Pipe Force: Episode V - Interview with Per Jensen and Jeremy McKenna

Pipe Force: Episode V from Sutliff extends the series imagined by Per Georg Jensen which celebrates the vast potential for exploration still existing while creating memorable tobacco blends. Hot-pressed and ready-rubbed into a crumble cake format, Rustica is stoved along with Virginia and Oriental Katerini; these combined result in an innovative, exotic medley that reimagines all that a stoved mixture can be. Watch my exclusive interview with the president of Sutliff Tobacco, Jeremy McKenna, and former pipe maker and now master blender, Per Jensen.

Note: The following transcription has been edited for clarity and brevity.

[Shane Ireland]: I'm Shane Ireland, and I have a couple of very special guests with me today to talk about a very exciting project. Guys, why don't you introduce yourselves?

[Jeremy McKenna]: Yes, my name's Jeremy McKenna, and I'm the president of Sutliff Tobacco here in the U.S.

[Per Jensen]: And I'm Per Jensen. I'm a former pipe maker and now master blender in tobacco.

[SI]: So Per, let's start with that. Can you give us, for those who may not be familiar with your career, a quick history of where you started in this industry and where it led you? It's interesting because I feel like your trajectory is not necessarily typical of a master tobacco blender.

[PJ]: No. Well, my parents had a pipe factory, so I was more or less born into that factory. And if I want to see my father and mother, I have to go to the factory. So a lot of my time I spend over there. And later, well, I started working there — I think I was the age of nine. I only did the very simple stuff but my responsibilities got a little bit more complicated over time. And by the age of 16, I was all the way through the factory and could do anything they wanted me to do. I calculated that in my time as a pipe maker, my two hands were involved in around half a million pipes. It was quite a number.

[SI]: Wow, that's incredible. So when did the transition to the tobacco side of the business happen?

[PJ]: Well, we got into a little bit of financial problems, and we sold it to W.Ø. Larsen. It didn't work for us, so we had to find something else and I couldn't write my own reference. Nobody would believe that I was so good with only my own signature underneath. So what I did was, I called Per at Mac Baren and asked for a reference. And 14 days later, he called me and said, "Well, if you need a reference, is that because you need a new job?" I said, "Yeah." "Why don't you come over here? Our Product Specialist is retiring and there's room for you." So...

[SI]: Oh, that's fantastic.

[PJ]: Yeah, I went over there. And in the beginning, I was educating shopkeepers and pipe smokers. And over the years — it actually started in 2005 — I was allowed to, no, I was not allowed, I sneaked over, to make my first tobacco ever blended. And that was HH Vintage Syrian. From there on, it was only a matter of time before more and more came over my desk.

[SI]: Yeah, yeah. Oh, that's incredible.

[PJ]: Then the latest project I have been working on was together with Jeremy, Birds of a Feather, last year. And now, we are making a new one, the Pipe Force, and looking very much forward to seeing how it's greeted among pipe smokers.

[SI]: Yes, exactly. So that's perfect. What we are talking about today is the Pipe Force. Specifically, the upcoming release of Episode V. So we've seen the release of Episode IV. And again, I think sort of in the wake of and following the Birds of a Feather series, I think everybody was really excited to see what this collaboration was going to look like. So, let's start with where you guys came up with the Pipe Force idea and basically the tobaccos behind it.

[JM]: The way we came up with the idea for the brand Pipe Force was ... it really started with a slogan on a whiteboard that said: "If the US military can have Space Force, then we can have Pipe Force." Being a retired army guy and having watched Space Force with Steve Carell, you know, on Netflix, which is just hilarious, especially if you get all the inside jokes, it just, I don't know, to me, it was humorous and I figured we'd come up with a good play on something to do with some fun tin art and some fun swag to go along with it and just be a little different to present to our community. That was the impetus of the idea, for sure.

[SI]: Very cool. So then what? What came next? Was it like fleshing out all the artwork stuff? Was it turning Per loose and saying, "Hey, come up with all these blends." Were any of these blends things that you had been working on for some time, Per, and now you had a vehicle in which to move them to the market?

[PJ]: Well, I think we have to give a little bit of thought about what we're introducing and also about the upcoming tobacco. It's actually two brand-new tobaccos, never seen on the tobacco scene before. You have seen Rustica. Yes, of course. I made that some years ago. But you have never seen it as a Cavendish. And also, an Oriental.

