Trial by fire : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Trial by fire


by Tage Gage and Bobby Fabian

With this issue, Bobby Fabian joins Tad Gage in writing “Trial by fire,” adding his insightful assessments and providing a new dimension to these reviews by recommending various beverages to accompany the tobaccos tasted. The choice of beverage is an important consideration for pipe smokers. A beverage can often make a great smoking experience even better, while sometimes the wrong beverage can diminish the enjoyment of a fine tobacco. We all have our favorite tobaccos and our favorite liquid accompaniments, but the interaction of the two deserves exploration. The positive characteristics of different blends may be enhanced by the right beverage, and the weaknesses of some blends may be helpfully concealed by a suitable drink. With seemingly infinite possible combinations, it can be hard to choose. The suggestions offered here are meant to help narrow the search more quickly. We hope that Fabian’s recommendations will open possibilities for many pipe smokers to discover new taste adventures as they experiment with combinations they perhaps had not considered before.

We’re excited to share impressions on a number of new tobacco introductions, presenting aromatic and English taste treats. I’m pleased to be sharing the piper’s pulpit with Bobby Fabian, who weighs in with his sophisticated palate on tobaccos and adds his perspectives on beverage pairings to prime your pipe puffing pastime.

Along the lines of McClelland Tobacco Company’s past tobacco introductions to promote and benefit pipe clubs around the country, McClelland will donate a portion of proceeds from sales from the United Pipe Clubs of America (UPCA) series to the organization. After smoking these blends, we felt sharing the wealth never tasted so good. The UPCA ( was founded in
2002 as a federation of pipe clubs in the United States to promote the interests of American pipe smokers by helping to form and support local pipe clubs, pipe shows and pipe smoking competitions. Although pipe smokers seem more far-flung than ever, pipe clubs around the country are growing. Clubs, formal and
informal, are springing up everywhere, and the UPCA is a timely resource.

We’re reviewing new offerings from venerable names in the industry. Dunhill has expanded its line of blends, reintroducing the classic favorites My Mixture Baby’s Bottom and Three Year Matured Virginia. And happy birthday to Lane Limited, which celebrates its 125th anniversary by introducing a new anniversary blend and bringing back one of Lane’s flagship mixtures. Speaking of anniversaries, we tracked down a Samuel Gawith aromatic blend commemorating that company’s 220th year in business and the queen of England’s diamond jubilee. Introduced a couple of years ago, it’s still available and represents an opportunity to get your hands on a sparkling tin-aged aromatic. — Tad Gage

McClelland UPCA Traveler
tbf1Gage: The tin aroma was smoky and meaty, with a hint of fruit from this dark mixture flecked with blond Turkish, red Virginia, chunks of pressed and cut Latakia, and generous strips of steamed (but not flavored) black Cavendish. The superb Turkish Mahalla is a musky treat, lending backbone to the mixture and supporting the barbecue bark-like combination of the Latakia and Cavendish.

Traveler is bold and outdoorsy, more cookout than cordon bleu. Incredibly cool-smoking, the Virginia lends sweetness and brings together the Latakia and Cavendish into a unique and unified whole. Well-aged tobacco and subtle blending give this medium ribbon the complexity of a blend plucked from the cellar, but right from the tin.

Fabian: Immediately, I found the tin note to be surprisingly sweet. I was greeted with bold notes of fruit, something like candied pears and vanilla, with a nice smoky creaminess trailing due to the Latakia. Looking at the tobacco, I saw quite a bit of Cavendish and Latakia mixed with the Turkish and Virginia. This makes for a delightfully varied-looking blend, and it certainly explains the tin note well. Once it was burning, I found this blend to be a surprisingly sweet—and smoky—treat. No one tobacco overpowers the other, and overall the flavor is very even. I found that the more I smoked this blend, the more it reminded me of preparing a honeyed ham in the smoker—delightfully sweet, but with a nice middle note and smokiness that lends the blend a base to reside upon. Seeing as this would be something I’d smoke outside on a nice summer evening, I found that not only does iced tea work to support this blend very well, but so did a medium-bodied, decently aged rum such as El Dorado 12 Year Old, with the brightness of the rum accentuating the Cavendish and Turkish, and the oakiness providing a more stable base than just Latakia.

Read the rest of the reviews by subscribing to Pipes and tobaccos magazine or the online digital edition.


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Category: Fall 2015, Trial by Fire

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