Nothing tops Groningen

Groningen city

Groningen city

All the way in the North-East of The Netherlands lies the province of Groningen with its capital (also called) Groningen. Very handy when I had geographical tests in primary school, never got it wrong. Groningen is an old city, once a member of the German Hanseatic League, with a rich tobacco history, of which sadly little is left.. On a cold, windy but dry Saturday Ellen and I embarked upon a journey to the North. For most Dutch people Groningen feels like the other end of the civilized world. Since we are already living halfway The Netherlands for us it just was a 1.5 hour ride with the train. Before we went I already looked up (cultural) places to visit and found them: the Groninger Museum, the Universiteits Museum and the Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum.

Art by Joost van den Toorn

Art by Joost van den Toorn

We started at the Groninger Museum since it was near the beautiful train station. Just look up if you are there, then you will know what I mean. The entry-fee for the museum was cheaper than normal. It turned out they were between expositions. Luckily there was still enough to see. The museum tends towards modern art (normal-wise not my favourite) but to my delight they had some interesting pieces. I especially had to laugh when I saw some sculptures made by Joost van Den Toorn. I mean, a statue on birds legs of the naked upside down part of a woman with a big cross put in the vagina is bound to bring a smile on my face. There also were some older paintings and like always I did my game of “spot the smoking pipe”. And I found some!

img_5495After a warm cup of tea and a cappuccino for Ellen at one of the many coffee-shops in the city centre (no not that kind of coffee-shop you potheads..) we slowly walked to the Universiteits Museum. The entrance lies a bit hidden but luckily Ellen did not have her eyes in her pocket and spotted it. The best thing about this museum is that it is free! That always makes this miserly Dutchman happy. If you are looking for mind boggling art, don’t come here. The museum has an array of objects like medical specimens, models to scientific instruments and ethnological objects. It also has the consultation room of Aletta Jacobs, the first female student in the Netherlands, the first female doctor and the first woman that obtained a doctorate. The most impressive was the anatomy room, where anatomical preparations are organized as an anatomical theatre. A kind of creepy but certainly interesting.

Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum

Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum

The last museum we visited was the Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum. It is located in one of the most beautiful medieval buildings in Groningen, a big merchants-house with a Gothic façade dating back to the 15th century. Until 1 January 2011 it housed the Niemeyer Tobacco-museum. Sadly, in 2010 it was decided to close the tobacco-museum because Niemeyer withdrew their funding for it. It did not fit in British American Tobacco’s (owner of Niemeyer) policies for the future of the company.. Without their funding it was not feasible to keep it open. The collection of the museum has been split up. Articles that the museum had received as a gift or were on loan from people have been, as much as possible, returned. Other important pieces became part of the own collection of the Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum or went to other musea. Most of the then remaining items have been sold at an auction at Christie’s in Amsterdam. The few articles that remained are kept in the archives of the Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum for safe-keeping. But to my delight I discovered that quite a few of smoking related items were exhibited.

Het wapen van Rotterdam

Het wapen van Rotterdam

But first a small history about tobacco in Groningen. Once upon a time there were many smaller and larger factories in Groningen which produced chewing or smoking tobacco. During the years a number of them were swallowed by Theodorus Niemeyer, but most companies threw the towel into the ring after a short or longer time. Now once well-known names like Lieftinck, Gruno, Kranenburg and Koning only live forth in memory or on commemorative stones on façades. In 1854 there were (according to an old address-book) 28 tobacco manufacturers in Groningen under which F. Lieftinck and Th. Niemeijer. Both had been active for only a short while. Theodorus Niemeijer started in 1848, after he took over the wholesale business and shop “Het wapen van Rotterdam” from his father.

Gruno tobacco factory at the Winschoterkade, ca. 1926

Gruno tobacco factory at the Winschoterkade, ca. 1926

In 1849 (or 1820, I don’t know precisely..) Franciscus Lieftinck lets his sons, Franciscus jr. and Jan Harmannus, lay the first brick for a tobacco factory in the Raamstraat. Later, in 1893, a bigger one called “Pakhuis De Nijverheid” was build. Franciscus jr. and Ipoje Kranenburg marry 2 De Witt sisters. They are not the only tobacco manufacturers who got mutually related. Also Th. Niemeijer got his (second) wife from the tobacco environment. His marriage to Tettje Heckman offered him the opportunity to take over the business from her deceased nephew Hayo Willem Heckman in 1874. The tobacco industry grew and the manufacturers were erecting new company buildings. E.F. Rost was building a cigar factory and drying room on the corner of the Eeldersingel and Paterwoldseweg. Niemeijer also expanded by taking over the company of J. Swaagman in 1887 and by building a big warehouse at the corner of the Rotterdammerstraatje and the Nieuwe Kerkhof. In 1898 tobacco manufacturer Jan Gruno does exactly the same at the Winschoterkade. Gruno, just like Lieftinck and Niemeijer, was a company that went from father to son. Father Jan Gruno sr. began in “De Blauwe Haan” at the Damsterdiep as a merchant and tobacco-carver. Son Jan jr. moved the company to the Winschoterkade and his sons John Henry and Julius managed the business from 1921.

1922, Theodorus Niemeijer factory, Paterwoldseweg

1922, Theodorus Niemeijer factory, Paterwoldseweg

Companies that did not stay in the family sometimes kept their company or brand-name. This way names of tobacco manufacturers Pieter Koning and Ipoje Kranenburg live on after the take-over by R.A.J. Loot. He starts in a building in the Oosterstraat in 1887 in which first T.B. Kolk and subsequently P. Koning made tobacco. After Loot took over the company of Kranenburg he used the name of Koning as well as the name of Kranenburg for his tobacco factory. The new company building “De Tabaksplant” at the W.A. Scholtenstraat got a tiled painting with the P. Koning name on it. Niemeijer was one of the first to make cigarettes in 1909. At first in the new factory building at the Paterswoldseweg but later, in 1918, from the old Noack meat-factory at the Emmasingel. Despite that this factory closed in 1929, Niemeijers expansion at the Paterwoldseweg continued. Amongst other things the acquisition of Lieftinck in 1932 added to this.