[SI]: Yeah, that's very interesting.

[PJ]: As a Cavendish, it's never been on the market before, and pipe smokers have not been able to smoke it. And just to give you a small hint about how I came up with the idea, that was actually during a visit in Jamestown where the historian told me, when the Englishmen started cultivating tobacco, when they harvested, they put it into a pile and left it on the field, just like they would've done with grain back home in England. But they forgot something. And that was that the humidity and the temperature was extremely high in Virginia.

[SI]: Ah, yeah, yeah.

[PJ]: So what the tobacco actually did was rot. It became rotten. And a few years later, they took it inside the houses and started air curing it. But I remember when she told me that, and I saw how they did it and where they did it, I thought, well, that's a bit like a Cavendish process that just went much too far. And at that time, I didn't have any use for that idea. But when Jeremy was talking about the Pipe Force, I was immediately, "May the force be with you" and the Star Wars universe and black things. And then, all the small pieces started to come together, and we ended up with a Cavendish version of the Rustica and the Katerini.

[SI]: Amazing. So, when you're working with basically a new component, something like the Cavendish Rustica, how much practice in the processing goes into that? How many iterations... How many versions of that? Because you're talking about Cavendish; broadly and simply, you're talking about heat and maybe also pressure. But we all know that the degree to which we're heating or Cavendishing a tobacco varies greatly. How did you get to the exact, let's say, parameters for this particular component?

[JM]: Real quick, Shane, the one thing Per left out was his phone call with me when he said, "Hey Jeremy, I want to do something neat. Are you game? I want to do something different and I think you're the guy to do it. Would you be willing to try this?" And who am I to tell Per no?

[SI]: Yeah, exactly, exactly.

[JM]: You know, any crazy ideas might sound a little crazy at first. But, we thought, you tell us what you want and we'll do it.

[PJ]: Yeah, that was incredible: that Jeremy and his coworkers took the challenge and tried it out and came up with smokable tobaccos. I'm very happy about that.

[SI]: Yeah, absolutely. So again, how long did it take to get this dialed in to the point that you guys were both happy with it? I'm speaking specifically about Episode V now and the Cavendish Rustica, which again, you know, Per mentioned is something that's never been on the market before. I imagine that the structure of this leaf is maybe fundamentally different from most of the tobacco that we all normally work with. What was it like trying to come up with the Cavendish process for that, and how did you get it to the point where it was like, "Yes, this is done?"

[PJ]: It's true that the Rustica leaf is thicker in texture than the Nicotiana tabacum. But the key point here is that the Rustica that we had available had been sun dried. And that means that the Rustica contains sugar, and you need sugar to start the Cavendish process. If you don't want to add sugar, you have to have it in the tobacco. And in this case, it was in the tobacco. Then it was a matter of finding the right time of steaming, how much steam it should have, and how many hours before the process should be stopped — so we didn't end up like the farmers in Jamestown.

[JM]: And that in and of itself, Shane, becomes a challenge for our production team here because the way we steam the tobacco and what these tobaccos are, once you stop the process, and we try for, say, four hours, you don't put the same stuff back in. 'Cause we're putting in the whole leaf, we're having to bring it out, we're having to cut it, dry it, right? And then, see if it's any good. You don't just throw it back in. So now, you have to start all over. There were several iterations done at multiple points, whether it was four hours, eight hours, 12 hours, 24 hours. And then asking if any of these are smokable? If so, which one is the best? Or do we need something else we don't have. So the trial on it, kind of as you were asking, wasn't something like "Oh, just add another 2% of Burley. Do we like it? Nope, okay," you know?

[SI]: Yeah, yeah. That's what I mean. I feel like as smokers and as consumers, sometimes we take for granted that blending is yes, a science, but also like, I don't know, more recipe driven than it is process driven. Like the process here is what becomes super time consuming that chews up a ton of labor. There's a high room for error because a lot of this is done by hand. I am just trying to get to the point where I am understanding and, hopefully, our viewers are understanding what goes into creating a new Cavendish with a totally different genus of tobacco. I can't imagine that everything was easy, smooth, and that you nailed it on the first try. That's kind of what I'm saying.

[JM]: Definitely not.

