St. James Flake

Discussion in 'Pipe Tobacco' started by Falconeer, Mar 1, 2010.

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  1. Falconeer

    Falconeer Active Member

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    Hi All,

    To be honest, Gawith's St James Flake, hasn't been the easiest of tobaccos for me to come to grips with. I didn't actually start out to buy it last year but Rich was out of Squadron Leader and after reading through his inventory I thought I'd give it a go and ordered a pound to try.

    I'm well used to smoking moist British Flakes - in fact most of my smoking experience has been based round them, but when I opened the pack this was something else. This tobacco wasn't just moist, it was soaking. On the positive side it had a lovely rich aroma somewhere between molasses and fresh hay - in fact it was this "nose" that persuaded me to press on with it rather than just junk it or give it away.

    I dried and dried and better dried this tobacco, testing it at each stage and still gumming up both a meer and a cob each time I lit up - the only pipe I could get it to smoke in was a Falcon.

    At one stage I began to believe this flake had been doctored with humectants and would never dry but experiment and trial and error I discovered that at a certain stage of drying it would develop a leathery texture and the next day it would then smoke normally.

    At this stage I found it smoked pleasantly enough, could be persuaded to burn all the way down, was a cool enough smoke and was satisfying. The Perique content wasn't overdone and the tobacco gave me no hint of tongue bite - and I am sensitive to Perique. The room note was not excessive. In taste the tobacco resembled the old Empire Blend St. Bruno Flake i.e. a moderately sharp straight Virginia taste but more muted than the regular St. Bruno. The taste content became stronger if it were DGT'd.

    At the end of the day, I can only describe it as an ordinary run-of-the-mill Virginia/Perique mix - it simply didn't stand out at all. Would I buy it again, and labour through all the preparation? No, not when St Bruno and its copies are so readily available - and can be smoked straight out of the pack,

    Gerry
     
  2. justMike

    justMike Member

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    I dearly wish I'd found this post earlier...

    It's only now, when I've just enough for one last bowl of this flake that I've finally figured out how to get it to behave.. the warning signs were there when I opened the tin; I shoulda paid attention, but ever the optomist, I figured it's just tobacco, how hard could it be??

    Cracking the tin coincided with reading Mr Moo's excellent post re how flakes should be handled, and I duely followed the lessons to the letter. 2 flakes were folded over each other, prepped as instructed (ignoring the drips of moisture) and stuffed into the bowl... or at least I should say stuffing was attempted; I gave up trying to compact when I realised that when there was still as much tobacco outside the bowl as was inside and the draw was such that I'd need a vacuum pump to assist... this was never gonna work... Lesson learned; my Pete's had capacity for just the 1 flake.. Try again...

    I tried fold n stuff, I tried roll n stuff, I tried cannon-ball... it made no difference; each sheet of wet leather took an age to kindle, fizzing n spitting with every draw while it produced enough condensate to flood damn near half the bowl... Back to Moo's instructions... Drying huh..?? I experemented with various times with flakes laid out on a sheet of kitchen paper, an hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, a day.... Kindling is easier using the crumbs from the bottom of the tin huh...?? It was while grubbing in the tin's corners that I found my first shock with this stuff... How much moisture does a flake need to have to corrode the inside of the tin? I donno, but this stuff certainly has it... By this time I'd fizzed n spat my way through near half the tin, continually drowning the bottom portion of the bowl. I figured I'd use it in conjunction with my wee Dunhill; teach myself to slowwwwwwwwwwwwww downnnnnnnnnnnn.... A week of ending each day with a flake rubbed out into the Dunhill made no difference; the only experience gained was that the aluminium stinger was a royal PITA, but when fore-armed with a pipecleaner (read "swab") I could keep the gurgling to a minimum (the cleaner invariably looked like a drowned rat by the end of the bowl) but at least I was getting the drowned portion in the bowl down to just 10%...

