|What a delight to rummage through the tobacco cellar and find a jar of Billiard Room, a blend that (sadly) has been extinct since C&D's supply of Syrian Latakia went up in smoke in The Great Warehouse Fire of 2004. I thought I had smoked my entire stash, but lo!...this jar appeared from the back of the beyond. Burnage ensued.
The Orientals are the dominant aroma in the jar?giving the musty, quasi-cannabic herbal notes that certain Turkish tobaccos do. There's not much else there in the jar nose, but that doesn't fool me for a second; I know this stuff. This particular stash is left over from those bygone days when I wrote little hints on the jar labels to remind me of my first impressions. The note on this label says "Exquisitely Luscious!" I knew that.
The Orientals are immediately noticeable upon light-up, but quickly yield to the gradually intensifying flavors of the other tobaccos as I work my way down through the first 1/3 bowl. As with any of the VERY few brilliantly crafted cigar leaf blends, the maduro leaf is present in just the right proportion at all times during the smoke?GLP's Key Largo being the most recent noteworthy addition to that relatively short list. It's not easy to get the cigar leaf right, but Craig Tarler is a master, and it shows in Billiard Room.
The unsweetened black Cavendish must have been a tricky part of getting the blend just right. It acts as intensifier that reinforces the naturally dark sweetness of the maduro leaf without overwhelming it. The stoved red Virginia ribbon has a similar effect, while adding a solid base of rich tobacco flavor.
But the real magic of this blend is the Syrian Latakia. Its leathery flavors complement the other dark tobaccos, keeping the blend round and spicy. Cyprian Latakia would have changed the blend completely, perhaps even making it a bit too sweet.
The beauty of Billiard Room is its ability to maintain a balance all the way to the bottom of the bowl. The strength of each component's contribution to the mix waxes and wanes around a happy medium that never allows any one tobacco to dominate the smoke, and there's enough complexity?again, around a common theme of dark, natural flavors?to hold my interest from top to bottom. Lastly, while it's certainly no pushover in the nicotine department, it won't give you more than a mild buzz, even in a healthy Group 5 bowl. It's a truly satisfying smoke.
So what's the point of reviewing a blend that's no longer available? Well, a historical reference point, for one thing. In my opinion, Billiard Room has always set a benchmark for expertly conceived and executed cigar leaf blends. What's more, if Syrian Latakia ever becomes available again, yours truly will personally stash major poundage of Billiard Room against the contingency of another SyriLat drought. Discriminating pipers who appreciate the virtues of a masterfully crafted cigar leaf blend would be well advised to stock up on Billiard Room if the opportunity ever presents itself. One can hope.