Americana by Cornell and Diehl

Americana by Cornell and Diehl - Pipe Tobacco ReviewAmericana (Bulk #127) from Cornell and Diehl is listed under the “English Blends” category on their web site. I guess that will have to do being they don’t have something like an “American Blend” category. Categorizing tobacco is difficult business. Pipe smokers arriving at Americana’s doorstep looking for something tasting similar to Dunhill’s Nightcap or G.L. Pease’s Westminster may think they showed up at the wrong place.

Burley, to my tastes, is the main attraction here. Yes, the Latakia is present in significant quantities; you’ll never forget it’s there. The thing is, Latakia alongside Virginia and Oriental may as well be an entirely different condiment than the very same Latakia up against a sturdy proportion of Burley. It behaves differently on the taste buds with both types of blends.

With Americana I notice big, rich, deep, dark earthy tones much more than the leather and woodsy flavors. Is the Latakia shoring up the richness of the Burley or is the Burley beefing up the richness of the Latakia? I’ll let you decide. All I can tell you is that between what I assume is a measure of some dark fired or Kentucky Burley and the Latakia, this is a rich blend.

It seems the Burley has two parts to play. I’m not confident I can identify the other types of Burley at work in Cornell and Diehl Americana, but I can say they add structure and a dry finish. By structure I mean that the Burley is what supports the other flavors. It may not comprise the greatest portion of leaf in the recipe, but it is the base. When I say dry finish, I am describing the lack of any lingering sweetness.

This is not to say you won’t notice the tang and sweetness of the Virginias if you pay attention. They are there, and I am glad they are. They do help the blend along whether I am noticing them or not. This is much like the role Cornell and Diehl’s unsweetened black cavendish plays. It certainly isn’t a core component of the flavor but does seem to act as a bridge of sorts between all the other flavors. Incidentally, Cornell and Diehl’s very special unsweetened black cavendish is so good I can (and have) smoked it by itself. Wonderful stuff!

Everything is balanced very nicely to bring about a very smoke-able yet stout American blend. The blender, Bob Runowski, has managed to keep Americana from being harsh while allowing it to be stern. If you are sensitive to nicotine I recommend a slow pace in a comfortable chair and no operating heavy machinery. I experience no tongue bite and moderate palate fatigue. Not that I am ever ready to follow up a bowl of Americana with something else anytime soon.

While it doesn’t stack up as a English blend by my definition,* I don’t think it should be expected to. These old time American style blends are a class to themselves. For anyone wanting to explore what excellent burley has to offer or who wants to take a time machine back half a century to see what your average everyday tobacco blend may have been like, Americana has my recommendation.

This is a staple in my personal rotation and I have been ordering it by the pound over the last year or two. You will have a difficult time finding it at retailers. You can easily order it directly from Cornell and Diehl.

*Defining the categories such as American blend, English blend, Balkan, aromatic, etc is about 80% subjective opinion much of the time. Don’t put a lot of weight on my, or anyone else’s definitions and categories, best to always let the blend speak for itself.

If you’ve already tried it, please let me know your thoughts about it in the comments. Questions and other observations are welcome too.

 

Three Friars by Cornell and Diehl

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.

Three Friars tin by Cornell and Diehl

Tin Description

“A combination of Virginia ribbon, Brown Virginia, Burley, and Perique.”

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Epiphany by Cornell and Diehl Pipe Tobacco Review with Video

This review of Cornell and Diehl’s Epiphany is long overdue. As much as I smoke of this stuff I can’t figure out why it took so long to get around to posting the review.

Tin Description
We have a delightful new light English blend called Epiphany. Epiphany is reminiscent of the original Revelation blend that was said to be the favorite of a certain reknowned thinker named Einstein. Epiphany is another classic Tarler/Runowski blend of Va, Burleys, Latakia and Perique in perfect balance and harmony.

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Shops Renaming Bulk Tobaccos

This is something that has bothered me as long as I’ve been aware of it. The light came on at my own local shop when the guy called one of the jarred bulks “their blend” and I noticed there was no back room where they might have a blending table. Then there were the telltale five pound foil bags I noticed they’d refill the jars from.

What I’m talking about:

bulk pipe tobacco in jars

The practice of renaming bulk tobacco blends does not pass the sniff test

The business practice I will be discussing to and so many shops employ is purchasing bulk tobaccos from a manufacturer, pouring it from the five-pound foil bag into a jar, creating their own name for it, and calling it a house blend.

This is pretty much an industry standard. Many pipe smokers I’ve discussed this with say “that’s just the way it is – its how its always been done.” That’s factual information but not meaningful. I contend this business practice creates problems for pipe smokers. This is why I address it.

