Esoterica Tobacciana Penzance

A wonderful complex secret recipe of the finest Virginia, choice Turkish and Orientals and Cyprian latakia, all hand blended together, hard pressed and broad cut into thick flakes. Long matured and easily crumbled to facilitate pipe filling.


Brand Esoterica Tobacciana
Blended By J.F. Germain & Sons
Manufactured By J.F. Germain & Son
Blend Type Balkan
Contents Latakia, Oriental/Turkish, Virginia
Cut Flake
Packaging 50 grams tin, 8 ounce bag
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

3.48 / 4





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Displaying 21 - 30 of 464 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 15, 2019 Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant
Around August of this year our pipe and cigar store that houses our weekly pipe club got some of this in bulk and limited it to one ounce per customer at the regular retail rate. Over the next three weeks I managed to get a hold of three ounces of this Holiest of Holy Grails pipe tobacco and get to include my name in this revered club of those who have got to try the Penzance Legendary Pipe Tobacco. It is a thick broken flake and took some time in getting properly lit as I did not really rub this one out. It smokes velvet smooth with a sweetness and taste that makes one believe this is really high-grade leaf. I am smoking some more today and this is really good and can see why it has over 450 reviews. With that being said, I do believe the scarcity of this blend also lends a tremendous amount of the desire for pipe tobacco smokers to seek out this blend. Is the hype worth it? You will have to be the judge but as good, smooth and pleasant smoking as this blend is for me, I would never pay over retail for it but that goes just about for any blend. Maybe if I was awash in money, who knows but even then, I am not so sure. Upon closing here is an analogy I would like to share. Back when I was around 18 or 19 one could legally buy beer. West of the Mississippi River Coors and Olympia were sold in Louisiana but not distributed on the east side. I had never really been out of my hometown much other than going with my Dad to our fishing camp which also was in Louisiana. I decided to make a beer run, loaded up my ice chest in my old Chevy, got on Interstate 20 and started on my adventure alone heading into the unknown. It is funny now how a 60 something mile one-way trip back then was exciting, daring and risky, hoping I would not break down. I can’t remember what town I bought the Coors and Olympia from but it was a small Mom and Pop store. When I got back that was the best tasting beer, I had ever tasted among me and a few friends of mine. Why? Because it was rare and hard to get at the time. Some years later Coors was distributed east of the Mississippi River in Mississippi and to me became just another beer sold on the shelf.
Pipe Used: Savinelli Autograph #4 Free Style (Scallop Shaped)
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 21, 2019 Extremely Mild None Detected Extremely Mild (Flat) Tolerable
First off... what a foul concoction! Sampled from a 2008 vintage tin. The aroma is of a smoky Latakia presence combined with Oriental essence. I didn't detect any flavoring from the sniff or while smoking. I don't know but the majority of reviewers say it contains an extremely mild flavoring. I'll just go along with the majority on that one. The flakes are packed upright & sideways & occupy the full length of the tin. They are tender flakes that crumble more than seperate but the end result provides easy packing and a fantastic burn rate.

The main differences I found between this and quality English/ Balkan mixtures is: Penzance isn't as sweet or as flavorful & packs very minimal Vitamin N. However, I can see why so many pipers are attracted to this particular blend... because most pipers seem to prefer the mild, wimpy blends. It smokes cool & mild without any harshness or bite. Very comfortable on the palate but is almost like stoking your pipe with plain air... what happened to the nicotine? It seemed to have lost its flavor & became rather bland after about 1/3 of the bowl is smoked down. To my way of thinking, it's like drinking decaffeinated coffee. What's the use? Since I don't inhale, I prefer a stronger blend & Penzance was simply too wimpy to suit me... hence the lower rating.

I am perplexed by the varied opinions & differences in defining the quality, or lack thereof about Penzance & after reading most all of the reviews, I've reached a conclusion... there's simply a lack of "Quality Control" as each batch gets totally opposing reviews on taste, flavoring & strength declarations. Lately, I've been sampling Latakia and Orientals, or a combination of such. I thought my tin of Penzance was a real dud & trashed it & this... one of the most reviewed blends on this site. However, I prefer a blend of this genre that provides more flavor & strength... not one that offers a bland taste & a Latakia dominance. It would seem that purchasing Penzance is, "Like eating a box of chocolates." You never know what you might get. Some may be very good & some must be spit out!

