Have Any Blends Gotten Better?

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PaulDM

Lurker
Dec 12, 2022
31
175
I’ve seen a fair number of blend reviews saying that the blend has changed for the worse. I may be that a more expensive component has been swapped out or reduced due to cost or availability (such as HU Directors Cut, with the perique being cut and replaced with KDF). Or Latakia blends where, due to the disappearance of Syrian and even Cyprian Latakia, the overall quality has just declined.

Can you name any blends which have improved in recent years?
 
Nov 20, 2022
2,148
20,835
Wisconsin
Great question. I think that it is hard to compare sometimes, as the age of tobacco is always different giving the advantage to the previous blend. Nostalgia also puts the thumb on the scale. Sorry if I am not answering the actual question. While I have been smoking pipe for years, I have only experimented with blends recently. All drug store crap before last year.

I hope we see some good answers from those that have been experimenting with blends for years.
 

mso489

Lifer
Feb 21, 2013
41,210
60,458
That is an excellent point. Every year and every batch, the sourcing and seasonal flux changes blends, but we assume that they are one thing forever. You have to seize the day and know when you have a good tin or baggie in the jar and savor it as a peak experience. So far as we know, there are no replays on life, perhaps not even with reincarnation where you come back as something else.
 

greeneyes

Lifer
Jun 5, 2018
2,152
12,254
I would offer the idea that the changes in the quality of blends tend to be a question of economics, and that enhancing quality generally isn't synonymous with cost-savings in either producing, sourcing or selling of luxury goods. The trend seems to move in one direction, toward one of decreasing production costs at the expense of quality, and to the extent that the majority of consumers seem willing to purchase low quality tobacco given the scarcity and expense of higher-quality tobaccos, there's no reason it wouldn't continue.

To a large extent the consumer votes with his or her wallet so I tend to view the global decreases in tobacco quality as being a reflection of what consumers are willing to accept as passable in terms of quality.

There's also the sentiment that de gustibus non est disputandum and there are tobaccos for every taste.

I listen to my own heart, and ask myself when I'm smoking: am I actually enjoying this? And it's simple enough that if that question is a difficult one to answer, then I'm likely not smoking a good tobacco.

I can think of no tobaccos that have improved, only a handful that remain good, and a great majority that have become unsmokably bad. I can also think of a barrage of new releases that are so utterly mediocre that they collectively lower the bar and set a new low standard for younger consumers against which to calibrate their tastes.
 

sablebrush52

The Bard Of Barlings
Jun 15, 2013
19,762
45,313
Southern Oregon
jrs457.wixsite.com
Paging @sablebrush52

(He seems to be very knowledgeable about blends and changes over the years)
I think @greeneyes summed it up pretty well. However, we all imprint on the blends as they are when we first smoke them and judge them on their merits. So someone may like a current iteration of a blend because they aren't familiar with earlier versions, like I am with Escudo, where I think the current version is a mediocre version because I imprinted on the earlier Copes and A & C Petersen versions. And it isn't a matter of aging. Aging isn't a guarantee of anything except change and that change isn't always beneficial. Nor is it a matter of nostalgia. I'm not the nostalgic type unless it's Helms Bakery trucks.

And the blends I smoked 40 or 50 years ago might have been someone else's idea of crap compared to what they smoked 70 years ago.

All that said, blends that I became familiar in the recent past, 6 to 8 years ago, have changed in ways that I don't experience as improvements, Director's Cut, Makhuwa, and Motzek Strang being three examples. The 2020 release of Dunbar is another. I wouldn't spend a nickel on another Esoterica blend.

It is what it is for me. For new smokers, things may be just fine as they are.

With current releases, Watch City blends, the Sutliff produced Seattle Pipe Club blends, and some of the limited boutique blends that KBV releases are blends that I enjoy.

I'm glad that I bought what I did when I did.
 

Zamora

Can't Leave
Mar 15, 2023
378
986
Olympia, Washington
I think @greeneyes summed it up pretty well. However, we all imprint on the blends as they are when we first smoke them and judge them on their merits. So someone may like a current iteration of a blend because they aren't familiar with earlier versions, like I am with Escudo, where I think the current version is a mediocre version because I imprinted on the earlier Copes and A & C Petersen versions. And it isn't a matter of aging. Aging isn't a guarantee of anything except change and that change isn't always beneficial. Nor is it a matter of nostalgia. I'm not the nostalgic type unless it's Helms Bakery trucks.

