I Got an Upgrade

When I was a kid (around the time of the invention of water), we were only allowed to use the eight color box of crayons because some families couldn’t afford the bigger selections and the school didn’t want people to be able to buy an advantage for their children and also wanted to spare the feelings of the kids.  So when I got a little older and we could bring in whatever size assortment we wanted, it was great. I was so happy when art class came around so I could open up that box of 64.

My mother was a great cook. I don’t ever remember her making a meal I didn’t enjoy. She kept things simple. For the most part, she would use salt, pepper, onion, garlic, paprika, basil and Bell’s Poultry Seasoning, but not too much else to spice her dishes. When I began cooking, I started out using those seasonings myself, but I soon discovered a lot of other ones, and was amazed at the variety of flavors I could develop.

So what does this have to do with today’s subject? Quite a bit, actually. I’ve been really fortunate to have access to a variety of excellent tobaccos from a number of different sources to be able to create my blends, and although the combinations may have been important, the types and quality of the leaf are at least as vital to the overall success of the mixture.

I know that a number of you are now aware that Pipes and Cigars was recently purchased by Cigars International, and that was exciting for me as I knew that my resources were going to be expanded, but I didn’t really think about just how significantly. You see, this new relationship includes a number of cousins in our new family. Two in particular are of great interest to me- Lane Limited and Orlik/Stokkebye. The idea of being able to work with these two giants of pipe tobacco is humbling and terrifically exciting  for someone in my profession.

I hope to be able to work with both companies going forward to develop new products, as they have the equipment and manufacturing facilities that I could only dream of. They have some of the foremost experts in their fields to tap as a resource, and, even more interestingly, they have the availability of a much wider variety of tobaccos than I have ever come across. My mind has been racing with images of new blends and possibly being able to do flakes and roll cakes. I haven’t yet had the chance to speak to any of the folks in Denmark, but I’ve had a very good relationship with Leonard Wortzel of Lane for a couple of years now, and we briefly talked about working together on some projects.

Right around the same time as our changes, another big piece of news came out- Altadis USA sold their pipe tobacco division to Mac Baren and the company would be renamed using their original moniker, Sutliff. We’ve had an excellent working relationship with these fine folk from Richmond, Virginia for quite a while now, and they have been a vital part of the growth of our Hearth & Home line. Now, with the added resources of their new Danish parent, it means that our palette has been expanded even further.

At this point, I feel like a kid in a candy shop. No, scratch that. I feel more like a kid in a candy factory. We’re still getting acclimated to our new digs, here, and we have a lot of work ahead of us to get things where we want them, but when the dust finally settles, I’ll be able to do some experimenting with a whole bunch of new resources and, hopefully, I’ll be able to come up with a bunch of new and interesting products that we can bring to market. Now all I have to do is avoid wearing my new crayons down too far or breaking them,

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About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for www.pipesandcigars.com in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at russo@pipesandcigars.com or by calling 1-800-494-9144.