|I heard good things about Croft's #7 (now called Trafalgar, they told me), I phone-ordered a couple of ounces from Houston.
Appearance is a little intimidating -- big chunks of black pressed tobacco mixed with wild-cut mahogany-hued flakes. It took a fair amount of work to break it down to packing size. It fired up nicely, though, with thick clouds of tasty smoke. The taste is a bit like CAO's Old Ironsides, but the orientals in Trafalgar add a bit more dimension. I must have missed the perique in the mix. The flavor stayed fairly constant to the bottom, perhaps a bit more ashy-tasting at the end than I like.
It's good for a change of pace, but not likely to replace Penzance in my rotation.
Croft's #7 is a hand-blend from the Antique Pipe Shoppe in Houston. It's a mixture of Virginia and Oriental ribbons, with big chunks of fresh Perique and Cyprian Latakia. It's derived from #5, with less Oriental and more Latakia.
It's interesting how much this simple change has wrought -- while #5 is representative of "the englishes I don't like" (aka the Pelican/Std Mixture Med family of Englishes), this tobacco is much more my cup of tea. It isn't so overwhelmingly pungent, indeed it is amazingly smooth for such a strong tobacco. Some of this is supplied by the Perique, which I'm not generally a fan of, but in this blend it seems to fill in the foundation of the flavor and cancel out some of the thick, throat-coating oriental irritant, while enhancing the spiciness. The latakia is much more in force in this blend, although there's still not quite as much as I'd like.
One of the interesting things about this smoke that I didn't notice as much with #5 is the way the rough cut contributes a deliberate, and interesting inconsistency to the blend. Every 15 minutes or so the character changes as you hit another clump of perique or Latakia, but always remaining extremely flavorful and somehow balanced as its character changes. Because of this, though, it does take about 15 minutes to really hit it's stride, as you gradually burn through enough variety of leaf and pull their flavors down into the lower layers. Because of the extreme roughness of the cut, however, this blend really sings in a large-bowled pipe. When packing, I generally try to avoid getting the big chunks on the top to make a consistent light easier.
According to the wife, this stuff smells absolutely wonderful, like barbeque (texas barbeque appropriately enough, not the Tennessee version). Surprisingly, some of this is present in the taste as well, in addition to the normal latakia smoked beef flavor. It's really a delicious blend to smoke, and has become part of my regular rotation.
Highly recommended to Sobranie/Penzance/965 fans.