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 11 - 20 of 203 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 18, 2014 Medium to Strong None Detected Full Tolerable
SJF is one of the great Virginia-Perique blends in my opinion, right up there with Escudo and McConnell Scottish Cake. There are still a bunch of VaPers that I haven't tried yet, so I can't state definitively where it fits in the overall scheme of things.

I agree with what some other reviewers have already posted, that the flakes need drying and some resting time after opening the tin. My latest batch was a 250g box, which I put into jars and waited a few weeks before smoking.

There is plenty of perique in SJF for me. In fact, sometimes it's a bit more perique than I'm in the mood for and I rub out a flake or two of SJF with a flake of Best Brown, mix it all together and let it dry out some before packing. It works for me, your mileage may vary of course.

Lit gently and smoked slowly, this can be a wonderfully sweet tobacco with the enticing peppery spice that VaPer fans love. I get a sweet flavor that reminds me of honey and figs. However, if you rush it SJF can turn on you quickly with a shocking bitter harshness. Not to worry though, I just set the pipe down, let it cool for a while, relight gently, and it comes back around to being a beautiful smoke again.

SJF is a fine smoke in most of my briars and absolutely sublime in a certain old "Regd. No." Stanwell from the late 1960s. But there are a couple of pipes that I don't dare smoke it in. They just don't get along. Harsh and nasty. Seems to work better in medium and smaller bowls.

I typically enjoy the first 2/3 bowl of SJF a lot more than the last 1/3 if that information helps you at all.

As much as I'd like to give SJF 4 stars because it really is one of my favorites, SJF's fussiness--the drying, the resting, the necessity to smoke it thoughtfully, its refusal to get along with some pipes--merits a slight downgrade.
Pipe Used: various briars
11 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 19, 2011 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable
Due to the limited availability of SG blends, this review is based on two four year old tins. As a result the dark flakes are covered with sugar crystals! I generally like VaPers well aged and that have that signature sweet, raison/fig like aroma. I lean toward the sweeter VaPers as a rule. St. James, while sweet doesn't taste as sweet as aged Solani 633 or aged Escudo. With that said, St James has a depth of flavor that is really, really good. I have described some of my favorite English blends as having“richness” to the smoke and now I have found a VaPer that has earned that distinction. Complex, deep and rich with full flavor and a wonderful balance between the Virginia and Perique tobaccos, St. James is a winner. Like most of the SG flakes, it arrives too moist and needs dry time. I fully rub it out as I find it tastes best that way. I also favor a smaller bowl, like a group three or smaller with this blend. Well done and highly recommended!
11 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 17, 2017 Medium to Strong None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable
Samuel Gawith - St. James Flake.

Another one I posted a few years back, when I first started doing reviews. Having re-read, deciding I can do better, I thought I'd re-post.

When I opened this particular tin I found a nice surprise: one or two pleasing crystals had formed. The flakes themselves are quite dark, slightly thick, and as always with Sam G' they're saturated.

The smoke.....oh, the smoke! This is what I call a heavy VaPer; heavy with Perique! It masks most of the Virginias character, I mainly get the Dark Fruit, and a little bread, from the Perique. The Virginia has to be looked for, diligently, otherwise it might be missed, and when it's found I get calm hay instead of sharp grass/citrus. The burn's good, providing it's been properly aired, and also I've noticed it goes better if it's been loaded into the bowl a little loosely. If I smoke a few bowls voraciously, in quick succession, it can bite, but for regular all-day smoking it's fine.

The room-note's on the heavier side of pleasant, and the nicotine veers toward strong.

This has been one of my favourites for years:

Highly recommended.
Pipe Used: Altinok Lee Van Cleef Meer'
PurchasedFrom: My Smoking Shop
Age When Smoked: New
10 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 16, 2017 Mild to Medium Very Mild Medium Pleasant
I purchased the 250 g box. St James Flake is an amazing Virginia and Périque flake. In no other tobacco in the genre have I encountered such a delicious taste. Being medium brown in colour, it displays aromas of earth and vinegar. Despite it being rather difficult to rub out the long flakes; and despite it being also a bit difficult when trying to keep it going once lit, St James Flake is worth the trouble. A. Strength: Strength refers to the intensity of the nicotine. It's closer to the medium level when smoked fresh and mild to medium; more medium than mild when it has had some time to dry, a few weeks after it has been opened. B. Flavoring: I have suspected, during the first few smokes that it contains some kind of a Plum topping. But I am not so sure anymore. C. Taste: Truly a very enjoyable experience, the earthiness of the well aged Virginias are a dream match with the plum qualities that the Périque releases at first. The taste is creamy and very satisfying. As the tobacco consumes itself the taste will be more earthy and less of plum; to become, towards the last third, on the peppery side. D. Room Note: It is pleasant, definitively noticeable at first, then it tones down. E. Rating: Despite the difficulties of preparation, St James Flake is probably the best Virginia and Périque tobacco I have had the pleasure to enjoy. 3.75 stars; if it wasn't for the preparation issues, I would have granted it 4 stars.
Pipe Used: Luciano; Stanwell; Danish Sovereign; Enrique
10 people found this review helpful.
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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
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 13, 2014 Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
Being predominantly Latakia blends smoker, I wouldn't go in depth judging this tobacco. I've smoked it somewhat wet, since it comes extremely wet from the tin like all Sam Gawith tobaccos. One time I've put it on a hot plate to heat it and dry it quickly. It resulted in losing a fair amount of it's flavour. Anyway, rubbing it spreading it across the table and letting it dry for 20-30 minutes before smoking does the job. Has to be packed loosely however, and in a narrow bowl pipe. Virginias used are dark, and whoever mentioned that it's Full Virginia Flake with some Perique added, might be just right. Perique adds some sour spiciness, but also mellows the VA and the result is pretty balanced smoke. Maybe too balanced, but that's ok. I've smoked it on cold winter days, and somehow it didn't fit well. This blend would be excellent for the summer. It is fresh, despite the heavy dark virginias. A very good VA/Per, reminds a bit of Three Nuns, but has that recognizable specific Sam Gawith note. Highly Recommended from me.
Pipe Used: Meerschaums morta and briars
PurchasedFrom: Tel Aviv, Israel
Age When Smoked: Few months
9 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
May 16, 2018 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Tolerable
Va/per's are easily my favorite blends, and this is one I have been dying to try for ages now. Because of where I live in Europe, it's really hard to find Samuel Gawith blends. So when I saw a few tins of this at my local tobacconist, I picked them up without hesitation.

