J. F. Germain & Son Balkan Sobranie

(3.27)
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

Details

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
Flavoring
Cut Ribbon
Packaging 50 grams tin
Country United Kingdom
Production Re-release

Profile

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

Average Rating

3.27 / 4
54

12

14

8

Reviews

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Displaying 1 - 10 of 12 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 31, 2015 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Tolerable
Some day everyone who tried the "original" version of this blend will either be dead or too old to write about it. Then future generations won't have to put up with all that crap.

This is a great Balkan blend that has a real creamy smoke to it. The flavors of all of the tobaccos are balanced almost as well as Nightcap. In fact, if it had Nightcap's nicotine level I would have given 4 starts. It's more like 3.5 for me.
10 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 15, 2012 Mild to Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
I don't think it's fair to the original Balkan Sobranie that the newer reviews of Germain's interpretation should be lopped together. It's a confusing mess sorting it all out, so I'm glad this listing exists. They are, after all, two very different products, despite what we've been told.

The new Sobranie is a fine, if derivative Balkan, as Germain's reputation. But...I feel it might have been entirely inconsequential if marketed as a new blend. Nostalgia and curiosity have fueled the sell outs, which have reached the status of a select few, FVF and Stonehaven, among the highly sought.

Its characteristics--the blend is quite mild, with a very high percentage of Latakia, far more, in comparison, to a blend like Nightcap. Peering into the tin contents will tell you that--this is a dark mixture. There is a considerable spice, offered by the Oriental leaf, the varietal unstated but likely the common variant Smyrna or some generic microblend. If there is a whisper of Yenidje or some other exotic varietal, I would be surprised, and we would certainly be told.

Like many of Germain's mixes, Balkan Sobranie comes in a fine ribbon, making it easy to overpack the pipe, and prone to a quick, hot burn. Yet it's elegant, and beautiful in the tin. And how was the original cut up, by comparison? In the end, it's not a bother. You really do have to put the comparisons aside and accept this new Sobranie for what it is, on its own merits, of which it admirably succeeds.

Yes, this is a fine, high quality blend. But it does not deserve the attention it receives, and I wonder what might happen when the curiosity has been satiated. You may blame the recipe holder for their decision to reissue Balkan Sobranie, but how many other companies out there might have done the same? And in a mark of irony, the bulk consumers of the blend will be those who have never tried any variation of the original, myself included.

It's a bit pointless to drone on about the multitude of factors that combine to produce something so seemingly simple as a tin of pipe tobacco. And just observing the obvious...on the factory floor, what of replicating the original leaf, the warehouse stockpiles, the production process and its machines...elements that undoubtedly contribute significantly to the overall character and flavor of a blend? It would be impossible to control those variables. More, of the many versions and revisions to come of the original mixture, which model was chosen? Why? I suppose we could have done worse. Imagine if Orlik had delivered the production orders to Borkum Riff. Or even a respected blender like MacBaren, with their bitey, bland and weak blends? Relax, I know, I'm sorry for insulting Diddy McB.

If all of this sounds familiar, I'm pretty sure it's entirely lifted from Mr. Pease's article on the matter. A damn fine read, by the way. I apologize, it's a while since I read the thing.

I would like to note the branding of the product, including the tin art, which feels amateurish, especially when compared to Sasieni, of the same style as the original, but better polished. I suspect a high schooler in a graphic design class could put together a more impressive presentation. The redrawn image, reasonable, yet lacking clarity and definition, the font entirely different, and, strangely plastered onto the background wagons, looking very out of place. It seems as if the resultant design possesses less class.

Criticisms aside, I've smoked two tins and have another two in waiting. For that, I suppose I'm a bit of a hypocrite here. Again, I apologize. For comparison, as noted, I smoked Balkan Sobranie in tandem with a tin of Nightcap. I found that moving from Nightcap to Sobranie felt like sucking steam. I had to kill the Nightcap tin before moving back, and then the adjustment was fine. You shift from relishing in the power that the Dunhill blend carries, to appreciating other qualities--the spice and smokiness.

Now imagine again, had Germain given the blend another name, there would be a fair portion of us looking the other way. It would still be popular...most all Germain products fly off the shelf. In the end, they're doing something right, unlike Gallaher, which managed to go broke while pedaling one of the world's favorite smokes, to critics and simpletons alike. Good going, guys.
7 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 14, 2012 Strong None Detected Full Tolerable to Strong
It has been so long I can not truly tell if this replicates Sobranie to the letter or not, but it is a top notch smoke. It reminds me of when I started smoking in the early '90s, the English tobaccos, though they all had their individual differences, all had a rich scent and were all well matured, not rushed into the blend too early. These days when I open a tin I'm never sure if I'm going to get "peat reek", raw smelling tobacco, musty/mildewy smelling tobacco or if it will just smell "botanical" instead of "tobaccinal". This is Dunhill by Dunhill, Rattray by Rattray, Three Nun's, John Cotton...in other words, this is tobacco the way it was supposed to be smoked. Enough hyperbole and memory lane.