    Eventually I gave in, loaded the Pete Meershaum 316 thinking if this can't beat the gurgles, nothing can. The change in pipe certainly made a difference; the smoke went start to finish on a single light (with infrequent tamping), burrning to gray ash with minimal dottle, but any pleasure from the experience was sadly lacking... The sump was certainly working for its living, but the gurgling was finally under control.

    After over a month of fighting with this tin, the contents are just about dry enough to look wet (rather than saturated), the last attempt at fold and stuff produced the fracturing at the fold that Mr Moo's instructions mentioned, the bowl smoked to the bottom without much fuss (2 re-lights cos I was reading), but still, the taste remained singularly unspectacular...

    I've no reason to doubt that SG has a fine stable of varieties, but I'm sorry, I can't say this is one of them...
     
  3. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator Moderator

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    I love this flake after it hangs out for a year or three. If you find it unspectacular, jar it, date it and revisit in 12-24 months.
     
  4. justMike

    justMike Member

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    St James the Cinderella flake..? it's an interesting concept... Jarring is certainly within my means, although laying down a store will need to wait until my accomidation has more permanence. Having seen for myself (having been initially sceptical) how a small amount of time can have a large effect on a blend, I'll definately put that on the "to do" list..
     
  5. Falconeer

    Falconeer Active Member

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    Hi All,

    Very interesting reply and I'm glad to see it wasn't just me! I had a pound of the stuff to work through; you found the tin had rusted - the carboard box the bulk came in was wet and sticky by the time I opened it.

    But you know something, as Dylan wrote and Baez sang, "Maybe it's the weather or something like that, but Daddy you been on my mind," or maybe it's just because I'm a thrawn Scotsman...but I've the notion to revisit the stuff!!!

    As I said revisiting the "Failure Box" can be interesting,

    Best to all

    Gerry
     
  6. justMike

    justMike Member

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    I reckon Mr Moo might be onto something with allowing the blend to mature some Gerry... who knows, a year or three in the airing cupboard with the tin cracked open just might be enough to reduce it to merely damp...?? ;) To be fair, frustrating tho its been, it hasn't yet caused a repitition of my Condor moment.... if n when I get the time (maybe later today) I'll blog about that.... give a chuckle at my expense if nothing else...
     
  7. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator Moderator

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    Tastes vary but perhaps this flake may shine more brightly if aged a bit and smoked on the dry-ish side of moist. I would also agree that fresh it is unspectacular.
     
  8. t-bear

    t-bear Well-Known Member

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    I received 4 oz of this from a friend a while back...not sure the age. What I got was leather dry, so it evidently had some age on it. I found it to be a nice light Va/Per, even tempered and a comfortable smoke that needed little attention. Sounds like you just need to set it aside for a while folks...I like it.
     
  9. Falconeer

    Falconeer Active Member

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    Hi All,

    Yes it's funny how notions strike you again...could yet see myself getting some more and trying the ageing trick with it just to see how it comes out. In all fairness to it, I'll actually probably have to.

    BTW the way I finally got it to smoke was a combination of extended drying and Sas's Cannonball Method. By the time I discovered that I'd worked my way through most of it and was feeling pretty hacked off with the stuff. Oddly enough too, one winter's morning when Rho and I were out walking in the park, I loaded a brand new Diplomat with it and she commented that it had a really nice smell...

    Best to all

    Gerry
     
  10. Mister Moo

    Mister Moo Normal Cow Moderator Moderator

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    Yeah. That.
     
  11. Puff The Magic

    Puff The Magic Active Member

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    Ok, now yer gonna make me opun my SJF tin and see for myself ain'tchya???

    Let the 'baccy have some air-time and it's "golden"! Nearly all of the SG & GH blends/flakes really need this air-time IMO. 2 weeks. Just smokes and tastes way better than fresh opened or even first 48hrs of open.


