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Balkan Sobranie Original Smoking Mixture is one of the most legendary Latakia-based blends in history. Dating back to around the 1920s, this is a combination of wonderful Virginias, excellent Orientals and enough Latakia for a robust and flavorful mixture. The balance of tobaccos gives the smoker a sweet and smoky experience, with a finish unlike anything else., The aroma is so bright that it has an incense-like scent that will thrill the senses. Since the Original has gone through a number of iterations over the years, it’s impossible to say if it will remind you of the one you smoked years ago, but it’s a terrific smoke in its own right.

Notes: IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the re-release version of Balkan Sobranie. If you are reviewing the older version, please see the entry under "Sobranie of London", here: http://www.tobaccoreviews.com/blend/4148/sobranie-of-london-the-balkan-sobranie

BrandJ. F. Germain & Son
Blended ByJ.F. Germain & Son
Manufactured ByJ.F. Germain & Son
Blend TypeBalkan
ContentsLatakia, Oriental/Turkish, Virginia
FlavoringNone
CutRibbon
Packaging50g Tin
CountryUK
ProductionRe-release
Where to Buy SmokingPipes.com
Product Image
Strength
Medium
Flavoring
None Detected
Taste
Medium
Room Note
Pleasant to Tolerable

Favorite Of 3 Users

3.5
35 reviews
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DK Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
DK (557)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

Typical brown and black ribbon blend with the tin nose that says "Balkan!" in a purposeful and unmistakable fashion. Enough has been made about comparisons of this to the old, but two comments come to mind. First, the old Balkan Sobranie is dead and gone. If I thought it was coming back, smoking this version convinced me that I was wrong. Second, even though such comparisons are usually pointless, I'm about to compare this version not to my current stock of old Sobranie, but to my memory of what it was like fresh in the 1990's (tinned rather than pouch versions).

In my experience, there have been three latakia blends that have this particular trait of (and since I can't describe it any better) a massive flavor burst from first lightup that lasts for about 1/4 bowl before it settles down. It's almost like taste overload, but it's addictive. This tendency is common for me with fresh tins of GLP's Charing Cross, the Murray version of Dunhill 965 and 1990's Sobranie. This blend does not possess that trait. Even though that may be the only way I could discern the two, it's enough that I'm convinced I could pick out the two in a blind taste test... not that it's possible for me to prove such a claim! But I'm still heavily inclined to disagree with those that think "nothing ever really was, anyway" with respect to Sobranie White.

At any rate, this tastes an awful lot like my stash of Sobranie. Even this flavor burst I've spoken about has subdued in the old stuff to the point that it's just a memory, albeit a memory I can relive with a new tin of Charing Cross, even though they otherwise don't taste alike. This is an excellent Balkan. It's not like my memory of the old stuff when it was fresh but it's excellent in its own right. Time to stop chasing the past and enjoy this venerable blend in the here and now. Because even the aged stuff isn't like it was when fresh for me and I think Germain was the perfect company to take this recipe and push it forward for new generations of smokers. Enjoy!

Pipe Used: meerschaum and morta

Age When Smoked: New

7 people found this review helpful.

SteelCowboy Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
SteelCowboy (513)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable

Here is the issue with those that compare this to days gone by: When BS was in production, there were many changes made to the blend at different points in time. The 90's era of BS was not the exact same recipe as the 70's era (and not as good IMO) and so on. So to say that this doesn't compare, then the question is, "to what?" I have smoked 3 tins of the 90's era BS along side with the new Germain era tins. I find them to be very close from a quality standpoint. Now, the 90's stuff had the benefit (or lack thereof as more often than not the Latakia softens) age on the tin. The fact is that there are so many different BS versions that to compare them is pointless. The bottom line is that the new stuff is very good. With that said, is it worth the extra coins that are being charged on some sites or on ebay? In my opinion the answer is NO. Hopefully Germain will bring more to market and the demand will naturally die down. But since they can't meet demand for many of their Esoterica blends, I'm not holding my breath. The new BS is a very good quality medium Balkan blend with some nice Orientals. It is cut very thin and needs to be packed with care. It also needs a little "dry" time. The smoke is somewhat creamy and very balanced. If you enjoy medium Balkan's than this is worth a try.

6 people found this review helpful.

Relapse Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Relapse (14)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable

I've been a lover of "Balkan" (English/Latakia) blends since my first contact with THE ORIGINAL during the autumn of 1967, through a tin that a dear auntie of mine —my father's eldest sister– brought me as a present on her return from a trip to London.

Albeit 45 years have passed since that first taste, I still remember with clarity the tangy aroma as I opened the tin and the complex nuances of the blend on the first light. They are burned in my neurones as well as the taste of the first kiss from my first girlfriend. =)

I kept smoking it whenever I could get my hands on some tins —importing tobacco to Mexico was extremely difficult then– until 1989 when I quit tobacco altogether; relapsed some years ago only to find that Balkan Sobranie had all but disappeared from the face of the earth.

Since my return to pipe smoking I've been on the quest for the successor. Tried Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader, Balkan Sasieni, all the classic English blends of Gregory Pease, Lagonda, Sextant, and finally Hearth & Home Black House which I deemed the closest to what my taste and smell remembered as THE Balkan.

Right now I'm comparing two almost identical meerschaums from Sinan Altinok that I've devoted exclusively to Balkans, one filled with H&H Black House and the other with the present incarnation of Balkan Sobranie; both from freshly opened tins. I must say that tho the new BS is a superb blend in its own right, the Black House is truer to the 1967 blend.

Here are my senile asessments on the BS:

The smell on opening the tin is a bit bland and lacks the pungent tang of the old. Here Squadron Leader takes the palms.

The packaging is cheaper too. Gone are the nice card stopper and the finely pleated paper. The new treatment is, simply, cheap. Kudos to Greg Pease in this step.

