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Group Tasting - Laurel Flake and St. James Flake

(64 posts)
  • Started 5 months ago by ashdigger
  • Latest reply from ashdigger
  1. ashdigger

    ashdigger

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    Okay folks I'm going to conduct another group tasting experience. I'm going to have a total of 10 spaces, and 2 already are spoken for. So I need 8 more victims tasters.

    The Laurel Flake is dated 1-12-05 and the St. James Flake is from 2014.

    Rumor has it they are both the same tobacco (go to tobaccoreviews.com)

    It was originally blended for Tavern Tobacco Co, but is no longer made. So technically its unobtainium.

    So, here's how it works. PM me you name and address and I'll send you a sample of both. Taste them and report your findings to this thread.

    I understand shit happens, but if you're leaving town, going to prison, have a big event coming up....don't ask for a sample. I'm generous, but don't ruin a fun thing by acting like an irresponsible 10 yr old.

    Finally, I'd like to thank donjgiles for turning me onto this great unobtainable.

    Ubi Ignis Est?
    Posted 5 months ago #
  2. ashdigger

    ashdigger

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    7 spaces left

    Posted 5 months ago #
  3. bluegrassbrian

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    Pee Emm sent.

    Tobacco's a help because it clears the mind
    But like all your friends it is vilified
    They always say, the right amount's fine
    Posted 5 months ago #
  4. ashdigger

    ashdigger

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    5 spaces left

    Posted 5 months ago #
  5. ashdigger

    ashdigger

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    4 spaces left

    Posted 5 months ago #
  6. ashdigger

    ashdigger

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    3 spaces left.

    Posted 5 months ago #
  7. ashdigger

    ashdigger

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    2 spaces left

    Posted 5 months ago #
  8. ashdigger

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    1 space left

    Posted 5 months ago #
  9. scloyd

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    My palate is not that refined so I would be a waste of a space. Sounds like a good idea though. Looking forward to reading the results.

    Posted 5 months ago #
  10. ashdigger

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    Okay, we have the tasters!! I'll crack the jars today and get the tobacco out. I'll post pictures of the tobacco.

    Posted 5 months ago #
  11. rdavid

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    Really looking forward to this as a way to kick off my "Virginia" summer.

    Definitely not a refined palate here either but hoping I can contribute a less experienced point of view.

    "May my last breath be drawn through a pipe, and exhaled in a jest." Charles Lamb
    Posted 5 months ago #
  12. mtwaller

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    Thanks, ashdigger! I love VaPer’s, I’m very excited to try these out.

    “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion”.
    Posted 5 months ago #
  13. d4k23

    d4k23

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    So what's the best way to compare two tobaccos? Light two similar pipes with the two baccys and puff a few times on one, then the other? Smoke one full bowl of one, then the other while senses are fresh? I'm think two at the same time, but curious what others will do as well. Thanks Ash for letting me be a part of your experiment!

    Posted 5 months ago #
  14. mtwaller

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    d4k23 I was honestly wondering the same thing. I have a couple pipes that mainly see use from Va or Va/Per blends, I’m thinking smoking out of two different pipes would be better than smoking one right after another in the same pipe? I’m planning on trying one, then waiting a few hours and drinking lots of water to cleanse the old palette before trying the other. I could be dead wrong, though. Never done a comparative tasting, myself.

    Posted 5 months ago #
  15. didimauw

    didimauw

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    Brand new corn cobs of course!

    "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."
    Posted 5 months ago #
  16. mtwaller

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    Ah, the trusty cob. I don’t own any... I guess I’ll have to pick up a few. That makes sense!

    Posted 5 months ago #
  17. jpmcwjr

    jpmcwjr

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    Freshly purged briars are just fine, and have some advantages over a new cob.

    And, yes, loading two pipes, making sure the tobaccos are at the same moisture level, and alternating say for five minutes each seems a good start.

    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 5 months ago #
  18. hawky454

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    I’m looking forward to trying these and sharing my thoughts with you all. I just happen to be the mysterious 10th spot.

