About two months ago we were introduced to Sergeant Deckard, launching the second Sutliff presented Per Jensen Signature series, Pipe Force. That can only mean we are due for another invasion shortly.
At precisely 6pm EST, September 13th, 2023, Captain Ryan touches down in Pipe Force Episode V. Many will have already enjoyed these blends that have been available as samples at various pipe shows since they debuted in Chicago in the spring. But the official releases of these six pipe blends are intermittently scheduled about two months apart, the last to be released in May.
For a more in depth look into the series, including background on its development as well as descriptions and launch dates for each blend, check out A Closer Look at Sutliff's Pipe Force - Return of the Signature Series by Per Georg Jensen.
Beyond the eccentric Pipe Force concept, the thread that pulls this series together is the use of two debut tobaccos, Stoked Rustica and Stoved Katerini. Each Pipe Force mixture contains at least one, but Episode V offers a chance to experience each more intimately, and I can say it’s one of my favorites in this series.
Sutliff - Pipe Force Episode V - Captain Ryan
|Hot-pressed and ready rubbed Rustica is stoved, resulting in a smoothing of the bold leaf, but its familiar BBQ tang and floral spice are preserved, dynamically complementing the caramelized sweetness of the Stoved Virginia. The Oriental Katerini takes to the Cavendish process beautifully, offering herbal, woody undertones. The result is an exotic mélange with a vitality that reimagines what a stoved mixture can be.|
Each Pipe Force blend has something of its own to offer, but what really makes Episode V stand out to me, is that it highlights the attributes of these novel tobaccos—Stoved Katerini and Rustica—in a mixture where their unique characteristics are discernable to the curious pipe smoker, as its not as busy as some of the others. Though these tobaccos prove to bring wonderful accents and nuances to a diversity of blends through this series, here they are joined only by Stoved Virginia.
Unsealing the tin, I twist off the lid to find three Crumble Cakes in Sutliff slab fashion. The tin note is mellow, but there’s a pleasant herbal and floral woodiness as I bring the open tin near.
Dark and oily, I strip a piece off one cake and it breaks down easily into small coarse chunks of ribbon. The leaf is on the moist side; I was in the habit of giving Episode V some dry time when smoking through my sample, however, I’ll keep to my practice of having that inaugural smoke from the tin as is.
I’ll also continue the tradition of having that first smoke from my Georg Jensen De Luxe S779, a recently acquired estate pipe purposed with kicking off each blend in the Pipe Force series.
Floral, herbal with a sugar cane sweetness lift from the char light. I go ahead and give it a second char before I really get going. One of the many compelling qualities of Stoved tobaccos are their usefulness in tempering an eager burn rate, but here there are only stoved ingredients. Couple that with the moisture of the leaf right now, and I expect there many be some fussiness ahead. I find a second char helps get that char light nice and even and sets me up for more amenable smoke altogether.
Grassy bright citrus alights on the tongue, especially vibrant to the more sensitive areas of the palate, which is contrasted by the bold Rustica's earthy spice that simply couldn’t be snuffed out by the stoving process. It doesn’t take long to understand this stoved blend is more robust than we’re conditioned to expect. This is Nicotiana Rustica, and while the sugars are wonderfully retained and its hardy stature is softened somewhat, it isn’t absolutely declawed by the steaming and pressing process.
If you’d like to go deeper into these varietals, my account of smoking both Stoved Katerini and Rustica discretely is included in the Pipe Force IV Tobacco File.
I’m surprised by just how amenable this burn is. As I said, I've had a sample of Episode V I have been smoking, but most of my smokes were after giving it some dry time. Feeling this leaf right out of the tin, I anticipated it would be less inclined to keep lit. However, a nice consistent smolder has been maintained with no fuss.
The Stoved Katerini offers that herbal tea presence as a nice compliment to the umami, woody body of the Rustica which rises through the smoke and does a nice job of bridging the bright flavors and spicy earthy side that remains present. Though never totally lost, that darker side does intensify into the smoking experience.
I haven't noticed any pattern to my experience with Episode V from one pipe to the next. I have gravitated toward smaller bowls but for no reason I can glean. That very well may be my preference of late and not necessarily speaking to attributes of this blend in particular. Currently, I’m enjoying Episode V in my Vauen New York Rhodesian, which is certainly on the smaller side.
However, I do notice that I get more of the sweet attributes and Stoved Virginia's sugar and tang character when smoked more on the moist side. The profile does journey a bit, leaning more into some of the dark, woody, spicy flavors, but, when given some time to dry, this darker side seems to be more pronounced throughout and the sweet mellow character less so. But luckily, I’ve continued to have easy smolders with Episode V, even when smoked with a seemingly high moisture content. Although, I wouldn't be surprised if it’s not as high as I thought—the stoving process seems to leave the tobacco with an oily feeling that may give the impression of significant moisture when handled.
Pipe Force Episode V certainly is a blend that challenges notions of an all stoved tobacco. While bringing more oomph than we associate with Stoved Virginia or Black Cavendish—an attribute of the somewhat subdued but still energetic Rustica—it also offers much color in its bold, dynamic flavors. From bright sweet notes, to umami, to earthy spice, Pipe Force Episode V mirthfully engages across the palate and sinus.
Until next time...
Two down, four to go.
Pipe Force Episode V was the first in the series to really hit home for me, but in many ways it's like the single on a great album. I started off enamored, and it hasn't lost the charm, but the more familiar I get with the others, a few have grabbed my attention like the B sides that were appreciated at first, but then truly click. Which is to say, I'm excited to keep sharing my experience with all these mixtures. And of course, I'm eager to hear others' impressions.
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos? Always welcome—email@example.com.