Review by cortezattic
For Burley-philes seeking fruity sweetness on the dark side.
Ah, the pleasure of the pipe! Just when you're about to declare that there's only so much one can do with Burley, you stumble on yet another flavor matrix rarely found in the genre. I can't imagine that Sha'are Orah is wildly popular (the name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue); but it would be, at least among devotees of American style blends and codger Burley's, if it had a name like Date Nut Burley -- or something equally descriptive. This is a natural tasting (non-aromatic) blend featuring an honest Burley taste rounded by a mellow Turkish, sweet red Va., and a darkly fruit-like Perique.
This review is based on a bulk purchase from Sep., 2010, with about 4 months of aging in a Mason jar. It is composed of mostly dark brown and black leaf with a coarse chopped, somewhat granular look and an above average amount of crumbs that, if nothing else, are useful for kindling. I don't know if it was intentionally prepared this way or my supply came from the bottom of the barrel. In any event it packs and burns quite well, and seems to be at an ideal moisture level. There is nothing particularly distinctive about the aroma from the jar, but it does have a nice generic tobacco smell that promises something slightly sweet and nutlike, and maybe a little piquant -- which is in fact what the smoke delivers.
By and large you can expect this blend to fit right in with straight-ahead Burley's that have been amended to bring out a natural nuttiness, and rounded with some sweet red Va. to chase away Burley's bitter side. This blend's distinctive feature is the addition of Turkish and Perique which I think creates an above average smoothness and dark round bottom flavoring. The Burley works hard to compete with the Va.-Turkish-Perique additions, but it does manage to stay at the front of the blend throughout the smoke. In other words, expect a Burley-forward blend -- not a Vaper with Burley for body.
This blend delivers a medium smoke volume -- not particularly lush and chewy, but acceptable. It has a good flavor, with plenty of depth and body; but it doesn't invite close examination by the palate. Let's say very good, but not intriguing. It is very smooth; has medium strength; good balance; and no goop, gurgle, dottle or bite. The Perique in this blend contributes a nice 'dry' fruity taste without any peppery irritation, and little or no mustiness that I could detect. An inconspicuous citrus finish develops from somewhere in this blend and lurks faintly on the sides of the tongue and cheeks throughout, piquing one's interest and tobacco appetite.
Sha'are Orah should appeal to most smokers -- especially Burley-philes seeking some fruity sweetness on the dark side. It is less musty than Haunted Bookshop or Old Joe Kranz; less woodsy than Pease's Cumberland; and a nice alternative to Burley blends unimaginatively laced with black Cavendish.