It’s dark, it’s hot-pressed, and it’s here: Mac Baren’s new HH Latakia Flake has arrived. Between the briskness with which those about the office emptied our taste-testing tins, and the universal praise found in early reviews, by all appearances the blender of Old Dark Fired has once again knocked it out of the park. Again they've produced a dark, flavorful, and distinctive flake tobacco, this time using heat and pressure to create a mellow, flavorful marriage of Latakia smokiness, natural Virginia sweetness, Turkish spice, and earthy/nutty Burley-ness.
Each element remains distinct in the smoke, producing a complex interplay of flavors, while also remaining easy to enjoy. One particular pipe-fellow over on TobaccoReviews, who made a point to mention being primarily an aromatic smoker, has even recommended HH Latakia Flake as a readily pleasing introduction to Latakia. As much as many of us (myself included) have taken a shine to Mac Baren’s Old Dark Fired, it would seem this latest HH flake does have it beat in terms of accessibility. While the dark-fired Burley and flue-cured Virginia composition of ODF is something of a barely-street-legal V8 powerhouse, HH Latakia Flake offers a V12’s smooth, luxurious delivery. A proper, stimulating smokiness remains in play, it’s just that this time they have taken it in a more delicately balanced and sophisticated direction.
Congratulations to the finalists and winner of our Capstan caption contest! A total of 48 captions were submitted. It came down to a very close vote, but we have officially decided on a winner. This winner will have a tin of each facing of Capstan added to their next order with smokingpipes.com. That's four tins total: both blue and yellow, in both flake and ready rubbed. Without any more delay, here are the comic and the caption finalists.
"Let's not stay out too long. You know how easily I burn." Submitted by Jon Jackson
"Tinny Dipping!" Submitted by Chris Askwith
"Virginia, please come back--this 'all natural' thing has gone too far." Submitted by Chris Manno
"Enjoy summer with Capstan. Skinny dipping and a no-tin tan!" Submitted by Alex Agrico
"C'mon don't 'Flake out, let's go for it, we are at the beach aren't we?" - Gregory Ceaser
Thanks again to all who participated. We'll see you tomorrow for the update! If you missed out on this opportunity, be sure to look out for the next one, which could be announced on our profile on any of the following social networking sites:
Whew, it's been a busy week: the kind of week that's really meant for socializing and relaxing, but had been sacrificed for productivity. It's a good thing, but it comes at a cost. We all have sources for connection with the world outside our personal bubble, but an active life means things will be lost in the blur--however, now's the time to catch-up. As the week comes to a close, you can see here what you might have missed, stay up to date with the work of your favorite pipe makers, and keep tabs on what the personalities here at Smokingpipes.com have been up to.
For instance, this week Alyson and Sykes sent us great matieral for a photo blog, documenting their tour of the Chacom pipe factory in France. It's definately worth a look if you haven't seen it.
The photography crew produced some beautiful shots for Michal Novak, Tonni Nielsen, Smio Satou, Gabriele Dal Fiume, and Vladimir Grechukhin. These aren't even all of them; check out our Facebook and Tumblr albums (linked below) to see the rest.
Rain formed a river in our parking lot, lightning disabled the internet and almost gave a few people a nice new perm, but it created a sort of Cabin Fever that allowed for the creation of a few videos around the offices on Instagram.
Lastly, we unsurprisingly sold out of Three Nuns quickly after it's re-release to the U.S. market, but managed to have it back in stock within a few days. Many of you sent in your thanks, as wells as photos. Those below are courtesy of Gregory Ceaser, Jimmy Muraco, and Ron Forbes-- thanks guys!
If you haven't yet, feel free to join the conversation. We're active on all major social networking websites and love to hear from our customers. Have a great weekend!
Red alert! Green, too -- and yellow. And... cube? Those of you who are particular fans of Mac Baren blends may already be guessing where this is going: today we have a special update, to introduce a selection of Mac Baren's finest, which just arrived at our door not more than an hour ago. Effective immediately, the Halberg Red, Green, and Yellow blends are now available here at Smokingpipes, as well as the Bronze, Silver, and Gold smoking mixtures of the Cube series as well. Finally, for aficionados of the much-in-demand Old Dark Fired, we're also introducing a ready-rubbed, bulk tobacco rendition of that famously dark and flavorful flake too. Oh -- and hefty, 1-pound pouched slabs of the regular flake version of O.D.F. as well.
