Balkan Sobranie Substitute - White Knight or Black House?

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Part of the Furniture Now
Aug 25, 2014
I've got some of the modern Balkan Sobranie (haven't even tried it yet though).
I'm interested in the Russ Oullette blends that are modelled after the original Balkan Sobranie. Sometimes people seem to mention Black House, and I think it won the Balkan Sobranie contest in Chicago. Then sometimes threads seem to default to talking about White Knight as the best Balkan Sobranie substitute.
Who has tried both White Knight and Black House and can compare/contrast those two blends?
Thanks to anyone that can provide feedback.



Jul 29, 2013
I keep seeing White Knight being the popular nominee as most authentic to the original. I wouldn't know as the damn stuff is always sold out. Such is the life of the tobacco monster: always looking for prey.



Oct 16, 2009
BlackHouse was modeled after a 23 year-old sample of Balkan Sobranie 759 (the black label), but WhiteKnight is based on my memory of Balkan Sobranie Original Smoking Mixture (white label) from the seventies.



The Bard Of Barlings
Jun 15, 2013
Having had the opportunity to do an AB comparison between WhiteKnight and 35 year old Balkan Sobranie, I'd have to say that Russ' memory is pretty damned good. Very similar flavor profile. The biggest differences being that the decades had melded the BS to a unified flavor, while you could separate out the components in WhiteKnight and that WhiteKnight had a bigger flavor than the vintage BS that I had. Give WhiteKinght a couple of decades in the tin and it may meld like the old Balkan Sobranie.

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Part of the Furniture Now
Apr 2, 2013
no White Knight is a P&C / Russ "O"riginal. Just bought some Russ... can't wait to try it.



Oct 31, 2011
East Indiana
I prefer Black House over White Knight, but as Russ said, if you are trying to replace Balkan Sobranie white, then White Knight would be your baccy.



Sep 14, 2011
Russ spelled it out. There were three Balkan Sobranie mixtures: Original (white tin), 759 (black tin), and No. 10 Virginia. White Knight and Black House replicate the first two of those. McClelland Blue Balkan (originally Blue Mountain)won the judges vote in Chicago, while Black House won the popular vote.

I was a Sobranie Original smoker, long ago, and it's certainly close to my memory. Black House is quite a good blend, but I prefer Blue Balkan. I'll smoke more WK than either one of those, though, just as I preferred Original to 759 40 years ago. :puffy:



Jul 7, 2013
Actually it was the other way around: Black House (Russ) won the Grand Prize awarded by the judges, and Blue Mountain (now Blue Balkan, created by Mike) won the People's Choice award.
I know this has caused confusion over the last few years, but the difference is important. The Grand Prize was awarded on the basis of extensive comparison and evaluation by the three official Throwdown judges over a lengthy period of time. The judges were given samples of the original Balkan Sobranie 759 to use.
The People's Choice award was a simple beauty contest, where Chicago attendees were given free samples of each contestant's blend and about 24 hours to try them out, and pick the one they like best.
The key differences between the two: the Grand Prize was awarded on the basis of how closely it replicated the original 759 sample provided to the judges, and the evaluation was performed over many, many bowls smoked over many weeks. The People's Choice was based on neither of these things; it was a kind of "first blush" impression without immediate reference to the original 759.



Oct 22, 2013
Russ's interpretations of three great Sobranie produced blends are fantastic; Black House, White Knight and Fusilier's Ration. For years I have heard "This is a lot like 759" or "this is my interpretation of BS Original" and they rarely ever were close. Russ has come so close to the originals, its scary, it's like he's part Sobranie....maybe on his mother's side? :)
Of all of them Black House is my least favorite, but I preferred BS Original and Bengal Slices over 759. That said, it is a great Latakia forward Balkan, close in character to the original 759. The problem for me is the latakia. In a latakia forward Balkan, if the original used Syrian, the taste in never going to get close enough for a dead ringer moment like White Knight gives when you have to substitute Cyprian. In it's own way, it is every bit as good a Balkan, but always different. It has a deeper, warmer, earthier, more buttery smoke than 759. Don't read any of this as me not recommending BH, on my next P&C order tins of BH, WK and FR will all be on the manifest.
I think White Knight is the best tobacco that has come out in a while, not just the best recreation, but the best overall. It may even be a touch better than the Original Sobranie. When I smoke it I get a very dry pinch up in my sinuses that I always get in blends that use a lot of good quality Oriental. The taste is incense, mild curry, very dry bitter orange and a malty? grain flavor, over a light smoky sweet. There is only one other blend that is even close to this, Peretti Royal and it is fabulous as well.
Fusilier's Rations is great, it still doesn't surpass the original Bengal slices for me like White Knight does, but it is great. The plummy, latakia punch you get when you first light it is phenomenal, and it gives an opulent, deep, rich smoke to the bottom.



Part of the Furniture Now
Aug 25, 2014
Wow! Thanks everyone. Nothing like asking about some of Russ' blends and having Russ pop into the thread to answer. I guess I'll be ordering both!
Thanks again all - and especially Russ. You've got my business.



Part of the Furniture Now
Aug 25, 2014
Yes - McClelland's Balkan Blue is also on my list. Thanks for the input. Sounds like you know your Balkans, and I appreciate the insight.

Aug 14, 2012
Blackhouse, though interesting, is not at all like Sobranie was. I think the tobacco I smoke is closer. McClelland's Bombay Court. It has a little less Lat and more Oriental, otherwise similar. It is cut a little too broadly and therefore is difficult to keep lit.



Starting to Get Obsessed
Sep 6, 2013
Let us not forget Russ' Virginia Memory #10 - it does not get much attention on this forum as a tribute to the "other" Sobranie blend.



Staff member
May 11, 2011
Cigars International has exactly one tin of White Knight on counter this afternoon, so I grabbed it. Russ gave us a taste a few months ago at an impromptu meeting in Bethlehem. I have no experience with the original, but I enjoyed the blend.



Feb 22, 2018
Thanks for this intensive look into the world of Balkan Sobranie substitutes. I remember the old BS 759 from the 60s. It was one heck of a fine tobacco bar none. I'm not familiar with the other lots of BS however like 759 but I am sure that any of them could stand up on its own.
Thanks to this article I now have something to work with and it looks like I will shortly be on an extended quest not only to find these mixtures mentioned in the article but to actually succeed in getting them and smoke them. I'll do this over a period of time since it will not only take time to find them and then be able to afford them. Unfortunately I am on a limited income but since I've restarted pipe smoking after 15 years I plan to have some sort of "tobacco budget"for sure! Who would have ever thought that BS 759 would become scarce as hen's teeth. I thought it would be a blend around forever and I was sure wrong on that one!



Starting to Get Obsessed
Nov 8, 2017
I am confused to why you are seeking comparison blends to the Original (Germain) version when you have a tin of it and not smoking it. I personally never tried the original from back in the day, but from my opinion neither Black House nor White Knight is even close to the Germain version. If i had to choose between the two it would be Blackhouse but not by far. White Knight is one of the only blends i actually put in the garbage. That blend tasted like burnt dry leaves from a tree. It comes dry as a bone (which i like) but does not take a match for anything. It was also one of the only dry as dust blends that i have ever smoked that wouldn't stay lit, and have no idea why. I would suggest smoking the tin you have, which is way better in my opinion then any of the substitute blends that are available.

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