When you picture someone enjoying a pipe, is he frantically puffing on a big ol’ bowl of some Latakia blend as he lounges by the pool, covered in SPF 4 Million, roasting like a wild boar at a Luau? Or do you imagine someone curled up by the fire with a nice book and a wee dram? Pipe smoking and cool weather just seem to go hand in hand, which presents a bit of a problem during the warmer months.
Here at Smokingpipes.com HQ we are experiencing full-fledged hot-and-humid summer weather. I was born and raised in Southern California, where every day of the year is a mild summer’s day. Having recently relocated to the South, I can categorically say that this feels like the first real summer of my life. Now, in my years as a tobacco enthusiast, if I had a nickle for every time that I have heard someone say “this is cigar weather” when the days became longer and warmer, then I would finally be able to afford a seven day set of Dunhill DR five-stars. While I can’t argue with the sentiment that a good stogie flat-out works on a hot day, I refuse to submit to Mother Nature’s whim and abandon my pipes until autumn.
Sometime last week, during a particularly warm afternoon, Andy stopped by my desk with a request for a warm-weather tobacco recommendation. Having recently spent no small amount of time discussing this very topic with my tobacco cohorts, Josh and Jeremy, I jumped at the chance to apply our theory:
A quenching Summer pipe tobacco should be mild-medium in strength, and full-flavored. Blends with plenty of flavor will tend to keep one from “smoking hot” since over-puffing is all too often a result of the smoker trying to get more flavor from a tobacco than it has to offer. The smoke must be satisfying even in smaller doses since you may not want a lengthy smoke in the heat. Small-chambered briars and corn cobs are perfectly suited to warm-weather puffing, with cobs being the preferred tool for those residing in areas that are prone to extreme humidity; corn cob pipes smoke cool and dry, and do a great job of absorbing unavoidable moisture. Ideally, a warm-weather blend will be predominantly Virginia-based with Burley to add body and, if condiment tobaccos are a must, cool-burning Perique is the clear winner over Oriental varieties and Latakia.
Keeping all of this in mind, I began to sift through my pile of jars and tins until I found the golden tin labeled: “Reiner Blend No. 71”, and handed it to Andy. Blend No. 71 or, Long Golden Flake, is a medium-strength flake comprised of golden Virginias, white Burley and a bit of Perique; it delivers plenty of creamy, flavorful smoke and burns well. I caught up with Andy later that day and asked what his impressions were. He found the blend to be “light, yet full of flavor and the perfect strength.” He said the blend burned slowly and the flavor intensified as the bowl progressed, but it never became hot or acrid. The end result was a “satisfying and refreshing smoke, perfect for a hot summer’s day”.
In our experimentation, we have returned to old favorites such as Reiner’s Long Golden Flake, Escudo, Cornell & Diehl's Briar Fox and Sunday Picnic (every blend in the C&D Simply Elegant series deserves consideration), and don’t forget the exception to the “no Latakia” rule, G. L. Pease’s Key Largo; a perfect seasonal change of pace for the dedicated heavy-English/Balkan puffer. We have also discovered several other perfectly suitable swelter smokes including Cornell & Diehl's Five O'Clock Shadow, which is rich, very flavorful blend, packed with cool-smoking Perique, and a new favorite. The new Seasonal Flakes recently released by Samuel Gawith are winners across the board and, although we currently favor the Springtime and English Summer flakes, we have sampled and can’t wait bring out the Scottish Autumn and Winter Time flakes when the weather finally does cool down.
These are, of course, simply guidelines and let’s face it; rules truly are meant to be broken. While I always look forward to summer yard work during which I exclusively enjoy Samuel Gawith’s 1792 in my cobs, for the past few days Jeremy (he’s a bit of a wildcard) has been smoking a lot of Cornell & Diehl’s Easy Times which is a stout blend of Red Virginia, Dark Fired Kentucky and Latakia!
A little trial and error is necessary when trying to find what works best for you so put away your large-chambered briars and those heavy Latakia blends, and stuff your favorite corn cob with some Virginia because Summer ain’t just for cigars!
It’s time again: a blind taste-test with our own Smokingpipes staff serving in the roles of experimental subjects A, B, and C. Or, as it were, Subject Josh, Subject Shane, and Subject Jeremy. For today’s entry I’ve done something a little different; instead of popping off down to the warehouse to search through rows and rows of tobaccos, I simply reached over and grabbed a tin buried amongst the clutter of my desk (half of which is other tins, to no one’s surprise I’m sure).
