Tag: lagavulin

My no. 1: Abingdon

Sometimes it is with tobacco as it is with music. You hear songs that are ok or ones that suck until suddenly, whoaaa.. What is that?? You listen to it more closely and slowly feel yourself falling in love with it with every time you hear it. After that the song sort of becomes part of your life and you keep listening to it until the day you die. Luckily I am not yet in that last phase but master-blender GL Pease’s creation Abingdon certainly has ingrained itself in my existence.

Unfortunately I can’t remember exactly when I first smoked Abingdon. My First Pease blend was the then hyped Chelsea Morning. With trembling hands I popped that tin, filled the bowl, lit the pipe aaand… It sucked. Perhaps I was expecting the nectar of the pipe-gods or so but it wasn’t on par with anything I had in my mind. I never had it since, maybe I should because during the years my taste-buds have vastly improved. After that I got a sample of Westminster from a friend and it blew me away. Ok, perhaps this “Dark Lord” Pease-guy does know what he is doing after all, I thought. It must have been after that when I tried my first bowl of Abingdon. Apparently I liked it really, really much because when I look at my tobacco tin purchase history the name “Abingdon” often pops up. Nowadays about once a year I open up a tin of it as a treat to myself. It never fails to deliver.

Thanks to Troy Lloyd

Backstory:
I quote GL Pease here: Some may have caught the hints of the inspiration behind this one when I’ve written about it in the past, but for the rest of you, here’s the back story. When I began to think about what I wanted to do with the Classic Collection, I had it in mind to pay tribute to some of the tobaccos of the past that had inspired me over the years—not to attempt their recreation, which is always something of a fool’s errand, but to produce blends that were reminiscent of what certain blends meant to me. It was my desire to paint something of a leaky memory picture of what the now old 759 was like in its relative youth that inspired me to concoct Abingdon. First, there was 759 and there was 759. The blend went through some changes during its life, and not every vintage is like every other. Too, while many have claimed to “clone” or “replicate” particular blends, I have never once found one of these copy-cats to successfully reproduce one of the old blends. In most cases, they’re not even really close. Later vintages of 759 seem to have been more dominated by Latakia. For those, I think Abingdon may be a little closer, though certainly not identical. Abingdon was named after Abingdon on Thames, the home of the legendary MG motorcar. For me, something about that wonderful, oily, intense smokiness of the tobacco recalled the wonderful smells of my old MGA, so it seemed fitting.

Description from the producer:
Abingdon: Dark, Mysterious and Full. Abingdon is the fullest Balkan style blend in the collection. It is rich and robust, powerful and forthright, yet still possessing subtlety and finesse. Dark flavours of wood and leather mingle with delicate undercurrents of sweetness, and deep earthy notes, while the oriental tobaccos provide hints of their verdant, sometimes herbaceous character. A big Balkan blend, reminding us once more of what these blends used to be. Because of the high percentage of dark and oriental tobaccos, it’s recommended to pack Abingdon a little less firmly than you might a lighter blend. Abingdon was released in July, 2003. And another quote from GL Pease himself: Abingdon is not topped or cased. It, like most of my blends, relies solely on the flavours of the leaf to make it what it is. It’s actually a fairly simple formula, but the result is delightfully complex. It’s an interesting mixture as it is quite heavy with latakia, but the orientals are more subdued. The virginias form the backbone of the smoke, but the latakia makes quite a statement.

Package/tin:
A typical American round pop-lid tin with paper wrapper. I must say that for this review I have an old production tin (from 2012). Not too long ago the artwork changed a bit. But still on the front there is a picture of a bulldog shaped pipe on top of a fountain pen and a piece of writing paper. On the back it says: A full Balkan style blend with a generous measure of Cyprian Latakia, seasoned with fine red and lemon yellow Virginia tobaccos, and enhanced with rich oriental leaf. Abingdon is bold and assertive, while retaining a stylish finesse. The Classic Collection draws inspiration from the great tobaccos of days past. The blends offered are not meant as attempts to replicate them, but to pay them homage to capture some of their essence.

