The smoky, woody, earthy, musty, wine-like Syrian Latakia is the lead component, comprising forty percent of the blend. It does seem a little softer than what one would normally expect of Syrian Latakia. The various Orientals (Cavalla, Samsun, Izmir and Xanthi) are spicy, very earthy, woody, dry, sour, and floral with a light buttery sweetness, and are very close on the heels of the Latakia. The tart and tangy, citrusy bright Virginias also provide some grass, a little earth and dark fruit. The strength and taste levels are medium. The nic-hit is a couple of steps past the center of mild to medium. Won’t bite or get harsh, and has a light rough edge at times. Burns cool and clean at a reasonable pace with a very consistent, deep, mildly sweet and very savory, campfire flavor that translates to the lingering after taste. Leaves little dampness in the bowl, and requires an average number of relights. Not an all day smoke, but it’s repeatable for the veteran smoker.
Simply stated; one of the finest blends that I have ever smoked. Very similar to Balkan Sobranie in every way, except just a little sweeter due to the Oriental leaf employed. The Latakia in the mixture was placed with a restrained hand leaving the smoker with a more subdued English flavor. Although long gone from the market, this blend was produced in high volume and many tins can still be found on the "Bay" and elsewhere. Many times for a bargain as the newer generation of pipe smokers never heard of this one. Smooth as silk from start to finish.
Blast from the Past #1 - I found two tins of this online at surprisingly low prices, since it hasn't been available for quite some time. I smoked a few tins of this back in the '80's but much preferred the State Express Roundels, an Escudo-type VaPer. Wish I could find that one! This one looked and smelled like a prototypical English mixture with latakia in the lead (aroma-wise). Nicely presented ribbon with a whole tobacco leaf (I'm told it is Xanthi) on top. I guess this is where McClellands got the idea of putting a leaf on top their Smyrna blend.
Taking memory for what it's worth, age has not been all that kind to this blend. The latakia has softened to the point where it is but a whisper and the orientals turned a bit too sour. Still, it has an interesting flavor with the Virginias playing the lead role and the orientals close by. The sour flavor was enticing but a little over the top - just a little. I think this sourness mingled nicely with the sweetness of the Virginias, however; I just wish it were a little toned down and the latakia were more prominent. Overall, I preferred my memory of this but it's still enjoyable to take a walk down memory lane. Worth a shot if you can find a tin at a reasonable price. I haven't seen State Express pipe tobacco fresh on the shelves in a long time but I believe they still make cigarettes - rather strong ones, as I recall. Three stars... interesting but not terribly compelling in light of what's available today.
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