Farewell, Old Friend

4th September, 2012: Posted by glpease in Editorial

It is with deep sorrow that I share some sad news. Craig Tarler, beloved friend and colleague, passed from this earth today at the age of 82. I’ve spent much of the day in contemplation, trying to figure out how to process this, and much of the evening drinking in a feeble attempt to dull the sharp edge of loss. None of it has worked, and I’m having a hard time finding words.

Our relationship over the past 14 years has been more than just business, and more than just friendship. He and Patty have been very much like family to me. We’ve shared a great deal through those years, have been through some great times together, and some rough ones. We’ve collaborated on blends, and helped each other with business decisions. We’ve laughed a lot, and endured each other’s bad jokes. We’ve talked politics and religion (things you can only comfortably discuss with those you know will forgive you afterwards), concocted schemes, solved the world’s problems, fought like cats and dogs, shared our dreams, and all the other things friends and families do when they know it’s safe to do so. When I was younger, an overly enthusiastic young bull wanting to charge down the hill, he taught me to slow down a little, walk down and “get ‘em all.” (Those who knew him may recognize the punch line from one of his favourite jokes.) I am indebted to him for all the help he’s freely given over the years, in business, and in life. He could be a real curmudgeon at times, but he always had a heart of gold, and I will miss him deeply.

Time will soothe the sting, and business will continue under the guidance of Craig and Patty’s son Chris, but I will always miss those morning phone calls. “Hi, Greg. It’s Craig.”

Requiescat in pace, old friend. May your star shine brightly, and your pipe always be sweet.

Out, Damned Spot!

14th March, 2012: Posted by glpease in Pipes, Technique

I originally wrote this article for the now long out of print Pipe Friendly Magazine, where it appeared in Vol. 5 No. 4 (1999). I later republished it in the Essays section of my site, and have subsequently migrated it here to the Chronicles for easier access and searchability. -glp

For years, I’ve collected estate pipes, appreciating their history, the value they represent, and lamenting the fact that some of the old marques are just no longer of the same quality they once were. Generally, I’ve had excellent luck bringing old pipes back to life, restoring them to their former aesthetic beauty, and enjoying some wonderful smokes in them. Sometimes, though, a pipe that can be made beautiful may not end up being a good smoke. There are myriad reasons for this, some having to do with the way the pipe was cared for by its prior owner. If the shank is coated with a thick residue of tars, if the bowl is soured, if the cake is too think, too spongy, the pipe won’t smoke well. Fortunately, these afflictions are easy to remedy with the proper application of some alcohol, some pipe cleaners, and a good reaming.

Other times, it’s the memory of the previous owner’s tobacco that lingers in the pipe, invading the bliss of our own favored smoke, rattling its chains and howling, each bowl reminding us that the ghost of something else is there, haunting our pipe. This same thing can happen any time when we change from one style of tobacco to another, especially from a heavily flavored aromatic tobacco to a more natural English style blend. The result can be a less-than-harmonious relationship with a briar. Read more…»

Limited Disappointment

28th September, 2011: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Editorial

As I write this, I’m puffing on a Castello filled with one of the two limited edition blends I did for the 2011 NASPC show. It’s the eleventh year I’ve had the privilege of doing this, and it continues to be a real honor. Working with John on the concepts and creating the blends is always fun. But, it’s not without its pitfalls. When one of the blends is particularly exciting, at least to me, knowing there will only be a couple hundred tins of it can be a little vexing. I really like this one. Of course, I’ve got a few tins of the prototype, so it’s not like I won’t be able to enjoy it for a while, and save a tin or two for years to come. So, what’s the problem?

I never really crow about these, even when I think they’re something a little special, because all that can come of it is frustration. Only a few people - those who go to the show and are quick to pick up their tins before they sell out, or those willing to pay ridiculous prices on ebay - will have the opportunity to try them. And, if the past is any indication, some of those who do get tins won’t even smoke them. (A couple years ago, the stuff showed up at auction even before the show was over, ultimately selling for five times the show price. Absurd.) Read more…»

Size Matters

2nd August, 2011: Posted by glpease in Editorial

“Matters. Is that the intransitive verb form of the word, or the noun form?” It’s both. I need to rant. Just a little. Sometimes, I’m told, it’s good for the soul, and I’m hoping this will be one of those times.

