Pipe Tobacco Review: GL Pease Barbary Coast

When you are a collector sometimes something lands in your hoard that your hand just shies away from when you look for something new. Maybe it’s a bottle of brandy you bought despite being a bourbon and scotch only kind of drinker. Or you ended up with one, or more likely twenty, games in your Steam library you don’t know when you’ll ever actually take time to play. Then there’s that ‘Cohiba‘ your buddy brought back from Jamaica which you aren’t quite sure is actually tobacco. I’ve avoided popping this tin of Barbary Coast for 5 years, I think it’s time.

What are the marks against Barbary Coast? It comes from the C&D factory which has plenty of hits – and plenty of misses. It’s a pebble cut, which has never, ever worked out for me. And it’s got a boozy topping, which often burns hot and tastes weird. But I’ve had a string of reviews of incredible tobaccos, maybe this will surprise me – or I’ll have fun panning this one.

OVERVIEW

BULK or TIN:   Tin

SIZE:   2 oz, 8 oz

ORIGIN:   United States

AGE WHEN SMOKED:   5 years

BLENDING HOUSE/PRODUCER:   GL Pease

BLENDING COMPONENTS:   Burley, red Virginia, perique

STRENGTH:   3/7 moist, 5/7 dried

SOURCE:   smokingpipes.com

ENVIRONMENT

WHERE:   
Central PA

WHEN:   
December 2023-February 2024

WEATHER:   

I come from the lands of ice and snow…

WHAT’S ON:   
Fat squirrels chittering on the pines

PRODUCTION

RELEASE TYPE  available

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE  2001

SPECIAL RELEASE  N

AVAILABILITY BREAKDOWN
Tin

RESEARCH & BACKGROUND INFO

  • One of only two burley forward offerings from GL Pease from more than 70 blends
  • Barbary Coast was one of GL Pease’s first blends made in collaboration with C&D
  • Like many of Pease’s early creations, Barbary Coast was named after an area of San Francisco
  • The Barbary Coast was the red light district of old San Francisco, full of brothels and dive bars, thus serving a perfect name for an strong, extra boozy blend

TIN DESIGN

With a mostly white background with a handful of photographs of pipes in black, this tin art is…boring. The label in white text fades into the picture, something that seemed poorly thought out. It’s not ugly, but it’s the kind of tin art that slips immediately from your mind when you look away.

PRE-LIGHT OBSERVATIONS

LOOK & FEEL OF THE LEAF
Barbary Coast is a mixture of tan and cocoa brown tobacco. It’s sold as a pebbblecut and yes there are cube cut elements, but there’s a roughly equal amount of very short ribbon in here. The leaf is extremely wet to the touch. I’m going to try this right at the moment of tin pop, but this is gonna need some drying time I reckon.

TIN AROMA
Ketchup, cocoa, earth, and brandy. Well this has got to be an interesting experience.

SMOKING EXPERIENCE

LIGHT & DRAW
Packing Style:  I started with a gravity feed but found it needed a more traditional 2-3 pinch style pack
Fire:  Bic

SMOKE & ROOM NOTE
This is not the first time I’ve hinted in this review at tin moisture and well dried there’s a big difference – that was nodded in the nicotine rating. The feel of the smoke changes with moisture was well. Right from the tin, it’s quite dry, dried out it takes a more oily texture.

Moist, the smoke gives off a distinct brandy aroma floating on a bed of leather-earthy cigar notes. Dried the brandy mostly fade with just the mild cigar smell hanging around.

FIRST BOWL
>> Packed immediately after popping the tin, gravity feed, Briarworks buckeye

Earth, leather, dark chocolate with an intriguing red wine finish. It’s fruity and boozy. Oily cocoa, coffee, with a hefty pinch of pepper underneath that lingers for a long while. Musty. Artificial blueberry, salt, and caramel. Well that wasn’t expected. Musty, spicy, and raspberry Jolly Rancher. The retrohale is very earthy which reminds me there is burley in here. Blueberry, caramel, raspberry shrub, both black and white pepper, heavily musty, raisins, hay, sugar. 

A bit past the halfway mark there’s a distinct shift into burley territory. Cocoa, coffee, and earth take over. Honey, leather, dark chocolate, chicory, and molasses. Macadamia nuts. White pepper and fruit just tingle across the tongue. In the last third the brandy resolves itself clearly, with boozy, fruity grape and raspberry notes.

That was a ride. I was surprised about 90% of this bowl. I had expected burley notes first, with some Virginia here and there and a light brandy topping. Instead it was heavily topped, Virginia dominated, with burley acting as the backup singer. 

There were plenty of relights and it needed some heavy tamping to keep it burning. I will dry this out and also forgo the gravity feed typically used for cube cut on the next bowl.

