An Unexpected Treasure (Germain’s Medium Flake)

When my friend Val Shannahan offered me a couple of tins of J. F.  Germain & Son tobaccos I thought, “how can you go wrong with the team that brought you Balkan Sobranie?”

So, of course, I said sure and eagerly awaited my tins of Medium Flake and Royal Jersey Cavendish & Virginia, and secretly wondering what it was about them that made Val want to get rid of them.

I mean, I am well aware of Val’s refined tastes when it comes to tobacco, preferring to smoke only flakes, and generally only Virginia ones or Virginia and Perique, but both of these seem to be right up his alley, well, maybe less the Royal Jersey and more the Medium Flake.

I never got around asking him what it was about them that he didn’t like, but I suspected that the Cavendish & Virginia just wasn’t his style, so I was a little wary of the medium flake.

Doing a little research online I discovered that it is a flake cut, straight Virginia, that is apparently topped with fruit extracts.

So, I expected that “that” was it, ‘fruit topping’ was the culprit.

It has been my experience that fruit toppings come in two types; really good, usually done lightly, not overpowering, done as a flavour enhancer to already good tobacco, and then there are those that are really, really bad, usually overdone, overpowering, and done to hide the taste of poor quality tobacco.

Having no experience with Germain & Son, I couldn’t say which it was, and with Val it could just as easily be the former as the latter as he is really not fond of the aromatic tobaccos at all.

And so I waited, but not too long; the package arrived in less than a week.

When it arrived, or rather when I picked it up from the mailbox, it was already near dinner time and I didn’t have a chance to break into it until a couple of hours later.  Then I had a small gathering to attend, so while I did get the chance to break into the package, I didn’t get a chance to break into the tobacco until later.

When I did finally get a chance to break into the tobacco, I chose the medium flake as that was the one that he sent me that most intrigued me, I still couldn’t place why he didn’t like it.

Opening up the tin and pressing my nose to the waxed paper within, which I discovered that I had to as the fruit topping was not overpowering, I was greeted with a delicate, yet definitely present, fruity aroma.  The scent did not overpower the tobacco and the grassy, hay-like Virginia tobaccos were also present in the tin note.

I thought to myself, that even though this was shaping up to be a well done aromatic flake, it could, perhaps, be too much fruit for Val.

In the tin note I was reminded of Capstan Navy, or perhaps Orlik Golden Sliced, and looking those up online I discovered that they too are basically VA flakes, described as “fruity”.

So, I peeled back the wax paper to discover that this was not really flake tobacco at all, in fact it looked like almost a shag cut mixed with a broken flake.

Interesting; I sort of felt like I had been misled.  Nothing I read online, or on the tin prepared me for what I encountered inside.  Online reviews said it was flake, and the tin read;

Pipe tobacco made with selected red and golden tobaccos.  Pressed to create a flake of medium density and sliced for your enjoyment.

As well as a sentence saying that it was made in Jersey, British Isles.  By: J. F. Germain & Son [who apparently are] Manufacturers of fine tobaccos since 1820.

That too may have been too much for Val, as he prefers full flake, and this definitely was not it.

But, pinching some of this tobacco to put in my pipe I discovered it was really much more of a broken flake than I initially thought, just some of it has been rubbed out.

So without rubbing out, I simply stuffed a handful of the tobacco into the bowl of my Pipe Smokers of Ireland, Limited Edition POTY, still wary from the fact that it was disliked by Val.

I light up and within 4 to 5 puffs I have convinced myself that Val was dead wrong.  I’m not certain, still, what it was about this tobacco that Val disliked, but I thoroughly enjoyed that bowl.

The taste was also reminiscent of Capstan or Orlik; sweet but still grassy in that “only in a Virginia” way.

Nearing the bottom of the bowl, it began to become apparent that this tobacco was going to leave a lot of dottle, and it did, though the dottle was quite dry.

Now interested, I immediately changed pipes to my John Hines cavalier which, I’ve said in a previous review, is the best smoking pipe in the world, and lit up another bowl.

The first bowl wasn’t just luck, the second bowl was even better than the first, smoked in my cavalier.

Now, all things being relative, “thoroughly enjoyed”, and “second bowl…better than the first” do not mean that this is an incredible tobacco.  To be honest, though I do enjoy it, the flavor is un-complex, and a bit subdued.

Overall, I think it’s worth smoking, and I am certain that I will enjoy more bowls of this, but I would not rush out to buy another tin.

I’m not prone to rating tobaccos, but if I had to say I would give this one a solid “above average” say C+.

If you can find it, and they have in stock, Smokingpipes.com and 4noggins.com sell it for right around 19 to 20 dollars U.S.

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!

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