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"Fabled Tobacco Experiement"

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  • Started 5 years ago by derfargin
  • Latest reply from larrylegend
  1. derfargin

    derfargin

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    Soooooo recently there was a post of a member receiving an aged sample of the famed "Balkan Sobranie" and after reading it, I started thinking.

    *Disclaimer: I'm was referring to a recent post by Shantiques, regarding a 30 year old sample of Balkan Sobranie given to him by Condor. Please gentlemen, I'm not trying to belittle the gesture by any means. I'm very happy a rare experience was shared amongst true gentlemen in our hobby. Quite honestly, in all of Shantique's efforts to grow this hobby and get pipes to newcomers the way he has, the gesture by Condor couldn't have gone to a more deserving person. Also, a huge nod to Condor for doing so, but it seems he's no stranger to great acts of giving by going out of his way to obtain hard to find tobacco's for US folk when traveling overseas.*

    Anyway..on to my point.

    I approach lots of things with science in mind, and I value objective opinions. I'd be curious to what the outcome would be if the same scenario was played out, with one exception. The individual receiving said sample of tobacco wasn't informed it was a "THE" 30 year old Balkan Sobranie. Just an "oh btw I sent you a sample of some some tobacco I've had cellared for a while, give it a shot and tell me what you think." It would be interesting how the review of the tobacco would be not knowing of the fabled value. Just the tobacco speaking on it's own merit, and the perceived status being taken out of the question.

    There has been numerous studies done, and the power the mind has on perceived things is very, well.....persuasive.

    It's the cornerstone of "branding" in marketing, and it is so, because it works.

    Would someone dare say that they've knowingly tried a "hallowed" tobacco and didn't care for it?

    I would ask this question about any aged tobacco that has had a reputation of being "top of the mountain" like. I'm a huge fan of blind taste tests when it comes to consumer products. Take the name brand off it, and see how it stacks up to "Jim-Bobs Garage 2-backee blends"

    That is when you can truly pit tobacco against tobacco. Not tobacco against marketing, or word of mouth.

    What say you?

    There are 10 types of people in this world, those who understand binary, and those who don't.
    Posted 5 years ago #
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    Anonymous

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    Okay I am a fairly new smoker and really only ever smoked aros with the exception of Frog Morton and Fire Dance Flake. I know nothing about brand names or different leaf. I am keeping it that way and not reading up on it because I want to be fair to myself and the brands. I tried some Sobranie and I thought it was a great smoke.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  3. fadingdaylight

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    I am all for a blind taste test of tobaccos. Where do I sign up? Hell, I hope I like the cheapest one...

    - Jason
    "Lost in thought and lost in time... While the seeds of life and the seeds of change were planted... Outside the rain fell dark and slow... While I pondered on this dangerous but irresistible pastime..."
    Posted 5 years ago #
  4. rmbittner

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    derfargin:

    What you describe is a very common occurrence in the wine world.

    I think the only real challenge for the blind taster is having the knowledge and experience to be able to reasonably evaluate any unknown blend. Judging from purplemotoman's post above, he would be the kind of pipe smoker who would likely fail at this experiment: He acknowledges that he knows nothing about different tobacco leaves, which leads me to assume he hasn't educated his palate to be able to identify and, therefore, appreciate a tobacco that may not necessarily be to his personal liking. So he won't be able to distinguish Syrian latakia from Cypriot latakia, say, which, depending on the quality of the leaf, could lead a blind taster to make certain conclusions about the age and quality of a blend. (No offense intended, purple! Please don't take it that way.)

    I think whether a blind taster "likes" a tin of, say, 60-year-old Craven Mixture is completely irrelevant. What's relevant is that smoker's ability to understand and appreciate that tobacco regardless of his or her personal likes and dislikes. If you don't have a background of smoking widely and deeply, then I think you'd be ill-suited to this experiment. It would be like asking for an educated analysis of 20 different coffees from someone whose only had coffee from the diner down the street.

    Besides, if you love aromatics, chances are you wouldn't enjoy any Balkan, not just an old tin of Balkan Sobranie. Similarly, if you gave me a 50-year-old tin of the original Three Nuns, I could tell you that it's an aged VA/perique spun cut, but the experience would be largely wasted on me, since I'm not able to smoke perique in any quantity.

