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 54 Reviews
Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Mar 29, 2014 Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant
Typical brown and black ribbon blend with the tin nose that says "Balkan!" in a purposeful and unmistakable fashion. Enough has been made about comparisons of this to the old, but two comments come to mind. First, the old Balkan Sobranie is dead and gone. If I thought it was coming back, smoking this version convinced me that I was wrong. Second, even though such comparisons are usually pointless, I'm about to compare this version not to my current stock of old Sobranie, but to my memory of what it was like fresh in the 1990's (tinned rather than pouch versions).

In my experience, there have been three latakia blends that have this particular trait of (and since I can't describe it any better) a massive flavor burst from first lightup that lasts for about 1/4 bowl before it settles down. It's almost like taste overload, but it's addictive. This tendency is common for me with fresh tins of GLP's Charing Cross, the Murray version of Dunhill 965 and 1990's Sobranie. This blend does not possess that trait. Even though that may be the only way I could discern the two, it's enough that I'm convinced I could pick out the two in a blind taste test... not that it's possible for me to prove such a claim! But I'm still heavily inclined to disagree with those that think "nothing ever really was, anyway" with respect to Sobranie White.

At any rate, this tastes an awful lot like my stash of Sobranie. Even this flavor burst I've spoken about has subdued in the old stuff to the point that it's just a memory, albeit a memory I can relive with a new tin of Charing Cross, even though they otherwise don't taste alike. This is an excellent Balkan. It's not like my memory of the old stuff when it was fresh but it's excellent in its own right. Time to stop chasing the past and enjoy this venerable blend in the here and now. Because even the aged stuff isn't like it was when fresh for me and I think Germain was the perfect company to take this recipe and push it forward for new generations of smokers. Enjoy!
Pipe Used: meerschaum and morta
Age When Smoked: New
33 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 02, 2013 Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
I've been a lover of "Balkan" (English/Latakia) blends since my first contact with THE ORIGINAL during the autumn of 1967, through a tin that a dear auntie of mine —my father's eldest sister– brought me as a present on her return from a trip to London.

Albeit 45 years have passed since that first taste, I still remember with clarity the tangy aroma as I opened the tin and the complex nuances of the blend on the first light. They are burned in my neurones as well as the taste of the first kiss from my first girlfriend. =)

I kept smoking it whenever I could get my hands on some tins —importing tobacco to Mexico was extremely difficult then– until 1989 when I quit tobacco altogether; relapsed some years ago only to find that Balkan Sobranie had all but disappeared from the face of the earth.

Since my return to pipe smoking I've been on the quest for the successor. Tried Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader, Balkan Sasieni, all the classic English blends of Gregory Pease, Lagonda, Sextant, and finally Hearth & Home Black House which I deemed the closest to what my taste and smell remembered as THE Balkan.

Right now I'm comparing two almost identical meerschaums from Sinan Altinok that I've devoted exclusively to Balkans, one filled with H&H Black House and the other with the present incarnation of Balkan Sobranie; both from freshly opened tins. I must say that tho the new BS is a superb blend in its own right, the Black House is truer to the 1967 blend.

Here are my senile asessments on the BS:

The smell on opening the tin is a bit bland and lacks the pungent tang of the old. Here Squadron Leader takes the palms.

The packaging is cheaper too. Gone are the nice card stopper and the finely pleated paper. The new treatment is, simply, cheap. Kudos to Greg Pease in this step.

The color of the mixture is different, somewhat redder, and the cut thinner. Practically gone the lemon Va's. It's also quite wet and requires a good amount of drying to get a cool smoke. The old blend was a joy to load on the pipe, this one is a bit tasking and demands a light hand.

Gone is the sweet first taste that the very elegant Virginias provided; also gone is the sour-sweet taste of the orientals. The Latakia is rather prominent without being overwhelming, which is as I remember it. The room note is decent. Here, on the taste comparo, as I said before Black House gets the prize.

OK, those were the gripes. Now let me tell you that this is an extremely good Latakia blend and that it's worth every expensive penny you will pay for it. It's not the old king but it's a true crown heir. A year of aging in the tin and it will mature to a real ruler. Nevertheless, it will have several pretenders to the throne and the list is long.

You and I, as Balkan smokers can only benefit from the struggle. The variety has made for a great rotation list.

