|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.
|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.