So in last week's column, I said I'd be doing the four blends in the Cobblestone Indulge Series between two weeks—I covered Vanilla Custard and Walnut Maple Pie last week, and this column was going to feature Creme Brulee and Cherry Delight. Obviously, those are not the blends pictured above.
We thought we'd put the last two from Indulge on hold so we can have some more variety week to week. Instead, I chose two mixtures from one of the industry's most beloved manufacturers of tobacco blends—Cornell & Diehl.
This week, I spent some time with Billy Budd and Bailey's Front Porch. I jarred up a couple ounces of each, but these blends are available in both bulk or tin.
|A heavy Latakia blend with Burley, bright Virginia flake, and a good amount of natural-cut cigar leaf. Billy Budd was created for C&D's late friend Sailorman Jack.|
As a college Sophomore handing in my final paper for 19th Century American Literature, I certainly thought I was done writing about Billy Budd. Well, seven years later and here I am.
Of course, this Billy Budd is only named for the Melville novella. What we have here is the work of Craig Tarler—the Cornell & Diehl cofounder who is responsible for some of the most treasured blends out there. Billy Budd is one of four blends in the Melville at Sea series.
This will be my first blend I've smoked for this column that I'm revisiting. I searched through past smoking journal entries to see if I wrote on it before. Whenever I write about a familiar blend for this column I think it'd be pretty cool to have some past impressions to reference and contrast with my current thoughts. I only found one for Billy Budd however, with not much to say other than it was especially pleasant in my Weber Meerschaum Poker. Well, that at least gives me a nice place to start.
My first and, at the moment, only Meerschaum pipe. I purchased it in October at the CORPS show here in Richmond along with a straight Longchamp Billiard—my first two estate pipes (you can read my write-up on that wonderful weekend here). To be honest, I don't pull this one out too often, the airway is narrow and is difficult to get even a slim cleaner through, but it's been the vehicle to wonderful smokes before, why should it not be again?
Before getting into the smoking, here's some of what I jotted down about the tin note and presentation—
Smells mostly of Latakia, but there's a dark leathery, woodsy scent in there that I'm supposing is from the cigar leaf. Maybe a grassy undertone too. All in all, wonderfully natural and bold.
You can tell Latakia will play a strong role just by looking at it. That is what I recall about the blend, but the prevalence of those dark brown ribbons says it plainly.
This one's ready to smoke on arrival, no dry time necessary.
The Latakia is upfront and immediate. Very smoky, but with a deep sweetness—a tangy barbeque note.
To my memory, Billy Budd was a pretty heavy blend. It's certainly full bodied, but I recalled more strength. It's by no means weak, but I found it to have one of the heavier nic-hits that I'd experienced at the time and now, I would put it around medium. But the flavor is dense.
The Latakia dominates, I don't pick much else out. Although, there's a dark earthiness that I think the cigar leaf is imparting. It seems the cigar leaf doesn't contrast with the Latakia so much as it melds with it for an emergent flavor that gives Billy Budd a personality beyond being any ol' Lat bomb.
I also get a bit of nutty flavor from the Burley, not consistently, but it shines through from time to time. Although subtle in taste, the Burley certainly must be lending to the blend's significant body.
It seems that sometimes strong blends have a "sharp" strength that's defined by a heavy nic-hit. So I would say Billy Budd is a good bet for anyone who loves a strong blend in all terms, robust in strength and flavor.
One thing I've been enjoying about this week's blends is taking the opportunity to use this Sasieni I cleaned up a few weeks back.
A few weeks ago, I went to the antique mall hoping to walk away with a new project. The clencher that I am, I'm all about a nice petite Billiard, so this caked up pipe was calling my name. The stamp was barely legible but as I cleaned it up, a bit more definition came through. Turns out it was a Sasieni One Dot—big thanks to pipe forum friends for helping me confirm this! It took an awful lot of careful reaming, but it cleaned up very nicely. A pretty cool find, and a very fun restoration.
Now, until recently, I hadn't concerned myself much with pipe dedicating. That is, keeping a pipe exclusive to one genre of blend. But I've decided to dedicate a few to the more ghost-prone flavors like Latakia and heavily flavored Aromatics.
Naturally I determined that this old London-born bloke would be a great devotee to English blends.
This pipe has been a pleasure to smoke and Billy Budd is no exception.
Although I'm very much enjoying this blend, I can't say much else has developed in my impression of it. It's not so complex, but that of course doesn't mean it's uninteresting or unoriginal. Again, something about the union between the Latakia and cigar leaf brings about a unique, rich profile.
