The quest for forum tobaccos – Part 2.

Hans Wiedemann

Hans Wiedemann

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.

PRF 5 jaarSo, 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..

wowA 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.

800px-DunhillLightFlakeRound 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..

1Round 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.

Vanilla-LatteFor 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.

LatakiaI 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.

2Round 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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith 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!

Plan BWhat 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.

moneyYesss!!! 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.

7I 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:

P10607532

Genietmoment

GENIETMOMENT
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.
GenietmomentBackground 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 that 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).

Janneman Flake

Janneman Flake

JANNEMAN FLAKE
Contents: Brown and Red Virginias, Perique
Flavouring: None
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.
Janneman_FlakeBackground 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.

Brullende Leeuw

Brullende Leeuw

BRULLENDE LEEUW
Contents: Light and Red Virginias, Latakia, Oriental, Black Cavendish, Perique
Flavouring: None
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!
PRF_Tabakken_K&K.inddBackground 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): hu-tobacco@t-online.de

Kind words of Hans to the forum who sums it all up pretty well

Kind words of Hans to the forum who sums it all up pretty well

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.

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Attractive Aromas

Me sniffing at raw tobacco leaf at the DTM factory

Me sniffing at raw tobacco leaf at the DTM factory

Tobacco leaf is the main source of flavour and aroma in any tobacco product (Duh!) But aside from latakia and perique (which are stinky enough from themselves) and orientals, raw leaf itself has little smell or taste. And by raw leaf I mean Virginias and burleys, they are almost always cased. For example, I’ve smelled pure and dry Virginias in the tobacco warehouse from the German DTM factory. It made me think of fish-food in stead of the hay-like aroma I am used to. Also tobacco crops vary from year to year, they are not consistent. So flavouring supplements are necessary to create both taste and aroma and help maintain a consistency in them. In the early days tobaccos had a subtle flavouring, but at the end of the 1960’s the high aromatics came into fashion. You know, the kind of blends that dissolve the glazing on your teeth and your girlfriend/wife love.  Anyway, additives to tobacco products can be classified in two categories: casings and top dressings (toppings).

No tongue bite please!

No tongue bite please!

Casings: Sometimes you read on labels of tins that a blend for example contains unflavoured Virginia and/or burley. Well, the truth is that very few tobaccos have no flavouring at all. Although a casing can be as simple as sugared water or honey. I know that DTM uses honey for the casing of many of their raw tobacco leaves, the factory floor is pretty sticky because of it. Casings are used at the early stages of tobacco processing to ease the negative qualities of a certain kind of leaf. Ehmm.. Some burleys can be somewhat sour and produce a more alkaline smoke, which can lead to the dreaded tongue bite. The use of a sweetener, a casing containing some sugar, can solve both problems. Some Virginias can be harsh, but also here, with the right casing that can be fixed. In general (of course their are exceptions) casings are not used to flavour the tobacco as much as to make it ready for other processing. Like you make a mild marinade for a piece of chicken to slightly give it a flavour, make it more tender and prepare it for cooking.

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Casing machine at DTM

The flavour of a casing should be compatible to the base tobacco that is used. For example, white burley has a certain kind of nuttiness and would match well with chocolate. Which is a commonly used casing for burley. The tobacco which has to cased is put into a machine that somewhat resembles a large clothes dryer with little sprayers on the inside. The casing is then heated and injected into the chamber. Through the use of tumbling, steaming and vacuum pressure the casing works its way into the leaf. Casings are often steamed into the leaf. The steam helps to open the pores and insert the added flavour into the tobacco. Because of this process, casings are usually water-based. After the casing of the tobacco it is dried. Often by putting the leaf on a conveyor which passes through a heated chamber. This reduces the overall moisture content of the tobacco to a level that is more manageable. This level generally is between 12% (pretty dry) and 22% (very moist). The ideal moisture for smoking depends on you, the smoker. But usually it is between 13% and 16%.

Rope tobacco

Rope tobacco

The following step will be determined by what the blend is supposed to be. If the intention of the final product is to be an unflavoured blend, for example a Virginia/perique or latakia blend, then the base tobacco is ready to use right after coming out of the heating chamber. The tobacco will be put in a container or something like that in which the finished blend, combined with the other components, is mixed and then is packaged. If the the final product is to be a plug, flake or rope the process starts with raw leaf that will be cased like I told above. After coming out of the casing machine the leaf immediately goes into the press. This because higher moisture is needed to get a good pressing. Or it goes through the drying procedure and is re-hydrated to the right level.

Thanks to top dressings the (in)famous Captain Black White is what it is..

Thanks to top dressings the (in)famous Captain Black White is what it is..

Top dressings (toppings): These are flavourings that most of the time are applied at the end of manufacturing process. That signature flavour, that particular tin aroma, that heavenly room note; all the responsibility of the top dressing. They are usually alcohol-based. When the water based casing is applied, the drying process will bring the tobacco back down to the correct humidity. But at the end of the process the blender wants to avoid having to use heat to re-dry the leaf a second time. So he uses an alcohol-based flavouring and allows the tobacco to rest for a couple of days. The alcohol will evaporate which leaves the concentrated flavour behind with little additional moisture.

