Throwdown 2012 : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Throwdown 2012

•2nd annual blending competition features vintage John Cotton•

Many of us mourn the loss of favorite great tobaccos of the past. Tins of vintage pipe blends fetch exorbitant amounts on eBay as tobacco lovers try to recapture smoking experiences that have long disappeared. But what if the most talented tobacco blenders tried to reconstitute a great tobacco and bring back to life what has been lost to the world?

That premise inspired the Balkan Sobranie Throwdown last year. Held at the Chicago pipe show, three of the world’s finest blenders entered their renditions of the famous and much-missed tobacco—and the results were remarkable.  So popular was the event, and so impressive the submissions, that the competition is to be repeated this year. The challenge? To recreate another lost legend: John Cotton 1&2.

The Seattle and New York Pipe Clubs, organizers of the 2011 Balkan Sobranie Throwdown, have announced the event and tobacco enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the competition.

The contestants this year are Steven Books of the House of Calabash, Dick Silverman of Chief Catoonah, and Leonard Wortzel of Lane Limited.  Moving over to the judge’s bench this year will be 2011’s Grand Prize Winner Russ Ouellette. Also on the judge’s panel will be Marty Pulvers, and Neill Archer Roan of  “I can’t wait to experience the tobaccos that the blender-contestants create in response to the John Cotton Throwdown. Must-have blends will be coming to our cellars soon,” said Roan.

Judges and blenders have been given identical samples of 28-year-old John Cotton 1&2 tobacco. The blenders have been utilizing their vast experience and talent to recapture the original blend. Of course, this is an aged tobacco with unknown ingredients, so the challenge is significant. The entries will be compared to the original sample and evaluated according to four criteria: taste, look, aroma and overall smoking qualities. 

The judging will be blind: the judges won’t know whose blend is whose and the entries will be identified only as X, Y and Z. In the weeks leading up to the show the judges will sample the entries and evaluate how closely each comes to the original John Cotton 1&2, awarding each up to 100 points. The results will be tallied by the organizers prior to a panel discussion between the blenders and judges. Finally, the judges’ choice for the Grand Prize Winner will be revealed at the conclusion of the hour-long event.

Sutliff Tobacco Company, an Altadis company, is the John Cotton Throwdown underwriter this year.

The 2012 John Cotton Throwdown will take place at the Chicago Show in the Pheasant Run smoking tent at 5pm on Saturday, May 5th.  Everyone at the show is welcome to attend but a full tent is expected so early arrival is advised.  Free samples of the three contestant tobaccos will be distributed in the MegaCenter on Friday and Saturday mornings until supplies are gone. Accompanying each sample packet will be a ballot so that show attendees can vote for their favorite of the three blends; votes will be tallied and a People’s Choice award given to the winner and announced during the Throwdown.


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