Pipe Tobacco Reviews

Peterson Irish Oak Review

Kyle Weiss
Around the time I thought I wasn’t going to let go of Latakia before it started to snow again,
I was reminded of a tobacco I had tried and enjoyed a while back but didn’t really get to know. It’s a curious mixture, one put out by Peterson of Dublin (presumably by Orlik) called “Irish Oak.” You might recall about a year ago I did a spread on Peterson’s Balkan Delight, and I was pretty charmed by it. This is when I tried the last little bit of Irish Oak that was laying around the shop as a sample, and it intrigued me to revisit it one day.

Peterson’s various tins of pipe tobacco sometimes get a bad rap for being some of the stickiest, cloyingly-sweet aromatics out there, as well as not being a very “serious” tobacco. There’s a shred of truth to these assumptions, and not all of the tobacco bearing their name is grand-slam good, but hardly a reason for copy-and-paste prejudice. Those willing to explore really should do so. I’d guess roughly 40% of the Peterson tobacco line is squarely non-aromatic. Perfect Plug, Hyde Park, Wild Atlantic, 1865, University Flake, all of these are worthy of those looking into for a more savory (or more smoky) treat. Irish Flake (K&K?), as it so happens, remains one of my favorite up-and-at-’em morning nicotine rushes out there. I’ve been doing my best to open minds and briars to Peterson’s “sleeper” tobaccos that oft get overlooked.

Irish Oak comes in a round tin with an olive green label, sharing not much more than the name and, “A rich blend of Brazilin and African Virginia leaf with Cavendish and rare Louisiana Perique.” Naturally, my first concern was the mention of Cavendish, as I’m not typically a fan. My second concern was for the Perique, which has the tendency to be overwhelming to my senses at times. Popping the tin open reveals a gently mottled mélange of which can only be described as oaky-colored tobacco ribbons, and it smells of light and refreshing fig-grapefruit. Moisture content is about perfect for anyone, those who prefer to it to dry out a tad won’t have to wait long as well as those who prefer a firm-packed and moister leaf.

Packing and lighting Irish Oak is easy. I chose theme here, picking up a Peterson Army 999 and a pre-Republic model 80 which had similar sized tobacco chambers (cobs, which are a thing for me, also did their duty). First lights don’t give off much of a flavor beyond a basic sweet Virginia, but soon thereafter the Perique will tingle the tongue–and not too much, I might add. Cavendish aside, this isn’t at all a sauced or topped aromatic tobacco. After the first quarter of the bowl, this tobacco really comes into its own: not only does the Perique keep the spice volume low, the unsweetened Cavendish lends what it should, a thicker mouth-feel of the smoke. There’s hints of distant sage, a bit of tart apple, and a wheat-like cracker crispness. While this isn’t a completely wild tobacco experience, the flavors being as gentle as they are, none of my puffing was asleep at the wheel. This is a good “companion” smoke, be it an easy day in the yard, a drive, or mindlessly watching a movie. The end of the bowl was perhaps my favorite, as all of the components seem to suddenly all play together and concentrate into a finale–there’s a surprising tarry thickness that emphasizes the varying tart and sweet likeness of the Virginias used, then suddenly, the bowl is ash. Nicotine is moderate and builds up toward the end as well.

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Lately I have been making my own effervescent concoctions of homemade seltzer water with plenty of ice and generous shakes of various herbal bitters I have on hand, and these were quite the pairing. If that isn’t your cup of bubbly, I might suggest ginger ale with a shot of good rye (I used Rittenhouse) or a Crabbie’s Ginger Beer.

My only complaints about Peterson Irish Oak is it seems to burn relatively fast even if smoking slowly, but not hot, mind you. Either that or I was lost in the various moments. I could have used a little more punch in the flavor department, but I learned to enjoy the mellowness rather than any up-front attitude I might be used to in other tobaccos. I firmly believe if you want a tobacco you can smoke all day, or if you’re a newbie that wants an intriguing way to step away from aromatics, this mixture might be for you. The clean ease of Irish Oak makes up for any criticism I could give to it. This one won’t knock your socks off, but it’s worth picking up a tin and giving a shot.

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      warren
    • August 4, 2017
    A particular favorite of mine. My worn out palate doesn't do justice to the blend. Your review does.
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      Cortez
    • August 4, 2017
    Thanks for putting this blend in the spotlight with your well-written and attractively illustrated review. Based on tin descriptions, not all Peterson blends are for me; but those that I tried have never failed to satisfy. This one is going in the next shopping cart for sure..
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      kyleweiss
    • August 4, 2017
    Warren: Humbled, thank you. This wasn't an easy review to write. Sometimes I suppose we all pick something up, smoke it, and...just keep smoking it. I didn't think too much of why I liked it, so I had to concentrate. This is one of those blends that you're just in the zen of it all, not really thinking about anything. That pleasurable disconnect is rather satisfying by itself.
    Cortez: Again, thank you. Peterson has blends all over the place, as you well know. If you're a Balkan/English guy, check out Peterson Balkan Delight if you have not already. In the spirit of Irish Oak, it is mellow enough to fire it up and forget about it and flavorful enough to keep you going back.
    Cheers, fellas. :)
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      oldmansmoking
    • August 4, 2017
    Thank you for the review, not tried that Peterson blend but heard about it. I liked the Peterson xmas blends and love the Irish Flake.
    A lot of other Peterson blends I don't.
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      Cortez
    • August 4, 2017
    Kyle said: "I didn’t think too much of why I liked it, so I had to concentrate."
    .
    This is exactly why writing a review is so taxing. First you have to parse-out all the flavors, then you need to find the vocabulary to express your impressions and communicate the experience to the reader. I think it was a sports columnist who once quipped: Writing is easy, you just sit at the typewriter and open a vein! :)
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      deniz
    • August 5, 2017
    a pleasant read! I was hestitating if this isn't too mild for me, but guess I can give it a go, your review made me hungry for that tobaco. ;-)
    Well written, thank you!
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      btwes7
    • August 5, 2017
    Just picked up a tin of this last week at a B&M and am looking forward to trying it. This review came at a nice time.
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      winton
    • August 5, 2017
    When I saw the title, I decided I needed to return to this blend, before reading the review. I went to the garage last night and started smoking. I was finally starting to smoke really slow, to enjoy the flavor. I have problems smoking too fast / hot. I tried to pick out what I was tasting, including. . .
    Wife: "Our daughter is having trouble breathing! Do we need to go to the ER?"
    Everything OK now. I need to return to this blend again. Great review!
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      kyleweiss
    • August 6, 2017
    Thank you gents!
    Cortez: In a sense. Writing comes easy to me. Explaining why I taste and what I do with tobacco, that's the challenge.
    Winton: Hope everything is okay...? Best pipe advice I know: Keep it simple, go slow, and if you're enjoying yourself without ruining your pipe, you're doing it right. :)
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      dottiewarden
    • August 11, 2017
    Curiously, I just decided to give this blend a revisit after a few years and was pleased to see your timely review. I like it better the second time around. This blend still tends to dry out my throat a bit while smoking but it is smooth, smooth, smooth. IO is my current daily driver smoked in a standard Missouri Meerschaum cob. No regrets here!
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      isbjorn
    • August 12, 2017
    Thank you for the review. Added to the hunt list. But additionally, I'm intrigued to hear more about the "effervescent concoctions of homemade seltzer water with [. . .] generous shakes of various herbal bitters." Do you have a recipe or more detail? Sounds like a good addition the porch supplies.
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      kyleweiss
    • August 17, 2017
    dottiewarden: Cobs smoke the stuff just as nicely--glad you're into it.
    Isbjorn: I'll give a little more background on that. I was trawling through the junk stores as I'm wont to do, and I found a 1940s Kidde seltzer bottle, complete with the carbon charge apparatus for $10. Kidde as a brand, as you might recall, also made fire extinguishers. If you've ever used a classic seltzer bottle, they would likely be pretty effective putting out fires as well. There's a reason why they were used fro slapstick comedic acts--they do, no joke, shoot fun streams of water to piss of your family and friends to your delight.
    What does this have to do with the actual purpose of making homemade seltzers? I had to test out the vintage bottle, and with a few CO2 charge canisters and a few rigged rubber gaskets and "o" rings, I got it working. A more mature use for such devices was making actual drinks with it.
    You do not need special equipment. Sure, there are expensive and not-so-expensive units you can put bottled or tap water into and make bubbly club soda, aka seltzer water. If you want to try, check out Amazon.com. There's even replicas of the older "charged" bottles out there that are probably more reliable, but look less cool. Or go ultra-simple and just buy a six-pack of club soda.
    Bitters are something I started adding to my mixed drinks, alcoholic and non, for years. I can't stand regular pop/soda--it's too damned sweet. Sometimes club soda is too damned boring. So, bitters it was. Bitters are a liquor-tea of herbs, essences and aromatics. They are not essential oils, so don't use those. I started with classic Angostura bitters, then went from there. Liquor stores, grocery stores, home brewery stores all should carry a variety. If not, there's always online stores. Buy aromatic or "infused" fruit bitters (like orange/lemon). You can even make your own if you have an herb garden and some Everclear.
    Recipes? Sky is the limit. My favorite thing to do is fill a pint glass with ice, then seltzer, then splash four heavy shakes of Angostura and one Bar Keep brand Vanilla. Another I like is ice, seltzer and a splash of orange and lavender bitters. These are my own guidelines, it's actually more fun to find your own mixtures and experiment. It's a relatively cheap hobby, provided you don't start adding whiskey or gin to the party. Which is also fun.
    Cheers!
    Kyle
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      skaaphaas
    • September 7, 2017
    I bought a tin of this today based on the review. My first taste of non-aromatic.
    I find the taste fairly delicate but the tobacco itself strong enough.
    In fact on my second bowl now. It smokes very easily compared to the stuff I'm used to, and the smell is quite a bit "fresher", if I can call if that.
    Thank you for the review!
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      skeauxsha
    • September 26, 2017
    Well Mr. Weiss, based on your review I'm interested in this blend. One tin in the cart on my next order. Every pipe save one (Bjarne Viking Church Warden) is Peterson made. Have not yet tried any of the tobacco's.
    Game on.
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