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Balkan Sobranie Substitute - White Knight or Black House?

(31 posts)
  1. jmatt

    jmatt

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    I've got some of the modern Balkan Sobranie (haven't even tried it yet though).

    I'm interested in the Russ Oullette blends that are modelled after the original Balkan Sobranie. Sometimes people seem to mention Black House, and I think it won the Balkan Sobranie contest in Chicago. Then sometimes threads seem to default to talking about White Knight as the best Balkan Sobranie substitute.

    Who has tried both White Knight and Black House and can compare/contrast those two blends?

    Thanks to anyone that can provide feedback.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  2. cmdrmcbragg

    cmdrmcbragg

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    I keep seeing White Knight being the popular nominee as most authentic to the original. I wouldn't know as the damn stuff is always sold out. Such is the life of the tobacco monster: always looking for prey.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  3. blendtobac

    blendtobac

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    BlackHouse was modeled after a 23 year-old sample of Balkan Sobranie 759 (the black label), but WhiteKnight is based on my memory of Balkan Sobranie Original Smoking Mixture (white label) from the seventies.

    Russ

    Posted 4 years ago #
  4. sablebrush52

    sablebrush52

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    Having had the opportunity to do an AB comparison between WhiteKnight and 35 year old Balkan Sobranie, I'd have to say that Russ' memory is pretty damned good. Very similar flavor profile. The biggest differences being that the decades had melded the BS to a unified flavor, while you could separate out the components in WhiteKnight and that WhiteKnight had a bigger flavor than the vintage BS that I had. Give WhiteKinght a couple of decades in the tin and it may meld like the old Balkan Sobranie.

    It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. - Mark Twain

    It is pointless to argue with a fanatic since a dim bulb can't be converted into a searchlight. - Jesse Silver
    Posted 4 years ago #
  5. easterntraveler

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    I must try these. Does SP carry whiteknight?

    Because straight is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life and few be there that find it.
    Posted 4 years ago #
  6. lucky695

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    no White Knight is a P&C / Russ "O"riginal. Just bought some Russ... can't wait to try it.

    "A pipe gives a wise man time to think and a fool something to stick in his mouth." - C.S. Lewis
    Posted 4 years ago #
  7. philobeddoe

    Philo Beddoe

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    I prefer Black House over White Knight, but as Russ said, if you are trying to replace Balkan Sobranie white, then White Knight would be your baccy.

    "So it goes." - K.V.
    Posted 4 years ago #
  8. judcole

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    Russ spelled it out. There were three Balkan Sobranie mixtures: Original (white tin), 759 (black tin), and No. 10 Virginia. White Knight and Black House replicate the first two of those. McClelland Blue Balkan (originally Blue Mountain)won the judges vote in Chicago, while Black House won the popular vote.
    I was a Sobranie Original smoker, long ago, and it's certainly close to my memory. Black House is quite a good blend, but I prefer Blue Balkan. I'll smoke more WK than either one of those, though, just as I preferred Original to 759 40 years ago.

    Thought in the early morning, solace in time of woes,
    Peace in the hush of the twilight, balm ere my eyelids close
    Rudyard Kipling
    Posted 4 years ago #
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    jguss

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    Actually it was the other way around: Black House (Russ) won the Grand Prize awarded by the judges, and Blue Mountain (now Blue Balkan, created by Mike) won the People's Choice award.

    I know this has caused confusion over the last few years, but the difference is important. The Grand Prize was awarded on the basis of extensive comparison and evaluation by the three official Throwdown judges over a lengthy period of time. The judges were given samples of the original Balkan Sobranie 759 to use.

    The People's Choice award was a simple beauty contest, where Chicago attendees were given free samples of each contestant's blend and about 24 hours to try them out, and pick the one they like best.

    The key differences between the two: the Grand Prize was awarded on the basis of how closely it replicated the original 759 sample provided to the judges, and the evaluation was performed over many, many bowls smoked over many weeks. The People's Choice was based on neither of these things; it was a kind of "first blush" impression without immediate reference to the original 759.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  10. lochinvar

    lochinvar

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    Russ's interpretations of three great Sobranie produced blends are fantastic; Black House, White Knight and Fusilier's Ration. For years I have heard "This is a lot like 759" or "this is my interpretation of BS Original" and they rarely ever were close. Russ has come so close to the originals, its scary, it's like he's part Sobranie....maybe on his mother's side?