1966, Theodorus Niemeyer factory, Paterwoldseweg

1966, Theodorus Niemeyer factory, Paterwoldseweg

In the 1930’s and during WWII several tobacco companies called it quits. For Gruno the liberation of Groningen city meant the end. This because the Germans entrenched themselves in the high building, so it was destroyed and burned by Canadian artillery fire. Niemeyer (like it is spelled today) was the only tobacco manufacturer from Groningen that remained, but it was no longer a family-company. First British company Gallaher became the owner in 1973 and in 1990 it was sold to Rothmans (who also owned Gruno), who have been bought by British Amercian Tobacco in 1999.

img_5513Back to the Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum. When we had hung up our coats and paid the very reasonable entrance fee we headed for the basement where there was an exposition about 100 years of advertisement by some Groninger companies. One of the first things I saw were beautiful billboards from Niemeyer where you could recognize art movements like Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) and Art Deco. Just walking through the old building is an experience in itself. If you are larger than about 1.70m, watch out for your head! Back in the day the people were not very large.. If you follow the designated route you are being led to an array of rooms. Everywhere bits and pieces of smoking related items are displayed like nice old snuffboxes from Scandinavia and beautifully decorated clay pipes.

*Drools* Too bad of the wire-mesh..

*Drools* Too bad of the wire-mesh..

In a corner of one of the bigger rooms I discovered a cell, closed off by wire mesh, with inside all kinds of vintage Dutch (pipe) tobacco packs of brands like Rode Ster, Friesche Baaitabak and Friesche Heeren Baai. I don’t like stealing but if I had a wire-cutter then… Another great find were 2 smoking chairs from 1870. On such a piece of furniture you don’t sit normal. You sit backwards with your arms on the backrest that can be opened. There are 2 compartments in which one can put tobacco. Also the woodcarving on the back is very nicely executed. In conclusion I would like to say: visit that museum!

Tabaksspeciaalzaak Homan

Tabaksspeciaalzaak Homan

What I also would like to visit was a tobacco shop. Unfortunately there are not many left in Groningen.. Sadly the oldest tobacconist, A-Kerk, closed its doors last year. Really a shame because the store-building dates back from 1445 and since 1916 a tobacconist has been active there. But a very good alternative is Tabaksspeciaalzaak Homan at the edge of the old city centre. For 54 years the old, now sadly deceased, owner Klaas Homan sold his smoking wares there. Now a young team is active and I think they are doing a fine job. Immediately when I entered the shop I was friendly greeted. I explained that I was a smoking pipe / pipe tobacco blogger and asked if I could snap some pictures. No problem at all. The assortment of the store was impressive! All in The Netherlands available pipe-tobaccos, pipes of brands like Peterson, Vauen and Big Ben, short- and longfiller cigars, cigarettes, hookahs and all kinds of smoking requisites.

Rode Ster

Rode Ster

I asked the good looking female shop assistant, who turned out to be in charge of the team, if I could have a better look at the pipes. A glass panel was opened so I could take some pipes in my hand. They had some nice Petersons but I managed to restrain myself. I asked the girl what her best selling pipes were. “Surprisingly not Big Ben (a Dutch brand of course) but Vauen is our high seller.” We walked towards the pipe-tobacco corner and she expressed that she was sad that the Scandinavian Tobacco Group are discontinuing several brands. “We have many pipe-smokers here that just like 1 brand and soon we will have to disappoint some of them..” Of course here I also asked what brand was the high seller and it was W.O. Larsen Golden Dream and the Troost tobaccos. Suddenly my eye fell on a pouch of a long discontinued (well, at least a couple of years now) brand that I saw earlier that day in the Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum: Rode Ster. It was Homan’s last and probably one of the last in general. So I bought it. Rode Ster was a brand made by Niemeyer and was already popular in the 1930’s. It consisted of Virginia, Maryland and some burley.

Schweinhund pizza, best I ever had!

Schweinehund pizza, best I ever had!

Outside the store I met Ellen again, she had not gone inside with me. It was time to relax and have a drink. Nearby was a brewery and I was yearning for a good glass of dark beer. On the lower floors of the Martinus Brouwerij the beer is brewed and on the upper floor you can drink it. There a hip café is located which even had a vinyl turntable that played relaxing smooth jazz. I can recommend their brown beer and pale ale! Around 5 o’clock our bellies began to rumble, dinnertime. My friend Jaap who is living in Groningen now for several years recently had opened a pizzeria there: Lux. But it is not just a regular pizzeria, no, everything is 100% fresh and handmade. No fat soggy big chain pizzas there. Also pretty unique, they have vegetarian and vegan pizzas and pastas. I did not tell Jaap that we were coming so he was pretty (pleasantly) surprised to see us. We had not see each other for some time so while he was cooking and baking we chatted along. I ordered the so called delicious Schweinehund pizza. Tomato sauce, Gouda cheese, onion, ham, salami, bacon, roast beef and a baked egg on top of a golden baked crispy yet chewy hand-knead dough bottom. In all honesty, the best pizza I ever had. Thank you Jaap! With our stomachs filled we thanked Jaap and his charming girlfriend Lana and went for one last drink at an Irish Pub, where I had some tasty Kilkenny beer and Ellen a red wine. Content and happy we toasted on what had been a great day in Groningen.

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Hospitable Heukelum 2016

Label of the 2016 forumbeer

Label of the 2016 forumbeer

I really hate autumn. There, I said it. Yeah I know, lots of people like it, the falling leaves, the smells, the colours etc. Well, for me autumn is made out of dark, grey, rainy and cold days which suck the joy out of my life.. Blagh… I prefer summer with the warmth and comfort of the sun. Luckily not all is bad in these dark days, there is even some light. Light coming from a small brewery located in the tiny Dutch village of Heukelum. There one of the annual meetings of the Dutch/Belgian pipe-smokers forum is held. People from all layers of society sitting together, chatting away, drinking, eating, in general just having a good time. As it is supposed to be. Like the previous years stone-cutting tamper-maker extraordinaire Martin organised it. The price remained the same as last year so we all got excellent value for money. I mean, you get two drinks, there is a big BBQ with all kinds of tasty fresh meat, sauces, salads and baguettes, the rent of the brewery is included and last but not least you get one bottle of special forum-beer with a label made by myself!

