Samuel Gawith Black XX

It tastes like what? Like steak? No way.

There’s no way it tastes like steak…

“What in the world do you keep in that jar??”


This “finest Kendal twist” is a straight Virginia  produced by Samuel Gawith & Co. in the Kendal, Cumbria, England. Purported to be a favorite of area coal miners, the company has been producing high quality “pigtails” and thick twists (chewing and pipe tobacco, respectively) for over 200 years.

Black XX is an unflavored variety of twist the company describes as:

“The Black XX is an extra thick twist. The Black XX under goes heat treatment that creates the black colour and less tar and nicotine than the Brown No. 4.” [1]

I purchased a 50g tin of Black XX for $10.96 USD. It is also currently available from in bulk.

It’s hard to find a complimentary angle of Black XX twist.


Ok, let’s just open the tin and get it out of the way.

It looks like shit. And that’s not a euphemism. It literally looks like a portion of coiled doggie refuse.

Get out your giggles now.

In any case, one might also describe this initial presentation as an oily (the crude kind) rope. The dark papery leaf wrapping has a dyed leather quality, and its sinuous wrinkles grant Black XX a twisted, fibrous grain.

The tin note rises and is divine. You have the faintest, sweet-raisin-toffee reminder that you’re dealing with a straight Virginia here, only it’s peeking out beneath a strong, charred, fatty spice. Memories are called up of picnic tables and charcoal smoldering in the sun. Good enough to eat. This stuff might be.

A straight Virginia with seriously rich color.

Out of the tin now and you first glimpse the cross section. Dark burl, faintly marbled and encased by a treated outer leaf. It’s rugged and not at all beautiful. But the flavors promised by the tin note are too fine to resist.

Time to cut off a few coins and pack a bowl. There’s an obvious choice here, but for want of a cigar cutter, one does just fine with a sharp kitchen knife. My smoking tool for this endeavor is my Pre-1956 Medico Zulu “F” Stamping, freshly resurrected from a slow death on an antique store shelf and in need of a proper break-in.

The paper slides off the cut coins in pointed strips and slowly curls up, perfect for kindling atop the still moist filling.

Any sharp blade will do. Be sure to use a proper cutting surface (not pictured).


…It does taste like steak.

After reading reviews, and before smoking it, I assumed there would be a hint of beefiness. Perhaps a scintilla of meaty flavor.

No. This is steak in a tobacco tin. The correct choice for lifelong carnivores, and nostalgic new-vegans everywhere. There’s this big barbecued beef flavor pervading the smoke. The smoked meat flavor is rendered silken by a seared fat undertone that, as with the oily twist itself, seems to coat whatever it touches. Delicious. Like southern-style burnt ends with a side of brisket.

The retrohale provides the first incidence of the spice, and it’s big. A real nostril burner, though not in an unpleasant way. There’s pepper and tang and the slightest roast coffee at the back of your mouth.

The top half of this first bowl is hard to keep lit, even after an obligatory 30 minute drying time on my cut coins. I appreciate the wrapper-leaf strips for getting things started, even if my lighter has to finish the job. No bite, though. Thanks Mr. Gawith.

The bottom half is made for sippers. Once dried and heavily resinated from filtering the smoldering top half, the bowl lightens up. Nuanced notes of toffee and raisin shine through the smokestack of pit-barbecue. The faintest of citrus comes to the table. Puff too fast and it all clouds away.

My head begins to spin.

Pictured here are the still-moist leafy wrapper (left) and the the thick marbled filling (right).

Black XX is a true titan of a tobacco. Even the most well-seasoned of nicotine users will feel the float. The flavors are immense and are an absolute must experience for straight Virginia flavor-chasers, and those who prefers the bold.

Anyone else hungry?

Need pipes, tobacco, and supplies? You might be surprised what Amazon has to offer:

6 thoughts on “Samuel Gawith Black XX

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