Truth is, I haven't smoked a pipe in years.
It's not that I haven't wanted to. I have. I spend INORDINATE amounts of time researching pipe tobacco blends, following new releases, building wish-lists. But...I haven't. I've been smoking cigarettes like a fool. A life of hasty kips out the door for a gasper before retreating to the warmth. It is a habit of a frantic mind, a mind frazzled by stress and excessive bodily wear-and-tear. Enjoying a pipe requires time and, frankly, a relatively serene mind. Many people say that the time they spend smoking a pipe is akin to meditation. I find my zen in video games and Youtube clips of people eating MREs. So pipes...pipes have fallen by the wayside.
However...the call of research and development has brought me back to the briar. A few weeks ago, Adam at Smoking Pipes sent me a message on Twitter. Not unheard of; we chat all the time. But in this message he had a favor to ask: try out a new pipe tobacco soon to be released. This piqued my interest. What was being released? I hadn't heard of anything from Laudisi Enterprises. So I inquired. He told me that Cornell and Diehl was coming out with a new line of limited-run tobaccos called Small Batch. He told me that the first release was to be an English blend, titled simply "Straight Up English."
I LOVE English blends.
I accepted (hence me writing this). He even sweetened the deal with a few other samples that I'll get to in a bit. But more important than the samples was this burgeoning feeling that it was time to pick up the pipe once more. Once again take up the art of fumigation meditation. A week later, a package arrived with the samples.
So...what IS Straight Up English? Well, this is the infographic that Adam sent over.
It gives a rough idea of what's going on in the tin. I asked for further clarification and he linked me to this quote on Pipes Magazine Forum.
"To tell true, the Virginia's interplay with the Latakia is the focus, but the White burley offered texture and underlying strength. The blend's single largest component is actually Bright Virginia from our supply of really special Canadian crop from 2013. The color, aroma and uniquely zesty sweetness of this stuff is just lovely to work with. But what this Bright has going for it in terms of character and sweetness, it lacks in the Nicotine department. And in my opinion, a lot of English or Balkan or Latakia blends tend to leave me wanting more strength. Thus, the small addition of White Burley helped to soften the Brights, and up the "Umph" a bit, though without focusing in any overt way, on the flavor of the Burley. Think adding flour to gravy vs. baking bread."
|The latakia makes it levitate.|
Sample arrived as above and caused my desk to smell like a fall burn-barrel at a citrus orchard. Opening it up and pouring a bit out to inspect it revealed:
I'd pin it as a "rough and ready" ribbon cut. It's almost like a combo of ribbon and ready rubbed but that might just be me being out of the whole pipe tobacco game for so long. Loading it into my Missouri Meerschaum Country Gentleman presents no problems. It's a bit chunky but it's easy enough to pack and the perfect humidity.
In terms of flavor, well, the latakia is the first thing that hits the palate. It gives color and personality to the blend with its smokey flavor that fades to an almost black pepper spice. The core of the blend is the Virginias. Less of the citrus flavor I associate with Bright Virginia but more of an almost woody, cedary flavor. And at the very end is the Burley, giving a subtle nuttiness and almost creaminess.
This blend is a simple but well-crafted oak table. The latakia is the stain of the wood, providing the pop and color to the wood underneath. The Virginias are the solid oak planks, providing richness and backbone. And the Burley is there to sand the table smooth and reveal the grain. It's not fancy, far from it. It focuses more on complementing the Virginias than the marriage between the Latakia and Virginias that other blends do. It's not an after-dinner English, it's very much an all-day English. It can be smoked from your first cup of tea in the morning to the post-dinner brandy at night. That being said, I found it to be a bit light for my tastes. I like an English with a bit more clout. It has enough to it to make it an all-day smoker but not enough to make you pay attention. Even though I'm making it out like that's a bad thing, it's not. It's a solid smoke. Perfect for lighting and then staring off into the distance.
Perfect for thinking.