Crowd-Sourcing Reviews
    July 20th, 2015

E. Roberts
You asked for them, and here they are.
Back in April I asked you, our loyal PipesMagazine.com readers, what tobaccos you’d like to see reviewed. While I intended it to be followed in a most timely manner the next month, there were a few blends I’d had on backlog that got in the way of the schedule. Sometimes it takes a while to get a handle on a blend, a process that can stretch for several days or even weeks—and the best blends, of course, we can spend a lifetime teasing apart, a most delicious riddle for us pipe enthusiasts. So, without much further ado, the labor of many, many pipefuls of tobacco, I finally offer you an opinion on some reader selections.

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Oops, They Did It Again
    July 6th, 2015

E. Roberts
Back in August of last year, we took a look at Cornell & Diehl’s Cellar Series project
—blends specifically designed for the hobbyist with aging in mind. [The Joy of Smokes] Perique was and is the driving force for the flavor profiles of the blends, as this condimental tobacco’s propensity to soften and season the mix are well-known and, if not predictable, surely amenable. Virginias of course provide the backbone, with high sugar content giving them the longevity and structure. Then come the supporting players of burley, Oriental and Cavendish, fine-tuning the chorus. The first three entries, Joie de Vivre, Oak Alley, and Chenet’s Cake, were standouts to be sure. The two newest follow-ups, Old Grove and Bourbon Bleu, carry on the high standard of innovation and skillful blending we expect from C&D splendidly.

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The Emperor’s New Clothes
    June 11th, 2015

E. Roberts
Leave it to the dry Irish wit of the folks at Sallynoggin to turn a parable on its ear.
While the Hans Christian Andersen classic is a cautionary tale, warning us to not be fleeced by appearances (or the lack thereof), Pete’s new perennial tobaccos offer us a glimpse behind the curtain to peer at the most understated of aromatics. Many pipe smokers fall into step with a mild snobbishness regarding aromatics, thinking them all cloying, nectarous disguises for cheap tobacco. Peterson’s first two seasonal tins for 2015 are every bit the opposite of that assessment. They’re the most stripped-down aromatics I’ve ever smoked, and for all their mildness are rich with flavor, using their gossamer-thin seasonings to merely accentuate the qualities already present in the constituent leaf sourced from Africa and Brazil. This is not to disparage heavily-cased aromatics, of course. I’ve gone on record extolling the virtues of a thoroughly seasoned smoke many times, from many blenders, and particularly Peterson.

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E. Roberts
Hungry-Man dinners, really?
I couldn’t believe it—or rather, I could believe it, all too easily on second thought. The celebrity host of a popular fashion-themed show frequents the same supermarket as a colleague, who sees him in there a couple times a week stocking up on the packaged meals. On the one hand, it was contradictory—here was a fashionista of the first order, someone who probably spent more on a tie than I do on an entire suit, the spokesperson for a lifestyle that demanded egregiously expensive self-branding in order to be de rigueur; a scion of taste, a taste-maker, in fact. On the other, I could easily understand that the guy’s professional schedule likely dwarfed mine by the same margin as his ties in terms of being hectic. Perhaps his lunches were all of the power variety, spent at the city’s finest five-stars, and when he was finally home from a long day all he wanted was a sodium-laden box of comfort food. I get it, I really do, and this confirms to me the value of not being a snob when it comes to taste—that even if it’s demanded in one’s professional life, it needn’t be in one’s personal life.

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The Art of Deception
    May 11th, 2015

E. Roberts
2015 shall be known henceforth as The Year of the VaPer.
There are a slew of instant classics already out or coming down the pike this year—Russ Ouellette’s Firestorm, for example. Hot on the heels of the recently reviewed Wayfarer comes another stellar example of the style: The Seattle Pipe Club’s Deception Pass, a VaPer with a hint of O. If you smoke a pipe (and don’t live under a rock) then there’s a good chance you’re already aware of the Seattle Pipe Club’s other blends available—namely, Plum Pudding, Seattle Evening, and Mississippi River—all of which have a well-deserved reputation as standout Latakia mixes. The previous three blends were released back in 2008, and have garnered a legion of fans since then. Concocted by the SPC’s own Joe Lankford, these earlier blends are a showcase for Latakia’s flexibility and dynamism, offering three very different experiences within the genre. Plum Pudding, particularly, has developed an almost cult following; I’ll readily admit to being a fan of its unique take on an English / Balkan.

