Inter-Tabac 2018 impression

It was early in the morning..

September 22nd it was once again time for one of my annual highlights: The Inter Tabac fair in Dortmund. For those of you who missed the blogposts I made of the visit the last couple of years; the Inter-Tabac is the leading and biggest trade fair of the world for tobacco products and smoking accessories. This year 625 exhibitors from 54 countries presented trends and innovative tobacco products. This included cigars, cigarillos, cigarettes, E-cigarettes, E-pipes, E-shishas, smoking accessories, pipes, pipe tobacco, shishas, shop equipment and spirits. Unfortunately the fair is for retailers, not for consumers. Like the previous years I was able to secure a ticket through Fred. The saying goes, the more the merrier, so (with approval of Fred) I invited Jef, who is an enthusiastic Three Nuns tobacco fan (more about that later) and also a member of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum. Sadly just a day before the fair Fred told me he could not make it. So on the early morning of the 22nd Jef drove from the West of The Netherlands, where he lives, to the East, where I live. To be precisely, to the MacDonalds in Deventer. There is a big parking lot just near the highway so I could park my car there and Jef and I could drive together. He was already there when I arrived and asked me the magic words on an early morning: “Do you want some coffee?”

We arrived well on time at the Westfalenhallen, the location of the fair, but when we wanted to go to the main entrance we could not find it. Turned out there was a big renovation going on so we had to walk through some sand and mud to get inside.. I proposed to first go to the stand of DTM/Danpipe because, well.. They have coffee there. And excellent tobaccos of course! We were greeted by master-blender Andreas Mund and his charming wife (both DTM employees) who, by the way, is responsible for many of the new DTM blends. Apparantly she has good taste buds, a good smell and some creativity. Jef knew of a perfume site where a lot of smell-combinations are explaned so he told her about it in spotless German. My German is just ok, I can understand it and make clear what I think and want but that’s it. So I looked at Jef and he smiled and shrugged “You probably did not know I am half German right?” No I didn’t but it was damn handy to have a walking translator beside me.

Andreas brought us all some coffee and I asked about new blends. DTM only had one called “The Untouchables”. A collaboration between DTM’s Michael Apitz and Hans Wiedemann from HU Tobacco. Very interesting! Andreas handed me the jar containing the blend and I first read the label: The Untouchables Special Mixture: The basic mixture consists of mature ready rubbed Virginia and a pinch of smooth Black Cavendish. Aroma of cedarwood and roses are added as a final seasoning, which marry perfectly with the tobacco’s original flavours. Untouchable – incorruptable in terms of quality! Ok, I opened the jar and it smelled inviting, so I grabbed my pipe and wanted to fill it with the blend. “Whooh! No you can’t!” Andreas said. “Huh, why not?” “Well, ehm.. We were a bit late deciding which aromas would be used so we only have this jar and nothing more..” “Ehrr.. Ok, so you have a new blend and no one can sample it?? You had loads of time to prepare for the fair!” With a laugh Andreas said: “Well, here it goes like, damn, the fair is in a week, let’s come up with something!” Ok, I opted for some tasty Fred the Frog instead. We talked some more about the company and we all believed it is a company that has “soul”.

A lot of Three Nuns vintages

Next we went to the big stand of the mighty MacBaren. This was a highlight for Jef because he is a big fan of the Three Nuns blend (and he knows all about its history) which is made by MacBaren now for a couple of years. Recently 2 new Three Nuns blends came out: Three Nuns Green (containing Kentucky, Perique and Virginia) and Three Nuns Yellow (containing Virginia). I did not have tried any of them, in fact, I did not have tried Three Nuns at all in my pipe smoking life. Until some months ago when I received a full envelope from Jef containing samples of different vintages. Some tasted better than others but still, very good! Jef even brought some of those old blends with him to show to product manager Per Jensen, who greeted us warmly. I just had to say “Three Nuns” and almost like a magician he made the 2 new blends appear on the counter. After an extensive sniffing I decided to load my pipe with the “Green” version. It was fresh as a young virgin but it tasted damn mature! Yummie! Per said: “We never looked back when we created the new blend. We never tried any of the old Three Nuns. Reason is that the tobacco manufacturers back then could lay their hands on does not exist now any more.” We talked some more when the subject came upon Burley. I said I seldom smoked Burleys but was willing to try some. So I asked if I could have a sample of the HH Burley Flake. Promptly I was given a full sealed tin. “That is how we do samples at MacBaren!” said Per with a wink. His next gift was a very special one, a big heavy book called “The Pipe, A Functional Work of Art“. It looked absolutely stunning with beautiful pictures. Thank you very much Per!

