2017 PRF-pipe made by Sabina Pipes

Sabina Santos

Sabina Santos © Sabina Pipes

As some of you know annually the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum (PRF) has a forum pipe made by a (well-known) carver. Throughout the years people like Elie, Dirk Claessen, Ian Walker and the Big Ben and BriarWorks International companies delivered us exquisite smoking gear. This year organizing it all was a joint venture of Nick (from Massis Pipes) and Shaun. I’ll give you Nick: After Shaun had managed this project for several years to a successful conclusion on his own and a first ‘cooperation version’ with Dre in 2015, we now opted for a similar direction as last year where Shaun will take care of the financial side of the story and I keep myself busy with contacting the pipe maker and later the distribution of the pipes. After a lot of consultation and contacting several pipe makers and factories, we finally came to a decision. It is with some pride that I can announce that the 2017 PRF Pipe is the first to be made by a woman, to be precise Sabina Santos from Portugal.

Rusticated and Honeycomb version © Sabina Pipes

Rusticated and Honeycomb version © Sabina Pipes

Sabina is relatively new in the world of pipe-making (she recently celebrated her 3rd birthday as a pipe maker), but has already managed to develop an unique style. Moreover – fun fact for our forum – her roots lie in the Netherlands. She was actually born in Tiel and spent the first three years of her life there. As a result she is very excited that we have chosen her this year, as evidenced by the total package and the price at which she is willing to do this for us. After extensive consultation we opted for a squat Rhodesian, the signature shape of Sabina. She works exclusively with wood from the world’s best briar supplier Mimmo Romeo. The mouthpiece is made of black acrylic, the accent ring is made of “turtle” acrylic. The top of the pipe will always be finished smooth. At the bottom you have the choice between two options: rusticated or Honeycomb. The rusticated version is €142 and the Honeycomb €157 including shipping costs. As always the forum pipe is supplied with a certificate from the maker. But especially for us Sabina has decided to make separate pipe bags and put our logo and the text “by Sabina” on the cork tags. Normally Sabina engraves her pipes by hand or let them engrave by laser at an additional cost. However, especially for us Sabina has decided to have her logo, the serial number and PRF logo laser-engraved in each pipe without extra cost.

My Sabina-made forum pipe

My Sabina-made forum pipe

When I saw the first example pictures I just had to order the pipe with the unique honeycomb finish. I always loved the Rhodesian shape and already had my eye for some time on the pipes Sabina made. Despite she only has been carving for 3 years she makes wonderful and creative pipes with a good eye for lines and shapes. At the day of Christmas Eve my doorbell suddenly rang. “A package sir, merry Christmas!” Quickly I ripped it open and to my utter delight it was the forum pipe! I loved the size and shape of it with the delicately done honeycomb finish. Unfortunately I had caught a cold that lasted for several weeks so only at the beginning of the new year I finally could smoke the pipe. And I was not disappointed, it is a good smoker and will earn a place in the pantheon of my smoking pipes. I mailed Sabina and asked if she was willing to do an interview for this blog, and she was.

Sabina and her family © Sabina Pipes

Sabina and her family © Sabina Pipes

When how and where did you learn to carve and shape briar wood to make smoking pipes? During my professional job (I have a Communication Degree but I always worked in a Financial area) I always missed an activity in which I could express myself. When my husband, a long time pipe smoker, began to explore the pipe making as an hobby, I began to find it very interesting too. After all we take a block of wood and carve  it into a pipe! Amazing! I’ve been following  his development and I began to love the idea of carving a pipe. So I wanted to learn and try it. When I was pregnant, I decided to be a stay at home mother. However I missed an occupation that I could conciliate with the role of a mother and one in which I could give wings to my creativity. So I decided to go ahead with the idea of making a pipe. I carved my first pipe, a Poker, on July 2013 and it was the beginning of my journey as pipe maker. I feel that I learn every time I carve a pipe. Pipe making is really a delight! When I started making pipes, as my son was newborn, I only had time to make the drills in the workshop and finish the pipes in my kitchen while the baby was sleeping. For that reason, each one of my pipes is unique because it tells a story, my story as a pipe maker and a mother. Each person who gets one of my pipes, also receives a part of me. Now, I work in my workshop in part-time. It’s very relaxing being at the workshop  carving a pipe. A unique piece, made by me with all my love and care.