    Of all of them Black House is my least favorite, but I preferred BS Original and Bengal Slices over 759. That said, it is a great Latakia forward Balkan, close in character to the original 759. The problem for me is the latakia. In a latakia forward Balkan, if the original used Syrian, the taste in never going to get close enough for a dead ringer moment like White Knight gives when you have to substitute Cyprian. In it's own way, it is every bit as good a Balkan, but always different. It has a deeper, warmer, earthier, more buttery smoke than 759. Don't read any of this as me not recommending BH, on my next P&C order tins of BH, WK and FR will all be on the manifest.

    I think White Knight is the best tobacco that has come out in a while, not just the best recreation, but the best overall. It may even be a touch better than the Original Sobranie. When I smoke it I get a very dry pinch up in my sinuses that I always get in blends that use a lot of good quality Oriental. The taste is incense, mild curry, very dry bitter orange and a malty? grain flavor, over a light smoky sweet. There is only one other blend that is even close to this, Peretti Royal and it is fabulous as well.

    Fusilier's Rations is great, it still doesn't surpass the original Bengal slices for me like White Knight does, but it is great. The plummy, latakia punch you get when you first light it is phenomenal, and it gives an opulent, deep, rich smoke to the bottom.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  11. jmatt

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    Wow! Thanks everyone. Nothing like asking about some of Russ' blends and having Russ pop into the thread to answer. I guess I'll be ordering both!

    Thanks again all - and especially Russ. You've got my business.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  12. brudnic1

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    WhiteKnight

    Doña Agatha bat Tedesco
    Posted 4 years ago #
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    Anonymous

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    Be sure to give the McC Balkan Blue (Mountain) a spin as well. A bit cooler and sweeter than the Black House, it is a stand up tobacco in its own right without any comparison to Unicorns.

    You may also wish to try Arango Balkan Supreme, and its homologue Balkan Sasieni. These are other renderings of the Golden Unicorn.

    All three of these are in my regular rotation of tobaccos.

    Someone mentioned the Syrian Lat. Only a couple blenders have access to old stock of this. Mac Baren is the primary and offer it in their Vintage Syrian. This is a daily smoke for me--and I think that I have squirreled away about 9 pounds of it so far...

    Posted 4 years ago #
  14. jmatt

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    Yes - McClelland's Balkan Blue is also on my list. Thanks for the input. Sounds like you know your Balkans, and I appreciate the insight.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  15. judcole

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    Try the Balkan Sasieni, as well. As ae1pt mentions, it is a worthy blend on its own. (As is HH VS).

    Posted 4 years ago #
  16. foggymountain

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    Blackhouse, though interesting, is not at all like Sobranie was. I think the tobacco I smoke is closer. McClelland's Bombay Court. It has a little less Lat and more Oriental, otherwise similar. It is cut a little too broadly and therefore is difficult to keep lit.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  17. thedudeabides

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    Let us not forget Russ' Virginia Memory #10 - it does not get much attention on this forum as a tribute to the "other" Sobranie blend.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  18. ssjones

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    Cigars International has exactly one tin of White Knight on counter this afternoon, so I grabbed it. Russ gave us a taste a few months ago at an impromptu meeting in Bethlehem. I have no experience with the original, but I enjoyed the blend.

    Al

    Posted 4 years ago #
  19. amunhotep4th

    amunhotep4th

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    Thanks for this intensive look into the world of Balkan Sobranie substitutes. I remember the old BS 759 from the 60s. It was one heck of a fine tobacco bar none. I'm not familiar with the other lots of BS however like 759 but I am sure that any of them could stand up on its own.

    Thanks to this article I now have something to work with and it looks like I will shortly be on an extended quest not only to find these mixtures mentioned in the article but to actually succeed in getting them and smoke them. I'll do this over a period of time since it will not only take time to find them and then be able to afford them. Unfortunately I am on a limited income but since I've restarted pipe smoking after 15 years I plan to have some sort of "tobacco budget"for sure! Who would have ever thought that BS 759 would become scarce as hen's teeth. I thought it would be a blend around forever and I was sure wrong on that one!

    [/b]

    Posted 1 year ago #
  20. jpmcwjr

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    FWIW, the new BS is nothing to write home about. Black House is.

