Tag: penzance

De Graaff tobacconist

Nowadays a truly good tobacconist sadly is a rare thing here but decades ago The Netherlands boasted lots of them. Specialist stores where the knowledge of the salesmen was of crucial importance because the clients relied on it. These days we can simply look up information on the digital highway but back then you had to trust the expertise of your tobacco vendor. One of the most well known and respected tobacconists in that time was G. de Graaff in the political heart of our small country: The Hague.

Churchill at the Congress of Europe in 1948 ©Haags Gemeentearchief

Founded in 1928 by Gerard de Graaff (who was later joined by his son Frits de Graaff) the business was located at the Heulstraat no. 27. Not far from Noordeinde Palace, Council of State, Council for the Judiciary and the Binnenhof in the old city centre. They got well-known both at home and abroad very quickly, mainly because of their excellent house-brand G. de Graaff cigars, which were made by 5 different cigar factories in The Netherlands. Even the legendary Winston Churchill had heard of them. Dutch Pipe Smokers Forum member Willem tells: “My father, who had a high ranking job at the Ministry of Finance, knew De Graaff very well because he always bought his cigars there. So when Churchill visited The Hague for the Congress of Europe in 1948 my father arranged some special Cuban cigars for him which came, of course, from De Graaff.” Other famous people who visited the store throughout the years were amongst others Bill Clinton, prince Bernard, Josip Tito, François Mitterrand and Konrad Adenauer.

Frits de Graaff 1978 ©Haags Gemeentearchief

After the war the sons of Frits, Robbert and Gerard de Graaff, entered the business. But soon father Frits realized that letting Gerard and Robbert work together was not a good idea. So Gerard kept himself busy with the production side and Robbert took care of the sales in the store. Frits de Graaff was a remarkable man, a real old world salesman. He lived above the store and was always impeccably dressed, like the true gentleman he was, with his trademark bow tie. Also he was a man of principles, if he did not believe in a brand he would not sell it. Willem tells: When I had my practice in The Hague, around 1976-1980, the De Graaff store had something special, something chic. In that time I smoked MacBaren. When I asked for such a tin at the store Mr. Frits always said that the tobacco contained too much glycerine “Which is not good for your throat!”. Like the polite man I was and still am I then bought a tin of Flying Dutchman, which was much better according to him. 

Frits de Graaff 1982 ©Haags Gemeentearchief

Also I know that De Graaff did not sell Peterson because of the P-Lip mouthpiece, the often shabby finish, the many fills and because of the long time it took to break in a pipe. I think he liked Dunhill better, Dutch Pipe Smokers Forum member Rob tells: Once I was in the store together with Mr. De Graaff. While talking he took a Dunhill pot-shaped pipe out of his pocket and told this was his father’s favourite pipe. You could see the pipe was old and that it had once been a heavy sandblasted Shell Briar but because of the use the surface had become smooth. After his death he kept the pipe and smoked it several times a week. As far as tobacco went Frits de Graaff liked latakia very much. Rob tells: I remember well that I was a boy of about 18 years old when I stepped inside the store to buy a pipe. When the conversation drifted towards pipe tobacco he pointed out “the only tobacco” latakia to me. Besides the pipe I let myself be persuaded to also buy a tin with latakia and indeed, I was swept away. Back in those days that fine tobacco was significantly more expensive than e.g. Mac Baren so I smoked latakia in moderation, because I had to pay for it from the proceeds of my newspaper round. Sadly Frits de Graaff passed away in 1996, Robbert took over the business but he sold the store in 2005. The new owners tried their best but the grandeur of days past never really came back. Just recently I learned that the shop at the Heulstraat no. 27 is closing, the owners want to merge it with another store of them at another location.

Klaas and myself

My own story with De Graaff began in 2011. I was just discovering the realm of the dark leaf when I began exchanging messages and tobacco samples with Klaas. Because of him I was able to try wonderful blends like Balkan Sobranie Original Smoking Mixture, GL Pease Westminster and De Graaff Kegelbaan Mixture and Back in Town. The last 2 were house-blends. I knew sh*t about pipe-tobacco in those days but what I noticed was that they were all of very high quality. Klaas saw that I really enjoyed the De Graaff tobaccos, generously gave me some tins and told the following story: I discovered the De Graaff house-blends fairly late, in the 90’s, but I was immediately smitten. I really invested in them and bought loads of tins. Suddenly at the end of the 90’s I was told in the store that the house-blends were being discontinued. I panicked a bit and decided to buy all the tins I could get my hands on. In the store and in other tobacco shops in The Netherlands who also carried the De Graaff house-blends. Of course during the years I smoked a lot of them but I still have some left. The only thing I always wondered was where those fabulous tobaccos were made. It was a well kept secret that De Graaff never told to anyone..

Louis

Throughout the years I smoked some excellent De Graaff blends which were given to me by Klaas and another forum member. Also whenever I was in a tobacco-shop I asked if they had some old tins stashed away somewhere. Now and then I even got lucky and I was able to buy some old De Graaff tobaccos meant for home-blending, which I did and created lovely blends with them. But when I heard that the actual shop at the Heulstraat was closing down I decided to write a blogpost about De Graaff and do some research. At that point all I had were the names of the 2 sons of Frits, Gerard and Robbert. So I asked yet another forum member, Rudi, who had a tobacco-shop in Middelburg for years, if he had a contact address or something like that. He didn’t but he pointed me towards a Belgian man who made cigars for Gerard. I contacted him but he knew very little, only that, very sadly, Robbert had passed away a few years ago. Damnit! Robbert was the mastermind behind the pipe-tobaccos, so I was pretty gutted when I heard that. Then I decided to use an old contact of mine, Louis Bracco Gartner, founder of the Historical Tobacco Museum in Delft and the Tobacco History website. He helped me before with my Diepenveensche Tabaks Centrale blogpost and when I mailed my questions to him he responded with “call me, I know more.” So I phoned him and he turned out to be friends with Gerard de Graaff. I got the mail-address of the latter, contacted him a couple of times and got no response besides a mail which said I had the wrong man and that he did not know anything about pipe-tobacco..

So I phoned Louis again, told him this (according to him the mail-address was correct) and said I only wanted to know where De Graaff house-blend pipe tobaccos were made. “Oh but I know that!” “Ehmm.. Excuse me??” “Yes I know that, the house-bends were made by Dunhill in London.” Wowwww…. I was gobsmacked.. Made by Dunhill.. Hmmm, the 60’s and 70’s ok, Dunhill was still Dunhill, but during the 80’s and 90’s Dunhill blends were made by Murray. Those tobaccos were not highly acclaimed, not just by me (I smoked some) but also by others. The De Graaff blends I smoked dated from the 90’s and were of exceptional quality, way better than Murray-era Dunhill. Then from out of the back of my head I remembered I read something on the Dunhill page of the great late John Loring. Something about blends still being made (in the 80’s and 90’s) at the Dunhill Duke Street shop: One exception to the 1981 blending transfer (from Dunhill to Murray) should be noted. The Dunhill Duke Street shop continued to offer custom blending for the next two decades and as part of that continuation, a small batch blender in London (I suspect with Dunhill associations) continued to produce a number of My Mixture blends available only from the Duke Street shopSo it could very, very well be that that was the way the De Graaff house-blends were made.