And the blends I smoked 40 or 50 years ago might have been someone else's idea of crap compared to what they smoked 70 years ago.

All that said, blends that I became familiar in the recent past, 6 to 8 years ago, have changed in ways that I don't experience as improvements, Director's Cut, Makhuwa, and Motzek Strang being three examples. The 2020 release of Dunbar is another. I wouldn't spend a nickel on another Esoterica blend.

It is what it is for me. For new smokers, things may be just fine as they are.

With current releases, Watch City blends, the Sutliff produced Seattle Pipe Club blends, and some of the limited boutique blends that KBV releases are blends that I enjoy.

I'm glad that I bought what I did when I did.
I've noticed people who smoked Three Nuns when it was a VaPer tend not to like the current version, but those who only know it as a Kentucky seem fond of it if Kentuckys are their thing.
 

fightnhampster

Part of the Furniture Now
Aug 14, 2019
920
2,566
Indiana
I had this experience. I like GLP Cumberland and a few years ago ordered several tins of the 20th anniversary edition of it.

To my tastes, the 20th anniversary edition was markedly better.

Both are good, but the 20th was smoother. I assume they may have tweaked the recipe a bit.
 

SBC

Lifer
Oct 6, 2021
1,525
7,264
NE Wisconsin
ask myself when I'm smoking: am I actually enjoying this? And it's simple enough that if that question is a difficult one to answer, then I'm likely not smoking a good tobacco.

Great point. I've recently found myself trying to convince myself that I should keep or put this or that tobacco on rotation. If I have to think about it that much, I must not love it.

I'd be grateful if it's all I had, but if I have tobaccos that I love, why spend bowls on those I don't?
 

sablebrush52

The Bard Of Barlings
Jun 15, 2013
19,762
45,313
Southern Oregon
jrs457.wixsite.com
I've noticed people who smoked Three Nuns when it was a VaPer tend not to like the current version, but those who only know it as a Kentucky seem fond of it if Kentuckys are their thing.
Exactly. When MacBaren reintroduced 3 Nuns I was very interested, having smoked it in the '70's and was somewhat nonplussed by the Kentucky version. It also matters if you like the substitution leaf. I was never a devotee of DFK except for Old Dark FIred, which uses a very fine leaf. The cheap West Aftrican stuff being dumped into everything tastes like an assault on my palate. Others may love it.
 

mso489

Lifer
Feb 21, 2013
41,210
60,458
As several have mentioned, I'd like to emphasize that blends may change or stay the same, but peoples' tastes change a lot. When I advise newbies on selecting blends, I tell them not to buy too much of anything, keep it to one tin, a baggie of an ounce or two, a pouch, even if you love it. Your tastes will change, and not just as a newbie.
 
Astleys 44 went through a phase where they put too much casing on it, and it was almost a licorice aromatic. Aromatics lovers might have preferred it.
Then they cut back on the casing again, so it got better for some that preferred something closer to the original.

Those that think sub par Virginias that taste like about all of the other VaPers in a blend might think that Escudo has improved from when it was an exceptional blend. puffy

If you like things that suck... a whole lot of blends may be improving for some.
 

lraisch

Part of the Furniture Now
Jul 4, 2011
625
1,221
Granite Falls, Washington state
One of my favorites is a Rattray's blend, which I find to be at its best with about 7 years of age.

I had a chance to try a tin of the original Scottish made version and find I prefer the K&K product available now.

Was the older tin suffering some from the greater age? I don't know. It just seemed to be a little less smooth.
 

kcghost

Lifer
May 6, 2011
13,440
21,944
77
Olathe, Kansas
I've a rule than when a tobacco changes hands if will be crap within six months. It just seems the new company just can't help themselves. They have to change for whatever to hell reason (usually it means they can save money, or use a machine they already have, or use a blend of tobacco that is different than the original, etc.)
 

mso489

Lifer
Feb 21, 2013
41,210
60,458
I also think you learn blends over time. Sometimes you learn that they are much better than you thought, and other times you learn that they aren't nearly as good as you thought.

And as I mentioned above, sometimes your taste for a blend just changes.