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, November 10, 2013


The day had started sensibly enough with a big steaming bowl of curried chilipepper and meaty bits over rice-stick noodles. It seemed like a suitable breakfast, when one was planning to be surrounded by several men wielding large pieces of wood for most of the evening.
Happy men, with glee in their hearts.
Over-stimulated men.

That being a meeting of our local pipe-club. Which is mostly composed of very safe people; doctors, lawyers, leatherworkers, and the like.

Nicotine, as you know, is a stimulant.


No, nothing untoward happened. There was no dancing on tables with nothing but a lamp shade on our head. No gay stripping, or attempts to slap each other with fish.
We're doctors, lawyers, leather workers (and the like), remember?

To the best of my knowledge, none of us are naturists.

First off, I should admit that I smoked a total of eight bowls between tea-time and midnight. In consequence of which I woke up trembling at seven the next day. Nicotine is a stimulant.

Erik Michael Stokkebye was there, along with samples of the blends representing the four generations of his family that have been in the tobacco trade, of which there are five.
The fifth is the 1882 Founders Mixture, which is an exceedingly nice English blend.

"This Mixture is the epitome of English tobacco blending tradition and is sure to please the discerning palate. 1882 achieves the perfect balance of Latakia and Oriental sun-cured tobaccos, enhanced by mature Virginias from the USA and complemented by full body Kentucky tobaccos. A classic English smoke using only the finest quality leaf.
This is a must-try for all fans of English tobaccos."

Capsule review: Nice. Had two bowls, then stole most of what was left after the tin had been around the table, leaving only enough for three more eventual sample smokes. With two dozen members in attendance, it's a miracle that any remained to surreptitiously pocket. Those greedy opportunists showed NO restraint.
The Turk is at a lovely level, the Latakia is perhaps at forty percent, and the Virginias and air-cured leaf work harmoniously to form the third leg. This is something well worth stockpiling, which I certainly intend to do. It is an exceptional classic-style product.

By the way, in addition to the doctors, lawyers, leather men, and Indian chiefs mentioned above, we also have wine makers among our ranks.
Wine is NOT a stimulant.

Several bottles were "sampled".

I did not have any, as one needs a clear head when tins of the good stuff are opened. And left laying about.

Master blender Greg Pease was also present, so after Erik Stokkebye discussed tobacco, cigars, pipes, and his illustrious forebears who sold fragrant leaf -- the family has been all over at this point; Denmark, Switzerland, Sumatra, etcetera -- we veered into examining the tin art for our club blend, which Greg created for us.

It is a medium full English, with an antique Virginia base. Something which you would find in the old days at a respectable tobacconists in an English or European city.
Should be available within a month or two.
Definitely worth stockpiling.

I forced Greg to discuss his newest product (Gaslight) after we looked at the label for our own tobacco. Greg has produced a solid-pressed Latakia plug, which I had already had a taste of when it was in the final stages, courtesy of a friend.
So of course it was tried by members in attendance.

Nicotine is a stimulant.

While no one was watching I pocketed a chunk of it. About which I now feel incredibly guilty, because later Greg asked me with concern if I had taken some, and I indicated that indeed I had smoked half a bowl (not mentioning what I pilfered), whereupon he kindly cut me a cube to take home.
I now have enough for six big bowls, or ten small bowls.
Nobody is coming over till they're gone.
It is very good.

Gaslight is what a pressed Latakia mixture is supposed to be. After the debacle last year with a militantly perfumed Lat brick that some people raved about, it is glorious to have a product that fulfills all promises.
As a blender, Greg knows exactly what he is doing.

Despite being heavy on the dark Oriental, there is a sufficient inclusion of red Virginias that it not only has the requisite nicotine, and a balance, but will also age exceptionally well. If you put a tin aside now and open it five or six years hence, your nose will be seduced by a profound and ethereal embrace, a fragrance that will provoke memories you might not have realized were there.

Yes, that's a strong recommendation. Remember, I stole one cube before Greg generously gave me more of it.
I actually wanted to swipe the tin. Not a chance, unfortunately.

The first time I smoked it, a while back when it had not yet gone into regular production, I had to have a second cup of coffee, stronger and blacker than the first. It was the very first smoke of the day.
By noon time, I was happy as a clam.
It is well worth stockpiling.
Slow-burning, dense.

When I arrived before the meeting began, a new member was happily dawdling over a selection of old Barlings which I cleaned up recently, and trays with Dunhills and Charatans on which I had worked were behind the counter waiting for review. Later, after the meeting started breaking up, I suggested to my fellow Dutch American that he should take a gander at the Barling pipes, as, being somewhat opportunistic, and an egomaniac besides, I like hearing oohs and aahs.
Almost nothing is as sensual as a polished piece of wood.

Three of us ended up back in the city afterwards, at the Occidental, where several more bowls were smoked. Unfortunately the place was packed with bright young lads from a local computer company, swilling expensive Scotch and huffing stogies.


We were joined by V, who is a highly skilled code monkey for a different outfit than the 100+ e-cigarees. His take on the giddy crowd of compugeeks flocking around and twittering like birds succinctly expressed: "this is a mating frenzy; there's more than one woman here, they can't help it".
Many nerds seldom see so much female flesh in one place at the same time, given that they spend all day in dank cubicles, hiding under their desks, fondling their greasy keyboards, alone, in the cold and damp.
I don't think that any actual mating took place, but I have no idea how dorks reproduce, so I could be wrong. Maybe it's by amplexis, like salamanders.
Frenzied praying mantis cannibalism, or cell-division.
V did not enlighten us about the process.
I'll have to ask for details.