Happy puffs!
30 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 26, 2012 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable
Here is the issue with those that compare this to days gone by: When BS was in production, there were many changes made to the blend at different points in time. The 90's era of BS was not the exact same recipe as the 70's era (and not as good IMO) and so on. So to say that this doesn't compare, then the question is, "to what?" I have smoked 3 tins of the 90's era BS along side with the new Germain era tins. I find them to be very close from a quality standpoint. Now, the 90's stuff had the benefit (or lack thereof as more often than not the Latakia softens) age on the tin. The fact is that there are so many different BS versions that to compare them is pointless. The bottom line is that the new stuff is very good. With that said, is it worth the extra coins that are being charged on some sites or on ebay? In my opinion the answer is NO. Hopefully Germain will bring more to market and the demand will naturally die down. But since they can't meet demand for many of their Esoterica blends, I'm not holding my breath. The new BS is a very good quality medium Balkan blend with some nice Orientals. It is cut very thin and needs to be packed with care. It also needs a little "dry" time. The smoke is somewhat creamy and very balanced. If you enjoy medium Balkan's than this is worth a try.
24 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 26, 2013 Medium None Detected Full Pleasant to Tolerable
I guess I had my first pouch of BS back around 1964. I smoked it off & on until it went away, & I certainly agree that it changed over the years, maybe a little less Oriental, maybe different Lats. Anyway, I'm sure that the "Golden Age" of tobacco blending is RIGHT NOW. The new BS is very reminiscent of several iterations of the old, just as smooth, complex, cool burn, slightly sweet on occasion, with a wonderful perfume (for the smoker). On a par with Compton's Macedonian, York Full, etc.
Pipe Used: clay, meer, Dunhill patent billiard gr 3
PurchasedFrom: Online
Age When Smoked: I'm 70. The BS was new.
15 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Jan 03, 2014 Medium None Detected Medium Tolerable
Back when you could get it in the stores, I would pick up a tin of the original from time to time. That was a long time ago, and while my taste buds have probably changed, I have to say this is the experience I remembered.

In the flavor profile, I get orientals, Virginias and latakia in that order. The result is spicy, sweet and smoky all at once. There is a smoky quality to the orientals (as there is in Presbyterian Mixture), and the combo is very tasty. It works very well, and manages all this without overwhelming or clobbering you with one flavor over another. I guess that is they call balance. Even if this type of blend is not your cup of coffee, you owe it to yourself to try a bowl or two of this.
Pipe Used: various briars
PurchasedFrom: gift from friend
Age When Smoked: fresh from tin
11 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 14, 2013 Mild to Medium Mild to Medium Mild to Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
This is the stuff legends are made of. The tin note is just fantastic. The room note for me is absolutely amazing. All the tobacco elements combine for an extremely fine smoking experience. Last time I had a chance, I got 2 tins (the limit at that time in one order from my online source) and I miss it much since last smoking some of this great weed. Definitely something to put on your wish list if it unavailable at the present time. If not, then by all means get some whilst supplies last. You won't be disappointed. Very highly recommended.
8 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 30, 2014 Medium None Detected Medium to Full Very Pleasant
This new iteration of BS is truly a winner. This blend smells sublime in the tin, smoky, musty, sweetish, savory, leathery and the good news is all of these aromas transfer to thick clouds of dense, flavorful smoke. This packs very easily, lights well, burns all the way to the bottom, if you do your part well, and what else can I say? Fantastic. I won't go into my extended thoughts on the availability of this or the prices it is demanding, but to say if the market will bear the price, so be it...I, however, will not bear the price. I'm simply happy I smoked my tin's worth and have other blends I favor just as well for much less.
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Dec 27, 2013 Mild to Medium Very Mild Medium to Full Very Pleasant
I was gifted a two ounce bulk sample by reviewer 430pat when I purchased a large number of other tins from him recently on ebay. Thank you pat, it is a wonderful smoking experience. This current iteration of an old blend is from the J.F. Germain Co., a blender/tinner I have known and admired for decades. They have done a good job. Of course, being a longtime english smoker, I have had the pleasure of smoking this blend off and on for about fifty years - from the old razor-cuts down to the Gallagher roll-up pouches. The current iteration is the second best version I can remember; the sixties Sobranie Ltd. being the best.