Contents/Ingredients/cut:
Upon opening the tin I am greeted by the light and dark blended ingredients: Cyprian latakia, red and lemon yellow Virginias and orientals. The cut is a kind of rough ribbon cut with chunky pieces throughout it which you sometimes have to rub out a bit.

Smell from the tin:
The smell from the tin is wonderful to my nose. Sweet, salt, leather, smoke, spice, autumn, wood, earth all mixed into one like the instruments of an orchestra. I would have expected to notice more of the latakia. Perhaps it is the age of tin (6 years) so that the tobaccos inside have mellowed but this does not smell at all like the “bold and assertive” which is promised on the tin label.

Taste:
Upon lighting the blend there sometimes can be a slight bitterness, but it usually goes away after a few puffs. I have to think of my old and trusty Toyota Starlet. When I first start it there is lots of smoke and the pungent smell of petrol but after some hitting the gas it runs smoothly. Sort of the same with Abingdon. When the blend awakens and I am lucky I get some dark fruit/raisin/apricot taste-swirls throughout the rising smokiness from the latakia, the Virginia sweetness and the oriental sourness. For me Abingdon is not a complex blend. Once it gets going basically the same taste stays throughout the bowl with some little nuances here and then. But that basic taste is… So damn yummie! The balance between all the tobacco components is unbelievable. Lots of contradictions but somehow they work together like a well composed symphony. The instruments are soft, creamy, smooth, full, leather, musty, earth, sour, spice, wood and smoky. The resulting piece is Abingdon. Like with the smell I had expected more latakia “oomph” but I am glad it is not there. The dark leaf is almost like the conductor who supports the other instruments and let them play better. In some of the Tobaccoreviews.com reviews I read comparisons with my favourite whisky: Lagavulin. And I have to agree! The two make a perfect pair. Like with Abingdon Lagavulin boasts a lot of smokiness but if you compare it to some other whiskies (Laphroaig, Ardbeg) it really is not that much. Also Lagavulin possesses that rich, full harmony of flavours that Abingdon has. Anyway, in the end the tobacco burns down to a fine grey ash.

Miscellaneous:
Abingdon can bite a little bit if you pack the bowl too firmly and the tobacco is too moist. But if you take that into consideration, no problems at all. It stays pretty well lit throughout the smoke, nicotine hit is mild to medium. In my opinion and experience Abingdon performs best in somewhat larger (Dunhill group 4) prince shaped or pot shapes pipes. It certainly is not an all-pipe friend.

Room-note:
Whenever Ellen sees this tin on the table in our living room she starts to shift uncomfortably. “Is this that blend, you know? Well, I am afraid it is darling.. Oh.. Ok, eh, I am going to sleep/play music/do the laundry/get the f*ck away from here/etc.” As I write this I am smoking a pipe of Abingdon, Ellen just came downstairs and immediately got a red face. “Are you smoking it again? Yes darling. Grrr.. I really wish you waited until I had to go away for work. You can write in that blog of yours it is the most vile, evil smelling tobacco there is! I just did that darling.”

Price:
On Smokingpipes.com a 2 oz. tin will set you back at $10.63 (± €9,30). An 8 oz. tin will cost you $35.70 (± €31,25).

Conclusion:
From all the still available tobaccos I like Abingdon the best. Period. Of course I prefer blends like London Mixture State Express, Renaissance or De Graaff Kegelbaan but eejj, I can’t get them any more. Abingdon possesses an old world quality which only improves with age, a timeless mixture. I can totally imagine myself sitting in my living room decades from now when I am old, wrinkled and slightly senile, while smoking a pipe of well aged Abingdon, enjoying the hell out of it and thinking back to the good ol’ days before tobaccogeddon. Just before Ellen whacks me with her walking stick while shouting “You are not smoking it again aren’t you??”

Of course I wish all my readers a merry Christmas and a smoky 2019!!!

Whisky and Tobacco (by Paul) – Part 2.

