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





Please login to post a review.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 31, 2012 Medium Very Strong Extremely Mild (Flat) Unnoticeable
I smoked Balkan Sobranie, (usually from the white tin), pipe tobacco almost exclusively from 1966 to around 1980, until I stopped smoking entirely for about 10 years. I had been a cigarette and pipe smoker for many years prior to that. I never went back to cigarettes but took up the pipe again in the 90s and did obtain some of the 90s version of Sobranie in plastic pouches that I had sent to me from England until it was discontinued. The 1960s-80 version had a very long ribbon cut yellow-orange tobacco which jumped up out of the vacuum packed tin to greet you when you popped the top. There were also darker fragments of coarse cut brown to black fragments in the mixture. That tobacco had a taste and aroma, which was unique and to me has never been duplicated by anything I smoked since. The 1990s version was coarse cut and had a similar taste and smell but the burning characteristics were quite different and not particularly appealing to my taste. I still have a single pouch of it left but dried out. The fact that it is still there says a lot about my disappointment with it when compared to the 1960s version which I smoked through medical residency training in NYC. Now this new stuff is said to be "Made under licence in the British Isles from a recipe which reflects the excellent qualities of this famous pipe tobacco from years gone by" and Imported by: Arango Cigar Co. I received a 50 G tin of it from Cup o Joes on 3-1-2012. I opened it this morning with great anticipation after giving it 5 months to settle down, hoping to have a great treat... Forgettaboutit!! It is a quite moist mixture of light ribbon cut yellow tan stuff, coarser cut brown leaf and the black stuff which looks like and tastes like latakia when chewed. There is no bright orange- yellow tobacco as in the 1960s version and the ribbons are much, much shorter than the 1960s. I took out enough to fill a Danish Navigator pipe, a delicate very light briar in which I smoke only Balkans . The first pipe load was allowed to dry for 1/2 hour in an air conditioned room. The pipe was packed and I retired to the outside covered deck to enjoy a morning smoke on a nice padded rocker. I lit up and in a short time my taste buds were assaulted with an overwhelming spicy topping of ?cloves, cinnamon?, eugenol? It had all of the characteristics of Pease's Samarra and Caravan which I keep around but smoke only twice a year to remind me of how much I hate them. But this spice assault was much more intense than the Pease mixtures. I don't know if they made a mixing mistake at the factory and I just got a bad batch, but if they actually paid for a license to make this stuff, they didn't get the right info or didn't mix it correctly. In the evening I dried out some more for 1 1/2 hours to see if some of that flavoring would disappear. It was still moister than I would expect, suggesting that PEG had been added as a moisturizer. I stuffed a Barling post-transition bent, which is my best smoking pipe for Balkans, and lit up. Arrrgggh!! Even worse than before. I am not sure that I can even smoke this twice a year. I will have to dilute it with some unflavored burley to render it bearable to smoke. They tell me that orientals can be "spicy". I smoked Sobranie for years and never thought that it was "spicy". No way this intense spice flavor can be natural tobacco flavor. More likely this is an attempt to boost the flavor of a tobacco that has weak natural flavor and that effort is overdone. So what to smoke if I would like to have a vision of the old Balkan Sobranie while I am puffing? I have settled on Balkan Sasieni, aged for as long as I can stand it and touched up with some McClelland Yenije Highlander. The Sasieni has been good when aged 3-4 years. Or straight Sam Gawith's Squadron Leader as an exemplary Balkan for my taste buds. I have some Bill Bailey's Balkan around which I smoke here and there and have smoked McClelland Syrian Full Balkan without regret. Synjeco's Sodalit from Schurch Tobaccos was recommended somewhere in a Sobranie discussion so I had some sent from Switzerland. It is an interesting old tobacco with a generous nicotine jolt, but does not remind me of Sobranie at all. The Balkans that are heavy in latakia and weak in orientals soon have me smoking English mixtures e.g. Penzance, Margate and Solani White as a better choice. I still wistfully get the Sobranie urge which will never again be properly satisfied, I guess 🙂 I am smoking more and more Virginias these days on a regular basis, as they had been readily available but now even they are getting hard to locate.
7 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 23, 2017 Extremely Mild None Detected Extremely Mild (Flat) Unnoticeable
I'm finally writing a review on this and completely judging it on its own merits, I will not make mention or comparison to an older version.