So, here we go – with Reeves kicking things off in poetic verse:
Ziplock baggie on my work desk, contents are unknown.
Mostly black, with specks of tanness, contents are unknown.
Smells of sorghum, black molasses, deep brown sugar, fragrant wood.
In the background, smoke and vinegar, very subtle, smells quite good.
Packed so easy, just gravity, barely needs a tamp,
Lit up quickly, sweet and spicy, barely needs a tamp.
No I'm sure now, it is only vinegar topped Stoved Virginia!
McClelland surely is the maker, from the get-go, there's no doubt.
Sugar topping, tangy VA, perhaps there are some Orientals about.
I detect no Burley, Perique, etc., etc., in my snout.
I think this would smoke quite lovely, in a corncob, fishing trout.
Ziplock baggie on my work desk, all will be reveal’d.
When in the blog posting later, your name is unseal’d.
Then will I go to the warehouse, searching for a tin of you?
I believe that is precisely what I shall intend to do.
Next up, Josh Burgess, our resident Ph. D (History), engages in a casual-dissection-and-light-dissertation of his own:
I dumped the plastic bag of tobacco onto a sheet of paper to examine the cut and take a sniff. I think we technically classify something like this as a ribbon cut, although there are lots of smaller chunks. Looks and smells like a McClelland Blend. There’s that tell-tale vinegar sweetness that others call “ketchupy”—I think it smells like A1 sauce. Components are particularly dark, lots of browns and blacks with only a few pieces of lemon colored ribbons. Based upon the smell and look, I’m expecting a lot of rich stoved Virginias. There’s a nagging question in the back of my mind: does this blend contain Latakia? I’m sad to say that I can’t tell at this point. I don’t detect it, but with a blend this dark, I don’t entirely trust my nose. Not knowing which briar to select, I grab a cob from my office book shelf.
Moisture content seems about right, but it takes a bit of effort to light. Initial flavors are of sweet and rich Virginias. Stoved Virginias are quite prominent with their deep brown sugar notes, and their sweetness is present throughout the bowl. I detect a few mild aromatic elements—perhaps some vanilla and something fruity. No Latakia here after all. Flavor profile remains pretty consistent throughout the bowl, but in the second half I do get a little more tanginess from the VAs. On the whole, I’d consider this a mildly flavored and rich crossover blend—something that McClelland is quite good at achieving. I’m going to guess Deep Hollow.
Finally comes Shane Ireland – on merit of being the last one to get his review done and to my desk:
You all know how this works; Eric drops a nondescript bag of "mystery" on the desks of several unsuspecting puffers and we struggle to identify and review said tobacco blindly. The baggy which this installment is based on contained mostly dark tobaccos. The blends appears to be largely comprised of Stoved Virginia with a few flecks of tan and chestnut colored leaf. The aroma from the bag reminds me of brown sugar or sweet and tangy BBQ sauce, while Adam Davidson thought the smell was closer to Worcestershire... I had to let this dry out significantly in order to achieve optimal smoking moisture, or lack thereof. Despite feeling fairly dry to the touch, I didn't find this baccy to take a flame easily and the taste upon lighting was slightly sweet, faintly tangy and similar to the aroma from the bag; caramelized brown sugar, some spiciness, and vinegar. Midway through the bowl, more Virginia sweetness and slight tang. I'm not sure if I'll even finish this bowl. With so many fine (more complex) blends around me, this certainly does not stand out; unoffensive, yet uninteresting.
Disappointment from the disappointing – so it goes. And so it proves: Different strokes for different folks, or as it were, different palates.
As for the tin, it was McClelland’s (no hiding that) Royal Cajun, a blend of dark-stoved and lemon Virginias, and “Cajun Black”, a modern component developed by Steve Cooley, and described by McClelland as such:
”Cajun Black derives from Virginia seed brought to Southern Kentucky long ago to grow in that fertile, heavy soil where it was crossbred to create dark fire-cured tobacco. It is stalk-cut and hung over slow-burning hardwood slabs in a three- to five-step smoking process for 2 to 3 weeks until it turns a deep chocolate color and achieves its distinctive smoky flavor.”
Well, I’m glad McClelland’s inclusion of Mr. Cooley’s efforts can at least be appreciated by two out of three people. The two, I will note, who were also conscientious enough to get their reviews in early – one even in rhyme.
