Monday, April 06, 2015

Spring Is For Virginias!

After a particularly brutal Winter, those of us on the East Coast are beginning to enjoy the initial signs of Spring. This year, along with the warmer days, I am introducing some new "Porch Sippers" to my blend rotation.  These blends are all of the Virginia persuasion...and boy do they hit the spot!

The first new blend is Cornell and Diehl's "Virginia Flake".  It looks, smells, feels, and sounds (it's crunchy!) like granola. Nice straight Lemon Virginia with some sweet, tart, tangy, and mellow flavors. Easy loading, easy burning, and easy puffing.  It burns down to the heel in a grey powdery ash with no goop, glop, or gunk.

The next blend, also from Cornell and Diehl, is "Virginia Gentleman".  While primarily a Lemon Virginia, it includes just the right amount of Burley and Turkish tobacco.  Very easy to load, light, and puff, this blend is more balanced and mellow with subtle flavors.  This one is wonderful to slowly sip outside...or anywhere!

The final new blend is Mac Baren's new "Modern Virginia Loose Cut".  This is the only one, of the three, that has any toppings. MBMV has a subtle apricot pineapple flavoring, but Mac Baren has done this one so well that it all works very well.  It loads, lights, and puffs easy. The flavors are mild and mellow.  I am going to be smoking this blend regularly!

The Cornell and Diehl blends are sold in bulk, and they cost under $25.00 per pound.  The Mac Baren Modern Virginia is sold in 3.5-oz. tins, and there is also a tinned flake version!  With great tobaccos like these, this Spring will be enjoyed with plenty of good "porch sipping"!

Friday, February 27, 2015

What I Hate About Tobacco Reviews

I am not speaking about the web site, but tobacco reviews in general.  I have been smoking pipes since the ripe old age of 15, and that was back in 1981.  That's a lot of burning leaves in the bowl! Looking back, I can honestly say that I could not accurately describe, let alone appreciate, a blend until my third or fourth year of pipe smoking.   Let's face it, there is a learning curve that goes with this fine art, and it cannot be rushed or skipped if one wants to be able to get the most enjoyment out of the pipe.  

There are many variables that affect our reception and appreciation for a good bowl of tobacco. The palate must be "seasoned" to be able to distinguish the many nuances of the variety of tobaccos we smoke.  This takes time, as it does with any new introduction to our tastes.  Just as one learns to taste and appreciate a fine bourbon, time and experience are the teachers.  

This same principle applies when learning a new blend.  Even the most experienced smokers will need to smoke several bowls, preferably in a variety of pipes, in order to be able to accurately describe the characteristics. flavors and temperament of a new blend.  The general rule is one full tin of 50 or 100 grams to be able to learn a blend, but again...variables.

So, onto my point regarding tobacco reviews, I've been seeing a lot of them that begin with one of the three phrases:
  • "I'm a brand new smoker"
  • "I smoked one bowl of this blend"
  • "I despise (Latakia/English/VA/VAPer/Aromatics/Burley) but I am reviewing this anyway"
Seeing one (or more!) of these, in a review (usually at the beginning) is a major red flag for me, and should be for you too!  How can a brand new pipe smoker fairly review a blend that they cannot even understand?  I have seen some outrageous comments, from new smokers, about some classic blends that would have made me laugh, but the realization that someone might be swayed from the blend makes it something very bad.  One example is the one where a "reviewer" compared a VAPer to a "bowl of flaming Habanero  peppers".  The same goes for the one who smokes one pipeful of a new blend and immediately passes judgment ("This blend sucks!").  Lastly, if you dislike a certain type of blend, then why are you reviewing one?  Does it surprise anyone when the "reviewer" writes "I hate aromatics, but I got a sample of one so I am reviewing it here...this blend sucks!"?

Given the narcissistic nature of Internet commenting, it seems that a lot of people like to think of themselves as critics.  How about you?  I'd love to hear some opinions on this topic.