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28 January 2011

Kelly's Pick
 Perdomo Reserve Champagne Churchill

       -Posted by adam-

I sat down with Kelly McLaughlin - our cigar expert in the store - to chat about one of his favorite smokes. Our store, Low Country Pipe & Cigar puts together a local email newsletter that features special selections and notes for many of our walk-in customers, so it seems fitting to extend some of his passion here on our blog.

The Perdomo Reserve Champagne Churchill (7" x 54 ring gauge) is one of Kelly's favorite cigars and has become a best seller over the years, in no small part to his admiration for this particular smoke. Delicious 6-year aged Connecticut Champagne wrappers lend subtle flavors to the smoke, while the well-aged Cuban-seed filler and binder adds richness and character. It’s a perfect starting point for the new cigar smokers as well as the seasoned aficionado.

Adam: "So, why is this one of your favorite cigars?"

Kelly: "I love the Perdomo Champagne line because it's one of those cigars that I can depend on for consistent flavor, mild-to-medium in strength, and a room note that keeps others asking 'what are you smoking?' This is one of our best-selling cigars. As you can see, there is a customer sitting out in our lounge waiting on a couple buddies to smoke this exact cigar. They first started coming in a while ago, and gravitate back to this on a regular basis. When they pick up one of these Champagnes, they know what to expect: flavor."

Adam: "Let’s start with how you cut the cigar. What works best for you?"

Kelly: "I prefer to use a single punch because the cigar is so well constructed I don't feel the need to remove the entire cap for smoke flow. All Perdomo cigars go into a machine that tests the draw flow and pressure prior to the caps being put in place, so I know it's going to smoke well. The double-cap holds everything together, but I've just found this is what I like for this cigar."

Adam: "Is there a reason you prefer this size and ring gauge over a smaller one?"

Kelly: "A cigar with a larger ring gauge burns less with each puff, so the proportions of filler/binder/wrapper are different on a smaller cigar. I find that these larger ones smoke a bit cooler and there is more room for the flavors to develop during the smoke."

Adam: "What flavors do you experience with this one?"

Kelly: "After I punch the hole, I always take a test draw before lighting. I know it's going to smoke just fine, but this is a good time to make sure. While the wrapper has an aroma of fresh baked bread crust with a lingering sweetness, the filler tobaccos lend a desirable Szechuan pepper flavor that makes me really look forward to firing it up."

Adam: "There a lot of different ways to light a cigar, but what's your favorite?"

Kelly: "I prefer to use a single-torch lighter to toast the foot without puffing. After evenly charring it and seeing a red coal, I let the lighter go out and take a gentle puff. In doing this, the cigar sends out plumes of smoke and starts burning evenly right off the bat without allowing any of the super-heated smoke to drift into the body of the cigar, which is what happens when someone uses a torch or triple torch to begin the smoke. It's different for everyone, but I just prefer the first puff to be at the same temperature as during the smoke."

Adam: "Do any flavors develop as you smoke?"

Kelly: "Sure. The initial puff brings forth the Szechuan pepper notes balanced with some of that sweet toasty aroma, and even a lingering strong coffee with cream coats the palate. As I smoke, the pepper flavors intensify a little bit, but they aren't overwhelming or bitter at all. I love relaxing and enjoying all of the nuances during this smoke. When I get about an inch and a half from my lips I let the cigar go out. Since all of the tobacco behind the ash filters the smoke, this is the point where it loses individual character. For me, putting a cigar down at the end of a good smoke is better than continuing past the best flavors it has to offer. Bitterness and intensity reside in the very end, so I always want to have my last puff be a good one."

