Christmas time in Cologne

cologne-christmas-market-1Around Christmas time a lot of cities and towns in Germany have the long time tradition of the Christmas market. Last year Ellen and myself wanted to go to the big city of Cologne, but the weather-forecast was so bad that we stayed home. However, now things looked fine enough so we decided to go. Every year, the city centre of Cologne is touched by the (commercial) magic of the festivities in the run-up to Christmas. When the Christmas markets in Cologne open their gates on the last Monday before Advent, millions (!) of visitors from around the world delight at the (often expensive) goods on sale at the quaintly designed huts (or “Buden”). I must say, Christmas music, arts and crafts, toys, Christmas decorations and the scent of the Christmas bakeries all create a wonderful atmosphere. Pewter pourers, wreath binders and glass-blowers demonstrate their art and the aroma of mulled wine, hot chestnuts and gingerbread fills the air.


Christmas market in front of Cathedral

And yes, Christmas MarketS, there are several scattered throughout the vast city centre. Like the one in front of the impressive backdrop of Cologne’s landmark, the Cathedral, with 150 attractively designed wooden pavilions and a stage where children’s choirs and so can perform. Or the oldest Christmas market, held on the Neumarkt with an angel theme. These are one of the highlights here. Dressed in white and sprinkling glitter powder they waft through the alleys spreading good ol’ jolly Christmas cheer (no not the tobacco…). Once a week, Santa Claus, together with an angel, makes his grand entry onto the Neumarkt on horseback. The lucky bastard! But probably the most attractive Christmas market is the one on the Alter Markt in front of Cologne’s city hall with a gnome theme. Legend has it that the Heinzelmännchen (house gnomes) performed all sorts of different jobs for the locals of Cologne: they prepared the sausages for the butcher, sewed the clothes for the tailor baked the bread for the baker etc. So the winding alleys of the “house gnomes Christmas market” are themed just like the guilds of days past. From treats, toys and items to waken that feeling of nostalgia to handicrafts and Christmas products.

ArghBut Ellen and myself did not come only for the Christmas markets, we wanted to visit some museums and the Cathedral. You know, sniff some culture in stead of tobacco. Talking about the latter, of course I also wanted to stop by a couple of tobacco shops. The journey to Cologne went smooth, we started off with some rain but as we neared our destination the weather improved and we even saw some rays of sunlight! In fact, it was pretty hot for December standards, 15°C! At first I wanted to park the car near one of the museums but since the store of Peter Heinrichs is located close to the edge of the centre we opted to look for a parking spot there. Driving in busy city centres is mostly nerve wrecking for me so I was glad I found a parking garage at the Neumarkt. But it was closed! Arrghh! After a few minutes of evading pedestrians and bicyclers in the small streets we found a smaller parking garage with only 3 places left. Luckily I was there just in time before some German motorists, sorry guys!


Inside Peter Heinrichs

Peter Heinrichs was our first stop, pretty easy to find beside the Hahnenstraße. It was nice to see this shop since I have been several times in his bigger store in Bergheim, pipe-smoking valhalla! From the front the Cologne-shop did not seem big, however, from the inside it seemed a lot larger. The wall-cabinets were fully stocked with all kinds of pipes and in the middle of the store stood a large table complete with all of the Peter Heinrichs house-tobaccos. First thing I noticed were the large number of of employees, almost more than there were customers! Second thing I noticed was the warm smile and silent welcome of Peter Heinrichs himself, he was busy on the phone. Almost immediately I was greeted by an employee with the question if he could be of assistance. No thank you, I just wanted to look around, which was fine. Then another employee asked if we would like a cup of coffee. Yes please! While sipping on the hot dark liquid I asked the first employee if he had a tin of Peter Heinrichs Nr. Nr…… 30? The one with curlies… “And a bit of latakia.” The man quickly answered. He fetched a tin from behind. I wanted to fill the corncob I brought with me with some aromatic. “Do you have something with vanilla?” I asked. Immediately the employee recommended one of the house blends. I smelled it and asked if he had a blend with even more vanilla. Also a direct answer here and I filled my pipe with a pleasant sweet mixture. The knowledge of the employee was pretty impressive, I mean, they have about 170 house blends! Peter Heinrichs himself must give them one hell of an education!


