J. F. Germain & Son Rich Dark Flake

Notes: According to an email response from J. F. Germain and Son asking if they produced any other blend like Stonehaven, they replied that their Rich Dark Flake is similar to Stonehaven, which is produced for Esoterica in the U.S. market only.


Brand J. F. Germain & Son
Blended By J. F. Germain & Son
Manufactured By J.F. Germain & Son
Blend Type Virginia/Burley
Contents Burley, Virginia
Flavoring Molasses
Cut Flake
Packaging Sold in various bulk pouch weights.
Country United Kingdom
Production Currently available


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

Average Rating

3.60 / 4





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Displaying 1 - 10 of 35 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 02, 2013 Medium Mild Medium Pleasant
You say you like Stonehaven? Then, you may like this. Some say it's the exact same thing, but it isn't. This is Virginia forward with burley in a support role, whereas Stonehaven is burley forward with Virginia in a support role. The toppings are not quite the same either, though they are similar in their sweetness. I get a chocolate and treacle hit from it in different proportions than I notice in Stonehaven. They mildly sublimate and cohesively work well with the tobaccos. The Virginia is earthy (not as much as Stonehaven), woody and dark fruit sweet with minor grass and floral notes. The burleys are nutty sweet with a little molasses, wood, earth and a touch of sharpness. The nic-hit is in the center of mild to medium. The strength and taste levels are medium. Burns slow with a very consistent flavor to the finish; rich, creamy smooth, cool and clean. Requires some relights at first, but settles down unless it's sopping wet when you pack your pipe. Will need a little dry time, but I recommend leaving a little moisture for better effect. Has no dull or harsh spots, very few rough edges, and won't bite. Leaves a little moisture in your bowl, but no dottle, so it can burn to ash. Has a pleasant, lightly lingering after taste and room note. Not quite an all day smoke, and is a little stronger and deeper manufacture than Stonehaven is.

49 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 15, 2016 Medium Very Mild Medium Pleasant
Just for fun, I did a side by side taste test with Rich Dark Flake and Stonehaven. I am extremely familiar with Stonehaven as it is one of my all-time favorite tobaccos. The only caveat here is that the freshest Stonehaven that I could find in my cellar was from 2011 and the Rich Dark Flake is less than a year old.

My impressions - Both blends look the same, feel the same and almost smell the same. I like my tobacco dry rather than moist as I believe that once the water has evaporated, one gets a truer picture of the flavor of most tobaccos. So, I had to dry the Rich Dark Flake a little longer than the Stonehaven. The taste was not quite identical, but I will not say that there is any difference in the Burley/Virginia components as with each blend I got the same general overall impression. BUT, the mysterious topping was different. And that did change the flavor presentation only slightly. The Rich Dark Flake is a little sweeter. Otherwise, the two are the same. IMO, of course.

Suspicion - To ensure the integrity of the two blends being different, Germain simply splashed the "molasses" on the Stonehaven while steaming, and viola, out came Rich Dark Flake. Both blends are delicious and very satisfying.
27 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 12, 2013 Medium to Strong Mild Medium Very Pleasant
On a bit of a Germain's trip at the moment. So, given the reviews of this stuff, I had a fair amount of anticipation of this, quite a lot actually. Normally, my gut instinct would be telling me to air on the side of caution. This time, as we shall see, it got it all wrong.

The whiff from the packet upon opening was divine, a healthy but not overly large dose of brandy, possibly with a splash of single malt thrown in. Things got even better when I got my mucky paw on those oh so fine and strangely dark flakes, long, thin and shiny slabs of, thus far, delectable tobacco. Rubbing out was surprisingly easy, even if it did seem wrong to break up those fine flakes, almost seemed like sullying them. Packing was very easy as was lighting, as usual, Germain's seem to get their moisture levels just right - other brands take note (yes Samuel Gawith, I'm talking about you!). The taste of the smoke was just, I hate to over use the word, divine. More brandy, more little slips of single malt, hitting the taste buds like some mellow jazz on the ears. These then slip without incident into an incredibly pleasant creaminess, perhaps with little hints of oak. Absolutely divine (there's that word again, tsk tsk). As for the room note, well, that just lingers like sweet lipstick on the collar, I normally smoke this last thing at night and it's the first smell I get in the morning, that's how I know I'm awake.

