Category Archives: Tobacco Reviews

GQ Blends Classic Balkan (Izmir): an oriental delight

If you enjoy Balkan blends (and can get it) this should be on your “list”!

Smoking Jacket Magazine

This is the second blend from GQ Blends that our editor kindly sent to me for review. The last few weeks of fighting a sinus infection have been near torture with this pouch laying in wait for me to be able to try out. I am a big fan of Balkan blends, but not-so-much of Latakia bombs, so I expected I would really enjoy this blend.

I decided to totally “wing it” on this one, opting to not look up the description on Glynn’s website. I figured the name told me all I needed to know to start out. Only after smoking it, making my notes, and then preparing to write this article did I read the description of the blend. What I found explained a lot of what I tasted. I’ll go ahead and share what I found on Glynn’s websight now and I think you’ll see how it…

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Samuel Gawith’s Squadron Leader: tobacco review 

Samuel Gawith’s Squadron Leader Flies HighAfter reading more than one post singing the praises of Samuel Gawith’s Squadron Leader and learning it was more of a Balkan blend, not a Latakia-bomb, and knowing my general fondness for Samuel Gawith’s blends, I began to watch for a chance to pick some up. The description says: “Bright and Dark Virginias blended together with […]

Squadron Leader, Pipe Tobacco, Samuel Gawith, Balkan, pipe

Cerberus: a tobacco review 

Cerberus: The Three-Headed Dog without a BiteI was quite excited when I opened the package from Erin; first I had received a blend that I’d been curious    to try for some time and secondly it was dated 10/18/14, already aged over two years! The tin had traveled quite a distance and was rather cold when I opened the package so […]

Review, tobacco, Cerberus, pipe

Peterson University Flake: a lesson in subjectivity

Just after the first of the year a new tobacconist opened in my area. Though they are primarily a cigar store, the last few months they’ve started really delving into pipes and pipe tobacco, giving me a new choice to shop locally; they are about 20 minutes away so it’s not very often I get […]

Reiner Blend No. 71 Long Golden Flake

A lovely blend any Virginia lover should consider.

Smoking Jacket Magazine

12000106_1027662030598270_1103618288_nBy Greg Wolford

I picked up a tin of this at a B&M in South Carolina on vacation last month. It was dented but still sealed well and marked half off; I figured I couldn’t go wrong with 3.5 ounces of mostly-Virginia flakes for under $15 so I picked it up.

The paint can style tin had been opened a week or so ago by my son but both the metal and plastic lids had been replaced he told me a few days ago. I know these types of tins are supposed to hold moisture well after opening but, still, I wanted to get it jarred up properly.

When I opened the tin I saw these huge, beautiful flakes that smelled of pure hay; a very nice Virginia tin note. Though it had been opened the tin did its job; I found the tobacco to be at the perfect moisture…

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Tobacco Review – Burlington on Whyte’s Montego Bay Blend

The website, describes this great tasting tobacco as a unique earthy but sweet, herbal tobacco. While in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada I visited the shop and was able to open various jars of house tobacco and get a feel for the aromas and look of the tobacco. I spoke with the house blender, Chris and described the kind of tobaccos that I like, particularly Virginias and Virginia Perique blends. At the price of Canadian tobacco I did not want to make a mistake and pick up a blend that I would hate.

I opened the jar of Montego Bay and sniffed the aroma. The look was of a mottled light and darker brown ribbon cut tobaccos blended together. The smell was of a sweet, pungent Virginia, the grassy undertones but on top of that there was a subtle sweetness in the smell. I asked Chris if the tobacco had any topping and he assured me that it did not. The aroma was from the blend itself not from toppings.


I purchased 50 grams of the blend and left the shop. Over the rest of my trip I smoked the blend in an old bent pipe that I always use when I travel. It is a Virginia pipe and it always delivers a good smoke for me. The sweetness was subtle and the good Virginias – both red and yellow came through beautifully. I liked that aspect of the blend a lot but there were two unidentifiable tastes that haunted me with each smoke. In my hotel room I looked at the blend in a bright light and I could see flecks of green in the blend. I separated a few of them out and put them on my tongue. Ah, I knew what I tasted – it was an herb called Deer’s Tongue. It has been repeatedly spoken of on the pipe and tobacco forums and blogs as adding a very earthy, sweet almost minty vanilla flavor to the blend. I would not describe it as minty vanilla but rather as a very herbal taste, not bitter or sweet but with a taste like vanilla bean or mint leaves. It is not an overpowering taste but it is very evident. There was another taste there that I could not quite get to but I was guessing it was some Oriental tobacco that was used as a condiment in the Virginias.


