William Serad's Reviews from Pipes & Tobacco Magazine's Summer 2000 Issue: (Reprinted with permission of the editors.)
By way of general comment, from these products alone I would say that Gregory has the most discerning palate among active blenders today. Moreover, he has earned a place among the world-class of yore. (That set the bar right high, didn't it?) But I say this with absolute sincerity. He does not make a mass-market product. His is an art in an atmosphere as rarified as lieder, as cultivated as ballet, as singular as royal jazz from the Count or the Duke. So if you run out of a Pease blend, don't expect to trot down to the drug store to pick up something close. I usually tell people trying matured Virginia flakes not to employ a funky old pipe. In this case, I adjure you similarly: approach these blends with a clean pipe and a clear palate, or you really will not be able to enjoy the fullness of the variations and shades within a single bowl. This is not to say that if you regularly smoke something that comes in a giant zip bag, these won't do anything for you. On the contrary, I think that you would probably be overawed by the flavors, and have an urge to dash out and see grand opera (well, maybe not). Not all of these may appeal to you, but surely one will hit the mark, and I cannot pay a higher compliment.
This is among the finest classic English blends I have tried, largely because of the subtle and expressive temperament it reveals. Medium in weight, it is a symphony of colors and flavors, reflecting Syrian and Cyprian Lataia, a good proportion of Orientals, and beautiful golden, red and matured Virginias. That description sounds like just about any ohter English blend, and doesn not begin to reflect the perfection of balance and tightly interwoven layerrs of distinct flavors. Rather than a blend that unfolds as the bowl burns down, this is equivalent to thevisual intricacy of a Victorian parlor. From all perspectives and at once, every edge is curved and ornamented, every surface richly decorated, everything textured, embroudered and voluptuous, richly deep in color and tone, varied in hue but harmonious. Magnificent! Highest accolades!
From the description, this blend sounds like it would torch your tongue. Cairo is composed of red, orange and bright Virginias, orientals, and a whisper of perique. Indeed, it is a whisper. And looking at the pouch, it presents no particular visual attraction, but it is full of surprises. The pouch aroma should have been a bit musty and probably a bit repellant to aromatic smokers and tobaccophobes. Yet it is delicate, enigmatic, with an exceptional high note, and all this carries over to the aroma burning. In any size pipe, this coolly lofts flavorful clouds with that delightful sweet singing note. A bit nutty, with clear Virginia characteristics sans the heat, this could easily be an all-day blend, that most sought after of pipe-packing personalities. I went through multiple bowls of this end-on-end in different style pipes, and the flavor was as refreshing and invigorating at the end as at the start, a remarkable achievement. This would be an excellent change of pace for both aromatic smokers moving toward naturals and matured VA flake devotees.
Beginning beguiling, a really generous portion of Cyprian latakia is seasoned with a wafting of Turkish and long-stoved red and golden Virginias. Not just another English blend, differences are then wrought. These ingredients are then steamed and toasted together with dark Jamaican rum, producing an enthralling, very dark and smooth blend. It is lightly touched with a natural sweetness, and has a fulsome roundness rarely encountered, attained both in taste and room aroma. This is better than one could hope for the traditional English smoker, the inveterate searcher for the perfect blend or the omnipuffer. Distinctive, yet Mephisto remains wonderfully familiar. It has weight, presence and you can nearly reach out and touch the blend's distinctive persona in its full-bodied, elegant clouds, it is so palpable. Mephisto definitely conjures up gustatory delights though not the devil himself. For the devil's pleasures, founded in the deceitfulness of sin, are definitively short-lived, but Mephisto's pleasures seem somehow not.
An extremely complex blend, matured red Virginia contributes its familiar fundament of weight and natural sweetness. Cyprian latakia is added along with other orientals, broadening the band of flavor, and to me, giving it the predominantly oriental character it exhibits. A hint of lemon Virginia and a touch of perique, a presence but not a definite note, complete the blend. The amounts of the ingredients are balanced with such care and skill, the flavors migrate from one pleasant place to the next, with none achieving excessive dominance. It develops as the bowl burns cleanly down, and leaves a white ash. Not hot, this goes best in medium to small bowl pipes. Excellent.
(This one didn't make it to press, but was kindly provided by Mr. Serad.)