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Hey Buddy …Whatcha Smokin’?
    April 24th, 2015

E. Roberts
The smoke from my pipe was drifting over to the next table where a couple sat,
smoking cigarettes and chatting over drinks in the backyard garden of a local watering hole in Brooklyn. We were there to enjoy the first glimpses of spring and sunlight, I with my notebook and pipes in hand to fill out my tasting notes, he and his girlfriend with their beer. "That almost smells like a cigar, only spicier," he continued, and explained that he smoked cigars but had never tried a pipe, though they intrigued him. I explained to him that it was a Virginia / Perique mixture that was custom blended by my friend at Nat Sherman; at that point the well-dressed couple was more than politely intrigued as we went on to chat about all things tobacco for the next several rounds. I had fortuitously brought along an unsmoked Missouri Meerschaum, and was able to gift them their first pipe experience—she enjoyed the occasional cigar with him, she said, and was as eager to try it as he was—which made for one of those chance meetings that new friendships are made of, and possibly new pipe smokers.

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Three For The Road
    April 3rd, 2015

E. Roberts
It’s the midst of the spring thaw in the northeast, veering between warmish sunny days and snow flurries, and it has my palate thoroughly addled.
It’s as though the barometer has been drinking, to paraphrase Tom Waits, and the thermometer has been bartending. Even blends that I’m intimately familiar with just aren’t hitting their expected stride, at least not for two days in a row. Fortunately, tobacco can be quite forgiving when switching up the rotation. Unlike opening a bottle of champagne, for example, which must be enjoyed in its entirety immediately, opening a tin of tobacco gives you plenty of time to savor it. It can last a few days, weeks, or even months easily—longer if transferred to a sealed jar. With such a wide variety of Sutliff Private Stock concoctions in the cellar to choose from, it’s also startlingly economical to play the field with different blends, so this month we’ll take a brief look at the three tins I’ve been juggling while the weather sorts itself out: Sunrise Smoke, Taste of Autumn, and Archduke Ferdinand.

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A Number One Virginia
    March 19th, 2015

E. Roberts
Just a little while longer. Nineteen days, two hours, fifty-six minutes and a handful of seconds, to be exact. A little under three weeks, if all goes well, until we’re home free. We’re almost there … must … hold out … for … spring. In the meantime, I’m fortunate to have a tin of Mac Baren Virginia No.1 on hand to see me through to the end of the current ice age.

Perhaps I am overeager in my anticipation of the change of season; snow in March tends to have that effect on me. Virginia No.1 fuels that anticipation with its aroma promising long days, short nights, and all the smells and tastes of a hot, dry summer. This classic blend from Mac Baren’s venerable stable has been a mainstay of their lineup since its introduction in 1957, and one taste is all it takes to confirm the reason for its enduring relevance.

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One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer
    February 10th, 2015

E. Roberts
If you’re a regular reader of the Guardian, you’ll recall that they recently took issue with writers’ propensity to repeat themselves. To anyone who counts bibliophilia amongst their hobbies, this was a laughably obvious notion that did little to support the author’s dismissal of John Irving. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said when he most eloquently let this cat out of the bag back in the Jazz Age,

"Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves—that’s the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives—experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before."

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E. Roberts
The Kaywoodie Christmas Dinner and Northeast Regional Slow Smoke Championship was the highlight of my holidays this year. There aren’t enough pipe parties these days, and this combination pipe show-swap-sale, gabfest, dinner, and competitive event is the perfect mid-winter reunion for old pipe buddies and new. Since I was unable to attend the Chicago show or any others this year due to a hectic schedule, Kaywoodie was the one place I’d be seeing many of these folks in 2014. Amid all the stress and obligation of the holidays, this was sure to be the anodyne I needed.

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