Smokin’ Easter

$T2eC16dHJGoE9nuQg1-kBQ62)2sZz!~~60_57When I look around the living room I see a lot of Easter paraphernalia.. Wooden eggs, candle-eggs, bunny-miniatures, chick miniatures etc. In short, my girlfriend loves to decorate the house because it is almost Easter. I just like to sit and relax in my chair while smoking. I don’t have much up with religion and holidays, except for the days off of course. But I like the tradition, the history.

Eastre / Ēostre / Ostara

Eastre / Ēostre / Ostara

The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with a festival in which they commemorated their goddess of offspring and springtime: Eastre (or Ēostre / Ostara). In the 2nd century Christian missionaries encountered the tribes of the north with their pagan celebrations. In a clandestine manner they attempted to convert them to Christianity.

It would have been suicide for the very early Christian converts to celebrate their holy days with disregard to the celebrations that already existed. To save lives the missionaries cleverly decided to spread their religious message slowly throughout the populations. They allowed them to continue celebrating pagan feasts, only in a Christian manner.

The pagan festival of Eastre occurred at the same time of year as the Christian resurrection of Christ. So it made sense to alter the festival itself by making it a Christian celebration. This way converts were slowly won over. The early name, Eastre, was eventually changed to its modern spelling: Easter.

$T2eC16ZHJGkE9no8iMJ9BQ7bQR0Zwg~~60_57Today Easter exists of several days of which these are the most important:
Palm Sunday: The Sunday before Easter Day. It is to commemorate the last journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. People then cut palm branches to spread on his path as he rode to the city.
Holy Thursday: Here in Europe Christian monarchs used to wash the feet of poor people on the Thursday before Easter. This in memory of Jesus’ act. The new pope Francis breathed new life in this tradition. Also on this day Jesus ate and drank with his followers. This meal became known as the Last Supper, because Jesus died soon after.
Good Friday: The commemoration of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. I can remember eating meat was not allowed by my parents on this day. So we just had fish or bread.
Holy Saturday: Part of the mourning period which begins on Good Friday. Also a day of cooking and preparing for the feasting the following day to celebrate the resurrection.
Easter Day: The commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus. Of course a symbol of that is the egg out of which a bird hatches. And a lot of eggs are eaten during the feast that day.
Easter Monday: The ideal day to get up late and relax. Here in Holland a lot of people go to furniture mega-stores which are open.
Ascension: The 40th day from Easter day on which Jesus ascended into heaven.

$T2eC16N,!)cE9s4PsSkSBRNN,VkU9g~~60_57The Easter bunny is not some modern invention. The goddess Eastre (see above) was worshipped through her earthly symbol: the rabbit.  The hare and the rabbit were the most fertile animals known and they served as symbols of the new life during the spring season.

The Germans brought the symbol of the Easter rabbit to America.  The bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have its origins in Germany. It was first mentioned in German writings in the 1500’s. The first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany during the early 1800’s. Not of chocolate but of pastry and sugar.

German settlers believed that a white hare would leave brightly coloured eggs for all good children on Easter morning.  So early American children built nests of leaves and sticks in their gardens. This way the Easter hare could fill it with coloured eggs.  By the 19th century the Easter hare had become the Easter bunny. Children were spoiled with baskets of eggs, chocolates, candy chicks, jelly beans and other gifts on Easter morning. By the way, originally Easter eggs were painted with bright colours to represent the sunlight of spring.

"Paasbrood" in the shape of a bunny

“Paasbrood” in the shape of a bunny

Here in Holland Easter Day is known as “Paas-zondag” and there is a special Easter meal. Often the table is decorated with coloured eggs and so called “Paasbrood”, which is a sweet bread with raisins. In my youth my parents also hid chocolate eggs throughout the house. I had to search them and when I got near a hidden egg my parents would say “hot!” When there was no egg where I was searching they said “cold!” Needless to say that in my later years I knew all the secret hiding spots.