Some days ago Ted passed by my desk, and in noticing several simple gesture drawings I had done of a handful of pipes, asked, "Are those Maigurs?" We deal with a lot of pipes here -- a lot of pipes, and I think it says something about this particular artisan's work that even in the simplest of two-dimensional renderings, his designs can be distinguished at a moment's glance. Nothing flows like Maigurs Knets. That's not to say he is without peer in terms of grace of line and form (though he's certainly up there with the best), but more pointedly that he's chosen for his inspiration an artistic style no other pipemaker has yet to even delve into: Art Nouveau.
Some time ago Adam and I, spurred on by a post on Neil Archer Roan's blog concerning the recent debut of the fashionista-targeted "Stiff" smoking pipe, were discussing the nature of design; more specifically, the trade-offs that have to be made between stylization and ease of mass-production. I had pointed out to him that while the furniture designs he was discussing (those of the Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and Danish Modern schools) are making yet another a comeback in certain cultural nooks and corners, I've only seen the earlier, but utterly beautiful Art Nouveau style see renewal in mediums of worn fashion -- namely jewelry and clothing. My point was, of course, that Art Nouveau furniture suffered from one majorly inhibiting factor: Attempting to mass-produce its lush, flowing, elegant, complex and organic style out of anything like quality materials would likely be a capital-devouring nightmare.
Art Nouveau lintel
Art Nouveau stairway
Art Nouveau desk
Fortunately, this isn't something an independent artisan pipemaker has to worry about -- just the extreme level of skill it takes in terms of both design and shaping to actually create an Art Nouveau smoking instrument. It may be telling that, at least to my knowledge, no such thing even existed during the Art Nouveau movement's 1890-1910 "Belle Epoque" heyday. Evidently it would take the unprecedented dissemination of independent pipemaking artisanship that we enjoy today to finally produce such a thing -- and even under these far more conducive conditions Maigurs is the single artisan to as of yet step forward. And not only has he stepped forward, he's absolutely nailed it.
(At this point some of you may be recalling theories on how the size of a population effects the works of genius it may be expected to produce; the greater the number of individuals there are active in a culture, or a sub-culture, the greater the likelihood great works will become manifest. This is, of course, assuming the presence of a popularly-accepted philosophy which encourages greatness -- which I believe today's artisan pipemakers, and pipe-collectors alike, certainly do.)
When it comes to his freehand designs, line and flow are the essential elements; fertile curves, swoops, and arcs which take flight with seemingly effortless imagination. Graining and accents follow up, playing in harmony with Maigurs' sculpting in order to emphasize a sense of richness and lush beauty. Even if you were to take the latter aspects out of play, his creations' distinctly Art Nouveau flow remains unmistakable.
Even his straightforward, classic shapes receive lavish treatment; finely-wrought artistic embellishments call to mind the richly decorated Ulmer pipes of old Bavaria, albeit in a much quieter style; Maigurs forgoestypical accents like the flashy silver inlay of the antique Ulmer, rendering his own pattern-work in natural materials and contrasting finishes. Gently drifting, crisply-defined leaves are smooth-polished, set against a fine sandblast background, or an abstract floral inlay is created by hand-making a custom composite stem-base embedded with a section of pine-cone.
In terms of pipemaking, Maigurs is most closely associated with Alex Florov, and both share a background in professional model-making for the Industrial Design and hobbyist industries - it's how they met. It should come as little surprise then that the complex and flowing works of both artisans' designs are made possible through detailed shaping of the briar by hand, with finely-honed chisels on Alex's part, and with a selection of specifically-shaped carbide burrs on Maigurs's. They are both, essentially, pipe-sculptors, and like the Art Nouveau furniture of yesteryear, they each seek to produce works of line, flow, and form that, if they could be copied by a machine at all, would require the highly advanced industrial technology to do so, even in materials far more forgiving than the dense, hardy, often unpredictable root of the briar; works, in short, whose individualistic art defies easy-come reproduction.
Tomorrow morning I fly home to the States. Right now, I am rather happily ensconced in a smoking room at the Holiday Inn walking distance from Terminal 2 of the Cologne-Bonn Airport, which is where I need to be at 5am tomorrow morning. But this little missive isn't about airports or hotel rooms in Germany. It's about pipe tobacco. Or, at least, my very disappointing quest to purchase some this afternoon. The irony of it all, of course, is that I was just at the Dortmund Inter Tabac Fair. Indeed, this very morning, I chatted with folks from both Mac Baren and Samuel Gawith. And at about 2pm, I didn't have any pipe tobacco left.
