Fillmore - Almost One Year Later

2nd March, 2007: Posted by glpease in Tobacco

Writing about tobacco is a challenging thing, sometimes. The list of adjectives, those that are appropriate, isn’t infinite, and quite a few of those that are have been overused almost to the point of being completely debased, nearly valueless currency. What does spicy mean? Complex? Rich? Creamy? Certainly, these words all have their meanings, their legitimate value, but, by the gods, even I have been too-frequently guilty of spraying them haphazardly on the wall when I have been too lazy to seek better ones.Yet, here I am, finding a need, or at least a whim, to write something about tobacco, and hoping that in the process of simply doing it, I might find something more fresh to say. If I don’t, I apologize. There’s a limit to how much time I will agonize over this.

The other night, I was going through some boxes, and, in one of them, I stumbled upon an 8-oz tin of the final prototype of Fillmore, dated April, 2006 - not quite a year old. I’d forgotten about the pre-production stuff, having smoked most of it, or given it away as samples at shows. I thought briefly that it should  be put it in the cellar for posterity, or another year, but my curiosity got the better of me. With little ceremony, zero fanfare, and more than  a bit of enthusiasm, I ripped the lid off.

Staring back at me was a wonderfully dark, fragrant, [That’s two of the overworked adjectives - I’m failing already] mélange of medium browns, deep reds, blacks, already notably darker than the fairly fresh Fillmore [ACK! He’s resorted to alliteration!] I’ve been smoking. The fruity [Always fruity. There’s GOT to be a better one.] aromas were more pronounced, but more integrated [That one is better than “married,” for sure.], more mature. Gone was any hint of the youthful exuberance of fresher virginias. This was going to be a Good Thing. [Thanks, Martha.] Really good.

I pulled a little Castello squat bulldog from the rack, a pipe that has been devoted only to FIllmore since I got it, grabbed a pinch of the tobacco, and set to “work.” The stuff is a little damper than today’s, and cut quite a bit thicker. This is more of a rough-cut style than the thinner, broken-flake we went into production with, or the almost perfect slices we’re doing today. (The slices do break up in packing, so Fillmore is technically still a broken-flake.) After a bit of air to dry the rubbed-out leaf to a moisture level more consistent with good smoking, I filled the pipe and lit up. With the first puff, there was no question that this was, indeed, Fillmore, but the flavors have become richer [Really.], deeper, more ripe. Everything has come more completely into balance. The  matured virginia character plays wonderfully with the peppery comments from the perique, creating an engaging dialogue, and the aromas are exquisite. Throughout the smoke, the taste developed predictably, with greater intensity greeting me as the bowl reached its conclusion [Okay, a bit cliché, but it’s true enough.]. I was reminded of some of the old virginia flakes I’d smoked in the past.

I’ve said that FIllmore has legs, and is poised for a good, long run, and this experience has added a little authority to that stance.  [Hey! Not bad.] What I wasn’t prepared for was the subsequent desire, after finishing the aged bowl, to smoke from a fresher tin. To the best of my recollection, this is the first time this has happened.

There’s something charming and delightful in fresh Fillmore’s youthfulness. The processing, the pressing, the aging in cake, all combine to bring a fairly mannerly blend to the tin, though it’s not completely without the need for a little time in finishing school. At certain points in the young smoke, most noticeably the beginning and the end, the conversation from the pristine slices seems slightly disorganized, a bit rambling, lacking tightness, even, in some moments, a little raucous. Within a short settling time in situ, though, even a just few days, things begin to coalesce, making the smoke quite a bit more coherent, and certainly more refined. By the time the stuff reaches the retailer’s shelves, and then, the customer, it’s really, already, quite good.

I can’t say at this point that I like one, older or younger, better than the other, and it’s likely that after five, or maybe ten years, the aged weeds will deliver so much more than the young that any ambiguity will have dissolved, and I’ll complain for not having put enough away. But, after only a year, I find that I’d choose to keep company with both, rather than make a choice between them.

Of course, there’s some possibility that with all the improvements in the cut and the process between prototype and production, the real FIllmore will knock socks after the same length of time, but I’ll have to wait a few more months to find that out. The oldest tins I’ve managed not to smoke are from September, 2006 (the first release was in June). If I remember, I’ll pull one this fall and check out how it’s doing. In the meanwhile, I’ve got this 8oz tin to smoke, and tins from last month. I’m a happy guy, even if I am, now, bankrupt of good adjectives.