People start smoking pipes for any number of reasons. Some remember a grandfather, parent, or favorite uncle who smoked a pipe and, evoking the comforting aroma and the satisfaction it nourished, revisit those significant experiences. Others may switch from cigarettes or seek only nicotine delivery. Still others pursue the nostalgia of a pastime most consider to be entrenched in the past when a pipe was perched in the teeth of countless statesmen, actors, scientists, and every lawn-mowing suburban dad.
Then there are pipe smokers like you and me, pipe smokers who seek information, read what they can online, and are attracted to the history of pipes and the community that keeps pipe smoking current. Most of us discover the global community of pipe smokers only after we've become enamored with the pipe, and it's a happy collateral circumstance that participating in the pipe-smoking culture is as satisfying as pipe smoking itself. When pipe smokers gather at club meetings, or smoke-friendly private game nights, or pipe shows attended by hundreds of like-minded people, the diversion transforms into a hobby possessing astonishing depth and detail.
The social aspects of pipe smoking add dimension to the activity. Knowledge is advanced, smoking techniques perfected, histories clarified, construction enhanced, and fun exponentially escalated. Multiple minds advance knowledge more efficiently than single minds. When pipe smokers combine their knowledge and acumen, they can achieve far more than a single individual.
And that's exactly what happened when Craig Tarler of Cornell & Diehl and Greg Pease of G.L. Pease tobaccos launched the Two Friends line of tobaccos in 2001.
Two Friends: Early History
G.L. Pease and C&D were different companies serving premium tobacco enthusiasts, as they are today, but one wouldn't call them competitors. They helped each other. Craig and Patty Tarler's North Carolina company eventually manufactured and tinned G.L. Pease tobaccos, developed by Greg in California. It was awkward at first. Before that, Craig would send tobaccos to Greg, and Greg would blend them, tin them, and send them back for distribution. Greg was limited to what he could put together on his kitchen table, tinning with a manual, hand-cranked tinning machine, so he started sending his tobacco to North Carolina for tinning, and later, production itself moved to C&D.
Craig was famously gregarious and Greg is endlessly engaging, and the two became friends as their business alliance progressed, until one day they decided to combine their talents and collaborate on a new series: Two Friends. "Well," says Greg, "that's ancient history; I don't really have much recollection of it. It was a thing that just seemed like a good idea at the time: 'Let's do some stuff together. Let's work on some blends.'"
Multiple minds advance knowledge more efficiently than single minds
They shared ideas and tweaked their combined efforts, usually from 2,000 miles apart, though Greg visited C&D and had fun while there. "Some of the blends," says Greg, "came about because I had an idea for something, and we'd talk about it, and maybe I'd make a prototype or he'd maybe make a prototype and we'd try it, then tweak it and change it. One of the ones that I remember pretty well was English Chocolate, which I think is a fabulous blend." Greg especially appreciated the flavorings they developed for it, but initially the blend underneath those flavorings was unappealing at first.
"So I reworked the formulation, and Craig made some changes, and we went back and forth a few times and came out with something really good, something that neither of us would have conceived individually. I think that's kind of the philosophy of Two Friends."
Two minds joined together become a different mind. It happens even within ourselves. After surgeons first sought relief for sufferers of epilepsy by severing the bundle of neural fibers connecting the two sides of the brain, it was found that the hemispheres held different perceptions and even personalities, and could disagree with each other on choices of clothes or groceries or religion. All of us function because of the collaboration of two brains. So Greg and Craig had four brains at their disposal as they developed the Two Friends series, and these blends were not C&D or GLP tobaccos. They were a completely different, stand-alone brand.
They were excellent mixtures, but unfortunately had a difficult inauguration. "There's a long history behind it," says Greg, "but the early history is not very attractive." Missteps were made, and the first runs were on the dry side. "There are three main problems with tobacco that's too dry: it doesn't smoke particularly well, it doesn't age particularly well, and it crumbles in transit. On top of that, they were packaged in clear vacuum packs with labels that were unattractive. Terrible."
"... something that neither of us would have conceived individually"
There were some fans, but generally consumers didn't warm to the series and many never revisited it. "Tinning it and getting the tobacco to the right moisture content was a huge improvement," says Greg. "But the labels remained. We never managed to change those back then."
The Relocation of Manufacturing
Craig Tarler passed away in 2012, leaving C&D in the hands of his wife Patty and son Chris, who decided to advance the company by merging with Laudisi Enterprises, the parent company of Smokingpipes in South Carolina, whose website you are now reading.