See, I made the decision early in my business to package my tobaccos in 2oz quantities, and later in 8oz, which is 13% more tobacco than the much more common 50g and 200g tins. I’ve stuck to my Imperial Avoirdupois guns ever since, despite some not insignificant pressure to change to Metric measures to more easily accommodate export sales. (Truthfully, internally, I’m all metric anyway, but have to convert to English measures for manufacture. It would actually be easier to just stay metric through the whole process, but that’s another story.) Read more…»

What is a Balkan Blend?

14th April, 2011: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Tobacco Commentary, Editorial

This article was originally published on 30th July, 2010, as my inaugural Out of the Ashes column for PipesMagazine.com. It is reprinted here with permission of the publisher. -glp

In the on-line pipe communities, there is often passionate conversation about the classification of blend types, and in these discussions, the most impenetrable clouds of mystery seem to swirl around those blends containing Latakia. What is an “English” mixture, and how can one be distinguished from a “Balkan” style blend? The problem is that both of these terms, despite broad usage, are somewhat ambiguous, at best, and, worse, the commonly held notions of what they mean is just plain backwards. And, yes, I’ll admit up front to being one of the early champions of this wrong-headedness. What? Read on.

It seems fairly clear that the term “Balkan” as a blend descriptor derives from the legendary Balkan Sobranie, and came into common usage as a way to describe tobaccos that are similar in character. That’s not really a problem, but, subsequent discussion of what this term might mean has led us down an entirely wrong path. A “Balkan” blend simply isn’t what it’s often said to be. Read more…»

JackKnife Plug

18th January, 2011: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Technique, Product News

The good news is, JackKnife hit the shelves of one close-to-the-source retailer a week ago Friday. The bad news is, they sold out in less than an hour. More bad news is that inclement weather, by way of snow storms, kept folks out of the factory for a couple of days, which held up shipments. But, fortunately, there’s more good news, too; the shipments will begin going out regularly tomorrow, and many retailers will be getting theirs soon. I hope. I’ve heard rumours of a torch and pitchfork brigade forming, and I’ve been a bit lax in the maintenance of the fortifications.

All that to say that when a new product is released, it takes time to fill the pipelines, but everyone is working hard on it. Promise. That’s the news. Now I’ll spend the rest of this entry talking a little about the tobacco, itself. Read more…»

A Tale of Two Latakias

4th January, 2011: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Tobacco Commentary

Author’s Note:

This article was originally written for the now out of print Pipe Friendly Magazine, where it was published sometime in 1998, in Vol. 5 No. 2 of that magazine. I then republished it in the Articles section of the G.L. Pease website. I’m gradually moving those articles here where they can be searched, annotated, commented upon, and kept in a single archive. I figured this was a good one to start with.

A lot has happened since this originally appeared, including the loss, again, of Syrian Latakia, the subsequent “discovery” of some wonderful, vintage leaf, the creation of the almost legendary Bohemian Scandal, and then, my supply of that magnificent tobacco’s early demise in a tragic warehouse blaze. Today, there are a few tobaccos claiming to use Syrian Latakia, and fewer that actually do. I should probably make a major revision of this, and may in time, but for now, it is presented as originally written. As you read, please keep in mind that it was originally penned about 12 years ago, and much has changed!

—glp January, 2011

Introduction

For many years, Syrian Latakia has been virtually unobtainable. We’ve heard many lament the passing of this noble leaf, often accompanied by a feeling that if Syrian Latakia were still available, everything would suddenly be right in the world of tobacco. But, this delusion is certainly not limited to our Lady Nicotine. In our quest for the Arcadia Mixture of olde, we often seem to lose sight of the fact that things of the past often become more precious once they are no longer available to us. (This is one of the tragedies of art; an artist is rarely fully recognized, financially, for his or her talent until their death assures us that no more work will be produced, thus rendering priceless what was once merely acclaimed - or in some cases, just odd.)

