Saturday, October 31, 2009

Another Evening with the Frog

I don't know that I have a favorite tobacco. I guess I just like them all so much that it's hard to make a definite choice. I bought a small container of Frog Morton tobacco not a week ago. I have been smoking mostly bulk tobaccos for most of my pipe smoking life. I have enjoyed bulk tobaccos a great deal and have often thought that trying anything else could be quite dangerous as I could then be committed to spending more money on an already expensive habit. Yet, so much about this tobacco called to me that I could not resist it any longer.

Things that drew me to this tobacco:

1) The Picture - I don't imagine that this is really the top draw, but I am confident enough in my superficiality that I can say that I just love the picture of this well dressed Frog having a pipe on a log and enjoying his little bit of latakia and cavendish.

2) The Reviews - The reviews that I have read and seen have all lead me to believe that a great number of people want to say something negative about this tobacco, but can't seem to find the words. The rest of the reviewers seem to enjoy it greatly and want to keep it around.

3) Room Note - I always smoke outside (I have not yet been able to win the battle for tobacco indoors) so room note means very little to me. What does mean something to me is getting kicked out of my bed for smelling too strongly of nice English blends. My wife has no taste, but I love her no less for that fact. Besides, it would be worse if she liked it, I don't think we could afford two pipe smokers in our household. The usual English bulk blends I smoke are half latakia. There's quite a kick there for the non-smoker to smell!

4) LOTR association - I am hopelessly in love with the world of Hobbits, Wizards and Pipes. So anyone willing to allude to Tolkien's work at least has my attention.

So, after all of the hype, what did I think. I gotta tell you, I don't believe a person can be truly objective, less so a pipe smoker concerning tobaccos. I know that if I put my mind to it I can enjoy anything from Captain Black to Prince Albert to Aromatics to get the idea. (I have to add the brief caveat that I really have never been able to enjoy cherry blends...cough syrupy. Ugh! But this proves my point more than anything. I try new cherry blends already scowling...not objective at all!) So I decided I liked this tobacco a week and a half before I smoked it when I was hearing it described. (The back of the can is great as well. It is written for someone like me...someone who wants to be drawn into their little world and pretend that a frog really spent four years putting together this perfect blend of tobacco for my enjoyment).

And can you imagine that I really like it? I do! The Latakia is nice and the blend is superb. I love the casing on the cavendish (my local tobacco source swears it to be vanilla...ok) The whole thing is rather nice. It is a nice slow smoke ( a 1.5 hr bowl tonight while reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) though I do have more relights than average on this one...especially near the end of the bowl. I can't decide what it is that sets this blend apart from the bulk tobaccos I usually smoke, beyond the obvious difference in the amount of latakia and presence of some aromatics. It just feels like there is an extra touch of care in it. I can't figure out how, why, or when, but I feel like that goofy little frog actually put some good time and heartfelt effort into blending this tobacco and I'm glad to benefit from it!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Unlocking the Mystery of the Savannah

The people at Tobacco Trader are giving away free samples of this tobacco (very generously sized) with the designs of drawing a wider consumer base from the interwebs. They even pay for shipping in these free samples, which is yet more amazing. I have smoked about three bowls of this tobacco at this point and have to say it leaves me mystified. It is like passing through a beautiful dream. The mix of cavendishes and "condimental tobaccos" has a delicate taste and flavor that is smooth and mild. It really is as easy on the palate as advertised. It smokes pretty cool but the nature of it's delicate beauty seems to require some discipline to really draw out. Each puff brings the hint of a flavor just beyond perception.
It is clearly a rich, tasty tobacco, and it cries out for more investigation. It whets the appetite for the flavor that it keeps hinting at. The danger is to try to dive in after it. If you are in a hurry this is probably not the aromatic for you. It doesn't hit you over the head with it's beauty, but continues to lead you around by the nose. Smoking this tobacco seems to beg you to force the flavor out, but just as you cannot force the petals of an early spring flower, so you cannot force this tobacco to reveal it's secrets to you. Smoke it slow and cool and the intrigue of the relationship can last for the whole bowl. Now here, and now gone. This tobacco is a titillating sensual experience that I will be forced to repeat once the sample they sent me is exhausted. It is the kind of tobacco that is difficult to smoke in good company because the tobacco itself offers so much that you feel like any draw that you weren't paying attention to was the draw that would unfold a bit more of the mystery.
A tobacco to break a man's heart, smoke with care.

You can find this tobacco (and the free sample offer) at

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Latakia - the Tobacco Version of Salt!