It is with no small amount of pride that we announce a new, comprehensive search engine, one which works in a similar manner to our Pipe Locator, except that it will help guide you in your never-ending quest to find the perfect blend – as opposed to, well, pipes. Imaginatively titled ”Tobacco Locator”, it is located in the top-right menu on every page of the website. Whether you wish to search for a broad family of tobaccos, or for a specific blend, you need merely select from a series of criteria and click the “Find It!” button.
Any search engine, and the Tobacco Locator is no exception, will initially default to "everything", and then continue to narrow the number of results presented with each restriction added. The potential problem you are most likely to encounter will arise from placing too many restrictions on your search (usually identified by a notification of "No Results"). Example: a friend recommended a bulk tobacco, the exact name of which escapes you at the moment, but you are pretty sure the blend contained Virginia, Burley & Perique and you click all three buttons. If, ultimately, the mixture doesn't contain Burley, that blend will not be included in your results. We have found that the best searches usually involve 1-3 restrictions, followed by a bit of scrolling on your part. We also suggest that you steer wide of the more subjective restrictions. While Burley (not subjective) will always yield a Burley result, room notes and strengths are opinions, opinions differ, and thus become a prime candidate to yield a false negative.
We all know the drill now: I pick a tobacco, I choose a few victims volunteers and we get their impressions of a particular blend or leaf without prejudice. Well, in theory at least. As you’ll see, sometimes there’s just no disguising certain “real McCoys”.
“The appearance of this tobacco is unusual. The majority of the tobacco is a deep brown, almost black, rough cut that looks a bit like a rubbed out flake or coin, but there are a few golden ribbons here and there. The pouch note is subdued and natural, with hints of spice, charred meat, and what we euphemistically refer to as “barnyard” in wine tastings. The charred meat notes that were discernible in the pouch predominate upon the first lighting. As the bowl progresses, this flavor settles down a bit into a richer, more well-balanced smoke. By mid bowl, the tobacco has taken on added intensity and complexity with notes of spice (black pepper in particular), cedar, leather, and tar with a very subtle sweetness.
This blend is a big, full-bodied tobacco that produces copious amounts of pungent smoke. The flavor profile suggests that this is primarily a Virginia tobacco that has been dark fired. I’d wager that it’s one of the Kendal twists, although I’m a bit puzzled by the presence of the thin, golden ribbons. (Maybe this is some of Eric’s chicanery.) While this tobacco is interesting and definitely packs a nicotine punch, I can’t imagine smoking it unless I were impressed into hard labor onboard a 19th-century whaling vessel, where its pungency would mask the smell of death and despair, or attempting to understand Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, where the very generous nicotine dose would help me share in a vision of Xanadu.“
“Upon opening the zip-lock bag ambiguously marked "3/18/14" I noted a very subdued but deep aroma similar to must and smoke. Big chunks of black tobacco and thin ribbons of gold spread lightly throughout, Virginia Ribbon perhaps. Inhaling more deeply, the smell of this blend comes across with subtle spiciness, oil, hints of clove, but no sweetness. Packs easily and takes flame slowly. The flavor is unmistakably that of Black XX Rope or Black Irish X, both of which I smoke regularly. It looks as though a small amount of Kendall Gold has been blended into this, but the majority seems to be a chopped black rope. The taste is a strange amalgam comprised of meat, motor oil, sage, chipotle, creosote, graphite and occasionally BBQ sauce. Not for the faint of heart (or lung) where the pouch note was subtle and subdued, the strength and body and room-note are potent. Not acrid or tinny at all, much more earthy, musty, muddy, boggy. Let me be clear, since I realize that the descriptors I have used may sound off-putting to many; I like this blend. A lot. File this under "Acquired Taste" alongside Islay Single Malt Scotch, Chocolate Covered Bacon, Dirty Oysters, Bone Marrow, Calf's Brains, etc...“
[Ed. – He’s being serious here. In Jeremy’s company I’ve taken part in the tasting of everything from tinned seal to lambs’ livers.]
Well, I tried. Tried and failed, that is. What I tried was disguise the blend I’d chosen this time around. Why I failed was the same reason I tried: the stuff was just too distinctive. Even after cutting it, rubbing it, shredding it, drying it for 24 hours, and mixing in a tiny pinch of Kendal Gold to add some different color, Jeremy, Josh, and Ted (the lattermost just by being nearby) all at one point or another brought up in conversation the very blend I’d picked – Black Irish X. There is, simply, no mistaking these extra-dark Irish ropes; not if you’ve smoked them before, and not even if you’ve just been in the same building as someone smoking them.