This is part 2 of the “Whisky and Tobacco (by Paul)” post. Click here for part 1.

Jim_Beam___White– Virginia / Perique blends:
Tobacco blends with Perique have that typical sour aroma and taste. There are not many “sour” whiskies/whiskeys. But you could try an American Sour Mash whiskey, like some well known brands produce, like Pappy Van Winkle, Jim Bean, Woodfort Reserve, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey and some Jack Daniels expressions. Note that the Sour Mash process is used in almost all Bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys. If you are looking for that typical aroma, check the indication “sour mash” on the label. The process doesn’t make a whiskey with a sour aroma-note as per definition, they can turn out very sweet and with vanilla/caramel aromas.

As for Scotch single malts I can’t easily come up with whiskies which have a sourly aroma or taste. It’s a taste most whiskymakers do not want in their whisky. The only one I ever encountered that would fit in here is an independent bottling of Edradour 10 yo from The Un-Chill-Filtered Collection, distilled 12-08-1998 and bottled 20-11-2008, 46% alcohol and from cask No. 286.
Besides looking for a sour taste in the whisky (and because Perique brings out more complexity out of the Virginia tobaccos) you could try such a tobacco-blend with a more complex whisky, like mentioned next, under Virginia/Oriental blends.

royal_lochnagar_12_yo– Virginia / Oriental blends:
Typically a single malt like Royal Lochnagar 12 yo brings out a leathery note, which I think would combine easily with an Oriental tobacco blend. It also brings out a little peaty flavour and aroma. Other light to medium peated whiskies would do nice in my opinion, like Springbank 10 yo, Scapa 16 yo and Isle of Jura Superstition.

I think a Virginia/Oriental tobacco blend can be perfectly combined with more complex whiskies, such as Highland Park 18 yo, Loch Lomond Old Rhosdhu 10 yo, Glen Garioch 12 yo or a Glen Spey 12 yo.

15yo-551– Virginia / Burley blends:
Burley can give a tobacco some hint of chocolate. And in some whiskies you can find that aroma too. Bladnoch 15 yo would do fine (chocolate, orange and even a tobacco aroma can be found) or the Glencadam 15 yo. These whiskies are not too strong in taste and aroma, which combines nicely with the Virginia-based tobacco.

spsob.12yo– Burley / Kentucky blends:
Here too the chocolate can be found, but I think a Burley/Kentucky tobacco is often somewhat stronger in aroma and taste than a Burley/Virginia. Therefore I would recommend a whisky that is a bit more “present” in the nose and on the tongue, like Glenrothes from about 14 yo or older or a Speyside 12 yo. The latter shows even more chocolate with a few drops of water (and don’t exaggerate on the water!).

Lagavulin-16-Jahre-07-Liter– Latakia blends:
Well, this is the territory of the man who get hair on their chests while smoking these kind of tobacco-blends. And mind you, there are whiskies which grow hair on your chest too: the peaty ones.  A few examples of medium to strong peated whiskies are Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Kilchoman (all from the Isle of Islay) and Longrow (the peaty one from Springbank) or Ledaig (the peaty one from Tobermory). But also some brands, less known to produce peaty whiskies, have managed to bring some nice peaty expressions. Like the Isle of Arran Devil’s Punch Bowl, Croftengea 5 yo or Inchmoan 4 yo (both from the Loch Lomond distillery) and Ardmore Fully Peated Quarter Cask finish. The famous Talisker from the Isle of Skye matches evenly well with a Latakia tobacco. And distilleries from the Isle of Islay that have a non-peaty house-style sometimes produce a peaty whisky. Like the Port Charlotte expression from Bruichladdich and the Moine-series from Bunnahabhain. The last one only bottled by independent bottler The Ultimate from Amersfoort, The Netherlands.

