Among pipe smokers, the Virginia/Perique genre retains a perennial appeal because it mixes the sweetness of Virginia varietals with the tangy fruitiness of fermented Perique, creating a unique flavor that provides a nice transition from the monolithic sweetness of aromatics into the world of natural tobaccos.16 Comments
Long ago, there was Nicotiana Rustica which the Asian natives of the New World smoked in various forms. It had a taste like burnt squash when smoked and a potent blast of Nicotine. The Caucasian newcomers began to experiment with different cultivars of Nicotiana, and eventually settled on using Nicotiana Tabacum, a domesticated version from South America. (more…)2 Comments
When one traipses through the country outside of the lock-step conformist big cities, it behooves the pipe smoker to look for those varieties of tobacco favored in the less “civilized” areas of the world. This might bring one to Brenham, Texas, where the Brookshire Brothers grocery store offers up a unique and wonderful American tradition: the drive-thru Tobacco Barn.7 Comments
This enterprising blend combines a raft load of Latakia with a base of Burley and bright Virginia, then salts it with Maduro cigar leaf. This presents a challenge because the Burley and cigar leaf both present dark, rich flavors, in contrast to the sweet of the Virginia and the spice of Latakia. Like lower sounds, however, these dark flavors are stronger than sweet or spicy, which means that bowls of this burn in three levels: first, a friendly but slightly overwhelming Latakia spice; then, a smouldering Burley sensation with undertones of cigar leaf; finally, a merging of the flavors into a pleasant hum of lower registers, with the Latakia emerging as a slight alkaline flavor.
While Billy Budd has its charms, the Burley flavors dominate this blend after the Latakia boils off, which gives it a different flavor than its smell and breaks the balance established by harmony of its ingredients. Cornell & Diehl’s Burley is second to none, and many of us enjoy its rich and nutty flavor, sort of like a cedar-roasted chestnut. In theory, the higher flavors of Virginia and Latakia would balance this out and hide the cigar leaf so that it retained a “condiment” status, but in actuality, the cigar leaf becomes too present and the Burley dominates everything else. The rough cut of this blend, which has big chunks of moist Latakia in with shredded Burley and semi-ready-rubbed Virginia, means that flavors do not occur in a smooth transition as they do with the thinner ribbon cuts from, say, Dunhill. Further, little marriage of the flavors has occurred as happens with blends from Peterson for example. Those little “maturation” processes can make a huge difference, and here it is definitive. This blend has a good start but needs improvement.
Quality rating: 3/5
Purchase rating: 1/5
If you like strong English blends like Dunhill Nightcap, the full English offering plus Burley and strong Nicotine named Engine #99 from Cornell & Diehl should appeal to you as well. Where your standard English pipe tobacco comprises Virginia, Latakia and Oriental/Turkish strains, the Americanized English will add Burley and/or Perique as happens here. The result blends many textures into an identifiable form, much like a shag carpet turns all colors into a motion blur of difference.
In the case of Engine #99, the magic arises from the ability to restrain the incense-like Latakia with the more vinegar bittersweet Oriental tobaccos, then add some sweet and peppery Perique to thrust that forward, all while cruising on the base power of a mix of Burley and Virginia tobaccos. Like most blenders, Cornell & Diehl specialize in making many tobaccos out of a few ingredients, and they blend Engine #99 from the components of two other tobaccos, Red Odessa and Pirate Kake. This creates a tobacco of greater strength than most English tobaccos, but also more internal balance than the worst of them, similar to Dunhill Nightcap even if the ingredients differ with the omission of Burley in the the latter. As a result Engine #99 offers a velveteen full flavor with the Latakia and Orientals but smooths it out with the Burley and lets the Virginia, both sweet and powerful, do its work behind the scenes. This creates a tobacco suitable for all-day smoking if necessary but generally so intense in flavor and strength that it serves best as a coda to an event, if even the day itself.
Like most Cornell & Diehl blends, this recipe shows multiple stages of blending and treating the tobacco to not just marry it but ensure no jagged edges, even if part of the appeal of this tobacco is its over-the-top intensity. The components do not war with one another as they do with poorly conceived English knockoffs but instead harmonize with their differences balancing one another. Engine #99 does not take the English tobacco style anywhere it was not already going, but expands one of its paths to make the English flavor even more powerful. For this reason, it has cultivated an audience of English-lovers who nonetheless want more fire in their smoke and less of the sweet piquant nothing that many English tobaccos, under the influence of popular opinion, have become.
The pouch note of this tobacco summarizes the experience; in the words of one noted taster, “It smells like a brownie.” Rich burley mixes with a faint touch of vanilla and a dose of cocoa, which manifests in a smoke in which the nutty burley flavors form a continuum with the chocolate.
Prince Albert belongs to that predominantly American genre of semi-aromatics, meaning that while it has flavoring, it is more like a top casing than the soaking of fluid given to aromatics. A working definition of aromatic: any tobacco blend where the flavoring essentially overwhelms the tobacco. Semi-aromatics on the other hand — like Prince Albert — feature mostly tobacco flavor, complemented by a top note. This distinction, while seeming fragile, nonetheless conveys what this blend is about. If you like the taste of well-matured burley with a hint of sweetened cacao, Prince Albert will provide hours of complication-free — the dominant trait of over-the-counter (OTC) blends like this one — joyful puffing. It is worth taking the time, since this perennial favor packs relatively light nicotine, albeit more than many aromatics.
This blend is designed for all-day puffing by people otherwise busy at everyday tasks who enjoy keeping a pipe in the mouth for little sips of nicotine with a wholesome flavor. Some have noted that this rather dry tobacco mixes well with other blends, and this reviewer can confirm that the introduction of another more powerful seasoned burley makes for a flavorful and more sustaining experience. At its heart, however, Prince Albert stands alone as a whole experience: a packet you can grab at just about any drugstore, easily packed and lit, that burns evenly and exudes hours of gentle flavor and quietly excellent smoke.5 Comments