Now about those house-blends. I don’t know precisely when the first pipe-tobacco house-blends were made but Rob has to say this: It must have been 1967 when I first visited De Graaff. I remember that in the room where the pipes were there also was a display with pipe tobaccos, sold under their own name. A couple of years ago I luckily had downloaded through the Wayback machine the original house-blend descriptions from the old De Graaff website. Here they are with notes from myself and pictures:

-Abu Riha-
Exceptional aromatic flake with a good deal of Latakia, as well as Turkish, and Red Virginia tobaccos. Excellent composition over a glass of Single-Malt whiskey. I smoked some tins of this one and I can best describe it as the prefect marriage between Smoker’s Haven Krumble Kake and Esoterica’s Penzance. In fact, it looked and tasted so much like those blends that I decided to mail J.F. Germain (and added some pictures) and they responded: These are very interesting pictures, we did not make any tobacco for De Graaff but I understand why you ask the question the tin and the tobacco look like Penzance from years ago.

-Back In Town-
One of our most successful mixtures, an ex-cigarette-smoker assisted in composing this blend. A fine composition of light and dark Virginia’s, Syrian Latakia, Kavalla (Macedonian tobacco) and Carolina Cavendish. A medium mixture with a pleasant flavour. A pleasant flavour indeed! This is one of the De Graaff classics, Syrian latakia, Kavalla, nomnomnom! Perfectly blended, very harmonious.

-Carl’s Own Blend-
Carefully composed by the HOUSE OF GOOD TASTE. Is the choice of a man of FINE TASTE. Born and bred in the THEATRE OF ROYAL TASTE. Full-flavoured mixture on the basis of Virginia tobaccos (Flue Cured East Carolina and Georgia) and a small quantity of Latakia. Sadly I never smoked this blend.

-Coronation-
This blend has been already produced for more than a century for the discerning smoker. Very mild, not burning the tongue. For the morning. I once had a sample of this blend but can’t remember it any more..

-De Kegelbaan-
An unique blend of first class tobaccos: Syrian Latakia, Old Belt Virginia, Brown Cavendish and Turkish tobaccos (Yenidshe). Mild taste, cool, slow burning. This is another big classic, I just finished a tin and only 1 word: exceptional. And not just a couple of times, no every time! The Yenidje is immediately recognizable (for those that have smoked Yenidje Supreme) and sings together nicely with the Syrian Latakia and Virginia’s. The Brown Cavendish mellows it all out a bit. I think that the creator Robbert De Graaff tried to imitate the old Balkan Sobranie with this one if I see the ingredients. And for me he absolutely succeeded!

-Golden Virginia-
Cool, somewhat sweet Virginia Bright Leaf. This is one of the oldest varieties of “flue cured” tobacco. Pleasant taste. I used this blend a couple of times in home-made mixtures. It reminded me a bit of Dunhill Flake, but then in a ribbon-cut. I had several tins but threw them away in a fit of cleaning rage before I could take a picture..

-Latakia-
Jebeli is also called “Abu Riha” (Father of the pleasant smell) by the Syrian population. The flavour is acquired by drying the tobacco over a fire of camel-dung (nice commercial story but not the truth..). Tobacco especially for mixing. And that is precisely where I use it for. When you open a tin, whoaaa… It smells so damn good! Also when you smoke it straight it is very yummie. On the tin it says Mountain Blue Syrian, of course made famous by Balkan Sobranie 759, the stuff of legends.

-No 27-
This tobacco gives evidence of craftsmanship. Composed of the best Golden- and Middle Belt Virginias, Corolina Cavendish, completed with a pinch of Lousiana Perique, for the perfect taste. Especially made for those smokers who prefer a Virginia blend. This tobacco is particularly aromatic and yet mild of taste. The only thing I can remember about this one is “tastes a bit like Dunhill Elizabethan“.

-Perique-
The Perique tobacco is unique, its history is dating back to the Choctaw and Chicasaw Indians. It adds a spicy flavour to all tobacco blends. It is without “bite”, although it is far too heady to be smoked straight. Well, Aleister Crowley did! I use it only for home-blending.

-Seamen’s Club-
Matured dark Virginia. This warm, dark tobacco is mild in taste and can be smoked pure or in mixtures. Unadulterated Red Virginia, I used it many times in home-blending for some Virginia backbone.

-Turkish-
Excellent burning qualities. Suitable for mixing, can also be smoked pure. Extremely mild with sweet undertone. I used this once in home-blending, it tastes like there is some Kavalla in it.

De Graaff also had house-brand pipes. Several Dutch Pipe Smokers members have such a smoking device. They were made in London and later in France. But where? No idea.. So I mailed Louis again, he asked around and came with a name: GDD! Ehrrr, I guess you mean GBD? He wasn’t sure but I now know it was GBD indeed, just look at the picture beside this paragraph. Where the pipes were made in France I sadly do not know..

Of course there is much more to tell about De Graaff, especially their cigars, but since this is a pipe-smoking blog it is enough for now. One last thing, here is a PDF document of 2 interesting old booklets/flyers from De Graaff, in Dutch.. I would like to thank all the forum members and people who have helped me and made this blogpost possible!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Hospitable Heukelum 2014

October 12th it was time for the annual “mother” of all the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers forum meetings. The one in a town in the Dutch province of Gelderland called Heukelum, inside brewery “‘t Kuipertje” and organized by Martin: the Heukelum meeting! For weeks the forum was buzzing with anticipation and whole check-lists of what to take with you were made so nobody would forget anything. Meanwhile Martin was busy collecting the entrance money: €26.50 (± $33). A bargain if you ask me because for that sum you not only gain access, you also get two drinks, there is a big BBQ with all kinds of tasty fresh meat, sauces, salads and baguettes and last but not least you get one bottle of special forum-beer with a label designed by myself! Whoehoe!

Johnny

Johnny

Unfortunately for some the entrance money still was too much. Recently forum-moderator and respected member Johnny went through some tough times (private stuff) which left a hole in his finances. My good friend Ed, Mark and I said that he could drive together with us to Heukelum but Johnny was not sure if he was able to manage it money-wise. We were all bummed out because after a tough time there is nothing better for a pipe-smoker than a cosy, relaxing pipe-smoking meeting. Suddenly we got a mail from a happy Johhny, he was going! Apparently he got a message from Martin which said that all his expenses already were paid for. And that is the true heart-warming spirit of the forum.

