Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tonka live-blogging

Not the toy cars.
The tonka bean is the seed of Dipteryx odorata, a legume tree in the neotropics, of the Fabaceae family. The seed is black and wrinkled in appearance, with a smooth brown interior. It is known mostly for its fragrance, which is reminiscent of vanilla, almonds, cinnamon, and cloves: it has sometimes been used commercially as a substitute for vanilla. It is also sometimes used in perfume and was commonly used in tobacco before being banned.
Banned? Then how does it come to still be used in pipe tobacco? Or perhaps it's only a flavoring extract that is used in the tobacco, not the bean itself? Perhaps someone can clarify this for me.

Anyway, we have a relatively rainy day here today, so I've taken the opportunity to lock myself in my Sanctum and finally crack the tin of 1792 Flake that has been lurking in my cabinet for some weeks now. Lurking, I say, leering at me mockingly, daring me to smoke. This is a tobacco that has been in my mind to try for many years. I often rely very well on tobaccoreviews.com for information on prospective blends; the reviews on this one, as well as remarks made some years ago on a.s.p. have always intrigued me.

I have never read a middle-of-the-road, so-so opinion on 1792. Every reviewer I've read either declared that he hated it and would never smoke it again, or that it was fantastic and would be a regular part of his cellar. Such extreme reviews, coupled with the mention of a flavor I had never heard of (tonquin, or tonka bean) and was described with widely varying characteristics by different smokers, drove me to eventually try it myself.

This is only my first bowl, and I've loaded it up in my try-out pipe (the Kirsten). The description of flavors of the bean from Wikipedia is not inaccurate, but is inadequate. All of the characteristics are there, and more. Since this is only my first bowl, I do not feel qualified to comment on it yet, but there are shades of scents that fire inexact memories of places and people from the past, in much the way Bullseye Flake did. The aftertaste left behind puts me in mind most of lightly flavored chocolate coffee.
Samuel Gawith’s 1792 Flake is truly not for the faint-hearted. The Tonquin extract used to flavor the flake is quite heady and strong. Nonetheless, the first time with this can be an eye-opening experience as the intense flavor can easily overwhelm if smoked too quickly. Pierre’s advise is to set aside some quality time to spend with 1792, and you will come to love this unusual offering as much as he.
I believe that I have somewhat anesthetized myself against this "overwhelmingness" by smoking lots of strong Perique blends, but it may not set in until the pipe is nearly finished, or even for a few minutes after it's completely finished. For now I can only say that this tobacco warrants further experimentation.

This is definitely a tobacco that deserves attention and gradualness. To hurry would be to cheat this tobacco, and yourself.

UPDATE: Finished. Wow. It made me thirsty. Very mild head-swimmingness. I will have to decide on a regular briar pipe to dedicate only to this blend.

1 comment:

  1. 1792 Flake: Lucky Strikes and Chiclets - like an old hotel lobby. (I mean that in a good way)