[PJ]: Shane, I can give you the answer to what it takes: It takes one crazy Dane and one willing American.

[SI]: Good. Well, we figured that out. That's the recipe. So let's talk about Episode V specifically for a moment — not just the interesting processes that make these two components totally unique in the world of pipe tobacco, but the blend itself, what you were going for, your impressions of it. I'm smoking it right now, and I will say that there's maybe two takeaways for me immediately. One is the aromatic quality here, and when I say aromatic quality, I'm not talking about flavoring. I'm talking about literally the aroma, the retrohale that you're getting through the nose. It's a lot more elegant. You know, I'm not trying to say anything negative about the previous iterations of Rustica that we've seen. I'm talking about the fact that this seems like the really classy, older sister of Rustica to me. Like there's way more aromatic complexity coming through. And the beefiness and the strength is definitely there, along with the body. But overall, this blend is showcasing maybe the more delicate side of the leaf from where I'm sitting.

[PJ]: That's because this Cavendish process has, how should I put it, tamed the Rustica a bit. And when you smoke it pure, it's like in your face. It's extremely strong, it's extremely earthy, and it's, in my opinion, not the most pleasant tobacco to smoke.

[SI]: Sure, sure. Just in its raw form, yeah.

[PJ]: Yeah, the heat pressing took a bit off the sharp edges. But the Cavendish has made a tremendous difference because you have a much milder — and now we are talking taste, we're not talking nicotine — you have a milder version of the Rustica, but you still have this earthy, tangy taste. You can taste it very clearly. For me, it's not a tobacco I will smoke pure, but I'm sure there are guys who would be more than pleased to do it.

[SI]: Yeah, who would love to. Yeah.

[PJ]: What you know from the Rustica, you'll find, again, in the Cavendish. It's just a little bit milder. It's slightly sour due to the Cavendish process; it's a milder version, a more, you could also say, a more pretty version of itself.

[SI]: Yes, exactly. Exactly. Like there's a noticeable amount of sweetness coming through. It's not overly sweet. You mentioned the sour and the sort of tangy character, and I do get that for sure. It's got the barbecue vibe, but maybe without the woodiness or the mesquite sort of flavors. It's a little more toasted. It's a little more like maybe brown sugar and a molasses kind of a sweetness. Plenty of spice, plenty of these perfume-y, Aromatic, floral, and maybe a little bit of earthiness. But yeah, it's balanced, it is easy burning, full of flavor, and definitely medium-plus strength from at least the first third of the bowl.

[JM]: Yeah, I think when Per first talked to me about this particular blend, his overall goal was to show off the Cavendish process in three different varieties of tobacco. Obviously, highlighting the Rustica, but also the Katerini, Oriental, and then with Virginia. So you have three different tobaccos that went through similar processes and at varying levels of that process to get them in the right mixture that Per wanted. So when you talk about the complexity of it, it wasn't just, "Oh, okay, how do we make a Cavendish Rustica that is acceptable to the palate? How do we also do that with two other tobacco strains, and then blend the three together in a really —"

[SI]: In a complementary way, yeah.

[JM]: Right, and that really highlights what that process can do for tobacco. And personally, I think that's what Per nailed here was that highlight and that showcase. And then, I think that as you smoke other tobaccos — not just the other Pipe Forces, and these elements are brought out in all of them — but then you might start understanding even more in depth how that process affects the blend when it's in a different blend of 5 percent with other regular Burleys or Virginias. You can maybe even pick up on some more of those nuances with that.

[SI]: We've heard broadly across the industry from a variety of blending houses and blenders that Cavendish tobaccos in general, partially because of the way they've been treated, add a lot of body. And typically, even like unflavored, Black Cavendish used as a component as a way to add body and weight to the flavor can also be used as an agent to carry flavor in a blend. And I find it interesting that, again, you've got this pretty, very dark and fairly moist crumble cake here. And all of those components have a similar processing — like I said, I think you end up with something that is nearly chewy. The body is so full here that it's got a lot of weight on the palate. It's rich, but it's also not really in your face in terms of the spice and the sharper notes. I think it is a pretty decent candidate for an all-day smoke if you're a smoker that tends to veer toward the stronger stuff. One thing that I think, aside from the flavors here and the sort of complementary flavors like sour, tangy, slightly sweet, slightly spicy notes, the body of this blend is really interesting to me. And I also find it interesting that out of the tin, I would say that for me, personally, this is a moisture content where I would generally give it a couple minutes. I've smoked it both ways now, and I actually think straight out of the tin at that moisture content gives you the best range of complexity and aroma that this blend has to offer. It actually burns very well at tin moisture. And like I said, me, I'm usually one of those guys that's drying my blend out a little bit more before I smoke. In terms of the pressing, are these components Cavendished separately, pressed together as whole leaf, or as cut leaf? For how long?