Dre and some of his wares

Dre and some of his wares

Like always I picked up Mark at the Deventer train station and together we drove to the carpool place where Johnny and Ed would be waiting or us. When we got there it turned out to be quite busy with cars so I had to park mine beside the road. Suddenly a pissed-off guy approached me that I had to park my car elsewhere. It turned out to be the owner of the ice-cream van who stood there, he was afraid his clients did not have space to manoeuvre with my car there. Bullshit of course but since the guy is a total nut-case (he was in the news because he conned customers) I opted to park elsewhere. To my amazement and joy the weather actually was nice when we arrived at ‘T Kuipertje. A bit of sunshine, hardly any wind and a decent temperature made it feel like a very late summers day. One of the first things I did was fetch my ordered PRF shirts and sweaters. Peter did an excellent job ordering, handling and packing all the fine quality PRF textiles. Thanks mate, now I have some decent clothes to wear this winter and coming summer. Second I approached Dre, who refurbishes estate pipes as a hobby. I mailed him earlier that week with a request.

The father of a good friend of mine

The father of a good friend of mine

As I told in my Humble Beginnings part 1 blogpost one of my influences to start pipe-smoking is the father of a long time friend of mine. Well, he is in The Netherlands right now because of his bad health. Ok, bad health is a bit too exaggerated, he has some physical issues which are better addressed here (better hospitals) than in Brazil, where he lives. He brought some pipes with him and when I took a good look at them tears welled up in my eyes.. He is an old fashioned smoker, and by that I mean he likes to smoke the same blend over and over again (he took a liking to my Phoenix Graveyard Mixture (basically all my natural tobacco leftovers mixed together) in just a couple of pipes which are hardly cleaned. One of his pipes has the mouthpiece of some other pipe which is duct-taped more or less to the shank and the underside of another one bubbles up because it is almost burned through. Time for some “new” pipes I thought, so I approached Dre and asked him if he had any straight pipes (preferably billiards) for sale. “Just wait, I will bring some pipes with me”, he mailed back. And indeed, Dre showed me a billiard and some canadians which looked just fine. “I’ll take them all!” I happily said. Dre asked a very friendly price and even threw in another pipe for free! Thanks very much Dre! The father of my friend is a happy man now.

Me, Robbin and Ed

Me, Robbin and Ed

Time for a drink! The previous years the beers of ‘T Kuipertje were good although sometimes a bit on the watery side. However, this year I was surprised by full, round tasting brew! With a smile I walked to Robbin, some weeks before the meeting I bought a straight Dunhill patent era prince from him for a very good price. He once bought the pipe from a man who turned out to be a swindler and that turned him off so much that he never smoked it. I have no such problem with that pipe so Robbin brought it with him. Happily I filled my new acquisition with some tobacco and went outside. I put the pipe in my mouth, brought the flame from the lighter to the bowl and *crack!* bit through the mouthpiece.. While silently cursing I took the pipe out of my mouth and inspected the damage, a piece of the lip had broken off. The mouthpiece was already very thin by decades of buffing and my strong teeth did the rest. Just bad luck, not any one’s fault. Frisian pipe maker Meindert saw me inspecting the damage and carefully took the pipe from my hands. “Just give it to me, I will make a new mouthpiece for it, everything will be ok.” So to be continued..

Jeujjjj!!!

Jeujjjj!!!

Then it was time for me to ask for everyone’s attention. For some time I am busy with a new PRF forum tobacco called “Flatlander Flake” made by Samuel Gawith and imported by (Elbert) Gubbels. Just a couple of days before the meeting I received 2 sample tins from Elbert so the forum members could try the blend. I wanted to give a longer speech in which I explained and told about the new forum tobacco journey but sadly my throat (I still was having a nasty cold..) protested heavily. So I decided to give a shorter version and let the tobacco speak for itself. During the rest of the day I (luckily) got nothing but positive response about Flatlander Flake, mission accomplished!

Finger tapping the sh*t out of that ukelele like Van Halen. NOT!

Finger tapping the sh*t out of that ukelele Van Halen style. NOT!

Suddenly when I was talking to some folks I heard a strange monotone noise coming from outside. It turned out to be Sander who was gearing up his hurdy-gurdy. Such a strange instrument but Sander proved to be surprisingly skilful in playing it. The folk melodies coming from it brought me visions of merry drinking and eating people. Hmm, pretty much the group I was looking at! Rob (one of the many Robs on the forum) also brought instruments with him; his self made (from used cigar- and pipe tobacco boxes) ukeleles. They look really great! He also brought a regular ukelele which I could not resist playing. I painfully discovered that having experience in playing guitar and bass does not mean one can play an ukelele..

Yummie meat!

Yummie meat!

I was saved by the announcement of brewery-owner Henk that the BBQ’s were ready. Time to eat! Henk gets his meat from a local butcher and you really can taste that, premium quality! Normally I would not notice that so much, but because I am more or less on a diet I took no (fat and sugar-rich) sauces with my meat. Some weeks ago I had a BBQ with my brother-in-law and he had meat from the supermarket. Well, it was not nearly as good as what Henk had to offer. So I sinned and filled up my plate 3 times before I contently sat down with a full belly. Needless to say the gym awaited me the next day..

Sander

Sander

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent chatting away with all the present folks. Because of the heat coming from the BBQ’s we could sit outside for a long time. Talking about heat, on a table stood a small bottle with some red sauce in it. It belonged to hurdy-gurdy player Sander and on the label was an ominous name that indicated the contents were very hot. But according to Sander that was not really the case, he used large amounts of it on his meat. Curiosity got the better of me, I put some sauce on the top of my finger and licked it off. At first nothing happened. I proclaimed “Hah, this stuff is not as ho….” when suddenly my mouth started to burn, my eyes began to water and I got hiccups. Holy damned sh*t, this stuff is HOT! The whole table laughed at my attempts to control the effects of the hellish sauce. In the end I fled inside and asked Henk for a glass of milk, the best liquid you can get if you have eaten something hot. Unfortunately he did not have that but the glass of water he offered disappeared in my mouth within the blink of an eye.

Poor Mark...

