Tobacco & Tomes

A review of Former’s Bird’s Eye Flake & the book Later by Stephen King

I filmed a first impressions, “Pop-the-Top”, tobacco review of Former’s Bird’s Eye Flake last weekend, in which, I found the blend to be “just ok”.  The video for my first impressions, and review of the book Later by Stephen King, can be found here (FYI, watch the video until the end for a special surprise).  

I must confess, I failed to acknowledge, mention, or even purposefully detect the perique in the Former’s Bird’s Eye blend during my initial impression.  The only indication I found during my first smoke experience was the deep, rich fruit notes I detected on the nose when smelling the freshly opened tin.  Now that I have been able to smoke this blend over the course of a full week, I am much more “in-tune” to what the blend has to offer and will discuss my final score below. 

Info & Overview

Brand: Former’s 

Category: VaPer 

Blend Components: Virginia; Perique

Flavorings: None

Cut Type: Broken Flake

Available Packaging: 50g tin

Price: $10.50 USD

On to the review…

From the Tin: From the tin, the tobacco is presented as broken flakes.  Understandably, the manufacturer sells this tobacco as a flake tobacco; however, the flakes I encountered were broken, not full flakes like that of Orlik Golden Sliced or Dunhill Flake.  The tobacco is very, very dry upon opening the tin, almost overly dry.  This is a bit concerning, as the tobacco will not only burn hotter while smoking but may be too dry to age well in the cellar.  The broken flakes are light golden and yellow in color.  The perique is not evident unless you purposefully look for it.  The smell from the tin is a straight up hay barn, no qualms about it.  Due to the dryness of the flakes, the tobacco required no dry time.  To be completely honest, I almost considered re-hydrating some of the tobacco but did not do so.   

Tasting Notes:  I always find it interesting how a blend changes from the first bowl to the lasting crumbs of an empty tin.  We all hear it said, and it is absolutely true, if you don’t like a blend at first, give it some time and see how either it or your tastes change.  My initial tasting impressions of Former’s Bird’s Eye Flake was not bad by any stretch of the imagination; however, after giving the blend my full attention over the past week, the tastes really became clear.  Former’s Bird’s Eye Flake offers the smoker tastes of grass, hay, spicey black pepper, wheat/grain, and dry cereal, similar to bran flakes.  Initially, I thought I was tasting a leather quality but after smoking almost the entire tin, I realize it wasn’t leather, but an earthy, dried fruit note found from the perique.  Side note, I only found this taste to be present a few times.  In fact, it was so random I’m not completely comfortable listing it as a given taste you will experience while smoking this blend.    

Overall Impression:  First and foremost, quick cadence smokers be warned!  If you pull hard or fast on this tobacco, it WILL give you tongue bite.  Maybe it’s due to the dryness, maybe it’s the sparce perique…  Either way, this is a tobacco to be slowly sipped and enjoyed.  As I scored this tobacco “just ok” in my initial impression, I continue to hold strong to that thought.  The tobacco is a good quality and I’m glad I had the opportunity to smoke it; however, there is really nothing special about this blend.  It’s a pretty standard Virginia flake (with a sprinkle of perique) and with all the various options on the market, there are much better choices I can put my time and money into.  For me, the major drawback of the blend is its extreme dry character.  I feel this probably hurts the quality of the tobacco more than it helps.  Is it worth a try?  Sure!  Will I be filling voids in my cellar with tins of Former’s Bird’s Eye Flake?  No.  Score from my initial impressions to the end of the tin, not changed.        

Tobacco Initial Impression Score: 3 out of 5 pipes

Tobacco End of Tin Overall Score: 3 out of 5 pipes

Later 

by: Stephen King

A new novel by Stephen King, I couldn’t resist giving it a read.  Not to mention, I am a sucker for the cover art on a book and Later, screamed interesting read.  I know, I know, “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” but let’s be real people.  All of us do it, whether intentional or not.  So, coming out of the pandemic and having the chance to read the new King novel, I took total advantage.  I will say, I was hesitant to purchase the book as the last few King novels have been less than satisfying, thus, not warranting a second read.  Therefore, I took advantage of my local library’s online e-book option called Libby.  Not only was I able to read the novel for free, but the book is also automatically returned on its due date.  I’m typically terrible about returning books to the library on time, so this is a welcomed change for me.      