I had brought most of a tin of lovely, aged GL Pease Haddo's Delight with me on the weeklong trip. I had thought that I also had a tin of Mac Baren Navy Flake with me, completely forgetting that it wasn't in my laptop bag because Alex Florov and I smoked the last of it last weekend on the way home from Morganton, NC, where we were (along with Alex's wife, Vera, and Susan Salinas from Smokingpipes.com) for Craig Tarler's funeral. Suffice it to say, that if I had been at home, that much Haddo's would probably have seen me through the five days I have actually been on the ground in Germany (apparently even I don't fly enough with Delta for them to let me smoke my pipe on the plane). But this trip was all about pipes and pipe tobacco and I have had a pipe in my mouth pretty much permanently since Wednesday morning when I arrived. I spent my first two days here with a dear friend and fellow pipe smoker who lives in Cologne. While neither of us are particular intemperate pipe smokers individually, you put us together for a couple of days and we can consume some pipe tobacco.
Then came the Dortmund show, and the smoking continued apace. Friday night, I had dinner with folks from Brigham pipes from Canada at a place that was supposed to allow smoking, but didn't. They were irritated and disappointed we couldn't smoke. My tongue was actually a tiny bit relieved.
Last night and the previous night, I stayed a few kilometers from the Dortmund show because I'd procrastinated in booking my hotel room and all the nearby hotels were sold out. This really wasn't such a big deal, though. I was rather enjoying the twenty minute drive to and from the show. It gave me a chance to collect my thoughts and smoke my pipe (don't tell Avis). This morning, I realized that I was rapidly nearing the end of my supply of Haddo's. The situation was dire; I had maybe two bowls left. But, not to worry, I was going somewhere with pipe tobacco; I'd have a ready supply at the show.
My first stop at the show this morning was to have a quick word with the folks from Mac Baren. While I was there, I loaded half a bowl from their sample jars, and proceeded to chat with them. Now, if I'd had the inclination to ask Per Jensen for enough Navy Flake to make it through the day, he, I am quite sure, would have happily obliged. I just don't want to be that guy. I just didn't want to ask Per, again, to solve my tobacco emergency for me (I admit it, this isn't the first time I've planned poorly in the pipe tobacco department while traveling).
But, I wasn't terribly worried. This is Germany after all, isn't it? Doesn't Germany consume more pipe tobacco than any other country? Per capita, it has something like five times as many pipe smokers as the United States. Surely, I'd find pipe tobacco at a gas station on the way to the airport. Since it's Sunday, and since Germany has laws prohibiting most retail on Sunday, a side trip into Cologne to go by Peter Heinrich's wonderful shop to buy some pipe tobacco wasn't in the cards.
I figured there was a decent chance I'd find some Mac Baren Navy Flake even or maybe some of the Virginia Ready Rubbed we can't get in the States. At the very least, I thought, I would find some Mac Baren Mixture or Virginia No. 1. I know epically vast quantities of Mixture are smoked in Germany and figured it'd be the corner store standard. And while there are a couple of Mac Baren blends I'd reach for before Mixture, Mixture is really good. I'd have been perfectly happy.
Alas, such was not the case. I stopped twice, perused the tobacco offerings and didn't see any pipe tobacco in either case. I was a little surprised and a bit miffed with the first stop, but figuring it was an aberration, a little hole of pipe tobacco sadness amidst the riches of such that one would expect of Germany, I stopped a second time. Again, no luck.
I got to the hotel and checked in and was pleased that they could give me a smoking room, until, of course, I realized I had nothing to smoke. I took it anyway, hoping at least that I had a bowl's worth of in the pipe tobacco crumbs at the bottom of my briefcase.
A little later, I took my rental car back to the airport and walked on back to the hotel. Within easy walking distance of the route was another gas station. I figured I'd take one more shot at it. I peruse the tobacco selections and again see nothing. I begin to despair. I tentatively ask (I speak almost no German) "pfeifentabak?" The woman behind the counter looks at me funny; I'm not sure if it's because my accent is so bad that she couldn't make out what I was saying or that being asked for pipe tobacco is just not something that she is accustomed to. But, she suddenly gets it and turns around. I expected her to point towards the selection of pipe tobacco that I had just failed to see. A small ray of hope was beginning to break through the clouds. My personal sound track began playing something rather inspirational, like the chorale from Beethoven's 9th Symphony. She turned back around and slapped a pouch of Exclusiv Royal on the counter. The rather celebratory music suddenly screeched to a halt like someone knocked the needle across the record.
At this point, I just sputtered. All pretense of German ended and I blurted out, in English, "Is that it? Is that all the pipe tobacco you have?" I was so disappointed. And the woman, who is perhaps the only person in Germany who does not speak English, looked at me perplexed and slightly offended. She eventually figured it out from my tone and general exasperation and rather exasperatedly pointed at the pipe tobacco section. Which had exactly one facing. I bought the pouch of Exclusiv Royal. What else could I do?