I won't be trying Penzance, ever again... from a fresh or aged tin or pouch! IMHO, Penzance is very much overrated. Mississippi Mud &/or HH Balkan Blend, Stokkebye's Balkan Supreme, Crystal Palace, Arango Balkan Supreme, Plum Pudding Special Reserve, HH Syrian, D & S Levant, Trafalgar, Blairgowrie & many others are smokier, stronger & tasted so much better to me right from a new tin & better than that, I could buy more than a pound of each for less than one wee tin of wimpy Penzance. What's wrong with these people?... I can't imagine! I'm not trying to be funny here but I believe one might catch a better buzz by going outside & just breathing some of our good, old polluted air.

I think the name should be changed to Nonzance or maybe Flatulzance. Road Apple or Pomagranite Vine would be a better choice. I sorely disliked this "blend." It's really a foul concoction & barely rates one star. Kudos to those who like this & have $$ to waste on denicotined tobacco. After all, nicotine is what it's all about, right? Strange how pipers taste preferences differ, is it not?

Pipe Used: Peterson 11S Deluxe, Peterson 9S Deluxe
PurchasedFrom: eBay
Age When Smoked: 4 Years Old in 2011
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 19, 2015 Medium to Strong None Detected Very Full Very Strong
How many piper-poets have quipped about the heavenly qualities of this ever in-demand pipe blend? Far too many. This is not a tobacco that merits such poetic prose. It's good, not great. If this were as readily available as other blends, it would not be receiving the praise it gets.

It's heavy on the Latakia and Orientals. There are some fine Virginia tobaccos in this blend. Unfortunately, they do not shine through as I think they should. This tobacco tastes of incense with a slight Indian soap flavor. Not a fan boy. If it's a good Latakia blend you're looking for, opt for the Frog Morton series by McClelland.

Pipe Used: Rattray's, Peterson
PurchasedFrom: Beehive Cigars
Age When Smoked: 6 months from purchase
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 13, 2015 Very Mild None Detected Extremely Mild (Flat) Very Strong
I cannot for the life of me understand the demand for this blend. It just conjures up images of moderators with Dunhill Billiards packed to the brim while censoring forums... While not horrible, I am a Burley guy for the most part and do not like getting beaten with camel dung aroma... The Cyprian Latakia turns me into a Smokeasaurus with dragon breath! Ugh

"May my last breath be drawn through a pipe, and exhaled in a jest." - Charles Lamb

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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 10, 2014 Medium None Detected Full Pleasant to Tolerable
Before I begin, a little about me as a tobacco taster. I do not claim to be one of those people who can inhale the faintest wisp of smoke and taste cherries, almonds, leather, and every other conceivable flavor known to man. I know those people who can do that (or at least make me believe that they can do that) and I envy them. But that’s me. I’m an everyman type of tobacco taster: if I taste it, you probably will too.

Then again, taste is so fallible. It depends on so much, including obvious factors, like what else you’ve eaten that day and your health, but can also depend on temperature, humidity, and even your mood, which is why I note those things in my review. So, remember, this is one man’s experience.

What I’ll be sampling today is Esoterica’s Penzance. I’ll admit, I feel a little guilty writing about this tobacco. For most people, especially in the States, it’s nearly impossible to find without near compulsive obsession. Every website you go to will likely read Out of Stock. Through a lot of work and the generosity of friends, I was able to put away well over a pound before I’d ever even tasted it. So, like I said, I feel guilty; it seems a little rude to say, “Hey, you know that tobacco you can’t get right now? It’s amazing!” And it is…

Sample Description: Mason Jarred fresh out of an 8oz bag in October, 2011. Never opened since.

Sample Pipe: Radice Rubens Rhodesian, dedicated to English blends.

Weather: 68 degrees Fahrenheit, low humidity

Accompanying Drink: Kettle One Vodka (oh, yeah).

Appearance: Mine has started to develop some bloom (or plume) from aging. Even after two years, it’s still quite high in moisture content, meaning it will continue to age well in my other jars. The flakes themselves are extremely dark, with occasional veins of light brown and tan running through them.

Aroma: In the jar, a combination of sweet and smoky, like a barbeque sauce with a healthy dose of brown sugar. It almost has the smell of farmland: earthy, damp, but sweet hints. If you’ve ever been inside of an old tack room in a stable, you know what I mean.

Preparation: The flakes practically fall apart in my hand, despite still being damp. I crumble them gently and allow them to dry for 30 minutes. See you in half an hour… And we’re back. I didn’t quite crumble up enough for a full bowl, so I did a modified three-step gravity fill.

