Review by romeowood
A walk through the Bazaar
Room Note: Cigarette-ish
Tin Size: 2 oz.
Tin Age: New - under 6 months
True to form for a Pease offering, this blend’s initial simplicity belies an exceedingly complex character. With a fresh tin the initial smokes were pleasant, if nothing special. Delving into the second ounce, however, yielded a treasure trove of aroma and flavor, quite unexpectedly. Patience and persistence are richly rewarded with this blend, and although perhaps not a benchmark VaPerO, certainly Cairo can stand with the best.
Tin: While listed as a ribbon cut, there is certainly cube- and flake-cut leaf present. Overall a light- to milk-chocolate color with a smattering of dark, black and olive thrown in. The tin’s first impression on opening is a slightly astringent, fruity aroma with some malty sweetness - stewed and fermented fig mixed with stale ale, but in a good way, mind you. With some time this mellows to a strong cola aroma, with hints of classic Virginia ketchup. Nominal moisture best dried for 15-30 minutes.
Char: On the initial light the Virginias really stand up, bright and sharp. This is quickly tempered by the dry smokiness of the Orientals and, to a lesser degree, the Perique components.
Top: While the immediate impression is akin to a cigarette, it will soon become apparent that there really is a lot going on in this blend. The sharp Virginia pokes in again and again adding a bright sweetness, while the Orientals steadily grow in character, donning many different flavors. Sweet cola plays behind a rich roasted pecan, with an acrid tang on the edges of pepper, turmeric and ginger.
Mid: Perique, in small amounts, tends to come through most prominently in the middle and endgame, and that’s certainly the case here. Without this added condiment I think the Orientals would fade to a very bland smoke; however in Cairo they are very much lifted and nuanced by the darker leaf. The very nutty, rich body is redolent with the spice bazaar that Pease was aiming to recall-dried mango, coffee grounds, cinnamon bark, chili pepper and teak, sandalwood and even hints of betel nut seem to splash on the palate and the nose. Rather than having to pay attention to decipher this smoke, it tends to grab your attention and taunt you with its riot of subtle flavors.
Finish: Certainly a very active smoke, it finishes with a very good crescendo of all the flavors coming together, with the Perique very nicely tying it all together. One is left with a strong coffee or black tea aftertaste with a bit of leathery wood-think lapsang souchong, though not as oily. Throughout, the burn has been easy to control and without a hint of bite, and burns down to ash readily.
Room Note: A sharp, slightly acrid room smoke will hang and cling to clothing and furniture. Smokers won’t mind at all, but those sensitive to cigarettes or cigars will not fare as well.
Overall: For all its similarities to cigarette flavor and smell, Cairo is far, far more complex, satisfying and rich. This would be a great transitional pipe for a cigarette smoker, one that would let them know everything that a cigarette only wishes it could be. Also to note is its remarkable flexibility in terms of pipe and cadence-it smokes wonderfully in all size and shape chambers, and at all cadences, and in fact the taste will vary slightly with each one. It finds its best companion, however, in a long billiard style dedicated to VaPers, perhaps a group 4 Canadian.
RATING: 4 stars
For a deceptively complex blend, very full of flavor once you peek behind the curtain.
Minor points lost for its sometimes overly acrid profile and somewhat temperamental attitude toward beverage pairings. Also the room note and linger may deter indoor smoking.
It would be very interesting to taste this after three years or so in the tin, before the Virginias peak and the Orientals begin to decline.