Officially past the halfway mark on this year's Per Jensen Signature series, Pipe Force Episode I launches February 13th at 6pm eastern.
For all the details on this series, check out A Closer Look at Sutliff's Pipe Force. The short version is that each of these six blends contains at least on novel tobacco—Stoved Rustica or Stoved Katerini. I smoked both of these components discretely for the Episode IV Tobacco File if you're interested in how they present individually—or how I perceived them to at least.
As is tradition, I have my inaugural smoke of a Per Jensen Signature blend in my Georg Jensen De Lux. However, this time I didn't do tasting notes for that inaugural smoke, as I was enjoying the company of several pipe smokers who came to a gathering at Sutliff, co-hosted by the Get Piped Podcast. Pipe Force Episode I was among the special offerings made available to the amiable bunch that evening, so I kept true to tradition, packing this fine Danish estate pipe, but was far too preoccupied with good company to take tasting notes.
Like all of these mixtures, this "inaugural" smoke is the first since tinning—but not my first of the mixture. In fact I was tasked with writing the descriptions ahead of their debut at the Chicago Pipe Show. I had dug into that sample a few times leading up to this release, to re-familiarize myself somewhat.
Sutliff - Pipe Force Episode I - MAJ O'Meara
|The Latakia-forward English mixture offers plenty of smoky flavor from the fire-cured leaf, which is artfully harmonized with floral, earthy Stoved Rustica. A mixture of high-grade Virginias imparts a natural sweetness. Katerini, the sole Oriental component, offers herb and spice notes bringing complexity and nuance to the flavor profile.
MAJ O'Meara stands out among the Pipe Force panel as the most English-leaning of the group. It certainly has an individuality of its own, but that Latakia is prominent. In terms of fitting the Pipe Force theme, Episode I uses the Stoved Rustica, which certainly brings much of the boldness.
You'll notice that Katerini is listed, but this is not the stoved variety unique to this series (as well as the 2023 Cringle Flake). This is the Oriental variety with no further processing, which is being used as the sole Oriental component as opposed to a mixture of several sub-strains.
I open the tin and find the Sutliff crumble cake slabs. Opening the parchment and removing the insert, I’m hit with a lot of campfire smokiness. It's a dark, Balkan-like Latakia that wafts from the tin—reminding me of Arango Balkan Supreme or Sutliff Balkan Sobranie Original Match.
Episode I crumbles easily to coarse cut ribbons, and it seems the moisture content is perfect for a new tin to me. Enough moisture so that you're able to lose some, so I don’t feel the pressure to immediately jar, but not so much that it seems to need much if any drying time. To be determined. I know some weren’t pleased with the dryness of Sutliff’s 2023 Cringle Flake, so if you were concerned that would be the beginning of a trend, you can be sure that isn't the case.
I opt to have the fist smoke from my personal tin of Episode I in my Bruno Nutten's Heritage Bing. This pipe from the French maker has a sizable bowl, and I know this to be an exceptionally flavorful and complex mixture that I seem to get the most out of from such a chamber.
No surprise that Latakia is bold out of the gate, but the vivid flavors quickly come into focus. Ripe Red Virginias are tangy and sweet. There's plenty of dark woodiness offering body and traveling to the sinus for an earthy, spicy weight. I imagine some of that is coming from the Katerini, which seems to have a vegetive slightly herbal taste.
I appreciate how the Stoved Rustica and Latakia play together, a lot of Latakia can take away from a blend for me, and it doesn’t seem to be applied in light measure here. But the Stoved Rustica is a force of its own, these two in tandem bring out something dark and woody and floral and loamy. It's a unique Latakia experience.
The smoke is very smooth, redolent flavor on a voluminous smoke. I’ll smoke at different moisture levels for the sake of experiencing Episode I in more ways, but I don’t imagine I’ll find it preferable to the ease of this smoke now.
The tang and sweet notes really last through the smoke, I expected they may be compromised by the hearty Rustica or bold Latakia some way through but thankfully not. I also get a buttery note from the base, nicely contrasting the darker, earthy and spicy characteristics.
Not a whole lot to expand on through my experience with Episode I. It's been consistently enjoyable, though the profile can vary smoke to smoke—something I find more complex blends are likely to do.
My preference remains for somewhat larger chambers; small seems to accentuate the Oriental character. While I like the Katerini's role in Episode I, I find there's a dry vegetive character that centers more in these narrower bowls and some of the richness and interesting qualities I get in other smokes are dulled.
My current smoke is in my Missouri Meerschaum Charles Towne Cobbler, which has a roughly average diameter chamber within my collection. It's offering the expected Latakia flavor with the bold body of Rustica. Somewhere between the Rustica and Latakia is a charred woodiness, BBQ, and dark floral flavor. I can't say I have much faith in my tracing of these flavor notes to their component—there simply a wealth of bold flavor that is well balanced. Underscoring at the base, Virignias offer wood and tang along with the Katerini's herbal and vegetive character.
Overall, Pipe Force Episode I is a great blend for those interested in Latakia in a different context, or just interested in something bold and complex. It certainly diverges from a more traditional English. However, I think it's often a topping's influence or a kitchen sink blending approach that elicits that observation in regards to other Latakia blends. Maybe this is kitchen sink-like to some extent, there are a few bold players, but that Latakia isn't dimmed in the frenzy. Episode I seems to me like a reimagined, full-body Balkan.
Until Next Time...
Only two left to go for the Pipe Force series. Episode II releases Jun 18, 2024, Episode III Oct 22, 2024.
Episode II should be an exciting one. It uses not only the Stoved Katerini, but also the Katerini Perique that was featured in two of the Birds of a Feather series from the first Per Jensen/Sutliff Signature Series.
Before that, I'll have yet another regular monthly column at the end of the month featuring two blends I'm currently enjoying getting more and more familiar with.
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos? Please send 'em my way—email@example.com