There are few tobaccos ever created that are truly legendary long gone classics, such as Balkan Sobranie 759, Bell's Three Nuns, Dunhill 965, Cope's Escudo and a handful of others. This one, Sullivan Powell's No. OX Special Mixture is right up there with those other extraordinary masterpieces. Back in the 1980s, Sullivan Powell came up with a special crop of African Virginia and combined it with the rarest center cut Mountain leaf Latakia that could be found, and married the two with a time consuming special fermenting process in which the two kinds of leaf were cold pressed and then lightly steamed to produce a flavor never again to be found. No. OX Special is also very rare because in less than just a few years, the special crop was sold and the blend was never again reproduced. I had the pleasure of sharing a bowl of this manna from heaven about a decade ago with a very generous pipe smoking friend at the Kansas City Pipe Show. I can still vividly recall that smoking experience and I did think that I had died and gone to Heaven! Volumes of the richest Virginia flavor I have ever tasted combined with a smokey sweet Latakia presence that what most pipe smokers can only dream of. Rich, deep, full flavored and a huge variance in the presentation with each puff.
I was lucky to purchase a 2oz. tin of Sullivan's OX from a vendor at the NASPC pipe show in Columbus this year. I took the risk on a 30-40 year old tin, because I knew that if my gamble paid off, it would pay off big! Well...I got lucky, when I popped the tin, I was greeted by lovely ribbons of rich dark brown and jet black tobacco.
The smell was heavenly... it was as if you had unsealed an old cedar trunk that had been packed with your fathers favorite leather coat and an old Hudsons Bay wool blanket that you remembered using to keep warm and toasty by the campfire out at the lake during your youth. Now add in the smoky, briny peat of an Islay Scotch and top it all off with the slightly sweet tang of well aged Virginia. If masculinity could be tinned, this is what it would smell like!
I chose one of my favorite pipes, a Castello 55 in sea rock and loaded it up. The moisture of the tobacco was perfect, 8 out of 10 new tins of tobacco aren't ready to smoke right out of the tin, as they often require an hour or more drying time. Nope, this stuff was perfect right away. I lit a match, did the charring light, tamped down the ash, then lit another match. This time the pipe took off smoothly and the tobacco tasted exactly like it smelled in the tin...exactly, wonderfully rich and complex. I tasted lots of smoky Latakia and sweet Virginia mixed with some variety of Oriental, but time has muted it to where I cannot tell which, but there is definitely something else in the mix besides the generous amount of Latakia and Virginia mentioned on the back of the tin.
This tobacco has been one of the finest blends I've ever smoked and I will cherish each bowlful until the sad day that the Ball jar it now resides in is empty. Highest possible recommendation.
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