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GLP's Key Largo – A Review

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Vito

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Well, if y'all haven't figured out by now that Greg Pease has surpassed his earlier magnificent successes and matured his blending skills into the realm of the transcendent, you haven't been smoking his latest creations. By my reckoning, it started somewhere around Fillmore, and took a quantum leap upward in Embarcadero. Key Largo is solidly in that genre—weedages that are not merely synergistic, wherein the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. These are blends that demonstrate true synchronicity, wherein the component tobaccos fairly conspire to create a smoking event. If that seems hyperbolic, tough. Mere superlatives are no longer of any practical use in describing Greg's blends.

Key Largo is almost a broken flakeweed, but not quite that incoherently formed. As it sits in the tin, it presents itself as well-formed slices that are rather loosely pressed. I wish I could nail that tin aroma. It's something familiar, but I can't quite place it—some classic, deep, rich, dark weedage of bygone years. I spent the better part of twenty minutes with my snoot in and out of the tin, drinking in that fragrance, trying to dredge that sensation out of memory. It will drive me nuts until I figure it out.

The weed tears easily enough...or rubs out, if that suits your fancy. For my part, there'll be no rubbing out of Key Largo, for a couple of reasons. First, I like to retain as much of the chunkiness as possible, based on my experience with it's "beta" version, when it was known as "Maduro Cut Cake", and other monikers. I mean, you have to call these creations something while you're working on them. Paul McCartney had a tune called "Scrambled Eggs" that kept coming into his head, but he couldn't remember where he had heard it. Then one day he realized, he hadn't heard it anywhere else but in his own head...it was his tune. "Scrambled Eggs" eventually became the song "Yesterday".

A comparison between "Yesterday" and Key Largo is appropriate. As a blendmeister, Greg consistently creates No. 1 hits with Beatlesque regularity. "Yesterday" is a timeless classic that transcends musical genres. There is no doubt that Key Largo is destined to become a similar classic in the world of weedage.

Where was I...ah, yes—chunks! The other reason not to rub it out is the strength of the blend. While Key Largo isn't a super high-octane (HO) weedage along the lines of, say, GawHogg's Dark Flake or even GLP's own Cumberland, it is not a blend for the faint-hearted. It has plenty of plenty of oomph, nico-wise. I would recommend smoking it in a relatively small pipe—certainly nothing larger than a Group 4—unless you have a high tolerance to nicotine. If you plan on smoking it in a large-bowled pipe, I recommend a very slow burn, wherein you just sip the smoke...unless you want to end up crawling on all fours to the Temple of the White Goddess to regurgitate an offering into the porcelain altar.

The pipe provenance for this review is straightforward—a Winslow Crown 300 1/4-bent flamegrain that was dedicated to GLP Robusto from Day One—never burned anything else in it until the beta samples of "Maduro Cut Cake" started appearing in my mailbox last September, sent by some mutant weed sorcerer who delights in lab-ratting me with his devilish experiments. Not that I encourage him, or anything. :twisted: Anyhow, there was little ghosting of Robusto in the pipe from the get-go, and the pipe has essentially been dedicated to Key Largo for the past 10 months. Hence, other weedic interferences in the cake are non-existent...by which I mean that this is a review of Key Largo smoked in a well-seasoned Key Largo pipe.

The Actual Smokage
Key Largo seems to be a bit moister than most Peaseweeds, but only a bit. Knowing that I was going to smoke it gently, I took my time lighting it—three lights were pretty much a given considering the chunky pack and the moistness of the weed. An initial charring light and tamp knocked down the biggest chunks and strands. I let it go out to get the full sweetness of the low-temperature burn. A second light really opened up the sweetness into flavors and spice, though still undefined. Again, I smoked it very gently to let it go out, and this time the smoke began to reveal its true promise. A second tamp brought the surface into a smooth field of charred weed and gray ash—the perfect set-up for the third and final light. One light touch of flame, and the burn was on.