Inside Peter Heinrichs

I also was looking for a tasty plug. Once again the employee was helpful and produced a bag of the well-known Curly Block. “Ehmm.. That is a curly, not a plug.” I answered. “I mean (while making square movements with my hands) a square piece of pressed tobacco.” The employee rushed to the front of the store and fetched a plug of Peter Heinrichs Reserve Crue No.6. That was more like it! On the upper floor of the shop were cigars and I could not resist the temptation to ask if they had my favourite cigar: My Father Cigars La Antiguedad. Immediately I was guided into the (surprisingly large) climate-room and yessss… A box of the rolled tobacco leaves was produced. But I only took two. I smoke cigars in summertime and a whole box is just too much (and too expensive) for me. I thanked the employee for his help, paid for the goods and we were on our merry way again.


Painting inside the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum

It was time for some culture so we walked to one of the big museums in Cologne, the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. It houses an art gallery with a collection of fine art from the medieval period to the early 20th century from painters like Vincent van Gogh, Peter Paul Rubens and Hieronymus Bosch. We started in the lower level of the building where there was an exhibition of Godfried Schalcken, mostly portraits with candlelight. Because of that the rooms were sparsely lighted and everything was really quiet. Until my mobile phone began to loudly rang. Arghh!! I dug it up from one of my pockets, immediately turned off the hellish noise and silently apologized myself.. One of the fun things about museums for me is to discover paintings with pipes or pipe-smokers in them. And I can say, I found several in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. I am not going to say where and which ones, find it out yourself.


Busy crowd before the cathedral

Next stop was the eternal landmark of Cologne, the cathedral. Although I saw it from the inside several times now (I’ve been in Cologne a couple of times before) it never fails to impress me. The enormous space inside, the stained glass windows etc. All really beautiful. What is also beautiful is the Cathedral treasury which one can reach from the side of the big building. Here all kinds of religious artefacts are displayed under which the famous wooden sarcophagus of the Three Kings (the gilded one is placed above and behind the main cathedral altar). Quite fitting was that I brought a tin of Cornell and Diehl’s We Three Kings with me, the Christmas blend from last year. I held it up to the sarcophagus and asked the holy remains of the three wise men to bless the tin. Afterwards it still tasted the same.. A good but not remarkable blend of red Virginia, bright Virginia and Katirini orientals with flavours of allspice, cinnamon and vanilla.


Salvador Dali’s La Gare de Perpignan

Behind the cathedral is the Museum Ludwig which houses a collection of modern art. It includes works from Pop Art, Abstract and Surrealism and has one of the largest Picasso collections in Europe. It also features many works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. To be honest, I am not a fan of modern art but Ellen loves it. However, there is one painting there which changed my life. Many years ago as a boy I visited the Museum Ludwig on a school-trip. Uninterested I strolled through the hallways of the museums from room to room until I saw a large painting which impressed the hell out of me: Salvador Dali’s La Gare de Perpignan (Perpignan Train Station). For some reason I still don’t know it spoke to me and I sat down in front of it. It wasn’t until then that I noticed the image of Christ on the cross, floating in the centre of the composition and I just was in awe about how that was integrated in the painting. This changed the way I looked towards art and to this day I am still a huge fan of the works of Salvador Dali.


Wolsdorff Tobacco

Well, Ellen had her fill so it was time to visit another tobacco-shop. A couple of streets from the Cathedral the Wolsdorff Tobacco GmbH Tabac-Collegium store is located. I now realize that Ellen has a fine nose regarding tobacco-shops. If she wants to wait outside, the store is mwahh, if she goes inside the shop is good. She went for a walk further down across the street so I should have been warned.. Well, warned.. The assortment of the store was fine, nothing to complain. Pipes and tobaccos from a lot of brands  galore. Like most German pipe tobacco shops they have their own brand which means the same blends as every other tobacconist, only with a different label. Also on a shelf were some Samuel Gawith tobaccos and my opinion is that a pipe-smoker never can have enough of that excellent English brand. I saw a tin of Perfection (the favourite blend of Samuel Gawith’s Bob Gregory) and asked the lady behind the counter if I could have one. “Perfection? Samuel Gawith?” “Yes, brand is Samuel Gawith, blend name is Perfection.” I answered. She looked at me questioning and asked another lady behind the counter: “Do we have a blend called Perfection?” The other lady shook her head. “No.” I had enough of it and pointed with a forced smile to the tin on the shelf about a meter from the lady. “Oooh sorry!” *sighs* I also bought a tin of the great Bothy Flake from the Kearvaig Pipe Club, good to see that one on sale in Germany.

