Pipe Tobacco Review: Billy Budd by Cornell & Diehl

  • BillyBudd_can$14.49 / 2 oz. tin
  • Purchased at Burns Tobacconist


After I picked up the two varieties of Briarworks pipe tobacco on my California trip last October, I decided to try to get them into Burns, where I work. In my research, I found that they were created by Cornell & Diehl, which has a large catalog of tobaccos under their own name, as well as other brands such as G.L. Pease and Briarworks. We brought in several varieties of each of these brands into the shop to see how our local pipe smokers would react.

One of the first I picked up for myself is Billy Budd, a pipe tobacco under the C&D brand and something that a customer had mentioned to me over a year ago. C&D normally provides good descriptions with their pipe tobaccos, though this one doesn’t have much going for it beyond the basics:

A heavy Latakia blend with white Burley ribbon, bright Virginia flake, and a good amount of rough-cut cigar leaf. Created for C&D’s late friend Sailorman Jack.

Billy Budd, Sailor, is also the name of Herman Melville’s final novel, published posthumously, so I’m guessing there is some tie-in between the subject of the book and “Sailorman Jack” that is mentioned on the can.


I have to say I like C&D’s style of tins better than those I’ve seen from Peterson and Dunhill. The traditional companies seem to be focused on using as little space as possible, so they have short, wide tins with 50 grams (1.75 ounces) of tobacco compressed as much as seemingly possible. These taller tins have a little more tobacco presented loosely in the tin, ready to scoop out easily with your fingers and pack into a pipe. I’m sure there are advantages and proponents of both concepts.

As seems to be fairly normal, the aroma of heavily-smoked Latakia leaf dominates the nose of the opened tin. This blend, though, seems to have a little more going on, with a slightly sweet aroma just coming through and an undercurrent of cigar-leaf earthiness.

Lighting up I got the same type of experience…a heavy, spicy, smokiness from the Latakia, accented by a slight citrusy sweetness and a flavor that in cigars has always hit me as “natural tobacco.” Definitely a nice complexity to this pipe tobacco blend.

Billy Budd had a nice medium-plus body, which was a good break away from heavy, full-bodied English Oriental blends. As I continued to smoke I got more of the sweet Virginia and cigar leaf notes.

On a separate note, aside from the time I set the pipe down to write a few paragraphs, I didn’t have it go out on me. That indicates that I’m getting better at the whole “pack it right the first time, light it once and smoke it until it’s done” thing. Not quite there yet…but getting better.

I would recommend this to English blend fans who want a slight break without straying too far…or to aromatic smokers who want to try something besides a flavored tobacco without going over the top with body and strength.

David Jones

David has been smoking premium cigars since 2001. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Leaf Enthusiast. He is a full-time retail tobacconist, working for Burns Tobacconist in Chattanooga, where he has also organized the Chattanooga Tweet-Up for the last four years. He is also an independent graphic designer and typesetter. Twitter: @dmjones1009

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