Here are the specific details on the novel:            

Info & Overview

Title:  Later

Author:  Stephen King

Publisher:  Hard Case Crime

Publication Year:  March 2021  

Genre:  Fiction/Crime/Horror

Number of Pages:  272

Price:  $9.56 USD (mass-market paperback); $9.99 (Kindle e-version) 

On to the review…

As discussed in my video review of the book on YouTube, I am using a new review system similar to what I use when tasting wines.  I will be breaking my thoughts into the following categories: Successes, Struggles, Suggested Audience, and Score.  With that being said, let’s dive right in. 

Successes

  1. It was easy to relate to the characters in the book, especially the main character and narrator of the story, Jamie Conklin.  Maybe it was the modern-day era that made the connection to characters smoother, or maybe King just did an overall better job at bringing out the details of each person.  Either way, the characters in the book were well done and helped make for a good story.  
  2. Building off of Success #1, King does a really nice job of having characters appear and reappear throughout the story (hints the book title Later).  I especially found an interest in the reappearances of Jamie’s mom’s NYPD detective ex-girlfriend Liz.  The way King manipulates her relationship and personal desire to other characters was very well done. 
  3. The final success complement’s King’s persuasive writing.  Even though this was a fictional story, the manner in which it is written and delivered makes it highly believable and realistic.  The setting for the story is modern day in New York City (or just on the outskirts of the city itself).  King continuously pulls the reader out of reality then expertly pushes us back in.  The set-up is so good one may think something similar to this story could indeed happen in real life.  

Struggles

  1. There were editing issues within the kindle (e-book) version of the publication.  Simple things such as “s” on the end of words that would never have needed them or made sense for them to have a plural or possessive plural function.  Also, there were random symbols and letters in some of the words and sentences.  For example, “As I wal%ked up the 3tepes, I noticed the door slightly ajars”.  I’m sorry but at the level Stephen King is publishing, there should be zero editing errors, no exceptions.  I hope these errors were not found in hard copies of the book and am allowing the benefit of the doubt that it had to do with some kind of electronic upload/formatting failure when pushed to kindle.  
  2. If you follow King on any type of social media, you undoubtably know his philosophy and moral stance when it comes to politics.  The same can be said for reading his books.  There were a few parts in the story where King used his writing platform to make stabs at individuals in today’s current political world.  Whether you agree with his stance or not (I am NOT opening that can of worms on this website.  Visit your friendly local news organization to find all the political gossip you can handle), the jabs and snide remarks toward those he agrees and disagrees with are unnecessary and do not help push the story plot forward in any way, shape, or form.  The book would be just as effective and enjoyable without bringing the political rhetoric into the story.  After all, I read to escape the bull crap of this world (such as politics), therefore, when it follows me into my pastime, I begin to look for other authors to satisfy my storytelling needs, who understand, fictional stories can do without real-life horror.  
  3. The final struggle of the book is two-fold as the first part is somewhat the cause of the second.  As mentioned above, the main character is a young boy named Jamie Conklin, and Jamie can see dead people.  Yes, this theme has already been successfully achieved by M. Night Shyamalan in the 1990’s blockbuster hit The Sixth Sense.  Although a touch different than the Bruce Willis film, as dead people only last three days and must tell the truth when asked a question, King did do a nice job of using Jamie’s unique skill to bend the plot into an enjoyable rat-race (read the book and you’ll better understand what I mean).  With that being said, the second part of struggle three is related to this special ability.  King uses it to abruptly end the book causing the entire story to fall flat and just end in a “happily-ever-after” sort of manner.  A very tense moment at the end just kind of stops and literally, “walks out the door.”  Really!?  We had all this major build-up and were staged for the grand finale and what do we get?  A moldy bologna sandwich.  I don’t know if deadlines were tight, ideas had run dry, or he was just looking for a sequel opportunity (mark my words now…See You Later by Stephen King, set to debut December 2022).  No matter what the case, this is becoming characteristic of King’s writing.  He just doesn’t finish strong anymore.  That was one of the reasons I started reading his work 20+ years ago.  He wrote a great story with a very satisfying ending.  No, it may not have been a happy ending, but it was satisfying.  King has lost his touch when it comes to a solid finish.  Period.  Best word to describe it, unfulfilling.                    

