Oh, praise the gods, it’s September. It’s my second favorite month, mostly because the waning heat gives way to promises of future autumn colors and crisp nights. Shadows start getting longer and the sun starts to creep into windows yet again. Fire pits around the neighborhood begin tingeing the air with wafts of hardwood smoke, long-awaited fruits and vegetables are swollen with tasty promises, and the Sierra Nevada aspen groves & blooming sagebrush give mountain canyons streaks of bursting yellow…
…it’s a lovely time of year. As tree leaves lighten, my tobacco leaves of choice start to darken. Last month I was delighted by “Regents Flake,” one of two new offerings from GL Pease, and this month seems about perfect for the slightly more bold of the two, Temple Bar. The tin goes on to say:
“Rich, ripe red and sweet golden Virginia tobaccos are generously spiced with fine, fragrant orientals and enhanced with a delicate touch of perique for a bit of added depth and complexity. The leaf is carefully layered and pressed for a fortnight into large cakes, which are then cut into bars and tinned, ready to be sliced and rubbed out as desired for your ultimate smoking pleasure.”
I was delighted when I opened the tin with a loud, pressurized hiss to discover the nice block of tobacco inside. I adore plug and cake pipe tobaccos. Comparing it to yet another GL Pease product I enjoy, Jackknife Plug, Temple Bar is a hybrid of sorts… not as dense as Jackknife Plug, and not a soft as a “crumble cake.” There are distinct layers of very chunky, sometimes even whole-leaf tobacco. The smell that Temple Bar delivers in the tin is a combination of chocolate and very fruit-like, akin to the scent of windfalls from a September peach or apple tree that have begun to ferment.
As is my way with plugs, I try to peel off horizontally the strata of the tobacco in layers, so that I may then cut it into strips with scissors, finally rubbing the strips into a loose batch to stuff into a pipe. I know this is an odd way of doing things, but it’s my way. Jackknife, for example, does not benefit as much as the outer layers are lighter and the inner layers are darker–this plug parfait of sorts benefits best when cut like a layer cake–a little bit of exactly the right amounts as the creator, Greg, intended. Rebellious me, like a kid (or a geologist), I start at the top and work my way down through the layers. Temple Bar I treated no differently.
The moisture content is pretty high in this tobacco, I had to do a little drying of the final cut strips before I loaded a bowl. I chose a cob in which to begin my journey, and I’m happy to report it’s a sound vessel in which to start. The first lights really highlight the bit of Perique and oriental leaf at first. Being dubious at anything Perique, I found nothing particularly unpleasant about this–though it is spicier than Regents Flake, there’s a keen amount
of body in Temple Bar. It’s a curiously sweet-smelling tobacco, but with a brut-like performance for the palate to enjoy. For how characteristically full it tastes, it’s dry, active and lively on the tongue.
“Champagne” might even be the best way to metaphorically describe Temple Bar. It has a fruity, fermented quality, the slight spice being the effervescence of bubbles, a light and dry character but full of flavor. There’s a hint of lime citrus in the mid-bowl, a little black pepper, vanilla, cocoa, and a slight, distant nose of treacle. Being one who tends to smoke all the way to the end of the bowl, this is where the patient really get their reward: a fruit-cobbler breadiness and creaminess await. Nicotine is moderate, and depending on how it is cut, once you find what is right for you, performance is nearly effortless. Accompanied drinks held well for this tobacco, as I sipped bourbon and soda while I smoked, other times I chose a few saison beers and ciders–all of which were equally pleasant.
I concluded Regents Flake in the last review as a more “pro smoker” kind of blend, but suggested the new, unfamiliar or curious to also consider it. Temple Bar is one I might say really is a veterans-only smoke–and that is only because of the preparation involved. I have found people either are really into plug-type tobacco or they can’t be bothered with yet another step in the ritual of the pipe, and prefer their tobacco pretty much ready to go. As far as the flavor, there’s a lot going on in Temple Bar, and that may change depending on how it is prepared and cut by the smoker. In addition, the nuances are bound to change for the better in Temple Bar if left to sit in its tin unopened for a few years.
So what did I think of Temple Bar? It’s a fantastic tobacco, provided you are the patient sort who is willing wait to see what time will do to a tin, you don’t mind risking life and limb with kitchen cutlery to carve off and prepare what you need, and you’re okay letting it breathe a bit before finally stuffing it into a pipe. Me? I love that kind of thing. The more time I am able to spend with my tobacco in any way I can tickles me in all the right spots. Being able to see all the beautiful leaf components of what makes up Temple Bar is a treat. I cannot, however, see myself diving into this as an every day tobacco, because it really is very unique and unto itself–much like how champagne would be kind of lost along side a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Temple Bar is something of a special occasion kind of smoke. It’s a true twist in the Old London series line of GL Pease tobaccos!
With summer hinting at its end, why not celebrate the change of seasons with something refreshing and fun while enjoying a little unique complexity? Temple Bar might be just the thing for your final-hurrah of backyard barbecues, to compliment your crisp, early-morning fishing trips before the leaves all drop, or puffing away while pondering where in the depths of your coat closet hides your favorite, ugly turtle-neck sweater.