Love all the curlies ^^

When we were chatting and smoking the fabulous Three Nuns a man walked up to the counter. He had an unsmoked corncob pipe in his hand and said to Per he came for his pipe-smoking lesson. It turned out he came from Switzerland, was a cigar aficionado but wanted to explore the world of pipe-smoking. Ah, a possible new convert! Jef had some experience teaching new pipe-smokers so Per and I gave him the thumbs up to go ahead. And I have to say, Jef did a very, very good job. Per and I stood mesmerized while Jef explained all the basics to the man. Beginning with what the man liked to eat and drink in his regular life. Sweet? Not sweet? Smoky? Based on that Jef thought the man would prefer a more natural tobacco. So he let him smell some to show the difference between blends. On my advice the man also held his nose above a mixture with some latakia (some people immediately love it and want nothing else) but he did not like it very much. In the end Jef advised the man to try Amphora Virginia, because it is natural and uncomplicated yet tasty. He then told how to fill a pipe with the 3-step method (first putting in the tobacco like a child, softly, then as a woman, a bit harder and finally as a man, firmly press it). The Swiss man then lighted his pipe and began puffing contently. Jef explained some more basics on how to smoke and clean the pipe. The man loved it, “I can taste my favourite whisky!” he said with a big smile. Later we would bump into him again and he would repeat that he “really liked it, really liked it!” Mission accomplished.

The stand of Gubbels (Big Ben)

It was already time to lunch and on our way outside we passed the stand of Big Ben. As always Elbert Gubbels was very busy but he took the time to greet us. When I asked how things were going his face contorted: “All those damn EU regulations! Now they want that the Samuel Gawith tins I import no longer have a golden colour. Instead they must have an aluminium look because the gold looks too fancy!” Talking about Gawith, when we were outside having some lunch (which we brought with us because the food prices at the Inter Tabac are utterly insane) I spotted a grey man trying to sneak past us. When he saw I noticed him he tried to get away but to no avail, I gave him a big hug, it was Bob Gregory. “You bastard!” he said, “Every time I look at the bottle of beer you gave me last year I have to laugh! What’s inside huh? Belgian ale? Strong stuff!” Yes Bob, the stuff that makes you grow even more chest hair! Less funny were sadly his stories about, yet again, the EU regulations. I asked him if there was a chance Flatlander Flake would be released worldwide. “No, because the sky is blue.” “Excuse me?” “The sky is blue in the tin art which is not allowed any more. It strikes a too positive note about smoking.” Completely bonkers if you ask me.. “By the way, do you know a place in The Netherlands called Ootmarsum?” Bob asked. “Yes I do, in fact it is not too far away from where I live.” “Good, you should go there to a brewery, forgot which one, and take a good look around.” “Why?” “Because all the old Samuel Gawith machinery and equipment from the Kendal Brown House is there.” “What??? You mean amongst others the legendary old snuff mill from around 1750? The oldest, longest working piece of industrial equipment in Great Britain, perhaps even the world?” “Yup.. After the move to Gawith & Hoggarth we really tried to keep it all in Kendal, in the country. I phoned museum after museum, even the British Museum but no one wanted it.. Such a shame.. In the end a Dutch friend of mine who has a brewery in Ootmarsum bought it all to put in his little museum.” Back home I looked on the internet, the brewery in Ootmarsum must be the Othmar brewery. I think I will visit them soon.

One of Poul Winslow’s favourite pipes

After lunch Jef and I went to the stand of the Scandinavian Tobacco Group. Inside were pipes of brands like Peterson (! I had expected they had gone elsewhere since Laudisi took over the brand), Stanwell, Dunhill and Winslow. Stanwell had some new pipes made out of beech wood. According to the friendly spokes-lady they would last about 300 smokes. Hmm.. That does not add up to much for that price, I thought.. My corncobs are much cheaper and they already last far more than 300 smokes. Peterson had nothing really special and Dunhill had some weird pipes with a bend stem so you can smoke it around a corner or something like that.. Mr. Poul Winslow himself was present and I took the opportunity to thank him for repairing one of my favourite Winslow pipes. Some time ago I bit through the mouthpiece, I contacted my seller and he said to just send the pipe to Denmark for repair. So I did and only a couple of days before the Inter Tabac I got it back, with a new stem and polished. Mr. Winslow immediately recognized the pipe when I showed him, “Ah, the pipe with the broken mouthpiece right?” Further we had a pleasant conversation, he is such a gentleman.

