Interview with master-blender Hans Wiedemann from HU Tobacco – Part 2.
Continued from part 1.
Was it a hard road to where you are now business-wise or was it just smooth sailing?
I am not complaining because I can not imagine a more beautiful hobby, but the last 3 years were sometimes very hard. I was absolutely alone and all kinds of ideas sprang from my head. The biggest problem was simply the lack of time. I still have my “normal” job and anyone who has 3 children from 6 to 12 years (at that time) knows what I mean. The family should not come on the second place because of my “hobbies”, so I do my activities at night. In addition to the tobacco creations the shop had to be set up, the labels had to be created and tobacco descriptions had to be done. It was a very unsettling and stressful time, but at the same time it also was incredibly beautiful and exciting. After I’ve had success with the tobaccos, looking back on it all is of course pretty blissful. Had the entire enterprise not been so successful, the whole thing would have made me very sad. I have really put so much passion and work in it that it is not only about a business, but also about a personal project. However, I always thought that after a while it would become easier and less time consuming. But this was a false belief and therefore my main problem is still the lack of time.
Here I will not discuss individual problems with the manufacturers, financial problems etc.
Briefly worded, I would again like to emphasize that despite the hard moments it all just was total fun!
How do you begin creating a new blend? (What is your working method?) Is it for example so that you have an idea, or are you maybe inspired by a certain kind of leaf a tobacco manufacturer has?
I do not know if there is a general procedure for the blending of tobaccos. For me, the mixtures are created in my imagination. In the beginning the idea is what type of tobacco I would like to create. And I am often inspired by the mixtures I smoke or have smoked in the past. To begin with this is enough, in the meantime I have to make up my mind whether such a tobacco is useful for my shop.
Then I think about how a tobacco should taste, what is the cut I will use by the production of the end product and of course how or with what tobaccos I can reach the goal I set. This often goes on for weeks and then I have very clear picture of what I want to do and what components I can achieve this. It is important, of course, to have exact knowledge of the available mixing tobaccos. Otherwise this method does not work and one has to carefully reach the end goal with sample mixtures.
Please describe the whole process from having an idea for a tobacco to the final end-product, tinned and ready.
The practical work begins with the sample mixtures. Most are 2-3 ideas of each 20 gr., the smallest amount, that I mix myself. This is the right amount to first detect whether you are on the right path or are totally wrong. Most of the times the direction in which you are heading is correct, sometimes you score a direct hit, but often it is also completely wrong.
I pack the samples into tobacco tins and let them rest for at least 1 week.
After that we smoke the samples while writing down corresponding records or observations. I also always directly scribble down with which new varieties of tobacco, or changes in the mixing ratio, I think I can improve the result. Of course changes are not immediately made, before that happens I have smoked 2-3 pipes of the respective sample and also express my thoughts on paper.
Then I make new samples of the changed recipes. Normally I then make 50 gr. samples and let other people trial-smoke those. Often some small changes have to be made and in the most ideal case I already have a finished mixture.
Now I go to the manufacturer and let create a 100 gr. sample of my recipe. Again it often comes here to minor differences in the taste. I correct those with another recipe change and if necessary, a 100 gr. sample is once again created by the manufacturer.
If everything fits I have done my share of the work, the price of the mixture can be calculated and can then be produced.
At the same time as the making of the mixture the labels are being created. Now this is of course no longer as expensive as in the beginning, because the different brands are already available and it just has a new name and a corresponding description of the tobaccos used. In the United Passion flakes a new image will be added to the existing lay-out. The finished labels are then printed and sent to the manufacturer so I’m getting tins that are already labelled.
In broad terms this is how the HU Tobacco tobaccos come into existence.
In short, how did your tobacco-lines came into existence?
• The Blender’s Pride
• Foundation by Musico
• United Passion
• Original Warehouse Blend
• United Passion Flakes
• United Passion Special Blends
I started with the lines of United Passion, The Blender’s Pride and Original Warehouse Blend. The names of the various product lines emphasize the flavour orientation of the blends. The Warehouse Blend series includes mixtures of a very high level but without flavouring, so rather purist approach. I find the term Warehouse Blend symbolizes the direction quite well. No fancy tins, no flavours, just blends without frills.
Unlike the Blender’s Pride series.. Here it is more or less about subtly flavoured mixtures. A less purist approach, but not completely over the top. The tobaccos are of the same quality as the Warehouse blends, so we are talking about very high quality aromatics. This is what I want to say about the Blender’s Pride. Also, the flourishing tobacco plant on the label stands for honest but flowery tobacco.
With United Passion the idea was to tobacco mixtures for my closest friends. Here the flavour spectrum ranges from pure natural to floral and soapy, but in any case always individual, according to the taste of my friends. I found the term “United Passion” with the addition Homage To My Friends very fitting.
That was the initial situation. In the meantime the United Passion Flake series was added. As with the “Homage To My Friends tobaccos” the flakes are being produced by DTM. Hence the name United Passion Flakes.
About Foundation by Musico I do not need to say much. It is a collaboration with Massimo Musico and, in the interests of both parties bear the name of the pipes produced by Massimo. The series is clearly latakia-orientated and of very high quality. So each series has a distinct direction and I personally find that very beautiful.
What are your favourite HU Tobacco blends? On which ones are you most proud?
Hmm.. This is a very difficult question. Of course, I like all my tobaccos, the one more, the other less. But all tobaccos wear my handwriting and thus are created by my imagination. A great pleasure at that time was the creation of Old Fredder’s Broken Flake. It is simply a well-balanced mixture, with all the facets that can provide a good Va / per blend. It is actually a rather old-fashioned mixture without any gimmickry or sensationalism. Old Fredder’s is simply what it is, a great tobacco, no more but also no less. And that is what I like about the mixture and what makes it so endearing to me. This tobacco often stands in the shadow of other mixtures, but has conquered a very loyal following in the meantime. It is similar with “My Special One“. A mixture of bygone days. When I open the can, it emanates a scent that you can smell in “old” tobacco shops. I’m not talking about posh, modern shops, but of shops where the cigar boxes are stacked chaotically, there is a lot of smoking inside and where the walls give away the tobacco smell of past years. My Special One is a thoroughly honest, straightforward blend. You know what you get involved with. This tobacco is not a revolution, it is like a homage to bygone days.
But I’m not a dreamer, and I am not very creative when I just wanted to convey the flavour of the old days. The Foundation tobaccos are going exactly the opposite way. Here we have a very modern direction. With the Khoisaan I present a practical tobacco that only consists of condimental tobaccos. Besides the Tuarekh these English blends only have a very small proportion of orientals. Anything but classical. I can not go into every single blend, but I think you realize that I am very proud of all mixtures. Each blend has its peculiar characteristics and came into existence very consciously. Besides, I’m just a very emotional person and I connect tastes with experiences. Arno, I can not completely answer the question, but I think you know what I mean.
What are your favourite non-HU Tobacco blends?
Oh, there are some blends that I find absolutely fantastic and I always like to smoke. I really like the Lakeland tobaccos and in particular the (Samuel Gawith) Full Virginia plug and Best Brown Flake. I think of Squadron Leader as a very good “English” but within the genre I would rather go for Cornell & Diehl Byzantium or GL Pease Lagonda. If it is time to be subtle, Erinmore Balkan Mixture can also make me very happy. From Russ Ouellette I like Louisiana Red and Frenchy’s Sunza Bitches very, very much. I could go on much more about the varieties I mentioned that I really like, but of non-HU Tobacco tobaccos this is what I like to smoke.
This interview continues in part 3.
You can buy Hans’ excellent tobaccos here.