In summary, this is perfection itself. I'm normally a little suspicious of anything with burley in it, I've had enough bad aromatics to wonder if a lot of blenders use it to pad out and disguise bad tobacco. And I'm not normally one to love virginias either, I can thoroughly enjoy them an pick out good quality ones at three paces, but would drop any other tobacco for a good Latakia. This, however, is just perfect, heavenly and, dare I say it again, divine. This has to be the best tobacco I have smoked to date, I struggle to think of another that can come close to it. I am tempted to get in touch with the administrators for this site and ask them to add a few extra stars for this tobacco alone. I am glad to say that my gut instinct got his completely wrong this time round. As for Stonehaven, well, never tried it. But if it's even a fraction of the quality and flavour that this has, it will be excellent stuff.

Thank you Germain's for the best pipe tobacco in the world.
26 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 26, 2013 Medium Mild Medium Very Pleasant
J. F. Germain & Son - Rich Dark Flake.

Retype 10/01/2018.

Very dark, thin, flakes. Due to the thinness they normally arrive with a good level of hydration, not like some thick flakes where they could almost do with a run through a clothes mangle to squeeze them dry! Whether it's rubbed or folded it smokes well.

The molasses/treacle gives a notable flavour to the smoke without vanquishing the Virginia and Burley. The Virginia feels a little heavier than the Burley, lots of dark fruit and dough. The Burley acts as its back up, adding a sweet-nuttiness. Every bowl burns brilliantly, without a bite to be had. When smoked in a cob it's more of a rustic flavour, and not as sweet.

RDF has the perfect amount of nicotine to slake the want without making my head spin, and the room-note's pleasant.

Rich Dark Flake? Every bowl is pure enjoyment. Highly recommended:

Four stars.

A long time favourite.

P.S, if you purchase the tinned RDF you might notice the cut varies from tin to tin. Always the same tobacco in flake form but can be longer, almost coils, or neater stacks.
Pipe Used: Various
PurchasedFrom: Various
Age When Smoked: Various
21 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 09, 2015 Medium Mild Medium to Full Tolerable
I was given a very generous sample of this. I was told it was better than Stonehaven and it very well may be. I have also heard that this is the exact same blend as Stonehaven.

With my first bowl it was clear that there was no other blend as similar to this one as Stonehaven as the toppings seemed identical to my tastes. If there is any distinction at all, it would be the composition of the leaf. And if there is a difference my guess is that the RDF may be a little heavier on the burley component than Stonehaven and that Stonehaven is perhaps a little heavier on the Virginia component.

In any case, they are both stellar and both deserving of a four star ranking. I could describe the flavor in more detail that it is rich, earthy and nutty sweet. The topping adds perhaps a touch of molasses and fruit. But with this or Stonehaven, it goes like this. If you see it, buy it. If you don't like it, you will likely be able to trade it for three times the volume of something you do like. The stuff is hard to get and there is a reason for that.
10 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 14, 2015 Mild to Medium Medium Medium Pleasant
After so many glowing reviews of this blend, to say it is excellent seems almost a moot point. But I will say it anyway. This is one excellent flake.

We are vey lucky in the UK to have such a wide range of excellent traditional flakes readily available, but this is unlike anything from either Gawith company. A heady smell greets you as you open the pouch that makes me think of dark chocolate coated cherries. The flakes are thin, soft and pliable, and very easy to rub out, should that be your wont (it is my wont). Depending on how fresh your tobacconist keeps his tobaccos, you may require a little dry time, but just a little - no more than any other SG or GH&Co blend. You certainly don't want to dry it too much, save you lose that delicious aroma.

On lighting up the aromatic flavours waft in and out between waves of sweet, slightly dusty, virginia/ burley. There are layers of complexity here, ranging from hay and butterscotch, right through cognac, molasses and ripe cherry, down to dark chocolate and liquorice. They are delicious subtle, ever shifting and compliment each other wonderfully. There is a softness and an ease to this smoke, which you don't always get with other British flakes, and I would say the nicotine is mild-medium.

