What Does Your "Ideal" Tobacco Review Look Like?

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pruss

Preferred Member
Feb 6, 2013
3,434
10
Mytown
Afternoon gang,
I've perused quite a few different threads over the last year celebrating some tobacco reviews, and lambasting others. I have seen review(er)s criticized for being too long-winded & too abrupt, for over romanticizing a tobacco & for being boring. I enjoyed Greg Pease's article http://luxurytobaccoreviews.com/reviews-without-tears.php . This all said, I wonder what your ideal tobacco review looks like. I imagine this is different for everyone, but I thought it might be fun to see what is interesting to others. So... What do you like in a tobacco review?
-- Pat

 

latbomber

Preferred Member
May 10, 2013
570
0
Good idea for a thread. My criteria would probably be the following:
-Reviewer has smoked at least a whole tin of the tobacco
-Skip the 4 page long back story about how the tobacco was chosen and acquired
-Descriptors like "burns fast/slow" "leaves only ash" "makes clouds of smoke" can be omitted as they

can be changed by drying/pipe selection etc
-Posting reviews for a tobacco under the guise that it is new and then including in the last sentence: "tin 12 years old"
-Posting a review for a blend with: "I usually HATE (insert tobacco style here) and never smoke them...and this one was terrible"
I think thats a good enough vent for now haha.

 

woodsroad

Preferred Member
Oct 10, 2013
8,277
55
I'd like to suggest that the ideal "reviewer" is more important. Most people are (myself included) are not equipped to write a review that does justice to the product. I can write, and I was a journalist at a big-city newspaper for over 20 years, but I just don't know enough about tobacco to write authoritatively on the subject. How many reviews have you read where the reviewer plainly states "I really don't like (the type of blend being reviewed) so I wasn't surprised that I didn't like this one, either". Reviewing isn't about personal taste, it's about having a broad knowledge base, keen perceptions and the ability to put the item being reviewed in context. Oh, and the reviewer should sign his reviews with his own name.
In addition, the ideal reviewer would:
1. Be a competent writer

2. Be well versed in the style, technical, historical, social and business aspects of tobacco

3. Justify subjective statements.

4. Share swag with friends.
BTW, Pruss, I see that this post 1500 for you. Whoo-eee!

 

mzpuff

New member
Feb 13, 2013
34
0
Toronto
I agree with the above post. Why bother giving your opinion on a blend if you dislike that style? Your opinion is unlikely to be favorable, and could easily misinform.

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
18,166
545
I've wondered this myself. I've read some that make my mouth water, and I head out to buy a tin immediately, only to be very disappointed. E. Robert's Great Outdoors review comes to mind. He did a wonderful job of selling me that blend, but...
I've just stopped reading whole reviews altogether. I scan them looking for room note, strength, flavor, and then skim to see what specific flavors people mention. Whether they liked it or not... phhht, we all know that taste is like any other opinion. You can't count on them.
However, I do stop to read entertaining reviews. If one is humorous or well written, I will give it a good read and chuckle or a nod of "wow".
As an artist, I've dealt with reviews for decades now in other areas, and they are what they are. I've liked reviews that I have disagreed with, as well as reviews that echo my own opinions. For example, I still love Robert's review of Great Outdoors, and I've even re-read it after I found the blend horrid. It was a great one, but I just didn't agree with the tobacco. However, I can take away from it some things that I can apply to other blends when I want to sing it's praises.

 

billypm

Senior Member
Oct 24, 2013
302
1
I hate the poseur reviews, full of words like "whilst" and "betwixt". Just tell me what the tobacco tastes like, please. There are so many times I'll read a review and have literally NO idea what the blend tastes like. It could be a Lakeland, an aromatic, a straight Va, or a Lat bomb and I would have no clue from the reviewer.
Tell me what the baccy tastes like, whether you enjoyed it or not (and your reasons) and maybe compare or contrast it to a familiar tobacco for reference. "Sweeter than BBF", or "stronger than Irish Flake", or "Condor's little brother" are all helpful references. If it's a Va tell me if it is a citrusy golden taste, a haylike flavor, or one of the figgy ones. If the leaf has an obvious topping, tell us that and describe it as best you can. Fruit? Floral? Liquor of some kind?
DON'T tell me it bit your tongue and tasted steamy and bloated-- and then admit you didn't dry it out. DON'T tell me it tasted hot and bitter-- and then admit you tried it as the first bowl of a new uncaked pipe. DON'T bother reviewing style of blends that you hate-- you're not going to like it no matter how good it is. How can that possibly be of use to those of us who prefer that type of blend?
In short, use your head. You're reviewing tobaccos to help other smokers find stuff they might like. It's not rocket surgery.

