English “problems”

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coys

Starting to Get Obsessed
Feb 15, 2022
192
420
Missouri
For me, I think of English as being anything where Latakia is the most prominent component, just to recall a recent discussion here.

There is enough variation to be interesting to me between blends like EMP or Squadron Leader, those like Nightcap or Quiet Nights, and those like Father Dempsey or Westminster. So right there I have three broad categories - the milder English, the stronger ones with perique, and the more down the middle styles. From there, you even have things like Gaslight where it's on the surface a normal English but presents a very full flavor. And there are those like Bengal and 965 which offer something a little different (cavendish perhaps?)

So there's definitely some variety there, but I tend much more toward balkan and straight virginias. or lightly topped virginias. Latakia is something I like to take an excursion toward and not reside there.
 

eljimmy

Lifer
Jan 3, 2021
1,246
5,132
Los Angeles, California
When I started I loved english blends. Started with My Mixture 965 and then moved on to Match 20 and really fell for Balkan Supreme. After a while I made the switch to Virginia tobaccos and now I cant stand Latakia unless it is used lightly. I was warned not to stockpile so many English blends but I didn't listen. Most do taste the same but I did catch differences in some.
 

latestage

Lurker
Dec 3, 2022
2
2
UK
Fireground, that’s a good thought. Is sensitivity a function of more experience? I don’t know how to increase my discernment.

I've probably smashed enough tobacco to safely conclude there are things I'll never taste which many others can

I read so many tobacco reviews which are completely unrecognisable from the bowl I just smoked ... maybe I got the heavy maths genetics at the cost of the taste and music ones
 
Feb 12, 2022
1,812
25,303
North Georgia mountains.
I don't smoke many English blends anymore, but I do on occasion and enjoy them more now then back when I smoked them more regularly. Before, they all tasted the same to me also. I quit smoking latakia as I grew tired of it and moved on to VA blends, and some Burley.
After a while without latakia, I dug out a few old jars with different components and would try a bowl every now and then. I noticed myself enjoying different aspects of said blends instead of just strong latakia, especially oriental forward lat blends.
I still think alot of them taste the same, and I get tired of latakia very quick. But I really appreciate an occasional bowl of a handful of different lat blends. Latakia just isn't for me and it took me a while to figure that out.

As stated above, if they taste the same then buy the cheapest. Also, try buying 1oz bulk of blending components and smoke them to learn what the nuances are. Smoke straight oriental, straight perique, etc. Then revisit those English blends with a little better understanding of what makes them unique (if they are).
Good luck
 

rmbittner

Lifer
Dec 12, 2012
2,354
619
Frankly, your issue may be a lack of experience in discerning the different flavors and aromas in what you’re smoking. But it may be something else entirely.

First, how well do you clean your pipes? A clean pipe will deliver a more nuanced smoke.

Second, how many bowls of a single tobacco do you smoke *in the same pipe* before evaluating it? The typical rule of thumb is that it takes at least three bowlfuls of a new blend to smoke away the remnants of the previous blend. But depending on what that previous blend was, it actually may take many more.

I’d encourage you to consider whether these two points could be affecting your ability to discern distinctions between blends. Of course, many English blends *do* taste similar; of the blends you mentioned, I’m only familiar with Squadron Leader, so I have no idea if it’s close to the others or not. But compare it to a GLPease English or a Stokkebye bulk English or a Rattray English; you should definitely be able to notice differences.
 

coys

Starting to Get Obsessed
Feb 15, 2022
192
420
Missouri
Second, how many bowls of a single tobacco do you smoke *in the same pipe* before evaluating it? The typical rule of thumb is that it takes at least three bowlfuls of a new blend to smoke away the remnants of the previous blend. But depending on what that previous blend was, it actually may take many more.
I agree with you on that point. I have bought some tobacco and liked a bowl so much that I ordered more, then found that by the end of the tin I didn't care for it much anymore.

I've told myself: No buying more until after a tin is finished.
 

rmbittner

Lifer
Dec 12, 2012
2,354
619
I guess the OP’s question struck some kind of chord with me…

This is far from a scientific approach, but if you’d like to get better at discerning the differences between blends—and at identifying some of the constituent tobaccos in those blends—you might start by looking up reviews for a blend you are already familiar with. There are lots of reviews here and at TobaccoReviews.com. (Caveat: Reviewers range from those with genuine experience and insight to those who write like bad wine reviewers, bad poets, or who simply want to be the next J.M. Barrie.)

See if you can find a reviewer who seems to resonate with how *you* experience a blend, who also seems to have experience you can learn from. Are they discerning things—flavors, aromas, nuances—in a blend that you’ve overlooked? Have they discovered that this blend best reveals itself in a specific size/shape of pipe…or only when packed in a certain way? Did they have to adjust their smoking to bring out the blend’s best? (For example, I don’t know how many lackluster bowls of Rattray’s Hal o’ the Wynd I smoked before I discovered that it became sweet and rich if I *really* slowed down the cadence of my puffing.) Follow their examples and adjust your own smoking of the blend to see if you can achieve a similar experience and improve your understanding of a blend you already know well.

