake out, but I went ahead with it anyway despite Cringle Flake being slightly more moist than is generally my preference. I give it two charring lights, which is often how I approach larger cut leaf so as to get the surface evenly charred. From there, I get a cool, consistent, slow burn coming right from the tin each time with no threat of bite. I think the light stoving of the Virginias goes a long way in smoothing the roughness and tempering combustibility without cooking the flavor out.
I don't know if it's how these Virginias have matured, the particular grade, or the light stoving process—I'm sure they all play a role—but there's a pleasing and refreshing individuality. Between the stewed fruit and figgy side and the wood and pepper, I get something like orange peel—fruity but tart and earthy.
My preference has certainly been for at least an average size chamber for Cringle Flake. There aren’t a lot of components, but given the cut, it’s easier to get a nice balance with the larger Virginia leaf and Perique particles. My Bruno Nuttens Heritage Bing II delivered an especially wonderful smoke.
Something I’ve really grown to appreciate with Cringle Flake is its engagement with the palate. With each puff the zest eagerly expresses upon the mid and side of the tongue, with the sweet zing at the tip and pepper in the olfactory—it covers broadly without overwhelming.
And ya know, something about the herbal spice of Cringle Flake does elicit a holiday spirit. It’s not as though it's topped to specifically do so, so I’m not sure if it’s just my brain backing up the association because it’s a Christmas blend or what, but hey, it’s a pleasure to lean into the jolly nonetheless.
Until Next Time...
Next time will be quite soon as I'm finishing up the regular Tobacco Files column for the pipe blends and featured premium cigar that I've enjoyed this November. Then it's on to December, and I think I'll have something a little different for the last month of the year.
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos? Always welcomed—email@example.com