I love Burley infested pipe tobaccos. Mostly, Burley blends with a little Virginia in the background. I’ll smoke a quality dark fired Kentucky all day long, and I’ll swim in buttery Burley leaf, too. Whenever a pipe smoker tells me he / she is having trouble with tongue bite, I will recommend Burley. When an individual tells me he / she wants to get off cigarettes and smoke only pipes but that something is missing, I will recommend that person start off by smoking a good Burley because Burley tobacco has more nicotine content per square inch than any other type of leaf because the stems are more firm and larger than stems found in Virginia and Orientals, and the stems are where the nicotine is. Do you have a favorite tobacco blend that you think would be better if only it packed a little more punch? Add some straight Burley to it. Burley goes great in a lot of blends because it offers strength while at the same time absorbing the flavors of other tobaccos. That’s why it is often used in aromatics that have added flavoring. In fact, I think smoking Burley tobacco can cure the common cold and ease the symptoms of COVID-19. Okay, maybe that last sentence is a stretch, but you get the picture. I love Burley tobacco!
Number one on my hit parade of great Burley Tobacco is also the least expensive. It is Five Brothers, originally produced by John Finzer & Brothers in Louisville, KY., a company that started in 1866 by the five Finzer brothers, thus the name Five Brothers. I smoked the original Finzer version that I rehydrated and it was a little on the bitter side. The later Pinkerton version, a long time famous tobacco company also located in Kentucky, lasted until 2010. At that point production moved to Denmark where it is still being produced and I noticed no change in the taste of the product. It is shag cut, full of strength in the nicotine department, and has the unique ability to add strength to other blends while giving off no real flavor component of its own, and absorbing the flavor of the blend it is mixed with. My favorite smoke, and one I will load up a pipe with a couple of times everyday, is putting one third of a bowl of Murray’s era Royal Yacht in a bowl and then topping it off with two third Five brothers, which absorbs the Royal Yacht topping while giving me a stronger smoke.
Edgeworth Sliced is perhaps the finest refined Burley ever to hit the market, in my opinion. Strong, buttery and a little on the nutty side, too. I like to fully rub out the flakes before smoking, and I puff slowly on this one because the slower you puff on Edgeworth Sliced, the more buttery and sweet the tobacco tastes. Even well aged, Edgeworth Sliced can get a little rough if you puff fast. Perhaps that’s why it was produced in flake form. If you smoke it by just taking it out of the tin and stuffing the flakes into your pipe, it’s difficult to puff fast enough to heat it up to the point where the flavor roughens.
This one is in a virtual tie with Edgeworth Sliced, Uhle’s 00. It used to come in tins but now only pouches. Hand blended by the famous Uhle’s Pipe and Tobacco Shop in Milwaukee, WI. This is remarkable weed that is cool, biteless, a tad sweet and has a little punch to it. Nothing like many of the Burley blends on your local drug store’s shelf as only the finest Burley still available is used to make this one. Additionally, this one does not grow bitter near the bottom of the bowl. Instead, the strength picks up a bit and once all the leaf is consumed, leaves your palate feeling refreshed and satisfied. I always keep a Mason Jar of it in my shop for consumption when I have time to just sit back and enjoy a few minutes of quality smoking time.
This next one, unfortunately, will never be seen again as it was a limited edition one time run by Mac Baren’s. Special in every way. I was only able to pick up five tins last year when this one was released and two of them have now been smoked. It’s name is HH Rustica. There is also a little Virginia in this one but not much. Rustica mostly contains a high sugar content leaf (rare for Burleys), thanks to a special air curing process that is followed-up by heat curing. It has a very high nicotine content, and in fact, Mac Baren’s says it’s the strongest tobacco they’ve ever produced, and that, combined with the extraordinary sweetness of the Burley, makes this one an exceptional smoke. Good luck finding a tin. It will be worth the hunt if you do.
Finding my final favorite was difficult. There were several that I felt were worthy of mentioning, so I sat for a few minutes and asked myself which one I would select if it was the only tobacco that I could smoke for the rest of my life. I settled on this one, Solani Aged Burley Flake, manufactured in Germany by Kollhasse & Kopp. The flakes are not large and rub out easily as the moisture content is not too heavy. The leaf burns cool, dry and also burns very slowly, no matter how hard you puff – which I believe, contributes to the cool smoke. Unlike many Burley blends, this one does not get bitter near the bottom, and each puff is a true delight. You don’t need to think too much about this blend as you smoke it. What you get with your first puff is what you’ll get with the last; a smooth, semi-sweet Burley taste that is not heavy on the palate and leaves you wanting another bowl.
If you decide you want to try something really different, and you’ve never shown Burley tobacco any love, open your heart and let Burley in. You’ll be glad that you did!