Latakia Paradox?

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diverdoc

New member
Jun 28, 2014
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I'm trying to understand Latakia. I've smoked several English blends and have enjoyed most of them. When I read tobacco reviews, words like grassy, hay, leather, fruity, figs, raisins, spicy, earthy, and many others are often used in a single description of a blend. Clearly, my palate is not sophisticated enough to separate all those nuances, which brings me to the topic of Latakia. To me, Latakia is a lot like cilantro. When either one is present, that's all I taste. It overwhelms everything else. Am I the only one who has had this experience? How does one train (if there is such a thing) the palate to detect and enjoy the individual components of a blend?

Thanks in advance,
Tim
 

chasingembers

Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
21,761
16,476
I used to be able to taste other components of an English blend, then after years of smoking them, all I can now taste is the latakia unless it is only present in minute anounts.

You may be smoking too fast and getting the tobacco too hot.
 

Misanthrope

Member
Apr 26, 2020
135
345
Pacific Moistwest
All I can taste in English blends is a weird, rotten-sweet rancid butter note mixed with the essence of a charcoal briquet that’s spent 24 hours marinating in a sweaty hobo armpit. The two I’ve tried were Philosopher’s Blend and Sherlock’s Choice from the local Tinderbox, if that matters.

I almost bought SPC Plum Pudding and SPC Mississippi Mud on the same trip, but when the clerk presented the jar for a smell test, I just couldn’t get past the overwhelming “Pa burnt down his barbecue joint for the insurance money” and “asphalt truck barreling into out of control tire fire” tin notes.
 

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karam

Senior Member
Feb 2, 2019
379
1,240
Athens, Greece
I'm trying to understand Latakia. I've smoked several English blends and have enjoyed most of them. When I read tobacco reviews, words like grassy, hay, leather, fruity, figs, raisins, spicy, earthy, and many others are often used in a single description of a blend. Clearly, my palate is not sophisticated enough to separate all those nuances, which brings me to the topic of Latakia. To me, Latakia is a lot like cilantro. When either one is present, that's all I taste. It overwhelms everything else. Am I the only one who has had this experience? How does one train (if there is such a thing) the palate to detect and enjoy the individual components of a blend?

Thanks in advance,
Tim
I think the bolded rarely apply to Latakia descriptions (by JimInks at least), it'd commonly be "musty, earthy, resinous, smoky, leathery, woody".

On point now, I took a break from Latakia because I experienced the same with you, a bit of a Latakia burnout, however all may not be lost, I smoked Old Ironsides yesterday and loved it, I could pick out a lot more than just Latakia, while here it is often described as a Lat-bomb.
 

Magpiety

Senior Member
Dec 7, 2019
317
868
It definitely starts out like that. As your palate opens up over time, you'll start to detect some of the "cardinal" flavors: sweet, sour, spice, salt, and savory. After getting used to that, you'll start thinking "this is sweet, it really reminds me of those little oranges... what are those called... oh, cuties!" And then your description will include that. Others with experience will taste a similar sweetness, but it might remind them of something else.

In short, when reading reviews from guys like JimInks, just equate the specific flavors that he's getting to some of those cardinal flavors: He says fruit, you think "ok there's a fruit-like sweetness in there." He says hay, grass, citrus, you think "there's a sweetness similar to what I smell when mowing, or in a hay loft." That helped me a lot when my palate was developing.

As for latakia being there or not--it's pretty similar for me. I can tell a lot of latakia vs. only a little latakia, but that's about it. I like that leathery/campfire flavor in moderation, but usually not as the lead role.
 

chopper

Preferred Member
Aug 24, 2019
500
1,073
All I can taste in English blends is a weird, rotten-sweet rancid butter note mixed with the essence of a charcoal briquet that’s spent 24 hours marinating in a sweaty hobo armpit. The two I’ve tried were Philosopher’s Blend and Sherlock’s Choice from the local Tinderbox, if that matters.

I almost bought SPC Plum Pudding and SPC Mississippi Mud on the same trip, but when the clerk presented the jar for a smell test, I just couldn’t get past the overwhelming “Pa burnt down his barbecue joint for the insurance money” and “asphalt truck barreling into out of control tire fire” tin notes.
My first experience with Latakia was a generous sample of Becks ol' Limey Bastard from 4noggins.
At the time I described the bag note as "Burnt rubber, asphalt and butt".

Thinking, 'do people actually smoke this crap?' of course I had to try a bowl.
It wasn't too foul so I blended it 50/50 with Windsail Virginia.
One small bowl a day was nice, two bowls was one too many.

Now I enjoy quite a few English/American/crossover blends.

@diverdoc , if a blend is too strong Latakia wise, try blending in a straight Virginia or Burley.
I'm not fond of Lat-bombs but really enjoy blends where Latakia has been used as a condiment.