So what about the negatives? I suppose the one point where this lacks compared to my top tier flakes (Samuel Gawith's FVF, BBF, St James) is that you do not get that intense sweetness build up in the final third of the bowl. It stays pretty uniform throughout. However, it is a pretty delicious uniform flavour, plus the aforementioned smokes can be very tricky to get 'just right' so this can be easily forgiven.

Overall then, this is a very delicious, enjoyable smoke. Perfect from first light down to the dottle. I would have no problem smoking this early in the morning, during the day or late at night. It is a real crowd pleaser too, with a delicious room note. I think my top tier needs to make room for one more!
PurchasedFrom: GQ Tobacco
Age When Smoked: Fresh as a daisy
9 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 11, 2017 Medium to Strong Mild Very Full Pleasant to Tolerable
Holy cow. I got a very small sample from a friend, and after 3 bowls, I'm wishing I had more. This is basically a better version of Stonehaven (and harder to get in the US). Very similar to stonehaven as others have said, but with an extra kick and flavor. This is probably the best tobacco Germain produces, easily. Read jim inks review because he's spot on. No bite, no relights. If you like Stonehaven you will certainly love this.
PurchasedFrom: Friend
7 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 25, 2013 Medium Very Mild Medium Pleasant
I ordered this flake from the UK. Having smoked Stonehaven before, I cannot say this is an equivalent. In fact, I was under the impression, from the pouch aroma, that I had purchased some FVF. A very stout aroma... Then, smoking it makes it similar to none of the two. It certainly is a good dark flake, enjoyable, with a good burning rate. VAs are definitively dominant here over BUs, which are in the background. And then, around mid - bowl, a licorice topping kicks in, bringing some sweetness to an otherwise leathery, alomost woodsy smoke. I like it. It is not grand, but it is much better than a lot of dark flakes on the market.
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 25, 2012 Medium Extremely Mild Medium Pleasant
An interesting tobacco.

The presentation is very good. Silky smooth, slightly damp dark flakes with a rich odour of something. I can't quite make up my mind what, but there's hints of cognac, molasses/treacle (it wouldn't surprise me if molasses was the main/only topping/casing) , leather, plum pudding and even ripe stilton cheese in there. Thankfully, there's no trace of Lakeland-style soapy florals or Danish/American type aromatic flavourings.

If there is a topping, then once rubbed out and lit it doesn't make itself obvious beyond the initial few seconds on lighting. After that you get a mellow, smooth, creamy smoke that's quite undemanding, anything but overpowering and very pleasant. No bite even in an unfiltered short pipe, and a steady slow burn. The burley is present in sufficient quantity to add it's own distinctive note, and there isn't the slightest trace of bite.

If I had to compare it to another tobacco it would be the old St Bruno flake, only RDF is better in every way. Higher quality, better flavour, smoother, nicer feel when handled. And if there is an aromatic topping, it's much less assertive.

And it doesn't seem to ghost briars, which St B can be inclined to do.

Overall, if this is the same or very similar to Esoterica Stonehaven, I can see what the fuss is about.

Smokes better in a briar than a cob or clay, in my opinion.

Highly recommended.
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 25, 2011 Medium Mild to Medium Medium Pleasant
I've been meaning to get some of this for a while as all the Stonehaven I have left is contained in one 8 ounce bag and I am loth to open it!

Anyway I finally bought myself some..it being pretty easy to order online in the UK...and it arrived yesterday. It appears to be only available in 25 gram packets but I can confirm that it is Stonehaven by another name; at least to this smoker it looks the same, smells the same and tastes the same.

It's a good dark smoke, rich with the scents and tastes of red wine, berries and leather; it's very smooth and doesn't bite in the least. In other words..its good!

I think though that it's apparent rarity has added a lustre to it's reputation...I mean there are plenty of flakes as good as and quite a few that are better imho.

Still worth a deserving 4 stars though.
6 people found this review helpful.
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