Propylene glycol

Propylene glycol

Most casings and top dressings contain a “fixing agent” to assure that the flavourings will stick to the leaf and remain stable until used. In addition to fixing agents hygroscopic agents are used. Hygroscopic agents are chemicals used to control the moisture content of tobacco. They prevent the tobacco from becoming too dry in a dry climate or from picking up moisture in a humid area. The most widely used agents are sorbitol, propylene glycol and glycerine.

Andreas Mund and me before shelves full of concentrated flavours

Andreas Mund and me before shelves full of concentrated flavours

Concentrated flavourings are preferred by most tobacco blenders. This because the extract/concentrate can be manufactured much more uniformly and is less subject to changes while being stored than natural flavourings. When I visited the DTM factory I saw shelves and shelves full with all kinds of concentrated flavourings. According to master-blender Andreas Mund the city of Hamburg (pretty nearby the factory) is the centre of the world for concentrated flavourings. Lucky DTM! It was a strange experience when I opened up some of the flasks and bottles and sniffed the contents. You read something on the label like “chocolate” and when you smell it you absolutely don’t recognize it because it is THAT concentrated. So it won’t be a surprise that some blends use as little as 8 tablespoons of fluid per 100 pounds of tobacco.

Chocolate

Chocolate

Here are some of the most common flavourings:
Chocolate is manufactured as a natural product from the coco bean. It may be fortified with some cocoa which is synthetically produced.
Fruit flavours are obtainable in both natural and synthetic form. Natural fruit flavours are extracted from processed fruit.
Licorice comes from the licorice root and can be fortified with synthetic chemicals.
Menthol can also be made synthetically or it can be used in its natural state which is distilled from peppermint oil.
Rum used in tobacco is most of the time the Jamaican type. Jaaah man! It can also be synthesized.
Vanilla can be used in its natural form but for the most it is manufactured synthetically.
Wine flavours are as varied as the types of wine available: burgundy, sherry, madeira, etc.

Gawith & Hoggarth: Kendal's Banana Gold. One of the few blends anywhere with banana-aroma

Gawith & Hoggarth: Kendal’s Banana Gold. One of the few blends anywhere with banana-aroma

It is very difficult to create a good aromatic blend. You have to take in consideration the natural aroma of the leaf plus whatever the casing adds. Virginias often have a hay-like aroma and if that is not taken into account you could end up with something entirely different than you were hoping for. Also certain flavourings take advantage of other ones. A bit of vanilla boosts the taste of chocolate. Or flavourings have a tendency to overpower others, like coconut. And then there are flavourings that just don’t match with tobacco in general. For example, Paul has always looked for a blend with a nice banana-flavour and has not found one yet. Banana and tobacco.. Should work one would think. Well, I spoke with aromatic master-blender Michael Apitz from DTM and asked him why they did not have any blends with banana-flavour. He took me to the warehouse and showed some old tins with… Banana flavoured blends. “You know, there is a reason we don’t sell them any more and why they are collecting dust in the warehouse” he said. “They just don’t taste good and because of that people won’t buy them.” So it may take a whole lot of trying out before the aroma of a blend is acceptable.

And if you want to know why most aromatics don’t taste like they smell, have a look here: Who’s afraid of chemistry? (by Paul)

keep calmThese days every blender anywhere on the globe can make a high aromatic. But back in the days in the United Kingdom they had the “Tobacco Purity Law”. This law prohibited blenders from the use of large amounts of artificial flavourings and hygroscopic agents in the manufacture of tobacco products. In the early years of the Dunhill store Alfred Dunhill himself used to experiment at home with the creation of new blends. Regularly he got visits from police-officers who thought they smelled illegal things going on.. There was a list of additives that were approved and which had to be dissolved in alcohol or water. BUT they could only be applied at small percentages. For example, it was estimated that less than 0,5% of the weight of any given brand, manufactured in the United Kingdom, consisted of flavourings. This stood in contrast with some brands manufactured in the United States. There sauces constituted as much as 25% of the gross weight of the tobacco product. And in the case of Dutch tobaccos, this number was as high as 35%. So the blenders in the United Kingdom had to use the best quality tobaccos available, primarily the Virginia-type ones, orientals and condiment leaves like latakia and perique. And of course they had to have to skills to create outstanding mixtures. This with the help of all kinds of processing techniques such as stoving, toasting, panning, steaming and pressing. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the Tobacco Purity Law was abolished by the Thatcher government so that American tobaccos could be sold in the United Kingdom.