Posted by adam at 10:00 AM | Link | 0 comments

27 January 2011

Misc. Estate: Unknown Baby's Foot with Extended Big Toe and Bakelite Stem

       -Posted by ted-

This awe-inspiring and truly magical work of art comes to us from some long forgotten box of oddities likely stashed away for decades in a hateful basement filled with dead dreams. Verily, it is a shame that this pipe, something so beautiful and magnificent, should come to us void of context and without any hint of its heritage. What nameless, faceless innocent belongs to this tiny foot? Why did the master choose to model a pipe after this particular anatomical feature instead of another? Is not a hand as noble as a foot? Have we not all marveled, at one time or another, at the proud profile of some particularly notable proboscis? So many questions come screaming from the night and like terrible cretins we are left to only empty, trivial conjecture. Every mundane conception, every time-honored conviction, every ill-fated attempt at interpretation is kicked away like wood dust by the foot of time. Breathtaking.

--Ted Swearingen

Condition: 4.25/5 Rim darkening, toe jam, and a strange odor. There are a few small scratches on the heel (literally). Note that this pipe does not come with a sock.

Posted by ted at 1:30 PM | Link | 1 comment

24 January 2011

Nasal Snuff
 taking and making

       -Posted by adam-

Nasal snuff (powdered tobacco taken through the nose) has been around for centuries. It was first observed by Ramon Pane (a monk) in present-day Haiti during the 1493-1496 voyage of Christopher Columbus. Natives of the Americas were surely using it long before Columbus arrived. Catherine de Medici received some snuff in 1561 to treat her son's migraines and the popularity spread throughout Europe shortly thereafter. By the time the 18th century came around nasal snuff was very popular among the elite and anyone else that could get their hands on it. Because tobacco was so expensive, grinding it to a powder meant it would last quite a bit longer than burning it. Various types of tobaccos were dried and powdered, then sifted, which allowed takers to either pinch or use a little spoon to sharply inhale the powder into their nose. Various aromas –mainly floral- were added.

Coal miners also used snuff because they couldn't smoke their pipes in the mine (due to highly-combustible dust) and because snuffed tobacco causes the mucus membranes to moisten, thus trapping fine dust that the miners would have otherwise inhaled. Mainly, though, snuff was popular because it is enjoyable. Snuff etiquette in the 18th century dictated that you would tap your snuff box and offer some to those around you to take a pinch, sniff sharply, and hold back a sneeze! You can see snuff use in some old movies and in a lot of paintings from the 18th and 19th century. Thomas Edison even filmed a man taking snuff, then sneezing, in 1894.

Snuff manufacturer Fribourg and Treyer was founded in England in 1720. Wilsons of Sharrow also began making snuff in 1737. Both brands continue to produce snuff today (though it is all made at the Sharrow mill). Samuel Gawith began making snuff in 1792, and many other mills opened later in different countries. Napolean was reputed to go through about 15 pounds of snuff a month (though he was also known to just pinch, smell, and let the dust fall). Snuff boxes made of silver, horn, and hard wood in dozens of shapes, along with snuff bottles from the orient have been made to contain a day's supply (around 3-10 grams). These are highly collectible, especially with the increased popularity of snuff in the last 10 years.

So, what does this have to do with us? I began enjoying snuff ten years ago and have tried nearly every variety that was available in the U.S. Ted just recently got into snuff and we've been enjoying some Fribourg & Treyer (French Carotte, Morlaix, Old Paris, etc.).

How difficult it is to make snuff? How cool would it be to make snuff from some tobaccos we have drying out? Not that difficult, actually. Ted and I both enjoy a bowl of Samuel Gawith 1792 Flake and Cob Plug. The aroma in the jar is heavy of tonka bean (somewhat like vanilla, musk, and sweetness). We decided an experiment was in order: Because we love to sniff this blend we decided we’d like to snuff it too. The result is a small batch of Cob Snuff.

We had some Cob Plug that was broken up in fine flakes and leaves that was allowed to dry for a full day. These leaves were then put in a granite mortar and pestle, then pounded and ground in a circular fashion to make a fine powder (which wears out the arms a little - honestly). After several breaks the powder looked rather fine. Taking a piece of cheese cloth, and folding it 3 or 4 times, made for a nice filter. Over a bowl, I put a wire mesh strainer lined with the cheese cloth and poured in the powder, then picked up the cheese cloth bag and shook it over and tapped it against the strainer. Low and behold, a fine powder went through and only small chunks were left behind for discard. After another round in the mortar the snuff was ready to pour into a bottle.

