Aromas have a marvelous, almost magical power to evoke memories. Tobacco aromas are no exception. Perhaps they have an even stronger power than other aromas to summon pleasant recollections. How many people think of a beloved father or grandfather when they get a whiff?
I’ve noticed lately that whenever I smoke Dunhill Nightcap or My Mixture 965, I instantly recall my days as a late-high-school and early college student in the 1960s and ’70s. I spent those summers working for a title-insurance company, searching property titles in Philadelphia’s City Hall. During my lunch “hours” I hung out at center-city Philly’s great old tobacco shops, sampling bulk blends. This is when I first tasted latakia, which I found exotic and enticing. I don’t know what those blends were: maybe they were custom made by the local tobacconists; maybe they were bulk versions of famous tinned tobaccos. All I know is that when I smoke those Dunhills today, they bring back fond memories of those days.
I almost called this post “Damn Burleys!” That’s not an insult but rather an expression of respect, just as the old Washington Senators fans used to cry, “Damn Yankees!” (There’s an old Broadway musical by that name.)
What I’m getting at is that my exploration of full-bodied burleys has to a large extent eclipsed my taste for straight Virginias. I still like them, but now that I’ve smoked robust burley blends, Virginias seem kind of tame. Add perique or latakia — or both — and some Virginia-based blends hold their own. I love Dunhill (*wah*) Nightcap, My Mixture 965, and Elizabethan Mixture. I like Navy Rolls. I also love McClelland (*wah*) Dark Star and Dark Navy Flake. But to my palate, Cornell & Diehl’s Haunted Bookshop, Pegasus, and Pirate Kake really shine by comparison. I have to watch out for the nicotine hit, but these are some mouth-watering tobaccos, so flavorful.
If you think burley means only Prince Albert, Carter Hall, Granger, and the matches for Edgeworth Ready-Rubbed — all good though mild blends — there’s a world of robust burley blends waiting for you.