Lighting took a few more lights that I would have liked, mostly due to the high moisture content. Also, I’ve noticed Latakia tends to take a little more cajoling to get fully lit than most types of leaf, and Cyprian Latakia is definitely one of the key players in this blend. Once I got it started, though, it smoked like a champ.

Taste: The oiliness of the flake comes through on the smoke. It is a full, creamy smoke with a Latakia dominant flavor. Upon first starting to puff, I was surprised at the sweet nuances to be found from the Orientals. Much like the aroma in the jar: dominant smoky and earthy flavors with hints of sweet. A couple puffs in, I was hit with something, only momentarily, that reminded me of caramel pecans: it hate the bitter, oiliness of the pecan, but the sweet, caramelized sugar with it. When doing reviews, I like to inhale and exhale in different ways to try to force out whatever additional flavors I can. With soft puffs, as tends to be, you get a more delicate, nuanced flavor, while deeper inhales reveal the bold earthiness and smokiness. With such a small sampling of only one bowl, I can tell that there is an enormous amount of complexity in this blend that will take many, many revisits to appreciate. Luckily, the blend is delicious and I will be happy to try it many times in the future.

Highly recommended to anyone experienced with Englishes. If you’re just starting to enjoy the smoky stuff, I would wait until you’ve got a few more blends under your belt so that you can fully appreciate this blend.

Smoke on.
Pipe Used: Radice Rubens Rhodesian
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 21, 2013 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Tolerable
This is a very good English blend with some marvelous attributes. It is nothing short of high quality, and it is beautifully presented. The flakes are as delicate as moth wings and crumble apart at the slightest touch. The sweet smoky tin-note is nothing short of captivating. And aside from being fairly moist, it is relatively user friendly.

When lit, it releases a gentle sweetness amidst a hearty flavor that tastes full and incredibly unified. From the onset, the pungency of the latakia and the sweetness of the Virginias stand out, but in short time the Orientals do perk up a bit and subtle flavors redolent of sour cream and ripe blue cheese appear. Occasionally on the nose I'll get a top note that hints of strong cigar. Penzance has a relatively warm tone, a soft spiciness & what I can only define as a sooty mouthfeel. It burns cool and it's exceptionally smooth. Altogether it's quite tame and sophisticated.

I have always loved the unique flavor and incense like quality of Germain's Latakia, but there are other Germain mixtures where I feel this special leaf is better highlighted. But that's okay because I don't find Latakia to be the main point of this blend. To me it's all about the one beautiful flavor created by the sum of its parts. Penzance is a full English but unlike other blends in its class, it doesn't hammer you with Latakia. Overall the flavor of Penzance is both exotic & strong but very much in balance.

I purposely save this blend for those particular ”me-time” moments when I want a contemplative pipe smoke and I am in the mood to search for flavors, otherwise I feel as though I have wasted something rare.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 06, 2013 Medium None Detected Full Pleasant to Tolerable

Margate is a maiden while Penzance is a matriarch. "Margate is to the morning, what Penzance is to the evening." These two are exotic, loving, sister-wives to be sure, but only "just." Both are lady-like in that neither will reward you with their secret dainties unless treated with dignity and respect. However, approached with gentle hands and patience, they will both yield their hidden delights and favor you with their mysterious and oriental treasures. I love both of these, my Macedonian wives. Esoterica has a harem of these ladies, and Penzance and Margate are the most favored women among them. Once you have been seduced by both, you cannot do without either. All others pale in comparison.

Upon opening, both have a fragrance that tantalize the senses with veiled promises of things to come. Upon lighting, wait for them to warm until they unfold with that soft, unique, slipstream fragrance that you long for. The lingering, haunting, room aroma is uniquely "Esoterica". From there, and until the end of the experience, there is nothing else that compares. It is Beulah Land!

So what then is the difference? Well it is subtle but real. Margate is a tad crisper, tangier, while Penzance is softer, more mature and deeper. The first is a tease, while the latter is a lover. Again, "Margate is to the morning, what Penzance is to the twilight, the evening, and the black and dark night." Like virtuous women, they are hard to come by, but well worth the wait. If you find them, keep them. They are faithful to their man. Four heavenly stars! Enjoli' !!!
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 23, 2018 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Tolerable
I am going to write this review in plain English (no pun intended), such that any pipe tobacco beginner can understand what I am about to say about Penzance.