    :velho:
    Ed Puff!
    cogito ergo puff
     
  12. justMike

    justMike Member

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    k, as resident FNG on this thread I reckon I can get away with asking a blonde question...

    letting it breathe... Mr Moo earlier recommended repackaging into air-tight jars and set aside for significant time to mature. I can see how the extra volume of air in the jar would enable an exchange of moisture into it, but from there, it has nowhere to go; once the flake and air in the jar reach equilibrium, how does it dry?

    I'm assuming (in my genuine ignorance) that there's an alternative using little more than the original tins, but to what extent do you allow the flake to "breathe"? Lid cracked? lid off alltogether? contents dispersed to drying media? (bear with me, I'm just guessing here). Mr Moo's stickied thread sold me that there's definate mileage in flakes worth checking out; nobody can write like that without really believing in what they're saying. Yet still, my admittedly tiny amount of personal experience with flakes (Condor, St Bruno and now SJF) had the same difficulties throughout, namely loading, and trying to persuade a significantly moist flake to burn evenly and impart pleasure in its propogation...

    Any of you FOG's care to do a "drying 101" post?
     
  13. Falconeer

    Falconeer Active Member

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    Hi All,

    I must admit as an aged Brit, brought up in the belief that dry tobacco gives you tongue bite I never dried tobacco at all, I smoked moist British Flakes straight out of the pack or tin and simply rubbed them out and packed my pipe lightly with them and never ever encountered a problem until that pound of St James.

    I didn't just find it moist I found it sticky and even if I left it out on a plate for a day in the winter in our centrally heated flat it still did not and would not dry. I could get it to smoke of course but even in a Falcon I'd to take off the bowl and mop out the humidome two or three times per bowlfull. I do wonder if it is always like that, or if I simply got a duff pound.

    As I say I may have to revisit it....

    Gerry
     
  14. t-bear

    t-bear Well-Known Member

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    Mike...

    We're talking two things here...drying and storing. Many of us like to build a "reserve" of tobacco...the Cellar. I have numerous pounds of tobacco stored in jars, tightly sealed and kept in a cool environment. Two reasons...first is to have enough tobacco to last a while, "in case". The other is to "age" certain blends. Virginias and Va/Pers especially will meld and change over time.

    As for drying, this is more short-term. Some tobaccos, like the one here, will come to you with an excess of moisture when fresh. Flakes especially are best smoked when quite dry....*almost* brittle.
    Tinned tobaccos are best left in the tin until you're ready to smoke, then dried (left to breathe) to the proper moisture level. As you've noticed in this thread, that can take anywhere from a couple hours to days. I tend to lay mine out on a paper towel, keeping an eye on it until it reaches the level that works best for me and the tobacco. Then I'll store it in a small canning jar to hold that moisture level while I work through the blend. As always, the amount of humidity varies from blend to blend.

    We're always experimenting and comparing notes...half the fun of this crazy hobby.
     
  15. justMike

    justMike Member

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    enlightenment happens...

    T-bear, that makes perfect sense... I'm in your debt Sir...
     
  16. slr

    slr Member

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    The pound of Best Brown Flake I just got came sopping moist as well. I'm just going to jar it up and smoke another day.
     
  17. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Sales Account

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    I'm honestly none too fond of Gawith's flake prep. Some of their tobaccos are delicious, but the flakes are just cut so sloppily and arrive wet and in big unuseable bacon-y strips.... it's just too much effort. Combining that with the supply issues on this side of the pond, and I'm looking at other brands more and more. Even McClelland's stupid rubbery flakes are easier to combust, and certainly easier to find.

    Which brings me to my real point (that was a sort of aside for the cynics in the crowd), which is to question how McC St James Woods compares to Gawith St James Flake?
     
  18. t-bear

    t-bear Well-Known Member

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    Much prefer the McC's version! Much smoother and with more of the Perique "spice" that I like. That and the fact that it's more easily available, make it the better blend for me.
     
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