Me and Lasse Berg

At a side of the stand I spotted a friendly giant: Scandinavian Tobacco Group master-blender Lasse Berg. On a table before him were jars with all kinds of loose tobaccos; Virginias, Burley, Kentucky, Latakia, Perique etc. It turned out he was blending mixtures for whoever who wanted them. That was an opportunity I would not miss! “What do you want?” He asked me. “A good balkan blend please!” With the speed of an experienced blender he put together some orientals, Latakia and Virginia. “Would you like some Perique?” “No thank you.” “A bit of Black Cavendish?” “Yes please.” He deposited it all in a tin and asked me what the name of the blend should be. “Balkan Arno, please”. Later that afternoon I smoked it and I have to say, it was better than expected!

Next was the stand of Kohlhase & Kopp. What struck us the most were the new “just-like-Dunhill-but-different” blends under the Robert McConnell banner with names like Early Bird (Early Morning Pipe), City of London (London Mixture), Majesty Elizabeth (Elizabethan Mixture) etc. I don’t know what to think of it.. Creative, yes, but also a bit of an insult to the old Dunhill blends. Anyway, Dunhill tobacco already died for me when Murray’s took over. I had the opportunity to smoke several sublime 1970’s versions and they were superior to the later blends I had, Murray’s and Orlik. At Vauen there were few new items. I think a new Auenland and I saw some pipes with weird psychedelic spots on them.

Jef had spotted a brochure that somebody held advertising CBD oil. What the hell does someone want with oil made out of the cannabis plant? Well, sadly Jef’s father has cancer, a very lethal version. The doctors had given him only 6 months but because of the use of CBD oil and Curcuma extract pills he has been going pretty strong for 19 months already! Jef is busy with setting up a business that can import, and perhaps later make, CBD oil in The Netherlands. But he did not expect to find suppliers on the Inter Tabac Fair. So we visited several of them. Pretty interesting, one company even had a vaping device which allowed you to inhale the CBD into your lungs. Handy with patients who have lung cancer for example.

Because the visits to Danpipe, MacBaren and the CBD companies took so long we could not see the entire fair. But I don’t think we missed much. Oh wait, there was one thing, I missed some scantily dressed promotion babes! It all was very, decent, this year. Until we were in one of the Vaping halls and we saw a stunning bodypainted beauty. Yesss!!! Around 5 o’clock we decided to call it quits and find something to eat. Like every year there was only one location we could go to; El Greco in the town of Herne. The friendly owner more or less recognized me from the other years (“Netherlands, right?”) and the meal he made was as good as ever.

I want to thank Jef for keeping me company and for all the interesting conversations we had. All pictures were made by Jef and myself.

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A visit to Amsterdam

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Yesterday it was time for a long planned visit with my girlfriend Ellen to the Dutch capital: Amsterdam. After a dreadful, cold and rainy spring we were in luck, the weather finally was good. Not too cold, not too hot, a blue sky, just perfect for a day of culture and shopping.

After a longer-then-necessary train-ride (trains are very often delayed in The Netherlands) we arrived at Amsterdam Central Station. To our surprise outside the station we saw our former queen, now princess Beatrix. She just walked inside the Beurs of Berlage to attend some award ceremony.

One of the the most famous Dutch paintings: the “Nachtwacht” by Rembrandt van Rijn

First we went to the recently renovated Rijksmuseum. The distance from the Central station to the museum is about 3 km. Of course you can take a bus or tram but it is much more fun and cheaper (and healthy) if you walk. The direction-signs are very clear and when walking you can much better see all the old buildings and soak up the atmosphere.

