Resurrections : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine



Standard Tobacco of Pennsylvania is doing interesting work

by William Serad

There are many who think we are in the Golden Age of pipe tobacco blending, a notion supported by a great deal of objective evidence. But some of us, aged to a ripe maturity yet still in possession of our mental and sensory faculties, also mourn the passing of favorite great blends of yesteryear. The disappearance from the marketplace of many old British blends is like the loss of old friends or favorite relatives from when we were growing up. There are even a few who will not permit these hoary blends to slip into the oblivion of rare, astronomically priced tins, circulated like rare wine and pilfered archaeological artifacts or praised in sibilant whispers by codgers at shows and club meetings. No, a few will, through art, science, necromancy, talent and bulldog tenacity, bring them to life again. Such are the folks of Standard Tobacco of Pennsylvania (STP).

Once upon a time, Dan Z. Johnson saw an internet posting by Simon Thurlow on Condor and meerschaums. They struck up communication on things tobacco. Then, while in New York pursuing his photography career on behalf of the City University of New York, Johnson visited Thurlow on the Upper East Side. They shared some beer and tobacco interests on Thurlow’s deck. Johnson had been trying his hand at blending and had gone so far as to make a press for flakes. Thurlow had Condor and wanted Johnson to try to reproduce it. Rather than pursue this himself, Johnson gave it to Russ Ouellette, who said, “Oh, Condor.”

Simon Thurlow (left) and Dan Z. Johnson talk tobacco at the 2016 Chicago pipe show (photo by Steve Morrisette)

Simon Thurlow (left) and Dan Z. Johnson talk tobacco at the 2016 Chicago pipe show (photo by Steve Morrisette)

Then Thurlow emailed Johnson regarding War Horse and a sample from the 1930s he had. It was found in the pocket of a raincoat in a pub in Ireland. The raincoat had been hanging there for decades, waiting for its owner to retrieve it. Since a reasonable time had passed for a claimant to present himself, the War Horse made its way to Thurlow, who sent it to Johnson, who sent it to Ouellette. Some also went to a laboratory in Israel, sometimes used by Mossad, for testing and analysis. They discovered the trademark had expired, and their path to “pulling a Jurassic Park” was clear. Plus, and perhaps most important, Ouellette said he could make it. Standard Tobacco of Pennsylvania was underway. Further samples of other candidate great blends came from Fred Goldring and others supportive of their important work. And thus they proceeded with Bengal Slices and the John Cotton’s blends.

I discussed with Ouellette his process for reproducing these great blends of the past, favorites of many who would remember them. A lab analysis may give clues to some dressings but would be of no help with the actual blend of leaf employed. The proportions would have to be exact, and the leaf qualities matched. As I have written before, many of the blends I have tried that purported to be reproductions have borne no resemblance to their supposed antecedents (to me, anyway). But the STP blends are remarkable for their fidelity, not just representing blends loosely inspired by the originals. I can attest to performing a head-to-head comparison of STP John Cotton’s Smyrna against a U.K.-production original tin using a matched pair of Tinsky Canadians. Aside from the expected fading of the old tin’s Latakia, it was the most accurate reproduction I have ever tried of any blend, and of what was probably my favorite English.

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Category: Feature Article, Summer 2016

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