Trial by Fire : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Trial by Fire

TBFby Tad Gage and Bobby Fabian

In this round of reviews and tastings, we take on the first new tobaccos in quite a while from the venerable Samuel Gawith (and it seems they’ve made nice with Gawith Hoggarth, but I still don’t understand the relationship). A dram-worthy Hobbit-y Middle Earth quintet from Just For Him delivers aromatic flavor with pure tobacco pleasure. The Mind Meld brings together the impressive tobacco knowledge of Russ Ouellette and McClelland’s Mary and Mike McNiel, and Ouellette riffs with Standard Tobacco Company to reintroduce three classic John Cotton’s blends. And a bacon-y blend from BriarWorks? You had us at bacon. — Tad Gage

 

Samuel Gawith Cabbie’s Mixture

Cabbie'sGage:  Peeling back the paper wrapper lining a classic square tin, it’s hard to argue with this great- looking   mess   of

sliced coins of mahogany-colored aged Virginia with a dark bull’s-eye of Perique, nestled among a few broken golden strands of Virginia. My first thought: “This is about as close to old Three Nuns as I’ve smoked.” It lacks the cinnamon-like topping of Bell’s Three Nuns, but it sure captures the character. The tin aroma is mildly fruity and spicy, with an undercurrent of sweet vinegar pickles. The crumbly, not-too-dense coins pack well, but a few shreds and a few hours of drying time will facilitate burning.

The blend begs comparison to Escudo’s delicious coins, yet it’s different: sweeter, and not as lemony or peppery. Cabbie’s lights easily, and delivers a touch more Virginia sweetness and a bit less Perique spice than Escudo. There’s lots of cozy raisin, orange and earthy spice flavors  that  remind  you  of  a  mulled red wine. Sitting around a table of veteran pipe puffers with about 150 years of combined smoking experience, we reached an easy consensus that Cabbie’s is different from Escudo and is very, very good. This is a first-class, unique mixture worthy of smoking now and cellaring for future enjoyment.

Fabian: This is a beautiful broken coin mixture, with an interesting tin note that I found to be a mix between figs and vinegar. Once rolled out and loaded up in my pipe, the Perique responsible for the vinegary smell wasn’t nearly as strong as I expected, and the entire experience began with a rich, warm blast of fruity flavors,  followed  by  a  decent  amount of earthiness and spice. Once going strong, this mixture fully immerses your taste buds into a full, warm world that is firmly located in the center of any flavor profile—not too bright, not too dark, definitely in the middle but with lots of characteristics from both ends of the spectrum. This blend is sweet, spicy and very delicate overall, and any pairing deserves the same careful attention to detail that this blend was given during its creation. I found that a lovely glass of brandy fell into the profile of this mixture well and became the mortar that really smoothed the entire experience out into one smooth, warm ride.

 

BriarWorks Bacon Old Fashioned

Bacon-Old-FashoinedGage: Bacon Old Fashioned is packed   into one of the most playful presentations I’ve seen: a real Mason    jar that keeps the tobacco moist and invites reuse for tobacco or, better yet, a bourbon concoction. Open that jar, remove the Burley leaf resembling a bacon strip perched atop the dappled mixture, and inhale the scent of light fruit and spiced peaches—the essence of a refreshing summertime drink. Cool.

This collaboration with Cornell & Diehl (there are two other blends in the BriarWorks line) is a light bourbon- flavored mix of shaggy strands and tabs of Virginia that carry the sweet, with dark fired bringing the savory and black Cavendish delivering caramelized sugar. The piecemeal cut of this mixture  was  intriguing  and  contributed to an interplay among the various tobaccos.  A  natural  sweetness  from the  Virginia  comes  through  in  this slow, cool-burning aromatic. Obviously,  the  dark  fired  didn’t  actually taste like bacon, but it did provide an appealing smokiness.

The last half of the bowl delivers a building amount of dark fired strength and pepper, outlasting the delicate orange, vanilla/bourbon flavor. I liked the growing smokiness but missed the Virginia sweetness as the bowl pro- gressed. It’s an interesting change of pace from the typical aromatic, and if you want to double down, you can tear up some of the dark fired “bacon” leaf and  mix  it  in  with  a  bowlful.  Bacon Old Fashioned is not a bowl-you-over, liquor-sauced aromatic but rather a subtle, unique tasting experience that doesn’t hide the Virginia flavor.

Fabian: This tobacco is an interesting one immediately, as the tin (I should say Mason jar) note is one of tangy orange zest, a slightly smoky note of bacon from the stove and an almond- like  richness  mixed  with  earth  from the tobaccos. It’s probably the closest thing I’ve ever smelled to an old fashioned without there actually being one in front of me. Once I finally got over the smell and loaded a pipe full of it, I found that the dark fired tobaccos bring a nice pungent smokiness, with the Burley providing a decently stable base for the Virginias and casing to dance on top of. The further down the bowl goes, the further down the flavor profile travels, ending with the Virginias and bourbon sweaty and tired and the dark fired holding everything up. As far as pairings are concerned, the obvious choice would be to have an old fashioned with this blend, but I found that a glass of sweet mint tea made a more interesting pairing, basically creating  a  bacon  mint  julep  between the tea and the tobacco itself.

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Category: Summer 2016, Trial by Fire

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