My A-Z of pipe tobacco

A is for Amphora

Another week in the A’s! Give it a few more and we might eventually hit the B’s. This week I’m looking at Amphora, a small but varied range, brought to us by MacBaren.

Amphora Full

Formerly known as “Full Aromatic,” this is a genuinely interesting blend. It has the base of a traditional English style aromatic (Virginia, Burley and Oriental/Turkish) but it also uses a surprisingly varied casing, with hints of chocolate and fruit with a slightly floral element. Pipe tobacco tends to sit in either one of these camps, so it’s very unusual to see a blend with a foot in both territories. The result is very satisfying. The cold aroma is very distinctive: deep, rich tobacco, invigorated by the fruitiness of the casing. It translates really nicely to the taste when burning too. The natural tobacco taste comes through very powerfully, which is a rarity in a cased blend. Again, the tobacco is rich, full-bodied and earthy with a slightly smoky edge. The casing doesn’t fight with this taste, it simply adds a slight puddingy sweetness to it. Overall, this blend has really surprised me (in a good way) as it uses casings in a way very few blends do, but with excellent results.

Amphora Special Reserve No.2

After quite an “Out there” start, we’re getting into more tried and tested territory with the Special Reserve No.2. It has its feet planted firmly in the aromatic side of the scale, with a blend of Virginia, Burley and Black Cavendish, topped with a “Ripe cherry” casing. While cherry is very familiar grounds for any aromatic pipe smoker, this blend takes it in an interesting direction by choosing a casing that isn’t “Black” cherry. This means it has a much more fresh and natural character, compared to Black Cherry, which is often extremely sweet and can sometimes stray into sickly sweet. The casing is clearly applied with restraint as it doesn’t totally dominate the blend, allowing for the quality of the tobacco to shine through amongst the sweetness. This is definitely one to try if you like cherries, but have found other cherry flavoured pipe blends not to be to your taste.

Amphora Original

After straying back to more traditional territory, the final blend I’m tasting goes straight back to the more unusual (but not totally unheard of) side of the tracks. It begins simply enough; a blend of Virginia, Kentucky, Burley and Oriental. So far, so normal; a traditional sweet, slightly spicy and smoky English style mixture. However, the interesting twist on this blend is the addition of a chocolate flavoured casing, not something you usually see in conjunction with “Spice” tobaccos. Like I said though, it’s not totally unheard of; Bob’s Flake from Gawith & Hoggarth goes for a similar concept.

While it might seem a little strange at first, I think it works really well. The chocolate is sweet but subtle, so it simply balances out some of the base blend’s intensity, rather than trying to override it. As the bowl progresses, the two types of flavour start to mingle beautifully, turning into a crisp, caramel type flavour, almost like burnt sugar/Crème Brulee. I feel they’ve also made a smart choice with the cut of the blend: It is a long, ribbon type cut, with pieces of what appears to be broken flake. This creates a very cool, slow burning mixture, which really allows the blend’s character to develop in a slow, tantalising manner.

All in all, this range has really pleasantly surprised me. Considering it only features three blends it manages to cover a lot of different bases, sometimes within the same blend in ways you might not expect. The blend names are quite unassuming, so I imagine a lot of people could have overlooked this range, not knowing the intriguing concepts that lie within the packaging (I definitely did.) If you’re in the same boat, I definitely recommend giving them a go, even if it’s just for a change of pace.

Next time… I’m still on the A’s but I think it’s the last one and then I can finally move onto the B’s!

-Calum – Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester.

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