Inter-Tabac 2016 impression

Entrance to the Inter-Tabac

Entrance to the Inter-Tabac

September 17th it was once again time for one of my annual highlights: The Inter Tabac fair in Dortmund. For those of you who missed the blogposts I made of the visit the last couple of years; the Inter-Tabac is the leading and biggest trade fair of the world for tobacco products and smoking accessories. This year there were more than 450 exhibitors from over 60 countries who presented themselves in 5 huge exhibition halls. Renowned companies from all over the world presented trends and innovative tobacco products. This includes cigars, cigarillos, cigarettes, E-cigarettes, E-pipes, E-shishas, smoking accessories, pipes, pipe tobacco, shishas, shop equipment and spirits. Unfortunately the fair is for retailers, not for consumers.

Father and son Jan and Jesse

Father and son Jan and Jesse

Like the last years I was able to secure a ticket through Fred, only, some days before the fair he told me he could not make it. His daughter moved out of the parental house a little bit earlier than expected. But I could have his ticket and make someone happy with it. Easy, I thought, what pipe-smoker does not want to go to the Valhalla of smoking? So I asked some friends if they had time but one was on holiday the other did not have a car, someone else had some “things” to do with his students. I obviously did not take into account that Saturday was rather short notice for most. In the end I just asked on the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum who wanted to go with me. I got no more than two reactions so I decided to flip a coin. The winner was Jan, a relaxed, intelligent man with an unique view on life, who was absolutely delighted. He lives not too far away from me and I discovered the detour for me was only 2 km. So I picked him up and together we drove to Dortmund.

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The stand of DTM

After a pleasant ride we arrived at the Westfalenhallen just when the doors opened. Like every time I started in hall 4. I wanted to speak with Elbert Gubbels from Big Ben because he and I have some business to do for the new Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum tobacco. Unfortunately he was busy so we walked on to the stand of Dan Tobacco Manufacturing (DTM)/Dan Pipe where we were greeted by the lovely daughter of managing director Heiko Behrens. “Did I saw you here last year?” she asked. “Yes you did!” I said with a smile. She asked if we would like some coffee (yes please!) and sat down with us. “So, what is new at Dan Tobacco?” I asked.

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Burley Maduro

She produced 3 plastic jars with in each a new blend. The first was called “Burley Maduro”, a sturdy, natural mixture of burley and some soft tasting Maduro leaf. Jan would not pack a pipe with it that “early” in the morning but I loaded up one. The taste surprised me, I expected to taste cigar but I did not. It just was a natural very mellow tobacco flavour which reminded me in the distance of the Langue de Chien variety of Semois, very pleasant. But I have to say, it packed a very healthy dose of vitamine N. The second was named “M.A. Blue Canary”. A blend of black cavendish with some gold-brown flake scraps topped with the aromas of apple, vanilla and a bit of cinnamon. The third one was called “Bill Bailey’s Country (Bourbon) Blend”. A mixture of bright US Virginias, a lot of black cavendish and a bit of deep brown dark fired Kentucky topped with Bourbon whiskey and Bourbon vanilla. We thanked Frau Behrens for her time and when we wanted to leave the (beautiful!) stand we were stopped by her old father, managing director Heiko Behrens, who thanked us for visiting. I said it before but the people at DTM are warm and passionate with the typical “no-nonsense working hard and effective” German mentality.

Cornell & Diehl

Cornell & Diehl

After visiting the stand of My Father Cigars who make my favourite “La Antiguedad” cigar Jan and I walked to another hall. There were several little pipe-smoking related stands put together where you could find names like Gabriele Pipes, Jobs Freehand Pipes, Talamona, Michal Novak, Mr. Brog, P. Jeppesen (who had some really beautiful stained blasted pipes) and… Cornell & Diehl. I especially was excited about visiting the stand of the latter, their first time on the Inter Tabac. Silently I hoped that the Dark Lord GL Pease, one of my pipe-smoking idols, would also be there. But alas, no.. Also the stand itself was quite a bit smaller than I expected, just a desk. At first I believed that in Europe their range was available at the Linzbach store in Düsseldorf. But to my surprise the friendly guy behind the desk said they had no German importer and C&D was not sold there. I later learned he was right when I visited Linzbach. However, they had an importer in the Ukraine! Uhm.. Ok.. We talked about the very worrying FDA regulations and on the lighter side about the (re)introduction of the new Drucquer blends. I asked if he had samples of those but sadly he did not. He did have a sample of one of their best aromatics, Autumn Evening, which I am smoking as I type this. Smooth and tasty!

Caribbean Black Pearl

Caribbean Black Pearl

Then we were off to the large stand of Planta and Designer Berlin (DB) pipes. Like every year Planta had a big wooden barrel standing there with in it their year tobacco, this time called Bacchus mixture. I asked Jan to put his nose near the lid when I pulled it off. He went like “whooaaaa!!!” when he smelled the blend, it was very, very sweet. We admired the many displayed pipes of DB and had to laugh when we saw a couple called “Caribbean Black Pearl”. Undoubtedly ideal for smoking Pirate Kake! Arrrrr matey!

Does he like it...? Yesss!!!

Does he like it…? Yesss!!!

Gradually we moved towards what I call “the Italian corner” which has pipe-brands as Savinelli, L’Anatra and Ser Jacopo. Especially some pipes of the latter boasted some stunning silver-work. Around the corner was the shared stand of Northern Briars and Samuel Gawith (Gawith & Hoggarth). I looked forward to meeting Bob Gregory because I also had some business to do with him for the new Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum tobacco (it is made by Samuel Gawith and imported by Gubbels). I mailed Bob twice to ask if he could bring a sample of the final product with him but I heard nothing. Typical Bob, “I am 70 years old and semi-retired ok??”. As soon as he saw me he shouted with wide eyes “Go away you! Go away!” at me. But I cornered the bastard and forced him to hand over 2 tins of Flatlander Flake, which is the name of the forum tobacco. He did think of me *smiles*. His bald lackey and himself anxiously looked at me when I opened up one of the tins and smelled it. Approved! At which they both smiled (very rare for Bob). Then we exchanged some pleasantries and Bob told some funny stories about how him and Brian Levine (the PipesMagazine.com radio-show host) constantly keep insulting each other. By the way, I saw Brian already a couple of times in the hallways. First time he had a big German glass of beer with him and the second time he was on his way to a whisky-tasting..

Butz Choquin

Butz Choquin

The lunch this year was sober. The prices of food and beverages are outrageous at the Inter Tabac (€4,30 for a small bottle of cola!). So I brought brown buns with cheese on them with me and Jan had some sandwiches. Screw you expensive catering! We’re Dutch! After the lunch we walked to the stand of the Scandinavian Tobacco Group where pipes of brands like Winslow, Peterson, Butz Choquin, Stanwell and Dunhill are displayed. Soon a lady came asking if we wanted a cup of coffee (yes please!) and while we sipped that away we looked at the shown pipes. To be honest there was not much new. Butz Choquin (sorry to say but masters of bad taste) had some new awful plastic looking colourful pipes and I think that was about it. Ok, at least they try to bring something new. But it all was a bit.. Soulless.. Despite the wonderful pipes Mr. Winslow makes.

Kohlhase & Kopp

Kohlhase & Kopp

Talking about soulless, German tobacco manufacturer Kohlhase & Kopp also radiates that. They have wonderful brands in pipes and tobaccos like Rattrays, Ashton, Sillem’s, Solani and Robert McConnell but inside their large stand no one cares about you. The pipes, cigars and tobacco are nicely displayed but there is no interaction with employees. It all looks and feels a bit cold and snobbish.. However, they did have tins of the “new” Dunhill Dark Flake and Ye Olde Signe offerings. But no one around to ask for a sample. On to Vauen, they had a new pipe which looked like typical Austrian or Bavarian smoking pipes. I actually liked the model but that can be because of my love for Austria. Of course all the amazing looking Auenland pipes were prominently displayed. On the way to yet another hall we passed the Falcon stand. The guy there was a bit disappointed when he discovered we were not salesmen. Sorry, I am just a humble blogger! The loose Falcon bowls were pretty nice, but the stems looked kind of plastic-like.

