What a delight to rummage through the tobacco cellar and find a jar of Billiard Room, a blend that (sadly) has been extinct since C&D's supply of Syrian Latakia went up in smoke in The Great Warehouse Fire of 2004. I thought I had smoked my entire stash, but lo!...this jar appeared from the back of the beyond. Burnage ensued.
The Orientals are the dominant aroma in the jar?giving the musty, quasi-cannabic herbal notes that certain Turkish tobaccos do. There's not much else there in the jar nose, but that doesn't fool me for a second; I know this stuff. This particular stash is left over from those bygone days when I wrote little hints on the jar labels to remind me of my first impressions. The note on this label says "Exquisitely Luscious!" I knew that.
The Orientals are immediately noticeable upon light-up, but quickly yield to the gradually intensifying flavors of the other tobaccos as I work my way down through the first 1/3 bowl. As with any of the VERY few brilliantly crafted cigar leaf blends, the maduro leaf is present in just the right proportion at all times during the smoke?GLP's Key Largo being the most recent noteworthy addition to that relatively short list. It's not easy to get the cigar leaf right, but Craig Tarler is a master, and it shows in Billiard Room.
The unsweetened black Cavendish must have been a tricky part of getting the blend just right. It acts as intensifier that reinforces the naturally dark sweetness of the maduro leaf without overwhelming it. The stoved red Virginia ribbon has a similar effect, while adding a solid base of rich tobacco flavor.
But the real magic of this blend is the Syrian Latakia. Its leathery flavors complement the other dark tobaccos, keeping the blend round and spicy. Cyprian Latakia would have changed the blend completely, perhaps even making it a bit too sweet.
The beauty of Billiard Room is its ability to maintain a balance all the way to the bottom of the bowl. The strength of each component's contribution to the mix waxes and wanes around a happy medium that never allows any one tobacco to dominate the smoke, and there's enough complexity?again, around a common theme of dark, natural flavors?to hold my interest from top to bottom. Lastly, while it's certainly no pushover in the nicotine department, it won't give you more than a mild buzz, even in a healthy Group 5 bowl. It's a truly satisfying smoke.
So what's the point of reviewing a blend that's no longer available? Well, a historical reference point, for one thing. In my opinion, Billiard Room has always set a benchmark for expertly conceived and executed cigar leaf blends. What's more, if Syrian Latakia ever becomes available again, yours truly will personally stash major poundage of Billiard Room against the contingency of another SyriLat drought. Discriminating pipers who appreciate the virtues of a masterfully crafted cigar leaf blend would be well advised to stock up on Billiard Room if the opportunity ever presents itself. One can hope.
This one caught me by surprise. A very different taste that will require some more evaluation to be fair. A fairly coarse and dark ribbon-cut tobacco. I thought it must have a sweet flavoring added but it may have been the cigar leaf component. For now it will have to rate no more than two and a half of four stars. I don't even know what category to place this one in as yet. More to come...
Upgrade to three stars for those who like cigars. If you are not a fan of cigars steer clear of this one. I could taste a little Latakia now and then but the cigar flavor dominates most of the time. I will save this for when I am in a cigar smoking situation. It was consistent all through the bowl unlike some other cigar-types I have smoked.
It's a function of the review system here, but rather sad to read that someone likes this and then says they don't smoke it - resulting in a low "score". I found this blend spectacular...in that it was just what I was looking for at the time. When they say "sweet maduro" they aren't kidding. Not in the sugar sweet sense, but in the natural sweet. The Latakia, Virginia and Turkish provide a canvas on which the maduro leaf paints. The blend comes pretty large cut along with some pieces of wood large enough to count as kindling. It is dry (per C&D) but not desicated. I've been packing it not too tighly and tamping it gently as it burns down the bowl. It's just a delight in the right pipe. My choice is a Mauro Armellini full bent with a rather tall bowl. This pipe has a unique "pull" that I think provides just the right "billows/draft" condition for this blend and sidestreaming is really quite tasty. In my notebook there are few really good pipe blends that use cigar leaf: Fox's The Bankers and Schurch's Mogamo are my other current favorites in this catagory...and now this is on my short list as well.
Interesting , this is an English blend with the cigar leaf adding a twist. A tobacco that works on many levels as Craig has got this one just right . Its not strong and offers something from the other side of the tracks, cigar flavour from your pipe.
The syrian latakia takes something of a back seat in this one. But is a subtle presence doing its bit in complex smoke.
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