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…»

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…»

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…»

Cyprian or Syrian? (Part II)

9th February, 2010: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Editorial

Since The Fire, there have been more than a few samples of “Syrian Latakia” arriving in my postbox from various suppliers. Some have been no more Syrian than I am. Others have been of such low quality I wouldn’t use the stuff to smoke fish. “We found this ‘vintage’ leaf in an old warehouse. Do you want some?” No, thanks. “Why not?” Um. It’s awful, m’kay?

Though there are blends being produced that do actually contain Syrian leaf, there are some that profess to, but I find some of these claims suspect. Yes, I know what the labels, importers, sellers and other pipe smokers say, but I remain convinced that some of these blend have Syrian Latakia in them in the same way that Churchill’s martinis contained vermouth: “I would like to observe the vermouth from across the room while I drink my martini.” Read more…»

Cyprian or Syrian? (Part I)

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

I’m going to grumble a little. And possibly even rant. It’s my column. I can do that. No one will criticize the reader for stopping here, but there may be something informative, and my grumblings can occasionally be amusing, if not downright endearingly sharp-witted, so you may want to read on anyway, forewarned of what is likely to come.

The past five years have hosted continued discussion about the availability of Syrian Latakia, why can’t I get any, who has it, what blends it’s in, why some manufacturers seem to have no problems with supply, whether or not the whole warehouse fire situation was a ruse, and on and on. There seem to be a great many experts who know more about the supply of unobtainable leaf than I do. If you really know someone in whose basement bales of this mysterious supply of Syrian leaf are sequestered, please, be so kind as to make an introduction so I can get some. Seriously. Read more…»

Befriending those Beguiling Virginias

29th January, 2010: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Technique

A great virginia can be a wonderful smoke, but for many of us, at least for me, getting the most from the experience doesn’t always come easily, or instantly. I recently read a post on one of the forums written by a fellow who enjoyed many mixtures, and liked the sweetness he experienced in virginias, but lamented that, for the most part, that sweetness is only delivered in hints. I can relate. One of the reasons I was a dedicated Latakiaphile for so long was this very phenomenon. I’d puff a bowl of virginia, enjoy it for a while, but before the end of the bowl, I’d find the experience lacking. Where did the flavour go? Where was all that sweetness I was promised?

The sweetness of a tobacco has to do with the levels of sugar in the leaf. This can be naturally occurring, as in some virginias, and especially bright leaf, or added, as is the case with many virginia blends. It’s not uncommon to find sugar levels of 20-25% in bright leaf, and if the tobaccos are cased, it can be even higher. Sugar equals sweetness, right? Read more…»

When the Door is Ajar - Opening Aging Blends

28th January, 2010: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Science

The following question is paraphrased from one that was asked on one of the forums today. I suspect it’s a fairly commonly asked question, and figured it had a place here in the Chronicles, along with my response.

Does it ruin the aging process to open a jar once in a while to sample? Should I only open the jar when I’m ready to smoke the entire contents?

Ruin it? No. Change it? Absolutely.

The biological and organic reactions that are taking place in the tin/jar alter the little sealed environment. Gasses are being consumed (especially O2) and generated (CO2) by biological processes, and further organic reactions are taking place more slowly, depending on what’s present in that environment. The instant that seal is broken, there’s a rapid exchange of air with the surrounding environment, and everything — everything — that was going on before is going to change. Different reactions will begin — not necessarily bad ones, just different.

It will never be the same again. It cannot be. If you take two jars, age them for a year, open one and re-seal it, then come back in another year, you’ll find two different tobaccos. The will probably not be dramatically different, but they’ll certainly be noticeably different, and if you extend those times - five years and five years, for instance, the divergence of the two samples will be much more dramatic. Read more…»


« Previous entries ·