And now as a supplement to Sykes' last post regarding our time at the Vegas show, here's a spiffy video for your enjoyment. Cheers!
Stepping back to a couple of weeks ago for a moment, when Kevin Godbee and I were in Denmark in late July, we established, finally and definitively, that Dunhill tobaccos would be coming back to the United States in September or October, first through conversations with Orlik and then, finally, getting confirmation from British- American Tobacco. The first day of the show, Tuesday, while we were at the Ashton booths, talking about Petersons with Tom Palmer (Managing Director of Peterson), Michael Walters (Sales Manager for Ashton), and Evan Carpenter (our regional sales representative), it became clear that we better get an order together for CAO for the Dunhill tobaccos. Susan and Brian dashed over there, while Alyson and I continued to work on Petersons. They placed an order for many thousands of tins of Dunhill tobacco for late September delivery (which might be a slightly optimistic ETA, so we're actually figuring on early October). The really important thing was to secure the Dunhill in appropriate quantities. Even in these truly massive amounts, we are a little concerned with stock problems in the autumn given all of the folks out there waiting for it to become available again. We'd return to both Ashton and CAO later in the show to conduct cigar and accessory business, but getting the pipes taken care of with Peterson and the tobacco taken care of with CAO took priority over all else late Tuesday morning.
Having wrapped up all of the pipe buying, we moved into a more normal pace for the rest of the show. After a quick lunch, we had a meeting with General Cigar to talk about their new products, including some really interesting new cigars from La Gloria Cubana, including the new Serie-N cigars, plus the new Artesanos Obilisks. While Susan and Brian actually conducted the business-y bits, Alyson and I set about interviewing Yuri Guillen, factory manager for La Gloria Cubana about all the new stuff. General also had a cigar roller based in Miami up for the show, so that was fun to watch too (and we have video of all of this we'll work on getting up over the next few weeks).After that, the chronology of it all starts to get a bit blurry. Brian and Susan had a meeting with Oliva Cigars, of which I caught the tail end, while I did some quick following up with pipe folks that we'd already been to see, and tobacco folks to set things up for later in the show. As the day wore on, we visited the Villiger-Stokkebye booths, both because we needed to give them an order and also because they were in charge of feeding us Tuesday night. We spent some time talking with Kevin and Gary from Villiger-Stokkebye, plus Brian and I touched base on a couple of projects with Erik Stokkebye and the representative from Scandinavian Tobacco (Orlik's parent company) who was present for the show. Susan set to work structuring our ordering for the next couple of months with Gary, Villiger-Stokkebye's all round logistics guy, which requires a fair bit of planning: a whole lot of tobacco travels from Charlotte, NC to Little River, SC every week. After that, Erik, Brian and I attended a short trade organization / legislative meeting that started right after the show, while Susan and Alyson went immediately to Altadis' cocktail party. Altadis puts on quite a party and had we not been anticipating a serious dinner with the Stokkebye folks later that evening, we could have spent all evening there. We did get a chance to talk to a couple of senior people about the tobacco regulatory environment, which was good for keeping us in the loop.
Speaking of which, a major topic of conversation at the show was the TTB's definitions of pipe tobacco and according regulations. It's terribly esoteric and convoluted, but the short and long of it is that, after extended conversations with Mike McNiel from McClelland and Paul Creasy and others from Altadis, we're actually feeling better about the situation than we have in recent months. The TTB and ATF seem to be handling this fairly transparently and fairly, at least by governmental regulatory body standards. Much remains to be seen, which may take years to be established, but it seems like everything will generally remain as is in the mid-term.
And that evening, we had an amazing culinary and historical experience courtesy of the wonderful folks at Villiger-Stokkebye. And for that story, you'll have to tune in again for the next part of the IPCPR trip overview...
I remember when I first began to smoke a pipe in college. Driving to the local shop was like going into a wonderful bakery, but this was a bakery full of wonderful smells of things burning. While the tobacco shop was rather small, they did have a couple dozen pipes on hand. Along with less than a dozen tinned tobaccos, they had a few dozen glass jars on a rack with blends from McClelland, Lane, and Stokkebye. I must have picked up every single jar in the place for a deep-lung whiff. Really great cheese stores frown upon this, but good cheese and good wine, as well as tobacco, deserve a good sniffing to perk up olfactory sensations.
Of course, the Stokkebye tobacco caught my eye immediately. While most of the jars were full of ribbon-cut blends with various liquors, fruits, and syrup flavors poured over like a sundae, the Stokkebye tobaccos were different. They were beautiful. As I talked with Betsy, the nice lady who owned the store, she informed me that they were not only pretty, but they had a great taste. I wondered how someone could take tobacco and shape it into gorgeous flakes for smoking. Years later, I came to understand that they were not doing this with ribbon leaf, but were actually laying out sheets of perfect tobacco for some really, really, REALLY hard pressing. The bullseye flake is actually shaped like a rope, and eventually ends up looking like a long roll of nougat. After these tobaccos are shaped, and aged for their necessary time, a super-duper sharp guillotine cutter cuts off the pressed flakes into very uniform thicknesses.
The reason why I like flake tobaccos the best because when I give them a quick rub between my hands, they form very uniform ribbons that pack and light easily. It's impossible to get a chunk of tobacco the size of my fingernail in the bowl. Pictured below are the Stokkebye Navy Flake, Luxury Bullseye Flake, and Luxury Twist Flake (of which I constantly inhale the sweet-buttery notes). I've purchased a few pounds of each of these blends, and they age extremely well. If you've not tried them, I would highly recommend doing so. Betsy used to sell quite a bit of the blends because she said they were 'pretty'. While they are very attractive tobaccos, they also have a good taste and great cellaring potential.