In this pipe tobacco review, we’ll be reviewing Peterson University Flake. This a classic tobacco blend of Virginia and Burley, treated with a famed plum topping, pressed into a plug, then sliced into neat, attractive, flakes. Intriguingly, University Flake is a deeply aromatic pipe tobacco but based upon high quality leaf instead of flavorless black cavendish. Also atypical for this sort of flavored tobacco, this flake packs quite a nicotine punch, providing an option for those looking for a sweet, but satisfying smoke.
Michael goes over the components of this tinned tobacco, details a short production history, reviews the tin design and presentation of the tobacco, offers advice on drying times and packing style, describes the aromas from both the raw flake and while it’s being smoked, then provides detailed tasting notes using three different pipes at three different drying times. Finally, Michael rates University Flake and recommends similar pipe tobacco blends.
BULK or TIN: Tin
ORIGIN: Blended in Denmark
Virginias – India
Burley – Undisclosed Origin
BLENDING HOUSE/PRODUCER: Peterson
BLENDING COMPONENTS: Virginia and Burley with a plum topping
July and August 2020
As hot a summer as anyone can recall in these parts
The Perseid meteor shower and the babbling of my wife
RELEASE TYPE widely available
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE 1950s
SPECIAL RELEASE N
RESEARCH & BACKGROUND INFO
- Part of the original Peterson Line of the 1950s
- Original production was done by Murray in Ireland
- Production taken over by Kohlhase & Kopp for many years
- Currently blended by MacBaren
The most recent iteration of the tin applies the classic understated white text on blue to the round tins. These seal much more securely than the old square tins, like I have been smoking from. While the design itself is not striking, the color and font are such that you can pick this out immediately when you walk into a store are given the permission to go through a collector’s cellar.
LOOK & FEEL OF THE LEAF
University Flake is certainly a European style — or make that a MacBaren style —flake. Each slice is cut uniformly, and make a beautiful stack in the tin. The color is this rich inviting chocolate brown with flecks of white throughout.
Opening the tin, you get overwhelmed with a big fruity burst. It’s dried apricots, dried apple, and a hint of prune. Underneath this you can pick out a subtle smoke and a musty earthiness.
LIGHT & DRAW
Packing Style: I tried my favorite flake packing technique first, the Cannonball, but it neither tasted nor burned particularly well. I always got the best flavors and performance fully rubbing the flakes out.
Fire: My psychedelic Bic
SMOKE & ROOM NOTE
The smoke from University Flake is unremarkable, being neither very thick nor very wispy.
Aroma notes from my wife: Classic pipe tobacco with an earthy undertone. The dark damp purple smell of prunes. Fireplace crackling and you can tell it’s high quality hardwood burning. It smells like her old family friend’s house she visited in the UP as a child, where years of pipe smoking laid its indelible aromatic print upon the rooms.
— Vermont Freehand Morta Poker; tobacco fresh from the tin
Nutty. Hazelnuts to be specific. Fruity in a vague way. The smoke is quite oily. There’s some pepper there. Leather, like a cigar, not like a English blend. Peanuts and mushrooms. Very burley forward, very cigar like. The fresh plums come through on the taste, but there’s not corresponding sweetness. Heavy cream and raspberry Jam. Mild dark fired notes, root beer and mesquite smoke. Finishes with cardboard and plums.
This was an inauspicious start. I was expecting a more balanced VaBur, but the Virginia is nowhere to be seen and there was no sweetness at all to pull the flavors together. Let’s see if drying this out improves the experience.
— Roma Bent Billiard; 45 minute dry.
Earthy burley with some nuts. It is sweeter this time, and by that I mean it has some to speak some of. Very cigarette-y, bleech. Again the smoke is oily and there is a vague fruit taste. The dark fired Kentucky comes through earlier with pops of pepper and mesquite smoke. It’s very much more a Dark Fired blend this bowl. The plums come through over mesquite and hickory. And root beer, which folds nicely with the plummy taste. There’s a slight sweetness most of the way through, along with a steady bass plucking out earth and peanut notes. Dark fired fades, letting it be just a plummy nutty burley for awhile. The sweetness and salt is all gone. Fades further into a vague nutty burley with just whispers of plum and mesquite smoke towards the end.
This was certainly an improvement, some sweetness come through and more complex flavors presented themselves. Again, the blend is quite unexpected, being if anything Irish Flake Light.
— Missouri Meerschaum Cobbit; dried 3-4 hours until crisp
Plummy mesquite and nutty. An interesting molasses note drives a mild sweetness. This is balanced with a hard, intense pepper. Earth, actually like south Texas dirt. Buttery. Cinnamon, red hots, atomic fireballs. The sweetness fades quickly as the mesquite smoke dominates the palate. It stays very consistent for quite awhile. A bit past the halfway point the mesquite and pepper tones down some, letting cocoa, earth, leather and cream surge forward. It’s quite oily and rich for the most part, but can go cardboard and flat for puffs in a row. Finishes with the burley coffee notes.
This was somewhat less pleasant than the 45 minute dry as some sweetness was lost, in exchange more of the classic burley flavors peaked out from underneath the Dark Fired Kentucky.
RATING & FINAL THOUGHTS
There is a balance you may need to play with when drying out University Flake. Straight from the tin you get little sweetness at all. Moderately dry is the most sweet and plummy. Fully dry the Dark Fired gets top billing, despite it being ostensibly a condimental leaf.
Burning through the bowl you will typically get a burst of burley-plums to start, transition into a dark fired centric blend, and then fade to a more traditional burley flavor profile.
With no dry time, it smokes slow but not particularly well. With significant drying and an aggressive rub out, it smokes much better, but you might struggle still with relights. You might also get some tongue bite with this blend.
It’s fairly unexciting VaBur base is reminiscent of MacBaren Golden Extra. The heavy nicotine aromatic blend makes me think of that other famous fruity VaBur flake, Erinmore. The Dark fired elements recall C&D Burley Flake #3, C&D Bourbon Bleu, and mostly, unsurprisingly, Peterson Irish Flake.
0.50 / 0.40 … Craft & Aesthetic
0.50 / 0.40 … Tin Aroma
0.50 / 0.20 … Lighting Process
8.00 / 4.00 … Smoking Experience
0.50 / 0.00 … Personal Enjoyment
COMPLIMENTS & CRITIQUES
For such a venerated blend, University Flake fell far short of my high expectations. The Virginia doesn’t seem to ever show itself. The burley is pleasant, but is often run roughshod over by the Dark Fired Kentucky, which often dominates the blend. At heart, I find the design of University Flake a bit perplexing – it’s a high nicotine aromatic with minimal sweetness overwhelmed by Dark Fired flavors. It burns poorly and can bite.
With those complaints set out, University Flake is not entirely without merit. The plum flavor is distinct and quite natural. For fans of Dark Fired forward blends, this may be a fine substitution for Irish Flake or other such heavier tobaccos.
The rating below indicates the tobacco is neither particularly good nor particularly bad, but toes the line in between.
SIMPLY STOGIES RATING: 5.0/ 10.0
HOW WE COMPARE
I love reading other reviewers’ thoughts on the blends I’m smoke – it helps to show that no one review is perfect and there’s always different opinions and tastes out there. Here’s how my review stacks up with reviews around the web.