Today I brought in the bottle of Cob Snuff for Ted to try. We both like it quite a bit! It wouldn't surprise me to learn that people have done this for centuries with their dried out tobacco. It was really easy to make and we've already headed down to the store to pick out other blends to turn into snuff. Gawith & Hoggarth Bob's Chocolate Flake is probably next, as is Cannon Plug and some dried out Penzance and Stonehaven that Ted has. We'll let you know how it turns out.

Posted by adam at 2:51 PM | Link | 3 comments

17 January 2011

(in)Famous Pipe Smokers: Jean Bart
 It isn't piracy if the King said you could.

       -Posted by eric-

Many are the men who proudly hang their diplomas upon the walls of their offices, or line their dens with trophies of sport or the hunt. Jean Bart likely did not have many formal awards in recognition of athletic prowess lining his den, and it seems equally unlikely that he had much in the way of framed certifications, either – but that is to be expected when you spend the majority of your life at sea, engaging in running battles. So he’s had to settle with having some twenty-seven plus ships of the French Navy named in his honor over the past two centuries, and having fathered some fourteen children (that we know of – he was a sailor, after all).

Tall, swaggering, Jean Bart was unapologetically a man of action, rather than class. Literally; being of common birth (the son of a fisherman), he was initially socially excluded from receiving a command in the French Navy, even though he had experience serving in the Dutch Navy under the notable Admiral De Ruyter from the age of 12, learning seamanship and tactics fighting the English. (The English assault upon and capture of Dunkirk being what first inspired Jean to take up arms.) Fortunately, the 17th century's military culture provided an unenfranchised man of action, itching for a fight, the perfect outlet: To become a corsair. (Likewise, one did not have to be a gentleman by birth to enjoy the long-stemmed clay pipes that were popular in his day, and from simple contemporary drawings intended for mass-printing, to the intricate 19th century portrait by Jean-Léon Gérôme, seen above, Jean Bart has typically been portrayed with a pipe at hand.) This was even better than becoming a pirate, as you could be assured there was, at any given time, at least one government that wasn't trying to kill you. When France and the United Provinces went to war upon each other in 1672, Jean Bart signed on with Louis XIV's Marine Guard, by then based out of his old hometown, a much refurbished and refitted Dunkirk. The city of Jean's boyhood was now not only much-improved as a port; it was also the drop-off point for the captures and war-booty of the Fleet du Nord.

And so it was that Jean Bart made his name and rose through the ranks, all the way to admiral, the old fashioned way: By seeking out the enemy, destroying his will to continue battle, and making off into the sunset with everything he possessed - his ships in particular. Three-hundred and eighty-six of them, to be precise, with many more simply sent to the deep. To put that into perspective, if the French were to continue naming military vessels after Jean Bart until there has been one Jean Bart for each of his captures, naming them at the same rate as they have over the past two-hundred years they would finish up sometime around the year 4669 A.D.

A Herculean task, no doubt, and you might well expect even so famed a man of action and celebrated national icon might be forgotten by then. Or perhaps not. Jean Bart's legacy has, it must be said, thus far shown a rather peculiar resiliency. When the unbridled - and unprecedented - industrialized war machines of WWII ran roughshod over Europe, they in the course of affairs managed to completely flatten more than two-thirds of old Dunkirk. Nonetheless, when the smoke cleared and the flames had all danced their last, and the sound and fury was quit, Jean Bart's memorial remained standing tall, and defiant, with sword raised in hand.

Posted by eric at 1:25 PM | Link | 1 comment

07 January 2011

JackKnife Plug II

       -Posted by ted-

We had a lot. Trust me. I saw the great big box of JackKnife Plug that was delivered to us just this afternoon. Turns out everybody really wanted it. I suppose I’m not surprised; G. L. Pease has an incredible (maybe even devout) following. And why shouldn’t he? Greg can blend a mean tobacco.

