Tobacco reviews in general

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor

Log in

Search on Site

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor

Recent Posts

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor


Senior Member
Jan 4, 2010
A lot of tobacco reviews, I take that back, MOST tobacco reviews, leave me scratching my head. What, I ask myself, did I just read?

The reviewers go on and on about the cut and color of the leaf, it's burning characteristics, the beginning emergence of this or that particular leaf, charring light, mid bowl emergence of said leaf, citrus undertones, licorice overtones, when said leaf asserts it's particular taste, etc. etc. etc.

That's all well and good, but WHAT DOES THE BLEND TASTE LIKE? WHAT DOES IT SMELL LIKE? That's what I am wanting to know.

Please give me something I can relate it to. Taste like apple--- Taste like cherry--- Taste like plain tobacco--- Taste like Spaghetti--- taste like whatever! I want to know what it taste like, and smells like.

All the rest it just fluff. Interesting, but still fluff.

I feel like some reviewers want to sound like wine connoisseurs, or just ramble to fill space. I appreciate people taking the time to try and let the rest of us know what a particular blend is all about, but please include what I, and I suspect, most people, want to know most of all. What does this blend taste and smell like. If only to you, if nothing else.

Thank you for your efforts anyway, but I'm tempted to use an old Joe Friday quote: "Just the facts, ma'am". The rest is interesting, but please include what flavor and aroma you think it most favors. Thank you for hearing me out.



Preferred Member
Feb 6, 2013
Max, you raise an argument that I've seen repeated often on forums like this... The argument for simplicity in tobacco reviews, and for tobacco reviews which cut to the quick. There are a few inherent challenges in delivering a quick, simple, and accurate tobacco review. Namely:
1) The same tobacco blend (age, leaf component, preparation style) will burn differently and taste wildly different when bowls are prepared differently (prepped, packed and tamped) and when smoked in bowls with different chamber geometry.
2) The tobacco reviewer's cadence will determine the aromatic and taste components of their smoke.
3) There is, still, no mutually agreed apron lexicon for the taste and flavour families of tobacco and smoke... Although I'd argue that we're seeing one develop through the review, forum, reddit, Instagram and YouTube pipe communities.
4) Writing skills and review formatting skills (and design concepts in general) vary widely by reviewer.
For these reasons I think it is important to find reviewers whose taste perception matches your own, and then to use them to direct you to new or uncharted tobacco waters.
Good luck,
-- Pat



Preferred Member
Sep 14, 2011
A review that said "This tastes like plain tobacco" would seem to me to be pretty worthless. What kind of plain tobacco? I smoke predominantly non-aromatic blends ("plain tobacco"), and they all have different tastes. None of then taste like apple or cherry. None of them smell like that, either.

A reviewer can't do a "just the facts" approach, because there is way too much subjective about pipe smoking to do that. It's not a cut and dried situation. It is like reviewing a good wine.

If you find a reviewer you like, stick with him. Don't worry about the others. :puffy:
ETA: Pat was writing at the same time I was. Well said, sir.



Preferred Member
Jul 10, 2015
I saw a review where the reviewer said that Mixture 79 tasted like urinal cakes. How does he know that?



Preferred Member
Dec 22, 2013
New York
Thats a very valid question Ray47. I have tasted tobaccos that I have compared to badger/squirrel farts. Does that mean I have been indulging in too much zoo play or does the taste described what I think a squirrel fart would taste like if I was to indulge in the past time of squirrel sniffing? I suppose its 'horses for courses' since on the odd occasion I have reviewed things it is simply because I found the contents of the pouch so totally loathsome that I defy anyone else to tell me something different. I realize there are those amongst our number that like Captain Monochromatic or Prince 'Can' and whilst with long term care and successful medication I am sure they will recover I have yet to find any pithy reviews about those blends. In many ways I have some sympathy with what Max Head Room is saying here as some people do review blends as if it were a fine wine.



Preferred Member
Oct 14, 2014
I agree that many reviews seem to get tripped up by all the little details and miss the bigger picture. Good reviewers are hard to come by. Give it a shot Max, you might have a talent for it.



