I'll start this Tobacco File with an apology—I always try to post these columns dealing with limited release pipe tobaccos before they go live. Circumstances delayed my being able to post last week, and Maple Shadows was released Friday and sold out. Since the column was nearly finished, I figured I may as well put it out anyway, but regret it couldn't be sooner. Hopefully anyone intrigued by this blend was able to get some, but if not, 8 oz tins are great for sharing/trading! And who knows, Maple Shadows seems to have done well, maybe we'll see a return next fall.
Maple Shadows is the most recent seasonal offering from the Sutliff Tobacco Company. This Halloween treat brings together maple top flavoring and Dark Fired Kentucky for an unconventional Aromatic.
Sutliff Maple Shadows
|As the chilling winds of autumn draw eerie prattle from contorted, deciduous limbs, we find ourselves possessed by the spirit of the season. Bewitched by a dissonant charm, we’ve created Maple Shadows. In a season that is defined by the unlikely harmony of treats and frights, we’ve joined the enchanting sweetness of maple with the earthy spice of Dark Fired Kentucky for a smoking experience that captures the senses with an otherworldly fusion of flavor.|
Having designed the tin art for Sutliff's most recent installment in their Barrel Aged series, Phantom Privateer, Eugene Falco was tapped once again by Sutliff president Jeremy McKenna to bring his command of the eerie and uncanny to Maple Shadows.
Maple Shadows also stands out in the Sutliff range for its packaging, available only in an 8 oz tin. I know some see that as a drawback for limited blends, but by the ounce, this one's priced at bulk prices.
I open the pop-top lid and am greeted by the expected maple aroma. Compared to other maple topped Aromatics such as Cobblestone Maple Walnut or Cornell & Diehl Autumn Evening, it does seems more subdued. The scent is mild, not hidden, but not pervading the room at the moment the seal is broken. Bringing the tin closer and sitting with the tin note for a moment, I find a light woody, cocoa beneath. Something between these scents brings toffee to mind.
I remove a pinch of the ribbon, which is cut at various lengths and has a soft consistency—hydrated and springy. The moisture is what you would expect from an Aromatic, if a tad less. I'll pack it as is for my first smoke.
Inspecting the blend, there is a good deal of bright leaf to medium brown and reddish, joined by a small ratio of contrasting dark leaf that is likely the Dark Fired Kentucky. Considering the mellow tin note, eschewing Black Cavenidsh for a Virginia/Burley base, and the inclusion of a condimental in the Kentucky, I get the impression that Maple Shadows is meant to be an Aromatic with more dimensions than what the top flavor alone offers.
I'll be having my first smoke of Maple Shadows in my J Mouton Bushido Poker. Though unintentional, this pipe does lend to the seasonal theme here.
Lighting up, that maple surfaces without hesitation, but not so loudly, and accompanied by toasty bread with a cane sugar sweetness. There are some woody and floral notes from the Dark Fired Kentucky, which, with the maple topping, leads the profile.
Maple Shadows has been surprisingly amenable keeping a light after just one char. I’ll try some drying time in smokes to come for the sake of experimenting, but if this smoke is indicative of those to come, I don't imagine it will be necessary.
I certainly get a Burley character here. There's a nutty undertone with a subtle cocoa sweetness that works with the maple and in a way that reminds me of Sutliff Ready-Rubbed. To be clear, they are quite different blends, but seem to overlap in that Burley with a molasses sweetness character. I imagine the Virginias have some role in that sweetness and the bready notes mentioned, but all-in-all, I don't pick them out as discernably as the Burley.
What Maple Shadows is not is an Aromatic that has a generous top flavoring that burns off leaving an empty experience. And it does offer a bit more oomph than your standard Aromatic, likely from the Kentucky and Burley having the most say tobacco-wise.
With this introduction, the component flavors are there until the end, but it's not full in taste, at the moment I'd say medium with strength a smidge beyond. But first smokes can be deceiving, we'll see if this impression stands after getting more familiar.
About one week of enjoying Maple Shadows, my initial thoughts have remained mostly consistent, with a few caveats. But I will start by saying, I am currently enjoying a bowl outside in my Brigham Algonquin 206 Dublin, and the sunny, mild fall day is a great backdrop to this blend. Honestly, this is an ideal day to light up any blend, but Maple Shadows does feel particularly suited. Although, there is a slight breeze that has me extra mindful of keeping an easy burn.
In getting more familiar with Maple Shadows, I haven't noticed much of a difference with drying time, so for the most part I've been pulling from the tin.
I notice the Kentucky on show more in some smokes than others. Those dark leaves don't seem to be plentiful in the mix, so it may be an inconsistency in ratio from pack to pack. But that light ratio of Kentucky still seems to be going quite a ways, so maybe it's just my palate.
In regard to the endurance of the maple topping, some smokes have been true to my initial experience (consistent throughout). But with some smokes, it has faded around the latter half of the bowl. However, these instances have seen the Kentucky and base tobaccos maintain with a sweet maple accent. My best guess is that the maple has dimmed when I've neglected to keep an easy smolder.
Maple Shadows hasn't been eager to bite, but some smokes where I've been less mindful of cadence have leaned that way. For me, making sure to pack a bit firmer than I think I need to has been a helpful adjustment. With these springy, soft strands, I have a tendency to feel like I'm overpacking and I end up overcorrecting with a loose, airy pack that stokes too eagerly.
I've also noted some spice from the Kentucky as well as a grassy bright quality in the Virginias that I don't feel were as apparent with my first smoke. Overall, my impression is that Maple Shadows is a pleasant Aromatic that may be of interest to those with a taste for less flavoring-heavy Aromatics. It doesn't host a world of complexities, but it is a tasty mixture with some nuances and individuality.
Until next time...
I'll have quite a few specials releases to dig into over the coming months, and hope to get back to the regular monthly column soon enough. Hope you all are enjoying your first few weeks of fall and have been treated to many fulfilling smokes!
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos? Always welcome—firstname.lastname@example.org.