    Bob

    Posted 5 years ago #
  5. fadingdaylight

    fadingdaylight

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    Bob- Does this mean I can't sign up? Lol.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  6. phred

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    What you describe is a very common occurrence in the wine world.

    Bingo.

    This is why I like reading reviews both by relative newbies (such as myself) and by far more experienced pipe smokers and industry professionals - my own palate is getting better, but I've only been smoking for a little over a year, and the really subtle stuff is not yet something I can reliably pick out. Finding out what others think of a particular blend (especially in comparison to stuff that I am now familiar with) can be very helpful.

    On the other hand, I have seen some reviews on various review sites that sound an awful lot like the most pretentious of wine reviews (or beer, or scotch - the latter two I'm much more familiar with), and I do wonder how much of that is simply blather to make the reviewer sound good, as opposed to actual data on the taste and experience. Taste is so subjective (and subject to external variables such as body chemistry, general health, and what the reviewer had for lunch) that it can be difficult to weed out a useful review from the blatherskites.



    "De gustibus non est disputandum."
    Posted 5 years ago #
  7. rmbittner

    rmbittner

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    fadingdaylight:

    Ha! Well, I think you'd actually be better served by going into an aged, sought-after blend unblind. That way you'd get some real insight that would serve you well in the future.

    Just my opinion, of course!

    Bob

    Posted 5 years ago #
  8. voorhees

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    I saw this experiment done with Vodka. All of these supposed "connoisseurs" who had a preferred brand could not detect it in a blind test. Even chose cheaper brands over uber-expensive versions.
    I'm sure it can happen in tobacco as well.

    Jason
    Posted 5 years ago #
  9. rmbittner

    rmbittner

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    voorhees:

    We see this in the blind-tasting reviews that have been done here too. Sometimes the three or four blind reviewers don't agree on the constituent leaf or even the flavors in a blend. That said, the reviews -- posted in the Tobacco Discussion forum -- make fascinating reading and I really appreciate the time it takes to pull these off.

    Maybe the problem is simply that most of us haven't smoked as intentionally as you need to in order to acquire the knowledge you need to accurately evaluate a tobacco blend.

    Bob

    Posted 5 years ago #
  10. fadingdaylight

    fadingdaylight

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    I use this site as my guide to new blends. I watch the "What Are You Smoking?" thread, among others, to spot people who have similar taste, then when I see that several of those people are smoking something I have yet to try, well...

    Seems to be working good. I have yet to find a god awful one. My most recent revelation was Luxury Navy Flake, which seems to grow on you after a day or two. And it's cheap. Escudo is still on my "one of these days" list though...

    Posted 5 years ago #
  11. derfargin

    derfargin

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    rmbittner:

    I see your point and where you were going with it. I was going to mention something like that in my original post, but refrained due to the fact that at times sometimes people can get too granular in tobacco reviews. It's kind of.."can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees" kind of thing.

    While I agree with you when you say that someone who doesn't have much experience smoking a complex blend of tobacco will have the ability to pick up subtleties or nuances. It doesn't mean the "newer" smoker wouldn't be able to tell you if they liked it or not.

    I would say it it would be MOST wasted on someone that had already said they're not a fan of a taste of a type of tobacco contained in the mixture. (i.e. Latakia to name one) If we're talking about Balkan Sobranie. If purplemoto man has only smoked Aro's and hasn't yet branched out into English blends, then I wouldn't rule him out. I know you used him as an example as a new smoker and were by no means saying anything about him personally.

    All you really need to know is that you liked or disliked a blend. The problem comes when you're trying to describe to someone why you did/didn't like it. That's when you have to start trying to break it down into smaller components to explain your hypothesis.

    Now having said that, if it were that black and white tobaccoreviews.com would be a pretty boring site.

    Sure tastes change with anything over time...food, drink, and tobacco is no different.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  12. rmbittner

    rmbittner

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    "All you really need to know is that you liked or disliked a blend."

