Published: 23 February 2014
For the first couple years I smoked a pipe I explored Latakia blends and Burley. I think Latakia blends are easy to appreciate. They don't take much of a palate to derive satisfaction from. They're obvious, consistent. Similarly Burley provides the definition for consistency. These are tobaccos that are easy to master and don't demand much of the smoker.
I'm one of the guys who was really worried what FDA regulation was going to do to the availability of tobacco, so I started cellaring in earnest almost from the beginning. I was winding down on putting in my cellar, at least I thought so at the time, and thought to myself that this was my last chance to see if I wanted to represent Virginias in my cellar before I had my weight put away.
I started diving into Virginias with a passion, and found to my surprise that smoking them was a revelation for me. Quality of flavor, subtlety, compelling tobacco sugar, intrinsically the essence of good tobacco to my mind. All of a sudden Va's were all I wanted to smoke. At the time Samuel Gawith's catalog was readily available online, and it hadn't been for a while, so I started putting away BBF, FVF and MVF like my life depended on it.
I quickly went from about a pound of Virginia mixtures in my cellar to a quarter of my total weight, half of my total weight, three quarters of my total weight. Along the way I explored each major house associated with blending fine Virginia mixtures, and developed a repertoire of tobaccos that would see me through to the end. This continues whether I want it to or not of course, and I am still finding good blends that I feel warrant poundage in my basement and screwing up my tobacco roadmap.
Published: 13 August 2013
I've laid out some of my favorite Va's in the two previous articles and just thought I'd tack on a little addendum. Sometimes tobaccos that make a big first impression lose their luster after you've acquired more intimacy with them, and sometimes tobaccos you've always liked just keep getting better and better in your esteem.
I still think the Samuel Gawith trilogy of MVF/BBF/FVF is worthy of a lot of weight in any Va lover's cellar. During the warmer months MVF definitely becomes my favorite of the three. It's as fine a golden Va as is made, and if you love Va flakes just ignore all the reviews that call this one bland. It is not bland if you have a palate for straight Va's. BBF is finicky but never bad, and when your palate syncs with it I think it's the finest Va on the planet. FVF is more forgiving and I find it to be a Va that I can smoke during the cold months moreso than the lighter flakes.
The McClelland stuff is great, but I have a love hate relationship with it. My esteem for Rich Virginia Ribbon and Royal Cajun Ebony has diminished somewhat. No. 24 is always good and perhaps the best thing they produce for my tastes.
Published: 20 May 2013
In the previous article I covered my favorite Virginias. I remain hugely loyal to Samuel Gawith and Fribourg & Treyer. I've been loading up on F&T Cut Virginia Plug lately after it became available again for the first time in a quite a while. That tobacco just knocks my socks off. Yes, it's a bergamot cased Va just like Hamborger Veermaster and Dunhill Flake, but the underlying tobacco of the F&T is just spectacular. It's become my single favorite German flake, and that's saying a lot.
I have passed the 100 pound mark in my cellar. At my smoking rate that's about what I need to see me through, with luck both ways anyway. Luck that I make it that long, and luck that I don't outlive my cellar.
At the end of the line, cellaring wise, you start looking at your inventory and really second guessing yourself. Hey I have too much of this. Man I really should buy another pound or two of this. You'll drive yourself nuts, and frankly you'll never achieve perfection because you just can't account for shifts in taste. You do the best you can.
So here I am at the end of the line, cellaring wise, and I have been checking tobaccoreviews.com more than I have for a long time. Just making sure I'm not missing anything. I became curious about McClelland again. There must be something to their Va's, so many people love them. Me, as a Lat blend smoker I wasn't very enthused about their Lat blends, and tins of Dark Star and Blackwoods Flake didn't do anything for me so I just kind of moved on. A kind forum member sent me some McClelland samples not too long ago. Can of worms opened.
Published: 18 March 2013
The first couple of tobaccos I ever smoked in a pipe were aromatics. I moved on quickly, because the great tin aroma never translated into the smoke for me.
Next stop was Latakia blends, where I happily stayed for a long time. I also explored Burleys, after a generous forum member sent me a big selection to sample.
As I was winding down figuring out how to finish my half completed cellar, I decided I'd better revisit straight Virginia tobaccos again, just to be sure I wasn't making a mistake in omitting them from my cellar. I took to Va's instantly and in a big way. I scrambled, building a cellar that was focused squarely on straight Va's, with enough Latakia and Burley to provide some variety. Good thing I had a last minute crisis of faith.
I've since revisited a couple of quality aromatics, and I don't hate them, but I still am left feeling that a lightly cased Virginia tobacco provides more flavor and better tobacco satisfaction. For me it's difficult not to smoke straight Va's to the exclusion of all else anymore. Not every bowl sings when you focus on Va's, but the ones that do really sing, and of course, the better your technique becomes the more likely you are to have those epiphanies.