This week it’s all bulk, baby. Jar it and char it as I always say.
Alright, that's the first time I’ve said that but I might start.
This week I enjoyed some Newminster 403 Superior Round Slice—my dive into Dark Fired Kentucky goes on. This will be my first time with this blend, or any Newminster blend for that matter.
I was also pleased to return to Balkan Sobranie Match—made right below my feet in the Sutliff factory. I had some Balkan Sobranie Match a few months ago. Didn’t find any journal notes of early impressions but I know I enjoyed it quite a bit.
I certainly enjoyed it this week. Both of these blends were treats.
403 Superior Round Slice
|This is where I would usually put the tin description or paste the manufacturer's blurb about the relevant blend. I have neither so I'll take this opportunity to request you don't judge my sloppy cursive too harshly.|
403 should be a fun blend as it’s not of a family I have a lot of experience with. In fact, component-wise, last week’s Irish Whiskey may be my closest past smoke—which had Burley and whiskey flavoring joining the Virginia and Dark-Fired Kentucky.
As I understand it, Kentucky is a powerful, little-goes-a-long-way condiment much like Latakia or Perique, though perhaps a bit overshadowed by those. Nonetheless, Kentucky is used in plenty of popular blends for that fire-cured, smoky, robust flavor. But unlike Latakia, which is the fire-cured result of nicotine-light Oriental tobacco, Kentucky brings some weight in the strength department as well.
Just as the chores of the day were finished and I got the opportunity to enjoy a smoke, wouldn't you know the rain ceased and I had a beautiful, warm evening to sit out with a book, a new blend, and puff away.
A few hours earlier I had moved the coins to a jar. They had a good deal of moisture, so I rubbed a few out and let the tobacco dry for just shy of two hours or so before I moved it to a tin. I hold on to twist-tins from past mixtures as convenient, compact cases for on-the-go.
The only other curly cut I've had is Escudo, which I loved. Escudo's coins were surprisingly pristine and neat in the tin, 403's are shaggy and some already partially rubbed out. But you would expect that from tumbling around in bulk, and besides, it wasn't the neatness that I loved about Escudo anyway. I'll sometimes roll a coin up into a sort of ball for the bottom of the chamber, and there's certainly enough of them intact to do so.
The rope that's cut to make these coins is Dark Fired Kentucky wrapped in Virginias, so once sliced, they have a sort of bullseye look. The Kentucky makes for a dark center in an eddy of brown and reddish leaf with blonde streaks like the poor victim of an intern hair stylist (that's how I think Carrie Bradshaw would write a tobacco column. Okay I'll stick to my own voice).
From my notes on the tin note:
Hay, grassy. Don't get too much spice.
I'm all set up out in the courtyard with my Leonard Cohen poetry book and my Nuttens Bing Heritage II. Despite what any passersby may think, I am in fact fun at parties.
(Don't mind the cacti, I assure you this is Virginia.)
Spice from the Dark Fired Kentucky is the first thing I get, right to the sinus. Not abrasive, but stimulating. It quickly evens out with a warm, honey taste. I like this, not only tasty but it has that pervasiveness of honey. Not as in the flavor is dominant, but it lands on the palate beyond the tip of the tongue—it balances out the profile.
This mixture burns slowly but keeps lit well. Several times I think that I should give it a tamp just to find the tobacco has hardly burned down.
The Virginia's are grassy, slightly wheat-y, with a tang that lingers below the Kentucky's spicy, olfactory presence.
403 has a medium nicotine hit, but I'd say it has a bit more strength from the mouthfeel. It coats the palate pretty good as you go. From my notes:
The honey seemed to fade, but I had some water and a lot of the nuance came back. Remember to keep sipping for this blend.
You have to be wary of tongue bite with Newminster 403. The bite isn't inevitable (for me anyway, but that's just my chemistry), but it cautions the tip of the tongue, gives it some warnings. That's okay, that's just the tobacco reminding you where the flavor is—in a slow, steady cadence.
If not for avoiding tongue bite, you ought to keep that draw gentle for this blend for the taste. It's not a complex blend, and keeping consistency takes a bit of attention: tamping, cadence, drinking—all that. Aside from the potential for tongue bite, going too fast can muddle the nuance of the Virginias, but it's well worth the balancing act.
