I haven’t written in some time about a Pease tobacco and since I have a lack of new smoking-things piquing my interest lately, I’m going back to things I know and things I know I like. Meridian, a GL Pease mixture, falls into this category. It is often misunderstood for reasons two: being boring when it is in fact subtle, and fools arguing about it not being a “true English” because it isn’t caked with a crap-ton of Latakia. I have described it in the past as Pease’s tobacco-attempt at singing Barry White when he’s normally busy conducting Wagner or Tchaikovsky. Critics and fans alike often don’t know what to do when chart-topping hits aren’t in line with the status quo, and a finished piece in that sense often says more about the hand of the creator than the creation. Meridian is exactly this in my world.
Meridian came my way on a day I was trying to be alone, but yet not alone in public. I was only a few years into the pipe, and I was getting more serious about it. I’m sure most of you can agree, pipe guys are the best guys. Generous, enthusiastic, friendly, sometimes even intelligent. That gets split into two more subcategories, those who are very outgoing and those who are not. The outgoing ones tend to plop down next to anyone else smoking a pipe at a brick-and-mortar store and ask, “Whatcha’ smokin’ there, bud?” I know they mean well, but that’s me normally coming from the camp of leave-me-the-heck-alone-and-let-me-smoke-my-pipe (-or-else-I’d-be-with-a-cigar). That day, however, I was enticed to approach a guy to ask him what he was smoking. It smelled wonderful. He, like me, was a mind-your-business-I’ll-mind-mine sort. After I respectfully engaged him, the man barely said a word and tossed me a tin with a red and black motif, and motioned as if to tell me “…have at it.” So, I did.
From the back of the tin:
“Meridian – balanced, poised & sophisticated. Cyprus Latakia is layered with fine Virginia tobaccos and small leaf Orientals, then pressed, sliced, and tumbled into ribbons. More savory than sweet, with classic structure, medium body and captivating complexity. Meridian is the perfect companion for a mid-day stroll, or with the afternoon tea.”
My smoking experience at the time was taking me deeper down a rabbit hole as I discovered I was really getting into the richness of Latakia and noticing differences between the major types of Virginia leaf. I was in a quandary then, as I am now: I like subtle and simple, yet I like bold and exciting. Today, I can describe I was looking for back then, a way of being able to judge tobacco on a single, personal scale: balance. This symmetry is what I craved and expected and if that was achieved, harmony would be the deciding factor. Walking, I have read and heard it said, is a manner of locomotion that is merely a series of controlled falls. We avoid balance and injury due to symmetry of human design, as well as a harmony with gravity. Otherwise we would not get very far. Much like walking, smoking takes some practice, and based upon my first puffs of Meridian years ago, I admit, I didn’t get it. What follows is from that point forward to the dance we do today.
The tin of GL Pease Meridian I opened for this review gave me a few flashbacks from the first whiffs I ever took from the tin. From the broken chunks of brown and mottled tobacco, there’s a hint of sour maltiness. It’s akin to a whiskey mash or a bubbling beer wort, with a dash of dried apricot thrown in. The Latakia is there, but nearly hidden away. It is one of the drier of the GL Pease offerings, which could be to preserve the delicate balance, and allowing it to age gracefully rather than quickly. This pleased me, as a pipe is easy to stuff and light with the partially-rubbed leaf chunks in this condition.
My favorite pipes to use for this tobacco, as it has been for a while, are a couple of old cobs I have saved solely for Latakia mixtures. For some reason, Meridian really blooms in a cob. Briar is a great choice, especially one very well broken in, but there’s a heat-moisture-combustion combination in a cob that works an absolute treat. First lights are going to be the height of the Latakia experience, so enjoy it while it is present. This is not a Lat-heavy English, nor should it be. While the label describes more savory than sweet, do not be swayed, there’s a sweet angle to this tobacco. Since “subtle” is the main theme here, the almost-ripe or dried apricot notes that mingle with the smoky Latakia is something incredible, and only accessible in this way once the match has been put to the tobacco.
Midway through the bowl things mellow out quite a bit to the aforementioned “savory” part of the story. Herbaceous and even a tad salty, the tobacco tends to produce the most smoke here, leaning more sage-like than anything. There’s a great mouth-feel with buttery-smooth smoke that is also dry and pleasant. This is the point I typically get lost in the tobacco, mindlessly puffing away while I read, type a review, or try to look invisible as Johnny A-Personality is grins like a loon as he tries to find a new friend at the tobacco shop.
I am so mechanically and habitually used to the end of my tobacco bowls ramping up and giving me a good shot of tar and flavor, Meridian reminds me to put my cognitive dissonance away once in a while. When a tobacco (or the blender) is trying to do something, they ought to do it start to finish. No half-assing it, it’s very black-and-white: it is, or it isn’t. What Meridian isn’t is exactly what it is. There’s a small cache of Latakia reminders waiting there, and the sweetness somehow returns to the upper palate, and there’s even a bit of nutty leather before it fades off completely. Does it crap out on me at the end? Absolutely it does. This isn’t an accident, nor is it user error. It is by design. There is no grand finale, an orchestra-style finish bringing an audience to its feet for an emotional standing ovation, this is bedroom-eyes, smiles and pillow talk after you just made proper love. In this case, I’m the beast and it is the beauty. My expectations dashed, each time and every time. It’s a healthy reminder sometimes things don’t go our way, and this is a good thing, if we’re willing to accept that.
Meridian is an almost solo flight, needing either to be enjoyed by itself or at the very least with a companion of something gentle. This includes smoking company that isn’t boisterous or demanding of your attention, beverages that are light and agreeable such as a session (low-gravity) IPA beer or a cup of tea, and ample time to appreciate the moments therein. It’s not heavy on nicotine, and this tobacco will do well any time of day.
Quite a few pipe tobaccos try to be so overly-agreeable they fall into a category of being almost lobotomized, or they try to wow to the point of making the senses go numb. This isn’t always a bad thing, dear readers, but I take responsibility for my own needs being met. I had to take time, learn to walk, and then run, before I could take something like Meridian in a confident arm and move with it, enjoy it and love it, for all that it isn’t–and especially for that which it is.