Review by romeowood
Escudo Navy De Luxe
Brand: A&C Peterson / Peter Stokkebye (by Scandinavian Tobacco Group)
Blend: Escudo Navy De Luxe
Cut: Coins "Navy twist"
Cure: Flue cured
Tobaccos: Virginia, Perique
Room Note: Medium
Tin Size: 50g
Tin Age: 5 years / 6 months
Tin Description: A combination of full bodied Virginia from North Carolina and Virginia blended with Perique from Louisiana are the cornerstones in Escudo. The blend is pressed and matured before it is spun and cut into coins. This process ensures the unique character of "Escudo".
If you smoke a pipe then you will eventually smoke Escudo, and most likely you will find that it will become part of your regular rotation. This tobacco has a long and storied history, yet it speaks volumes that the name and quality seem to have survived all incarnations. Originally produced by Cope Brothers Tobacco of Liverpool, it, like many other classics, has changed hands many times. It is currently produced by STG for Villiger Stokkebye; this review is from a 5 year old tin of the A&C Peterson incarnation as well as 2010 tins from Stokkebye.
Tin: From The Beloved Tobacco Maven's website:
"In colonial days, sailors twisted tobacco into a roll and tied it tightly, often moistening the leaves with rum, molasses, or spice solutions. As the tobacco dried and contracted, the flavors melded. To smoke the concoction, they cut a slice of "twist" or "curly" and stuffed a pipe, hence the terms "sliced twist" and "curly cut." In time, all twisted tobacco, and later pressed tobacco, became known as "navy," because it was convenient for sailors and outdoorsmen, due to its compact size and long-lasting, slow-burning qualities."
Escudo is a Navy twist, cut into coins of just under 1/16" thickness. The fine-spun tobaccos are a perfect brindle of dark tobaccos streaked with lighter ribbons. Newer coins are much lighter overall than the older coins, a pleasing visual indication of aging. The aroma of the newer tin is bright, with yellow and orange leaf dominating their notes of hay, white raisin, and a slight salt-fig scent; while the older tin is much deeper and redolent of chocolate, Medjool dates, the ferment of leather, and tawny port wine.
Char: It is to be noted that either rubbing out the coins or curling them and stuffing can change the flavor profile. Rubbed out, the smoke is a bit steadier and of a more consistent rhythm of flavors; while curling and stuffing yields a bit more of the nuance of gradually shifting mouthfuls of light and dark notes. The charring light releases a rich bundle of energy from the Virginia, followed by a nice peppery retort from the Perique.
Top: Preferring the profile of the rolled and stuffed packing method, the classic VaPer taste really shines. Top notes are bright but never too sharp - tangerine, ginger, white grape and fresh leather, with just the right cracked-pepper highlight are at the same time developing a creamy fullness thanks to the background notes. The newer blend is crisp, sharp, and nicely acrid; the older blend's brightness quickly settles down to a creamy nougat.
Mid: Once well underway, the bowl really grabs you. Flavors become stronger, more distinct, richer in every way. The 5-year displays a dark sweetness - rich root beer or sarsaparilla, stout ale, hints of chestnut and fig. The younger tin places ginger, heather & hay, tangerine, bergamot, even the occasional wisp of white chocolate before you. Both hold these top notes in a thick, creamy base of rich, sweet, leathery tobacco, producing a nice volume of smoke along the way. The nicotine content also becomes readily apparent at mid-bowl, remaining steady through the end.
Finish: The end of the bowl is the only drawback of Escudo; for certainly if it is to your taste at all and you smoke past the charring light then you will wish it never to end. It smokes cool and bite-free even with repeated bowls, though the nicotine and richness can be too much for an all-day smoke. Throughout the bowl the recurring theme is creaminess, and the finish on the palate leaves you very much appreciating this full-bodied smoke. It will coat your tongue with its treacle, so is best paired with an equally strong beverage - a strong black tea or espresso, tawny or ruby port, or a no-nonsense ale.
Room Note: A rich, slightly acrid smoke will mark the room with hints of chestnut, burnt popcorn, and raisin. On the mild side, though non-smokers may disagree.
Overall: The reason for this blend's longevity should become apparent after the first sampling. It is no wonder that it remains one of the most-cellared and best-selling tobaccos after more than a century; it should be considered the baseline from which to judge VaPer blends. There was a remarkable richness gained by age in the older tin, which holds true to the Virginia milestone of 4 to 5 years. The balance of the blend is its hallmark, and it is impeccable. Elegant in its simplicity, Escudo delivers a classic smoking experience whatever its age. It excels in straight pipes, particularly tall billiards and clays, though it is not averse to any chamber you may burn it in.
A rich, full bodied VaPer, considered by many to be the standard of this style.
Ages perfectly, demands a good pairing but is not inflexible, and delivers a fullness of flavor that puts it in a class apart.