I tried my first Latakia not too long ago. It was good. Too good. Latakia is to blame for a full revival in my pipe smoking habit. Latakia is to blame for my wife deciding that she doesn't like the smell of pipe smoke as much as she thought she did. Latakia is to blame for my sudden shifting of funds so that I can try more Latakia blends. Latakia is lovely. The man who owns the tobacco shop that I smoke at (and buy from) suggested that for Latakia lovers pipe tobacco without Latakia is like food without salt. I see it. I still love my aromatic and natural blends. I even love the velvety taste of chocolate creme casing on a nice cavendish tobacco. But all cheers go to latakia. It's got a real taste to it that makes one think, "WOW! This is what tobacco is supposed to taste like! It's the REAL thing that I have been looking for!"
Another fine thing about Latakia is the staying power. If I have a pipe of Latakia earlier in the day I find myself tasting Latakia throughout the day. Not the ashy, nasty aftertaste of cheep tobaccos, but the hints of the same beautiful taste it gave me when I was smoking it. It calls me back. Draws me in. It is resurrected by a sip of black to and the haunting memory is enough to draw me out into the cold for another sip. Latakia is deep and rich enough for me to not even be able to hold a conversation while I am smoking it. It as I draw its flavor through the bit of my pipe it draws me into the present moment. The future becomes distant and worthless and the past a dream. The reality being consumed into one of God's fine gifts - Latakia.

Monday, October 26, 2009

And the Chocolate has it...

It seems like all of the snobby smokers smoke English Tobacco. I can understand why. It is so exciting and tasteful. The reality is that aromatics taste like what they are supposed to taste like (if you are lucky) and don't have a whole bunch else to boast of. Often times they employ good virginias and burleys but more often they do not. The aromatic smoker enjoys the sweetness and the flavor of his smoke. The taste of vanilla without the ice cream is attractive.
I really have enjoyed the English tobaccos that I have been able to try (some latakia's and far fewer periques). I love Frog Morton and really enjoy Special Balkan and Halverstein Trail from Edwards Pipe and Tobacco. But sometimes I just want to taste something sweet. The risk for today? Chocolate!
I am not a Choco-holic, and sweets aren't on my long list of vices. However, I heard a review of a chocolate tobacco and thought that the idea sounded intriguing. The idea of a nice pleasant chocolate taste that doesn't overpower was pretty enticing. So on my next trip to Edwards I picked up a can of Frog and a nice "Coco Creme" house tobacco. It was nice.
The first bowl made me wonder. The first few puffs yielded very little, and the bag aroma was more of a hint than a real chocolate smell. I was about half way through the bowl before anything really "happened". Just as I had resigned myself to having had bought a nice mild cavendish blend (not altogether disappointing) the topping kicked in. It was a beautiful moment when all of the sudden I felt as if I had been subtly bathed in chocolate from the inside out. Through my nose and down the front of my shirt the chocolate aroma and taste coursed through me. For the remainder of the evening I had a wonderful lingering taste of Coco in my mouth that went very well with a nice cup of peppermint tea!
The second bowl today was spread out over a couple of smoking sessions (smoke, work, smoke, work, etc.) and kept my day bathed in a sweet, not overpowering dark chocolate scent and taste. I would hate to oversell something that is simply what it is. But this is it. It doesn't have the complexity and character of a half a dozen different tobaccos in it, but it has chocolate flavor. I'm thankful that I'm getting to the point where I can appreciate a bit of flippancy for what it is.
So much of my pipe smoking life has been a sham. I went after the more "manly" looking tobaccos at the expense of the more feminine flavors. Only to find out (rather recently) that my "manly" tobaccos were mellow, light burleys with little to challenge and that no "butch" smoker would be interested in. Now that I see a bit clearer and am enjoying some more variety I have found that I can also open myself up to experience of some of the other things I was wrongly condescending about. Another bowl of Coco? Oh yes, I'm sure there will be several!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Outlet

Greetings! I have been smoking a pipe for ten years now (from the day I turned 18) it has been on again and off again for the most part, but I have never been able to leave it. I enjoy the contemplative aspect. I love the fact that it takes an hour to smoke a bowl of good tobacco. The flavors and the dreams, and the conversations that flow out of time spent over a pipe. I love warm days in the sun smoking a pipe and tasting the mellow Virginias and burleys. I love the cool after after dinner nights when I have to walk to stay warm while I enjoy a nice bowl of a Latakia blend. Aromatics, English, Naturals, anything goes. I have even been known to go after a number of drug store blends and not complain.
Recently my life has turned towards the pipe in a deeper and more meaningful way. After viewing a number of videos on the YouTube machine I have found that there is a whole new world pipe smoking that I had missed. I had always known it was there, but have felt it was inaccessible to the uninitiated. Some of the channels I have benefited most from have been:

There are a number of other great channels. Then I stumbled upon a great pipe blog called The Briar Files and have really appreciated Alan's style as well as his informed view on Pipes and smoking. Alan has a deep and abiding love of Perique which I have little experience with. I'm looking forward to catching up and trying some Perique blends but this will have to be a bit further up the road.
The real revelation coming from this great dearth of information that the internets have provided me has been on the issue of technique. The videos I took in taught me a great deal about tasting the smoke and some keener insights on how to enjoy pipes and pipe tobaccos. Having delved a little deeper I find there is no one in my immediate circle who isn't incredibly sick of hearing me drone on and on about what I am learning regarding these subjects. So an outlet it must be, and that outlet is a little blog hidden in cyber-space where I can post my semi-informed reviews and experiences. Vive la pipe!