Rijksmuseum library

Rijksmuseum library

I won’t go into providing lots of information about the Rijksmuseum, after all, this is not an art-blog. But if you click on the links I already provided you soon know what you need to know. A visit to this historic building with it’s vast and excellent collection is mandatory if you are in Amsterdam. The museum has on display 8,000 objects of art and history, from their total collection of 1 million objects from the years 1200 – 2000. And among those are some masterpieces by Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Vincent van Gogh and Johannes Vermeer. Beware, it can be very busy in the museum. But if you like some peace and quiet you can go to the Rijksmuseum library.

Next after the museum it was time for me to do some shopping. Amsterdam has several tobacco-shops, here are the ones I know of:
Sigarenmagazijn Berkman. Singel 528, 1017 AZ Amsterdam, tel. 0031 20 62 33 751, video on youtube
Hajenius. Rokin 92-96, 1012 KZ, Amsterdam, tel. 0031 20 623 74 94, Hajenius website
Davidoff. Van Baerlestraat 84, 1071 BB, Amsterdam, tel. 0031 20 67 11 042, video on youtube
Hartman. Leidsestraat 58, 1017 PC, Amsterdam, tel. 0031 20 624 51 50, Hartman website, video on youtube
Hartman. Beethovenstraat 88, 1077 JN, Amsterdam, tel. 0031 20 67 05 770, Hartman website, video on youtube
Van Lookeren. Gelderlandplein 143, 1082 LV, Amsterdam, tel. 0031 20 644 10 62, Van Lookeren website

Amsterdam also has a pipe-museum. If you are a pipe smoker (which I hope!), this visit is a must, it is maybe the last museum of its kind in Europe.
Amsterdam Pipe Museum. Prinsengracht 488, 1017 KH, Amsterdam, tel. 0031 20 4211 779, Amsterdam Pipe Museum website

Sigarenmagazijn Berkman

Sigarenmagazijn Berkman

The two shops on the top I visited yesterday. Sigarenmagazijn Berkman was the first one. Pretty easy to find, walk straight ahead from The Dam until you reach the Bloemenmarkt. Turn right there, walk a few hundred meters and than it is on your left. You can’t miss it because of the large sign on the outer wall. Inside the shop is pretty small but very cosy. The owner is a very nice man who makes you feel welcome at once. He laughed when I asked him about some vintage tins he should have. I wasn’t the first one from the Dutch / Belgian pipesmokers forum to ask about those. Luckily he still had some nice tins of De Graaff Seamen’s Club, a red Virginia mixture for a cheap price. Also he had tins of Samuel Gawith’s Perfection for little money compared to the current prices. Unfortunately I had to cut short the friendly conversations we had because Ellen was waiting outside. She never goes inside tobacco stores..

Pantaleon Gerhard Coenraad Hajenius

Pantaleon Gerhard Coenraad Hajenius

The second shop I visited was Hajenius, the most well-known of the Amsterdam tobacconists. Also easy to find. Walk straight ahead from the Dam, the street there is called Rokin. After about 500 meter the store is on your right hand.
Some history: On September 4, 1826 Pantaleon Gerhard Coenraad Hajenius opened his tobacco and cigar store in hotel De Rijnstroom at the Dam. In 1868 the store moved to another spot on the Dam, due to the widening of a nearby street. The business prospered, more and more diplomas and medals at international exhibitions were gained and thus a high reputation was acquired. The house Hajenius developed into a purveyor of many European monarchs. In 1914 the company was forced to move again to its current location on the Rokin. This time for the construction of the clothing store Peek & Cloppenburg. A year later the store was opened with much grandeur.


Hajenius outside © Roel Wijnants

The new Hajenius building was designed by the brothers Van Gendt A.Lzn. It consists of a functional and modern for that time concrete skeleton with a traditionally styled exterior of natural stone. Above the entrance is the carved royal arms, a reference to the time Hajenius was purveyor to the royal household. On the outside the name Rijnstroom reminds us of the previous buildings of the firm.

Hajenius inside

Hajenius inside

The rich and stylish interior, also designed by the Van Gendt brothers, remains almost entirely original. The walls and the counters are covered with various kinds of marble, wooden panels and decorative brass-ware. The decorated and gold and bronze colour painted ceiling is divided into compartments. On the ceiling are two colossal brass chandeliers that date from the time that Amsterdam was still lit by gas. The big tobacco jars on the shelves of the display cases are made of Delft pottery and are painted with Chinese scenes. In the back of the store is a very beautiful foyer where you can smoke and enjoy a cup of coffee or something stronger.