Suggested Audience

Obviously, this story is written for a mature audience (adults), however, this would be an acceptable novel for a mature young adult or teen.  Also, if you are looking to dive into Stephen King’s work, this would be a good novel to start with for two reasons. First, there are no characters linked to a previous story/book and secondly, it is a horror novel, but it’s not demented horror like we find in several of his other stories (i.e., you will be able to sleep at night).   

Overall Book Score: 3 out of 5 books

So, there you have it, a Tobacco and a Tome.  Thank you again for visiting The Pipe Professor webpage.  Stay tuned, both here and on The Pipe Professor YouTube channel, for more literature, tobacco, pipes, cigars, and timeless treasure content.  I hope to post bi-weekly (alternating) Sundays on both platforms.      

Until next time, thanks for reading.  Cheers!  

Top 5 Pipe Tobaccos of 2020

Top 5 Pipe Tobaccos of 2020   

Let’s address the elephant in the room, 2020 was more than complicated due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.  Many of us have had to change our day-to-day habits, several individuals have lost their jobs, and even more have suffered from the loss of family and friends due to the virus.  Nobody, at the start of the year, would have ever guessed our current situation would look as drab as it does.  On top of all the pandemic chaos, Americans have persistent through a tough and interesting election year.  And although the election itself has been decided, we continue to be overrun with crappy political battles that do the exact opposite of putting people in the country at the forefront of decision making.  Alas, we do see hope on the horizon with vaccines beginning to be distributed and business/restaurants beginning to re-open.

For us pipe smokers, the social aspect of the hobby was put on complete hold as many pipe shows and tobacco shops were forced to close their doors or cancel for the year.  Although many organizations attempted to push dates back, the ongoing shutdowns, due to the pandemic, proved too much for pipe smokers to gather in organized fashions.  If we are able to learn anything from this entire situation, I hope that it’s to not take things for granted.  Our time with others, and simple gestures such as hugs and handshakes, should, and will, never be viewed the same.  If nothing else is produced from all the craziness, I hope each of you will, when safely permissible, take the time to visit with family and friends (and not just go through the motions).  We have quickly come to realize, we are not invincible, and life is not a haphazard dream.   

Similar to year’s post, my favorite tobacco list includes my top five tobaccos of the year and my two biggest disappointments.  As with any handmade product that requires personal inference, my thoughts and opinions are subjective and reflect what I enjoy or dislike as a pipe smoker.  You may or may not agree with the tobaccos on either list, and that’s ok.  You too are entitled to an opinion; however, you’re visiting this site to share in my own tobacco enjoyments and disappointments.  So, without further ado, I present my top five tobaccos of 2020 and my two biggest letdowns.  Keen observers of The Pipe Professor webpage will note some old comrades who continue to make the list, while eyeing a few newbies that have appeared. Enjoy!  

Tobacco #5 for 2020

Seattle Pipe Club Plum Pudding

Info & Overview

Brand: Seattle Pipe Club 

Category: Balkan

Blend Components: Black Cavendish; Latakia; Oriental/Turkish; Perique; Virginia

Flavorings: None 

Cut Type: Krumble Kake

Available Packaging: 2oz or 8oz tin

Price: $15.99 USD (2oz); $39.99 (8oz)

Tobacco Notes:  Although being listed as a Krumble Kake, this tobacco is presented in large, thickly sliced flakes that easily fall apart in your hands if not handled with care. On top of being very tasty, Seattle Pipe Club’s Plum Pudding provides the smoker with a creamy, spicy, fruity sweetness while offering a wonderful room note to be enjoyed by smokers and non-smoker alike. The pleasant smoky characteristic partners well with the Virginia tobaccos to showcase a fresh grassy, molasses sweetness.  Similar to other blends on this list, Plum Pudding continues to be a go-to tobacco for me, as it never fails to deliver an enjoyable smoking experience.  My only fear is that it will soon outprice itself.  I’ve noticed a steady price hike over the last few years (as with many other blends) and wonder when/if it will lose its “bang for the buck” promise.  Fingers crossed the price will level itself out and the enjoyment it provides will continue.    