I smoked it for the remainder of my trip and quite a bit more in the month and a half since the trip. I really like the multidimensional flavor of the blend. The mixture and layers of flavor added to the Virginias by the Deer’s Tongue and the Oriental make this a thoroughly enjoyable smoke regardless of the time of day. Its flavor stays with you after you smoke it on the insides of your lips and mouth and gives a reminder of the fullness of the smoke.

After smoking most of the 50 gram bag I emailed Chris at Burlington and asked him to confirm what I tasted in the blend. He responded with a prompt email. I was right about the Deer’s Tongue it was there as a condiment. I was also correct in tasting an Oriental. This particular one was Dubec. It had just a bit of astringency to the taste which is what I have come to expect from Orientals. It is not bitter or tangy but has a definite taste and effect on the tastebuds toward the back edges of the tongue. I like the taste of Dubec and I really liked the addition of it in the Montego Bay Blend.

I have just enough left for a few more bowls and then I will have to either give them a call and order some more or visit again when I am there in September. We shall see. It is a great blend and one that is worth a try if you can stomach the high prices that the tax structures have added to tobacco in Canada.

A Few Brief Tobacco Reviews

I am posting a few tobacco reviews that I have put together. I am fully aware that tobacco tastes are as varied as those of us who smoke pipes. However, I thought I would post these anyway as most of them are either mixtures that I have come to like or are some Irish Tobaccos that I can no longer find.

McClellands Dominican Glory + something to rescue it

The tin label says – a satisfying blend of Dominican cigar leaf and Virginias. For me this does not say it at all. It is anything but satisfying. It is a very bland blend indeed. Not enough cigar leaf to do anything for me – no taste of the cigar coming through at all. And not enough Virginia flavour to make it sweet and tangy. I just about pitched this tin awhile back. But on a whim I had an old Romeo Y Julieta Cuban Cigar here that was just a bit dry – to dry to my liking. So I crumbled it up in the tin of McClellands Dominican Glory and viola – Cuban Glory! It is a good smoke. It has been aging for almost a year now. I had forgotten about it. I took it out this afternoon and cracked the sealed Mason Jar. The sweet tang of the Virginias came through with the earthy smell of Cuban cigar just over the top of the other smells. It was the perfect moisture. I packed a bowl and lit it – no charring light necessary at all.

The first smokes in the little Argyle Bulldog were full of flavours. The Virginias came through loud and clear and the cigar leaf was very spicy and earthy throughout the smoke. The flavour seemed to careen from a nice Cuban taste to a good Virginia and back again. Then as the bowl progressed they blended together for a really nice cigary taste. This is really good. I am going to have to get some more and do it again!

Midbowl and to the end the flavours danced back and forth. The residual taste on the lips is a cigar like flavour with just a bit of Virginia Tang coming through. The smoke was good and I was ready to hit the first relight when the bowl seemed light and empty! Smoke over. The ash was a powdery white and gray. Very tasty smoke.

Garry Owen Plug 

Just finished a bowl of Garry Owen Plug from PJ Carroll of Ireland. Wow what a strong tobacco. It packs a nicotine punch that is pretty strong. Certainly one to be smoked on a full stomach after a meal. The tobacco upon opening the pouch is a cube of tightly packed nature. It is a hard block of tobacco. I scraped a bit off with my pick and filled the bowl of my pipe. The smell of the cube and the scrapings was very nice – a kind of raisiny molasses like smell. I gradually slivered enough tobacco to fill the bowl of my pipe. I was going for a walk in the rain so I fill the bowl about 3/4 full with the mixture. I fired it with a lighter and began my walk. It took two other lights to get a good burn going. The 3/4 bowl was about an hour smoke. The flavour was multidimensional and strong and dark. The vas came through with force and clarity but no bite. The tang and the sweetness of va was dominant. The nicotine sang from the get go. The burn was even and smooth. The ash was greyish white as it worked down the bowl. The taste did not change as it progressed until the bottom 1/4 of the bowl where it had a richness and smoothness that was really nice. For me this was a good smoke. I was glad I had just finished my meal though as I could feel it. No sweats or dizziness (like there could have been) just a pleasant rush. If you can find this one and you like a heavy smoke with a punch give Garry Owen a go. Thanks to Joyce at Tobacco Supermarket for the sample of yet another Irish Tobacco.

