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Ongoing Virginia review thread


Staff member
I've been hard at this, guys, never fear.

Today I'll talk about Astley 109 and FT Cut Virginia Plug

Here's a pic of both, Astley on the left.


The Astley's is pretty dark, darker than I was expecting given the tin description and some comparisons to Dunhill Flake that I had floated at me by people in the know.

It smells totally clean, I detect no topping at all. Flake is really soft and pliable, a little damp. In the pipe, this lights up and smokes to the bottom with no effort at all. It tastes just fine, but I'm not excited about it - it's very very mild (I found the same with the Astley 44 - tasted okay, but the flavors are sort of muted, it never really explodes). What I was left thinking through the whole experience was "Here's a German-made attempt at making English style virginia." Darker, some deeper flavors, pretty wet, a little more on the earthy end than the citrus. This is a bit like Mellow Mallard but it's not as sweet and not quite as full. Perfectly friendly to smoke, but I honestly don't know why anyone would bother, or rather, I can't see this as being better at anything than many of the tobaccos I've tried so far here.

The Cut Virginia Plug I liked more. In the tin there is a waft of topping, vanilla-ish maybe. Just enough to make you think "What is that?". In the pipe, that comes through at all times - no way this is a "pure" virginia. Very gentle but pervasive vanilla undertone. Don't get me wrong, this isn't Captain Black, the dominant flavors are all bright virginia notes, but there's an added bonus of the topping (bonus for me, I like this kind of treatment).

This tastes great right through - it's sweet, full and interesting. There are some darker notes than Dunhill Flake offers, drifting to a slightly fuller tobacco like HH Pure or Union Square but the overall presentation is a fairly light, sharp va, tempered some by the topnote treatment. I like this a lot, and ordered a few more tins. Another winner from Fribourg.


Well-known member
No expert, but my absolute favorite Virginias include GAF, Brunello, LGF and, one I don’t hear much buzz about,
GH Bright CR Flake.
If I may explain, I tend to lump VAs into three divisions- bright and citrusy, middle ground, and dirty earth. I think most do something similar and @Sasquatch may have first introduced me to this approach.

GAF is a near perfect bright and shiny VA. Delicious citrus and a bit of hay and more delicious. None have surpassed this for me.
Brunello and LGF cover the middle ground for me with the more grassy and hay notes without all of the citrus notes. These 2 are both amazing.
GH Bright CR Flake, for me, is a really nice earthy, dirty VA without getting too dirty. I have smoked it fresh, aged, wet and bone dry and it always tastes the same to me. Some SG and GH Virginias seem to shift flavors to me at different times and get a bit too dirty at times. Not so with the CR Flake.

There are others I smoke and enjoy, but these are my sort of benchmarks for evaluating VAs.
So just one schlep’s opinion of this topic.


What does the goat say?
Brunello tastes like grapes.

Tasting strawberries in this masterful blend marks you as gauche and uncultured. You bunch of goons need to hand yours over to those of us who can actually appreciate Mac Baren’s vision.
So, it's probably strawberry (or grape) but it tastes a whole lot like McClelland's Smyrna No. 1 to me. I wonder if it's just Smyrna?

321 One

Well-known member
So, back a couple years ago now, I started a wide-scope virginia exploration, hoping to get a whole bunch of people adding content with the baseline of two tobaccos to compare against.

The base line blends were Dunhill Flake and Mac Baren Pure Virginia. The Dunhill Flake is sweet, fairly mild, a little citrusy, and full flavored (for a virginia). I found the Pure Virginia a little flatter in flavor profile, like some of the excitement was steamed out. It's totally bite-free, and less citrusy by a long shot.

Neither is probably real "pure" in terms of treatment or additives or whatever.... if you've ever smoked the shaggy virginias from the 60s, they are pretty mean and punchy in comparison, sharp, hot, and prickly.

I did McClelland 24, 25, and 27, and 5100, not in that order. 5100 is caramel-sweet red virginia, mild and friendly. Red has a slightly... deeper or woodier flavor somehow. 24 is great, sweet and balanced by some oriental stoutness. 25 is ... pretty flat to my taste, shaggy cut cake, easy to smoke but nothing too exciting. 27 is sharp and sweet, really tasty but a little fussy and prone (for a McC to biting if you aren't gentle with it). Probably my favorite of those 4.

I smoked Mac Baren Club and their "Virginia Flake" in the tiny yellow tin. Club is one of my favorites, sweet, spicy, smoky, full of life. But the addition of the kentucky/cavendish maybe puts this stuff out of the "pure virginia" category by quite a bit. It's more like a baby va/per. The Virginia Flake proper is nice, sharp and sweet, it settles into a really tasty smoke (typical mac baren notes, not so much honey but the sweet/toast).

Some Dan offerings - Mellow Mallard, Hamborger Veermaster, and Tordenskjeld. The Mallard is real sweet and raisiny, very "virginia" to my tastes. Plain and perfect. Veermaster adds some chocolatey notes to me (does it contain burley?). I find it full and a bit flatter in flavor (again burly-ish), a little bready. Tordenskejd has a neat apple sort of tin note, just comes through in the smoke - again a very friendly top quality offering from Dan. These are all good.