The bulk appearance is browner than I remember the original, which had lighter components flecked with blackish bits, but this is no problem. The aroma is heavenly and not at all perfumey as I have read in some reviews. The cut is a rather fine ribbon - my favorite cut for a pipe blend. There was only a very minor amount of woody components and it required only a short dry-out time to a ready-to-smoke consistency. From the first puff I knew I was into something nice and very reminiscent of the original blend. It smoked soft and friendly in the top half of the bowl and, from the mid-bowl point on down, only got better. Like Hearth and Home's Ambassador's Blend, it had one of the finest finishes I have ever smoked. I was also gifted a two ounce bag of Orlik/Dunhill 965 in the same week (it was Christmas time, after all) by another longtime pipe smoking friend and I will review it and compare the two mixtures in an upcoming 965 review.

I very much enjoyed my experience with Germain's Balkan Sobranie Mixture and I'm still enjoying it as we speak. I highly recommend this blend to all pipe smokers for what it is and for what it strongly hints was the original blend. A solid four stars.
Pipe Used: ashton quaint dublin and ardor canadian
PurchasedFrom: gifted by another smoker
Age When Smoked: 3 yrs old in bulk
6 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Nov 04, 2014 Medium Very Mild Medium Pleasant
=====2015 update=====

A little over a year ago, I opened a new tin of BS and was somewhat disappointed with it. Back in the eighties and nineties, BS was my favorite tobacco, and this new incarnation, though close overall in taste to the original, didn't quite measure up to my expectations—really, it bummed me out. Today, literally (I just smoked a bowl minutes ago) I can safely say the blend I once loved is back!

What happened? I decanted the remainder of the tin last spring and let it sit in a sealed mason jar for a year. What a difference this made! I can safely say this is the blend I once loved! A year of sitting in a jar took off the edge and mellowed it out to perfection. So, my advice to those who experienced a similar situation is, enjoy a few bowls fresh, then decant it, seal it in a jar and let it sit for a year (at least) and then try it again. BS is back! The only problem I have now is trying to get some more without breaking the bank.

This, for my money, is the best Balkan/English blend ever made.

===old review below===

If you've ever read my first review, Storm Front, you'll know that Balkan Sobranie was once my go to smoke. Considering the availability and often times high price of this most recent incarnation, I thought I'd never set sight on this blend ever again. Fortunately, at the beginning of 2013, I asked Scotty, from Pipes&Cigars, if he had any tins sitting around the shop, and, lo and behold, he replied yes! Not only that, he sold it to me for the then low current retail price of $12.95! This was when no one else had a tin in stock and you could only find them on Ebay (with typically inflated Ebay prices). P&C came through for me! Way to go P&C! This year, 2014, I finally opened that tin, and here are the results...

As is often stated in other reviews, this is not the same baccy I used to enjoy back in the day. This new version is sharper, and cut differently than the older version (the older BS had a thinner cut). Another reviewer mentioned the older pouched version as being "soda-y" and, if what he means by that is being more OTC friendly, for the masses as it were, than I fully agree.

There was something better about the old version, something that this newer one doesn't have, what that is specifically I can't say. Perhaps it's just the passing of time and development of one's taste buds. In any case, I enjoyed this most recent incarnation, but, you know, some current day knockoffs like Black House, Blue Mountain and White Knight may actually better represent the smoke I once loved (rather remarkably). Still, it was a pleasant ride down memory lane.
Pipe Used: Alexander Zavvos Zulu
PurchasedFrom: Pipes&Cigars
Age When Smoked: Decanted one year after popping new tin
5 people found this review helpful.
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Reviewed By Date Rating Strength Flavoring Taste Room Note
Oct 16, 2011 Medium None Detected Medium Pleasant to Tolerable
Just got a tin of the new release, which is supposed to be based on the original recipe, it is a good medium strength English blend. I really do not understand why this was so revered, it is indeed good, but not the best blend I have ever tried. I have never smoked the old stuff and maybe it was better, but this is as close as we are ever likely to get and I will cellar some for the future as it may get more impressive with age.

UPDATE: I'm raising my review from three to four stars. I recently opened a tin that I had cellared from the first batch and WOW! The flavors have melded beautifully and the Virginias have already begun to get some bloom on them, this blend is simply fantastic with four years of age on it and I'm looking forward to see what it's like with five and ten years of aging, simply sublime!
5 people found this review helpful.
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