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The Tobacco Files - Sutliff Phantom Privateer - Barrel Aged No. 6

The Tobacco Files - Sutliff Phantom Privateer - Barrel Aged No. 6

Posted by Greg Rosenberg on 28th Jun 2023

Sutliff Phantom Privateer goes live on Tuesday, July 4th at 6pm

The sixth installment of the Sutliff Barrel Aged Series has arrived. 

For a little background, the Barrel Aged series are limited release blends in Sutliff's Crumble Kake series, which includes regular production mixtures such as Red Virginia, English #1, and Va Perique. The trend seems to be that twice a year—at the beginning of the year and early summer—a new Barrel Aged is released. The defining trait, unsurprisingly, is that each in the series has been stored in a used liquor barrel, where the leaf is imbued with the remnant flavor and aroma. 

The liquor is chosen to best complement the particular blend...or maybe vice versa. Here are the tobacco/barrel combinations we've seen to date:

  1. Virginia; Apple Brandy barrel
  2. Kentucky, Virginia; Cognac barrel 
  3. Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia; Bourbon barrel 
  4. Burley, Virginia; Bourbon barrel 
  5. Burley, Rustica, Virginia; Bourbon barrel 

Of these, I've featured No. 4 and No. 5 in previous Tobacco Files.

Sutliff Phantom Privateer - Barrel Aged No. 6

Sutliff Phantom Privateer - Barrel Aged No. 6 pipe tobacco

Reinvigorated with tin art by some jerk (Eugene Falco), the Barrel Aged Series makes a spirited return. Red VA's and Stoved Burley tobaccos are blended with genuine Perique, grown and processed in St. James Parish, marking the notorious Louisiana spice's Barrel Aged debut. Aged for 30 days in a rum barrel, the mixture is imbued with a sweet and spicy depth before being pressed and sliced into Crumble Cakes, melding the rich flavors. 

Entry 1

Barrel Aged No. 6 is novel in several ways. For one, Perique makes its debut in the Barrel Aged series. As you can see from the past iterations listed above, the spicey condiment from St. James Parish, Louisiana has yet to make its way into one of these mixtures. 

Additionally, for the first time (in this series), Sutliff is rolling out the rum barrel. This definitely piqued my interest. Barrel Aged 3, 4, and 5 were bourbon barreled, and while I enjoyed each, it's fun to change things up. Also, those are the only three from this series I've had. Although, the Sutliff produced Mississippi River from Seattle Pipe Club has a rum barrel-aged option that I'm fond of, so I'm interested to see how the flavor plays with a blend that is quite different.

But the most overt distinction with this installment is right on the label. The tin art for each Barrel Aged has followed the template of the Crumble Kake series (as shown with No. 1 below), but No. 6 sees an adventurous departure. Then there is the name, Phantom Privateer, in eerie harmony with the tin art. Each blend prior has only differed in name by their number in the series. 

Sutliff Barrel Aged No. 1

I love some vibrant artwork on a tin, but I do also enjoy the classic simplicity of a tin design with stylish font and color scheme. That said, I'm happy to see the Barrel Aged line up lean to the former. As a twist on the Crumble Kake series, I like seeing them stand out and have their own identity. The talented man behind the art is Eugene Falco, who you may know from The Greywoodie Show podcast. Hopefully we see more tin art contributions from him.

Okay, this introduction is a bit long for a Tobacco File, let's get to the blend—Phantom Privateer.


I break the seal on Phantom Privateer and find a few crumble cakes in that classic Sutliff slab-cut style. The tin note isn't immediately bold like some of the Sutliff Crumble Kakes (namely those leaning to the Red Virginia vinegar profile). But it isn't too shy either. Somewhat unexpectedly, the first thing that comes to mind is apple cider. A sweet, spicy, stewed fruit aroma that's curious and enticing to me. 

Sutliff Phantom Privateer cut

I break a piece from one of the slabs and rub it down to the familiar gravity-pack ready bits. A little moist—probably just a bit beyond my usual preference, but then again, it's to be expected from a barrel aged blend, and drying too long might mean losing some of that rum spirit, so I've just aired it out for about twenty minutes.

