Sobranie of London The Balkan Sobranie

This traditional mixture of rich Virginia, Latakia and rare Yenidje tobaccos is Sobranie's oldest blend and offers a mild yet rich taste. A cool and long-lasting smoke.
Notes: Presently, the best readily available production/date information is per John C Loring's "DATING ENGLISH TINNED TOBACCO", 1999: 1970s: (and prior) Sobranie Limited, Sobrainie House 1970s: (briefly) Sobranie Limited, 17 Worship Street 1970s: (late) Sobranie Limited, Chichester Road 1980s: (early) Sobranie of London, 65 Kingsway 1980s: Sobranie of London, 34 Burlington Arcade 1990s: Sobranie of London, 13 Old Bond Street Then Gallaher produced this blend until the mid-2000s.


Brand Sobranie of London
Blended By House of Sobranie
Manufactured By Gallaher
Blend Type Balkan
Contents Latakia, Oriental/Turkish, Virginia
Cut Ribbon
Packaging 50g Pouch, 50g Tin, 100g Tin, 200g Tin
Country United Kingdom
Production No longer in production


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

Average Rating

3.69 / 4





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Displaying 11 - 20 of 93 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 06, 2014 Medium to Strong None Detected Very Full Very Strong
A LEGEND. There are no words to describe this wonderful, fantastic, exciting english mixture. I have smoked for three years this unforgettable tobacco. Virginia, Latakia, Yenidje (oriental) of the best quality. Top of the top. A very full taste, so well balanced that is impossible to immagine something better. Unequalled tobacco, this mixture remains a mystery. No one was able to come near this excellence. In my personal rating (from 1 to 10) here is the perfection and my score is 10 with eulogy and obviously 4 stars. THE LEGEND.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 04, 2014 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
For some reason, this seems to be listed twice here, so this review is the same as the Sobranie of London entry. The smoky, woody, earthy, musty sweet Cyprian Latakia is the lead component. The Orientals (Macedonia being one of them) provide a lot of earth, wood, floralness, a light dry sourness and buttery sweetness, along with a little spice and leather as a supporting player. The Virginias offer some grass and hay, a little dark fruit, and a hint of citrus. The light unflavored soda note or two along with some dry wood, earth, floralness from the yenidje is always noticeable. The 1990s and later versions have drier in taste than it was in the 1980s, due to the decrease in the red Virginia, which disappeared by the mid-1990s. The strength is a couple of steps short of medium. The taste is medium. The nic-hit is just past the center of mild to medium. Won't bite or get harsh. Burns at a reasonable pace, cool, clean and moderately smooth with a very consistent, mildly sweet and floral, savory, campfire flavor. Requires few relights, and leaves little dampness in the bowl. Had a pleasant, lightly lingering after taste and room note. An all day well balanced smoke. Four stars despite the number of changes that occurred.

Having smoked the late 1960s and the 1960 versions, I found the red Virginia was a little more prominent, and the wine-like, earthy, woody, floral Syrian Latakia was used, which created a drier, lightly less fragrant smoke. The 1980's and later versions used Cyprian Latakia which added a little different sweetness to the mix. The yenidje seems to have been the same in all versions. The amount of red Virginia was decreased by 1982. The production ceased in 2005.

The above review doesn't cover the current version. In that one, the smoky, woody, earthy Cyprian Latakia is the lead component, but lacks the depth and mustiness of earlier productions, and little less is here than before. The Orientals are less potent, offering earth, wood, floralness, a light dry sourness and a touch of buttery sweetness, along with a little spice as a supporting player. The very grassy, citrusy, barely dark fruity and earthy Virginias have little of the complexity it once had, and there’s more of here than before. The unflavored soda note from the yenidje is virtually missing. The strength is in the center of mild to medium. The taste is a step past that center. The nic-hit is just short of the center of mild to medium. Won't bite or get harsh. Burns cool, clean and a tad fast as it’s thinner cut now. It’s moderately smooth with a very consistent, mildly sweet and savory, lightly floral, very grassy flavor. Requires an average number of relights, and leaves little dampness in the bowl. Had a lightly lingering after taste and room note. An all day smoke that lacks the depth and complexity of past manufactures. This one gets two stars.

