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My Top Three Tobaccos

February 17, 2011

Well, at least, for the moment!

I don’t often do, nor do I read, tobacco reviews. This is mainly because of the simple fact, that what I find very nice will be absolutely awful to others and vice versa. Tastes differ and eventually change with time and experience. And my palate is no exception to that rule. I started out, as do many others, smoking aromatic tobaccos. I was very fond of W.Ø.Larsens no. 50 at one point. I loved the stuff, much to the distaste, or was that disgust (?) of my fellow pipesters at my club. It tasted and smelled of vanilla and caramel.
All that changed when a friend from the USA came to Denmark and presented me with a half pound of fresh Virginia tobacco. He happens to live close to a tobacco plantation in the Sovereign State of Virginia and this stuff came straight from the barn. Rough cut and ready rubbed, it was absolutely delightful and my horizons were immediately opened to the world of Virginian tobacco. I dabbled a bit with various latakia mixtures but had to admit in the end, I’m a Virginia kind of guy! I no longer smoke aromatics and the latakia has been laid to the back of the shelf of my tobacco assortment. Needless to say, my wife is pleased by that singular development and doesn’t miss the latakia smell in the living room, even though she never complained. Bless her.

I have discovered that Virginia is not only the sweetest of tobaccos due to its high sugar content, but also that it can vary greatly in strength. Both flavour and nicotine content can also vary and I’m pretty sure that treatment of the tobacco has its own influence. After a good deal of experiment in the past two or three years, I have now settled for these three.

IMG_3983All three are from Poul Olsens “My Own Blend”, which is now a subsidiary of the Scandinavian Tobacco Group. See, even though they can’t advertise here because Nanny State won’t allow it, I can give ‘em a write up if I so please. Damn the anti-smoking brigade.
These three Virginia flakes vary in taste and strength. The strongest taste is definitely the Vintage Flake and I must admit, I can’t have it in a large bowl. It overpowers me. Which makes me wonder, if it doesn’t also have the highest nicotine content. Sweet as a nut and very satisfying. I can’t take this one late in the evening. I lie awake all night if I do!

No. 43 has a reputation for being the heaviest tobacco, nicotine wise, but I find it to be mellow in the pipe and makes for a great all day smoking tobacco. It gathers sweetness as it progresses down the bowl but I have to be careful not to go at it with too much gusto. Smoked slowly, it’s a sweetheart but it can give a nasty bout of hiccups if one sets the cadence up!

No. 42. Ah, what can I say? Sweet, mellow all the way and almost as satisfying a smoke as you will find anywhere. Lighter in both colour and taste than 43 and a little less nicotine content. A perfect evening tobacco and the one I go to in the mornings. Truly, a go anywhere tobacco that never disappoints me.

Here’s a point. I don’t have much luck smoking flakes as flakes. I rub them out. Occasionally I will attempt to fold a flake and smoke it in one of my conically bored, thin walled pipes but I find it doesn’t burn as well and I have to work harder to keep it alive. Many believe that the tobacco has a different taste when smoked as a flake compared to it being rubbed out. If so, my particular palate cannot perceive this.

Horses for courses, I suppose. And like old horses, I know how I like my hay!

(The pipe in the picture? It’s a Mastro de Paja.)

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2011 21:29

    Great to read your post, Exile. I’m with you when it comes to changes in taste and palate. Many people would be horrified at what I used to smoke! Like you, I love Virginias, though I don’t know if I’ve ever had any that is straight from the barn.

    It was an eye opener. If I could get tobacco that fresh and good again, I’d buy all I could get!

  2. Arko permalink
    February 19, 2011 21:41

    I’ve come to a similar conclusion — I’m also a Virginia guy. I still like the occasional bowl of English/Balkan mixture, but I have come to strongly prefer the ‘straight’ Virginias and VaPers. The good thing is that all the tins of mixtures in my ‘cellar’ will be undisturbed in their aging (who knows, maybe my preferences will change again some day!).

