Latakia and… Chocolate???

Rainer (on the right) and Hans (in the middle)

Rainer (on the right) and Hans (in the middle)

Once in a while you smoke a blend that surprises you, that tastes so different in a pleasant way than you expected. Such a mixture is ChocoLat (notice the capital “L”) by HU Tobacco. You would expect that master-blender Hans Wiedemann is behind the tobacco but no, it is a friend of him (and myself): Rainer. It all began when he read the excellent book by Fred Hanna: The Perfect Smoke. In there is a paragraph where Mr. Hanna describes a tobacco blending experiment with an aromatic mixture called McClelland Tastemaster (a (Black) Cavendish – Burley blend) and 50% latakia: Smoky Chocolate Surprise. The first candidate for an excellent crossover is a McClelland aromatic called Tastemaster. It appears to be the typical McClelland high-quality tobacco that is cased and suffused with chocolate. Yes, I said it was chocolate, and, unbelievably, it even tastes like chocolate. It is a nice aromatic all on its own if smoked after allowing it to dry for a few days. It smells nice and burns rather cool as long as, like I said, it has time to dry out. However, when mixed with 50% McClelland Cyprian Latakia, you have the dessert equivalent of Smoky Chocolate Surprise. It smells great, has depth of flavor, and burns cool with a nice chocolate taste. It is actually rather amazing stuff. I highly recommend it to the Latakia lover who has a sweet tooth. And, of course, the room note is pleasant indeed.

Norbert Hedtke

Norbert Hedtke

So Rainer started experimenting, got some Tastemaster from the States, mixed it with pure Latakia and indeed with a good result. But now the arduous task lay before him of re-creating the blend with European tobaccos. First he approached the master-blender of Kohlhase & Kopp, Norbert Hedtke. The blend that came out of that was ok, but it was not quite what Rainer had in mind. Something was off.. Of course! American (unflavoured) Black Cavendish is mostly made from Burley and European Black Cavendish is based on Virginia. Too much of the latter and the blend becomes a bit dry, woodsy. But with some tweaking this was solved. Then the mixture lacked a bit of body. This time the solution came from Hans Wiedemann. He added some special Burley and high quality Virginia which was precisely what the blend needed. The mixture then was rounded off with, not an overly sweet milk chocolate, but a dark chocolate topping.

logo_HU-TobaccoDescription from the producer:
The common passion for good tobacco has Rainer aka Raiko and me let become good friends. There was of course close to the Rainer finally created his own tobacco. The result is really fun – Chapeau Rainer!!! Luxurious, opulent and at the same time with a hint of decadence – ChocoLat has it all! Nearly half a measure of Latakia is sustained by high-grade Virginias, Burley and unflavoured Black Cavendish. A discreet cocoa flavour delivers a satisfying, indulging taste without ever becoming overly sweet. Deep and dark, pleasant and snugger alike a good Stout… ChocoLat – can also serve as an ideal companion to a dark beer.

ChocoLatPackage/tin:
A typical round European style 50 gr. tin is used. On the tin sadly no image but just plain text. Hans really makes wonderful tobaccos and some of his tins have really nice artwork. But also many tins lack that.. The eye also wants something and with a name like ChocoLat I am sure a good looking tin label could have been made.

IMG_4787Contents/Ingredients/cut:
Upon opening the tin you see a simple white paper. When you remove that a blend greets you which varies in colour from light to dark. Bright Virginias, slightly darker Burley and black Latakia and Black Cavendish. Which also sums up the ingredients. The cut is a regular ribbon cut.

noseSmell from the tin:
The smell from the tin is a bit strange, but in a good way. I smell the earthly, leathery camp-fire odour of the latakia but it is subdued by the other tobacco components and the topping. It reminds me of Sillem’s Black, marshmallows roasting above a camp-fire. But then less aromatic, more natural. A real chocolate smell I do not detect.

011Taste:
Upon lighting the pipe you get the dark earthy taste of the smoky latakia but without the bitterness you sometimes experience. After a few puffs the bright and sweet Virginias, together with some citrus, come through. They, in combination with the creamy Black Cavendish also provide a slight grassy taste. The Burley provides the nutty backbone of the blend. I don’t really detect a clear chocolate taste, it is just a bit of marshmallows roasting above a camp-fire. Smoking a pipe with this mixture is not a roller-coaster ride flavour-wise, all the ingredients are in perfect harmony and stay that way. Like with the smell I am taste-wise also reminded of Sillem’s Black; it is more natural than aromatic. Sometimes aromatic blends loose their taste halfway the bowl, but because ChocoLat leans on the natural tobaccos the flavour is consistently maintained throughout the bowl.

IMG_4786Miscellaneous:
German made blends sometimes have the tendency to bite but like most HU Tobacco blends ChocoLat is a good boy. Nicotine-wise it is a mild blend, I can smoke it without any troubles. Burn-wise this is an excellent mixture. I rarely required so few relights and it burns right down to the bottom of the bowl.

thumbs2Room-note:
For Ellen it contains latakia so no… However, even when she says she does not really like it, she made no remarks while I smoked it, no leaving the room, no coughing noises.. And when I entered the living-room the next morning all I could smell was a faint roasted marshmallow odour. So for me the room-note goes into the “pretty decent” department.

moneyPrice:
On the website of HU Tobacco this blend will cost you €11,30 (± $12.50).

P1090674Conclusion:
This blend will appeal to pipe-smokers on different levels. If you are a lover of Latakia-blends this mixture will be a nice and perhaps refreshing change of pace. Don’t let the “chocolat” label put you off, this is not an aromatic, there are loads of high quality natural tobaccos to be enjoyed. And if your wife loathes the smell of your favourite Latakia-blends, try ChocoLat, perhaps she will like it. Because every woman loves chocolate, right? Also when you want to try out a mixture with latakia I believe this is a good blend to start with. You get the characteristics of the dark leaf but in a smoothed, tasty way that won’t put you off.

Lohmar pipe-show 2016

12809533_1579588269032530_9107435235979943968_nOn 21 May it was time for the 11th edition of one of the most interesting pipe-events in Germany: the Lohmar Pfeifenmesse. Also this time at Villa Friedlinde organized by pipe-maker Volker Bier in cooperation with the local authorities. A collaboration I really applaud! The economy of Lohmar gets a boost from the hordes of pipe-smoking enthusiasts and they get to use community-centre Villa Friedlinde and the surrounding park. Like every year I could drive along with Rob. Only, this time I was not the only one. Rob’s car is big enough for several folks so Wilfred, Jan and Marielle joined us. The more the merrier! We drank some tea and coffee at Rob’s place before leaving and I had to laugh when I saw the big bag of Marielle. Thanks to Rob she has discovered snuff and brought along all kinds of the stuff in all kinds of little boxes like the ones you keep contact-lenses in. And besides that she is gaining a vast knowledge about the subject. Hail to the snuff-queen!

In the car, never-mind the sour-looking chap on the left

In the car, never-mind the sour-looking chap on the left

The ride to Lohmar was enjoyable, well, at least for me. Marielle, Wilfred and Jan were packed together like sardines in the back of the car. When we arrived the weather proved to be excellent. Last year we were lucky in that regard but now it was just perfect. The sight of the pipe-show looked and felt like one big garden party. People were walking around the stands, having a drink, sitting on the grass etc. The first familiar face was that of Paul, one of the Belgian members of the forum. He even brought his pipe-smoking girlfriend with him!

