GOOD BROWN FLAKE
As my father so succinctly put it about several of them, "it reeks like a Turkish cat-house".
The Netherlands was not exactly a pipe-smoker's paradise at that time.
Bright spots were some of the English flakes which did, remarkably, come across the channel. That was when I first smoked Capstan (from Imperial Tobacco); not the best of it's kind, but a breath of fresh air compared to the Dutch Cavendish abortions so frightfully common at the corner tobacconists. The little blue tin had immense appeal, the thin sliced pressed leaf seemed fresh and virginal. And it was fun to smoke.
Capstan claimed to be Navy Cut - that term had a mysterious charm, even though I had no clue what it meant. And given that the tobacco industry calls damn well everything 'Navy Cut', the term is as good as meaningless.
Capstan was a pressing of flue and air cured tobaccos that behaved nicely if coddled.
Some of the other 'Navy Flakes' I smoked at that time were odoriferous monstrosities better suited to pimps and Bible-salesmen than nice upstanding teenagers.
That was over thirty years ago. Most 'Navy' tobaccos have gone the way of the dodo. Pimps and Bible-salesmen are still around. Alas.
Which brings me to a recently opened tin.
McClelland Tobacco Co.
"With this tobacco, we reintroduce the smoker to the traditional Navy Cavendish, pressed in cakes and aged naturally with dark Jamaican rum to achieve its rich depth of flavor, color and aroma."
Did I already mention that 'Navy' is a near-meaningless word in a tobacco context? Add to that the term Cavendish.
If the Dutch can shamelessly label every ghastly smoking-disaster a Cavendish, and the Danes call something a 'Cavendish mixture' because of steampressing of any proportion of the blend, then like 'Navy' it ceases to signify.
That being said, this is a rather nice product. Yes, it has the infamous McClelland ketchup undertone (acetic acid - a mold retarder), and does need quite some drying. The rum is not really noticeable - probably served more to speed a unification of flavours than to contribute any of its own.
Short brown flakes that rub out crumbly for the bowl, and a pleasant fresh sweetness at first light. But do not flame the entire surface of the tobacco, and do not pack it tightly either. Smoke it slow.
The taste is not overly complex or full, the darkness is deceiving (it was the Rum soak that made it appear darker than it actually would have been). There is a faint hint of spice cookies in the fumes, and like Capstan, it behaves nicely if coddled.
There was a neighborhood with train tracks that terminated on the eastern bank of a canal in Eindhoven. It was a depressing industrial area with condemnable houses scattered among godowns and metalshops. I cannot remember the name of the canal, and the last time I went back they were filling it in - that part of the city was changing. The weather was the same as I always remembered from thirty years ago - much the same as the weather in San Francisco these past few days - occasional sunlight interrupting chill gloom and showers.
I took some photos of the district, gratefully noted the buildings I remembered from the past, and left.
The next time I go back I shall smoke some Navy Cavendish for old times' sake.
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