C&D moved from Morganton, N.C., to Longs, S.C., and it wasn't easy, but under the new partnership, it thrived. Around that time the Customer Service department at Smokingpipes hired Jeremy Reeves. He was excellent with customers, efficient, very smart, and a pipe smoker who was beyond enthusiastic about pipes and pipe tobacco. About a year after he started, C&D was looking for a tobacco blender. Sykes Wilford, CEO at Laudisi, knew that Jeremy had a background that included both culinary expertise and experience with tobacco. It would mean much work and additional education, but Jeremy knew it was the right choice and joined C&D in 2014, later becoming Head Blender.
Part of Jeremy's job was to talk regularly with Greg Pease, whose tobaccos he was now helping to manufacture. Those who know these gentlemen will not find it difficult to believe they quickly became friends. They have much in common and plenty of esoteric knowledge to keep each other entertained.
"I was influenced by Greg even before we met," says Jeremy. "I'd read a lot of what Greg had written, particularly about blending. I started out with the approach of making really tiny batches of something and doing my experimentation with the smallest quantity of tobacco possible so that I wouldn't use up my components in large volumes to make batches that didn't ultimately work. So, when I would develop blends, and even now when I develop blends, I'd make a few ounces of something or even just a few grams of something to build from there; otherwise I'd go through pounds of components. I learned that approach from Greg."
It's been a mutually beneficial relationship. "Greg has learned about some of the approaches that I take to different problems or different leaf types, and we've talked about his time blending tobacco at Drucquer's and swapped stories about blending tobacco, and I think we learned from each other. Greg is an interesting guy. A lot of intelligence, a lot of creativity, a lot of curiosity. Through the course of our conversations, we became friends."
"I like Jeremy a lot," says Greg. "We get along really well and have amazing conversations, sometimes even about tobacco."
"Greg's approach," says Jeremy, "is very methodical and studious. When I look at Greg's recipes, there's a lot of nuance having more to do with, 'what exactly is this component, what's great about it, what's bad about it, how can I capitalize on the good and counteract the things that are bad or make those bad things good by pairing it alongside another leaf or combination of leaves.'"
The Reassessment of Two Friends
Eventually, their conversations turned to the Two Friends series of tobaccos, a series that enjoyed only moderate consumer interest and needed some rethinking. It was a line of seven tobaccos that had been languishing with little attention, perhaps because the labels were substandard and because their popularity was unimpressive and suffering from its clumsy inauguration. Whatever the reason, they decided to revisit the series.
"It was exciting for Jeremy and I to work on Two Friends. It's funny because neither of us remembers who proposed it. The idea was, why don't we revisit the Two Friends range and see what we can do to reinvigorate it, to revitalize it, to give it some new life, to take advantage of the wider varieties of leaf that we now have available, maybe make some tweaks and improvements in some cases, or just leave it alone because it's good the way it is. We started talking about it and thought it was a great idea. And just having a greater diversity of components to work with, different red Virginias, different bright Virginias, different Orientals, it was great."
Greg and Jeremy carefully and thoughtfully smoked through the Two Friends portfolio, reevaluating every blend to be sure they performed according to their own modern standards. Without changing the recipes, which they agreed were exceptional, they tweaked the different component varietals for better balance of flavor, improved performance, and flavor delivery. In some cases, different processes applied to the same components enhanced the flavor and performance. The varietals themselves were improved as well, a natural occurrence as C&D evolved in South Carolina, Jeremy studiously developing access to more interesting leaf, sometimes dramatically aged.
"Greg is an interesting guy. A lot of intelligence, a lot of creativity, a lot of curiosity"
One of the more important discoveries was that neither Greg nor Jeremy liked Celtic Mist, a Cavendish/Burley/Virginia mixture flavored with Irish Mist whiskey. "Greg and I both hated it," says Jeremy. "It was a Black Cavendish Aromatic. Neither of us enjoyed the flavor or aroma. It was too sweet on the nose and not enough of that sweetness manifested interestingly in the smoke. It was just one-dimensional and unpleasant. We discontinued it because when we started talking about the rebrand of Two Friends, we thought it wasn't a good idea to keep a mixture in the line that neither of us liked. We smoked through all of the blends and thought all of them were excellent, better now than they had been back in the day because we are using overall, I think, better leaf."
Mainly, though, the series was in great shape. "I think the names are great," says Greg. "I think the tobacco is great. I think the history of Two Friends is interesting and fun, and now with some cool developments, I think it's a product worthy of genuine consideration by our audience, which is pretty experienced and knowledgeable."
Two Friends: Revitalized Tin Art
Two Friends has been revitalized, and in acknowledgement, all new tin art has been developed. "I'm very excited about the artwork," says Greg. "When I saw the initial concepts, I was a little gobsmacked, like, 'Wow, that's new. It's fresh, it's beautiful. It's certainly traditional in some ways, but not for tobacco labels. It's fantastic. I think it will contribute substantially in elevating this series to a place it deserves."