    But I'm not sure this gets at the point I thought you were making in the OP. Because I thought you were suggesting that a blind taster might come to an old tin of Balkan Sobranie and they'd disparage it because they didn't know what it really was. If they tried it and just didn't like it. . . well that's a completely different thing. Because there's no shame or embarrassment in simply not liking something, regardless of how expensive, revered, or sought-after it might be. I don't think any pipe smoker should be expected to *like* anything simply because it's "fabled." That's like saying you should like caviar simply because it's expensive.

    Bob

    Posted 5 years ago #
  13. settersbrace

    settersbrace

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    Take the following with a grain of salt, please.

    I was once told by a long time tobacconist that back when Cuban cigars were bought and smoked here in the US, prior to the embargo, that the overall sales numbers fell in around 10% of the total market in cigar sales. After the embargo the demand skyrocketed, of course. I've smoked pre-embargo Cubans as well as modern day "genuine" Cubans and there is a day and night difference. I can also say with certainty that there are Honduran and Dominican sticks available today in the US that can rival any of the old Cuban cigars simply because many of the growers fled to those countries and took seed with them.

    Not having ever had the opportunity to smoke any vintage blends along the lines of the storied BS 759 I have no base line in which to make judgement other than what I know I like with what's out there now for me to smoke. If I were given an unmarked sample to test I would certainly be able to tell if it was in fact a remarkable blend that pushed all the buttons of my pre-conditioned palate that already favors English/Balkan blends. I would not have even a wild guess at what I was smoking even if I thought it was the best tobacco I've ever smoked.

    I know its apples and oranges but I think many of us get caught up in trying to obtain the un-obtainable and knowing that pipe tobaccos change dramatically sometimes with age, I doubt none of us alive today would ever be able to experience the long gone tobaccos of years past in the original context. All the more reason to covet the treasures available to us now.

    De gustibus et cloribus non disputandum.
    'There is no arguing about tastes and colours.'
    Posted 5 years ago #
  14. derfargin

    derfargin

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    "That's like saying you should like caviar simply because it's expensive."

    Not the same example. A more accurate statement for what I was trying get across is(and to use your example) "Here try this sample of Caspian(made-up-brand name)caviar. You should know that the fish that these eggs come from are now extinct and you cant get this anymore. Most everyone raves about how good it is." Cost isn't a factor here, it's about the implied quality and it's scarecity.

    My original point is to give a sample of Balkan Sobranie to someone that knowingly likes that kind of blend, and see how they react to it without them knowing what it really is.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  15. derfargin

    derfargin

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    settersbrace:

    Another great point made. Back when BS 759 was easily obtainable, I'll bet there was another tobacco that was sought after that could no longer be found. History repeats itself, and one day 30 years from now we'll be saying. People will be paying high dollars for some tobacco that's available today.

    Actually, we're starting to see swing towards this type of thing with Esoterica's offereings. Sure they're not out of business, but it's hard to get. I myself am wanting to try Penzance, just out of the curiosity of sheer fact of wanting to find out what the big deal is.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  16. condorlover1

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    Funny enough I found the tin in my bedroom drawer in the UK as I was clearing up my Mothers house after her passing the other year. I purchased several tins in the mid 1980s and smoked one tin and didn't really care for it. I divided it up and gave a quarter to each of the people who I thought might enjoy it. I wondered what it would taste like and by all accounts it seems to have survived the years OK. I love sharing tobacco with my frinds on the forum since it gives so much pleasure. As an after thought I will be in the UK next month for 4 days. I have everyones latest wish list but anyone else who wants anyhing PM me before June 6th. Have a good weekend guys as I am heading NYC and exiting NJ until next week.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  17. derfargin

    derfargin

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    Again..I say quite the gentleman Condor. Enjoy your weekend, and safe travels.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  18. cosmicfolklore

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    There are very few blends of tobacco that one could call gourmet. They're all relatively cheap as dirt. once per once, way cheaper than cigarettes, plus it takes me ten times as long to smoke through a tin than it did a pack of cigarettes. So, there's one blend that more people like, and maybe it's a little mythical. I can't say for sure, because I just don't enjoy latakia. I wouldn't call the epic shift to get a hold of a tin of BS, par ofr the course.

