The quest for forum tobaccos – Part 1.

The Dutch/Belgium Pipe Smokers Forum logo

The Dutch/Belgium Pipe Smokers Forum logo

This year the Dutch/Belgium Pipe Smokers Forum exists 5 years. Because of that last year the idea arose for some special forum tobaccos to celebrate the jubilee. Of course I had to open my big mouth and I became responsible for the creation of those tobaccos and the artwork. Why? Because it is a dream of me to see a blend which is created by myself is made available for others.

Rudi and me talking

Rudi and me talking

So how do you accomplish this? In comes Rudi. Rudi is the retired owner of a big pipes and tobacco shop in Middelburg. Now for fun he runs a website on which you can order what he once sold in his shop: Because of his past Rudi has a vast knowledge about the world of tobacco and he still has the connections. He also has a passion for pipe smoking. That way he was willing to take the financial risk for the forum tobaccos. Of course Rudi would get a little percentage of every sold tin. My work would be for free, a labour of love. I don’t care so much for money.


Poseidon, which was going to be the latakia mixture of the forum tobaccos

My artwork for Poseidon, the latakia mixture of the forum tobaccos

After a meeting with some other forum members we came to a few conclusions:
– 30 kilo of tobacco had to be made by a foreign pipe-tobacco manufacturer. Here in The Netherlands there are none left.. Belgium also has none so the obvious choice was Germany. DTM to be precise. Well known for their aromatic tobaccos like Sweet Vanilla Honeydew and their American History Mixtures. Why them? Because they were flexible enough to produce such a small batch of tobacco and invest some time in the creation of the recipes together with me.
– That 30 kilo of tobacco was to be divided into 3 blends: an aromatic, a Virginia based one and a latakia mixture.
– Together with DTM I would create the recipes and first samples. Then I would smoke those and report my findings so the recipes could be altered. After the second round a panel of smokers from our forum would test the tobaccos and report their findings to me so the final versions could be made. The ready tins would get labelled with my artwork (that I already had partly finished) and tax-seals would be placed before shipping to Rudi who would sell them to the forum members.

The mid 19th century redbrick industrial building where DTM is located

The mid 19th century redbrick industrial building where DTM is located

At the end of June last year my good friend Ed (forum nickname St Patrick) and myself drove off to the German town of Lauenburg. We would stay there for 2 days and visit the DTM factory which is located just outside the town near the river Elbe. Soon after arrival we were greeted by master-blender Andreas Mund. Managing Director Dr. Heiko Behrens was not there so he took it upon himself to give us a guided tour. Every corner of every room was shown to us, no secrecy. We were allowed to touch everything, ask everything and smell everything and we did just that. An amazing experience!

Ed, Andreas and myself

Ed, Andreas and myself

After the tour Andreas excused himself. He was busy and would discuss the forum tobaccos the next day when Dr. Heiko Behrens was also there. So Ed and I walked around the wonderful DTM shop (with an old interior from 1920) where you can sample and buy all of their tobaccos and more. The main salesman in the shop is Michael Apitz which some of you may know, he created the famous Sweet Vanilla Honeydew mixture. Besides a very, very nice man Michael is also a walking pipes and tobacco encyclopaedia. I learned a lot from him regarding the creation of aromatics.

The next day we met the very friendly Dr. Heiko Behrens (“please call me Heiko, everyone does”). Together with Andreas we spoke about the forum tobaccos. “Why don’t you take some of our excellent tobaccos and re-label them?” said Heiko. I explained him my dream of a self made mixture which he understood. In the end I was given permission to make 3 mixtures together with Andreas! I told him what I wanted and he immediately went to his lab to prepare some samples. Just before Ed and I went home we got samples of two of the forum tobaccos (the latakia mixture and the aromatic). The third one was a flake and it takes a while to make that.

In the next two months I smoked the two samples and wrote down what I liked and did not like about them. At the beginning of September I phoned Andreas, told him my findings and also mailed them. Then it became very quiet.. I e-mailed Andreas a couple of times, phoned but no reaction. I had no idea what to do. Be more persistent in contacting him? Get angry? Just wait? I was dependent on the guy so I really did not want to piss him off. It was not until the beginning of December that I got an e-mail from the other Director, Maria Sousa. She said that they no longer wished to cooperate in the making of the forum tobaccos in the format that I wanted. I could use existing tobaccos of them and maybe perhaps change them a little bit.. I still don’t know what made them change their minds.. So I contacted Rudi and asked him what to do. Pull the plug with DTM he said. We go look further.

