Pipe smoking has a way of stirring up the past, sometimes emotionally, sometimes directly. Lately I’ve been figuring out a lot of what means something to me versus what does not, as it’s been a trying last few months. Tobacco is, unscientifically, a form of patience grown in the sun, harvested, cured and treated in various ways, and released when we set it ablaze. Poetry isn’t my strong suit, but memory is.
Orlik Golden Sliced was and is one of those curious tobaccos that I don’t pick up very often, and I’ve been picking up a lot of tobacco lately that I don’t pick up very often. The mind has a funny way of going certain places when in duress, and even our simple habits are affected. I have several tins of Golden Sliced hanging about, each from different years. April of 2012 what I wrote on this one, and it wasn’t the most recent nor was it the oldest. Like many things we may or may not need, we ponder them when our lives change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I may be a shrewd judge of my own character, but when it’s time to sit, smoke and take a break, that’s exactly what needs to happen. Some things, thankfully, no matter what, never change.
Orlik Golden Sliced now comes in round tins, but I am glad I have a few of the increasingly rare square tins. They’re easy to stack, store and the paper packaging with the face of the judge on a sticker greeting you when it is opened delights me. It reads on the reverse:
“This delightful blend is composed of golden and full body Virginia tobaccos with a touch of Burley. A fine natural sweetness in both taste and aroma characterizes Orlik Golden Sliced. The cut is a traditional Navy Cut Flake i.e. pressed tobacco and cut into thin slices. Rub the tobacco slices gently before filling your pipe.”
It should be noted there was much fuss once upon a time about the contents of this tobacco, and whether or not the claims of Burley and/or Perique were accurate. It seems it was settled that this flake does indeed contain Perique, and even if there wasn’t a controversy, my tongue knew better. Nonetheless, the flakes sit arranged like perfect shingles, used-copper-penny red and oaken brown. There isn’t much of a scent to them besides the raisin-sweetness of a real tobacco, but left to air out for a day a brighter, slightly grapefruit scent becomes apparent.
This is generally a very relaxed Virginia flake more than anything, and after breaking apart, lights almost immediately. The tin with a few years on it abandons most grassier undertones and gives more of a mushroom-like flair when first lit, along with some tongue-tingle and spice thanks to a dash of what can only be Perique. Broken apart fully, this tobacco gives off voluminous smoke, which I like, but with smoke often comes heat. This isn’t a hot-smoking tobacco for me even on its worst day, but I keep the breaking apart roughed up and in-between: chunks and strips, intermixed.
Smoking Golden Sliced on the porch or simply in the outdoors does something lovely to it. The curls of smoke coming from the bowl is gently honeysuckle, while the flavor is slightly woodsy, as fresh as fallen leaves. The sweetness is fleeting, reminiscent of a waft from a dandelion bloom, and just as clean. The mid-point of the bowl is where things meld together firmly and fairly, and inoffensively, but also where the spice of the Perique perks up.
The bowl’s last puffs leave something to be desired, as much of what I am used to smoking increases and concentrates toward the end. Orlik Golden Sliced is perhaps a little too clean here, a little too predictable. I am not one to note smoking to a “fine, white ash” as a positive, as that old saw has gone from being cliché to generically overused. At the same time, it’s difficult to deny this tobacco performs for me so admirably in just about any pipe I sometimes wonder what to do with myself as I’m smoking. If focusing on the task at hand is more important than fixating and fussing over your smoldering leaf, this is a good one to stuff in your pipe.
There’s quite a few tobaccos doing nearly the exact same thing as Orlik Golden Sliced. Some are more sweet, others have more Perique; some have thicker slices, others are ready-rubbed for your convenience. This tobacco seems to have a great balance to it no matter what. Coffee is a real delight early in the morning for this smoke, and I don’t think there’s a better companion for it. Nicotine is admirable and present without being overpowering, and since the controversial Perique is so minimal, those just trying to dabble with Virginia-Perique mixtures may enjoy it as a jumping-off choice. Credited by me for being a flexible smoke, as this is could be an anyone, anywhere, anytime kind of tobacco.
The only reason I began to remember why I don’t pick this tobacco as my “go to” frequently is though it is solid, it stays true. Too true. It’s more of a friend you see only once in a while because he is milk-toast as they come. Excitement isn’t the point of this friendship, but familiarity and loyalty. If you’re in a headspace where things are changing quite a bit, perhaps the simplicity of that which is true is exactly what you need. Orlik Golden Sliced and I had a lot of catching up to do, but who knows when, not if, it will happen again.
(Author’s Random note: In one of the images above, you’ll notice “The Blue and Gold Cook Book,” published in 1912. I have a thing for pre Prohibition-era cookbooks, as the modern way of writing recipes and cookbooks dawned just a bit before the turn of the 20th century, sometimes including how to make your own wine, hooch and cordials. Nearly every conceivable business at the time printed one, as well as church groups and from the wives of fraternities–no home was complete without a dozen. Their main drive was advertising, and their marketing art is fantastic. Rare items today, this is one I found recently, published for the now-defunct Blue and Gold Brewing Company that had many breweries in California. The information is great and the recipes are fun classics The recipe part of this era is a fun challenge to me, as our modern means of food processing, packaging and *cough* “improvements” don’t always yield expected results from a time when not only common ingredients, but manners, men, women, booze and tobacco were enjoyable, wholesome and real…)
Editor’s note: Here’s the reveal of Perique as an ingredient, and the history of the origins of the blend:
Orlik Golden Sliced Update – No Burley, Yes Perique
and my original review in 2011.