    As far as reviews. Jeesh, this comes up a bunch, and I was setting on your side of the fence not too long ago. You stick around here long enough, and you'll be tasting raisin, hay, leather, lemon, honey verses caramel notes all over your smoke. Yep, I was the guy going, "but is it good?" Which doesn't even make sense. What does good mean? It's much easier to define raisin and honey than it is to define "good."

    We have a member, Pruss, who is in the coffee industry and does a better job of explaining how to taste.
    http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/a-matter-of-taste-%E2%80%93-part-1-what-is-taste
    http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/a-matter-of-taste-part-2-what-is-flavour
    http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/a-matter-of-taste-part-3-the-mechanics-of-tasting

    Tasting using similes such as hay, raisin, etc, allows us to communicate the flavors, way better than good, bad, which doesn't mean anything, especially to a guy who is as picky as me.

    As far as expensive tobaccos... where are the $100 blends? The differences in prices are usually just dollars, not digits. And, most of the differences are due to marketing and packaging.
    I guess the more important question is which ones are the cheap ones? Heck, Carter hall and Prince Albert are way more expensive to me, because they are at the drug store with small quantities being sold at cigarette prices. A tin of FVF is about the same price to me, gram per gram.

    Michael
    Posted 5 years ago #
  19. rmbittner

    rmbittner

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    Derfargin:

    PM sent...

    Bob

    Posted 5 years ago #
  20. cosmicfolklore

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    You guys are talking about me behind my back, aren't you? Is my zipper open?

    Posted 5 years ago #
  21. settersbrace

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    Funny that back in the day, as they say, I smoked a good bit of Penzance and although it's a very good mixture, it's not one that I'd chase to the ends of the earth for. I find other Balkan flakes more appealing and find it quite laughable to see the frantic bidding wars when it pops up on flea bay. There's a similar situation going on globally with certain types of ammunition and even though production is at 100%, the product gets more scarce by the day.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  22. pruss

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    Having just participated in a, "I'm sending you a sample of tobacco from a 65 year old tin that I just opened," experiment and spending most of my days using my palate for a living I thought I would chime in.

    @defargin You're right to suggest that any tasting experience can and will be seasoned (some would say tainted, or corrupted, or weighted) by any predetermination that a person brings to that experience. If I tell someone that they are going to taste apricots in a coffee, they are going to taste apricots in the coffee. If I hand a customer a latte and say, "I hope you enjoy this delicious latte." I've pre-set their expectations to expect the latte to be delicious.

    This is why, for evaluative purposes, tastings should always be blind and should always follow a defined set of protocols. The protocols determine how the product is tasted, and define how different flavour components are scored/recorded. The final evaluation of each product is evaluated in blind, in the same way, and evaluated using the same measures/standards/scoring.

    This, however, isn't always fun. Which is why a tasting like the one Misterlowercase ran, and like Shaintiques experienced is such a rich experience. Half the fun in these two examples was the sharing of something unique and rare. The other half the fun was using relative tobacco tasting and reviewing skills to share that experience with the wider forum community.

    If I were evaluating a new tobacco to take to market, give me the rigidity and structure of a blind tasting with defined protocols. If I want to have a shared tasting experience with a bunch of buddies... well I think it's obvious which I think is more fun.

    -- Pat

    Posted 5 years ago #
  23. kanaka95

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    All in all i think you have a great point derfargin.

    The constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people,it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government-less it come to dominate our likes and interest.God bless america.(patrick henry)
    Posted 5 years ago #
  24. latbomber

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    In a blind test, many professional violinists could not tell a Stradivarius (worth millions,no exaggeration) from a modern japanese violin (worth under 10k) I think this test applies to almost any luxury-type product meant for consumption. I got the chance to go to a Laphroaig scotch tasting a few years back, and had whiskeys ranging from a $50 4 year old bottle to a $500+ 25 and 30 year old bottles. They were all excellent, but my favorites? The 4 year old bottle tied with an 18 year old. I've also had "dud" cuban cigars I've enjoyed less than corner store specials. Objectively, it is amazing that we pay premiums for things that at the end of the day, we cant really tell the difference about.