Had my last smoke of Newminster 403 tonight before I'll be putting the column together tomorrow. It was a very nice, mild night so I went to a friend's place to sit outside and have a few drinks. I packed my Georg Jensen Granat 78 with Superior Slices and enjoyed myself.
My last thoughts on this one—Newminster plays the middle-ground well, which sometimes is exactly what you want. Or I know I do. Not super complex, but the flavors are mutually complimentative and contrasting. The profile still gives you something to sift through, to pull around the palate and sit with. It has strength, may not be an all day smoke, but it's not a knockout. It has flavor, but not bursting with it. All things in balance here.
I've slightly adjusted, one less for strength, one more for taste. As I got more familiar and attuned to the blend, I was getting more out of the subtle Virginia notes, and a more tame spice from the Dark Fire.
Balkan Sobranie Match
|No blurb for this one either. And I do realize my marker for my jar labels is drying out.|
Next we have Balkan Sobranie Original Mixture Match from Sutliff. This is yet another recreation of a House of Sobranie classic by Russ Ouellette. Well, it's really a recreation of the House of Sobranie classic. The first column in this series delt with another of Ouellette's homages to Sobranie, Bengal Slices.
Sobranie Match has a strong Latakia tin note—it's smoky, earthy, and slightly leathery.
The contrast between the shades of leaf is especially stark. A large portion of dark Latakia flakes against lighter browns, bright Virginias. It's dry and ready to pack.
Although it's dry, the small ribbons are coarse and stiff, not brittle.
This is one of those blends that I'll give a charring light to, tamp, and pack a little more on top. Though it doesn't seem loosely packed, the stiffness of the leaf leaves more airflow, which of course you want a good deal of, but not without a little resistance. Once the leaf takes the light from the initial char, it softens and lies down. I'll give a gentle tamp and add some on top.
This time I'm lighting up my leather-bound Longchamp straight Billiard.
The Latakia is very of the dry, woody profile but doesn’t get too much in the sinus. The Orientals are felt there–—nutty, buttery, and quite floral. I guess this is where that distinction lies between Balkan and English, to whatever extent there is one. But I don’t know how much that’s worth dwelling on. A slight sourness from the Orientals surfaces.
Latakia covers more of the Orientals through the smoke, very campfire-y, although today I am not coming with a very fresh palate. I suspect a little more nuance, i.e. room for Virginia and Oriental subtleties to come through when my tongue is a little less affected.
Burns easily, if not a little quickly, but I think I could bear to have packed it a wee bit denser.
I just can’t abide an English that doesn’t have a great retrohale, and luckily, that is no worry for me with Sobranie Match. It's leathery, sort of oak-y when through the olfactory. But smooth, very smooth.
Somewhere deep and hidden in the profile I think I get an almost anise note, maybe just a bit of fruit from the Virginias interacting with the woody flavors.
I get the hint of a slight hay base from the Virginia, but it seems like most of its role may be supporting emergent flavors. Not so much differentiating itself from the Oriental and Latakia.
I notice I’ve frequently had to relight more as I get deeper down into the bowl. I think I’m very conscious of packing too tight because that was a problem for me early in my venture into pipe smoking, and now I’m having trouble judging with Sobranie Match. I started doing cold draws through the packing process, maybe each third of the way packed, and that helped get a sense of how much more I could afford to pack.
Hartwell is judging me. He never needs to relight.
Flavorful and dynamic. One of my favorites of this style. I’m surprised I didn’t get more after my initial run-in with Balkan Sobranie Match. I did have my first taste of Arango’s Balkan Supreme in the same haul, which I did reorder, so perhaps I just choose one as not to concentrate too narrowly. There isn’t really anything that I don’t want to try, it’s just my way. But Sobranie Match was well worth the return.
Until Next Time...
There's little more satisfying than an amazing bulk blend. I love a tin, there's just something classic about it. But a good blend you can get a few ounces of for a few bucks? Wonderful. And this week we had two. Good deal.
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos—GregR@TobaccoPipes.com.
Jar it and char it