Jan (nickname “Janneman”) is a prominent member of the Dutch/Belgian pipe smokers forum. He is a walking pipe and tobacco encyclopaedia and many people started smoking pipe after seeing one of his movies or reading his Pijpenboek. Because of this one of the forum-tobaccos was named after him as a gesture to honour the good man. Throughout the years Jan made many beautiful, atmospheric and sometimes humoristic pictures and still lifes of himself smoking and of his pipes and tobaccos combined with other pleasures of life. For me these images have a certain nostalgic quality which never fails to ease my mind. Whenever I feel stressed out I look at one of Jan’s pictures and the burdens of the day fall from my shoulders. So pick out one of your favourite pipes, fill it with whatever tobacco you like and set it aflame, pour some whisky or another beverage in a glass and slowly scroll through the images beneath. Enjoy.
Fasten your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen. At the time I wrote part 1 I never, ever expected that there would be a part 2 of my quest for forum tobaccos. I just experienced too many disappointments and thought that it would all end in nothing. But…. As you can read in the last response at the bottom of the page Hans Wiedemann from HU Tobacco once again took pity on me and helped me out. Once again it often was not smooth sailing, but we persevered and in the end overcame all obstacles.
So, to refresh our memories, why the forum tobaccos? Well, this year the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum exists 5 years. Because of that last year the idea arose for some special forum tobaccos to celebrate the jubilee. 3 tobaccos to be precise, a latakia mixture, an aromatic and a Virginia flake. 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. And that is more difficult than I thought..
A lot of things were possible with Hans BUT only if we were buying 50 tins of 100 gr. per sort. So that is 150 tins in total! 15 kilo! I thought that the forum-members would never buy such an amount. Deeply disheartened I explained the story on the forum and asked how many tins the members were willing to buy. This because I had to have to money upfront. No Rudi this time to buy all the tobaccos and later see how he would sell them. To my utter and absolute amazement within only a couple of hours the amount of 50 tins per sort was reached! The next days the quantity kept growing. And that without knowing an exact price or having the actual blends! In the end 73 tins of the aromatic were ordered, 109 tins of the latakia and a whopping 116 tins of the flake. A total of 298! 29,8 kilo of tobacco! Wow! Unnecessary to say that Hans and I could continue. The role of Hans would be that of advisor and mediator between myself and the tobacco factory he sometimes worked with. I was responsible for pretty much everything else. The creation of the blends, the artwork, collecting the money from the forum members and the distribution of the tins.
Round 1. My first idea for the flake was that of a light Virginia flake in the vein of Orlik Golden Sliced, Dunhill Flake and Capstan. So I asked for a light natural Virginia flake with only a slight topping of tonka-bean and even less orange. Unfortunately the tobacco factory thought this was to be the aromatic so they applied way to much of the topping. Hans first got the sample and well, he did not like it to say the least.. Also the tobacco factory were not happy with having to add an aroma to a flake. It would not work they said. On top of that the first samples Hans send to me to my home address did not reach me and got lost in the mail..
Round 2. From this time on Hans decided to send packages to my working address. That way we both know they would arrive. In the package I got were 3 flakes, 3 aromatic samples and 3 latakia samples. Let’s start with the flakes. Because the application of an aroma on a flake was not a good idea I had to choose between several already existing flakes. The first one I smoked was bland and uninteresting. The next couple of flakes were pretty decent but had the same problem: they were available here in The Netherlands.. So I had to step off the idea of a light, pure Virginia flake. I told Hans to search for a flake, as long as it did not have latakia, that was not available here or too well known in these parts.
For the aromatic I had already mailed several ideas to Hans which were translated into 3 samples: 1. Black cavendish, burley and bright Virginias with an aroma of coconut and vanilla. 2. Black cavendish, burley and several Virginias with an aroma of passion fruit and ahorn. 3. A lot of Black cavendish, bright Virginias and a bit of burley with an aroma of coffee and vanilla. I smoked all the samples and could not find a clear winner. So I send some samples away and let a couple of folks smoke them. All had the same favourite, the one with coffee and vanilla. But for me it lacked a certain punch, it needed some more aroma.