Easter bonfire

Easter bonfire

Nowadays I live in the east of the Netherlands where almost every village lights an Easter bonfire on some grass-land. People begin collecting wood for the fires weeks in advance. Often that wood exists of old Christmas trees. Of course each village tries to outdo the others by building a bigger and better fire than its neighbours.

$T2eC16ZHJIYE9qUcOuT9BRU)2-,Yuw~~60_57Last but not least; where does the pipe smoking bunny comes from that is depicted on many old postcards? Simple: Anthropomorphism. Say what?? Anthropo- morphism is the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human animals or objects. Rabbits on Easter greeting postcards were often given human characteristics such as being portrayed as wearing clothing and smoking pipes.

So relax, smoke a pipe and have a good meal. Happy Easter!

$(KGrHqR,!joFD)uj6!K3BRD-PC(uOw~~60_57 $(KGrHqR,!joFD)uj6!K3BRK(KVrmfg~~60_3 $(KGrHqV,!iEE+-8Bk3F7BQI+p+Eb4Q~~60_57 $T2eC16hHJF8E9nnC9dFyBRVbI2HOCg~~60_57 $T2eC16NHJHIE9nyseGZkBROt0uVMBQ~~60_57 $T2eC16R,!yME9s5qHBi2BRD-OvjyqQ~~60_57 $T2eC16V,!)cE9s4PtnMnBRUe8Kc4J!~~60_57 $T2eC16V,!ysE9sy0iOwqBRVP!o6LvQ~~60_57 $T2eC16VHJF8E9nnC7OHMBRNNZ8mi(w~~60_57

Palatable Presbyterian

Presbyterian Mixture advertisement

Presbyterian Mixture advertisement

Opus Eponymous by Ghost

Opus Eponymous by Ghost

In my early pipe-smoking days, being a lover of heavy metal/hard rock music, I was quick to notice the great artwork of the Presbyterian Mixture tin. It’s Gothic church and font type immediately appealed to me. I mean, look at the cover of one of my favourite records, Opus Eponymous by the band Ghost. But for some reason I never tried the blend..

Presbyterian Mixture has been amongst us for a pretty long time. This fine tobacco originally had no name. It was blended before the first World War especially for the Very Rev. Dr. John White, sometime minister of the Barony Kirk in Glasgow and Moderator of the General Assembly in Scotland in 1929. He introduced it to Stanley Baldwin, later Earl Baldwin, Prime Minister in 1923, 1924 and 1935. He liked it so much that regular supplies were sent down to him and it was he who suggested that it be called “Presbyterian Mixture”. Hence the name. Earl Baldwin even said “My thoughts grow in the aroma of that particular tobacco.” My girlfriend would say “My nose suffers in the aroma of that particular tobacco.”..

Presbyterian Mixture ad from 1938

Presbyterian Mixture advertisement from 1938

In the early days the mixture was made by A. Gale & Co Ltd. from Glasgow. The blender was William P. Solomon. Now it is made for years by Planta from Berlin.

For me Presbyterian is an oriental mixture. The tin of the international version (more about that later) says this: Mellow blend of US-Virginia tobaccos and high quality Macedonian grades – exclusive, aristocratic pipe mixture. The Planta catalogue also says that the blend contains a number of selected Latakia leaf tips. This has been a controversy for years but I really don’t know why.. When you smoke it you clearly can taste the dark leaf (an oriental in itself). There is not much of it in the mixture but it is clearly noticeable.

Yes, smoking the mixture.. I got my first tin of Presbyterian from fellow Dutch pipe-smoker forum member and dear friend Ed. He had bought a tin in Belgium (unfortunately it is not available in The Netherlands), smoked a couple of bowls and decided it wasn’t for him. So he gave it away to (lucky) me.

