J. F. Germain & Son Balkan Sobranie

Balkan Sobranie Original Smoking Mixture is one of the most legendary Latakia-based blends in history. Dating back to around the 1920s, this is a combination of wonderful Virginias, excellent Orientals and enough Latakia for a robust and flavorful mixture. The balance of tobaccos gives the smoker a sweet and smoky experience, with a finish unlike anything else. The aroma is so bright that it has an incense-like scent that will thrill the senses. Since the Original has gone through a number of iterations over the years, it’s impossible to say if it will remind you of the one you smoked years ago, but it’s a terrific smoke in its own right.
Notes: IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the re-release version of Balkan Sobranie. If you are reviewing the older version, please see the entry under "Sobranie of London", here: http://www.tobaccoreviews.com/blend/1525/sobranie-of-london-the-balkan-sobranie


Brand J. F. Germain & Son
Blended By J.F. Germain & Son
Manufactured By J.F. Germain & Son
Blend Type Balkan
Contents Latakia, Oriental/Turkish, Virginia
Cut Ribbon
Packaging 50 grams tin
Country United Kingdom
Production Re-release


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

Average Rating

3.27 / 4





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Displaying 41 - 50 of 88 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 24, 2017 Mild Extremely Mild Medium Tolerable
I was pleased to find a current production tin of JF Germain's The Balkan Sobranie at my local B&M. For me, the “signature” of the old The Balkan Sobranie was a certain, almost effervescent, sour, somewhat bitter, alkaline astringency that rather reminded me of sparkling quinine or “tonic” water. Without this, at a minimum, the New TBS would be a disappointment. I braced myself when I opened the tin, and the first thing I smelled was a generic Liquid Smoke additive over the tobacco. Oh, I get it: it’s “Latakia”! Why Germain chose to do this is a mystery to me, but the good news is, the tobacco can be removed from the tin and “blanket tossed”, and this will get rid of most of the additive smell before smoking it. There seem to be two widths of ribbons in the tin, with fine dark and wider golden brown ribbons, rather than the consistent, almost RYO shag/ribbons of the older TBS. Tin note is “smoke” over a loamy, peaty, Lat/Macedonian mélange, well over mildly pungent, mildly earthy, sweet VAs. Balkan spices are damped by the smoke scent. The ribbons are moist in the tin, and they dry quickly. I treat TBS like I treat other Balkans, packing it loosely into a large Balkan pipe. It lights with patience and burns down quickly if it’s kept lit. When it’s lit, I am pleased to note the quinine I’ve always enjoyed. Soft, sour, woody Latakia is more forward than the original, well melded with the sour, astringent, woody, loamy, rather dry orientals, and savory baking spices are diffused, subdued the Lat and the quinine, which seem to meld the spices. The VAs are slightly earthy and hay-ish, also slightly piquant, and they do add some sweetness. They also temper the spices from the Orientals and round out a blend that might otherwise be too sharp, sour, and/or bitter. In a nutshell, the new version is softer, smoother, and less pungent, generally a little lighter in Orientals than the older version. The lot is not really simple so much as it is well-melded and closely knit, and it is pretty consistent, top to bottom. Strength is mild. Tastes are close to medium. Room note is barely tolerable, according to bystanders. Aftertaste is a refreshing cool-down lap of the best of the smoke, and it lasts quite a while; very nice.

I would not be surprised if others take the Liquid Smoke scent to be “real”. In any case, if you can get past the fake smoke, JF Germain’s The Balkan Sobranie is well worth seeking out, IMO. I’d say offhand that it’s in the vein of and on par with Gawith’s Skiff Mixture or Germain’s Eighteen Twenty, which is to say, top quality, 4 stars.
Pipe Used: large briars preferred
PurchasedFrom: Liberty Tobacco
Age When Smoked: from new tin and jar to 2 months
2 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 27, 2015 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
I got one tin of this when I placed an order for some Stonehaven and Penzance, figuring I'd like it. I figured wrong.

