By Shaun & Cyndi Dollins, Photos by Paul Arms
A mixture put together by G.L. Pease.
As the description states on the tin – On September 11, 2001 America and the entire world changed forever. While horrified at the devastation that occurred, the world watched with awe and wonder the heroism of the men and women who were the First Responders to the World Trade Center site. C&D recognizes and salutes their bravery and selfless dedication to others with the re-release of Tribute, the original G.L. Pease mixture created September 2001 as a fund-raiser for the families of 9/11 victims.
First Responders is a blend of red, bright and stoved red Virginias with a dash of Perique and toasted Cavendish.
Further information from G.L Pease himself stated that he had originally worked on Tribute as a replacement to a blend called Fool’s Cap, which he had created under a different brand. Tribute was quite similar, yet more refined. Tribute, of course was renamed as First Responders.
We purchased the tin in June 2011 and opened it almost immediately. After smoking some bowls of this blend back in June, we aged the tobacco in the tin and in a warmer climate for two months. (We stored it with some other tobacco in a cooler in our sunroom where temperatures can climb rather high in Georgia summers).
Shaun: Like all Cornell & Diehl (C&D) blends, the tin is one with a pull-tab to release the full aroma of their tobacco blends. The introduction on the backside is a firm reminder of what happened on 9/11/2001 and how these men and women sacrificed themselves for the benefits of the public. We see these emergency personnel all the time; however the frontal art sets the tone to honor those who have become known throughout our history as heroes.
Cyndi: I thought the tin art and description was a tasteful tribute to the events of 9/11. The illustrations of a policeman, a fireman, and an EMT on the label give purpose to the blend without ending up like one of the tacky marketing campaigns that popped up after the tragedy. Overall, with the tobacco and the art, I believe this is a wise move – the focus seems to be more on the everyday life of first responders than the tragedy of a single day. So much of their "job" is being a good citizen and member of the community. This blend seems to remember the fact that we are saluting more than a tragic story.
Look, Feel, & Aroma of the Tobacco –
Shaun: Being a Virginia based blend, you can smell the easy sweetness that reminds many of Spring and Summer. But to me, the tobacco reminds me of the coming autumn weather. The tobacco was vibrant with color upon first opening the tin in June and now in September, it’s duller or darker as the tobacco has aged. The initial aroma reminded me of a Payday candy bar with the roasted & salted peanuts and caramel nougat. Today, First Responders still has that aroma, yet it’s warmer and deeper. The nutty smell took over a little more than the caramel. To the touch it was moist, but not overly so, therefore resulting in being able to smoke the blend without having a drying period. I also noted that there are bits of tobacco leaf that is stiff, like little kindling twigs amongst the ribbon cut mixture. Two months later and this blend has dried a little more and is in my opinion, a little easier to light and keep lit.
Cyndi: The unlit tobacco is a bright and strong tobacco with a nutty odor, along with hints of caramel, molasses, spice, sourdough bread, pie crust, rum, grass and leaves. It’s one of those aromas that leave you happy and thinking about playing outside after a cookout.
The Smoking Experience:
We both smoked about 5 bowls each in a variety of meerschaum and briar pipes.
Shaun: When we first received the tin and started smoking this tobacco, it easily became a favorite. Very flavorful with just about everything Cyndi noted above. In June, it was easy to smoke, enjoyable, and burned evenly all the way throughout my bowl. For some reason during our weekend smoking of First Responders, I had a harder time getting the packing right, or the right pace of puffing. It wasn’t until the third pipe that I got that explosion of flavor and aroma along with a very cool, crisp smoke without any bite. It was completely relaxing. I grabbed a Mexican brew from the fridge and enjoyed completely. The drink just helped cleanse my palate and allow for the sweetness of First Responders to rescue my mouth from the previous smokes. This wonderful smoke was in a rather old meerschaum in my collection. I wanted to try one other pipe to see if I could gain some of the warmer notes of the tobacco and got that the night after in a briar. Along with the flavors Cyndi had gotten, I also would periodically get almost a toasted marshmallow flavor. The biggest thing I noticed is how my smoking experience would go from sweet and rather aromatic, to a slightly spicy tone, and soon ease back out.
Cyndi: The tobacco packs well and is easy to light. The aromas I noticed in the tin were consistent throughout the entire bowl, ending with a sweet bread flavor that lasted well after finishing the pipe. In the meerschaums, the flavors were clearer and more intense as individual flavors but in the briars, they were warmer and blended nicely into each other.
The smoke is rich and white, not anemic like I’ve found some perique blends to be. There is very little gurgling or tongue bite. After smoking it, all that is left is a small bit of gray ash. Three out of four smokes, I had an interesting phenomena that Shaun didn’t – towards the very bottom of the bowl, right before the light went out for good, there was a small explosion of tobacco that shot sparks straight up. I started calling it the "grand finale." My best guess is that it’s caused by a pocket of perique with a small air pocket inside. It only happened when a fairly thick layer of ash was covering the lit tobacco.
Shaun: When we think of a tribute, we usually see the normal areas of paintings, statues, poems, and stories. Cornell & Diehl and G.L. Pease do a wonderful job at breaking up the status quo. This is a blend, that while it reminds us of those who sacrifice their lives daily, will give everyone the enjoyment of a tobacco mixture that is complex for a time of thinking, yet simple enough just to sit back and enjoy, allowing the worries of the day to melt into the past.
Cyndi: This was one of my favorite blends from the moment I tried it in June and it remains one. Overall, the smoke is enjoyable and pleasant, evocative of late summer cookouts and camaraderie. It provoked memories of fall festivals where the local fire and police stations would show their vehicles to the kids and let them pretend to drive the fire truck. The room note is pleasant and light, while plainly smelling of tobacco. Several hours later, it leaves a nice clean scent in the room, not musty or cloying. (This really means that I got less evil looks from the cat while smoking inside.)