Review by Cortezattic
Stratford: woody, peppery, and wonderful after dinner
Stratford, from Pease’s Classic Collection, is a non-aromatic VaPer blend. Popping the tin reveals a mix of short ribbon-cut leaf and flecks of some irregular shapes. It has mostly dark golden, mahogany and brown tone tobaccos with occasional deeper shades of brown that I take to be Acadian Perique -- a mix of St. James Perique and "perique-processed" Kentucky Green River Burley. I’m not privy to the recipe, but I come to this conclusion because it doesn’t have Perique’s usual oily black appearance; and the tin description cites “Louisiana” Perique, not “St. James”. More importantly, it doesn’t seem to have the same stewed fruit and musty flavor profile that I have found in “black leaf” blends. That said, this blend can stand on its own merit, and taste buds have the final say despite any ambiguities that I might create.
The tin note, or bouquet, pretty accurately predicts the soft sweetness and woody character of the blend’s flavor when smoked; but it only hints at the peppery sting waiting to accost the nose and sinuses. “…[Z]esty and piquant. This is the one for the Virginia/Perique fans…” Indeed! I look back on the first few bowls of this as the rite of passage by which Pease grants admission to his personal take on Elysium. Surprisingly, once I became inured to the pinch – or should I say habituated – the blend blossomed with delightful woody flavor.
The Virginias in this blend are neither citrus, nor sharp and grassy, nor characteristically sugary, though they do possess a bread-like sweetness that serves as a foil to the woody, almost bark-like brown tobacco flavor. It has a delicate bitter edge similar to that of the woody flesh packed in the convolutions of a walnut; and there are taste elements that remind me of both fennel and nuts – especially in the finish. I find this faint bitter edge intriguing, if not entirely yummy, and it works well – both with the woody taste, and against the background sweetness.
As I mentioned earlier, the Perique in this blend doesn’t have the stewed fruit and musty flavor that I at first expected, but it seems to meld nicely with the Virginias to create a deep woods, brown tone flavor. In a blind taste test I would have guessed that Burley, or perhaps stoved red Virginias create this blend’s flavor and body. But of course, that wouldn’t explain the ubiquitous pinch.
There are no packing, lighting or burning issues to deal with. It is a perfectly well-behaved blend. It smokes cool and dry; it is free from bite; and it generates a nice volume of chewy smoke with good mouth feel. The balance between body, flavor and strength – which I would place at the upper end of medium – makes for an overall smooth smoke.
I recommend Stratford as a after dinner smoke, though I suppose it would be a good choice for any outdoor activity too. If you have enjoyed Cumberland, Jack Knife, or the sweeter Cairo, I think you’ll discover some hidden delight in Stratford too – though some might consider it an acquired taste.