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July 2007

By Charles Hill Full Virginia Ready Rubbed (#88) by Astley’s

This one was a surprise for me. I was expecting some kind of broken flake (rubbed out). No.88 looks and smells just like stoved Virginia ribbon. It has the delightful caramel/brown sugar aroma and is nearly black. The taste is dominated by the caramelized sugar. Smoked straight, #88 is light in body and has little to offer. As a blending tobacco, it has many uses. If you’re looking for that great matured Virginia flake experience, give Astley’s #88 a pass.

Cut Virginia Plug by Fribourg & Treyer

Fine grade Virginias, pressed into a ‘plug’, aged to perfection, and then sliced into beautiful mahogany flakes; this is as good a matured Virginia as can be found. I tasted the lemony citrus undertones of quality bright Va’s throughout the smoke. I aged my tins for 5 years before trying it out – well worth the time. Virginia flake fans alert… get this and cellar immediately! Highly recommended.

Commonwealth Mixture by Samuel Gawith

Don’t let the “Full strength? warning on the label put you off. “Commonwealth Mixture? is half Virginia’s and half Cyprian Latakia. I’m not a huge Latakia fan and 50% Latakia may seem heavy handed in a mixture. I’ve smoked newly produced tins of this and found it too much. What I’m reporting on now, however, is the effect of five years cellaring. The tobacco has become a smooth, rich, flavourful smoking experience with none of the throat searing intensity of unaged Latakia. Aged or not, “Commonwealth Mixture? is worth having. Then again, aged is best!