A bunch of MB products - Capstan in both forms and Savinelli Brunello. Capstan Blue is ethereally topped with... lavender or something? Some sugar on there too - it leaves the pipe stem sweet. The yellow is more generically sweet, I can't put my finger on the topping. It's a little brighter and sharper, more like the Virginia Flake to my taste. Brunello is something else again, sweet (and topped) balanced against a weird smoky/sour Macedonian. This is simply brilliant blending. First few bowls I wasn't sure, and after that, I started buying a lot. It's truly excellent.

Another monster in Reiner Long Golden Flake - simply put, this might be the best pipe tobacco ever. Not a pure va, but the toppings used, the sprinkle of perique and the bit of burley just work so well together, it's like smoking a great virginia that is improved in any number of subtle ways, and it all works. REALLY works.

I got me some Dunhill Dark Flake and Ye Olde Signe. The YOS is dark and bready, a real british style va to my thinking. Not grassy sweet, no citrus. More like rye bread. The Dark Flake is nice, it's like... Dunhill Flake only darker, a little woodier or something, but not beastly strong or anything like that.

I smoked a bunch of Rattrays, Brown Clunee, Hal-o-the-wynd, 40 Virginia, Old Gowrie. I like the basic flavor profile of this house - "watery sweetness" is one descriptor on tobacco reviews for the background flavor in some of these, and I agree. Clunee smells and tastes great, it's easy smoking stuff, brown toasty yum. Hal is a lot punchier, healthy pepper snork. Gowrie is more in the middle, a little fuller, a bit of spice, but driven by good quality red va. The 40 virginia I have no real use for. It's.. boring.

McConnell Scottish Flake is a win - like the McC 24 it's a va/or mix and whatever the blend is, it's just perfect. I call these "dirty" virginias - clean good quality flake with an addition of some other "bigger" element that makes the blend sing.

Fribourg and Treyer Vintage Flake is crazy good - a weird cinnamon nose but it smokes like a straight va with maybe... maybe just a touch of black cavendish in it. Lots of flavors, all good. Smells nice.

New to me, the Peterson Signature Flake is a fave - if Orlik Golden Sliced, Reiner Long Golden, and Dunhill Flake form a triangle, this stuff is right in the middle of that triangle. Nice job Peterson!

I'm still working on Gawith "Sam's Flake". It's delicious, smells weird (tonquin), and smokes like heaven.

Two absolute dogs in the pack.... Astley's 55 and Fribourg "Golden Mixture". These are not fit to make cigs with.

I will add more as I hit new blends, and I encourage anyone who has smoked either of the base line blends to add reviews of other stuff.

I did put my nose in a "Union Square" in Chicago and it smelled nice. But I was being offered all kinds of crazy stuff to smoke so I don't think I ever packed a bowl. My loss maybe!
@Sasquatch .. I just noticed this thread. You really sum each one up very nicely. Now I'm going to have to work my way through the list and try each one.


Staff member
So, it's probably strawberry (or grape) but it tastes a whole lot like McClelland's Smyrna No. 1 to me. I wonder if it's just Smyrna?
In theory there's "Macedonian" in the Brunello, which I have attributed the weird sour taste to, not knowing any better. I've had a few bowls now where I did think it was just a tiny smidge strawberry-ish, but mostly I don't taste that.

Billy Ockham

Notice when you are happy.
“The Grape: The name Brunello, meaning “the brown one,” came from the description of the Sangiovese Grosso grapes at harvest time – a dark colored, dusky brown berry. Brunello was the local name given to this type of Sangiovese Grosso, originally identified in 1842 by Clemente Santi. Today, the term is officially reserved for the name of the wine. Sangiovese grown in Montalcino has comparatively thicker skins, compared with grapes grown in other regions, and excellent anthocyanins. Both of these factors contribute to Brunello’s deep tannic structure and rich hue.

Sangiovese is Italy’s most planted single grape variety. It comprises 67% of the Tuscan vineyard acreage and is the main grape in 25 DOC(G)’s of Toscana. Sangiovese is an ancient grape, believed to have resulted from a spontaneous crossing during the Etruscan period. Recent DNA evidence reflects its parentage as a crossing between Ciliegiolo and Calabrese di Montenuovo.

However, there is significant diversity within the grape variety. Sangiovese tends to be genetically unstable and very adaptable; thus, many clones exist. Banfi Vineyards has documented over 600 versions of Sangiovese on their estate alone! Currently, as a result of extensive clonal research trials, the best clones are being propagated. Most estates are using multiple clones in order to add better balance and more complexity to their wines”

Somewhat interesting re: Brunello


Well-known member
From the back of the tin:
"Erik Peter, my Great Grandfather, founded our family's tobacco business in Denmark and was known for his deep passion for natural tobacco flavors. Truly for the experienced pipe smoker, 1855 is a ready-rubbed blend of exceptional golden, mature Virginia tobaccos that demonstrates the natural sweet Virginia taste and its pleasant aroma"

Yes, I like it alot...