Recommended aromatic blends are:
– Cornell & Diehl: Autumn Evening
– DTM: BiBo, Blue Note, Mediterraneo, Memories of Tuscany, Sweet Vanilla Honeydew
– HU Tobacco: Geniet Moment
– Lane Ltd.: 1-Q, Captain Black White
– Mac Baren: 7 Seas Regular Blend*
Neptune*
– Peterson: Sunset Breeze*
– Planta: Danish Black Vanilla*
– Stanwell: Melange*
– Sillem’s: Black
– Winslow: No. 1*, Harlekin*
– WO Larsen: Fine & Elegant*

* Available in The Netherlands

Arno’s.. Ehrr.. Olaf’s Favourite English

IMG_9993When I first contacted master-blender Hans Wiedemann from HU Tobacco at the beginning of 2012 I asked him if it was possible to receive some samples of his blends. From fellow Dutch pipe-smokers forum members Smoking Rob and Huub I had heard and read some positive things about Hans’ mixtures, so I was very curious. I mainly ordered samples from latakia blends. All blends were good but there were 2 “touchdowns”. One of them was Balkan Passion and the other one Olaf’s Favourite English. It was made by Hans for pipe artist Olaf Langner, who prefers solid English mixtures for his smoking den. That sounds just like my cup of (lapsang souchong) tea!

IMG_9997Package: Olaf’s is only available in typical German 100 gram “paint” tins. This because of the lid which resembles that of a paint tin. Ideal if you ask me, because it keeps the tobacco fresh for a long time. I opened my tin half a year ago (I have more tins open and I only smoke 2 pipes a day) and the little tobacco left inside is still as moist as the moment I first popped the lid. On the front is a nice drawing of Olaf and the name of the blend, on the backside a description of the contents. Inside on top of the tobacco is a paper insert with an illustration of a compass on it. The sign the mixture inside was blended and tinned by DTM.

IMG_9998Contents/composition: A sweet base of Virginias, 40% Syrian latakia, 10% Cyprian latakia, perique, quite a bit of Smyrna oriental, darkfired leaf and English black cavendish. Whooo Arno.. In your blog-post Syrian latakia you said that there is almost nothing left of that dark leaf! That is true and despite the contents description there is no Syrian latakia in Olaf’s. I smoked the mixture a couple of times and could not detect the Syrian leaf I know from blends like 3 Oaks Syrian and Wilderness. So I mailed Hans about this and asked if he could verify the use of Syrian latakia. A couple of e-mails further I read that DTM reluctantly acknowledged  there was no Syrian dark leaf inside Olaf’s. So from now on 50% Cyprian latakia is used in the blend. Oh, don’t be afraid the taste has changed because of this. I smoked some of a new batch and it was the same as the old one.. The tobacco itself looks dark with some blond strands and is mainly a ribbon cut with some small chunky pieces which make for easy packing.

noseSmell from the tin: A classic latakia mixture smell arises from the opened tin. Sweet, bitter, sour, salty and smoky notes. However, between these I detect something I can’t really define, a bit mushroom like odour. The only blend in which I smelled this before was GL Pease Lagonda.

011Taste: With a lot of latakia mixtures there is a bitter taste at the charring light. Not with Olaf’s. The latakia makes itself known but does not overpower, it provides a kind of full roundness of taste together with the darkfired leaf in which the Virginias can develop. It is not a latakia-bomb. Halfway the bowl the sourness of the Smyrna takes the upper hand a bit which combines nicely with the underlying Virginias and latakia. I know there is perique in the mixture but I think I get more of the spicy pepper side of it than the fruity side. Although… At three quarters of the bowl the smoky and salty latakia is a bit tuned down by the black cavendish. What I then taste I can best describe as a bit salty liquorice with a honey-sweet edge. Maybe that is caused by the combination of the perique and the black cavendish. In the last bit of the bowl the flavours slowly starting to fade out similar to that of the fading sound a great musical piece and in the end a fine grey ash is left.

pipeCombustibility: Once lit the mixture keeps burning pretty easy with few relights. No comments here.

thumbsRoom-note: I don’t see my girlfriend Ellen hurrying out of the chamber or coughing violently while I smoke Olaf’s so I guess the room-note is acceptable for a latakia blend. She has smelled worse.

The evening ended on a cozy note...Miscellaneous: Olaf’s benefits from a longer shelving time so the flavours have more opportunity to meld together. Pretty necessary for a complex blend like this one. When I opened my tin it was tinned one year before and I found it good for consumption. However, I am very curious how the mixture will taste after a couple of years of peace in my tobacco closet. The nicotine level is medium, it really is a late night smoke in that regard. Maybe it fits together well with a glass of fine whisky or red wine. Also because of the complex character of the blend I would not advise to smoke it in the morning. One thing that sometimes bothers me a bit about Olaf’s is that now and then it has the tendency to bite in the first part of the bowl. From the other side it could have something to do with my body chemistry on some days.

moneyPrice: My tin was a bit cheaper but thanks to German tobacco-taxes one 100 gram tin of this wonderful mixture will now cost you €18,35 ($24.21) in Hans’ online shop.

IMG_0001Conclusion: From the first puffs I took from this excellent blend I fell in love with it. For me Olaf’s Favourite English delivers everything I expect from a wonderful English mixture; it is complex but without bragging about it. All the flavours from sweet to smoky to leathery to sour to salty weave throughout the smoke in perfect balance. Personally I think this is one of the best latakia blends on the mainland of Europe and it can easily compete with the finest offerings from blenders like GL Pease.