Shrewd judge Jos

Shrewd judge Jos

So on the day itself Ed first picked me up, then we went to the Deventer train station to get Mark and somewhere along the way Johnny joined us. When we arrived in Heukelum we clearly were not the first. Lines of cars we neatly parked beside each other under which the gracious Volvo Amazon owned by Jos. He was one of the first I looked up because I had something for him and he had something for me. In my “Zestful Zutphen 2014” blogpost I wrote that Jos had bought a “smoking area” sign for me on a Amsterdam market. He had brought it with him and as a “thank you” I had not one but two presents for Jos. For a living he does something with laws so every time I smoke Orlik Golden Sliced and see the “shrewd judge” illustration on the tin I have to think of him. Jos often comes across like a person with some loose screws but beware, he is very, very “shrewd”. So I gave him a tin of Orlik Golden Sliced and a wrapped package. Jos had to laugh hard when he saw the contents of the package: a judge wig. He immediately put it on his head and looked amazingly shrewd to my delight. This week I mounted the sign on the door of my tobacco closet in my working-room.

Paul

Paul

Paul also had something for me. As some of you perhaps know he does whisky nosing & tastings under the name of Whisky Info Plus. On the latest Inter Tabac in Dortmund he had met a company who could print tables. “Hmm, precisely what I need for my nosing & tasting” Paul thought. “A nice bistro table with a picture of whisky-barrels and my logo”. Only, he once made his logo in Word and it was not suited for printing. So he asked me if I could re-make the logo as a proper illustration file. Of course I could, but for a price. “Some tobacco or whisky?” Paul asked. Since I was making it for a nosing & tasting of whisky I choose that. Paul gave me a round box with on it “Ardmore Traditional“. He explained a bit about it and it really sounded yummie in my ears. And it also tastes yummie, actually, I am having a glass of it right now while I am typing this. Thanks Paul!

Martin

Martin

I also had to see Martin, but not for anything smoking related. A week before the meeting I got a mail from him asking if I wanted buy a Dragon-clock from him. At first I said no, it had no room for it but then I looked to my pipe-cabinet. Hmm.. That clock would look nice on top of it.. So I asked Martin what he wanted for it. According to him it was pretty expensive new but perhaps some tobacco would suffice? As it happened I just had laid my hands on a bag of Esoterica Stonehaven, perhaps that was ok as a payment? Eagerly (I know he loves the stuff) Martin said yes so now the clock graces my pipe-cabinet.

Robert-Jan checking out the wares

Robert-Jan checking out the wares

A while ago forum member Robert-Jan visited me but he forgot to take with him a tin of Hajenius My Own Blend. I kept it for him until I had the chance to give it back. I also smoked some of it (I was allowed to) but mwah.. I did not like it, I was a bit under the impression that cheap tobaccos were used. So I was glad I could give back the tin at the meeting. Oh!! I silently cursed.. Robert-Jan had asked if I could bring a sample of Esoterica Penzance with me for him. And I had totally forgotten about it.. Of course I made up for it later.

Dre unveiling the new forum year-pipe

Dre unveiling the new forum year-pipe

Some time later we were all asked to gather around. The time had come for the unveiling of the 2015 PRF forum year-pipe! Normally Shaun arranges the whole project but sadly he had been very ill this year (luckily he feels a lot better now).. Despite his sickness he managed to reach out for help and Dre answered his call. Dre (Andre) has very good connections with the Gubbels family from the Big Ben pipe factory and regularly visits the place. So he asked if they could mean anything for the PRF pipe project. Unfortunately Big Ben only fire up their machines for a minimum of 500 pipes and the forum can never reach that number. BUT they had an alternative solution. Throughout the years Gubbels kept Barbados shape pipe-bowls behind with an exceptional grain and we could have those! Plus they added a metal ring on top of the bowl which makes the pipe look even better. When Shaun and Dre told this and showed the pipe they got a very well deserved applause.

On the left me and Franz

On the left me and Franz

After some chatting with a lot of forum members it was time to eat! As I told last year the meat provided is of excellent quality and comes from a nearby biological butcher. Just as I expected the beef was gone first, I also have to thank myself for that.. After dinner I sat down beside Franz. I am a bit of a Dunhill collector (if I can get them cheap) but he collects all kinds of English non-Dunhill pipes like Sasieni and Charatan. He has a stunning Sasieni prince and.. Wait, just a moment.. Sorry, every time I think of that pipe I have to wipe off my drool. I can’t stop admiring that one. Franz also had brought with him some Germain Rich Dark Flake which I never had smoked and was very curious about. Luckily I was allowed to take a sample with me so now I can finally compare it to its famous brother: Esoterica Stonehaven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGradually darkness fell all around us, the lights went on and I just had to think of the atmosphere Dutch painter and graphical artist Anton Pieck summons in his creations. Slowly one by one people were going home until just a few were left. I bought some more bottles of the tasty forum-beer (which was a bock-beer this year!) and we all helped owner Henk a bit with putting back some tables and chairs. Then we said goodbye to each other and thanked Martin and Henk for the wonderful day. Johnny was a bit quiet. Apparently upon entering the brewery he had received a stash of consumption-coins from Martin so he had free drinks all day long. But he also had gotten a small bag, a gift from our forum-Sint, Rob. I opened it and literally my jaw dropped, eyes went a bit wet and I immediately understood why Johhny was so quiet. The contents were a Winslow and two Dunhills under which a gorgeous gold-band shell briar. And that is also the true heart-warming spirit of the forum and I am proud to be a member of it.

Heukelum 2014 group

Heukelum 2014 group

Henk and Martin, thank you for the organization of the meeting! Ed, Johnny and Mark, thank you for the pleasant rides! The rest of the members, thank you for a great day! All pictures were made by Klaas, Janneman and myself.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Whisky and Tobacco (by Paul) – Part 2.

This is part 2 of the “Whisky and Tobacco (by Paul)” post. Click here for part 1.

Jim_Beam___White– Virginia / Perique blends:
Tobacco blends with Perique have that typical sour aroma and taste. There are not many “sour” whiskies/whiskeys. But you could try an American Sour Mash whiskey, like some well known brands produce, like Pappy Van Winkle, Jim Bean, Woodfort Reserve, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey and some Jack Daniels expressions. Note that the Sour Mash process is used in almost all Bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys. If you are looking for that typical aroma, check the indication “sour mash” on the label. The process doesn’t make a whiskey with a sour aroma-note as per definition, they can turn out very sweet and with vanilla/caramel aromas.

As for Scotch single malts I can’t easily come up with whiskies which have a sourly aroma or taste. It’s a taste most whiskymakers do not want in their whisky. The only one I ever encountered that would fit in here is an independent bottling of Edradour 10 yo from The Un-Chill-Filtered Collection, distilled 12-08-1998 and bottled 20-11-2008, 46% alcohol and from cask No. 286.
Besides looking for a sour taste in the whisky (and because Perique brings out more complexity out of the Virginia tobaccos) you could try such a tobacco-blend with a more complex whisky, like mentioned next, under Virginia/Oriental blends.

royal_lochnagar_12_yo– Virginia / Oriental blends:
Typically a single malt like Royal Lochnagar 12 yo brings out a leathery note, which I think would combine easily with an Oriental tobacco blend. It also brings out a little peaty flavour and aroma. Other light to medium peated whiskies would do nice in my opinion, like Springbank 10 yo, Scapa 16 yo and Isle of Jura Superstition.