One of my favourites that I'd especially recommend to someone venturing into Latakia would be Count Pulaski, a Virginia, Burley, Latakia semi-aro with a light rum and anise topping. Very tasty.
 
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sumusfumus

Senior Member
Jul 20, 2017
418
128
Just a different suggestion...try smoking blends with very little added Latakia. John Patton has a few over at 4Noggins. "Dark and Stormy" is a wonderful mixture that has some Latakia but not to the point where it's overpowering. Wilke's "High Hat" is great, and for aromatic, cross over English blends, try Lane Ltd "HGL" for a mild, smoking experience.

Also, try adding just a little of your stronger Latakia forward blends to a much milder mixture, to "dilute" that Latakia to enjoyable levels. Try one teaspoon measure of the stronger mixture-A, added to 4 teaspoons of the latakia-free mixture-B...and smoke it. Also....buy sample-size packets of various English tobaccos from the major tobacco retailers, or, ask friends for a small amount of their tobacco mixtures for trial.

As far as I'm concerned, a little Latakia goes a very long way. Not a fan of tobaccos that smell and taste like burnt leather.

Don't give up. A major portion of "pipe-smoking" is subjective, especially, those vague, poetic, tobacco reviews. Try everything, yourself.

Be prepared to experiment a little, and try a little mixing-to-dilute. You probably will find something to smoke that'll strip your gears, sooner than you think. But most importantly, don't fret about the failures. Not everyone likes caviar or anchovies. You may just decide that Latakia ain't in your future.
 
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alexnc

Preferred Member
Oct 25, 2015
761
380
I don't know that I really agree with all of the descriptive words used in tobacco reviews, I see those words like grassy, hay and I expect a VA taste, or pepper, figs, raisin etc I expect Perique. I started out on nothing but English and eventually developed a strong dislike for latakia, so your palette will change with time. I do think that spending time with some blends has made me able to pick out some of those nuances, but rarely on an initial trial.
 

danimalia

Preferred Member
Sep 2, 2015
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San Francisco Bay Area, USA
Well, I think Latakia is extremely full-flavored, so I think it's natural for it to overshadow other components to a certain degree. If I'm understanding your issue right, does that mean you can tell zero difference between blends with Latakia? Or can you tell them apart, but just feel like all you can taste is the Latakia? If it's the latter, I'd say you ARE tasting more than Latakia, but the Latakia is just the dominant note..

As Sumus suggested above, maybe try some light Latakia blends, like Presbyterian or Chelsea Morning? I actually got burned out on heavy Lat blends a few years ago, and it was the light and medium blends that really brought me back into them.
 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
30,607
13,129
I still find English blends distinct from one another. However, I am somewhat irked that Latakia and Perique, which I both like, are used as default condiments in way too many blends. When in doubt, throw in Latakia. In recent years, blenders have discovered dark-fired, burley, Cavendish, Orientals and others as condiment tobaccos ... cigar leaf. So I'm not surprised that people have Latakia burn-out. I think I've been saved by being a burley devotee, so when I get back to blends with Latakia, I've had a rest and can taste the whole blend and not just the Lat.
 

Sonorisis

Preferred Member
Dec 24, 2019
612
1,563
Smoking tobacco with Latakia is like smoking tobacco that has already been smoked. Why would I do that? Seems to defeat all the work in growing, drying, and blending tobacco. I'd rather appreciate all that work. Smoking smoke that's already been smoked is a needless redundancy.
 

saltedplug

Preferred Member
Aug 20, 2013
3,442
773
When I was young the conventional wisdom about latakia was that you either liked it or you didn't. This bilateral view made me see it as a different tobacco to either embrace or spurn. This was not said about any other tobacco. It made me wonder if I liked it. For about 18 months I thought I did, but then I decided I didn't, and the outcome was that I didn't smoke it for more than 10 years.

When I tried it again I felt I had missed out.
 

ofafeather

Preferred Member
Apr 26, 2020
604
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Where NY, CT & MA meet
As someone else suggested, try a very lightly seasoned Latakia blend. Usually when you’ve smoked a heavy lat blend it can deaden your taste for lighter lat blends which is one reason that there are sort of rotation lineups like Dunhill/Peterson EMP, Standard Mixture, Nightcap. If you went in reverse you wouldn’t really taste the lat in the lighter blends.

Another interesting example is a blend like GH Bobs Chocolate Flake. There is a hint of Latakia in there which comes out at certain times. I really enjoy that. It’s not really part of the main character of the blend but really can enhance it overall.
 
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jiminks

Preferred Member
Aug 31, 2012
37,989
60,661
In short, when reading reviews from guys like JimInks, just equate the specific flavors that he's getting to some of those cardinal flavors: He says fruit, you think "ok there's a fruit-like sweetness in there." He says hay, grass, citrus, you think "there's a sweetness similar to what I smell when mowing, or in a hay loft." That helped me a lot when my palate was developing.
I thank you for the best description of my points anybody's ever done.
 

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