|Contents||Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia and lots of Topping|
|Flavoring||Fruit / Cherry / Sugar|
|Overall Rating||3 out of 5|
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that most of the people reading this review have probably tried Middleton’s Cherry Blend at least once in their lives. Typically the opinion of Middleton’s Cherry Blend is that you either love it or hate it… Personally I’m not a fan but if you enjoy it, more power to you. So why the hell did I bring that up? Because as soon as I lit my first bowl of Bootlegged all I could think was, “Oh no… this is going to be like Cherry Blend.” Thankfully I was wrong but we will get to that in a few minutes.
First things first, to be fair Bootlegged isn’t considered a “cherry” blend. It’s classified as a fruit/citrus blend but as soon as you smell this stuff you are going to say to yourself, “Holy Shit! That’s a lot of cherry.” Scrounging around over on TobaccoReviews.com I discovered that Ole Shenandoah is manufactured by Lane Ltd. the same people who bring you Captain Black and Bjarne Viking blends. Again, depending on your tastes you are either going to groan or cheer about this. Honestly I like Captain Black tobaccos so I don’t have a problem with Lane Ltd. and the tobacco they produce. But haters are going to point out things like, poor quality tobacco, chemical taste and of course Propylene Glycol… But haters are gonna hate.
As I’ve said, I usually don’t like cherry blends because they have a tendency to taste like a car air freshener. Something about the flavor isn’t really that appealing to me and it has been my experience that almost all cherry blends will bite the hell out of you and then to add insult to injury, foul up a pipe something horrible. Over the years I’ve tried really hard to like them and smoked dozens of different cherry blends without much success. So as you can imagine I was a little gun shy to try this stuff out.
As far as the presentation goes there isn’t really anything to bitch about. The tin has a nice graphic on the cover and your typical tissue paper insert. One thing I noticed that I’ve never seen before was that the cap was made from a clear plastic as opposed to paper or cardboard which seems to be standard with most tinned tobaccos. At first I didn’t really think much of this but the more I looked at it I had to wonder if this wasn’t done to help keep the tobaccos moisture level high. Cardboard or paper will absorb moisture over time where plastic won’t so perhaps that has something to do with it. Again I’m just guessing but it made sense in my head.
Anyway, as soon you open this tin you are going to be smacked in the face with the scent of cherries. Honestly that was all I smelled when I opened it, cherries and a slight undertone of warm sugary Cavendish tobacco. There is a mild bitter tang that I can only guess is a little of the other fruit flavoring but nothing that really stands out. The moisture level was a little damp but as an aromatic that’s to be expected and coming from Lane Ltd. I know they soak most of their product in toppings so I wasn’t shocked.
Firing Up the Still…
I elected to use one of my trusty cobs for the first bowl of Bootlegged. Having had problems with wicked ghosting in the past I didn’t want to fire this up in a briar until I knew exactly how dangerous this stuff was going to be. So corncob pipe in hand I packed my bowl and headed to the Scoundrel Research & Testing Facility (A.K.A. my garage) to give it a go.
Lighting this stuff wasn’t a problem and keeping it burning was also easy. Again this is something that the tobacco warlocks at Lane Ltd. have mastered and like all of their other offerings Bootlegged was easy to work with. Once lit I instantly got that cough drop, artificial cherry, bitter syrup flavor in my mouth. I probably made a face but I can’t be entirely sure… I gave it a few more puffs and let it settle down for a moment. Once the initial light was out of the way I started to really focus on the flavors and textures going on with the tobacco. My first bowl was a little disappointing but slowly over the course of a few days and several more bowls I began to change my opinion.
At first you probably won’t be impressed. Bootlegged is every bit as bitter and fake tasting as I feared it would be. I kept things rolling with a few steady puff now and again but I really considered giving up on this blend during my first attempt. Luckily I’m kind of a stubborn guy so I dug in my heels and decided to see this through till the end. After a few minutes I started to notice a couple of different things that were not immediately noticeable due to the heavy flavoring. Once the initial topping/casing was out of the way the flavor changed dramatically and you don’t feel like you are smoking cough syrup anymore. After a few bowls of Bootlegged I discovered the best way around this was to light it and give it a few quick puffs to get things going and then follow up with long slow draws. Eventually the flavor seems to soak into the tobacco and really mellow out. So for those of you on the fence with this one I would recommend hanging in there because the best is yet to come.
Middle of the bowl… Second Shot
After the opening punch in the face the cherry fades into the background the dynamic of this tobacco takes on a much more complex character. By the time you get to the middle of the bowl you will begin to notice a few other qualities that are hidden behind the topping. The Cavendish really becomes a major player as the strong cherry flavoring begins to blend with its warm, creamy chocolate qualities. There is also a slight grassy tang like fresh straw or hay that you might pick up from time to time with the Burley. It’s not over powering but it is tucked away in there and really adds a bright note to balance out the richer chocolate covered cherry flavor that develops as you continue to smoke.
This really became the highlight of smoking Bootlegged for me. I would light my pipe and work past the opening flavors in order to get to the rich creamy center. Luckily it doesn’t take very long to get there and if you can get past those first acidic puffs you are going to thank yourself for it. About the best I can describe the mid-bowl flavor is a warm chocolate cherry trifle. Creamy and sweet with just enough tart cherry flavor and cooling Burley to keep you coming back for more. This is truly the sweet spot of Bootlegged and once you get here you are going to start to appreciate this blend for more than just an aromatic. The smoke is thick and creamy without any bite and I found that a cup of coffee really compliments this blend. I would suggest smoking this in a large chamber pipe to get the maximum amount of mid-bowl enjoyment out of it because this is where you want to stay.
Bottom of the Bowl… Last Call
As you might expect from an aromatic things get a little soupy by the time you are at the bottom. I have smoked about a dozen bowls of Bootlegged so far and I’m still working on keeping this stuff from going south at the end. I’ve had mixed results and even in a cob it tends to get some heavy gurgle going by the time you are about finished with your pipe. I’ve been playing around with drying times to see what works the best but I haven’t had much luck so when you start to get that sharp bitter flavor in your mouth you will know you have come to the end of the trail.
As luck would have it this is also about the only time I experienced anything even close to tongue bite from Bootlegged so again a compliment to the skill of Lane Ltd. and their ability to create easy smoking tobacco blends. One piece of advice I will give you is to keep a lot of pipe cleaners on hand because when you are finished with this stuff you are going to need to mop out your pipe something awful.
The Morning After…
With half a tin in the history books I can honestly say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Ole Shenandoah, Bootlegged. I didn’t have high hopes when I first smoked it but now that I’ve spent some time with it I find myself enjoying it and even craving it every so often. I don’t think this could be an all day smoke for me or even something I would keep in heavy rotation but every so often I could see myself firing up a bowl. I would definitely put this in the after dinner, desert, evening pipe category or maybe even the yard work, going for a walk in the woods column. Again I would recommend smoking it in a large chamber pipe so that you can enjoy the middle part of this smoke for as long as possible.
Overall I think people who enjoy aromatics will enjoy this blend and if you are a fan of cherry blends you will think you have died and gone to heaven. As an added bonus everyone who has smelled this stuff thinks it is amazing so if you are looking for a crowd pleaser this one will make everyone happy. As for myself I would say that this is by far one of the best cherry/fruit blends I’ve smoked in a long time and if you are looking for a change of pace I would definitely give Bootlegged a try. Even if it isn’t something you plan to smoke every day or even every week having it in your cellar is definitely worth your while.