On opening the tin, you get the oriental/Balkan nose. The cut is fairly uniform and the moisture is on the wetter side of perfect. Loads easily, lights easily, stays lit, and burns to an snow white ash. On the first few puffs, I knew they had gottn it right when I got the old Balkan pinch in the upper part of my nose. The smoke is well meshed, with neither Latakia nor Oriental being overly dominant, you just get the Balkan taste all the way down. Toward the last quarter of the bowl, the taste gets a little spicier, but is still enjoyable.
3 people found this review helpful.
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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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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.
1 person found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 03, 2016 Mild to Medium Mild to Medium Mild to Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
After 9 months in a jar this tobacco has mellowed. The smoke is now creamy and Smokey with a slight sour aftertaste. The room note is that of a camp fire on the following morning. Nicotine is mild to medium. There is no tongue bite or harshness. Would be my every day smoke if available. 4 stars.

Balkan Sobranie 50g tin. I am a fairly new pipe smoker and this is my first review. The tobacco is a mixture of brown's and black ribbon cut. The tin aroma is sweet and floral. Like a honey dipped rose. The first light was full of the floral taste...very unique and pleasing to me. Not a Lakeland taste. The floral note toned down as the bowl progressed. The sweetness of the tobacco Could be tasted in my mouth and on my lips which became slightly sticky. Also very nice. The nicotine strength was medium+. REALLY enjoyed this tobacco straight from the tin. After 2 weeks in mason jar.... Most of the floral notes are gone as is the sweetness. The strength is still med+ but now there is a slight metallic aftertaste. This tobacco gets full marks when fresh but only half when jarred.
Pipe Used: small meerschaum, Wally Frank tomato
PurchasedFrom: Pipes and Cigars
Age When Smoked: new and 2 weeks and 9 months
1 person found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Aug 13, 2016 Mild to Medium Mild to Medium Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
I felt pretty lucky to score a couple of tins of this tobacco at the retail price - glad I happened to be watching my email when the notification came through from Iwan Ries.

I never smoked the original, so can't compare. I have to say I agree with Steel Cowboy's observation about this being a good quality m_e_d_i_u_m Balkan. A little stronger nicotine might have added a nice dimension. The cut is very fine, almost a shag, which is not my favorite but does make for a neat inverted pack. It definitely needs a little drying time or you will have a gurgling opportunity. It is balanced in flavor - not a big burst but nuanced and consistent through the bowl - nutty, smoky latakia, gentle. It is not the symphony of flavors that I get from Samovar, Three Oaks, or Artisan's.

Well-behaved and burns to a fine gray ash. Worth a try if you come across some but don't spend a fortune for it on eBay - it is nice and high quality but I would not call it legendary.
Pipe Used: Wellington full bent
Age When Smoked: 1 yr
1 person found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 13, 2016 Mild to Medium Mild to Medium Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
It is difficult to review this tobacco objectively. Luckily I don't have to compare it to the original as I have never had it. It is hard to remain objective, however, when smoking such a limited production, secondary market premium, and hyped up tobacco. Price and availability aside: the bright Virginias are grassy and smoke a little bit hot, the Turkish/Orientals add a nice exotic spice, and the Latakia is subtle and adds a sweet dry smoky flavor without dominating the blend. I definitely sense a topping that I would say is dark fruit and some clove. The room note is enjoyable and exotic. Objectively, I would rate this fresh at a 3 out of 4 stars with room to grow with age. Non-objectively, I would never pay a secondary market price for this blend. There are many other great Balkan Sobranie tributes out there that are always available.
Pipe Used: Briars and Meerschaums
Age When Smoked: Fresh
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 24, 2015 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable
1 am sorry to sully everyone else's yearning for, or experience with, this product. I never smoked the old and varied blends of this 'Brand' that existed before extinction (like the legendary No 759 Mixture) so I have nothing to compare this with by way of its old 'siblings'. But really, what's all the fuss about?

I recently obtained two tins from Iwanries and have been working hard to 'get to know the contents better'. Don't get me wrong, it is a nice Balkan but I found myself hard pressed to see any difference between this tobacco and its other 'cousin', Balkan Sasieni. Is there any really? I should be forgiven if I commit additional 'heresy' here, but I did not find it that dissimilar to Dan Tobacco's Holly's Discovery (which I recently obtained also and happen to have been smoking simultaneously) either.

That said, it is highly recommended to every pipe smoker given the fact of its 'hype' and relative unavailability in the market place. After all, it's scarcity must be dictated by high demand for the product. If for this reason only, Balkan adherents should give it a try to determine if it is overrated (or not).

Three stars for me because its quality does not in anyway exceed all the hype it generates. Highly recommended to all Balkan lovers.

Pipe Used: Various
PurchasedFrom: Iwanries
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