Notes: 'White Downs' is a name taken from the works of JRR Tolkien: A range of chalk downs in the western regions of the Shire; Michel Delving, the chief town of the Shire, was built (and burrowed) there.
I really can't add much to Willy's excellent review other than to say White Downs may be the hardest to locate of the old Levin blends. Maybe because of the leaf required to make this one. I can compare it favorably to the original McCranie's Red Ribbon, but the variety of Virginia leaf in this one makes it a more complex smoke and it really starts to sing about mid-bowl. I do wish I could find more of this.
White Downs is an orange and red VA flake with an appearance similar to VA #22. This is a tin I've had for a while (1991 to be exact) that I got from Barry Levin when he was operating Levin Pipes Itn'l. in Craftsbury, Vermont. The tin aroma has that fermented, slightly musty smell which I feel certainly coincides to some degree w/the age of the tin. I detect a light coconut-like smell as well as a bit of a citrus note but there were supposedly no traditional casings used. There was mention of a fragrance agent to enhance the blend. Rubbing out is easily accomplished, but I chose to zip it in a food processor for a coupla seconds. Packs nice, lighting was the usual char, tamp and relight. This blend smokes clean and dry to a nice light gray ash. The natural taste also has a nutty flavor, and is a little more mellow and rounder than #22, with a slightly sweeter flavor. First third was typical VA with a zesty, tangy note. On down the flavor had that "woodsy" note that I feel is VA richness at its best. A few relights were needed towards the bottom, but carefully loosening the tobacco with the pick on my smokers knife helped to finish the bowl. There was light bitterness at the bottom, but not that nasty "I just can't finish this bowl" harsh taste. Moisture was not a big problem, I used two cleaners during the course of a Grp. 5 bowl. I'm liking this blend to the point where I wish I had bought more when it was available, but there are other blends to compare w/this and some say White Downs went on to become something else (or maybe something else became White Downs for awhile) but that I cannot say. The Fragrant Matured VA Blends were a unique "6 pak" of tobaccos from days gone by, and I still have a few left. After eleven years I should get some fantastic smokes. McC #22 would be a good tobac in lieu of WD, but I think #22 has a little more spice to it. Maybe Dobies Four Square Red ready rubbed flake as well, though these may be a little lighter in color.
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