No, no jokes about this girl and her sucking abilities

No, no jokes about this girl and her sucking abilities

We immediately noticed we entered the hall of the shishas because of the typical faintly sweet odour hanging there. Remarkable was 1. that it was the busiest hall (busier than the E-smoke one!) and 2. it contained the youngest visitors by far. Perhaps this was due to the presence of many beautiful ladies praising and demonstrating the shown wares. I admit, I was too much a coward to ask these beauties if I could take a picture of them. Luckily Jan was much braver, took my camera, asked the ladies and snapped some shots. He never smoked a shisha so we went looking for a nice place to smoke one. But it was so busy everywhere that that plan did not work out. Apparently the crazier the better goes for the world of shishas. Walking through the hallways we saw some “interesting” looking ones shaped like dildos (sadly no girl to demonstrate them..), tommy-guns and glittery kalashnikovs (for the smoking jihadist?) and gas masks.

Snus

Snus

After walking through the E-smoke hall (nothing special there for me) we tried to have a conversation with Elbert Gubbels again. But he still was too busy which I took as a good sign. So on we went to the huge stand of MacBaren. There Per Jensen, the product manager of MacBaren, recognized me. We shook hands and beside him stood a basket filled with small flashy looking round boxes. Apparently there was some kind of snus inside made by MacBaren in cooperation with another company. Per opened one and inside the box were what seemed little tea-bags filled with tobacco. I had to place one in my mouth between my cheek and gums, which I did. The first minutes it was quite enjoyable until the point the juices started flowing. My cheek began to have a burning feeling and I got the hiccups because of the vast quantities of nicotine getting into my system. I hurried to take the bag out of my mouth and was glad Per quickly arranged a refreshing glass of water. Nope, not for me this..

img_5425The 3 of us sat down inside the stand where Per asked if we wanted a cocktail. A cocktail? Here? Well, uhm, yes please! He mentioned for a waitress to come and I ordered a Highball (never had one but it sure tasted good!) and Jan a No Sex On The Beach. Then I asked Per what was new at MacBaren. There were some new Amphora offerings which grabbed my attention because originally Amphora is a Dutch brand which was made by Douwe Egberts. Two of them (Amphora Special Reserve No. 2 and No. 8) were typical Danish aromatics, and did not pique my interest. The other one did because it was a pure Virginia, hence the name: Amphora Virginia. I really hope this blend will be on sale in The Netherlands. There are not so many pure Virginia blends left here.. Per gifted me a pouch which I will open soon.

img_5426Then we talked about tobacco laws and regulations (the new stricter European rules and the American FDA legislation) and how it affects MacBaren. In Europe they can no longer sell heavily flavoured shag tobacco. But being the inventive Danes that they are they found a way around. For example, the pouch has a certain colour, let us say, apple green. Then on the pouch it says “appeal #12” (no fruit names etc. can be used). Sounds a bit like “apple” right? Then you can buy loose flavourings in the same colour as the pouch, also #12 and it is called “apple”. Apply the flavouring onto the tobacco et voilà! About the States Per was a little more sombre. If the FDA rules go through they will lose a really large part of their turnover. Because MacBaren mostly sells loose tobaccos to tobacconists there who can then mix their own blends. But with the new regulations that is forbidden. But as the always positive Per said: new rules mean new chances.

img_5423Towards the end of the afternoon Brian finally joined us. He looked a bit groggy out of his eyes, the whisky-tasting went very well obviously. We talked about all kinds of things while I felt the Highball kicking in. Brian asked what Jan liked to smoke (Virginia) on which a tin of HH Pure Virginia and Capstan Gold were presented to my flabbergasted fellow Dutchman. Just as I was getting a bit sober the fair closed for the day. Brian invited us to grab a beer at his nearby hotel so we walked with him. On the way we bumped into Bob Gregory who almost screamed “Arno! Do not go with him!” at me. On which Brian discreetly showed his middle finger. At the hotel bar we chatted away while feasting on real German beer and before we knew it Brian had to leave because he had dinner elsewhere.

El Greco

El Greco

Dinner, that sounds nice, Jan and I thought. Last year I ate at an excellent Greek restaurant in a German place called Herne. But I could 1. not remember the town and 2. the name of the restaurant. Luckily on the highway my infallible photographic memory *ahem* finally kicked in when I saw the “Herne” sign. In the town-centre I searched on my navigation device for Greek sounding restaurants. 5 places and half an hour later we still did not find the damn restaurant.. With his last internet-data Jan looked on his mobile phone for “Greek restaurants”. The first name that popped up was “El Greco“, we drove to the address and lo and behold; it was the place of last year! Needless to say I was a happy man and also Jan when he tasted the superb Greek food and saw the friendly curvaceous waitress. Once again it was a good day.

I would like to thank Jan for his company, during the ride and the walks through the halls we had some really interesting conversations. By the way, if you want to enlarge the pictures in the gallery below, right mouse-click and then press “look at image” (the first option).

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Pleasures of life in Belgium 2016

Group picture

Group picture

Like every year for me the annual meeting of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum (PRF) at Wuustwezel (Belgium) halfway March always marks the beginning of spring. The lengthening days, the slowly rising temperatures and the anticipation of the meeting make all the shadows in my mind from the dark, grey and rainy winter disappear. For some reason (probably the location in Belgium near the Dutch border and cheap beer) the Wuustwezel meeting always has been the best attended one. This year about 70 people applied and like last year Matron, a Scotch-man and Florian, a German, both from the (in)famous Kaervaig Pipe Club, were there. Tobacconist Rudi even brought a special guest, more about that later.

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Gates at the Deventer train station

The day of the meeting began at 07.30 am but I was already awake because of my bad back… Great, ageing… But when I came from under the shower and had a small breakfast (their would be plenty of food and drinks during the day) I felt re-energized and ready for the day. Normally good friend Ed would have picked me up but he moved away from his old town near me to a location pretty far away due to some private stuff. So now I had to first pick Mark up at the train station in Deventer. I parked my car there and texted him where I stood but no response. And I waited, and waited.. In the end he turned up. At the train station they have small gates and Mark’s public transport pass malfunctioned so only after a lot of trouble with the security guards he could get through. That soon was forgotten and we drove to a parking lot somewhere beside the highway where Ed waited for us together with Johnny.

Pipe-smokers munching away

Pipe-smokers munching away

After a pleasant ride we arrived in Wuustwezel where, just like the other times, our first stop was the local liquor store. Only once a year I get the chance to properly re-fill my beer basement and I take that chance with both hands (while carrying a stocked beer-crate of course). “No cash payment  because we got robbed” said a sign on the door. How sad.. I mean, Belgian beer is so delicious that one could steal it but to actually do that.. Bastards.. Inside the store I noticed I was not the first Dutchman there that day because the shelf with the delicous St. Bernardus Abt 12 was already half empty. Luckily there was enough left and together with my standard favourites and a few tips from Johnny my beer basement bulges out again now. Then we went to the snack-bar. Unfortunately Zodiac from last year closed down permanently. No not the recession, the owners were old and decided to quit. Thank the fried-heavens another snack-bar was open, the one we went to in 2014: Fritsnack, with the remarkable choice of Dutch (sweet) and Belgian (sour) mayonnaise. I went for the Belgian one this time together with a snack called “Twijfelaar” (doubter), which includes small bits of all their meat snacks on one stick, very yummie! Half the establishment was already taken by hungry familiar looking pipe-smokers under which Matron and Florian (this time with no hang-over from the previous evening). Matron had brought the prices which I won at the KPC raffle with him: a tin of Bothy Flake and Holger Danske Royal Navy Flake. Thanks! I sat across Arjen who had a big portion of fries (and in Belgium that is BIG, I had a medium fries which was too much for me..) together with two more snacks. While we were talking I watched with amazement how he devoured it all in no time. Wowzers!