Of the handful of us that couldn't "squiggle" out of coming into the office today about a third are sick. This means that on the one hand it's fairly quiet around here, and on the other there's a lot of sneezing, sniffling, coughing, hacking, and a whole host of other such harsh, unpleasantly corporeal cacophonies echoing off the walls of our otherwise rather sadly vacant building. Merry Christmas!
It's certainly your prerogative to wonder why we're bothering with all this today. It's Christmas Eve, and for the very few of whom might even escape for long enough to browse through our updated offering this afternoon, you're likely all too aware of the fact that very little will be shipped today and nothing will be delivered tomorrow. Which, at least for me, makes online shopping completely annoying and nearly an unreasonable thing to do. But there is a reason, dear readers. There is a very good reason to shop with us today.
Today we're proud to launch the latest masterpiece from G. L. Pease's Old London Series. Meet "Navigator", a pressed Virginia-Kentucky blend married with just a hint of rum (this might remind you of his last creation, "Sextant" which also featured a Latakia component). We usually sell the heck out of a new Pease blend, which points back to my earlier statement about today being just as good as any to shop from Smokingpipes.com.
As many of you likely know by now, Sykes and I were in Denmark a couple of weeks ago to visit pipe makers, look at pipes, buy pipes, and talk about the current state of pipedom. Because I fail at math, and because it was a pretty hectic trip, what with having missed another flight on top of the sheer number of people to see and things to do, when Sykes says we saw eleven pipe makers in five days, I believe him. It was a whirlwind. And it was awesome (in the not over-used, absolutely literal sense of the word).
Certainly one of the highlights of the trip was whisking away to tour the Mac Baren factory, as I've long been an ardent fan of many of their blends. Plus, factories are cool. Sykes and I sat down with CEO Simon Nielsen and Product Manager Per Georg Jensen and talked pipe tobacco (only a slight deviation from the normal conversation to be had on the trip), new pipe tobacco blends, and the current state of pipe tobaccodom. Then Per guided us through the warehouse and factory, paying attention especially to those things pertaining to Mac Baren's latest creation, HH Old Dark Fired. Thankfully, we had the presence of mind to bring a camera...
Being a fan of 18th-century life and general history, I recently came across a book that was written in 1750 by William Ellis (an Englishman) called The Country Housewife's Family Companion (1750). Ellis wrote a number of books about farming, agriculture, and general knowledge he discovered during his travels that might help others with tips, tricks, and home remedies. Below is a compilation of various uses for ailments involving tobacco as an ingredient. It goes without saying that NONE of these should be attempted, but hopefully some of you will find this as amusing as we did!
For those of you who might be interested in picking up a copy of the book, you can find it here, courtesy of Prospect Books.
Tobacco --Is an herb by some accounted wholesome, by others unwholesome. Tobacco, says Dr. Archer, physician in ordinary to King Charles, smoaked in a pipe, is very attractive of moist and crude humours, as water and phlegm out of the head and stomach; and thus it makes a pump of the mouth, for the benefit of some few, and detriment to the health of many others.--It is not good (says he) for those that are of a hot, dry, and cholerick constitution, nor for sanguine people, who are not troubled with rheums distilling upon the lungs. It is bad for the teeth for two causes, from its own heat from a burning oil with the smoak convey'd to the mouth, and from the frequent flux of rheum from the head to the teeth.--It is (says he) bad for the eyes, because the smoak carries such a hot oil with it, that weakens the eyes by its force upon the brain, drawing from the optick nerve.--It is good where cold and famine cannot otherwise be helped, for it heats the body, and defrauds the stomach by offending it, and so there may be the less appetite or craving for food. If chewing it is good for any, it is for those that have cold rheums distilling from the head; on this account I heard a physician say it is excellent, because it alters its cold nature into a hot one, and thus prevents its damaging the stomach and lungs; it is also by its smoak very serviceable in preventing contagious distempers, and therefore is commonly thus made use of by surgeons and others in hospitals, &c. Now to improve this narcotick herb, drop a few drops of oil of anniseeds into an ounce of it, it gives it a pleasant taste, and endues the smoak with several wholesome properties.
A Labourer's Finger stopt bleeding by Tobacco.--One of our day-labourers, that was plashing a hedge, happened to cut his finger with a bill, and was at a loss how to stop its bleeding, till another labourer, working with him, took a chew of tobacco out of his mouth, and by applying thereof stopt the bleeding at once.
