Towards the end of each year and into the new year, I tend to reflect upon the tobaccos that I've smoked and enjoyed the most in the past 12 months. And since 2014, I've made a "Top Tobaccos" video for my YouTube channel. This goes back a couple of years before The Pipe Nook even existed, and it's always been a fun exercise. If you've never seen my YouTube channel, you can check it out here. But for now, let's get down to the list!
A few ground rules went into the creation of this list. First, it is based on my somewhat limited memory of the various tobaccos I smoked this past year. This old brain just ain't what it used to be. Next, it's not necessarily my "Top Pipe Tobaccos of All Time" list. While I still enjoy all of the tobaccos in the lists from previous years, some of my favorites didn't get smoked as much this year and don't appear on this list, for the simple fact that I smoked a good bit of new-to-me blends this year, and there's just not enough time to smoke 'em all as much as I'd like. Perhaps one day I'll have tried every blend out there and can settle into smoking primarily my very favorites...but I don't foresee that day coming any time soon! There are literally thousands of blends on the market, and while I try to carry a highly curated set of offerings here at The Pipe Nook, I just recently surpassed 100 blends that I try to keep available on the shop! So I've got my work cut for me to stay on top of what's out there.
Also of note is that all of these blends are available here at The Pipe Nook. That's not because I'm a corporate shill; it's because I sell the brands and blends that I enjoy the most. Of course, as a businessman, I'd like to sell a few tins...but quite honestly, I won't get rich selling tobacco! Single tins of tobacco are not a loss-leader...but close enough for a "small fry" shop such as mine. What I'm most interested in, just like many of you, is sharing the things that I gain the most enjoyment from, with like-minded people who enjoy pipe smoking as much as I do.
Finally, you'll see that this year's list leans very heavily towards blends that include either Perique or Dark Fired Kentucky (sometimes both), and towards flakes. Those are the blends that I gravitate towards the most. So this is neither an all-inclusive nor best selling list; it's simply a list of my favorite blends that I've smoked the most this past year. You'll see that there's nothing in the way of aromatics or English blends included (although I'll provide some special mentions). While I do enjoy those kinds of blends from time to time when I'm in the mood, I suppose I've just found my wheelhouse and primarily stick to that. In comparison, sometimes I really enjoy a good salad...but I'd rather have steak! Just my personal preference.
Honorable Mentions - Aromatics
Cornell & Diehl's Autumn Evening - This is a simple base blend of Virginia and Cavendish, to which is added a nice maple flavor. I'd say this is a medium aromatic, not an overly topped blend, which makes the base blend all that much more important.
GL Pease's The Virginia Cream - The name seemingly says it all, but there's more going on here than one might expect. Yes, a pleasant Vanilla & Bourbon flavor is present, but in addition to the "usual suspects" of Virginia and Black Cavendish found in most aromatic blends, Mr. Pease decided to add a bit of Dark Fired Kentucky and Perique to this blend, giving it a different spin than the vast majority of aromatics out there.
Honorable Mentions - Latakia Blends
Captain Earle's Reflections - If you like Latakia in smaller portions, or if you've never tried a Latakia blend and are looking to dip your toe in the shallow end of the pool, this is a great place to start. A mixture of various Virginias, Orientals, Cavendish, and Latakia, there's just enough of that smoky leaf to notice it's there, but it's never overbearing.
Captain Earle's Ten Russians - This is the other side of the Latakia spectrum. You wanna know what a heavy Latakia blend is like? Then welcome aboard! There are Virginias and Orientals present to provide a bit of balance, but there's no doubt who's running the show here.
MY TOP 10 TOBACCO BLENDS OF 2019
10. GL Pease's Penny Farthing - A fine shag cut, this blend isn't for everyone. Shag cut tobacco will burn more quickly than any other tobacco, much like pine straw burns more quickly in a campfire than twigs. As such, if you push it too hard, it will burn hot and not taste like much. However, if you can remember to sip slowly, there is much reward. Comprised of Virginia, Perique, and Dark Fired Kentucky, this blend proved to be right up my alley! And the different cut from the rest of my favorite blends made it all the more interesting. This is currently the only shag cut blend I carry at The Pipe Nook, and it was introduced in 2019.
