Disclaimer: I do not, and have not received compensation or samples of any kind from any manufacturer or retailer mentioned in this post, for the purpose of writing this post.
Clichés are dangerous things, especially when they prove to be true. Imagine every stereotype about codger tobaccos, and then imagine that nearly all of them were true of one particular tobacco. Such is the case with Briar Fox, but in a very good way.
Briar Fox is a Virginia blend produced by Cornell and Diehl, out of Morganton, North Carolina. They describe Briar Fox as being “An exceptionally smooth crumble cake of Virginias, the personal blend of Peter Heeschen, the well-known Danish pipe maker.” Until researching for the writing of this review, I was unfamiliar with Peter Heeschen. After reviewing some of his pipe designs, I find a stark contrast between the types of pipes he makes and the tobacco that he supposedly smokes. Heeschen pipes are, in my mind, at the cutting edge of briar artistry. The aesthetics of his pipes are anything but simple, and this contrasts brilliantly with the amazing simplicity inherent to Briar Fox. It would make sense that a pipe maker giving so much thought into the lines and organic flow apparent in his artwork, would be given to smoking simple but excellent tobaccos that allow him to focus on his craft. Briar Fox is exactly that: simple and excellent.
One need not spend hours trying to find the various nuances in Briar Fox. It is a straight-forward matured Virginia blend with a buttery mouth feel, and clear tobacco flavor. If a nuance can be found, it lies in the fact that it smokes very much like an OTC Burley, being cool and smooth on the palate with slight nutty and cocoa undertones. Unlike many Virginia’s, you won’t find a whole lot of sweetness inherent in Briar Fox. It isn’t bitter, but it does have a flavor reminiscent of dark chocolate. There is some sweetness underneath, but it is well balanced by the previous mentioned cocoa undertones. If Briar Fox were a cigar, it would be similar to a Drew Estate La Vieja Habana with Connecticut wrapper, or a Macanudo. I can very well imagine that my great grandfather would have been just as pleased smoking Briar Fox, as he was Prince Albert, and I can say the same of myself.
For pipe smokers looking for layer upon layer of flavor, or the vibe one would expect of other Virginia blends, expect to be disappointed. Briar Fox is typified by many codger tobacco traits. It is simple, unassuming, straight tobacco, prepared in a versatile manner. Speaking of preparation, the crumble cake format of Briar Fox is a very friendly way of presenting this particular tobacco. While it won’t hold up to cutting into flakes like a plug will, the crumble cake form of Briar Fox will peel and stuff similar to a flake if you’re not apt to rubbing it out. Whether rubbed or stuffed, it takes flame easily, and it behaves well in the pipe. I consider it to be a lot more forgiving than something like Orlik Golden Sliced or Escudo, both of which are apt to highlight technique flaws inherent to newer pipe smokers (both of which I had issues with early on as well).
Although I’m not apt to often make such recommendations, I might also consider Briar Fox to be a good crossover blend for someone making the transition from cigarettes to pipes. The feel of Briar Fox in the mouth is somewhat similar to some full flavored cigarettes, and the taste can be reminiscent of some of the full flavored brands that I used to favor when I smoked cigarettes. What is absent, and must be noted, is the bitter chemical taste that modern FSC cigarette paper imparts to the smoke. If you’re considering switching from cigarettes to a pipe, don’t be afraid to give Briar Fox a shot. It’s going to taste a million times better than the bile the government forces tobacco companies to pass off as a quality cigarette these days!
As I said at the beginning of this review, clichés are dangerous things. Briar Fox is indeed, as I’ve seen described in other reviews on the web, a codger type tobacco. It would, however, be particularly dangerous and disappointing for any pipe smoker to pass it over because of the nature of such a description. Briar Fox is a phenomenal tobacco, it is my everyday smoke, and it is one I suggest every pipe smoker try at least once.