The Traveller's Remedy for curing the Itch.--As most of the begging travellers have now and then the itch, they that know the following medicine say nothing exceeds it.--After taking as much flower of brimstone as will lie on half a crown, in a spoonful of treacle, three mornings fasting, they boil salt and tobacco in urine, and rub their bodies over with the same three times in all, and wear the same shirt a week, two, or more.
A very strong Ointment for the Itch.--Beat stone brimstone, then mix it with soap, hogslard, tobacco, and pepper, boil and strain all through a cloth, after taking sulphur inwardly; anoint with this three nights.
How a Man accustomed himself to cure his Tooth-ach with Henbane-seed.--This man named Richards, lying at Rinxsell near Gaddesden, when troubled with the tooth-ach would first put some tobacco into the bowl of a pipe, and some henbane-seed on that, then tobacco, then henbane-seed, till his pipe was full. This he smoaked, and declared it had such virtue as to make worms come out of his teeth, to the cure of the tooth-ach, for that time; for this man never smoaked, but when troubled with the tooth-ach, and then it was in this manner: And no wonder it thus effects a cure, since it is of a stupifying nature like tobacco. It grows in yards and dry ditches, and has pods that hold much small seed.
How a Smith in Hertfordshire cured his Family of the Itch, without Mercury or Sulphur.--This man's family was dreadfully infected with the itch, brought to him by a journeyman, but cured by first taking flower of brimstone inwardly three times, and then anointing twice with a liquor made thus: He boiled two ounces of tobacco in three pints of strong beer, till a third part was consumed, with a piece of allum in the same; and others have since been cured by the same remedy, wearing the same linen for a week.--This remedy I am sure is a very good one, and as it has no mixture of mercury is not dangerous, nor offensive, as it is free of the smell of brimstone.
To cure the Tooth-ach.--Dip a little lint in tincture of myrrh, and put it in or upon the tooth; it is an excellent remedy.--Or stamp a little rue, as much as can be put into the ear, on that side the tooth achs, it will cause a noise, but makes a cure in an hour's time.--Tobacco ashes will clean and whiten teeth well.--A certain cooper burns the rind of ashes, wets them, puts them on leather, and lays it behind his ear, to raise a blister; which cures the tooth-ach, or other pain in the head.
A Wen cured.--Mrs. Roberts, of Shedham, about two miles from Gaddesden, having a wen many years almost under her chin, and as big as a boy's fist, could never get it reduced, till by advice she smoaked tobacco, and from time to time rubbed the wen with the spittle of it; this by degrees wasted the wen, and entirely cured it.
A most potent Remedy for curing the Itch.-- Take tobacco stalks, allum, hogslard, and powder'd salt-petre, the three first must be put into a full quart of strong beer, and when it is warm, the salt-petre must be put into it by degrees, for if it is put in cold, it will lump; the whole must be boiled well into an ointment.--If sulphur in treacle is first taken, I think no itch can resist the remedy; but for a more cleanly one, the following is made use of by some.
How a young Woman lost several of her Teeth.--She tells me, that for curing her tooth-ach she smoaked henbane-seed; secondly, a mixture of tobacco and brimstone; thirdly, gunpowder and salt, in a rag held on the tooth; fourthly, salt and pepper; fifthly, spirits of wine; sixthly, spirit of hartshorn: These at times she smoaked, and applied, to the loss of several of her teeth. Some say, spirit of soot used once a month cures the scurvy in the gums.
The travelling Beggars Way of clearing their Bodies of Nits, Lice, and Fleas.--I believe I may affirm it for truth, that no county in England is so much frequented by beggars as Hertfordshire; and upon asking them of their method of curing the several diseases they are incident to more than others, they tell me that, for clearing their bodies of lice, they boil copperas in water with hogslard, and by rubbing it over their bodies, no lice have power to bite them; on the contrary, it will make them forsake the cloaths they wear, and not damage their skin.--Another says, he is clear of lice by anointing the waistband of his breeches with oil of russel, but this I doubt.--To clear the head of lice, first open and part the hair here and there, then cover the bole of a lighted pipe of tobacco with a linen rag, and blow the smoak into the places, which will make the lice crawl to the outmost parts of the hair, where they may be easily combed out.--To prevent and destroy fleas, boil brooklime, or arsmart, or wormwood, in water, and wash the room.--Or lay the herbs in several parts of the room.
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