Samuel Gawith St. James Flake

Genuine perique is added to an already delicious and flavoursome blend of fine bright Virginias to give St. James the light peppery characteristic enjoyed by so many pipe smokers. Medium strength.


Brand Samuel Gawith
Series Kendal Mayor's Collection
Blended By Samuel Gawith
Manufactured By Samuel Gawith
Blend Type Virginia/Perique
Contents Perique, Virginia
Cut Flake
Packaging 50 grams tin, 250 grams box, bulk
Country United Kingdom
Production Currently available


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

Average Rating

3.44 / 4





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Displaying 1 - 10 of 20 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 02, 2014 Medium Very Mild Medium Tolerable
I smoke one pipe each day and I have a fairly limited window of time to do so (90 to 120 minutes between putting the kids to bed and hitting the hay myself). It's important to me that a tobacco smokes well right out of the tin. Unfortunately, St James Flake doesn't quite fit the bill.

I'd like this one a lot more if it weren't so much work. As noted in so many other reviews the tobacco is very moist . I must say that I'm not big on drying tobacco. I find moist tobaccos more flavorful and complex. However, smoking this one right out of the tin is simply not an option - it requires significant drying time before it packs correctly and stays lit. The few times I got the moisture just right, it was a good smoke that reminds me very much of McC's St. James Woods (which I also find "high maintenance". It's a good combination of sweet and spicy with a medium nicotine level.

Overall, a good tobacco but not the right one for me. If you enjoy VaPers and have the time, patience and experience to dry this to the correct moisture, you will enjoy St. James Flake.
Age When Smoked: Fresh
10 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 17, 2012 Medium Mild to Medium Medium Tolerable
I notoriously have a low tolerance for Perique. I like its taste, but in high doses it makes my head spin. I was somewhat fearing for the worst here, considering SG's reputation for stout virginia flakes and the presence of Perique... and yet, I was wrong.

This is a medium-strength tobacco, maybe even lighter than medium, and Perique is very sparingly applied. So sparingly that even I can say that a little more would have been much appreciated!

The result is a bit underwhelming: it's similar to Best Brown Flake... but not as interesting, juicy and rich. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it: even if the flakes come a bit moist and gummy out of the tin, they rub out splendidly and burn regularly. No tonguebite, a very even and relaxing experience. On quality of the product I would be tempted to give a "Recommended" rating... The problem is that I have several much more interesting flakes at hand (Rattray's Marlin Flake, Ashton's Old London, SG's own Brown Flake), and this one doesn't offer anything more... and actually something less in terms of complexity, richness, interesting development. And hey, if you call it St James Flake, I expect to taste Perique a bit more: in this department, the McClelland similarly named flake is a much more interesting example.

So... a good but not great tobacco, with absolutely no faults at all except that there are so many better choices around. But this tin was a pleasant experience that I certainly won't complain about.

2021 Update: I have been revisiting this one recently. Thick flakes, very compact and quite moist. You have to rub them out quite a bit to make them burn regularly. What puzzles me, apart from it being good but somewhat undistinguished, are two things. First, at the nose from the tin it HUGELY smells of liquorice. Yes, it smells like it's heavily cased with unsugared liquorice root, it's unmistakeable. Why, in a Va/Per flake, and why so obtrusively? At the taste, it's smooth, unoffensive, with a medium body and quite some taste, but it never shines. And that leads me to the second question: why call a blend St James if the spicy, piquant, sour and lively contribution of Perique is so subdued? It's a good blend, with a clear feeling of artisanal craftamanship (flavored/cased doesn't mean it's not handmade: the rough texture of the flakes clearly speaks a lot about how this tobacco is made by hand and not with modern presses). But ultimately, I keep finding myself underwhelmed.
9 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 19, 2008 Strong None Detected Full Tolerable
I can ditto most of the comments already made of those who highly recommended this blend. If you like blends with Perique you should enjoy this flake. There is no question that SG produces the finest flakes available. St James Flake reminds me of Knoxville Cigar Company's Laurel Flake, which is made by Gawith, one of my favorite smokes; I am tempted to believe they are the same blend.

Based on one of the reviews below I smoked this without rubbing it out, drying it for 30 minutes prior to lighting, and smoking it in a #4 size pipe. Rather than tamping I've found loosening the surface with a pick between lights facilitates smoking.

All-in-all, a nice flake.

August 19,2008 update: This tobacco ages nicely. With age, more mellow and sweet.

January 16, 2021 13 yrs. aged now. In a mason jar, so no drying. I should have dried a flake for a few hours - hard to light and get going. The flakes are dark and rich. Mellow with stewed dark fruits and subtle sweetness from the VA leaf. Perique leads the way. Earthy. No bite, cool burning, but not an all day smoke; best after dinner IMHO with a whiskey. Burns to a dry white ash. If you want a full perique VA/Per this is it.
Pipe Used: Dunhill #5 Squat bulldog
PurchasedFrom: Pipes &Cigars
Age When Smoked: 13 yrs
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 07, 2018 Medium Mild Medium Pleasant
It sounds crazy but I would leave this stuff in a jar for a year before you try to smoke it. Even then it doesn't behave great, but at least it's smokeable. If you try to smoke this fresh it will be hot air. After a year I can dry it out for about 20 min and I able to get a decent smoke. There is a slight topping, it always reminds me of apricots. But it stays nicely in the background. Then you have a sweet va, and a decent dose if perique. I think it smokes mild/ medium for most of the bowl until maybe the last third when the taste really picks up. This jar I'm smoking is about a year old. I really think it needs a couple more years to become complex. It's not boring but it's pretty basic after about a year.
Age When Smoked: 1 year
5 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 15, 2018 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Tolerable
I really appreciate Samuel Gawith and his mixtures, but this is not my Va/Pe. Difficult to smoke, very complex, certainly rich in nuances but too laborious. In my opinion a complicated and not very clean taste. I don’t know if the Perique is pure St. James or Acadian (I think the first one because the taste is quite different than Acadian), but, on the whole, there is something that doesn’t work.