 

latbomber

Preferred Member
May 10, 2013
570
0
full of words like "whilst" and "betwixt"
YES. There are so many times I stop reading reviews that sound like they were written by a 16 year old lord of the rings enthusiast.

 

pylorns

Preferred Member
Aug 20, 2013
1,959
5
Austin
I tend to think that a single review could do it all if the reviewer followed a couple steps:
1. Give an executive Summary

2. Include amount you've smoked, pipe smoked in, if you thought it was mild, mid, strong, favors noted and other short and brief information in the summary.

3. If you have a story to tell and want to be more elaborate with your review, by all means, keep this after you've put all the immediate details in the top level summary.

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
18,166
545
Billypm, as discussed on several other threads, people use the review sites for different reasons. Not everyone even cares about whether others will read their reviews or not. Some do it as a personal journal for themselves to remember what a blend tasted like. Some do it as some sort of contest to see who can review the most, and I suspect some do it as some sort of pissing contest to see who can look like the toughest smoker of the strongest blends. There are no rules as to how one should use the review sites. This is why I take the actual written part with a grain of sand.
Yeh, it's irritating, but we do have some great reviewers right here on the pipes magazine forums. I would say the best reviewers.
But, I use the review sites to just get an idea about a blend that I may be pondering. On an open forum site like the tobaccoreviews.com you just have to use it for what you need and move on. Anyone can post there. At least here, we all can smack the poster around if we disagree, ha ha :D

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
18,166
545
I do wish there was a more scientific way to determine strength of a blend. Everyone posts that burlys and these Lakelands are so strong in nicotine, but I just get grossed out more than a nic fix. And, the actual blends that quench my nic cravings are usually never mentioned as being strong. Just leaving it up to us to determine strength seems more like guesswork. How do we know that 1792 is stronger than Old Dark Fired? Because one makes someone more sick feeling than the other? Could it be that soapy taste was a chemical that made them sick?

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
26,271
495
I was trained as a journalist at one point in my life, so despite some of my posts, I would say I appreciate

a concise statement (what newspaper people call a lede, or some spell lead) at the beginning giving the

nugget of the discussion, and then some brisk, brief facts to back up that lede. If a person is an

extraordinary writer, sometimes they can weave a personal essay out of a review, but usually I end up

not reading the whole piece, or trudging through it resentfully. Get out your topic sentence and

conclusion first, then convince me, briefly. To close, don't get too cute with the "kicker."

 

pruss

Preferred Member
Feb 6, 2013
3,434
10
Mytown
Thanks for the thoughts, folks, keep them coming.
It is interesting, to me, to consider that tobacco review sites are used for more than reviews. For instance, I had never considered that some folks would use them as a journal for their tobacco experience.
Let's, for the sake of this discussion, consider that the intent of the "ideal tobacco review" is to inform a smoker about how the tobacco actually smokes.
I find myself leaning towards Pylorns basic steps to an effective review. I'd also suggest that, for me, the reviewer should use consistent tools, processes and protocols for each tobacco reviewed. I was quite taken by FlakyJakey's rigour in his comparison of Stonehaven and Germain's RDF. While I don't think that multiple bowls need to be smoked from multiple bowl materials, I think thought should be given to limiting the chance that a pipe would affect a tobacco's aroma and flavour components. Perhaps using the same meer or clay of a specific bowl size, shape, weight for each tobacco reviewed.
I enjoy an entertaining review, but also get bored or irritated with reviews that try too hard and reviewers that use language that just doesn't work.
Woodsroad, I'm interested in the thought that a reviewer has to be a tobacco expert; someone who understands history, cultivation, harvest, processing, blending, flavouring, marketing, etc. While I definitely agree that this level of knowledge or understanding will help someone write a rich review and analysis, I wonder if it's required knowledge for the purpose of describing how a specific tobacco smokes.
I know a large number of long time pipe smokers who are very good at describing what their tobacco tastes like, why they like it, and how it smokes, but couldn't tell me where Perique comes from. That level of detail just isn't something they need to know.
Anyway... more to chew on. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.
BTW, Pruss, I see that this post 1500 for you. Whoo-eee!
Well hot diggity dog! I wasn't paying attention. I need to tell Cortez, I think this means I can get an extra drink ticket at the annual PipesMagazine.com/forums pig roast and square dance.
-- Pat

 

woodsroad

Preferred Member
Oct 10, 2013
8,277
55
thought that a reviewer has to be a tobacco expert
In an ideal situation. I'm not dogmatic. But the more that a reviewer knows, the better he/she can describe the experience, bring understanding to what they are alleging, and inform the reader. I'm certainly NOT saying that the reviewer needs to lord it over the reader. Not at all. The reviewer's job is to translate the experience to the reader in a way that that edifies, enlightens and entertains. So the more background that the reviewer has to draw upon, the easier to relate to, and the more successful their work will be.
And, yes, at 1500 posts, you get a special prize: A box of fingertip band-aids and an all expense-paid trip to the ophthalmologist!