    I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
    Posted 1 year ago #
  21. steamboat

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    I am confused to why you are seeking comparison blends to the Original (Germain) version when you have a tin of it and not smoking it. I personally never tried the original from back in the day, but from my opinion neither Black House nor White Knight is even close to the Germain version. If i had to choose between the two it would be Blackhouse but not by far. White Knight is one of the only blends i actually put in the garbage. That blend tasted like burnt dry leaves from a tree. It comes dry as a bone (which i like) but does not take a match for anything. It was also one of the only dry as dust blends that i have ever smoked that wouldn't stay lit, and have no idea why. I would suggest smoking the tin you have, which is way better in my opinion then any of the substitute blends that are available.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  22. chasingembers

    chasingembers

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    I actually didn't care for Black House or White Knight. Compared to a sample of Sobranie from the '70s I smoked, Balkan Blue and Meridian were my picks.

    I like coffee exceedingly.
    - H. P. Lovecraft
    Posted 1 year ago #
  23. steamboat

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    I did not realize this was a 3 year bump before my previous post. My initial response was to the OP not the bumper.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  24. chasingembers

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    It's,always good to bring discussions to the newer members attention.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  25. sablebrush52

    sablebrush52

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    The Germain version is a miss. I also smoked Original Mixture in the 70's and the quality is not to be found in the Germain version. I find it utterly unsmokable, even after years of aging. My last attempt at smoking it resulted in my giving away the tin to several members here. I couldn't finish half a bowl of it. Nasty stuff. WhiteKnight isn't perfect, but it's light years beyond the Germain version.

    Black House is based on 759 so we're talking apples and oranges here.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  26. bluegrasspipe

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    It is strange to me that many of us have been chasing and enjoying all of these substitute blends, but may never try the original 759. I can definitely see how the Syrian latakia must have changed everything in those latakia forward Balkan blends. The current Balkan Sobriene to me has a really different cyprian smoky flavor but personally I enjoy the sasieni much more.
    I was lucky enough to cellar many single tins of blends that are no longer available that I will only ever smoke the one tin and probably never again, unfortunately not

    a 23 year-old sample of Balkan Sobranie 759
    .
    I feel a bit sorry for the pipe smoker that is just now starting, as it is becoming very different now from even 5 years ago, starting with the loss of the Syrian tobaccos, to Dunhill and possibly McClelland. Ouch... It feels like the beginning of the end of the Golden age of pipe tobaccos, and I count myself lucky to have been able to try a lot of great ones.

    For tho' at my simile many may joke,
    Man is but a pipe—and his life but smoke.
    Posted 1 year ago #
  27. sablebrush52

    sablebrush52

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    We're losing some blends. Maybe we're losing a brand. Many of the blends I smoked years ago are long gone. The few surviving tins that show up are sold for top dollar, even though they're largely faded out wraiths compared to what they once were. The magic is in the name.

    But we're still in a golden age, at least for a little while longer. There are great blends available. And even after August 2021 there will be more great blends on the market than were available to me when I picked up the pipe 47 years ago.

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    oldgeezersmoker

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    Unfortunately I am on a limited income but since I've restarted pipe smoking after 15 years I plan to have some sort of "tobacco budget"for sure!

    Described my situation from summer, 2016, precisely. Could not have put it more succinctly.

    Abandon hope.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  29. balkisobrains

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    I can't speak on smoking any of the originals, but here's my take on some of the new ones that usually get talked about.

    I'd probably like the Black House better without the Cavendish, DFK, and Perique. The White Knight is a little too piney for me by the second half of the bowl. (Similar for me to Peretti Omega. Side-note, I thought the Peretti Royal was somewhat similar to the Omega, but much less "piney", and I think that the Royal is really good.)

    Balkan Blue is good but not too complex, and I like to dry it out pretty well before smoking it to get the best flavors (for me).

    Posted 1 year ago #
  30. bluegrasspipe

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    But we're still in a golden age, at least for a little while longer. There are great blends available. And even after August 2021 there will be more great blends on the market than were available to me when I picked up the pipe 47 years ago.

    Sable, you always make a point of making a good point..

    Posted 1 year ago #
  31. jpmcwjr

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    Yes he does. Agree totally with his premise. May have even said similar somewhere or other.

    I'd suggest that folks stop lamenting what's gone or very pricey, and concentrate of what is.... A lot of fine blends and ample availability; it's one reason I don't seek out rare blends that I can't get reasonably in the future. Sure, it's nice to taste them but there's no future in it. YMMV.

    Posted 1 year ago #

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