Lighting up

For my first smoke, I thought I'd pack a recent estate pipe I've cleaned up. The "S" stamp on the stem tells me this is a Sussex, one of the Comoy's second brands. "337" is stamped on the side shank—this handsome Prince is represented in the Comoy's shape chart by the same number. But the opposing side of the shank dons the stamp "Sutliff's Select."

Sutliff has a long history—just over a century of existence as a retail tobacconist in San Francisco before the move to Richmond in 1953. It's not uncommon to see estate pipes made by Comoy's for the Sutliff store, sometimes as seconds, sometimes still marked with Comoy's stamp. Anyway, it seemed apt to inaugurate this Sutliff blend.

Comoy's Sutliff estate tobacco pipe

I give the leaf a single char and upon relighting am met with woody, tangy, fruity Virginia. No doubt there's some of that caramelized sweetness from the Black Cavendish, but clearly some natural sweetness from the bright leaf and rum.

Smoking on, I get a warm breadiness and a bright grass note, the stewed sweetness reminds me a bit of Rattray's Marlin Flake, though I may need to revisit to see how my memories serving here. 

The Perique is certainly there in the nose. Beyond its sensory characteristics, it’s taken some time for the flavor to come into resolution except for a bit in the retrohale. But the darker woody notes are becoming more noticeable and I’m getting more of that fermentation and mushroom savoriness. At this point I’d gauge the strength shy of medium.

The flavor holds up very nicely, even the spicy sweet rum. About two thirds in and it’s still coming through, even amidst some of the darker woody tastes rising.

Entry 2

My first impression of Phantom Privateer was a positive one, but it’s really grown on me having spent more time with it in a few different tobacco pipes. The Virginia and rum comes through right away each smoke. There’s a tartness, somewhat orange flavor there that works nicely with the rum spice.

I get a sugar cane sweetness from Privateer that I imagine is brought about somewhere in the emulsion of Black Cavendish and rum.

I’m currently enjoying a smoke in my Chacom Brilliant Brown Reverse Calabash, and while the Perique is earthy in the retrohale, I don’t find as much of its savoriness in the profile as I have with past smokes. The chamber is moderately wide in my arsenal—that may be a factor. Or maybe just how I'm experiencing it today. 

Chacom Brilliant Brown Reverse Calabash tobacco pipe

I feel Phantom has a sort of dual sweetness. There’s the deeper, caramelized, bass-y sweetness, but also a brighter sort that alights on the sensitive areas of the palate; the honeysuckle note as a call it, not so much for the flavor, but for that acute, localized sweetness on the tip of the tongue, which reminds me of that rewarding, blissful droplet coaxed from the flower.

I may need some more smokes, but I have to say, this is likely my favorite that I’ve had in the series, though that’s only Barrel Aged 3 through 5. Not too surprising seeing as a VaPer with some Black Cavendish is right up my alley, but it does make me want to try that Straight Virginia (Barrel Aged No. 1) all the more.

Strength:   ◙◙◙◙◙○○○○○
Taste:      ◙◙◙◙◙◙◙○○○
Flavoring:  ◙◙◙○○○○○○○

Entry 3

Smoking now in my Stanwell second Lovat, one of my more petite pipes, I notice more woody than breadiness, and more dark woodiness and spice at the onset, which seems to wash with most of my Privateer smokes out of smaller pipes. That darker side, though not missing, seemed to develop in my wider bowls. But the sweetness is very much present and brightly contrasts against a woody, floral backdrop in each smoke.

To sum up…

The spice and sweetness of Virginia, Perique, and rum just seems like an intuitive mixture, and each smoke from Privateer has made that case. The Black Cavendish pulls it together—underscoring the sweetness, giving body that better displays the flavorful depth of Privateer, and, I imagine, acting as a particularly hospitable host to the rum. It’s one thing to have good parts, but a dynamic, balanced blend is realized when those parts are chosen and mixed with thoughtful consideration as to how they'll interact and complement. To me, Phantom Privateer checks that box. 

Until next time...

Keep an eye out for Phantom Privateer going live on Tuesday, July 4th at 6pm.

I’ll certainly be back soon with another special Tobacco File for the first release of the Sutliff Pipe Force series, due in mid June. However, the regular monthly column is temporarily on pause, at least for June, while I focus on some other projects.

As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos—