Last time I checked, Skiff Mixture by Samuel Gawith wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. Well, besides being among those more recently a tad difficult to purchase in the US. I’ve spent time with this tobacco when I first started smoking, and since then I’ve kept the occasional tin handy. I was never really wowed by Skiff Mixture nor did I have any reason to avoid it. Most of the time I spent time with it early on I was being yanked and ushered in 900 directions by well-meaning guys who wanted to guide me to their version of smoking paradise. By the time I figured out what I liked to smoke and what I did not, something like Skiff Mixture was lost in both scope and value. The reason was for none other than the noise generated by everyone and everything else, reasonable and not.
My smoking today has taken an admittedly different turn. Long gone are the days I can work by own schedule and leisure. I am a man of sad corporate cloth to survive, and not only time but attitude has changed. Skiff Mixture is a relatable product at this point. Like myself, overlooked and under-appreciated, not there to wow or cause panic. In less a dramatic notion, it comes to mind I simply needed a tobacco in a pinch. Something readily available that doesn’t need poetry written about it but won’t make me a badass for smoking a huge bowl and barfing. A tobacco that tasted good, and ultimately satisfied my need to chill when the appropriate setting and time allowed.
Skiff Mixture in the tin is an evenly calico, thicker ribbon-cut English pipe tobacco. It smells of present but not overpowering smoky Latakia, earthy dried apricots, and a little fig. This tobacco gets rich in flavor and mellow with age, and newer stuff can be a bit pith-like and grassy.
Loading up a bowl is easy enough, although letting the tobacco dry out a little is a good idea. Packing wisely, I choose to have a more restricted draw as to prevent overheating problems.
The first puffs nearly every time remind me why I affectionately called Skiff Mixture “Squadron Leader Light.” They’re about in the same realm as far as strength, but Skiff tends to be a tad spicier and has about half the Latakia its aeronautical brother brings to the table. Skiff is thinner on the mouth-feel and the flavors less meaty.
Mid bowl is where the Latakia takes a little nap and lets the Virginia smolder sweetly and what I’d guess is an Oriental to make the tongue tingle. Depending on the pipe, either the bowl will stay lit perfectly to the bottom or you’ll have a hell of a time relighting it. Either scenario can lead to a good path. If the pipe wants to sit and not smoke, let it. Go make a drink then pick it up again. You’ll get a buttery, rich and woodsy treat. If it wants to go all the way to the end, let it smolder. The Latakia starts to perk up again and more cranberry-leather attitude. Truth be told, all tobacco could use a little “hands off” go-with-the-flow. That’s fine by me: babysitting my smoke is not what I need at times.
I love the end of bowls of Skiff Mixture. It’s full, capturing the mild fruit and smoked attitude of the Latakia, and the spiced edge disappears completely. Skiff isn’t an ass-kicker, but it has some qualities that really make it understated. One of which is the comparison to how it starts with how it ends—one promises, the other delivers. Maybe it got distracted midway through, but the off-track journey was a good change. I can certainly relate.
Half of the tin pictured was also smoked with the pipe pictured: a Todd Harris morta. Morta wood I’ve called the cast iron of pipe materials: it’s tough but needs care, it’s dark, historic and attractive, and holds heat like no other. Skiff tends to smoke a little warm, and I don’t know why. Cobs are effortless (no surprise there) and smaller briars were fine. Gargantuan chunks of briar or morta should be smoked slowly. Red wine and coffee (no, not mixed) pair sumptuously. Nicotine is mild to moderate. Those sitting right next to you might find Skiff Mixture a little pungent to the senses, but neighbors won’t likely notice too much.
I have tobaccos I reach for more than others, humans tend to be creatures of habit. We also tend to be beings of whimsy. Pipe smoking is both the routine and the adventure, and if you only have a moment to enjoy it, just be sure to do just that. Skiff Mixture reminded me amid the chaos is order, amongst the schedules and stress there’s always time. Take the time, and make it yours.