Revised: Balkan Showdown

Saint_klaus

Well-known member
Balkan Saseini:

this may be the odd man out. Where so far everything else has been a unique riff on the same song Saseini is whistling a whole different tune.

In the tin: appearance is strikingly different from the others—almost inverted with a lot of light tan, a decent amount of medium browns and some darker bits here and there…everyone else seemed to have a lot more black black black cut in the blend.

tin bite is a departure as well. Other stuff has leaned hard into the oriental spice with a some smoke. Saseini is strong creosote with a bit of spice underneath.

In the pipe:

On light up I am getting an almost malty taste. Charring light and additional light up is Smokey, a little bit of that “pancake” sweetness I get from general balkan/English blends…there is some deep wine like sweetness too. As the bowl progresses there is a hit of intense sweetness every so often, there and then gone that teams up with that wine flavor and brings to mind those cotton candy grapes…it is literally for like a millisecond…makes you go “did I really just taste that ?” Don’t hunt for the flavor though…I did and when I puffed too much it took on a bitter almost “celery” taste to me. Slowed back down and it was that slightly sweet wine with a ir of smoke and occasional bready Virginia.

There is really nothing “Sobranie Like” about this and as such it may lose this round by default but I will grab a bowl or two more before I reach a conclusion.

I would say this goes a long way to scratching a similar itch to Margate. May be worth a try if you enjoy the Turds but either can’t get it or down want to spend the markup.

will be mucking about with some Bengal Slices white later on this week..probably some
More bowls of Saseini too.

cheers!
 

Saint_klaus

Well-known member
Interesting! I find Balkan Supreme bites a little, so it's not high on my personal list. Sounds like you didn't have the same problem.

Cup O' Joe's sells Balkan Sasieni in bulk for much cheaper than the tin.
Yeah, didn’t really get a bite from it…definitely warmer on he tongue than the others but not as bad as say Star of the East Gold or Presbyterian.

good tip on the bulk. Down the road I may have to do a side by side with the Saseini and some Margate.
 

Chico

Well-known member
Funny, without having smoked any of these in long while, I would have thought Margate would be closer to Supreme than to Sasieni (thought still not very). To my memory, the latter is stronger in the Latakia department than most "Balkan" blends. But maybe not.
 

Cramptholomew

It's, like, Phyllis DIller funny.
Sales
Old Ted Award
I never thought of Sasieni being in the same vein as Margate, but that does make quite a bit of sense. I really like Balkan Sasieni. I have a fair amount of "Balkans", and Sasieni is what usually goes in my pipe. I get a lot of orientals from Sasieni, which is why I like it so much. It's the sandalwood/cedar thing going on. Supreme is good, but like @mingc i find it a little bitey.
 

Idsmokedat

Well-known member
I have settled on 12 blends for Division 1:

(these are somewhat arbitrary based on my interests plus some of the suggestions I have received and are geared towards potentially “Sobranie like” blends)

Charring Cross
Bengal Slices
Blackhouse
Match BS 759
White Knight
Match BSOSM
Balkan Sobranie (Germains)
Balkan Sasanei
Rich’s Balkan Superior
Arango Balkan Supreme
Balkan II
LJ Peretti Royal

Need to order a few of these but am waiting for tomorrow so I can grab them along with the latest Birds of a Feather release and then need to put in an order with with Peretti for the Royal. Should have everything in hand about the same time I finish up the current row of cellar backlog. Will celebrate by running a couple of the brackets before continuing on the ‘ol backlog. Will post my match-ups once I draw it up.
:popc:
 

Idsmokedat

Well-known member
Had a minute so I drew it up. Had planned to go in order but I’m starting to get excited so I may do these rounds out of order just because I already have the blends for a couple of them. We will see.

View attachment 179610
What a great read this here thread.
I have just started venturing into the Balkan study myself. I must admit your approach is Brilliant and well worded, the method dually noted.
I have found a striking phenomenon taking place with me and this forum.
For example a idea comes to me as in a pipe question, technique or a direction in study of this fine art of Pipe smoking and then there is the next clue your post or somebody else's or a continuation of thought expressed in a familar way , either doing it talking about it or sharing knowledge on it or a idea. This has happened enough that Iam aware of it now and is no longer a coincidence for me, quite esoteric the word not the tobaaco. I can not put my finger on it but is observed.

Well any way thanks for the rant I ordered a 11 year old tin of Balkan Sasanei last week and then followed up and ordered a fresh Tin and will be doing a similar Test.
This thought and experiment of mine was thought up and put into motion before I had read your post.

A familar theme

Ps
It is nice to share thoughts on the hobby with like minded souls. All the years I have been at it trying to demystify what it is I enjoy about smoking a Pipe, I have never ran into a pipe smoker in the wild let alone find anyone who truly gets it.