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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 21, 2013 Very Strong None Detected Full Pleasant
It is IPSD 2013 and I finally broke into my one and only tin of Balkan Sobranie! I never thought the day would come and I would open it, but finally given to temptation here I am...So,the tobacco has indeed had quite a bit of age on it, but it was still quite moist and the surrounding paper stained. The tin note is unmistakably dominated by the Latakia, but the Orientals and Virginias in the right proportion also add a lively distinction of their own.

There has been so much praise written already about this blend and on this day I can say that it is all true! I am smoking this in my wide chambered Savinelli Baronet Bruyere 315 EX Prince...The smoke is exotic, well rounded and brightly mouth filling, running the entire length of the palate.There is so much going on, but still the flavours seamlessly intertwine tip to tail and even marry.

Bright spices highlight carefully layered creamy notes of full creosote and there is an unidentifiable charming "classic" room note surrounding it all.The gravity and power are there too, so it must be respected.Let it brood and let it come in its own time. Most importantly,unlike many other "Balkan" blends this one has "real" depth. Here this rare feature stretches and completes the finish.For everything else polished and majestic that Balkan Sobranie displays; this is the one virtue that crystallises the experience and it and sets it apart.

There is truth in this legend!
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 12, 2011 Medium None Detected Medium Strong
This is perhaps the most interesting review thread on here, dedicated as it is to a legend rather than to anything that still exists. There were many incarnations of the Balkan Sobranie, and every reviewer here seems to be referring to a different one. Personally, I've only tried two of them. I smoked a pretty good amount of the BS that was sold in the 1990s, and just recently opened a pouch of the last version (sold outside the U.S. until around 2005, if I understand correctly). Hence, I will split this review into two parts....

The BS that was available to me in the 1990s could be purchased at just about any tobacconist as well as many chain grocery stores and drug stores. It came in a pouch and in a large tin. As much as I loved (and continue to love) latakia, I can't say I ever really loved this particulat mixture. I smoked a good amount of it, but largely because there were so few latakia blends that were easily available. I often mixed it with other tobaccos to get something closer to what I wanted, sometimes adding some perique or cavendish. The BS at that time was basically a latakia dump with just enough VA and oriental leaf to add a hint of sweetness. There were also undertones of olives and spice.... Not terrible, but nowhere as good as the many Dunhill mixtures I occassionally got to try. Of the many Balkan blends available today, I would say that G&H's Balkan Mixture is the closest match to this, only the G&H product is considerably better. I would have rated this version of the BS as a two star blend, or maybe 2.5 if I were feeling generous.

The more recent version, however, was absolutely disgusting. Almost no sweetness, the olive notes tasted rancid, and the latakia was so muted as to be undetectable. The mixture was overwhelmingly harsh and acrid... really vile stuff. I almost feel that one star is too good for it! I was quite disappointed, as I'd paid a decent amount for several of the pouches from a vintage seller and now must figure out how to dispose of them...

This review is not meant to disparage older versions of the BS, as I've never tried any of them. I can easily believe they were every bit as great as their reputation claims. If nothing else, they served as the inspiration for the whole genre of Balkan mixtures available today, and some of my favorite blends fall into that category (Odyssey, Abingdon, Magnum Opus, Wilderness, etc.). Unfortunately, the versions I've tried ranged from "decent but unspectacular" to "horrible." I would call it a shame, but there are too many truly great mixtures around now to mourn this stuff at all.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 21, 2009 Medium None Detected Medium Very Pleasant
I smoked a few tins of this several years ago (before it became a classic) and found it good but unmemorable. In the present day, this has gone out of production and is considered the standard to which all balkans are measured. So I began a quest to find some, and I found several pouches. I've finished two of them.

Quite frankly, this tobacco is much better than I remembered. The tobacco came super-dry in the pouch and required almost a month of rehydration. If it's true that this means a tobacco never is as good as when fresh, this tobacco must be magical, as it is as good or better than any balkan I've ever smoked. This starts out with a nice, sharp flavor of latakia and orientals and is perfectly balanced. The aroma is heavenly, and I repeatedly left the room and re-entered so I could enjoy the room bouquet. It's one of those tobaccos that you can't help smoking an immediate second bowl of, and I caught myself doing just that numerous times.