I mailed Hans some ideas for the latakia mixture and he mixed two samples himself of which he thought I would be satisfied with. The third sample was mixed by the tobacco factory after an idea of Hans. Before the samples were send through to me Hans already smoked the factory sample and he was raving about it which made me feel very positive.. ..Until I smoked the actual sample. It tasted bitter and I did not like it one bit. Having learned my lesson with the aromatics I send away some samples hoping for some sound opinions. After all, my taste is not the taste of everyone. When I received the feedback it became clear that the blend indeed was too bitter. To make things worse I also was not impressed with the samples Hans made himself. Solid and well crafted blends, don’t get me wrong, but nothing special. And I wanted something special. So at the end of round 2 Hans and me were not happy men. We still did not have a flake, the aromatic was not good yet and the latakia mixture also was not up to par. In the end we tried to be as positive as possible.
Round 3. I received 2 flake samples which were not available in The Netherlands. Hans already had smoked both and very much liked one of them. I also tried this one and indeed, it was absolutely superb! The other one was pretty good but that was it. To be 100% sure I once again let people smoke from the samples and luckily everyone opted for the one Hans and I were enthusiastic about. With the flakes we had a very clear winner, yeah!
With the aromatic the tobacco factory had a slight problem. They could not boost the aromas they had used any further, they were at their maximum. Whaaaat?? Luckily they opted for some other but similar tasting aromas. Those were of higher quality but also more expensive. Well, so be it. I had already decided to not cut down on the quality of anything regarding the tobaccos. When I received the sample I could not have been happier. Exactly what I wanted, here we also had a winner, I liked it very much!
What I did not like was the new latakia mixture sample. For me it looked, smelled and tasted not special enough. Luckily I had a plan B. I once smoked one of the house-blends of a German tobacconist and I absolutely loved it. One of the best latakia mixtures I ever smoked. Period. So I asked Hans if he wanted to inform if we could use it as a forum tobacco. And we could! BUT I had a big dilemma now. I already told the forum that the flake was an existing one but that the aromatic and latakia mixture would be unique blends. Now the latakia mixture was available somewhere in Germany.. I needed some advice about what to do and found it by some friends from the forum. They said I should be open about it and let the forum decide if the project should stop or go ahead. So I opened up to the forum members and clearly explained the situation. Thankfully the vast majority (you can never please everyone) was very understanding and said I should go on.
Yesss!!! I had 3 winners! Now the financial part. I am very straightforward and told Hans immediately very clear what kind of price I wanted for the tins and why. Well, I offended him bigtime by doing it this way.. It took me a lot of e-mails to smooth things out between us. A lesson well learned. Needless to say we got the tins for a very good price thanks to Hans. I could have made a bit of profit on the tobaccos but I decided to keep them as cheap as possible.
I got busy creating the artwork, collected the money from the orders of the forum members and relaxed a bit. I send the finished artwork to Hans who would send it through to the tobacco factory. He also arranged some blank sample tins for the Heukelum meeting. I printed the labels at my work and put them around the tins. Absolutely stunning! Just before the meeting I got the sample artwork which was printed by the tobacco factory themselves. Compared to my own prints it was a bit grainy and dark. Still ok but I am a perfectionist, it was not up to my standards. The thing was, I forgot to ask Hans how we should do things with the labels and Hans forgot to inform me that we were better off printing the labels at a professional printing-company. Another lesson well learned. Now I luckily can perfectly live with the printed labels.
So, FINALLY here are the 3 Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum tobaccos:
Contents: Black Cavendish, Golden Virginia, Burley
Flavouring: Coffee, Vanilla
Packaging: 100g tin
Tin description: Create an enjoyable moment for yourself with this high quality mixture, consisting of Black Cavendish, Golden Virginia and a bit of Burley topped with an aroma of coffee and vanilla.
Background information: One of my ideas for the aromatic forum tobacco was to do something with coffee. I come from the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant where taking the time for a nice cup of coffee is common. But a coffee flavour is very difficult to incorporate in a tobacco because it has a tendency to dominate. Despite Hans and myself were successful in creating a delicious mixture by the addition of some vanilla. The main ingredient is Black Cavendish (also typical Dutch) with some Golden Virginia added and a bit of Burley. The inspiration for the artwork I got from coffee and beautiful women. Both enjoyable for most men. I also found it nice to put a woman on the cover because of our female forum-member, Monique (Milleluci).
