In the early 17th century, John Rolfe procured seeds from Trinidad, cultivating a milder tobacco than the harsh Nicotiana rustica then being grown in the colonies. Thus set in motion Nicotiana tabacum’s dominance in most all tobacco consumption to this day. However, equipped with a modern knowledge of tobacco processing, the hearty Rustica has found a place in the blender’s arsenal, and it now finds a home in our Barrel Aged Series with Crumble Kake no. 5.
Sun cured to retain the leaf’s natural sugar, Rustica is joined by zesty Virginias and nutty Burleys before being aged in a bourbon barrel. Finally, it is pressed into a crumble cake, mellowing and melding the bold mixture. With full body and flavor, Sutliff Crumble Kake no. 5 delivers a rich smoking experience.
The boldly rugged Nicotiana Rustica provides a lot of earth, wood, floralness, vegetative grass, toasted bread, sugar, herbs, spice, mild tart and tangy citrus, a little acidic peat, cigar and sour lemon, tea, leather, and smoke as the lead component. The burleys produce some nuts, earth, wood, toast, light sugar and floralness in a secondary support role. The flue cured Virginias offer a little tart and tangy citrus, sour lemon, sugar, bread, vegetative grass, floralness, mild darker fruit, earth, wood, and a touch of acidic vinegar. They are just above the condiment line. It’s barrel aged in sweet, rich bourbon that moderately tones down the tobaccos although the bourbon weakens just tad in the last third of the bowl. The strength is in the middle of medium to strong. The taste is a notch short of being full. The nic-hit is a slot below the overall strength level. No chance of bite or harshness. Barely has any rough notes. The easily broken apart crumble cake is a little moist, and may require a light dry time although I did not do that as is my custom. You do risk losing some of the topping if you do much of it. Burns cool, clean, mostly smooth and slow with a fairly consistent sweet, fruity, nutty, floral, lightly spicy, deeply rich flavor that extends to the pleasantly lingering after taste. The room note is stronger. Leaves little moisture in the bowl, and requires some relights. Not an all day smoke, but it is more repeatable than regular HH Rustica. Three and a half stars rounded up to four.
The name Rustica, as in Nicotiana Rustica, reminds one of the word rustic which in a way sort of describes this blend. When I think rustic I think strong timber built houses or cabins with very robust furnishings and hearty hearth cooked bread and meals, well this blend fits into that vision of rustic.
The Rustica adds it’s notes of timber, earthy grassy herby and somewhat flowery scents of a meadow, hearty dark bread, a slightly molasses note, some spice, tangy fruits, black tea, and a leathery smoky cigar. Then burley backs this up with its own rustic charms of similar but complimentary flavors that include wood, toasted bread, touch of brown sugar. The Virginias chosen are of the flue cured variety that add some sweetness balance with the tang of citrus, lemon grass, hay, meadow grasses with herby flowery notes and a very slight vinegar note. The above combination could easily cross from full and robust to downright hard but the blend is balanced and the time it spent in that bourbon barrel proves that a taste of the spirits can mellow one out. It adds it’s own sweetness and complex notes and does help make what could be a bit rough of a blend into a smooth but robust one.
The strength is on the upper edge of medium to strong with the nicotine level just slightly behind that. The taste is full and robust but not harsh nor does it bite, it’s balanced but definitely hearty. Like most of the crumble cakes from Sutliff it’s easily rubbed out to a suitable for smoking form with maybe a touch of extra moisture. The pressing also helps meld all the ingredients and smooths them a bit. I smoked it both fresh from the tin and with some drying time, I preferred slightly dryer but your mileage may vary. Now if you aren’t used to a blend with some higher than average nicotine I suggest a full stomach and a good amount of time to relax and enjoy it slowly, believe me you will be rewarded. You get a cool, slow smoke that is very rich and dense with a great mouth feel and very suitably for smoke rings. It’s sweet, smoky, fruits and nuts, a touch of spice that is delightfully full of rustic charm, and just enjoyable. A decent after taste that lasts a bit and the room note is on the strong side but totally agreeable to me…I live alone. Relights will be needed less if you choose to dry it a bit but it leaves only a trace of moisture in the bowl even fresh. Not an all day smoke but one that can be repeated if desired. More than three stars, not quite four but close enough to get four from me.
Tin note is bourbon and wood, but there is no evidence of that in the smoke. Starts as a very good, but conventional VaBur, the burley providing a tasty , nutty base with the Virginia giving some light hay notes that gets sweeter as the bowl progresses. There is also an astringent overtone that I believe comes from the N. Rustica which is the third ingredient to the blend. The astringency is nice as if prevents the gooey "burley mouth" that some blends exhibit. All good so far, right.
A little background, I use GH Kendal Dark as an all day smoke and evenings are usually Dark Flake or Brown Irish X Twist. so I thought I was pretty nicotine immune.
Rubbed out a normal sized bowlful (acorn meer) and started smoking. Got some niccups and slowed way down. By the time I was nearing the end I was smacked by a bolus of nicotine unlike anything I've smoked. I was able to stagger into the house, swig a quart of lime-aide from the fridge and make it to the recliner where I remained in a dissociative state for about an hour and a half. I was in no condition to write anything coherent for the rest of the evening.
Tried it again the next day, now in the tiny Peterson Junior. With my taking a good half hour to smoke the very small bowl, I got a pretty serious nic buzz but was able to function.
So, a very tasty VaBur which needs a serious caution label on the tin. Excellent in small quantities.
NOT an all day smoke unless you like being in a persistent vegetative state.
20230313 edit: coming across as somehow vegetal, but weak in character. With large pulls the vegetal quality and bitterness are more pronounced. Trying to think of what I'd rather be smoking, and i think I'd rather smoke almost any good burley over this. If this were a nicotine powerhouse, like on par with five brothers, I may smoke this over that, not even sure. I guess as a nicotine delivery vehicle alone, it's pretty good. If you want relatively heavy nicotine with little harshness and find the other heavy hitters to be offensive, maybe try this. No guarantees though, i really don't think it's great.
Tin note is hard to place, struggling to find an applicable descriptor. The smoke has a mild but unwavering bitterness, and a slight sweetness. I could see black tea in there, maybe leather. Not finding much Virginia character.
Not sure about this one. It definitely is unique, haven't encountered this bitter-sweet combination before, but I find myself looking forward to the end of the bowl. The smell of the smoke elicited the strongest response from my wife yet, waving her arms wildly and yelling at me to get away -- worth trying for that experience alone. Pretty sure this won't be a repeat purchase.
Nearing the end of the bowl, I've failed to find anything further worth mentioning. Very boring.
Tin note of pungent sour fruit, earthy and alcohol. Tobacco is a Krumble Kake of marbled black, brown and a little tan. Moisture content is good, some pipe smokers may want to dry it out a bit. Kake breaks apart and rubs out easily. Burns slow with a few extra relights. The strength is medium to strong and nic is medium. Flavoring is very mild, with notes of bourbon. Flavoring seems to be sporadic during the first 1/2, then goes away. Taste is medium to full and mostly consistent, with notes of cigar, zesty, earthy, tart and tangy citrus, peaty sour vegetation, spicy, leather, wood, toasted bread, spice, herbal floral, sugar, nutty, mildly sour vinegary, acidic, a bitter lemon grass background note, and a peppery retro. Rustica is leading with Burley, Virginia and flavoring supporting. Room note is tolerable, and aftertaste is great.
Pipe Used: 2016 Northern Briars Premier Rox Cut #4 Prince
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