The color of the mixture is different, somewhat redder, and the cut thinner. Practically gone the lemon Va's. It's also quite wet and requires a good amount of drying to get a cool smoke. The old blend was a joy to load on the pipe, this one is a bit tasking and demands a light hand.

Gone is the sweet first taste that the very elegant Virginias provided; also gone is the sour-sweet taste of the orientals. The Latakia is rather prominent without being overwhelming, which is as I remember it. The room note is decent. Here, on the taste comparo, as I said before Black House gets the prize.

OK, those were the gripes. Now let me tell you that this is an extremely good Latakia blend and that it's worth every expensive penny you will pay for it. It's not the old king but it's a true crown heir. A year of aging in the tin and it will mature to a real ruler. Nevertheless, it will have several pretenders to the throne and the list is long.

You and I, as Balkan smokers can only benefit from the struggle. The variety has made for a great rotation list.

Happy puffs!

5 people found this review helpful.

JimInks Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
JimInks (565)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable

Here's what I wrote about the House of Sobranie version of this blend: I've smoked Balkan Sobranie from the mid-1980s until they quit producing it around the mid-2000s, and it was my main "go-to" English blend. The Orientals and Turkish gave a tasty spice flavor that I craved for in perfect balance with the smoky, woodsy latakia. The Virginia had a grass and hay taste with just a hint of sweet creaminess to provide a camp fire aroma. There was light soda note or two, and I never did figure what was producing it, but it worked well with the dry notes of the blend. The later version seemed to be drier in taste than it was in the 1980s, but that never bothered me. This was one of the very few English blends I could smoke several times a day, and I sure wish it was back in production. It deserves Hall of Fame status.

Comparing this to the pouch version I was smoking in the late 1990's and 2000s, I can hardly tell a difference, except the tin version is moister than the pouch one. Possibly, this is just a slight - and I mean very slight - bit sweeter, but it's virtually the same as what I used to smoke. The version I first smoked some thirty years ago seemed to have a little more latakia, but this is so much like the Gallaher's version, that I doubt I'd be able to tell which is Gallaher's and which is Germain's in a blind taste test.

4 people found this review helpful.

fr_tom Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
fr_tom (136)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable

Back when you could get it in the stores, I would pick up a tin of the original from time to time. That was a long time ago, and while my taste buds have probably changed, I have to say this is the experience I remembered.

In the flavor profile, I get orientals, Virginias and latakia in that order. The result is spicy, sweet and smoky all at once. There is a smoky quality to the orientals (as there is in Presbyterian Mixture), and the combo is very tasty. It works very well, and manages all this without overwhelming or clobbering you with one flavor over another. I guess that is they call balance. Even if this type of blend is not your cup of coffee, you owe it to yourself to try a bowl or two of this.

Pipe Used: various briars

Age When Smoked: fresh from tin

Purchased From: gift from friend

3 people found this review helpful.

krg1000 Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
krg1000 (130)
★★★★
Mild to Medium Mild to Medium Mild to Medium Pleasant to Tolerable

This is the stuff legends are made of. The tin note is just fantastic. The room note for me is absolutely amazing. All the tobacco elements combine for an extremely fine smoking experience. Last time I had a chance, I got 2 tins (the limit at that time in one order from my online source) and I miss it much since last smoking some of this great weed. Definitely something to put on your wish list if it unavailable at the present time. If not, then by all means get some whilst supplies last. You won't be disappointed. Very highly recommended.

3 people found this review helpful.

King Weed Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
King Weed (31)
★★★★
Mild to Medium Very Mild Medium to Full Very Pleasant

I was gifted a two ounce bulk sample by reviewer 430pat when I purchased a large number of other tins from him recently on ebay. Thank you pat, it is a wonderful smoking experience. This current iteration of an old blend is from the J.F. Germain Co., a blender/tinner I have known and admired for decades. They have done a good job. Of course, being a longtime english smoker, I have had the pleasure of smoking this blend off and on for about fifty years - from the old razor-cuts down to the Gallagher roll-up pouches. The current iteration is the second best version I can remember; the sixties Sobranie Ltd. being the best.

The bulk appearance is browner than I remember the original, which had lighter components flecked with blackish bits, but this is no problem. The aroma is heavenly and not at all perfumey as I have read in some reviews. The cut is a rather fine ribbon - my favorite cut for a pipe blend. There was only a very minor amount of woody components and it required only a short dry-out time to a ready-to-smoke consistency. From the first puff I knew I was into something nice and very reminiscent of the original blend. It smoked soft and friendly in the top half of the bowl and, from the mid-bowl point on down, only got better. Like Hearth and Home's Ambassador's Blend, it had one of the finest finishes I have ever smoked. I was also gifted a two ounce bag of Orlik/Dunhill 965 in the same week (it was Christmas time, after all) by another longtime pipe smoking friend and I will review it and compare the two mixtures in an upcoming 965 review.

I very much enjoyed my experience with Germain's Balkan Sobranie Mixture and I'm still enjoying it as we speak. I highly recommend this blend to all pipe smokers for what it is and for what it strongly hints was the original blend. A solid four stars.

Pipe Used: ashton quaint dublin and ardor canadian

Age When Smoked: 3 yrs old in bulk

Purchased From: gifted by another smoker

Similar Blends: 965.

2 people found this review helpful.

Uban Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Uban (34)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Full Pleasant to Tolerable

I guess I had my first pouch of BS back around 1964. I smoked it off & on until it went away, & I certainly agree that it changed over the years, maybe a little less Oriental, maybe different Lats. Anyway, I'm sure that the "Golden Age" of tobacco blending is RIGHT NOW. The new BS is very reminiscent of several iterations of the old, just as smooth, complex, cool burn, slightly sweet on occasion, with a wonderful perfume (for the smoker). On a par with Compton's Macedonian, York Full, etc.

