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 1 - 10 of 14 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 06, 2014 Mild to Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Tolerable
Here's what I wrote about the House of Sobranie version of this blend: The smoky, woody, earthy, musty sweet Cyprian Latakia is the lead component. The Orientals (Macedonia being one of them) provide a lot of earth, wood, floralness, a light dry sourness and buttery sweetness, along with a little spice and leather as a supporting player. The Virginias offer some grass and hay, a little dark fruit, and a hint of citrus. The light unflavored soda note or two along with some dry wood, earth, floralness from the yenidje is always noticeable. The 1990s and later versions have drier in taste than it was in the 1980s, due to the decrease in the red Virginia, which disappeared by the mid-1990s. The strength is a couple of steps short of medium. The taste is medium. The nic-hit is just past the center of mild to medium. Won't bite or get harsh. Burns at a reasonable pace, cool, clean and moderately smooth with a very consistent, mildly sweet and floral, savory, campfire flavor. Requires few relights, and leaves little dampness in the bowl. Had a pleasant, lightly lingering after taste and room note. An all day well balanced smoke. Four stars despite the number of changes that occurred.

Having smoked the late 1960s and the 1960 versions, I found the red Virginia was a little more prominent, and the wine-like, earthy, woody, floral Syrian Latakia was used, which created a drier, lightly less fragrant smoke. The 1980's and later versions used Cyprian Latakia which added a little different sweetness to the mix. The yenidje seems to have been the same in all versions. The amount of red Virginia was decreased by 1982. The production ceased in 2005.

Comparing this 2014 Germain's manufacture to the pouch and tin versions I was smoking in the late 1990's and 2000s, I can tell several important differences. This tin version is moister than the earlier productions. In that one, the smoky, woody, earthy Cyprian Latakia is the lead component, but lacks the depth and mustiness of earlier productions, and little less is here than before. The Orientals are less potent, offering earth, wood, floralness, a light dry sourness and a touch of buttery sweetness, along with a little spice as a supporting player. The very grassy, citrusy, barely dark fruity and earthy Virginias have little of the complexity it once had, and there’s more of here than before. The unflavored soda note from the yenidje is virtually missing. The strength is in the center of mild to medium. The taste is a step past that center. The nic-hit is just short of the center of mild to medium. Won't bite or get harsh. Burns cool, clean and a tad fast as it’s thinner cut now. It’s moderately smooth with a very consistent, mildly sweet and savory, lightly floral, very grassy flavor. Requires an average number of relights, and leaves little dampness in the bowl. Had a lightly lingering after taste and room note. An all day smoke that lacks the depth and complexity of past manufactures. This one gets two stars.

46 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 26, 2014 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable
As much as this blend is talked about, I just couldn't get it. I suppose I'm not a fan of Balkan blends like I originally thought. The tin note smells amazing: smokey latakia with a sweet - almost caramel - aroma. It was very wet, so I gave it about an hour of dry time before packing. It packed decently, but I had to take care not to pack it too densely since it was still rather moist and thin. It took 2 false lights before it caught and I got a nice blast of smokey flavor. I suppose the thing that I really don't like about this tobacco is the rather "musty" taste that accompanies the latakia. There is some sweetness to it though, but that damn musty taste just ruins it for me. It might be the orientals, but I love Virginia/oriental/latakia blends and smoke them often. I just can't really get into this blend. I'm going to let it age for a while before making a final decision, but as of right now I can't see this being something that I'll smoke often. I would recommend it to someone who really likes Balkan blends. I'll stick to my English Oriental or Squadron Leader for now.
Pipe Used: Brebbia
PurchasedFrom: JR Cigars, Statesville, NC
Age When Smoked: Fresh
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Feb 03, 2014 Medium None Detected Full Strong
I have never tried the original Balkan Sobranie so I had no preconceived notions as to what this should taste like. I was fortunate enough to have a good sample sent to me from a forum buddy. Fortunate, because I will Not have to spend anymore on this as I was not too impressed.

I am not one for the heavy lat hitters and this one definitely falls into that category, but still, there are some I enjoy and perhaps it is a matter of balance. I feel this one lacks that proper balance that would make it more amenable to my palate. I would opt for several full English blends before this. GL Pease Odyssey for one and then several germain produced blends such as Penzance and the Smoker's Haven imported blends.

