It seems like an eternity since I’ve sat down and written about tobacco, and it’s been a little less than a month. In that month, it’s been wild watching the world change so much. I enjoy relating my observations of the world as a connection with my pipe tobacco reviews, because for me, it dictates what I smoke, how I smoke and where I do it. More importantly, I think it’s a connection between the world and why I smoke a pipe. It’s a personal and very human connection. The streets are almost without traffic, casinos and shops are closed down around me, and shopping is more of a tactical operation in timing and taking what one can get. Face masks and gloves are the new hot look this spring, gas prices are plummeting, jobs are being scaled back and lost, and many people are downright scared. There’s quarantines and shelter-in-place orders nearly everywhere. It’s anyone’s guess how much panic is necessary at this point, but the world hasn’t seen a sickness scare like this in quite a while. It’d be irresponsible of me to happily go on like nothing was wrong, and whether it’s COVID-19 itself, the phalanx of news, or consumer panic, these strange times are going to be with us for a while. Still, enough has been said about this already and numbers assessed every day, so I really don’t need to add to the pile. I sincerely extend my wish that everyone reading this is doing what is necessary and appropriate for the health of themselves, their loved ones, family, friends and community.
As a pipe smoker, it’s simply another time of reflection. While I’m lucky enough to be an essential employee with my full-time job, there’s not a lot to do. Who knew how much time we wasted buying stuff, eating and drinking? Walking, hiking, bike riding and other outdoor activities are essential for many people. I think a pipeful is one of the more positive social-distancing things a person can do, plus it truly imparts a meditative stance while also taking the edge off.
This month, I’m going to tell you about John Cotton’s Double-Pressed Virginia. Released at the most recent Chicago Pipe Show, it was the tobacco that won the 2019 Chicago Bowl last year. The interesting thing about the production of this tobacco is the classic pressing, cutting, and re-pressing that goes into this. Pressure and time do a lot of good for tobacco, bringing out character and flavor that otherwise would not be there. I’d like to add the tobacco tins are attractive, as they nod back to a time when graphics were simple, uniquely-fonted and printed with limited colors.
Upon opening the tin, John Cotton’s DPV smells like the rind of a fresh lime. The amount of bright citrus attitude wasn’t topped, fake or forced, but I was surprised how pleasantly sweet and acidic it smelled. Inside the tin lays a block of compressed, crumbly ribbons that have a warm, dark oaken color. The moisture content is just about right for what I like to smoke, not too sticky and not corn-flakes crispy. Loading this tobacco into a bowl takes an extra step to rough-up the compressed ribbons, but it’s a cinch to pack and takes a flame readily. I chose cobs specifically for this tobacco, because I’ve become quite fond of the flavor and performance of my more seasoned cobs when it comes to Virginia. I’m sure any briar or meerschaum will do just fine, this was simply my personal preference.
The first lights often didn’t yield much flavor, surprisingly. DPV tastes at first of basic Virginia tobacco, with no hints of grassy notes. It isn’t until the tamping settles the top does the flavor come through more, and it’s a pleasantly, naturally sweet smoke, with lots of smoke and great mouth-feel, but not overwhelming in body. There’s a pleasant paprika-like sweet-and-tart note, distant hints of molasses and a clean woodsy flavors. It’s a lot milder in both nicotine and brightness than I was expecting from the initial color and smell it presents while in the tin. The curls of smoke that I managed to catch coming from the bowl didn’t suggest a cigarette-like or offensive quality, as room note of many Virginia-only blends can be a concern for some in this regard.
About mid-bowl, I notice the tobacco opening up a little into the citrus realm it promised when I was first exploring the contents of the tin. The lime-like smell is only on the tobacco in the tin for the first day or so, but it’s hard to forget. The body of the smoke increases at this point, and there’s hints of grapefruit and a mild wheatiness to the flavor. This is one of the milder Virginia pipe tobaccos I’ve smoked in a while. There’s nothing bold or declarative from DPV; I’m sure that wasn’t the purpose of this tobacco. While being mild, it has that hint of “life” that hasn’t been cured, pressed and mucked with too much so that it still tastes and pleases like real tobacco. It has just enough sweetness and flavor to keep the senses happy, and just enough easygoing nature to keep the tongue from wearing out. I was fond of drinking a small cup of iced bourbon with this tobacco, and I imagine a quality rum would also compliment this smoke extremely well.
The end of the bowl experience is a final theme, gathering all elements of DPV since the first light and bringing them to the forefront. The citrus nature is probably the least of all, which still surprises me, but the mouth-feel is full and the wheat/grain nose with an increase of the molasses flavors are held together by a bittersweet flavor that reminds me of young snap peas. Even in the final puffs, there is nothing but a clean finish with no tarry aftertaste, no biting heat, no rampant acidity or ashy drabness. One point of note I found to be fantastic was how dry this tobacco smoked time after time: no gurgling, drips, bowl-sizzles or need for a pipe cleaner while smoking for that matter, and that’s something of a feat!
John Cotton’s Double-Pressed Virginia is not a statement-making tobacco, it’s one simply meant to be smoked. Moreover, it’s a tobacco to be smoked all day long, doing any old sort of thing you wish. The nicotine content is mild to moderate, and the clean, simple flavor really does the trick. I can’t say anyone will be bowled over with flavor complexity or dynamic changes to the palate, but there’s nothing terrible about this tobacco. It’s subtle without serious complexity, and it’s pretty darned good. I’d probably say the traditional and simple pressing and cutting technique before it goes out on the shelf is key here, as sometimes the old ways can yield the best results. The one thing I kept thinking while getting to know this tin is what a great introduction to Virginia tobaccos this would be for someone who isn’t familiar with them. There are certainly more popular or hyped Virginia blends out there, and sometimes these can be hard to find or rough on the bank account. Often they “require” years to age to bring out the best results, and I believe DPV can be smoked right away with no wait necessary.
As if it hasn’t been said enough, stay safe and healthy, everyone. Don’t forget to enrich your life even if things are a little weird at the moment. Get out and do things provided it isn’t endangering you or others. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently. The world is still very much alive, and the new green of the season is a testament to that fact. If you can’t immediately support favorite local brick-and-mortar tobacconist (which I always highly suggest), there’s great online purveyors of tobacco linked all over this page—give them a visit, and have them send you a tin of John Cotton’s Double-Pressed if you’d like.
- Editor Rating
- Rated 5 stars
- John Cotton's Double-Pressed Virginia
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The one thing I kept thinking while getting to know this tin is what a great introduction to Virginia tobaccos this would be for someone who isn't familiar with them. There are certainly more popular or hyped Virginia blends out there, and sometimes these can be hard to find or rough on the bank account. Often they "require" years to age to bring out the best results, and I believe DPV can be smoked right away with no wait necessary.