Rob and his home-made tin-guitar

Rob and his home-made tin-guitar

When we arrived at the Bellekes Hoeve, the location of the meeting, organiser Jan sat beside the door to collect the money for the traditional Belgian sausage rolls and rent of the place. Which by the way was only €1 per person due to the fact we drank so much last year. Jan used the profits he made then to keep the entrance fee low for us. First thing I did when I put away my belongings and shook a few hands was order a Vlaamsche Leeuw at the bar. Utterly delicious! Which was also the opinion of Matron, Florian and Ed who all praised the Belgian beer. Then I bumped into Rob who had made a guitar out of an empty tin of WO Larsen Indigo, hilarious! On a table I made some space to place a mason jar which had to serve as a money box. In September my girlfriend Ellen is going to climb the Mont Ventoux in France for a cancer fund. Louis, one of the forum members, suggested that I put a money box at the meeting so people could make a small contribution. Well, small, in the end €131,60 was put in the mason jar! So unbelievably great! By the way, supporting Ellen is still possible through this site.

Marielle

Marielle

For Marielle I had some Amphora pouches. The evening before the meeting she asked on the forum if anyone had some and could bring it to Wuustwezel. Last year on the Inter Tabac PipesMagazine.com host Brian Levine gave me some Amphora pouches since MacBaren produces them. I never smoked Amphora and to be honest the blend not really seems my cup of tea, so giving hem away to a lovely lady was pretty easy. And in return she gave me a tin of one of the only aromatics I smoke: DTM’s Sweet Vanilla Honeydew. But I had more for Marielle. For some years I own a small 1980 Dunhill group 1 pipe which in essence is a ladies pipe. It came from the time when I snatched up every Dunhill below a certain price but I never had a click with it. So Marielle could have it, I mean, a pipe is meant to be smoked. But surprisingly she did not want it. What I did not knew was that Marielle is a filter-smoker and the Dunhill is non-filter. So she said “Give it to someone who really wants it and is really going to smoke it.” Ok, so if any female pipe-smoker reads this and you want this Dunhill, mail me at arnovangoor@gmail.com with a picture of yourself while smoking pipe and perhaps you are the lucky one! And gents, please no pictures of yourself in a dress or lingerie while puffing away ok? Thank you.

Per Jensen and his wife

Per Jensen and his wife

Talking about Amphora and MacBaren, Rudi tapped me on the shoulder, “Look there, our special guest, he wants to speak you”. I turned around and saw Per Jensen, the product manager of MacBaren who I already met at the Inter Tabac. Wow! I know he goes to big American meetings but a humble Dutch/Belgian one.. So nice to see and speak to him again. He brought all kinds of MacBaren tobaccos that are not for sale here so we could try them out. I lit up a pipe filled with the excellent HH Pure Virginia. Per had a question for me, he was busy with re-creating an old Amphora blend but he could not find any info of it. So if I perhaps could dig up some information. I’ll do my best Per! Of course I also had question for Per. This year I am busy with a new forum tobacco made by Samuel Gawith, but over 2 years perhaps MacBaren is a nice option. So a bit hesitant I asked Per if he was interested in producing one of our forum tobaccos. Hesitant because I know MacBaren only produces large quantities and around 250 tins is just total peanuts for such a company. But surprisingly he was willing! I get back to you in 2 years Per!

Freek

Freek

The generosity of the people on the forum never ceases to amaze me. I saw Freek sitting and he motioned for me to come closer. Last year at the Heukelum meeting I got a bottle of Westvleteren blond from him. One of the best blonde beers I ever drank. But now with a sly smile he produced 2 bottles of the mythical Westvleteren 12! “Here, these are for you. They were a gift to me but I don’t really like the beer.” Wowowowowowow!!! I mean, Westvleteren 12 is chosen as best beer in the world multiple times. What Balkan Sobranie is in the pipe-tobacco world, Westvleteren is in the beer world in my opinion. Last week I drank one bottle and I must say, a truly exceptional brew! Thanks Freek!

Klaas on the left

Klaas on the left

Still with a smile I bumped into Klaas, one of my pipe tobacco mentors. “Arno, I enjoyed your Upper Ten blogpost so much, here is a tin of De Graaff Kegelbaan for you.” Wow again! One of the earlier latakia blends I smoked through Klaas was the no longer made Kegelbaan, one of the house-blends of the once famous tobacconist De Graaff in The Hague. This mixture is really something special and spoiled my taste buds. It contains Syrian latakia, Old Belt Virginia, Brown Cavendish and the elusive Yenidje. Thanks Klaas! Later I spoke with Andre, who has a very good site where he sells refurbished estate pipes for beginning pipe smokers or people with a small budget. At Heukelum he gave me a blasted Orlik bulldog, a surprisingly fine smoker, and now he produced another Orlik, a good looking billiard. I could also have that one. Thanks Andre!

print-19-mar-2016_em5-7612Suddenly every one was being hushed to silence. Nick took the floor and directed himself towards Arjen. In a couple of months Arjen is getting married with a lovely Canadian woman called Misty. Behind his back the forum members collected money so we could give them a dinner at a restaurant. Well, we ended up with giving the soon to married couple a 5-course meal at the fancy Las Palmas restaurant, a night at the Hotel New York Rotterdam and two glasses and a bottle of bubbles.

WinslowYou probably know the feeling when you see a pipe and that it just speaks to you like in, I am beautiful, I will smoke good, buy me! I got that when I looked at a pipe amongst Rudi’s wares. A gorgeous D-grade Winslow bamboo. It was precisely what I was looking for, a small to medium sized pipe in which I could smoke Virginia or VaPer mixtures and flakes. And Winslow bamboos are relatively rare. I already have one (a B-grade) which is a terrific smoker. I must say, all my Winslows are excellent smokers and I can’t say that of all my Dunhills.. Rudi saw me (almost drooling) looking at the pipe but the only thing holding me back was the price. But Rudi knew he had the fish on the hook and only needed to haul it in. He made me an offer I could not refuse, a discount. I immediately shook his hands, the deal was closed.

IMG_0138I am a big fan of Lemmy from Motörhead and so is Matron. When we heard about his death we were both devastated. During an e-mail conversation we came up with the idea to bring a toast to Lemmy in Wuustwezel. Of course that would happen with the favourite drink of Lemmy, a Jack Daniels/cola. So I brought half a bottle of Jack with me (the other half I drank on the evening of the day I heard Lemmy died..) and to my delight I saw that Matron had taken 2 Motörhead shirts with him. His shirt was without sleeves. “You know, this shirt once had sleeves. But on a day when I was hiking I realized I forgot to bring tissues with me when I just had taken a shit. So I ripped off the sleeves of my shirt…” The shirt he had for me was a perfect fit, “size fat bastard” he said to me with a wink. We filled our glasses and raised them in honour of our fallen hero. R.I.P. Lemmy!

My acquisitions

My acquisitions

In the morning when we drove to Wuustwezel Johnny said “Always when I go to a meeting time suddenly goes very fast from the moment I enter the building until I leave it.” I also precisely had that. It was a fun day as always, I had spoken with lots of people, also did not speak with lots of people (better next time!), the sausage-rolls were delicious, the tobaccos great, the beer tasty etc. Around 20.30 we shook hands with the remaining forum members and half an hour later (you know how it goes..) we finally sat in the car on our way home. After a long journey which seemed short we arrived at the parking lot beside the highway. It appeared our cars were well guarded by some men around and in a van who were.. Ehmm.. Jerking off. So we hastily said goodbye to each other (and of course wished the masturbating men a pleasant evening) and went on our merry way.

