Sunday, November 03, 2019


Over the past few weeks I've forced myself to explore the aromatic pipe tobaccos manufactured by Sutliff, a respected company which has its roots in San Francisco. Where I live. And where, for the most part, they cannot be found, largely because of vicious puritans and crazy disapproving haters, as well as flocks of non-smokers and ex-smokers, where in years past there were pipe-smoking executives, artists, writes, ad-men, sailors, and slick glib marketing dudes clenching manly pipes in their mouths while swilling three martinis for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a post-floorshow snack.

A wonderful time.

Trenchcoats, fedoras, ferries to Oakland, crates of bananas and coffee beans at the dock, crabs and shrimp Louie at the wharf, cioppino and unpretentious pasta in North Beach .....

Yeah no. Not my era. When I got here there were still half a dozen decent actual tobacco shops, AND a pipe counter in Woolworths down on Market Street. Where I purchased my first Peterson System Standard, by the way. Smoked Drucquer's Royal Ransom after lunch, many times, at Goldberg Bowen West one block from the old Transbay Terminal.
Or the Caffe Trieste in North Beach.
The Med in Berkeley.

You could still smoke indoors then, and everyone did.

There was one time when I needed a new heel for my shoe. I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees ...

Oops, sorry, channeling an old coot for a moment there.

Anyhow, there are open tins for sampling.
So it didn't cost me a dime.

Academy (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish, Burley, Latakia

Smoked three bowls sofar. I am ashamed that I recommended it to two members of the pipe club, poor unsuspecting souls not fully familiar with my vicious tendencies. It's a weird conconction, not, you understand, bad, but if you developed an unquenchable affection for this I might have to shoot you.
Fairly coarse cut, speckled tans and blacks. There is vanilla in here. There are a number of blends on the market which also combine vanilla and Latakia, so it's not an unusual idea. Just not a particularly good one.

April Dawn (Sutliff Private Stock) 
Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia

It's actually pretty weak as far as fruit goes, but one of my classmates years ago smelled exactly like this, and I've been wary of trollops ever since.

Archduke Ferdinand (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish, Burley, Cavendish
Vanilla etcetera

This is fairly disgusting.

Alexander Bridge (Sutliff Private Stock)
Virginia, Burley
Rum and Vanilla

Light, mild, not objectionable. This would never become a regular smoke for me, but it neither ghosted the pipes, nor woke up the apartment mate asleep in her own room. She didn't smell it the next morning either.

Bacchanalia (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavoured with Ripple or Wild Irish Rose
Maybe Lancers

The topping and the tobacco are competing for attention.
It's shitty.

Barbados Plantation (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia

Sweet and a bit too goopy. Christmas pudding. Gurgles. Wet.
Needs considerable drying.

Black Swan (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Vanilla Cavendish.


Charlemagne (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia

Charlemagne should be ashamed of himself.
Not a spectacular disaster, and the rum is not overwhelming, but there's far too much Burley here.

Country Estate (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish, Virginia
Plum, Vanilla.

Richly speckled, large flecks of velvet soot among the blondes. Mild, only lightly topped. Not a remarkable tobacco, but it could be smoked all day with ease. It is unremarkable, but in a good way.

French Quarter (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Bourbon, Honey, Vanilla

On the mild side, a little too sweet, noticeable Burley.

Great Outdoors (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish, Burley
Anisette, Vanilla

I've actually purchased some of this. Not bad, on the mild side for a Burley blend, with a smell added that's marvelously evocative. Old fashioned barbershops, after shave for refined and gentle truck drivers, what the old fellow next door smoked while trimming the rose bushes.
A decent enough smoke. I do not detect any vanilla.

Kentucky Planter (Sutliff Private Stock)
Burley, Burley, Burley
Eh, chocolate, vanilla.

The dominant note is Burley. Hue ranges from slighty lighter tobacco-brown to slightly darker tobacco brown. With a narrow range of tobacco brown in between. The topping is applied with a subtle hand, and accents the basic nuttiness of Burley without in anyway detracting from it. For Burley fans, this is a decent smoke, and a good fall-back blend.

Loire Valley (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish.

Goodness gracious! Yeah no. Vile, nasty, repulsive, a loathsome creature.

Man's Best Friend Blend (Sutliff Private Stock)
Burley, Latakia, Virginia

Supposed to be a copy of Barking Dog, which I've never smoked. Actually rather enjoyable, and does not reek in the can like an aromatic or a Burley blend. Bit tough on the old mucus membranes, though.

Maple Street (Sutliff Private Stock)
Burley, Virginia

I love the tin odour, it's like fenugreek.
Needs to be smoked slowly.
If at all.

Mountain Pass (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish, blonde ribbon
Vanilla custard.

Smokes relatively clean, but that taste and that smell are frightening.
Unless you're into that.

South Seas (Sutliff Private Stock)
Burley, Virginia
Mango, Pineapple, Tropical paradise.

Mercifully, this is no longer made.
It is very nasty.

Tabac Noir (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish
Vanilla and cookies.

Very mild. But absolutely needs to be smoked slow.

Taste of Autumn (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Weird spices

Chocolate and pumpkin pie. Wet, soggy, Starbucksian. Ghastly.

Taste of Spring (Sutliff Private Stock)
Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Allegedly honey, but more like apple.

Mild, sweetish, floral.

One thing we learn from this is that I am a very tolerant man, as well as a glutton for punishment. There are Sutliff blends that are excellent -- not a majority of their output -- but they are also responsible for Mixture 79, which is effing awful, indescribably bad (extremely popular) as well as Molto Dolce (thoroughly horrid, and popular among poseurs and defectives).

I've got a tub of Mixture 79 under my bed. It was opened two decades ago, the previous owner passed away in the early two thousands. Despite having been 'uncorked', it is still moist. The fragrance is elderly maiden aunt.

The sample tin of Molto Dolce was opened over three years ago, and still glistens evilly, dark oily spagnum shreds, a repellent chemical cocktail.
Sweet, cloying, like cheap pastry. Foetid.
Faint hint of coconut.


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