9. Cornell & Diehl's Bluegrass - Another blend made of Virginia, Perique, and Dark Fired, this one is presented in a broken flake. Actually, I would say that it's somewhere in-between a ready rubbed and a broken flake, depending on the tin. Regardless, it's fairly easy to rub out into something that's fun to load into your pipe, and enjoy the robust flavors of these components.
8. Cornell & Diehl's Blue Ridge - A blend of Virginia, Black Cavendish, Orientals and Perique, this is a well balanced smoke that has a good bit of complexity. Presented in a fairly standard ribbon cut. The Perique doesn't steal the spotlight here. That's for another blend...
7. Cornell & Diehl's Chenet's Cake - Do you like Perique? Do you? Well, let's just find out how much. This blend will tell you, and fast! There's no denying Perique is front and center in this blend. Considered the truffle of the tobacco world, Perique in larger quantities can be musty to the nose, which it is here...but oddly, in a good way. It's hard to explain. I'm a big Perique fan, but any more than what's placed in this blend would be too much for me! Presented in a wonderful crumble cake that crumbles out easily into a short ribbon cut.
6. Captain Earle's Honor Blend - I know I gave honorable mentions to two Latakia blends from Captain Earle's already, but of the 8 blends in the line, this is my favorite. It is the only one of the 8 that doesn't contain any Latakia, but it is presented in the same crumble cake as all of the other Captain Earle's offerings. A mixture of Virginia, Orientals, Cavendish and Perique, this blend is similar to Blue Ridge, perhaps with a bit more of a pronounced taste from the Orientals, which to me provides a slight semblance of tartness, but your mileage may vary.
5. GL Pease's Navigator - Similar to C&D's Bluegrass, but without the Perique, this broken flake is a no-nonsense mixture of Virginia and Old Dark Fired, enhanced by a light Rum infusion that marries into the blend during the pressing and aging process. It's like a Navy Flake, but with Dark Fired taking the place of the Perique that's in a standard Navy treatment.
4. Peterson's Flake - This is a straightforward Virginia Flake made primarily of Medium-Bodied Brown Virginias. Peterson has revived this, as well as many other Dunhill blends. And good news: they all taste exactly the same as they did when the Dunhill name was on the tins! Providing an ever-so-slight sweetness with hay-like notes, this is one of the all-time great Virginia Flakes. If you're into straight Virginia tobaccos and haven't tried this flake, you've got some homework to do!
3. Peterson's University Flake - Another simple blend, this time with Burley and Virginia. While I sometimes use the comparison of Peterson's Flake to the taste of tea, University Flake is somewhere in-between my Number 4 and my Number 2 picks when it comes to strength and body. No wonder it wound up in the number 3 slot.
2. Peterson's Irish Flake - While I draw comparisons of Peterson's Flake to tea, Irish Flake is more like coffee. Strong, rich, and robust, this is a blend of Virginia, Burley, and Dark Fired tobaccos. Also known to be a stronger blend when it comes to nicotine, I would recommend sipping this one on a full stomach!
1. Mac Baren's HH Old Dark Fired - It will come as no surprise to those that know me from my YouTube channel that this is once again at the top of my list, where it's been for a few years. Sharing many of the qualities of Peterson's Irish Flake, I sense a bit of an Anise aftertaste, and a slightly lesser strength overall. Still bold, but a bit more refined than the Irish Flake, this is my go-to blend, and what I smoke the most.
So that's my list for 2019. While it was by definition geared solely to my personal tastes, a large part of the joy of pipe smoking can be found in discovering what types of blends you enjoy the most. I've found mine, but I'm always open to new blends, as well. And I encourage you to do the same! If any of these blends strike your interest, throw a few in the cart and see what new favorites you might find in 2020!
You can check out the video presentation of this list on my YouTube channel, here. And please subscribe if you enjoy this conversational style of discussion regarding pipes and tobaccos.
Keep 'em lit,
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