Trial by Fire : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Trial by Fire

TBFby Tad Gage and Bobby Fabian

With winter bringing us everything from frigid to at least modestly cool weather (depending on your location), we have lined up a group of new offerings and old standbys sure to please the palate, warm the heart and inspire some creative drink pairings, from steamy espresso to soothing holiday punches to rich beers and fiery drams of John Barleycorn. — Tad Gage

G.L. Pease Sixpence
Gage: A potent, dried fruit aroma jumps up to greet you from the tin.
Dense pressed and broken Virginia flakes of tan, yellow and brown offer a visual delight. Its density demands that at least a portion of your bowl be fully rubbed out to tbf-peasefacilitate burning, although it can be dried down if you’d like more intact flake. This complex blend delivers a symphony of flavor—bright citrus, dried cranberries, light straw—and it readily greets the flame and kicks off flavors immediately. I particularly liked this in a large bowl or wide-bodied pot, lightly rubbed out to enjoy the complex mix of flavors in the flake. There is a very dry tone to it, with flavors of straw and light fruit. The Virginia is further enriched by a small amount of dark fired Kentucky leaf and a kiss of Perique, which add smoke and black pepper. The advertised light liquor topping may add to the flavor, but it is impossible to pinpoint its contribution. Sixpence is a refreshing, bright tobacco despite its depth. While nicotine builds during the smoke, adding a chocolaty spice, this is no nicotine bomb. Sixpence is a well-crafted tobacco, taking Va/Per a couple steps beyond.

Fabian: Like most Pease blends, this one has more depth and nuance than what one might originally think. This blend is darker and more robust than what the tin note would suggest, though it has a light grassiness that seems to carry the blend up a bit. Sixpence is a very enjoyable smoke with no rough edges to take away any of the wonderful flavor and a nice lingering aftertaste. To sum up this blend, I’d call it “robust.” If a tobacco could be placed on a tasting “triangle,” I’d put this one just a shade below the center as far as overall composition—nothing too strong, but not light and grassy like you would expect by looking at the tobacco. In pairing this blend with any drink or specific spirit, I’d suggest a slightly aged brandy, like Azteca de Oro: sweet enough to bring out the grassy tones of this blend but still oaky and rich enough to help support the bot- tom. The two flavor profiles may clash for the first half, but soon the middle notes of both meld together, leaving a wonderful lingering aftertaste that makes you want a little more of each.

McClelland Red and Black
Gage: If you were ever upbraided as a kid for playing with your food but
liked making different flavor combinations (maybe you grew up to enjoy cooking), you’ll love Red and Black. The first tobacco in my experience to invite blending from a single can, each tin of R&B combines an equal number of superb pressed flakes of orange Virginia and slabs of rich stoved dark Virginia, leaving it to the smoker to mix and match. Leave it to McClelland, which was the first manufacturer to plunk a chunk of sweet, staved booze-barrel oak in a tin (Frog Morton’s Cellar, Stave-Aged Virginia 35) to come up with a tobacco you can blend yourself. The super-sweet orange/red tbf-mcclellandsVirginia is a treat, not available tinned on its own as far as I know. The stoved tobacco is a kissing cousin to McClelland’s Personal Reserve Black-woods Flake. The only real question is how to combine the flakes. A half-and- half mix offers an interplay of the citrusy lighter flakes with the sweet tomato jam flavor of the dark flakes. A greater pro- portion of the dark flake leans toward a classic McClelland stoved, but the brighter Virginia is somewhat overpowered. A 70 percent mix of the bright flake and
stoved is like a light rum punch infused with clove-studded oranges. Extra stoved
flakes at the end of the tin make for a rich stoved experience. These flakes are sure
to age well, but the two tobaccos will meld over time, reducing the contrast of the
two as they meld. Both are perfectly aged from the tin, so I suggest buying some to
smoke now. I imagine 25 years from now, smokers will be opening vintage old tins
of R&B, rhapsodizing about its flavor and wondering what it would have been like
in the “old days” to be able to smoke each flake separately.

Fabian: This blend is interesting in that it offers a combination of red Virginia flake and stoved Virginias, all in the same tin. They’re not mixed; they just share the same container. And as such you can pretty much smoke it how you’d like to. Every experience for every person will be personal and unique, and that’s quite a refreshing take on a flake. I chose to mix the two 50/50 for this, since most folks would probably start there and then tweak it how they’d like it. It’s a relatively mild blend, easy to light and smoke, with the sweetness of the red Virginia some- what tempered by the stoved Virginias. I found this combination to be zesty and that a Pinstripe Red Ale and Killian’s Irish Red both paired exceptionally well with this—a little spicy, pretty tangy and just dry enough to make you crave more of both.

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Category: Trial by Fire, Winter 2016

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