Hans and myself

Hans and myself

The first stop was the stand of Hans Wiedemann, good friend, master-blender and owner of HU Tobacco. For some time Hans was not doing well physically. He suffered a heart-infarct and had to change his whole lifestyle. Even the existence of HU Tobacco was hanging in the balance for a wile. But go figure, during day time Hans had his regular job and in the evening and at night he was managing HU Tobacco, packing and sending away orders etc.. So now Tabakwaren Bosch, a tobacconist from the South of Germany, has taken over German orders for HU Tobacco. Foreign orders are still being handled by Hans himself. It was busy at the stand, a good sign. A slimmed down Hans and I greeted each other as old friends. He had some new offerings. First the 5 year HU Tobacco Anniversary Blend. I smelled it but no, I am sorry, not really my cup of tea. However, what was my thing was Asmara, an oriental forward blend. I already received a sample before from other German friend Rainer and it reveals all kinds of flavours when smoked slowly. The greatest surprise was a strange blend called ChocoLat. Notice the capital “L”. It was created by Rainer in cooperation with Hans. Almost 50% of latakia is combined with Virginias, Burley, unflavoured black cavendish and a light cocoa topping. It reminded me of Sillem’s Black but different, better. A very interesting smoke!

Eddy and Hans-Walter, a friend of him

Eddy and Hans-Walter, a friend of him

When walking around a bit I spotted another German friend: Eddy, who I met last year at Lohmar. Eddy is somewhat a collector of patent-era Dunhills and other English brands. We sat down on the grass in the park and I had to gasp for air when he opened up his pipe-bag. First he pulled out a gorgeous Comoy army-mount prince. Precisely the sort of pipe I like. To be honest I felt a bit like Gollum when looking at that pipe. My precioussss…. Then came a series of old Dunhills. The oldest was a smooth bulldog from somewhere between 1918 and 1923. Vintage Dunhills very often have beautiful sandblasts which I saw at the next two pipes. A Tanshell “O” shape squat bulldog from 1953 and a Shell billiard from 1925. Especially the squat bulldog had a jaw-dropping sandblast. While wiping away some drool I congratulated Eddie with his pipes. He is a very lucky (and now poor) man to own these!

Maike and Rob

Maike and Rob

Meanwhile Rob had bumped into female pipe-maker extraordinaire Maike from Maike Pipes. Last year Rob turned 50 and he wanted a special pipe for the occasion. But who was going to make it.. At earlier Lohmar editions I already saw what Maike could do so I hinted to him that perhaps the female pipe-maker from Berlin was a good choice. So Rob mailed her and Maike got busy. Literally the day before his 50th birthday he received the pipe, a wonderful churchwarden Maike-style. What I love about her is her eye for design, the insight in the flowing lines that make a good pipe shape. Just take a look at her website. I saw lots of pipes at Lohmar which looked not right. Incorrect proportions, strange lines, sloppy finishes.. The German habit of smoking and building filter pipes, which can look rather plump, also does not help. And the prices some pipe-makers dare to ask for their (in their eyes amazing) pipes.. Auwtsch.. At least with Maike you get a good looking, good smoking pipe for not too much money.

IMG_4312

The clay pipes I bought

Many (German) pipe-makers were present at Lohmar. Just to name a few: Hahn Pfeifen, Michaela Daniels Pfeifen, Eckhard Stöhr Pfeifen, Uwe Reichert Pfeifen, Jan Harry Seifert, Lucifer’s Pipes, Hartmut Heckmann, Nortbert Bauer Pfeifen, Zigl Pipes, Markus Meyer Design, Jürgen Börner Freehand Pipes, Bischoff Pfeifen and Uwe Maier. Tommi Teichmann had some amazing looking prince-shape pipes which at first sight looked perfectly sandblasted. Only, they were not. They were painstakingly beautifully rusticated by hand. Sadly way above my budget.. Another of Tommi’s offerings was almost in reach of my budget. He had made all kinds of loose bowls (some rusticated, some not) with a small hole at the bottom in which a bamboo stem fitted. A bit like a Popeye pipe if you want. But they were just above the amount I was willing to pay for them. What was within my limited budget were some surprisingly nice looking clay pipes made by Markus Fohr. He had some models which had an acrylic mouthpiece made onto the clay bowl. So I bought 2 of them and I must say, they smoke amazingly well!

Dining at the Meigermühle

Dining at the Meigermühle

In the mean time fellow forum member d’Artagnan had joined us and we all were relaxing in the grass soaking in the rays of the bright and warm sun. Some beers were fetched at the voluptuous lady who managed the stand of the local Lohmar brewery. Like every year she always tries to hide when I grab my camera and like every year she fails. The rest of the afternoon was spend talking and chatting away to each other until our bellies started to grumble. Time to go to the place we went last year: Café Restaurant Meigermühle, located in an historical timber framed building at the edge of a forest. Rob was being very stern, in order to not break with tradition we were only allowed to order a Schnitzel, which we all did. While the sun slowly disappeared behind the horizon we sat on the outside terrace smoking our pipes while contemplating what a great day it had been.

All pictures were made by myself, Marielle, Rob, Jan and Paul.

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The adventures of the Fuming Four in Scotland part 2.

Click here for part 1.

The bathroom

The bathroom

Day 3: Saturday 30 April
I awoke with a headache, a queasy feeling and a thirst for water. Ah, damn.. Hangover.. Well, things could have been worse, I thought. With some difficulty I climbed over a snoring Thierry (we both shared the upper part of a giant sized bunk bed) onto the ladder. I fumbled in my backpack for some painkillers and swallowed them with loads of water. Silently I staggered to the bathroom, hoping that a shower would freshen me up. Suddenly it dawned on me that for the electricity in the lodge British Pound coins were needed. So perhaps the boiler did not work and there would be no hot water. I took the risk and while standing under the shower I mumbled a quick prayer that it would be warm. A weak trickle of water emerged and.. Damnit, cold! No, wait! After a long while it became hot. Aahhh.. Such a good feeling!

Matron and I sporting a hangover..

Matron and I sporting a hangover..

After the shower I got dressed and went to the living-room/kitchen part of the lodge. There I saw that Matron was awake and one look at his face told me that he was feeling exactly the same as me. The dishes had to be done so we did them together while groaning softly sometimes because of our hangovers. Matron did not have a good night. He slept in a bunk bed (in another chamber as us) on the lower part with Darren above him. In the middle of the night he was awakened because his sleeping bag felt a bit moist. “Shit! Have I pissed myself?” he thought. Carefully he felt his crotch.. No.. Then looked to the mattress above him and slowly saw some liquid dripping from it. He gave Darren a nudge.. “Pssst, Darren, wake up, did you piss yourself??” Groggily the inebriated Scotsman lifted up his sleeping bag.. “Ay..”

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

One by one the rest awoke. Alf, Gregor, Shaun and Rob all felt pretty ok considering the night before. Darren was still sleeping but Thierry looked like the ghost of Christmas past. He had tried to drink some water but it had all come out.. 1 time at night and 4 times in the morning, the poor lad. Luckily Matron had the solution: a good, hearty breakfast. He started baking bacon and eggs but also had the curry from the night before. “Anyone also curry??” “Ay!” Answered Rob and myself. I must say, I seldom had such a great morning meal. Bacon and eggs on a bun with some sauce combined with a leftover bit of curry. Delicious! Thierry was thinking the same, bit by bit he began to feel better. Such is the resilience of youth.. There was a bit of drama when Shaun went for a shower. Suddenly he came out the bathroom with a pale face. “Oh boy, I am really f*cked now..” It turned out that one of his special contact lenses (€3000 a piece!) accidentally fell down the drain. Lucky for him Matron found it back in the drain pipe where it got stuck. *pheww* Outside the weather was surprisingly nice, sunny and even a bit warm. I sat on the bench before the lodge and soaked in the healing rays of the sun.