    Thanks again, Ash, for including me.

    Posted 5 months ago #
  19. ashdigger

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    Sorry for the delay gents. I wanted all my ducks in a row before I sent them out. They'll go out in Monday's Post.

    Posted 5 months ago #
  20. rdavid

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    2 brand new cobs at the ready here. Going to load and smoke two at a time for my first bowls of the day, alternating between bowls every few minutes or so. Than later that day, going to smoke full bowls of each separately to determine any differences.

    Posted 5 months ago #
  21. ashdigger

    ashdigger

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    Ok, I finally got a breather. 16 fires in two weeks has kicked my ass.

    ALL PACKAGES ARE MAILED.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  22. ashdigger

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    Here is what the Laurel Flake looks like

    This is the St. James

    Posted 4 months ago #
  23. jiminks

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    They look delicious.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  24. d4k23

    d4k23

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    Thanks Ashdigger, those do look like good flakes. Pretty excited to do a comparison, test my palate out against other forum members!

    Did they smell the same out of the tin?

    Posted 4 months ago #
  25. rdavid

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    I have two brand new cobs at the ready. Would it be advisable to smoke them with another Virginia first, say FVF or something like that to season the cobs first?

    I do get a different flavor from the first bowl or two from a new cob and don’t want to risk skewing the results. Thanks.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  26. bassbug

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    yay..I'm sure I'll be the last to receive the stash up here in Canada, but I"m certainly looking forward to it.

    I don't care who you are, you're not walking on the water while I'm fishing
    Posted 4 months ago #
  27. donjgiles

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    How was the moisture level on the Laurel Flake?
    It sure is sparklie!!!

    Visually, ten extra years make a difference. The St. James looks much darker over all to me.

    Also, the crystal structure is interesting as it only occurs on certain types of lighter virginias.

    Don

    Posted 4 months ago #
  28. jpmcwjr

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    I have two brand new cobs at the ready. Would it be advisable to smoke them with another Virginia first, say FVF or something like that to season the cobs first?

    I do get a different flavor from the first bowl or two from a new cob and don’t want to risk skewing the results. Thanks.

    Sounds like a good plan.

    Two refreshed briars are equally good.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  29. ashdigger

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    Did they smell the same out of the tin?

    They do not smell the same. One is very stewy/figgy and the other had a slight astringent plum, almost fermented smell.

    I have smoked a bowl of each and I definitely prefer one of them over the other. They are very similar, but also very different.

    The cut of the flakes is different too. One is very thin and the other slightly, but noticeably thicker.

    If this all seems a little cloak and dagger, I'm trying to keep you fine folks from developing confirmation bias, while still giving hints of what you can expect.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  30. hawky454

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    Beautiful pictures! Just now seeing them. Just got my samples in the mail today, here are some pics.


    Thanks again, ashdigger, I’ll be getting started on this right away!

    They do not smell the same. One is very stewy/figgy and the other had a slight astringent plum, almost fermented smell.

    As far as bag note goes, I completely agree with this! The smell is certainly making my mouth water! I can’t wait.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  31. hawky454

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    I’m also going to note that while I am familiar with St. Jame’s Flake, it’s been awhile since I’ve had it, as I’m waiting for my oldest stash to reach 6 years before I start smoking it again, by that time I’ll have a nice cycle of it going so I can always smoke it aged, obviously I prefer SJF with some years on it. I’m also going to refrain from looking at the TR of Laurel Flake until I am done with my taste tests, I don’t want to be influenced by any one reviewer. There is plenty of tobacco of both blends to experiment in different pipes and what not so it may take me a few days before I post my thoughts on it. All of that said, let the games begin... I’m giddy!

    Posted 4 months ago #
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    csharp

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    Samples came in the mail today. Looking forward to this tasting.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  33. bluegrassbrian

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    Mine came too.. both look delicious.
    Ill do a bowl of the St James tomorrow and make some notes.

    For only having around 5 years of age it sure looks dark and funky!