Pipe Used: clay, meer, Dunhill patent billiard gr 3

Age When Smoked: I'm 70. The BS was new.

Purchased From: Online

Similar Blends: Full balkan mixtures.

2 people found this review helpful.

Deleted Account Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Deleted Account (485)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Full Pleasant

This tobacco is wonderful. The tin art could have been more elaborate, but such a minor point. The tin aroma is musty and smoke like...very alluring. This needed a little drying time and after fluffing up the top layer in the tin and then recapping it loosely, it was ready to go in a few days. This packed easily enough, lit quite well and what can I say?...Delicious!! The smoke was creamy, nutty in an exotic manner, pungent, just perfect. The bowl burned cool, no bite and though this is an expensive treat, It was worth the 17 bucks I put out for it at my local B&M (I captured 3 tins in total). When people talk lovingly of the previous BS they will, in time, certainly talk about its progeny in the same manner.

2 people found this review helpful.

bob323 Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
bob323 (44)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable

Perhaps expectations were too high...I remember when I was a kid (abt 100yrs ago)...A Schwin 3-speed was the best bicycle you could hope to own and I just knew that this Christmas was the Christmas...Well, Christmas came and there it was...The most beautiful blue 3-speed bike you ever saw...except it wasn't a Schwin...It was a Huffy or a Sears...Don't get me wrong, it was a great bike...It just wasn't a Schwin...The same with this tobacco...After waiting and chasing it down, Balkan Sobranie by Germain is a great tobacco...Four stars in my book...But, it's no Schwin...Oh, well, it will still get you around the block with a little flash...Don't get me started on cars...or women.

Pipe Used: various for testing

Age When Smoked: Fresh from the dealer

Purchased From: Smokingpipes.com

Similar Blends: Peterson's Old Dublin...Germain's Latakia Mixture...and Hearth & Home's Black House (which is less expensive and more readily available).

1 person found this review helpful.

Darth 69 Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Darth 69 (75)
★★☆☆
Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant to Tolerable

As someone who smoked the Gallaher version in the early 90's I'm left with disappointment. It really is nothing like what it was at that time. From what I have gleaned over the internet the Gallaher version was processed with some additive(s)/casing(s) and cooking/stoving/cavendish to make the dark virginias. It had a dark,sweet BBQ-like smokiness with a salty taste unlike anything else. This newer version isn't bad, in fact it has merit especially in how smooth it is but there is no lineage in character. If it wasn't for the label nobody smoking this would think classic Balkan Sobranie, at least the 80's 90's production. The newer smoke started out very well balanced. The various leaf elements seem to blend into the others for a harmonious whole with a slight edge towards a very mild turkish character. At times the latakia was elevated and others a toasted nuance. I never got a distinct virginia note. This newer blend is lighter and more blond in color with perhaps 30% or so latakia and a small addition of some ready-rubbed cake of darkbrown stoved leaf. This seems to be a natural blend to me with no noticeable casings. If you long for the old version and can't seem to obtain this new one, I wouldn't worry about it. It seems to me to be just an above average, lighter medium generic english blend. A weak 2 stars for trying to capitalize on the former's legacy.

Pipe Used: Savanelli "Bing's Favorite"

Age When Smoked: New

Purchased From: Tinder Box Crystal Court- Costa Mesa, Ca

1 person found this review helpful.

Palermo09 Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Palermo09 (15)
★★★☆
Medium None Detected Medium to Full Tolerable to Strong

I Bought a tin from LJ Peretti after having heard so much about this "controversial" blend. A classic style Balkan blend. The Virginia tobacco had some noticeable plume on it so it must of had some age. I have been smoking it out of a meershcaum that I had also bought from Peretti. This tobacco smokes cool and dry with the orienatals up front followed by a mild latakia flavor. It is a good Balkan blend not the best but good for sure. I would buy it again, but I can not see it becoming a must have. Worth a try without a doubt.

Pipe Used: Meerscahum poker

Age When Smoked: ??

Purchased From: LJ Peretti

1 person found this review helpful.

Hottgunn Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Hottgunn (18)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable

Smells like raisins and very good Baklava out of the tin. Laid back Latakia and a dominant incense aroma. I think this is what most would call a Balkan mixture as opposed to an English mixture. A nice, somewhat complex taste and aroma. I think the Oriental tobaccos are what I am tasting and are what give this tobacco it's signature character. Very nice and refreshing after heavy English blends. Recommended.

I am raising my rating to 4 stars after smoking a tin. Toss up for me between this and Pease Meridian. Upon further review, Sobranie wins. Mystical aroma. In a patent Dunhill, just spectacular.

1 person found this review helpful.

Virginia lover Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Virginia lover (118)
★★★☆
Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable

I got a tin as a gift from a fellow smoker. I never had the pleasure of smoking the original mixture so this mixture will be reviewed on its own merits.

Nice tin artwork, the smell off the tin is very intriguing. Fast burning shag cut tobacco that packs well and burns to a white ash. The Latakia is there in a supporting role with the Virginias and Orientals balancing the act. If puffed too fast, a cigarette like and bitter taste shows up so be warned.

A classic Balkan mixture that would be a hit if more were available. Alas in Montreal it's impossible to find and I consider myself a very lucky man for having this one tin.

Overall, an addictive smell when unlit and even more so when puffing away.

1 person found this review helpful.

Adam S Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Adam S (5)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable

Since I liked the review of 430pat a lot I will do the same :)

1. I have only tried few times from a fellow at pipe club 2. I had the pleasure of smoking the original. I even smoked the original the same week. 3. Very nice and enjoyable smoke that changes over 4. Did bells and whistles go off? Yes 5. Would I pay a premium? Yes 6. Would I purchase? yes! If I have a chance 7. Are there other blends closer to the original? yes

I must say I loved this blend. It is hard to compare to the original, because it has years of aging. Let's say that I would rather purchase a tin of Germain version than the original when I think of price/performance ratio...

