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.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


The last year that my mother was fit enough to travel we went to England for the summer. We stayed at a lovely old farmhouse in Devonshire that had been turned into a bed-and-breakfast, and in decent weather we motored all over southern England.
There were, remarkably, enough days that were not drenching wet that we visited any number of places.
Stonehenge & Avebury.
Churches and cathedrals.
The ancient spa town of Bath.
Jane Austen's house in Chawton.
Bogs: Bodmin, Dartmoor and Exmoor.
Scenic piles of rock all over Devon and Cornwall.

We also went to Tintagel..... but that was really a horrible waste of time. Nothing but crap for the tourists. Much like Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco, except with a tenth-century wasteland theme instead of crabs, the human jukebox, trollops, and a view of Alcatraz.

Choice between Ye Olde Guinevere Tea Shoppy and trollops?
Take the trollops. They're more honestly priced.

On the days that the weather kept us indoors, after breakfast I went to the smoking room provided for the guests, which was actually the entire lower floor of the barn, fitted out with deep chairs and couches, bookshelves along the walls, and potted plants.
Save for a quick scoot into the village for lunch or tea, I spent all day there reading and listening to the rain.
And, of course, smoking.
No trollops.

That summer I had a supply of a remarkable thin-sliced flake, that seemed to be nothing but sweet blonde Virginia.
No, I cannot remember the brand - I had opted for something less expensive than my usual smoke, seeing as my personal funds were a bit tight. Perhaps I had celebrated the graduations of several friends at the beginning of summer break too assiduously, but in any case I could not afford the several tins of Balkan Sobranie I would have needed for a month and a half away from Valkenswaard.

Something blonde, fairly smooth, with a pleasant herby buttery sweetness.
Very English. Very suitable for rainy summer days.

The great thing about Virginia flake is that it leaves you giddy from the nicotine.
In that regard, it augments both caffeine and alcohol very well.
There's lots of both of those in England.
A good place to visit.

I'm remembering all of this because my memories have been revived by something I did not intend to puff quite as yet.
You see, I purchased a few tins at the local tobacconist recently. When I got back to the office I realized that the seal on one of them was broken. Might as well smoke it, see what it's like.
I'm about halfway through the tin at present.

Manufactured J. F. Germain and Son.
Jersey, Channel Islands, Great Britain.

No, it's not blonde. It's brown. But it is a thin sliced flake, with a sweet herby reek.
There is a minor inclusion of something other than Virginia, probably a fire-cured Kentucky, as well as some other leaf to balance the flavour. Maybe even a trace of Perique, but surely just the merest hint.
It is mostly flue-cured. Good high quality pressed Virginia.

If Samuel Gawith's Bracken Flake is too strong and not tangy enough, and Peterson's Irish Flake puts hair on your chest, you will almost certainly like Germain's Brown Flake. It does not have as much of that dark steamed taste that Bracken has, nor the overly generous dollop of fired Kentucky that marks the Irish Flake.
It's the sane relative of those two, and appeals to the calm man.

Best to describe it as peaty, malty, earthy. Also evocative of sherry and leather.
Faintly reminiscent of wine cakes, with a ghostly touch of sweaty horse.
Even at the humidity favoured by Germains, it is an easy smoke.
If you do not pay attention, you might think of cigarettes.
Nothing complex yet a very pleasing product indeed.

A full bowl leaves me giddy.
Nicky, nicky, nick.

It is far too early in the day for whiskey, but it's ALWAYS time for tea.
By the time evening rolls around I'll be zotsed to the gills.


J. F. Germain and Son is well-known for several other tobaccos - I am particularly fond of their Royal Jersey Original Latakia Mixture, the King Charles Mixture, and the 1820, all of which are rich funky English blends of surpassing excellence. They also manufacture the Esoterica Tabaciana line of products, originally imported through arrangement with Butera, now distributed by Arango Cigar Company.

In addition, and similarly in association with Arango Cigar, they also make Balkan Sobranie Pipe Tobacco.

The venerable Balkan Sobranie Mixture was discontinued two decades ago, but has been recently revived.
It's the same as it always was, it's not the same, but it is the same.

The same. The same. Not the same. Yet indeed the same.

What Arango and Germain have done is remarkable, and judging by the tin of new Balkan Sobranie that I have been greedily devouring, their collaboration is a blessed event.
I certainly hope that they maintain production, as I wish to stock up before the meager supply I have at present (three tins) is exhausted.
Which might be well before Thanksgiving Day.
I have NO concept of restraint.


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All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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  • At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Never imagined I'd see this from you:
    In your comments about Germain Brown Flake - "It is mostly air-cured. Good high quality pressed Virginia."

    Tobacco is known by its curing technique so Virginia, also known as Bright, is flue cured and flue cured is Virginia. There is no such thing as air cured Virginia.

    There are a variety of tobacco cultivars and it is possible to select one intended to be flue cured and air cure it but it's not Virginia when that is done.

    I wonder where this idea came from? On TR it is possible to select the curing group for a tobacco but air cured is probably the default or first in a list.

  • At 10:18 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    "Never imagined I'd see this from you:
    In your comments about Germain Brown Flake - "It is mostly air-cured. Good high quality pressed Virginia."

    Erp! You're right. And I never thought I'd see that from me either. Thank you for pointing out that lapsus calami. I have made the change.

    Sheee..... air-cured. What the heck was I thinking?

  • At 10:18 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Flue-cured. Repeat: flue cured.


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