So somewhat recommended.
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 02, 2020 Medium None Detected Medium Unnoticeable
For the record I never have tried the ‘original’ but it is revered and probably sought after as much as the Holy Grail. A good fellow in the club brought some in and I was able to try it. Where we meet, a lot of members, myself included will bring in pipe tobacco for others to try. If it were not for that my reviews would probably still be in the double digits as there is just way too many offerings out there to try (buy) and I would go broke buying them all. The tin note (jar) had a sourish, fermented earthy smell to it and upon first light I kind of got a tart, dry taste if using wine analogy, not too impressed actually. About a third way down the flavor improved a little more for my taste buds. This is definitely a predominant Oriental/Turkish smoke in my opinion with the Latakia in the background. The second bowl tasted much better probably because my taste buds knew what to expect. I was not really wowed with this one but on the other hand it is a good blend. Probably not a fair review with my limited samples but if I could get a hold of a tin I would but not something I would go out of the way to get. As with any sample given to me my review is not to insult the giver but we all cannot and do not like the same things which makes attending the club fun as we all get to try different blends that sometimes our pocketbook could not afford. Thanks again club.
5 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 02, 2021 Very Mild None Detected Very Mild Pleasant to Tolerable
I'm old enough to remember the original Balkan Sobranie. Granted, our viewpoints change, but this is pretty light in the land of Latakia and strikes me as similar to....well, just a lot of blends. It worth a try, but I wouldn't sell the farm over this, nor go running back to it.
Pipe Used: Dunhill
Age When Smoked: Fresh
4 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jun 27, 2014 Mild to Medium Very Mild Mild to Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
As someone who smoked the Gallaher version in the early 90's I'm left with disappointment. It really is nothing like what it was at that time. From what I have gleaned over the internet the Gallaher version was processed with some additive(s)/casing(s) and cooking/stoving/cavendish to make the dark virginias. It had a dark,sweet BBQ-like smokiness with a salty taste unlike anything else. This newer version isn't bad, in fact it has merit especially in how smooth it is but there is no lineage in character. If it wasn't for the label nobody smoking this would think classic Balkan Sobranie, at least the 80's 90's production. The newer smoke started out very well balanced. The various leaf elements seem to blend into the others for a harmonious whole with a slight edge towards a very mild turkish character. At times the latakia was elevated and others a toasted nuance. I never got a distinct virginia note. This newer blend is lighter and more blond in color with perhaps 30% or so latakia and a small addition of some ready-rubbed cake of darkbrown stoved leaf. At first, I thought there was no casings but it seems to hold moisture over time and just isn't as flat and brittle as truly pure tobacco. If you long for the old version and can't seem to obtain this new one, I wouldn't worry about it. It seems to me to be just an above average, lighter medium generic english blend. A weak 2 stars for trying to capitalize on the former's legacy.
Pipe Used: Savanelli "Bing's Favorite"
PurchasedFrom: Tinder Box Crystal Court- Costa Mesa, Ca
Age When Smoked: New
3 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 01, 2012 Mild to Medium Extremely Mild Extremely Mild (Flat) Pleasant to Tolerable
Fellow pipe smokers, it is with some trepidation I write this review, knowing all-the-while hundreds if not thousands flock to this site to see if another pipe smoking colleague has posted his/her comments on the new Sobranie.

Without further ado here's mine for it is worth, knowing very well tastes vary, and in many cases significantly from each other . Germain's Sobranie is a mixture of bright, tan, dark and black leaves in a somewhat shag over ribbon cut. When I leveraged open the cover I stuck my nose very near the lid in an attempt to get a woof of the fragrance however, surprisingly, I didn't get much of anything in the way of an aroma. The tobacco once exposed completely was damp to the touch and when pinched together did not unfold so drying time was needed. I plucked out a couple of grams and placed it in a tin bowl for fifteen minutes. I did the pinch test again and it seemed good to go. I always use my Lorenzetti bent billard to test drive a new tobacco as it has a track record for getting the very best out of a blend. False light, not much of any taste. Tamp and second light gets the pipe going. I'm getting the unmistakable Germain Virginia taste, a little Latakia, some oriental and a faint but distinguished casing of some sort. First half of the bowl, very flat and unexciting. Second half same with a slightly stronger oriental presence. The finish was rather hot and soggy.

Okay, without writing a short story here, I'll sum up the four days that followed my maiden voyage with Sobranie by telling you I sampled it in several different pipes, dgt'ed it for 30 minutes, one hour, two hours and finally four hours. I aired it for 30 minute intervals up to three hours as well. I also sipped different beverages with the smoke including water, dark beer, bourbon and coffee. The results were the same no matter what I did to this mixture to make it work for me.