1 person found this review helpful.

430pat Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
430pat (39)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

1. Couldn't resist paid a premium for a tin 2. Never had the pleasure of smoking the original 3. Very nice and enjoyable smoke 4. Did bells and whistles go off? no 5. Would I pay a premium again? no 6. Would I purchase again? yes only at standard pricing 7. There are many quality tobaccos out there that are the same quality or better.But the Balkan Sobranie really is very good.

On my third bowl I guess I would pay a little extra

1 person found this review helpful.

CPT/VSG Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
CPT/VSG (70)
★★★★
Medium to Strong None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant

I smoked the original mixture back in the 1970s when it was available and the Gallagher pouch version more recently. Honestly, I don't recall enough of the flavor profile of the House of Sobranie product to comment except to say that, as one who "grew up" as a pipe smoker on Smoker's Haven's Our Best Blend,I was always told that the two were very similar. That remains the case today, partly due to the fact that Germain blends both now (originally OBB came from House of Sobranie) and both have something of that distinctive (and good) Germain character. The modern BS is a fairly full English blend, with a bit more latakia note than OBB to my taste buds. It does come very close to the Gallagher version that I revived from largely dried out pouches. Just a wonderful, rich, mix of fine orientals and virginias with enough latakia for the added smokey spice. I really like the new BS and have been buying tins whenever I see them as they are hard to find. Highly recommended.

1 person found this review helpful.

Aeronius Hook Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Aeronius Hook (4)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Full Pleasant

Managed to pick this up a few months ago for somewhat of a premium. I guess I'll start by saying that this review is based on only one bowl I've had, though I feel I have experience with enough latakia mixtures to do a fair review. I've no experience with the original, so this is based solely on the blend's own merits. Due to the fact this is so hard to come by, I probably will only smoke this for special occasions, that is unless J.F Germain decides to release a few more batches that don't get sold out instantaneously.

On opening the tin, the fragrance is strong and thick, similar to some of the more robust latakia mixtures available. It comes in a very fine shag cut, slightly moist, but still burns well.

First off, I would say that this mixture has a very unique taste to it. I would describe it as almost like how a nice cinnamon potpourri smells, though I don't detect any sort of casing. I can guess that is achieved through the combination of high quality latakia, orientals, and cavendish. I don't believe I've experienced such a taste in any other tobacco before. There's a very good balance of ingredients, with a hearty dose of oriental. I think there are some virginias in this, but I can smell it more than I can taste it. Overall, the taste is interesting, highly complex, and quite delicious. It also leaves a pretty distinct and pleasant aftertaste. And though one would expect a decent nic kick from a blend like this, I don't believe I felt anything.

It would be nice if this were more widely available, then I could stock up, but sadly I have to hold on to what I've managed to find. If you're looking for a very good latakia mixture and are fortunate enough to come across this at a fair price, grab a tin, you won't be disappointed!

1 person found this review helpful.

DrDyson Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
DrDyson (109)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Full Tolerable

English/Balkan mixtures are an acquired taste, and certainly an acquired smell; if you don't like Latakia, they're intolerable. Personally, I prefer Virginias on the whole, but I sometimes get into a Latakia mood. When I do, I usually go for Gawith & Hoggarth's Balkan Mixture or No. 25 Mixture. I have to say, though, that this new incarnation of Balkan Sobranie is good stuff; and, especially, it's much more robust and complex than the other two. I don't have a discriminating enough palate or a sufficiently accurate memory to be able to compare it to the “old” Balkan Sobranie. It's enough for me that the orientals, Latakia and Virginia components are well-balanced and skilfully blended in terms of flavour and consistency. This is an interesting and rewarding smoke all the way down the bowl, with no negatives that I can identify (apart, possibly, from the room note considered from the point of view of the Innocent Bystander). I suspect that there will soon be a scarcity problem - because Germain will not want to flood the market with it, and people will hoard it (i.e. the same problem as there is with Penzance). If you can get it, though, and if you like Latakia mixtures, you really can't do better than this.

1 person found this review helpful.

N7 Renegade Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
N7 Renegade (3)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Full Strong

Opening the tin there is a tang. A good tang. A sour tang. I LOVE sour tobacco. I like bitter drinks as well but I like my orientals sour and that is what I got. The smell isn't quite on par with Presbyterian (with me, I have sang her virtues since I discovered her in 2004), but it is very yummy.

Even my wife liked it. Actually she loves english blends for some reason, doesn't like Va's that much. I don't either although there's a few I enjoy.

Honestly at first glance I was thinking I was going to get a lat bomb but although it is there, it isn't the star here.

Cut is rather strange, reminds me of a moist version of G&H Birdseye somewhere between a shag and ribbon. Packs well. Will plug a pipe though if some touch isn't used. I usually just run a cleaner through and unclog it.

First light is pure ambrosia orientals taking the stage again until about midbowl when for some reason it seems to flatten out and lose some flavor. It just stops, damnest thing. However it seems to come back with a rich fullness towards the end. Leather. Brine. Butter.

Not going to make a comment about ash, ash is ash to me at least.

I have smoked about half of this thing in 2 days. I keep thinking about it when I am away. I wonder if it hasn't become my precious or something. I am looking at it now wanting to stop writing and fill up again. I never had the original nor could I afford to. However it is going into my top three. Perhaps sitting on my guitar amp for a year and being aged gently to death metal helped I dunno but well worth it.

Final Verdict: Awesome. For someone who never had it you are in for a treat, if you are part of the Codger Society of Eluciated Breathren you will likely bemoan the loss of the original but you may be surprised.

