By Adam J. Smith
Tin notes: Rich Virginias Pressed Tobacco Spiced with Oriental leaf Latakia, and Perique. The source of Mississippi River! The way Joe tells it, it all came to him in a dream. Joe blended for 25 years before coming up with this, his first blend. Everything else was…unsmokable, says Joe. So one night, Joe wakes up from a sound sleep, grabs a pencil by the bedside and scribbles a recipe from his dream. He even dreams tobacco! Morning comes and he uses the notes to create a Virginia blend like no other. Mississippi River is born. The rest is history in a tin. Ask Joe if you don’t believe me. Members beg for this blend. It’s a little embarrassing. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
I sat down to write this review with something specific in mind for my introduction. I was going to weave a yarn about the Mississippi River, and how it has affected the growth of the United States; both literally and metaphorically. I was going to quote great literary works, penned by side of the Mighty and Muddy, that have helped to shape our modern society. I was going to talk about the different regions this great river flows through, as it weaves its course south, passing through only 9 states; but more ideologies and lifestyles than one could write about keeping to the constraints of a single article.
But I’m not. Why you ask? Well, to be completely honest, it’s my own damned fault. I ran out of time. I’ve been sitting on these notes for a month now, but didn’t actually sit down to write them into something cohesive until prompted by Kevin (by the way – this is my way of apology for stretching to the deadline).
Now I find myself sitting in front of my PC, trying to come up with something entertaining to say that will do this wonderful tobacco justice – and wouldn’t you know it, I’ve run into that brick wall that is known as "writers block". And they say good things come to those who wait…
Alas; I am sure that none of you are here to read about my current propensity towards laziness, nor are you hear to listen to me ramble. You are here to read about the third and final offering in the Seattle Pipe Club series. So, without further ado;
I initially expected this to be a straight up Virginia, or perhaps a Virginia/Perique blend; to complete the trifecta of custom blends created by the Seattle Pipe Club. You can understand that I was somewhat taken aback when I first cracked my tin, and took a deep whiff of spices ala allspice, nutmeg, and clove carried on a hint of almost melon-like fruitiness. Over-stimulating your olfactory senses through over-exposure will reveal hints of caramel, and finally the tang of well cured Virginia leaf.
Well the offering is reported to be pressed, it seems that this soft cake does not often survive the brutality of the postal service – especially when travelling internationally. Close inspection of the soft, course cut leaf reveals a beautiful melange of dark browns and milk chocolate tones shot through with coppery bronzes. This blend definitely requires some drying time out of the tin – I found that an hour plus provided the best results. Like most pressed blends, this tobacco responds well to a simple gravity fill and quick tamp, unlike most pressed blends however, don’t expect to have a ton of dust left over to add as kindling.
A prelight "puff" will bring very mild hints of caramel sweetness.
With the false light, one is hit with a big hit of sweet grassy flavours mingling with brown sugar, with a barely detectable underlying saltiness. This blend does take a bit of work to get lit, and I find that the charring light often requires three or more matches. As one progresses through the first third of the bowl, the blend brings sweetness not unlike cantaloupe, caramel and toasted marshmallow with bold earthy tones. Slight nuances of pepper and salt dance fleetingly on the edge of the palate, never fully developing into a strong, constant flavour. The smoke has a marked buttery feel, and produces voluminous clouds with little effort.
As you pass through the midway of the bowl, the caramel like sweetness deepens to a strong toffee-like flavour, with notes of raisin. This rounds out the flavour profile, bringing an almost spicy alcohol flavour, like a Hot Toddy. I find the salty nuance all but disappears at this point, while the rich earthiness begins to take on an almost cigar like note.
Through the heel of the bowl, the flavour profile undergoes an almost miraculous change. The depth and complexity ramps up; notes of grass, oak, and pepper ride on earthy, musty tones of wet soil. A plummy, almost tea-like sweetness develops; intertwining with a citrusy sour note and slight hints of herbs; not unlike a big mug of real root-beer.
And fear not – the issues I have with the false light are just that – issues with the false light. This blend burns just fine from about 75% to heel. Yes, it requires the occasional relight. It’s not a cigarette. Deal with it!
The room-note on this blend is quite pleasant; and not only to me (for a change). The melon- and grass-like notes are transferred to the latent smoke, and on occasion hints of raisin and plum can even be detected. Along the same lines, this blend doesn’t tend to leave much in the way of a latent post-smoke odour – I note this only because my wife walked in on me not half an hour after finishing a bowl, and did not notice any lingering odours in the room.
When it comes to nicotine, this blend delivers. Well spiked with Perique, this is a tobacco that deserves respect from all but the most hardened smokers. While it certainly didn’t send this snuff-taking, chain-smoking reviewer into the nicotine fits, it didn’t leave me reaching for a cigarette post-smoke.
To summarize, this is a wonderful blend highlighting the sweet end of the Virginia spectrum, while offering up subtle complexities from the supporting characters. While it does tend to bite when pushed, this tobacco behaves very well in the bowl and would make a great introduction to Virginia/Perique blends. I should note that I don’t detect the Latakia listed on the tin in this blend – perhaps my usual tendency towards strong English and Balkan blends has deadened my tastebuds to small quantities of the dark leaf.
In my last review (Hearth and Home Marquee Series Black House), I offered up an analogy comparing tobacco to food. Following those lines, I would have to say that Seattle Pipe Club Mississippi River blend is the desert tray and post-meal cocktail. While I personally find this blend too sweet for my all day smoking needs, it has found a solid place in my rotation when my sweet-tooth starts to tingle. A welcome addition to the cellar; and certainly not an offering to be missed by the VaPer crowd.
I highly recommend it!
– Adam J. Smith