Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader

Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader pipe tobacco epitomises the traditional English tobacco. Blended dark and bright Virginias, together with Latakia and Turkish leaf results in a perfect, medium bodied product which gives a rich and slow burning smoke.


Brand Samuel Gawith
Blended By Samuel Gawith
Manufactured By Samuel Gawith
Blend Type English
Contents Latakia, Oriental/Turkish, Virginia
Cut Ribbon
Packaging 50 grams tin
Country United Kingdom
Production Currently available


Extremely Mild -> Overwhelming
None Detected
None Detected -> Extra Strong
Room Note
Pleasant to Tolerable
Unnoticeable -> Overwhelming
Extremely Mild (Flat) -> Overwhelming

Average Rating

3.38 / 4





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Displaying 21 - 30 of 543 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 15, 2013 Medium None Detected Extremely Mild (Flat) Unnoticeable
this is famous, is a Legendary blend, but for me,in it, neither is cleary distinguished:

Latakia, Orientals, Virginia? Complex? Not Complex, exactly, but... Tasteless.

is clearly below, inferior, to many other English Mixtures an Balkans, less good that 965, Standard Medium, Balkan Supreme, Britts's Balkan, Chipman Hill, Merde de Cheval etc... etc... Very frar from the favorites...
10 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 16, 2017 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium to Full Tolerable
This is my first review out here and I want to start by saying thank you to you all. This site along with your reviews have really made this pipe smoking adventure so much more enjoyable. I have been a pipe smoker off and on for 10 years but it wasn’t until this last year that I really learned to smoke a pipe and with this site and your reviews, have made this a wonderful and pleasurable journey. Discovering all these tobaccos has been a revelation.

Samuel Gawith - Squadron Leader has become a staple in my rotation. I tend to like a little bit of everything, including this wonderful medium strength English blend. I started with and worked my way through two tins of this with great pleasure. Following the tins, I also have my first bulk order in hand and have a few ounces of that pound in ash.

I found that there WAS a difference in the two versions. The tined versions were more mellow and nearly perfect moisture wise. Compared to the bulk version, I found it to be overly moist and a little rougher around the edges. Just a couple months in a Mason jars(big one) it has mellowed out. I do have to give the bulk a little “per smoke” drying time – about 10-15 minutes and its perfect. The flavor has mellowed and while it’s still spicey/peppery that has subsided considerably.

Overall, I find a very interesting duality in this tobacco. On one hand it leans toward the peppery side for an English. It also has a real creamy character that is amazing. It’s almost like a good steak in that its filling and savory. I enjoy its spice but for me, it’s not an all-day smoke. After a two or three bowls my palate is a bit overloaded and it needs a rest from the pepper bite. That said, a bowl of Squadron Leader is a daily given at this point.

Even with the pepper aspect this is a smooth enjoyable smoke. I DID have problems with bite but it was with bulk that was overly moist and I was not practicing patience and self-restraint. Given proper drying time I have zero bite issues. I can’t lay blame on the tobacco for my error.

I have various English/Scottish blends in my rotation. Dunhill 965 would arguably be my “all day” blend of preference. That said, having an Ashton Artesian, Mac Baren Vintage Syrian along with this wonderful Squadron Leader blend is making for a very enthusiastic and quite content pipe smoker. This is my go to when I need a little zing in the bowl.