[JM]: They went through the Cavendish process and were cut separately. And that's where we figured out which time for each one made sense and figured out the best of the three. Then, we'd press them, I'll say, in our normal pressing process: it's 48 hours under about 25 tons of pressure and then they're brought out and cut into the crumble cake slices that you get right out of the tin.

[SI]: Okay, perfect. Nice. And back to the series overall, one of the other things I was hoping to talk about is, artwork-wise, I think we can see thematically what ties this together. And if you want to speak to that, that'd be great. I will follow up and say that I'm also interested in how the blends themselves, the individual blends here, tie themselves together? Is it the spirit of exploration in processing? Is it like an overall flavor profile? I'm curious both on the artwork side and the tobacco side what ties these together.

[JM]: Speaking to the artwork, it's really where Birds of Feather came from also. My younger brother, Jacob, likes to draw different characters for my nephew, making characters, drawing with him and for him. And over time, he would show me some of his drawings when we visited and I was like, "Oh, I kind of like that. That's a cool-looking bird." And that's where the Birds of the Feather artwork came from. Along the way, he was drawing other characters. Both he and I when we were young, a lot younger, played role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. For us older people, those were the role-playing games we played. So, he started drawing other characters for my nephew. And I saw them, liked them, and then said, "Well, wait, hold on. I have this Pipe Force idea." And instead of just making, we'll say regular human-looking characters, it was like, "Well, let's do something that's out there as far as different characters." And so, taking his artwork and his faces, so to speak, that he drew, that's really where the tin art came from. And for me, because we were making a military unit out of them, they had to have uniforms, they had to have ranks.

[SI]: Right, right, right.

[JM]: They had to have names.Then I just went down this rabbit hole of, "Okay, if I'm creating a military unit from nothing, what do we need?" There's officer uniforms and enlisted rank uniforms. They're slightly different, but mainly the same. Then, we needed a unit, you know, a unit crest, if you want to say, which is where the P and F came from. 'Cause again, we're always trying to tie it back. And if you've gotten a patch or a lapel pin that we've made of these unit crests, there's some Latin words around there that we came up with that we feel like embody the spirit of the pipe community as a whole. So we tried tying that in. And then, as far as the pipes went, we used pipes we had around. They're actually all real pipes, just kind of sketched out as a drawing instead of just a picture of the pipe.

[SI]: So let me pause there super quick because I actually thought that that was a pretty interesting Easter egg. First of all, how many episodes in total will be released? Or are you guys not disclosing that yet?

[JM]: There's six episodes altogether. So there are six different blends that Per created.

[SI]: Okay, okay. And yeah, looking at the artwork for each of these, I couldn't help but notice a handful of familiar pipes. I'm sure it's mostly loosely-based on stuff that was laying around, but I see one that is a very distinctive Caminetto design. There's obviously a very iconic Missouri Meerschaum pipe in one of these. Let's see, I saw what looked very much like a Nørding to me on one of the other labels. I just thought that it was interesting that it wasn't just a bunch of generic tavern clay pipes or whatever.

[JM]: And I love the fact that you know pipes so well that you've literally nailed the three you've said. That just goes to show your pipe repertoire that you can pick 'em out in an artistic drawing just like that. That's very impressive.

[SI]: I've seen a number of them in real life. But yeah, it's really cool. It's really cool that each of them represent an actual pipe model.

[JM]: Yeah, and in the same way, there was a lot of thought that went into what pipe fits the character. Like you said, whether it's a Meerschaum, whether it's, in this case, in Episode V, it's an Altinay Meerschaum Rustic pipe, what really fits the character? And how to design his mouth, his style and even befitting of his rank, if you want to say, or his look.

[SI]: Sure, sure.

