Recently I was most pleasantly surprised with a package from our Editor, Erin, containing two small pouches of GQ Tobaccos blends. Though I have read many praises of this blend, living in the USA they aren’t something easily obtained. In fact, my wife, wondering why I was so giddy over the contents of the small package, could only laugh when I tried to explain that I just can’t get them! I suppose that if you aren’t a pipe smoker it is a hard thing to comprehend.
I am familiar with Glynn Quelch, the mastermind behind GQ Blends, through social media, some of the forums, and an interview he did on Pipes Magazine Radio. Glynn is a true boutique-blender and lover of all things tobacco. More information about him and his career can be found HERE if you are interested. Now, on to the review…
The first blend I took a sniff of was Askwith Kake, as GQ’s website says, “Big Boys VaPer”. The aroma was, to me, near divine! I immediately was taken with the familiar plumb-like scent of quality Perique. There was also a hint of grass or hay in there but the delicious Perique was the main smell. Best of all the aroma was all tobacco; the website says this is not topped and it certainly isn’t, a good thing in my opinion!
My small pouch came with two small kakes that were as visually appealing as they were in aroma. I expected, from the smell, to find a much darker blend inside the pouch but I found a very nice blend of colors ranging the tobacco-leaf-rainbow.The bouquet reminded me of H&H Anniversary Kake, which is why, I suppose, I expected a much darker blend. I broke up and rubbed out the smaller piece and inhaled deeply, still detecting nothing but pure tobacco: pungent, plum/fig Perique and grassy, slightly citrus-like Virginias. The rubbed out pile shows the spectrum of tobaccos used much better.
Because of a sinus infection and limited time to enjoy my pipes, I only had the opportunity to smoke a few bowls of this blend before the deadline for this article; I wish I had more time – and more of the tobacco! – but, alas, someone has to do this labor!
As you probably know, I always like to experiment with moisture level, packing method and pipe material and shape. Because of my limited timeframe I didn’t get to do a lot of that “research” for this review. So, this will be a little different, more concise, perhaps, review than I would normally like to write.
I found that the moisture level from the pouch is a tad bit high but still it is very smokeable with no drying time. However it also takes more attention and re-lights with the higher moisture content. The flavor is phenomenal I have to say, making, in my opinion, the extra time and effort more than worth it.
The charring light brings a pop of pungent, tangy Perique-goodness, as do the first few puffs of the true light. The blend settles down into a delight of raisins and citrus, very well-balanced and not nearly as strong as I would have thought with the high amount (20%) of Perique in the blend; it is pure tobacco flavor through and through.
By mid-bowl the Perique changes from raisins to more plum, but true tobacco-flavored not a topping like Peterson’s University Flake, and the citrus is now of a more distinguishable orange or tangerine variety. There is tons of flavor but nothing overly dominating in the blend, so I can taste all these flavors with ease: pungent and peppery, natural sweetness, zesty citrus, a hay-like grassy flavor, and from time to time, if I sip very slow with just a small ember burning in the pipe, a buttery-nutty flavor that I have no idea is coming or where it came from!
The second half of the bowl remains almost identical to the first half, with the only real difference being the closer to the end I get the less I pick up on that surprise of a buttery-nutty taste.
My second bowl, on a different date and in a different pipe (I smoked this blend in two briar pipes; an old billiard that I think is an over-buffed Comoy’s firstly and a conical bowled Savinelli 316KS secondly), with around 30 minutes drying time. The drier tobacco is a much easier smoking blend but is a tad monochromatic in my opinion, but not in a bad way. Let me expound upon this so you will understand what I mean.
Dried, the blend took fire and kept burning with no effort; I don’t think I had a single relight. Usually I find a VaPer will build to a crescendo in a conical bowled pipe; this wasn’t the case with this smoke. The beginning to end were almost indistinguishable; very zesty, plum-like perique and naturally sweet, citrus from the mixture of Virgnias; I didn’t get the complexity from this bowl that I did in the first. Was this the pipe, the pack, the lower moisture level, or my cold? I can’t say for sure but I suspect the moisture level. As you know from my other reviews, I believe all blends should be tried as the blender packaged them to see what the maker wanted it to “be” and then work the blend from there to what works for you if need be. I think Glynn likely intended this to be slightly moist and that is why my first bowl was so much “better” than the second. At any rate, both bowls were delicious.
I know from the aforementioned interview that GQ Blends use high quality leaf; most of his product comes from Samuel Gawith or Gawith & Hoggarth’s if memory serves me. It was obvious that his statements were true when I had the chance to smoke his blend. The flavors were phenomenal and the blend burned clean, cool and to a very nice light grey ash with nary a trace of moisture in my bowl, let alone dottle. I’m certain that this blend would age tremendously, too, which I unfortunately will only be able to speculate on for the foreseeable future…
As I said earlier in this post, GQ Blends aren’t easily (or at all) had in the USA, thus my wish I had more! If you get the opportunity to try them do it! Yes, they are a bit pricier than what you might pay for other blends but they are very high quality from my limited experience and worth the extra cost. If you can’t get your hands on Askwith Kake and are one who enjoys a “Big Boys VaPer” the closest thing I can tell you is blend about equal parts of C&D Bayou Morning with H&H Anniversary Kake, press it however you can and let it sit a couple of months. You might get a hint of what this superb blend is like; I know that’s what I’m going to try!