I have found Cornell and Diehl Three Friars to be a superb anytime Virginia blend with a bright vivid flavor and enough Burley and Perique to add just the right amount of body and zing for a great warm weather smoke.
“A combination of Virginia ribbon, Brown Virginia, Burley, and Perique.”
I noticed a couple things about this blend as I investigated background information on it. For starters, as you can see, C&D no longer mentions any reference to Three Nuns. At one point they may have included some verbiage in the official description with something like “reminiscent of Three Nuns” but they don’t now – at least not on their web site. It does continue to show up on some retailers and tobaccoreviews.com that way.
My advice is to let the Three Friars stand on their own feet. Consider this blend exactly what it is – a combination of Virginias, Burley, and Perique.
Another comparison made rather often is to another C&D blend – Haunted Bookshop. Haunted Bookshop is more of a Burley blend with Virginia and Perique, where Three Friars is a Virginia blend with Burley and Perique. While I don’t doubt that if you like one you may very likely enjoy the other I think its a mistake to categorize them too closely together.
I say all that because I have learned it is important not to bring too much to blend. Too many presumptions lead to unfair expectations which lead to unnecessary disappointment.
There’s a Zen story about a professor who visited a master to learn about Buddhism. The Zen master poured him tea but did not stop pouring when the professor’s cup was full. The tea overflowed and went everywhere.
“The cup is full!” said the professor. “No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” said the master, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
If you want Three Friars or any other pipe tobacco to “show you Zen” come to the blend with an open mind.
Now on to the actual tobacco review…
Like I said, this is a Virginia blend. The Virginias are primarily bright and a litttle grassy, with lemon zest-like flavors. The Brown Virginias pull in a little more sweetness and add body. A modest amount of Burley modulates the sharp edges without adding heaviness but helps bring up the bottom with more structure and body.
Cornell & Diehl can tend to be heavy handed with the Perique. This is not the case with Three Friars. While the pepper is readily apparent they certainly did not overdo it. With a blend like this it would have been easy to obliterate the nuances in the high notes with an overdose of Perique. To my tastes, they got it just right. Perfect.
The tobacco is ribbon cut, mostly loose, and soft and springy to the touch. My tin came at the perfect moisture level. The tin I smoked from for this review was only a few months old. A couple years in the cellar would no-doubt do wonderful things for the blend but don’t hesitate to pop a relatively fresh tin.
C&D Virginias hold a soft spot in my heart because they are very easy on my tongue. Three Friars is no exception. The ribbon cut also burns very nicely and requires no preparation before filling the pipe.
If I were forced to squeeze in one negative thing about the blend I would say that it falls just a little behind in complexity. There are no breathtaking transformations between the first light and the bottom of the bowl but it does deepen as the bowl progresses. And while the blend would not be wasted on absent minded all-day sipping while you work Sudoku puzzles there are those interesting nuances I mentioned earlier you can watch for. As the bowl progresses look for those delicate flavor variations to give way to deeper, sweeter, more melded flavors.
Of course I could turn those cons into pros very easily by pointing out that this is a very comfortable, pain-free, user-friendly, and unpretentious smoke that will fill the bill perfectly if you are looking for an anytime VA/Per that falls on the lighter and brighter side.
If you’ve tried this please let me know what you think of it in the comments.