It didn't take long before I expressed interest in Burley. Bob Runowski (morleysson) was still alive and active in the forums back then, and was an early mentor for me, giving me lots of thoughtful advice that had a big impact on my early pipe smoking. A generous forum member sent me a big Burley care package, and it was off to the races.
I love Burley. I smoke it every day with my morning coffee. It's high in nicotine. It's forgiving. It's consistent. It's delicious.
The following are what I would consider the benchmark Burley blends. The blends in red are discontinued, in which case I will recommend available replacements where possible. I'm not doing American Blends in this post. I've kind of lost my taste for Latakia. The blends here featuring Latakia have it in such small amounts that I would not classify them as American Blends, despite the Latakia they contain.
Edgeworth Ready Rubbed-ERR
I've smoked some of the old stuff and I could swear there was a detectable rum topping on the pre-80s version of this, but I think I remember others saying they felt that the modern iteration is no different than what they grew up with. In any event, this is codger Burley. Burley with a condimental addition of Virginia for added sweetness. A very light cocoa note that you can easily miss if you're not sensitive to very light additions. It's nutty, smooth, sweet. You know you're smoking tobacco. In other words, it's Burley. It's no longer with us, but Lane Limited Ready Rubbed lacks only the Edgeworth in the name.
Available replacements for ERR include:
- Lane Limited Ready Rubbed
- Sutliff Ready Rubbed Match - many swear this is as good or better than the original
- Carter Hall (CH) - same family of tobacco, great in its own right
- Prince Albert (PA) - see Carter Hall
- Sir Walter Raleigh (SWR) - see Carter Hall
- 4noggins Moe's Confetti - this is literally a blend of Carter Hall, Prince Albert and Walgreen's Burley, and it's fabulous
- 4noggins Storm Front - codger Burley with a portion of cigar leaf. More savory than nutty sweet, but just as good
- Kentucky Club - my favorite codger Burley, a chocolate bomb. Why did I not buy a ton of it when it was still here?
A Bob Runowski blend. Burley with a jot of Virginia and a huge handful of Perique. Holy smokes, who goes 25% Perique in a blend? This blend does not always work for me, but it mostly does and when it does I get a really sweet, really strong codger smoke. It smells good enough to eat. It's more nicotine than some will be comfortable with, so don't smoke this if you have a low tolerance.
Alternatives to OJK include:
- Cornell and Diehl Haunted Bookshop - same ingredients in different proportion. OJK Lite
- Cornell and Diehl Epiphany - Bob's version of Revelation. Latakia in condimental amount, just enough to add smokiness
- Cornell and Diehl Big & Burley - another big, full codger Burley with just a smidge of Latakia
A Danish version of codger Burley. A little lighter, a little sweeter. Nurse a bowl gently and this would shoot right into your favorite Burleys. Wheat-y, cocoa-y, a little more delicate presentation than the American Burleys, but no less delicious.
Available replacements for BLB include:
- Mac Baren Golden Extra (GE) - add a smidgen of Va to BLB and you have GE. BLB was better, but not by a mile
- Amphora Original - Very similar to BLB, maybe a little lighter and definitely heavier on the cocoa
Same ingredients as OJK, deserves its own entry. I wish I had come across Hans' blends earlier in my cellar building. I have not have one of his tobaccos that I didn't like, and a surprising number of those I wanted pounds of after smoking a few bowls. Burley, Virginia and Perique. Not as stout as OJK. I get zero zing from the Perique in this, it just adds a dark fruit sweetness. There may be a chocolate topping. It's mildly sweet, there is some complexity to the flavor. The tobacco is fantastic, like OJK is a can of Miller and this is a fancy bottle from a micro brewer. I guess that is the best way I can describe it, is that I feel like I am enjoying an artisanal product when I smoke it. It's a treat to fire up a bowl of Makhuwa, and it has become my favorite Burley.
Alternatives to HU Makhuwa include:
- Cornell and Diehl Old Joe Krantz - a stronger, less refined combination of the same ingredients
- HU Nyala - Add Brazilian cigar leaf to Makhuwa, and end up with a tobacco that isn't quite as good IMO
- HU Dockworker - if you're looking for Burley slices pass Solani ABF and Wessex and go straight to this dark chocolate, deep Burley
Pure Burley, sweet and nutty. I think the only addition this tobacco gets is a sweetener. It is, bar none, the finest 100% Burley blend that is or ever was. I'm not going to add any alternatives because to my mind there are none.
Cornell and Diehl Pegasus
I didn't include this one with the other C&Ds because I think it is so good it deserves its own spot. Ribbon Burley with unsweetened Black Cavendish. Another Bob Runowski blend, and the one I'd keep if you made me part with all the others. It has the mellow nutty sweetness you expect of any Burley, and then that Cavendish adds the occasional marshmallow note that just sings and is so different than any other blend. It's great in a large bowl and you are doing yourself a grave disservice if you like Burley and you haven't tried it.
Alternatives to Cornell and Diehl Pegasus include:
- Uhle Blend 300 - a cube of Burley and Black Cavendish
- Watch City Deluxe Crumb Cut - nom nom nom, see below
A few months ago this entry would have been Watch City Slices, but the more of the Crumb Cut I smoke, the more I love it. If you've never smoked a Watch City Burley, apparently Ernie is getting all the best Burley Sutliff gets their hands on, because no Sutliff Burley tastes like his. Crumb Cut isn't exactly a cube and is more like SWR, kind of a pebble-y, crumb-y cut that doesn't clog draughts like cube cut can. The Burley is stout, mildly sweet, and in the case of Crumb Cut there is a mild vanilla Black Cavendish that adds to the experience instead of detracts. Make no mistake, this is no aro. I only got around to trying the Watch City blends a year ago, and they've all earned spots in my cellar.
Alternatives to Watch City Crumb Cut include:
- Uhle Blend 300 - Uhle's version of the same ideal. Sorry Uhle, Crumb Cut is way better
- Watch City Slices - add Kentucky for a smoky, savory Burley flake. Never tried Edgeworth Slices, but WC Slices are utterly fantastic
MacBaren HH Burley Flake
I'm adding this one because it is available and it is excellent quality. To my mind this is a tobacco that anyone who hasn't ventured past Solani ABF or Wessex Burley Slices should try because I find it better than those two. The smell in tin is mouth watering. In the pipe I find it more robust than BLB and GE, but it still sits within the MacBaren Burley profile. There is a pleasant sweetness that comes in and out throughout the smoke. The Kentucky is there, but they showed restraint in its application and it never dominates the flavor profile. Really it's about perfect as far as Burleys with added Kentucky go, because for me if they go overboard on the Kentucky I find it fatiguing in the same way that I find Latakia or maduro cigars fatiguing. That flavor just stamps on everything. Here, the Kentucky is a supporting player. Every time I smoke this I want to order more, so I am beginning to think this might be one of my top 5 Burleys. It completely eliminates my desire to find more Burley London Blend. MacBaren has turned into a helluva blender. I think this and their version of Capstan are both all time greats.
Alternatives to MacBaren HH Burley Flake include:
- Amphora Burley - this is a tobacco that I don't think we'd have ever seen outside of MacBaren's stewardship of the Amphora brand. You'd expect an Amphora Burley with Kentucky to be exceptionally restrained with its use of Kentucky. Nope. This tobacco is the savory counterpoint to the mild and sweet HH Burley Flake. The Kentucky plays a bigger role here. It's quite robust for an Amphora branded tobacco. It's very good, but I prefer HH Burley Flake. You should try both.