Whisky and Tobacco (by Paul) – Part 2.

This is part 2 of the “Whisky and Tobacco (by Paul)” post. Click here for part 1.

Jim_Beam___White– Virginia / Perique blends:
Tobacco blends with Perique have that typical sour aroma and taste. There are not many “sour” whiskies/whiskeys. But you could try an American Sour Mash whiskey, like some well known brands produce, like Pappy Van Winkle, Jim Bean, Woodfort Reserve, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey and some Jack Daniels expressions. Note that the Sour Mash process is used in almost all Bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys. If you are looking for that typical aroma, check the indication “sour mash” on the label. The process doesn’t make a whiskey with a sour aroma-note as per definition, they can turn out very sweet and with vanilla/caramel aromas.

As for Scotch single malts I can’t easily come up with whiskies which have a sourly aroma or taste. It’s a taste most whiskymakers do not want in their whisky. The only one I ever encountered that would fit in here is an independent bottling of Edradour 10 yo from The Un-Chill-Filtered Collection, distilled 12-08-1998 and bottled 20-11-2008, 46% alcohol and from cask No. 286.
Besides looking for a sour taste in the whisky (and because Perique brings out more complexity out of the Virginia tobaccos) you could try such a tobacco-blend with a more complex whisky, like mentioned next, under Virginia/Oriental blends.

royal_lochnagar_12_yo– Virginia / Oriental blends:
Typically a single malt like Royal Lochnagar 12 yo brings out a leathery note, which I think would combine easily with an Oriental tobacco blend. It also brings out a little peaty flavour and aroma. Other light to medium peated whiskies would do nice in my opinion, like Springbank 10 yo, Scapa 16 yo and Isle of Jura Superstition.

I think a Virginia/Oriental tobacco blend can be perfectly combined with more complex whiskies, such as Highland Park 18 yo, Loch Lomond Old Rhosdhu 10 yo, Glen Garioch 12 yo or a Glen Spey 12 yo.

15yo-551– Virginia / Burley blends:
Burley can give a tobacco some hint of chocolate. And in some whiskies you can find that aroma too. Bladnoch 15 yo would do fine (chocolate, orange and even a tobacco aroma can be found) or the Glencadam 15 yo. These whiskies are not too strong in taste and aroma, which combines nicely with the Virginia-based tobacco.

spsob.12yo– Burley / Kentucky blends:
Here too the chocolate can be found, but I think a Burley/Kentucky tobacco is often somewhat stronger in aroma and taste than a Burley/Virginia. Therefore I would recommend a whisky that is a bit more “present” in the nose and on the tongue, like Glenrothes from about 14 yo or older or a Speyside 12 yo. The latter shows even more chocolate with a few drops of water (and don’t exaggerate on the water!).

Lagavulin-16-Jahre-07-Liter– Latakia blends:
Well, this is the territory of the man who get hair on their chests while smoking these kind of tobacco-blends. And mind you, there are whiskies which grow hair on your chest too: the peaty ones.  A few examples of medium to strong peated whiskies are Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Kilchoman (all from the Isle of Islay) and Longrow (the peaty one from Springbank) or Ledaig (the peaty one from Tobermory). But also some brands, less known to produce peaty whiskies, have managed to bring some nice peaty expressions. Like the Isle of Arran Devil’s Punch Bowl, Croftengea 5 yo or Inchmoan 4 yo (both from the Loch Lomond distillery) and Ardmore Fully Peated Quarter Cask finish. The famous Talisker from the Isle of Skye matches evenly well with a Latakia tobacco. And distilleries from the Isle of Islay that have a non-peaty house-style sometimes produce a peaty whisky. Like the Port Charlotte expression from Bruichladdich and the Moine-series from Bunnahabhain. The last one only bottled by independent bottler The Ultimate from Amersfoort, The Netherlands.

302– Cigar leaf blends:
With tobacco blends which include Cigar leaf I think a lot of peaty whiskies can be combined perfectly. Also whiskies with some leather-aromas would do fine (like the mentioned Royal Lochnagar 12 yo). But one specific single malt comes to mind to accompany a cigar leaf pipe tobacco and of course a cigar as well: the Dalmore Cigar Malt. If you like these kind of tobaccos or you are a cigar aficionado as well as a pipesmoker and you are looking for a balanced whisky to go with the smoke, this is the best I can recommend. It balances perfectly with the smoke and even let’s behind an oily film in your mouth. Which makes the smoke, either pipe of cigar, very pleasant.

Whisky casks

Whisky casks

So, in general:
Keep in mind that maturing on ex-American whiskey casks creates whiskies with vanilla and caramel. They vary from dry to pretty sweet. Maturing on ex-sherry casks mostly give more complex whiskies. With aromas varying from fruits, chocolate and flowers to nutty aromas and even aromas of other distillates like brandy and armagnac.