Poor Mark…

Around 8 o’clock it was time to go home. We said goodbye to each other and stepped in the car. The ride home was pretty quiet, obviously everyone still had the fantastic day in their minds. Until Mark asked if Ed could stop the car, he needed to take a shit badly. Not so funny because he suffers from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrom). So we halted at a gas-station where Mark quickly went to the toilet. Which took him quite a while. At one point some men where waiting in front of the toilet. Funny were the faces of disgust they pulled at the sounds and smells so to say. But I felt pity for poor Mark, luckily he was feeling pretty relieved when he joined us again in the car.

I want to thank Henk and Martin for organizing yet another great meeting and all who attended for the interesting conversations, the laughter and camaraderie. All pictures were made by Jan(neman), Klaas, Nick and Roelof.

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Happy Halloween!

dutch_pipe_smoker_halloween_2016

Also see The Demon Skull Pipe

The best of the Dutch Pipe Smoker

busylogoThis month there is no new blogpost going to be made by me. I am simply too busy to do proper research at the moment (work, social life (yes I actually do have a life thank you!) and a new forum tobacco) and because of a very nasty cold I haven’t smoked much last couple of weeks.. But this gives me an opportunity to bring some (older) blogposts of mine to the attention. I started on 2 February 2013 (when I was still young and beautiful..) with this blog and since then made 110 posts. And I still have lots to write about! There is one funny thing I want to mention, throughout the years this picture is by far the most viewed one… You pervs!

About myself
– How I started pipe-smoking: Humble Beginnings part 1, 2 and 3
– About my girlfriend Ellen: The Woman Behind The (Dutch) Pipe Smoker
– Me on the Pipes Magazine radio show: Dutch Pipe Smoker on Pipes Magazine Radio Show of April 14, 2015

About tobacco species
– Latakia: Latakia Lover and Syrian Latakia
– Virginia: Voluptuous Virginia
– Orientals: Oriental Opulence part 1 and 2
– Burley: Beloved Burley
– Perique: Peppery Perique
– Semois: Sunny Semois
– Cavendish: Candy Cavendish

Dutch tobacco history
– About tobacco cultivation: Dutch tobacco cultivation (no, not weed…)
– About the Dutch tobacco trade: Dutch tobacco trade
– About tobacco in the Napoleonic period: Napoleonic imperial tobacco
– About Pool’s tobacco company: Pool’s tobacco, there is no better
– About the Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale: The tale of the “Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale”

Other
– About women and pipe-smoking: ♪ Got a pipe smoking woman ♪
– Interview with German master-blender Hans Wiedemann: Interview with master-blender Hans Wiedemann from HU Tobacco – Part 1, 2 and 3
– About Martin Romijn, the Dutch master stone-cutter who makes tampers and ashtrays: Stonecutter’s Story
– A history of pipe-smoking in the Middle East: One Thousand and One Smoky Nights
– WTF? Vintage Dunhill tobacco made in… Germany?: Vintage Dunhill tobacco made in… Germany!?
– Atmospheric pictures made by Janneman: The art of Janneman
– History of snuff and a visit to Dutch windmills who used to make it: Sniff that snuff

Pipes
– About the prince-shape: The Prince of Pipes
– About the corncob pipe: Another Dutch invention: the modern corncob pipe
– About the Dunhill Shell pipe: The Dunhill Shell Story
– About Ian Walker of Northern Briars: 2014 PRF-pipe made by Ian Walker
– About Dutch clay pipes: Dutch Clay Pipes
– About Frisian pipe maker Meindert: The Frisian prince
– About Oguz Simsek: The Demon Skull Pipe
– About the Dutch Big Ben factory: 2015 PRF-pipe made by Big Ben
– About a stunning bulldog shaped pipe made by Samuel McLardy in 1890: The McLardy bulldog

Places I visited
– Austria, Salzkammergut region: Awesome Austria
– Belgium, Semois region: Semois expedition 2014
– Belgium, Wuustwezel: Pleasures of life in Belgium 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
– France, Normandy: Nourishingly Normandy
– Germany, Aachen: Amazing Aachen
– Germany, Bergheim, Peter Heinrichs’ store: Heavenly Heinrichs
– Germany, Cologne: Christmas time in Cologne
– Germany, Dortmund, Inter Tabac Fair: Inter-Tabac 2013 impression, 2014, 2015, 2016
– Germany, Düsseldorf: Christmas time in Düsseldorf
– Germany, Kiel, Motzek store: Marvellous Motzek
– Germany, Lauenburg, the DTM/Danpipe factory: Luxury tobacco from Lauenburg
– Netherlands, Amsterdam: A visit to Amsterdam
– Netherlands, Breda: A tobacconist and a wedding in Breda
– Netherlands, Heukelum: Hospitable Heukelum 2013, 2014, 2015
– Netherlands, Zutphen: Zestful Zutphen 2013, 2014, 2015
– Scotland: The adventures of the Fuming Four in Scotland part 1 and 2
– Spain, Seville: Springtime in Seville – Part 1 and 2

Tobacco diverse
– Why does the tobacco in my pipe taste different as opposed to what I smell in the tin/pouch?: Who’s afraid of chemistry? (by Paul) – Part 1 and 2
– Stories about the origin of tobacco: The Devil’s Gift
– Like drinking whisky and smoking a pipe? Read this: Whisky and Tobacco (by Paul) – Part 1 and 2
– All you want to know about different tobacco cuts: Cut, cut, cut!
– About pipe-tobacco and aromas: Attractive Aromas
– About the ageing of pipe-tobacco: The older the better
– About the curing of tobacco: Curing is the cure

Tobacco reviews
– Balkan Sobranie Original Smoking Mixture: The new Balkan Sobranie
– Bengal Slices: Let’s celebrate the return of Bengal Slices
– Capstan Original Navy Cut: Oh Capstan, my Capstan
– ChocoLat, HU Tobacco: Latakia and… Chocolate???
– Craven Mixture, Carreras: I crave for some Craven Mixture
– Escudo: Escudo; the VaPer king
– HH Vintage Syrian, MacBaren & 3 Oaks Syrian, McClelland: HH Vintage Syrian vs. 3 Oaks Syrian
– Olaf’s Favourite English, HU Tobacco: Arno’s.. Ehrr.. Olaf’s Favourite English
– Penzance, Esoterica Tobacciana: Precious Penzance
– Presbyterian: Palatable Presbyterian
– Renaissance Reserve, GL Pease: The legend of Renaissance (Reserve)
– Rich Dark Flake, Germain & Stonehaven, Esoterica Tobacciana: Germain Rich Dark Flake vs. Esoterica Stonehaven