003After some discussions we decided to ask if another German pipe-tobacco manufacturer was interested: Kohlhase & Kopp. Famous  for making the European version of Ashton tobaccos, Peterson, Rattray’s, Solani and McConnell. In the mean time I asked master-blender Hans Wiedemann from HU Tobacco if he was willing to help. Hans has a vast knowledge about the creation of new tobaccos and has good connections with Kohlhase & Kopp. But a talented man like him has to be paid (which made the forum tobaccos more expensive) and I could sense he was not really enthusiastic to participate in the whole process. However, if I had any questions whatsoever I could always knock on his door. Things were also not going smooth with Kohlhase & Kopp. They only worked with existing tobacco importers. So Rudi asked if Dutch importer Pronk was willing to import the forum tobaccos, put a Dutch tax seal on them and send them through to him. And they were willing. Downside of this all were the extra costs. Kohlhase & Kopp manufactures excellent but pricey tobaccos. Pronk also wanted their share for putting on the Dutch tax seals. In the end it all bounced off on the fairly small amount of tobacco we wanted, only 30 kilo. Such manufacturers are used to quantities like hundreds or thousands kilos. Besides I think the extra work with  me (the creation of the recipes) also scared them off.

plogoAt the Heukelum meeting Rudi and I spoke to each other once again. Rudi has good connections with yet another German pipe-tobacco manufacturer: Planta. Well known for their Black Vanilla and Presbyterian Mixture. Rudi phoned them and said I could send a mail. Which I did at the beginning of March this year. Now we are halfway April and I still have not heard anything from them.. To be honest I think it is the same as with Kohlhase & Kopp: the low tobacco quantity and the extra work for the creation of the recipes scared them off.

Now Rudi has mailed Samuel Gawith twice to no avail. Also through a friend I am waiting to hear if J.F. Germain has any interest. But to be perfectly honest I have lost my faith.. The quantities are too small and no tobacco manufacturer wants to have extra work with the creation of the recipes in these times of economical crisis. Maybe I was naive to think that those companies would easily cooperate. It is all about money, money and money. I understand that, companies have to make a living, but still… Where has the passion for tobacco gone? Must it all be strictly business? I guess so.. Dreaming is no longer allowed.

c270e204c8700d0f5a06cb3aa52dThe only thing I can do now is to go to Hajenius in Amsterdam who have recently built a My Own Blend bar. There I can design a mixture, or several mixtures and let those be written down so other forum members can buy them. Better than nothing I guess..

Surprisingly enough the quest for forum tobaccos continues in part 2.

0 thoughts on “The quest for forum tobaccos – Part 1.

    • No, there’s no pockets in shrouds, that’s right. But the tobacco manufacturing business is a hard way of living, especially nowadays, with governments trying to ban smoking en commodities getting more expensive. That means the tobacco industry has to cut back on costs too.
      And whether you like it or not: money still makes the world go round. How would YOU like it, to get fired because your boss was only hobbying and not running his business professionally? Well, the tobacco manufacturers like to offer THEIR employees continuity as well, as much as you do, to be able to pay your bills.

      Maybe it’s just bad timing and could we have more cooperation 5 years ago, when there was more money left to hobby around with.

      • Yes, I think for a part it is just bad timing. I mean, first DTM was willing and suddenly they pulled the plug.. And like I said in the post, I understand that tobacco manufacturers have to make money and because of that have to cut back on costs..
        Anyway, it has been an interesting journey, let’s look at it from the positive side 😉

  1. Arno, I’m sorry to hear of your problems with having custom tobaccos blended for your forum. I too would have thought that DTM, above anyone there in Europe, would have made an ideal partner in this venture. K&K and Planta seem a little intimidating, as they both produce such large batches, and Germain seems to have enough trouble making their own branded blends, not to mention the things like Esoterica, Balkan Sobranie, and the Smokers’ Haven blends they send us here in the States.

    A couple of years ago, another pipe forum I was associated with decided to do exactly what you proposed and make a couple of custom blends in small quantities. They worked with Cornell & Diehl here in the US, and we took delivery of our tobacco within weeks of proposing the idea. Though I did not have a hand in it myself, I understand that they were quite easy to work with, and I believe that their minimum order was only a hundred tins of the two blends combined. I don’t know if there’s any possibility of them shipping tobacco to Europe, as I don’t believe they have an importer, but they are reportedly a very nice group of people who have a real passion for pipes and tobacco, and are very approachable. I understand that the founder, the late Craig Tarler, often used to answer the phone himself, and his family remains in control of the company, so I don’t think much has changed in that regard. It might be worth a try, and I don’t think you would be treated rudely by them in any event.

    Good luck, my friend!