Key Largo is sippin' weed, folks...pure and simple. I can't imagine puffing away greedily on this stuff. Slow, gentle sipping from the smoldering chunks yields the most exquisite flavors—sweet red Virginias bring their fruit and warm caramel flavors, subtly spiced by Orientals that Greg uses masterfully in the way Turkweed should be used—not as a tongue bludgeon, but as a true condiment tobacco. Less is mo' bettah, boys.

And speaking of less is more, let me encourage the Latakiaphobes among us—those unfortunate souls who, through an unhappy accident of nature, lack the body chemistry to appreciate the noble Latweed. 'Tis not a thing of shame or wimpoidal character. I know some highly esteemed brethren who've tried their best to like Latakia, but it's a no-go for them. Well, I'm happy to report that y'all needn't be disenfranchised where Key Largo is concerned. The Cyprian Latweed is a balancing component, more like a jib than a mainsail. It's a mere ghost in the tin aroma, and a sweet, toasted presence in the bowl. In a sense, Key Largo builds a platform upon which Latakia's gentle nature shows itself to best advantage, lending its natural aromatic qualities to the smoke just enough to add interest and complexity, without overwhelming the other tobaccos.

Then there's the cigar leaf. If you've smoked many pipeweed blends that contain cigar leaf, you know that it's an idea that looks good on paper, but seldom lives up to its promise. In fact, I can name only four 'garweed blends (other than Key Largo) that really work. One of them is Robusto; the other three are no longer available. In any case, I've done enough of my own experiments adding 'gar leaf to pipeweed to know that it's a very tricky business. You add a little and you can't taste it, so you add a little more, and you still can't taste it, and then a little more...and at some point you cross a threshold, and suddenly the 'gar lear overwhelms the blend. So, as Eliyahu Goldratt would say, "it's not luck." Greg had to find exactly the right leaf to complement the other tobaccos, and then get just the right amount, and factor in the intensification wrought by pressing the weed, into the bargain. Having tried (and failed) myself so many times, I can appreciate the mastery behind Key Largo.

One note about the blend that bears on pipe size: It doesn't DGT well. Cigars generally don't take well to relighting, and neither do pipeweed blends that contain 'gar leaf. If you relight while the pipe is still warm, it's fine; but Key Largo can be a bit rough around the edges if it goes out and the pipe is allowed to cool. Given the strength of the blend, you might find that you have to set the pipe down to avoid Green Gills syndrome. That's another good reason to choose a smaller pipe—one that you can smoke from top to bottom in one sitting.

The net effect of the 'gar leaf in Key Largo is an elusive, undefinable complexity. The cigar flavors dance in and out of perceptibility—the true test of a well-balanced blend. Will those flavors dominate the blend with aging? Only time will tell, but I think not—for two reasons. First, the cigar leaf is not dominant in the first place. It's there, but with neither the flavor nor the intensity to overwhelm the other tobaccos. Second, the other condiment tobaccos will hold their own, especially the Orientals. It's a delicate balancing act, blending for wondrous smokitude in the young weed, yet still having character that grows in complexity over time.

My take on Key Largo, after smoking many bowls over many months, is that it accomplishes all of the above. Revel in it now, lads; it's a weedic miracle. And lay some down for adventures in smoking for many years to come.

:joker:
 

BubbaL002

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Wow. Now that's a review. I'm going to order a tin of Key Largo today. Thanks Vito
 

Vito

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Bubba, Yak:

Glad to be of service, mah brothahs. Truth is, writing a review is just an excuse to sit here and burn a whole bowl at once. Keeps the blood pressure down, too, you know. Hey...a medical deduction! :mrgreen:

Besides, Greg makes it easy. With weedage like that for inspiration...well, I'll let The REAL Leroy say it in his own words:

"Pseeeiitttt! Dat mofo can jerk tears outa a brass monkey!"
Weed Rating: 11/10 :cheers:


:joker:
 

PipeBrew

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Great review. I'm going to have to get a tin or two sometime.
 

Muddler

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Darn, now I'm going to HAVE TO open that tin. Humph, now which pipe?

Great review. It almost sounded like you really like the stuff.
 