Inter-Tabac 2016 impression

Entrance to the Inter-Tabac

Entrance to the Inter-Tabac

September 17th it was once again time for one of my annual highlights: The Inter Tabac fair in Dortmund. For those of you who missed the blogposts I made of the visit the last couple of years; the Inter-Tabac is the leading and biggest trade fair of the world for tobacco products and smoking accessories. This year there were more than 450 exhibitors from over 60 countries who presented themselves in 5 huge exhibition halls. Renowned companies from all over the world presented trends and innovative tobacco products. This includes cigars, cigarillos, cigarettes, E-cigarettes, E-pipes, E-shishas, smoking accessories, pipes, pipe tobacco, shishas, shop equipment and spirits. Unfortunately the fair is for retailers, not for consumers.

Father and son Jan and Jesse

Father and son Jan and Jesse

Like the last years I was able to secure a ticket through Fred, only, some days before the fair he told me he could not make it. His daughter moved out of the parental house a little bit earlier than expected. But I could have his ticket and make someone happy with it. Easy, I thought, what pipe-smoker does not want to go to the Valhalla of smoking? So I asked some friends if they had time but one was on holiday the other did not have a car, someone else had some “things” to do with his students. I obviously did not take into account that Saturday was rather short notice for most. In the end I just asked on the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum who wanted to go with me. I got no more than two reactions so I decided to flip a coin. The winner was Jan, a relaxed, intelligent man with an unique view on life, who was absolutely delighted. He lives not too far away from me and I discovered the detour for me was only 2 km. So I picked him up and together we drove to Dortmund.

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The stand of DTM

After a pleasant ride we arrived at the Westfalenhallen just when the doors opened. Like every time I started in hall 4. I wanted to speak with Elbert Gubbels from Big Ben because he and I have some business to do for the new Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum tobacco. Unfortunately he was busy so we walked on to the stand of Dan Tobacco Manufacturing (DTM)/Dan Pipe where we were greeted by the lovely daughter of managing director Heiko Behrens. “Did I saw you here last year?” she asked. “Yes you did!” I said with a smile. She asked if we would like some coffee (yes please!) and sat down with us. “So, what is new at Dan Tobacco?” I asked.

img_5360

Burley Maduro

She produced 3 plastic jars with in each a new blend. The first was called “Burley Maduro”, a sturdy, natural mixture of burley and some soft tasting Maduro leaf. Jan would not pack a pipe with it that “early” in the morning but I loaded up one. The taste surprised me, I expected to taste cigar but I did not. It just was a natural very mellow tobacco flavour which reminded me in the distance of the Langue de Chien variety of Semois, very pleasant. But I have to say, it packed a very healthy dose of vitamine N. The second was named “M.A. Blue Canary”. A blend of black cavendish with some gold-brown flake scraps topped with the aromas of apple, vanilla and a bit of cinnamon. The third one was called “Bill Bailey’s Country (Bourbon) Blend”. A mixture of bright US Virginias, a lot of black cavendish and a bit of deep brown dark fired Kentucky topped with Bourbon whiskey and Bourbon vanilla. We thanked Frau Behrens for her time and when we wanted to leave the (beautiful!) stand we were stopped by her old father, managing director Heiko Behrens, who thanked us for visiting. I said it before but the people at DTM are warm and passionate with the typical “no-nonsense working hard and effective” German mentality.

Cornell & Diehl

Cornell & Diehl

After visiting the stand of My Father Cigars who make my favourite “La Antiguedad” cigar Jan and I walked to another hall. There were several little pipe-smoking related stands put together where you could find names like Gabriele Pipes, Jobs Freehand Pipes, Talamona, Michal Novak, Mr. Brog, P. Jeppesen (who had some really beautiful stained blasted pipes) and… Cornell & Diehl. I especially was excited about visiting the stand of the latter, their first time on the Inter Tabac. Silently I hoped that the Dark Lord GL Pease, one of my pipe-smoking idols, would also be there. But alas, no.. Also the stand itself was quite a bit smaller than I expected, just a desk. At first I believed that in Europe their range was available at the Linzbach store in Düsseldorf. But to my surprise the friendly guy behind the desk said they had no German importer and C&D was not sold there. I later learned he was right when I visited Linzbach. However, they had an importer in the Ukraine! Uhm.. Ok.. We talked about the very worrying FDA regulations and on the lighter side about the (re)introduction of the new Drucquer blends. I asked if he had samples of those but sadly he did not. He did have a sample of one of their best aromatics, Autumn Evening, which I am smoking as I type this. Smooth and tasty!

Caribbean Black Pearl

Caribbean Black Pearl

Then we were off to the large stand of Planta and Designer Berlin (DB) pipes. Like every year Planta had a big wooden barrel standing there with in it their year tobacco, this time called Bacchus mixture. I asked Jan to put his nose near the lid when I pulled it off. He went like “whooaaaa!!!” when he smelled the blend, it was very, very sweet. We admired the many displayed pipes of DB and had to laugh when we saw a couple called “Caribbean Black Pearl”. Undoubtedly ideal for smoking Pirate Kake! Arrrrr matey!

Does he like it...? Yesss!!!

Does he like it…? Yesss!!!

Gradually we moved towards what I call “the Italian corner” which has pipe-brands as Savinelli, L’Anatra and Ser Jacopo. Especially some pipes of the latter boasted some stunning silver-work. Around the corner was the shared stand of Northern Briars and Samuel Gawith (Gawith & Hoggarth). I looked forward to meeting Bob Gregory because I also had some business to do with him for the new Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum tobacco (it is made by Samuel Gawith and imported by Gubbels). I mailed Bob twice to ask if he could bring a sample of the final product with him but I heard nothing. Typical Bob, “I am 70 years old and semi-retired ok??”. As soon as he saw me he shouted with wide eyes “Go away you! Go away!” at me. But I cornered the bastard and forced him to hand over 2 tins of Flatlander Flake, which is the name of the forum tobacco. He did think of me *smiles*. His bald lackey and himself anxiously looked at me when I opened up one of the tins and smelled it. Approved! At which they both smiled (very rare for Bob). Then we exchanged some pleasantries and Bob told some funny stories about how him and Brian Levine (the PipesMagazine.com radio-show host) constantly keep insulting each other. By the way, I saw Brian already a couple of times in the hallways. First time he had a big German glass of beer with him and the second time he was on his way to a whisky-tasting..