I think a Virginia/Oriental tobacco blend can be perfectly combined with more complex whiskies, such as Highland Park 18 yo, Loch Lomond Old Rhosdhu 10 yo, Glen Garioch 12 yo or a Glen Spey 12 yo.

15yo-551– Virginia / Burley blends:
Burley can give a tobacco some hint of chocolate. And in some whiskies you can find that aroma too. Bladnoch 15 yo would do fine (chocolate, orange and even a tobacco aroma can be found) or the Glencadam 15 yo. These whiskies are not too strong in taste and aroma, which combines nicely with the Virginia-based tobacco.

spsob.12yo– Burley / Kentucky blends:
Here too the chocolate can be found, but I think a Burley/Kentucky tobacco is often somewhat stronger in aroma and taste than a Burley/Virginia. Therefore I would recommend a whisky that is a bit more “present” in the nose and on the tongue, like Glenrothes from about 14 yo or older or a Speyside 12 yo. The latter shows even more chocolate with a few drops of water (and don’t exaggerate on the water!).

Lagavulin-16-Jahre-07-Liter– Latakia blends:
Well, this is the territory of the man who get hair on their chests while smoking these kind of tobacco-blends. And mind you, there are whiskies which grow hair on your chest too: the peaty ones.  A few examples of medium to strong peated whiskies are Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Kilchoman (all from the Isle of Islay) and Longrow (the peaty one from Springbank) or Ledaig (the peaty one from Tobermory). But also some brands, less known to produce peaty whiskies, have managed to bring some nice peaty expressions. Like the Isle of Arran Devil’s Punch Bowl, Croftengea 5 yo or Inchmoan 4 yo (both from the Loch Lomond distillery) and Ardmore Fully Peated Quarter Cask finish. The famous Talisker from the Isle of Skye matches evenly well with a Latakia tobacco. And distilleries from the Isle of Islay that have a non-peaty house-style sometimes produce a peaty whisky. Like the Port Charlotte expression from Bruichladdich and the Moine-series from Bunnahabhain. The last one only bottled by independent bottler The Ultimate from Amersfoort, The Netherlands.

302– Cigar leaf blends:
With tobacco blends which include Cigar leaf I think a lot of peaty whiskies can be combined perfectly. Also whiskies with some leather-aromas would do fine (like the mentioned Royal Lochnagar 12 yo). But one specific single malt comes to mind to accompany a cigar leaf pipe tobacco and of course a cigar as well: the Dalmore Cigar Malt. If you like these kind of tobaccos or you are a cigar aficionado as well as a pipesmoker and you are looking for a balanced whisky to go with the smoke, this is the best I can recommend. It balances perfectly with the smoke and even let’s behind an oily film in your mouth. Which makes the smoke, either pipe of cigar, very pleasant.

Whisky casks

Whisky casks

So, in general:
Keep in mind that maturing on ex-American whiskey casks creates whiskies with vanilla and caramel. They vary from dry to pretty sweet. Maturing on ex-sherry casks mostly give more complex whiskies. With aromas varying from fruits, chocolate and flowers to nutty aromas and even aromas of other distillates like brandy and armagnac.

1316408608_1316417382844Pipe-smoking and whisky-drinking:
In closure I would like to make a kind of statement. People often ask me if smoking is allowed while drinking whisky. My opinion on is this: When you are drinking socially or just to relax and take some time for yourself to enjoy the good things in life, please smoke, drink and eat what you like and how you like it.
However, when you are seriously “nosing and tasting” your whisky, it’s better not to smoke. The same goes for exploring a tobacco trying to define the aroma’s which are in it: better not drink or eat while searching for the fine nuances in your mixture. The one interferes your perception and findings of the other. Whether you are exploring whisky while smoking or exploring your tobacco while drinking a fairly strong drink like the ” water of life”. For instance, the Scotch single malt whisky Highland Park 18yo is a very complex whisky with 24 detectable aroma’s. If you are really exploring this whisky, a smoke will have effect on your nose. Thus making it very hard searching for such fragile distinctions in whisky aroma’s.
Having said this, I can assure you that I like to smoke my pipe or a good long-filler cigar while enjoying my whisky. Even my complex Highland Park 18yo, when I’m just relaxing and enjoying my passions: pipe-smoking and Scotch single malt whisky.

Enjoy your smoke and your drink,

Paul

Whisky and Tobacco (by Paul) – Part 1.

The evening ended on a cozy note...Once in a while, mostly late in the evening when Ellen is already asleep, I like to indulge myself with a glass of good whisky. Often in combination with a pipe. Unfortunately I know very little of this distilled alcoholic beverage that is made from fermented grain mash, only that I like it. What I do know is that I enjoy a glass of peaty 16 year old Lagavulin paired with a pipe filled with leathery, smoky Penzance. Hmm.. I wondered.. Would there be more combinations possible between whisky and tobacco?

Paul

Paul

The man to ask this question to is Paul, who some of you may know from the “Who’s afraid of chemistry part 1 and 2” posts. Besides pipe smoking he also enjoys a good whisky. Well, several good whiskies. Ok, a lot of good whiskies. The man is a walking whisky encyclopaedia and has bottles and bottles of the finest “water of life” at home. Paul also does so called “nosings and tastings” in which, together with a selected group of people, he discusses how to distinguishing smells and tastes with whiskey. He also provides background information about the production process, the components of the distilleries, specificities of whisky, whisky regions and distilleries, wood and barrels, water and peat, boilers, other technical aspects etc. So I asked him to write a post about which whisky goes best with which tobacco. Before I let you read the piece Paul wrote I have to mention that throughout his story I linked to whisky reviews. Now not every reviewer thinks the same about a whisky (the same goes for tobacco) so all opinions and recommendations are Paul’s and are based on his knowledge and vast experience.

1For this article I want to write a bit about one of my other passions besides pipe-smoking: whisk(e)y. Arno has asked me: which whisky goes best with which tobacco? Hmmm, tough question to answer, because one person likes to adjust the tobacco aromas with the whisky aromas and another likes some contrast in tobacco and whisky while enjoying them together.

A LOT of whiskies

A LOT of whiskies

My specific love goes out to the Scotch single malt whiskies, so you will find them in my examples. But in this article I will occasionally mention the Irish and the American whiskeys too; sometimes with a specific brand-name and expression, sometimes as a group. In Scotch single malt whiskies 400 (four hundred) aromas have been found, so you will understand I can only give “some” guidance on brands and expressions. There are about 10.000 – 12.000 Scottish single malt expressions on the market, including the many independent bottlings. A list way too big to insert them all in this article. So please look upon the following tips and names as a first direction you can follow. For specific questions I will gladly be of service to answer anything on the subject of whisk(e)y. You can use the e-mail on my website www.whiskyinfoplus.nl (in Dutch, but you will find the e-mail button).

Well, this is not entirely true Batman..

Well, this is not entirely true Batman..