This is something everyone should try and find. Comparisons to Balkan Sasieni are obvious due to the tin art but Sobranie is miles ahead in flavor and depth. For virginia smokers (such as myself) that think balkan mixtures cannot contain the depth of a good VA flake, this one makes a strong argument for the defense. I don't mind the premium prices this blend commands; it's worth it.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 31, 2007 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable to Strong
Every new tobacco reviewer has to start with Balkan Sobranie - it might as well be the law. This was one of the first pipe-tobaccos that I really enjoyed on all levels, and, naturally, it was the pipe-tobacco everyone else hated. Deep, rich, tarry, resinous. And long gone. I smoked it constantly from 1975 through the early eighties, sporadically since then till it's disappearance. I still have a dozen unopened tins from 1981 and 1982.

What is like it?

For those who appreciated the soggy aged Virginia note, try Germain's King Charles Mixture, Royal Jersey Latakia Mixture, or Esoterica's And So To Bed. Note that the Royal Jersey Mixture has some Maryland, and will therefore have tin-aged differently than the others. Based on certain similarities of taste I suspect that Balkan Sobranie may have also contained some Maryland, but likely no more than ten percent.

For those who liked the resinous Oriental perfume, Dunhill's Durbar is quite nice. Probably nearly forty percent Turkish leaf maximum. Not particularly heavy on Latakia.

For those who like how the Latakia played with the Turkish, and both were supported by Virginias, smoke either GLPease's Westminster, or Cornell & Diehl's 968R (Red Odessa). Westminster is a complex finely tuned mixture that will appeal to those who appreciated the splendid English blends that once were easily found, Red Odessa is a straightforward, profoundly old-fashioned English Blend that will bring back wonderful half-memories. Both generate wonderful clouds of leather and oak, and upset the women. In the full-English range, so over forty percent Latakia, and around twenty five percent Oriental.

For a dark deep Latakia blast that will remind you of your first impression of Balkan Sobranie white, Gawith Hogarth's Balkan Blend is a good choice, and so is Butera's Pelican. Both reek marvelously, are roughly at the half-way mark as far as Latakia, and seem to have less Oriental than either the Pease mixture mentioned above, or the Cornell & Diehl mixture. But I may be deceived.

I have been told that Smoker's Haven 'Our Best Blend' is a near-match to the Balkan Sobranie white, and that their Exotique is very similar to the Balkan Sobranie black. I have several cans of each stashed away, based on the raving advice of a friend and colleague. I have not tried either yet.

Dunhill 965, Standard Medium, and London were in the same range, but smoked quite differently. Rattray's did not come close at all.

I suspect that one of the blending tobaccos was an unflavoured Cavendish. And there may have been some pressed bright Virginia as well.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 16, 2018 Mild None Detected Mild Pleasant to Tolerable
Here's a current review for March 2018. Like everyone else who's been smoking as long as I have, I can confirm that this is nothing like the old tins we used to smoke decades ago. BUT it is a very nice baccy all the same; mild, well-behaved and very smooth indeed. It's not even Balkan Sobranie 'Lite', but just has to be seen as a new thing - comparison to the old stuff is useless and misleading. A calm and smooth creamy smoke with hints of that 'Turkish' taste here and there - but they are very very mild indeed; so mild that you will often forget that they are even there. It's a little like a bowl of Squadron Leader but even smoother and milder, and without the spicy and sometimes peppery 'orientals'. I think it was a mistake to name this Balkan Sobranie; it would have done much better as a new blend under its own name and in its own right, because, for what it is, it's actually very good.
Pipe Used: new Meerscaum
PurchasedFrom: Iwan Ries
Age When Smoked: new
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 05, 2014 Medium None Detected Full Pleasant to Tolerable
I used to smoke this tobacco mixture back in the early 90s. It's been quite a long time since last time I had a bowl, but I was very familiar with this tobacco, so I can rely on many pleasant recollections to write this review. The cut was rather coarse and zigzagy, not quite a proper ribbon cut, and the tin note was tangy, sort of fermented, because of the orientals. Every time I cracked a tin open I'd marvel at the mosaic of colours, ranging from black, grey and bright leaf. As for the nicotine it was rather medium, but that was offset with the full-bodied smoking experience. This is a tobacco that evolved quite nicely as you progressed with you smoke, never got dull or sour. The smoky latakia was always there, but kind of pushed into the background by the orientals. Also, I'd not get any sweet or earthy notes from the virginia leaf. In true honesty, I used to rotate this tobacco with Murray's Early Morning Pipe and Standard's Mixture, just for a change of pace, but I have never smoked something quite like it. This is probably the best English/Balkan type tobacco I ever had and I can only wonder if I will ever smoke it again.
Pipe Used: briar
PurchasedFrom: Some tobacconist in Spain
Age When Smoked: Probably 1
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 25, 2011 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Tolerable
Original Review 12-25-11 This review is for the newly released J.F. Germain version.