The seven blends in the series provide flavor profiles for every occasion and preference, some reminiscent of classic tobacco stylings from the past, some poised to become modern favorites, and others delivering new, unforged smoking experiences.
... they tweaked the different component varietals for better balance of flavor, improved performance, and flavor delivery
After Greg and Jeremy dropped Celtic Mist from the lineup, they felt better about Two Friends. There were now no losers in the portfolio, and they felt they could boost the series further with a new entry: Homeward Bound. "We took a different approach with the Burley and Virginia components," says Jeremy, "and we actually pressed those in whole-leaf form, then cut it as a broken flake or a ready rub and added our Black Cavendish at the end. The pressing takes place with the Burley components and the Bright and Red Virginia, and all of the flavoring agents go through the pressing. Pressing and processing in whole leaf changes the color of the leaf because of the heat and friction of the process. It really does deepen the flavor of the tobaccos. It makes things more mellow, it makes things a little more round, darkening the flavor and adding depth. It's now a more complex blend than previously.
"And it has a chunkier cut. It helps to slow things down so that the flavors have more opportunity to build slowly rather than deliver the bright and sweet on the front. I think that it deepens the notes of caramel and chocolate. And it also really allows these flavors to marry into the base tobaccos, which are still carrying the majority of the flavor. They're just augmented by these top notes."
"I love Homeward Bound," says Greg. "All of these blends are kind of crossover blends. They're a little bit on the aromatic side, but they're also very natural tasting. Homeward Bound is a beautiful sort of Virginia flake, but it's got that hint of vanilla-like essence to it, a little bit sweeter room note, a bit more sweetness in the pipe, and I think it's a really lovely tobacco."
"Homeward Bound," says Jeremy, "is a phrase that goes back to the history of tattooing in the U.S., kind of having been so influenced and brought here mostly by sailors in the Navy who got tattooed during their time overseas. It was a sentiment of hope and of just holding steady as they experienced what they were experiencing in World War II."
This new entry in the Two Friends series inaugurates a modern dynamic, one of two new friends, Greg and Jeremy. A remarkable Aromatic that is not cloying but fresh and natural, its heirloom Burleys, tangy Reds, and sweet Bright Virginias offer notes of caramel, chocolate, candied tree nuts, and subtle tones of rum and scotch, providing a smoking experience that is simultaneously refreshing and flavor-packed. It activates all of the taste sensors across the mouth and nose and satisfies with cool billows of gratifying smoke. Homeward Bound is available as of Tuesday, Feb. 6th at 6:00 p.m. ET.
Valle Crucis, aside from being a historic and scenic rural community in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, is a sophisticated English blend, rich with Turkish Latakia, mature Red Virginias, and enticing Orientals, with a trace of Bright flue-cured leaf.
"Valle Crucis is a light English with a little bit of Perique," says Jeremy. "There's some Oriental tobacco, a tiny amount of Burley, but overall, it's primarily Virginias with a moderate amount of Latakia, combining the tartness, brightness, and sweetness of the brighter Virginia and the toasted, roasty flavor of the Stoved Red Virginia; it blends well with the smoky and lightly sweet character of the Latakia and makes it very pleasant, with just a little bit of ginger added. The bite and zip of the ginger work really well with this light, smoky-tart, and tangy blend. It almost comes across with a sort of effervescence."
"I think English Chocolate is just superb," says Greg. "It's a wonderful smoke, well beyond my initial hopes." It's a luxurious and silky blend of Red and Bright Virginias and Turkish Latakia, easy to pack, and cool smoking. The cocoa notes are especially satisfying and provide a creamy character, while the Latakia is subdued, playing a supporting role and not interfering with the dance of flavors weaving across the palate throughout the smoke.
"It's a ready-rubbed mixture," says Jeremy, "so it has this sort of chunky compressed ribbon cut, and it's also a light English Aromatic, but very, very different. It's very pronounced on the Red Virginia and Bright Virginia, so it's much more focused on Virginia overall. The Latakia comes in at under 20% of the blend, and then it's pressed and cut into flakes, then rubbed out into a chunkier ribbon cut with some chocolate flavor and aroma with a little cocoa. The chocolate, Latakia, and Virginias are just brilliant together. It's one of my favorites of the line."
"It's my favorite of the Two Friends portfolio," says Greg. "It isn't overpowering in the least and makes a great after-dinner smoke."
"I think it's best in the afternoon," says Jeremy, "but anytime works for this tobacco."
Here's a blend name that's reminiscent of Nathaniel Hawthorne's powerful novel, The Scarlet Letter, and it's indeed powerful itself, with the same seething inner complexity, seemingly poised to fling open formidable inspirations laced with alluring Latakia, Oriental, and Perique.