I want to thank Jan, Sas, Miep and Dirk for organising the meeting and keeping us all hydrated. All pictures were made by Klaas, Jan, Dirk, Nick and Jef.

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oremy_28oremy_71EDIT 09-05-2016: The Dunhill ladies-pipe has a new owner! Lots of pictures of ravishing pipe-smoking ladies were send in. Some even showed me totally new and quite interesting ways to smoke a pipe.. And no you pervs, I won’t show those photos! In the end there was a clear winner: Italian pipe-smoking lady Emilia. She is the vice-president of the Pipa Club Italia and owner of one of the biggest pipe-smokers website communities: Fumare la Pipa. She started smoking when she was 21 years old. Her first pipe, a Savinelli, was given to her by a friend. Her second pipe she bought at the Peterson factory during a study-holiday in Dublin. Today Emilia attends many events where she had the opportunity to meet many pipe-smokers and pipe-makers (like Tom Eltang and Manduela). For 90% Emilia smokes Italian made pipes. Her favourite is the Kronos pipe, made by Bruto Sordini from Don Carlos. Surprisingly (for a woman) Emilia likes the taste of latakia! Her favourite tobacco is GL Pease Maltese Falcon and she often likes to smoke Tuscan cigars. Emilia is also participating in the slow smoking Italian Championship for several years. Last October she even contented in her first World-Championship in Italy near Venice: 71st out of nearly 300 participants. Currently she holds the women’s title in Italy. Emilia, I wish you lots of happy smokes with your Dunhill!

Christmas time in Cologne

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

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Christmas market in front of Cathedral

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

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

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Inside Peter Heinrichs

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

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Inside Peter Heinrichs

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

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Painting inside the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum

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

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Busy crowd before the cathedral

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

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Salvador Dali’s La Gare de Perpignan

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

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Wolsdorff Tobacco

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

Sadly I did not find these lovely figures..

Sadly I did not find these lovely figures..

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

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Yummie!!!

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

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Arno_kerst_2015

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

Sniff that snuff

First snuff acquisitions

First snuff acquisitions

I was introduced to the wondrous world of snuff tobacco by Rob during the last Zutphen meeting. There I had some Pöschl Gletscherprise and I actually quite liked it. Some weeks later I went to a local tobacconist and bought all the snuff tobaccos he had (sadly not much..). Being a cheap Dutchman I must say, snuff taking is a lot easier for the wallet as pipe smoking! I started using it on a regular basis, for example at the office. Because of my stomach problems I unfortunately can’t really handle coffee any more and a sniff provides just the kick I need. In the time that followed I purchased more grinded tobacco products from another snuff snorting nation, England, and discovered to my amazement that snuff is still being made here in The Netherlands! But first some history and please remember, I am leaning here very, very heavily on Wikipedia.

Brazil natives taking snuff

Brazil natives taking snuff

Native people from Brazil were the first that grounded tobacco to snuff. They would grind the tobacco leaves using a mortar and pestle made from rosewood, so the tobacco also got that delicate aroma. The resulting snuff was then stored airtight in ornate bone bottles or tubes to preserve its flavour for later consumption. Snuff-taking by the Taino and Carib people of the Lesser Antilles was seen by Ramón Pané, a Franciscan monk, on the second voyage to the New World by Colombus in 1493. Friar Pané’s return to Spain with snuff signalled its arrival in Europe.

Front of the Real Fábrica de Tabacos

Front of the Real Fábrica de Tabacos

In the early 16th century, the Spanish Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) was established. It held a trade monopoly in the first manufacturing industries of snuff in the grand city of Seville, which became Europe’s first manufacturing and development centre for snuff. The Spanish called snuff “polvo” or “rapé”. At first there were independent production mills were scattered throughout the city but were eventually concentrated in one place for health reasons and to facilitate state control of the activities. Seville’s (and Spain’s) first tobacco factory was in the Plaza de San Pedro in the heart of the medieval city. In 1725 it was decided to build a large and grand industrial building outside the city walls. And so the mighty Royal Tobacco Factory (Real Fábrica de Tabacos) was built. It became Europe’s first industrial tobacco factory and Spain’s second largest building at the time. At first snuff was produced and tobacco was auctioned. Later the famous “cigarreras” got to work there and more emphasis was put on cigars. For more info about tobacco in Seville and the Real Fábrica de Tabacos please read my 2 blogposts “Springtime in Seville” part 1 and part 2.

Jean Nicot

Jean Nicot

In 1561 the French ambassador in Lisbon, Jean Nicot, introduced snuff to the Royal Court of Catherine de’ Medici to treat her persistent headaches. She was so impressed with its relieving abilities that she promptly declared the tobacco would henceforth be named: Herba Regina (Queens’ Herb). Her royal seal of approval would help popularise snuff among the French nobility. In 1611 commercially manufactured snuff made its way to North America. John Rolfe, the husband of Pocahontas, introduced a sweeter Virginia variety which was also used for the production of snuff (also see my blogpost “Voluptuous Virginia“). Though most of the colonists in America never fully accepted the English style of snuff use (they preferred chewing or dipping tobacco), American aristocrats used the product. Snuff use in England increased in popularity after the Great Plague of London because people believed snuff had valuable antiseptic properties, which boosted its consumption. By 1650 snuff use had spread from France to England, Scotland, Ireland and throughout Europe, as well as Japan, China, and Africa.

Snuffy Charlotte

Snuffy Charlotte

In the 17th century some prominent opponents to snuff-taking arose. Pope Urban VIII banned the use of snuff in churches and threatened to excommunicate snuff-takers. In 1643 in Russia, Tsar Michael,who prohibited the sale of tobacco, instituted the punishment of removing the nose of those who used snuff, auwtsch! On the other hand, King Louis XIII of France was a devout snuff-taker. By the 18th century snuff had become the tobacco product of choice among the elite. Snuff use reached a peak in England during the reign of Queen Anne. It was during this time that England’s own production of ready-made snuff blends started. Prominent snuff users included: Pope Benedict XIII who reversed the smoking ban set by Pope Urban VIII. King George III‘s wife Queen Charlotte, referred to as “Snuffy Charlotte”, who had an entire room at Windsor Castle devoted to her snuff stock! And King George IV, who had his own special blends and hoarded a stockpile of snuff. Napoleon, Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Marie Antoinette, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson and Benjamin Disraeli all used snuff, as well as numerous other notable persons. The taking of snuff helped to distinguish the elite members of society from the common people, who generally smoked their tobacco.

English Rose snuff

English Rose snuff

Unfortunately the image of snuff as an aristocratic luxury resulted in the first U.S. federal tax on tobacco, created in 1794. In the late 1700’s, taking snuff nasally had fallen out of fashion in the United States. Despite this, during the 1800’s until the mid 1930’s, a communal snuff box was installed for members of the US Congress. Perhaps because a floral-scented snuff called “English Rose” is provided for members of the British House of Commons. This is due to smoking in the House being banned since 1693. A famous silver communal snuff box kept at the entrance of the House was destroyed in an air raid during WWII. A replacement was presented to the House by Winston Churchill. Sadly very few members are said to take snuff nowadays. In the 20th century the rise of cigarettes and cigars pushed back the use of snuff. However, in recent years, because of the ban on smoking in enclosed public places, the practice of snuff-taking is once again gaining popularity among men as well as women. This goes especially for youngsters from Morocco, Cape Verde and Germany.

Old memorial stone of

Old memorial stone of “De Snuif Molen” in Amersfoort

Here in the Netherlands we were snorting away vast quantities of the finely grinded tobacco product by 1560. Besides, we made some of the best snuff available in the city of Amersfoort, it even was more famous than the stuff coming from Virginia! It was exported to most West- European countries, in which Germany, France en Italy were the biggest consumers. Snuff was also used in the mines in Limburg because underground the miners could not smoke because of the explosion danger. Of course snuff was also produced in other places like in for example Rotterdam. And, how very Dutch-like, it was made there in windmills. Now only 2 of those mills remain: “De Lelie” (The Lily) and “De Ster” (The Star). The great thing is, they are still in operation!