In our collective mourning over the absence of the sacred Syrian, it becomes easy to take for granted what we do have. What about the fine leaf from Cyprus? With Syrian Latakia once again finding its way into our pipes, perhaps it is a good time to examine briefly the world of Latakia in general. Taking a little closer look at each type will offer us the opportunity to gain a new perspective on both varieties of this wonderfully smoky, noble weed.
Read more…»

New Year, New Decade, New Pricing

30th December, 2010: Posted by glpease in Editorial, Product News

As 2010 comes to a close, and with it the first decade of G.L. Pease (hard to believe!) I’d like to thank everyone for their wonderful and loyal support throughout the years, for all the kindnesses shown through hard times, and for the friendships that have been made as a result of my little tobacco venture. It’s been a wild ride, for sure, and a fun one. I’m looking forward to 2011, and to the beginning of our second decade. There are some exciting things in the works, including the upcoming JackKnife Plug, and many more in the planning stage. If it’s half as fun as the last ten years has been, it’s going to be a blast.

Unfortunately, there’s some less pleasnt news to share. We’ve been looking at all the cost increases we’ve had, and those we’re facing, and have had to make the difficult decision to raise prices slightly. Everything has gone up—labels, tins, leaf—so, effective 7th January, 2011, the price of all 2oz and 8oz tins will increase by 50¢, and 1lb tins will go up $1.50. It’s not a big increase, we’ve held it to the absolute minimum necessary, but it will help to offset rising costs, while still providing the value that our Imperial Packaging offers. (When comparing prices with other brands, remember that our 2oz and 8oz tins deliver almost 13% more tobacco than the now more standard metric packaging of 50g and 200g.)

Wishing everyone a safe, happy and prosperous New Year! See you in 2011.

Secrets Revealed

9th December, 2010: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Product News

It’s time to lift the veil of suspense. A lot of you have been really close with your guesses, some, frighteningly so. (I scanned my lab for hidden cameras and checked my phone for bugs, and found nothing. I’m beginning to wonder if you guys are into remote viewing or something.) Now, it’s time for the reveal.

What you see in the photo is the final production prototype of the new blend as it comes, and hand-prepared three different ways; sliced, sliced and rubbed out, and cube-cut. The blend comprises both bright and red flue-cured, and dark-fired kentucky leaf. What’s unique about this plug is the way it’s made. The dark tobaccos surround a central core of the brights. This is not just a cosmetic choice. By producing it this way, the slightly zesty sweetness of the golden tobaccos is less influenced by the earthiness of the darker leaf. They still interact with one another, of course, but there’s a purity to the bright’s flavors that gets muddled if it’s just mixed in randomly with the rest of the leaf. The difference is subtle, but certainly noticeable. It’s more labor intensive, requiring more care and precision to do it this way, but the results are absolutely worth it.

This one has been a long time coming. I’ve had more requests than I can count to make a plug, and to make some stronger blends. I was finally pushed over the top when a friend back east sent me some interesting plug, instructing me to smoke it after a heavy meal. I was smitten. There’s something about playing with the tobacco, cutting it, rubbing it out, preparing it for smoking, that connects us more closely with the whole process. A plug like this can be sliced thick or thin, so the smoker gains complete control over the way it will pack and burn. It’s quite rewarding. (And, since I did ultimately wake up from the nicotine induced hallucinations resulting from smoking my friend’s gift, I figured it was well worth exploring this further.)

JackKnife Plug isn’t a casual smoke, at least for me. There’s enough strength in those blocks to deserve serious respect. But, the taste and aroma are fantastic.

Here’s the description from the label:

JackKnife Plug - dark-fired Kentucky leaf and ripe red Virginia tobaccos, with their deep, earthy flavors, are layered on a central core of golden flue-cured for a hint of bright sweetness, then pressed and matured in cakes, and finally cut into 2oz blocks. Slice it thick and rub it out for a ribbon cut, thin for a shag, or chop it into cubes. The choice is yours.

JackKnife Plug is the first blend in my New World Collection. I’ve got some other goodies planned and in the works, so stay tuned for more. Now, I’m just waiting for label proofs from the printer, so I can make final adjustments there. Production has been scheduled, and we’re looking forward to a mid-January availability. And, there will be some new things coming for the Old London Series later in 2011, as well.

