Velvet tobacco tin with Bari Matador Danish Briar. © 2017 James Hill
I had been curious for some time about the classic American burley blends. After reading up on them and sampling a couple of locally available blends, I zeroed in on Velvet, Lane Limited Ready Rubbed (The resurrection of Edgeworth Ready Rubbed), and Granger (my wife’s late grandfather’s tobacco of choice). The retro packaging appealed to the artist in me so Velvet was first at bat.
Velvet has been produced for over a century by various companies and is one of the classic American pipe tobacco blends. Velvet is currently produced by the Scandinavian Tobacco Group/Lane Limited of Tucker, Georgia. Upon opening the pouch or tin, you’re greeted with the scent of sweet tobacco with a slight liquor overtone. Old advertisements indicate that Velvet is made with sunshine, rain, aged burley, and maple sugar. Some reviewers have stated that there is an anise flavoring in there as well. I don’t pick that flavor up, but I feel there could be a small amount of some kind of fruit liquor in the blend. The moisture level in the pouch or tin may be a little high for some pipemen, but I’ve never had difficulty lighting Velvet or keeping it lit.
I received my first pouch of Velvet as part of a package deal from Pipes & Cigars (www.pipesandcigars.com). Honestly, it took a few bowls for me to “make friends” with Velvet, but we worked out our differences and I can say that I thoroughly enjoy this blend. Once I found Velvet’s preferred means of packing (the scoop and tamp method works best for me and this blend does not like being tightly packed - YMMV), I’ve found the blend to burn easily and cooly without many relights after an initial charring. If you puff too hard, your briar might deliver a bite, so relax and puff gently letting Velvet’s charms wash over you. The smoke is silky smooth and mild with a mellow flavor that has a touch of sweetness. Interestingly, the flavor and aroma become richer and more complex as the bowl progresses. In the bottom third or so of the bowl a slight fruit flavor and aroma appear that remind me of cherries. Whether this is a result of the manufacturing process or if there is a small amount of fruit liquor, I don’t know, but this subtle hint of sour fruit plays well with Velvet’s sweetness and the nut/cocoa flavor so often associated with burley. The room note is similarly mellow, pleasant, and complex, and elicits compliments from those nearby.
Since finishing that initial pouch I’ve ordered several tins of Velvet and it has become my go-to every day blend. The room note is so wife and daughter pleasing that I am not only allowed, but encouraged to smoke Velvet indoors (just in my study, to be sure, and I’ll take that any day over the sweltering heat of Houston)! There’s a reason why Velvet has been on the market for so long - it lives up to its name and delivers a smooth, flavorful, enjoyable, and satisfying smoke.
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