Contents: Brown and Red Virginias, Perique
Packaging: 100g tin
Tin description: Pressed brown and red fire-cured Virginias, full and soft of taste, are cut into long flakes and together with a pinch of perique, to round off the whole, they provide a fitting tribute to the “pater noster” of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum: Janneman.
Background information: On the PRF Rotterdam-meeting last year we talked about forum-member Janneman, that he meant a lot to many starting pipe smokers. Many folks of the forum got there because of the movies or Pijpenboek from Janneman. Would it not be nice to honour him with something? We asked ourselves. At that moment the whole forum tobacco story had just begun so I said “Isn’t it a nice idea to honour Janneman with a forum tobbacco?” Everyone agreed and I kept the idea throughout the whole journey. So Janneman, thank you for inspiring many of us! The flake itself is very natural, full and interesting of taste and contains Red Virginias, firecured Brown Virginias and a bit of Perique. The artwork stands for another hobby of Janneman: flying of kites.
Contents: Light and Red Virginias, Latakia, Oriental, Black Cavendish, Perique
Packaging: 100g tin
Tin description: The exquisite balance of this exotic mixture stands for the unity between the Dutch and Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum members. That together many pipes may be smoked!
Background information: Like I already told,when it became clear that the latakia mixture was not according to my standards I decided to fall back on Plan B, using an already existing supreme quality tobacco. I immediately knew which one I wanted, I did not know if I was able to actually get it. And luckily I could get it. The blend is beautifully balanced with light and Red Virginias, Latakia, Oriental tobaccos, some Black Cavendish and a pinch of Perique. For the artwork I was inspired by the unity of the Belgian and Dutch forum members. The lion stands for a nice shared symbolism, thus the name “Brullende Leeuw” (Roaring Lion).
The forum tobaccos are available for everyone at the webshop of HU Tobacco.
For your information, HU Tobacco also ships to the US and other countries. For questions please e-mail Hans Wiedemann, he speaks English (and German of course): email@example.com
Last but not least I want to thank:
– Hans for the wonderful cooperation, without you this all would not have been possible!
– The members of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum for being a great bunch (thanks for the whisky!) and having faith in me.
– The tobacco testing members of the forum who’s opinions and advice about the tobaccos and other things have been very valuable to me.
– The forum tobacco distributors in The Netherlands and Belgium, you made my work a lot easier.
– My dear friend Ed.
– My girlfriend Ellen for her everlasting support <3.
On August 24th 2013 the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum, of which I am an active member, existed precisely 5 years! This also means that I have been a pipe smoker for 3 years. I registered myself on the forum August 24th 2010 and started smoking pipe around that date. But the forum itself started earlier, in 2008. I have to thank Shaun for writing down the history of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum. I only translated it:
Who in early 2009 searched on the internet for “pijp roken” (pipe smoking) did not find much, A website of a pipe smokers guild with some practical tips on lighting and burning a pipe. Luckily there also was a fantastic website from Jan Kusters from the Dutch town of Sittard with its extensive and excellent “Pijpenboek van Janneman” (Pipebook from Janneman). Which later pretty much became the standard for every beginning (and more advanced) pipe smoker who spoke the Dutch language.
But… There had to be more??? Therefore on February 3rd 2009 a beginning pipe smoker frantically was searching for more tips, tricks and information about pipes and tobaccos on the internet. Result after result was clicked, page after page was carefully watched. Unfortunately, not at all complementary. Until suddenly in the depths of the Internet on page 10 of the Google searching results a pipe smokers forum popped up! Victory! The end of a long search, what a blessing it would be to receive a warm welcome by fellow smokers. But alas… The disappointment was great: the forum exactly had one member and a message. It was the smallest of all the forums at forum2go.nl, the initial host. After the first disappointment the beginning pipe smoker directly registered as second member under the forum name “Victor Baarn” and through a personal message contacted that first member, the admin: Pim123. Pim123 founded the forum on August 24 2008 as a learning experiment in how to create a forum. Since Pim123 at that time just was learning how to smoke pipe the forum became a pipe smoking forum by accident.
