Barling 1812 Tradition Full has an admittedly plain label. One could easily scroll past it without giving pause, as I’m sure many have. There aren’t even many reviews to be read out there. However, the Cyprian and Syrian Latakia contained within are far more compelling than the packaging could ever hope to be.
For the unaware: Syrian Latakia is a highly-regarded blending component which, after becoming massively produced in the 20th century, saw production wane in the 1960s. It was later revived on a smaller scale, but that era has also ended, due to a multitude of factors (for more information on what exactly happened click here). But suffice to say, Syrian Latakia is more in demand than its mass produced Cyprian counterpart (which uses a similar curing method on an entirely different leaf), and supplies of the former are quickly dwindling to zero.
Returning, if I may, to Barling’s forgettable appearance: I certainly didn’t discover this blend by scrolling down a long list of pipe tobaccos. Truthfully, I would have never found it if I hadn’t been searching specifically for English/Balkan/Scottish blends containing Syrian Latakia. Even then, the Barling could be easily overlooked in light of more seductive labeling (MacBaren HH Vintage Syrian, I’m looking at you). But I did notice it. And I bought some. Which is good because now we can smoke it together.
Barling is, of course, well known for their classically English pipes. The company’s name stretches back to 1812 when silversmith Benjamin Barling founded the endeavor.  An estate four pipe presentation set from Barling recently caught my eye, primarily because the pipes were made in 1898, and also because they are uproariously expensive. Today the Barling pipe tobaccos are, like many formerly English brand names, produced in continental Europe. In Barling’s case, the mixology is done by Planta Tabak Berlin.
The Barling 1812 Tradition Full’s tin description is as follows:
“Latakia from Cyprus and Syria, Spiced with strong Kentucky and rounded off with little, broad cut Virginia. Full and strong in taste. Traditional English.
Considering the dire straits that have befallen Syrian Latakia supplies (which include several wars and a warehouse fire), one is sensible to remain cautious of any manufacturer’s claim that their blend contains such a desired, price-increasing leaf. My research into Planta Tobak Berlin has only uncovered that, as of three years ago, the company still had Syrian Latakia in stock, but had at that point been unable to purchase more for some years.
Couple this with the fact that I have no way of knowing when my particular tin was produced, and your guess is as good as mine as to whether this Barling 1812 Tradition has a significant amount of the Syrian stuff inside. There are, naturally, wide allegations and distrusting premonitions that many blenders are including only the scantest regulatory minimums of Syrian Latakia, in order to skirt product label laws and justify higher price tags. I’ve no idea the veracity of these claims.
Anyway, speaking of price tags, I purchased this 50g tin from SmokingPipes.com for $12.46 USD. I am unable to determine whether this blend is still in production or not.
Open the tin and…damn this stuff is unbelievably smoky. Far beyond English and Scottish blends like Dunhill Nightcap and Cornell and Diehl’s Bayou Night. Even well beyond other Dark Kentucky/Syrian Lat blends like the Balkan inspired Mac Baren HH Vintage Syrian.
I mean this is smoky. Rich, dark, mahogany and exotic wood smoke but with a sour, tangy, almost creosote nature to it. Really one of the fullest and most pungent tobacco blends I’ve smelled this side of Samuel Gawith Black XX, though that comparison is apples-to-oranges (the Gawith is a straight Virginia that’s been heat treated by some variety of barbecue satan). The Barling also has pine and grassy aromas on hand for deep inhalers, with a sharp, slightly grain-alcohol finish. There’s heavy doses of the “campfire” quality people appreciate in full English blends. And “full” is the correct word here.
The tangy, complex, musty transparencies in the aroma allow you to believe the claims of Syrian blending, though the thick, billowing campfire smoke removes any ambiguity regarding the included Cyprian.
This tobacco is perfectly dry right from the tin. The dark fired Kentucky and Latakias dominate the rich, earthy landscape, with tanned broad-cut Virginas punctuating the fertile looking mixture. Dry ribbons ensnare the wider cuts and are a tactile pleasure to pull apart, like slowly tearing a thick sheet of paper.
I cannot resist taking one more deep inhale of the tin before reclining on the sofa with a well-packed bowl.
Lighting up and at once there is a heavy smokiness on the tongue and in the air. A mild sweet flavor and a warm spice begin but are quickly rounded off by smoke, perhaps indicating the Cyprian Latakia has shown up first. This Barling blend tastes full bodied thanks to all the dark leaf, and there is the promise of a nicotine-engendered swoon ahead. Peat and tang come out with the first retrohale, like an Islay malt Scotch. This earthy spice stays cool on the tongue and throat.
The room is filled with a creamy, dark, spice and tobacco aroma.
Near mid-bowl there’s the sappy pine flavor the tin note was hinting at, and a tangy sourness develops on the tip of the tongue. It’s almost a citrus flavor, but it remains inconspicuous beneath a musty ceiling. Maybe the Syrian has arrived fashionably late. Soft minerality attends the back of the throat, bringing iron, copper, and sparkling water.
In the second half the Kentucky and Latakia continue their domination over the Virginia leaf, however a noticeable sweetness does emerge. It is helped along by a creamy mouthfeel, but nevertheless remains engulfed, well-beneath the smoky campfire of Cyprian. The sourness mellows out, though it never leaves. The musty transparency becomes more opaque, and things stay round and calm and cozy from here.
So is there any of the Syrian left in this blend? I couldn’t tell you, if I’m honest. When comparing Barling 1812 Tradition to the HH Vintage Syrian (which, from my research, is almost certainly still using a large proportion of Syrian), there remain the complications of Cyprian Latakia and heavier dark-fired Kentucky usage in the English-style Barling, with orientals complicating the Balkan-style Mac Baren blend. To say nothing of the ages of the particular tobaccos in my collection. The contrast is great and they are, of course, very different experiences. Let it suffice to say there are plenty of indications, to my taste, that there is a noticeable proportion of Syrian Latakia in the Barling. But it is difficult to opine what those proportions are.
As G.L. Pease describes:
“If Cyprian Latakia can be compared to a fine Vintage Port, Syrian could be likened to a dry Fino Sherry.” 
If he’s to be believed…well…yeah I still have no idea.
I will say, that Barling 1812 Tradition Full is my favorite English blend and — dare I go farther — my favorite Latakia blend in my collection. Yes, I like it better than Vintage Syrian. Yes I like it better than Nightcap. Yes I like it better than Bayou Night and Plantation Evening.
Right now, anyway.
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