C&D Jolly Old St. Nicholas & We Three Kings

C&D Jolly Old St. Nicholas & We Three Kings

For one who generally trends toward the curmudgeonly, particularly around the holidays, this season finds me in an uncharacteristically cheerful frame of mind; though at times tumultuous, the year has brought many changes and challenges, and as the accounting goes I feel satisfied that my balance stretches into the black in all regards. With plenty to be grateful for and the prospect of yuletide gatherings ahead, a selection of seasonal aromatics further enhance my congenial mood and, hopefully, will be tolerated (if not appreciated) by the innocent bystanders at parties. The lineup for this month’s review are two blends eminently suitable for smoking amongst a crowd, holiday releases from Cornell & Diehl with the perfect combination of charming room notes and satisfying smokes: We Three Kings and Jolly Old St Nicholas—offerings that should intrigue even the grinchiest among us.

Inspired by the first widely popular Christmas carol written in the U.S. (1857), We Three Kings alludes to the Magi who traveled to the nativity bearing exotic spices and treasures. Delivering rich Black Cavendish with equal measures of matured Red and Bright Virginias and specially sourced Katerini Turkish leaf, this magical holiday mixture delights with notes of allspice, cinnamon, and vanilla.

So reads the tin description for C&D’s twist on a bog-standard aromatic formula, and it’s certainly spot-on in the tin description for its mild mid-range palette of decidedly tobacco-forward flavors. The Katerini leaf here is in fine form, taking cues from the light casing and further enhancing the spice profile rather than being just another leaf in the mix. Opening the year-old tin from its slumber releases a core of sweet Virginia aromas couched in complementary shades and tones: wine and parchment, sour fruit, pecan pie fresh from the oven, smoky cherry, furniture polish and a vanilla candle in the kitchen. Immediately apparent is that this is not in the category of goopy aromatics; the leaf is soft and lightly moist, and feels good in the fingers with its strands of ribbon, bits of tumbled flake, and thicker jet-black Cavendish leaving no sticky residue from handling during preparation. A few minutes’ drying time and the flavors transcribe from tin to palate admirably from the first light. The smoke is mildly sharp and tangy with the Katerini leaf evincing the strengths of the Turkish profile, leaning the flavors into the smoky end of the spectrum while being propped up by the natural sweetness of the Virginia and the subtle casing. Paired with a nice cup of Earl Grey or an after-dinner coffee, a couple of bowls close out an evening magnificently, enveloping the smoker and surrounds in a very cozy rustic aroma; it does lay a smidge on the astringent side, so exercise caution with repeated bowls. First introduced in 2014, We Three Kings was in stock at SmokingPipes.com, and worth keeping a tin on hand even during the off season. [Editor’s note: This is sold out at time of publication, but check this link in the future.]

A largesse of St. Nick’s personal smoking mixture, this magical blend combines the finest golden Virginias with mellow Black Cavendish and a whisper of genuine St. James Perique for complex tobacco flavor enhanced by notes of orange liqueur and hints of ginger – alluding to an early legend of Kris Kringle secretly gifting gold to a needful family.

Fresh for this 2022 season, a revamping of the 2018 Christmas release Jolly Old St Nicholas, this time with a bit of St. James Perique in the mix. An aromatic twist on a solid VaPer base has been done before, calling to mind BriarWorks’ Sweet Tea among other concoctions; this one just hits all the right spots in all the right places. The tin aroma is especially alluring, considering it’s only a month old—Virginia hay-tone sweetness set against a mouth-watering orange liqueur, with creamy undertones of anise and ginger, building hearty chocolate-covered cherry overtones along with the familiar woody and leathery Virginia backbone after some airing time in the tin. The blend of leaf is a roughly even mix of light Virginia leaf and nuggety Black Cavendish and Perique, and like We Three Kings it is not heavily sauced, only slightly moist in the tin and needing a short fifteen-ish minutes’ dry time to prepare a bowl. [Available here.]

The smoke itself does not carry over as much of the orange flavor as the tin note, instead shifting complexion to offer some nutty character reminiscent of burley—“chestnuts roasting on an open fire” certainly comes to mind—with a spicy melange wrapped around the core tastes of sweet Virginia and Cavendish. The Perique lends a wonderful earthiness to the tones even while accentuating the sweetness, presenting flavors of chocolate and bready treats, the citrusy spice of orange pomander balls, butternut squash, cinnamon latte and panettone. The sidestream smoke and room note are equally delicious, and have elicited nothing but compliments amongst friends. Burning easily and cool with small sips, an added bonus is the subdued aftertaste of Necco wafers when finishing a bowl. Smells delightful, lights easily, burns easily, delivers superb flavor with subtlety and complexity, no bite—this is easily the best aromatic blend I’ve had this year, and gives my all-time favorite, the erstwhile Peterson 2010 holiday blend made by Kohlhase & Kopp, a run for the gold; I would love to see this blend kept in regular production. Just in case it’s not, I’ll be stocking my cellar up in anticipation of Christmases future.

Again reflecting on the relative luxury which I am afforded this year, I hope that all our readers have ample time this holiday to enjoy one of these blends or pull out a favorite from their own cellar, reflect on the past year with temperate eyes and count their blessings, and be pleased with the dividends while striving for a better tomorrow.

C&D Jolly Old St. Nicholas & We Three Kings
C&D Jolly Old St. Nicholas & We Three Kings (Photo: E. Roberts)

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