Tobacco #4 for 2020

Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader Special Edition with Perique

Info & Overview

Brand: Samuel Gawith 

Category: English

Blend Components: Oriental/Turkish; Latakia; Perique; Virginia

Flavorings: None 

Cut Type: Ribbon

Available Packaging: 50g tin

Price: $13.75 (not currently in production)

Tobacco Notes:  Samuel Gawith produces a staple English tobacco blend.  If fact, Squadron Leader is a quintessential example of a classic English blend.  Add some perique, as in the Special Edition listed here, and you have pipe smoking bliss!  This tobacco shows tasting notes of fresh cut cedar wood chips, sun dried grasses, and a comforting burnt campfire essence.  The tobacco’s moisture content is spot on and delivers a wonderfully cool smoking experience.  The only downfall this tobacco has is its availability.  Being a resurrection, spearheaded by smokingpipes.com, the tobacco is typically offered once per year in limited quantities.  Unfortunately, this year, SPC did not offer the blend as in years past (probably just another thing this stupid virus caused us to lose).  Hopefully, 2021 will see another production run of this blend and if it does, I highly suggest you pick a tin or two up to try.      

Video review of Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader Special Edition with Perique can be found here.  Full written review can be found here.

Tobacco #3 for 2020

McClelland 221B Series Arcadia 

Info & Overview

Brand: McClelland Tobacco Company

Category: Oriental 

Blend Components: Oriental/Turkish; Virginia

Flavorings: None 

Cut Type: Ribbon

Available Packaging: 50g tin

Price: N/A (no longer in production)

Tobacco Notes: Several years later, and we all continue to feel the loss of the famous McClelland Tobacco Company.  Anyone who knows me, knows I was very fond of McClelland tobaccos (before they announced their plans to close).  I had steadily built my cellar stock of their tobaccos prior to the insane online crisis that occurred in 2018-2019.  One of the tobaccos I had stored away pre-closure was the McClelland 221B Series Arcadia.  In fact, I managed to purchase several of these tins with, at the time, 8-10 years of age on them.  Now, those tins are 15-20 years old and showing the value of their contents.  McClelland Arcadia is an easy burning sweet and sour Oriental blend that shows notes of dark fruits, earthy woods, black coffee, and herbal spice.  Each bowl of this fantastic tobacco only reminds me that all good things eventually come to an end.  If you are holding back collectable tins, such as McClelland Arcadia, for that special occasion, go ahead and pop them now.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed, as this pandemic has shown, therefore, every day is a special day to smoke a special tobacco.   

Tobacco #2 for 2020

Boswell’s Northwoods

Info & Overview

Brand: Boswell’s Pipes & Tobaccos

Category: English

Blend Components: Black Cavendish; Latakia; Virginia

Flavorings: None 

Cut Type: Ribbon

Available Packaging: 2oz tin or bulk per oz

Price: $13.95 USD (2oz tin); $5.35 (per oz bulk)

Tobacco Notes:  I must admit, although not holding the #1 spot on this year’s list, I purchased more Northwoods pipe tobacco than any other blend (per pound that is) during 2020.  There are some folks who find aging latakia pointless, however, I beg to differ.  Beyond delivering a balanced, silky, flavorful smoke when young/fresh, I find Northwoods to be even better with 3-5 years of age on it.  The enjoyment of the blend, when aged, creates an unapparelled smoothness that only enhances the creaminess from the latakia tobaccos.  In fact, the blend is so creamy and smooth, I would argue some type of vanilla topping has been added (it hasn’t according to the Boswell website).  If you have never tried this iconic pipe tobacco do yourself a favor and pick some up.  Never a disappointment!   

My video review of Boswell Northwoods can be found here.   