In front of the Dalwhinnie distillery

In front of the Dalwhinnie distillery

Just before 2 o’clock we left for the nearby Dalwhinnie whisky distillery, I had booked a tour there. Darren and Gregor were not coming along (in fact, Darren had gone to bed again after breakfast. He was utterly demolished by all the Westvleteren he consumed..) so it was just the six of us. The distillery is set in a desolate, wind-sliced, rain-lashed patch of Highland wilderness. Especially with the two distinctive pagoda roofs the building and its surroundings look like a scene out of the Lord of the Rings. We were greeted warmly inside and soon met our tour-guide; an old chap with almost spiky hair and hands and a face that looked like he consumed quite a lot of the brew that was made there. But he was a truly amicable fellow and guided us with clear stories and a bit of humour through the rooms and halls of the distillery. It was forbidden to take pictures inside which I really regretted when we saw the 2 enormous and impressive copper stills where a lot of the magic happens. At the end of the tour we all got genuine Dalwhinnie glasses and of course a bit of the stuff itself. Before I could say “no” Rob (who was driving) already poured the contents of his glass into mine. Oh man, and I still wasn’t feeling too well because of the hangover.. But like the brave Dutchman I am I downed the glass in one gulp. And felt a bit better afterwards crazily enough.

Real men

The Fuming Four: real men

Rob wanted to have lunch so we went to some snackbar/grill restaurant something at the edge of a nearby village. When ordering the Belgians made sure that this time their chips would be well baked. The Scots had a strange (for me) dish: beans on toast. Literally just canned beans in tomato sauce heated up and dumped over buttered toast. They seemed to like it. Once we got back at the lodge the weather was still that nice that the Belgians, Rob and I decided to do a group picture KPC style. So we took off our coats, sweaters and shirts and posed for the camera like real men with bare chests.

Haggis with neeps and tatties, yummie!

Haggis with neeps and tatties, yummie!

In the evening Matron was preparing a signature Scottish dish: haggis. He (traditionally) served it with “neeps” and “tatties“, boiled and mashed separately. Normally a “dram” (a glass of Scotch whisky) goes with it but after the alcoholic orgy of the night before some water sufficed. I must say, the haggis tasted remarkably excellent! Like a smooth mixture between black pudding and liver. For herbivore Thierry Matron had also made some vegetarian haggis. I had some and it tasted surprisingly great. The remainder of the evening was spend quietly in front of the fire. The rest was chatting away and I was reading on my new e-reader, such a great invention! Thierry dodged a bullet by the way, he fell asleep before midnight but just before Shaun and I were going to press our butts in his face he woke up.. Needless to say we all went to bed early.

Kirkcaldy

Kirkcaldy

Day 4: Sunday 1 May
After a great night’s sleep, shower and breakfast it was time to leave the bothy/lodge behind. The planning for the day was to go to the capital city of Scotland: Edinburgh. I rented an apartment there near the Royal Mile and opposite the castle. And the best thing was: we could smoke in there! The Scotsmen helped getting our gear to the cars where we said our goodbyes. In the short time we had together we all grew very fond of each other, that is for sure. Matron came along with us until the first stop: tobacconist G.T. Coventry in Kirkcaldy run by Maclean John Dorward. When we arrived in the coastal town at the shop Maclean was waiting outside. “The damn alarm won’t come off, I already called a mechanic but since it’s Sunday it can take a while..” Despite that he offered us a sneak-peak in his store, which was a bad move because the alarm immediately went off. And it made a truly hellish noise. Quickly we all went outside, Maclean kept waiting for the mechanic and we decided to go to a pub. Several streets further we could still hear the alarm..

Yummie food!

Yummie food!

Finding a pub was easy, but when we got inside we got the distinct impression we were not wanted there. It was a real Scottish pub for real Scottish people, not us. Across the street was an Indian/Nepalese/Chinese/Thai restaurant where an employee stood outside. “Are we welcome here?” Rob asked. (With an Indian accent) “Yes of course! Come in, come in, follow me!” We sat at the back of the place which had a lovely view across the sea. The food was more than excellent! I had noodles with chicken, mouthwatering good. On a small tray were some flakes of something which I fully added to the noodles. Rob looked amazed at me. “You realize you just threw in a bunch of spicy chilli flakes in you dish?” Whoops.. But despite that, great food, only my stomach pained me afterwards..

Maclean of G.T. Coventry

Maclean of G.T. Coventry

Suddenly Matron got a text message, at G.T. Coventry the mechanic had fixed the alarm. When we entered the shop we were (once again) greeted by Maclean. Looking around it was smaller than I though, but in a good way. It had a certain cosiness. Also because of the lovely old world style wooden interior. The building itself is really old. In 1720 it was a mill (horse-powered), in 1861 it was a chemist and drug-store and then a hatter in the 1890’s. Since 1906 a tobacconist has been located at this site. For a better and longer description of the store, see this KPC magazine.

Maclean weighing off tobacco

Maclean weighing off tobacco

Maclean proved to be a very nice, relaxed chap, answering questions and telling about the shop. Strange laws they have in Scotland, you are allowed to sample what you are buying but you can’t smoke it inside the shop.. Of course I had done some research about his store and in all honesty I must say, I was a little disappointed about the assortment. On pictures I saw that only a couple of years ago he had more pipes and pipe and snuff tobaccos for sale. Despite that, it was still pretty impressive. We all bought something and the loose tobaccos were measured in the old fashioned style on scales. I purchased 2 Gawith & Hoggarth bulk tobaccos (can’t remember which ones..) and a piece of black rope tobacco. I could not help noticing that things were going downhill for Maclean. “Alone last year I lost 8 regular customers..” Maclean sighed. How? “Well, they died of old age. And no new customers are replacing them..” When we left the store the good man gifted us a tin of Peterson Signature Flake (in the vein of Capstan). I really, really hope his business endures.

View from the apartment

View from the apartment

Outside the shop Matron said goodbye to us, he was going home. We all thanked him for some fabulous days we will never forget! On the way to Edinburgh we noticed that Shaun his bladder infection slowly healed, thankfully he brought medicines with him. In the capital of Scotland we parked our car near the castle, not cheap but the closest to our apartment. Once we got there I opened a small locked box beside the door with the key in it with a code I got from the owner. The apartment was more spacious than I could see on the pictures, excellent! There were 2 beds, 1 in the bedroom and 1 sofa bed in the living room. The one in the bedroom was large enough for 2 but the sofa bed not. Luckily I had brought an inflatable mattress with me. The view from the main window was great, we could see the castle and the Royal Mile.

