How Adam Began Running Out Of Full Virginia Flake
When I got hired to work for Smokingpipes in late November 2005, I had already experienced the angst of purchasing a couple of tins of a particular pipe tobacco blend, thoroughly enjoying it, and later discovering that it had gone out of production. The name and blend of said tobacco really isn't as important as what I learned from my mistake: Buy more as soon as it's realized there's a chance it could go away forever (or at least annoyingly indefinitely). Whether the company quit making the blend simply because a specific component was in short supply or whether the blender perceived that demand for this mix was too short and couldn't sell enough to warrant continued production (possibly from smokers just like me who possessed the "Eh; I'll just buy more after I finish these' attitude regarding pipe tobacco purchasing) is a dilemma I cannot address. However, buying more to smoke later may have saved it from the graveyard.
When I began working in our retail store in 2006, I talked with a lot of customers that would try a tobacco and really enjoy it. "Buy more", I would say, followed by my personal story of woe. I'd let them know up-front that I wasn't trying to trick them into buying more tobacco to raise sales; rather, I was just informing them of the facts. Once you've found a blend you love it quite certainly will increase in price (as all things do), eventually it will cease to be produced (as all things do - even if it's many years away), and it should get better with age.
I took my own advice and purchased four or five pounds of Samuel Gawith's Full Virginia Flake in bulk as well as a few other bulk blends, and between five and ten tins of each of the tobaccos I liked. It's here I'd like to mention that while some people might attempt to buy out the total inventory of a particular favored blend, and are free to do so, hoarding copious amounts that one doesn't even plan to smoke prevents all others from being introduced to and talking about this tobacco which would otherwise increase interest among friends and peers and thus may cause the blend in regard to have more fans, which will keep it in demand and surely the shops supplied, and so on and so forth.
Samuel Gawith pipe tobacco is a perfect example of the aforementioned syndrome. We used to get a lot of 50-gram tins and one-pound boxes back in 2006. Hundreds and hundreds of them. But because demand for their product is up and the general availability of it is extremely low (in small part because of smokers buying up as much as the can), many smokers have resorted to discovering other blends to replace their beloved Sam Gawith smokes (which, actually, is a good thing for the survival of other blends). Now do I think that Samuel Gawith blends will ever fall out of popularity so as to threaten its existence? No. Nevertheless, are there a lot of smokers who can now relate to my story at the beginning of this letter? Probably.
As I sit here typing this, I'm puffing on some Full Virginia Flake that I packed away in mason jars six years ago. The stuff is amazingly good. It's also a lot more expensive now that it was when I purchased it. Most importantly, I made the mistake of not buying anymore after my initial purchase, and now I can't seem to get any at all. I should have been adding to the stock whenever I could afford to do so.
The moral of this story, if I had to grasp one, is smoke what you have now, buy more to cellar (but not so much as to exclude everyone else), and try and remember to add a few more tins than you think you need each time you replenish. Again, you could accuse me of trying to 'drive sales' but really, I'm trying to save you future regret. The positives of such a practice will see you slowly building your cellar over time (be sure to write the dates of purchase on the tins to keep track of aging) and keeping the products in a trickle of demand so the companies will be less-likely to discontinue them. And you'll actually be saving money in the long run by avoiding future price increases.
Tonight you can find a great many offerings from Tsuge, Tonni, Michael Lindner, Kevin Arthur, Ashton, Randy Wiley, Winslow, IMP, Nording, Savinelli, Peterson, Stanwell, and sixty awesome estates.
Happy puffing (and cellaring)
Adam Davidson: Quality Control & Pipe Inspector