    Posted 4 months ago #
  34. hawky454

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    Just got done with my first bowl of Laurel Flake, won’t give anything away but I will say, hot damn, it is GOOD!!!

    Posted 4 months ago #
  35. ashdigger

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    Did the postal employees smoke everyone else's baccy?

    Posted 4 months ago #
  36. donjgiles

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    I received mine yesterday and had a delicious bowl of St. James Flake. Thank you Ash. Comparison to follow.

    Don

    Posted 4 months ago #
  37. d4k23

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    The baccy has not made it this far south yet! Hopefully today! Looking forward to trying these out!

    Posted 4 months ago #
  38. mtwaller

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    I just got mine in the mail! I haven’t tried them yet, I’m hoping to do so either tonight or tomorrow. I will say, the St. James smells absurdly good. As far as the tin note is concerned, that one gets my vote. I’m interested to see how the actual tastes will compare...

    Posted 4 months ago #
  39. bouwser

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    Still waiting on mine. Today maybe?

    Posted 4 months ago #
  40. bluegrassbrian

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    I’m about 3/4 through my first bowl of Laurel flake.
    Now I’m confident that if it’s not relabeled St James flake, it’s not too far off. Hard to know for sure considering the difference in age. The Laurel Flake in and of itself is a superb smoke having had over 14 years of age to mature and transform.

    I’ve also been smoking a recently opened tin of FVF from 2007, so all in all, cousins to be sure.

    I’ve always found St James flake to essentially be Full Virginia Flake with a careful addition of aromatic Perique. I’ve been curious about what kind d of Perique Gawith uses in their blends. It’s never too spicy or peppery and never too plummy/raisin/sweet. Instead I find it to be an old world incense flavor, almost like an oriental once it has been given some years to age.
    For me, this is apparent in both samples provided.

    Again, if I had to make a guess I’d say they are the same blends with a Virginia to Perique ratio no different than +/- 5%.
    Really excellent stuff. Thanks so much for the opportunity Ash!

    Posted 4 months ago #
  41. d4k23

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    Tobacco came in yesterday! Bag note was pretty much the same, probably because the tobacco was hanging together for so long. I could smell it through the envelope, I got the figgy goodness, but a little duller than I would guess straight out of the tin. Both flakes were pretty moist. I'm sure it's heresy, but I'll be cube cutting both, give them both some dry time, because they are pliable flakes, for the first smoke later today. Will report later on!

    Posted 4 months ago #
  42. d4k23

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    Just got done smoking and will share my thoughts. I went ahead and went with two pipes of similar smoking capabilities. The Laurel Flake was in the Karl Erik and the SJF was in the Winslow Crown. Both tobaccos cube cut. The Laurel took to the flame very easy, and the SJF had to be coaxed (as is my experience with FVF/SG). I smoked one bowl for a few minutes, then switched. I was drinking water and sniffing coffee beans in between to cleanse my palate. Here are my thoughts on both:

    Laurel Flake: First char and puff was full of flavor! I immediately got the stewed fruit, and maybe like a flower like notes. Not herbal, but a sweetish scent. The sweetness lasted throughout the entire bowl, and every now and again I would get a sour/tang (what I think of MC's nice aged Virginia). Every relight was spot on, never any charred notes. The after taste was lighter and had me wanting more.

    SJF: Full body smoke once I got this lit. It had the traditional SG mouth feel, with a little bite if I pushed it. Smoking this I got more woody/earth notes, but there was still the aged Virginia goodness that was the back bone. Slightly sweet at times, a little less than the Laurel Flake. The second half of the bowl I believe the Perique kicked in and I got a little spice to it. The second half of this bowl took a little more work to keep lit and the flavors became more full.

    After a couple of back and forth, I noticed that the in between lights were very similar, as if I was lighting the same smoke. Even the non-lit draw seemed the same at times. But that Laurel had just that little more sweetness to it than the SJF throughout the entire bowl, and the SJF a little more woodsy.