Ultimately, I think Billy Budd is fulfilling a niche perfectly. It can't be demerited for not doing what it isn't trying to; it knows what it is. And what is it? A hearty, bold tobacco blend—unsubtle, unpretentious, and tasty.
I have a suspicion that this would be a great blend to age. The Latakia is so potent, I can't imagine some mellowing is going to obscure it in the mix, and it would be interesting to see how everything settles with the marrying of flavors and dimming of the dominating Latakia—what else might come through? I do have some in my tobacco cellar right now, but with only about two months of age. Perhaps down the road I'll revisit Billy Budd in a column and we can see how it's changed.
Bailey's Front Porch
|A delightfully mild English blend featuring Burleys, bright Virginias, Latakia, as well as an ideal touch of Perique thrown in for a dash of spice. An amiable accompaniment for sitting on the porch on those late summer evenings.|
Now onto Bailey's Front Porch from the C & D Classic Series. I have to say, already after a few smokes, this one is difficult for me to get a read on. Right now it's one of those elusive profiles. We'll see if through the week the fog is lifted but I think this may be one I keep getting familiar with. I think I may have a Burley awakening that has yet to spring.
The tin note is pine-y and lightly smoky. It's crisp, reminds me of being in the woods on a cool morning. The appearance is similar to Billy Budd, a coarse cut with brown hues of many shades—plenty of dark strands from the Latakia and Perique. Some clumps I break up before packing.
Bailey's Front Porch also comes quite dry, I just packed it up and gave it a light. Takes a flame easily.
I packed up my Tsuge E-Star Nine 66. I like getting some leaf down to small particles. I know a lot of folks talk about putting the little bits on top for an easier light, which I do as well, but also will layer the shake (to borrow some green jargon) throughout stages of packing. I don't always, but I feel it helps with burn consistency, so when the leaf lends itself this much to the technique, may as well.
Bailey's Front Porch certainly is its own blend. Latakia and Perique you never have to go looking for are nonetheless accents to the tangy, sweet, grassy golden Virginias beneath earthy, nutty Burley. The Perique has a dark fruit note early on.
Here's a note I jotted down amid my first bowl—
Burley up front, dark fruit from the Perique I imagine, but not much spice, surprisingly not much nic.
And after that bowl—
Fruitiness faded and light spice developed as the Burley strength blossomed. I didn't really notice it develop, kind of like that frog in hot water saying. I just took a puff and thought, "oh, what did I miss? When did this happen?" Not because it happened fast, but I was just at ease. Is this what it is to be on Bailey's front porch? Rocking and posing for a pastoral painting? Lovely.
Obviously, I was feeling a little goofy. Anyway, it was a very solid first impression, but with subsequent smokes, it was a little different. That fruitiness I mention seems elusive. We'll see what happens next—I'm gonna hold off on any stats, but I'll just say strength is medium.
I just got in from throwing the ball with the pup (well, pup at heart), my boy Bishop. Most days we'll go out to a fenced area by my apartment—I'll have a pipe, he'll have a fetch. It's our favorite way to wind down the day. I had my headphones and a cold beer. It's March 2nd, what would be Lou Reed's 80th birthday, so I listened to his 1972 classic Transformer start to finish.
Bish and I always have a great time out here, but something about this warm, breezy, overcast evening is especially pleasant. Why? Probably the same reason sometimes you smoke a pipe and it really sings. You can try to replicate every variable—the pipe, tobacco, location, activity—but there are no guarantees. When it's right it's right, and it's the toss up that is honestly one of my favorite things about smoking a pipe.
That bowl of Bailey's Front Porch was an honest to goodness exceptional smoke.
My sense of this blend is definitely taking some time to open up. When it's on it's on. It's the slow and steady sips that really give it room to shine and display its nuances, and I know I've sabotaged my own satisfaction a few times this week with a mindless cadence.
My experience with Burley dominant blends is limited, and I think my palate hasn't come around to the nuance that's there. I remember a time that Virginias were like that for me, but I fell in love with a couple VaPers and straight Virginias and it's a whole new world.
One Burley blend I enjoy is another from Cornell & Diehl, Haunted Bookshop. I remember that mixture "coming around" with time, so I'm going to keep puffing away on Bailey's Front Porch (if he'll have me).
Afterall, both Bailey's and Bookshop were blended by the late great Bob Runowski. As I understand it, Runowski was a master blender with an erudite knowledge of Burley. In fact, I'm packing one more now for Mr. Runowski, and await my Burley awakening the way a pipe smoker should—patiently and taking in the journey.
Until Next Time...
I'm having a blast with these pieces and have even had some folks reach out with kind words. I am very thankful.
Feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos? Bring em' 'ere — GregR@TobaccoPipes.com