The memory of opening this tin of Sutliff Black Swan is seared in my mind. Our local pipe and cigar club was having a get together and we’d all been sitting around for a while chatting and smoking. After collecting my sample tins for the magazine from Erin, I decided there was no time like the present to give some a try. It just so happened that I was sitting beside the wife of a fellow club member, and the tin had caught her eye. After opening, her I both were quite intrigued. Holding it up we both wound up with our noses together in the tin for a sniff. Inhaling deeply and then wordlessly expressing our delight caught the attention of the group immediately. We both decided that if there was such a thing as an olfactory orgasm this would hit the mark. It was all slightly embarrassing. Everyone wanted to know what all the fuss was about so needless to say the tin made its way around the table in short order.
The tobacco is a very rich and dark coarse cut Cavendish. It is very heavy, moist, and somewhat sticky. As I mentioned the tin note is seductive to say the least. It smells of honey, vanilla and a forbidden fruitiness. I don’t always smoke Cavendish or aromatics and I am not much of a fan of coarse cut tobacco in general. Coarse cut never smokes well for me. Don’t waste your time smoking this straight out of the tin. Let it dry, otherwise you will be puffing frantically trying to keep it lit.
My Charatan’s Make Sandblasted Dublin seemed like the perfect pipe choice. Again I recommend the Frank Method for pipe packing. Once dried the leaf lit well, and I was pleased with the smokiness of the first few puffs. Sutliff describes Black Swan as “exceptionally mild and aromatic blend, sweet & dark”. Well folks, it is exactly as advertised. I enjoyed the sweetness that danced on the tip of my tongue. The taste buds on the tip of our tongues are the most tuned to sweet, so I found that smoking with my pipe in the center, instead of off to one side of my mouth provided an improved flavour profile. Typically I like a much more bold tobacco, so I found this one to be a bit of a tease. I needed more, so I kept on puffing. As I worked my way through the bowl I found the taste changes. The sweetness slowly gives way to a bit of a good kind of sour, almost lemon. Once I was at what I would say was the last third however the sweetness was completely gone and had been replaced by a bitterness. I’ve smoked this blend a few times now and so I will smoke the first two-thirds and leave the last.
This would be a good tobacco for an aromatic or Cavendish fan. It is a good mix if that is your smoking preference. Personally I think Latakia in anything makes it better, haha. So why did I title this review Dalliance With The Dark Side? Well lets see, this tobacco is dark, alluring and seductive. It leaves you wanting more. Starts out sweet and slowly turns sour. If you want to dabble with the dark my friends, know when to call it quits, or it will be your swan song.
“But without the dark, we’d never see the stars” – Unknown
By: Tad Seymour
Tad has been smoking cigars as a hobby for the past 15 years and took up pipe smoking a little over a year ago, though you would never know it by his large pipe and tobacco collection. His hobbies include golf, soccer, camping, reading, mead making and brewing, a glass of good scotch, and sharing a love of quality tobaccos with his friends.