[JM]: You know and the same thing came when I had to pick rank structures. Being in the military, for example, the Episode IV that came out, this First Sergeant Deckard, a first sergeant in the military is normally known as a rough and gruff kind of guy, right? And just has this certain swagger and appeal to him. And to me that's this character that we had drawn. So, his rank easily was First Sergeant, right? And then, it was like, "Okay, now, names." And names became an interesting thing. We kicked around ideas of taking people from our own company, both in Denmark and here in the U.S., and wondering should it be, for example, like Captain McKenna and all that kind of stuff. And then, basically, we came up with all the last names that have something in common with each other. Very close in common with each other. We haven't really disclosed it publicly yet. If you twist my arm, I might tell you, but we'll see.

[SI]: Save something for when we're releasing the sixth one of these.

[JM]: There you go. So yeah, and then of course, obviously, we stole different things as far as the episodes in that we did Episode IV first, then V, VI, and then I, II, III, kind of a nod obviously to Star Wars.

[SI]: The original trilogy. Yeah, yeah.

[JM]: Right, we just wanted to have fun with it. We're not trying to jump the shark and be like, "Oh, we're this" or "We're that." We just thought knowing our community and the people involved like Per's blending.

[SI]: You get the reference, yeah.

[JM]: You know, Per is blending amazing tobaccos. But how else can we have fun with it and not just say, "Here's our Sutliff tin with our pretty Sutliff logo," you know? What else can we do?

[SI]: Yeah, sure.

[JM]: And that's really where Birds of a Feather came from and now Pipe Force. And then, I probably took it too far with Pipe Force where I decided to make a unit crest; I would make lapel pins and patches to give out at trade shows or consumer shows like Chicago, Columbus, and soon to be Vegas. Also, challenge coins in the military are big. So I was thinking, "Well, these guys would make cool challenge coins." So I decided to make challenge coins designed basically out of the tin art on one side and Sutliff on the other side, which then we said, "Well, how are we going to get those out there?" And the answer was, "Well, let's just put one in 10," so it's random; if you get one, great, if you don't, sorry, try again next episode. You know, so that was just me going crazy with the idea, really embracing it, and trying to do fun things for the community. There was no jumping the shark, like, "Oh, we're going to take this and we're going to do this." It was more about how much fun we could have, and I know I had nothing but fun designing it, working with Per on the blends, but then really just messing with all those different things. And I love going to these consumer shows and presenting 'em to our audience. And so I hope they enjoy 'em as much as I do.

[SI]: Sure, sure. So let's circle back one more time to the tobacco side of this. We don't want to give everything away, Per, but you've got six episodes here. We've seen one so far. There's an upcoming release of Episode V. What would you say, thematically, in terms of the actual tobaccos, the blending process, is the philosophy behind your approach to these blends? What would you say is the overall common thread or goal with each of these Pipe Force episodes?

[PJ]: Well, to blend the tobacco for all the episodes, I would say the main theme is of course these two new tobaccos, the Rustica and the Katerini, and to center other tobaccos around them. But let them be more or less the taste giver. Or if not a taste giver, in a very supportive role.

[SI]: The theme, yeah.

[PJ]: Yeah, and then you start making variations. And some of them don't work. As you know, in blending, there's a lot of trial and error where you think you've got something, then you smoke and you say, "No, I'm not going to release that." And then, you start correcting it or you change one component, even one tobacco with another. And then, suddenly you get lucky after a lot of hard work. So I don't know if it's luck I just prepared here.

[SI]: Yeah, both.

[PJ]: I don't know if you can see it. The tobacco, yeah, like that. And it's completely dark. If you can allow a very bad joke, it is exactly as dark as the universe of Jeremy. And then, there might be a few stars in there.

[SI]: That's pretty dark.

[PJ]: Who knows, who knows? But in Episode V, I was using both Rustica and Katerini. And of course, the idea came, "Why not make a complete black tobacco?" So I used some stoved or Red Virginia Cavendish added on top. So all I have used here is black tobacco. It's all Cavendish tobacco. And that gives an interesting taste because normally, when you have a little bit of Cavendish, you might catch a slight sour note. In this, it's like a sweet, sour dish. You have that note in the tobacco.

[SI]: Yeah, absolutely.