    My thoughts are that these are two very similar tobaccos, maybe the same, but I think the Laurel has some extra casing/topping that added the touch of sweetness. And the tang showed more in the Laurel. Both excellent smokes, and smoking both together gave me a very nice nic buzz I am enjoying while I type (one I don't get often, ha)!

    Thanks Ash for the opportunity! Can't wait to here what everyone else thought!

    Posted 4 months ago #
  43. jiminks

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    I think they are basically the same blend; always did. The Laurel Flake has a little more of a stewed fruitness and fermentation that was likely enhanced by the aging process. I tried a small sample a few years back and thought the same thing then, only I noticed a dab of cocoa back then that I don't notice in this batch. I never could explain that. I do think now, as I did then, that a light sweet essence was added to the Laurel Flake, probably sugar. What very small differences between the two were, aging has pumped up those minor changes a mite.

    Either way, I've been very happy to compare them, and I appreciate the opportunity, Ash Digger. Thanks a bunch, man!

    Posted 4 months ago #
  44. donjgiles

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    My 2 cents...
    I think they are very similar, after all they are both pure Va/Per flakes from the same blender.

    I do think the blends of virginias differ with St. James having more dark virginias and Laurel having a bit more medium and bright leaf. Laurel tastes sweeter whereas the St. James sweetness is more dark. There may be a difference in length of steaming and pressing, but I really do not know.

    I also believe the Perique used is different, as I recall the reason for creating the Laurel Flake in the first place was to use a "special" batch of perique that Knoxville Cigar had aquired.

    I am glad you all are enjoying it, thank you again Ash for your generousity.

    Don

    Posted 4 months ago #
  45. hawky454

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    Well I guess I’ll just go ahead and post my thoughts as well.

    First of all I’d like to thank Ash for including me in this generous offer. I’ve never done anything quite like this and I’m thankful for the opportunity.

    First 3 pipes full I smoked each blend by themselves and not back to back. Fully rubbed out both flakes and let dry for 15 to 30 mins, I smoked outdoors in 70° F weather, slightly breezy, sunny and always after a moderately sized meal. Smoked in a BB Stanwell 190 pipe that is reserved for VA & VaPer blends. When comparing in this manner (memory) I came to the conclusion that these two blends are identical and the only perceived differences noted were subject to the 10 years of difference between the LF & SJF. Personally, I preferred the SJF as it was slightly more sharp and not as mellowed by age as the LF at this point.

    Next I smoked both blends back to back in similarly shaped pipes with chambers nearly identical and both pipes dedicated to the VA genre. This time I smoked indoors right after a large dinner. Conclusion, yes, I agree with basically everyone that these two blends are the same. At this point, I still can’t decide on a winner, some smokes I think I prefer the SJF but other times I prefer the LF but the differences are so minor that I really could’t tell them apart in a blind taste test. Both were absolutely stellar smokes and I can’t wait till my stash of SJF hits the 5 yr mark. I still have some left of both blends for a few more bowls and I shall cherish the rest this stuff.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  46. bouwser

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    Thanks Ash, received mine yesterday. It snowed something fierce today. I’ll get to the experimentation when I can get outside.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  47. ashdigger

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    These reviews look exactly like I figured, based on my thoughts about these two similar/dissimilar/same blends.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  48. hawky454

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    Twas double the fun! And a reminder of how much I love SJF and we don’t really need to be sad that Laurel Flake is no longer made.

    Does anyone here have anymore experience with the other Tavern Tobacco Co. made by SG?

    Posted 4 months ago #
  49. bassbug

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    Still waiting for my package to arrive here in the great white north. I've never tasted either one of the blends, so I'm looking forward to seeing if I can add anything to the conversation.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  50. mtwaller

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    Both of these are fantastic, thanks again for letting us partake of these fine tobaccos. If I didn’t know anything about them, just from a visual standpoint I would not have thought they were even close to the same. They look quite different to my eye! The aroma was also quite different. The SJF smells darker, fruitier, tangier... the Laurel smells lightly bready and sweet. I imagine this is a product of the significant aging. I will say after smoking small bowls of each side by side, and then a bit more of each one at a time, I distinctly prefer the SJF! It tastes fuller, tangier, maybe a bit sharper. The laurel is very balanced and smooth, but that many years of aging has taken something out of it, perhaps? I’ve never tried either brand new so I can’t confirm that. But the SJF is much more satisfying to me. Even after tasting them both, they differ enough that I wouldn’t know they were the same blend. I wonder if they would match up more closely if they both had the same age on them? Either way, I genuinely enjoy these. Thanks so much for letting me participate in this tasting, I want more of that St. James now!!

