Pipefuls : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Pipefuls

by William Serad

Sorry for having missed the last issue of P&T, but I decided to write on things best not written about, and consequently, by mutual agreement and in the interests of all, we moved briskly on to this issue with another topic. Our esteemed editor in chief requested for me that you, dear readers, make nominations to the Dead Tobacco Society, or at least mention ones that are not the same as they once were.

I received only a few responses, so clearly this was not a hot topic in pipe tobacco discussions, and one was another note of encouragement from Dave Chappell, who nominated a blend very much alive—McClelland’s
Royal Cajun Black. He wanted to mention it out of the thousands of blends available as his current favorite, and I would concur as to its excellence. Someone introduced me last year to the Blakeney’s Best series from McClelland, and I can also attest to their excellence. They have certain gustatory similarities to Cajun. But I digress.

An email from Alberto Caballero of New Jersey nominated Briggs Pipe Mixture, hoping that it was still alive. He first smoked it in his native Puerto Rico at age 19, and he is now past his 80th birthday. An early introduction to Briggs seems to have salutary effects. I regret to inform you, Sr. Caballero, that it has passed on with the House of Windsor. Mr. Caballero’s last tin was obtained at the estate sale of his good friend, the esteemed Tom Dunn. House of Windsor recipes, I understand, are now owned by a cigar company, and one can never tell, but they may resurface some day. However, there are many companies making their own versions of these old-time blends, among them Cornell & Diehl. In the Sutliff Private Stock series, BRG is their version of Briggs. I have to say that, having tried many copies of the House of Windsor blends, the copies bear little resemblance to the originals, some of which migrated from their origins over time under House of Windsor tutelage themselves. I must add that a few are actually better as blends on their own rather than accurate copies.

This brings up a point on departed blends: Can they ever be brought back the same? Well, if one considers the many factors that go into the blend, then clearly the answer is no. This is even true of blends currently in production but punted around to different manufacturers. Please note that I am going to write quite a few heretical things, and if you want to move on through this section to the next to avoid possible agitation of your liver, please do. I don’t get a lot of mail from this column, but the point of it was an exchange of ideas with the dignified readership of P&T, and I would rather not have it turn into a forum proposing to bring back the rack on me. So, buying the same leaf, for instance, is difficult enough from season to season at the auctions. When one considers that the relationships with growers dissolve with mergers and acquisitions, in many cases, it becomes even more complicated. As well, back in the day, Virginias were pretty much from Virginia, but now there are some fine ones from Brazil and some like straw from Africa, though I find that Samuel Gawith has held up quite well. Burley from Africa has been fairly good in my experience, though perhaps not like the U.S. Burley belt, and the worst Burley I have had was from Mexico. Is there a pattern here?  I think just in knowing what to buy and accepting nothing less. The dappled red Virginia of old, the favorite of the British buyers, had a weight and richness to it that was unparalleled. To make up for that, a smidge of Burley is now sometimes added to old blends. I have mentioned Burley showing up in some of the currently Teutonic Rattray’s blends. This makes them different, but not bad by a long stretch. Two of my all-time favorites are Red Rapparee and Black Mallory, constantly in production over the years, and I still enjoy them very much and always have them on hand. Are they the same as when I first picked up a pipe? No. Then there are the differences in processing, in flavoring, in tinning or bulk, and the list can go on.

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Category: Fall 2013, Pipefuls

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