Dunhill Bruyere from the patent era

Dunhill Bruyere from the patent era

At first I had trouble to fathom, to understand the blend. I could not get a grasp on the taste, very annoying. Until I read somewhere that Presbyterian is best smoked in small bowls. I had a small Dunhill Bruyere from the patent era that I not used much. No tobacco would work in that one. So I packed the bowl full with Presbyterian, lit it and… got that magic fit between a pipe and a tobacco.

Presbyterian Mixture is not an overly complex blend. So I smoke it often late at night before I go to sleep. Upon lighting you just taste the latakia but soon the Virginia and then the orientals take over. I don’t know which orientals are used. Somewhere I read “Katerini” but I am not sure. The blend is very mellow, a good gentle smoke. I love the sweet and sour combination that plays back and forth in the nose and on the tasting palate. The room note however leaves something to be desired according to my girlfriend. Latakia and women.. Hmz…

I always smoked 50 gr. tins that I bought in Belgium and the USA. Then halfway of last year I saw that in Germany they had 100 gr. tins (no more 50 gr. ones) for only €14.60. The 50 gr. tins I bought in Belgium before were around €11.
So 2 x 50 gr. €11 (old price) = €22 for 100 gr. Huh? The mixture became much cheaper?? So I bought a new 100 gr. German tin for comparison, opened it and smoked it. I did not like it… The taste that made the old Presbyterian unique was missing. In stead I tasted a more artificial chocolate/honey sweetness. Halfway the bowl the orientals used to shine and now it was kind of flat. Also the blend smelled different in the tin. First it smelled a bit like wet grass, now I smelled a bit of chocolate..

So I mailed Planta about this. And they were very kind to mail me back pretty soon:

Dear Arno,

Please accept my answer as I am responsible for international sales in PLANTA. I should appreciate your information that you smoke our PRESBYTERIAN pipe mixture. Thank you for being one of our loyal customers!

Please let me explain the situation. For many decades we sell a Presbyterian mixture in Germany (which is different to the international blend) in 100g tins only while the international blends comes out exclusively in 50g tins. We made the international blend according to the expectations of our friends in the USA, UK and other foreign countries too. The “German” mixture however had been done according more to the taste of our countrymen. But please, none of the two different mixtures had ever been changed. Both have remained the same. Of course, you as an experienced pipe smoker know, that every year the tobacco changes a little bit…

Please understand that we cannot influence the price policy of our importers and foreign retailers. There are also different excise tax rates in different countries, the VAT differs and other cost factors too. In contrast to Germany (where we have got fixed consumer prices in all shops), in a lot of countries there isn’t any price fixing.

In the U.K., for instance, in some shops you have to pay 11,80 Pounds for the 50g tin, in the USA sometimes 10,50 US$ and in Belgium I found 11 Euro in the Internet. So, there is a big difference everywhere.

Hopefully, this gives you a better picture.

Best regards,

The German 100 gr. Presbyterian Mixture

New German 100 gr. Presbyterian Mixture

So….. There are 2 different Presbyterian Mixtures! An international version (the one I like) and a German version. Well, for once I am glad I don’t live in Germany.. I do not like the idea that a tobacco company decides for me what my taste is. I hope this is not done more often with other mixtures that are available in both Europe and the USA. What also worries me slightly is that the tobacco changes a little bit every year. Of course tobacco manufacturers are dependent on the raw leaves they can get. But it is a nice excuse to make little cost reducing and profit enhancing changes to a blend. So I don’t know.. I still have my doubts.. The international Presbyterian Mixture version only became cheaper through the years. In the USA last year it was $11.19. Now it is $10.59..

So if you want to try this legendary mixture, smoke the (still) wonderful international version. Unless you have a “German taste”. Whatever that is..

Here are some tins from old to new:

Very old "presby"

Very old “presby”

Without the "classic blue"

Without the “classic blue”

With the "classic blue"

With the “classic blue”

Old German made tin art

Old German made tin art

Current international version

Current international version