In this scenario, I’m the May beauty (indulge me here), enamored in my youthful extravagance of the much older September paramour, the estimable Peterson of Dublin. Peterson’s seasonal tobaccos are lovingly crafted and opulently presented; they bring 150 years of experience to the relationship. Sadly, this fling is destined to be short-lived; produced in very limited quantities (only 5000 tins each!) and gaining popularity every year, these blends tend to fly off retailers’ shelves. There are no other limited edition blends that I look forward to more eagerly than Peterson’s annual trio (including the Christmas blend, which is yet to be released), and it seems they’re getting better every year. Unfortunately, they also seem to release later every year, at least here in the States, where we’re just now seeing the Summertime and Special Reserve at the end of August. Still, there’s no better way to celebrate the waning of the season than with a bowl of these confectionary concoctions.
This year’s collectible tin art reaches new heights.
Tin: The tin art on both is great this year. The Summertime blend, always the more fanciful one, depicts a monarch butterfly absconding with a squire bulldog, against a cloud-tufted blue sky. It cleverly sets the stage for daydreaming, along with the transportive aroma of exotic fruits contained therein—to me it’s akin to a box of saltwater taffy, with a general fruitiness that veers toward the floral and creamy. The Special Reserve has more…well, reserved, tin art: the Peterson thinking man logo stamped over an artful close-up of a golden tobacco leaf. Inside the tin, the scent of berries and cream is difficult to resist. They both display an interesting new presentation inside the tin as well—the usual multi-hued strands of Virginia and dark flecks of Cavendish are now interspersed with little "flakelets": pieces of cut flake that dry quickly, add wonderful substance and control to the burn, and are pleasing to the eye and hand when preparing a bowl.
Char: The moisture of the blends is perfect for packing straight in a bowl, or allowing a little breathing time to enjoy the bouquet of the topping. Both of them are ambrosial in their scents—Summertime with the aforementioned fruity-taffy bent, and Special Reserve having a mainly strawberry essence—and the aromas segue into the smoke graciously.
Top: These are notably "pure" aromatics, and in the absence of humectants or immoderately sugary additives for their flavorings, they take to the light easily and burn remarkably smoothly. The fruit flavors complement the natural sweetness of the Virginia and Cavendish uncommonly well, while tempering the initial sharpness of the light. Neither of them are too sweet or goopy; they dance along the Goldilocks zone nimbly, with just enough sweetness, just enough aroma, all while enhancing the natural flavors of the tobacco as it shines through felicitously.
Mid: Both blends hold their flavor and aroma all the way through, picking up body by the mid-bowl. While the Summertime stays on the lighter side, the Special Reserve thickens a little and brings some real creaminess into the smoke, and makes for the slightly more savory of the pair. The Summertime can tend to burn a wee bit hot, but in all likelihood the blame lies more with the smoker, puffing too hard while chasing the delectable flavors. There is also a marked absence of relights with these blends, again speaking to their quality pedigree.
Finish: Both finish to a dry heel easily, requiring a minimum (if any) of relights. The Special Reserve, for me at least, has the slightest edge over the Summertime in terms of amount of flavor and body. The sweetness of both is temperate and, again because it bears repeating, an enhancement to the tobacco’s flavors rather than a mask overlaid them.
Room Note: The smokes of both blends translate well into their respective room notes, furnishing light notes of the fruit and generously tempered tobacco aromas. They are both crowd-pleasers and delicious for the smoker, and will linger lovingly on beards and sport coats.
Ratings: 91 for Summertime 2014 and 94 for Special Reserve 2014
Summertime scores 15 for presentation—whimsical tin art, gorgeous tobacco, and enticing fragrance are everything an aromatic should be. Its draw and burn are likewise spot on, earning 33 with ease. For flavor and aroma, it rates a 43; though delightful, the mélange of fruity sweetness is a little unfocused and unspecific.
Special Reserve nails a 15 for presentation; aside from the beautiful tin, the inclusion of the mini-flakes is a stroke of genius with these blends. The draw & burn are effortless, smooth and creamy, again pegging a perfect score of 35. In the flavor + aroma department, it earns a 44. This is one of the best aromatics available, and I recommend stocking up while you can.
Cellar or Smoke?
If you’re an unabashed aromatic fan, I highly recommend these blends for at least a sample tin. They’re worth the slightly dear price, and if they really tickle your fancy it’s nice to have a delicacy such as this tucked away in your cellar—I’m still enjoying Peterson blends of years past on special occasions myself.
Blend: Summertime 2014 & Special Reserve 2014
Cut: Ribbon, ready-rubbed and flake
Tobaccos: Virginia, Burley, Cavendish
Room Note: Mild and alluring
Tin Size: 100g
Tin Age: New
Summertime 2014: Modern Cavendish combined with loose cut Virginias and ready rubbed Burley tobaccos contribute to give our Summertime 2014 a soft and mellow taste. Creamy sweetness, natural tobacco flavours together with sweet exotic fruit tantalise the senses, a pipe tobacco blended perfectly for those long summer evenings.
Special Reserve 2014: With absolute best bright Virginia, ripe Burley leaves and tobacco grades carefully selected from the tobacco fields of three continents, our Special Reserve 2014 is created. A portion of the tobacco blend is pressed to form cakes then cut into small pieces and hand blended with exclusive ribbon cut and cross cut Virginias. The result is a delightful scent of berries mixed with a hint of exotic fruits, which makes it an exquisite smoking pleasure.