[PJ]: Then on top of that, the Rustica is building on with its power. What I said before, it's still got a lot of nicotine. And that is what is driving this plant nicotine-wise. And the Katerini is, well, if you smoke it pure and before you make it into a Cavendish, it's very sharp and also very spicy. And the Cavendish process has removed the sharpness. And that is one of the rules I always follow when I blend. I want balance in the blend. I don't want any bite. I want it to be a pleasure to smoke. I think, with Episode V, I succeeded rather well.

[SI]: I would agree. I would agree. One other thing too, as I've progressed into this bowl, I'm a little bit closer to the halfway mark now. Interestingly, for me, this is, and I mean this is something that is common to heavily steamed, heavily pressed, you know, darker tobaccos, Cavendish tobaccos. In a way, you're accelerating the natural fermentation and the natural aging that does take place when tobacco is just left to rest. Episode V for me overall is sort of shockingly mature tasting. It very much reminds me of a vintage Virginia tobacco, more so than something that was just stoved, pressed, and packaged within the last few months or whatever. It has a very mature flavor straight out of the tin.

[PJ]: Yeah, and that's of course because the Cavendish is also, shall we say, maturing the tobacco very rapidly. The first step you have is that you can forget a tin of tobacco in the front of your car and let the sun shine upon it, and it gets very hot. That is also maturing. The Cavendish process is much quicker, and it's much more rapid. And that makes it mature. But you have to know when to stop because if you overdo it, the tobacco is fragile at that point. So you have to stop it exactly at the right time. And, well, Jeremy experimented with that and found out when was the right time to do it, how much steam did it need, and how much time.

[SI]: I'm curious: so two questions about the larger series of blends. First of all, you guys have done some panels and some sampling where people have tried all of these so far, right?

[JM]: Yep.

[SI]: Have there been any notable front runners, or crowd favorites? And then, I'm also curious if you guys individually have a favorite or if you can pick one.

[JM]: As far as the paneling and stuff, yeah, before we, we'll say, finalized the blends, we brought in, same as we did with Birds of a Feather, we brought in, I don't know if it was 10 or 12 people into the factory. And we worked, did our best, and we smoked all six in one day, which, as you can imagine, at the end, it got rough.

[SI]: It takes a minute, yeah.

[JM]: But you know, we made it all through. We had someone there taking notes of different things they were picking up on that they liked and didn't like. And then, also something a little different we've done with all of these is we've actually, at Chicago, we had all six there, right? We had blocks of them all, and then we also had samples of all six that we were selling. And then, same thing in Ohio, I brought all six samples that we're selling as one unit. And I'll have a few more of them in Vegas also at the Vegas Pipe Show. And we also have preset all the launch dates or as we call them, invasion dates. So what we wanted to do a little differently than I would say probably has ever been done with a special release is that we wanted to get the tobaccos out there. We wanted to give people the dates, we gave people blend descriptions, and we gave them the tobacco, so that a lot of them have a chance to smoke them, to get the reviews out there, to talk about them, talk about 'em with their friends, and then also know when they're coming.

[SI]: Exactly, yeah.

[JM]: As opposed to, "Hey, here's another limited release by Sutliff." Well, huh, do I buy one tin? Do I buy 10 tins? Do I buy no tins? You know, I mean, 'cause I get it. They're expensive, you know? It's an expensive process. It's obviously not the cheapest hobby out there. So the long answer to your short question was Episode — I know it sounds cliche 'cause we're smoking it — I would say Episode V has gotten the most positive feedback so far that I've seen out there on social media. I feel like IV really didn't get talked about a bunch, and I don't think it was because the blend in IV isn't as good or anything along those lines. We just were not good at promoting it. We weren't out there much telling everyone, "Hey, we have these amazing Per Jensen signature series. You should really try them." They just kind of hit and that was that, you know? But really V and I, I think, have gotten more people saying "Those are my favorites."

[SI]: Yeah, sure. Well, it's a group of six unique blends, so there's certainly a lot to unpack here. And I can imagine smoking all of them in a single day doesn't really do any of 'em justice. But yeah, I will say that so far, I do find Episode V to be a rather singular blend on the market. And the Cavendish Rustica has given me a whole new appreciation for that component, which is already a pretty obscure component anyway. Interesting. What about you, Per? Is there a favorite here or is it like picking your favorite child, you just can't do it?

[PJ]: I'd rather not do it. It's just like asking me to choose between one of my six children. Which one do I prefer?