Before the internet when everyone was limited to purchasing pipe tobacco from the nearest brick and mortar retail store these renamed bulks weren’t such a problem. “Sassafras Sunset” may have been Lane’s 1Q at Ernie’s Pipe and Cigar shop, but most of Ernie’s customers who loved Sassafras Sunset never knew they were smoking 1Q, rarely if ever went elsewhere to buy their tobacco, so they had no need to question the name.  Under the shallow illusion Ernie’s was the only place on Earth to find Sassafras Sunset so they never looked for it anywhere else anyway.

The landscape has changed. Pipe smokers are far more informed. Blogs, pipe tobacco review sites, and online discussion forums allow pipe smokers worldwide to compare notes and research blends. Better yet there is variety like never before. The business of selling pipes and tobacco has been taken online to provide us with better choices and prices that wouldn’t be imaginable before the early 90’s. We aren’t limited to single sources for our tobacco today.

Renaming these industrial bulk tobaccos does nothing to benefit the consumer and only creates problems. The thing that prompted this post is yet another instance of someone asking me “I used to smoke XYZ House Blend from PDQ Brick and Mortar – do you know where I can get more of a blend like that?” To which I obviously have to reply “No bleepin’ clue because I have no idea what PDQ B&M named their so-called XYZ house blend.”

There are other reasons. Following are among the most obvious ones to me.

It is dishonest and doesn’t respect intellectual property of the blender

The only victims of this “crime” are we the consumers. If the creators of a blend don’t mind giving away their copyright that’s there business. That doesn’t detract from the element of dishonesty. Taking credit for making something you didn’t make is sleazy. When a tobacconist calls one of the Altadis, McClelland’s, or Lane bulks his “house blend” he’s essentially calling it his and taking credit for it. How is that not dishonest? Don’t call it a house blend if you didn’t blend it in your house from component tobaccos.

Prevents purchasing power and limits competition

A prime reason for all these shenanigans on the neighborhood merchant’s part is keeping the customers coming back. Creating that illusion of being the only source of a particular blend ensures return customers. No doubt the fear is that telling you “Sassafras Sunset” is really Lane’s 1Q will tempt you to stop paying your tobacconist $60 a pound and start buying it online for half that.

This is how the practice of renaming these bulk blends removes competition. So long as you think there’s only one place to buy a blend you won’t shop elsewhere.

Our international community of pipe smokers can’t compare notes

One of the best things about being a pipe smoker in the 21st Century is being able to communicate with other pipe smokers the world over.  More often than not I try a new blend based on someone else’s recommendation on a blog, review site, or forum post. When bulk tobacco is renamed at the shop it eliminates this benefit. Hopefully you’ll be able to bump into another customer who likes it because no one on the forums knows what Sassafras Sunset is.

Here the practice works against the shop owner. Were I to read a post or review of an Altadis blend that piqued my interest I wouldn’t see it at my local shop even if the blend is carried because it has been renamed. Were it accurately labeled I’d buy a couple ounces to try on my next visit.

Won’t be able to find the blend if your source goes out of business

Another intense disadvantage for us occurs if the shop either goes out of business or cuts a blend from their inventory. You can’t get it there any more and you have no idea what it actually is so you are out of luck. This has happened to a number of my readers.

What you can do

Like all consumers we have options. If the practice bothers you like it does me there are some things you can do. Here are some suggestions:

Insist on transparency

Ask your tobacconist what the actual brand name and blend is as he purchased it. You have the right to know what you are buying. If you are told it is a secret or a “house blend” ask if your shop obtains the ingredients and blends them to create the recipe or if the blend was created elsewhere.  You may rub the shopkeeper the wrong way, encounter a deer in the headlights look from a salesperson who actually doesn’t know, or they’ll treat you like an adult and valued customer by providing the information.

Research on the internet and ask for blends by name – this is probably more reliable than the sniff test

If there is a bulk you want to try ask for it at your B&M. While they may not want to tell you that your beloved Sassafras Sunset is really 1Q, when you inform them you want to buy 1Q they’ll likely be happy to tell you they have it on hand and dip into the jar of Sassafras Sunset.

Take your business to a retailer who is up front about what they sell

This is what I do. It has been a very long time since I bought bulk tobacco in person. I order online. Some will say that it is important to keep the B&M shops in business by dealing with them whenever possible. I say that online retailers need my support too and earn it by offering the best prices, variety, and transparency in naming their blends. These are real people with families to support too who likely know as much or more about pipes and tobacco than the local cigar merchant. They won the competition for my business long ago.

Free trade for the consumer too

I am all for free market capitalism. People should be able to do business however they like and I am certainly not calling on the state to intervene and shut down this practice. (Not that they would, they’re too busy taxing the hell out of it and looking for other ways to make life difficult for pipe smokers.) I could never advocate a law that forces shop owners to label a blend with the actual manufacturers name. That arrangement should be left between the company making the tobacco and their customer.

