Tobaccos and Reviews I’d Like to See

Marshall "Butch" Armstrong
I’m sure we have all read tobacco reviews,
as well as wine and beer reviews. Pipes Magazine posts some great ones that I know I have benefited from. This is where I learned about Bosphorus Cruise, which I love. Most of the reviews I have read here have been down to earth and make sense when you read them. But haven’t we all read reviews that were pretentious at best. Reviews that told us our wine should taste like bacon and our tobacco like bramble. Bramble? Who knows what bramble tastes like? And how do you get bacon flavored wine? Can they really taste those things?

Now I like to drink stout. And most stout has a coffeeish flavor due to the roasted barley. So when I read a review of a stout and the reviewer mentions coffee flavor, I know what they’re talking about. But when I read “notes of roasted meat and mush-roomy earth,” I start to wonder how many beers this reviewer has had. I also like wine, but most, if not all the wine I have had has had some type of fruit flavor as opposed to “grass” or “honey drizzled banana.” Also the names of tobacco and wine and beer are meant to attract us to the product. Names like “Taste of Autumn,” or “Sexual Chocolate,” give us an impression of what to expect when smoking or drinking. But really, a wine called “Sexual Chocolate” is meant for a certain target consumer. Can you imagine a farmer coming home from a long day in the tractor seat and enjoying a glass of Sexual Chocolate? Or the “Taste of Autumn” pipe tobacco. Autumn is reminiscent of turning leaves and campfires, but maybe that’s not your thing. So that name and taste wouldn’t be attractive to you.

This got me thinking about names and reviews of pipe tobacco I’d like to see. Certain types of consumers are completely left out of the picture when companies go fishing for buyers for their products. And speaking of fishing, I like to fish. So how about a pipe tobacco called “Feelin’ Bassy” with notes of forgotten bait, fresh wax worm and gas fumes. For the hunter we have “Autumn Musk,” with aromas of freshly gutted deer and dried goose droppings with a turkey feather mouth feel. And here’s a wine for the Equestrian called “Lame Nanny,” with notes of old horse blanket and sparrows nest “teasing provocatively on the nose.”

For those who like tongue bite there’s “Mud Dauber” pipe tobacco. “Stings like a wasp!” For the aforementioned farmer we have “Old Barn” pipe tobacco. “Reminiscent of days on the farm with the full bold aroma of hoof scrapings and corn husk.” Anyone who works out knows the sweet smells of old gym socks and used towels, am I right? So the tobacco for you is “Five O’clock Sweat,” with the “locker room finish on each and every puff.” And for our pipe makers out there we have “Morning Wood,” with notes of burned sandpaper and leather dye and a briar shavings mouth feel! For our pipe smokers who really aren’t interested in anything but smoking we have, “Bowl Cake,” with a room note of used ashtray and a sulfur match finish. Moving on, we cannot forget our highway workers and so we have a special tobacco appropriately named “Bituminous Nights.” For those workers who can’t leave the job when they go home, it has notes of, fresh tar, 100 degree 12 hour days, and an old work boot finish. Amazing! For the office workers we have “Leather Desk Chair.” “With a room note of liquid paper and a mouth feel of pencil shavings and worn out leather, you’ll feel like you never left work!”

For our Winter ice fishing enthusiasts we should have “Frozen Foot,” pipe tobacco. With an ice fishing shack room note of propane fumes and a fish scale mouth feel. Yum! For dog groomers there is, “Canine Delight” A room note of old dog hair and a mouth feel of whatever the last customer rolled in. “A delight to the senses!” And last, but certainly not least, there is, “Italian Restaurant.” With notes of bread dough and garlic and an onion finish on the palette.

Now I know I’ve been having some fun here at pipe tobacco reviewers expense, and really, most reviewers are pretty good at telling us what a tobacco will taste like. But when reading reviews I’ve always wondered how unappealing a review would seem if you didn’t like the tastes and smells being described. And maybe you like some smells and tastes not always enjoyed by others. Like motor oil, or freshly cleaned barn. Wouldn’t it be great to have a tobacco smell and taste like some of the other things you enjoy? Especially if you really enjoy your work. Although there are some jobs like mine, with smells that I don’t think anyone wants to think about, let alone taste. So I apologize to the reviewers and I hope you have a sense of humor. And above all, keep doing the fine work you do.