There isn't really anything wrong with this blend. The Virginias are on the grassy side, leaving the bottom end of the blend open for the latakia to developed unhindered. There is a significant perfume-type note, presumably from the orientals, that I found overwrought and distracting. In short, the blend tasted disjointed. On the plus side, it burned well and the cut was convenient. It didn't dry out in the tin at all, which makes me wonder if there were some humectant in here.

I'd give this two and a half stars if I could, but then I think that I've been more or less forcing myself to smoke this from time to time. The components are of good quality, but at one year, it just seems disconnected from itself. I won't be buying more.
Pipe Used: Lots of them, but especially a GBD 1970
Age When Smoked: One year
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
May 27, 2013 Medium None Detected Full Pleasant
This tobacco is wonderful. The tin art could have been more elaborate, but such a minor point. The tin aroma is musty and smoke like...very alluring. This needed a little drying time and after fluffing up the top layer in the tin and then recapping it loosely, it was ready to go in a few days. This packed easily enough, lit quite well and what can I say?...Delicious!! The smoke was creamy, nutty in an exotic manner, pungent, just perfect. The bowl burned cool, no bite and though this is an expensive treat, It was worth the 17 bucks I put out for it at my local B&M (I captured 3 tins in total). When people talk lovingly of the previous BS they will, in time, certainly talk about its progeny in the same manner.
2 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Apr 13, 2012 Medium Extremely Mild Medium Pleasant
First of all, forget the old stuff. You can't compare the tobaccos we had way back when with what is grown today any more than you can compare the 1961 Yankees with this years team. So get over it. Found my 50g tin to be wet and immediately put it in a tight sealing jar packed loosely. Opened the jar once a day to let in some air give the tobaccos some time to work together. Was not impressed with my first bowl. Gave it some more time and tried again. Much better. Gave it a week. Freakin' Awesome! This is quality tobacco and as good as I've had in a long time. Found it to be one of the best I've smoked in recent years, much better than anything from the new Dunhills or inconsistent C@D blends. Was lucky enough to find 3 more tins and clean out my local B@M as you can't find this anywhere right now. Four stars in my book anyday. Hope it's readily available in the future.
2 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 14, 2012 Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
Not since the first time I heard Marlena Dietrich speak (think Elmer Fudd)have I ever been so disappointed ! The quality of the presentation was the first clue, no classy cap beneath the pleated paper, just another crumpled piece of paper stained and off center. This I'd read before, I just chose not to believe. My dream of something wonderful from the Isle of Jersey, turned into New Jersey ( think Elizabeth in the mid 1960's). The only redeeming value is you'll never have to worry about your pipes developing stinky - soggy - bottoms, this stuff burns like jet fuel, hot (very hot) and clean. The tin moisture belies this and one can only imagine what a little drying would do? Keep some water on hand is all I can say. The aroma is something between candle wax and pork chops frying. Mind, I've no aversion to a good "bone-in chop" now and then, I just don't want it in my pipe. The always subtle but fine writing Mr. GLP is on the mark with his thoughts on this. Oh well, as with so many things it's the hunt and not the kill. First (and most likely last) update. Now that the stuff's been here a few weeks and had a chance to dry in the tin (and it has, and quickly too) It's moved from the "wax and porkchop" stage to a new flavor component.......dad's good old shoe polish! I'll concede a hint of Heinz in my "British Woods" if someone can explain this one to me.......
2 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 26, 2011 Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant
I'm old enough to remember the original Balkan Sobranie and smoked it often back in the day. I'm also lucky enough to have cellared several pouches prior to the disappearance of this blend. I've smoked both blends side-by-side and while the new release is good, it's not the same as the old.

Remember, we're talking about a blend that disappeared over 20+ years ago. I applaud the attempts to copy long forgotten blends, but when you're talking about blends of this age, it's very hard to make an exact copy when the blending tobaccos have changed so much. The Latakia we smoke today, it nothing like the Latakia used when this blend was so popular.

