Balkan Sobrani-eh....

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daimyo

Preferred Member
May 15, 2014
1,461
1
So half way through my tin of the new BS, I am pleased to say that I feel no need to chase this blend. I was not a smoker of the original so there will be no comparisons made. The tin note is typical of a oriental forward English (not sure is that is the definition of a Balkan or not) but nothing that made me take notice. Honestly if anything it seemed a bit subdued and musty. The ribbon is nice and surprisingly there was some bloom present on the darkest of them (the Latakia?) Moisture content was not excessive and the dry time is minimal, perhaps 30 minutes. This is a thin ribbon so it can be over packed easily. Oriental was usually my first thought as I would lite a bowl and the first fourth seemed to be that same spicy with Lat in the background and no sight of the Virginias. But after that the lat came forward more and I start to taste the sweetness of the VA. It balances out into a fairly creamy smoke and the orientals mellow out almost too much. The last third of the bowl became heavier with the players in a more concerted harmony. Overall a good smoke but not anything outstanding and certainly nothing I would pay a premium for. There was neither anything that grabbed me, nor was the complexity and interplay of flavors impressive enough to warrant being branded as understated. I would much prefer to smoke Pelican which while just as hard to get, seems to live up to its hype a bit more. I am also curious to try White Knight and see if it has something this blend does not. Of course YMMV and I can see the appeal but this one just isn't for me.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
9,720
380
It's pretty whelming. White Knight is very good. That's why I started hoarding it before the rest of you gluttons go after it.
I have rooms full of White Knight! Rooms of it! Ahhhhhhh hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
I feel better now.
Seriously though, the best reason to stock up on SB is so that you can sell it in 10 years to some wildly overpaid palate challenged brand chaser for more money per tin than your family's yearly income.

 

antbauers

Preferred Member
Jul 12, 2013
675
0
Nice write up Dustin. I have a tin of BS that I have yet to try. But I have smoked WhiteKnight and I definetly think you will enjoy it.

 

fnord

Preferred Member
Dec 28, 2011
2,752
0
Topeka, KS
I think Sable's onto something, guys.
The new Balkan Sobranie is tasty but not to such a point that I'd become another Esoterica chaser. (White Knight is pleasant as well.) I'm glad I tried several bowls of both tobaccos but, like Daimyo, I lack the crucial, mythical reference point of smoking the original.
But why chase in the first place when there are tins and bins of the new Lancer's Slices, Star of the East, Stimulus Package, Capt. Earle's Ten Russians, Montford Point Marines, Black House and Magnum Opus readily available?
I spend my working days marrying folks to risk appropriate investments. The best return on investment (ROI) I've seen in tobacco has been Escudo. The past few years those ten buck tins have gained 10% per year. (The new Balkan Sobrainie might beat that mark, but we'll have to wait and see.)
When you're swapping smokes, just mention that you've got a three year old tin of Escudo to toss into the mix and watch the objections/resistance melt away.
Fnord

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
9,720
380
I tried several bowls of both tobaccos but, like Daimyo, I lack the crucial, mythical reference point of smoking the original.
I have smoked the original, back in the 70's, and recently as a generous gift from Shaintiques. White Knight is a pretty good choice.
When it comes to it, there's no shortage of great options, and no reason to lust after any one blend.

 

dmcmtk

Preferred Member
Aug 23, 2013
2,968
110
"I have rooms full of White Knight! Rooms of it! Ahhhhhhh hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!"
Now I know why White Knight is out of stock!!!

 

andystewart

Preferred Member
Jan 21, 2014
3,973
0
Thanks for the review Dustin. I really enjoy Balkan blends but I've haven't tried any incarnation or version of Balkan Sobranie, so I no comparison to make. From what I read, Russ's White Knight is a great choice and close to the original, so I'm probably going to go straight to that. When I can get some!
Andy

 

daimyo

Preferred Member
May 15, 2014
1,461
1
I really don't mid chasing a blend if I pay retail when I find it. Now if i had bought off eBay and paid over retail, then I would be bummed out by the experience. If you find it for retail, don't hesitate to try it as it's certainly not a bad blend.

 

lochinvar

Preferred Member
Oct 22, 2013
1,319
52
I like the new Sobranie, but it really is a Balkan in the Germain style, very smooth and subdued. It is much better after the tin has been cracked a week or two. But worth $50-100 a tin? Naw, I wouldn't pay that for the original. It's kinda funny, Germain makes the top notch Exotique for Smoker's Haven, and it blows Sobranie out of the water. Of course, it's hard to get too.
I agree with everyone else, White Knight is the current Heavyweight champ of Balkans.

 

willc

Member
Jun 7, 2014
117
0
The new Sobranie is good and I always pick up a tin if I see it in stock, which is only occasionally.

I prefer Balkan Sasieni to it though and the fact that is cheaper and always in stock is a plus.
I have a few tins of White Knight on the way and am interested to see how it compares.