Marshall Lee Armstrong enjoys camping, fly fishing, kayaking, painting, drumming and writing. He has published two books of poetry and writes a blog called "The Window". He is 58-years old, and has worked as a Rock Band Drummer, Electroplater, Chemical Process Technician, and Circuitry Manufacturing Supervisor. He is currently a Medical Lab Technician. He started smoking pipes in 1980.


16 Responses

  • You have to wonder how many tobacco reviews are written extolling the different flavors found by virtue of the power of suggestion. I have a good chuckle when I read reviews and they all sound like they were written by the same person or by people who said, “Wait! I didn’t taste the White Chocolate orange marmalade but I better agree to it because I don’t want to sound like a noobie.”

  • I can’t help but wonder how reviewers come up with the descriptions that they do.
    But I guess I’m not as skilled in my tastes as they are.
    After all is said and done, the blend either tastes good and enjoyable or it’s not.
    To each his own and the search for that special blend continues.

  • Reviewing is always a neat trick. If you get too fanciful, you lose touch with the subject. If you write too dryly, it’s just not engaging. I think giving a review a strong factual base, telling what you know about the blend, is important. Then, at the opportune place in the review, if you can use the selected unexpected verb or image to depict the taste, smell, texture, or other characteristic of the blend, that can put the review across with a ring of authenticity. It’s always a balancing act. Hopefully many will appreciate the ring of truth, and always there will be those who think you are too boring to live, or are a jerk. But that’s the sport of reviewing.

  • I did a little research on taste and tasting before writing this piece. In tobacco and wine there are thousands of flavor compounds that people with a refined sense of taste can experience. Robert Parker, the famous wine critic is said to have a more refined sense of taste than anyone ever tested. It mostly has to do with your sense of smell. The “retro-hale” or aroma that travels from your mouth up into your nasal cavity where your olfactory bulb lies is fundamental in forming taste. Also, things you eat and drink before tasting a tobacco can have widely varying effects on the taste you experience and each person’s taste senses and preferences will differ. I just thought it would be fun to come up with some alternative tobaccos. As I said in the article, I hope the reviewers have a sense of humor!

  • There are some crazy pretentious reviews of anything and everything. Some beer reviews make my cry with how much nonsense is written within it. Seriously, bramble? Totally agree, sir.
    But there are more than enough good reviews that this is just noise and a good laugh while you’re combing reviews for your next pipe tobacco, cigar, coffee, beer, liquor or wine.

  • Funny stuff.
    Motor oil and freshly cleaned barn? He has obviously tried Condor!

  • Almost in the same league are menu writers at some restaurants! At this moment, I can’t think of a funny example; hope someone else can.

  • Thanks for a humorous and well written article. A tad curmudgeonly, but good fun.

  • Great article, I’ve always chuckled at some terms reviewers have used to.

  • I can really relate to this. Being a stout drinker myself, I tried a brew named: “Old Engine Oil”. The label was not a lie. At any rate, I do benefit from the reviews posted here and elsewhere, but all too often I do not get the same results when I smoke the blends. Taste is too subjective, and effected by the humidity, time of day, phases of the moon, etc. I love Dunhill EMP, but only in a corncob pipe. I also enjoy Missouri Meerschaum Country Gentleman, but only in briar. I do not like it in a cob. Go figure! If nothing else I enjoy the unintentional humor taken from the pretentiousness of some reviews. There is nothing like the taste of cedar and leather, and the wafting fragrance of PPG.

  • Very funny and in some cases “right on”. After reading some reviews I sometimes wonder “What the Hell is this guy trying to say?” The majority are good and helpful but some are sterling examples of that which you poke fun at. Let’s hope those guys read this.

  • Thank you, thank you. I’ve been trying to find names for some of my own blending experiences, and I think you just found labels for every batch.
    I should send some, let you post the review here. (But then, I think you just did!)

  • Ah, one of the many never-ending debates! I find my bases covered by enjoying both coated and uncoated bowls for their own merits–problem solved. 🙂

  • And I posted the right comment to the wrong article. That’s what I get for binge-reading in multiple browser windows….
    That said, I can certainly relate–often I’ll look back on a dated review and wonder just what the hell I was tasting back then! It can be trying to write and talk about the same, rather narrowly-focused, parameters of what tobacco smoke tastes like over the course of hundreds of published articles. Fortunately for me, I tend to review the good stuff, and it makes it easy to look for the little tastes that set one blend apart from another.
    Speaking of, have you tried F&K’s Merde de Cheval tobacco? It’s right up your alley.