Both blends exhibit similar flavor and aroma profiles, but the original mixture offers flavors that are deeper and richer in my opinion. The new blend's moisture level is good and it can be smoked right from the tin, without any drying. The tin aroma is musty and earthy, as it should be. It packs and lights very well. The overall flavor while smoking is pleasant and I don't get any kind of bite.

I have a friend who also was lucky enough to purchase one of the early tins and he opened it right away and smoked several bowls. While he enjoyed it, he felt is was a bit "sharp" and would benefit with some cellaring. When I bought my tin (in October 2011), I stored it away for a couple of months. I choose to open the tin on Christmas Day 2011 and break in a new Tinsky pipe with it. Excellent choice!!

It appears that supplies are very limited at this point. The online tobacco merchant I generally purchase my pipe tobacco from has been out of stock almost from the beginning. They sold out of their limited supply in under 15 seconds.

IMHO, you won't be disappointed with this mixture. It's clearly been well blended, using quality tobaccos. However, if you're seeking a copy to be exactly the same as the original, this is not it.

Happy Puffing!!
2 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 12, 2022 Medium None Detected Full Tolerable to Strong
A fine cut ribbon tobacco that burns exceptionally slow for the cut. A very smooth English that's easy to smoke with no bite. Many consider this the holy grail of tobaccos.
Pipe Used: Stanwell
PurchasedFrom: Just For Him
Age When Smoked: 6 months
1 person found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 21, 2022 Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
Smoking now:

Tin note is a sharp and pungent Latakia musty aroma. It’s a nice floral herbal smoky Latakia smell not too astringent. This particular tin is starting to rust so it’s got some age on it.

The flavor is nice and mild, not overwhelming. The Latakia is obviously the star player. It’s floral herbal smokey and it’s nice. There’s a mild spice to it too. Slight sour note in the background. The retrohale is a bit sharp but floral. Gets bready and yeasty as the bowl progresses and the Latakia dies down. Never harsh or overwhelming. Has an after taste that does linger. Smokes to ash. Very well done.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 17, 2021 Mild to Medium None Detected Full Tolerable to Strong
Straight up, the Latakia is pretty strong but I can taste some nice Orientals. At that point, no sweet Virginia to be noticed. Quite dark in taste, with flavors of musty wood, decaying underforest, some freshly burnt wood. A slight zing gives some balance to it all. Is that from the Orientals?

Approaching mid bowl, a certain flowery note comes in. Unfortunately, this is nothing like the couple of Syrian Latakia blends I've had, but it does make a food job of keeping the overall blend interesting. The Orientals become more prominent with the wood described before. The charred wood from the lat recedes and the Virginias slowly creep in.

As I approche the end of the bowl, the Latakia is far behind, leaving a pleasant VA OR duo doing their thing. This is reminding me of Robert Mc C's Original Oriental or even HU's Soraya. Much more sweetness, loads of dusty wood. Quite dry but reasonable smoothness. Some spurts of zesty acidity come in with some Lat still there. Lots going on!

I am not a usual Latakia smoker but this is appealing to me. I could see myself getting some more of it but never much as I personally prefer lighter Latakia, such as in Skiff Mixture, even though I would hardly put them in the same category.
Pipe Used: Large Dunhill billiard dedicated to lat blends
PurchasedFrom: Sample from a friend
Age When Smoked: 2 year sample
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 16, 2020 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
I smoked a 50 gram can of this "new" Balkan Sobranie and recently I also smoked the originals of various vintages and productions. I believe that this blend of Germain's has references to the BS however it is different from the original version, firstly I think there is a lack of Syrian latakia and compared to the original it is sweeter and with less aromatic complexity and depth of taste. I smoked it in a short time and towards the end of the last charges it had also tired me a little. I recommend to anyone who wants to understand what the balkan Sobranie could have been like to buy the Balkan Mixture by GH which I personally believe is a copy that most resembles the BS to date. I have not yet tried all the so called "clones" of the BS but today the Balkan mixture of GH is the one that brought me closer to the BS.
Pipe Used: Vari
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