Edit: This is from a quick review I did on a message board a few days prior. Haven't finished the tin yet as I am trying to save what is left until I can glom on to some more. Germain believes apparently, that quality takes time and cannot be rushed.

1 person found this review helpful.

zulujerk Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
zulujerk (134)
★★★☆
Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable

I don't think it's fair to the original Balkan Sobranie that the newer reviews of Germain's interpretation should be lopped together. It's a confusing mess sorting it all out, so I'm glad this listing exists. They are, after all, two very different products, despite what we've been told.

The new Sobranie is a fine, if derivative Balkan, as Germain's reputation. But...I feel it might have been entirely inconsequential if marketed as a new blend. Nostalgia and curiosity have fueled the sell outs, which have reached the status of a select few, FVF and Stonehaven, among the highly sought.

Its characteristics--the blend is quite mild, with a very high percentage of Latakia, far more, in comparison, to a blend like Nightcap. Peering into the tin contents will tell you that--this is a dark mixture. There is a considerable spice, offered by the Oriental leaf, the varietal unstated but likely the common variant Smyrna or some generic microblend. If there is a whisper of Yenidje or some other exotic varietal, I would be surprised, and we would certainly be told.

Like many of Germain's mixes, Balkan Sobranie comes in a fine ribbon, making it easy to overpack the pipe, and prone to a quick, hot burn. Yet it's elegant, and beautiful in the tin. And how was the original cut up, by comparison? In the end, it's not a bother. You really do have to put the comparisons aside and accept this new Sobranie for what it is, on its own merits, of which it admirably succeeds.

Yes, this is a fine, high quality blend. But it does not deserve the attention it receives, and I wonder what might happen when the curiosity has been satiated. You may blame the recipe holder for their decision to reissue Balkan Sobranie, but how many other companies out there might have done the same? And in a mark of irony, the bulk consumers of the blend will be those who have never tried any variation of the original, myself included.

It's a bit pointless to drone on about the multitude of factors that combine to produce something so seemingly simple as a tin of pipe tobacco. And just observing the obvious...on the factory floor, what of replicating the original leaf, the warehouse stockpiles, the production process and its machines...elements that undoubtedly contribute significantly to the overall character and flavor of a blend? It would be impossible to control those variables. More, of the many versions and revisions to come of the original mixture, which model was chosen? Why? I suppose we could have done worse. Imagine if Orlik had delivered the production orders to Borkum Riff. Or even a respected blender like MacBaren, with their bitey, bland and weak blends? Relax, I know, I'm sorry for insulting Diddy McB.

If all of this sounds familiar, I'm pretty sure it's entirely lifted from Mr. Pease's article on the matter. A damn fine read, by the way. I apologize, it's a while since I read the thing.

I would like to note the branding of the product, including the tin art, which feels amateurish, especially when compared to Sasieni, of the same style as the original, but better polished. I suspect a high schooler in a graphic design class could put together a more impressive presentation. The redrawn image, reasonable, yet lacking clarity and definition, the font entirely different, and, strangely plastered onto the background wagons, looking very out of place. It seems as if the resultant design possesses less class.

Criticisms aside, I've smoked two tins and have another two in waiting. For that, I suppose I'm a bit of a hypocrite here. Again, I apologize. For comparison, as noted, I smoked Balkan Sobranie in tandem with a tin of Nightcap. I found that moving from Nightcap to Sobranie felt like sucking steam. I had to kill the Nightcap tin before moving back, and then the adjustment was fine. You shift from relishing in the power that the Dunhill blend carries, to appreciating other qualities--the spice and smokiness.

Now imagine again, had Germain given the blend another name, there would be a fair portion of us looking the other way. It would still be popular...most all Germain products fly off the shelf. In the end, they're doing something right, unlike Gallaher, which managed to go broke while pedaling one of the world's favorite smokes, to critics and simpletons alike. Good going, guys.

1 person found this review helpful.

Lochinvar Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Lochinvar (71)
★★★★
Strong None Detected Full Tolerable to Strong

It has been so long I can not truly tell if this replicates Sobranie to the letter or not, but it is a top notch smoke. It reminds me of when I started smoking in the early '90s, the English tobaccos, though they all had their individual differences, all had a rich scent and were all well matured, not rushed into the blend too early. These days when I open a tin I'm never sure if I'm going to get "peat reek", raw smelling tobacco, musty/mildewy smelling tobacco or if it will just smell "botanical" instead of "tobaccinal". This is Dunhill by Dunhill, Rattray by Rattray, Three Nun's, John Cotton...in other words, this is tobacco the way it was supposed to be smoked. Enough hyperbole and memory lane.

On opening the tin, you get the oriental/Balkan nose. The cut is fairly uniform and the moisture is on the wetter side of perfect. Loads easily, lights easily, stays lit, and burns to an snow white ash. On the first few puffs, I knew they had gottn it right when I got the old Balkan pinch in the upper part of my nose. The smoke is well meshed, with neither Latakia nor Oriental being overly dominant, you just get the Balkan taste all the way down. Toward the last quarter of the bowl, the taste gets a little spicier, but is still enjoyable.