1316408608_1316417382844Pipe-smoking and whisky-drinking:
In closure I would like to make a kind of statement. People often ask me if smoking is allowed while drinking whisky. My opinion on is this: When you are drinking socially or just to relax and take some time for yourself to enjoy the good things in life, please smoke, drink and eat what you like and how you like it.
However, when you are seriously “nosing and tasting” your whisky, it’s better not to smoke. The same goes for exploring a tobacco trying to define the aroma’s which are in it: better not drink or eat while searching for the fine nuances in your mixture. The one interferes your perception and findings of the other. Whether you are exploring whisky while smoking or exploring your tobacco while drinking a fairly strong drink like the ” water of life”. For instance, the Scotch single malt whisky Highland Park 18yo is a very complex whisky with 24 detectable aroma’s. If you are really exploring this whisky, a smoke will have effect on your nose. Thus making it very hard searching for such fragile distinctions in whisky aroma’s.
Having said this, I can assure you that I like to smoke my pipe or a good long-filler cigar while enjoying my whisky. Even my complex Highland Park 18yo, when I’m just relaxing and enjoying my passions: pipe-smoking and Scotch single malt whisky.

Enjoy your smoke and your drink,

Paul

Candy Cavendish

Black cavendish tobacco

Black cavendish tobacco

If perique is the pepper of the tobacco world, if latakia is the salt, then cavendish is the sugar. Often it is used in aromatics and it is a good tobacco for beginning pipe smokers.

Almost all types of pipe tobacco in general belong to one of two groups: those used as the “base” of a mixture (like burley and Virginia) and those used for adding flavour, taste and aroma to a blend (such as latakia, perique and orientals. But cavendish can be used both as a base and as a flavouring agent.

Cavendish is a description of a type of pipe tobacco and a manner in which tobacco is cut.  It is not a type of tobacco plant. It rather is a process by which tobaccos are prepared. So there is no tobacco grown anywhere in the world that is known as a cavendish tobacco.

Sir Thomas Cavendish

Sir Thomas Cavendish

Now some history. In 1585 a visit to the English colony of Virginia was made by Admiral Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Thomas Cavendish at the request of Queen Elizabeth. The native people of the area presented tobacco to the colonists and Sir Thomas wished to bring it back to England for promotion and selling. On the return voyage he infused his personal supply with dark rum. Thus preventing it from drying out and to sweeten the smoke. He then rolled the leaves (common practice of the sailors back then) and bound them tightly together with sail canvas and twine. After a few weeks the tobacco was cut in little slices and smoked. Remarkably the flavour had improved, the tobacco was sweeter, more mellow and it demonstrated an aromatic fragrance. That all pleased Sir Thomas and others who tried it.

Steaming cavendish tobacco © Right Click Media, LLC

Steaming cavendish tobacco © Right Click Media, LLC

So cavendish tobacco simply is a product of “double” fermentation. This process uses (already one-time fermented) air-cured or flue-cured tobaccos like Virginia, burley, Maryland or any combination of these three types. These can be infused with substances that are high in sugar like: rum, maple, sugar, chocolate, licorice, honey, fruit, vanilla, bourbon and a few more. After the infusion the tobacco is compressed, steamed, heated, fermented and aged for a period of time. This results in a compressed “cake” of tobacco that is sliced and/or rubbed-out. For example, untreated, bright leaf (Virginia) tends to burn very hot and fast with a light, sharp flavour. The cavendish process makes this a more pleasant product. The tobacco is aged longer, burns slower, has a better taste and important, the ladies love the smell.

In the ol’ days the creation of cavendish tobacco varied from country to country and from manufacturer to manufacturer. Nowadays the whole process is more standardized and it doesn’t matter that much from which country cavendish comes. There are even manufacturers who don’t make their own cavendish any more because of the long process and just buy it ready-made. The countries which originally produced the most widely known cavendish tobaccos were: The United States, The United Kingdom, Denmark and last but not least The Netherlands. And they all had different production methods:

Cavendish manufactured in the United States
In order to get the tobacco to accept the required amount of casings it may be dipped (especially the burleys) into a casing sauce or heavily sprayed with flavouring sauces. The tobacco was then allowed to rest for a period of time. This way the tobacco and casings were wedded after which it may be subjected to pressure. It could take weeks or months until the blend had properly accepted the casing materials. The colour of the processed cavendish ranged from a light brown to black, depending on the leaf and casings used.

Cavendish Manufactured in the United Kingdom
The English manufactured their cavendish only with a heavier grade of Virginia. The tobacco was placed in molds and subjected to heavy pressure for three to four days. The pressure on the tobacco caused the natural oils to rise. Because of the heavy natural sugar content of the Virginia leaf the tobacco developed a sweet taste.

Sail: typical Dutch cavendish

Sail Regular: typical Dutch cavendish

Cavendish Manufactured in Denmark and The Netherlands
We Dutch and the Danes employed a slow manufacturing method. First steaming the tobacco to open the pores and then casing it very heavily. It was then placed in molds and subjected to pressure until a cake was formed which could be cut into bars an then into smaller pieces.