Conclusion: Germain's Sobranie, for me, is a very flat, uneventful, mild to medium nicotine strength tobacco. If this is the original Sobranie of yesteryear and the best of the best during that time I think we should count ourselves extremely fortunate to have great master blenders as; Pease, Tarler, Oulette, Peritti etc in the 21st century.

I have to tell you though, I believe there is a blend today that is the smitten image of the Sobranie of two, three decades ago. I am referring to Gawith & Hoggarth's Balkan Mixture. I validate this opinion from reading the reviews of BM here on this site and in other locations as well. G&H, upon the disappearance of Sobranie responded with BM and many a British pipester as well as American pipemen swear BM is an exceedingly close approximation to the famous Sobranie long since gone. I have been smoking Balkan Mixture for about two months now and it is an absolutely amazing old world heavy weight Balkan tobacco.
3 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 27, 2020 Medium None Detected Mild to Medium Tolerable to Strong
I found this blend a bit disappointing, given the history and hype.

Mechanically, the blend is very sound: packs easily (although the ribbons are on the long side, which can get a little sloppy), lights and stays lit well. Minimal moisture at the end of the bowl, and no chance of tongue bite.

The latakia is dominant, but the orientals are detectable (I really can't detect the virginias, but I'm still a relative novice). The tin was not especially well blended, so I did a fair bit of "stirring" before smoking, but I still noticed different components taking a minor lead role throughout. However, overall, I found the flavor to be a little flat. Occasionally, I would get a spicy twinge, which seemed more like a burley spice (not a perique spiciness). Also, the finish was incredibly dry, which was probably the most intriguing aspect of the blend. As I said, I couldn't really detect the virginia sweetness at all.

Overall, I'm glad I've tried this, but I will stick to more compelling modern blends. But this is sufficiently "different" from other Balkans that I've tried (White Knight, Magnum Opus, Maltese Falcon) that it is well worth giving a try if you ever see it on a shelf at your local B&M. But I wouldn't put it on my bucket list.
Pipe Used: Falcon with a Briar Hyperbole
PurchasedFrom: B&M
Age When Smoked: 6 months
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 03, 2019 Mild to Medium None Detected Mild Tolerable
A comparison of the Gallaher version of twenty years ago... I deemed the older BSOM excellent... the very best Balkan blend ever & I'm not a big Latakia fan but combined with Yenidje & the other varietals it facilitated the blend's sweet, creamy, smoky flavor. Sampled from a fairly fresh 50g pouch of the Gallaher version that was eight years old when purchased back in 2010. It gets a four star rating.

The BSOM made you reach for that sweet, elusive flavor with each draw. After a few puffs, the tobacco flavors begin to meld & it just keeps getting better & better until the very end. The perfect pipe tobacco in every respect... the Holy Grail, as it were. It had a sweet & sometimes salty flavor when that certain taste receptor was hit & had an enticing aroma. Todays version... I can take it or leave it. It is just simply lacking most of the flavoring of the original & I didn't like it very much. Not nearly as much sweetness. Close but no cigar.

Hard to believe some pipers pay as much as $50.00 for a $10.00 tin of tobacco but that's just my personal opinion... I'm doubtful I'd even pay a saw-buck as I've discovered something much closer to the BSOM at a fraction of the cost. Even my own, non aged blend with Syrian &/or Cyprian Latakia is much better than this.
Pipe Used: Peterson Deluxe 9S & 11S
PurchasedFrom: Smoking Pipes
Age When Smoked: fresh Tin
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 25, 2017 Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable to Strong
This one just didn't hit the mark for me. This review is based on the original re-release from several years back. These are the notes that I took. It is been several years since I've smoked this, and so it may or may not be reflective of the current product. I remember being fairly disappointed by this tobacco. With all of the storied history, this reminded me of a slightly muddier dustier version of Balkan Sasieni. Sasieni has a slightly mellower Latakia component. The Sobranie, however, takes on a darker, muddier, almost dusty tone at times. The VA is nothing special and the orientals get somewhat trampled in the mix. All in all this is reasonable as a middle of the road Balkan style blend.
Pipe Used: Genod meerschaum lined
PurchasedFrom: Iwan ries
Age When Smoked: 1 year
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