Three weeks before summer, and three more feet of snow fell in the upper elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountains nearby. I’ve never been one to enjoy summer, with perfect bodies glistening on pristine beaches, kids screaming and running about, music clashing from open windows, cars and camps—none of that is me or my scene. Finding quiet and serenity becomes mission one, if not finding respite from the high-altitude desert sun overhead. Pipe smoking changes too, and heavy stuff isn’t my forte in summer.
Peterson Perfect Plug wasn’t what I had planned to reach for this month, but the sudden cool weather also prompted ginger-molasses cookie baking to cut the chill in the house. Plugs being what they are, often require preparation and are also quite strong. Sweatshirts and hoodies came back out and so did the lime green tin housing a little brown brick of tobacco goodness. Which, as it turns out, has been made available to us by Peterson again.
Peterson Perfect Plug, as with most plugs, I tend to break apart along layers rather than cut slices. I then crumble those pieces into loose chunks. It’s a method I find enjoyable, if not convenient when a good knife is either forgotten or unavailable. Perfect Plug has a deep cocoa and molasses scent to it fresh out of the tin. Dense, compact and contained in a tin much larger than necessary, it’s a charming piece of pressed tobacco. After a little drying, the roughed-up chunks load easily, but if one takes the time to carefully slice ribbons to taste it’d likely pack for a more even draw.
The first puffs remind me this is a Virginia-heavy smoke. While not particularly grassy due to the pressure and aging to make the plug itself, it has the same characteristic natural sweetness. There is a bit of the cocoa-like nuance in the smoke, but it’s fleeting, even leaning toward a pleasant spiciness. Lighting and keeping things going takes a little effort at first, but with the right touch and tamping it isn’t too difficult.
Middle of the bowl can only be described as mellow. The moderate nicotine starts to settle into the bones, and with the smoldering on autopilot, I get lost in the experience. Slightly meaty and savory flavors mix nicely with a woodsy, thick smoke. Choosing smaller-bowled pipes really makes a difference, as this might not be the best choice for a three hour smoke. It’s perhaps the mellowest of plugs, and might get a little boring after too long a smoke.
The end of a bowl one might expect Perfect Plug to get too thick and rich, but it finished surprisingly clean. The pressed Virginia seems to eliminate any “ashy” or bitter tastes, but the spicy background can at times be a pleasant jump in amongst the finishing flavors.
Overall I was happy I chose a tin of Peterson Perfect Plug to join me as the weather decides which direction to go. The tobacco is forgiving and raw, and while not the paragon of uniqueness, has a charm unto itself. It’s gentle enough to smoke casually and often, but stout enough to back up a glass of whiskey or a cup of coffee. Cutting the dense plug can be a challenge without a larger sharp knife, but does give the smoker a chance to get personal and hands-on. Plus, there’s some fun experimenting how you like your tobacco cut to your preference. As long as you’re enjoying your smoke, (and not ruining your pipe) there truly is no wrong way to go about it.