First, my own experience with Esoterica Tobacco.

I transitioned to pipes (from cigars) back in 2013. It was a very steep learning curve – I knew absolutely nothing about pipes or pipe tobacco – I just woke up one morning with a yearning (longing, hunger, craving) for the nostalgic smell of that stuff Mr. Lundy used to smoke in his pipes back in 1965-66 (when I was 4 & 5 years old).

After starting with aromatics (I pre-ambled this by stating I knew absolutely nothing about pipes or pipe tobacco), I began researching, sampling and comparing every different type and blend of pipe tobacco I could lay my hands on.

I quickly came to understand that Penzance (and Stonehaven) were two tobaccos that I really needed a good supply of in my cellar (without having tried either). Trouble was, it was simply unavailable, and I couldn’t find it for sale (I had no inkling at the time as to the real reasons why these tobaccos were so very scarce).

I called everyone (Smokingpipes, Pipes&Cigars), I called random tobacco shops in New York, Chicago, LA, Boston, San Francisco (I live in Santa Clara, CA) – and nobody had the stuff.

I was told to try ebay. So I did. I was aghast at the markup on these tobaccos from those who were scalping the stuff at greatly inflated prices. I was angry that both Penzance and Stonehaven were readily available on ebay (at $400 per pound), but nobody, no tobacconist anywhere had this stuff stocked. I even managed to get Josh Weiser on the phone over at Arango in Illinois to find out what the deal was with availability and distribution. (Josh was exceptionally good at answering questions without actually answering any of the questions).

After a year of fruitless searches, I finally broke down and purchased an 8-ounce bag of Penzance via e-bay (at about a 300% markup). At the time, I really didn’t care about the cost – I rationalized that “it was only money” – and in the end, I finally had Penzance in my possession.

Then, two very funny things happened.

THE VERY NEXT DAY AFTER I BOUGHT ON e-bay – before I even got the Esoterica products in the mail -- I got a call (an actual phone call) from Windy City Cigars in Chicago. The gal on the other end said “Yeah, so, I’ve got a two-ounce tin of Penzance here – are you interested”? I said “Absolutely”. The cost? $11.99 (total cost was $16 with shipping). I asked her how it was that she came into this one tin of Penzance, and she told me that some guy had actually ordered it, and when he came in to pick it up, he was not even 18-years-old yet (I swear on a stack of bibles, that is what she told me).

The second funny was when I got a call from my local tobacconist at Mission Pipe in downtown San Jose. The clerk (he was the new guy) said “Hey, just wanted to let you know we got a shipment of Esoterica tobaccos in, and we have a pound of Penzance and a pound of Stonehaven if you’re interested.” The car drive that usually takes 20-minutes probably took me about 7-minutes on that day. They had two 8-ounce bags of Penzance, along with two 8-ounce bags of Stonehaven, and I bought both for a total cost of $260. (That’s right: A pound of Penzance, AND a pound of Stonehaven -- $260 total).

For the most part, my stock of Penzance (and Stonehaven) have been resting quietly in mason jars, in the darkness of my hall closet for the past couple of years. On rare occasions, during the holidays, mostly, I will indulge myself.

I just finished a bowl of Penzance (dated February, 2012, purchased-and-jarred in August 2015).

Penzance is absolutely, undeniably, categorically, unquestionably and unequivocally sublime.

Is Penzance the best pipe tobacco I have ever smoked? Probably not.

Is there any other pipe tobacco anywhere in the world that tastes exactly like Penzance? No, there is not.

Is Penzance worth the outrageous prices that are being charged on ebay? That is a normative, value-laden judgement call, based upon one’s opinions, tastes, preferences – and disposable income.

Are there pipe tobaccos that I enjoy smoking more than I do Penzance? Yes – two or three – but then, only one of those tobaccos is a Balkan.

The bottom line: If you want to experience Penzance, you are going to have to acquire it. There is quite simply no other tobacco like it in the world, except perhaps for %$#$@%*&!, which is widely available, and at very reasonable prices. But there is nothing else that looks like Penzance, crumbles like Penzance, smokes like Penzance or tastes like Penzance.