1 person found this review helpful.

vailpipe Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
vailpipe (1)
★☆☆☆
Medium Very Strong Extremely Mild (Flat) Unnoticeable

I smoked Balkan Sobranie, (usually from the white tin), pipe tobacco almost exclusively from 1966 to around 1980, until I stopped smoking entirely for about 10 years. I had been a cigarette and pipe smoker for many years prior to that. I never went back to cigarettes but took up the pipe again in the 90s and did obtain some of the 90s version of Sobranie in plastic pouches that I had sent to me from England until it was discontinued. The 1960s-80 version had a very long ribbon cut yellow-orange tobacco which jumped up out of the vacuum packed tin to greet you when you popped the top. There were also darker fragments of coarse cut brown to black fragments in the mixture. That tobacco had a taste and aroma, which was unique and to me has never been duplicated by anything I smoked since. The 1990s version was coarse cut and had a similar taste and smell but the burning characteristics were quite different and not particularly appealing to my taste. I still have a single pouch of it left but dried out. The fact that it is still there says a lot about my disappointment with it when compared to the 1960s version which I smoked through medical residency training in NYC. Now this new stuff is said to be "Made under licence in the British Isles from a recipe which reflects the excellent qualities of this famous pipe tobacco from years gone by" and Imported by: Arango Cigar Co. I received a 50 G tin of it from Cup o Joes on 3-1-2012. I opened it this morning with great anticipation after giving it 5 months to settle down, hoping to have a great treat... Forgettaboutit!! It is a quite moist mixture of light ribbon cut yellow tan stuff, coarser cut brown leaf and the black stuff which looks like and tastes like latakia when chewed. There is no bright orange- yellow tobacco as in the 1960s version and the ribbons are much, much shorter than the 1960s. I took out enough to fill a Danish Navigator pipe, a delicate very light briar in which I smoke only Balkans . The first pipe load was allowed to dry for 1/2 hour in an air conditioned room. The pipe was packed and I retired to the outside covered deck to enjoy a morning smoke on a nice padded rocker. I lit up and in a short time my taste buds were assaulted with an overwhelming spicy topping of ?cloves, cinnamon?, eugenol? It had all of the characteristics of Pease's Samarra and Caravan which I keep around but smoke only twice a year to remind me of how much I hate them. But this spice assault was much more intense than the Pease mixtures. I don't know if they made a mixing mistake at the factory and I just got a bad batch, but if they actually paid for a license to make this stuff, they didn't get the right info or didn't mix it correctly. In the evening I dried out some more for 1 1/2 hours to see if some of that flavoring would disappear. It was still moister than I would expect, suggesting that PEG had been added as a moisturizer. I stuffed a Barling post-transition bent, which is my best smoking pipe for Balkans, and lit up. Arrrgggh!! Even worse than before. I am not sure that I can even smoke this twice a year. I will have to dilute it with some unflavored burley to render it bearable to smoke. They tell me that orientals can be "spicy". I smoked Sobranie for years and never thought that it was "spicy". No way this intense spice flavor can be natural tobacco flavor. More likely this is an attempt to boost the flavor of a tobacco that has weak natural flavor and that effort is overdone. So what to smoke if I would like to have a vision of the old Balkan Sobranie while I am puffing? I have settled on Balkan Sasieni, aged for as long as I can stand it and touched up with some McClelland Yenije Highlander. The Sasieni has been good when aged 3-4 years. Or straight Sam Gawith's Squadron Leader as an exemplary Balkan for my taste buds. I have some Bill Bailey's Balkan around which I smoke here and there and have smoked McClelland Syrian Full Balkan without regret. Synjeco's Sodalit from Schurch Tobaccos was recommended somewhere in a Sobranie discussion so I had some sent from Switzerland. It is an interesting old tobacco with a generous nicotine jolt, but does not remind me of Sobranie at all. The Balkans that are heavy in latakia and weak in orientals soon have me smoking English mixtures e.g. Penzance, Margate and Solani White as a better choice. I still wistfully get the Sobranie urge which will never again be properly satisfied, I guess :-) I am smoking more and more Virginias these days on a regular basis, as they had been readily available but now even they are getting hard to locate.

1 person found this review helpful.

derlict311 Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
derlict311 (65)
★★★★
Medium to Strong None Detected Full Tolerable to Strong

I just opened my third tin of Balkan Sobraine. What a find! And what great art on the tin! I have zero knowledge on the Original version or its various incarnations, other than a few articles, however, I can tell you Germain's revival of Balkan Sobraine is very impressive. It's flavor is rich and, dare I say, sophisticated. Plus, it's a blast telling your buddies your about to smoke a bowl of "Balkan Sobraine"(So- brain-ee for those that don't know)...which makes a good conversation piece. I smoke many different kinds of tobacco, but when I load a bowl of Balkan Sobraine, I feel like a real pipe smoker. It is really good. It has the potential to stand out among the pantheon of tobacco blends on the market today. The only negative is that I can't smoke more than a bowl or two a day without dulling the buds. Other than that, a stellar smoke. Puff on, brethren.

1 person found this review helpful.

Big Blue Jazzman Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Big Blue Jazzman (32)
★★★★
Medium Extremely Mild Medium Pleasant

First of all, forget the old stuff. You can't compare the tobaccos we had way back when with what is grown today any more than you can compare the 1961 Yankees with this years team. So get over it. Found my 50g tin to be wet and immediately put it in a tight sealing jar packed loosely. Opened the jar once a day to let in some air give the tobaccos some time to work together. Was not impressed with my first bowl. Gave it some more time and tried again. Much better. Gave it a week. Freakin' Awesome! This is quality tobacco and as good as I've had in a long time. Found it to be one of the best I've smoked in recent years, much better than anything from the new Dunhills or inconsistent C@D blends. Was lucky enough to find 3 more tins and clean out my local B@M as you can't find this anywhere right now. Four stars in my book anyday. Hope it's readily available in the future.

1 person found this review helpful.

Bluenoser Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Bluenoser (34)
★★☆☆
Mild to Medium Extremely Mild Extremely Mild (Flat) Pleasant to Tolerable

Fellow pipe smokers, it is with some trepidation I write this review, knowing all-the-while hundreds if not thousands flock to this site to see if another pipe smoking colleague has posted his/her comments on the new Sobranie.