I really, really love my Va/per blends, so I was really looking forward to this, as I've always been a fan of Gawith as well. FVF is one of my favorites, and Firedance Flake is another one that I really enjoy as well, despite being an aromatic. So I went home and cracked open a tin almost immediately.

I've been smoking Dunhill and Solani blends for the past year and pretty much nothing else. So I've gotten a bit spoiled in regards to cut and moisture content out of the tin. St. James Flake comes pretty moist, but not as moist as I remember my previous Gawith experiences in the past. I let a few flakes dry a bit before I loaded my first bowl. I never microwave or heat my flakes or anything like that. I just let them dry on a tray on my desk for about 20 minutes. Never heat tobacco to dry it.

Loading up was simple enough. However, even after sufficient drying, the tobacco is a real pain to light. And it's an even bigger pain to keep lit. This is a bit tough because as with most, if not all, Va/per blends you want to keep the tobacco as cool as possible, so you don't want to be puffing too hard and constantly having to relight. That said, when it gets going, it's pretty much okay. But obviously nowhere near as easy to maintain as a Dunhill blend like Elizabethan Mixture or something like that.

I have always been a big fan of Perique, and I always wished in the back of my mind that blenders would include more of it in their Va/per blends. Well, careful for what you wish for, I guess, because St. James Flake is a Perique bomb. So much so that it masks the flavor of the Virginia's in there. There can be too much of a good thing, and I appreciate this flake for teaching me that yes, there is such thing as too much Perique, and yes, the blenders at Solani who make 633 are absolutely masterful with how they craft that tobacco, because the balance in 633 is downright perfect.

St. James Flake is still enjoyable, but to me it can't compare with Solani 633, Davidoff Flake Medallions or Escudo. I'd rather smoke any of those when my Va/per fix kicks in. It's hard to light and maintain, and at a certain point it just becomes too much work. It is flavorsome, I'll give it that, but it's more on the murky side - it's not a bright tobacco by any means. It's more of an autumn/winter smoke. I have a few unopened tins which I have put to the side - perhaps they will mellow out and get better with age. Because right now, there is a raging demon inside of these tins.

Update: I would suggest removing this from the tin, rubbing it out all the way, then putting it into a jar. Only then does it really mellow out and reach it's full potential. It's still hard to light, but the flavor and ease of smoking improves drastically. Cheers.
Pipe Used: Various
PurchasedFrom: Local tobacconist
Age When Smoked: New
8 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 28, 2017 Medium Very Mild Mild to Medium Tolerable
Easily ranks among the best Va/Pers in the market at a very affordable price. You feel ancient England in the smoke, even though the Virginia and Perique are produced in America. The secret of this blend is the subtle balance between strength and taste, and the sort of natural sugar implied in the Virginias is really first class quality and is equally a good source for energy. Highly recommended in the early morning, after having eaten a healthy breakfast. For me, tobaccos that good serve as catalysts for ensuring both healthy longevity and matchless enjoyment in taste and habit. Again, very highly recommended.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 12, 2016 Mild to Medium Very Mild Medium Pleasant
This is my new bench mark for VA/Pers. It is simply marvelous. It is subtle and a little complex but not overly so. The VA's are sweet with grass/hay notes. There is a topping that must be basically sugar. I mean this is the sweetest VA at 18 months that I have ever smoked. This does not take away from the smoke at all. I like my VA's sweet and whatever this is does that very well without adding additional foreign elements to the smoke. The perique is lightly spicy and I assume that the deep dark fruit like sweetness comes from here (think plums and raisins). It does not bite and it can be smoked all day. The sweetness lingers on my palate for hours making me want to reach for it again and again. This will have to be bought in bulk from now on because I think I am going to be through pounds of this one.
Age When Smoked: 18 months
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