Giving Up the Ghost


I get a lot of requests from understandably misty eyed nostalgics for current day matches to long gone blends of the Bygone Era. Of course, how far the era has gone by depends on how long ago you went through that formative age of pipe smoking. Usually, it would involve remembrances of trips to the local shops, sniffing through tobacco jars, looking over tempting tins, and finally making a carefully frugal choice; anything from a trusted favorite to a risky spin of the wheel. But some, those new to the fold, have scarcely had the chance to browse through the myriad of choices our current online ordering world offers. Nice to have a few pipes to roll around your fingers and check for dings and fills, but in trade we have the world to choose from.


Perhaps the freedom is intimidating, but sooner or later we find what we like, and stick to it. Hopefully we don’t stumble on a great blend only to discover a month later that is nowhere to be found. As time goes on, we may rotate away from statuesome old favorites. By the time we come back to them, so much time may have passed that they no longer seem as enjoyable, or even seem nothing like what we remember. If we put aside the physical influences such as recent food and drink, or overloaded nasal receptors, we are left with that spirited but hungry essence of memory that is often insatiable. We always long for a return to a previous state of bliss. Thankfully, we’re talking tobacco here, and not alcohol or drug related tolerances that keep one’s cravings on a constant rise.


I was thrown into this line of thinking by a recent coincidence. An inquiry came through about the old Lane blend 10 Downing Street. After a quick confirmation of it’s essential absence from the marketplace, and the requisite despair and groping for substitutes on both sides of the connection, another more mysterious Lane oldie came into question, a uniquely named blend from a long demised shop somewhere west of the fields. Little to go on, possibly RHQ-3 or BS-005 in disguise. But since we’ve seen the recent revivals by way of Lane Limited Ready Rubbed and Medal of Valor, one wonders where it will all end, and to what avail. Will the day arrive when today’s generation will clamor for the resurrection of SPC Mississippi River? Molto Dolce?? Captain Black Copper??? Who can tell where tomorrow’s heroes will emerge from and perhaps disappear to?!


I suppose one could romantically liken the soul of a pipe smoker to the briar itself. Too much of the strong memory and desire for past glory may well be like the ghosting effect of many hearty bowls of Balkan. But the ghost in view is really a haunting to those who plant the seeds, literally, hoping to cultivate a product that can consistently to live up to one’s own legend. Time and changes always have their way, and what results will inevitably be judged by the most recent quality of enjoyment that has been available to us, and compared to the highest standard imaginable.


For a great mind’s behind the scenes look at this matching game, I highly recommend Russ’s Talking Tobacco article, Ghosts of Tobaccos Past. Don’t be scared!