Morta Rhodesian © Sabina Pipes

Morta Rhodesian © Sabina Pipes

What kinds of woods do you use for your pipes? I only use Italian briar and sometimes I use Morta (Bog Oak). I also use some exotic woods for accents. I tried several briar suppliers but now I exclusively work with Mimmo Romeo.

© Sabina Pipes

© Sabina Pipes

What materials do you use for your stems? During some time I used pre-made acrylic stems which were hand finished by me. Then I started making my own stems and now I prefer to use German ebonite and cumberland.

Workplace © Sabina Pipes

Workplace © Sabina Pipes

Can you tell something about the equipment you use for the making of the pipes? I was lucky and from the beginning I already had a workshop with some machines and tools my husband bought. After some time I took control of the workshop an now it is my “cave”. The main machines and tools I use are a metal lathe, a powerful Dremel, a sanding disc, a sanding belt and files. My workshop is my space, my world, where I can find myself. There, I can finally give wings to my creativity! Working in a workshop is something much more masculine, I think. It is not every day I meet a woman working in the middle of machinery, wood and dust. But I just love it!! I mean, I’m a woman, a wife and a mother, that loves make up but I also love to work in my workshop! I love work on  lathe and my Demmel is my best friend!

© Sabina Pipes

© Sabina Pipes

When making pipes, do you have a favourite pipe shape and if so, why that one? I love Rhodesians and all the related family. I carved several Rhodesians and in the future I would like to explore the Bulldog and Eskimo shapes for example. I love the hand-feel of the Rhodesian and it is also a great shape to play around with finishes, for example a smooth top and rusticated bottom.

Dark Soul Pot © Sabina Pipes

Dark Soul Pot © Sabina Pipes

You are very creative with coming up with new finishes, my compliments! Can you tell more about the inspiration for the Soul collection and how you make them? Many thanks! I love rusticated pipes and some of my favourite pipe makers are Masters in rustications. I always loved the work of Konstantin Shekita, he carves some stunning lattice pipes. The inspiration for my Soul pipes came from his work. I love the concept of the lattice and as in Portugal we have a traditional hand craft, “Renda” (hand made lace), I decided to give it try. So I took the concept of the Portuguese “Renda” and applied it to my pipes. My Soul pipes are quite unique because the lattice is all open, just touching the pipe in the top and near the stem. So in the end you get a visual effect of a pipe inside the lattice, despite they are carved from a unique piece of briar. To carve this pipes I use my Dremel and lots of patience and love.

Bone Honeycomb Poker © Sabina Pipes

Bone Honeycomb Poker © Sabina Pipes

Can you tell more about the inspiration for the Honeycomb pipes and how you make them? I like to play around with rustications and one time when I was exploring the effect of a rustication with “holes”, an image of a Honeycomb came into my mind and I started to recreate it. Nowadays it is a kind of signature rustication from me.

Iced Green Prince © Sabina Pipes

Iced Green Prince © Sabina Pipes

Can you tell more about the inspiration for the Iced Green pipes and how you make them? They look like they have been in the fridge for some time! The inspiration came from one of my husbands hobbies. He likes to paint war miniatures and has great techniques for that. I liked one of these techniques, the “Dry Brush” and decided to give it a try on my pipes! The first attempt was with blue and I also made one in red but the Iced Green one is the most popular for sure.

Broken Shanked Rhodesian © Sabina Pipes

Broken Shanked Rhodesian © Sabina Pipes

Can you tell more about the inspiration for the Broken pipes and how you make them? I really like the idea of something broken but beautiful at same time. I like the philosophy of a “Broken Body, Strong Mind”. Other pipe makers already explored the idea of a broken shank; Ser Jacopo, Werner Mummert and Eder Mathias for example. As it is something I love, I decided to give it my own approach and created the Broken Pipes. When we look it seems the shank is broken but in fact we have a regular pipe ended in plateaux skin with a hand made stem with a plateaux skin ring chosen by me especially to match with the stummel.

