Hello, hello—What I Smoked This Week apparently is nautical themed today. Why? I'm not sure—It's Friday, I'm hours from posting the column, and I just noticed.
|Latakia and Turkish are added to our Blockade Runner Navy Cavendish (Virginias soaked and aged in Rum) to produce a true Royal Navy blend. Pressed and cut into an old fashioned crumble cake.
So Black Frigate is actually a revisit for me, though it's been some time. From my recollection, it was one I didn't see so much as an "English," but that's how it seems to usually be categorized. With Turkish and most of all Latakia, it certainly makes sense, but I remember thinking it didn't seem to have a family. Kind of as you'd expect from the lore of an old seaman. Although at the time I last smoked Black Frigate, I didn't have experience with all that many blends, so let's see if that's changed at all.
I notice the rum top flavoring right away, accompanied by smoky Latakia—very much an earthy aroma.
The crumble cake easily breaks off—I stuff it in my Molina Barasso 108 without rubbing it out, but I do break some up to layer the surface.
The top flavoring is immediate, but once it gets going the rum settles back and the earthy, slightly sour Orientals seem to be up front. That Latakia is there, but subtle—I can see why I didn't get an "English" sense form this one. It does have that leather and musk of English blends, which the rum is a wonderful accent to, but it isn't especially smoky.
Well, not in flavor—in volume however, the Black Cavendish does what you'd expect and thickens the smoke very nicely over the palate.
Not much of a nic hit here, which I guess you'd expect. Usually you're looking to the Virginias to add a little strength in the nicotine department with an English. But with the Cavendish process, much of the nicotine is reduced with the removal of the leaf's natural oils.
But considering strength beyond nic hit, there's some weight here, and the Cavendish helps throw it around a bit.
As I've continued smoking Black Frigate, I've found there's more happening at the base than previously noted. I'm getting a bit more of the Virginia Cavendish's sweet and grassy flavors. With some smokes, the rum is a bit distracting, other times, not so much and that's when I can really, get a good sense of the complexities of this one. For me, Black Frigate seems to be a blend that calls for the right pipe, so I'm changing it up quite often.
It seems to be a good match for my Molina Tromba 102. It's an apple shape with a decent sized chamber diameter, so perhaps that helps to not concentrate the top flavoring so much.
This is my only pipe with very wide of a chamber, I often tell myself to find one for my next purchase but then some other thing catches my eye and well—you know how it goes.
Black Frigate is an earthy blend but it's smooth, it's a topped blend but it's dynamic. Smoking this one has made me very curious about trying Blockade Runner, which is Black Frigate without the Latakia and Orientals.
I think my week with Black Frigate was a good reminder to myself of why it's always fun to return to a blend even if it didn't become a staple in the ol' cupboard. Especially those that I had early on in my pipe smoking, when my palate definitely wasn't picking up on things like the subtle Virginia Cavendish beneath its topping.
Original Navy Flake
|Ripe Virginia tobaccos have been selected for this blend. The citrus and grassy notes act amazingly together with the natural sweetness from the Virginia tobacco. A must try for everybody who appreciates a good, straight forward Virginia
I think the best way to enjoy a good Virginia is outside on a warm Virginia day, and that's just how I enjoyed my first bowl of Capstan.
I had just returned from a little Saturday morning antiquing. I found a few pipes I'm excited to start working on. From left to right: Duke of Dundee, Austin, and Bertram. Hopefully I can update next week with them lookin' a little more pretty.
Anyway, usually this is more of a ritual that pulls me toward a book, but today I'm in the mood for music. Earlier in the day I saw a Sister Rosetta Tharpe performance posted somewhere in honor of her 107th birthday. The Godmother of Rock 'n' Roll spent of few years here in Richmond. From reading her biography last year, I knew she once lived in Northside, which is where I was. Before leaving the antique store I looked it up—only a mile away.
So I thought, why not roll by. No plague or notion that a pioneer of the guitar and music in general once lived there, just someone else's house, so I roll on by like a not at all creepy person.
This is all just to say, I got home, grabbed my headphones, pipe, and Capstan, and enjoyed my first bowl to Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Live in 1960. It was the right ambiance to find a new beloved blend.
The tin note is on the grassy and hay side of Virginias, not really the sweet honey, citrus you might get. I had already broken up some flakes to sit out a bit—they didn't come super moist, just about what you could expect from a flake, and they were perfect now.
Original Navy Flake has a mellow sweetness, but true to the tin note, it a grassy Virginia. There's a slight tang and seems to be a hit of top flavor. Tonquin bean? It reminds me a bit of Samuel Gawith's Sam's Flake.
It has an easy, slow burn. A few puffs in sees a dark fruit note, not on the sweet side. There's a subtle citrus that is very nice. All in all, seems to hit the notes you'd expect of a Straight Virginia, but leaning more to the earth-y darker characteristics than the sweet and fruity. Just very natural.
I almost don't like that word—natural—as a descriptor for an overall blend. By which I mean, it lends specificity when talking about a "natural sweetness," or a "natural fruity flavor," to convey "not in a candy way." Unless talking about an Aromatic where one might expect a lack of "naturalness," it seems incredibly vague to just call a blend natural. But in this case, it really is just what comes to mind. So I'm committing to it.
From a note:
Capstan has a bready-ness, but not really toasty like I find Orlik Golden Slices to be.
I think this would be a fantastic first Virginia for a new pipe smoker looking to explore the genre. It doesn't get very hot. I mean, it's a Virginia—if you draw on it like a thick milkshake, you won't taste for a week. But it's a very gentle Virginia, you keep a decently slow cadence and you're good. My first Virginia was Mac Baren's no. 1 and oh boy, I don't know if I knew what tongue bite was before that. I do love it now, but that time I just torched that golden leaf with my Bic—many lessons were learned that afternoon (and even more brushing my teeth that evening).
Capstan has a lovely taste, but it's not heavy mouthfeel. While it doesn't have a lot of weight in body, it does interact with the whole palate. It's a light sheet, not a comforter—a dusting, not a snowstorm.
If you like getting creative, I think Capstan Original Navy Flake would be a great one to experiment with—I'd like to get just a little Perique and mix them up, give it a little time to marry and see what I get. I oughta keep some components handy for such tinkering. I do have some Izmir Turkish from Cornell & Diehl's Blender Series, so maybe I'll rub out a little Capstan and see what comes of those two jarred up. This is a relatively new fascination of mine, I'm still very much of the throw things at the wall, see what sticks methodology. But Capstan reminds me of vanilla ice cream. I love a sundae—some fudge, whip cream, a cherry. But I can be in heaven with straight vanilla too, and depending on what I'm in the mood for, it can be my preference. This is some good vanilla.
I'll leave you with a note I made during my last smoke, and (I'm sorry but) one more of my silly metaphors.
Capstan—very consistent. Throughout smokes and from smoke to smoke. It didn't show me anything new about itself through the week, but that's a nice thing. I love a wildcard friend that keeps you on your toes as much as a predictable friend that gives you something solid to hold onto.
Until Next Time...
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos—GregR@TobaccoPipes.com.
Thanks for reading, and remember...
Don't set sail without your wind cap.