Given the spice, I have to give this a 3.5 of 4. Really that’s due to my personal preference. While I love it, I can over do the spice factor. If you haven’t tried it, the ratings are justified. I highly recommend it and not only is it a daily ritual, it is one of the few tobaccos that I buy in bulk and intend to always have in stock.
Pipe Used: Various - Generally Canadians
Age When Smoked: New
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 23, 2018 Mild None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant
Squadron Leader (SL) is a member of my personal "holy trinity" of essential English tobacco blends, the other two being Dunhill Nightcap and Dunhill EMP. SL has so many great qualities that make it one of the premier English tobacco blends on the market today. I would recommend you buy this in the 250g packs when available. The latakia in SL as it slowly burns in your pipe smells absolutely wonderful. Just that smell alone makes me love this blend so much. The components are well balanced. The one gripe is that it comes wet and needs some drying time. But that's to be experienced with any Sam Gawith tobacco.
Pipe Used: Briars, Meerschaums, and Clay
Age When Smoked: 1 year
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 27, 2017 Mild to Medium Very Mild Mild to Medium Tolerable
Samuel Gawith’s Squadron Leader is long-established and very popular for good reason, as it has pretty much defined the “mild English” category for longer than anyone living can remember. Though a contemporary tin surprised me with a poof of Liquid Smoke condiment when I popped it open, time faded this, and underneath the initially-fake smoke are the same scents I’ve always associated with the iconic tin art, namely peat moss under the smoke, and wet hay under that, and there are savory kabob spices well below that. The tobacco is cut into thin ribbons that range from dishwater blonde to medium brown, to black. It’s moist in the tin, and IMO it benefits from some drying, if only to get rid of the Liquid Smoke scent, if that’s a factor and a problem. Stuffed loosely, SL lights with ease and burns down at a fair clip. The burn can be slowed by packing it tighter, if it’s dried first. If it’s packed tightly while tin wet, it gets fussy. As for the smoke, itself, I find SL to be easy and quite relaxing, with well-met, perfectly balanced varietals that are harmonious rather than amalgamated. There are grassy, straw-like, golden VAs that add a little sweetness, and fragrant, exotic, savory Orientals that sour as one smokes SL down. There are aromatic, woody resins but there is little pepper. The Cyprian Latakia is just smoky enough, and it also adds some bracing astringency, especially down the home stretch, and here is the “soap” of yore! What’s not to love? Strength is mild. Tastes are toward medium from mild. Turkish/Macedonian varietals factor in the room note; hardly offensive to me, but you’ve been warned. Aftertaste is a fairly brief, slightly metallic, slightly ashy trailing off of the smoke; nothing to write home about.

Again, Squadron Leader has been popular since Hector was a pup, and no wondering why; it’s about as good a true, light English as one can find. If you’ve not yet tried it, you simply must sample this Tobacco Hall of Famer. 4 Stars, of course.
Pipe Used: larger "Turkish"/"Balkan" briars preferred
PurchasedFrom: Cup O' Joe's
Age When Smoked: fresh new tin for this review
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 22, 2016 Extremely Mild None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
This was supposed to be the quintessential English blend. It wasn't, for me. It's a great tobacco, but my personal archetype of the genre is something different.

I bought the 250-gram pack, so I can't speak to the moisture or quality of the tins, and it's possible I don't know what I'm missing in the tins. What I got, though, was perfectly smokable with a little drying time. I should note that pretty soon after I got this tobacco, I transferred it to a canister with an ingenious lid that, pushed down in the manner of a French press, removes much of the air inside. It's not a vacuum seal, but it's fairly effective. Again, I have no basis to compare this storage method to others, but I've noticed that the tobacco is staying fairly close to its original moisture. Which, again, is a little too moist for smoking. I find it dries out fairly quickly once I remove it from the canister, so no matter. Canister note is a little more subdued than it was in the original package. I get three distinct aromas from the three constituent tobaccos: smoky latakia, sweet coffee with milk from the Virginias, and pine resin from the orientals. It's not an aroma that smacks you in the face; I had to really shove my face in there and sniff hard. It's a really good smell, though. The pine and smoke scents strongly evoke camping memories for me, and this tobacco would unquestionably be my choice for that kind of trip.

Squadron Leader comes as a very fine ribbon cut, with a few twiggy bits and some long stringy bits. The twigs aren't enough to be a hassle removing, but they're there. It's all kind of a mossy consistency. With the fineness of the cut, I like packing this with the palm-roll method, with a good firm tamp prior to the first light to settle the tobacco in the bowl.

