It was based on the Balkan Sobranie mixture, pressed into dense cakes, and sliced. Rubbing it out for smoking gave one a cool and marvelously pongy smoke. The handsome tins fit easily into a breast pocket, and were much in demand by friends as stash-containers. The product disappeared in the nineties, I believe. All I have is one empty tin to remind me of it.
There was no relation whatsoever with Bengal.
Nor with the Bengal Lancers, whose colours graced the lid.
In the early eighties I would smoke Bengal Slices late at night in two GBD squat bulldogs. It was very pleasant to look out over the schoolgrounds in darkness, hear the sound of a train from the tracks several blocks away, sip from a glass of sherry.
When I left Berkeley I stopped smoking the slices, I don't know why. Perhaps the specific combination of black black night, freight transport sounds, and oloroso, was necessary to enjoy the very fine reek.
From the mid-eighties to the early nineties were an interesting time. I lived in San Francisco under somewhat trying circumstances, in a jumping part of town.
Enjoying something so wholesome as a glass of sherry late at night was not part of the program.
Samuel Gawith's BALKAN FLAKE
A blend of fine Virginias and Latakia from The House of Samuel Gawith & Co. Ltd.
This is a thin sliced flake of well pressed tobaccos that has a nice aged funkiness in the tin. It looks like folds of rotten peat moss. It is a fine product.
That said, it is not particularly exciting, though enjoyable.
Balkan Flake needs to be smoked slowly lest it eventually bite the tongue. It smells very nice - unless you are a woman, or a little child, or a foreigner, or neurotic, or a non-smoker, or a smoker with issues. Or allergic. Or traumatized from an abusive childhood. Or a degenerate. Or deficient in the imagination department. In which case I feel a little sorry for you. You must not have any fun.
It reduces to a very fine white ash. If you mix it half and half with a real Balkan, it will still reduce to a very fine white ash.
It is more exciting if you do indeed mix it.
The term Balkan, to Samuel Gawith & Co, seems to mean a goodly presence of Latakia. Everyone else takes it to mean a generous inclusion of Turkish, however. Once you know this, the Gawith products are not disappointing - you weren't expecting the reek of Smyrna, Samsoun, or Yenidje anyway.
Enjoy it with a glass of amontillado or oloroso late at night.
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