Great Post
 

Saint_klaus

Well-known member
@Chico,

to me the Saseini (I will be so glad when I don’t have to remember how to spell that every time) is plenty strong strong in the Lat dept. But but it almost HOW it is strong in the lat that brings to mind Margate…the smokiness has an almost mineral (?) quality to it…cannot find a better word than creosote.

@Cramptholomew

I was really pleasantly surprised by it. What I am describing as “wine like” could definitely be the orientals—I don’t use words like “celery” and “olives” because I have a super refined palette hehehe.

@Idsmokedat

I am glad you are enjoying it. I 100% get what you mean…I will have maybe only a half formed thought in my head and I start browsing randomly on here and there it is…somebody had already put it into words or said something that was the missing link to what I was trying to figure out. And it definitely does seem to be some form of convergence taking place sometime where the universe shifts and all of a sudden there are a ton of posts/threads regarding something I thought I was the only one thinking about.

I am a Commercial/industrial HVAC Technician by trade and we do this a lot at work: if I am stuck beating my head against the wall trying to diagnose a problem I will call a coworker and walk them through my thought process for what I am working on. 9 times out of 10 I already had the answer but I had to say it out loud to realize it. The other 10% of the time it’s good to know if I am way off track kr if they maybe have a better way.

this exercise I’ve embarked on with the Balkans is the same sort of deal: putting it down in writing helps me organize and judge my thought process and the feedback from others helps me know I haven’t completely jumped the shark and points me in directions I never would have looked on my own.
 

Saint_klaus

Well-known member
Balkan Saseini Vs Bengal Slices White:

slices:

Open the tin to those little “sticks” of crumble cake and a smell of smoky, spicy goodness.
in the pipe I find the orientals in this are very flavorful with a. Mild sweet, floral, incense type of flavor that is backed up nicely by the very slight pancake/bready sweetness from the Virginias (I assume) and further enhanced by the deep smoke from the Lat. That “olive” note was very slight and seemed to swirl in and out infrequently but it was present. seemed to smoke well no matter what I did to it and has that lovely balance that provides complexity when you want it but it doesn’t demand attention.

Saseini:

somewhat thin ribbon with the usual tans, browns and blacks. Tin note is very much creosote with maybe a hint of underlying spice along with a malty kind of sweetness. In the pipe very oriental on light and for a few puffs after. Then a little bit of the virginias come in and then (to me) that wine note starts in and as long as I kept my cadence reasonable it was a more or less constant. The lat is somewhat sharp and mineral instead of soft and deep incense/sweet etc. I think the wine note is just how I am experiencing the interplay of Orientals and virginias in this. As I have said—to me this was very reminiscent of margate. When pushed this became somewhat thin and “shrill”.

Winner:

7B38B78C-76CD-4020-BDA9-6584A6AD1AB1.jpeg

Because—it fits the brief closer of a “sobranie” type balkan, and because it had a great balance of flavors, smoke-ability and repeatability BS White will advance to the next round.

Saseini is great, surprisingly so even but I think if nothing else it loses here on a technicality…comparing it isn’t quite apples to oranges but apple to pears maybe? I would encourage anyone to give it a try.

next round will be: LJP Royal Vs Rich’s Balkan Superior.

Is the hometown underdog from the PacNw even what it claims to be? If it is just a rebadged Sutliff blend then what blend? Will LJPs centuries of experience and rare exotic ingredients win the day or will Rich’s mysterious background and potential tester bias force an upset? We will try to answer these questions and more…probably Monday or something.

cheers
 

delcrossv

Well-known member
I feel like C&D Super Balkan is often overlooked. It's a tasy blend with a bit of Perique as a condiment. It has almost 30 reviews and a very high (3.8) rating on TR. It's not a C&D original, it was once a product of Atlas Blending Corp and is readily available at many of the online retailers that carry C&D

C&D Super Balkan (TR link)

I'm smoking it now and it's very "latakia-ey" to me. More of a kick then Balkan Sobranie if memory serves, as i haven't smoked BS in a long time.
 

Saint_klaus

Well-known member
LJP Royal Vs Rich’s Balkan Superior.

Royal:

black Latakia with some lighter browns and tans in a pretty straightforward ribbon cut. Tin note is sour herbal and incense/cedar. In the pipe the orientals seem to dominate (in a good way) with the Lat weaving through everything and tying it all together. There is a sweetness to it as well but I can’t find the “edge” of it. It is almost the perception of sweetness rather than the fact—having trouble finding the words for it. In a lot of blends the sweetness has a hard edge or you can taste as it fluctuates/comes in and then backs off. Not so with Royal. The sweetness is consistent and mellow with no real sharpness to it. The orientals are sour and incense like but more cedar and resin than a sharp spice. This all adds up to a smoke that will hold your interest but not in a way that is at all demanding. Only downside I had is that for me it could go a little soapy when pushed too hard.