But it seems like we’ve already sold out of every tin of JackKnife Plug we had to offer. Bummer. But fret not! Just as soon as we were finishing up our last order of this tasty new offering, Susan was on the phone placing an order for even more. Thankfully we won’t have to wait for this stuff to come in from overseas. We should see it back in stock soon.

I guess all that’s left to do is wait. Or pick up a tin of Westminster. Or Haddo’s. I could go on and on.

Posted by ted at 5:45 PM | Link | 5 comments

JackKnife Plug
 A New Blend by G. L. Please

       -Posted by ted-

In early November Greg Pease mentioned on his blog ‘The Briar & Leaf Chronicles’ that he was keeping a secret. He wrote about how different this new project was and how excited he was to share it with everyone. Needless to say, we were already licking our lips. Then in early December Greg revealed his secret. He would be introducing Jack Knife Plug: a blend comprised of bright and red-flue cured as well as dark-fired Kentucky leaf. We’d been asking for a plug tobacco from this infamous blender for a long while and now he was going to deliver. It would be ready, hopefully, he said, in January.

True to his word, Jack Knife Plug showed up just this afternoon, only hours after I asked Susan if we might be expecting it soon.

And as I sit here smoking my first bowl of it right now, I have to tell you, it’s pretty dang good. Sliced into flakes, cube-cut, or even rubbed out, Jack Knife Plug is spicy, full-flavored and offers plenty of ‘kick’. If you’re a fan of G. L. Pease or are just looking for another plug tobacco to covet, Jack Knife Plug will surely impress.

Posted by ted at 4:00 PM | Link | 1 comment

Research With Tobacco Plants Leads Science to New Lights!

       -Posted by sid-

The sun goes down and the streets in the city are lighted. But not with electricity. The glow comes from bioluminescence of genetically modified trees. This may sound like science fiction; however, scientists could develop glowing trees that replace streetlights. This breakthrough in bioluminescence was derived from research done at Cambridge University. The process is implemented by transduction of modified genes with E. coli bacteria. No glowing trees have been grown, but multiple colors and significant amounts of light have been produced using this method.

These newer breakthroughs in genetic engineering are derived from studies initially done using tobacco plants. Biochemists from the University of California at San Diego added the gene of a firefly to the tobacco's DNA. The gene produces Luciferase (an enzyme that makes fireflies glow). The scientist then integrated it into tobacco cells. The result was a tobacco plant with leaves, roots and stems that glow. Just like a firefly.

Tobacco at
Although we don’t sell glowing tobacco, we do have a plethora of tobacco varieties to choose from at Old Gowrie, Long Golden Flake, Westminster, Dunbar, and Margate are a few of our best sellers. We also have a huge stock of bulk tobacco (if you found a favorite blend). Some of the top sellers in bulk tobacco are 1-Q, Black Irish-X, Dark Bird's Eye, and Louisiana Perique Flake.

Posted by sid at 12:30 PM | Link | 1 comment

05 January 2011

Cob in a Cob!
 Smoking Cob Plug in a Corn Cob Pipe

       -Posted by ted-

Adam came rushing into my office again. “Cob in a cob!” he exclaimed dramatically. This time I knew exactly what he meant.

Adam has been looking for an excuse for the two of us to smoke a couple of corn cob pipes that we’ve had sitting around the building for the last couple of weeks. I guess he figured it out: smoking Sam Gawith’s Cob Plug in a corn cob. Keep in mind that both Adam and I are rather fond of this blend of Virginia and Oriental leaf sauced in tonka bean extract. Also, Adam is particularly enamored with the corn cob.

This was remarkable. The Cob Plug did really well in the cob pipe. The natural buttery sweetness of the corn lent itself to the sweet casing of the tobacco excellently. Some of the bitterness I often find with this blend was perfectly neutralized by the porous qualities of the pipe. The shank on Adam’s pipe even turned a shade of purple in a spot.

Because the cob pipe doesn’t have to be ‘broken-in’ it smoked like a champ right out of the gate, which was fantastically rewarding and a little refreshing in light of some of our recent experiments.