And then, if you want to really get to know the flavor profiles of specific tobaccos or a specific style (say, Balkan blends), use review or shop sites to find blends that push those specific tobaccos to the foreground or claim to be that style of blend. Look up reviews of those blends by the folks you discovered in Step 1 above to understand what you also might expect to find when exploring them. And then give them a half-dozen bowlfuls to introduce themselves to you.

Bob
 
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grimpuffer

Starting to Get Obsessed
Aug 29, 2016
275
1,425
OP, you arent alone in that department.

I started with English blends and were all I smoked for the first 5 years or so of picking up a pipe.

To me, its just differing levels of "smokiness", but I you can pretty much lump all Latakia blends into a handful of groups where a majority of blends in a group all taste the same.

Sure, there was a rare standout where the blending was good enough to separate the components, but a majority taste the same with different labels.

I have 3 Drucquer & Sons tins right now that have different names but taste exactly the same.

Doesnt mean theyre bad, but like someone else said, just buy the cheaper ones.
 

MikeDub

Starting to Get Obsessed
Sep 26, 2022
121
227
SoCal
Latakia is like cilantro to me - if it’s in a blend (or a dish in the case of cilantro) it’s all I can taste, whether it’s an English blend or just used as a condiment. Unlike cilantro I enjoy Latakia so it’s a nice change of pace every now and then
 

SBC

Part of the Furniture Now
Oct 6, 2021
909
3,312
NE Wisconsin
It may not be that your palate isn't sensitive enough. On the contrary, it may be that your palate is so sensitive to latakia. For some palates, it's an overwhelming flavor (as MikeDub mentioned that cilantro is for some palates).

But, who's to say that this is a problem? If you like latakia, then as others suggested, you're free to enjoy the cheapest!
 

lightxmyfire

Can't Leave
Jun 17, 2019
356
963
DMV Area
When I first got into Latakia mixtures I had some of the same issues telling them apart, but over time and smoking them more I slowly started picking up the nuances and differences, and now I can very much tell them apart.

I think that's true of any pallet training, it took me a while to find the nuances in very hoppy beers like IPAs, but I think over time you'll "get used" to what is the predominant flavor and start to pick up on the others.

If you really want to start picking up those differences you can work to train your pallet by tasting separate components like the individual tobaccos and that training should also include stuff that isn't in the tobacco. If you read someone's review and it says something like "notes of cloves" go smell/taste some clove, try to remember that when your tasting that blend, building a sense memory can help you learn to make those connections in your brain, and help things to start standing out. Sniff and taste (within reason) all kinds of stuff.

Tasing the differences in two+ of anything, coffee, wine, beer, etc is also difficult in a vacuum, if it's been days since you last had blend 1, and you're smoking blend 2, you're just working off memory, and that probably isn't the most reliable thing. Especially if you haven't built up that sense memory bank of flavors and smells.

You might try; if you have enough pipes to do so, packing two to three up with different mixtures and actually taking a puff or two of one and then switching to the other, and going directly back and forth like that. Disregarding that the pipes might have some effect on the flavor because what you're looking for is to see any difference at this point, and I bet the differences will stand out much more that way. You might even be surprised how much you notice it like that. Eventually, your pallet will likely get exhausted and you'll stop noticing it so much anymore, and at that point, I would pick one to smoke, just enjoy it and give your brain a rest. Rinse and repeat.
 

greysmoke

Might Stick Around
I nearly pitched my first ever bowl of Latakia out the window after the first 2 or 3 puffs. It was just so different from what I had been accustomed to, and I didn't see how anyone could stand the stuff. But I stuck with it as I hate wasting things. Halfway through the bowl my mind was opened and I've never looked back. That was in 1998. The tobacco was Chief Catoonah's BBB and the pipe was a P-grade Upshall long shanked bent billiard. I've rarely had such a good smoke as the bottom half of that bowl. It was a spring day in Ridgefield, Connecticut, that I remember like yesterday.

With the benefit of more experience, I've realized I don't have a sophisticated palette and I'm oblivious to finer distinctions in flavor. But I can easily discern major variations, and after a few bowls I learned to distinguish Cyprian Latakia from Syrian (lot of good that does me now - although I still have some of the Syrian squirreled away).

"Some people have a naturally enhanced sense of taste, while others need intense training to get to a professional level of accuracy," (https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/how-to-become-food-taster)

I agree with the observation above that there are a handful of different English flavors that you could learn to distinguish over time. But I'll never be hired for the sensitivity of my palette. Does it matter? Enjoy.

Clockwise from 1:00 o'clock (top right): Pirate Kake, Samuel Gawith's Navy Flake, Dunhill 965, BBB, and in the middle is HH Vintage Syrian.

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Coreios

Part of the Furniture Now
Sep 23, 2022
832
1,370
40
United States Of America
I can tell the difference in English brands, but they do all have that same smoke note. It's my favorite but I just ordered Vapers so not sure if that will change. I've been told I may turn my back on English after I try Vapers. I've already kind of ditched Aros with the exception of holiday blends.
 

trouttimes

Lifer
Nov 26, 2018
3,493
14,814
Newnan, GA USA
It sucks to be you guys that can’t tell the different blends. You are missing the greatest blends (in my opinion) in our hobby. Our hobby was built on English blends. They are our history. I’m sorry you can’t enjoy a fine lat blend.
 
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