The folks at Grant's in San Francisco put together some pretty good bulk blends. I first encountered their products at the inaugural West Coast Pipe Show and then found the time to stop in at the little shop on Market Street last time I was wandering the north coast. These are home brew type blends, put together from blending tobaccos available from producers like C&D and McClelland. And they're not as haphazard as some store blends can be. The fellow I spoke to at Grant's let me stick my nose into a few as-yet unavailable blends that were at various stages of development.
In the pouch, Roanoake is a pretty chunky mix of mid browns and black. It's advertised as a mix containing a couple of different flakes and these haven't been thoroughly rubbed out. I'm not sure which flakes have been used here, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that McClelland's 2015 is one of them. Along with the flake, there is some added Perique, some stoved Virginia, and something called “Whiskey Cavendish.” C&D makes something called Whiskey Cavendish (perhaps the Irish whiskey flavored bulk from C&D). It smells more or less like a VaPer—plums, dried grass, figs—but also has a curious smoke and vanilla edge to it.
I wasn't much impressed with Roanoake when I first smoked it 18 months ago. I found it kind of muddy and undefined with a set of flat, murky flavors. After over a year in the jar, however, the blend seems better integrated. The sweet fruitiness of the VaPer base is better complemented by the flavored Cavendish, though I'm not entirely sold on the combination. I've had a couple of bowls that I thought were lovely, but at least an equal number that left me unimpressed and wishing the tobacco burned more quickly so that I could move on to something else.
VaPer fans bored by their current faves might find something interesting here, but I'm still hesitant to recommend Roanoake.
This is basically a VaPer. Or maybe, a PerVA - quite a lot of perique, which in this case works (if you like perique)
My guess is that it a McClelland Va with a almost overload of perique. Something else is sweet in the tobacco (I guess the "whisky cavendish"), but I only notice it when I smell the bag, its not very noticeable in the smoke.
The result is virginia sweetness, perhaps helped by the cavendish, with that almost "effervescent" quality that perique gives. I'm sure not everyone would like this, but I do, so its a * rating.
This is a bulk blend from Grants Tobacconist in San Francisco, blended at the store according to the manager. The downside is that it's very wet - barely smokable - when purchased. I can get away with slowly smoking because of the high level of perique, but its much better if its well dried out.
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