Soul Rhodesian © Sabina Pipes

Soul Rhodesian © Sabina Pipes

On which pipe you made are you most proud? The Smooth Soul Rhodesian. I was sanding all night until 5 AM because I was super excited to see the result.

Morta Bent Billiard © Sabina Pipes

Morta Bent Billiard © Sabina Pipes

What makes a Sabina pipe a Sabina pipe? You have certain “golden rules” that you apply with every pipe you make? What makes a Sabina Pipe is my own style I guess. I still have lots to learn in order to improve my skills. But during this 3 year journey I always tried to follow my own style. I like to play around with textures and finish and I don’t have fear of it. Despite there are lots of more conservative pipe smokers, there are also many space for new creations and that is the beauty of the pipe community. I also love a classic pipe, but always with a twist, something that gives it an unique personality.

© Sabina Pipes

© Sabina Pipes

Do you smoke pipe yourself? If so, what are your favourite pipes? I started carving pipes a long time before I tried to smoke one. First I fell in love with the shape and then I started wanting to try it because I should know my work and how a pipe should be smoked. But I’m not an experienced pipe smoker, I just smoke occasionally.

© Sabina Pipes

João Reis © Sabina Pipes

What (beside your own pipes) are your favourite pipe-brands/makers? That would provide an extended list… For example, I really love the work of the pipe makers João Reis, Konstantin Shekita, Alex Brishuta, Chris Asteriou, Uwe Maier… But there are many others in my top favourite list… Again, I like the work of pipe makers with an unique style.

em_1582What is your favourite tobacco-blend (to smoke or to smell)? I like to smoke aromatics, especially with a Cherry taste. I usually love the smell of all pipe tobaccos, but some of them are a bit strong for me to smoke. For example my husband likes Latakia, Perique, Black Cavendish… All strong stuff for me.

© Sabina Pipes

© Sabina Pipes

Any last words for readers? If there are some readers who have a dream  (pipe making for example) I would like to say to always follow your dreams and always give something you really want a try. Learn from the mistakes and get stronger with each fall.

As I write this Sabina is in Denmark to improve on her already considerable pipe making skills by learning from masters like Tom Eltang, João Reis, Tao, Kai Nielsen and Kurt Balleby. Below are pictures of the process of making the forum pipe in general and of course images of my own forum pipe.

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State Express London Mixture

© GL Pease

State Express London Mixture © GL Pease

The first time I read about State Express London Mixture was years ago in an article by master-blender GL Pease. It was about re-hydrating the bone-dry contents of an old tin of this classic English blend. What struck me most was not the story (although since then I often used the described re-hydration methods), but the picture on top of it. It showed the lid of a State Express London Mixture tin and I immediately fell in love with it. It had a classy, luxurious, nostalgic old world appearance which instantly appealed to me. So I went searching on e-bay and pretty soon I stumbled upon a sealed and unopened tin from the late 1980’s. To my utter joy I won the auction and soon I had the object of my desire in my possession. With trembling hands I pried off the lid and heard the beautiful hiss that indicates the air-seal was still intact. I filled up my pipe and here comes the sad part, at that point I only had been smoking pipe for about a year so I could not appreciate the blend. My taste-buds were not developed enough. I stashed away the tin until a year later when I re-hydrated the contents and tried it again. This time I was able to enjoy the mixture and acknowledge the genius of the blenders. It tasted absolutely great, a harmonious yet adventurous blend of bright golden Virginias, Syrian latakia and the costly Greek and Turkish (oriental) tobaccos Samsun, Izmir, Xanthi and Cavalla.