Victor Baarn asked Pim123 whether he might attempt to make the forum bigger. Pim123 gave Victor Baarn the permission to promote the forum and conveniently made him moderator. The weeks after that the search on internet continued and Victor Baarn collected every e-mail address that even remotely had something to do with pipe smoking. A little over a week several dozen e-mail addresses were collected and on February 13th 2009 an invitation e-mail was send throughout the country and abroad (Belgium).
And low and behold, the days after several new members applied, the first one (of course) being Janneman. But it did not go very fast.. Pim123 and Victor Baarn were busy opening new topics, the one after the other, in order to create conversations for the members. At first the forum looked more like a public dialogue between Victor Baarn and Pim123. So it was difficult in the beginning and in the first weeks it was to became clear if the forum would be viable. But luckily, despite the calm, there were some folks who kept on posting. Active members in the first days besides Pim123 and Victor Baarn mainly were Janneman, Antonius, dr. Watson, Joey Peters, Rob, Superpelic, Don Carlos, Bas and Vier Heeren Baai. A club of a few men who nicely chatted away with each other. Without their contributions the forum would not have been viable at that time. What definitely contributed was Janneman’s Pipebook for which he granted Pim124 permission to place it on the forum.
There was one certainty: that regularly, weekly a new member applied. Slowly but surely the number of members expanded. The more the merrier: more discussions and terminology. Google picked this up and pushed the forum upwards in the search results, thus creating new members. Another trick to promote the forum was that Victor placed links to sites about pipe smoking that scored high in the Google ranks. This resulted in more points in the search machine and… More new members. On Saturday September the 18th 2010 the first forum-meeting took place in Leerdam with an attendance of 11 members. After a few months the forum stood on page 1 of the search results. After that it went fast.
So fast that on November 7th 2010 Pim 123 announced that he had started the forum as an experiment and, now the forum had 200 members, would like to hand it over into more fanatical hands. Thus, on November 9th 2010 the fanatical DrFretboard became the new admin. And once again things moved fast. This time with regards to the technical progress of the forum. DrFretboard lifted the forum onto a higher technical level and introduced many improvements in the forum structure. Because of the busy traffic several moderators were introduced. The pipe smokers forum really grew up. The strict vision of DrFretboard about the forum led to a lot of discussions after a while. Dissatisfied smokers were found to be huge troublemakers. So on April 29th 2011 DrFretboard voluntary stepped down as admin with the question who was willing to take it over from him. After some discussions Nekker and Massis became the new admins on May 7th 2011.
From the beginning Nekker and Massis had a common target. First the human contacts, second to create the largest encyclopaedia about pipe smoking (in Dutch) that exists on internet. With that also the realization grew that the reigns had to be slacken. A more relaxed vibe sprouted and things started to fall into place. From this grew a hard core of people who not only got along with each other online but also in real life. Many initiatives proved this like mini-meetings, the Leerdam meeting etc. Then there was the big milestone in the forum history. Massis, who also takes care of the technical side of the forum, made the upgrade from the amateurish Forum2go to a professional forum. From then on everything kept on going forwards to (hopefully) never be stopped.
So in 2010 I was searching for info about pipe smoking and of course stumbled upon the forum which included Janneman’s Pipe Smoking Book. Eventually I registered and bought my first pipe and tobacco, which is described in my post Humble Beginnings Part 3. I am not a social kind of person. I have a mild form of autism, I stutter sometimes and being an only child is not really good for your communication skills. But the laid back vibe on the forum worked wonders with me, everyone was accepted the way he was and I became more open. Also the amount of metalheads was reassuring (and surprised me!), good folks!
I did not go to the first forum meeting in Leerdam, I only was a member for a short time. For the second one I initially said I could not come, but after some thinking I decided to go after all. Best decision ever. I stood before the old train station building in Leerdam where the meeting was organised and I was thinking like: “Arno, you really must be out of your mind.. You are in a town you have never been before and you are about to walk into a building where a meeting for pipe smokers is organized. And you know no one! Except for some forum posts of course.” Still I went inside and I had a blast! Very friendly people and I came to the conclusion that I could have a conversation with everyone because we all had one thing in common: pipe smoking.
