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Help a Noob Out, Please - too many tobaccos!

Discussion in 'Pipe Tobacco' started by jdto, Mar 16, 2012.

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  1. jdto

    jdto Well-Known Member

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    I've just recently started back to pipe-smoking after experimenting with it about 8 or 9 years ago.

    I've been overwhelmed by the variety of tobaccos out there and have been buying based on good reviews and popularity, but some of the tobaccos I've purchased are obviously geared toward more experienced smokers with a more developed tobacco palate. This is my cellar list so far:

    Dunhill Nightcap
    Erinmore Flake
    Mac Baren Cherry Ambrosia
    Mac Baren Navy Flake
    Mr. B's D-Series Golden Virginia Flake
    Mr. B's English Mixture
    Mr. B's Vanilla Maple
    Peterson Irish Flake
    Robert McConnell Scottish Cake
    Samuel Gawith 1792 Flake
    Samuel Gawith Full Virginia Flake
    Solani #633 Virginia Flake with Perique
    Solani #656 Aged Burley Flake
    Solani #660 Silver Flake
    Mac Baren Plum Cake

    Of these, I've enjoyed a few of them, found a few to be not to my taste (Mac Baren Cherry) and some others seem to have potential, but have overwhelmed me a bit. I have no problem jarring many of these up and saving them for a few months down the road (in fact, I've already done so with the 1792 and a tin of FVF). Today, for example, I tried the Solani 633 and, while I did have some sweet moments, there were also some less-than-stellar moments during the hour I spent with it. I did enjoy MB Navy Flake and Erinmore Flake wasn't bad. I'm also liking the two English blends, though I've only smoked them sparingly (like 1/2 bowls or less).

    Should I just grab one blend and smoke it for a while? Should I pick up a lighter, softer Burley blend that will help me develop a palate? Advice is most welcome.
     
  2. cobbsmoker

    cobbsmoker Active Member

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    When I try a new blend I always spend some time with it if I can get past the first bowl. :)
     
  3. LifeOfRiley

    LifeOfRiley Active Member

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    It depends on what you're trying to do. If you just want to find a couple of mainstay blends, then I could see just going down the list and seeing what you like and don't like.

    But it sounds more like you're really trying to educate your palate. In that case, I'd suggest working from the simplest, straightest tobaccos, regardless of leaf type to the more complex blends. That way you'll have a better understanding of what you're tasting, and when you come across that leaf in a blend with other leaf or casing you'll recognize it and better be able to break the blend down into its components. But this might require patience.

    And, toboccoreviews.com is a great resource.

    Finally, be honest with yourself. If you decide you don't like a blend that's well-regarded by your co-hobbyists, just chalk it up to a matter of taste and move on to the next one. This is to be enjoyed.
     
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  4. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Sales Account

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    There is certainly merit in taking a certain blend and just trying it time and time again and seeing if you get a magic moment with it. Of the stuff on your list, the two that immediately jump out at me are Navy Flake and Scottish Cake. Both are pretty easy to have good results with.

    One of the big things to remember is that the slower you smoke, the better things taste - a hot burn literally burns up all those yummy molecules of sugar and essential oils in the smoke. Keep it cool!

    It definitely takes awhile to develop the palate, as with anything. The Cake and the Flake are not especially challenging that way - pretty much what you see is what you get there.

    On the other hand, if you are enjoying the English type mixtures, then maybe use those for awhile, get good at smoking them, and revisit some of the others later.

    There are winners and losers in the tobacco world. You just may NEVER like the cherry ambrosia. Or any of what's in your current cellar. The fact that I like Scottish Cake does not mean you will eventually like it.

    All you can do is keep experimenting, and see what works on any given day. And don't overthink things - don't expect a miracle, don't wait for angels to sing.... you are lighting up a treated leaf. It is what it is. But go real slow, try to figure out the intent of the blender, and seek out those flavors.
     
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  5. jdto

    jdto Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the advice, guys. I do think that I will try some simple, straightforward stuff so I can get more of an idea of what I'm tasting and what I like. The Navy Flake has been really nice, so I think it's a keeper. I'll take this great advice into account on my next tobacco order.
     
  6. BradNTX

    BradNTX Well-Known Member

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    There has been some good advice posted. I would add, don't throw away any tobacco you don't like now. You may come back to it in 6 months or a year and love it. Getting your loading method, lighting evenly, and smoking cadence down will improve the flavor of tobacco over time.

    When I started out, a verteran pipe smoker told me to try 2 oz of tobacco before moving on to the next blend. I thought it good advice my first 6 months of smoking, to get the mechanics down with a blend, instead of worrying about the variety of flavors.

