JOHN COTTON: FINE OLD REEK
That especially applies to certain fine old pipe tobacco brands.
Back in the early 1980's John Cotton's was one of the names which suddenly started disappearing. There used to be three types: No. 1, Nos. 1 and 2 Medium, and John Cotton's Smyrna. All were blends of flue-cured leaf with Turkish and Latakia.
[The first listed was mild, the second relatively full, and the third was a full English mixture with a more noticeable Turkish and Latakia portion.]
I have recently been smoking from a nearly forty year old tin of the Nos. 1 and 2 Medium. At this point I have enough left from this batch for maybe six more bowls. I'm keeping the tin once I'm finished - it's a lovely simple enameled commercial tin which lists the manufacturer's address, as if an eternal constant, ever unchangeable, on the side: John Cotton Ltd., 65 Kingsway, London W.C.2
Nos. 1 and 2 Medium
TRADITIONAL ENGLISH MIXTURE
The tobacco is a lovely dark purple-black in hue, and looks slightly oily. The various components are no longer recognizable, save for what appears to be a stoved Virginia, which is also suggested by the taste.
It is an extremely enjoyable smoke, but, having aged for a generation plus, it has no peaks or valleys left. Recognizably still a medium English style blend with good Oriental (Turkish or Greek ) tobaccos.
Alas, I cannot guess what the other Virginias are, and the Latakia has faded into a Levantine haze. Smooth, mild and perfumy, it reduces to an exceptionally fine white ash. There is no tongue bite. The tin aroma is like wine and also like early spring.
It does not call any other tobaccos to mind, nor spark any memories of previous smokes; the tobacco is too aged for that to occur. I do wish I had more of the same vintage, though. It is like smoking precious incense. The hundred gramme tin I recall stashed in the box near the door dates from 1981, and it will be a while before I open that - there is no more.
John Cotton's Ltd claimed to have made tobacco since 1770. Gallaher's from Belfast owned the John Cotton trademark for many years. Gallaher's was acquired by Japan Tobacco in April 2007. Primarily for the cigarette brands.
The nearest modern equivalents to the John Cotton's pipe tobaccos are probably G. L. Pease blends.
For the Nos. 1 and 2 Medium and the John Cotton's Smyrna, I think you should try Charing Cross and Abingdon.
I have also heard excellent reports about G. L. Pease's Odyssey, but haven't smoked any yet. It, too, is probably a good equivalent - but like all GLP's, smoke it for its own sake.
Butera's Royal Vintage Latakia No. 2 is apparently a near-duplicate of the John Cotton No. 1. Or so I have been told. I have to wonder, though.
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