Here's why I don't count this as my standard English: the orientals are too strong. It's a steady crescendo of piney, incense-y spiciness. I wouldn't call it an oriental blend, but my archetypal "English" blend is far more balanced by latakia and Virginias. Not that both of those components are undetectable or even unpleasant in this blend; to the contrary, they are delicious. Sweet caramel and cafe au lait tones from the Virginia, smoke and incense from the latakia; but, to my palate, they play second fiddle to the sharp piney, briny orientals. I went through a phase where I chased orientals in my blends: I've yet to smoke a full-on oriental blend, but I'd concentrate on the oriental component in the various Englishes I've tried. A less oriental-heavy blend makes this a very rewarding experience- Nightcap, Frog Morton Across the Pond, even Balkan Sasieni (weird that in a balkan blend, I get less orientals than in this English). Nightcap's cedar notes, FMATP's musty hardwood, Sasieni's fragrant cumin— all are interwoven with the other tobaccos in their respective blends so that there's a structure, a narrative to the smoke; flavors progress and change and meld and vary intensities. Squadron Leader's orientals are a little too loud for me. They build and build to a sharp astringency that seems overbearing to me. I wish there was more Virginia sweetening out that piney tang. I do like the flavor of oriental, and it's been an interesting change of pace not to have to chase it like I do with other blends. But here's the thing: I enjoy that chase. It keeps the smoke from being more than a background activity, an event in itself. Squadron Leader is very predictable to me: those orientals are going to intensify and intensify. By the time the bowl's done, I'm a bit tired of smoking it. It's too one-note.

I don't know if I've been smoking long enough now to have moved out of the category of "nicotine lightweight", but I got nothing in that way out of this blend. Sometimes I want a little buzz. Not going to get it here.

I tried this in 2 different pipes: an old Capitol bruyere billiard and a custom-made Joe Case devil anse. I prefer it in the billiard, as the stubbiness of the devil anse made it smoke a little hot. This isn't a hot blend though. The orientals were also a very little more subdued in the billiard, which means that's the pipe I'll be smoking the rest of this stuff in. That old Capitol seems to dampen, in the best way, the oriental tang of any English I've smoked in it (mostly Nightcap up till now) and bring out the dark, smokey, wet-leaves-and-campfires flavor of latakia. That, personally, is how I like my Englishes: the orientals playing a secondary or even tertiary role to Virginias and latakia.

I don't regret buying this at all, even in the large quantity that I did. I will smoke the rest of it, and I won't regret it. But, it will take me some time. I just don't care for the overall flavor enough to smoke it as often as all that. I haven't tried my hand at blending, but I might get some straight Virginia to try and sweeten this up. On its own, it's a perfectly decent English. Not my definitive English, not my favorite English, but a good one nonetheless.
Pipe Used: Capitol billiard, Joe Case custom devil anse
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 26, 2015 Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
One of my favorite straight-up medium Englishes, Squadron Leader exemplifies the Virginia/Turkish/Latakia subset of the phylum. The flavor is a delicate balance of sweet, musty, spicy and smoky. The Latakia adds a subtle influence but it's purely a condiment in the mix. Squadron Leader rides the line between being Virginia-focused & Oriental-focused, and often times it flip-flops between these two flavor influences, smoking sweet, woodsy and mellow for a while, only to turn musty and spicy after several minutes of sweet clarity. I have found that a pot shaped pipe or a wide bowl Prince of Wales works wonders for rendering its many flavors, often times increasing the number of its tasteful complexities. In a wider bowl the Turkish speaks louder with a spiciness that's almost at perique volume. Squadron Leader is just plain good. It takes to flame perfectly and stays lit quite well. It's an easy repeat smoke, one that you can smoke many bowls of in a day with little to no fatigue. It's a solid anytime mixture. The end smoke flavors are superb and I have always felt that that's the sign of a good English..
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 25, 2014 Medium to Strong None Detected Full Tolerable
Squadron Leader is not a name of deception. SL is truly a leader. The imagery of the tin is really great symbolism of this smoke as well. Like a squadron ace, this blend is full of zip and punch from the tin aroma to the last puff. Not lacking in nicotine, SL is a type-A(viator) smoke that is worth the ride. It is, surprisingly, a smooth smoke with zingy, latakia and oriental updrafts now and then.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 26, 2014 Medium to Strong Very Mild Very Full Tolerable
This was one of the first English blends I tried. I had great expectations based on the reviews and stars awarded, and the tin art is just super. The expectation mounted as the tin was opened and the tin aroma was that typical and very earthy "english" smell that I was just beginning to recognize and like. I was getting used to Early Morning Pipe and Frog Morton Cellar and was expecting more of the same. SQL lit well and the smoke started off ok for the first puff or two but what happened next was not expected - it turned out that I thought I had ordered the Biryani but got the Vindaloo instead. The peppery spice kicked in really heavily around puff no. 3 and was such a definite sensation and so unexpected that I really thought my daughter (who was 3 at the time) had got hold of the pepper shaker and emptied it in my pipe. I didn't like the experience but got on line, found out that it was a feature of SQL and one that peole liked. I tried a few more times and gradually started to get used to it a bit. But still didn't like it that much. However, The tobacco dried rapidly and within a few months the quality of the smoke had really deteriorated, become very hot and steamy to the mouth, and so I gave up without ever fully becoming acquainted with this standard bearer for the "English" style. I will try again but will have a corn cob at the ready when i do because it really ghosted my pipe.
Pipe Used: Barber B Line B3
Age When Smoked: New to 3 months
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 23, 2017 Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Tolerable
Upon opening the tin I was very surprised to see a mixture of very bright appearance. I had the impression that this was a darker, more Latakia-laden than its brethren blend Skiff Mixture. Yet compared with the dark brown complexion of Skiff, Squadron Leader consists of almost equal parts of blonde, red and light brown ribbons embellished with just a few black fire cured ones (Latakia). This is what I had got out of reading the reviews for both and the impression was enhanced by the connotation of a skiff with open air and of Squadron Leader's tin art of a WWI biplane with smoky engine fumes. But it actually is not so. Skiff is much smokier than Squadron Leader whose tin note is predominantly woody with only a slight smokiness and a hint of fruitiness (citrus but also some red fruit) which seems to be from the tobacco itself and not a casing.

