DRUCQUER & SONS LTD - PIPE TOBACCO BLENDS REMEMBERED, AND A DISCUSSION OF TOBACCOS AND TIPS
I found your web blog, which is the only reference Google could find on "Drucquer Levant" blend. I've got a very small amount left which is pretty dry. I'd like to find something similar in flavor, possibly with less nicotine.
Any idea what were the components in Levant, and the rough proportions?
Or any similar blend, maybe from Pease? I think I also liked Drucquer's 805, but I like Levant better. I don't think I ever tried Royal Ransom, but it sounds like I would have liked it, too.
So. Let us discuss tobacco (readers who are not interested should probably skip this post...).
DRUCQUER'S PIPE TOBACCO
Brief description of Drucquer & Sons Ltd pipe tobacco blends:
Royal Ransom - slightly more than half Latakia, with Turkish and Virginia (including black Virginia to mellow the Latakia). Similar to Sobranie black and Nightcap.
Levant Mixture - full strength English-Balkan mixture. Possibly like Royal Ransom but with a bit more Turkish.
Mixture 805 - the classic English mixture, half Latakia with the remainder evenly divided between Turkish and Virginias (comparable to Sobranie white and 965).
Trafalgar - a classic Balkan, the oriental balanced by enough Latakia to be noticed (around 37.5 percent?) and Virginia to support.
Red Lion - about forty percent Latakia, the rest a mixture of Virginias, no Turkish (I wish I could remember what the Virginias were - it tasted complex enough that I didn't miss the Turkish.
Arcadia Mixture - lower on the Latakia totem-pole than the blends mentioned precedingly, with some dark Virginias to boost the Turkish, ribbon Virginia to lighten the load, and a hint of toasted Cavendish.
Temple Bar - no Turkish, a blend of light and medium Virginias spiced with Latakia (probably slightly over a third of the total), and maybe (?) a touch of Perique.
Inns of Court - a complex mixture containing the full range of Virginias with some Burley and Maryland, plus Latakia (less than Temple Bar) and Perique.
Prince's Blend - a Virginia Mixture with minor amounts of Latakia and Perique as spice, some air-cured (?).
The Devil's Own - a Virginia base with depth, spiced with less Latakia than Inns of Court.
Ye Olde London Baccy - a Virginia and Burley mixture which I found hard to like (hardly any Latakia).
Blairgowrie - matured Virginias with some Perique, somewhat dry.
St. James - a classic Scottish mixture with both Oriental leaf and Perique.
[Years before I started working at Drucquers each of these blends had its own label, the printing blocks for which were still in the backroom. But by the late seventies a light brown generic label was used, with the blend name rubber-stamped in the space provided. Early in the eighties five other blends were developed, stoved and aged in the tin - they were actually pretty good, but I don't remember a darn thing about them. I think all of them were English blends.]
REGARDING LEVANT MIXTURE
Levant was a full English blend. Those are usually around fifty percent Latakia, twenty five percent Turkish (Oriental), and twenty five percent Virginia (flue-cured) - these were the exact proportions of the 805.
With English and Balkan blends the proportions may vary, but there is usually twice as much Latakia as Turkish - though blends identified as Balkan often increase the Turkish slightly in proportion.
If I remember correctly, Levant was just at or slightly above that fifty percent Latakia mark (but maybe not quite twenty five percent Turkish). Both Latakia and Turkish have relatively low nicotine levels. Virginias (and all other flue-cureds) have medium to medium-high levels of nicotine. Burleys (none to my knowledge in the Levant mixture - mentioning them for perspective) have medium-high to quite high levels of nicotine.
Sweetness (the natural sugars) vary also - Latakia is hardly sweet, Turkish is low-medium, Virginia is high. Burley, depending on how it was processed after aircuring, may have no sweetness whatsoever, or be so sweet (added sugars and flavourings) as to leave your pipe a tar-pit of bubbling ick.
G. L. PEASE and DUNHILL
If you want low nicotine, go for a full English or Balkan mixture.
GL Pease produces a number of blends which are very good. See here:
I would think that Abingdon would be a good choice. But his products are all quite good.
Dunhill ups the Turkish ante nicely, see here:
For a really full Latakia level, I recommend Nightcap. For an emphasis on Turkish, try Durbar.
ADDENDUM as of September 16, 2016:
What has Greg Pease done since drucquers? just a few GLP tobaccos.
For the past several years I have been smoking mostly flakes, though I still love Latakia blends. There are moments of crystal clarity that require dark leaf, but during the working days Virginias are very forgiving.