Sadly I did not find these lovely figures..

Sadly I did not find these lovely figures..

Darkness was falling rapidly so we headed to the Christmas market on the Alter Markt in front of Cologne’s city hall. On a picture when I was looking up info about the Cologne Christmas Markets I saw a stand there that sold wooden Sherlock Holmes figures with a pipe in the mouth. Although the market looked absolutely wonderful we did not see everything of it and I did not find the stand. Problem was that it was very, very, very busy. I hardly could take a look at the wares sold and we had to shuffle and squeeze our way through the vast crowd.



So we went to look for a restaurant where we could sit down and eat something. And preferably smoke of course. The latter would not be problem since the wind had gone down and it was… Warm outside! A bit strange for the end of December but ok. Sitting down proved to be more difficult, every time we found a table folks sat down at it before we could reach it .. Grrrr… Suddenly Ellen saw an empty table at a restaurant opposite the Christmas Market. We rushed over there and yessss, we finally could sit down. It was an Austrian style restaurant called Servus with waiters walking in traditional “Lederhosen“. I filled up one of my corncobs with Dan Tobacco’s Sweet Vanilla Honeydew while we waited for the foods and drinks. I learned that German (and Dutch) people appreciate the smell of that one. What smelled (and tasted) even better was the 300 gram steak on my plate! Yummie!!! Ellen had some kind of sausage with mashed potatoes. All by all we ate wonderfully for little money, one of the things I love about Germany. Afterwards the way back home also went smooth. The day had been great with lots of culture, fine foods and drinks and good tobaccos!

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UPDATE 4-11-2016:
Today I sadly heard that Peter Heinrichs passed away. Also see this link. May he rest in peace.

Springtime in Seville – Part 2.

Click here for part 1 which describes the history of Seville and how it became the tobacco capital of the world.

carmen_posterFor me visiting the Real Fábrica de Tabacos (Royal Tobacco Factory) was a highlight of my journey to Seville. Today a part of the renowned Seville University is located there. Unfortunately the interior has been renovated and “no smoking” signs are everywhere. But until 1959 this magnificent building was Spain’s, no, Europe’s powerhouse for the manufacturing of tobacco. It is also the inspiration and setting for Seville’s most renowned fictional heroine, the free-spirited gypsy girl who embodies the Spanish ideal of the sensual femme fatale: Carmen.

Front of the Real Fábrica de Tabacos

The Real Fábrica de Tabacos was built between 1728 and 1770 and was designed and supervised by several military engineers from the North of Spain and The Netherlands. The works were abandoned for a long period (1735 – 1750) due to financial troubles (the initial budget was clearly not enough) and because the engineers and architects in charge were not fully committed. Its huge size (rectangular area of 27,195 square meter or 292,725 square feet) is just smaller than the mighty El Escorial located near Madrid. With a mixture of architectonic styles the building is divided into 2 areas. One devoted to the tobacco process and a smaller one that included the entrance, offices, depots and apartments for the superintendent and the director.

Painted tiles on the outside wall

Painted tiles on the outside wall

The factory was officially inaugurated in 1757 even though the building was not yet completed. Unfortunately, the factory was already out of date by then. It had been designed for the making of snuff, but during those 30 years the export demand for cigars increased and demand was equally high in the domestic market. The shift away from snuff production made a bigger labour force necessary. Cigars could not be ground out by the hundredweight but had to be assembled and rolled individually.

Las cigarreras


Before 1800 all the Fábrica’s workers had been men because making snuff was heavy work. But these proved to be too clumsy and slow for cigar-making. In 1813 the Fábrica came with a solution by employing single women, whose fingers were nimbler and who would accept a lower wage than men with families to support. The Fábrica recruited its new workforce from the young women of the Triana district. Seville is a hellish furnace in summer and the Triana girls, many of whom were gypsies, were reduced by the heat to working in their underwear. Even hotter became the well-bred European men who visited the factory in search of sexual thrills: This immense harem of four thousand eight hundred women is as free in speech as in words. They showed no reserve in profiting by the tolerance which permits them undress as much as they like in the insupportable atmosphere they live in from June to September. Almost all worked stark naked to the waist with a simple linen petticoat unfastened round it and sometimes turned up as far as the middle of the thighs. And they presented an extraordinary mixture. There was everything in this naked crowd, virgins excepted, probably.