Tobacco #1 for 2020

Cornell & Diehl Professor

Info & Overview

Brand: Cornell & Diehl

Category: English

Blend Components: Latakia; Perique; Black Cavendish; Virginia 

Flavorings: None

Cut Type: Ribbon

Available Packaging: 2 oz tin

Price: $10.75 USD

Tobacco Notes:  Those of you who follow my YouTube channel, or know me in any capacity, will not be surprised by this pick as my #1 tobacco of 2020. As I have stated in the past, this selection has nothing to do with the fact that my website is known as The Pipe Professor.  I give a full and detailed overview of how I came across this blend in my 2018 Top 5 Pipe Tobaccos for those who want to reminisce on the story.  This tobacco provides the smoker sweet and sour notes, woody earth, dried grass, spicy fruits, and a lingering musty room note that is suggestive of an old library or bookstore full of dusty tomes.  Maybe it’s my infinite love for books and libraries that make this tobacco’s smoking profile so enjoyable for me, or maybe it’s just complex enough to remain interesting?  Either way, Cornell & Diehl’s Professor has earned my #1 spot since 2018 and continues to be a superstar tobacco for me.  Similar to other tobaccos on this list, I encourage you to pick a tin up in your next order and give it a try.  Personal preference, smaller pipe bowls, sipped slowly, provide the most payoff when it comes to Cornell & Diehl’s Professor. 

Top Two Tobacco Disappointments of 2020

Cornell & Diehl Good Morning

Info & Overview

Brand: Cornell & Diehl 

Category: English

Blend Components: Latakia; Oriental/Turkish; Virginia 

Flavorings: None 

Cut Type: Ribbon

Available Packaging: 2oz tin

Price: $10.75 USD

Tasting Notes: Being a major fanboy of Dunhill’s Early Morning Pipe (I have yet to try the blend since Peterson took over product as I have a fully stocked cellar of the Dunhill run), I was interested to learn that Cornell & Diehl had what they defined as an EMP match in their line-up (Good Morning).  From the start let me be point blank in saying, this is not an EMP match blend.  I did a full review of the blend on both my YouTube channel and The Pipe Professor webpage, but to sum it all up, this blend is about the most uninteresting bland tobacco I have ever smoked.  The beauty of EMP is the balance between the Virginia tobaccos and the English/Orientals.  This balance is non-existent in C&D Good Morning.  I found the blend to be very Virginia forward with the Latakia and Oriental tobaccos having minimal if any presence.  On top of this, the Virginias were very dry tasting, reminding me of burning dead leaves and cigarette smoke (which I am NOT a fan of).  The pipe had to be sipped slowly to avoid tongue bite and the tobacco burned very quickly.  In my opinion, this blend is nothing short of a hoax.  I will not be purchasing it in the future and would not recommend it to any pipe smoker I call a friend.      

 Ken Byron Ventures (KBV) Sakura

Info & Overview

Brand: Ken Byron Ventures (KBV)

Category: Aromatic

Blend Components: Black Cavendish; Oriental; Virginia

Flavorings: Cherry 

Cut Type: Ribbon

Available Packaging: 2oz pouch

Price: $15.00 USD

Tasting Notes: I was introduced to Ken Byron Ventures (KBV) tobaccos this year and must admit I’m on the fence about their blends.  There are several I have enjoyed such as Goblin Mixture and King’s Ransom, however, at $15.00 USD per 2oz, my expectation for quality is of the utmost level, as yours should be.  I have yet to have a KBV blend that met its $15 worth/value.  Yes, Goblin Mixture and King’s Ransom are good, but not $15 good.  Therefore, you can image when I smoked the Sakura aromatic blend, and it tasted like a mix between wet dog and cherry cough drops, I about lost it.  To be fair, I don’t smoke aromatics as much as I used to, but I still make time and space in my rotation to appease my aromatic desires.  With that being said, there is an art to creating a quality, enjoyable aromatic tobacco; Sakura does not adhere to those guidelines.  The tobacco not only tasted bad, the burn was hot and harsh with the topping leaving a lingering essence in the pipe after being smoked (my second bowl I tried in a cob and still disliked the tobacco).  On top of all this, I paid $15 just to have this monstrous disaster fill a good mason jar and ghost one of my briars.  Now, on the upper hand, KBV does have a lot of positives going for them such as their packaging, quickness of shipping, and shipping cost (free).  So, that does make up for a little of the $15 price tag, but I’d rather have a quality tobacco that gave me a good memorable smoking experience than unique packaging.  If you’ve ever considered purchasing from KBV I encourage you to support their small business (it’s the right thing to do during these difficult times); however, stay away from Sakura.  You can thank me later for the heads up.