"Deacon's Downfall is pretty classic," says Jeremy. "I would say that this blend is a quintessential Latakia mixture. Everything is in balance, but the Latakia is more pronounced. The Perique here is adding a little depth and a little nicotine to the mix, and a fair portion of Oriental to kind of offset the smokiness of the Latakia and remind it that it used to be Turkish. Yeah, there's a lot to love here. Natural sweetness, and roasty and smoky notes, and notes here and there reflecting the floral and nutty complexity that Turkish Latakia can offer. Perfect at mid-day and especially satisfying after dinner."
"Redwood," says Jeremy, "is a Virginia/Perique blend. It isn't super heavy on the Perique; it really focuses on the Red Virginia, but it's softer, older Red Virginia. There are a couple of different grades of Virginia that offer some differing flavor profiles. One is fruity and spicy and one is earthy and kind of roasty. And then, you've got the Perique and just a little touch of Black Cavendish, and that Black Cavendish offsets the Perique a bit, and softens it and bridges the gap between the Virginia and the Perique quite nicely."
It's a blend that Jeremy has personally enjoyed for years, since before he joined Cornell & Diehl. "It's everything I love about Red Virginia with just a little added sweetness from the Black Cavendish, added to the fruity notes and spiciness of the Perique. It's a great smoke morning, afternoon, and evening. There is no Bright Virginia, so it isn't a very, very sweet blend, which is why the Black Cavendish's slight sweetness is nice, but I think it's a very savory approach to the Virginia/Perique style."
Greg thinks highly of the blend, especially noting the interplay of flavors released by the Perique. "You have Virginia and Perique in Redwood," says Greg. "Redwood is roasty with a terrific aroma. It has a dark, toasted character from the Virginias, which plays really well with the fruity and peppery notes of the Perique."
Bed and Breakfast
It's challenging to find a tobacco that so deftly balances the interplay of flavors evoked by Virginia varietals as Bed and Breakfast. A fine choice for morning, as one may infer from the name, and smoothly enjoyable as an all-day smoke, its Latakia was formerly Cyprian, now Turkish.
"This blend takes a bit of a different approach than most of the rest of the line," says Jeremy, "in that Bright leaf is actually the largest contributor overall, the largest proportion in the blend. We developed a very nice balance between the Bright and the Red and that sweetness acts as a counterpoint in the Red Virginia, being a little earthier and a little deeper." The Latakia is present in a moderate ratio, though easily evident in the flavor profile. "You'll certainly notice it, you'll certainly smell it, and you'll certainly pick up on the smoky flavors that it imparts, but it is not the primary flavor contributor at all in this blend."
There's just a glimmer of Burley, included to boost the nicotine content where the base of Bright Virginia has little. "It helps to add an element of depth to the flavor," says Jeremy, "along with the Red Virginia. It's a very tea-like kind of blend. For folks who enjoy something like lapsang souchong tea, I think that this would be a flavor profile they would find very appealing. Lapsang souchong is a Chinese black tea that has been fermented and smoked over hardwood fire. It's basically the bacon of tea."
"Heritage is great," says Greg. "Heritage was a lot of fun. It's not really the style of tobacco that I typically gravitate toward because it's very Burley based, but it's exceptional. And Heritage, in fact, was Craig's favorite smoke. Craig smoked Heritage every day."
"It's another blend in the line that I absolutely love," says Jeremy. "It's fascinating. The aroma and flavor profile are actually quite reminiscent of some aspects of Perique. Lots of people have commented over the years that Heritage reminds them of Perique such that it makes them think it might be a component, but there is no Perique in this blend. It is a Virginia and Burley blend."
That makes it an interesting choice for those who can't smoke Perique for whatever reason but enjoy the flavor profile. "You have Red and Bright Virginias, and both White Burley and Dark Burley, along with top notes of rum, plum, and maple. That little top note works with all of these tobaccos in such a way that it's reminiscent of Perique in spite of the fact that no Perique is used. I can understand why Craig smoked it so regularly. It's delicious, and it's just as tasty first thing in the morning as it is last thing before you go to bed. It's a wonderful blend."
For those who smoked Two Friends tobaccos years ago and found they did not resonate, perhaps it's time to try again, and for those who have missed the series, here's an opportunity to try the tobaccos at their best. They've been refreshed and expertly detailed, with polished hubcaps, gleaming chrome, modernized accessories, spoilers, and fuzzy dice, ready for the world. Jeremy and Greg have made something special, forged in friendship, with products that they had enormous fun with because they love making the best tobaccos they can and they enjoyed the collaboration. Two blenders of this stature, from different companies, working together on a project of this magnitude is a benediction to the pipe-smoking community. Minds like theirs should get together now and then. They seem to achieve remarkable results.