 

pruss

Preferred Member
Feb 6, 2013
3,434
10
Mytown
A box of fingertip band-aids and an all expense-paid trip to the ophthalmologist!
Pardon the cross-thread homage. Wicked... that should prevent pipe-smoking induced hang-nail and eye cancer.
But the more that a reviewer knows, the better he/she can describe the experience, bring understanding to what they are alleging, and inform the reader. I'm certainly NOT saying that the reviewer needs to lord it over the reader. Not at all. The reviewer's job is to translate the experience to the reader in a way that that edifies, enlightens and entertains. So the more background that the reviewer has to draw upon, the easier to relate to, and the more successful their work will be.
I agree entirely.
-- Pat

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
18,166
545
It's hard to believe a pipe smoker wouldn't know where perique comes from, but it does happen. The guy who runs the worst little pipe and cigar shop in town, a really horrid hole, was the first person I spoke with when I wanted my first real pipe. He told me that Latakia was an aromatic, with chemicals to make it smell like a campfire. He also told me that he never carried tins because they had a short shelf life and he had to throw away a bunch of old ones when he bought the shop, LOL.
I am amazed at some of the flavors some post as tasting in the blends. I can get citrus, for example, but to distinguish from lemony and lime in a blend is beyond my taste buds. And, I can get some of the nutty tastes, but to distinguish between walnutty taste and an almondy taste... well, I take my hat off to them.
I mostly clench my pipe while I work, so in my regular smoking ritual I can get a sweet, salty, acrid, leathery, or citrusy tastes. And, if I really concentrate with a fresh palate I can get the parts of my tongue that tingle or even some tastes, but no where near the detail that some can get. Maybe these people don't smoke a pipe but a few times a day. IDK.
And, just to clarify, I don't post on any of the review sites anymore. I just don't have the time. That, and I had just rather use the sites before buying a new blend instead of adding more BS to the pile. :lol:

 

pruss

Preferred Member
Feb 6, 2013
3,434
10
Mytown
I am amazed at some of the flavors some post as tasting in the blends. I can get citrus, for example, but to distinguish from lemony and lime in a blend is beyond my taste buds. And, I can get some of the nutty tastes, but to distinguish between walnutty taste and an almondy taste... well, I take my hat off to them.
I hear you. I spend a lot of time tasting, describing what I taste, and teaching others to taste things critically. When I am working with a new class, and taking them through the basics of coffee cupping and tasting, I see a lot of blank looks and (not a little) trepidation when I describe a coffee as having sweet, fruity, jammy characteristics.
Moving from, "tastes like citrus," to, "tastes like lime (or lemon)," isn't too far a leap. What it takes to make the leap is practice, and a general consensus on what makes lemon different from lime. There are tools used by tasters (and nosers) the world over to aid in this. But for most folks, the only way to get to a place where this level of flavour and aromatic discernment is easy is through LOTS of practice. While I do know folks who are blind to specific flavours and tastes, I firmly believe that critical tasting skills can be taught and practiced.
-- Pat

 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
18,166
545
You've sold me. I'd love to learn to taste more, just for my own pleasure. Where can one get this type of instruction? Or, is this off topic?

 

pruss

Preferred Member
Feb 6, 2013
3,434
10
Mytown
Where are you located cosmic? Tasting, as a sensory tool, is really taking off with the rise of the food network, and a return to high quality coffee roasters, cafes, tea shops, craft brewers and micro-distilleries. I'd take a gander at all of the above in your area to see if any are running customer seminars on cupping/tasting.
If you're looking for a little less rigour and more independent study, you could start by simply considering the four basic tastes whenever you taste something new. Ask yourself, does this taste salty, sour, sweet or bitter? (likely the answer will be all four in varying degrees)
Consider which tastes are dominant. Then break down each taste into its component pieces. With your citrus example above, the taste that would lead me to lime versus lemon would be bitterness. While both limes and lemons have a sour taste, lime has a sharp, bitter bite which is lacking in lemon.
Breaking down an unknown flavour into its compound tastes, and then associating those tastes with a specific flavour from memory takes practice. I am politely tolerated by loved ones and friends, as I'm the guy who smells his food before he eats it and who spends a lot of time asking people what they taste, all the while trying to guess what the ingredients are. Let me look through my coffee and tea books at work tomorrow and see if I can find some references for you.
-- Pat

 

pitchfork

Preferred Member
May 25, 2012
3,803
8
For me, most reviews are too long. Three or four sentences is usually enough to describe the component tobaccos, how they work together and what constitute the main qualities of the smoke.