The Great Flakes or the Grand Delusion

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vosBghos

Lifer
May 7, 2022
1,500
3,334
Idaho
Generally accepted? No. But, to this plebeian's taste, pre-2014 Wessex Classic Virginia (not to be confused with Wessex "Original," etc.) was as good as or better than any VA flake in existence. Around 2014 it changed from a straight red VA ribbon to a (very poor) lemon VaPer ribbon (so don't get excited by any tins you find for sale -- they're imposters).

Then again, I don't think that it was a ribbon in every respect -- I think that it began life as a plug, then was sliced and "ready rubbed" for sale. So, even here, time as a plug probably contributed to excellence.

Accumulated experience suggests that Virginia doesn't reach the fullness of its telos apart from time fermenting and marrying in plug form.

This may have begun as a mere practicality, but the mere practicality led to a discovery, and that discovery is confirmed by consensus on TR.
As far as Red's go I have never experienced a Flake comparable to McCranies Red Ribbon but then again I have never had McCraines Red Flake soooooooo? Any Great Red Flakes out there? Lemme know I still prefer Peterson flake and Bold Kentucky to other forms of comparable leaf
 

SBC

Lifer
Oct 6, 2021
1,511
7,218
NE Wisconsin
As far as Red's go I have never experienced a Flake comparable to McCranies Red Ribbon but then again I have never had McCraines Red Flake soooooooo? Any Great Red Flakes out there? Lemme know I still prefer Peterson flake and Bold Kentucky to other forms of comparable leaf
I think that HH Pure VA and Opening Night both have a lot of Red in them.
 

anotherbob

Lifer
Mar 30, 2019
15,544
29,123
45
In the semi-rural NorthEastern USA
I love me some flake, but am beginning to wonder if I've bought into them a little to much. Part of me thinks that flakes (and their brethren, cakes, ropes and coins) are popular (or more talked about) because, due to the added process, they are perceived as special, better, cooler, like Brando or James Dean. Flake reminds us of breakfast cereals, eatable, delicious. They recall to us wood chips, chunks or hunks of something larger. They are as appreciable as a well planed and square plank of wood. They are an object to appreciate, consider, inspect, hold, admire. They show a grain! Ribbon, on the other hand, ribbon is frilly, a melange, something a gal might tie her hair up with, reminiscent of a bow, something soft, prepared, indulgent, perhaps a bit hoity-toity. And rough cut, well, while nice enough, rough cut reminds us of floor scraps, unrefined processing, little care, &etc...

Now, I smoke all cuts of tobacco, but prefer a flake, or its progenitors, the cake (among other pressed and compressed forms). However, I tend towards flakes for the aforementioned reasons, and likely, because it is more involved, more ritualistic in its processes of preparation.

Now, to my questions, why is it that such a seeming majority of the most celebrated tobaccos are flakes? Is this because of some perceived superiority (that we've self marketed to ourselves)? Or is it just a better manner of processing the tobacco, aging it, continuing fermentation, marrying the flavors, and distributing?

And to the ultimate question at which all these thoughts point: what tobaccos, if any (not distributed in pressed form (including broken or general ready rubbed for that matter)) show great superiority to equivalent flakes? Or do they just not? For example, what VA of an alternative cut outshines all flakes and presumed equivalent of ropes, coins, or cakes? What about Englishes? &etc...

Of course all of this is a matter of personal taste, but I am curious all the same, even if all this is a bit tongue in cheek.
flakes are flakes. The first thing I wish that buttonholes wouldn't have kept telling me that they're an advanced form of tobacco you need special skills for. Which just isn't true. They're just different. I honestly can't say what it is but coins are almost always great for me. I haven't tried a bad one.
But one thing if it's a coin if it's a flake a plug that requires more to make it including time... So for one it's not really worth making it if it's not a little extra in more ways then not. So there is a certain quality control built into it.
It's easier to do more with a flake as well. you can do more with how you choose to smoke it. I usually just make a broken flake out of it. I find that agrees with me best.
But I think the thing that shines the most with flakes is how they smoke. Slower then anything else. Depending on you break it up. But flakes can give you a really long slow smoke even if you try to puff like a crazy person on it.
Though this whole notion of there being a this is the tobacco or this is pure bliss in a can... That shit just keeps happening over and over and is always something different. I think because there are lots of good options and enough great options it's easy to over look it. But at the end of the day they're just leaf from a great plant processed for our enjoyment.
And also one other little thing when you discover the wonders and the ways of certain cuts it can be a little bit of magic. I didn't like shags for pipes until I really learned how to handle them. And now I think it is the most sadly underrepresented cut and it be great to see more of it's potential explored.
 

sablebrush52

The Bard Of Barlings
Jun 15, 2013
19,484
44,432
Southern Oregon
jrs457.wixsite.com
No one has yet to venture an example of a ribbon cut that is generally accepted as a better tobacco than a reasonably equivalent flake. Of course this is subject to personal tastes, but I am interested as there is some general consensus surrounding certain highly coveted tobaccos (seemingly more often flake). I have read reviews of some partial to things like ready rubbed to flake (in the case of St. Bruno), but my guess is the price point is a major aspect of this particular preference.

I suppose I should qualify: Aros don't really pertain.
Aros have to pertain, because they're 90 % of the market. That would include the G & H aromatic flakes. So should OTC's like Carter Hall and Sir Walter Raleigh, as well as the aforementioned St Bruno Ready Rub, which I much prefer to the flake. Both Mcrainie's Red Ribbon and Red Flake are great, but I still prefer the ribbon. They should not be confused with 5100, since they're a distinctly different product.

I also prefer Capstan Ready Rubs. But there's no denying the charms of a flake that's been given ample time to meld.

