What now, Montgomery?

8th July, 2005: Posted by glpease in Tobacco

It’s unusual for me to write about one of my new blends that’s as young as this one is. I generally wait at least six months to dip into the library to see what’s going on with recent creations. For some reason, though, I couldn’t wait this time. Four months have passed since I put the first production of Montgomery to rest. Four short months. But, the development that has taken place in that narrow span of time is remarkable, and well worth exploring a bit in these pages.

Montgomery, like the rest of the Fog City Selection, owes some of its early development to the way the blend is handled, the “secret process” that I developed after months of researching old blends. (Okay, it’s not really such a big secret, probably, but a little mystery increases the romance, doesn’t it? Besides, I don’t want the competition to figure out what I’m doing. And, it has nothing to do with storing the tins in the car on hot summer days. THAT is the subject for another entry.) Once the blend is put together, and left to rest for a couple weeks, it’s already starting to show its stripes pretty well. It’s not fully integrated, of course; the individual components still vye for the smoker’s attention a little too enthusiastically, and there’s a touch of that verdant quality that bright Virginias can have when they’re young. But, it’s still very pleasant, and reasonably indicative of what is likely to come.

I’m going to side-step for a moment, to get something off my chest, and address “green” tobacco - a term I’ve read far too often in “reviews” written by those who would like to appear to know more than they do, or at least believe that they do. The smoker would be hard pressed to find any leaf that could qualify as green in any production blend from any maker. Period. By the time leaf is turned into a tobacco to be sold, it senescence is well under way. The leaf was harvested between two and five years prior, and has ripened and aged and mellowed over that time. What goes on once the blend is created is something quite different - a different sort of aging - that what has happened up to the point it was cut and packaged. Yes, some leaf does have a grassy, or a hay-like, or herbaceous - what I generically refer to as verdant - character that will evolve into something quite different over time in the tins, but this is certainly not the hallmark of green tobacco, which is harsh, raw, astringent and noxious. Most people would have abandoned the pipe long ago if they’d been forced to smoke green tobacco. Let’s try to use the term “young” instead, okay? Okay. Perhaps my criticism is overly harsh, but at least I feel better now. [Should I place one of those ubiquitous smiley faces here, used to soften the blow for the satire impaired? Nah… -glp]

Back to Montgomery. In its youth, the sweetness that evolved through the smoke was naive, innocent, simple. While it certainly spoke to me of Virginia tobaccos, it did so in simple rhyming couplets, not fully developed stories. There was a lot there, but still a lot missing. After dozens of bowls, I began to apprehend the possibilities of what the tobaccos future might hold, but augury is an inexact science. I always hope for an auspicious future for my blends, and experience has taught me a great deal about toward understanding how things will develop over time, but, I’m still always a little awe strick by just how MUCH can go on in those little microcosms, those tiny biospheres known as tobacco tins, and realize there’s much I’ll never fully understand.

That’s why I usually wait six months or so for the first taste-test. I’ve found that at six months, there are real changes happening - things that are easy to detect, to understand. Certainly, a year, two years, even five would be better, but I’m generally not that patient. But, this four months old tin was sitting there, calling to me to pull the lid. Perhaps it’s the summer heat, the humidity that drives me away from my otherwise beloved Latakia blends, inciting me to sample less dominant fare. More likely, it was just my ever present curiosity that got the best of me. Whatever the cause, I’m glad I did it.

That delightful sweetness is still there, but it’s evolving, becoming more sophisticated. Too, the verdent quality is present, but much subdued. The tobaccos are starting to sing together from the same page, creating a greater complexity, a more complete counterpoint. Missing is that wonderful funkiness that truly well aged blends get. I recently opened a tin of Southern Star, the first of the special blends I did for the NASPC, back in 2000, and marveled at the plumminess, that fetid, deep aroma of the aged Virginias, and the fascinating barn-yard character of the rich orientals. Five years have been great for that one, and five years will be great for Montgomery, but I’m really happy to report that even four months have left a very positive mark on this one. There’s enough sugar in the leaf to keep Montgomery going for many years to come. I suspect that it’ll continue to improve for at least ten years, and won’t hit it’s peak, to begin a slow, graceful decline for several decades. I’ll report back in fifty years.

If I din’t have to worry about business matters, I’d keep everything on the shelves for six months before letting it out the door. Never mind the fact that we’d go bankrupt before the first shipment. Sill, I’m happy to report that you can really start to see the changes in this one after 16 weeks. But, don’t take my word for it. Buy a few tins. Smoke one young, and lay the others down, to sample every couple months. Keep some notes, and enjoy the development. It’s a wonderful experience, and, to my mind, enhances the enjoyment of our delightful pastime.

I can’t wait until Telegraph Hill reaches it’s four month anniversary. Because of its rich perique content, I’m sure it, and I, will have even more to say then.