McClellands 5100 + Royal Cajun Special

A friend in the Vancouver Pipe Club gave me a small tin of a blend he put together that has as its elements two of my favourite tobaccos. The first is Mc 5100 bulk Red Virginia (very sweet and tangy and a favourite on its own) and the secone Royal Cajun Special. They are mixed 2:1 ratio. The result has been aging for awhile. Upon opening the tin, the aroma is a tangy dark smelling mix of reds and black ribbons of tobacco. The tang and sweetness of both parts is a bit like the smell in a tin of St. James Flake – tang with a bit of spice. It packs nicely in the bowl with no problems. Upon igniting the first bowl, the taste was mild, sweet and tangy. The combination of flavours assaults the tongue and mouth with full taste. I really like the fullness of taste in this one. At the back of the tongue one feels the bite of a perique like taste. That kind of peppery flavour that teases the back of the mouth. The combination of flavours and rich smoke are very good. As the smoke continues to mid bowl the taste does not lessen or reduce in its pungency and flavour. The smoke is clean and dry. The end of the bowl ends the same for me. The fine white/grey ash at the bottom of the bowl is very light and feathery. Good smoke all the way to the bottom of the bowl.

Old Virginia Flake 

Got a sample of Old Virginia Flake from a friend and fired up my first bowl this afternoon. It is a very good tobacco. Kind of reminds me of McClellands Classic Va. or Stokebye’s VA Flake that I got from Old Morris. The tobacco is a broken flake VA. Tin aroma is sweet and tangy with a hint of some kind of topping on it. Not sure what that is – may be just an added sugar topping but it is definitely present in the tin. I did not bother rubbing out the broken flakes – I tend to just stuff and light this kind of baccy. So I filled an old BBB billiard that I have and put the fire to it. I decided to catch some fleeting sunshine here in Vancouver so I sat outside the local coffee shop and smoked the bowl. From the first match the smoke was tasty. Took a few lights to get it going as it seems a bit damp. Once the fire took the smoke was very nice. After the first bit the topping disappeared from the taste and what was there was a tangy and sweet Va. The aroma from the smoke got a few positive comments from passersby. I could even smell it a bit myself and liked the aroma. The flavor was full, sweet and rich. As the smoke progress down the bowl, I was left with the richness of a good Va, no topping taste at all. The bottom half of the bowl was just as flavorful and when it was over I was sad to see it end. The remnant was a fine white ash and no real dottle to speak of.

PJ Carroll’s Maltan Rich Dark Flake

One of the tobaccos that I got in Atlanta from Joyce at the tobacco supermarket was a 25gram pouch of Maltan. It is an Irish Tobacco. The pouch aroma is a bit floral – kind of a Lakeland type scent, oddly like perfume of some sort. Generally I find this off putting, but in this case persevered. The cut is a fine ribbon cut that the package identifies as Ready Rubbed. To me it is just finally cut very similar in cut to G&H Dark Birds Eye. Tobacco Reviews notes the following: A traditional finer cut Irish Virginia ready rubbed flake. A mixture of mahogany leaf selected for richness of flavour and taste. Slowly pressed to harmonise the natural flavours of matured tobacco grades. Cut, steamed and dried to give a long-stranded, soft and warm coloured appearance. Full aroma with a medium burning rate ideal for small bowled pipes.

The description is what made me press on. It packs very easily into the bowl and lights without problems. It burns evenly and cleanly with no clinging goopiness of wetness. The ash left is soft grey and light. Burned to the bottom of the bowl with no problem. For me the test would be to see if that floral lakeland flavour clung to the tobacco all the way through. Thankfully it did not. Within the first few moments of the smoke that was gone and a rich flavourful Virginia taste was in its place. As the tobacco burned down the bowl the taste intensified in its richness and fulness. Steaming process used in this one does what I have found always happens with Vas and that is that the flavorful is deeper and fuller. It is also a bit muddier and melded. The usual multidimensional flavours of Vas. was not as distinguishable. If you can get ahold of some of this go for it. Ignore the floral scent and fire a bowl up. It is quickly gone and you will get a rich tasting virgina!