Black Cavendish
Then we also have the so called “black cavendish”. The two important steps employed in all manufacturing of black cavendish are:
1. The dipping of the tobacco into various casing, flavouring sauces (usually licorice) and
2. The steaming of the tobacco which turns it black.
For the rest the process is the same as with regular cavendish.

Black cavendish tobaccos can be manufactured from either Burley or Virginia leaf. Usually, the heavier and darker leaf grades are used. Since this tobacco is heavily impregnated with flavourings, the taste is naturally influenced by those.

The British also made black cavendish. The only difference is the restricted use of additives which made the taste more natural. So the usual method of processing this tobacco is to “sweat” and steam it. Which causes it to turn black. The tobacco is then placed in a mold and subjected to pressure for one to several days until a cake is formed. During this phase, additional steam may be applied.

As I said above cavendish also is a manner in which tobacco is cut. The term “cavendish cut” simply means a type of cut that is between a long or ribbon cut and a heavy fine cut.

Blending Pipe tobaccoMany smokers prefer to smoke straight cavendish. But it is often blended with other tobaccos such as burleys and Virginias. If you are making your own blend, start by mixing equal amounts of unflavoured cavendish and burley. This will give you some idea of the use of cavendish as a base. If you wish you can keep adding it until it makes up as much as 90% of the mixture. What you can also do is to take plain white burley. Then add for example about 25%  cavendish flavoured with honey (or another flavour) to the blend. This way you will get a mild smoke with very lit­tle aroma. When you use cavendish together with latakia and orientals (an English or Balkan mixture) about 15% is the max.

There are many, many, many blends that use cavendish. This are the most recommended ones:
– Amphora: Full Aroma*
– Borkum Riff: Cherry Cavendish*
– Cornell & Diehl: Autumn Evening
– DTM: BiBo, Blue Note, Memories of Tuscany
– Just For Him: Shortcut to Mushrooms
– HU Tobacco: Geniet Moment
– Lane Ltd.: Captain Black White, 1-Q
– Mac Baren: 7 Seas Regular Blend*, 7 Seas Royal Blend*
Neptune*
– Planta: Danish Black Vanilla Flake, Pergamon
– Poul Winslow: Harlekin*, No. 1*
– Sail: Regular*
– Samuel Gawith: Black Cherry, Celtic Talisman
– Sillem’s: Black
– Stanwell: Melange*
– Troost: Aromatic Cavendish*, Black Cavendish*, Special Cavendish*
– WO Larsen: Black Diamond, Mellow Mixture*, Sweet Aromatic*

* Available in The Netherlands

EDIT: I see there is some confusion between English pressed Virginia flakes, cavendish and black cavendish.
– English cavendish is made without the steaming under high pressure in 3 to 4 days.
– English black cavendish is made with steaming the tobacco under high pressure in 1 to 2 days.
– An English pressed Virginia flake, like Samuel Gawith’s Full Virginia Flake, gets about 4.5 hours of steam pressure, then slowly cools in the press overnight. In the morning they take it out. It is still warm then but it has slow-cooled for 12 hours. Golden Glow gets about 2.5 hours of steam pressing before cooling overnight.
So the process of pressed English Virgina flakes is in essence the same as with cavendish. Only the time is much, much shorter.

Peppery Perique

Harvesting perique tobacco

Harvesting perique tobacco

Perique is the pepper of the tobacco world. It spices up and enhances all kinds of mixtures when used moderately. But use it too much and it destroys a blend.

Around 1776, French-speaking settlers from Canada (the Acadians) moved into the area of Saint James Parish, Louisiana. They saw that the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes were cultivating a variety of tobacco with a distinctive, spicy, fruity flavour. These native Americans had a special way of preparing it. They would pack leaves tightly into a hollow log and put a heavy rock on it. Pretty similar to how it is done today, but later more about that.

A farmer named Pierre Chenet was the first to begin raising the local tobacco commercially in 1824.  Chenet’s nickname was “Perique,” hence the name. He is also credited with refining the fermenting process (which gives perique its unique flavour) through the technique of pressure-fermentation.

Pressure-fermentation

Pressure-fermentation

This process of producing perique remains a traditional craft. Not much has changed since the early 20th century.

First air cured tobacco is hand stripped. The leaf which is used  is considered to be pretty similar to burley. The only moisture added is just prior to the stripping to make the leaves pliable. How many moisture is used is up to the craftsmen. You just have to feel it. Then the tobacco is rolled into “torquettes” of approximately 1 pound (450 g) and packed into hickory whisky barrels. These are  topped off with a wooden lid and pressed by using oak blocks and massive screw jacks. Thus forcing nearly all the air out of the still moist leaves. The barrels are unpacked at least three times during the active fermentation phase (around five months). The torquettes are then repacked in the barrels in reverse order (former top bundles on bottom and bottom bundles on top) to permit a little air back into the tobacco. They are then closely monitored with periodic increases of pressure.

