One quarter of the year 2021 is gone already. It’s as if each upcoming moment turns to the one before it and says, “Hey dude, hold my beer.” For example, this review nearly didn’t make it—I had a catastrophic hard drive failure. Of course I didn’t back up, apparently I’m an idiot who likes living on the edge. It’s made me keenly aware of how much not being involved in the world’s drama is connected to my own version of sanity, which I am good at testing all by myself. With the weather warming up, there’s a lot of tenseness about the human and natural world to start ramping up the effort to get out and do stuff. Stuff like braving the public to go out buy a new hard drive. With many places still restricted, it’s causing a lot of pent-up energy to build up. That’s alongside all the other life-things that happen.
What a great time to try a new tobacco. It’s not new-new, but it’s certainly new to me. Cornell & Diehl came out with Oak Alley several years ago, and I hadn’t even considered it until recently. Perhaps it’s due to springtime, a manic society, or the fact that the tin description caught my interest. I like red Virginias. I like Burleys. I like Turkish. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve come to enjoy a slight dusting of Perique. Gone are the frosty days I crave the smokiness or English or Balkan that cuts through a cold evening: I wanted something lively to ring in the new season.
Oak Alley in the tin smells like grapefruit with a woodsy quality. My tin is fresh, packed sometime around November of last year. Red Virginias have a unique nature in that they often aren’t as grassy or have that “green” pungency when fresh, and I think that’s one of the selling points for me. Aging does give it a slight boost, but fresh is a-okay with me. The block of Oak Alley is more a solidly pressed cake than it is a plug. I really like the presentation and easy, break-apart feature of tobacco like this. Loading a bowlful and getting the right draw is a breeze.
The first lights are bready, voluminous in smoke and there’s a very nice lemon-citron brightness that I found very appealing. Lighting the tobacco is effortless, there’s not a lot of curling and half-lit jumpers due to the cut. The Perique is immediately noticeable and so gentle, it almost takes some concentration to follow its flavor profiles through the smoke. This, I have to say, is the way Perique should be done. I’m plenty aware there’s those of you out there that enjoy ripping your senses apart with the heavy Perique blends, but for my sensitive little supertaster, just a dash will do for me, thank you. The melding of all the flavors between the acidic, the yeastiness, and the spice aren’t particularly complex, but there’s such depth and balance in the mix, I had no intentions on putting my pipe down.
Mid-bowl, the Perique in Oak Alley keeps singing in the front of the band, and I like it. It’s a soft lounge voice, tender and romantic—never stagy or overdone. The disappointment at this part of the smoke is the red Virginias really add mouth-feel and volume to the smoke more than anything. The warm, baked quality I enjoy about them is there, but the Burley lifts itself into a walnut flavor that I couldn’t get enough of. I’ve spoken in the past about “clean” tobacco, and by this I mean there aren’t distracting side flavors of tar, ash or raw wood flavors that come with inconsistent cures or pressing. Oak Alley is clean, and yet still interesting.
Rejoice, fellow red Virginia lovers: the finishing parts of a bowl of Oak Alley will leave ye rewarded in kind. The Perique mellows to the point of nonexistence, and gives a vermouth-dry attitude as it sits down for the remainder of the show. Refreshed, the red Virginia comes back warm and welcoming. Along with the Burley, there’s a buttered croissant poise on the upper palate that really charmed me, along with a marmalade orange spread on top. Perhaps I’m just hungry.
C&D did a banger of a mixture with Oak Alley. Why it hadn’t caught my attention sooner is anyone’s guess, but I’m fortunate I have a job where I can really pine through the unfamiliar stuff and decide what sounds good. Oak Alley is one of those tobaccos I’m confident could fill the pipe of anyone looking for a clean and lively smoke, especially if they’re curious about Perique. The heavy Virginia/Perique sorts will probably be disappointed if they’re looking for a proper ass-kicking of their mouth, but serious smokers will also appreciate the care that went into putting this blend together. It has moderate nicotine, isn’t particularly mouth fatiguing, was delicious in a variety of pipes; it’s great with any number of beverages, and it could be enjoyed at any time of day. I caught myself finding Oak Alley a wonderful reading companion, be it on articles about bizarre 18th and 19th century English livestock paintings or responding to emails. There’s a uniqueness to this tobacco, as red Virginia isn’t a common pairing with Perique, but it’s not so experimental that it niches itself too much. Could it be a contender for some years in the cellar? Most likely.
Enjoy the craziness of the year going forward, readers.
- Editor Rating
- Rated 5 stars
- C&D Oak Alley Tobacco Review
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C&D Oak Alley Pipe Tobacco Review