RATTRAY'S HAL O' THE WYND
But this post is not about her, even though she was my own age, and a very nice person indeed, far nicer than I was at that age.
This post is about her father, mynheer Lodewyks, whom I had really come to see.
Every week we would spend an hour with my French textbooks from high school, before taking two hours to wade through the volumes on his bookshelves. Rama and Sita came back to life for a small while, Yudisthira journeyed northward through the wasteland with his faithful dog Karma, Gatotkaca blustered his way through a horde of sub-trolls...... a railway got built to Pakan Bahru, the Alifuro came down from the hills to harvest heads, a farmer traded his precious karbau for some beras......
Once or twice he mentioned the camps, but those memories did not glow.
Much revolved around language, phrasing, spicy shared vocabularies.
Shortly before the 'lesson' ended, his daughter would come in with a tray on which there was some more coffee, and a plate of cookies.
I really did not need the cookies...... but another cup of coffee, and a smile from her, was quite the perfect cap to the afternoon.
After she left the room, the old man would reach over on his desk and grab a pipe, fill it, and touch a match to the tobacco. For the last half hour we would take it easy, discussing what a word may have meant several centuries ago, what its descendants might mean now.
Not only English adopted wandering orphans from other languages, so did Dutch. Though in Dutch they may have acquired a garb that belies their foreign roots entirely.
Most Dutch, for instance, might not recognize 'fruit' as a borrowing, to say nothing of 'koffie', 'tabak', 'sigaar', or even 'pisang', 'pasanggrahan', and 'pinda' (Malay for banana, a lodgement along the Great Post Road, and a West-African word for peanut respectively).
I almost never smoked my own pipe in his study, because I liked the gentle reek of his tobacco, and did not wish to dilute the fragrance or spoil the mood.
A mildly sweet grassy incense, that marvelously complemented the afternoon sunlight streaming in on a summer day, or the dark wet twilights of a Dutch winter.
This post, then, is actually neither about his daughter or him, but about his tobacco.
He filled his pipe from a cannister of product unavailable locally.
Qua texture and appearance it strongly recalled the standard Dutch cavendish products I was familiar with: Sail, Amphora, Van Rossem.
But there the similarity ended.
HAL O' THE WYND
A pure Virginian tobacco of "a most unusual share of strength"
Blended for CHARLES RATTRAY (of) Perth, Scotland
It's a quality Red Virginia Flake, rubbed out for ease of packing.
Made in Germany, distributed in the U.S. by Arango Cigar Co.
My first bowl of it, when mr. Lodewyks offered me some, did not please me. Unlike the Dutch pressed Cavendishes it so seemed to resemble, it needed more skill to keep lit and bit me ferociously.
Truth be told, my smoking habits when I was fifteen years old were not attuned to the subtle approach. Stuff it in, fire it up, and suck.
There's no way I could possibly enjoy it then.
Most unsuitable for a growing boy.
But I would not say so.
Mighty fine tobacco, sir. Thank you!
In actual fact, it was only in appearance that it resembled the Dutch Cavendishes - like them it was ready rubbed. But there it ended.
Dutch Cavendishes are composed of Burley, Maryland, Indonesian, some Virginias, and God only knows what else, plus added sweetening, aroma, and incendiary aids to keep it lit.
Rattray's Hal O' The Wynd is pure, a very high quality fish indeed.
Blessed with a far more civilized room-note than any Dutch weed.
This is a lively maiden among the leaves, very lovable company.
There's something about the fragrance of a fine Virginia which stirs the mind and conduces reverie.
I shall now holler various evocative terms at you, attempting to stimulate your affection for this tobacco of which I have had several bowls recently:
Yeasty, malty, slightly sweet, heavy, bright, faint caramel, springtime, leathery, medium brown, zesty, hay, robust, consistent, peaty, dried fruit, tweed, herbs, straw, earthy, old barn wood. Dark coffee, tawny port!
You must smoke it slowly, like an adult. Not fast, like a child.
Dried out a bit and not jammed in but springy-packed, it is most rewarding.
Good stuff. Very good stuff. I have several tins of it, but none that are open.
The stuff I'm smoking now came from one of the tins for sampling at the local tobacconist.
You see, like a typical cheapskate Dutchman, I saw opportunity. They allow customers to take a bit of the tobaccos in a little plastic bag to get a better impression of the product - at today's prices, that's a profound kindness - and seeing as they had popped a one hundred gramme container of Hal O' The Wynd, there was plenty to spare.
I took a generous sample while one of them was working, then came in the other day when someone else was working to get another sample. A very generous sample.
And I told both gentlemen exactly what I was doing, too - "I'm afraid I'm going to be awfully greedy now, it isn't a pretty sight, taking huge whomping handfulls, best you look away ".
Paid for my actual purchases, left happy.
This is not just a tobacco for opportunistic Dutchmen and elderly linguisticians.
It will also appeal to intelligent young ladies studying for their history exams, craftsmen, musicians, confirmed bachelors, and self-assured women who wish to spend a quiet evening reading.
Anyone with a contemplative streak, in other words.
In retrospect, I should probably also have associated more with mr. Lodewyks' nice daughter.
It would have built character and made me a better person.
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