302– Cigar leaf blends:
With tobacco blends which include Cigar leaf I think a lot of peaty whiskies can be combined perfectly. Also whiskies with some leather-aromas would do fine (like the mentioned Royal Lochnagar 12 yo). But one specific single malt comes to mind to accompany a cigar leaf pipe tobacco and of course a cigar as well: the Dalmore Cigar Malt. If you like these kind of tobaccos or you are a cigar aficionado as well as a pipesmoker and you are looking for a balanced whisky to go with the smoke, this is the best I can recommend. It balances perfectly with the smoke and even let’s behind an oily film in your mouth. Which makes the smoke, either pipe of cigar, very pleasant.

Whisky casks

Whisky casks

So, in general:
Keep in mind that maturing on ex-American whiskey casks creates whiskies with vanilla and caramel. They vary from dry to pretty sweet. Maturing on ex-sherry casks mostly give more complex whiskies. With aromas varying from fruits, chocolate and flowers to nutty aromas and even aromas of other distillates like brandy and armagnac.

1316408608_1316417382844Pipe-smoking and whisky-drinking:
In closure I would like to make a kind of statement. People often ask me if smoking is allowed while drinking whisky. My opinion on is this: When you are drinking socially or just to relax and take some time for yourself to enjoy the good things in life, please smoke, drink and eat what you like and how you like it.
However, when you are seriously “nosing and tasting” your whisky, it’s better not to smoke. The same goes for exploring a tobacco trying to define the aroma’s which are in it: better not drink or eat while searching for the fine nuances in your mixture. The one interferes your perception and findings of the other. Whether you are exploring whisky while smoking or exploring your tobacco while drinking a fairly strong drink like the ” water of life”. For instance, the Scotch single malt whisky Highland Park 18yo is a very complex whisky with 24 detectable aroma’s. If you are really exploring this whisky, a smoke will have effect on your nose. Thus making it very hard searching for such fragile distinctions in whisky aroma’s.
Having said this, I can assure you that I like to smoke my pipe or a good long-filler cigar while enjoying my whisky. Even my complex Highland Park 18yo, when I’m just relaxing and enjoying my passions: pipe-smoking and Scotch single malt whisky.

Enjoy your smoke and your drink,

Paul

Whisky and Tobacco (by Paul) – Part 1.

The evening ended on a cozy note...Once in a while, mostly late in the evening when Ellen is already asleep, I like to indulge myself with a glass of good whisky. Often in combination with a pipe. Unfortunately I know very little of this distilled alcoholic beverage that is made from fermented grain mash, only that I like it. What I do know is that I enjoy a glass of peaty 16 year old Lagavulin paired with a pipe filled with leathery, smoky Penzance. Hmm.. I wondered.. Would there be more combinations possible between whisky and tobacco?

Paul

Paul

The man to ask this question to is Paul, who some of you may know from the “Who’s afraid of chemistry part 1 and 2” posts. Besides pipe smoking he also enjoys a good whisky. Well, several good whiskies. Ok, a lot of good whiskies. The man is a walking whisky encyclopaedia and has bottles and bottles of the finest “water of life” at home. Paul also does so called “nosings and tastings” in which, together with a selected group of people, he discusses how to distinguishing smells and tastes with whiskey. He also provides background information about the production process, the components of the distilleries, specificities of whisky, whisky regions and distilleries, wood and barrels, water and peat, boilers, other technical aspects etc. So I asked him to write a post about which whisky goes best with which tobacco. Before I let you read the piece Paul wrote I have to mention that throughout his story I linked to whisky reviews. Now not every reviewer thinks the same about a whisky (the same goes for tobacco) so all opinions and recommendations are Paul’s and are based on his knowledge and vast experience.

1For this article I want to write a bit about one of my other passions besides pipe-smoking: whisk(e)y. Arno has asked me: which whisky goes best with which tobacco? Hmmm, tough question to answer, because one person likes to adjust the tobacco aromas with the whisky aromas and another likes some contrast in tobacco and whisky while enjoying them together.