Butz Choquin

Butz Choquin

The lunch this year was sober. The prices of food and beverages are outrageous at the Inter Tabac (€4,30 for a small bottle of cola!). So I brought brown buns with cheese on them with me and Jan had some sandwiches. Screw you expensive catering! We’re Dutch! After the lunch we walked to the stand of the Scandinavian Tobacco Group where pipes of brands like Winslow, Peterson, Butz Choquin, Stanwell and Dunhill are displayed. Soon a lady came asking if we wanted a cup of coffee (yes please!) and while we sipped that away we looked at the shown pipes. To be honest there was not much new. Butz Choquin (sorry to say but masters of bad taste) had some new awful plastic looking colourful pipes and I think that was about it. Ok, at least they try to bring something new. But it all was a bit.. Soulless.. Despite the wonderful pipes Mr. Winslow makes.

Kohlhase & Kopp

Kohlhase & Kopp

Talking about soulless, German tobacco manufacturer Kohlhase & Kopp also radiates that. They have wonderful brands in pipes and tobaccos like Rattrays, Ashton, Sillem’s, Solani and Robert McConnell but inside their large stand no one cares about you. The pipes, cigars and tobacco are nicely displayed but there is no interaction with employees. It all looks and feels a bit cold and snobbish.. However, they did have tins of the “new” Dunhill Dark Flake and Ye Olde Signe offerings. But no one around to ask for a sample. On to Vauen, they had a new pipe which looked like typical Austrian or Bavarian smoking pipes. I actually liked the model but that can be because of my love for Austria. Of course all the amazing looking Auenland pipes were prominently displayed. On the way to yet another hall we passed the Falcon stand. The guy there was a bit disappointed when he discovered we were not salesmen. Sorry, I am just a humble blogger! The loose Falcon bowls were pretty nice, but the stems looked kind of plastic-like.

No, no jokes about this girl and her sucking abilities

No, no jokes about this girl and her sucking abilities

We immediately noticed we entered the hall of the shishas because of the typical faintly sweet odour hanging there. Remarkable was 1. that it was the busiest hall (busier than the E-smoke one!) and 2. it contained the youngest visitors by far. Perhaps this was due to the presence of many beautiful ladies praising and demonstrating the shown wares. I admit, I was too much a coward to ask these beauties if I could take a picture of them. Luckily Jan was much braver, took my camera, asked the ladies and snapped some shots. He never smoked a shisha so we went looking for a nice place to smoke one. But it was so busy everywhere that that plan did not work out. Apparently the crazier the better goes for the world of shishas. Walking through the hallways we saw some “interesting” looking ones shaped like dildos (sadly no girl to demonstrate them..), tommy-guns and glittery kalashnikovs (for the smoking jihadist?) and gas masks.

Snus

Snus

After walking through the E-smoke hall (nothing special there for me) we tried to have a conversation with Elbert Gubbels again. But he still was too busy which I took as a good sign. So on we went to the huge stand of MacBaren. There Per Jensen, the product manager of MacBaren, recognized me. We shook hands and beside him stood a basket filled with small flashy looking round boxes. Apparently there was some kind of snus inside made by MacBaren in cooperation with another company. Per opened one and inside the box were what seemed little tea-bags filled with tobacco. I had to place one in my mouth between my cheek and gums, which I did. The first minutes it was quite enjoyable until the point the juices started flowing. My cheek began to have a burning feeling and I got the hiccups because of the vast quantities of nicotine getting into my system. I hurried to take the bag out of my mouth and was glad Per quickly arranged a refreshing glass of water. Nope, not for me this..

img_5425The 3 of us sat down inside the stand where Per asked if we wanted a cocktail. A cocktail? Here? Well, uhm, yes please! He mentioned for a waitress to come and I ordered a Highball (never had one but it sure tasted good!) and Jan a No Sex On The Beach. Then I asked Per what was new at MacBaren. There were some new Amphora offerings which grabbed my attention because originally Amphora is a Dutch brand which was made by Douwe Egberts. Two of them (Amphora Special Reserve No. 2 and No. 8) were typical Danish aromatics, and did not pique my interest. The other one did because it was a pure Virginia, hence the name: Amphora Virginia. I really hope this blend will be on sale in The Netherlands. There are not so many pure Virginia blends left here.. Per gifted me a pouch which I will open soon.

img_5426Then we talked about tobacco laws and regulations (the new stricter European rules and the American FDA legislation) and how it affects MacBaren. In Europe they can no longer sell heavily flavoured shag tobacco. But being the inventive Danes that they are they found a way around. For example, the pouch has a certain colour, let us say, apple green. Then on the pouch it says “appeal #12” (no fruit names etc. can be used). Sounds a bit like “apple” right? Then you can buy loose flavourings in the same colour as the pouch, also #12 and it is called “apple”. Apply the flavouring onto the tobacco et voilà! About the States Per was a little more sombre. If the FDA rules go through they will lose a really large part of their turnover. Because MacBaren mostly sells loose tobaccos to tobacconists there who can then mix their own blends. But with the new regulations that is forbidden. But as the always positive Per said: new rules mean new chances.

img_5423Towards the end of the afternoon Brian finally joined us. He looked a bit groggy out of his eyes, the whisky-tasting went very well obviously. We talked about all kinds of things while I felt the Highball kicking in. Brian asked what Jan liked to smoke (Virginia) on which a tin of HH Pure Virginia and Capstan Gold were presented to my flabbergasted fellow Dutchman. Just as I was getting a bit sober the fair closed for the day. Brian invited us to grab a beer at his nearby hotel so we walked with him. On the way we bumped into Bob Gregory who almost screamed “Arno! Do not go with him!” at me. On which Brian discreetly showed his middle finger. At the hotel bar we chatted away while feasting on real German beer and before we knew it Brian had to leave because he had dinner elsewhere.