This and Mephisto are for the latakia lover, but Raven's Wing is more familiar in type. It contains both Syrian and Cyprian latakia in large quantity, ameliorated by just the right amount of stoved Virginias. The blend is dark and heavy, as is the smoky and familiar spicy taste. It takes you to the flavor precipice without going over the edge. This is not a latakia 2 by 4, but it is latakia writ large, and the huge flavor is uniform, slow burning and cool down the bowl. It would be a once-in-a-while blend to me, but if you really like latakia, want some complexity with it, this blend's for you.
And then, from the Summer 2001 Issue:
G. L. Pease is by now a familiar name to all the fanciers of the best in modern blending. He is held in a high regard by the cognoscenti reserved for few others, and has developed a cult-like following that is deserved. His blends exhibit a breadth of taste reflecting the deployment of encyclopedic knowledge of that glorious leaf coupled to a palate capable of delivering seemingly infinite subtlety. Through a master's Spenserian hand blending the finest ingredients available today, a quality rings that hearkens to the great blending houses of yore. The newest examples below continue his development, and will make the Perique lovers delirious while quite possibly making everybody else into Perique lovers. How he manages to hit every time at bat eludes me.
This blend, a savory compote of Virginias with a goodly hit of Perique, has already achieved cult status, and I understand that there are haiku composed to it in laud and honor. I may not go the haiku route (I would have to smoke it in a Tsuge), but this is absolutely magnificent. Layers and layers of complexity, swirling, changing down the bowl like wraiths appearing in smoke, are the product of the intricate lace of Virginia varieties. There is more than a little Perique, and this can genuinely be classed as a Perique blend, adding that wonderful stewed fruit element in the room aroma, and that unsounded depth in the taste. Some straight and nearly ascetic black Cavendish is added as a mere wafting, an enigmatic and sweet-tempered ghostly presence, making it even more amiable a companion to your briar. Finally, there is just a touch of air cured leaf, bring a nutty body, an occasional cigar-like essence sure to please. There are elements of chocolate, and it is a broad blend in presence. The room aroma is absolutely wonderful, even to the usually unappreciative. It is said to undergo an exclusive process. I would call it magic. Highly recommended.
Some blenders will not employ cubed Burley for fear of being compared with the mass-market blends popularized in the pre-World War II decades of the century. Mr. Pease has found the most exceptional cubed Burley that I have ever had and takes the genre to new heights. The color is rich and earthy, and the cut is between the more common small cubes in the more common blends and the less common hulking chunks found in the failed attempts at an elite blend of this sort. It never devolves into that nasty, bitter and biting ending so familiar from the world of bad Burley. It burns with consummate flavor, marvelous nuttiness, with only esteem for your palate and no rancor. It is big but not bruising, and has added components that only a master could carry off. I have mentioned that I have yet to try a Burley and Perique blend that works, and Mr. Pease has added just enough (repeat, just enough) red Virginia in appropriate cut for mixture with cubes to make the Perique component work. The balance is perfection itself, and as with all other Pease blends, the layers and subtleties defy description. At times the raisin-like Perique element envelops your senses, at times the Virginias materialize, but mostly the cubed Burley plays on like great 64 foot pedal stops on a cathedral pipe organ. A delightful wafting of brandy finishes this off in perfect balance with the other ingredients. It is slow burning, and who in their right minds would rush this? Highly recommended.
And, once again, this time from the Fall 2001 Issue:
My, oh my, Mr. Pease has done it again. For those of you looking for a true Balkan, but not just a latakia dump, here it is. Once it became phenomenally difficult some years ago to get small quantities of high quality oriental blending leaf of particular varieties, Balkan blends in general took it on the chin. Latakia alone doesn't cut it. Is Balkan Sobranie, in the absence of Yenidje of substance and quality, the same as in those thrilling days of yesteryear? I should say not. But here, fresh and new, is a mid-weight Balkan to delight the palate, strengthen the nerve, clear the eye and refresh the mind. Enjoy it while contemplating the ways of the world. It will make you philosophical even if you are a thoughtless lump. With a Balkan, Homer Simpson would spout Kierkegaard, Country & Western becomes Wagnerian, a can of Bud is haut Armagnac and your humble abode will appear as Versailles. An opulent and intricate blend of Cyprian latakia, orientals, lemon and red Virginias and a touch of air-cured leaf, this is superb. It has that weight and texture to the smoke necessary to be a true Balkan, so that it hangs in the air, nearly palpable, hovering on exotic wings as a trained falcon. It is probably too rich to be an all-day companion, but maybe not. It goes right to the edge but not over, balancing on the palate like a tightrope artist, stimulating as much as possible without fatigue. If you like this genre, this is the best thing of its sort I have tried in years. Highly recommended.