Another great blender was Mr. Bob Runowski, who is no longer among us. His efforts lay in the Burley realm.
One person who should have gone into blending, but didn't, is Miss Lim, with whom I lost contact in the nineties. Two decades later I am still influenced by her taste in literature, food, and pipes. Not sure if she would appreciate that.
If you want to blend your own full English mixture, think in these proportions to start:
10 or 11 parts Latakia.
5 parts Turkish (also called Oriental, includes Greek tobacco).
3 to 5 parts mixed Virginias.
1 part Black Virginia.
Your choice of Virginias will determine how you proceed from here. And you may decide that the black Virginia is unnecessary. On the other hand, several blends from English and Scottish houses relied on black Virginia as a component that could well carry its own weight in blends dominated by the Orientals (Turkish and Latakia).
Latakia is Oriental leaf from Syria or nowadays Cyprus, cured over smoldering fires till dark and resinous. Surprisingly, it can be used in large proportion, though anything more than about forty-five percent is risky - the remainder of the blend may lack complexity and character. Thirty to forty percent is quite noticeable. McClelland sells this in fifty gramme tins. Most wholesalers should carry it, and any tobacco store which has house blends should also have some.
Turkish by itself has a grassy smell, and needs the Latakia (which develops the resinous quality of the Turkish, in addition to contributing its own smoky creosote-like aroma). Greek, Balkan, and Persian tobacco is included under the nomen 'Turkish'. It is available in a pure form from McClelland in 50 gramme tins (Oriental).
Red Virginia and Bright Virginia (usually ribbon-cut) are bland and fruity, but combine well with Turkish - nevertheless, they can bite ferociously if they dominate, so I would rub out a medium flake (unflavoured - McClelland produces some very fine examples) and use that with only a little bright or red ribbon. Note that Virginias also come from elsewhere - Mozambique, India, Canada, etcetera. Available at most tobacconists.
Black Virginia (NOT Toasted Cavendish!) is a heavily stoved black shiny sweet leaf - it cuts tongue bite, and assists Latakia. Any blend which has bright ribbon Virginia will probably benefit from Black Virginia. Available at most tobacconists.
Toasted Cavendish, in small quantities, adds an old-fashioned perfumy quality. Available at most tobacconists.
Perique may also be added. Two to five percent of a blend. Unless you want to grow hair inside your breathing apparatus, in which case up to ten or twelve percent. It counters the bitey-ness of ribbon Virginias, and adds a saltiness, plus complexity. Best used at a low percentage, just under the radar. Made in Louisiana by a process of controlled rot.
Available at most tobacconists, but also in fifty gramme tins from McClelland.
Burley is nutlike in taste and smell. In small quantities it emphasizes the smokiness of Latakia, but suppresses the floweriness of Turkish. Quality and level of adulteration with stinky sweeteners vary from supplier to supplier. Formerly only Kentucky, now from all over.
Maryland is a mild and not very distinctive relative of Burley, good to add in proportions of up to about twelve percent to improve how a blend smokes. It can be smoked straight, but that would prove unexciting. Nicotine content is roughly the same as Virginia or slightly higher, with which it pairs nicely as the lesser component. Usually not available from local tobacco stores, but probably on the internet.
[Correction as of 2014: Maryland is actually quite low on the nicotine score, and not, as I had assumed, simply a relative of Burley. The state is discouraging its cultivation now, and paying farmers to convert their curing sheds to art-spaces, cottages, and studios. Consequently much Maryland leaf is now grown in Italy. Bless those Italians.]
Cavendish is pressed and heated leaf, usually Virginia, but the process is also used for Burleys. The heating opens the cells and lets the leaf absorb a disturbing amount of flavouring. Unflavoured Cavendish can be a valuable addition - Dunhill uses Cavendish Virginias in a lot of their English mixtures (it allows a greater proportion of Turkish).
Flake is heavily pressed aged tobacco. Like Cavendish this is usually Virginia. Flakes can be used as blending bases with little other Virginia added, or to add sweetness and a matured taste. One must be careful, however, as these dense products can also unbalance the smoking characteristics of Oriental blends.
Some more on blending, as of January 2013: further notes
Cornell & Diehl (here: http://cornellanddiehl.com/ and here: http://cornellanddiehl.com/blending_tobaccos.htm ) is a good source for various blending tobaccos, but they also produce a number of interesting compounds - explore their website.
NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.