Again, thank you for visiting The Pipe Professor website.  I hope you have enjoyed my Top 5 Pipe Tobaccos of 2020 and please stay tuned for more reviews and exciting content in the upcoming year.  As always, I hope each of you have a blessed new year and until next time, cheers!

* All tobacco/tin pictures and blend information (excluding tobacco notes) were taken from tobaccoreviews.com, boswellpipes.com, and smokingpipes.com.  The writer of this post is not the owner of the above photos/blend information related to each tobacco and does not take credit for their creation.  

Pipe Tobacco Review

Cornell & Diehl Good Morning

In response to the famous Dunhill (now Peterson) Early Morning Pipe, Cornell & Diehl released their own version of EMP at the Chicagoland Pipe Show “several years back” (Tobacco Reviews, 2020).  Blended by Craig Tarler and Bill Runowski, the Good Morning blend is said to be a spot-on match to EMP.  Some of you may have seen my ‘Pop-the-Top’ review of this blend on The Pipe Professor YouTube Channel a few weeks back.  If not, feel free to watch the first impressions review of C&D Good Morning here.  After smoking through ¾ of the tin, I feel I now have enough experience with the blend to give it a fair and just assessment.  So, let’s go ahead and jump right in.      

Info & Overview

Brand: Cornell & Diehl 

Category: English

Blend Components: Virginia, Latakia, Orientals

Flavorings: None

Cut Type: Ribbon

Available Packaging: 50g tin

Price: $10.41 USD

Tin Date: 05/2020

On to the review…  

From the Tin: Keen observers will note from my original impressions video review, that I had difficulty pinpointing specific descriptive attributes from the tobacco straight out of the tin.  My hope was that as the tobacco had time to air out in the tin, something more would develop; and to my surprise, it did.  After revisiting the blend over the course of a week, the tin note showed characteristics of heavy oak, burnt/charred wood, walnut, and dry hay.  The tobacco is said to be ribbon cut; however, I was able to find chucks of flake tobacco throughout the ribbons.  From the visual perspective, I would argue the blend is heavy on the Virginias when compared to its Latakia and Oriental counterparts.   

Tasting Notes: Being hopeful that the tasting department for the tobacco would experience a similar positive uptick that the tin note did, I smoked C&D Good Morning in four different briar pipes and one cob.  Unfortunately, the taste of the tobacco was overall dry and flat.  As I stated in my YouTube review, the blend is nothing like Dunhill’s EMP.  C&D Good Morning is very much a Virginia forward blend.  In fact, there were several times I questioned if Latakia or Orientals were even present in the blend at all.  The tobacco did show tasting notes of dry grasses, herbs, and smokey/burnt leaves with the overall strength of the blend being mild to medium.  The room note was just “so so” and similar to the taste, reminded me of cigarette smoke, which I’m not a huge fan of.  The tobacco did perform well, burning down to a nice grey/white ash.  Overall, I enjoyed the blend the most in my Missouri Meerschaum Mark Twain as the corncob pipe added a nice supporting sweetness to the tobacco’s tasting profile.   

Overall Impression: You may have guessed it, but this blend is not for me.  When honestly reflecting on everything, I did have preconceived high hopes for the blend as it was supposed to be a Dunhill EMP match. Seeing as EMP is one of my all-time favorite tobacco blends (and I have smoked a lot of it), I can confidently say the current run/production of C&D’s Good Morning, is not even close to an EMP match.  I’m not sure if something has changed with the blend over the years, but I will for sure not be purchasing any more in the future.   

Tobacco Score:

Rating Chart Score Breakdowns can be found here.