[SI]: That's fair. That's totally fair.

[PJ]: So let's just say after the release, we can talk about it. But here upfront, no. If I can decline, I would like to do that.

[SI]: Yeah, that's fine. That's totally fair. I figured. I just asked anyway out of curiosity. We'll talk about it later.

[PJ]: I have my favorite, I have my favorite. But I'm not revealing it.

[SI]: Fantastic. So when is the last invasion date? What is the timeline we're looking to see all of these episodes released by?

[JM]: Oh, you had to ask me. Episode V comes out September 13th. And then, from there, in two-month increments, plus or minus a couple days.

[SI]: So, if you're going along the lines of the Star Wars original trilogy line, is Episode III going to be the last release?

[JM]: Correct, yep. Episode III will be the last release. So basically, V, like you said, comes out September 13th. And then, VI will come out. Then, fast forward two months, sometime in November, back to Episode I coming out in January, and so on.

[SI]: Very cool. Well, I am curious myself to keep smoking through these, and I would encourage everybody out there to definitely start here with number Four and number Five. It's a very unique experience, these two blends so far. And I'm excited to see what all of Per's crazy experiments come next in the series.

[JM]: I really appreciate you having us on, Shane, and being able to talk about 'em and really getting Per out there to talk about his love for the industry both in pipes and in pipe tobacco and, you know, really just how long he's been in the industry and what it is to be a master blender, right? I mean, as you were alluding to earlier, it's lost on a lot of people, to some credit. You come out with something and now it's, we'll say in the Aromatic world like, "Oh, it's chocolate and peppermint together. Oh, wow, how original." If you tie the blender to that, while there is a lot that goes into that, a lot of times, that's lost on people. But when you get into what makes the Birds of a Feather and now the Pipe Force possible; these signature series from Per diving into that expertise in pulling out those nuances, bringing forth new tobaccos, and discussing how he blends them, so that there is no singular component. And as he says, they're all very well-rounded. It truly is an art form. I mean, that really is where the art lies in these blends — in his experiences and knowledge.

[SI]: And that's what I mean. It's the skill of using the components themselves and the processes like the combinations and the amount of riffing that you can do on a single idea. I don't think people understand how much variation there is, you know? You're talking about the components, different stock positions, different concentrations of sugar and nicotine, how those react with each other and processing them separately, processing them as a whole blend, like there's so much that goes into it. And it's kind of nice. What I appreciate maybe the most about the Pipe Force series is that, again, you're talking about some true innovation, some things that we have never smoked before, we being the community, and sort of being able to go through that ride and that journey. And it's not just fun, it is that too, but it's also kind of a learning experience as well to see how these components change with different processing and how they change being utilized in unique ways in terms of the blend with other components.

I appreciate that and I think it's a lot of fun, and it makes something like this worthwhile and easy to look forward to experiencing within these releases that are staggered. This is something else that I think we, in the industry, especially, like if you've been in this business or carefully following the hobby for more than 10 years, it's really interesting right now because I feel like specifically in the last 10 years, we've seen a real renaissance of really interesting, not just pipes, but pipe tobaccos coming to the market, you know? People like yourselves investing in experimental processes, unique types of leaf, unique materials, and how to use them. It's a really interesting time to be a pipe smoker. I feel like, collectively, there hasn't been this much innovation and sort of play in decades and decades. I mean, Per, you've been in this longer than me, but I would say that there's more interesting stuff happening with pipe tobacco in the last 10 years than we saw in the previous half a century maybe.

[PJ]: Yeah, you would say, well, I've been in the industry forever. And I should actually have tried everything. And then, still, something new opens up. But you just have to have an open mind.

[SI]: Yeah, exactly.

[PJ]: Then, something beautiful happens.

[SI]: Yeah, the fact that you're still finding this interesting, experimenting, and coming up with new things is remarkable. I do appreciate that for sure as a smoker. Thank you guys both for being here and for continuing to push the boundaries of what we can do with pipe tobacco. Looking forward to smoking through the rest of these myself.

[PJ]: Yep, it was a pleasure, Shane.

[JM]: Thanks a lot Shane. Appreciate it.

[PJ]: Thank you for having us.

[SI]: Thank you, guys.

Category:   Tobacco Talk
Tagged in:   Interview Per Jensen Sutliff


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