Las cigarreras


The so called “cigarreras” prepared and rolled the tobacco leaf into cigars, chopped, rolled and ground it for pipe tobacco or snuff and made cigarettes rolled in paper. Cigarettes were initially considered a humble by-product, improvised by the factory girls to enable them to smoke discarded scraps from cigar production. The leaves were dried in special ovens that demanded a constant temperature and humidity apparently was secured by a system of subterranean waterways. The workforce was organized in a sophisticated hierarchy. Ranging from apprentices who started work at the early age of 13, peeling the stalks from the leaves, until (under the watchful eye of a veteran) they perfected the art of “making the baby”, rolling a cigar with the delicacy and precision of a midwife wrapping a new-born child. The aristocrat of this noble profession was the purera or maker of puros (cigars), who received top wages. But by far the majority of the women workers were employed in the humbler, poorer-paid, tasks of making cigarettes and pipe tobacco.



The right to bring babies into the factory was one of the important early victories of the cigarreras labour struggles. These feisty women were pioneers of European trade union rights. The factory even provided high-sided, wooden cradles that the mothers could rock with their foot without having to interrupt their work. Other victories achieved were the 8-hour workday, retirement pensions, working clothes and the custom of respecting the preferences of workers nearing retirement. The only inflexible rule was the absolute prohibition on stealing tobacco. This prompted the much remarked-upon personal searches that each cigarrera had to undergo. However, some were creative and hid the tobacco in a place his Catholic Majesty would have never dreamed of.

Altadis factory

Altadis factory

But by 1918, it was all over. The United States seized control of the world’s tobacco trade and both the economic reality and mythic reputation of Seville’s tobacco factory entered into decline. New machines improved the process and the cigarreras were replaced. In 1950 it was decided to move the tobacco operations to the Los Remedios neighbourhood and to use the historic building as the headquarters of the University of Seville. The replacement factory built in the 1950’s remained part of Spain’s national tobacco monopoly Tabacalera until that was merged into Altadis in 1999. In 2004, Altadis announced plans to shut the plant in 2007, bringing to an end Seville’s long tradition of making tobacco products. The last day of operation of the factory was 31 December 2007.

Andalucía Pipa ClubIn Spain tobacco is sold in shops called “expendeduría de tabaco y timbre” or “estanco”. You can find them anywhere, small and big, and are recognizable by a big banner with “Tabacos” on it. Compared to many European countries tobacco here is still cheap. Still, yes, because prices are rising rapidly because of the taxes. Despite that you pay for example for a tin of Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader €8, in Germany the current price is €12,85. But the assortment of pipe-tobacco differs greatly from estanco to estanco. So I decided to get some local help. After a bit of Googling I stumbled upon the Andalucía Pipa Club and mailed them about my upcoming journey to Seville and if they knew some good tobacconists in the city. I got a reply from the very friendly and helpful Alfonso who lives in Seville and immediately provided me with lots of information.

Tabacos at the Calle O'Donnell

Estanco at the Calle O’Donnell

The best places to buy pipe-tobacco in Seville are:
– The estanco at the Calle O’Donnell 30B. Google Maps is not accurate, just look for a big sun screen with “Tabacos” on it. This shop has the best assortment of pipe-tobacco in Seville. Basically everything from this list (Scroll to “picadura de pipa”). Just one thing, I had to point out the tins I wanted to the young employee to the amusement of the other customers.. Samuel Gawith? Qué?
– The estanco at the Calle Lineros 11B (Palacio del fumador). More focused at cigars but a lot of pipes and a decent assortment of pipe-tobacco.
– The estanco at Expendeduria 113. Not in the city centre, not so many brands as the first one, but more focused at specialities.
BEWARE: Spanish airport customs are very strict. My bag got searched and they counted the weight from all my tobacco tins, the ones I bought and the ones I brought with me from home. If you live within Europe you may take 1 kilo of tobacco with you and if you come from outside Europe even less.. Also be sure to keep your receipt if you buy tobacco in Spain. When you can’t show it if the customs officer asks for it all tobacco will be confiscated. Luckily all my tins could come with me.

