Burley lovers are the redheaded stepchildren of the pipe tobacco family. Do you like English? There are over 250 readily available options for you. Fancy Virginia? Over 300. Just a Virginia Flake? You still have about 100 options. Okay you want a pure Virginia? You still have dozens of tins and handful of widely distributed pure Virginia Flakes. How about a pure Burley Flake? Until around this time last year, there were two options, Wessex Burley Slice and Solani Aged Burley Flake. Two pure burley flakes you could buy, that is if you could find them as they seem to be in perpetual demand. Until Cobblestone Outdoors Hiking was released. Now we have three options. Let’s see how Cobblestone burns and tastes, and if it adds something to the conversation, or if two burley flakes were quite enough to cover the range of this genre.
BULK or TIN: Tin
ORIGIN: Denmark or Germany
AGE WHEN SMOKED: Fresh
BLENDING HOUSE/PRODUCER: This is a matter of dispute. It’s distributed by Sutliff but it’s manufactured somewhere in the EU. Sutliff doesn’t manufacture anything in Europe. There’s good reason to believe this actually made by Kohlhase and Kopp
BLENDING COMPONENTS: Burley
STRENGTH: Strong 4/7 to Light 5/7
The far east edge of the Midwest
Crisp, brisk spring days
Sparrow song and lawn mowers
RELEASE TYPE available
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE Spring 2022
SPECIAL RELEASE N
RESEARCH & BACKGROUND INFO
- Made in the EU…somewhere
- Imported by Sutliff
- Probably made by Kohlhase and Kopp (K&K)
- K&K just happen to make the other two pure burley flakes under the Wessex and Solani subrands
Another clue this isn’t a Sutliff product: the name of this blend is Hiking and what we are shown are a trio of intimidating, vaguely Alpine mountain peaks, not the soft blue ridge mountains of Virginia. The tin art of Hiking hits that classic minimalist vibe, like it could have easily been release in 1952 and not 2022.
LOOK & FEEL OF THE LEAF
This are not Sutliff Flakes. Really no one in America produces flake that are this beautifully uniform and regular. They are quite pliable, indicating a bit of moisture is still retained, but they don’t feel wet.
Dried figs and apricots hit your nose first, then cocoa, malt, seawater, must, and a lingering aroma of brown bread.
LIGHT & DRAW
Packing Style: I did a full rub, a partial rub, and also a variant of the Fold’n’stuff I call the cannonball.
Fire: Pickle Bic!
SMOKE & ROOM NOTE
The smoke from Hiking is on the wispy side.
The smoke smells quite a bit like a mild cigar, cocoa, and earthy, with a hint of mesquite.
>> Freshly opened tin moisture, full rubbed, Briarworks Buckeye
Nutty, grassy, with some light pepper. Woodsmoke. It’s quite savory. The smoke is extremely oily. There’s a touch of fruit. This has that heavy cream richness to it. A hint of salt starts binding the flavors together. Swedish fish, nuts, cocoa, coffee. Just a smidge of licorice. The pepper comes and goes. Anise, cloves, heavy cream, coffee-cocoa, with a very oily mouthfeel. The salt grows, with a bit of sweetness coming through. Malty too. Prunes, figs, and a hint of mesquite. Finally settles into nutty-cocoa-coffee-licorice for a good long while. Hints of salt, woodsmoke, and mesquite weave in and out.
Well. It’s quite fruity like the Solani burley flake, but with the distinct licorice of the Wessex version. But it has some dark fired in there which neither of those blends have. This took some work to smoke, let’s see what happens when we dry this stuff out.
>> Rolled into a cannonball then dried 3 hours, Briarworks Buckeye
Sweeeeet. That’s a distinct change from the savory leaning first bowl. Plummy with woodsy bitterness that sets against the dominant straight sugar flavor. Spicy. Also very, very rich. Woodsmoke, cocoa, coffee, nuts, and mesquite. There is no question there is Dark Fired Kentucky in here. Hiking produces quite a bit of smoke, but the smoke is on the wispy side. Licorice and Swedish fish. Black pepper. The cocoa-coffee and licorice-red candy flavors alternate for a bit. My mouth is so oily. The sweetness has calmed down from that initial sugar shock, but it hums along the whole way. Earth and salt come in. Also some vinegar. This tastes closer to a VaBur than a straight Burley, quite like Solani Aged Burley Flake. Then bam it shifts entirely into cocoa-coffee-hazelnuts-licorice, a dead ringer for Wessex Burley Slice. Earthy, sugar, with a hint of molasses. The mesquite is there from time to time, as are the black pepper, earth, and plum notes.
