|Mongrel Dog is a blend that is unmistakably from Jack's. I have found that the balance and overall smoothness of their blends is somewhat of a trademark. A lot of work obviously goes into each blend.
Mongrel Dog isn't a powerhouse blend like Pirate Kake or Penzance, but it isn't something that lacks flavor either.
No one leaf really dominates the blend, and this trait is even more evident when it is smoked in a narrow bowl, such as a Stanwell #64. In fact, in this pipe, you get much more definition of flavors as the focus moves from one blend to another. Perique can be overdone quite easily, especially with Syrian Latakia in the blend, but the Dog keeps a nice level of subtly spicy flavor throughout. The Virginia tends to stay in a more supporting role, just adding a bit of sweetness to the smoky/spicy overall taste.
For those days when I don't want a heavy Latakia blend, the Dog will do nicely. I only wish it was more readily available, but with the recent demise of the Syrian leaf, it looks like it will be a while before we see any more of it floating around.
|I received a sample of Mongrel Dog along with a nifty little bent meerschaum churchwarden I bought from Jack's Tobacco. (I have to say that it's a pleasure to deal with those folks; a very smooth transaction indeed.) They asked me if I wanted to pick a free sample of tobacco, but the descriptions all seemed OK, so I said "Surprise me."
My first impression on opening the sample was "Aaaaacccckkk!!" It had never occurred to me to specify that I did NOT want them to send me an aromatic tobacco; their descriptions don't mention anything about their weed being cased, scented, or flavored.
Nevertheless, there is definitely something in Mongrel Dog that I've never encountered in any natural tobacco blend. It smells like some of the stuff they put in froo-froo coffee--that sort of sickly sweet "essence of disgusting quasi-hazelnut" that I would never want contaminating my pipes. It's not actually unpleasant, but if I had walked into a tobacco shop and sniffed my way through the blend jars, I'd have passed this one up. I usually don't smoke stuff that smells like that.
Oh well...you can't tell where something's really at until you smoke it, so I reached for a Stanwell HCA churchwarden that has been dedicated to Mike Butera's "Kingfisher". There's a Burley & Perique blend whose cake should be able to tolerate at least a trial smoke of this Mongrel Dog stuff, I figured. So I loaded it up (using the Frank pipe packing method, as usual; see http://www.newyorkpipeclub.com/FrankCentral.html), and torched it.
That's when I stepped into...The Twilight Zone!
It seems to me that something that smells so objectionable in the pouch should not be so enjoyable in the pipe. It's not going to knock your socks off with intense tobacco flavors, but neither is it going to have you on your knees worshiping the white goddess in retching spasms of reverse peristaltic action. The latter is closer to what I expected, so the former was a pleasant surprise. I can smoke this stuff, and I actually like it.
There is an unquestionable presence of something aromatic in this stuff, but it's nowhere near as prominent in the smoke as it is in the pouch, which I suppose must ultimately accrue to the skill of the blender. After a few bowls in the HCA churchwarden, it doesn't seem to have left any objectionable odor in the cake. I dunno...maybe it's just the fact that Kingfisher's powerful combustion residue is so assertive and so persistent that something as mild as Mongrel Dog can't do much to it. In fact, I'm sure the four-year Kingfisher cake is contributing a great deal to the Mongrel Dog's smokage, such that the smoking experience is very different from what it would be in a different pipe, or in one that had been dedicated exclusively to Mongrel Dog. I guess that's true in any case, but it's probably more evident here, because Kingfisher is such a stout blend, and Mongrel Dog is so mild.
I'll say this much for it: I don't think there's any way this puppy would ever bite your tongue. It's one of the mildest blends I've ever smoked. You won't be copping any nico-buzz off this one either. There are other blends that are mild in flavor but they'll still give you green gills if you're not careful. Mongrel Dog isn't one of them. I could probably smoke this stuff non-stop without getting buzzed. Not that I would do that; there just isn't enough flavor in this blend to satisfy me on anything other than an occasional basis.
I really wanted to dislike this stuff because I was so repulsed by the pouch aroma. I've tried diligently to come up with a reason not to smoke it at all, but it keeps eluding me. One bowl every 3 to 4 weeks seems to be enough. I really don't mean to torpedo it either, as in "damning with faint praise"; it's just not the kind of tobacco I usually smoke. For smokers of mild aromatic tobacco blends, Mongrel Dog has to be about as close to nirvana as you can get. For those who want to transition from aromatics to English blends, this would probably be a good first step. For confirmed Latakiaholics like me who like their weed straight, unadulterated, and served up on the dry side, à la Greg Pease, Mongrel Dog probably won't cut it as anything other than an occasional diversion.
I would love to see what this stuff would be like if they left out the casing or top dressing, or whatever they've added to it, and maybe punched up the strength a bit. As it is, Mongrel Dog is barely recognizable as a Virginia/Turkish/Syrian latakia/Perique blend. The Perique is undetectable, except for what's coming back from the Kingfisher cake. When I'm smoking it, I can sort of imagine that I'm tasting that round, almost sweet toastiness of Syrian latakia, but that's a comment made by a guy who occasionally packs a bowl with straight Syrian or Cyprian latakia, and keeps several varieties and vintages of each in stock at all times. I know Syrian latakia, and its presence in Mongrel Dog is only minimally evident; it's buried by the other nondescript flavors. Same thing for the Turkish -- it's unidentifiable as the spice and complexity that Turkish usually adds.
Will I buy this stuff when my ample sample runs out? Hard to say; I don't mind having it around, but I don't think I'll miss it when it's gone. Jack's Tobacco prices aren't especially attractive as bulk blends go, but perhaps other blends would convince me of their worth. I'm more likely to spring for a sampler of all their other blends in the hope of finding something that more closely matches my current taste for natural weedage. However, if you're a lover of mild aromatic blends, Mongrel Dog is well worth a try. It could easily become a mainstay in your rotation.