Without further ado here's mine for it is worth, knowing very well tastes vary, and in many cases significantly from each other . Germain's Sobranie is a mixture of bright, tan, dark and black leaves in a somewhat shag over ribbon cut. When I leveraged open the cover I stuck my nose very near the lid in an attempt to get a woof of the fragrance however, surprisingly, I didn't get much of anything in the way of an aroma. The tobacco once exposed completely was damp to the touch and when pinched together did not unfold so drying time was needed. I plucked out a couple of grams and placed it in a tin bowl for fifteen minutes. I did the pinch test again and it seemed good to go. I always use my Lorenzetti bent billard to test drive a new tobacco as it has a track record for getting the very best out of a blend. False light, not much of any taste. Tamp and second light gets the pipe going. I'm getting the unmistakable Germain Virginia taste, a little Latakia, some oriental and a faint but distinguished casing of some sort. First half of the bowl, very flat and unexciting. Second half same with a slightly stronger oriental presence. The finish was rather hot and soggy.

Okay, without writing a short story here, I'll sum up the four days that followed my maiden voyage with Sobranie by telling you I sampled it in several different pipes, dgt'ed it for 30 minutes, one hour, two hours and finally four hours. I aired it for 30 minute intervals up to three hours as well. I also sipped different beverages with the smoke including water, dark beer, bourbon and coffee. The results were the same no matter what I did to this mixture to make it work for me.

Conclusion: Germain's Sobranie, for me, is a very flat, uneventful, mild to medium nicotine strength tobacco. If this is the original Sobranie of yesteryear and the best of the best during that time I think we should count ourselves extremely fortunate to have great master blenders as; Pease, Tarler, Oulette, Peritti etc in the 21st century.

I have to tell you though, I believe there is a blend today that is the smitten image of the Sobranie of two, three decades ago. I am referring to Gawith & Hoggarth's Balkan Mixture. I validate this opinion from reading the reviews of BM here on this site and in other locations as well. G&H, upon the disappearance of Sobranie responded with BM and many a British pipester as well as American pipemen swear BM is an exceedingly close approximation to the famous Sobranie long since gone. I have been smoking Balkan Mixture for about two months now and it is an absolutely amazing old world heavy weight Balkan tobacco.

1 person found this review helpful.

Pipe Lover Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Pipe Lover (5)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant

I'm old enough to remember the original Balkan Sobranie and smoked it often back in the day. I'm also lucky enough to have cellared several pouches prior to the disappearance of this blend. I've smoked both blends side-by-side and while the new release is good, it's not the same as the old.

Remember, we're talking about a blend that disappeared over 20+ years ago. I applaud the attempts to copy long forgotten blends, but when you're talking about blends of this age, it's very hard to make an exact copy when the blending tobaccos have changed so much. The Latakia we smoke today, it nothing like the Latakia used when this blend was so popular.

Both blends exhibit similar flavor and aroma profiles, but the original mixture offers flavors that are deeper and richer in my opinion. The new blend's moisture level is good and it can be smoked right from the tin, without any drying. The tin aroma is musty and earthy, as it should be. It packs and lights very well. The overall flavor while smoking is pleasant and I don't get any kind of bite.

I have a friend who also was lucky enough to purchase one of the early tins and he opened it right away and smoked several bowls. While he enjoyed it, he felt is was a bit "sharp" and would benefit with some cellaring. When I bought my tin (in October 2011), I stored it away for a couple of months. I choose to open the tin on Christmas Day 2011 and break in a new Tinsky pipe with it. Excellent choice!!

It appears that supplies are very limited at this point. The online tobacco merchant I generally purchase my pipe tobacco from has been out of stock almost from the beginning. They sold out of their limited supply in under 15 seconds.

IMHO, you won't be disappointed with this mixture. It's clearly been well blended, using quality tobaccos. However, if you're seeking a copy to be exactly the same as the original, this is not it.

Happy Puffing!!

1 person found this review helpful.

Philo Beddoe Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Philo Beddoe (140)
★★★☆
Medium to Strong None Detected Medium Tolerable

Just got a tin of the new release, which is supposed to be based on the original recipe, it is a good medium strength English blend. I really do not understand why this was so revered, it is indeed good, but not the best blend I have ever tried. I have never smoked the old stuff and maybe it was better, but this is as close as we are ever likely to get and I will cellar some for the future as it may get more impressive with age.

1 person found this review helpful.

balkan_boy Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
balkan_boy (30)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable

I had heard so much of this legendary blend, so the first opportunity I had, I've bought all the tins I could lay my hands on. About 12 tins of it. I was expecting something that will knock you off, that will literally make you high with it's awesomeness. That kind of impression I've had about this blend without having tried it. At least all the myths around it implied something like that. But in reality, it's not that way. If I didn't know this is Balkan Sobranie, I'd let it go, and remember it as very nice blend, maybe I would buy it again sometime, but nothing so special and remarkable about it to make it indispensable. That's the sad truth my fellow pipe smokers. It's very nice blend, enjoyable all the way, but I just imagined it's taste would be more like Comptons of Galashiels Balkan or Macedonian mixture, or that nice oriental aroma of the Red Odessa or something like that. Well, it's different. Tin note is awesome. You could sniff it all the time, and it will always be awesome. That promised an outstanding smoke, and I remained a little bit disappointed. There were no bells and whistles. I'm smoking it right now as I write this review, so let's get to the main thing. It's shag cut, very easy to smoke and keep lit, as a matter of fact, even if moist right out of the tin, it burns smoothly and cool, no relights, no hot pipe. First part of the bowl, nothing impressive. Poor on Latakia, it wouldn't hurt if they put a little bit more Lat. Once the latakia wasn't such a big of a deal, and they played more with VA and orientals. The second third, VAs come upfront, and then you get something unique. VAs are bright (or lemon maybe?) and make a unique aroma pattern along with the orientals, and you can even feel the Yenidje somewhere there. But it's more about the virginias than the orientals. That unique taste come from the VAs. And down to the bottom, it's very tasty, creamy in other words, it's enjoyable, not in terms of work of art for the conossieurs, it's just a good and superb smoke, and you can smoke it without focusing on discovering the hidden notes or analyzing it. You stuff it in your pipe, light and enjoy. It was a drugstore blend once, that's how it's meant to be smoked. I'd definitely smoke every last tin of it I have, but next time, I would buy it only if it's widely available. I'm glad I had the opportunity to try it, and although a little bit disappointed, I will smoke it and enjoy it. Back then in the second half of the last century, tobacco blending industry was on decline. The market was getting smaller and smaller, and there were no pieces of art back at that time. Internet made the trade from all over the world possible, and IMHO that saved this industry, and even more, made it blossom. The golden age of tobacco blending is NOW. Old folks may recall some good old blends from "back then" when there wasn't too much choice, and pretty much all the blends were somewhat mediocre. Those blends aren't something special, compared with modern blends not many of them stand a chance. This one does however, it's a good smoke. Poor on Latakia, but Ok. Highly recommended from me, at least for it's "legendness"