Watching TV

Watching TV

At first we wanted to get some food at a supermarket and cook it ourselves but of course we could not find one in the city centre. After a short walk we decided to eat almost beside our door at Maxies Bistro. Since it was the last evening in Scotland Shaun and I both decided to dine a bit decadent with a Scottish border rib-eye steak served with black pudding in a rich Port sauce. Yummie! That also went for the friendly and good looking waitress. They had an excellent customer service by the way. Rob always drinks Coca Cola but they did not have that, they had Pepsi, which Rob hates. Suddenly a waiter came back with a can of Coca Cola. Turned out that a while ago they had run out of Pepsi and hastily bought some loose Coca Cola cans. Rob’s smile went from ear to ear. Back in the apartment Rob and Shaun wanted to watch Match of the Day, especially Rob is a big soccer fan. So we all sat there, smoking a pipe, watching TV. Afterwards Rob and Shaun decided to sleep together in the main bed, I had my air mattress and Thierry opted for the sofa bed.

Rob and his full Scottish breakfast

Rob and his full Scottish breakfast

Day 5: Monday 2 May
My air mattress was a bit empty when I woke up but nonetheless I slept well. Soon we packed our stuff and decided to have breakfast just beside our door at The Castle Arms. Shaun and I went for a simple bun with bacon & egg but Thierry and Rob opted for the full Scottish breakfast. Rob even had haggis with it! With a good “foundation” in our bellies we began the journey back to Newcastle. This time via the coastal A1 highway, well, highway.. Here in the Netherlands we would call it a provincial road. But it had some great views of the British coastline. On the radio there was not much. Luckily Thierry brought a little speaker with him which he hooked up to his phone so we could enjoy some decent music. Before we arrived at the ferry we wanted to get some food at a supermarket because of the high prices on the boat. On the outward journey we encountered plenty of supermarkets, now none.. Grrrr..

The bad-ass Fuming Four

The bad-ass Fuming Four

Entering the ferry went pretty smooth again despite Thierry and Rob receiving a warning from customs because they brought the wrong kind of pocketknife with them. On the boat our cabin proved to be a little bit bigger than on the outward journey, but just as hot.. Because we failed in buying food at a supermarket we were forced to dine on the ferry. This time we went to the Italian restaurant. I ordered a spaghetti bolognese (for a whopping €19!) and I must say, it was THE worst I ever had. Even when you get it from out of a cheap tin it tastes better.. Shaun also had a hard time eating his pizza quattro formaggi (4 cheeses). The crust was very weak and fat just floated on top of it.. Yuk.. On this boat there was no secluded bar where we could drink something so we just stayed in our cabin. Thierry was goofing around with his camera which ended up in one big hilarious photo-shoot.

It was wonderful!

It was wonderful!

Day 6: Tuesday 3 May
Once again I awoke sweaty because of the lack of air conditioning. Nevermind, it was the last night, today I would sleep in my own bed again. We decided to skip the expensive breakfast at the ferry and eat something along the road. But the journey home went so smooth and fast we did not stop. I said my goodbyes to everyone at Rob’s place and drove to a nearby aunt and uncle of mine to get some late breakfast. Before I knew it I was home again which surprised Ellen, she thought I would have been back later that day. We hugged and she asked how the vacation was. Well darling, do I have some stories to tell…..

I want to thank Rob, Shaun and Thierry for their great companionship during the journey, you’re the best! I also would like to thank Matron, Alf, Darren and Gregor from the KPC for their unconditional hospitality and friendship! You guys rule!

All pictures were made by Thierry, Rob and myself.

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The adventures of the Fuming Four in Scotland part 1.

00000009065042 Belgians and 2 Dutchmen are sitting in a car in Scotland… Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke right? Well, it is not! Since some time the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum (PRF) is friends with the Scottish Kaervaig Pipe Club (KPC). Members of the latter (Matron and Florian) have even visited the PRF Wuustwezel meeting several times. So now it was time to return the favour. At first Fred (who you know from the Inter Tabac blog posts) was busy with organizing a trip to Scotland. The original plan was to go with 9 PRF members in a van to Scotland, stay in a bothy in Balgowan (near Laggan) with the KPC and then, on the way home, pay a visit to the factory of Samuel Gawith (Gawith & Hoggarth). Sadly at the end of last year there have been some troubles on the forum and during that time Fred decided to leave. In the end he handed over the information to me about the Scotland trip he gathered so far. But when I asked if the members who had applied for the journey still wanted to go several called it quits. So I decided to pull the plug out of it.

The Fuming Four before take-off

The Fuming Four before take-off

However, I still wanted to travel to Scotland so I already had a plan B in mind. I called Rob(bie-San) and asked if he was willing to make the journey with me in his (large, diesel fuelled) car. “Of course!” He said. “And who’s coming with us? I have place for 2 more.” I immediately thought of Belgian friend Shaun and to make the group complete I asked his fellow-countryman Thierry if he was willing to join us. They both were enthusiastic so the deal was sealed. Only setback was that the visit to Samuel Gawith could not go through. Due to the British excise tax office tours to the tobacco factory are no longer allowed, to the disappointment of both Bob Gregory and us. Oh well, instead we opted for a short trip to Edinburgh. Finally at the end of April the day for the Scotland journey had come for the Fuming Four (aka. The Beards and the Bald).

Behold Thierry's packing talent

Behold Thierry’s packing talent

Day 1: Thursday 28 April
After a restless night (too much excitement) I started packing my belongings for the trip. I could not bring too much with me because the packing space in Rob his car was limited. Besides, bringing enough booze with me was more important than a clean pair of pants. When I arrived at Rob’s home I noticed the 2 Belgians (who had arrived the day before) and Rob himself thought exactly the same. We all brought many pipes, (snuff) tobaccos and cigars with us but the vast amount of alcohol was staggering. The Belgians brought a large crate of the best beer in the world: Westvleteren and all kinds of other Belgian beers with them. Rob had bought Beerenburg, Citron brandy and Old Jenever. I had taken Lagavulin and an excellent Jonge Jenever with me. So now getting it all in the car.. Fortunately Thierry proved to have a talent for packing and with ease he stuffed the car full to the brim and, also important, invisible for curious customs officers.

Shaun and I having our intimate Titanic moment

Shaun and I having our intimate Titanic moment

After a very taste lunch made by Rob (home made chicken satay) the trip to the harbour of IJmuiden where we had to get on the ferry-boat went smooth. The weather was a bit chilly but at least dry. Luckily it did not take too long to get passed customs (who looked at us rather intensely, all those beards, suspicious…) into the huge ferry. After climbing some steps we soon found our cabin not far from the bow of the boat. I expected it to be small, but that small.. No way of letting a fart without everyone smelling it.. However the worst thing was the itty bitty tiny air conditioning hole in the ceiling. It was bloody hot in the cabin. We dumped our stuff and went on deck for some refreshing wind and a drink. When I watched the sea passing by at the ship’s rail Shaun no longer could hold back and we had our own intimate Titanic moment.

In the ship's bar

In the ship’s bar

Our bellies grumbled so we went down to look for something to eat. Aboard you had several options: buy small things (like sandwiches, chocolate bars or bags of chips) at the shop, there was an Italian restaurant, a steakhouse, a fancy dining place, an all-you-can-eat restaurant and a café. We opted for the latter because it was the cheapest option. Well, cheap.. Not exactly, not even near. I had a plate of dry nasi goreng, with only 3 measly pieces of chicken, which was just enough to full my hollow tooth for a whopping price of €17! I almost asked the waiter if he could hold my man-boobs, because I like that when I am being screwed! Later that evening we luckily found a nice and quiet bar on the boat which shielded us from noisy children who were running around and (half)drunk bachelor party folks. When I walked back to the cabin afterwards I noticed the weather outside had become a bit more rough. I only had 1 alcoholic drink but when I bounced from wall to wall in the hallway it felt like I had plenty more.