    Posted 4 months ago #
  51. jiminks

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    Mtwaller: I noticed in the past that on occasion that the color of SJF is a little lighter than it is most of the time, much like the color of Laurel Flake. It's not common, but I have seen it.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  52. bazungu

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    The tobacco arrived safe and well here in Edinburgh, Scotland(surprisingly quick!!)! Thanks again Ashdigger for giving us this opportunity to taste these delicious tobaccos.
    I have already smoked a pipe of the Laurel Flake and I was blown away. In a few days I will post a write up of both tobaccos! Cannot wait to try the st james flake tomorrow...

    Posted 4 months ago #
  53. bouwser

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    Again, I want to thank Ash. These tobaccos are superb. Here is my 2 cents.

    I do believe they are the same or just about as close as you can get. The aging has some effect, but all the flavors are there in both. I am not going to be on the search for more St. James flake. I have to have more......TAD, feed the TAD!

    My notes:
    Laurel
    -sweet lasting the bowl, red VA style
    -I did get some cocoa on the light a few time (was this psychosomatic?)
    -lots of deep fruitiness
    -soft flavors (much like a pinot noir has or a really well made European Pilsner)
    -bit o honey especially when sipped.

    St. James
    -rugged
    -more plumness (perique?)
    -a least once with the cocoa note on a light
    -big flavor (if sticking with alcohol metaphors, Zinfandel or cab sav or a really in your face hoppy beer)

    Posted 4 months ago #
  54. bassbug

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    Finally got my envelope, thanks Ash...

    I just finished the first bowl of Laurel Flake, so I'll give my impressions. Please keep in mind that I am a dedicated aromatic smoker and this is the first VaPer I've ever tried.

    This was like when you're not paying attention and top falls off the pepper shaker onto your food...The first thing that hit me was the pepper taste. Not just a hint, not a bit but full blown black pepper. It took almost a third of the bowl for my taste buds to not scream at me. After that I did start noticing some of the Virginia coming through. Slight citrus and grassy but it was, for me, completely overpowered by the perique. I"m not sure whether this blend is considered light, medium of heavy on the perique content but if it was cut in half, even two thirds I think I would enjoy it a lot more. I didn't detect any topping flavours but then again, it may be because of the powerful spicy taste the dominated.

    Being a one bowl a day (max) smoker, I'll try the St. James tomorrow and see what it offers.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  55. mtwaller

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    I have to update my initial findings: the first couple flakes of Laurel were a bit loose, but this last one now that I’m really looking hard at it does look remarkably similar to the St. James. Now that I have gotten my first few experiences out of the way, I am also starting to notice the similarities in taste more apparently. Admittedly, I don’t have an ultra-refined palette. I think I was picking up strongly on the differences before, but now I can see how there is some distinct sameness to them. I’ll admit that my first assessment was probably off, for the experienced smoker (which I am not) most people would probably know these to be the same or nearly the same tobacco. I think the different flavor profiles that resulted from extensive aging of one versus the other threw me for a loop. I still prefer the St. James, but holy damn is that Laurel silky smooth and sweet. Thanks again, Ashdigger! I love the VaPer’s I’ve tried, this makes me keen to start cellaring some of the better ones.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  56. ashdigger

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    Great reviews!! I'm stoled all the samples survived shipment. Not bad considering the envelopes were a tad thick, one was shipped to Canada and another to Scotland.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  57. ashdigger

    ashdigger

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    *stoked

    Posted 4 months ago #
  58. donjgiles

    donjgiles

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    Are you going to share your impressions Ash?