For the purists on this heavenly brew, who might have noticed the “e” in the name of the drink: Irish and American whiskey is written with the “e” in the name, all the other whisky producing countries spell it without the “e”. If generally mentioned I will write whisky in this article as the Scots do. If I mean specific Irish or American whiskey, you will notice the extra “e”. A final remark upfront: “yo” is not only a rap-word from guys like 50-Cents and others, but stands for “years old”, which is the age statement of the whiskies ageing in the casks.

Bushmills 16yo

AROMATIC BLENDS:

– vanilla and caramel:
Most American Bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys have quite some vanilla/caramel aromas, which go perfectly with a vanilla flavoured tobacco.
As do a lot of Irish whiskeys, such as Bushmills 16 yo, Magilligan 5 yo, Greenore 8 yo and Redbreast 12 yo.
Most Scotch single malts have aged in ex-Bourbon or ex-Tennessee casks and they almost always have aromas like vanilla, caramel and/or butterscotch. Like Glengoyne 12 yo, lots of The Macallan expressions, Deanston 12 yo, The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich single malts up to 15 yo. This also goes for most of the brands from the Speyside region, as long as they have matured on casks formerly used by American whiskey makers.

Drumguish

– honey:
A lot of whiskies can have some honey aromas, i.e. Drumguish (from the Speyside distillery, no age statement on the label), Speyburn Solera (which combines the honey with oranges) or The Macallan Fine Oak 10 yo.

Oban 14 yo

– orange/grape/citrus:
An aroma which also can be found in Scotch single malts, like Oban 14 yo, Speyburn Solera, Old Pulteney 12 yo (grape/orange like aroma) and Fettercairn Fior.

Tomatin 25 yo

– red fruits like berries, raspberry, blackberry, etc.:
Tomatin 25 yo has a few expressions with berry-aromas. Further you have Springbank 13 yo Port Cask, Lochside 10 yo and Glencadam 15 yo.

Glenturret 10 yo

– floral aromas:
Glenturret 10 yo brings out some floral notes, as well as a lot of whiskies which have matured on ex-sherry casks, like Glengoyne, Genfarclas 15 yo, Mannochmore 12 yo, Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 yo, Benriach 12 yo, Aberlour 12 yo and most whiskies which boast “matured in Oloroso/sherry/Pedro Ximenez casks” on the label.

Littlemill 8 yo

VIRGINIA BLENDS:
Almost all of the time an Irish whiskey matches perfectly with Virginia tobacco. There are far over 100 Irish whiskeys, blends, single malts, single grains, pot stilled or continuously distilled whiskeys. All with their own specific character but mostly a bit more “friendly & easy-going” in taste and aroma than the average Scotch single malt. You almost can’t go wrong combining a Virginia tobacco filled pipe with an Irish whiskey.

Scotch whiskies from the Lowlands also combine fine with the light sweet aroma of a lot of Virginia tobaccos. Think of Lowland whiskies like Auchentoshan 12 yo, Littlemill (if you still can find it, the Littlemill 8 yo has a typical aroma of a freshly mowed lawn), Bladnoch and Glenkinchie. But a Speyside region whisky like Knockdhu 12 yo or a young (under 15 yo) Knockando will do just fine as well. Ever tried Highland whiskies like Deanston 12 yo or Dalwhinnie 15 yo to go with your Virginia tobacco? Both, with their heathery and sweet notes, will bring out the sweetness of your Virginia pipe tobacco.

This post continues in part 2.

Zestful Zutphen 2013

Zutphen

Zutphen

With the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum we currently roughly have two big annual meetings. One of those always is held in the city of Zutphen at the beginning of June. Zutphen is very old, it received city-rights between 1191 and 1196, which makes it one of the oldest cities in the country. With my love for history I very much like to look at all the old buildings and wander around there. And smoke a pipe of course.

The store of Willem Schimmel years ago

The store of Willem Schimmel years ago

The place to stay for the Zutphen-meeting is always the store of tobacconist Willem Schimmel. Willem is a very friendly, although a bit chaotic, host who knows the fine trade of being a salesman. He has just has that gut-feeling, is able to tune in on his customers and make them feel very welcome. A rare talent these days. In 1972 at the early age of 21 Willem started his business in the building in the Sprongstraat where he is still located today. Since 1919 a tobacconist is housed there. Originally the business was founded by the Jewish family Gies. Later Bennie Smolders took over and like I said, Willem himself began in 1972.

The store of Willem Schimmel today

The store of Willem Schimmel today

Since the sixties his father had a cigar store in Doetinchem. When Willem came back from military service he initially did not really know what he wanted. But with a lot of support from his parents and the three Smolders brothers he then started the business in Zutphen as a 21-year-old rookie. Willem had it not easy in those early years. Of course he was still young and a stranger in Zutphen, so he really had to prove himself. It was always all about hard work and making long hours. His parents had put their savings in the business and he got 25 guilders pocket money and 15 guilders petrol money, he had to do it with that. His father was a true entrepreneur. At that time Willem had some candy standing on the counter, but if he took one for himself it was expected of him that he would put sixty cents in the cash register. His father would say that he had to sell a few packs of cigarettes for that money.

Willem and his two colleagues

Willem and his two colleagues © K.H. van der Linde

Willem now runs the business with help of two faithful colleagues. After all these years he is still not tired of his profession. He even can call himself now “Maître Pipier”, a prestigious French title in pipe smoking. “What you do, you have to do with passion and I have that for this kind of business.” Willem says. “You have to, because otherwise you can’t properly advise your clients. You have to love the product and possess the desired knowledge.”

The smoking lounge on the first floor

The smoking lounge on the first floor

That degree of specialization, combined with the authentic look of the store probably made that Willem managed to survive. In the early eighties there was a renovation which was followed by a restoration in 2000. There it was tried to do justice to the old building (which dates back to 1724!) in the Sprongstraat and give it an authentic look as much as possible. Willem: “People are coming in here who do not even smoke, but simply want to see how it looks. We have quite a special historic building with an interior design to match that.” Upon entering you see a large wooden counter and high shelves with cigars, cigarettes and pipe-tobacco tins and pouches in all shapes and sizes. Furthermore, in the back of the store is a real climate-room for the storage of cigars. On the first floor is a smoking lounge where customers can sit and smoke and where activities are organised such as workshops and lectures.

The whole group in Zutphen

The whole group in Zutphen © AJ Verstraten

So last Sunday it was once again time for the annual Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum meeting at Willem’s store. Actually it just was a Dutch occasion since no folks from our neighbour country to the South came over. A pity but understandable since it is quite a long drive from the Belgium border to Zutphen. At half past eight in the morning my good friend Ed rang the doorbell to pick me up. We had to be early at the store because I had all the name-badges. Usually we have a bunch of regulars who visit a lot of the meetings (like myself) and know each other but there also always are some newbies. Then it is very handy to see the forum-names and real names on those badges.