This is a 2014 tin that is plumed and flavors are better now that the blend is dry. Has a sour and winey tin note that won't remind you of a full and smokey smelling Balkan. Upon light you get a full on tangy sour Oriental flavor with very light Latakia flavor. The profile even from a 3 year old tin is sour and unbalanced, and light. It does show more flavor towards the bottom of a larger bowl but that sour flavor leads the whole way. It feels very unbalanced in oriental leaf used, not enough VA and not enough Latakia. Has very light flavor, strength and body. Wine like sour bitterness with just the slightest taste of Latakia in there is the best I can describe. Although I taste mainly those leaves the whole time, I'm not getting what I would expect from good orientals and I'm not getting any flavor reminding me of a Balkan blend. I really tire of the flavor towards the end of the bowl, and its overall pretty one dimensional and just no balance as an English or a Balkan. Don't know what else to say, it's got a name that doesn't fit whatever the blend.
Pipe Used: A bunch of briars
PurchasedFrom: B&M
Age When Smoked: Fresh, all the way up to 3 years age
3 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 24, 2014 Mild None Detected Mild Tolerable
My God, what a disappointment. I have smoked several pouches of Balkan Sobranie in the 90's and have loved it. It was a long cut, dark tobacco. It was sweet and spicy at the same time, very slow burning. The girlfriend I had at the time, surprisingly, just loved the room note. Now, I understand, 20 years later, that cloning a tobacco is not an easy task. However, I don't thing Germain succeeded in reproducing this classic. For starters, the tobacco is much, much lighter in colour. The aroma is completely different as well. Instead of being smoky and a tad sweet, I am under the impression that they took some Tilbury and mixed it with a wee bit of latakia. What I mean is the VAs are dominant, completed by some OR and a little LA. And, I am sorry, but this cannot be called a Balkan. Now, even on its own, independantly of the reference to Balkan Sobranie, I am not impressed by it. There are much better blends out there than this one. My advice: don't chase this one around. It's just not worth it.
Pipe Used: Dunhill; Stanwell
Age When Smoked: New
3 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 25, 2020 Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Unnoticeable
Fresh tin, less than two months on it. Slightly moist in the tin, the ultra thin, almost shag ribbon cut is easy to load, but needs care to not overpack. Easily lit. Oriental forward with the effervescence arising right off the top. Dry overall presentation. Mildly sweet, in an incense in a cathedral type way. Faint notes of citrus. The lat is less of a player than one might expect. Rougher notes of leather, campfire, cedar, sandalwood, and a bit of resinous pine. Slightly acrid if pushed even slightly, sometimes even when not pushed at all. Backing down the cadence brings the citrus forward along with the incense. A tiny dose, almost imperceptible, of the Germain fermented apricot VA. Sour orange rind flavor pushing forward at mid bowl which appears to stay for the remainder of the smoke. Lightly buttery at times, it’s too inconsistent to be considered a serious player in the profile. Consistently get an acidic note at the top of the throat about 3/4s of the way through the bowl; perhaps something inherent in the leaf that just takes time to build on itself. Gets ashy at the heel, but you’re left with an ultra fine grey ash.

The tin presentation is fine; your normal round coin pop seal. The quality of leaf is obviously top shelf, as one would expect from Germain. Burn is good; the bowls smoked cool to the heel on a single light. I found the profile to be consistent from bowl to bowl, which is a good and bad thing. The repeatability on this blend is lacking in its current state. I had to force myself to smoke subsequent bowls. There was no joy or anticipation in smoking this again.

This is a Not Recommended blend as it currently stands. However, I can see the potential in this blend. If it can bring the buttery nature forward, along with some sweetness and a deeper incense while melding the profile, I think this could be a really nice blend. The pieces are there, they just aren’t developed enough.

Pipe Used: Sav 106
Age When Smoked: Fresh
2 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
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.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 09, 2018 Extremely Mild None Detected Extremely Mild (Flat) Unnoticeable
In a re-release BS jousting contest against HH WhiteKnight: First prize=no bowl of BS; Second prize=1 bowl BS; third prize=2 bowls BS. Yesterday bought a fresh tin of re-release BS, white. Took four puffs, then knocked out the complete fill of the bowl. No flavor. No Taste. No Smell. No nothin'. I smoked clouds and clouds of the original BS, white in the 70s/80s. WhiteKnight is near identical twin to that one--just a trifle more beautiful/handsome.
Pipe Used: Peterson
PurchasedFrom: famous Boston tobacconist
Age When Smoked: right out of tin
1 person found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jul 28, 2012 Mild to Medium Very Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant
The Balkan Sobranie: Kevin's review in Pipe Magazine dot com said something to the affect that Balkan Sasieni is a fairly close second to Balkan Sobranie Pipe Mixture. I disagree. This new stuff from Arango can't hold a candle to Sasieni. To me, it is without a doubt a far superior blend at nearly 1/2 the price.

Update 8/6/12: I'm finding that this seems a bit too immature. I'm convinced it needs some serious aging. I can only get 1/2 way down with a load before it looses flavor; bites like a piranha, and tastes like a 2 bit cigar. Never having had the original, I can only say that it must have been far superior to what we have access to, at present. The more I smoke this, the more I want to toss it into the briar patch. Very disappointing. I have lowered my rating to 1 star, and I no longer recommend it; especially at 10.50 a pop.
1 person found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 30, 2017 Mild to Medium None Detected Full Tolerable
The good news: this is a variety of English mixture that places the Orientals first, allowing that wonderful fermented flavor to take center stage. The Latakia strikes first of course, bringing its tangy flavor to the foreground, but the power of this blend is that the Orientals and Latakia do not fully merge, instead float on top of one another, with the Virginias providing a sweetness like agave or turbinado sugar. In other words, you have an English mixture in layers where the Latakia is powerful, but the force that guides the flavor is the Orientals. Compared to many Englishes, this one is a little bit unbalanced, but it is that ragged nature that I enjoy, and I would smoke this again.

Thank you to PipesMagazine.com forum member sablebrush52 for this sample.
0 people found this review helpful.
Please login to upvote this review.