At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


There was a Balkan Sobranie Throwdown at the 2011 Chicago Pipe Show.
Naturally, I was not there. The idea of spending two whole days surrounded by fellow-aficionados ("fanatics") of any type has about as much appeal to me as attending a weekend with the Moonies.
I may be crazy but I am not crazy.

Entirely aside from which, while I myself have waxed more prolix about Balkan Sobranie than many other pipe smokers, the idea of trying to duplicate something that has not been in production for several years strikes me as, forgive the expression, an exercise in pipe dreaming.
Doing so for an audience of fiercely opinionated (and often staggeringly wrong) obsessive types is a form of circle-jerking in which I want no part.

In consequence of that event, there are now at least two new commercial products being offered to the cognoscenti.
One of which is (was) available at the local tobacconist.
A sample of which was offered to me.
Which I took.

Manufactured by McClelland Tobacco Company of Kansas City, Missouri.

Tin blurb: Rich with the finest Mountain Latakia, a classic full Balkan pipe tobacco mixture, smooth and deeply fragrant. The inspiration for this elegant mixture was a 21-year-old tin of the legendary #759.

"Take a Journey Back to Yesteryear"

Ghastly concept, tasteless graphics, and on the whole a glib slick approach guaranteed to nauseate me.
I am an utter cynic when it comes to marketing aimed at nostalgic oofuses who yearn for the products of their own fondly legendarized past.
Taking a journey back to yesteryear has no buggery appeal.
Yesteryear sucked, in some ways more than it didn't.

Fortunately McClelland, in my estimation, has come no closer than anybody else in bringing it back.
This blend only bears slight resemblance to Balkan Sobranie 759.

Balkan Sobranie 759 (in the black tin) was a creamy full bodied English-Balkan, heavy on the Latakia, with some Turkish mixed in, and a base of Virginia Cavendish ("black Virginia"), a little ribbon, and possibly something in the nature of red cake.
Because it was steampressed into the container, like all products of certain English firms, there was a pleasure upon popping the lid off a fifty gramme tin that many of us have fondly implanted, permanently in our subconscious.
A satisfying thwack as the vacuum was violated, then looking at the neatly crimped paper and admiring the smooth surface of the disk of tobacco, which just begged to be teased and roughed up as you stuffed your pipe.
McClelland's product naturally has similar tobaccos, though without the flat enameled tin, the neatly crimped paper nest, and the smooth surface.
The way the tobacco has been tumbled also yields a different appearance and bowl-pack.


Within the first minute of setting fire to the sample, I rushed off to the tobacconist to purchase all the tins they had.
I deliberately kept my gaze averted when I passed the other smokers at the wall, as I did not wish to be delayed or interrupted.
Tight-jawed determination, decisive action, and a purposeful stride.
Those tins are mine, dammit.

Again, not much like Balkan Sobranie 759. But indeed a very fine product.
Didn't want the others to grab tins before I had assured myself a supply.
Well, actually I just didn't want them to have any of it at all.

It's sweeter than the old 759, and the perfumed quality I remember is also missing.
The Latakia is excellent, however, and the components of this high quality blend compliment each other well.
Perhaps not the symphony advertised, but absolutely rocking chamber music.

No, I'm never going to like the uninspired label art. Metallic blue squiggles on copper sheet.
Blue mountains mean absolutely flange-all to me, aesthetically or otherwise.
Are there even any blue mountains in Turkey or Syria?
They might have blue-ish stones or bumps.
But who the bucket cares?

The first taste at lighting up is wonderful - rich, delicious in the nose upon exhaling, sweet and resinous. The middle of the bowl is satisfying, meaty, and easy to keep lit. At the bottom there will be some crumbs remaining unburnt, and the ash that the tobacco renders is mixed, both feathery and gritty.
I did not feel hungry after this, but strangely satisfied.
Blue Mountain Pipe Tobacco is the perfect breakfast.
Several bowls later the world seems bright and new.

The only things missing are a purring cat and a thunderstorm.


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  • At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    They're having a smoking convention in Chicago? The last time I was there, I found out they have one hell of strict smoking ban in public places. (And I think it's statewide, as it seemed to apply to the suburb where I was staying.) I had to stand outside the bar with all the other smokers to enjoy my fine handmade cigar. Even in Boston, they still have a few cigar bars left.

    In fact, I'm heading to Chicago the week after next, and I'm not even bothering to bring the stogies.

    -Conservative Aoikoris

  • At 7:49 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Chicago is sort of centrally located, and the place where it's held is out of town - not quite sure of the details. But it's a yearly event. Mostly pipe collectors, but also the perfect place to introduce new blends.

  • At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Not nearly as stinky as I was hoping for. I was looking for the kind of tobacco you can smell at arm's length and taste the next morning even after brushing your teeth. But I'll give it another try if you like it so much. And oh dear the tin art...

  • At 6:15 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Balkan Sobranie Original Mixture is being produced again.
    See here:

    Manufactured be J. F. Germain & Son in Jersey (Channel Islands) for Arango Cigar.

  • At 6:16 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    It appears that Arango acquired both recipe and copyright / trademark.


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