img_5587I always kept searching for another tin but that proved to be rather difficult. Or it was empty, or the seal had been broken, or it was too expensive or the seller did not want to ship to The Netherlands. A couple of weeks ago on an evening I spotted a tin. It looked somewhat rusty on some spots but eejj, that is the risk you have to take. But I kept that in mind, set the bid not too high and went to sleep. The next morning I saw to my utter amazement that I had won the tin! Needless to say, I was a happy man. When I received the package (with some extra customs office costs.. Grrr…) I had to laugh. In the box was a message which read: “This tin is old and contents are not for use! Frankly, it would choke a horse!” “Well, we will see about that madam ebay-seller!” I thought. I could not wait to open the tin. I felt like Howard Carter when I pried open the lid but unfortunately no hiss this time and indeed the contents seemed mummified. Of course I immediately started re-hydrating the blend.

img_5594In the mean time I started digging for information about the tin. On the seal it said “US Distributors Faber, Coe, & Gregg Inc. Newark, New Jersey 07108”. I had no idea so decided to ask for information on the PipesMagazine.com forum. Luckily Jon Guss roams there and Jon is a first class researcher and author of many pipe and tobacco related books and articles. He saw my question and responded: There are two key indicators that enable me to date it to within a relatively narrow span: the measurement of the weight of the contents, and the reference to a Newark address. When first released (about 1967) SELM (State Express London Mixture but shorter) tins were denominated in ounces; sometime over the course of 1972-73 this was switched to 50 grams (listed as 1 3/4 oz in the States). As for Faber Coe’s location, their NJ headquarters address changed from Newark to Clifton in the second half of 1978. Your tin therefore dates from 1972-78. That could be narrowed a bit further by consulting RTDA annuals for 1972 and 1973, neither of which I happen to have handy. But in the scheme of things knowing your tin is forty years old plus or minus a couple of years is a pretty good outcome. So in other words, I could have a birth-year tin in my hands! Whoohoo!

Ardath tobacco offices and factories in 1914

Ardath tobacco offices and factories in 1914

I was already happy with this bit of information but Jon came with even more! A history of the blend and Ardath, the manufacturer: State Express London Mixture was made by Ardath Tobacco Company, Ltd. There is info readily available online about Ardath (much of it wrong or misleading), but in a fairly small nutshell what later became Ardath Tobacco Company, Ltd. was founded by Albert Levy in 1895. He was joined by a partner, Barnett S. Gluckstein, in 1903. In a complex set of transactions apparently triggered by his desire to retire, in January of 1926 Gluckstein sold his shares “to a financial house in the City” and a holding company was created which held all the outstanding shares (Gluckstein’s and Levy’s) of Ardath.

british_american_tobacco_logo-svgAt the time it was coyly announced that British American Tobacco Company Ltd. (BAT) had acquired an “interest” in this new holding entity, and a collaboration in overseas markets was to begin immediately. Levy, who remained as head of the company, announced that despite BAT’s interest, the business of Ardath would be “carried on independently, exactly the same as before”. Half a year later it became clear that the new holding company (“Universal Tobacco Company”) was in reality controlled and managed by BAT, and Ardath had become in essence a subsidiary. The long sad litany of events Ardath suffered under its new master, including the eventual outsourcing of its manufacturing and closure of its factories, is wholly irrelevant to the story of SELM. Likewise the convoluted relationship between BAT, Imperial, and what remained of Ardath’s brands and the geographic rights thereto.

The famous State Express 555 cigarettes

The famous State Express 555 cigarettes

More to the point, by the time SELM came on the stage in the late 1960s Ardath had been a creature of BAT for generations, and what remained of the original company was apparently mostly a collection of brand names (along with a distribution function tacked on later). By then State Express, originally a cigarette brand trademarked by Ardath in 1896, was one of the largest assets left over from the Ardath acquisition, and had been exploited over time through a series of brand extensions and entries into international markets. SELM, a new pipe tobacco based on the marque, was developed in the mid-1960s. It was then trademarked in a variety of countries, including Canada (March 20, 1967), Australia (April 21, 1967), the U.S. (April 4, 1968), Germany (March 30, 1969), and Kenya (1970). It was advertised for sale in the US by the end of 1968. Internal company documents make it clear, however, that despite the various international trademark filings the blend was “created largely with the U.S. market in mind”.