Cool Smoke everyone, Cheers!

Pipe Used: Meers and briars

Age When Smoked: fresh

Purchased From: Watch City Cigar Company

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Gentleman Zombie Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Gentleman Zombie (203)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable

Smooth and creamy. That's what stands out about this blend for me. It's not my favorite Balkan, but it is the smoothest and creamiest Balkan I've smoked. The flavors are wonderful, but not quite rich. It's more of a mellow Balkan. There's a nice touch of sweetness, buttery notes, and a very mild smokiness. The Latakia is just a bit too light for my taste. That's as much criticism as I can give this blend. It's a great smoke and every bit a 4 star blend. The quality is top notch and it's a pure pleasure to smoke.

Pipe Used: MM General, MM Country Gentleman, MM Freehand

Age When Smoked: fresh

Purchased From: smokingpipes.com

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SeoulSister Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
SeoulSister (29)
★★★★
Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable

I have never smoked the prior versions of Balkan Sobranie. But this is a great tobacco on its own. I first smoked this in 2012 and enjoy it now as much as I did then. I find it to be a medium bodied smoke that is full flavored. There is a spicy sweetness and smokiness all rolled into one. BS is smooth and rich in flavor and never burns hot even with the thin ribbon cut. I don’t feel the blend builds much in strength throughout the bowl. It’s too bad it is so difficult to get as it would be in my regular rotation. If you can find some buy it. It will be worth it.

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TallPuffO'Burley Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
TallPuffO'Burley (119)
★★☆☆
Medium None Detected Full Strong

I have never tried the original Balkan Sobranie so I had no preconceived notions as to what this should taste like. I was fortunate enough to have a good sample sent to me from a forum buddy. Fortunate, because I will Not have to spend anymore on this as I was not too impressed.

I am not one for the heavy lat hitters and this one definitely falls into that category, but still, there are some I enjoy and perhaps it is a matter of balance. I feel this one lacks that proper balance that would make it more amenable to my palate. I would opt for several full English blends before this. GL Pease Odyssey for one and then several germain produced blends such as Penzance and the Smoker's Haven imported blends.

So somewhat recommended.

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Peppino Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Peppino (74)
★★★★
Mild None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant

A very good tobacco, it reminds me of DH Early Morning both smoke light with orientals coming through just right. The Latakia is there but in the background. It holds it's flavor and tends to get richer at the 1/2 way point of the bowl. The finish is very nice leaving a nice gray ash that looks great in the pipe rack with that ash....I know ...what the hell does he care how the pipe looks in the rack? I just love to see all those pipes with a nice gray ash, waiting for their next trip.....OK it might be weird????LOL

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scottyspipesebay Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
scottyspipesebay (25)
★☆☆☆
Mild to Medium Very Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant

The Balkan Sobranie: Kevin's review in Pipe Magazine dot com said something to the affect that Balkan Sasieni is a fairly close second to Balkan Sobranie Pipe Mixture. I disagree. This new stuff from Arango can't hold a candle to Sasieni. To me, it is without a doubt a far superior blend at nearly 1/2 the price.

Update 8/6/12: I'm finding that this seems a bit too immature. I'm convinced it needs some serious aging. I can only get 1/2 way down with a load before it looses flavor; bites like a piranha, and tastes like a 2 bit cigar. Never having had the original, I can only say that it must have been far superior to what we have access to, at present. The more I smoke this, the more I want to toss it into the briar patch. Very disappointing. I have lowered my rating to 1 star, and I no longer recommend it; especially at 10.50 a pop.

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under the arbor Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
under the arbor (12)
★☆☆☆
Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable

Not since the first time I heard Marlena Dietrich speak (think Elmer Fudd)have I ever been so disappointed ! The quality of the presentation was the first clue, no classy cap beneath the pleated paper, just another crumpled piece of paper stained and off center. This I'd read before, I just chose not to believe. My dream of something wonderful from the Isle of Jersey, turned into New Jersey ( think Elizabeth in the mid 1960's). The only redeeming value is you'll never have to worry about your pipes developing stinky - soggy - bottoms, this stuff burns like jet fuel, hot (very hot) and clean. The tin moisture belies this and one can only imagine what a little drying would do? Keep some water on hand is all I can say. The aroma is something between candle wax and pork chops frying. Mind, I've no aversion to a good "bone-in chop" now and then, I just don't want it in my pipe. The always subtle but fine writing Mr. GLP is on the mark with his thoughts on this. Oh well, as with so many things it's the hunt and not the kill. First (and most likely last) update. Now that the stuff's been here a few weeks and had a chance to dry in the tin (and it has, and quickly too) It's moved from the "wax and porkchop" stage to a new flavor component.......dad's good old shoe polish! I'll concede a hint of Heinz in my "British Woods" if someone can explain this one to me.......

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