El Greco

El Greco

Dinner, that sounds nice, Jan and I thought. Last year I ate at an excellent Greek restaurant in a German place called Herne. But I could 1. not remember the town and 2. the name of the restaurant. Luckily on the highway my infallible photographic memory *ahem* finally kicked in when I saw the “Herne” sign. In the town-centre I searched on my navigation device for Greek sounding restaurants. 5 places and half an hour later we still did not find the damn restaurant.. With his last internet-data Jan looked on his mobile phone for “Greek restaurants”. The first name that popped up was “El Greco“, we drove to the address and lo and behold; it was the place of last year! Needless to say I was a happy man and also Jan when he tasted the superb Greek food and saw the friendly curvaceous waitress. Once again it was a good day.

I would like to thank Jan for his company, during the ride and the walks through the halls we had some really interesting conversations. By the way, if you want to enlarge the pictures in the gallery below, right mouse-click and then press “look at image” (the first option).

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T-shirts and sweaters for sale for the distinguished pipe-smoker

T-shirt and sweater organizer Peter "Eliminator"

Peter “Eliminator”

Throughout the years many pipe-smokers have asked me if they could buy one of those fancy Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum t-shirts they had seen on pictures of meetings. Well, now you have the chance! Forum member Peter (forum nickname “Eliminator”, so don’t mess with him!) is organizing a new batch of t-shirts and sweaters. They are (mostly) designed by myself and printed by a renowned company in Rotterdam.

There are 3 designs for the shirts and sweaters:
Biker, Tripod and Smoking Goat

Biker black t-shirt

Biker black t-shirt

Biker black sweater

Biker black sweater

Tripod black tshirt

Tripod black t-shirt

Tripod black sweater

Tripod black sweater

Smoking Goat grey t-shirt

Smoking Goat grey t-shirt

Smoking Goat grey sweater

Smoking Goat grey sweater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sizes are S, M, L, XL, XXL, 3XL, 4XL and 5XL. Up until XXL the brand of the t-shirts and sweaters is Fruit of The Loom. For the larger sizes the brand is Gildan. Here is a size-chart for Fruit of the Loom and here is one for Gildan.

The prices for the t-shirts (excl. shipping costs):
– Tripod shirt: €17,50
– Biker shirt : €22,50 (more expensive because of a multi-coloured print on the back)
– Smoking Goat shirt : €17,50

The prices for the sweaters (excl. shipping costs):
– Tripod sweater: €27,50
– Biker sweater: €32,50 (more expensive because of a multi-coloured print on the back)
– Smoking Goat sweater: €27,50

The shipping costs (incl. packaging materials):
NL – envelop post until 2 kg €4,50 (max. 2 t-shirts, no sweaters) / package €8,00
BE/UK – envelop post until 2 kg €12,00 (max. 2 t-shirts, no sweaters) / package €14,00
USA – envelop post until 2 kg €12,00 (max. 2 t-shirts, no sweaters) / package €25,00

You can place your order before 30 September by e-mailing Peter: inked4@live.nl. He will then keep you updated about the order and the payment (Paypal) process.

Very important to know is that there is a minimal order amount of 10 pieces per shirt/sweater. No, you don’t have to order 10 pieces, but in total (the amount ordered by Dutch/Belgian forum members and you) it has to be 10 or more. So it could happen that when you order something the total is less than 10 and the order can’t go through. If this is the case you will be notified by Peter.

Needless to say this all is a labour of love. Peter and myself are not making any money with it, we just try to break even.

The legend of Renaissance (Reserve)

The Dark Lord

The Dark Lord

Once upon a time in a far away country lived a mysterious man named GL Pease. But he was not just any mortal man. No, for he possessed the divine gift to be able to work with a magical dark leaf called “latakia“, which came from the mystical ancient land of Bilad al-Sham. Pease made marvellous blends with this exceptional leaf that could be smoked in a clever device called a “pipe”. All over the earth people went ecstatic when they tried his creations. He was so good in this that his followers honoured him with the nickname “The Dark Lord”.

Pease_RenaissanceAt the pinnacle of his genius, during a haunting full moon, inside his secret room of wonders, he crafted his magnum opus. Anno Domini 2001 he unleashed a blend upon the world that it had never seen before, unique and magnificent, mesmerizing all who smoked it. Of course it contained the magical leaf from Bilad al-Sham but also a very reminiscent yet bolder cousin of it, coming from the mysterious island of Alashiya. The mixture was completed by red, golden and matured leaf from the Old Dominion and smaller deliciously exotic leaves from the unknown East. The Dark Lord named the blend “Renaissance” because it was the beginning of a period of new growth and activity.

Westminster, one of the best blends ever containing

Westminster, one of the best blends ever containing Alashiya leaf

Unfortunately this period did not last long. In the 11th month of Anno Domini 2004 an infernal hellish fire consumed the hoard of dark Bilad al-Sham latakia leaf. Pease was struck down by grief and with a heavy heart had to discontinue his magnum opus, Renaissance. In the years that followed many people offered (according to them) genuine Bilad al-Sham latakia to the Dark Lord. Sadly it was not the same as the magical leaf he first used. Luckily his divine talent was not diminished so with help of the more pungent, assertive Alashiya leaf he succeeded in creating many awesome blends. But the Dark Lord would always lament the loss of his magical Bilad al-Sham latakia leaf.