By the way, there are two kind of Perique on the market: the straight and pure St. James Perique (100% Perique) is really rare and difficult to find, while Acadian Perique (Kentucky Green River Burley mixed with the St. James tobacco) is most commonly used to make Perique. Most mixtures employ the Acadian Perique, but I believe in this mixture there is the straight St. James (and this is a plus).

Finally another flaw is that this mixture is too moist. So, on the whole, it doesn’t convince me. At the moment, in my personal rating system (from 1 to 10) my score is 7 and two stars. Probably in the future I’ll give it another chance (it’s so difficult to find a mixture with pure St. James perique).
4 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 21, 2013 Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
I'll reiterate the observation of other reviewers that the flakes, upon opening the tin, were, as Cragganmore put it, "a big, wet ball of tobacco".

I've smoked it over the course of several months at various levels of moisture, from damp to bone dry to re-moistened, and my experience with it largely echoes Cragganmore's (my fav scotch, btw).

It's a quality flake once it's dry enough to smoke. It's not a bad VaPer, but it doesn't hold a candle to Escudo's shimmering flavorscape: those few bowls that worked for me remained relatively monochromatic. I find it better than McC's St. James Woods, but still far from a truly worthwhile VaPer like, say, Solani's flavorful and interesting 633, or the magnificent Escudo.

Worth trying for the VaPer enthusiast to see if this one rings their bell (as it evidently does for many of our peers), but not recommended for those wanting to discover the unique flavorscape of VaPers for the first time. Maybe, like Cragganmore and perhaps other recent reviewers, I caught a bad batch... But I won't be buying it again.

Update 09/27/13: I just found the tin buried under a few others, forgotten but not discarded. I was in the mood for a VaPer, so I figured... why not? It's now brittle and bone dry. Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems like there's a lot more sugar crystals coating the flakes than I remember. Maybe it's the flake, or maybe it's my mood, or the relative humidity... I don't know, but now it's tasting like a quality flake, really quite lovely in fact, a good balance between sweet and peppery, right in the alto range. I'd up it from 2 to 3 stars, but I'd need to have a few more bowls like the last one. I may purchase it again someday to try to solve the mystery of why I like it all of a sudden, but I'm not in any hurry to.
3 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 03, 2013 Medium Extremely Mild Medium Pleasant
Normally I have high threshold when it comes to accepting sloppy presentations from Samuel Gawith and it's because I know that there is great quality in the product.

However... I've only had one tin of St. James Flake before this review and I will not be having another. Ever. When I purchase flake tobacco I expect flakes. This was delivered as a big, wet ball of tobacco. I had to let it age for a few months (which I normally do after a first curious sampling) and even then I couldn't get the pre-smoke preparation down. I'd either dry it too much (resulting in total perique-dominance) or too little (resulting in a soaky, wet and annoying smoke). Admitedly I had a few really terrific sessions with this but they were not the norm by any means. The level of perique would vary greatly which even caused me to discard a few bowls, something that I would normally never do.

I'm hoping I just caught a bad batch, which is why I won't rate it below 'somewhat recommended'. I expected more though...

Beardnote: spiced up virginia, fairly sniffworthy
3 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 16, 2009 Medium Mild Mild to Medium Tolerable
Initially it seems to have everything I usually look for in a tobacco (high grade virginia; in this case properly aged, and perique). Nice body, nice (tin) aroma, and delivers a good nicotine hit. Obviously hand crafted, nice presentation. Yet smoking it is kind of odd. It strikes me as a little bit blunt (perhaps that's the "big and bold British" side of it). And I too detect that "minty" taste that has been suggested earlier when going on the final third of a bowl. Very odd, indeed.

All in all it's not bad, but it's nothing special either. I had somehow expected something more out of it. Perhaps that minty confectionary thing it has going on is an aquired taste.

I'm afraid I won't be in any particular rush to get more tins of this blend. Which bothers me a little, I want to like S.G, small blending houses are almost extinct these days, but somehow all their blends I've tried so far has been a little of a let-down. But if I know myself right, that won't stop me from checking out their other offerings.
3 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 29, 2008 Medium to Strong Extremely Mild Full Tolerable to Strong
Based on the tin I had, I found St. James a rather misbalanced smoke. Sometimes it had a round, full, spicy taste, and sometimes it was bland and steamy - not depending on the pipe or packing method. More experiments could help me work my way through to enjoying St. James flake, but I'd better look for something else. Three Nuns for example is definitely a winner compared to St. James.
3 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 16, 2006 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable
These nicely cut flakes are thinner than others from Gawith and that and the high moisture content resulted in difficulty obtaining uniform packing since I prefer not to rub out my flakes. Multiple relights were ofter needed and moisture/bitterness developed @ the bottom of the bowl. This seemed to be independent of the pipe size and design. Although I enjoyed the taste and strength, other VA/Periques are much easier to smoke and are therefore favored.
3 people found this review helpful.
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