Seattle Pipe Club Down Yonder Review

Seattle Pipe Club Down Yonder Review

Hot off the presses, quite literally: Seattle Pipe Club’s Down Yonder is our subject for perusal in this installment. Continuing Joe Lankford’s legacy blends with the Signature Series, this tin contains a deceptively simple tobacco: nothing but well-stoved Brazilian-grown Virginia leaf, pressed into crumble cakes. While it still feels a little young in the tin to my palate, with a little bit of time this stuff doubtless has great potential to open up.

Advance sneak-peeks of review blends are truly a treasure to tickle the senses. The opportunity to boldly smoke what no-one (or at least only a select few) has smoked before is like Christmas in August. That it was a forthcoming SPC blend that had mysteriously appeared in my mailbox was a double joy. From the tin, adorned with Grant Wood’s American Gothic couple poking out of the roundel:

In the country, Down Yonder is far away, often beyond the horizon. And a wish for simpler times. This delicious pure Virginia just might take you there. Rare Brazilian Virginia leaf is remarkably smooth from the unique stoving process. Slow steam and heating ferments and darkens the tobaccos. The aroma is heady and rich with hints of sweetness. Stoving was one of Joe Lankford’s favorite methods. So travel Down Yonder and back to a bygone era. It will be worth the journey.  

So what is this mixture about? Well, like the rather rustic name, it’s plain yet evocative. On peeling back the lid from this one-week-old tin, the dark mahogany leaf seems almost trepidatious, unsure about releasing its aroma. When it does, nothing so much as dark, overripe prunes dominate initially, but after catalyzing in oxygen for some time the more subtle nuances of the leaf begin to tease out. The ruddy black color is an indication of where the aromas lie: prune and raisin, paste wax, belt leather, burned coffee, fresh cut maple wood, turned earth, dry milk chocolate. The sweetness, in fact, doesn’t develop in the aroma as one might anticipate from the richness of the leaf; at least not yet, anyway. There is something very classic about the bouquet: it’s the scent of the tobacco stores of yesteryear.

It’s almost too easy to smoke, in every regard. The crumble cake presentation is at once both hearty and efficient: the big, chunky logs remind me of filet mignon tips, while breaking them apart and packing up a bowl is effortless. Speaking of filet mignon, it’s perfectly suited to a pre- or post-steak (or burger, or roast, etcetera) smoke—the range of flavors complements meat quite well. Straight out of the tin it’s a bit moist, so give it time to breathe.

The flavors of the smoke translate synonymously from the aromas. It takes occasional tending to keep the ember where you want it, but is otherwise as uncomplicated as the flavor. After the charring light, it settles in and delivers the prune and leather and coffee satisfyingly over the palate. The ad copy does not lie when it claims to be remarkably smooth—it decidedly is, leaving a comfortable, treacly flat-cola aftertaste on the tongue. If pushed it may tend toward souring, but is easy to manage and never evinced a hint of bite, even so young as it was. The stoving certainly rounds and enriches the leaf, exactly as touted.

Perhaps the only thing better than receiving pre-release tobaccos is sharing them with an old friend. Near the end of my taste-testing week, my old buddy Carlos flew into town, and I was delighted to include him in the tasting regimen. We loaded up our pipes and headed out-of-doors, breaking the law ever-so-slightly to enjoy catching up on a bench in Central Park. After comparing tasting notes, our talk of course drifted to pipes and pipe makers; Carlos had found the perfect traveling pipes in Eltang Basics, and I will admit to just a tinge of jealousy and the onset of a mild case of PAD. I was enjoying one of my old Chacoms, a suitably simple Canadian that always treats Virginias well, this Down Yonder being no exception. We caught each other up on our lives, apperceptive of the lost pandemic years. The weather was perfect and the conversation flowed as easily as the smoke, lasting nearly an hour from a standard bowl, and helping us work up an appetite to continue our conversation over dinner.

Though this entry in the SPC Signature Series is not a blend per se, it’s a delicious addition to the lineup both on its own merits and as a component in one’s own blending endeavors, as was Joe’s custom. A pinch added to a bright Virginia blend serves to mellow and smooth everything over gratifyingly; as a base which to add some whole-leaf Basma I happened to have laying around after the last review, it made for an incredible bedtime smoke. On its own it may be a one-note song, but a very good note it is—solid, tasty, old-timey tobacco flavor done right, consistent from start to finish. The room note is mild and, as mentioned, redolent of every tobacco shop there ever was. It is also best enjoyed with old friends to reminisce with, sharing talk of those times gone by, and times yet to come.

Down Yonder Pipe Tobacco Review
Down Yonder Pipe Tobacco and Dunhill Hand-Turned XL Pipe

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