Lelie windmill

Lelie windmill

In 1740 “De Lelie” windmill was built, although its name back then was “De Ezel” (The Donkey). The first mention of “De Lelie” windmill (I guess they renamed it) was found in a deed of sale from 31 January 1777. Thijs van Zevenster and Jacob van de Werken then sell a piece of land with a windmill on it. After several owners the mill, together with a house and warehouse, was sold to Isaac Hioolen, master baker in 1803. Apparently business was going well for Isaac, because in 1829 he gave orders to constructed the corn-mill “De Nieuwe Star” (The New Star) at the Korte Kade in Kralingen. Sadly, when some years passed by, after being struck by lightning the mill burned down. At the site snuff and spices mill “De Stier” (The Bull), coming from Rijswijk (windmills are in essence big construction kits, dismantling and reconstructing is pretty easy), was rebuild in 1865. This mill was named “De Ster” after his predecessor.

De Ster

De Ster windmill

The following Hioolen generations mainly focused on the production of snuff and spices. After the possessions of the Hioolens at the Kralingse Plas were expropriated because of the planting of the Kralingse Bos, the mills were rented to the foremen in 1916. When in 1962 “De Ster” burned down for the second time it brought an end to an industry that for over 160 years had existed at Kralingen. In 1970 the reconstruction was completed and since then the windmills were managed as a monument. In 1996 an enthusiastic group of volunteers began with making visible once again the old ways of snuff manufacturing to a wide audience. Interested folks, families, everyone can visit the windmills now and see how the snuff and spices are still made there.

IMG_3669So a select group of pipe-smokers of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum stopped by the Kralingse (part of Rotterdam) snuffmills on a lovely Saturday. A bit too lovely because when we arrived the wings of mill were not turning. Oh well, we went inside and were warmly greeted by miller Jaap Bes. We sat down in a rather small room which served as reception chamber, canteen, museum and shop. Jaap is a retired teacher what was noticeable because with a natural calmness he stood before us and begun to tell about the history of the mill and his work. He also had prepared a sample of a new snuff with a mocha and coffee aroma but he was not really satisfied with it. Which shows his drive for perfection. I had a sniff of it and had a bit the idea that I was snorting grinded coffee.. Jaap also had an old book which practically fell apart with brown pages from 1862, with in it all kinds of snuff recipes! A lot of the current mill snuff offerings come from that book. Although often a bit changed. I mean, river-water as an ingredient? Not a good idea.. Soon we moved on to the spaces of the mill where the snuff actually is produced.

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Inside the mill

At the windmills two kinds of the grinded tobacco product are made: rapé (grated) snuff and stem snuff. The latter is made from the stems and midribs of tobacco leaves and also whole leaves. Those are chopped directly in the casks in the mill. After that the snuff is sieved and grinded with the millstone, it is often mixed with flavourings such as rose oil, lavender oil and menthol. The mill only uses 2 species of tobacco: Virginia and Kentucky. 3 kinds of stem snuff are made: Virginia, fermented Virginia and latakia. Huh?? Latakia? Well, ehm, no. Despite in the old days the more mellow Syrian latakia was used for the making of snuff, the latakia of the mill is in fact Kentucky and Virginia. The Kentucky is fire-cured so the snuff gets a smoky aroma. First the raw leaves are sauced, then chopped, sieved, grinded and flavoured. Only the delicious Latakia Ao 1860 has no flavour. I also recommend the A/P and prize winning Chococrème-L- snuff. The Virginia snuff is the most easy to make. The raw leaves are not sauced but immediately chopped, sieved, grinded and flavoured. A good example is the Prins Regent snuff. With the fermented Virginia the raw leaves are sauced, chopped, sieved, grinded and flavoured. Then ammonium chloride and potash are added and the whole is put away for a while for further fermentation. After that you get a snuff like Son de Tonca No. 1.

Rob with a carrot

Rob with a carrot

To make the rapé, first the tobacco leaves are sauced. The composition of the sauce differs per snuff. Frequently used ingredients are for example kitchen salt, potash, rose water, liquorice water and juniper berries. After the saucing the tobacco leaves are stripped, weighed, wrapped in a linen cloth and entwined with a tight rope. This process is repeated after a week or two, then the rope and the cloth are removed. The carrot (such as the tobacco bundle is now called) is wrapped again, but now with a thin rope. That process is called “ficelleren”, I found no real English translation of it but “thin frapping” or “thin winding” comes near. Then the carrots go in storage so the fermentation process can take place. This can take months, sometimes years, but mostly about half a year. After the fermentation the carrots are finely grated or chopped. The name rapé snuff is derived from the French word for grating. Instead of grating by hand, carrots are also chopped in the mill. St. Omer No.1 is the name of the only rapé snuff that is sold.

Jaap preparing a carrot

Jaap preparing a carrot ©Jan

It was fascinating to see Jaap preparing a carrot. All the handwork that comes with it.. Very labour-intensive! Suddenly outside the wind picked up and the mill sprang to life. Around us big and smaller wooden and metal parts grabbed together, moved, twisted and turned in a cacophony of movement and sound. Like being inside an old fashioned clock, just magical. When we went to the top of the mill I even got more respect for the people that once designed such a building. All that machinery that works from just a rotation of the blades, amazing! After the tour we of course could not resist buying vast quantities of the excellent quality snuff Jaap and the other volunteers made. The visit ended at neighbouring restaurant “De Tuin” where we had a pleasant High Tea. Other customers certainly must have thought we were “high”, seeing us snorting away our new acquisitions.

Schnupfer_correctedNow a bit about the technique of snuff taking. It is with snuff as it is with pipe tobacco, every snuff requires a sniffing technique of its own. In general, do not sniff too hard. It will get in your throat then which is not a nice experience, believe me! Just slowly but surely inhale, one nostril at the time. You want the snuff to be in the lower part of your nose, not fully up there, so you can taste it. With some snuffs you will have to sniff a bit harder, softer, longer or shorter. Experience is the key. Which way to take snuff  depends for a great deal on how it is packaged. Here are some methods.

IMG_39261. The anatomical snuffbox. When you stick out your thumb sidewards a small hole will appear in which you can put some snuff. I use this method with packages with a small hole.

2. The three finger method. Put your index finger, middle finger and thumbs together. This creates a space in which you can put the snuff. I use this method with packages with a small hole.

IMG_39163. The “take a pinch method”. Take a pinch of snuff out of the tin between your index finger and thumb. I use this method with classic snuff tins.

IMG_391624. The “classic take a pinch method”. Take a pinch of snuff out of the tin between your index finger and thumb. Then move the index finger a bit back across the thumb. I use this method with classic snuff tins.

Here are some personal snuff recommendations:
– Bernard: Fichtennadel
– De Kralingse Snuifmolens: A/P, Chococrème-L-, Latakia A0 1860, Prins Regent, Son de Tonca No. 1, St. Omer No. 1
– Fribourg & Treyer: High Dry Toast
– McChrystal’s: Original & Genuine
– Pöschl: Gawith Apricot, Gletscherprise, Ozona
– Samuel Gawith: Kendal Brown Original
– Toque: USA Whisky & Honey
– Wilsons: SP Best, Grand Cairo

Here some informative links (if you know more links, let me know!):
– THE snuff forum with very friendly folks: Snuffhouse
Modern Snuff

Some nice videos (in Dutch) from the snuffmils:

Last but not least a short clip of the immortal Laurel & Hardy

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UPDATE 20-10-2016: Sadly De Kralingse Snuifmolens stopped selling snuff.. On Snuffhouse.com miller Jaap Bes explains it: Thanks for all your kind words. We are talking about to things that make me decide to stop selling snuff. First the mills are sold to a new owner without any consultations of the crew who runs the mills and this means we are not certain about the future. I intended to go on and look how things should go. Secondly I looked into the new EU regulations for tobacco: http://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/docs/dir_201440_nl.pdf Was it before this regulation became law in The Netherlands it was enough to fill out the forms about the products we make and the ingredients we use. Now we have to make determinations for example of the pH and % nicotin in every product.Also we have to give the exact tobacco composition of each product and also of all our used ingredients. All these demands can fulfilled by commercial companies, but as we are a non profit organisation run by volunteers with the aim to preserve historical production methods we can not. So I decided to stop selling snuff all together.