The My Own Blend corner at Hajenius

The My Own Blend chamber at Hajenius

Since the beginning of this year Hajenius also has a My Own Blend chamber. In short, the name My Own Blend was first used by the renowned Paul Olsen in the 1930’s. The core of all this is that pipe smokers can get their own personal tobacco blend mixed. Personally I think the concept was inspired by the famous Dunhill My Mixtures. More than 35,000 pipe smokers since the 1930’s had their own blends made and one of them is King Frederick IX. In the “recipe database” are over 10,000 different recipes!
But… in The Netherlands it is forbidden to sell loose tobacco. They solved it by making the My Own Blend chamber a toll-free zone. When the tobacco comes in it belongs to the Scandinavian Tobacco Group. That stays that way until the blended mix is put in a tin and a Dutch tax-seal is glued on.

The different tobaccos are being put together

The selected tobaccos are being put together

So of course my main target at Hajenius was the My Own Blend chamber. When I entered the store I saw two people behind the big marble counter. An elder man and a young attractive girl. I turned to the geezer and asked if it was possible to get an own blend made. “Of course”, he said, “my colleague will help you”, while pointing at the young girl. Ehrrr… ok, nice.. I stood there, sweaty and smelly but the girl stayed a total professional. She and I walked to the room and I was allowed to go in and make some pictures. In the small chamber stood about 50 big numbered translucent jars with all kinds of tobacco in them. From several Virginia species to Kentucky and burley to orientals to latakia.

The selected tobaccos are being blended together

Then they are mixed

The first thing the girl asked me if I liked aromatic or natural tobaccos. Natural please! I asked if she had the ingredients I wanted, of course I already had a recipe in mind. She produced some papers with numbered tobacco descriptions on them that corresponded with the numbers on the jars. But, I must say this, she did not need those papers. She had memorized what was in the jars and even knew the tobacco descriptions by heart. Besides that the girl told me she was trained by Scandinavian Tobacco master-blender Lasse Berg, quite impressive. I also asked if the concept was successful for them. She answered that in Denmark the concept (of course) did very well but that it here still had to take off. Well, maybe they first should update their website I said to which she vaguely murmured something..

Finally the mixture is put into the tin and the Dutch tax seal is glued on

Finally the mixture is put into the tin

After I hastily went through the descriptions (remember, Ellen was waiting outside..) I knew which tobaccos I needed. Some golden Virginias, red Virginias, orientals, black cavendish and latakia. The girl fetched the corresponding jars, weight off the quantities I wanted, put those together and started mixing them. “Hmm.. Is there not too much latakia in there?” She asked. *Sighs* Women and latakia… “No there is not too much latakia in there”, I said. “Together with the other tobaccos a nice balance is created.” When the different ingredients were well blended the girl put the mixture in a 100 gr. tin and sealed it off with a lid. She then produced a Dutch tax-seal and glued it over the tin and the lid. “What is the name of the mixture?” She asked. “Ehm.. Arno’s Mixture 665” I said. In girly handwriting she wrote that on the tin. I asked if the recipe and name of the blend could be saved. Of course that was possible and she put the data in the computer.

My Own Blend “Arno’s Mixture 665”

So if someone comes into the Hajenius store he/she can now ask for Arno’s Mixture 665. It is a medium Balkan blend with deep red Virginias, fresh golden Virginia’s, assorted orientals, Cyprian latakia and a bit of black cavendish to round it all out. Remember that if you buy it you should let it rest for at least week and preferably longer. This because the used tobaccos still have to “blend” together. I also found the mixture somewhat dry, so a bit of moistening can do no harm. The price for such a custom blend is €25,50 ($33.05, £21.80). Pretty expensive but considering the whole experience I thought it was very fair.

After I came back from Hajenius it was halfway the afternoon and Ellen and I decided to go back home. We both saw what we wanted to see that day. We stopped in Deventer, where we live nearby, to go to a restaurant to nicely round off the day. It was hot enough to eat outside so after a tasty dinner with lots of smoky, grilled meat, I was able to light up a pipe while enjoying a cup of coffee. Ahhh.. Life is good.

EDIT 28-9-2017: Sadly sigarenmagazijn Berkman has closed its doors some time ago..