And gradually real life friendships developed like with Ed (St Patrick). At the beginning of 2012 I left my car keys inside the car at Ellen‘s place in Olst while the spare keys were in my apartment in Oss where I still lived at that time. Nobody was willing or had the time to drive me so I could get the spare keys so in the end I desperately called Ed, who I then only just knew. “Oooh, well, then we are going to get the keys Sunday morning in Oss. During the ride we can smoke a pipe, relaaax.” I was flabbergasted.. And this kind of stuff characterizes the forum. The kindness, the generosity etc. etc. Of course there were some “hiccups” like the affair with DrFretboard. Also sometimes there are some differences of opinions but it is always solved in a civilized manner.
Because of the forum I crawled out of my shell and I became more social. Also the forum gave me a lot of creative impulses. After I won the “make a new banner competition”, organised by Pim123, I also made artwork for wallpapers, shirts, caps, more banners, business cards, mouse-pads, ashtrays, poker-fiches, dice, (forum)pipes and for some wonderful stone tampers made by Martin. Besides this I got motivated by the forum to combine some of my “old loves”, history and writing which resulted in this blog. Also I am still busy organizing the forum tobaccos.
So… Let’s go for another 5 years! And then 5 more and 5 more and 5 more……
Here are some pictures of meetings and mini-meetings from the years that I am a member:
In the years after I quit cigarettes (see part 2) I did not miss smoking at all. I was glad that I no longer had an addiction and that my lungs were a bit cleaner. Life was good. I just had a new relationship and I felt happy and at peace. Unfortunately my girlfriend had to go to for a couple of months to Ethiopia for some charity work. Something she already had planned before our relationship. So I was alone again.
One day while searching something in a cupboard I found the pipe of my grandfather with the metal cap. I held it in my hands and decided to Google for some info on pipes and pipe tobacco. One of the first hits I got to see was the Dutch pipesmokers forum. After some searching I stumbled upon the pipe-book of Janneman, an eccentric member of the forum. I was instantly hooked. I absorbed the information and began to seriously think about buying a pipe. But pipe smoking is for old men, I thought. I am not old! On the Dutch forum there also was a tread about the age of the members. To my astonishment there were even younger members than me! That was a real eye opener.
And then there was the addiction and health part. After some research I came to the conclusion that pipe smoking is the least addictive and least bad for your health way of smoking. You don’t inhale the smoke and a lot of the tar stays in the pipe. Of course smoking is bad but done with moderation it can’t hurt that much. Besides pipe smoking is a very relaxing pastime. It relieves stress.
So some days later after careful consideration I went to a local tobacconist. Well, the local tobacconist in my area: Rokado. And thank the heavens I went there. There are several other shops in the region that sell pipes and tobacco but they are the only one with some kind of expertise on the subject. And they have the largest assortment.
I walked into the store and said to the owner that I wanted to start with pipe smoking. I expected him to burst out in laughter a bit but luckily the man was dead serious. On a wall in the store hang a big plate with on it pipes from brands like Big Ben, Hilson, Peterson, Butz-Choquin and Terminus. At that time I knew nothing except that a Big Ben was a good pipe to start with. However, I liked a model that was made by Hilson, a Hilson Event. The store owner explained to me that Hilson was made in the same factory as Big Ben. “Ok, I’ll take the pipe”, I said. Then we walked to the shelves in the store which contained the pipe tobaccos. From Janneman’s pipe-book I knew that I had to buy Neptune because it was promoted as a good tobacco for beginners. The store owner also recommended some blends from MacBaren, Stanwell and Skandinavik. The pipe and tobaccos were put on the counter and when I wanted to buy those the owner interrupted me. “Hold on, you also need some pipe-cleaners, a pipe tool, a pipe lighter and some filters.” Oh of course! I read about those but totally forgot it.. I thanked the man, paid (he threw in the lighter for free) and went on my way with my new acquisitions.
At home I filled my first pipe with Neptune and… It was ok! No horror story about a burned tongue or something like that. I actually enjoyed it. My journey had begun.