SECOND BOWL
>> 2 hour dry, 2 pinch method with a heavy pack, Briarworks buckeye

Sweet cocoa with boozy brandy. Pepper, sugar, brandy, soft cocoa, anise, pepper, earth. It’s fairly spicy. Bright red fruits, some wax, intensely sweet. Malty and fruity. The spice has come down to the medium range. Nuances of cocoa, coffee, and molasses that hang around in the back. Tinge of salt, red wine, and cocoa. Macadamia nuts, vinegar, salt, with a long cocoa finish. 

Lemon oil, vinegar, sugar, hay, pepper, wax, Swedish Fish, strawberry starbursts. Sugar red candy fading into nutty cocoa, hay, and butter. The brandy booziness is always vaguely there, which seems to nip at the tongue. Sugary bursts of fruity candy, cocoa, coffee, nuts, vinegar, brandy, macadamias, and pepper. This one is complex but pretty consistent. The smoke has turned noticeably oily somewhere here.

In the final third it gets more chocolatey, but it’s still hanging on in that fruity, boozy, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugarbomb territory. The base notes continue on the same as well – musty, nutty, coffee, earth. The brandy gives it some funky off notes here and there, something like overripe grape.

The drying time seemed to accentuate the brandy flavors, as well as letting the traditional burley flavors come more to the fore. This might have been the sweetest bowl of anything labeled a burley I’ve ever smoked. And while the burley flavors pop more dried some, it’s still leaning towards aromatic VaPer. Let’s see what happens if you let this stuff get crunchy.

THIRD BOWL
>> Dried from sunrise to sunset to an absolute crisp, gravity fed then given a heavy smoosh

Sweet, bready, bitter chocolate, salt and vinegar rising through the finish. Sugary, malty, oily. Very peppery all of the sudden, almost numbing. Malty, bready red Virginia. Lactic, like heavy cream, red wine, vinegar, bitter chocolate, malty, and quite spicy. Balsamic vinegar, oh wow, ketchup. Red wine and red wine vinegar. Tangy, salty, brown sugar, malty. 

Rich cocoa, coffee, malt, red wine and red wine vinegar, brown sugar an salt – this is vinegar heavy sugar bomb. The pepper goes up and down, but it stays at this heavenly juncture for a long time. Eventually the pepper builds. A pastry note enters the arrival. It’s pastry, vinegar, salt, white pepper, red wine vinegar, cocoa, coffee.  Red wine and balsamic flows through. It’s razor sharp. Cloves and black tea. Well I’m sad to have it go out.

Well this is almost a completely different tobacco. This had many of the same flavors, but better integrated, and bigger too. It burned a bit easier but never too fast or hot. There were new notes that elevated this from a good blend to absolute greatness.

 

RATING & FINAL THOUGHTS

FLAVOR PROGRESSION
At tin moisture or dried a little Barbary Coast starts very Virginia dominate, with sweet, fruity, vinegary flavors, then shifts into more traditional burley cocoa, coffee, and earthy flavors. Well dried the bowl is much better integrated, but with new notes and complexity throughout.

BURN EXPERIENCE
Finally I’ve run into a pebblecut tobacco that delivers on the promise of easy smoking. However skip the ‘gravity fill and go’ advice and either use a pinch method, or apply some pressure after gravity filling, as it needs some compression to maintain the burn. 

At tin moisture I got a bit of tongue bite, but with a bit of drying time even the ever present brandy didn’t pose a problem.

SIMILAR BLENDS
GL Pease’s other topped VaBurPer, Haddo’s Delight is similar, but much spicier and heavier on the burley, or really cigar flavors. Sutliff 212 is a bulk VaBur with the same vibes not but no perique and no topping. Smoking at tin moisture actually tasted more like a Gran Mareva more than anything else I’ve smoked.

Well dried, it’s more in the area of Germain’s Rich Dark Flake and aged Esoterica Stonehaven, Wessex Campaign Dark Flake, and McClelland Navy Flake.

RATING BREAKDOWN
0.25 / 0.50 … Craft & Aesthetic
0.50 / 0.50 … Tin Aroma
0.50 / 0.50 … Lighting Process
7.80 / 8.00 … Smoking Experience
0.50 / 0.50 … Personal Enjoyment

COMPLIMENTS & CRITIQUES

DRY UP THE COAST.

There are many pipe smokers out there who refuse to dry their tobacco. They are missing out on a whole world of flavors. This is quite like when they xray a Da Vinci and find an even more spectacular painting underneath. I’ve seen this in numerous blends, from quite Virginias to bold English, but the transformation in Barbary Coast is among the most dramatic I’ve ever tasted. 

I was skeptical of the whole idea but this blend works. The brandy is nearly ever present, even when well dried out. I was a bit disappointed when the burley portion of this ostensibly burley forward blend played second fiddle to the red Virginia – but the Virginia was so amazing, I didn’t even mind. Now a caveat about my experience, I did wait 5 years to burn this so at a younger age the VA might be less spectacular and less intense. But with those mystical ketchup notes arriving, hallmark of the best of all aged red VA, if you do sit on this you’ll be well rewarded.

SIMPLY STOGIES RATING:  9.55/ 10.0

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