I can’t believe it’s taken this long, but I’ve finally reached the B’s in this lengthy A-Z rundown of tobacco blends.

The Brand

Borkum Riff is a tried-and-true exemplar of the Scandinavian style of tobacco blending/flavouring and has seen some evolution of its decades of existence, as well as – sadly – a bit of downsizing. The brand was founded in the 1960s in Sweden and their original release was a relatively simple blend of Virginia and Burley, coarse cut, with no casing. While it is now a very well-respected tobacco, it didn’t release to a huge fanfare. In fact, it wasn’t until the very end of the 1960s, when a version of this original mixture combined with a Bourbon Whiskey casing finally took off in the USA, that Borkum Riff found its feet and began to run with it. Over the following years, the range grew massively and incorporated an impressive selection of flavours, from certified classics, such as Cherry to some truly wild options, including things like Sweet Melon or Champagne! Sadly, due to the UK’s notoriously strict rules on tobacco, only a very small selection of these were available on these shores. In fact, for a long time we only had the option of Original, Cherry Cavendish and Bourbon Whiskey. To make things even sadder, this has now been reduced down even further, as the Original is no longer available here.

In spite of this pared down range, Borkum Riff remains consistently popular, which shows that in this case – as with many things – quality outweighs quantity.

The Range

Borkum Riff Bronze (Bourbon)

The blend that helped make the brand. Originally, this was simply the original Virginia/Burley Borkum Riff blend, with an added Bourbon flavour. However, it was eventually changed to a mix of African and Brazilian Virginias, combined with a variety of Black Cavendish from Africa, Europe and the Philippines. This is a very handy tweak for this sort of aromatic: Scandinavian Aromatics tend to be sweet, but not to the insane levels you’d find in American Aromatics. So, the naturally sweet character of these tobaccos works well with the more subtle style of casing, as it helps add to the sweetness, but in a natural way that doesn’t allow it to become too sickly.

As you may well know already, I’m a big fan of any tobacco blend that is a little bit different. Highland Whisky blends are pretty common, but Bourbon whisky tobaccos are actually surprisingly rare, especially if you consider how popular Bourbon is in the UK. As I mentioned above, the base tobacco blend works extremely well with this casing; It has the sweet, caramelly taste of a gorgeously smooth Bourbon, which is accentuated by the natural sweetness of the tobacco, without marring the “true tobacco” taste underneath. A great choice for pipe smokers and Bourbon drinkers alike.

Borkum Riff Ruby (Cherry Cavendish)

Even though cherry is easily the most common of all pipe tobacco flavourings, Borkum Riff still manage to do something a little different with their take on it. American Aro’s tend to lean into the very heavy, syrupy style of cherry, to match their intense sweetness, with the results ending up akin to a Black Forest Gateaux style of cherry, or a very heavy Xmas pudding. In stark contrast, this Scandinavian version goes for something altogether fresher and livelier, that tastes more like a natural, fresh cherry. Curiously, this casing also includes a very slight hint of vanilla, to balance it out with a slight creamy edge. In American styles, this really adds intensity to the overall sweetness, but in Borkum Riff’s case, it just balances out perfectly. By the way, I’m not criticising the American styles of Cherry & Vanilla,  in fact American Blends CV is one of my all time favourite blends (as regular readers might be able to tell from the fact I mention it in nearly every blog I write…)

Once again, the base tobacco blend strays away from the original Borkum Riff Virginia/Burley combo. In this case, they use a robust, heavily fermented combo of Dark Kentucky and Burley, which allows for the tobacco flavour and aroma to work in harmony with the casing, rather than one totally destroying the other.

Sadly, that’s as far as I can go with these weeks A-Z, as that is all that remains of this range in the UK. To me, that’s a genuine shame, as both these tobaccos show a real aptitude to blending and flavouring tobacco in ways that are similar enough to classics to not scare people off, but simultaneously put their own, personal spin on them.

I hope to see you again next time for more Alphabet-based tobacco tasting.

Until then: Put that in your pipe and smoke it!


Store manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester

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