Shaun with our Titanic moment still in his mind

Shaun with our Titanic moment still in his mind

Day 2: Friday 29 April
When I awoke all sweaty because of the shitty air conditioning I was glad I brought ear-plugs with me. Man, those guys could snore. The surprisingly good shower freshened up my sleepy brain and to further wake it up I joined Thierry outside on the very windy deck. The cold wind blew so hard I could backwards lean into it without falling! Soon it was time for breakfast. Which was also very expensive.. While not trying to think too much of the price I shoved in the bun and soon we all got back to the cabin to pack our stuff because the ferry had arrived at the Newcastle harbour. Without much hassle we left the boat, went through customs where I was the suspicious person (why do you have no beard?) and started driving.. Left.. Being a land of traditions the British still drive on the wrong side of the road. Oh well, Rob drove in Ireland before so the only places we had to look out were roundabouts and in busy city centres.

Snow, snow, snow...

Snow, snow, snow…

The weather was also typical British: nasty. A couple of weeks before we went I mocked Rob for keeping his winter-tires for the journey. The end of April, beginning of May, certainly we were not going to see any snow! Ehrrrr wrong! On some roads it was so bad we even had snowplowers in front of us. In fact, everything that could fall from the skies we had (except aeroplanes luckily). Rain, hail, snow.. It seemed as we were on some Lord of the Rings kind of quest (with Rob as Gandalf, Shaun as Frodo, Thierry as Boromir and myself as an.. An.. Orc?) where we first had to conquer the elements before reaching the safe haven. But I have to say, the views along the road were amazing. We opted to take the A68 through the scenic Kielder Forest Park and despite the bad weather we very much enjoyed it. Unfortunately Shaun was having a difficult time in the car. It turned out that he had a bladder infection so he had to take a piss every couple of miles..

Baaaad fish & chips..

Baaaad fish & chips..

Around lunchtime we stopped at a town called Jedburgh with the ruins of a beautiful old abbey. Unfortunately the weather was so bad we decided only to look out for a place to eat. Soon we found a Fish & Chips bar and upon entering we got the first warning: the owner spoke German to us.. Do we look like a bunch of Germanz yez?? Most of us ordered fish & chips and when we got the food it looked, well, not really appetizing. The chips were bleak and proud Flemish guys Shaun and Thierry nearly retched when they tasted the defilement of what in essence is their region’s proud heritage dish. Blagh.. Shaun wanted to buy a Scottish cap and we were directed by the friendly Tourist Office to a menswear store: David Thomson & Son. Soon Shaun found a good looking suitable cap but while looking around Thierry saw a nice coat which fitted him well and I spotted a tweed waistcoat (always wanted one) which we ended up buying.

Explaining to Matron were we had gone wrong

Explaining to Matron were we had gone wrong

The ride to Balgowan took longer as we expected due to the weather and windy roads so I constantly had to text to Matron, who was waiting at the bothy, that we were going to be late. But lo an behold, as soon as we approached our destination the sky opened up and the glorious Scottish mountains and hills basked in sunlight. I led Rob upon a small and bumpy road which, in my opinion, led to the bothy. When we after some hassle (we were loaded too heavy) got to the end of it the house we saw was not the bothy we were searching for. The Scotsman who lived there was not amused to say the least we had driven upon his private road.. Whoops! After a phone-call with Matron he told me they were waiting at the main road. Luckily when we got down from the private one we saw him and other KPC member Alf waiting for us. Turned out we had to turn off one road earlier..

Curry time!

Curry time!

We were led up a footpath with the bothy at the end of it. Well, technically it wasn’t a bothy. A bothy is, I quote, “a basic shelter, usually left unlocked and available for anyone to use free of charge.” What we had was a mountaineer lodge with basic luxuries as a toilet, shower, kitchen, mattresses and furniture. Inside it already smelled good because the curry Matron made was quietly bubbling on the fire. After a welcoming glass of whisky other KPC members Darren and Gregor joined us, they had been mountain biking nearby. When I greeted them I noticed that real Scottish is a language that is pretty hard to grasp. Half the time I just smiled and nodded without understanding a word.. The curry Matron made together with some bread tasted more than excellent. I also had my first experience with a real English ale Matron brought along: Harveys Best Bitter. A bit strange at first but once you got used to the taste, great!

Anarchy!!!

Anarchy!!!

The rest of the evening was spend smoking (Thierry and Rob had brought some excellent cigars with them and Matron yummie pipe-tobaccos), talking and drinking. Matron already warned the other Scotsmen about the strength of Westvleteren compared to British ale but most of the bottles were consumed in no time. It took not long for Gregor to fall asleep on the couch. One of the bothy rules is that you can’t fall asleep before midnight so he was photographed with some bare asses in front of him. The later it got the more my memory failed me. I can vaguely remember Matron making all kinds of strange “dance” movements and I was screaming along at the top of my lungs with the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen..

All pictures were made by Thierry, Rob and myself.

Click here for part 2.

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The tale of the “Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale”

Alleman's Tabak, made by the DTC

Alleman’s Tabak, made by the DTC

This story began a couple of years ago when Martin gave me an old looking pack of tobacco at one of the Zutphen meetings. He had it in his possession for a long time but figured it was in better hands with me. The name on the pack was “Alleman’s Tabak” (Every man’s tobacco) with a nice looking picture on it of people from all races dancing around a smoking pipe. But what mostly caught my eye was where it was made: The Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale (Diepenveen Tobacco Centre) in Deventer. Hmmm, Deventer is the nearest city to Olst, where I live (about 10 km. away) and the village of Diepenveen lies in between those. Ellen and I sometimes cycle to Diepenveen in summertime because of the beautiful nature along the way. At home I began to search for the Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale (DTC) on internet and soon stumbled upon a small book about the subject written by Jan Jansen (a former tobacconist) and Ben Droste. It was already out of print but I managed to snatch up a copy (thanks to PRF member Carro) at De Oude Leeuw tobacconist. So here is the tale of the Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale.

Perhaps this SS-officer was smoking some Dutch tobacco..

Perhaps this SS-officer was smoking some Dutch tobacco..

When the Netherlands were invaded by the Germans in May 1940 it soon became clear that many ships loaded with foreign tobacco were not going to make it to our harbours. It was estimated that the current stock at the time would last for 3 years. This was thanks to the cigar-industry which kept a multiple-year supply in order to be able to blend a good melange in years of a disappointing harvest. So there was enough smoking leaf stocked in the warehouses and everyone assumed we were going to keep that supply. That we would be stuck 3 years or more with our undesirable Eastern neighbours seemed like a ridiculous idea at the time. But before the Germans occupied our small country they were one of the biggest buyers of our cigars and other tobacco products. In other words, they knew what we had and with haste they registered our tobacco stock and transferred 60% of it to Germany. Then it was estimated that the Dutch tobacco industry had supplies to keep producing until the middle of 1941… Whoops…

Rationing voucher

Rationing voucher

Spring 1942. The war was raging for almost 2 years and even the most desperate smoker understood that the ships loaded with tobacco, coming for example from our former colony of Indonesia, were not arriving. However, tobacco products were not rationed yet but especially foreign brands were terribly expensive due to scarcity. For the common man rationing did not seem too bad, at least everything would be divided equally then. And indeed, on 17 May 1942 tobacco and candy were rationed. First every man got 50 gram per week (women got less…) but in 1943 that was reduced to a mere 20 grams.

