In my theory of the world, the pipe tobaccos that win big are the ones that taste like foods. Escudo for example tastes like a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich; My Mixture 965 tastes like gingerbread, and those Virginia flakes taste like sourdough bread toast with honey (if you want it really tasty, take a spare honey jar and fill it with strips of fresh ginger).
Sutliff Dark Decadence comes from this school of thought because it tastes like pancakes and maple syrup:
Summary: a cool-burning aromatic with maple, whisky, and vanilla notes.
I started out, before I knew just about anything, smoking a blend called Blender’s Gold “Golden Burley.” It was a Cavendish blend with maple, vanilla, and whisky toppings, at nearly medium strength, and it may not be highly ranked by the Instagram and forum pipe-smokers, but it was pretty good for the price and a very comfortable smoke. “Dark Decadence” follows the same path at full medium strength, being what looks like Burley Cavendish which has been treated with a topping that includes vanilla and whisky flavors. Maybe there is “fruit” in there as well, but mostly, I taste maple syrup. This blend takes a bit of work to light, since it is moist and treated with humectants, but once it gets going, it burns smoothly and delivers a fair amount of flavor, mostly whisky, to the bottom of the bowl. It leaves a bit of moisture, but smolders well, so if you breath-smoke this one can last you for hours. Since it is dense, I would pack it very lightly. I remain open-minded to aromatics, but if I had to pick one from the big shops, I would consider this option for being strong enough and not cloying in its flavor or sweetness. If you want the old school tobacco store smell, open a jar of this next to a jar of an English and drink in that rich scent. I tend to mix this one 1:2 with a basic Burley like Ohm “Natural” to make a better-burning and slightly stronger blend that still has the maple syrup with pancakes flavor and scent.
I enjoyed the Blender’s Gold Golden Burley because it had a rich, familiar scent. If you have some of it in a room with an open tin of My Mixture 965 present, the scent of a tobacconist or old school barbershop comes to mind. It was, however, only about mild-to-medium strength. This blend fixes that but, like most aromatics, is almost unsmokeable in its diluted condition.
However, if you cut it with a decent Burley – I recommend Ohm Natural, CD Dark Burley to CD White Burley in a 3:1 ratio, or even Sutliff TS4 White Cube Burley – this blend comes alive. You still get the great room note, which means that people will actually stand near you instead of fleeing like they do when you break out the Engine #99 or Nightcap, and all of the flavor, but you can actually light it, where this tobacco in its unadulterated form is a bit too full of flavoring agents, humectants, and sugars to get started and keep lit.
For contrast, here is my review of Ohm Natural:
Summary: mostly Burley flavor in natural form comes from this Virginia-accented blend.
Ohm “Natural” may be the classic American blend: mostly Burley with some Virginia to sweeten it, offered at a low cost because it is bulk leaf run through a shredder. Its tin note smells much like that of the Semois tobaccos from Europe, a sweetness with a faint overtone of almonds or hazelnuts. The mixture is slightly moist, and seems to be a combination of some white Burley with mostly dark Burley with smaller amounts of bright Virginia in a supporting role. It lights easily, and produces at first a nut-and-oats Burley flavor, but then the lighter wheat and honey flavor of the Virginia rises. The two form a chord that then smokes down to the bottom of the bowl easily, leaving the fine grey ash that implies complete and even burning. For those who like classic American Burley blends, this is an all-day smoke at a very reasonable price.
When I am out in the field, my modus operandi consists of going to the local tobacco shack and picking up a big bag of Ohm Natural and whatever my best option from the aromatic rack is. It used to be Prince Albert, which I mixed 1:1 with the Ohm, but sometimes nowadays it is various Sutliff or Lane aromatics which I mix with the 1:3 to the Ohm formula. That way, you get all of the flavor and scent, but a mite more nicotine and natural flavor, which makes these a lot tastier, satisfying, and less bitey.
Now, I know that most of you are thinking: this guy is a poseur; he’s recommending an aromatic! I share your concerns about aromatics just like I avoid soda pop and boxed food in real life. If you look at my tobacco reviews and pipe smoking articles, not to mention my information for new pipe smokers and learning to smoke a pipe, you will see that I favor naturals quite a bit. Sometimes, however, one would like something a little aromatic for social events or just a light, easy smoke with natural-ish food flavors. It’s better than snacking at least.
I do not trust the industrial habit of taking something natural, adding emulsifiers and conditioners and preservatives and humectants with flavoring and coloring and extra sugar, fat, and salt, and then declaring it a new improved product, when really they downgraded the quality – mostly through labor costs – of the original and are using the goop to mask that.
Most aromatics still strike me as like most sodas, an inferior replacement for old-fashioned home-brewed root beer, cream soda, or ginger soda. They are too sweet for me as well. However, this may be the best of the breed, and it fills the role taken by Lane 1-Q and Captain Black Regular for a sugary culinary tobacco that you can smoke around normals and get away with it. -