However, because the corn cob pipe will absorb so many of the characteristics of a tobacco it tends to ghost pretty badly. This is especially true with a blend like Cob Plug or 1792. I know this as well as Adam. Yet after his bowl of Cob Plug had finished Adam packed his pipe fresh with McClelland’s Dark Star. Then Ennerdale Flake. Then he tried to smoke Cob Plug again.

“That Cob Plug can’t taste as good as it did the first time, can it?” I asked, knowingly.

“It tastes like butt.”

I suppose the moral of the story is this: Corn cob pipes are a lot of fun. They’re inexpensive, easy to smoke and can offer a unique flavor to a tobacco. Also, they are easy to abuse. And if you insist on abusing your corn cob pipe by continuing to smoke it past its prime or by cycling through it dozens of strange blends the cob will crap on your taste buds. In the meantime, try Cob in a cob!

Posted by ted at 10:30 AM | Link | 3 comments

04 January 2011

Project: Lakeland

       -Posted by ted-

Last week, Adam stole me from my office during the middle of the day. He had a wild look about him, most notably around the eyes, his lips were pursed and his breath was eager. In his left hand he grasped a pair of Stanwell pipes, one of which he nearly violently handed to me. I know Adam well enough to translate this manner of behavior: he had for us a project.

We rushed downstairs from my office to our store, Low Country Pipe & Cigar, where we began to scan rapidly the great wall of jarred tobacco. Adam made it pretty clear rather quickly that we were after something in particular. We were looking for that ‘Lakeland Essence’. After sniffing every jar of Gawtih & Hoggarth tobacco in the shop, Adam decided that we were to fill our Stanwells with a bowl of Ennerdale Flake. The tobacco description goes so:

Predominately Virginia leaf from Brazil, Zimbabwe and Malawi (86%) but with the addition of sun cured Malawi (10%) to add sweetness, strength and to cool the smoke and Malawi Burley (4%) to "carry the flavor" in addition to its cooling and strength qualities. A background flavor of Almond is enhanced with the addition of fruit, vanilla, and the special 'Lakeland style' flavors to give this tobacco its distinctive aroma and taste.

The ‘Lakeland’ flavor has been described in various terms by many people. Some have called it floral or reminiscent of perfume while others have likened it to bar soap. I do get the soap comparison. Not cheap, supermarket soap, though, rather fancy French stuff one must buy per ounce. It’s an interesting flavoring that we found here nearly constitutes the entire backdrop of Ennerdale Flake. If you are looking to put your finger on the Lakeland taste, methinks this blend is a winner.

Posted by ted at 9:00 AM | Link | 3 comments

03 January 2011

The Peterson Comet
 unique grain pattern

       -Posted by adam-

For me, ‘pipe shape’ wins over ‘pipe grain’ nearly every time. Still, I thoroughly enjoy seeing beautiful grain on a Preben Holm Collector or dense birdseye on some ‘no-name’ piece. I have come across many-a-pipe that had beautiful grain with a lovely shape just begging to be released from its clunky prison. And other pieces that matched the grain perfectly to the point that very wild, wispy facets were carved on the briar. For many of these reasons, a well carved briar on the rack usually finds the admiration of others.

There are straight-grain hounds and cross grain aficionados. Some collectors drool over perfect ring-grain patterns on a sandblasted billiard or freehand. Some, like me, find the front to back linear grain of an elephant’s foot the most interesting. This last pattern looks stunning to me on a classic shape because it gives the piece so much movement and was rarely done in favor of the other patterns.

While inspecting a fresh batch of Peterson pipes today, I stumbled across something new to me: a rather unassuming Killarney 69 red bent billiard. The grain is nothing to write home about. It's rather bald with birdseye as tight as an oil puddle, though the growth rings do give it a time-warping sense of movement. What this pipe does have, though, is a comet streaking across the side. Putting my nasal snuff down to get a second opinion, I found others marveled as well. If this particularly interesting tid-bit of grain has the same regularity as the Hale-Bopp comet from 1996, someone can expect to encounter this again in 2,389 years.

Posted by adam at 4:57 PM | Link | 3 comments



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