    Don

    Posted 4 months ago #
  59. ashdigger

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    There is still one or left to review, but yes, I wrote my review two weeks ago. I'll just cut and paste out of the word doc.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  60. bazungu

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    This week I will do another tasting session and I will post my findings as well, they seem to differ a bit from others.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  61. mtwaller

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    Alright. I’m going to put my foot in my mouth one last time. It seems I should’ve waited until I smoked every speck of Ashdigger’s generous supply of aged tobacco before I let fly with my web warrior verdict on these. I had enough left for a half bowl of Laurel (I’m smoking it out of a Pete 120, so half bowl is still a solid amount). I swear to god that last flake was the most delicious, nuanced, flavorful bowl I’ve ever smoked. The sweetness was almost too good, I kept getting waves of what to me tasted like ripe tangerine. Call me crazy, but that’s the only taste I could compare it to. I don’t think I smoked enough at once to fully let the flavors develop until now. 14-15 year Laurel kicks ass and it is honestly better than the St. James, even though my initial bias didn’t want to let me believe it. Final answer. That Laurel is GOOD.

    Posted 4 months ago #
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    csharp

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    I have had a chance to smoke both the LF and the STJF. Both the manufacturer and experienced tasters have said that these are the same. That is not something I would challenge and in a blind tasting I am not sure if I could tell them apart at first blush. As noted I believe there are subtle differences do to age and maybe batch variations. Both flakes were dark in appearance with crystals present. The LF was a touch darker. The LF smelled of old silage, fermented with just a hint of the new straw. Oddly I got a slight vinegar hint that I smelled once. The STJF had a slightly younger more bright fresh hay hint. I cubed, dried and smoked both in clay pipes. On smoking each my first impressions are that the LF is sweet and builds on that. The Perique seems in the back ground. The STJF also has sweet VA presence with the Perique building in strength. At first though neither seems to have a strong perique presence. Interestingly if you smoke them back to back they seem to draw out the character of the other with the STJF flake getting sweeter and the LF getting more essence of pepper. I am sure I might discover more but I do not want to hold the thread up.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  63. bazungu

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    So here is my full review, which seems to differ slightly from others people experience. Again, this shows how subjective tasting is as we both have our own flavor memory bank we compare things with.

    The smell from the pouch is quite subdued, most likely due to the shipping time to Scotland. On the upside, the flakes are at the perfect moisture for smoking!
    Laurel flake has a bit of a fermented vinegar small with a subtle hint of smoked black tea. St James flake on the other hand has a slightly sweeter smell of stewed fruits with also a hint of vinegar.

    I smoked both flakes in a Comoy dublin as well as a virgin Jacono brandy.
    The LF starts of with a sweet caramel like flavour with hints of black tea and chocolate. This flavour develops in this typical deep stewed imperial virginia flavor with a bit of earth. The smoke is thick and creamy and sometimes is just oozing with a sweet sour taste that stimulates saliva production. Every now and then, little flavor pops of smoke & wood with sweet baby talc/powdery perfume appear. The smoke is absolutely bite free.

    St James Flake is a bit more fruity and fresh tasting, starting with a sweet/sour taste that gradually decreases as the bowl progresses into a more stewed fermented earthy taste of imperial virginia. Sometimes hint of smoke appear and it has a nice almost herbal aftertaste. It is a bit more monotonous and a bit more sharp but burns easier.

    While they are both in the same flavour genre, there are some differences to be found most likely due to age and different batches of tobacco being used. So I guess even when you make the same blend (so the same % of virginia, perique etc...), the flavour will still be a bit different as processing of the leaf might vary year to year. Of course, I assume they will blend batches of different years together, but at some point some difference most occur.

    Thank you again ashdigger for granting us this wonderful experience. I really had a nirvana smoke with the Laurel Flake. I am not able to pick a favorite, but have their merits.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  64. ashdigger

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    ^^^ this is almost my exact experience.

    Thank you all for participating!!

    Posted 4 months ago #

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