As for moisture, it came smokable right out of the tin but could use a few minutes of drying time. It is coarse ribbon cut, coarser and with longer ribbons than Skiff and needs a little unfurling before loading to avoid clogging the draw. It smokes cool and dry to the end with no bite and with need of only a few relights. As expected by the cut and the mostly air cured? leafs it burns a little fast.

Now to the smoking experience itself, though I am not a devoted Latakia aficionado, I initially found Squadron Leader much blander than the smokier Skiff Mixture (not that Skiff is in any way bland!). I thought it lacked the ethereal smokiness of its brethren but also lacks its pronounced Oriental tang and its saliva inducing salinity. I actually, to my surprise, given its fame and esteem, found it quite bland and innocuous. What I could taste were mostly bright hay-lie Virginias with a faint touch of Orientals enhanced by a very light smokiness. It did give me though that sense of old school, aged tobacco which is not found in most English blends. It is of mild to medium strength, in this sense it’s good for an early morning smoke but I also found its flavor intensity only mild (towards medium approaching the end of the bowl).

So, overall I was not enthralled by my first experience with Squadron Leader. On the other hand my slight disappointment might have been due to failed expectations, and so I thought I should try to appreciate Squadron Leader on its own merits and not as a fuller, darker version of Skiff mixture as I mistakenly had supposed it to be, when actually it is just the other way around.

Taken by itself however, Squadron Leader is a smooth, mild, nuanced -though not overtly complex- mixture where bright hay-like Virginias are condimented lightly by Orientals and a little Latakia. Seen under this light it would be unfair to call it bland, it’s just a mild mixture and as such it can have a place in any piper’s rotation. The tobaccos are of excellent quality and I find, as with its brethren, that it is a uniquely tasting English mixture. To conclude I believe it is a mixture every piper should try for at least once. For this and the above reasons I am going to go with the flow and give it four stars.

Do I prefer Squadron Leader to Skiff? I find Skiff more tasteful, but while Squadron Leader could become (potentially) an all-day smoke for me, I doubt the same about Skiff Mixture.

----As time goes by I appreciate Squadron Leader more and more, it may have taken me some time - and drying - but I can now say with confidence that it's one of the best tobaccos around. I know I'm carrying owls to Athens but it took me some time to realise. It's an amazingly flavourful English and unique among too many similar-tasting blends. Actually it has become one of my favourite first smokes of the day.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 02, 2016 Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Very Pleasant
This was my first mixture with Latakia. As it often happens with tobaccos, the packaging was a key factor in choosing it. The image is very nice, the story behind this tobacco is fascinating, and the reviews were very positive. A mixture with Latakia, not heavy on the Nicotine compartment. My first smoke was a bit difficult, (yes, SG tobaccos are very moist) with many relights. The following smokes were better, and I started to enjoy a completely different world, compared to the Aromatics one. It's been a while since I last smoked Squadron Leader, now I'am an Aperitif-addicted, but I plan to have another bowl soon.
Pipe Used: Peterson Wicklow
PurchasedFrom: Local Tobacconist, Italy
Age When Smoked: Fresh Tin
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