State Express London mixture trademark

State Express London mixture trademark

As far as I can tell SELM was only ever available in 2 ounce (from launch until about 1972-73) and 50 gram (1972-73 onward) rectangular tins. The product was considered to be successful enough that two expansions were considered: a) introduction into the UK (per documents dating to late 1974), and b) development of a cigarette incorporating SELM tobacco. It’s not entirely clear to me whether either ever got off the ground. I should add SELM had a run of a bit over two decades. It was withdrawn from production sometime between 1989-1992: SELM appears in the 1988 RTDA almanac, but the US trademark was allowed to expire on November 3, 1992. It remains possible that the blend continued to be available in other countries thereafter, but given the importance of the US market to the brand that seems unlikely.

Now over to the review of the blend, I go a bit back and forth between the 1970’s and 1980’s version.

img_5556Description from the producer – Package/tin:
At the bottom of the 70’s tin you can read: Bright Golden Virginia and dark latakia spiced with rare Greek and Turkish tobaccos. Further on the bottom is a sticker with the image of the blend inside. On the 80’s version this sticker is omitted. There is also (I guess on even older tins) a bottom which held an English penny to help open the tin. The frontal image on the lid is together with the old Balkan Sobranie and Marcovitch artwork the most beautiful I have ever seen. It is an old looking stylized map of Anatolia (or Asia minor) and surrounding areas with on the bottom left a sailing ship and on the bottom right a mariner’s compass. In the map are the names of the places where (most of) the ingredients originate from like (Syrian) Latakia, Samsun, Izmir, Xanthi and Cavalla. Above the card in a classy golden looking rectangle is the name of the blend. “State Express” in serif characters and “London Mixture” in a script font. On top of it all is a coat of arms, the royal warrant, granted to Ardath by King George VI in 1946 and again later by Queen Elizabeth II.

img_5565Once you remove the lid of the 70’s version you are greeted by a golden wrapper, the 80’s one has sober wrapping which repeatedly states “Supreme British Tobacco”. On top of the golden wrapper is a small but wonderful booklet. It contains information about the State Express brand, the London Mixture blend and has a beautiful (educational) illustration of the tobacco leaves used in the mixture. On the backside of the front lid of the 70’s version the royal warrant is repeated together with the name of the blend and the description of it. The 80’s version is empty, I guess they had to cut back costs.. A pity, because as Jon Guss his father would say: packaging is marketing. A wise man.

img_5578Ingredients/Contents/Cut:
In an old document I found the recipe of State Express London Mixture, it consisted of 35% bright flue cured golden Virginia, 25% orientals (Samsun, Izmir, Xanthi and Cavalla) and 40% (Syrian) latakia. In the same file the manufacturing process is also explained, an interesting read which you can see here. Upon opening the 70’s tin I was greeted by the beautiful sight of 1 whole oriental leaf placed upon the mixture. According to information given to me by Jon there once also was a version with 2 different varieties of oriental leaves laid crossways over the blend. The 80’s version tin contained no whole oriental leaf at all, once again, perhaps they had to cut back costs. The mixture itself looks identical in both tins, I guess the contents have darkened in colour by age. Dark brown/black latakia, light orange/green and dark yellow Virginia and darker orange/green and light-brown orientals. The cut for both versions is a typical ribbon cut, although the 70’s one had a few chunkier pieces.

noseSmell from the tin:
Both versions smell aged, I can’t really describe it, those who have sniffed the contents of 20+ year tins know what I mean. A kind of “musty but in a good way” smell. If I look (smell) beneath that I am a bit surprised that the latakia is so toned down. Ok, that is common with the ageing of the dark leaf and Syrian latakia is not as assertive as its Cyprian cousin but still, there is 40% of the stuff in the blend. For the rest the hay-like, raisin Virginia dominates with mildy pungent underlying notes of the exotic oriental tobaccos.