    However, one thing that most people are too proud to admit (myself often included) is that the brand, packaging, and provenance associated with a product really does contribute to its enjoyment: I want my coke to be in a curvy red and white glass bottle, I want my watch to be swiss made, I want my guitar to be USA made with obsolete nitrocellulose paint, I want my tobacco to be aged in a painted metal tin made by a classic blender, and I want my pipe carved from a now unobtainable wood during world war 2 on top of a mountain during a full moon under a shooting star by the pope.

    OK. Point is, the label, the history etc. is just as much of the enjoyment as the product itself. Thus us shallow humans continue.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  25. cosmicfolklore

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    OK, I am a little confused. Besides a few blends that are aged and thus rare because of their age, what tobaccos compare in price differences like a Stradivarius or an expensive liquor?

    the B&M I go to almost always has Penzance and Balkan Sobraine in stock for the same prices as any other tin on the shelf. I do notice that Escudo is one dollar less than Dunhill's DeLuxe Rolls. And, bulk is always about a dollar or two less be oz than tins, but you have to buy a jar. Maybe since online retailers run out, the perception of rarity is out there? Maybe?

    I did use to think that Rattrays blends were outrageous being about $20 in comparison to $15 or $16 for the other blends, but that was before I realized that there was twice as much in the tin of Rattrays, thus the Rattrays was cheaper.

    I can taste the difference between Virginia #1 and FVF. I can smell the difference before I light it. Unless your sniffer is messed up, surely anyone that has experience with these blends could.

    Heck, the backroom of The Briary has some overstock that is up to 20+ years that he sells for the same price as the fresh stuff. But, he doesn't let just anyone go back there. But, I'm sure he would tell you if he had it if you asked. Most people who go there would just prefer the fresh stuff.

    I think age is grossly exaggerated on here. I wrote a whole bunch more on the misconception of what age does to a blend on another thread, so I won't rehash that here. I'll just say that "if" there is a blend that some will pay more for because they believe it is so much better with age, then so be it. I bought a few very old blends to check out what age does to blends for myself, and I was unimpressed. Some, just taste like dirt when they get old. However, if someone wants to spend their money to get these old tobaccos, then so be it. That doesn't mean you have to.

    However, if you mean there is a price differential between some blends, as there are in pipes, cars, or violins, what the heck are they? Because, I've never seen an expensive tobacco. I'd be curious to know what they are.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  26. latbomber

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    You seem to take your local well stocked B+M as a standard of worldwide prices and availability. It's not.

    You can "see" plenty of expensive tobacco if you know what you are talking about. We all know that esoterica blends are worth many many times msrp in markets where they can't be found easily (europe only gets jf germain, penzance is like bigfoot here) A 100g tin of original production Dunhill commonly goes for $200/$300. Balkan Sobraine also auctions off for stupid amounts in other markets.

    If read correctly my point about the Stradivarius was not a direct comparison to pipe tobaccos. I was using the example to apply to brand bias effect on pipe smokers/other consumers.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  27. cosmicfolklore

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    My curiosity is peaked. I really want to know more about this. So, I could buy up all of the $20 tins of Penzance and resale them somewhere, and people would actually BUY them for $100's?

    Posted 5 years ago #
  28. beefeater33

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    Penzance tins go for 55-65 dollars on e-bay, more if they have some age on them.

    "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dream..."
    Willy Wonka
    Posted 5 years ago #
  29. beefeater33

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    jguss

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    I agree with latbomber. Most if not all of our pleasures, intellectual and sensual, are influenced by psychological perceptions. And that's fine with me.

    Posted 5 years ago #
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    larrylegend

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    I have seen people pay much higher than usual prices for beer that is not available in their region. Was the beer that much better than local beer or just worth more because it was rare? Could be both. There is a brewery that just recently had their beer become available in my area and is a bit more expensive than other craft brands. I really enjoy their beer so I pay the price.

    The same thing happens with any item that is hard to get for some people. Take .22 ammo currently, it sells online for much higher than msrp in my area. If you find a store that has some in stock, they are usually selling it for standard prices. Look at the price online and it is vastly inflated.

    Posted 5 years ago #

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