17 New Blends And Counting, Kicking Off 2016 With A Pipe Tobacco Cornucopia

horn of tobaccoThat’s right… 17 new pipe tobacco blends fired up the market to begin 2016!  At least, 17.  In fact, the number is certain to be greater because I’m only counting the obvious major releases that became available in the U.S. at the very close of 2015 and presently, January 2016.  Not included are bargain brand blends or house blends that I may or may not have noticed.  None the less, this year is already shaping up to provide pipe smokers with a cornucopia of new blends to explore.

Let’s take a look…

Standard Tobacco of Pennsylvania
Standard Tobacco of Pennsylvania

Perhaps the biggest news is the establishment of Standard Tobacco of Pennsylvania and their acquisition of three once popular brand names: John Cotton, Bengal Slices and War Horse.  The company has enlisted blender Russ Ouellette to recreate these blends as closely to the originals as is humanly possible.

Reports from pipe smokers of the time who enjoyed these original blends state their satisfaction with Mr. Ouellette’s renditions. He had already done a fine job copying Bengal Slices with his Fusilier’s Ration, which I hold as a personal favorite, but he has said that this iteration of the blend is closer, yet, to the original.  (I’ve picked up a tin that I am presently comparing, just for the fun of it, to FR.  My assessment is forthcoming.)  I find John Cotton’s Numbers 1 & 2, and Smyrna to be excellent smokes.

Watch the two videos below from Pipes and Cigars for some of the story behind Standard Tobacco of Pennsylvania and their new pipe tobacco offerings…



Next on my list is from the Nashville-based pipe maker, BriarWorks International.  They released three blends in partnership with Cornell & Diehl: a Va/Per, Aromatic and an English.  The immediately attractive (and perhaps most novel) thing about these blends is their packaging in a mason jar.  Now, I have to say, I think this is some pretty cool marketing.  The blends are Back Down South, Bacon Old Fashioned and Pete’s Beard’s Blend.  Take a look at this video with Shane Ireland from Smokingpipes.com


pike placeNext up we’re looking at Seattle Pipe Club’s Pike Place.  It’s a Balkan styled English with a dose of Tennessee Burley that essentially replaces the role played by Virginias. It also contains Perique.  If you’re a SPC fan and haven’t eased your way through a bowl or two of this, yet, I think you’ll find it to be an earthy addition to their lineup.


Amphora pouches

And here we’ve got a couple pouches of Amphora: Original Blend, and Full Aroma.  These are classic Dutch Cavendish blends that have been missing from the U.S. market for some time now but have returned thanks to Mac Baren.

I don’t know what’s happening with me, but I find I’m getting on a “pouch tobacco” kick of sorts, lately.  Something about the handy convenience, and dare I say, “charm”, of the pouch, I imagine.




To round out this list, there’s Mike McNiel’s of McClelland and Russ Ouellette’s joint venture, The Mind Meld.  As of this writing, their brand provides six mixtures: two Latakia, two aromatics, one Va/Per and one Virginia.

Can even two masters of the tobacco blending art really create six new blends that are both wonderful and different from their other previously made and popular creations?  Our curiosity will no doubt drive us to purchase a few tins to find out.


Understanding the need for a company to develop new product to sustain market interest and growth, still…

As if there aren’t enough pipe tobacco mixtures, cakes and flakes to keep the most smoky of pipesters permanently clenched to their pipes, burning through all manner of tobaccos already, it’s hard to imagine pipe tobacco manufacturers can keep currently enjoyed blends on the market much longer at the rate they’re churning out new blends. Or, is the market so small compared to available leaf that the number of differing blends remains insignificant?

Well, the new is always exciting nonetheless.

What I find of interest is the pursuit to reclaim defunct brands and recreate once cherished blends.  What is in a name, anyway?  I look to address that question in my next post.  In the meantime, I’ll relax with a few of these reborn blends within my pipe and ponder the question.