After at least a year of this treatment, the perique is ready for consumption. But the longer the barrels are sealed and pressure is applied, the more complex the flavour notes become. The finished tobacco is dark brown (nearly black) and very moist with a fruity, slightly vinegary aroma that carries a hint of alcohol. The fruity aroma and hint of alcohol are the result of hundreds of volatile compounds created by anaerobic fermentation of the tobacco. Many of these are responsible for the flavours of fruits and are often found in wine. Talking about alcohol, there even is a perique liqueur!

Original St. James perique

Original St. James perique

There are 2 different types of perique. St. James perique is made by using the method above. The other one is called Acadian perique. It is made by processing Green River burley in the same manner as the St. James version. The two types are almost always blended together for use in various mixtures. But to be able to use the name “perique” it has to contain some St. James. Of course some people tried to grow perique outside Louisiana, then use a similar processing method and mix it with the real stuff.. Awful.. Fortunately, no legitimate companies are using this kind of tobacco. No, real perique only grows within the St. James Parish area. Some scientists believe that it sits on top of a mineral deposit that gives the tobacco its robust and distinct flavour.

Percy Martin († February 4, 2012 at the age of 93)

Percy Martin († February 4, 2012 at the age of 93)

At one point in the recent past, the future of Perique did not look well. Farmer Percy Martin had been producing the tobacco for years. But when the numbers of pipe smokers declined, the usage of perique declined. Struggling to find a new market, Percy began mailing samples to potential buyers. That is how Santa Fe Natural Tobacco caught wind of his rare brand of tobacco. So the lion’s share of Percy’s output went to that company for the usage of American Spirit cigarettes and rolling tobacco in 2000. But at least he did survive and after his death in 2012 his son Ray took over the business.

Fortunately the production of perique seems to be secured now. Pierre Chenet’s granddaughter, Coralie Decareau, married Celestin Poche in February, 1829. And the Poche family has been involved in the cultivation and processing of perique through current times until Mark Ryan bought the firm in 2005. Ryan has doubled production since that time ans soon the production capacity will even quadruple to 400 barrels annually. Ryan is able to ensure supply because he has increased prices to the farmers and eliminated their labour of stripping the leaves. As a result, St. James Parish farmers are once again interested in growing tobacco.

Blending perique

Blending perique

Perique is a very versatile tobacco. When you use it with deep, heavy tobaccos like matured Virginias and/or dark burleys it adds a mellow sweetness that tends to reduce the sharpness of those. When used in a more mellow blend it can add a bit of tang and spice. And if you have got a blend that lacks richness and depth a bit of perique can resolve that problem. It also can help slow down the burn rate of a blend. That is why it is so often used in Virginia blends which tend to burn fast and hot. What you then get is a so called VaPer.

Masterblender Andreas Mund of DTM with a barrel of perique

Masterblender Andreas Mund of DTM with a barrel of perique

Being a condimental tobacco, perique is usually used sparsely in a mixture. Also because it has a fairly decent amount of nicotine. Beware, over time perique will mellow out in a blend.
– 1% to 2%: enhances flavour without making its presence known
– 2% to 4%: the presence can be detected. Its absence would be noted because the flavour of the blend would be subdued. Like listening to music with ear-plugs.
– 4% to 8%: perique really begins to make itself known. Like a voice that you softly hear.
– 8% to 12%: yes, there definitely is perique in this blend! You can notice it very well.
– 12% to 20%: a good working maximum. Unless your name is Aleister Crowley. He smoked straight perique soaked with rum. The Beast…

Recommended blends with perique are:
– Ashton: Artisan’s Blend*
– Cornell & Diehl: Kajun Cake, Bayou Morning, Old Joe Krantz
– DTM: St. Bernard Flake, Midnight Ride
– Dunhill: Deluxe Navy Rolls, Nightcap*
Escudo Navy Deluxe
– Esoterica: Dorchester, Dunbar
– GL Pease: Fillmore, Haddo’s Delight, Telegraph Hill, Chelsea Morning, Triple Play
– Hearth & Home: Anniversary Kake
– HU Tobacco: Janneman Flake, Louisiana Broken, Edward G, Director’s Cut
– J. F. Germain & Son: Royal Jersey Perique
– MacBaren: HH Acadian Perique
– McClelland: Bulk No.2015 Virginia Flake, Personal Reserve: St. James Woods, PCCA Tudor Castle, PCCA Beacon
Orlik Golden Sliced*
– Peter Stokkebye: Luxury Bullseye Flake, Luxury Navy Flake
– Samuel Gawith: St. James Flake
– Solani: 633 Virginia Flake with Perique*
– Wessex: Brigade Sovereign Curly Cut

* Available in The Netherlands

Voluptuous Virginia

John Rolfe and Pocahontas

John Rolfe and Pocahontas

One of the most versatile tobacco leafs is Virgina, also known as the “bright leaf”. It is used for example in latakia blends and aromatics, gets mixed with Perique but can also stand perfectly on its own.