Inter-Tabac 2015 impression

Entrance to the Inter Tabac

Entrance to the Inter Tabac

September 19th it was once again time for one of my annual highlights: The Inter Tabac fair in Dortmund. For those of you who missed the blogposts I made of the visit the last couple of years; the Inter-Tabac is the leading and biggest trade fair of the world for tobacco products and smoking accessories. This year there were more than 500 exhibitors from over 50 countries who presented themselves in 5 huge exhibition halls. Renowned companies from all over the world presented trends and innovative tobacco products. This includes cigars, cigarillos, cigarettes, E-cigarettes, E-pipes, smoking accessories, pipes, pipe tobacco, shop equipment and spirits. Unfortunately the fair is for retailers, not for consumers. Luckily Fred, now mainly one of the retailers of Big Ben, was willing to drag me along once again. And I was not the only one, he also had asked Rob (forum name Robbie-San) to come along. Which was pretty convenient for me because I could drive together with him.

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New Peterson tobaccos

After a smooth journey we arrived at the Westfalenhallen in Dortmund. Fred texted me, he already was inside waiting for us. When Rob and I met him he was in the process of ordering some miniature pipes meant for a short smoke. A funny looking partly retractable thing but ehmm.. not for me. What was for me was the stand of the Scandinavian Tobacco Group where pipe-brands like Winslow, Peterson, Dunhill and Butz Choquin are shown. Once again Poul Winslow was not there but we bumped in to him later. Fortunately I was just smoking one of his pipes which he immediately recognized. We shook hands and I thanked him for doing what he does best: the making of most excellent smoking pipes. Back at the stand I shook my head in disbelief that Butz Choquin still had the same bright fluorescent yellow and dark blue pipes with yellow spots. As an employee at a marketing department I wonder at which group of people those awful creations are marketed. Well, perhaps it is also a case of “tastes differ”.. Being a big fan of everything that has to do with Ireland Rob already was talking with one of the Peterson salesmen. Apparently they had some new tobaccos: Founder’s Choice (the re-release of the successful 2015  St. Patricks Day tobacco), Signature Flake (in the vein of Capstan) and Original 1865 Mixture (a classic English blend). Dunhill had some special pipes with a silver cap in the form of a bulldog. Really beautiful but also really expensive..

The new

The new “Curvy” pipes of Gubbels

The next stop was the stand of Dutch pipe-factory Gubbels, makers of brands like Big Ben, Hilson and Bentley. This year they had an innovative new pipe: a short reverse calabash named “Curvy“. Not my kind of model (once again tastes differ huh?) but I recognize and applaud the will of Gubbels to innovate and be different than the rest, to think outside the box. And they were well rewarded, I heard they had so many orders that they could barley cope with the production. For me there also was another reason to visit the Gubbels stand. I am busy again with a new forum tobacco for the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum. This one will be made by the immortal house of Samuel Gawith but… The Netherlands had no importer for the brand. HAD, because Gubbels almost certainly reached an agreement with the old British brand to import their wonderful tobaccos. Elbert Gubbels jr. was very happy about the coming collaboration and of course Fred and I added fuel to his enthusiastic flames.

Rob talking with miss Behrens

Rob talking with miss Behrens

While walking the appetite for a chair, something to drink and to smoke arose so like last year we headed towards the stand of Dan Tobacco. We were warmly greeted and the lovely daughter of director Heiko Behrens immediately asked what we wanted to drink. She even made quite an effort to arrange some earl grey tea for Rob. They had 3 new offerings: one I forgot (sorry!), one which smelled like winegums (not my cup of tea) which name is Tumblin’ Dice and one with a bergamot flavour called “Jirsa, magister Kelly’s mixture”, interesting! So we all filled our pipes with the Jirsa blend and to be honest, it surprised me in a positive way. Last year I smoked a then new mixture called Choo Choo Train and I did not like it much. It bit me like Ellen on a wild night and just.. No.. The Jirsa blend behaved very well and halfway the bowl the subtle but clear taste of bergamot prevailed. Miss Behrens so much liked to see us enjoying the new mixture that we were all gifted a tin! Besides that she made small sample-bags of all kinds of tobacco for us to enjoy after the fair. Suddenly Michael Apitz appeared, responsible for creating many of the aromatic tobaccos of DTM. And a walking encyclopaedia of everything that has to do with pipes and tobacco. He sat down with us and immediately an interesting conversation followed about how to store your tobaccos for a long time. Apparently he now and then turns a tin upside down and let it stay like that for a while to evenly distribute the little oxygen inside it. Also an older man joined us for a short while. A real character with vocal chords which have seen lots of tobacco and spirits. “I am the least known pipe-maker of the world!” he croaked. He had brought some pipes of his own making with him and showed them. “They are rejects, I only smoke those, never the ones I sell.” And even those rejects looked amazingly beautiful. He had a straight grain which he had been smoking for 20 years which had a wonderful brown patina. And I still don’t know his name..

IMG_3770We had gotten so hungry so we went outside looking for the stand that sold heavenly grilled mega-burgers last year. And it was not there! The bastards! Leaving me standing there with an empty belly! Fred and Rob gently guided me back inside while I kept on swearing in German.. Donnerwetter! Apparently some of the catering had moved to a (non-smoking…) part of one of the halls. We found a stand there that also sold burgers but sadly they were not as big and tasty as those of last year. And the price! 9 euros for a double cheese burger! Grrrrr… And on top of that some Chinese bloke sneakily tried to nick my chair while I was waiting in the queue. My flaming eyes communicated the Chinese words for “keep your f***ing hands off!”..

IMG_3773Rob loves Savinelli pipes so that was the next stand we went to. He had a malfunctioning mouthpiece and told that that to the friendly saleslady. Of course this was not a problem for her, she told Rob to send the pipe to Italy with specific instructions and then all would be fixed. Savinelli also had some really cool looking pipes with a silver skull ring that I really liked. So back home I looked up the prices and ehmm.. Nevermind.. Waaaaay out of my budget.. 1500 – 1700 euros… They also had pipes in the shape and colours of a football. No not a soccer-ball, a football. Not really my cup of tea.

IMG_3780After seeing a lot of other Italian pipe brands we ended up at the stand of BriarWorks International. This year they are making the 2016 Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum forum-pipe. Very nice folks at the stand and while I held the forum-pipe model in my hands I slightly regretted not ordering one. We moved on besides stands of Mr. Brog and Chacom. One of Rob’s favourite pipes is a Chacom so he thanked the salesman for making such excellent pipes and in return the salesman thanked Rob for buying them. We shuffled past the stand of Samuel Gawith, I had to speak with Bob Gregory about the coming forum tobacco but alas, he was busy making advances on an Asian looking woman who apparently was interested in his.. Tobaccos.. As always the space of the stand was shared with Ian Walker from Northern Briars. While chatting away Rob pulled out his beloved Chacom and sighed: “I wish I had another one..” Being the businessman that he also is Ian Walker grabbed his sketchbook and began drawing the Chacom from different angles. When he was done he named an absolutely reasonable price and asked for Rob’s email. I wonder what will come out of this.

IMG_3791Like every year German pipe-brand Vauen had made an innovative pipe. Last year they had a black diamond shaped pipe fittingly called “Diamond“ Now their newest creation was called “Spin“. A pipe that at first looks like a big joint but because of a rotating bowl can be used normally. A nice feature, but in my personal opinion noting special. What was special once were the Lord of the Rings pipes made by Vauen. Sadly they lost the rights to use the LOTR name so instead they founded the “Auenland” series. Really good looking pipes, absolutely, but I have been searching for a LOTR Bilbo model for years and I can’t find one for a decent price. So every year I ask the Vauen salesmen the same thing: Can you please bring out the Bilbo model under another name? And each year the polite answer is the same: no..

Brian Levine and myself

Brian Levine and myself

At the Mac Baren stand I had 2 things to do: sample a bit of their new tobaccos and meet PipesMagazine.com radio-show host Brian Levine who did an interview with me some time ago. Tobacco-expert Per Jensen was busy with a retailer so I looked around if I saw Brian and found him at the entrance. He did not immediately recognize me, in real life I am much better looking than on my pictures *ahemmm*, but when he did he warmly greeted me. We all sat down and a girl provided drinks. We talked a bit about my blog, I showed him my old Samuel McLardy pipe and we just had a great time, Brian really has a wonderfully wicked sense of humour. Gradually the conversation drifted toward their new tobaccos: HH Pure Virginia and HH Bold Kentucky. Since Per Jensen was still busy Brian asked me to wait, hurried to the side of the stand and came back with a tin of HH Pure Virginia and HH Bold Kentucky. Those were for me! Thanks Brian! We talked further and the subject came on the new brands Mac Baren recently acquired. Amongst those brands is a classic Dutch one: Amphora. So Brian asked if I would like to have some pouches of it. Ehhr, sure, yes!! Thanks again! Apparently with the new brands Mac Baren also acquired some nasal snuff tobaccos. They did not even know that until just before the Inter Tabac so they had to quickly buy some of the snuff in England. The last couple of months I now and then sniff some nasal snuff and Rob also likes to do that very much. So we took it upon ourselves to test the new additions to the Mac Baren product range. Must have been a funny but perhaps disturbing sight to see a couple of full grown men snorting away like there was no tomorrow. When Per Jensen finally shortly joined us I dared to ask him if it was possible to visit and see the factory. Normally they don’t do that but if I mail him far enough in advance it surely could be done! Of course we thoroughly thanked Brian and Per before we left the stand. Great guys!

Wallenstein pipes

Wallenstein pipes

Inside the posh and luxurious stand of Kohlhase & Kopp it was busy. We had a quick look at some pipes, they had a nice rack of Wallensteins, but for the rest there was nothing special to find. So we decided to see if Bob Gregory was available at the Samuel Gawith stand, and he was. He did not have much time, the next appointment was already breathing in our necks, but I did not need long to explain to him what I would like with the forum tobacco. To him it all sounded good, it all could be done. Great! He gave me his email and before we shook hands and said goodbye Rob managed to secure a tin of Celtic Talisman snuff. Talking about snuff, we even saw at a stand that they had the famous snuff offerings from the renowned  Dutch snuff-mills. Cool! But more about those in a coming blog.

Rob and the girls

Rob and the girls

After all the pipe-smoking and sniffing we all felt like trying out a water-pipe. The espresso water-pipe company of last year also was present so we decided to sit down there. We were the only customers at that moment so the girls were glad to see us and fired up the shishas. Fred once again had troubles to get the water-pipe going but Rob and I were happily puffing away. We tried all kinds of flavours but both of us liked the regular apple-taste best. One of the girls asked if we regularly smoked shisha, no, but we do smoke pipe often! She got a bit intrigued so Rob pulled out his pipes and tried to impress the (poor) girl. He even got the girls so far they posed with him for a picture, the lucky bastard! Oh yes, the girls.. Last years I very much enjoyed the sights of scantily dressed ladies trying to promote products or just sitting in front of stands to attract customers. But now it seemed that there was some kind of dress code.. Most girls were very neatly dressed, no cleavage whatsoever, no ultra-mini skirts. Only one (water-pipe) stand had girls that showed some more flesh, but still.. So vendors of the Inter Tabac, next year I hope I can feast my eyes once again on pipes, tobacco and scantily dressed girls! Thank you!

image21Of course the day ended too soon, just before 6 o’clock the loudspeakers told us to head to the exits. Brian had asked if we wanted to drink a beer with him at his hotel but to be honest I forgot the name of it… Next year Brian! Besides that we all were very hungry so we took off in search of a restaurant. We did not wanted to eat something in Dortmund but in a smaller town (restaurants are often cheaper there). So we at random picked a town when driving on the highway. It was called Herne and when we got there we went to the first decent looking place to eat, which proved to be a Greek restaurant. And an excellent one! Good beer, lots of meat for a reasonable price, just perfect! All by all I was at home precisely at midnight. I can’t remember hitting the bed but I sure had some nice tobacco dreams.

All pictures were made by Rob and myself.

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Springtime in Seville – Part 2.

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

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

Front of the Real Fábrica de Tabacos

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

Painted tiles on the outside wall

Painted tiles on the outside wall

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

Las cigarreras

Cigarreras

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

Las cigarreras

Cigarreras

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

Las_cigarreras

Cigarreras

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

Altadis factory

Altadis factory

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

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

Tabacos at the Calle O'Donnell

Estanco at the Calle O’Donnell

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

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

Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader Special Edition

Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader Special Edition

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

Me and Alfonso

Me and Alfonso

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

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

View from our terrace

View from our terrace

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

View from the Giralda

View from the Giralda

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

Part of the Alcázar garden

Part of the Alcázar garden

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

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

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

IMG_2851

Torre del Oro

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

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

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

IMG_2893

Mezquita

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

hosteria_del_laurel

La Hostería del Laurel

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

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


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

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Pleasures of life in Belgium 2015

Group picture

For me the annual meeting of the Dutch/Belgian Pipe Smokers Forum (PRF) at Wuustwezel (Belgium) halfway March always marks the beginning of spring. The lengthening days, the slowly rising temperatures and the anticipation of the meeting make all the shadows in my mind from the dark, cold winter disappear. For some reason (probably the location in Belgium near the Dutch border and cheap beer) the Wuustwezel meeting always has been the best attended one. This year 80 people applied under which Matron, a Scotch-man and Florian, a German, both from the (in)famous Kaervaig Pipe Club. PRF goes international!

Johnny (notice the longer beard)

Johnny (notice the longer beard)

The day of the meeting began early at 07.30 am. After a shower, shave and breakfast I gathered all the tobaccos and pipes I wanted to bring with me and waited for Ed, who rang the doorbell at 9.00 am. I almost walked outside when Ed said, shouldn’t you give a goodbye kiss to Ellen? Oh! I forgot.. So I rapidly went inside, pressed a kiss upon her lips and went to Ed his car while Ellen shook her head and sighted “just like giddy schoolboys going on a field trip..”. Like last year we picked up Mark at the Deventer Central Station and Johnny near the highway.

st_bernardus_12The journey to Wuustwezel from Deventer Central Station takes about 2 hours but to me it felt like only half an hour. Conversations enough in the car. When we arrived in Belgium our first stop was the local liquor store where we also went last year. Of course I had to re-stock my supply of Belgian beers, can’t live without! I almost did not recognize the store, apparently it had a huge renovation. Some walls were broken down and now there was a big space which housed all the liquor. It did not matter to me, the beers were easily found. Johnny is somewhat of a connoisseur on that field so he gave me some advice about what to buy besides my old favourites.

Frituur Zodiac

Frituur Zodiac

When I planned our route I noticed that the snack-bar we went to last year was not open at the beginning of the afternoon. Luckily there are enough “frietkotten” (snack-bars) in Belgium so another one, “Frituur Zodiac“, was easily found. We arranged with some other forum members (and also Matron and Florian) that we would meet there, the more the merrier. To our surprise there was another PRF group present when we arrived. And just when we ordered our food other forum members walked in until the small snack-bar was filled with hungry and noisy pipe-smokers. I went for a small “frietje stoofvlees” (Belgian fries with a meat-stew). Yes, small, I saw someone who had a regular size and it was.. Huge.. But it tasted divine! I am sorry for the snack-bar we went to last year but Zodiac was much better. Mark struggled to devour a frikandel XXL so being the good guy that I am I helped him with it. Just when we left the place Matron and Florian finally arrived together with Wilfred, who picked them up. I advised a bit what they should take and later that day I (luckily) heard they ate very well.

Willem and Jan

Willem and Jan

Almost precisely on time we entered the Bellekeshoeve, the location of the meeting, where not yet everyone had arrived. I liked it this way because in relative quietness I was able to put away my belongings, order a Vlaamsche Leeuw beer and fill up a pipe before plunging into the busy crowd. We were all welcomed by Willem and meeting-organizer Jan, with whom we had to pay for the traditional Belgian sausagebreads. Talking about Willem, he is a real character, a large man who’s presence commands attention. Last year he only was there for a short while because he does not like big gatherings (“You know Arno, in the old days I was forced to go to receptions and I thoroughly hated those..”), and had things to do. But now he stayed right until the end! With him he brought his charming wife, the green baroness, who started smoking pipe! I believe Rob (Robbie-San) bought her an elegant ladies pipe and soon she was smoking some aromatic tobacco. “Much better than those awful smelly Davidoff cigarettes she uses to smoke”, Willem whispered in my ears.

Rob

Rob

I was glad that another prominent forum and another Rob (robvoorburg) was present at the meeting. At first he did not want to go, not because he dislikes meetings (I think Rob almost attended all of them), but because of private reasons. To the delight of us all he was able to come because in my opinion a meeting without Rob is no meeting. No one can visibly enjoy a gathering of pipe-smokers more than Rob. And a pleasant side-effect of him coming was that he brought friend and forum-photographer Klaas with him.

IMG_2681Peter, one of the forum-moderators, had brought a lot of bags with him containing new PRF shirts and hoodies, designed by myself of course. Peter does the communication with the printing-company and the distribution. I bought one shirt and one hoodie with the new “smoking goat” design. With which we had some problems because the black print would not really show on the dark army green background I had planned originally. So we opted for a more.. Uhmm.. Visible kind of green. When I wore the hoodie at home Ellen almost burst out into laughter, “Finally you are wearing some colour!” Thanks darling…

Winslow bamboo B-Grade

Winslow bamboo B-Grade

Then I bumped into Fred, who had a lot of goodies for me. To start with 3 tins of Hearth & Home Magnum Opus. He has connections in the USA who can get the Hearth & Home range so when I heard that I asked him to order some tins of Magnum Opus. I smoked that blend once through my German friend Rainer and really liked it. When of the few blends out there containing the legendary Yenidje tobacco. Fred also had a pipe for me. And not just a pipe, no, a gorgeous Winslow bamboo B-grade! A while ago Fred had bought a collection of pipes from the family of a deceased pipe-smoker. He photographed them all and with the help of Peter put the lot for ridiculously low prices on the market-place of our forum. First come first served. And I was first so had the luck to buy this astonishing beautiful Winslow. The last item Fred had for me was the (in)famous Bothy Flake from the Kaervaig Pipe Club (made by Samuel Gawith). After the Inter-Tabac fair last year Fred ordered tins for anyone who wanted it at the forum and I was one of them.

2rhw8ix

Matron digs up a surprise for Marielle..

Talking about the Kaervaig Pipe Club, Matron and Florian had brought presents for me and the forum. Florian gave me a bottle of German “Schnapps” from his home region and Matron presented me with an original KPC mouse-pad. For the forum Matron had something very special. From out of the unholy depths of his bag (which he suspiciously carried around with him all the time) he dug up a large package with 500 gr. of Samuel Gawith Golden Glow. “This is a gesture from the Kaervaig Pipe Club to the PRF, do with it what you want”, he said. Dumbfounded I thanked him and put the package away. Later at home I divided the 500 gr. in smaller amounts of 100 gr. and set up a lottery for all PRF members.

Whisky AND beer?? Germans.... ;)

Whisky AND beer?? Germans…. 😉

I especially liked talking to the German KPC member Florian. Before the meeting we had some short but pleasant mail conversations but that was it. In reality he proved to be a well-spoken, polite, intelligent man. I can understand German pretty good (speaking it is another thing) but for some reason we both stuck to English. We talked about all kinds of things; the forum tobaccos, German tobacco companies, German pipe-smokers forums etc. I can’t exactly remember any more what we all spoke about (the Vlaamsche Leeuw began to work) but we certainly had fun. I really hope he is going to be at the meeting next year.

Martijn and Monique

Martijn and Monique

It was also nice talking to Martijn, one of the new members, it was his first meeting. It always amazes me how easy it is to talk to new people I never met before, as long as they are pipe smokers. Because then you have at least one thing in common. And we had several things in common, amongst other things that we started smoking pipe because of our pipe-smoking grandfathers. Suddenly all conversation was stopped because Jos blew on his deafening brass ship’s horn. Time for the group picture. We went outside and when we all found our positions a huge banner was unfold with on it: Flakeroker sterkte (Flakesmoker lots of strength). Jorg came up with the idea (and it was executed by Peter), he wanted to let Flakeroker (real name Sandor) know that we all thought about him and wished him strength. This because Sandor has terminal cancer (in his whole body except his lungs..). In the weeks before the meeting Sandor sold all his pipes and tobacco because every day counts for him. I hope he lives long enough to properly say goodbye to all his loved ones.

167p7k1

Freek, winner of the crap-price

On a more happy note Jos had decided to open a competition a couple of weeks before the meeting. Jos has a thing with.. Poo.. So the one who brought the tobacco which smelled most like poo would win the crap-price and an accompanying book. Freek won with a tin of Merde de Cheval, which translates as “horse shit”. What certainly did not smell like shit were the traditional Belgian sausage-rolls. Always a true delight, also the next day. I took a doggy-bag with me so Ellen and I could enjoy some later at home. I think the local bakery in Wuustwezel is very pleased with our annual meeting and accompanying sausage-roll order.

Capstan_1898Someone who also was pleased was Robbin. On a Dutch market-place site he found a tin of ancient Capstan. I did some research and came to the conclusion it was even older than the tin I brought with me last year! Robbin was hesitating if he should bring his tobacco gem with him and open it and I was glad to see he did. The tin had lost its lid so he had to cut the thin foil open with a knife Matron dug up from out of his unholy bag. And… The tobacco was intact and still moist! Gotta love those old knife-cutter tins! I had the privilege of smoking a bowl and although different than the current incarnation, it undeniably was classic Capstan. I liked it even better than my old tin!

Willem and Carro want you to come (again) next year!

Willem and Carro want YOU to come (again) next year!

Too fast the hours went by, so many people and so little time. Slowly the group got smaller and smaller until only a few were left. Willem put his arm around my shoulder and said with a wicked smile “Please have another beer, you can put it on the bill of my wife!” But I graciously declined his offer, I already had enough of the Belgian nectar. It was time to go. After many handshakes and some hugs (especially Carro and Willem would not let me go) we walked to the car. The ride back home went smooth and I was glad to softly snuggle against the warm body of an already sleeping Ellen. I want to thank Jan and Sas for the organisation, all the volunteers behind the bar, Willem for the party-tent outside and Ed for driving! All pictures were made by Klaas, Jan, Rik, Dirk, Rob and Marielle.

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