There’s nothing like pre-autumn camping. Most people are already bemoaning the end of their 16 hours of sunshine, the heat that reminds them of the hell from which they come, and breaking out the coats and mittens early in anticipation of six months of chills, overeating and sadness. Most importantly, they’re staying home more. Just the thought of summer revelers shelving their enthusiasm is enough to put a smile on my face, and motivate me to pack up my crappy old truck and head for the hills for a few days. Food, check. Water, check. Fishing gear, check. Tent, check. Pipes and ‘baccy, without question.
Greg Pease and I don’t talk much anymore. I’m sure it isn’t personal, I’m doing my thing, he’s doing his. I do think about him often, he’s the one who helped me get started writing what you all read now, and I “grew up” on his tobacco, as it was one of the three lines available at my local tobacconist at the time. Lagonda, an offering from his Old London Series, is related to a personal favorite he makes, Meridian. Lagonda by comparison offers more of a direct approach, and I wanted something with a bit more backbone. Lagonda also never seemed to wow the crowds, and naturally that made me curious. If pipe smoking has reinforced anything, it’s what I already knew: the crowds are usually wrong at their worst, or at best simply bobbing their heads in unison with each other for no reason at all.
Lagonda in the tin has a chunky cut, a nice mixture of tans, reds and chocolate browns. It smells straightforward of Cyprian Latakia, and for whatever reason to my nose: grape leaves. As I do with Greg’s offerings, I let the tin adjust to the environment before smoking it. I crack it open, let it sit to the elements for a few hours, then put the lid back on for another day or so. Nearly anything Mr. Pease offers is designed to sit and age—that means more moisture. If there is age on anything, I find it helpful to give the anaerobic environment to turn back to an aerobic one before continuing. Once complete, loading up pipes is fairly easy. Getting the draw just right can be a tad challenging due to the cut, but it’s just a matter of the right touch and the right amount.
When first puffing on Lagonda I’m always surprised how background the Latakia comes across. I don’t mind a healthy heap of the smokey stuff, but it had better be blended responsibly. Lagonda flirts like it’s going to be a powerhouse, but interestingly it stays reserved. Its relation to Meridian soon becomes quite clear: the subtlety in flavor. Red Virginia tobacco is to me royalty of all the Virginias, and needs to be treated as such when blending. Latakia can quickly overwhelm it, and Turkish/Orientals can can sharply clash with its soft nature. Lagonda is a hidden gem of an English—the marriage of these three tobaccos gives a lovely mouth feel, tastes distantly like a lovely beer, a campfire and a very distantly reminiscent of a sweetroll with blackcurrant jam.
Most pipe smokers do not make much of a mention of the smoke that curls out of the bowl and into the nostrils occasionally. An annoyance to some, and an oversight to others, the smells of the warm briar, beeswax, cake from a well-loved pipe, and of course the tobacco being smoked…it’s probably one of my favorite smells. It can actually enhance the smoking experience. Lagonda about the halfway mark happily jives with this pleasant little feature of smoking most don’t pay much mind to. The Latakia almost disappears here, that’s now aware of the pipe-while-smoked aroma I am. The nose and flavor can go from daisy fields to freshly sawed wood, with a touch of black pepper for good measure.
The last hurrah of a bowl of Lagonda wakes up the Oriental in the mixture. It numbs the tip of the tongue in a pleasant way, and the mouth feel becomes drier. The flavors become more savory, more meaty. I once drove an old truck that had a gunnysack-wrapped bench seat. It smelled of corn husks, salt and trail dust. It’s one of my fondest early memories of driving, and it is the closest description to what the end bowl of Lagonda I can put to words.
The bugs next to the lake were at plague-levels, the heat was pushing triple digits, and the fishing was absolute garbage. It’s sadly still summer. I had everything I needed, a lovely person whom I love, cheap hot dogs roasted over open coals, Ukrainian horilka, and a pipe full of good tobacco. Speaking of pairings, I found morning tea was fine, but I’d stay away from brown liquors or thick stouts while enjoying Lagonda. The guy camping next to us was actually working for a local disposal company and visiting from out of the area, but he didn’t seem to mind my smoke wafting to and fro. Nicotine in Lagonda is a solid moderate. Bringing this mixture from camping back home, it was a champ both in a humid lake-forest environment as well as the desert. A good companion for scratching at wheals caused by mosquitoes, unpacking and sorting through the photographs I captured on the adventure. Lagonda has flexibility and can be enjoyed by anyone willing to put down obsessive review reading and take a chance on it. If I don’t like a blend, I’ll say so as tactfully as I am able. Obsequiousness towards Greg’s stuff is earned, not bandwagon. I like what he does. Not everyone agrees, and that’s okay.
Summer living isn’t easy on everyone, and I’m coming into my prime seasonal preference. Lagonda has a spot with me there, away from beach blankets, the annoying din of jet skis and hell, maybe the fishing will be better.
Here’s hoping; happy smoking. Greg, if you read this, thank you for all your hard work.
Editor’s note: Check out Kevin Godbee’s Lagonda review from 2011.
From SmokingPipes.com: Lagonda, from G. L. Pease, is a luxurious blend comprising generous portions of Cyprus Latakia, ripe red Virginias, and fine oriental leaf, with a bit of bright added for a hint of subtle sweetness. Pressing and aging in cakes integrates the flavours and partially ferments the tobaccos. The cakes are then sliced and tumbled into ribbons, ready for your enjoyment.