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Cornell & Diehl Carolina Red Flake 2018

Cheeseybacon

Well-known member
#1
As of the date of this post, it does not seem like there are many reviews out there on the 2018 edition of Carolina Red Flake right now, probably because everyone is cellaring this stuff (or scalping on eBay?). As such, I thought I'd give you all my $0.02 as to what you might expect if you decide to crack open a fresh tin of this stuff right now.

Upon cracking the tin, the nose is immediately met with a mild tomato odor and a maybe very very very slight hint of vinegar. No, this is not the funky McClelland vinegary ketchup funk that so many of us love, but still distinctive compared to the usual grassy-figgy-raisiny-hay smell that a lot of other fresh Virginia blends start life with. I have encountered this particular odor before in Samuel Gawith Golden Glow, Esoterica Scarborough and Fribourg & Treyer Blackjack, all of which had been collecting dust on the local B&M's shelf and had some age on them, for what that's worth.

The moisture content of CRF18 is damn near perfect and was ready to be smoked immediately out of the tin with no dry time required. The moisture level seems to be right in line with the last several C&D tins I've acquired, which is to say that some people could potentially argue that it is almost a little too dry. Being the lazy man of leisure that I am, I will often smoke a new blend several times right from the tin over the course of a few days before getting around to depositing the remainder of the blend into a mason jar. In the case of these recent C&D blends, they all went into jars immediately.

The cut for this blend falls under the general category of broken flake. There's a few partially intact flakes here and there, which I've tried to include in this picture, but most of the tin contents consist of something slightly thicker than C&D's "chip cut". Just personal opinion on this one, but I'd much prefer either a full-blown flake that can be folded and stuffed or a nice fine ribbon, not something that is all over the place between the two.

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(Note: This blend is mostly light brown with streaks of yellow. It is nowhere near as reddish as the lighting in this picture would have you believe).


Alright, so how does CRF18 taste? Well, this blend was different in some ways that were surprising. First of all, the thing that took me by surprise was sweetness level, I found this blend to be surprisingly un-sweet. Yes, there is some sweetness in there, you won't mistake this for a bowl full of burley or a cigar or anything like that, but the sweetness was undeniably quite fleeting and often departed as quickly as it arrived. Generally speaking I prefer my Virginias to be sweet, no, not to the artificial cavendish/aromatic-level of sweetness, but sweet nonethless as the high sugar-content present in Virginia is its most defining attribute vs. other leaf types. For my palette, the level of sweetness of CRF18 was at lower end of moderate and consistently inconsistent in terms of when/where it showed up. It is worth mentioning that Cornell & Diehl themselves made a point to proudly note the sugar content (10.49%) on the side of the label and I am willing to concede that may have had some effect on my mental preconceptions of exactly how sweet I thought this blend should taste.

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Oddly enough, after trying this blend in several types of pipes, I found that the sweetness was best drawn out with a broad-chambered pot, rather than the narrow-diameter bowls that many people claim are well suited for Virginias. Nonetheless, nearly every Virginia blend I smoked after smoking CRF18 seemed significantly sweeter by comparison. One evening I began with a bowl of CRF18 and then followed it up with some FVF. I consider FVF a normally well-balanced and delicious blend, but it was almost cloyingly sweet by comparison, having just come off a bowl of CRF18. This phenomenon repeated itself several times with several different blends and lead me to consider two possibilities, that 1) my appreciation for the sweetness of Virginia blends in general may actually have to do with the casing than the sugar that is naturally present in the leaf and 2) CRF18 flake is a great showcase of what a Virginia with a very high amount of naturally-occurring sugar tastes like without being artificially elevated even further with large additions of casing.

As for the other flavors, this blend definitely had a mild earthiness to the flavor profile, perhaps a little bready and yeasty at times, not really grassy so much, and definitely not tangy or citrusy at all. I had trouble pinning down what blend CRF18 most resembles. GL Pease's Union Square could be considered similar if for no other than reason that it isn't overly sweet either. That said, Union Square is admittedly less one-note than CRF18 and as it produces some occasional brief bright notes every now and then.