Jos in his pipe-smoking coat

Jos in his pipe-smoking coat © K.H. van der Linde

When Ed and I arrived Willem was not even there, his colleagues were preparing the store for the meeting. Besides the folks from the forum, some people from German pipe-brand Vauen, Dutch tobacco-importer Pronk and a German gentleman with pipes and tobacco also were going to be present. Nonetheless we immediately got some hot coffee and cake. Shortly after nine o’clock Willem walked in, shook hands with us and asked how we were doing. We sat down and I lit up my first pipe, some Sweet Vanilla Honeydew to begin the day with. When I took the first puffs Mark (Deadl0ck) entered the store. Together with Willem he had organised the day. While chatting away it suddenly seemed that the grim-reaper had appeared! It turned out to be Jos in his pipe-smoking coat. At the back of it he had glued a large metal sign of his favourite tobacco brand: Troost. For me he brought a mouse-mat with the Hell’s Pipe Smokers design that I made for some forum shirts a while ago and a couple of home-made peanut-butter pots from the Hartog bakery. Yummie!

Monique and Carro © K.H. van der Linde

Monique and Carro © K.H. van der Linde

After a while more and more forum-folks trickled in and the store got filled up with people. Hands were shaken, pipes were drawn and soon the smoking-lounge saw blue of all the smoke. I approached meeting-newbie Carro (Calinero) because he had a book for me. He is a big bald headed man with tattoos and skull jewellery. Carro lives nearby the store which had that book so I asked him if he could buy it for me a week for the meeting. No problem of course. I decided to give him some extra money for his troubles but he stubbornly refused. Such a nice guy! And from Martin I got the tobacco that was the reason to buy the book. But more about this sometime in another post..

On the "Fluisterboot"

On the “Fluisterboot” © K.H. van der Linde

Somewhat after eleven it was time for us to go the harbour where we were going aboard on two “Fluisterboten” (Whispering-boats), arranged by Willem. These boats are navigated through the canals of Zutphen by volunteers while they point out landmarks and buildings and tell all kinds of stories and facts about the city. We were really in luck with the weather, not too hot, not too cold so it was an enjoyable and educational trip. Once in a while we heard the other boat because Jos then blew loud on his brass ship-horn. So if you ever visit Zutphen with a couple of people, go on a “Fluisterboot” and soak up the history, culture and nature of the city.

Huub at the store

Huub welcomes other forum-members at the store © AJ Verstraten

When we came back at Willem’s store all kinds of sandwiches and drinks were waiting for us. Who was also waiting was forum-member Huub, he arrived just to late for the boats. I wanted to meet him for a long time because he is such a walking encyclopaedia of pipes and tobaccos. He was amazed at how many younger people were present at the meeting. “In my time you were seen as old when you put a pipe in your mouth” he said. “Well, we don’t care!” said someone else smiling.

Ed gestures it's ok!

Ed says it’s ok! © K.H. van der Linde

The rest of the afternoon I spent talking to lots of people. And smoking of course. As always you never get to speak all the folks presents but that really does not matter much. There will be other meetings. Who I did talk to was Rob, he showed me an exquisite gold-banded Dunhill billiard and wanted to know from which year it came. And since I am somewhat of a Dunhill-snob I could tell him that. Also present was a guy who brought some (home-blended) whiskies for us to try. A lot of pipe-smokers love whisky. I heard that the man was interested in trying a latakia-blend because he was curious if it resembled the taste of peaty whiskies. He had almost no smoking experience but brought a pipe with him so I fetched my tin of Penzance and filled up his bowl with it. He lit the pipe and I honestly expected the guy to start coughing and seeing green. To my surprise he actually liked the tobacco, he found it very smooth and recognized the peaty flavour. He kept his pipe pretty well lit and began enjoying it even more when the Virginias and orientals kicked in.

Jorg, Ed and a slightly intoxicated (?) Sander at the restaurant © K.H. van der Linde

Jorg, Ed and a slightly intoxicated (?) Sander at the restaurant © K.H. van der Linde

About half past six it was time to go. We shook hands with Willem and his colleagues and thanked them for the wonderful day. Outside the store one part of the forum-folks said goodbye and the other part made their way to restaurant Oriental. I had been there one time before with Mark and Wilfred (Wowbagger). The restaurant has the best spare-ribs in Zutphen and surrounding area. You know, a nice marinade and properly grilled so the bones fall of the meat. Yum-mie! Several other forum members had heard of that visit so we ended up with 15 people there. Luckily Mark had made reservations.. After the meal we all said goodbye and together with Ed I went home full and satisfied.

So thanks to Willem Schimmel & crew and all the folks of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum. I can’t wait until next year!!!

Here are some more pictures of Willem’s store and the meeting:

2

On the “Fluisterboot” © K.H. van der Linde

4

Beautiful nature on the “Fluisterboot” © K.H. van der Linde

5

Walking through Zutphen © K.H. van der Linde

6

Zutphen is very beautiful! © K.H. van der Linde

7

The store was so busy that some forum-folks decided to sit outside © K.H. van der Linde

8

(Other) Rob and Mark © K.H. van der Linde

9

A bunch of pipe-smokers © K.H. van der Linde

10

Pipes and tobacco for sampling © K.H. van der Linde

11

Some Vauen pipes © K.H. van der Linde

IMG_2459

Inside Willem’s store

IMG_2462

Inside Willem’s store

IMG_2469

Rudi and the German gentleman

IMG_2473

Inside Willem’s store

IMG_2477

Inside Willem’s store

17

Jan and Rob © K.H. van der Linde

18

(Other) Rob, Jorg and Teunis © K.H. van der Linde

20

Our forum-photographer Klaas who made most of the pictures

Pleasures of life in Belgium 2013

Being an active member on the Dutch/Belgium pipe-smokers forum is fun. Up to a certain level you get to know a lot of like-minded people. But what is even more fun is meeting them in real life! Internet is fine but nothing can substitute actual human contact. So some people from the forum organize a meeting once in a while. And I really thank them for that because it is a LOT of work.

Jan (forum nickname "Paasei" which means "easter-egg". Noo idea where the name comes from ;)

Jan (forum nickname “Paasei” which means “easter-egg”. Nooo idea where the name comes from ;))

Last Saturday we had a meeting in the Belgium town of Wuustwezel. It was organized by forum member Jan (nickname “Paasei”, which translates as “easter-egg”) and his wife.  They had been busy with it for months and on the day before the meeting… Jan’s father died.. Of course the man was devastated. He saw it coming but when it happened it still was very hard to cope with. Nonetheless he wanted the meeting to go on. So some of the participating members put their heads together and in no time all the tasks were divided. A great example of the camaraderie of the forum.

A few minutes before 10 AM Ed (forum nickname St Patrick) rang my doorbell. He was going to pick me up because he drives almost for free; a car from his business, very handy. I just made coffee (essential on an early morning) and we chatted away while I packed my stuff (read: pipes and tobacco).

Mark (Deadl0ck)

Mark (Deadl0ck)

At 10.45 AM we picked up Mark (forum nickname Deadl0ck) at the train station of Deventer. He has no car and public transport all the way to Belgium was not an option. We had space left in the car so.. The more the merrier! Mark is a BIG guy and luckily he has got a heart to match that. Both Ed and me were very glad we took him with us.