This tobacco goes back a loooooong time. It was Sir Walter Raleigh who took the first Virginia tobacco to Europe in 1578. He referred to it as tobah.
Then, In 1609, John Rolfe set foot in Jamestown, Virginia. He is credited as the first settler to have successfully grown tobacco for commercial use. But most people know him as the husband of Pocahontas. Yes, from the Disney movie. Go and tell THAT to your kids.
The tobacco grown in Virginia at that time, Nicotiana rustica, was used by the Chesapeake Indians in their religious ceremonies. The English settlers tried to sell some of this tobacco in England, but they were unsuccessful. That Virginia had a strong odour and flavour and the English consumers preferred a milder variety. They got just that when in 1614 John Rolfe planted this sweeter tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) in Virginia. It came from seeds which he brought from Bermuda or Trinidad. He grew enough to ship four barrels of tobacco to England. Rolfe’s tobacco sold for a high price and tobacco quickly became the main source of cash for Virginia. In fact, tobacco was used as currency by the Virginia settlers for years and Rolfe was able to make his fortune in farming it for export.

The bright leaf that became the favourite of European markets was not discovered until 1839. In that year a slave, Stephen Slade (owned by farmer Abisha Slade from Caswell County NC), accidentally discovered a new flue curing method that turned the leaf a bright yellow. He fell asleep one night while keeping an eye on the wood fires used for curing the barns of tobacco. Whether it was the stormy night, instinct or just what woke him, no one will ever know. But he awoke realizing that the fires in the tobacco curing barn had almost gone out. Rather than throw wet wood into the dying fire, he rushed to the charcoal pit near the forge. He grabbed several charred log parts and threw them on the embers. The application of the sudden, drying heat, derived from the charred logs, produced an amazing effect on the green tobacco. The result was 600 pounds of the brightest yellow tobacco ever seen. By the mid-1850’s, Abisha Slade had emerged as one of the leading educators in the use of charcoal in the curing of bright leaf tobacco. He made many public appearances to share the bright leaf process with other farmers.

Virginia field

Virginia tobacco field

In the United States Virginia is grown in the following “belts”, comprised of six states:
Old Belt: Virginia and North Carolina
Middle Belt: North Carolina
Eastern Belt: North Carolina
Border Belt: South Carolina and North Carolina
Georgia Belt: Georgia, Florida and Alabama

But the bright leaf is also grown all over the world in countries like Canada, China, Zambia, Tanzania, India, Argentina, Brazil and The Philippines. Because it grows pretty well in poorer soil it is one of the easier plants to cultivate. Beware, the flavour will vary depending upon where it is produced. For example, American Virginia tobacco is quite a lot sweeter than African.

Talking about sweetness, Virginia tobacco has a natural high sugar content. It is not abnormal to find sugar levels of 20% to 25% in the bright leaf. If the tobaccos are cased (like in aromatics) it can be even higher. Because of that higher sugar content Virginia can burn a bit hot. So if you don’t smoke slow you might wind up with a leather tongue.. And exactly that  is one of the reasons that Virginia flakes are popular. They slow down the burn rate because the tobacco is tightly packed together. Virginia-Perique blends are also very loved. This because the combination tastes good and the slow and cool burning Perique tames the Virginia heat pretty well.

Red Virginia

Red Virginia

There are several types of Virginia, each with unique characteristics:
Yellow Virginia: The most sweet of them all. Lemon to banana yellow in colour. The taste has a citrus-like, acidic sweetness.
Orange Virginia: A bit less sweet then the yellow with a kind of hay-like quality.
Bright Virginia: (A collective term) Most of the times a mixture of yellow and orange with perhaps a bit of red.
Red Virginia: A bread or yeast-like toastiness with a lot less sugar.
Brown Virginia: Heat, pressure and ageing are used to deepen the flavour and increase the nicotine content of the leaf. Regarding taste it has a mildly sweet earthiness.
Black Virginia: Yellow Virginia gets roasted on a metal surface until it turns black. This way the sugars are caramelized and you get a bit of a sweet, fruity taste.

When creating new blends, Virginia is VERY important. It forms the backbone of a mixture. Very often several types of Virginia are used within 1 blend, also in different cuts. For example, HH Mature Virginia from MacBaren contains 15 different types of the bright leaf. So if you make a new mixture, be sure that the Virginia part of it tastes good. Then when you are satisfied you can add other tobaccos like latakia, orientals etc.

There are a LOT of Virginia blends, I am not going to name them all. Well known straight (or almost straight) Virginia mixtures and flakes are:
Ashton Gold Rush
– Capstan: Medium Navy Cut, Gold Navy Cut
Cornell & Diehl Opening Night
– Dan Tobacco: Hamburger Veermaster, Skipper’s Flake
Dunhill Flake*
– Esoterica Tobacciana: Blackpool, Kingsbridge
GL Pease Union Square
HU Tobacco Sunset
– MacBaren: Virginia No.1*, Virginia Flake, HH Mature Virginia
– McClelland: No. 5100 Red Cake, No. 2010 Classic Virginia, Blackwoods Flake, Dark Star, Christmas Cheer
Rattray Marlin Flake*
– Samuel Gawith: Full Virginia Flake, Golden Glow, Best Brown Flake

* Available in The Netherlands