Senior Member
Jul 12, 2013
I transitioned to pipes from cigars where reviews always read like they were written by professional taste testers. I had the habit of reading reviews right before smoking a new cigar and would always try my darndest to pick up on the various tastes and smells and how they evolved in each third of the cigar --- often with not much success. At first I chocked it up to not having a "refined palate" as they say, but eventually started to become a bit suspicious of some of what I was reading. I'm sure there are folks out there with professional sniffers and discerning taste buds, just not sure how helpful it is to describe rare herbs and spices of which the common man has never experienced. I'm sure the wine connoisseurs and food chef industries have had a big impact on tobacco reviews.



Preferred Member
Feb 6, 2013
I dont think the wine review is a bad analogy for what a good tobacco review should look like. I do think that a common lexicon to describe tastes and aromas as well as a common methodology used to evaluate tastes and aromas is incredibly useful; particularly when evaluating tobacco, coffee, wine, tea, whiskey.
There are embedded processes for sensory evaluation and description in all of the aforementioned beverage industries, tobacco gets left out. There are rudiments of method and process in play but the details have yet to be universally adopted and agreed upon. This absence of method and common language leads to misunderstanding when reporting sensory evaluation of tobaccos. Which is why calibration, finding a reviewer who feels the same way about blends as you do, is important.
I also think that too often a reviewer loses touch with the description of their sensory evaluation by drifting romantically into prose. Some reviews are best read for entertainment purposes.
$0.02 more in the bucket.
-- Pat



Preferred Member
Jul 21, 2015
I've written reviews for 20 years and had somewhat of an influence on my field, albeit in a rather obscure niche.
My take on it: to write a review requires understanding a field so well that you know where a given product fits within it, and what it compares to.
There is very little new under the sun. What makes a good review is assessment, not creativity. In fact, some of the best reviewers are not writers at all but engineers, MBAs, etc.
There are some truly great reviews on, and also some inspired writing. The two frequently but not always overlap.
Also, in every field of human endeavor, The Bell Curve applies: a few on the far right who know what they are doing, and then most everyone else a mishmash of imitation/impulse/confusion, with some true loonies on the far left of the curve writing about urinal cakes and squirrel farts ;)



Aug 19, 2015
Shearstown, NL
I agree with Beezer and so many other posters in this thread.
While I know there are people with an exemplary sense of taste, I believe these people are few and far between and many if not most are getting well paid for their talent.
However, a few minutes browsing cigar/ wine / pipe tobacco / coffee reviews and you also have to wonder how many are also budding novelists.
Sometimes, the old adage "less is more" fits, and this is certainly a frequent example.
No offence intended to anyone here who can write a novella of a revie with all pertinent and accurate opinions and information.



Preferred Member
Sep 13, 2013
A lot of reviewers seem to love hyperbole. Some, I think, are addicted to word counts. Find a reviewer whose tastes are close to yours who write cleanly and concisely. Flowery prose and off the wall comparisons drive me nuts. You should also keep in mind that you are reading opinions and nothing more.
Pick a tobacco you enjoy, find reviews of the blend and hopefully you will find a reviewer with similar tastes to yours. Now, hopefully, you have found a reviewer you can put some trust in.



Preferred Member
Apr 11, 2015
This reminds me of the fine white ash with no dottle saga.
The OP makes some good points that I agree with.
Beezer said:
...but eventually started to become a bit suspicious of some of what I was reading.
Likewise. I strongly suggest not reading reviews as you smoke a blend.
On there are 4 reviewers who I generally look to for info. Not only are the reviews useful and honest, between them they have 2000 plus reviews so I can be pretty confident at least one of them has covered a blend I'm looking into.



Preferred Member
Aug 21, 2014
However, a few minutes browsing cigar/ wine / pipe tobacco / coffee reviews and you also have to wonder...
You can add Single Malt Scotch reviews to your list and probably other premium cask whiskey reviews.



Preferred Member
Nov 18, 2013
At this point I've smoked enough blends that my criterion for believing a review of a new-to-me blend is seeing how that person reviewed blends I have smoked. If we agree mostly, then maybe there's a reasonable chance I can trust his reviews of blends I haven't smoked yet.