Another major part of competition and the free market is an informed consumer. Make your own decisions. Personally I vote with my wallet against the practice by refusing to buy any tobacco that has been renamed.

I am open to other opinions about this. I’d like to hear from all sides of this issue, especially from retailers who still do this. Please do leave a comment. How does this practice help your customers? (We know how it benefits you.) That’s probably the most important question I have for anyone who disagrees with my position on this. If you’d like to answer any of my other points such as the honesty issue that would be great too.

Luxury Twist Flake by Peter Stokkebye – Tobacco Review

Blender’s description:

A pure Virginia blend from the best fields of Zimbabwe and the Eastern United States. Rolled Twist Flake, then Cavendish pressed and cut.

These square flakes have leaf ranging in bright to medium brown. They are easy to rub out or burn well stuffed in the bowl. I prefer wadding one into a ball, rolling it a little, the stuffing the whole works in the top of a narrow-chambered pipe leaving an air pocket underneath.

The overall flavor includes a lot of high notes, considerable citrus-like tang, much like lemon or orange peel with bright Virginia’s characteristic grassy flavors. The darker leaf provides an appropriate amount of balance with body and a clean sweetness. Any added flavors are very subtle and not readily apparent during the smoke.

I’m surprised to find so little propensity to bite the tongue. I expect a little tingle and irritation from leaf of this sort, but this leaves my tongue ready for another bowl. This is one of the rare Virginia-only blends I could smoke bowl after bowl all day. The burn is cool and clean. No unpleasant aftertastes. It arrived in bulk with perfect moisture content ready to smoke as-is.

This is not the most complex Virginia blend I’ve smoked, but it does grow deeper and the sharper tastes yield to richer, earthier, sweeter flavors as the bowl progresses. There is a nice interplay between the brighter and deeper sides of the smoke with the later gaining ground as the ember floats to the bottom.

Virginia lovers will likely find this a very agreeable companion and it makes a great introduction to those new to Virginia blends.

RLP-6 by Lane Limited

Blender description:

Blended with just the right prportion of Golden Virginia and Burley`s, the basic blend of Toasted Cavendish tobaccos takes on a zesty dimension. This mixture gets better as you smoke it all day long

This ubiquitous industrial bulk aromatic goes by almost as many names as there are shops selling pipe tobacco across North America. Pipe smokers who dislike bulk aromatics of this sort may find they dislike this one the least.

RLP-6 packs and smokes very nicely, has a clean flavor and finish, and I can’t get it to bite my tongue. Many compare it to its over-the-counter cousin, Captain Black White. It has been a while since I’ve sampled Captain Black, but I can say my memories of it are not as fond as my appreciation for the bowl of RLP-6 I smoke as I write this. I’m pretty sure there are differences between the two.

This is no boutique blend by any stretch of the imagination, but it never pretended to be. There is a reason this has been around for ages upon ages and outsells more refined pipe tobaccos pound for pound.

I make out a good deal of the underlying heavily processed tobacco flavor and its not in the least unpleasant, nor is the top flavor applied more subtly to this blend than most other aromatics of this caliber. Its pleasantly sweet but won’t make you worry about cavities as you smoke it.

You’ve likely smoked this before. What were your thoughts on it? Please add them to the comments below. Just for fun, if you know, I’d be interested to know what your local B&M names this blend.

Daybreak by Hearth and Home – Russ Oullette

Blender’s description:

After receiving some calls and emails from members of the New York Pipe Club lamenting the loss of Dunhill’s Early Morning Pipe, we wanted to develop a blend with similar characteristics to EMP. After a number of “tweaks”, we sent a sample to the club, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. We’re now making it available to the general public. Try this traditional English mixture of sweet Virginias, fragrant Orientals and rich, smoky Latakia.

While Dunhill’s Early Morning Pipe was the very first tobacco I purchased and smoked back in 1994, and I have fond memories of it, it has been too long since I smoked it (over a year) to comment on how similar in taste Daybreak is, but like the description says, it has characteristics like those of Early Morning Pipe.

By its own right, Daybreak is a fantastic blend. I’m not an expert at the art of blending, but I believe it is a fair guess that making a lighter bodied English like Daybreak “work” is more of a challenge than dumping generous quantities of Latakia atop some Virginia and Oriental leaf and thinking up a name for a new blend for Latakia lovers. Not that Latakia bombs can’t be done well too, of course.

Hearth and Home’s Daybreak balances a mild sweetness and gentle tang from the Virginias with a range of intermingling flavors from the Oriental and Latakia. Oullette has kept each of these flavors from dominating or drowning out the others leaving a pleasantly complex smoke. This may be a fantastic “early morning” smoke, but I’m sure English lovers will appreciate it throughout the day for its easy burning characteristics. No doubt this will also age very well.