Update, January 9, 2019

Was just gifted 15 grams of 20-year-old Penzance (1998), by way of an ebay transaction. Have no way to verify the veracity of the date or how it was cellared -- all I have to compare this with is my own stash of Penzance from 2018 and 2012. What . . . An . . . Amazing . . . Mind-Altering Affair. The only way I can possibly put this into words is: WOW! I've only been piping for 6 years now, so I don't have a lot of experience with well-aged, well-cellared tobacco -- but the difference here was readily and distinctly discernible -- what a difference a few years (14) make. A blissful, near spiritual experience.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 03, 2016 Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
I finally got a 2oz tin of it by chance. But honestly, this is not like what I thought in mind. It taste nearly none or mighty when I lighting it. At the very beginning, I even doubt I mess up something when I fill in it, because I can not taste anything. As a smoker for 8 years(of course not pipe just cigarettes, yes it's still not much), I don't think this kind of nicotine can satisfied me. At the middle of bowl is has very mild taste of smoke all the way until reach 2/5 or 1/5 bowl. Like other blends, the strength of smoke getting stronger till the end. The process is very smooth and linear change. But that's it ! I REALLY REALLY expect more after watching a lot of review of it and a lot of recommendation. Considering it is extremely hard to get it with regular price and just have a smooth taste like this as its' feature. I mean of course it's a good blend, but there are a lot of blends can reach it after you aging them, not to mention the price and rarity.

Also, sorry I'm not a native speaker, forgive my terms.
Pipe Used: Dublin Briar, 3 MM
PurchasedFrom: .com
Age When Smoked: 26
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 27, 2016 Mild None Detected Mild Pleasant to Tolerable
I finally acquired a tin of Penzance! I traded one of my tins of Balkan Sobranie for it.

I acquired a tin of Penzance because I wanted to compare it with two other blends. I’ve seen many reviews claiming that Hearth & Home’s Ten to Midnight and GL Pease’s Quiet Nights were both very similar to Penzance. In my opinion Ten to Midnight and Quiet Nights are not at all similar to each other. This made me curious about Penzance. In short, Ten to Midnight is the odd man out.

How do Quiet Nights and Penzance compare? Both tin notes have a sweetness indicative of fermentation or decay. When placed side by side Quiet Nights appeared darker whereas Penzance actually had a kind of very subtle scattered whiteness about it. Upon closer inspection with a magnifying glass I believe that the whiteness is actually some type of very delicate mold. I did not see anything that looked like mold on Quiet Nights. Penzance is a very delicate flake and falls apart very easily to the touch. Quiet Nights is very pliable and soft but does not fall apart as easily as Penzance.

How about the flavor profile? For me Penzance is milder, mellower, and more refined. Quiet Nights is more full flavored and raw. What I mean by raw is that the flavors of the various tobaccos are more distinct and identifiable. I resist calling either Penzance or Quiet Nights an English or Balkan style tobacco. I would rather refer to them as fermented tobaccos, or tobaccos that underwent a special aging or decaying process. The special aging process brings a lot to the flavor profile. It mellows and melds the tobacco flavors so that they are less distinguishable. It also adds sweetness.

Taking into consideration the very mellow sweet flavor and how structurally delicate Penzance is I might assume that Penzance has been specially aged or decayed for a longer period of time than Quiet Nights.

This aging process is not the same as cellaring. This special aging process is probably done in the open air with lots of humidity or dampness to keep the tobacco moist while allowing bacteria and other organisms to thrive and do their decaying thing. Cellaring is done in a vacuum sealed tin where there is a lot less air available. Although cellaring will provide some mellowing and melding, the lack of air won’t allow for organism activity which provides the sweetness and structural delicacy.

Quiet Nights does have the sweetness component brought about by decay. I would suspect if you cellared Quiet Nights for five or ten years you might get something with a flavor profile that could be a little more similar to Penzance.

In conclusion, Penzance is a five star tobacco on a four star scale. The mild flavor is creamy, sweet, and a tad bit fruity… think a very mild raisins or prunes. The smoky Latakia is just enough to accent the sweet creamy flavor of this expertly fermented tobacco.

UPDATE: >>> 01/20/2018 After a few more tins and a closer inspection, the whiteness on this tobacco may actually be a crystalization and not a delicate mold, I saw sparkling in the sunlight. Although I must say I have had other flakes where I could see crystalization and they didn't have the same subtle whiteness all over the entire flake as Penzance, nor were they as structurally delicate. Perhaps it's both crystalization and a whispy delicate white mold.
Pipe Used: Caked Briar
PurchasedFrom: Traded with a friend
Age When Smoked: One year old tin
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