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Amateur tobacco grower

At the end of the first war-year it was reported in the press that in that year about 22 hectares of tobacco were grown, almost half of it by private citizens. Many amateurs had risen. They had seen the coming storm and bought some seeds or plants. They were not nine-day wonders, they plodded on with this tricky crop and gained more and more followers. Soon the government informed the amateur tobacco growers that they could get their harvest fermented and cut at Rijksbureau voor Tabak en Tabaksproducten (National Bureau of Tobacco and Tobacco Products) recognized companies. Upon delivery to the customer excise duty and sales tax had to be paid. The companies could not ask more than fixed prices. Especially the very important fermentation of the tobacco leaves was difficult for the amateur grower. Growing the tobacco-plant, harvesting the leaves and drying them was doable with a proper instruction. But it was not for nothing that the government forbade the amateur grower to ferment his own tobacco. That was a job for a professional and it was a shame to waste valuable ground to tobacco that had gone bad due to a clumsy fermentation process.

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DTC founders Van Santen, Keurhorst and Weverling

The founders of the DTC choose a good moment to launch their plan. After 2 years of war the need was great with the smokers. The main founder was horticulturist Keurhorst. He was not just any horticulturist, his letters were crooked but he could read and write with plants and flowers which earned him many prizes and certificates. Without doubt he examined the experiences of growing tobacco on Dutch soil very thoroughly when he saw opportunities in the tobacco-market at the break-out of war. There was money to be made with being a Rijksbureau voor Tabak en Tabaksproducten recognized company. He also wanted to grow tobacco plants and process those into chewing and pipe tobacco, cigarettes and cigars but realized he lacked the knowledge for this. So he approached a man called Weverling. Weverling was destined by his parents to be a teacher but he “escaped” to Indonesia. After a few jobs, while travelling through the islands, he ended up managing work at tobacco plantations. in 1936 he returned to The Netherlands and went to live in Diepenveen where he first met his wife. It was easy to get Weverling excited for Keurhorst his plan. After his return he wanted to live from the trade in (mostly Indonesian) stocks but due to the war that went pretty wrong. Besides, Weverling was not a man who liked to do nothing and this brought him some work. The most important task assigned to him was the fermentation of the tobacco.

Van Nieuwland

Van Nieuwland

The third and final founder was Van Santen. His duty was to start up and manage the administration of the starting company, get all the permits etc. The aim of the German occupier to control all processes in our society led to a large and often untransparent bureaucracy. The rules were plentiful and meticulous. Keurhorst did not have to worry any more about the fermentation of the tobacco. However, cutting it.. For that he choose a company in Deventer with a long history: Harm’s ten Harmsen with Van Nieuwland as director (together with his father), founded in 1758. From the start it was a”mixed” business. It traded in tobacco and tobacco products but it also processed the leaf into snuff and pipe tobacco and cigars.

DTC founders

DTC founders

The 3 men must have done an enormous amount of work in their first year. In fact everything they did at the starting corporation was new for them. Besides the time pressure was huge. Everything had to be ready so customers could send in their home-grown tobacco to let it ferment and cut. They very wisely decided to limit them selves to the service to the amateur grower in stead of immediately trying to grow tobacco of their own. The tension must have been great. Do the permits come in time? How much tobacco is going to come in? Will the new company be able to deliver an acceptable product? Will the tropic experience of Weverling hold up in the Dutch climate? Will they be able to manage the complicated administration? Oh, about the administration, it turned out that Van Santen did not do a good job. So after a heated argument he left the company and Van Nieuwland took over his work. The whole administration was even moved to the address of Harm’s ten Harmsen.

Horst & Maas factory

Horst & Maas factory

On 16 March 1943 the Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale was registered at the Trade Register. Soon they encountered a problem; there were not not enough available free spaces for the drying and fermentation of the tobacco in Diepenveen (poor on industry). However, in Deventer stood the factory of Horst & Maas (where amongst others cigar brand Nederlandsche Munt was made) and because of the war activity here had become minimal. The DTC got 18.000 m3 available for their activities. The representative building also accommodated a large scale demonstration of the fermentation process for amateur growers on 7 November 1943.

DTC bill

DTC bill

So how did the exact process go when amateur growers wanted to send in their home-grown tobacco to be fermented and cut by the DTC?
1. You had to register at the DTC.
2. The costs of registering had to be paid.
3. You got a card from the DTC on which you had to write how much tobacco you were going to send.
4. You got a message from the DTC in which was asked if you wanted shag, pipe or chewing tobacco. Then you could send the tobacco.
5. After the fermentation and cutting the tobacco would be send home. Costs had to be paid upon receiving the package
Important to know was that it was not possible to get back the same tobacco one send in due to technical reasons. The melange would not be tasty with tobacco coming from just one package. Besides, fermenting and cutting very small batches of tobacco was not doable. Upon receiving a package the DTC checked the quality of it. So when someone send in an A-quality batch of tobacco he got an A-quality batch back.

DTC founders and some employees

DTC founders and some employees

It is clear that for all this work the DTC needed a lot of hands. But getting employees was a perilous undertaking in the war. Already in the first years of the war the Germans were recruiting workers in the occupied areas who had to take the places of the men in the German industry who had to fight in the front lines. In the beginning the appearance of voluntariness was upheld. The tactic then was: make them unemployed and offer them work elsewhere (read: Germany). They could not reasonably refuse that and if they did that was a good excuse to arrest them. To escape that employment in Germany a cat and mouse game went on in the tobacco sector in which the Centraal Distributie Kantoor (Central Distribution Office) and the Rijksbureau voor Tabak en Tabaksproducten often secretly sided with the mouse. They must have known that the fields with meters high tobacco plants were ideal hiding places for a couple of months per year for people who had to hide. In Diepenveen it was secretly known that persons in hiding worked at the DTC. Those people were called “volunteers” because you did not have to name volunteers in the administration books. So for an important part the company relied on “illegal” employees.

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De Brink in Deventer with in the background the truck of Ten Have

Sadly on 17 October 1944 father Van Nieuwland died because of a heart-attack. To make things worse his son got buried under the debris of his own company building during an allied bombing on 15 December of that same year. So in a short time the DTC lost their business partner and a large part of the administration. And then, suddenly, like a lifesaver, there was C.G. Bloemink. In more quiet times he had been a tobacco-broker but when the war held up the trade he hired out himself as a civil servant and ended up in Deventer. At the end of 1944 he was an eye-witness when Harm’s ten Harmsen was bombed. One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity, this was the chance for Bloemink to work in the tobacco business again. On 17 January 1945 he was registered as a partner, got the title of managing director and became the face of the DTC. After the bombardment where Van Nieuwland died his mother passed on the company Harm’s ten Harmsen to one Frederik Koster. Bloemink took advantage of the opportunity to abruptly end the partnership and choose to work with the company Ten Have. The administration (what was left of it) moved to De Brink 32 in Deventer, beside his new partner.

Keurhorst

Keurhorst

On 24 June 1946 it was noted in the Trade Register that Weverling and Keurhorst had left the DTC on 1 March of that year and that a new partnership was founded with C.G. Bloemink as its sole owner. The exact reason for their departure is not known. During the liberation of Diepenveen the greenhouses of the DTC with new tobacco plants meant for further processing and sale were destroyed, which was a big setback. Or perhaps they saw the end coming of inland grown tobacco now the war was ended. Keurhorst stayed being a horticulturist and tried (successfully) to develop better tobacco seeds and plants. Weverling got an offer to set up a plantation in Java which he gladly took, he had always longed back to the tropics.