This smoked much, much easier than at tin moisture. Smoking more easily means it also bumped up the nicotine strength at least by one level. And one level beyond what I can smoke after having nothing but aromatics for a month. I’ll move testing into a smaller bowl.
>> Fully rubbed out and fully dried, Dr. Grabow Duke
Mesquite and hickory from the start. Salty and sugary. Peanuts. Soy sauce. The smoke is very oily, so that is undiminished by the long dry time. There’s a fruitiness too, which again smacks of Swedish Fish or red Twizzlers. There’s a mild, but very distinct and present sweetness. Earth and leather. Heavy cream. Red candy, sugary, with mesquite, and white vinegar. Switches to cocoa and black coffee for a bit. My mouth is slick with oil. The cocoa keeps growing, with the earth, vinegar, raspberry sweetness, and salt just holding it in check.
This was a much shorter bowl and did not have as much space to develop, but the same arc was there. The narrower bowl made the condiment notes stand out more directly, highlighting both the dark fired driven taste of mesquite and hickory smoke, while also enhancing the red candy flavors. I suspect that if I had a really wide pot, even a tomato, the larger chamber diameter would homogenize the flavor so that these notes would be less distinct.
RATING & FINAL THOUGHTS
The general flavor progression is from nutty-fruity in the first half to deeper cocoa-coffee-earthy flavors in the second half.
Fresh from the tin Cobblestone Hiking required a few relights and some extra fire tending to keep going. With a bit of drying these issues fell away. It’s easy enough to fold’n’stuff this flake with some drying time if that’s your fancy.
From the branding, packaging, and cut Hiking seems like a competitor to Solani Aged Burley Flake and Wessex Burley Slice. While it has the fruity-nutty heart of the former and the licorice-cocoa-coffee of the latter, those aren’t the blends that come most often to mind. Instead it was MacBaren’s HH Burley Flake. The MacBaren flake is composed of Virginia, Burley, and Dark Fired, and so you get sweetness from the VA, cocoa-coffee-nuts from the Burley, and mesquite-hickory smoke from the DFK – which is quite similar to Hiking. This is also a similar taste profile to C&D Burley Flake #4, which I think is the best, most burley focused of the series.
0.50 / 0.50 … Craft & Aesthetic
0.45 / 0.50 … Tin Aroma
0.45 / 0.50 … Lighting Process
7.50 / 8.00 … Smoking Experience
0.30 / 0.50 … Personal Enjoyment
COMPLIMENTS & CRITIQUES
A WELL TRAVELLED TRAIL.
As stated in the introduction, there is a dearth of Burley flakes. There are only two widely distributed options out there and they are often out of stock at the major online retailers. Cobblestone Hiking seemed like a promising third option, and while it is good, it falls just short of greatness. Despite the label, there is clearly Dark Fired Kentucky in these flakes. Now Dark Fired is made from burley, but that’s like substituting chipotles for fresh Jalapeno peppers; they start out identical, but the processing certainly changes the flavor profile.
The other principal issue is that this tobacco says nothing new. In fact, like early career Electric Light Orchestra, it tries to be an amalgam of everything that’s already popular. The tobacco is of the highest quality, the flakes are pressed and cut beautifully, the tin presentation is exquisite, but it adds almost nothing to the conversation. I prefer the classic cocoa-coffee-licorice of Wessex Burley Slice. Others might prefer the twizzler-hazelnut profile of Solani Aged Burley Flake. Some might like the more Dark Fired oriented MacBaren HH Burley Flake. And then those who like the high nicotine, more heavily mixed burley may stay with the C&D offerings. It is sweeter that the two directly competing products. It is stronger. But I was hoping for something less derivative.
And yet, it’s good tobacco with no faults. If you like burley flakes you’ll find this delicious and maybe you’ll like that little extra punch and taste of mesquite.