SG_perfectionI also got some very useful tips where to eat and drink from Alfonso and asked him if there were places where I could smoke inside. He had to laugh: No problems for smoking your pipe because almost every bar/restaurant/café in Seville has a terrace. That’s the way of life in Seville: if we are living in a sunny city… Why we should stay inside a building? Good point.. We kept on mailing and he told me a story that he on a trip to Amsterdam got conned by a Dutch tobacconist. He paid €25 for 1 tin of Samuel Gawith Perfection! I mean, tobacco is expensive here but that amount was outrageous and nowhere near correct.

Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader Special Edition

Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader Special Edition

We also decided that we had to see each other when I was in Seville. So after a couple of text messages Ellen, Alfonso and I arranged to meet at the splendid Puerta del Pérdon near where we were staying. I put a corncob pipe in my mouth so Alfonso could recognize me but that was not necessary. I saw him first, puffing away under the great gate. We met like we were lost brothers, it really felt that way for me. We opted to go to the terrace of a nearby restaurant Alfonso knew. A bit tourist but Alfonso swore to me the drinks and food were excellent. We sat down and I said I had a present for him. I pulled out an aged tin of Samuel Gawith Perfection to compensate for the Dutch con. Alfonso laughed and thanked me, but he also had a surprise for me. The Andalucía Pipa Club had a blend made by Samuel Gawith: a limited, special edition of Squadron Leader containing perique. And precisely that was what he gave me, wonderful!

Me and Alfonso

Me and Alfonso

Time flies by when you are having fun, we chatted away and were even joined by Alfonso’s charming wife Macarena. They let us try local drinks and foods like shrimps in garlic, Jamón ibérico and deliciously sweet desserts. At the end of the magical evening I wanted to call the funny waiter (he had to serve the terrace alone and was so busy he forgot us several times which resulted in apologies in rapid Spanish and some free drinks) to get the bill but discovered Alfonso and Macarena already paid it. They gently refused my money and just said with big smiles: Welcome to Seville! Once again I thank them both for this unforgettable experience! Gracias!

To round off this blogpost, here are some tips from my own (short) experience about Seville:

View from our terrace

View from our terrace

– Hotels can be pretty expensive, especially near the old city centre. But thanks to AirBnB I found a small but delightful penthouse apartment, literally a stone-throw away from the cathedral, with an excellent price-quality ratio.

View from the Giralda

View from the Giralda

– Visit the large Seville Cathedral where the remains of Christopher Columbus are buried and climb the ancient Giralda tower for a stunning view of the city.

Part of the Alcázar garden

Part of the Alcázar garden

– Visit the Royal Alcázar of Seville which is one of most beautiful palaces in Spain and the oldest one still in use in Europe. A part of season 5 of Game of Thrones was shot there. Also marvel at the heavenly, lush gardens which are a blend of Moorish, Renaissance, and English traditions.

– Visit the Real Fábrica de Tabacos. Duh!!!

– Visit the famous Plaza de España, where movies like Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia were shot.


Torre del Oro

– Stroll along the Guadalquivir River and pay a visit to the old Torre del Oro.

– Visit the neighbourhood of Triana. It played an important role in the history of the city and is a folk, monumental and cultural center. If you want to see flamenco, go here.

– Wander through and get lost in the small streets of Santa Cruz where around every corner is a new wonder.



– Make a day-trip with the AVE high-speed train to Córdoba and visit one of the most awesome sights Spain has to offer: The Mezquita, the more than a millennium old mosque-cathedral, crowning glory of Muslim architecture in the West. In its heyday, a pilgrimage to the great Mezquita by a Muslim was said to have equalled a journey to Mecca. When you are done drooling in the mosque-cathedral you can re-fill your body-fluids at the enchanting Salón de Té.


La Hostería del Laurel

– Eat tapas! These little wonders of gastronomy are cheap and oh so yummie! Just order them randomly and find out what you like. Good places (but there are many, many more) are La Hostería del Laurel, one of the locations in Don Juan and Bodega Santa Cruz, better known as Las Columnas. I especially grew very fond of the latter, cheap and basic tapas but very delicious. Especially in combination with a tinto de verano or a local Cruzcampo beer. And a tip from Alfonso: If you find a bar/restaurant with too much tourism and no locals, or they are offering “real Paella”… It’s a trap!

After a long journey home (no thanks to the Dutch railways) Ellen and I came to the conclusion that Seville certainly had not forsaken us. Olé!!!

A part of the 2003 movie Carmen, filmed at the actual Real Fábrica de Tabacos!

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Latakia Lover


Latakia tobacco

Yes I admit.. I am a lover of the dark leaf that many pipe smokers love and even more wives and girlfriends hate: latakia. But I did not always like it..

fire_curedFirst something about latakia. What is NOT used in the process of making it is camel dung.. Many people think that because of the odour it gives when it is burned. Also latakia is not a ready tobacco. It is an oriental from which the leaves are hung above a smouldering fire so long that the leaves go from a light colour to dark brown or even black. Hence the name, the dark leaf.

Part of the Latakia port in 1935

Part of the Latakia port in 1935

Like so many things the discovery of latakia was unintentionally. Somewhere in the 1800’s in the northern part of Syria near the port city Latakia a bumper crop of tobacco was left in the storage attic of a house for many months where it was exposed to household fires and smoke. The following spring the unique flavouring and taste of the left behind tobacco was discovered. At the beginning of the 20th century latakia was used to spice up the then popular Turkish cigarettes. Later when ordinary domestic cigarettes rose in popularity the use of the dark leaf declined. Now it is only found in pipe tobacco blends.

There are 2 kinds of latakia: Syrian and Cyprian.

Shekk-el-bint leaves drying

Shekk-el-bint leaves drying

Syrian latakia is derived from a tobacco leaf known as “shekk-el-bint.” When it is harvest time the plant is cut and the leaves and flowers are laid on the ground to dry in the sun. When they have dried they are taken to storehouses, where they are smoked for a period of 13 to 15 weeks. The smoke is made by primarily using nearby hardwoods and pines, probably from the Baer forest, such as Aleppo pine, Turkey oak and Valonia oak. Also lesser amounts of other aromatic species like Lebanon cedar and Greek Juniper were used. When all is ready the tobacco is known as latakia and is referred to by the Syrians as “Abourihm,” which translates as “king of flavour”. Regarding taste Syrian latakia has a mellow, wine-like, wood-like character. Famous writer Charles Dickens was a big fan of Syrian latakia: “Syria provided the finest tobacco  in the world, the Latakia, in the neighbourhood of the ancient and renowned port of Laodicea (Latakia) at the foot of Mount Lebanon. And as Syria provides the finest tobacco in the world, the Prince of Syria, the Emir Bekir, had the reputation one most deservedly, of furnishing to his guests a pipe of tobacco far more complete than any which could be furnished by any rival potentate in the East.

Prime example of a blend with Cyprian latakia: Penzance

Prime example of a blend with Cyprian latakia: Penzance

Cyprian latakia comes from a Smyrna or Izmir-type tobacco plant that is known as “Yellow Cyprus.” The Yellow Cyprus leaves are harvested by de-stalking them and are made on long poles to be hung in a tobacco shed. The leaves are then smoked over open smouldering fires. These fires are made from hardwoods, some pine and aromatic shrubs and woods such as prickly cedar and myrtle. It has been reported that the Mastic shrub is primarily used in the smoke generation for Cyprian latakia. The following formula may approximate the shrubs and woods used for the fire/smoke-curing process: Mastic 90%, Myrtle 4%, Stone pine (this one or this one) 4%, Cypress 1%, Other 1%. The taste of Cyprian latakia is more assertive, sweet and leathery.

blendingWhen you mix latakia with other tobaccos you have to be careful. Although some others like to smoke it almost pure.. With percentages around 3% to 5% you just start to notice latakia. The sweetness of the Cyprian variant comes alive around 10%. The wine-like character of the Syrian variant begins to emerge at 10% to 12% until it dominates the blend around 30% to 35%. The maximum of Cyprian latakia is around 40% to 50%. However, higher percentages (60%) are possible but then a very skilful blending hand is needed.

Peterson Old Dublin

Peterson Old Dublin

I first read about latakia in Janneman’s Pijpenboek. I was growing a bit tired of all the aromatic tobaccos I was smoking. I wanted to taste something new. And I got just that.. My first choice of a mixture with latakia was Peterson Old Dublin simply because it was the only one that the Rokado tobacconist had in stock. At home I anxiously opened the tin and smelled the contents. Whooaahh!!! My nose went open instantaneously. What the……. “Does anyone smoke this??” I thought.. “Wel ok, let’s give it a try.” I picked a Peterson (how fitting), filled it up and lit it. Whooaahh again!! Like smoking wood from a fireplace! I did not really enjoy that first bowl but I was intrigued. After a couple of pipes I liked it a bit more but I still had some reservations. On a visit in Germany I bought a tin of Dunhill Nightcap. “Let’s try that one, maybe it is better.” Well, it was not.. Way too much nicotine for me at that point. I got sick and put the latakia mixture tins aside.

PS_BSA couple of months later a pipe of me was fixed by a fellow pipe-smoker from Belgium. As a payment he wanted tobacco in stead of money. I knew he liked latakia and I wanted to give him something special. So for the first time I ordered some blends from The States. Peter Stokkebye Balkan Supreme and McClelland 3 Oaks Syrian to be precise. Balkan Supreme came in a zip-lock bag which I put on a shelf in the kitchen. One evening I sat in the living room and suddenly I smelled something very nice. “What is that??” I wondered. I followed my nose to… The zip-lock bag with Balkan Supreme. Of course I could not smoke it, it was the payment for the fixed pipe. But when I visited the fellow pipe-smoker I asked if I could try the tobacco. And luckily I could. It was di-vine! Quickly I ordered a bag of Balkan Supreme for myself.

Old tin of Balkan Sobranie

Old tin of Balkan Sobranie

From then on my love of the dark leaf and the search for new (and vintage) latakia mixtures began. In the time that followed I was able to smoke classic vintage mixtures like Balkan Sobranie Original Mixture, Balkan Sobranie Mixture 759, State Express London Mixture, De Graaff Kegelbaan, Smoker’s Haven Exotique and many more.

Nowadays recommended latakia mixtures are:
– 4noggins: Britt’s Balkan
– Ashton: Artisan’s Blend*, Consummate Gentleman*
Balkan Sobranie Original Smoking Mixture (by J.F. Germain)
– Charles Faimorn: Lancer’s Slices
– Cornell & Diehl: Star of the East flake, Red Odessa
– DTM: Midnight Ride, Bill Bailey’s Balkan Blend, Old Ironsides
– Dunhill: Nightcap*, Early Morning Pipe*, Standard Mixture Mellow*, My Mixture 965*, London Mixture*
– Esoterica Tobacciana: Penzance, Margate
– GL Pease: Abingdon, Lagonda, Westminster, Odyssee, Samarra, Ashbury
– Hearth & Home: Magnum Opus
– HU Tobacco: Brullende Leeuw, Balkan Passion, My Special One, Olaf’s Favourite English, Khoisaan, Masai, Tuarekh, Tigray, Zulu
MacBaren HH Vintage Syrian
– McClelland: Frog Morton, Blue Mountain, Wilderness, Old Dog
Peterson Old Dublin*
– Peter Stokkebye: Balkan Sasieni, Balkan Supreme
Presbyterian Mixture
– Rattray: Black Mallory*, Red Rapparee*
– Robert McConnell: Scottish Blend*
– Samuel Gawith: Squadron Leader, Skiff Mixture, Perfection*
Sillem’s Black (one of the only aromatic latakia mixtures)
Solani Blend 779 Gold*

* Available in The Netherlands

UPDATE 15-06-2017:


Cyprian pipe maker Yiannos Kokkinos and my friend

Recently a good friend of mine went on holiday to Cyprus. Amongst other things he wanted to score some Cyprian latakia. After a visit to pipe-maker Yiannos Kokkinos he was directed to the West of the island to a village called Neo Chorio. Because there, in the Akamas region between Neo Chorio and the town of Polis were the tobacco fields where the Yellow Cyprus was grown. WAS grown yes. Several locals said in interviews (my friend had an interpreter with him) that 10 to 15 years ago tobacco production stopped in Cyprus. According to them nowadays the “Cyprian” latakia is produced in the Izmir region of Turkey. Afterwards it is shipped to the Turkish part of Cyprus where it is sold to tobacco brokers as Cyprian latakia. Luckily the quality has not been compromised because of this, I mean, I have not hear anyone complaining that their Cyprian latakia blends tasted worse than before. This story has been confirmed by Per Jensen of MacBaren.