There’s a spot near my house where a small creek tiptoes under an old bridge which is haphazardly shuffled about by greenery and has begun coming apart over time.
I’ve been visiting it for a while now. I love to sit under the bridge and smoke with the tadpoles and crawdaddies as I read a good book. I usually pack some coffee and a blanket to keep myself warm because this time of year the ground gets cold and hard, and the water starts to freeze around the edges of the banks, but the middle still runs free.
I’ve packed my smoking bag. It’s a Maxpedition FR-1 Pouch, a military-style medical bag that holds three pipes and a leather tobacco pouch perfectly. It’s rugged and has lasted many years. I can smell the ruddy English blend in the pouch, wafting out of the closure as I walk.
There are two entrances to the contemplative spot I speak of, one is a bit of a secret, and the other one is public. The public access is labeled as a nature trail. The more secretive entrance is an old cemetery.
Due to both convenience, and of course, just me being me, I take the solitude and deep thought that goes with the graveyard entrance. I’ve always preferred the company of the dead over the living.
Shaking around in my pouch is a bit of Samuel Gawith Skiff Mixture. It’s an Oriental Forward English blend with a ribbon cut and strong Turkish characteristics, but don’t let that fool you, every component in Skiff Mixture gets its time to shine.
As I walk, past the gravestones, I begin to anticipate the smoke. I stop and gaze at the multitude of variously carved headstones and wonder at all the things they must have looked forward to while they were alive, just as I am looking forward to my upcoming smoke.
I silently thank the dead for granting me passage and make my way down the hidden trail.
It isn’t long before I see the old bridge. The trees and bushes on both banks of the creek have grown up and over the bridge itself, partially tearing it apart and somewhat holding it together, flora and fauna hide most of the structure from sight.
There’s a small worn trail that I made over the years as I’ve come to the bridge which snakes down the bank and under the structure. I stutter step down the hill along my own beaten path as I have several times. The trees, and what’s left of the bridge blot out the sun and mute the sounds of life. I am in my bubble now, content and alone, except for all of you in my mind, whom I have brought along with me this time.
I cop a squat on a large piece of granite I’ve somewhat polished with my ass. It juts from the hard earth and pebbles around 5 feet from the edge of the creek.
Once settled, I open my bag and pull out my goods. A metal coffee thermos. My pipe bag. My leather tobacco pouch. And an old copy of “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner.
I pour the coffee first and take a drink to wake up. Strong. Black as night. It steams my glasses. I don’t always drink my coffee black, usually, at home, I add some milk and sweetener, but I operate on a different level when I’m under the bridge. Here, in this place, now, I drink my coffee black.
I set the coffee next to the book and grab my pipe bag. Inside I have a Mr. Brog 89 briar, a Peterson System 307, and a Savinelli Noce 320. These are my main English smoking pipes. I decide on the Peterson.
I set aside my pipe bag and grab my tobacco pouch. Upon opening it up, I am hit immediately by the oldfashioned, classic smell of the Skiff Mixture. It is Sweet and Sour with hints of worn leather, smokey campfires, stirred earth and hints of fermented fruits, like as if I’d left an old apple under the bridge for weeks and then came back to sniff it. I find the aroma complex and intoxicating.
Like most of Samuel Gawith’s offerings, it comes from the tin a bit too moist, so I had set aside a portion to dry when I was at home preparing and packing my goods. Now, there in the pouch, the tobacco was dry but not brittle, and the perfect humidity for a sweet, refreshing smoke.
I pack a bowl in the Peterson and give the charring light using my Mr. Brog pipe lighter.
The Cyprian Latakia comes in on the char, smokey, savory with a charming and buttery touch to it. I love the light childhood campfire taste and smoothness. I tamp and give it the true light.
Following the Latakia, the Oriental and Turkish tobaccos come into play. Spicy, sour and lightly floral, the Oriental/Turkish offering gives the smoker the breadth of the complexity in this blend. There’s a touch of coffee bitters in the notes as well, but it plays well with our final contestant —
The Virginias tapdance into the picture, with a mildly sweet number. There are hay and citrus on the tongue as well, and these parts mix nicely with the spicy sour of the Oriental/Turkish and the smokey, savory char of the Latakia.
Everything melds together in this blend unlike anything else I smoke. It’s as if the blender knew the perfect, magic amount to bring all the components of this Balkan together without one particular tobacco taking center stage. The Latakia comes into the spotlight to delight, then backs away for the Turkish/Orientals, and finally, the Virginias get their moment.
Skiff Mixture is an expertly engineered All Day blend. There are no standout performances, and that’s what makes the whole show stand out, the way everything works together. Since nothing comes on too heavy, there is no fatigue brought to the tongue or the mind.
I happily smoke my pipe as I read my book and listen to the trickling creek. Skiff Mixture is my relaxing creak blend, now. It burns on an even keel to the bottom of the bowl, leaving light gray ash. I immediately load up a second bowl, you can do that with this mixture and not miss a beat. That’s part of its charm.
I scoot into my blanket and fall into my book as I smoke. Life is good. I will always have some Skiff in my cellar for just this kind of experience.
Other Tobacco Notes:
Samuel Gawith’s Skiff Mixture is a medium, dependable, quality English Balkan that never overwhelms the palate and brings a consistent stream of enjoyment to the smoker. It burns nice. No goop or doddle. And it remains enjoyable for the whole bowl.
Strength Notes: The nicotine content is mild while the smoke density is medium.
Cut: A nicely mottled ribbon that requires 20 minutes to an hour of drying time depending on the humidity when taken from a fresh tin.
Nicotine Strength: The nic hit is mild with no tingle on the tongue.
Room Note: The room note is medium strength and has a campfire latakia aroma with sour notes, typical for an English blend, and would not be a crowd pleaser for anyone but your fellow smokers.
Drink Pairing: I enjoyed this tobacco with a cup of coffee.
Smoking Time: Best enjoyed in the morning or afternoon, but honestly, any time will work. It had an average burn time and took about an hour to smoke in a medium bowl.
Pipes Used: Peterson 307 and Mr. Brog #89. It works well in a medium to large bowl. Otherwise, it will smoke in just about anything. I smoked it in pipes that were dedicated to English blends.
Age When Smoked: Fresh from the tin.
4/4 Stars. A very well-crafted medium Balkan English that doesn’t do anything spectacular with any of the components, but as a whole, the blend shines due to its expert blending which allows all the tobaccos to meld together perfectly.
|Blended By||Samuel Gawith|
|Manufactured By||Samuel Gawith|
|Contents||Latakia, Oriental/Turkish, Virginia|
|Packaging||50 grams tin|
All photos are the property of Justin Day at Photography By Day Studio. You can find more of my work here.