The Briar & Leaf Chronicles Returns

31 January 2019

It's been years, I know, but the Briar & Leaf Chronicles is returning, and the first installment is already up. It's my intention to stay more on top of it, and I have a few ideas for the future. I won't say it'll be weekly, fortnightly, or even monthly. Tom Dunn published The Pipe Smoker's Ephemeris "irregularly," so I think I'll just borrow his expression for my own publication schedule.

Returning Soon to a Tobacconist's Near You

18 June 2017

In 2001, the late John Gawith (Gawith Hoggarth & Co.) and I collaborated to create an all new Virginia/perique flake. It was a pleasure working with John, and the result, Stonehenge Flake, was met with overwhelming enthusiasm. Though originally produced as a limited edition of approximately 1500 2oz tins, the continued high-regard of this tobacco, along with repeated requests to recreate it, made bringing it back as a regular blend an obvious choice. It took some doing, but thanks to the efforts of everyone involved, we were able to bring Stonehenge back to life.

Stonehenge is a wonderful traditional flake comprised of bright flue-cured and sun-cured leaf from Brazil, Zimbabwe and Malawi, with just a touch of Burley added for a bit of body, and a slightly fuller flavor. Then, we added a good measure of perique for its unique contribution. Once blended, the leaf is steamed, hot-pressed into blocks and aged, allowing the flavors to further ferment and integrate. The mature blocks are sliced into thin flakes, and cut into 2" lengths.

The label is new, but the tobacco is manufactured to the precise formula and protocol John and I developed all those years ago. As this wonderful tobacco returns to the shelves beginning Friday, 23rd June, I invite you to light a bowl and share in our excitement.

Blends produced after the Deeming Date

8 October 2016

I've been asked many times which of my blends are subject to future regulation, now that the new FDA have stuck their regulatory noses into our little corner of the world. Basically, anything not already in production on the so-called deeming date of 15 March 2007 will have to be demonstrated to be "substantially equivalent" to those made previously. It's unclear whether or not we'll be able to navigate our way through the flaming hoops put in our path, but the following blends are at risk, and may disappear in a couple years. I'll keep you advised as we get closer to what I consider the apocalypse for these blends, many of which are among my own personal faves. This will also be updated on the Unabridged List as we get closer to FD-day.

Just Released - Regents Flake and Temple Bar

12 July 2016

I've been working on these two for a couple of years, and am thoroughly pleased with the results. They're similar to one another, but also very different, and the differences make them fun to explore together. These are pure tobaccos, free from casings, added sugars or flavorings of any kind. And, as with all my blends, theyll age beautifully in the tins.

Regents Flake starts as a base of red and bright virginia leaf, seasoned with generous amounts of fine oriental tobaccos. A very small percentage of perique is added to enhance the fruitiness of the virginias, as well as to work its magic amplifying some of the lovely exotic, almost floral qualities of the orientals. Pressing and aging in cakes brings out the best of the leaf, after which the blocks are cut and sliced into flakes. The aroma is rich, malty, fruity and just a little earthy. In the bowl, beautiful virginia flavors, subtly sweet, are enhanced by the spice and sweet/tart character of the orientals, and the room note is wonderful.

Temple Bar is made from the same components, but optimized for presentation as a plug. (Temple Bar. See what I did there?) Sliced across the grain, thick or thin, and rubbed out to your preferred texture, the taste can go from subtle to intense, with a similar flavor profile to Regents Flake, though somewhat more fruity from the added fermentation that takes place within the plug.

During the final stages of development, I smoked these in every sort of pipe I could think of - briars, cobs, clays, meerschaums and even calabashes - with a wide variety of bowl geometries, trying to find what worked best, and what didn't. As expected, different pipes delivered different results, but I couldn't find anything that I'd consider "better" than anything else. In fact the converse, more importantly, was true, and I really enjoyed it in everything I smoked it in, though the calabash (a real one, with a large gourd) muted the flavors somewhat. And, yes, they're really delicious in a cob.

These were released for general availability today, and should be on your favorite GLP retailer's shelves by the time you read this.

Here's what Shane Ireland has to say about these two: