Zestful Zutphen 2014

Panoramic view of Zutphen

Panoramic view of Zutphen

This year the road to the annual Zutphen-meeting was a bit bumpy. Willem Schimmel, the tobacconist where the meeting is always held, was full of ideas and enthusiasm but a lot of Dutch/Belgian pipe smokers forum-members said they could not come. It turned out that the original date was the day after Fortarock and for quite a few of them a meeting after a day of metal and beer was just too much. So Willem set a new date with the help of Mark and about 30 folks responded. Still not as much as last year but enough pipe-smokers to make a cosy, smoke-filled day.

Left in the back: Freek and myself

Left in the back: Freek and myself

Unfortunately one of the forum-members who could not make it was my dear friend Ed. Which meant that we all had to do without his pleasant company but also meant that I could not drive along with him. So I was forced to take the train, not a long trip, only 22 minutes. From earlier blogposts you could know that I believe the Dutch railways are pretty sh*tty. To my utter amazement I arrived without any delays precisely on time! When I stepped out of the train-wagon onto the platform I almost immediately heard an unfamiliar voice behind me: “You must be Arno!” I turned around and saw a rather big, middle aged man who turned out to be forum-member Freark (real name: Freek). “I hope you know how to walk to Schimmel because I really have no clue..” he said. Of course I knew the way, it was not my first time in Zutphen. So while chatting we strolled through the streets to our mutual destination.

Overview of Willem's smoking room

Overview of Willem’s smoking room

When we arrived at Schimmel we clearly were not the first. As with every meeting I attended so far the first minutes mainly consisted of shaking hands. Luckily in the smoking lounge on the first floor there was a chair free to sit on. I filled up my Dunhill cherrywood shape pipe with some Rattray’s Hall O’ the Wynd, a full flavoured excellent Virginia with just a pinch of perique. Paul sat beside me and I told him about my clumsiness with the Dunhill I was smoking. From the first moment I bought it at the Lohmar show the stem was difficult to screw off. I already applied some graphite from a pencil on the tenon but one fateful day the stem just would not come off. While silently cursing I grabbed a towel and a pipe wrench (a fitting name) and wrapped the towel around the stem to keep it from harm. Then I carefully screwed off the mouthpiece and just as it got loose I slipped and made a deep scratch just beside the towel on the vulnerable ebonite.. Argh! A couple of months earlier forum-member Arjen had fixed the mouthpiece of a GBD prince for me so I mailed him with some pictures of the scratch and the question if he could repair it. Of course he could! After a short while I had it back in pristine condition! Then I saw Klaas entering the already smoky room together with his lovely wife Yvonne. She “sacrificed” herself so Klaas could be with us, the darling, and brought a huge camera with her which she aimed at us again and again.

Freek and Jos

Freek and Jos

Opposite me sat Wilfred with a big beard. Normally he is cleanly shaven in summertime and has facial hair in the winter. However he decided at the beginning of spring to just let it grow with a great result for which I envy him a bit. My beard is almost non-existent.. But I had something for him. Before my trip to the Semois-region this year he asked if I could bring a pack of Didot’s Langue de Chien so of course I bought it for him. As an extra “thank you” he gave me an old tin of no longer available De Graaff’s Seamen’s Club, (extra) matured dark Virginia which I often use in my home-mixtures. And there was more generosity! Jos approached me with the tale that he had been at a market in Amsterdam, where he lives, and had to think about me. He saw a stand which sold little signs for in the house like “kitchen” and asked the vendor if he also had a “smoking area” sign. Unfortunately he was out of stock, otherwise Jos would have bought it for me. Last week I received an e-mail from him saying that he was able to buy the sign, he is going to give it to me at the next big meeting in Heukelum. Nice!  Then to find out where to hang the sign, I don’t think Ellen will appreciate it when I put it on the front door..

Inside the basement of the Stadsbrouwerij

Inside the basement of the Stadsbrouwerij

As an extra activity Willem had organized a tasting at the local Grand Café/brewery in Zutphen; Stadsbrouwerij Cambrinus. Just a short walk from the store across the public square. Upon entering the Grand Café we were led below to the basement and greeted by the friendly master-brewer. We all sat down at tables with at each place 6 little glasses upon a placemat with numbers. One of the first  things he told us was that the basement we sat in was 800 years old! Wow! And the nice thing is, in that time it was already a brewery so the walls must have been soaked with the fumes of alcohol. No smoking fumes sadly, it was not allowed.. Damn laws.. Anyway, the stories of the master-brewer were so good and vividly told that I totally forgot about my pipes. The tasting of beers went from the lighter beers to the dark and heavy ones, similar to Paul’s whisky tasting I once attended. And with each new beer the master-brewer told a story about its origins, very interesting. Paul himself did not want most of the beers, he still had to drive, so the content of a lot of his glasses disappeared in the bellies of Johnny (the Undertaker) and myself. I am no beer-expert but all beers were decent (I am spoiled by all the great Belgian beers I guess..) with a couple that were really nice. The glasses were small but afterwards I could really notice the alcohol coursing through my veins..

Stanley's son Arthur

Stanley’s son Arthur

During the tasting a forum-member joined us that I had not seen for a while. The man with the most difficult nickname of all, Gypscoprotheres. Try to say that 10 times in a row. His real name is Stanley and he is an utmost friendly, good bloke. Reason for his long absence was the fact that he and his stunning Brazilian wife had become parents of a son called Arthur. To celebrate that Stanley had ordered a General MacArthur corncob pipe with the date of birth engraved. He took a picture of Arthur together with the pipe and posted it on the forum, but I could not help myself doing a tiny bit of photoshop to include the iconic glasses and cap.

Robin

Robin

Back at the store our youngest member, Robin, proudly showed off his new Zippo. It had a pin-up lady from the 1940’s on it which is something he obviously loves. When he opened the lid I saw it was an ordinary Zippo insert, not a pipe Zippo insert with a round hole in it. I know that one can freely exchange a regular one for a pipe one so I asked Willem, who just passed by, if he had a new pipe insert. He mentioned Robin to follow him and later I saw to my delight that the pin-up Zippo now had a pipe insert. And that was not the only luck Robin had. Downstairs he came to me with a tin of Capstan he just bought and asked if it was MacBaren made or Orlik made. After a good look I came to the conclusion that it was Orlik made, the lucky bastard!

At the Chinese restaurant. I am already eating..

At the Chinese restaurant. I am already eating..

Just after 6 o’clock Rudi came into the smoking room and said it was enough for today, we had to leave. So we thanked Willem and his friendly ladies for the great day and went outside. A small group was left and we all were hungry. Mark knew a nearby Chinese restaurant with a buffet option which sounded great to my ears. Once inside we all sat down and drinks were ordered but before they arrived I already went to the buffet and started eating while the others looked a bit strange at me. Well, when I am hungry I don’t like to wait and a buffet is a buffet, just go and get it. I am not really a conventional type. After dinner we all said goodbye to each other and together with Wilfred I walked back to the station which made waiting for the next train more enjoyable. On the way home the clouds broke open with loads of rain so I looked wet as a drowning rat when I finally stood dripping before Ellen. Luckily all day it had been dry so I was not complaining!

The Zutphen meeting 2014 group

The Zutphen meeting 2014 group

I hope I am not forgetting someone but I would to thank Willem (and his ladies) and Mark for organising the meeting, Martin and Freek for the samples and the rest of the group for the nice conversations and excellent day! All pictures you see were made by Yvonne, Klaas, Stanley and Janneman.

 

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Pleasures of life in Belgium 2014

Group picture

Group picture

Saturday 15 March it was time for the 2nd (for the first one, see here) annual Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum meeting in Wuustwezel, Belgium. For weeks the forum had been buzzing with anticipation because it was going to be the biggest meeting yet. About 70 people were coming to the farm in the outskirts of the tiny town! Reason for this is, I think, because Wuustwezel is in Belgium but near the Dutch border. So it is very accessible for forum-members from both countries.

Johnny, not really looking like The Undertaker huh?

Johnny, not really looking like The Undertaker huh?

The day of the meeting I awoke early and after a shower and breakfast I started to pack, I had a long list of things to do.. My girlfriend Ellen had to laugh, she thought I behaved like I was going on a field trip. Well, it surely felt a bit that way. Around 10.15 the bell rang, it was Ed who was going to pick me up. After a cup of coffee we drove to Deventer Central Station where we were, once again, going to pick up Mark. For a change his train was on time, he was already waiting for us. We had one more member to pick up: Johnny (nickname: The Undertaker, after my favourite WWE wrestler). He had conveniently parked his car at a big parking place near the highway so with almost no delay he joined us and we could continue the journey to Belgium.

st_bernardus_12With me I brought a bag of empty Belgian beer bottles so I could return them at a liquor store for their deposit. In Belgium alcohol is much cheaper then in The Netherlands (as is tobacco) and since my supply of Belgium beers was running dangerously low a visit to the local liquor store in Wuustwezel was mandatory. We were a bit early thanks to the lead foot of Ed so I had all the time to explore the immense store. Yes, immense! I have never seen a liquor store that big! Alcohol Valhalla! Whoohoo! After a bit of looking around we came to the section of the Belgian beers. In my head I had a list of them which included brands like St. Bernardus, Corsendonk, Chimay, Ciney, I’m getting thirsty now, Rochefort, Barbãr Bok, Kasteel Rouge and Julius. Happy as a child I filled my cart with bottles and went to the pay desk. €53 for the vast amount of beer I had put together was NOT much! In the Netherlands I surely would have paid around €100.. So that fact made this cheap Dutchman very happy.

frieten-met-vleeskroketA lesson we learned from last year was that we had to have lunch before the meeting. Since Belgium is also famous for its fries (no not the skinny French fries but a somewhat thicker version) we decided to go to a snack-bar alongside the road. It was around 1 o’clock so we were the only customers. Most of us ordered fries and an extra snack, mine was a croquette. The friendly lady behind the desk asked if I wanted Belgian mayonnaise with my fries or Dutch. Hmm.. Belgian mayonnaise is sour and Dutch is sweet. I am bit ashamed to say this but I choose the Dutch mayonnaise. Usually when I am in a different country I adapt to the food that is being eaten there. But I really do not like sour mayonnaise.. Sorry!

Shaun, Jan and Willem

Shaun, Jan and Willem

After we had filled our bellies it was finally time to go to the meeting. At the farm lots of cars were parked and when we did go inside the crowd already was large. First went to the table where Shaun and Jan were sitting. They were collecting the cash for the rent of the farm and the sausage rolls which would come in later. A new member, Willem (nickname: Meester W.), also stood at the table. We shook hands and I made a mental note to look him up later. Unfortunately he went away early, he had some other things to do so I never got the chance to really speak to him.

Arjen and a forum corncob

Arjen and a forum corncob

I wanted to place my bag with smoking gear and tobaccos somewhere so I could fill a pipe when I was stopped by Arjen (nickname: Bananabox-Ninja). In the months before the meeting he had arranged Missouri Meerschaum corncobs with the forum logo for forum-members. I had ordered a Country Gentleman together with some some black Danish bits which he gave to me. I tend to gnaw a bit on my mouthpieces so some spare bits were very welcome. But I also had something for him. Due to a sharp eye-tooth there was a hole in the mouthpiece of one of my GBD princes. Arjen learned a method from Steve from Reborn Pipes where you fill up holes like that with some kind of glue. I hope it works! (EDIT 15 May 2014: Arjen has done an incredible job with the mouthpiece and it looks like new!)

Dre and Jorg

Dre and Jorg

When I had put my bag away I finally could light up a pipe and talk to some people. I had some things for them and other people had things for me. Jorg tapped me on my shoulder, he had a generous sample of Davidoff Flake Medallions for me. I had never tried it but after having recently smoked a couple of bowls of it, it now is on my wanted list. Thanks Jorg! When I saw forum administrator Nick (nickname: Massis) we shook hands. He had a bouchon de Semois and asked if I still had those. No, I gave away my last one to Kevin, the owner of PipesMagazine.com. So he graciously gave me a bouchon. When I turned around Carro asked what I was holding. I answered it was a bouchon de Semois and explained how one should smoke it. Of course I gave it to him and got a pint of Vlaamse Leeuw beer in return. Then I bumped into Dre (nickname: Annie69) and he had a sealed tin of vintage De Graaff perique for me! A gift from a friend of him and fellow forum member Ignoro, who could not attend the meeting. So thanks Ignoro!

Paul and me

Paul and me

Near the sliding door at the corner of the room Paul had set up a small table with all kinds of whiskeys for everyone to sample. Very nice but I decided not to taste any of the “water of life”. That could not have turned out well for me in combination with the heavy Belgium beers. Once in a while Paul orders at Dan Tobacco in Germany and people of the forum can add their wishes to his list. So that way I ordered a tin of Skipper’s Flake through him only to discover that he bought a tin of Skipper Special Navy Cut Mellow Mixture instead. Whoops! Luckily I did not have to pay for that tin and on top of that, as a surprise, he gave me a tin of… Skipper’s Flake! Thank you Paul!

Klaas (on the left)

Klaas (on the left)

In the distance I spotted Klaas (nickname: Upper Ten), I still had his forum-tobaccos. “Keep them until the Wuustwezel meeting, that saves me the postal costs.” He said. “I have enough tobaccos in my treasure chamber to go by”. Which is true, he really has a tobacco treasure chamber. For years Klaas invested in his tobacco collection by buying brands like Upper Ten (hence his nickname), De Graaff (the famous house-blends of the De Graaff store in The Hague) and Balkan Sobranie. The first time I smoked that legendary blend it was from a pouch which he gave me. Klaas has a fondness for latakia so I had a sample of GL pease Gaslight for him. It has a kind of cigar-like heaviness which could be just Klaas his cup of tea. I also gave him a sample of Heinrichs Curly Block. At my visit to Heinrichs I bought a tin of Dunhill Deluxe Navy Rolls for him because he wanted an impression of the taste of current production Escudo. He did not like it very much, in his memory the old Cope Escudo version was way better. Unfortunately he did not stock up on that one.. But according to lots of German pipe-smokers the Curly Block is similar to the Cope Escudo. So I am curious what Klaas thinks of this tobacco.

Geoff

Geoff

At the meeting there were lots of new members who had never attended such an event. Geoff was one of them. He approached me and said he was a fan of this blog, how nice! Normally I am having a hard with speaking to people I do not know, but with pipe-smokers you always have something to talk about: pipe-smoking! Duh! He said he had an avatar of a smoking monkey but that did not shone a light in my brain. It was not until later, back home, that I saw him on the forum. Ahh!! The smoking monkey avatar! It was nice talking to you Geoff! Another new member, Rinus, asked me if I was the one who knew a lot of tobaccos. Well.. I do not know a lot, but I do know something. Rinus discovered he had a fondness for latakia. He was missing something in the blends he bought and found out that was the dark leaf. So I made a list for him with mixtures containing latakia that are available in The Netherlands. I hope he finds something he likes.

Dwayne and Martin

Dwayne and Martin

Then I had something special. I approached Martin and asked if he could help opening a 90-year old tin of Capstan Navy Flake. Well, he is an old Dutch marine man so if someone could do that job, it was him. I grabbed my camera and just at the moment Martin pierced through the foil of the knife-cutter tin my battery died.. Arghh!!  Luckily Martin was able to make some pictures with his smartphone. But those will be for a another blog-post. Astoundingly the condition of the tobacco inside the tin was perfect! I had brought a mason jar with me and quickly transferred the contents. In the mean time Dwayne had joined Martin and me. He his an American pipe-maker who now lives in The Netherlands and was also amazed about the vintage Capstan. Needless to say both could fill up their pipes with this old treasure.

Tommy and his girlfriend Joyce

Tommy and his girlfriend Joyce

When ordering a beer at he bar I saw Tommy. We had e-mailed a couple of times before because one of his hobbies is to sing and write lyrics for songs. Only, he can’t make the music that would go with those so he asked on the forum if someone could help him with that. I have made music for years so I definitely was interested. When singing Tommy has a warm, baritone voice that resembles the one of Dutch artist Ramses Shaffy. What followed was an animated conversation about our passion for music. When I have the time I will definitely try to make some music to match the lyrics.

Franz shows his British pipes

Franz shows his British pipes

After dinner, which existed once again of the delicious Belgian sausage rolls, I sat down. My feet were hurting from standing and walking around. I already talked to so many people. I joined a group who was talking about buying tobacco abroad, which I frequently do. The big man next to me said if he could get all the tobaccos he wanted in The Netherlands he would buy them there. An honest opinion. I detected a strange accent in his soft voice and asked if had lived abroad for a period of time. Franz (that is his name, nickname: Dinck) told me he was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but already lived for quite some time in The Netherlands. While talking my eye suddenly went to his pipe-bag. With a smile he took a couple of pipes out of it. All of them were made in England. It appeared we both had a passion for English pipes. Only, I (try to) collect Dunhills, he collected everything but Dunhill. He pulled out a Sasieni prince which made me drool. Immediately I, quasi joking, asked for how much I could buy it from him. Of course it was not for sale. Damnit! I hope it brings him great smoking pleasure.

Jan is waiting to let us all out

Jan is waiting to let us all out

Too fast the hours crawled away, when you are having fun time always goes (too) fast. Hora ruit tempus fluit! So the time came to say goodbye. We thanked Jan, his wife Sas and Dirk and Miep who had stood behind the bar the whole day. The journey back went swiftly and before I knew it I stood before Ellen, who had fallen asleep on the couch and slowly woke up. “How was your day?” “It was wonderful darling.”

Overview of the place

Overview of the place

Big thanks to Ed for driving, to Johnny and Mark for the conversations in the car, to Jan and Sas for the organisation and everyone I talked to! I can’t remember who took which photo so all pictures from the meeting were made by Klaas, Janneman, Dirk, Mark, Rik and myself.

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5 year jubilee of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum

PRF 5 jaarOn August 24th 2013 the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum, of which I am an active member, existed precisely 5 years! This also means that I have been a pipe smoker for 3 years. I registered myself on the forum August 24th 2010 and started smoking pipe around that date. But the forum itself started earlier, in 2008. I have to thank Shaun for writing down the history of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum. I only translated it:

Janneman

Janneman

Who in early 2009 searched on the internet for “pijp roken” (pipe smoking) did not find much, A website of a pipe smokers guild with some practical tips on lighting and burning a pipe. Luckily there also was a fantastic website from Jan Kusters from the Dutch town of Sittard with its extensive and excellent “Pijpenboek van Janneman” (Pipebook from Janneman). Which later pretty much became the standard for every beginning (and more advanced) pipe smoker who spoke the Dutch language.

Victor

Victor

But… There had to be more??? Therefore on February 3rd 2009 a beginning pipe smoker frantically was searching for more tips, tricks and information about pipes and tobaccos on the internet. Result after result was clicked, page after page was carefully watched. Unfortunately, not at all complementary. Until suddenly in the depths of the Internet on page 10 of the Google searching results a pipe smokers forum popped up! Victory! The end of a long search, what a blessing it would be to receive a warm welcome by fellow smokers. But alas… The disappointment was great: the forum exactly had one member and a message. It was the smallest of all the forums at forum2go.nl, the initial host. After the first disappointment the beginning pipe smoker directly registered as second member under the forum name “Victor Baarn” and through a personal message contacted that first member, the admin: Pim123. Pim123 founded the forum on August 24 2008 as a learning experiment in how to create a forum. Since Pim123 at that time just was learning how to smoke pipe the forum became a  pipe smoking forum by accident.

email-iconVictor Baarn asked Pim123 whether he might attempt to make the forum bigger. Pim123 gave Victor Baarn the permission to promote the forum and conveniently made ​​him moderator. The weeks after that the search on internet continued and Victor Baarn collected every e-mail address that even remotely had something to do with pipe smoking. A little over a week several dozen e-mail addresses were collected and on February 13th 2009 an invitation e-mail was send throughout the country and abroad (Belgium).

Antonius

Antonius

And low and behold, the days after several new members applied, the first one (of course) being Janneman. But it did not go very fast.. Pim123 and Victor Baarn were busy opening new topics, the one after the other, in order to create conversations for the members. At first the forum looked more like a public dialogue between Victor Baarn and Pim123. So it was difficult in the beginning and in the first weeks it was to became clear if the forum would be viable. But luckily, despite the calm, there were some folks who kept on posting. Active members in the first days besides Pim123 and Victor Baarn mainly were Janneman, Antonius, dr. Watson, Joey Peters, Rob, Superpelic, Don Carlos, Bas and Vier Heeren Baai. A club of a few men who nicely chatted away with each other. Without their contributions the forum would not have been viable at that time. What definitely contributed was Janneman’s Pipebook for which he granted Pim124 permission to place it on the forum.

First forum meeting in Leerdam

First forum meeting in Leerdam

There was one certainty: that regularly, weekly a new  member applied. Slowly but surely the number of members expanded. The more the merrier: more discussions and terminology. Google picked this up and pushed the forum upwards in the search results, thus creating new members. Another trick to promote the forum was that Victor placed links to sites about pipe smoking that scored high in the Google ranks. This resulted in more points in the search machine and… More new members. On Saturday September the 18th 2010 the first forum-meeting took place in Leerdam with an attendance of 11 members. After a few months the forum stood on page 1 of the search results. After that it went fast.

DrFretboard

DrFretboard

So fast that on November 7th 2010 Pim 123 announced that he had started the forum as an experiment and, now the forum had 200 members, would like to hand it over into more fanatical hands. Thus, on November 9th 2010 the fanatical DrFretboard became the new admin. And once again things moved fast. This time with regards to the technical progress of the forum. DrFretboard lifted the forum onto a higher technical level and introduced many improvements in the forum structure. Because of the busy traffic several moderators were introduced. The pipe smokers forum really grew up. The strict vision of DrFretboard about the forum led to a lot of discussions after a while. Dissatisfied smokers were found to be huge troublemakers. So on April 29th 2011 DrFretboard voluntary stepped down as admin with the question who was willing to take it over from him. After some discussions Nekker and Massis  became the new admins on May 7th 2011.

Massis and myself

Massis and myself

From the beginning Nekker and Massis had a common target. First the human contacts, second to create the largest encyclopaedia about pipe smoking (in Dutch) that exists on internet. With that also the realization grew that the reigns had to be slacken. A more relaxed vibe sprouted and things started to fall into place. From this grew a hard core of people who not only got along with each other online but also in real life. Many initiatives proved this like mini-meetings, the Leerdam meeting etc. Then there was the big milestone in the forum history. Massis, who also takes care of the technical side of the forum, made the upgrade from the amateurish Forum2go to a professional forum. From then on everything kept on going forwards to (hopefully) never be stopped.

Eliminator, one of the "metalheads"

Eliminator, one of the “metalheads”

So in 2010 I was searching for info about pipe smoking and of course stumbled upon the forum which included Janneman’s Pipe Smoking Book. Eventually I registered and bought my first pipe and tobacco, which is described in my post Humble Beginnings Part 3. I am not a social kind of person. I have a mild form of autism, I stutter sometimes and being an only child is not really good for your communication skills. But the laid back vibe on the forum worked wonders with me, everyone was accepted the way he was and I became more open. Also the amount of metalheads was reassuring (and surprised me!), good folks!

My first Leerdam meeting

My first Leerdam meeting 16-01-2011

I did not go to the first forum meeting in Leerdam, I only was a member for a short time. For the second one I initially said I could not come, but after some thinking I decided to go after all. Best decision ever. I stood before the old train station building in Leerdam where the meeting was organised and I was thinking like: “Arno, you really must be out of your mind.. You are in a town you have never been before and you are about to walk into a building where a meeting for pipe smokers is organized. And you know no one! Except for some forum posts of course.” Still I went inside and I had a blast! Very friendly people and I came to the conclusion that I could have a conversation with everyone because we all had one thing in common: pipe smoking.

Ed

Ed

And gradually real life friendships developed like with Ed (St Patrick). At the beginning of 2012 I left my car keys inside the car at Ellen‘s place in Olst while the spare keys were in my apartment in Oss where I still lived at that time. Nobody was willing or had the time to drive me so I could get the spare keys so in the end I desperately called Ed, who I then only just knew. “Oooh, well, then we are going to get the keys Sunday morning in Oss. During the ride we can smoke a pipe, relaaax.” I was flabbergasted.. And this kind of stuff characterizes the forum. The kindness, the generosity etc. etc. Of course there were some “hiccups” like the affair with DrFretboard. Also sometimes there are some differences of opinions but it is always solved in a civilized manner.

Stunning PRF ashtray made by Bart Iron with designs by my hand

Stunning PRF ashtray made by Bart Iron with designs by my hand

Because of the forum I crawled out of my shell and I became more social. Also the forum gave me a lot of creative impulses. After I won the “make a new banner competition”, organised by Pim123, I also made artwork for wallpapers, shirts, caps, more banners, business cards, mouse-pads, ashtrays, poker-fiches, dice, (forum)pipes and for some wonderful stone tampers made by Martin. Besides this I got motivated by the forum to combine some of my “old loves”, history and writing which resulted in this blog. Also I am still busy organizing the forum tobaccos.

So… Let’s go for another 5 years! And then 5 more and 5 more and 5 more……

Here are some pictures of meetings and mini-meetings from the years that I am a member:

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Zestful Zutphen 2013

Zutphen

Zutphen

With the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum we currently roughly have two big annual meetings. One of those always is held in the city of Zutphen at the beginning of June. Zutphen is very old, it received city-rights between 1191 and 1196, which makes it one of the oldest cities in the country. With my love for history I very much like to look at all the old buildings and wander around there. And smoke a pipe of course.

The store of Willem Schimmel years ago

The store of Willem Schimmel years ago

The place to stay for the Zutphen-meeting is always the store of tobacconist Willem Schimmel. Willem is a very friendly, although a bit chaotic, host who knows the fine trade of being a salesman. He has just has that gut-feeling, is able to tune in on his customers and make them feel very welcome. A rare talent these days. In 1972 at the early age of 21 Willem started his business in the building in the Sprongstraat where he is still located today. Since 1919 a tobacconist is housed there. Originally the business was founded by the Jewish family Gies. Later Bennie Smolders took over and like I said, Willem himself began in 1972.

The store of Willem Schimmel today

The store of Willem Schimmel today

Since the sixties his father had a cigar store in Doetinchem. When Willem came back from military service he initially did not really know what he wanted. But with a lot of support from his parents and the three Smolders brothers he then started the business in Zutphen as a 21-year-old rookie. Willem had it not easy in those early years. Of course he was still young and a stranger in Zutphen, so he really had to prove himself. It was always all about hard work and making long hours. His parents had put their savings in the business and he got 25 guilders pocket money and 15 guilders petrol money, he had to do it with that. His father was a true entrepreneur. At that time Willem had some candy standing on the counter, but if he took one for himself it was expected of him that he would put sixty cents in the cash register. His father would say that he had to sell a few packs of cigarettes for that money.

Willem and his two colleagues

Willem and his two colleagues © K.H. van der Linde

Willem now runs the business with help of two faithful colleagues. After all these years he is still not tired of his profession. He even can call himself now “Maître Pipier”, a prestigious French title in pipe smoking. “What you do, you have to do with passion and I have that for this kind of business.” Willem says. “You have to, because otherwise you can’t properly advise your clients. You have to love the product and possess the desired knowledge.”

The smoking lounge on the first floor

The smoking lounge on the first floor

That degree of specialization, combined with the authentic look of the store probably made that Willem managed to survive. In the early eighties there was a renovation which was followed by a restoration in 2000. There it was tried to do justice to the old building (which dates back to 1724!) in the Sprongstraat and give it an authentic look as much as possible. Willem: “People are coming in here who do not even smoke, but simply want to see how it looks. We have quite a special historic building with an interior design to match that.” Upon entering you see a large wooden counter and high shelves with cigars, cigarettes and pipe-tobacco tins and pouches in all shapes and sizes. Furthermore, in the back of the store is a real climate-room for the storage of cigars. On the first floor is a smoking lounge where customers can sit and smoke and where activities are organised such as workshops and lectures.

The whole group in Zutphen

The whole group in Zutphen © AJ Verstraten

So last Sunday it was once again time for the annual Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum meeting at Willem’s store. Actually it just was a Dutch occasion since no folks from our neighbour country to the South came over. A pity but understandable since it is quite a long drive from the Belgium border to Zutphen. At half past eight in the morning my good friend Ed rang the doorbell to pick me up. We had to be early at the store because I had all the name-badges. Usually we have a bunch of regulars who visit a lot of the meetings (like myself) and know each other but there also always are some newbies. Then it is very handy to see the forum-names and real names on those badges.

Jos in his pipe-smoking coat

Jos in his pipe-smoking coat © K.H. van der Linde

When Ed and I arrived Willem was not even there, his colleagues were preparing the store for the meeting. Besides the folks from the forum, some people from German pipe-brand Vauen, Dutch tobacco-importer Pronk and a German gentleman with pipes and tobacco also were going to be present. Nonetheless we immediately got some hot coffee and cake. Shortly after nine o’clock Willem walked in, shook hands with us and asked how we were doing. We sat down and I lit up my first pipe, some Sweet Vanilla Honeydew to begin the day with. When I took the first puffs Mark (Deadl0ck) entered the store. Together with Willem he had organised the day. While chatting away it suddenly seemed that the grim-reaper had appeared! It turned out to be Jos in his pipe-smoking coat. At the back of it he had glued a large metal sign of his favourite tobacco brand: Troost. For me he brought a mouse-mat with the Hell’s Pipe Smokers design that I made for some forum shirts a while ago and a couple of home-made peanut-butter pots from the Hartog bakery. Yummie!

Monique and Carro © K.H. van der Linde

Monique and Carro © K.H. van der Linde

After a while more and more forum-folks trickled in and the store got filled up with people. Hands were shaken, pipes were drawn and soon the smoking-lounge saw blue of all the smoke. I approached meeting-newbie Carro (Calinero) because he had a book for me. He is a big bald headed man with tattoos and skull jewellery. Carro lives nearby the store which had that book so I asked him if he could buy it for me a week for the meeting. No problem of course. I decided to give him some extra money for his troubles but he stubbornly refused. Such a nice guy! And from Martin I got the tobacco that was the reason to buy the book. But more about this sometime in another post..

On the "Fluisterboot"

On the “Fluisterboot” © K.H. van der Linde

Somewhat after eleven it was time for us to go the harbour where we were going aboard on two “Fluisterboten” (Whispering-boats), arranged by Willem. These boats are navigated through the canals of Zutphen by volunteers while they point out landmarks and buildings and tell all kinds of stories and facts about the city. We were really in luck with the weather, not too hot, not too cold so it was an enjoyable and educational trip. Once in a while we heard the other boat because Jos then blew loud on his brass ship-horn. So if you ever visit Zutphen with a couple of people, go on a “Fluisterboot” and soak up the history, culture and nature of the city.

Huub at the store

Huub welcomes other forum-members at the store © AJ Verstraten

When we came back at Willem’s store all kinds of sandwiches and drinks were waiting for us. Who was also waiting was forum-member Huub, he arrived just to late for the boats. I wanted to meet him for a long time because he is such a walking encyclopaedia of pipes and tobaccos. He was amazed at how many younger people were present at the meeting. “In my time you were seen as old when you put a pipe in your mouth” he said. “Well, we don’t care!” said someone else smiling.

Ed gestures it's ok!

Ed says it’s ok! © K.H. van der Linde

The rest of the afternoon I spent talking to lots of people. And smoking of course. As always you never get to speak all the folks presents but that really does not matter much. There will be other meetings. Who I did talk to was Rob, he showed me an exquisite gold-banded Dunhill billiard and wanted to know from which year it came. And since I am somewhat of a Dunhill-snob I could tell him that. Also present was a guy who brought some (home-blended) whiskies for us to try. A lot of pipe-smokers love whisky. I heard that the man was interested in trying a latakia-blend because he was curious if it resembled the taste of peaty whiskies. He had almost no smoking experience but brought a pipe with him so I fetched my tin of Penzance and filled up his bowl with it. He lit the pipe and I honestly expected the guy to start coughing and seeing green. To my surprise he actually liked the tobacco, he found it very smooth and recognized the peaty flavour. He kept his pipe pretty well lit and began enjoying it even more when the Virginias and orientals kicked in.

Jorg, Ed and a slightly intoxicated (?) Sander at the restaurant © K.H. van der Linde

Jorg, Ed and a slightly intoxicated (?) Sander at the restaurant © K.H. van der Linde

About half past six it was time to go. We shook hands with Willem and his colleagues and thanked them for the wonderful day. Outside the store one part of the forum-folks said goodbye and the other part made their way to restaurant Oriental. I had been there one time before with Mark and Wilfred (Wowbagger). The restaurant has the best spare-ribs in Zutphen and surrounding area. You know, a nice marinade and properly grilled so the bones fall of the meat. Yum-mie! Several other forum members had heard of that visit so we ended up with 15 people there. Luckily Mark had made reservations.. After the meal we all said goodbye and together with Ed I went home full and satisfied.

So thanks to Willem Schimmel & crew and all the folks of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum. I can’t wait until next year!!!

Here are some more pictures of Willem’s store and the meeting:

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On the “Fluisterboot” © K.H. van der Linde

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Beautiful nature on the “Fluisterboot” © K.H. van der Linde

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Walking through Zutphen © K.H. van der Linde

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Zutphen is very beautiful! © K.H. van der Linde

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The store was so busy that some forum-folks decided to sit outside © K.H. van der Linde

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(Other) Rob and Mark © K.H. van der Linde

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A bunch of pipe-smokers © K.H. van der Linde

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Pipes and tobacco for sampling © K.H. van der Linde

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Some Vauen pipes © K.H. van der Linde

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Inside Willem’s store

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Inside Willem’s store

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Rudi and the German gentleman

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Inside Willem’s store

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Inside Willem’s store

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Jan and Rob © K.H. van der Linde

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(Other) Rob, Jorg and Teunis © K.H. van der Linde

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Our forum-photographer Klaas who made most of the pictures

The Woman Behind The (Dutch) Pipe Smoker

 

Ellen

Ellen

It is Valentine’s Day. Not that I have much with the whole commerce behind it, but it reminds me that regarding the female species I am a very lucky man.

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Hat, ankh-embroidered scarf, leather jacket.. Yup, that’s me!

I met my girlfriend when I visited a friend who held a dinner party. I was just passing by, saying hello to him and his guests. I did not notice my later girlfriend (her name is Ellen) then but she noticed me. As usual I was wearing my hat, my ankh embroidered scarf and my leather motor jacket. Not that I have a motor, it just looks cool I keep saying to myself. Both my friend and Ellen were on a social media site called Hyves (something like Facebook). So when my friend uploaded a picture both I and Ellen could react to it. Later we became friends on Hyves and Ellen began to respond more and more on updates and pictures from me. I liked her very much and we send daily mails to each other. “So let’s date!” I said one day. And so we did. But the first date was kind of a turn-off.. We both were very nervous and at the end of the evening I was glad to put her on the train home. “Well, so much for her”, I thought.

The morning after the first night together..

Big smile, the morning after the first night together..

Despite we kept on mailing each other. As a result a couple of months later we had our second date. This time at her place. It was a warm spring day so we could eat outside. She had a plate on which you could grill meat. Just my thing! And what on the first date did not happen, happened on the second one: a few sparks flew over. Some time later I had to go on a holiday which I booked several months before. The day after I came back I took Ellen out for a movie and dinner and we ended up at my place. She stayed that night and not much later we got a relationship.

Ellen in Ethiopia

Ellen in Ethiopia

Unfortunately for me after a month together Ellen had to go to Ethiopia to work as a volunteer in an orphanage. Something she had arranged before we got together. In those 2 months that she was away I started smoking pipe. So when she came back I had something to say to her: “Ehm, darling, I have a confession to make.. I started smoking pipe.” She looked at me with a face of amazement. “You did what??” “Ehrr.. I started smoking pipe.” “Ok… Well.. Ok.” And that was that. She just accepted the fact without arguing or making a fuzz out of it. I still love her for that. The next year and a half I was at her place (actually her father’s place) in the weekends and during the week I was at home. Luckily I was allowed to smoke a bit in her father’s house.

Ellen in front of our house

Ellen in front of our house

Almost a year ago we decided to live together. Best move I ever made. She could get a rental house and I was able to sell the apartment I was living in. So new smoking rules had to be made. And once again I was lucky. I was allowed to smoke in the living room and in my little office upstairs. Ellen tolerates my smoking. She does not particularly like it. Our couch stands in one corner of the living room and my smoking chair stands in the other one. And that really is necessary. Especially when I smoke my beloved latakia blends which she can barely stand. But still, I am allowed to smoke indoors and I absolutely love her for that. Also when friends of her are in our house she says “I rather have you not smoking now” than “you are not allowed to smoke now”. The only time she snuggles up to me when I am smoking is in the summer when we sit outside late at night. Latakia fumes are an excellent mosquito repellent.

Metsu27ManSmokingWomanWithJugThe text below comes from the old Dutch “Pijpenbrevier” (“Pipe breviary” is the best translation I could make):
Many women and girlfriends of pipe smokers have a suspicion that their husbands/friends rather have a relationship with a pipe then with them. Which is totally absurd! How can I smoke year in year out from exactly the same pipe? No seriously, of course we have to hold women in much higher regard then pipes. The best thing is to have a good wife/girlfriend and to have good pipes. And keep them carefully separated.
Whether it is the fault of the need of tidiness or the jealousy of the wife/girlfriend; there are lots of pipe smoking men who live a life of misery. They are banned to smoke on balconies, are send away from the house to lurk on their pipes or are forced to build a so called “man-cave”. Or they have to smoke a neutral or terribly aromatic tobacco to appease the female. I have some advice for these men:
– Take the pipe out of your mouth when speaking to your wife/girlfriend (but don’t talk so much that the pipes goes out).
– Never thoroughly clean your pipes in her direct presence. She gets jealous of the attention you give to the pipe in stead of her.
– Once in a while put your pipe away with a despondent look on your face and say the damned thing did not taste good at all again. This of course after you happily smoked it.
In short: treat your pipe like it is a secret love. Your wife/girlfriend reached the opposite of what she wants, but her suspicion will be lessened.

man woman pipeWomen should be glad their husbands/friends smoke pipe! When a man in the flesh or in thoughts is not with his wife/girlfriend, he is with his pipe. Is there a more comforting certainty? A man, a sensible woman, a couple of good pipes. How would there be space for another woman? Now and then the man changes pipes and with that vents off his desire for renewal which is present in even the most reliable pipe smoker.

So darling (I know you read this), happy Valentine’s Day. I love you <3

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Syrian Latakia

Syrian latakia?

Syrian latakia?

In my blogpost “Latakia Lover” I described Syrian latakia. What I did not tell was that nowadays it is an almost extinct type of tobacco.

For years Syrian latakia had been used in cigarettes and pipe tobacco. But it was taking its toll on the Syrian environment. Native hardwood and shrubs were used to fire-cure the shekk-el-bint leaves. Unfortunately there weren’t much farmable grounds in the area. Because of this natural resources were being used and consumed FAST. Also during the period 1850 – 1950 extreme damage to the forests in Syria was done. First by the construction of the Baghdad and Hedjaz railways, both were still operated with wood for fuel during WWI. Later from the ravages of WWII during which forest fires were purposefully set as a protest against the controlling foreign regime. So the Syrian government decided to place a moratorium (a what?? A delay or suspension of an activity) on the production of latakia in 1960. “But I smoked Balkan Sobranie and other mixtures which contained Syrian latakia in the 60’s and 70’s!” some of the old pipe smokers would say. Yes that is true. Most tobacco companies had hoarded the stuff so it was only around the beginning of the 80’s that they ran out of it. Some mixtures survived this by gradually switching from Syrian to Cyprian latakia.

10679974_10205010273567619_6481518945363759545_oSomewhere during the 80’s the Syrian government lifted the moratorium and to some extent the production was resumed. But it never came close to the amounts of the pre-1960 era. The demand was lower because there were less pipe smokers. On top of that Syrian latakia had to compete with the dark leaf that came from Cyprus. Also a lot of the experienced processors had found another job. As a result the quality of latakia made by other makers became shaky, inconsistent.

GL Pease Renaissance. one of the best blends ever made containing the Syrian dark leaf

GL Pease Renaissance. Apparently one of the best blends ever made containing the Syrian dark leaf

Luckily at the beginning of the 2000’s a LOT of vintage Syrian latakia became available. So tobacco companies like MacBaren, McClelland and Cornell & Diehl (which includes GL Pease) bought vast amounts of it. Especially mr. Pease succeeded in making excellent blends with it like Renaissance, Raven’s Wing, Mephisto and Bohemian Scandal. Unfortunately at the end of 2004 the warehouse where the Cornell & Diehl / GL Pease Syrian latakia stock was located burned to the ground. That ended of course all the mixtures in which the Syrian dark leaf was used. But the other tobacco manufacturers that bought into the same batch of vintage Syrian latakia were able to secure their stock. This because their supply was located elsewhere. So those companies still have their part and probably it will last for years, it was a lot. But eventually they will run out of it. And it looks like no more Syrian dark leaf is being made because of the relatively low demand, environmental issues and the ongoing civil war.

Shekk-el-bint leaves drying

Shekk-el-bint leaves drying

Here I quote mr. Pease himself. A question was asked him if the pipe tobacco industry, latakia specifically, been affected (pricing, quality, or availability) by the current situation in Syria: I spent some time on the telephone with the major oriental leaf broker in the US to get a definitive answer to this question, and it’s not a happy one. The simple fact is that Latakia has not been grown and manufactured in Syria now for over ten years. What there is of it in warehouses is all there is, and very likely, is all there ever will be. The vintage leaf that we lost in the fire was very, very special. A couple of manufacturers still have some supplies of that leaf, but when it’s gone, it’s gone. Further, I’ve tasted a lot of blends claiming to contain Syrian Latakia, but you couldn’t prove it by me. It’s possible that they’re adding a few shreds of the stuff in order to stay within the letter of any laws that may exist, but their overall flavor and aroma is clearly that of Cypriot leaf. I cannot speak to the blends produced by most manufacturers, but I’ve had conversations with friends at McClelland and MacBaren, and can say without a doubt that they are, indeed, using vintage Syrian Latakia where they claim to be, so if you enjoy the blends they’re making with it, you’re still in luck, at least for the time being. But, enjoy it while it lasts; when it’s gone, it’s gone.

preview_A_Can_HH_Vintage_syrian_smallOf course I will be missing some but blends that still contain (or are claiming it contains) Syrian latakia are:
– None, there are no blends left with a considerable amount of the real Syrian dark leaf. Perhaps there are blenders who still have some shreds left, mix them with a huge load of Cyprian latakia and call it Syrian, I don’t know. It surely will not taste like original Syrian.
See my list of updates below for more information.

EDIT 07-04-2013: I heard from a very reliable source that German tobacco producers Kohlhase & Kopp and DTM (both also producers of HU Tobacco) sadly no longer have Syrian latakia. Because of this I have removed all HU tobacco and Kohlhase & Kopp (Ashton and Solani) blends from the list.

EDIT 04-11-2014: On the 2014 Inter Tabac fair I spoke with Mr. Per Jensen of MacBaren. I was wondering how long the Syrian latakia stock of MacBaren would last that they use for their excellent HH Vintage Syrian. Mr. Jensen very honestly answered that he guessed that in about 7 or 8 years they would run out of the Syrian dark leaf.

EDIT 07-11-2014: I just heard from Paul that on the Inter Tabac Fair he had spoken to one of the two export managers of Planta with whom he has a good connection. He asked him if Planta’s Syrian latakia really contained Syrian latakia. The export manager answered that they still had Syrian stock but that they were not able to buy any more in the last years. How long their supply will last? No idea…

EDIT 08-08-2015: I just read at the Pipes Magazine forum that someone spoke with Per Jensen of MacBaren at the IPCPR and there he said their Syrian stock would last for about 4 years..

EDIT 22-09-2015: Apparently sales of MacBaren’s HH Vintage Syrian are going well. I spoke with Brian Levine on the Inter Tabac some days ago and according to him they will run out of Syrian leaf in about 2 or 3 years. After that the blend will be discontinued. I also dared to ask him if small amounts of Cyprian latakia are mixed with the Syrian dark leaf (there were some rumours..). A resolute “no” followed. Only the size of the tins had changed (from 100 gr. to 50 gr.), nothing else.

EDIT 30-01-2017: From the Facebookpage of Ted Gage: “Syrian tobacco is gone. Used up, done, and gone forever. There will be no McClelland Syrian Three Oaks, or other blends using the supply of McClelland Syrian. Bummer, but we knew it was coming eventually.” In a short while I will remove their blends of the list. For now: stock up folks!

EDIT 12-03-2017: After a discussion with one of the great names in the pipe smoking world I have decided to remove MacBaren HH Vintage Syrian from the tobacco list. There were rumours before that MacBaren was mixing amounts of Cyprian latakia with the Syrian dark leaf. I already had suspicions some time ago but choose to believe the MacBaren folks and ignore my taste buds. The “great name” with much better taste buds confirmed my old suspicions. There is a difference in taste between the old tins I have and new ones. Further I have deleted all tobaccos claiming to have Syrian latakia from my list. McClelland had the last real Syrian dark leaf and they have run out of it recently. All other companies who say they still have some stock are lying in my opinion or they have some left-over shreds that they put in the blends to stay within the boundaries of laws. Taste-wise you are not going to notice it. Blends simply sell better with the Syrian latakia label on them. So in short, the Syrian dark leaf is totally gone now. Don’t let anyone or anything fool you and oh, tobacco companies, be honest to your customers.

EDIT 29-03-2017: In my latest update I was jumping to conclusions too fast about MacBaren’s HH Vintage Syrian. I should have done my homework (like I normally always do) first. On the PipesMagazine forum a discussion erupted about that I solely relied on the taste buds of my anonymous expert and myself without any further proof. Then Per Jensen, product manager of MacBaren. chimed in. Here are the most important excerptions:

I normally don’t comment on rumours coming from an anonym source, but I will make an exemption in this case. In 2006 I created the HH Vintage Syrian as a single standing tobacco. Since the first making of this blend the recipe has not changed, it is still made after the 2006 recipe with Syrian Latakia.

If you compare an older tin with a new one, the taste of the older will of course be slight different due to age. If a pipe smoker perceives this as the newer tin contains a lesser quality tobacco, I would consider this to be a genuine mistake. The HH Vintage Syrian is created like no other Latakia blend, because it also contains Dark Fired Kentucky. In comparison with more “normal” English blends, you will, as pipe smoker, experience another taste in HH Vintage Syrian as in your favourite English blend. HH Vintage Syrian is not your typical English blend and there are so many other good blends out there which will satisfy your taste for Latakia. HH Vintage Syrian was created to be different.

However, no matter this discussion HH Vintage Syrian will be leaving soon, as our supply of Syrian Latakia is coming to an end. Latest in February or March next year the last of the HH Vintage Syrian will leave Svendborg, Denmark, so the guy who created it will also be the one to put it down. That HH Vintage Syrian is leaving us, I have stated over and over again, and I have never made it a secret that it would disappear and also when.

Of course my expert and I discussed this. We really tasted something different in the newer tins as opposed to the older ones, and it was not the dark-fired Kentucky because that has been in all along. Besides, there are other latakia blends with dark-fired Kentucky, see this list. My expert missed the distinctive resiny, pine-like aroma that the Syrian latakia once gave the blend and that is not present in the current tins. But he did detect the sweeter, earthier, more camp-fire and leather smell and taste of its Cyprian cousin. Suddenly he came up with something: What if MacBaren was not using the same Syrian batch as in the beginning, the same batch Cornell & Diehl and McClelland also bought? It could be that they ran out of that batch some time ago and acquired a different Syrian latakia from some leaf broker. That way there is still Syrian in HH Vintage Syrian, it could explain the difference in taste and Per would be telling the truth. So I mailed Per that theory and kindly asked him for an honest answer. Which I got:

First of all I want to inform you that of course I stand behind my statement on pipesmagazine.com. As I have mentioned time after time during the years we would be out of Syrian Latakia latest in 2019 to 2020. The reason that we stop the production already in beginning of 2018 has more reasons than one. First our stock is lower than predicted 7 years ago and second we had to destroy some of the Latakia because it did not live up to the standard we demanded.

At the time when rumours started about the shortage of Syrian Latakia, we contacted our vast network of tobacco suppliers to hear if they could help us obtaining Syrian Latakia. We managed to get 6 batches from different sources, some small but 2 of batches were bigger. Since then we have blended the different Latakia from Syria in order to get an even taste. At present time the rest of the Syrian Latakia we have is blended out of only 2 different batches where we in the past blended at least 4 different together.

So yes, we have been using different batches in HH Vintage Syrian and in February 2018 the book of Syrian Latakia will be closed. 