    Hi Arko. Rest assured, your palate will change again. As will mine. For that reason alone, I have a little cellar of sorts. I’m sure I’ll be revisiting some of the old favourites before I’m finished. Old Gowrie has to be somewhere in the present mix too, but the three I named are leading the field at the moment.
    Hope to see you at the upcoming Danish Championships.

  3. Arko permalink
    February 20, 2011 01:38

    I’ll be there — not in the competition though. Just hanging out, puffin’ away on a truckload of baccy.

    Looking forward to see you again, my friend!

  4. February 25, 2011 14:08

    Excellent choice of tobaccos! A man simply cannot go wrong with a quality Virginia. I’ve noticed as of late, my taste buds have found they like a little Perique with my Virginia’s as well.


    Hi Dean. Thanks for your approval..!! I visited your blog too. I’m going to allow it to stand here and will put you on my links page at the next update.

  5. W. Gallagher permalink
    April 19, 2011 19:10

    I agree with you that discovering Virginia pipe tobaccos can be a revelation (not that “brand”, of course). What do you think about Vapers? (mentioned by Dean above, Specifically, Escudo? Or are there others of that type that you prefer?

    Vapers (Virginia and Perique, for the uninitiated) have their appeal but, for the moment, I’m on the Va train and deliriously happy with them. Perique will give that extra nicotine kick though, and that has its place too. Escudo is unfornately dead and gone, although, there is a substitute available here. MOB’s “Big Coin”. However, that lacks something compared to the original.

  6. April 27, 2011 17:41

    Paul Olsen has extremely good blends for latakia-lovers too. I am addicted to My Own Blend “Haddock”. It contains latakia (60%), virginia, cavendish, perique and oriental.

  7. noflex permalink
    July 21, 2011 05:43

    Very nice top 3. All of them are very good, I also have vintage flake in my top 3. but second to #222 Flake as no 1. and W.Ø Larsen Shamrock as 3. When i feel like some VA/Per i go for #111 Flake it work great for me, but as you write, we all have differ in taste. Have a great one.

  8. Peter A. Dall, sr permalink
    June 3, 2012 04:11

    As a pipesmoker for over 50 years, I am always amused at the comment, “I have found the perfect pipe tobacco”…OK, well give a few days or weeks and that will most likely change…and keep changing, it will. Many years ago I realized that there probably isn’t a tobacco that sits at the top very long.

    Perhaps because I started so young (age 9 years) and have never stopped pipe smoking, I was fortunate to try many tobaccos in the late 50’s and 60’s that are no longer available. I “cut my teeth” on matured virginia plug tobaccos and virginia mixtures/blends, and to this day my overall preference is for that type of tobacco. I do enjoy Balkan, English, and Oriental tobaccos as well, and even some of the old “drug-store” types. My first year of pipe smoking was confined to Prince Albert and Sir Walter Reliegh and I still keep a few tins cellered.

    However, many years ago, I realized that the quest for that “one” tobacco, would never happen for me…it was never about that “one” tobacco, but rather it is the continuing journey in enjoying the many tobaccos available. Of course, like many, I do miss many of the fine pipe tobaccos no longer available, but I also have enjoyed some of the “newer” tobaccos available today and in re-visiting some of the older brands still with us.

    So, when somone asks, “what’s the best tobacco out there”? I smile and say, “I don’t know…explore what you can, and enjoy the journey” !

    I couldn’t agree more Peter. Which is why I started my post with those few words about “for the moment”. Tastes will, and do, change and that is exactly what makes this journey exciting. I was just given an old tin of Balkan Leaf. I wasn’t expecting anything wonderful from it but it smokes well and has a deep rich flavour to it. Smoking a medium virginia afterwards seemed a bit “thin”..!
    Many thanks for your comment. Nice to have some experience weighing in. And a continued good journey to you Sir.

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