Blend: Britt's Balkan
Pipe Used: Cob
Price: Free Sample
Room Note: 8
One of the best ways in which to make new tobacco discoveries is through the swapping of samples with other pipe smokers. In one recent trade I received a handful of new to me blends including some of Rich Gottlieb's house blends available through his website at 4noggins.com. I was particularly interested in trying his Britt's Balkan as I'm always on the lookout for new interpretations of that magical mixture of Latakia and other Oriental leaves.
Defining a blend as a Balkan really doesn't tell you all that much as there are as many interpretations on what constitutes the style as there are versions available. I've always termed any blend with Latakia and a heavy presence of other Oriental tobaccos in which the Latakia doesn't dominate as a Balkan or Oriental blend.
Britt's Balkan arrives as a typical ribbon cut blend of black and brown leaf and the aroma is that of a smokey pine campfire. There's just no hiding that Latakia.
I loaded up a brand new cob and settled in to enjoy my smoke. From the very first taste I knew that I was in for a truly special and surprising treat. The initial flavor was almost effervescent it was so clean and refreshing. Latakia blends often impart a mustiness that was no where to be found in this blend. Instead the Orientals took charge and offered up hints of cinnamon and spice layered on top of the naturally sweet Virginias.
The blend is also topped with just the barest hint of vanilla which acts as an almost menthol-like (think cough drops not Kools) palate cleanser that comes and goes throughout the course of the smoke. All in all it's a complex blend that is never tasking and remains a refreshing delight from start to finish.
The room aroma is similarly complex and delightful with the vanilla and Orientals imparting a sweet incense-like character that tames the Latakia and should be inoffensive to most innocent bystanders.
The blend was also very well-behaved in the pipe and smoked clean and cool with no bite or fussiness whatsoever.
When I sat down to try Britt's Balkan I was planning to start in on the next Patrick O'Brian novel in my reading stack. Instead I found myself just sitting and enjoying one of the most relaxing and contemplative smokes in a very long time. While complex in terms of taste the blend is easy smoking and perfectly fills a niche in my smoking rotation. While I love Latakia bombs like Pirate Kake and heavy musty Balkans like Balkan Supreme, there's something to be said for a crisp, clean Oriental that leaves you refreshed at the end of a smoke.
With Britt's Balkan, Rich has created a stellar blend that showcases its constituent tobaccos in ways I've never before encountered. It comes very highly recommended and I plan to add copious amounts to my cellar.