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 51 - 55 of 88 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 21, 2020 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Tolerable
This is a very enjoyable tobacco blend, which is just as well given the legendary status of its name. I have not smoked this tobacco fresh from the blenders; the tins of this that I do own are at least a couple of years old.

The first third of the bowl produces a sweetness that I attribute to the Virginias. This is not a fresh, grassy Virginia sweetness but a rather more fermented sensation - the sweetness that one gets from aged tobacco leaves (there were visibly noticeable sugar crystals forming on the tobacco) which reminded me somewhat of stewed fruit.

As one smokes through the bowl, the sweetness declines and the smoke develops a much more savoury tone (almost salty/meaty). Personally, I prefer a sweeter smoke and very much crave the sweetness that tobaccos develop having been cellared, but the savoury flavours of this blend are really very moreish and encourage further exploration as one smokes through the bowl.

Before long, the savoury smoke is accompanied by spiciness which takes centre stage. From what I have read of this blend, I gather that it is this spicy quality that every iteration of the Balkan Sobranie is known for. The spicy and savoury notes continue to compete until one nears the end of the bowl where they are re-joined by the aforementioned fermented sweetness. At this point, all the present flavours meld into one, creating an enjoyably complex "sweet-and-sour" effect on the taste-buds. One finishes a bowl of the Balkan Sobranie feeling as though they have returned from an adventure!

This blend will smoke down to a dark-grey ash with a little dottle. The nicotine is only mildly present until the last quarter of a bowl when it'll make itself more known. I'd recommend smoking this tobacco slowly and gently if one intends to embark on the adventure that I have just described.
Age When Smoked: Over Two Years Old
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 27, 2020 Mild Mild Mild to Medium Very Pleasant
What a wonderful flavor of tangy notes with slight sweetness! Shag cut so I smoked very slowly! Had a nice moistness to it and let it air dry roughly 20 minutes and was good to go! Used one of my new Boswells pipes and my overall tobacco experience was wonderful! I can see how this is hard to come by, wish however it was more available as price would be hopefully competitively less..
Pipe Used: JM Boswell
PurchasedFrom: Jm Boswells
Age When Smoked: New
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 14, 2019 Medium to Strong None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant
Balkan Sobranie has a pleasant aroma from the tin of a typical Balkan blend with the added scent of red wine and a little woodiness. The shag cut tobacco felt a little on the moist side, but didn't cause any burn or lighting issues.

I have noticed that the Sobranie has more complexity than some of the other English and Balkan blends I've tried so far. The red wine note comes through in the early stages of the bowl and persists throughout in the retrohale. There are also notes of a bbq and peat smokiness, earth, and an herbal quality as well.

Overall, the tobacco burns fairly well and required a moderate number of relights. If you are able to pick up a tin at retail price, it is well worth it. However, I do not see any reason to purchase a tin from the secondary market at vastly inflated prices.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 07, 2019 Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
I didn't pick up the pipe until 2013 -- and therefore never experienced the original Sobranie that everyone is so poignantly emotional about from yesteryear -- so I'm just reviewing this fine ribbon cut of Latakia, Oriental/Turkish, Virginia Balkan blend from J.F. Germain, called Balkan Sobranie.

This is really good stuff. I bought a bunch of this at about the same time I bought a bunch of the Balkan Sasieni -- and I wasn't impressed by either (and in fact, I thought they were both one and the same -- I couldn't detect any difference between the two), because I was new to pipe tobacco, at a time when I didn't know what I was doing and/or smoking, and was only in search of bazooka blends of high-explosive nicotine that would blow my head off . . .

But I soon matured and mellowed.

Upon opening the jar (after 4 years), I found smoky-sweet notes of wood, some spice, a little leather and just a hint of BBQ. Wonderful, calm, pleasing smoke, perfectly melded -- no Diva's on this team -- Latakia showing off a bit, but everyone playing nicely, graciously complimenting one another. This iteration of Balkan Sobranie is, in fact, very similar to Balkan Sasieni, but it's not the same. Lovely stuff -- glad I bought as much as I did, when I did -- and will be securing some more (to pass on, after I'm gone, you see). 4-stars.

Pipe Used: Peterson Dublin "999" Rhodesian
Age When Smoked: 4 years
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 19, 2018 Medium to Strong None Detected Medium to Full Tolerable
Ok, so I finally got my hands on it.

I've never smoked the old stuff, but I'm quite familiar with most of the top tier Balkan's. I prefer Magnum Opus, Blackhouse, Whiteknight, and Maltese Falcon to say London Mixture or Balkan Saseini. Plum Pudding is also up there, though I'm not fond of the cut.

So where does this Balkan Sobranie original compare to all the one's built off of its recipe? Let's have a smoke?

I think I can honestly say it is the best, but not by a lot, here's why.

First, this Germain tobacco in the tin is something to behold. Really, all of their offerings exemplify this characteristic in one form or another. The stuff just appears to have been handled really carefully. It's a beautiful cut at a perfect consistency to smoke. It packs like a dream.

Magnum Opus comes a bit dry and the other Hearth and Home Offerings while tasting on par just don't have this high degree of care of the look and feel of the tobacco. Maltese Falcon is the closest to this in taste and quality, but misses the quality by a smidgen.

As for the taste, all are great. I'm not overly fond of the Kentucky in Blackhouse although it doesn't stand out over the ideal taste of the entire blend, but I know its there because its a slight bit fuller and dirty. Magnum Opus has more unique oriental flavors that none of the others quite share and White Knight is a bit lighter by comparison. So, really the closest match I think is Maltese Falcon. Again, these differences would be slight to one not familiar with Balkans.

Now, none of these are far apart in how much I appreciate them, but when comparing them to each other I really think Balkan Sobranie by Germain only really rises above because of the way the tobacco has been cut and taken care of by Germain. It makes for a perfect smoke, and the taste is sweet/sour/ from the oriental forwardness - the way I think of as ideal.

All of the other blends are really close though, especially Maltese Falcon due to the cut and presentation of the tobacco from that tin.

I'm glad I have this stocked up a bit, but I wouldn't think I didn't know exactly what it tastes like, if I had smoked these other great blends though. There's not a lot of significant taste difference between them.

Balkan Sobranie is exactly what I expected, except a little better. It's a medium/full (more medium) English with oriental forwardness that is distinctly different than a regular English with less Oriental up front. Margate is the version of that they offer which also rates really high for me due to the quality of the cut and care of the leaf.

Germain really doesn't play around with their quality.
Pipe Used: Meer, Briar
Age When Smoked: Out of tin
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