It surprises a few people when they learn I write my reviews in a small, outdoor space barely big enough to fit two folding chairs, attached to an expensive apartment not much bigger. My pipe tobacco “cellar” is a well-protected, medium-sized chicken yakitori box from my sous days. Maybe some believe a “pipe guy” is someone of…substance. My work van had its spare tire robbed by meth head neighbors over the weekend. I live a vagabond lifestyle fit for an aging millennial nomad, constantly moving to cheaper rents and for better pay. Or housing crashes and layoffs. I’m a writer, and I don’t know too many whose footsteps I’ve followed that lived an opulent lifestyle, or cared too much about keeping up with the neighbors. The bills are paid, however, and even in modern American asceticism, some gems are still available. Believe me, it’s not that bad: I’m far from miserable.
The chicken yakitori box was kind to me. In a flood of memories, an old Cornell & Diehl tin, the old-school type with the blue-and-white labels, peeks up at me from the bottom. It was one of my first brick-and-mortar tobaccos I bought from the now defunct Tinder-Box, before I started working there. It happened to be Yale Mixture, and the first tin I bought was in 2012. I smoked it and enjoyed it. The second tin I put away for aging. By “put away,” I meant forget about entirely. For a year or ten. The yellow tag on the bottom confirms it: it’s from 2010. I enjoy reviewing tobacco with serious age, as all tobacco notes and experiences are worthwhile, not just the newest, best and brightest. The surprises time gives can be rewarding.
It’s difficult to open a tin of tobacco that’s been left alone for a decade. Ten years is the difference between fifth grade and a junior in college, Windows98 and Windows 8, and three years longer than the average American marriage—but open it, I did. The smell inside after that long sealed up is intoxicating, even if the tobacco may end up being a dud. It’s an unequaled earthiness and deep, sweet purity that only slow, steady and decent aging can provide. The tobacco is standard C&D ribbon, which are on the thicker side, and it looks like a perfectly ordinary Virginia-dominant blend with some dark spots of Latakia mixed in. Nice to meet you again, Yale Mixture 2010: yep, the good news is, it’s definitely still tobacco.
I wanted to choose pipes that would really showcase the aged subtlety of tobacco. Especially one I’ve had history with when it was fresh. My starting lineup consisted of a drugstore cob I’ve had for just about as long as this Yale Mixture, a no-name billiard that has a long, skinny chamber, and a little pug-faced prince given to me by a Brit some on the forums some years ago. Yale Mixture even at this age packs just fine, and has an even amount of moisture. Sometimes aging tobacco can have moisture “settle” at the bottom if it sits still for too long, but fortunately that isn’t my lifestyle. It can also break down and get brittle, so in that this batch is holding up, I’m pleased.
The first puffs yield a smoky fig and pear attitude, backed by a very faint gingery spice. I’m already in love. I can tell immediately it’s not a particularly strong or vibrant tobacco, and the Latakia is just about starting to get to the point in aging where the smokiness disappears. What really disappeared were the rough edges I vividly remembered. In 2012, it could have been my tender tongue or inexperienced palate, but I know for a fact it didn’t taste this good. It was like having a second nice cocktail party where you just invited close friends, and not the coked-out party girls you met at your friend’s bachelor party last year. Yale Mixture gets very nicely mellow after 10 years of chicken yakitori cellar time.
Mid-bowl the Latakia tries its best to make a comeback. Anything aged with Latakia, other pipe people will probably tell you, the smokiness is more an idea than it is an up-front flavor. I don’t know the chemical science behind why the smokiness in particular subsides, but it really opens up Latakia for its background heritage as a true Turkish/Oriental leaf. There’s a gentle, tingly spice, some mouth-feel and body character, and sometimes even distant floral notes that the region is known for producing. In Yale Mixture, it is woven nicely with the Virginias. Yale Mixture is what I’d call an “American English,” because it is a tad more stout in some areas and thinner in others, which is very American indeed. The English like to use their Latakia for richness rather than boldness, and their Virginias for the vehicle for which it to travel upon; Americans like Virginias to frame sweetness and character. There’s nothing wrong with either approach, because variety is one of life’s pleasures. I very much enjoy American versions of English mixtures, and after a decade, Yale Mixture is some ivy league stuff.
The final stretch of a bowl of Yale Mixture gives a nice surprise: a beer-like, malted grains attitude. The Latakia is mostly spent at this point, and thus I assume the Virginias are the ones left staying late to talk. It’s very strange to describe a tobacco as hop-like, but here I am. It’s “hoppy.” It’s a light and pleasant bitterness with a touch of waxy tart flavors, and they were very hard to describe until I happened to be cooking with a cheap IPA for some barley stew I was making. Naturally, I took a sip while attending to the stew, and had to rush out to find my tobacco review notebook. The end of the bowl is where I frequently remarked how damned clean this tobacco smoked from start to finish.
Yale Mixture was a pretty rough introduction to my tobacco collecting and smoking once upon a time, and as you may have read, I was tickled by the revisit I had with it ten years later. It’s a good lesson for those of you buying two or more tins at a time of something you’ve never smoked, because if it’s a rough character now, it’s no secret aging is the finishing school that can solve a lot of this. Yale Mixture with a decade on it is wonderful. It has moderate nicotine, it performed effortlessly, and paired nicely with black teas, coffee and whiskey (like most English-style blends, if I’m to be honest). The mixture also hasn’t too pungent a room note to unsuspecting noses, either.
I may not live or retire like generations of the past, but as I like to say, I’m here for a good time, not a long time. I couldn’t afford it otherwise. This is why pipe smoking is so important to me, it’s one of the last rebellious pleasures that hasn’t been taken away or made so cost-prohibitive only the rich can enjoy it. Not yet, anyway. So be it a chicken yakitori box or a walk-in closet dedicated to all things pipe tobacco, go ahead: buy ‘em and possibly forget ‘em. Properly kept, it’s a kind of tradition for pipesters to discover a hidden gem they left for themselves to discover later.
Like most things starting out a little rough, including me, a little age, experience and a little time left alone can bring out some mellowing qualities and character, after all.
- Editor Rating
- Rated 5 stars
- C&D Yale Mixture 2010
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C&D Yale Mixture 2010 Pipe Tobacco Review