If you are mourning the loss of “Early Morning Pipe” do give this one a try and let me know how well it matches up in your opinion.

LJ Heart Burley by Russ Ouellette – Hearth and Home

Blender’s description:

A light, naturally sweet blend created for renowned pipemaker, Lannes Johnson, who selected this mixture to send as a sample to his pipe customers. Two diff- erent types of nutty Burley are laced with an unusual cube cut Virginia and a Burley-based natural toasted Black Cavendish for a splash of non-flavored sweetness. Now available to the general public for the very first time. If you’re looking for an all-day blend that isn’t wet or overly sugary, give this one a try.

Expect this tobacco to arrive well on the dry side. I recommend leaving it as is before smoking. The overall taste is slightly sweet with a healthy tang. Maybe its my imagination but I’d swear I taste a little Perique, but the blend description doesn’t mention it.

The base of burley is easy on the tongue but deserves a careful smoking cadence to keep off any bitterness. This is a clean medium bodied that won’t win any rewards for complexity and likely never sought any. The blend was created for an all-day pipe smoker, and an all-day blend it is if you share LJ’s preference for a straightforward tangy smoke.

Classic Burley Kake by Russ Ouellette – Video

Blender’s description:

Classic Burley Kake is a new blend that pays homage to old-time Burley flakes and cakes. Using Tennessee and Kentucky Burleys, ranging from lighter white to darker mahogany, and a bit of matured red Virginia, this sliced cake tobacco is a traditional American-style blend.

We start with four different types of Burley, the aforementioned Tennessee and Kentucky, plus two different premium white Burleys. Then we add a red Virginia for a maple-like sweetness. Then we use all-natural flavors- cocoa, rum and anise and steam the tobaccos with the flavorings and firmly press and slice it. The aroma is mellow and pleasant, and the taste is lightly sweet with a large volume of smoke.

Hearken back to a simpler time when the sight of a pipe in someone’s mouth while walking down the street was common, and the scent of pipe tobacco was everywhere. Give Classic Burley Kake a try and go back in time.

The new Classic Burley Kake is a similar type of tobacco to Edgeworth Sliced. We’re not attempting to to copy Edgeworth, but rather provide smokers with a blend that is similar to yet still unique.

I try to maintain a certain objectivity when I review tobaccos – it shouldn’t be important to you how much I like this or that blend, you probably just want to know what’s in it and whatever other facts I can relay to you.

That said, I’m going to have to make an exception with Hearth and Home’s Classic Burley Kake. I’m very excited about this blend. For starters, it fits exactly what I’ve been looking for in a Burley blend – just a little sweetness, a little flavor, and I wanted all the rough edges knocked off. That is exactly what Russ Oullette has done with Classic Burley Kake.

In the pouch, the smell is cocoa and a little black licorice. The cakes rub out to medium semi-course cut at the ideal moisture level that makes gravity filling a pipe very easy. I fill this blend rather loose.

Hearth and Home Classic Burley Kake

First light kicks off the rum, anise, and cocoa flavors. The first quarter of the bowl they seem to mingle back and forth allowing me to easily make out each separate flavor. By the 1/3 mark, they seem to meld together and do a perfect job of accompanying the clean base tobacco flavor from the burleys.

The mellow natural-tasting sweetness and soft flavors remain throughout the bowl. The tobacco is as well behaved and easy to smoke as any aromatic, but has the mouth-feel, flavor, fullness, and strength of a regular non-aromatic blend.

I’m not one to make a point out of smoking to the bottom on one light, but it seems to almost come natural with this blend. It is full enough I’m not tempted to puff greedily, but easy going without causing fatigue so I can easily maintain a steady and gentle smoking cadence that keeps the ember hot and me in heaven on earth.

This blend will likely appeal to aromatic smokers wishing to explore their boundaries, definitely the Burley lover, and any other pipe smoker looking for a change of pace with a quality blend.

If you have tried this blend too, let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.

Wilke No. 72 by Pipeworks and Wilke

Blender’s description:

Composed of Burleys, two cuts of Virginia, Latakia and Perique. For those who enjoy true natural tobacco flavor, one of my most popular lighter English blends.

Here is an example of a blend that truly uses Latakia as a condiment. This rounds out and touches up the earthy burleys and leaves the pepper from the Perique to deal with the tang and sweetness from the Virginia.

No. 72 has lots of high notes and a clean dry finish. The proportion of Perique here is pushing the envelope but doesn’t quite step out of bounds. Those who like Virginia/Perique blends and burley should not be off put by the amount of Latakia here and enjoy this approach to what I’d call a classic American blend.

This will work great in warm weather or as a spicy all day smoke. Try this one in a variety of pipes as the bowl size and pipe engineering makes all the difference.