Historically, a great many fabled blends were ribbon cuts, like Craven's Mixture, Balkan Sobranie, 759, etc. Almost all of Duhill's offerings were ribbon cuts.

Styles have certainly changed. Back in the day, a gentleman would settle in his chair, at home or at his club, produce his pipe and open his humidor to fill his pipe with a fine mixture of ribbon cut or shag. That was a gentleman's smoke, none of that nancy sailor boy and their fanciers flake stuff.
Now, gentlemen proudly stick out their manscaped chests and proudly smoke flakes. It is enough to make one weep...

Not that I have anything against flakes. I stock quite a selection, along with blends and mixtures of every type, since I like them all or they wouldn't be in my stocks. I am Switzerland when it comes to tobacco cut/presentation. Flakes are something of an impediment to spontaneity, since they need some prep to get the best from them. I like that I can do a codger scoop into a mixture and I'm on my way.

Flakes are not inherently superior, nor inferior, to mixtures. They're merely an option, a remnant of a form of processing that's been left intact, unlike ready rubs or broken flakes. Flakes are compact, and it's one less step the manufacturer needs to take. Less cost to them, and more to you.

Flakes seem to be a primarily Virginia based thing, much less so with aromatics (90% of the sales), and English blends.
For a fringe option, flakes have come a long way.

Trust me, I have absolutely nothing against flakes. Some of my best friends are flakes.
 

PipesRock

Part of the Furniture Now
Jan 21, 2020
643
4,294
Florida
Better idk, but I love some of them seemingly exclusive of late. I just rub the flake out and dry it far more often than the occasional fold and sruff. Newminster 2.5 year old has traded the teddy graham's, fig newton aroma for a deep sweet plum dark stewed fruit that is wonderful. Stonehenge, Fribourg and Treyer and others are also in a disorganized rotation.

Definitely something to be said for the manufacture process and marketing aspect already discussed. For my take I def prefer the easier of jarring of bulk packaged flakes to ribbon.
 

Misanthrope

Can't Leave
Apr 26, 2020
367
1,126
Texas
I’ve never really sat down and tried to analyze why I like one cut or another, but what I do know from empirical observation is that flakes make smaller-bowled pipes far more enjoyable for me because it takes forever to smoke a bowl of flake compared to a shag or ribbon cut.

I like ribbon in bigger or deeper bowls like my Moonshine Cannonballs, semi-tightly packed shag in small and shallow bowls like my Briarworks stubby apples, and flakes in Wiebe radiator pipe bowls.
 

HawkeyeLinus

Lifer
Oct 16, 2020
5,544
40,658
Iowa
No one has yet to venture an example of a ribbon cut that is generally accepted as a better tobacco than a reasonably equivalent flake. Of course this is subject to personal tastes, but I am interested as there is some general consensus surrounding certain highly coveted tobaccos (seemingly more often flake). I have read reviews of some partial to things like ready rubbed to flake (in the case of St. Bruno), but my guess is the price point is a major aspect of this particular preference.

I suppose I should qualify: Aros don't really pertain.
Maybe because, in general, the flakes you are extolling usually come as a flake vs. ribbon, although I've got some darn good flakes that come "separated" in the sense they aren't "planks of wood", more like longer ribbons, and nothing frilly or whatever you were going on about with ribbons about them. Never noticed the "cool" part, just the utilitarian part. The more I've gotten into Vas, the more I've gotten into flakes - that's how they seem to come most of the time.

I assume they are popular because they are good and people vote with $. Are the most popular tobaccos overall large, flat, wonderful expanses of flake? Don't know.

A ribbon is a ribbon, whether a straight Va or a Virginia based aro, I don't fear for my manhood loading one into my pipe, lol --- like the feel in a different way just as much as a flake.

FYI, I agree with @didimauw --- the flakes feel nice and substantial in hand and they get twisted or sometimes rolled between the palms to oblivion, lol.
 

dunnyboy

Lifer
Jul 6, 2018
2,327
27,617
New York
I don't think they are superior to other cuts but I like the way flakes smoke when folded and stuffed. At least at the beginning, only the exposed tips of the flake will burn giving a nice smoldering flavorful smoke.
 
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anotherbob

Lifer
Mar 30, 2019
15,544
29,123
45
In the semi-rural NorthEastern USA
I don't think they are superior to other cuts but I like the way flakes smoke when folded and stuffed. At least at the beginning, only the exposed tips of the flake will burn giving a nice smoldering flavorful smoke.
they're different and like most things in life of a certain quality level... There are pluses and minuses and they're usually drawn from the same source. A flake burns cool and even but is trickier to keep lit. You can smoke a flake in windy conditions without the wind getting more of the smoke then you, but again harder to deal with in certain ways. The flavors marry and mellow somewhat, but that means individual components can get lost in the mix. Flakes are great! Ribbons are great! Shags are great! and they all have their drawbacks too. Depends on what you want out of a particular smoke. And Erinmore is just kind of one of the best aromatics that you'll love or hate.
 

dunnyboy

Lifer
Jul 6, 2018
2,327
27,617
New York
they're different and like most things in life of a certain quality level... There are pluses and minuses and they're usually drawn from the same source. A flake burns cool and even but is trickier to keep lit. You can smoke a flake in windy conditions without the wind getting more of the smoke then you, but again harder to deal with in certain ways. The flavors marry and mellow somewhat, but that means individual components can get lost in the mix. Flakes are great! Ribbons are great! Shags are great! and they all have their drawbacks too. Depends on what you want out of a particular smoke. And Erinmore is just kind of one of the best aromatics that you'll love or hate.
I entirely agree. Folded flakes are harder to get going unless you top them with tinder, which somewhat mutes the smoldering tips. It's also a challenge to get the right sized wad that slides in easily and doesn't choke the bowl.