011Taste:
Both versions were an absolute utter delight to smoke, but there were differences. They start with a kind of strong black tea taste in which the dark fruit sweetness of the Virginia and exotic orientals slowly become more and more prominent. Like with the smell the latakia also tastes toned down. Don’t get me wrong, it is ideal for the blend, it really is in perfect sync with the other ingredients. And you get used to it, after having smoked SELM for days and days I wanted something a bit different and lit up a bowl full of (the new and excellent) John Cotton’s Smyrna, which has a moderate amount of Cyprian latakia. My taste buds who are used to a good portion of the dark leaf went like: whoaahh, latakia bomb! Anyway, the difference between the two vintages becomes apparent halfway the bowl when the oriental tobaccos take main stage. The 80’s version is taste-wise like a roller-coaster. Essences of fragrant exotic herbs and spices roll around your taste-buds with every puff while still being in harmony with the other ingredients. A true delight for the adventurous pipe smoker. The contents of the 70’s tin have melted together more. No big highs and lows here, I compare it with the curry I make, there is a kind of great basic taste and if you pay attention you can discern some ingredients. All the while with both versions the Virginia together with the latakia provide a sweet and smoky backbone. In the last third of the bowl the mixture gains flavour and intensity. The Virginias sing together with the orientals while the latakia softly but surely hums underneath. The 70’s version even has a kind of cigar-like heaviness in the end.

10679974_10205010273567619_6481518945363759545_oMiscellaneous:
I had to laugh when I read more of the old document because the maker of State Express London Mixture had a, ehmm, more limited view of how long a tin on the shelf should last than we have nowadays. It states: “Should be smoked as soon as possible for maximum taste. Tendency after three months to noticeable loss of flavour. Loss of colour in ‘Brights’ increasingly noticeable after three months.” Perhaps the man who wrote that is related to the e-bay woman who sold me the 70’s tin. SELM is a smooth smoke, no bite whatsoever. Nicotine-wise it is moderate, I am under the impression that the 70’s version contained a bit more of vitamin N. Burn-wise both vintages were excellent, no trouble at all throughout the bowl, only some fine grey ash was left.

thumbsRoom-note:
Despite the toned down latakia Ellen really did not like the smell of SELM. She even became short of breath from the smoke.. “*coughs* Perhaps the e-bay woman was right that it would choke a horse!” I on the other hand quite liked it (that is why it is not a full thumbs downs room-note). When I came into the living-room the mornings after I smoked it I detected a quite pleasant smoky, herbal odour.

moneyPrice:
Years ago I paid $100 for the 80’s tin. At the time not so much because the dollar was low and the euro strong. Good ol’ days.. So with that price in my mind I was absolutely not sure if I would win the auction for the 70’s tin. I had a lower budget so I set a not too high maximum bid. In the end I won the vintage State Express London Mixture for $30.

img_5583_1Conclusion:
For me State Express London Mixture belongs in the same pantheon of legendary pipe tobacco blends as for example the Sobranie mixtures, Marcovitch and the old Dunhill offerings. It has an unique old world quality inside and on the outside of the tin. Sadly blends like this one can’t be made today. Syrian latakia is no longer made and sourcing the specific oriental tobacco varieties is nearly impossible. Something which I really regret because for me the key to adventure in pipe tobacco lies with the latter. Well ok, perhaps McClelland could pull it off with their stock of Syrian latakia and Grand Orientals series. But still, there is more to pipe tobacco than just putting ingredients together. I can’t really choose between the 2 vintages. The 80’s version was a fantastic roller-coaster taste-wise. If you hit a piece of oriental leaf in the bowl *booom!*, lots of flavour! On the other hand the 70’s one had an absolutely great basic taste with more subtle flavours of herbs and spices from far away. But it is not only the ingredients, also the classy look of the tin is absolutely superb. When you see it it almost calls out to me: “See the exotic places mentioned on my luxurious lid. I promise that if you smoke me and close your eyes your mind will be transported to far away countries where you will experience all their delights.” And I must say in all honesty, it did that to me, it was that good.

I would like to thank Jon Guss for his essential contribution to this blogpost.

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Merry Christmas and a smoky 2017!

I would like to wish all my readers a merry Christmas and a smoky 2017!

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