The thing is though there are a whole lot of great Balkans to choose from these days and that is a real nice thing.

 

tslex

Preferred Member
Jun 23, 2011
1,483
0
Daimyo nailed it from my perspective. Just managed my first sample (thanks to TBP) and my reaction is just the same. It was good, even very good, but no some transcendent tobacco worth chasing. To be honest, I think Squadron Leader is right on track with BS, and I prefer the slightly broader cut. (I smoke pretty large pipes and a fine cut like BS can sometimes settle during a smoke and result in a tighter than necessary draw.)

 

tslex

Preferred Member
Jun 23, 2011
1,483
0
Let me add this:
I suspect that a tobacco like this got its legendary status back in an age where, while pipe smoking was far more widespread, there were many fewer widely available blends competing with it. Back then, every B&M had its own blends. But there were really not all that many that were distributed widely or internationally. Compare that to now, when you could smoke, say, a different lat bomb every day from Memorial Day to Guy Fawkes Day and not smoke the same blend twice.
I recently got The Box -- i stopped coutning at 75 blends, of which perhaps five were local. All the rest, just a mouse click away.

 

misterlowercase

Preferred Member
May 31, 2012
4,296
1
I suspect that a tobacco like this got its legendary status back in an age where, while pipe smoking was far more widespread, there were many fewer widely available blends competing with it. Back then, every B&M had its own blends. But there were really not all that many that were distributed widely or internationally. Compare that to now, when you could smoke, say, a different lat bomb every day from Memorial Day to Guy Fawkes Day and not smoke the same blend twice.
Nailed it.
I agree,

BS was widely distributed in the USA and not much worthy competition really, but I think it was a stellar blend back then, made especially unique by the quality Yenidje added perhaps?
Perhaps the exotic name also helped?
And the tin artwork was gorgeous too.
I have a couple of tins of the new JFG stuff but ain't cracked one open yet, so I can offer no insight.

 

jiminks

Preferred Member
Aug 31, 2012
33,371
2,983
I posted this in another thread, but it seems appropriate to post it again:
I smoked Balkan Sobranie for thirty years and the new version does not match up. It's a different blend now. There's a little less latakia, no lemon Virginia, and the yenidje is either gone or changed because the light soda/floral notes are no longer present. The Orientals are tamer. That helped make the older version special. It's a good blend, but no longer special. With all the really good, complex English blends on the market now, I see no reason to chase this down. Sad that after all the years of enjoyment I got from it that Germains have decided economy triumphs faithful recreation. And this comes from a guy who once had 70 pouches and tins of the 1990s and early 2000 version in the cellar at one time. Wish I hadn't smoked it all up. I miss it.
WhiteKinight is better than the new Sobranie. I'll spend my money on that first.

 

glpease

Member
Jun 17, 2010
232
0
California
If you want an experience of what Balkan Sobranie was like prior to all the changes the blend went through as a result of production changes, I might humbly suggest Charing Cross. No, it's not a "clone." Nothing is. Nothing can be. The orientals used in the original are not available, and some of the processing methods are beyond anyones capabilities these days because the hardware isn't around to do it right. So, all we can do is get sort of close. But, CC is as close to the original as my memory will allow. I've had more than a few emails from people who felt it got pretty close. If nothing else, it's a great experience of just HOW far things drifted over the years. Reduction of the latakia content from close to 50% to about 35% is only part of the picture.

 

yazamitaz

Preferred Member
Mar 1, 2013
1,757
1
Never had the original or the new Balkan Sobrani, but I HAVE had Charring Cross and while I can't make a comparison Greg I will say that CC is a mighty tasty blend.

 

condorlover1

Preferred Member
Dec 22, 2013
3,569
179
New York
I have written elsewhere on the forum about Balkan Sobranie. I smoked a couple of tins in the mid 80s and divided up a tin between a few friends including Shaintiques from circa 1984 which everyone thought was amazing and a very dark color. I gave Shaintiques an unopened tin of Balkan Sobranie from either the late 1970s or early 1980s for his birthday and he thought it was pretty amazing. My general take on the stuff is that it always reminds me of early morning mass at the Russian Orthodox Church on 93rd and Park. Total incense attack but hey some people love the stuff and I happened not to be one of them!

 

woodsroad

Preferred Member
Oct 10, 2013
8,277
55
"wildly overpaid palate challenged brand chaser"
Moniker Of The Year Nominee, Sablebrush.

 

jiminks

Preferred Member
Aug 31, 2012
33,371
2,983
For my money, the closest thing to the Balkan Sobranie of the 1980s and '90s is Synjeco's Torina, which I have smoked several pounds of over the years. However, I recently got a small sample of Pease's Charing Cross, and will try it after I finish my current smoke to see how it matches up. I sure hope it does, and I'm a few minutes away from it.