A very good friend of mine that smoked pipe since his youth in the 1930's passed away a couple of years ago. He was instrumental in my starting to smoke a pipe in the early 80's as he hated my cigarette habit. When he passed, I was notified by his widow that I had been left his cellar and pipe collection. There were many very nice old Dunhill and GBD pipes along with about 50 odd assorted tins of aged tobacco. Included were 6 tins of the old 759 and 3 tins of the #10. Unfortunately, there was no Original Mixture. I will always thank him for his gift of friendship to a man 50 years his junior. His life experience was invaluable to me in many ways.

You see, this story is what I think of when I hear the name Sobranie. When Germain reintroduced the Sobranie Original Mixture, I was eager to try it. I had no experience with the blend previously but, had tried the others years ago. (I still haven't cracked the tins I recieved from him.) It was unavailable on any of the internet sites, so I called one of my local B&M suppliers and found he had 3 tins instock.

The tobacco in the tin is finely cut, almost a shag. The smell is definately english/balkan in nature. Cyprian latakia is present along with turkish in the nose. The virginia presents itself in the form of a winelike aroma.

The tobacco was a little wet in the tin so some airtime was mandatory. Afterwards, it loaded nicely and lit without trouble. The flavor on first light is latakia dominate. The flavor becomes more balanced as you get into the first quarter of the bowl. Buttery is a nice description. The winelike aroma of the virginias translates to the flavor and is sublime in the mix. The virginias appear to be aged nicely. No bite whatsoever. No bitterness.

The tobacco presents a fine white ash when burnt. And when dried properly, leaves no dottle in the bowl. No pipecleaner needed during the smoke.

The flavor is very nice but, could use a bit more weight to it. The nicotine content is not heavy at all, but a solid medium. This should be approachable to all but the most puny of smokers. Not a terribly expensive blend, so value is not really a concern. I do hope they reintroduce the 759 as I would be more intersested in it, but they have done a fine job with this.


Update 02-25-12

This is a fine tobacco. Air time and letting it open a bit was all it took to take this to a new level. Germaine is producing some of the finest tobacco available and this is no exception. If you try this, the best thing to do is open the tin, put it in a jar and introduce air every so often(read once per day) for a couple of weeks. This will provide you with the best smoking experience.

Remember that not all of the tobaccos available back then are available now. This is the closest I have ever tasted to the original product. Age will make all the difference. 5 years from now, a tin of this stuff will be as sought after as the old stuff.

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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 04, 2004 Medium to Strong None Detected Medium to Full Strong
Like many of the more traditional English blends, Balkan Sobranie's original mixture has changed hands a number of times, leading to different versions. I remember smoking the tinned one a number of times and then the one in the metallic paper pouch. They were definitely not alike. The tinned version (c. 20 years ago) had for me an almost mystical, incense-like quality, very powerful, that somehow induced a trance like state. I would light up and after the first few puffs, everything around me would cease to be important. The deep bitter sweet undertones of the mixture, combined with a certain degree of mineral saltiness had me transfixed, as if submerged within Alban Berg's music; a beatific state interrupted only when the wife, alarmed at the strong odor, would barge into the room--broom in hand--to chase me out of the house. Cool and slow burning, it was a tobacco that imposed itself on the smoker, providing a great variety of flavors within the Balkan range. Strong but never overwhelming, after a bowl of BSOM I felt satisfied enough not to smoke again for a number of hours.

The newer version seems to me drier, saltier and sour. It has a certain raw edge to it that I don't really care for, and I find it lighter in flavor. It is not really bad, but something got lost in the transition. Though it is still a very good tobacco, the industrialized process of its manufacture has forced it to join the ranks of those blends (Gold Block, Rich Dark Honeydew, Highland Sliced or Three Nuns plastic pouch) that can only be a pale reflection of their old selves.
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