So there was a difference after all. In the first years the same batch that Cornell & Diehl and McClelland also bought was used and later on various batches from different sources were mixed together. Of course we don’t know if those leaf brokers who sold MacBaren their later Syrian latakia offered the real stuff. For example, in his Cyprian or Syrian? (Part II) blogpost well known master-blender GL Pease says (amongst other things) this: Since The (warehouse) Fire, there have been more than a few samples of “Syrian Latakia” arriving in my postbox from various suppliers. Some have been no more Syrian than I am. Others have been of such low quality I wouldn’t use the stuff to smoke fish. But for now I am going to give HH Vintage Syrian the benefit of the doubt. I can’t research it any further. Regardless which latakia from whatever quality is used, it is still an excellent smoke.

I want to thank Per Jensen for his honest answers and my anonymous expert for his knowledge and expertise.

EDIT 05-01-2018: At the end of last year MacBaren master-blender Per Jensen discontinued his HH Vintage Syrian blend as can be seen in one of his Instagram posts. So I removed it from my list.

Precious Penzance

Penzance

Penzance

Background information: The range of Esoterica tobaccos was founded by Steve Richman, the owner of the Piedmont Tobacconist in Oakland, somewhere halfway the 1980’s. He was looking for someone who could produce his blends. Tobacco company JF Germain and Son on the British Channel Island Jersey heard about his interest and made contact through the British embassy. They must have been what Steve Richman was looking for because they started doing business together immediately. For the evaluation of the created blends Steve Richman founded a panel in which GL Pease also took place. The tobacco about which this review goes, Penzance, was fashioned after Smokers Haven Krumble Kake (which was already made by Germain). The only difference was that Penzance contained more latakia. Later Steve Richman found that just running his business was enough for him and he wanted a bigger and better distribution for the Esoterica range. So he sold everything to Mike Butera who, according to mr. Pease, did not change the recipes. In 2009 Butera Pipe Company’s entire line of pipe tobacco blends, plus the rights to the Butera Pipe Tobacco names, was sold to US distributor Arango Cigar Co. Yes, the same company who now holds the right to the Balkan Sobranie name in the US.

99994054196828508_UEMbZcXt_c07.30 am on a weekly day. *Beepbeepbeep* I awake startled, set off the alarm and smack a few times with my mouth. Jeepers! What a smell, what did I do yesterday? My sleepy brain sits down to work. What did I ate last night.. Noodles with chicken. No it’s not that. What have I been drinking? Water from the tap, it’s not that. Did I do certain things with my girlfriend Ellen? Yes but no, not that. Oh wait! I remember! Yesterday I smoked Esoterica Tobacciana Penzance! The tobacco that you enjoy extra long no matter what you eat and how well you brush your teeth.

esoterica_penzance_packagesPackage: The by JF Germain and Son on the British Channel Islands made Penzance comes in two packages. 1. A tiny gold tin of 2 oz. with a label that could be printed on a standard house, garden and kitchen printer. 2. An airtight bag in which the loose tobacco occupies 8 oz. Personally, I use a tin which I fill up with Penzance from the bigger bag when it is empty.

esoterica_penzance_contentsContents/composition: “Finest English mottled flake” says the tin. It is a wonderful complex secret recipe of the finest Virginia, choice Turkish, Orientals and Cyprian Latakia. All hand blended together, hard pressed and broad cut into thick flakes. This is what they call a crumble cake (no not THE Krumble Kake) and it is a rightful name. The tobacco already crumbles when you shout too hard at it: Clan (by Theodorus Niemeyer) is the best tobacco ever!!

noseSmell from the tin: Wow, uhm .. Fierce, penetrating, leathery, earthy. If you know the smell of a freshly ploughed field when it has just rained just know what I mean. Seasoned pipe smokers who can not smoke in the vicinity of their girlfriend / wife, you simply have to smell it to get a kick out of it. I think that when you leave it half open on the ground it would make a fine ant-exterminator.

The old press at Germain in which Penzance is made

The old press at Germain in which Penzance is made

Taste: The first time I lit it, I just thought: Whoa! Greasy smoke and flavor! Latakia! You can say that other tobaccos are coffee but this is espresso. I also tasted an after-taste that I could not place until a number of pipes later: salty licorice (a candy in Holland)! Not that that dominates in a nasty way, it actually belongs to the whole experience. The smoke is very smooth (Penzance will not bite even when you step on it) with ever present Virginias waving in and out and hints of orientals coming forth halfway the bowl. A class act from the creators! According to Robert Germain the secret is the time that Penzance stays in the press: 14 days. Disadvantage, oh well, disadvantage, depending on how you look at it, the taste lingers in your mouth for a loooong time. As described above, you have fun of it the next morning and afternoon. Avoid actions and intimate conversations with family and colleagues.

pipeCombustibility: The flakes are very moist / oily. It is recommended that you let them dry out a while before smoking. The flakes from the large 8 oz. bag are even more wet / oily. Once you’ve lit the pipe they burn a long period. I lit a pipe at the beginning of a soccer match. At the end of the match I was not through yet. Life can be good.

thumbsRoomnote: Too bad the tin is so small. Otherwise they could have added: This tobacco scares away mosquitoes, birds, rats, nagging wives and door-to-door salesmen.

IMG_0418Miscellaneous: The tobacco crumbles easy so filling the pipe is even for folks who are not used to flakes not too difficult. If the pipe is filled you need to gently treat the tobacco and when smoking don’t tamp too hard. If you are too heavy handed with the tobacco, you get a wet lump at the bottom of the bowl. Talking about the bowl, I discovered that this tobacco tasted the best in a somewhat larger, relatively shallow bowl. I liked Penzance best in a prince model pipe. That is when you give the tobacco the opportunity to really shine. As for the vitamin N, I found this tobacco to be spot on. It makes me nice and relaxed but without any side effects.

moneyPrice: Penzance is very difficult to obtain, and that is going on for years now. Occasionally a small shipment is sold in a (online) tobacco shop but when the great crowd of Penzance enthusiasts discovers that, it is sold out in no time. If you have the luck to be there on time than you pay for a tin ± $ 10.15 and a bag ± $ 28.95. Of course you can often buy Penzance on ebay, but those prices.. *pheww* And as it takes longer for a new shipment to arrive, the prices only get higher..

011Conclusion: Because of the scarcity of the tobacco people begin to make comparisons with Balkan Sobranie and Bengal Slices. There is great fear that Penzance also disappears (Ok, Balkan Sobranie is back now). Although that is not true and there is no evidence for it. The thing is that there are so many fans that JF Germain and Son can not keep up with the production, they are only a small company. But the large fan base does point out one thing: This is good stuff of great quality! Not for everyday use, but if you’re sitting on your own in the evening in your living room or porch without having anything to do, Penzance is your best friend.

Oh Penzance, my Penzance,
What penitence I pay for my Penzance.
And yet what puissance I have for my Penzance.
To hold and to love, to long for and to wait,
As my pince-nez falls, I note:
For where there is a presence, there is Penzance,
A renaissance of prescience required,
Fore there shall I wait, for my penitence
For my love, my Penzance.