A LOT of whiskies

A LOT of whiskies

My specific love goes out to the Scotch single malt whiskies, so you will find them in my examples. But in this article I will occasionally mention the Irish and the American whiskeys too; sometimes with a specific brand-name and expression, sometimes as a group. In Scotch single malt whiskies 400 (four hundred) aromas have been found, so you will understand I can only give “some” guidance on brands and expressions. There are about 10.000 – 12.000 Scottish single malt expressions on the market, including the many independent bottlings. A list way too big to insert them all in this article. So please look upon the following tips and names as a first direction you can follow. For specific questions I will gladly be of service to answer anything on the subject of whisk(e)y. You can use the e-mail on my website www.whiskyinfoplus.nl (in Dutch, but you will find the e-mail button).

Well, this is not entirely true Batman..

Well, this is not entirely true Batman..

For the purists on this heavenly brew, who might have noticed the “e” in the name of the drink: Irish and American whiskey is written with the “e” in the name, all the other whisky producing countries spell it without the “e”. If generally mentioned I will write whisky in this article as the Scots do. If I mean specific Irish or American whiskey, you will notice the extra “e”. A final remark upfront: “yo” is not only a rap-word from guys like 50-Cents and others, but stands for “years old”, which is the age statement of the whiskies ageing in the casks.

Bushmills 16yo

AROMATIC BLENDS:

– vanilla and caramel:
Most American Bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys have quite some vanilla/caramel aromas, which go perfectly with a vanilla flavoured tobacco.
As do a lot of Irish whiskeys, such as Bushmills 16 yo, Magilligan 5 yo, Greenore 8 yo and Redbreast 12 yo.
Most Scotch single malts have aged in ex-Bourbon or ex-Tennessee casks and they almost always have aromas like vanilla, caramel and/or butterscotch. Like Glengoyne 12 yo, lots of The Macallan expressions, Deanston 12 yo, The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich single malts up to 15 yo. This also goes for most of the brands from the Speyside region, as long as they have matured on casks formerly used by American whiskey makers.

Drumguish

– honey:
A lot of whiskies can have some honey aromas, i.e. Drumguish (from the Speyside distillery, no age statement on the label), Speyburn Solera (which combines the honey with oranges) or The Macallan Fine Oak 10 yo.

Oban 14 yo

– orange/grape/citrus:
An aroma which also can be found in Scotch single malts, like Oban 14 yo, Speyburn Solera, Old Pulteney 12 yo (grape/orange like aroma) and Fettercairn Fior.

Tomatin 25 yo

– red fruits like berries, raspberry, blackberry, etc.:
Tomatin 25 yo has a few expressions with berry-aromas. Further you have Springbank 13 yo Port Cask, Lochside 10 yo and Glencadam 15 yo.

Glenturret 10 yo

– floral aromas:
Glenturret 10 yo brings out some floral notes, as well as a lot of whiskies which have matured on ex-sherry casks, like Glengoyne, Genfarclas 15 yo, Mannochmore 12 yo, Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 yo, Benriach 12 yo, Aberlour 12 yo and most whiskies which boast “matured in Oloroso/sherry/Pedro Ximenez casks” on the label.

Littlemill 8 yo

VIRGINIA BLENDS:
Almost all of the time an Irish whiskey matches perfectly with Virginia tobacco. There are far over 100 Irish whiskeys, blends, single malts, single grains, pot stilled or continuously distilled whiskeys. All with their own specific character but mostly a bit more “friendly & easy-going” in taste and aroma than the average Scotch single malt. You almost can’t go wrong combining a Virginia tobacco filled pipe with an Irish whiskey.

Scotch whiskies from the Lowlands also combine fine with the light sweet aroma of a lot of Virginia tobaccos. Think of Lowland whiskies like Auchentoshan 12 yo, Littlemill (if you still can find it, the Littlemill 8 yo has a typical aroma of a freshly mowed lawn), Bladnoch and Glenkinchie. But a Speyside region whisky like Knockdhu 12 yo or a young (under 15 yo) Knockando will do just fine as well. Ever tried Highland whiskies like Deanston 12 yo or Dalwhinnie 15 yo to go with your Virginia tobacco? Both, with their heathery and sweet notes, will bring out the sweetness of your Virginia pipe tobacco.

This post continues in part 2.