DTC logo

DTC logo

Bloemink must have fought like a lion to keep the business running. Probably against his better judgement, because he was not a stupid man and the end of inland grown tobacco was easy to predict. Whether he liked it or not, our Dutch tobacco would always be of inferior quality as opposed to what America, Indonesia and other countries had to offer. In 1950 the location at De Brink was left and Bloemink made his office at home. In 1959 the Trade Register mentions a new address and name: Tabakscentrale. With that the Diepenveensche Tabak Centrale became history. The adventure began near Deventer and found its end in the city itself.

Alex Roosdorp

Alex Roosdorp

So why did you not wrote this story several years ago you lazy bastard! One could think.. Well, because the book also mentioned there was a film made during the war called “Toeback” in which the DTC played a large role. This movie about the growing of tobacco was made by Deventer photographer and film producer Alex Roosdorp. The filming began as a hobby but soon it became a full-time job for him and his wife Marie. Together they travelled across the country recording nature for commercial and educational purposes. It should be no surprise that Roosdorp, who liked to explore the nature around Deventer on bike, stopped at the tobacco plantation of Keurhorst. Probably the idea to make a film there was born at that occasion. The educational movie shows the growing and processing of tobacco and was premièred in November 1943. Sadly after the war the film got lost and forgotten.

Louis

Louis

But when Jan Jansen was doing his research he stumbled upon the original tapes of Toeback. It turned out to be a silent movie but in colour! Very rare for that time. With money from the Nederlandse Vereniging van de Sigarenindustrie, the Vereniging Nederlandse Kerftabakindustrie and the Stichting Sigaretten Industrie the film was restored by the EYE Film Institute, put on DVD and given to the Stichting Nederlandse Tabaks Historie, run by Louis Bracco Gartner. Now and then the DVD was shown upon request but that was it. When I heard about the existence of Toeback I thought that it would be awesome if it was available for anyone to see. Because it is an unique document for the Netherlands and perhaps for the world. So after some searching I found out Louis had the film, but he could not just rip the DVD and put it on internet. He had to ask permission from the EYE Film Institute. That process almost took 2 years and a lot of e-mails from my side (and probably also from Louis) but lo and behold, a short while ago I got a message from a happy Louis with the link of the movie! The EYE Film Institute had finally uploaded it on YouTube. So sit back, pour yourself a glass a good whisky, put on some relaxing music, light up a pipe and enjoy Toeback.

Pleasures of life in Belgium 2016

Group picture

Group picture

Like every year for me the annual meeting of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum (PRF) at Wuustwezel (Belgium) halfway March always marks the beginning of spring. The lengthening days, the slowly rising temperatures and the anticipation of the meeting make all the shadows in my mind from the dark, grey and rainy winter disappear. For some reason (probably the location in Belgium near the Dutch border and cheap beer) the Wuustwezel meeting always has been the best attended one. This year about 70 people applied and like last year Matron, a Scotch-man and Florian, a German, both from the (in)famous Kaervaig Pipe Club, were there. Tobacconist Rudi even brought a special guest, more about that later.

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Gates at the Deventer train station

The day of the meeting began at 07.30 am but I was already awake because of my bad back… Great, ageing… But when I came from under the shower and had a small breakfast (their would be plenty of food and drinks during the day) I felt re-energized and ready for the day. Normally good friend Ed would have picked me up but he moved away from his old town near me to a location pretty far away due to some private stuff. So now I had to first pick Mark up at the train station in Deventer. I parked my car there and texted him where I stood but no response. And I waited, and waited.. In the end he turned up. At the train station they have small gates and Mark’s public transport pass malfunctioned so only after a lot of trouble with the security guards he could get through. That soon was forgotten and we drove to a parking lot somewhere beside the highway where Ed waited for us together with Johnny.

Pipe-smokers munching away

Pipe-smokers munching away

After a pleasant ride we arrived in Wuustwezel where, just like the other times, our first stop was the local liquor store. Only once a year I get the chance to properly re-fill my beer basement and I take that chance with both hands (while carrying a stocked beer-crate of course). “No cash payment  because we got robbed” said a sign on the door. How sad.. I mean, Belgian beer is so delicious that one could steal it but to actually do that.. Bastards.. Inside the store I noticed I was not the first Dutchman there that day because the shelf with the delicous St. Bernardus Abt 12 was already half empty. Luckily there was enough left and together with my standard favourites and a few tips from Johnny my beer basement bulges out again now. Then we went to the snack-bar. Unfortunately Zodiac from last year closed down permanently. No not the recession, the owners were old and decided to quit. Thank the fried-heavens another snack-bar was open, the one we went to in 2014: Fritsnack, with the remarkable choice of Dutch (sweet) and Belgian (sour) mayonnaise. I went for the Belgian one this time together with a snack called “Twijfelaar” (doubter), which includes small bits of all their meat snacks on one stick, very yummie! Half the establishment was already taken by hungry familiar looking pipe-smokers under which Matron and Florian (this time with no hang-over from the previous evening). Matron had brought the prices which I won at the KPC raffle with him: a tin of Bothy Flake and Holger Danske Royal Navy Flake. Thanks! I sat across Arjen who had a big portion of fries (and in Belgium that is BIG, I had a medium fries which was too much for me..) together with two more snacks. While we were talking I watched with amazement how he devoured it all in no time. Wowzers!

Rob and his home-made tin-guitar

Rob and his home-made tin-guitar

When we arrived at the Bellekes Hoeve, the location of the meeting, organiser Jan sat beside the door to collect the money for the traditional Belgian sausage rolls and rent of the place. Which by the way was only €1 per person due to the fact we drank so much last year. Jan used the profits he made then to keep the entrance fee low for us. First thing I did when I put away my belongings and shook a few hands was order a Vlaamsche Leeuw at the bar. Utterly delicious! Which was also the opinion of Matron, Florian and Ed who all praised the Belgian beer. Then I bumped into Rob who had made a guitar out of an empty tin of WO Larsen Indigo, hilarious! On a table I made some space to place a mason jar which had to serve as a money box. In September my girlfriend Ellen is going to climb the Mont Ventoux in France for a cancer fund. Louis, one of the forum members, suggested that I put a money box at the meeting so people could make a small contribution. Well, small, in the end €131,60 was put in the mason jar! So unbelievably great! By the way, supporting Ellen is still possible through this site.

Marielle

Marielle

For Marielle I had some Amphora pouches. The evening before the meeting she asked on the forum if anyone had some and could bring it to Wuustwezel. Last year on the Inter Tabac PipesMagazine.com host Brian Levine gave me some Amphora pouches since MacBaren produces them. I never smoked Amphora and to be honest the blend not really seems my cup of tea, so giving hem away to a lovely lady was pretty easy. And in return she gave me a tin of one of the only aromatics I smoke: DTM’s Sweet Vanilla Honeydew. But I had more for Marielle. For some years I own a small 1980 Dunhill group 1 pipe which in essence is a ladies pipe. It came from the time when I snatched up every Dunhill below a certain price but I never had a click with it. So Marielle could have it, I mean, a pipe is meant to be smoked. But surprisingly she did not want it. What I did not knew was that Marielle is a filter-smoker and the Dunhill is non-filter. So she said “Give it to someone who really wants it and is really going to smoke it.” Ok, so if any female pipe-smoker reads this and you want this Dunhill, mail me at arnovangoor@gmail.com with a picture of yourself while smoking pipe and perhaps you are the lucky one! And gents, please no pictures of yourself in a dress or lingerie while puffing away ok? Thank you.