© GL Pease

Renaissance Reserve © GL Pease

Fortunately the ancient pipe-smoking Gods had something else in mind. Fast forward to Anno Domini 2015, this is an excerpt from Pease’s hidden diary: Both exciting and frustrating. During Cornell & Diehl’s (the Dark Lord’s grand supplier of leaf) move from the Old North State to South Carolus, several pounds of Bilad al-Sham Latakia leaf turned up. I was send a letter, and asked, “Do you want to do something with this?” A silly question. The right question was what I would want to do with it. That was easy to answer, too. I’ve always said that if I could ever again got my hands on the right Bilad al-Sham leaf, the mixture I’d most want to bring back would be Renaissance. It was always special to me, and has remained one of my faves. Knowing this would be a limited edition, I worked diligently over several months in my secret room of wonders to faithfully recreate the blend using the finest leaf available, taking no short-cuts, not stopping until I had achieved that ultimate goal. True to the original, Renaissance Reserve is a mixture of magical leaf from Bilad al-Sham and Alashiya, matured red and golden leaf from the Old Dominion and smaller deliciously exotic leaves from the unknown East. It is blended in just the right measure, aged in bulk, then given an additional six months in the tins before release, resulting in a rich, complex and sophisticated smoking experience. Unfortunately, we were only able to produce 500 tins of this exquisite mixture to be released and once it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s fantastic now, and will continue to develop in the specially designed tins for many years to come, for those who have the patience. I only wish we’d had ten times the amount of Bilad al-Sham leaf we had…

I was so happy I could dance!

I was so happy I could dance!

And here a legend becomes reality, because on 12 July the 500 available tins of Renaissance Reserve became available for us humble pipe-smokers. But where to buy them.. I choose for my regular online tobacconist, 4noggins. This because I know that Rich, the owner, most of the times updates his website around 13:00 CET. So around that time I was refreshing the GL Pease page on his site like a lunatic. 13:00, nothing. 14:00, nothing. 15:00, nothing. Damned! I took a look at the Dutch/Belgian pipe-smokers forum and read there that a member had actually phoned with Rich. He was a little late but the site-update was nearby. Finally at 15:45 I was able to order 2 tins (the maximum) and I was ecstatic! At last I was able to smoke one of the greatest blends ever (according to many) containing the fabled Syrian latakia. My expectations were high..

IMG_5108Description from the producer – Package/tin:
I’ve often said that if I ever again got my hands on the right vintage Syrian latakia the tobacco I’d most want to bring back would be Renaissance. Last year my wish was granted when several pounds of that superb leaf were discovered. True to the original formula, Renaissance Reserve is a blend of Cyprian and Syrian latakias, several matured virginias, and balkan orientals blended in just the right measure and aged for many months to provide a rich, complex and sophisticated smoking experience. Only 500 tins of this exquisite blend were produced. The tin is a typical American one with a pull-off lid. The artwork on it is nice but not really remarkable. On an underground of what looks like parchment the name of the blend dominates the tin. Under it a long clay pipe is depicted with in it “G.L. Pease Tobacco Company”. The blend-description is on the backside.

IMG_5110Contents/Ingredients/cut:
Upon opening the tin I was greeted by the familiar GL Pease carton inlay. When I lifted that I saw a mixture that was pretty light in colour for a latakia blend. The ingredients are Cyprian and Syrian latakia, several matured Virginias and Balkan Orientals. The cut is one which which is typical for lots of GL Pease blends, a sort of rough ribbon cut with some chunky pieces.

noseSmell from the tin:
I expected to smell leathery latakia when I stuck my nose in the tin. Instead I was greeted by a very pleasant mellow, exotic smoky odour. Once I smelled an empty wine barrel and I had to think about that. That combined with the grassy sweetness of the Virginias and tangy spiciness of the orientals typifies the odour of Renaissance Reserve for me.

011Taste:
The keyword with this blend is balance. I can’t stress that enough, no ingredient overshadows another one. I have never smoked a mixture which had such a great harmony. Especially the cooperation between the Syrian and Cyprian latakia is masterfully done. When I smoke a blend like McClelland’s 3 Oaks Syrian the Syrian dark leaf is a bit too mellow for me. MacBaren tried to solve this with their tasty HH Vintage Syrian by adding some smoky dark-fired Kentucky. Mr Pease used Cyprian latakia to support its Syrian cousin. And the exciting thing is that you can really notice it. I taste the wine-like, woody, smoky but mellow Syrian leaf. But because of the addition of the more assertive, pungent, leathery Cyprian leaf the two latakias as a whole become more than the sum of their parts. Of course the other ingredients also play a large role. The matured Virginias provide the backbone of the blend with their earthy, dark sweet taste. They are supported by the Red Virginias which taste tangy and yeasty. Golden Virginas provide a grassy, hay-like and citrus flavour. The orientals fall in line with the Virginias and give the mixture a spicy, nutty and pleasantly refreshing sour note. I would place this blend in the “light English” department. It is no latakia-bomb and the orientals work harmonious with the rest of the ingredients. The mixture is complex, but in a good way. Some blends drown in complexness but Renaissance Reserve is easy accessible and heightens the curiosity with every smoke. What do I taste now? Cedar? Thyme? A member of the Dutch Pipe Smokers Forum who smoked a sample from me even tasted some hashish.. Also the mixture behaved well in most pipes, always the sign of a great blend. But I got the tastiest results in my (Dunhill) prince shaped pipes.

IMG_5114Miscellaneous:
Renaissance Reserve smokes smooth like butter on my bald head. Not a bite in sight. Nicotine-wise I rank it mild, although my tolerance for vitamin N has gone up due to the use of some snuff tobacco. Burn-wise I had no problems at all and it left almost no moisture in the bowl.

thumbs2Room-note:
For a blend that contains latakia it has a surprisingly nice room-note. I had no problems at all with Ellen. The wife of a member of the Dutch Pipe Smokers Forum even said it smelled good! And indeed, when I walk into the living room the next morning I smell a pleasant faint incense-like BBQ odour.

moneyPrice:
On the website of 4noggins I paid $11.25 (± €9,98) for a tin. Considering this was a limited blend (only 500 were made) I suspect that in some years the remaining tins will fetch good prices at e-bay.

IMG_5115Conclusion:
Renaissance Reserve just utterly wowed me. It felt like having steamy sex with the gorgeous babe you never ever thought you were going to nail. I just had to keep smoking it. Normally when I am roughly at 3/4 of a tin I lose interest and give or throw the rest away. Now I smoked it up to the last crumb. Although at first taste this blend did not seem really remarkable, it soon grabbed me at my balls and left me wanting for more every time. Like a geisha it constantly teased me, giving me something and promising pleasure with every puff to come. Smoking Renaissance Reserve is an exiting journey in which you constantly discover new tastes. And you know what the best thing is? I got one full, sealed tin left in my tobacco closet. I am a happy man.