We recently realized that we haven’t done anything on Talking Tobacco for a while. We’re going to address that now, and you’ll be seeing new content frequently. Why the absence? Over the last 13 months, we’ve completely rebuilt our website, which was necessary because, in many ways, we were outgrowing the old one. When I say that it took a good-sized team a number of months to get everything ready, I’m not exaggerating. Right on the heels of our relaunch, we introduced our Pipe Tobacco of the Month Club, which took a lot of planning. In the last couple of months we brought you our My Own Blend program, which lets you create a pipe tobacco that truly suits your desires.
Fortunately, all of these projects have gone better than expected, and things are chugging along pretty smoothly, so now we can get back to posting our thoughts to Talking Tobacco from time to time. I just realized that we’re more than a third of the way through the year already. With the aforementioned projects, and some that I’ve had percolating for a while, I can’t believe how quickly these months have passed. So let me give you an idea of a couple of new items that are available right now.
About a year ago, while at a pipe show, I wandered by the tables of Missouri Meerschaum. I exchanged pleasantries with their General Manager, Phil Morgan, and I had mentioned that I always have a few MM corn cobs nearby, to use during new blend evaluations and for smoking outdoors. He told me that he enjoyed some of my blends, especially Fusilier’s Ration. We talked for some time when a light bulb went on (yes, just like in the cartoons), so I asked Phil if they had ever thought of coming out with a Missouri Meerschaum pipe tobacco. He said that, coincidentally, the though had occurred to him, but he had dismissed it, because they didn’t want to deal with tobacco licenses and handling the distribution. I asked if they would be interested in letting me develop the blends and we could handle the distribution, to eliminate that roadblock. He enthusiastically agreed that it could be a great project. It didn’t take me all that long to get approval on our end, and I put the blends together for testing. After a little tweaking, we settled on four tobaccos – a Latatkia-based blend, with a touch of Bourbon, a VaPer with a whisper of dark-fired, a non-aromatic Burley/Virginia, and a deep, fruity aromatic. We named them after some of Missouri Meerschaum’s model names, and designed the labels.
All along the way, Phil and I seemed to be in agreement with just about every aspect of the project, and it wasn’t too long before everything was settled. Most importantly, since Missouri Meerschaum is identified with value, we thought that the blends should be sold in pouches, so they could be affordable, as well. In May, we made them available on our website, and hopefully to brick and mortar stores around the country, shortly thereafter. We kicked them off by bringing samples to the Chicagoland Pipe and Tobacciana Show.
What amazed me the most is that they have never had a tobacco associated with their pipes after 145 years in business. Phil thought that it was curious, too, so he went through their archives to see if there was ever any mention of a tobacco, and couldn’t find any reference to any Missouri Meerschaum blends. It’s an honor for us to be associated with such a legendary company, and we hope you enjoy the blends. By the way, I specifically created them to taste best when smoked in a Missouri Meerschaum corn cob.
Corn cob pipes are widely misunderstood, mainly because of their price. Since briars can sell for more than $10,000, it would be a common assumption that a pipe that sells for less than $10 can’t be any good, but that’s not true. Cobs are light, are cool-smoking and can absorb a lot of excess moisture. When I’m in the evaluation process of making a new blend, I usually grab a new corn cob. During the first few smokes, a cob can add a bit of sweetness, and a hint of a buttery note to the flavor, but that dissipates pretty quickly. At any rate, we hope you’ll give one, or all, of the Missouri Meerschaum tobaccos a try, and remember, they’ll taste best in a Missouri Meerschaum pipe.
At the same time the MM tobaccos appear, the first new blend in the Hearth & Home Marquee Series in a year-and-a-half will arrive, and it’s special in a few ways. First, I actually started working on this while I was developing Fusilier’s Ration, as they have a similar recipe, although they’re very different blends. This means that there’s more than two years involved in finalizing the tobacco, and because of the nature of the project, I really wanted it to be exactly as I conceived it. Secondly, it’s a blend that pays tribute to a tobacco that is probably the most iconic blend in recent memory – Balkan Sobranie Original Smoking Mixture. There are a lot of reasons that these sorts of blends won’t be exact replicas. It’s impossible to test it against a fresh sample, and if there are any unopened tins available, the contents will have changed radically, so all I have to work with is my memory. Besides that, my memories of the blend range from about 1976 to 1982. After that, it became unobtanium, for the most part, where I lived. If your memories are based upon the late eighties/early nineties version, or the one being made today, you may not find it to be that similar, but a number of people I sampled it to, who remember the blend from the same era when I enjoyed it, made very favorable comments.
Even if I had the original recipe, which I don’t, using the leaf that’s available today would make for a different blend. I had to use tobaccos and percentages that were probably divergent from the original to achieve anything close to the flavor and aroma of the old blend.
Regardless of anything else, people almost universally like this tobacco if they like Latakia and Orientals. This was the “mystery blend” that was included in our 2014 IPSD goodie bag, and the one that I gave out as samples at the holiday gathering at S. M. Frank in December of last year.
The final thing that makes this tobacco unique is that it will be the first Hearth & Home Marquee Series blend that will come in 50 gram, European-style vacuum-sealed tins. We will eventually move all of the Marquee Series to the new tins. A lot of our customers have asked for this change, and it’s all due to the efforts of Paul Creasy of Sutliff Tobacco, who arranged to get the equipment and tins necessary to do the job.
Oh, that’s right, I haven’t told you the name of the new blend, have I? Well, now, BlackHouse has a brother called WhiteKnight. They’re my tip of the cap to the legendary House of Sobranie, and I hope you enjoy them.