MacBaren’s HH Vintage Syrian

MacBarens says this about it on the package write up: A little under half of the volume is a smooth, and yet powerful Latakia from Syria. This tobacco gives the blend the overall “smoky” taste. To add a spicy note to the blend, Turkish Oriental has been added. Different Virginia tobaccos from three continents add a sweet natural taste. To complete the taste with depth and body we added some Dark Fired Kentucky from the USA.

The pouch aroma is complex – I can smell the Latakias, the pungent Oriental, and the sweet Virginia. I cannot smell any of the “usual MacBarens topping”. That is good! The blend is the right moisture content and packs very easily. It lights with one burn- no charring light necessary. The flavour from the beginning is a nice mouthful of flavours that all come out through out the taste. The smoke in the room note is not too bad (maybe a Latakia that I can smoke in the house with the women in my life). The flavour is complex and enjoyable. It shifts and changes as the bowl progresses. One minute the Latakia is dominant, then I feel the dry tang of the Oriental come through at the edges of the tongue. The sweet Virginia tang is underneath and the Kentucky burley adds a nuttiness and body to the taste. This is a good smoke.

The last half of the bowl is equally good. The flavours shift back and forth just as they did in the first half of the bowl. I like this one. I think it is one I will go back to again and again. I am primarily a Virginia and Va/Per smoker so this is a great transition blend to me. Pungent yet sweet! I like this far better than the HH Vintage Virgina which I found monochromatic in flavour.

C&D After Hours Flake

Just finished a full bowl of this flake. It is a blend of Red and Bright Virginias pressed with spiced rum and sliced into flakes. The smell is that of sweet Red Virginias and the taste is full and hearty. I smoked it in the new Howell Handmade Acorn which has a great bowl for flakes. It gives a sweet and flavourful smoke to the bottom of the bowl with no dottle. Clean light grey ash. On first light the Va flavour is there and the sweetness hits the lips and tongue. Even after the bowl that sweetness carries on in the mouth. The room note is pleasant and sweet. The flake is not one dimensional but quite varied throughout the bowl. I for one cannot taste the spiced rum (it is different in taste say than a Navy Flake). I usually find C&D tobacs a bit green to my liking but this one is a keeper. It is just enough different from my other usual Vas that it is to my liking.

Bell’s Three Nuns

I picked up an old tin of this on one of my roamings through antique shops. It was in nice shape and unopened… or so I thought when I bought it for $10 or so. Well earlier I opened the tin and it was the original coins or tobacco with the perique in the middle. The tobacco was absolutely bone dry. It smelled dry and dusty. In comparison to the sample of this old timer I got to try from a friend, this one looked anemic. I removed it from the tin and slowly rehydrated it over two weeks with distilled water. Today it was absolutely perfect for smoking. The moisture level was perfect and the tobacco had a nice tin aroma once more. Whew — I thought this one was going to be toast.

I stuffed a stack of coins in the bowl of the old BBB Own Make 1919 pipe I just finished up. The smell of the tobacco in the tin was good aged Virginia with a bit of perique tang in the nose as I smelled it. It fired quickly and easily and the first tastes of this old tobacco was wonderful. From my guess it is about a 60’s vintage tin. The virginias were mellow and sweet with the characteristic Va tang in the taste. There was absolutely no bite in this one. The peppery overtones of perique hit the back of my mouth with its spice. Very smooth and mellow as the bowl progressed to mid bowl. Very even smoke – tastes the same through the bowl. The flavour deepens and the perique spice becomes a bit more prominent as it moves toward the bottom of the bowl. The room note was also a nice soft Va smell. Though even there you smell a bit of perique. The bowl was smooth to the end. No bite no problems – bowl just came to and end to soon. The ash was light grey and dry. Great smoke.

GLP Key Largo

Key Largo is a blend of Red Virginia, Izmir, Cyprus, Latakia, and Cigar leaf. It is a smokey and spicy smelling tobacco in the bag. It is a flake that by the time the airport security was finished with it at Ohare is now broken flake. I put it to flame and it burned very easily. The smoke was thick and cloudy but tasted good from first light. I can definitely taste the sweetness of the Red Virginia coming out through out the smoke. The Izmir gives an oriental dryness in the mouth (I don’t know how to describe it other than that. Kind of like a bit of tartar on the tongue). The latakia is there and predominant throughout the smoke but tasty and smokey. I am assuming that the latakia is Cyprian. It is a nice smoke. I will have to get some more of this one. The bowl burned clean and dry to the bottom. The ash was a light grey and left no dottle. Very tasty. I smoked in a Jack Howell Acorn.