    • Hello Herb! Yeah the journey so far had not been easy.. Like I said in the post. DTM seemed fine at first and then suddenly they changed their minds.. But, things do not look so bleak any more! Since this post I had several offers for the making of the forum tobaccos. As soon as Mr. Rudi returns from holiday we are going to talk once again. So with a bit of luck the quest does not end here 🙂

      To be honest, I thought of Cornell & Diehl. But… like you said, the import to Europe.. 1. that would make the tobaccos very, very expensive. Look at what Pease blends cost in the UK! 2. Mr. Rudi has no license to sell American made tobacco in Europe..

      Thanks Herb! As soon as I know more, when I have really found a manufacturer I will write it down here and maybe make a part 2 of this post.

  2. Hi Arno,

    The Golden Gate Pipe Club (of which I am some kind of officer or administrator, by a nearly unanimous vote several months ago – I was the only ‘no’ vote), is also in the process of getting our own blend. Greg Pease (a member) has offered to compose it, and Cornell & Diehl are capable of making it. One problem is that as far as quantity is concerned we need to order at least five hundred tins. So there is discussio going on regarding the project and who will commit to what. Another problem is that while I and several others like one or all of the closely related trial samples that Greg provided (I liked one of them immensely), a number didn’t. One member only smokes Dunhill London Mixture and considers everything else uninteresting, two others are fans of McClelland’s Arcadia and nothing else, and several others are unformed and uninformed, and their tastes vary like the weather.
    But at least we have a potential blend, a blender, and a manufacturer. Now if we can get our act together, several months hence we will have tins of it.

    Given what some of the others have said in private, I rather doubt that we’ll ever reach that stage.
    If the project comes to nothing, I’ll encourage Greg to put the second sample into production as another blend among his English blends. It’s a fine old-fashioned medium Latakia mixture that really sparks mental associations and reverie. Well worth it.

    I mention all this to provide a bit of perspective, and to suggest that if it is possible to import Cornell & Diehl, you might consider them. They’ve produced other private label blends, and their blending tobaccos are quite decent.
    Is it possible to mail-order American tobaccos at a reasonable price in Europe, or does the post-office stick there a stickje for?

  3. Hello Atboth! Well, you also have the “quantity” problem. That was why we choose DTM in the first place. They had no problem with that. Until they decided to pull out..
    Regarding finding the right mixture for everyone: impossible. One of the reasons I prefer to make 3 forum tobaccos. So everyone can smoke something he/she more or less like. Some people I will send samples but in the end I and the manufacturer will decide. The forum members will have to trust our judgement.
    But I hope things will work out for you and the Golden Gate Pipe Club! To have mr. Pease as a member… *drools*
    No, mail order is not possible because of the customs office… A little bit of tobacco I can get through, but not a lot..

  4. Annnd.. The quest ends…

    After the post above I suddenly heard through a Dutch forum-member that J.F. Germain was interested! A dream come true! They were willing to produce the three blends but I could only use existing tobaccos as a base. Well, with tobaccos as Penzance, Exotique, Balkan Sobranie and Dorchester in their range I did not worry! The only possible bump in the road could be the import of the tobaccos to the Netherlands. And right there it ground to a halt.. Dutch Importer Pronk was not willing to import Germain tobaccos..

    From Germany master blender Hans Wiedemann from HU Tobacco decided to see what he could do to save the quest. The route would be that together with him I would create the tobaccos. Hans would then made sure it all got produced and he would take care of the sales. Would, would, would.. Once again DTM (where many mixtures of Hans are made) were not willing to cooperate. The price tag again..

    So now it all stops. Well, from another Dutch forum member I heard that tobacco shop Linzbach in Düsseldorf maybe could mean something. They were prepared to collaborate with me and their master blender to make the forum tobaccos. But I have to think twice about this. I know that the Linzbach home-blends through John Aylesbury are made at Kohlhase & Kopp. So how Linzbach is able to make a small amount of tins by that big tobacco factory is a bit of a mystery to me. More important, the whole process would come to rest on my shoulders alone. I would have to ask everyone on the forum which forum tobaccos they want, arrange all the payments, chase people who don’t pay on time, negotiate with Linzbach about the price, arrange the artwork etc. etc. A lot of extra effort which I am not waiting for..

    At the end of this month I am going to the My Own Blend bar in Hajenius in Amsterdam and try to put a blend together. This blend then can be bought by the members from the Dutch forum.

  5. Annnd.. The quest continues!!! Jeez, so far this journey has been a real roller-coaster ride.. But with a good end! Hans Wiedemann from HU Tobacco once again took a pity on me and helped me out. So there really are going to be 3 Dutch forum tobaccos! 😀 A big thank you to Hans!!!

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