Happy smoking in 2016, with new blend or old.




Adventures in Pipe Smoking Video Community

vid cam pic I’ve finally entered the tobacco pipe smoking video community on Vimeo.

Am I crazy?

So for the last few months, I’ve bounced back and forth between whether I should write a post about my “new discovery” of Mac Baren tobaccos or make a video about it, both of which I’ve haltingly started and stopped. Due to a bit of paralysis-by-analysis with a little extenuating circumstance thrown in,  I’ve yet to complete either; however, what I have done is this… I’ve entered the Vimeo video pipe-smoking community by presenting a brief introductory video (about myself, and which also took a few trials before completion).

But I’ve got to ask…

Is it strange to engage with persons unknown within a virtual community via video, watching each other smoke a pipe and talk about tobacco?

Does video make it legitimately more personal than the written word, or does it simply add a voyeuristic dynamic? (Within a pipe-smoking context, mind you.)

There is some kind of vicarious satisfaction in it beyond its educational value and the sense of belonging to a brother-sisterhood of pipesters, I have to admit — almost like I don’t need to light up a bowl now, myself.

It’s been about six or seven months that I’ve been viewing YouTube videos by tobacco pipe hobbyists. In today’s anti-tobacco climate and with pipe smokers being an almost counter-cultural anomaly, their videos have undoubtedly helped me get a handle on what pipe-smoking folks, as well as the pipe and tobacco industries, are up to. There are blogs and forums, of course. But let’s face it, once you get the few technical steps down that are required to record and upload a video, it can be a bit less intellectually trying, yet potentially more entertaining, to present a video than it is to write a post or engage in meaningful dialogue in a forum. [And to be candid, many of the conversations within forums (or fora) I’ve happened into are anything but meaningful.]

So I thought, what the heck, I’m kind of itching to make a video or two, myself, so why not give it a whirl and see about “giving back” to the community that has given to me.

I chose to go with Vimeo for two reasons…

First, It’s a way to get away from Google’s penchant for master controlled integration of one’s content across platforms.

Second, because the Vimeo pipester community is young compared to YouTube’s, my participation will hopefully be more akin to helping to build the Vimeo community houseboat, rather than jumping aboard an already creaking old ship with its crotchety old characters claiming primacy of place.

(A bit cynical over some of what I’ve observed, am I?)

Anyway, I’m hoping my videos do bring something to the table.

My introduction video is available for viewing only by those whom I follow on Vimeo, but the rest will be open to all. I’ll be posting them here, as well.

If you have a Vimeo channel, please let me know so I can follow you.

Here’s my channel… https://vimeo.com/socalpipester

Happy watching.

Oh yeah, I will get that Mac Baren video out real soon…




Quickie Pipe Tobacco Review: Capstan Gold Flake

Capstan Gold Flake tinCapstan Gold Navy Cut flake pipe tobacco is a bit of a strange bird… There’s nothing extraordinary about it, yet there’s something that keeps me going back for more.

Neither as nuanced to my palate as are some gold Virginia flakes, nor as “sweet & tangy” as others, it offers a truly middle-of-the-road smoke, but somehow it satisfies.

Opening the tin, the nice slab-of-bacon like slices offer that sweet hay aroma I enjoy. Moisture content is good, requiring little dry-time, and the slices pack and burn easily.

The charring light provides a hit of good straight Virginia tobacco flavor, and, overall, I’d say the smoke is rather full and rounded for its type with a subtle and unique flavor I can’t identify. It’s also mild to medium in nicotine.

Although I’m compelled to call this an unremarkable blend, I experience a slightly sour yet pleasant aftertaste that makes me want to load up and have another bowl — I’m just not sure it’s enough to make me load up with more tins at the premium Mac Baren is asking.

I can’t highly recommend Capstan Gold, but you certainly could do worse. You wouldn’t lose anything if you picked up a tin to give it a go, yourself.