Now I have gotten grief for how I do my reviews (initial review after 3 or 4 bowls, followup at end of tin), but I find this most effective for me both to document my initial feelings about a blend, and then to compare it to my final opinion. So, for those of you “Doubting Thomas'” just remember, this is a journal of experiences, and I am not trying to be a professional reviewer like some other sites boast <grin>
The road to trying this blend was an interesting one. I found it sitting on the shelf of The Tinder Box, a local store we have in the area. They most certainly focus on cigars and cigar accessories, but oddly enough they have a pretty decent selection of tinned pipe tobacco. While browsing the shelves one afternoon I noticed this neat little tin sitting there. It had an English guy on the front, and English name and seemed like it should be a good English blend, and it was on sale for $6.50 a tin. There was also about 12 tins sitting on the shelf, so it seemed to me that maybe this was just a rather unknown blend in our area. It is also not odd to find some really old tins there as they don’t seem to get much pipe smoker traffic in the shop. So, I moved on to my next step in the process.
I tend to make buying tobacco complicated. One might think that for $6.50 a tin, I should have just grabbed it and nothing gained nothing lost if it turned out to be bad. I however tend to be a bit more frugal, and don’t like wasting money on bad tobacco. If I’m gonna spend it, even a measly $6.50, it better be worth it in my mind. Many would say that we burn our money on tobacco as it is, I don’t want to feel like its any more literal. So, I researched the blend on-line, browsing reviews, asking around in the #pipes chat room. The reviews were rather mixed, but I tend to not take total stock in a review until I try something myself. As I have said before, everyones tastes are different, so who knows, this could have been “the” blend for me. Many in the chat room are familiar with the manufacturer, and commented that they produce some good weed. So my mind was made up.
I was in the area today, so I decided to stop and pick up a tin. I gladly handed over $18.00 for a tin of King Charles Smoking Mixture and a tin of Dunhill 965. I quickly returned to my truck and immediately opened the tin. I had every intention of enjoying this, and I was not waiting. I first observed that the seal was certainly intact as I could hear the “whoosh” when I popped the lid. The label says that this blend is “straight Virginia’s, Orientals and Latakia, with no added flavors…”. The tobacco was well packed in the tin, actually had formed a solid little block inside the cellophane. There was a sweet fermented smell to it, not a bad smell at all, but different. My guess would be a combination of the Virginia’s and the Orientals. The Latakia does not stand out in the tin aroma at all, it seems non-existent. The cut is ribbon, almost shaggy, but not a fine cut. There is a shininess to the tobacco, I think I detect the presence of sugar crystals, but I cant be sure. My guess is that this tin has been around for awhile.
So, I decided I was going to pack and fire up a bowl right there. I grabbed a little bit of the tobacco, broke it from the neat little block and packed up my Kalnitz Dublin. The tobacco is a little moist, and in all fairness could probably use a little drying time before smoking. Even without that, it lit rather well. Unfortunately, this is where the enjoyable part of the experience ended. This did not have a good flavor to it at all, as a matter of fact, it was rather one dimensional. I tend to expect in a blend like this that at least one of the components will stand out, or that all of them will compliment each other. This didn’t happen, and I found this blend to be overly mild. There was not noticeable Virginia contribution, the Orientals seemed to be hiding and the Latakia must have been on vacation. All I seemed to get was smoke and not even hot air. This could be compared to puffing on an Ultra Light cigarette, and I was left wanting to crack the tin of Dunhill 965. In addition to the lack of flavor, which for the record made a repeat performance in the 2 subsequent bowls I smoked throughout the evening, the room note was REALLY bad. My other half has been able to handle all varieties of Latakia, with the occasional, “It smells like a campfire, but its not a bad thing”. This blend was compared to burning garbage, which in my book can not be viewed as even remotely favorable.
I’m in a pickle with this blend. Normally I will finish up a tin, even if the initial experience was not all that favorable. There are the arguments that you need to allow your taste buds to get used to the blend, that the pipe needs a few bowls to really allow a blend to shine, or even that a pipe should be dedicated, or a meerschaum used to get the true flavors of the tobacco. However, after discussing this with a friend who’s opinion I value, I’m not sure if I’m willing to go that distance. My friend made the wise statement that “Life is too short to waste time on bad tobacco”. For the first time in my tobacco experiences, I think I might agree.
At the very least, I will toss this tin on my smoking table and if I’m feeling generous give it another go in a month maybe. I had hoped this blend would be agreeable. For $6.50 a tin, and a healthy stock of what seem like rather old tins sitting on the shelf of a local b&m, this could have been a great find. Unfortunately, I have been left feeling like I would have been better off buying any number of tobacco’s in its place. Even $6.50 can get you an ounce or so of some really good blends in bulk.
Current Rating: 2 out of 5 Pipes