Rich’s Balkan Superior:

same as above but with less tan leaf. Tin note is very heavy spice and incense with a mineral like smokiness. Flavor wise Rich’s has some very nice incense almost Nag Champa like but with some sharper edges and missing the sourness that was present in the Royal. The sweetness is much more homogeneous and of that pancake/bread sort that comes and goes. Smoke from the lat is more on the mineral side with a hint of creosote.

I would say that these two smokes are or nearly are equal in quality. They are almost two sides of the same coin (pleasant surprise as I matched them simply because they were the two “house blends” on the list). On a basic level they have very similar flavor profiles but where Balkan Superior tends to favor some of the high notes Royal is a much deeper, almost richer experience.

if they are both Donovan songs Rich’s is Season of the Witch while Royal is more Hurd Gurdy Man (no idea where this comparison came from but it makes sense to me)

Somebody told me that nowadays Rich’s is a relabeled Sutliff blend—I would like to know if this is true because it really is a good balkan…that I have to go to downtown Portland and pay $10 an oz to get it is the only thing keeping me from adding this to my heavy rotation.

that being said (and I was rooting for the Portland Pipe Weed) the win will have to go to Royal. Even on a pallet cleaner day while smoking a lovely navy flake I found myself wishing it was Royal. It is just a rich, beautiful smoke that I always looked forward to.

next round will be Blackhouse Vs Sutliff Bs759 Match. After my experience with White Knight/Match BSOSM I fully expect this round to go fast. Only major variable is that the Match came to me somewhat dry at the beginning of last year so it probably isn’t as potent as the blackhouse.

Happy smokes everyone!
 

Saint_klaus

Well-known member
Maybe instead of just eliminating it, you could make it the start of a category 2 you mentioned earlier.
Oh fear not…just because something isn’t advancing to round two doesn’t mean it’s gone for good.

already plan on at the very least doing a comparison between Saseini and Margate.

figure I will wait until this initial showdown is in the bag before I unleash the chaos of asking for opinions on balkans of other stripes.
 

Saint_klaus

Well-known member
Russ has posted elsewhere that the Match is not exactly the same as WhiteKnight. He says that the Match has some substitutions in order to save costs. However, if you can't taste the difference, then it doesn't really matter.
That makes total sense. Like I have said before… I don’t have the most refined palate in the world so small differences would probably be lost on me.
 

Saint_klaus

Well-known member
Blackhouse vs Sutliff BS 759 Match.

385A9BD8-1C0E-4F0B-9D82-198AF79BF0AE.jpeg

I went into this fully expecting a repeat of my experience with white knight/BSOSM.

man was I wrong. Where in the previous two I struggled to find a difference of any real note I had a hard time finding any common ground with BS 759 and Blackhouse.

759 had the same meaty/olive and slight cedary incense that the white labels had but it was all background to an ever present but well behaved stewed fruit like sweetness. I have probably had blends during this experiment that I liked more but this is certainly no slouch either. Definitely repeatable.

Blackhouse on the other hand took that olive like meatiness and wrapped it in a mineral, almost salty smokiness. There was some light incense present but I only rarely got a hit of that stewed fruit and even then it was very brief, blink and you’ll miss it. I didn’t find it to be terribly pleasant.

As mentioned in an earlier post the Match has been mellowing for about a year while the blackhouse was opened about two weeks ago—still I can’t see this accounting for such a wide difference. I am open to being wrong though and it will be interesting to see if I warm to the Blackhouse over time.

for now though the Sutliffs BS 759 Match will advance to the next round.

recap incoming as we move into the final pair.

cheers
 

Saint_klaus

Well-known member
As we move into the final match up I thought it would be worthwhile to do a brief recap.

round 1: went to Sutliffs BSOSM Match
—after an early mixup with jar lids things got back on track and the Match clinched the first win against White Knight based on its being at least nearly identical to its opponent while providing the convenience and cost savings of being available in bulk.

round 2: the underdog, Balkan II came out on top by virtue of being much more repeatable than Balkan Supreme.

Round 3: Saw Bengal Slices white come out on top over Balkan Saseini. Both were good but in the end the Slices just fit the category better and it could be said won on a technicality.

Round 4: LJ Peretti’s Royal handily beat the hometown kid with a potential identity disorder Rich’s Balkan Superior. Rich’s was good but just could not stand up to the onslaught of LJPs century + of experience and tasty tasty Macedonian leaf.

Round 5: in the twist that no one (or at least not me) saw coming: Sutliffs BS 759 Match trounced Blackhouse while giving lie to the idea that one is just a bull version of the other. If they were both Dutch: Blackhouses pickled herrings never had a chance against 759s smoky sweet Stroopwafel!

This brings us to Round 6 where GL Pease’s Charring Cross will go toe to toe with Germaine’s Balkan Sobranie.

Stay tuned if you aren’t completely annoyed yet.
 
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