Hermit

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Muddler":np8x9v6i said:
It almost sounded like you really like the stuff.
It sounded orgasmic! :lol:


(BTW, It IS really good!)
 

smokey422

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Nice review, Vito, glad to see you are posting in this forum. It sounds like I'm going to have to get some Key Largo and check out what all the fuss is about.

Smokey :pipe:
 

free_byrd15

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Just had the pleasure of smoking some of this the other day. Not my favorite but I'd definitely burn another bowl!
 
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Anonymous

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I recieved a tin of Key Largo for Christmas and have enjoyed several bowls of it since. The best was this past Sunday evening; I sat outside watching my kids play on a very mild (mid 50's) January day. I packed up my Tinsky Rhodesian and got myself a cup of coffee and kicked back for what had to be one of the best smokes I've ever had. I take my coffee with lots of cream and no sugar and with Key Largos creamy, earthy blend the flavors just flowed together beautifully. I've read others here that mention having a morning bowl with coffee and how pleasent that is, and now I know why.
:pipe: on Brothers.
 

Centurian 803

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I bought a tin of Key Largo in November and have been saving it. Thought I'd wait till June or maybe next November to open it. Now I'm gonna have to order another tin so I can have one to open and one to age. Oh Damn, an excuse to buy more tobacco. :darklord:
 
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Anonymous

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With food, there are different kinds of Good. A chef can probably please the greatest number of people with pizza, cheeseburgers and fried chicken. The further out on limbs he starts to go with recepies, the more people he's likely to start losing.

It's the same if he's a blender with the chops to do it and do it well. Putting out creations that expand people's horizons is fraught with a degree of risk. It isn't even so much that many pipe folk wouldn't like them if they suspended their expectations and gave them enough time and attention to "get" them as that, since they don't key a familiar "Good" response, they tend to get written off.

As it comes across on this end, Key Largo is even more full of subleties than its predecessor, Embarcadero. It takes longer to adjust to and zero in on, it's more sensitive to the pipe it's smoked in (and how rapidly), and it has an even wider range of flavors within its basic taste profile. It just doesn't whomp you upside the head with something familiar and obvious like "cheeseburger."

Key Largo is pleasently dry, the way Embarcadero is. It has a similar thread of sweetness running through it that smoking it too rapidly can (similarly) obscure. Above all, it has a dark quality to its taste that can be a really refreshing change of pace.

Just made, it reminded me of forest loam after a rain. As weeks went by and it found the pipes it likes, it started showing flashes of its constituents. It surprised me at first that I couldn't find the cigar wrapper element in it, nor could four other people I compared notes on it with (all of whom have much more refined palattes than mine). It's only been with the effect that several months in an occasionally opened jar seems to have on a tinned blend and repeated, careful attention that the cigar wrapper element has shown itself as a discernable element in it along with the sweetness of the Virginia and the Latakia spicing the outermost edges of it.

Smoked so slowly and gently that it's on the verge of going out, Key Largo has as subtle an interplay of flavors as anything the Dark Lord's put out.

Only six months into the journey with it, there's probably a lot left in Key Largo I haven't managed to get to come into focus yet. But there's more than enough even so to keep me coming back to it.

:face:
 

alfredo_buscatti

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I bought two tins when Key Largo came out, which, after reading these great reviews by those with highly-tuned palates, are now marked "smoke me."
 

mycroft

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I bought two tins at the Chicago show a couple of weeks ago. Took it home and smoked a couple of bowls and didn't care for it at all. I felt it had a funky finish which literally left a bad taste in my mouth. Brought it to my pipe club meeting and give it another shot, but no go. I polled my club members and no one who had ever tried like it. I literally couldn't give the stuff away.
 

serif365

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I love this blend but I agree that it is one powerful weed. I smoke it in a small meerschaum I picked up in Turkey 40 years ago. I don't rub it out but I do cut it into small squares before packing. Other than a few ounces of Gawith/Hoggarth "Happy Bogey", this is the strongest tobacco I have in my cellar. It's a "special occasion" smoke and as good as most any cigar I ever enjoyed. :affraid:
 
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