Samuel Gawith is one of the oldest blenders of pipe tobaccos, founded in 1792 in Kendal. Their tobaccos are often (probably mistakenly) labelled as “Lakeland” tobaccos because of their geographical origin, but not necessarily because of the essences used to flavour their blends. Of course some of their mixtures carry a heavy casing, their Grousemoor being the most distinctive (green tea, jasmine, lemongrass, ???) , but they have some really decent natural blends too. One of them is Golden Glow.
I have just recently re-discovered Golden Glow when I didn’t know what to smoke that evening. Something aromatic? Nah. Another English maybe? Well, somehow I needed a change of pace. And then I remembered the tin of Golden Glow.
For all those who want to try two Gawith’s blends the same time, read on: Golden Glow is identical to Medium Virginia Flake (latter being sold as bulk), so if you have tried one or the other, you don’t need to invest twice. Glow is subtitled “Broken Virginia Flake” and it is indeed broken, but perfect to be smoked right out of the tin (provided you let it air for a while).
Presentation: IMO, the most beautiful colour for a Virginia tobacco. Bronze and gold, it really shines (well, in a freshly opened tin). Some of the flakes are not cut completely, but this doesn’t matter – it is rather a feature than a bug After some weeks of storage (popped tin) the aging process brings out the ‘bloom’. These are the crystals that can be seen especially on the cut side of the flakes. No, it is neither mold, nor sugar. Read more about it here: http://www.qualitybriar.com/2012/03/teacher-i-know-the-answer/
Tin nose: It has the same ‘iced tea’ undertone like its older brother “Full Virginia Flake”. Black tea and ketchup.
Packing: Here you have to try different pipes to find the optimal one. I tried a few, and the most satisfying smoke was in a comparably big bowl in which the tobacco can expand. Put a bit of debris on top, generally that’s a good idea if you smoke Gawith’s flakes (jokingly called ‘beef jerk’)
Charring light: Roasted peanuts. Sunflower seeds. Takes the light easily (remember, this is the ‘dried’ version that received many hours of drying time throughout the last months).
A quick tamping and let’s go.
The first thing that the smoker will notice is how cool and tongue-friendly this Virginia is. VAs tend to bite, and many novice smokers had their first tongue-bite due to two factors: an aromatic tobacco (tempting) with a lot of VA/Black Cavendish (high sugar level) inside. This combination is literally steaming the tip of your tongue. Golden Glow is different. Its taste develops if sipped, using a lot of sidestream smoke (it’s a VA), and the flake cut helps the tobacco burn down slowly. A nice summer tobacco, a perfect substitution for cigarettes, and a taste that stays the same throughout the bowl. This is a competely unflavoured VA, I don’t detect any casing, not even a natural essence. It tastes ‘brighter’ than “Full Virginia Flake” but has the same ‘iced tea’ sweetness. Golden Glow’s quality is its depth, or its details; it is pure enough to make a good base for a home blend but interesting enough to be smoked on its own. Anyways, it smokes fantastically down to a white ash – though it needs some relights in some pipes.
There are many pure Virginias on the market, and many of them are ‘smokable’ at best and ‘bitey’ at least. Most VAs i smoked were much worse than Golden Glow, and – to be honest – I’m not quite sure if the epic “Full Virginia Flake” is so much better than the Glow (or as the pipe smoking community says). For what it’s worth, Golden Glow is an excellent Virginia flake, and it will be my go-to VA in 2013, too.