Exciting times!

-glp

Keeping Secrets

5th November, 2010: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Editorial

I’ve just gotten off the telephone with C&D. We’ve been working on a couple of things, and Chris rang to tell me the latest prototype of one of them was being shipped out today. I’m having a hard time containing myself—this is really exciting for me. And, I’m not going to tell you what it is.

I’ll say just a little. Up to this point, this has only been an idea. I’ve done some experiments, explored different components in the blend, gotten the proportions of the various tobaccos close, but until this new sample arrives, I have only a hint how the final product is going to look, taste, smell. And, I can’t wait. I’m hoping it’s going to at least approach expectations.

This is something rather different from anything I’ve done before. The combination of blending components is a little different for me, and the production methods are different, and the result, I hope, is going to be very different. And, there’s the very real possibility that it might be a complete flop. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had a wild hare in my bonnet (metaphors intentionally mixed to protect those with more delicate sensibilities) before, have spent weeks in development, only to emerge from the other end of the tunnel with something almost completely wrong. Of course, these times are not wasted. Often the greatest knowledge comes from experiments gone wrong, so I take my notes and move on to the next thing. And, no one, until now, ever knows about these less-than-successful attempts.

But this is so different, and so exciting, I just can’t help but share some of my enthusiasm. Even though I’m still keeping secrets.

I’ll try to be patience, awaiting the arrival of my parcel from North Carolina. It’ll probably need a little adjustment before it’s really ready to go into production, but that’s the way of things. I’m just hoping it’s not a complete flop. If it is, you’ll probably never read another word about it. If not, watch this space for developments!

-glp

P.S. No latakia in this one. None. Not a trace.

And The Winner Is…

21st September, 2010: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Product News

Naming a product is never an easy thing for me; there are so many things to consider in the process. Is the name memorable? Will it kindle some sort of association with the blend itself? Does it fit with the brand’s perceived image, or the series to which the blend is destined? Will it fit on the label, and be legible when it’s on the retailers’ shelves? I’m far from an expert in these things, and I’ve made some mistakes, but having been through it a few times, I’ve learned a little about the art. It isn’t really any easier, now, but at least, I have gained some appreciation for why it’s so hard.

However, as challenging as naming a product is, judging this contest turned out to be harder; there were some really fantastic entries, names that I really liked, but in the end, there can be only one, and as I read through them again and again, the task of narrowing it down began to seem impossible. When you consider that I’ve had the advantage of smoking quite a bit of this blend, and know its inner secrets, I can sort of “feel” what fits it. The contest entrants, on the other hand, had only my loose description of the blend to work with. Despite this, many did an admirable job of capturing the idea. This doesn’t help the judging much.

See, I was hoping that a single, perfect name would leap off the page, do a little pirouette in the air in front of my screen, sing, “Pick me” in a sonorous alto, and the whole thing would be over. It was a nice dream, but things rarely work out so simply. Read more…»

Contest Announcement - Name the New Blend!

8th September, 2010: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Product News

As mentioned in an item in the soon to be defunct News page a few days ago, a new blend in the Old London Series is being readied for release. We’re all hoping to have it out in time for introduction at the CORPS show in Richmond in October. Those who read the news item may recall that I’d mentioned a contest. I know I’m asking for trouble with this, but here it is.

First, a little about the blend. This one has somewhat less Latakia than Quiet Nights, though the inclusion of more orientals and a deep red virginia backbone gives it a dark and rich presence. I’d call it a medium latakia mixture, with a very classic taste profile and a wonderful aroma. It’s more earthy and savory than sweet, and the orientals provide a lingering, fragrant smoke. It’s not as heavy as Westminster, not as tangy as Chelsea Morning. I’d think of it as orbiting the same planet as Charing Cross or Kensington without being really like either of them. It’s a wonderful addition to the series. I’ve smoked this one at all times of the day, but it seems most ideal for afternoons. If I were to attach it to the weather, it would be a crisp autumn day. Read more…»


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