Bellekeshoeve at Wuustwezel

Bellekeshoeve at Wuustwezel

After a 2 hour ride we arrived at Wuustwezel. The meeting was held at a farm in the outskirts of the town. There was a large room complete with beer-bar besides the building. Very nice! We opened the door and were overwhelmed by the warmth of both the room and the people. To my surprise Jan was present. He already had arranged a lot for the funeral and was glad he was able to make it. A welcome distraction for him and his wife.

I wanted to buy a beer but only after an hour of non-stop chatting I was able to do it. Talking about beer, we Dutch may be (in)famous for weed but the Belgium claim to fame are their more than excellent beers. Dutch beer, German beer, English beer, Irish beer etc. forget it. Belgium beer is THE best. And that was proven once again by the lovely ladies behind the beer-bar. I had a Vlaamse Leeuw (never had it before) and drank it for the rest of the day.

Jorg (Sidekickelvis)

Jorg (Sidekickelvis)

It always amazes me how many different types of people come to a meeting. Not only old and young, rich and not so rich (like me hehehe), small and large but also real characters. A member new to meetings was Jorg (forum nickname Sidekickelvis). Hair straight to the back, curled moustache, vest with pocket watch and that combined with a jovial personality and a booming voice made it easy for me to remember him.

The generosity of forum members often knows no limits. I was chatting with Klaas (forum nickname Upper Ten), he is a pensioned man and smokes pipes for quite a while. He complimented me with this blog and said he learned so much from me. Out of gratitude for that he presented a vintage tin of De Graaff Abu Riha to me. I was flabbergasted! I smoked it once before and it is my favourite latakia flake (even better then Penzance). Unfortunately it is not made any more. I know that Klaas only has a few tins left of it so his gift meant a lot to me.

Paul (Winslow Collector) and Gaëtan (Jarnogab) comparing pipes

Paul (Winslow Collector) and Gaëtan (Jarnogab) comparing pipes

Also near the end of the meeting I walked over to Paul (forum nickname Winslow Collector). Besides a devoted aromatics smoker and free-thinker Paul is a whisky expert. He brought some (expensive!) bottles with him so everyone could try some. I already had a glass with dinner (more about that in a minute) but now he was gathering his belongings. There was half a bottle of 12 years old Springbank Cask Strength left. “Ah, that is something for you”, Paul said. “Slightly peaty, you’re going to like it. Here, take the bottle. I can’t use it for a whisky tasting any more”. “Ehm, take the bottle? Still half-full? You’re sure?” I asked. And he was sure. So nice of him!

Belgium sausage rolls

Belgium sausage rolls

At 16.30 PM dinner was served. Jan had arranged for the local bakery to bring some kind of sausage rolls. Puff pastry with one or two tasty sausages inside. A real belly-filler, yummie! Fortunately I pre-ordered more than I could eat so I was able to take some of the food home for Ellen, my girlfriend. The next day at home we both enjoyed the Belgium sausage rolls again.

Pacco and Carl from the movie "Up"

Pacco and Carl from the movie “Up”

Pipe smokers often have a good sense of humour. One of the Belgium members is Ghislain (wonderful name, forum nickname is Pacco). An enthusiastic small elderly man with big black glasses and one of the most tuneful accents I’ve ever heard. In the days after the meeting somebody said that he looked a lot like Carl from the movie “Up“. To illustrate that he put together a picture of Ghislain and Carl who indeed bear a striking resemblance.

Sander (Hagar666) and Sofie

Sander (Hagar666) and Sofie

Like all men most pipe smokers like women. And behind the beer-bar stood a pretty example of the female species called Sofie. I am a lover of Belgium women (love the accent, they can even arouse me by reading the phone-book out loud) but Sander (forum nickname Hagar666) took a special liking towards Sofie. Sander is well known for smoking out of a pink poker pipe. It is just his style. 50’s, 60’s, bright colours, flame tattoos and loud music. And also for a big part the style of Sofie. So with twinkling eyes and a big smile Sander flirted away with our beer-girl. He even got her to take a picture with him and her while she lurked on a pipe. Nice sight.

And so the hours flew away until it was time to go, hora ruit tempus fluit. I thanked everyone who was left and in special Jan. He stayed all day and was really tired. Respect! When I wanted to walk out the door I was called back by Robbin (forum nickname Robb). I totally forgot to take all of my pipes with me.. Whoops.. Maybe it was the beer.

Janneman staring at the snow

Janneman staring at the snow

Ed and I decided to bring Mark home, in Zutphen, and to have one last drink in Mark’s favourite pub. A beer pub with the music I like (hard rock/metal) and… where you can smoke! Very rare in The Netherlands. So I will be back there pretty soon!
After the beer Ed brought me home through the snow. Snow that unfortunately prevented Janneman (the pater noster of the forum) from coming to the meeting. He only rides a motorcycle and with slippery snow that is not an option. But luckily for him and the other forum members there will be other meetings!

Rudi

Pipes and tobacco salesman Rudi

13

People chatting away at the beer-bar

11

Martin Romijn, his son and another Sander (Culann)

9

Robbin and me

8

Forum administrator Shaun (Nekker) and Jan

6

Me babbling away once again..

5

Floris (Godewinus), Peter (Eliminator) and Ed

3

Tobacco pouches for sale by Rudi

2

Tobacco tins for sale by Rudi

The large room inside the Bellekeshoeve

The large room inside the Bellekeshoeve

Rudi and me talking

Rudi and me talking

24

You really should try that whisky!

23

Smile before the camera

22

Me talking once again

21

Cheers!

20

Roger (Generaal) and his wife Chris. Lovely couple!

18

The lovely ladies of the beer-bar

17

Richard (Luys) and Jos (Whitesnake) talking

16

There even was a poker-game

15

Rob (Robvoorburg) and Sander (Hagar666)

19

Jan thanks everyone for coming

Latakia Lover

Latakia

Latakia tobacco

Yes I admit.. I am a lover of the dark leaf that many pipe smokers love and even more wives and girlfriends hate: latakia. But I did not always like it..

fire_curedFirst something about latakia. What is NOT used in the process of making it is camel dung.. Many people think that because of the odour it gives when it is burned. Also latakia is not a ready tobacco. It is an oriental from which the leaves are hung above a smouldering fire so long that the leaves go from a light colour to dark brown or even black. Hence the name, the dark leaf.

Part of the Latakia port in 1935

Part of the Latakia port in 1935

Like so many things the discovery of latakia was unintentionally. Somewhere in the 1800’s in the northern part of Syria near the port city Latakia a bumper crop of tobacco was left in the storage attic of a house for many months where it was exposed to household fires and smoke. The following spring the unique flavouring and taste of the left behind tobacco was discovered. At the beginning of the 20th century latakia was used to spice up the then popular Turkish cigarettes. Later when ordinary domestic cigarettes rose in popularity the use of the dark leaf declined. Now it is only found in pipe tobacco blends.

There are 2 kinds of latakia: Syrian and Cyprian.