    That said, the Solani ABF on your list is really nasty stuff. I'd hate for you to be ruined from smoking something that harsh and bitter. Sasquatch will tell you it tastes like burning cardboard. You can send it to me, and I'll just dispose of it for you as a favor. ;)

    OK, kidding, I freakin' love ABF. :bing:
     
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  7. jdto

    jdto Well-Known Member

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    HAHA thanks! I'm not throwing anything away. What I've done with all those tins so far is take a small portion and leave it in the tin (like enough for 3 or 4 bowls), then seal the rest up in mason jars. That way, if I like it, I can open the mason jar, but if not, I can leave it to try further down the road.
     
  8. BradNTX

    BradNTX Well-Known Member

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    Good move! :th1:
     
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  9. Old Codger

    Old Codger Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps this will work for you. Slow down and just try a couple of tobaccos at a time, unless you find one particularly repulsive. I have three pouches loaded now and find that at different times of the day in different pipes the tobaccos taste different. Using a range of 1 to five I would have scored one of the tobaccos everything from 1 to 5 over the course of the week.
     
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  10. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Sales Account

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    If I could get ABF to taste as good as cardboard I'd be pretty pleased.
     
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  11. RTOdhner

    RTOdhner Well-Known Member

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    Those are four really good tobaccos to cut your teeth on, and to build a cellar around. Add to that some MacB Golden Extra, some MacB Solent Mixture, some Stokkebye English Oriental Supreme, some SWRA, some SWR, and some Pete Irish Oak and Sherlock Holmes and you'll have a really good starting line-up. Then take the time to really get to know each one.
     
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  12. jdto

    jdto Well-Known Member

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    That's a good idea. I'll start scoring them in my spreadsheet and see how it goes. I imagine that the pipes also have influence. As usual, when I get into a new hobby, I've jumped into the deep end.
     
  13. Old Codger

    Old Codger Well-Known Member

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    Easy to do, there are so many tobaccos out there to try. But, like women, takes a while to get to know one.
     
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  14. Dondi

    Dondi Active Member

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    Great thread, should be required reading for all newbies!
     
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  15. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    Yes you have! Nothing wrong with getting excited about it but that's why you're overwhelmed. Shoot, even for a long-time smoker, the choices can be overwhelming!

    There aren't too many of the tobaccos you listed that I would recommend to a newbie. Again, nothing wrong with jumping in head first but part of developing your palate is first getting to know certain styles of blends, and starting on the milder side.

    I would definitely recommend a softer, slightly flavored burley. Solani ABF is a classic tobacco but it's not the burley to start with in most cases. Try some Uhle's Blend 00 (www.uhles.com) or Nut Brown Burley from www.vtpipes.com. Just a couple oz. These are both softer but flavorful, and very simple. The Mac Baren's Navy Flake is another and you have that one already. It's a bit sweeter than the two I mentioned.

    The trick is to find a style you're comfortable with (burleys, aromatics, englishes, etc) and stick with it for awhile and get to know it. Then branch out nice and easy. Then you'll know what the new style is bringing to the party.

    Incidentally, the Silver Flake is one of the finest blends ever created, IMHO. It's not necessarily something I'd recommend to you at this point, but it is high on my list of all-time favorites over the past 30 years.

    Have fun experimenting. :th1: And don't throw away tobacco. Save it for awhile and revisit it. If you ultimately do not care for it, you can trade it at PSF in the trading area.
     
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  16. jdto

    jdto Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions. I am going to try out one of the softer burleys, for sure. I'm not sure if those two places you listed will ship to Canada, but if not, I will try to find a similar blend from 4noggins or cup o joes, who have shipped to me before at a reasonable rate. The good thing is, I can easily jar up what I have and revisit it down the road when I have a better appreciation!
     
  17. dmkerr

    dmkerr PG- free since '83! Moderator

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    Arrgggh! Didn't think of that! :doh:

    Let us know how that works out. There might be something from 4nogs or COJ's that we can recommend.
     
  18. jdto

    jdto Well-Known Member

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    Ok, so looking at those two websites, I've picked a few options that are supposedly more mild and noob-friendly.

    Mac Baren Golden Extra
    Mac Baren Burley London Blend
    Prince Albert
    4noggins Double Fantasy
    4noggins Three Blind Moose
    Peterson Gold Blend
     
  19. FlatbushPaul

    FlatbushPaul Cellar is in an undisclosed Bunker

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    My advice to you is to jar everything you have and get something like MacBaren Golden Extra. Something that will give you a little of each world. It's a burley based tobacco with some sweetness. Smoke that or something like that for awhile until you can start to get a sense of what you are smoking. Learn to pack, sip and get a slow cadence down pat with a simple tobacco and then start to slowly, one at a time, add to your rotation. This will help you start to develop a palate.

    I hope this helps, and Happy Smoking,
    Paul
     
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  20. jdto

    jdto Well-Known Member

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    Alright, I just snagged a 50g pouch of MacB Golden Extra from my B&M ($21 grrrrr...). This evening, I'll do some jarring.
     
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