Final conclusions:

- As a fresh Virginia blend, this was a unique change of pace, it makes you realize just how cased some other blends might be.
- If you like your Virginias more savory than sweet, don't let the 10.49% sugar figure on the side of the label dissuade you from trying this one.
- Will probably really shine with some age (don't we always say that about Virginia though?)
- Individual palettes vary wildly and which means tobacco reviews in general (and especially this one) are all pretty much a crap shoot.
 

tfdickson

Well-known member
Sales
Patron
#7
Interesting. That is not what other reviews had implied... Now I'm curious!! Sounds like my experience with some of the Simply Elegant Series. Expectations that weren't observed. Very interesting indeed!
I’m smoking it right now and this review is spot on. Maybe it’s monkey-see monkey-do but I’m in near total agreement. My only quibble is that I’m not at all confident it will get much better with age only because I’ve seen very little benefit from age with C&D Va blends. No idea why, but that’s been my experience. All in all it’s a very enjoyable blend and I’m glad I bought a few tins.
 

Mpugh777

Well-known member
#9
While my palate is not that experienced in the world of tobacco, I wholeheartedly agree that this is not at all a sweet Virginia. I was expecting a sweeter Virginia after reading the sugar content on the tin—I guess 10% is actually a low sugar content. Anyway, it does remind me more of Union Square than anything else.
 

Cheeseybacon

Well-known member
#10
My only quibble is that I’m not at all confident it will get much better with age only because I’ve seen very little benefit from age with C&D Va blends. No idea why, but that’s been my experience.
In retrospect, I must concede I agree with you on this and may have mispoken in the final conclusion of this review. I have encountered rather noticable improvements with other brands with as little as a month of idle time in a jar sometimes, but when I really stop and think about it, I don't recall all that many C&D blends that wowed me after even a year or so in a jar. Maybe I'll add an addendum to this review a month or so from now and again in a year or two for curiosity sake.

On possible theory: given their various problems with mold in the past, is it possible that they went with a perhaps more-aggressive-than-necessary fungicide in an effort to make sure it never, ever happens again? If so, is it likely that agent, whatever it is, happens to also negatively affect the beneficial bacteria which is needed for proper aging? Just a thought. :unsure:
 

Cheeseybacon

Well-known member
#15
As one still discovering their palette, I have yet to ave a straight VA that I've truly loved. I feel missing this one might have been a good idea but a good review sir!! I'll keep my eyes open for the next batch.
If you're still trying to figure out Virginias, then yes, you did yourself no disservice by passing this one up. I'm hijacking my own thread now, but have you tried Full Virginia Flake? I had trouble "getting" Virginias too and FVF was the epiphany Virgina that freed me from a downward spiral of Latakia.
 

CrazyIvan779

Well-known member
#16
If you're still trying to figure out Virginias, then yes, you did yourself no disservice by passing this one up. I'm hijacking my own thread now, but have you tried Full Virginia Flake? I had trouble "getting" Virginias too and FVF was the epiphany Virgina that freed me from a downward spiral of Latakia.
From SG? I was able to buy a tin of that a couple months ago. I'm waiting for warmer weather to crack that open.
 

Peeps

Well-known member
#17
I find the C&D 2018 CRF quite enjoyable.
C&D VAs have a certain twang; it’s sort of trademark and I like it.
While this is stewing for a while, I’ve been happy with a 50/50 mix of Opening Night & Interlude, with about 6 months of full rub & hard pack.
Yes, CRF is a different animal from FVF, but I consider it “apples & oranges”.
YMMV
 

JustScott

Well-known member
#19
Great review. Interesting that you got good results in a wide bowl, but then again it IS a C&D blend. Many of theirs are great with room to breathe. Their red VAs seem to be bready across the board. A few years ago I had a "perfection bowl" of Blockade Runner that was all yeasty bread baking, with fleeting almost maple notes. If that happened every time, I'd likely be a VA smoker.