Shekk-el-bint leaves drying

Shekk-el-bint leaves drying

Syrian latakia is derived from a tobacco leaf known as “shekk-el-bint.” When it is harvest time the plant is cut and the leaves and flowers are laid on the ground to dry in the sun. When they have dried they are taken to storehouses, where they are smoked for a period of 13 to 15 weeks. The smoke is made by primarily using nearby hardwoods and pines, probably from the Baer forest, such as Aleppo pine, Turkey oak and Valonia oak. Also lesser amounts of other aromatic species like Lebanon cedar and Greek Juniper were used. When all is ready the tobacco is known as latakia and is referred to by the Syrians as “Abourihm,” which translates as “king of flavour”. Regarding taste Syrian latakia has a mellow, wine-like, wood-like character. Famous writer Charles Dickens was a big fan of Syrian latakia: “Syria provided the finest tobacco  in the world, the Latakia, in the neighbourhood of the ancient and renowned port of Laodicea (Latakia) at the foot of Mount Lebanon. And as Syria provides the finest tobacco in the world, the Prince of Syria, the Emir Bekir, had the reputation one most deservedly, of furnishing to his guests a pipe of tobacco far more complete than any which could be furnished by any rival potentate in the East.

Prime example of a blend with Cyprian latakia: Penzance

Prime example of a blend with Cyprian latakia: Penzance

Cyprian latakia comes from a Smyrna or Izmir-type tobacco plant that is known as “Yellow Cyprus.” The Yellow Cyprus leaves are harvested by de-stalking them and are made on long poles to be hung in a tobacco shed. The leaves are then smoked over open smouldering fires. These fires are made from hardwoods, some pine and aromatic shrubs and woods such as prickly cedar and myrtle. It has been reported that the Mastic shrub is primarily used in the smoke generation for Cyprian latakia. The following formula may approximate the shrubs and woods used for the fire/smoke-curing process: Mastic 90%, Myrtle 4%, Stone pine (this one or this one) 4%, Cypress 1%, Other 1%. The taste of Cyprian latakia is more assertive, sweet and leathery.

blendingWhen you mix latakia with other tobaccos you have to be careful. Although some others like to smoke it almost pure.. With percentages around 3% to 5% you just start to notice latakia. The sweetness of the Cyprian variant comes alive around 10%. The wine-like character of the Syrian variant begins to emerge at 10% to 12% until it dominates the blend around 30% to 35%. The maximum of Cyprian latakia is around 40% to 50%. However, higher percentages (60%) are possible but then a very skilful blending hand is needed.

Peterson Old Dublin

Peterson Old Dublin

I first read about latakia in Janneman’s Pijpenboek. I was growing a bit tired of all the aromatic tobaccos I was smoking. I wanted to taste something new. And I got just that.. My first choice of a mixture with latakia was Peterson Old Dublin simply because it was the only one that the Rokado tobacconist had in stock. At home I anxiously opened the tin and smelled the contents. Whooaahh!!! My nose went open instantaneously. What the……. “Does anyone smoke this??” I thought.. “Wel ok, let’s give it a try.” I picked a Peterson (how fitting), filled it up and lit it. Whooaahh again!! Like smoking wood from a fireplace! I did not really enjoy that first bowl but I was intrigued. After a couple of pipes I liked it a bit more but I still had some reservations. On a visit in Germany I bought a tin of Dunhill Nightcap. “Let’s try that one, maybe it is better.” Well, it was not.. Way too much nicotine for me at that point. I got sick and put the latakia mixture tins aside.

PS_BSA couple of months later a pipe of me was fixed by a fellow pipe-smoker from Belgium. As a payment he wanted tobacco in stead of money. I knew he liked latakia and I wanted to give him something special. So for the first time I ordered some blends from The States. Peter Stokkebye Balkan Supreme and McClelland 3 Oaks Syrian to be precise. Balkan Supreme came in a zip-lock bag which I put on a shelf in the kitchen. One evening I sat in the living room and suddenly I smelled something very nice. “What is that??” I wondered. I followed my nose to… The zip-lock bag with Balkan Supreme. Of course I could not smoke it, it was the payment for the fixed pipe. But when I visited the fellow pipe-smoker I asked if I could try the tobacco. And luckily I could. It was di-vine! Quickly I ordered a bag of Balkan Supreme for myself.

Old tin of Balkan Sobranie

Old tin of Balkan Sobranie

From then on my love of the dark leaf and the search for new (and vintage) latakia mixtures began. In the time that followed I was able to smoke classic vintage mixtures like Balkan Sobranie Original Mixture, Balkan Sobranie Mixture 759, State Express London Mixture, De Graaff Kegelbaan, Smoker’s Haven Exotique and many more.

Nowadays recommended latakia mixtures are:
– 4noggins: Britt’s Balkan
– Ashton: Artisan’s Blend*, Consummate Gentleman*
Balkan Sobranie Original Smoking Mixture (by J.F. Germain)
– Charles Faimorn: Lancer’s Slices
– Cornell & Diehl: Star of the East flake, Red Odessa
– DTM: Midnight Ride, Bill Bailey’s Balkan Blend, Old Ironsides
– Dunhill: Nightcap*, Early Morning Pipe*, Standard Mixture Mellow*, My Mixture 965*, London Mixture*
– Esoterica Tobacciana: Penzance, Margate
– GL Pease: Abingdon, Lagonda, Westminster, Odyssee, Samarra, Ashbury
– Hearth & Home: Magnum Opus
– HU Tobacco: Brullende Leeuw, Balkan Passion, My Special One, Olaf’s Favourite English, Khoisaan, Masai, Tuarekh, Tigray, Zulu
MacBaren HH Vintage Syrian
– McClelland: Frog Morton, Blue Mountain, Wilderness, Old Dog
Peterson Old Dublin*
– Peter Stokkebye: Balkan Sasieni, Balkan Supreme
Presbyterian Mixture
– Rattray: Black Mallory*, Red Rapparee*
– Robert McConnell: Scottish Blend*
– Samuel Gawith: Squadron Leader, Skiff Mixture, Perfection*
Sillem’s Black (one of the only aromatic latakia mixtures)
Solani Blend 779 Gold*

* Available in The Netherlands

UPDATE 15-06-2017:

IMG_0762

Cyprian pipe maker Yiannos Kokkinos and my friend

Recently a good friend of mine went on holiday to Cyprus. Amongst other things he wanted to score some Cyprian latakia. After a visit to pipe-maker Yiannos Kokkinos he was directed to the West of the island to a village called Neo Chorio. Because there, in the Akamas region between Neo Chorio and the town of Polis were the tobacco fields where the Yellow Cyprus was grown. WAS grown yes. Several locals said in interviews (my friend had an interpreter with him) that 10 to 15 years ago tobacco production stopped in Cyprus. According to them nowadays the “Cyprian” latakia is produced in the Izmir region of Turkey. Afterwards it is shipped to the Turkish part of Cyprus where it is sold to tobacco brokers as Cyprian latakia. Luckily the quality has not been compromised because of this, I mean, I have not hear anyone complaining that their Cyprian latakia blends tasted worse than before. This story has been confirmed by Per Jensen of MacBaren.