Per Jensen and his wife

Per Jensen and his wife

Talking about Amphora and MacBaren, Rudi tapped me on the shoulder, “Look there, our special guest, he wants to speak you”. I turned around and saw Per Jensen, the product manager of MacBaren who I already met at the Inter Tabac. Wow! I know he goes to big American meetings but a humble Dutch/Belgian one.. So nice to see and speak to him again. He brought all kinds of MacBaren tobaccos that are not for sale here so we could try them out. I lit up a pipe filled with the excellent HH Pure Virginia. Per had a question for me, he was busy with re-creating an old Amphora blend but he could not find any info of it. So if I perhaps could dig up some information. I’ll do my best Per! Of course I also had question for Per. This year I am busy with a new forum tobacco made by Samuel Gawith, but over 2 years perhaps MacBaren is a nice option. So a bit hesitant I asked Per if he was interested in producing one of our forum tobaccos. Hesitant because I know MacBaren only produces large quantities and around 250 tins is just total peanuts for such a company. But surprisingly he was willing! I get back to you in 2 years Per!

Freek

Freek

The generosity of the people on the forum never ceases to amaze me. I saw Freek sitting and he motioned for me to come closer. Last year at the Heukelum meeting I got a bottle of Westvleteren blond from him. One of the best blonde beers I ever drank. But now with a sly smile he produced 2 bottles of the mythical Westvleteren 12! “Here, these are for you. They were a gift to me but I don’t really like the beer.” Wowowowowowow!!! I mean, Westvleteren 12 is chosen as best beer in the world multiple times. What Balkan Sobranie is in the pipe-tobacco world, Westvleteren is in the beer world in my opinion. Last week I drank one bottle and I must say, a truly exceptional brew! Thanks Freek!

Klaas on the left

Klaas on the left

Still with a smile I bumped into Klaas, one of my pipe tobacco mentors. “Arno, I enjoyed your Upper Ten blogpost so much, here is a tin of De Graaff Kegelbaan for you.” Wow again! One of the earlier latakia blends I smoked through Klaas was the no longer made Kegelbaan, one of the house-blends of the once famous tobacconist De Graaff in The Hague. This mixture is really something special and spoiled my taste buds. It contains Syrian latakia, Old Belt Virginia, Brown Cavendish and the elusive Yenidje. Thanks Klaas! Later I spoke with Andre, who has a very good site where he sells refurbished estate pipes for beginning pipe smokers or people with a small budget. At Heukelum he gave me a blasted Orlik bulldog, a surprisingly fine smoker, and now he produced another Orlik, a good looking billiard. I could also have that one. Thanks Andre!

print-19-mar-2016_em5-7612Suddenly every one was being hushed to silence. Nick took the floor and directed himself towards Arjen. In a couple of months Arjen is getting married with a lovely Canadian woman called Misty. Behind his back the forum members collected money so we could give them a dinner at a restaurant. Well, we ended up with giving the soon to married couple a 5-course meal at the fancy Las Palmas restaurant, a night at the Hotel New York Rotterdam and two glasses and a bottle of bubbles.

WinslowYou probably know the feeling when you see a pipe and that it just speaks to you like in, I am beautiful, I will smoke good, buy me! I got that when I looked at a pipe amongst Rudi’s wares. A gorgeous D-grade Winslow bamboo. It was precisely what I was looking for, a small to medium sized pipe in which I could smoke Virginia or VaPer mixtures and flakes. And Winslow bamboos are relatively rare. I already have one (a B-grade) which is a terrific smoker. I must say, all my Winslows are excellent smokers and I can’t say that of all my Dunhills.. Rudi saw me (almost drooling) looking at the pipe but the only thing holding me back was the price. But Rudi knew he had the fish on the hook and only needed to haul it in. He made me an offer I could not refuse, a discount. I immediately shook his hands, the deal was closed.

IMG_0138I am a big fan of Lemmy from Motörhead and so is Matron. When we heard about his death we were both devastated. During an e-mail conversation we came up with the idea to bring a toast to Lemmy in Wuustwezel. Of course that would happen with the favourite drink of Lemmy, a Jack Daniels/cola. So I brought half a bottle of Jack with me (the other half I drank on the evening of the day I heard Lemmy died..) and to my delight I saw that Matron had taken 2 Motörhead shirts with him. His shirt was without sleeves. “You know, this shirt once had sleeves. But on a day when I was hiking I realized I forgot to bring tissues with me when I just had taken a shit. So I ripped off the sleeves of my shirt…” The shirt he had for me was a perfect fit, “size fat bastard” he said to me with a wink. We filled our glasses and raised them in honour of our fallen hero. R.I.P. Lemmy!

My acquisitions

My acquisitions

In the morning when we drove to Wuustwezel Johnny said “Always when I go to a meeting time suddenly goes very fast from the moment I enter the building until I leave it.” I also precisely had that. It was a fun day as always, I had spoken with lots of people, also did not speak with lots of people (better next time!), the sausage-rolls were delicious, the tobaccos great, the beer tasty etc. Around 20.30 we shook hands with the remaining forum members and half an hour later (you know how it goes..) we finally sat in the car on our way home. After a long journey which seemed short we arrived at the parking lot beside the highway. It appeared our cars were well guarded by some men around and in a van who were.. Ehmm.. Jerking off. So we hastily said goodbye to each other (and of course wished the masturbating men a pleasant evening) and went on our merry way.

I want to thank Jan, Sas, Miep and Dirk for organising the meeting and keeping us all hydrated. All pictures were made by Klaas, Jan, Dirk, Nick and Jef.

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oremy_28oremy_71EDIT 09-05-2016: The Dunhill ladies-pipe has a new owner! Lots of pictures of ravishing pipe-smoking ladies were send in. Some even showed me totally new and quite interesting ways to smoke a pipe.. And no you pervs, I won’t show those photos! In the end there was a clear winner: Italian pipe-smoking lady Emilia. She is the vice-president of the Pipa Club Italia and owner of one of the biggest pipe-smokers website communities: Fumare la Pipa. She started smoking when she was 21 years old. Her first pipe, a Savinelli, was given to her by a friend. Her second pipe she bought at the Peterson factory during a study-holiday in Dublin. Today Emilia attends many events where she had the opportunity to meet many pipe-smokers and pipe-makers (like Tom Eltang and Manduela). For 90% Emilia smokes Italian made pipes. Her favourite is the Kronos pipe, made by Bruto Sordini from Don Carlos. Surprisingly (for a woman) Emilia likes the taste of latakia! Her favourite tobacco is GL Pease Maltese Falcon and she often likes to smoke Tuscan cigars. Emilia is also participating in the slow smoking Italian Championship for several years. Last October she even contented in her first World-Championship in Italy near Venice: 71st out of nearly 300 participants. Currently she holds the women’s title in Italy. Emilia, I wish you lots of happy smokes with your Dunhill!

Happy Easter 2016!

dutch_pipe_smoker_easter_2016

Also see this post: Smokin’ Easter

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