I pondered, extremely briefly, not buying it. I could make it through thirty-six hours without tobacco; no problem. But I had this smoking room at the hotel that was desperately needing to be smoked in. And I pictured myself with a very sad face sitting in the Atlanta airport smoking lounge tomorrow with nothing to smoke. Seriously, I really enjoy being the only guy I ever see who smokes a pipe in the Atlanta airport smoking lounges. So, I relented and plopped my 6.25 Euros on the counter. At least it was pretty cheap. Any other European country and the taxes would have made it 10 Euros.
I mean, I expect that sort of selection in the US. A gas station, if they have any pipe tobacco at all, has maybe a pouch of Captain Black and a pouch of Half & Half for sale. But this is Germany, Dammit! I held Germany in a sort of pipe tobacco esteem. My vision of this country involves rolling hills, buxom blond girls in traditional German outfits carrying large beers, and a good pipe tobacco selection on every corner. I've spent a lot of time in Germany over the years and realized that the first two images weren't really all that true, but I'd never tried to purchase pipe tobacco outside of Peter Heinrich's shop ever before. The last piece in my slightly irrational vision of German greatness was dashed.
But, I'm smoking the Exclusiv Royal as I write. It really could be a whole lot worse. I vaguely remember carrying it eight or so years ago, but I don't think I ever tried it at the time. It's lightly flavored straight virginias with sort of an odd square cut (it says 'granulated' on the pouch). It's smokable. But definitely not Mac Baren Mixture. Tuesday morning, when I'm back in the office, I'm buying a small stack of tins of Mac Baren Navy Flake and sticking them in my briefcase, my rolling carry-on luggage and the garment bag I usually check. We will not have a repeat of this little adventure.
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...
There are certain tobacco blends which, due to the importance of some difficult to acquire ingredient, the need for just the right leaf, or the key role of a particularly involved special process, are available only in limited batches - no matter how high they've been rated or how popular their approval. Fortunately, when such a blend does reappear, ready for the market, you can count on Smokingpipes to be one of the very first to make it available. Isn't that's why we issue these special, seat-of-the-pants, irregularly-scheduled updates, after all? Well, having said all that, there's only one more question to ask: Mac Baren's Old Dark Fired, anyone?
If you’ve recently purchased some pipe tobacco from us, chances are you’ve received a complimentary sample of Mac Baren’s Highland Blend, their latest addition to the HH series.
From the pouch you’ll find pieces of medium-brown, broken flake tobacco, interspersed with a few bright ribbons split from the flake, and a small portion of dark leaf. Mac Baren cites the recipe as ready-rubbed burley, matured Virginia, latakia, and their signature Cavendish. From what I understand the whole thing is cased (or topped) with 30-year old Glenfarclas, a single-malt whiskey from the Highlands of Scotland. Hence the name.
Up front and right away, Highland Blend is smooth, sweet with Virginia and lightly seasoned with the spice of Syrian latakia. The blend develops rather quickly into something extraordinary and complex, savory of spring grasslands, bitter of peat, and with a whisper of whiskey musk. The blend is light on the mouth and incredibly balanced. Highland Blend would indeed pair excellently with a quality single-malt Scotch. It’s certainly very different and definitely special.
Highland Blend will be released officially at this year’s CPCC show and will be available in tins shortly thereafter. In the meantime, we still have samples available. You should get in on this early. Highland is just too good not to try right this very minute.
I’m constantly trying new tobacco blends. Undoubtedly, there are so many out there it would take a life time or two to taste them all; this is all part of the fun for me. Sometimes I’m scattered all over the place in my explorations, divided between English, Balkan, Virginia, even aromatic blends, and sometimes I’m focused into a particular kind of blend by a specific manufacturer.
Yet as often as I’m actively burning my tongue off in pursuit of new flavors I am just as regularly returning to old favorites. Take Mac Baren’s Roll Cake, for instance: there’s always a tin on my desk.
These beautiful little spun cut discs, fragrant with sweet honey and berry wheat, rub out easily between the fingers for quick pipe loading. Effortless to light, simple to keep lit, Roll Cake offers up a satisfying smoke rich with nuanced, delicate flavors. Sometimes it’s spicy, sometimes it’s sweet, but it’s always tasty.
If you haven’t yet tried Roll Cake it’s about time you do.
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Our website is always open and you can place an order at any time. Phone/office hours are 9am-7pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) Monday-Friday and 10am-5pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) on Saturdays. Our Little River, SC showroom is open 10am-7pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) Monday-Sunday.
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