I’ve been on a Balkan kick lately and I was in the mood for something with extra Latakia in it today, so it may surprise you that I reached for a Samuel Gawith blend. While they make amazing tobacco, I wouldn’t say SG is known for their Lat Bombs, they seem to be more known for their Virginia Blends but there is one in their catalog that I hardly ever hear anything about. Commonwealth Mixture.
SG Commonwealth is a 50/50 blend of Steamed VA and Cyprus Latakia that is blended to delight the senses! Today I opened a tin that had been aging for around 5 years in the back of my cellar. What a wonderful surprise to be digging in the cellar and find a wonderful gift to yourself in the back the mountain of mixtures.
I pulled it out and, without thinking, I popped it open.
Surprisingly, the tobacco was still quite moist and I had to lay it out to dry for an hour before it was ready to smoke. The paper inside the tin was dark and mottled with juices and sugars. The tin note was intense and hit me before I even leaned in for a sniff. As it dried, it made the room smell wonderful and got me excited for a smoke!
Once dry, I loaded up my Peterson System Standard 307. The mottled mixture went into the pipe easily and I could hardly wait to light it up and smoke it.
It took the false light easily. Upon true light, there was no denying that this blend had aged well. What an amazing mixture. I smoked it slow, sipping it and allowing it to change and mix in the bowl.
I’ve smoked Commonwealth fresh and it was a great mixture, but where this blend shines is when it is aged, and today was my first time smoking some with age on it. I was able to compare my notes in my Tobacco Diary and the words don’t lie. This blend gains complexity and taste volume with age to the point where I don’t think I would ever consider smoking it fresh again. It would seem like a waste of a good future experience.
We, as pipe smokers, are always thinking about the future. About time and how it affects what we are smoking. Aging our tobacco is part of it. Knowing when to smoke a particular blend, the sweet spot for each blend, is an aspect of the hobby that few have mastered.
So how was it? The woodsy campfire burn of the Latakia was strong and savory but had weathered down a bit over time compared to the fresh tin. So while it IS a 50/50 mix, with time it tastes more like a 30/70 due to the strength of the Lat ramping down and the VA gaining strength. This is not a problem for me. It still had enough strength of the smokey leaf to scratch that itch. I tasted old leather and earth in the Latakia as well with a touch of a floral garden in the background. Beautiful. It all comes together within the smokey leaf and leaves the smoker sitting at a campfire in the back of their mind.
While the Lat was ramping down, the VA was ramping up in sweetness and that wonderfully complex fermented taste, which of course is entirely absent from a fresh tin. Sweet and sour lemons with a touch of salt, grass, and hay and baking bread, a touch of orange mash and plums as well. It all comes together to play with the savory aspects of the Latakia and contrast it nicely. The two tastes combine and evolve into a complexity that seems counterintuitive to a blend that keeps things simple and hits you with just a simple mix of two tobaccos.
It holds a light perfectly. Smokes to the bottom without annoying moisture. It was a pleasure from beginning to end and smoked slowly as I sipped it.
Commonwealth is a strong contender for a straight, clean, reliable blend fresh, but it really gains interesting depth and nuance with age. I would suggest getting some to age. 5 years in an unopened tin or a couple years in a jar would do it.
Smoke and enjoy, my friends. Have a great day.