Naturally the subject of Black Pete came up. Black Pete (Zwarte Piet) is the helper of Saint Nicholas in the Netherlands, whose feast-day on December sixth is celebrated by giving gifts to kiddies during the night of December fifth (Sinterklaas Avond, Saint Nick's Eve).
The idea of people painting their face black, capering about in absurd Hispano-mediaeval garb, and acting like bogeymen has been somewhat divisive in recent years, as black people in Holland are ambivalent about it, and white people absolutely refuse to consider that it might not be the best representation of negritude that little children are exposed to.

The solution, I thought, was simple. Get rid of the saint. The Netherlands has a long history of religious conflict, and having a churchman bribing children is potentially problematic in any case. And it's only by contrast with the decrepit bearded bishop that Black Pete is the baddy.
If all roles were unified in only one person (that being Black Pete), it would take away the negativity.

Nix the old white dude!

Black Pete: simultaneously judge, jury, and executioner.
Both the good guy with gifts, and the meanie.
Rewards, and also punishments.
A magic blackman.

Yeah, still played by a young woman in blackface and fancy page boy costume. Because you can't have anything too real about a folkloric figure. Gotta maintain the suggestion of otherness.
He's supernatural.

Besides, I like the concept of young ladies in blackface, poufy short breeches, and dark pantyhose.

Unfortunately the other three people promptly took that ball and ran with it, demanding that the person in black face should be a teenage Japanese chickadee wearing a tight leather bodice and frilly Hello Kitty underwear.
The dominatrix bustier suggests the chastising role, the naughty Hello Kitty panties would be 'rewarding'. And, they insisted, obviously some people are obsessed with Hello Kitty, and despite screeching denials, dwell upon the cutesy pussycat. And why on earth was I resisting, they knew better, they had seen the evidence on my blog.

At this point V remarked that he was surrounded by middle-aged pervs.
Which, though marginally accurate, seemed irrelevant.

Japanese girls in kitty kat S&M get-up?

No! Absolutely not. Black Pete in Hello Kitty undergarb is just plain wrong.
No matter the gender of the black-faced individual playing Black Pete, the costume should more or less resemble what the Papal Guard wears.
That's quite queer enough.

There's a tradition to maintain.

Reserve the girls in pink French cuts and leather straps for a different occasion. Perhaps to frighten rutting computer geeks, or something.

Nicotine is a stimulant.

I realize now that we forgot to take matches when we left the bar. Normally we grab as many as we can to fill our bags when the bartender isn't looking. We must have been distracted by all those techies with cigars.

Nicotine is a stimulant.


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  • At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sounds like you had a busy day.

    Allow me a small correction: I for one did pilfer several boxes of matches before leaving.

    You were too wired on nicotine to notice. Or perhaps the dazzling vision of Zwarte Kitty blinded you to your immediate environment.

    Excellent post.


  • At 6:38 AM, Anonymous Arno said…

    "Nice. Had two bowls, then stole most of what was left after the tin had been around the table, leaving only enough for three more eventual sample smokes."

    "Remember, I stole one cube before Greg generously gave me more of it.
    I actually wanted to swipe the tin. Not a chance, unfortunately."

    *ahum* Sounds very recognizable to me.. Still the ol' Dutchman huh?

    How was the 1897 from 4th Generation? Have a closed tin of that one at home.

    Nice post :)

  • At 9:45 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Hi Arno,

    In the four generation series, the two best among the original four are 1855 and 1931. The first is a beautiful and satisfying blonde broken flake, of which I demolished on sample tin over a period of weeks when at the store in Marin. I'm now on the third tin I actually bought, as the sample tin was empty when I wanted more. The second is a pressed flake in neat slices, which smells half-way between an innocent schoolgirl about to make her first mistake, and an elderly English pervert who wishes he could still do that; old-fashioned, but a little depraved in the fragrance department. Good, but not as good as the 1855.

    The 1897 and 1957 are both aromatics, and the first thing that comes to mind when you pop the lid off the tins is "good god almighty!"

    Of course, they are both high-quality products. Neither of which appeal to me, and like many aromatics they are best dried out and smoked sparingly. The 1897 smokes a little easier than the 1957, but it also seems sweeter.
    1897 left a wet bowl. I would prefer not to smoke it again.

    The 1882 Founders Mixture is a home run. Stellar, and altogether an extremely old fashioned English blend of a type and taste that is rare nowadays.
    This, really, is the top of the heap.
    It should NOT be confused with the other Stokkeby 1882 Mixture, which is a confusing welter of ideas, that under the right circumstances provides its own odd charm.

  • At 4:23 AM, Anonymous Arno said…

    Potverdorie!! I just see that my colleague bought the wrong tin and that I did not notice that until now.. She was in Chicago a couple of months ago so I asked her if she could pay a visit to Iwan Ries and buy some Dunhill Elizabethan and 4th Generation 1931 (just looked up the mail I send her..).
    When she came back I was so shocked by the price of the tobacco (tax after tax after tax etc.) that I did not pay attention to the 4th Generation tin and stashed it away. Now I see I got the aromatic one instead of the 1931.. Dohh!! Luckily I like vanilla so... It would be much worse if it was a total fruity blend. Yuck..

    And really, no one can give such great tobacco descriptions like you, thank you for the laugh: "The second is a pressed flake in neat slices, which smells half-way between an innocent schoolgirl about to make her first mistake, and an elderly English pervert who wishes he could still do that; old-fashioned, but a little depraved in the fragrance department."

  • At 11:05 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    The taxes in various parts of the country have indeed become outrageous. It makes buying a new tin on spec entirely out of the question, as the concept of blowing twenty bucks on something one has never smoked before and might never want to smoke again is an expensive risk.

    Fortunately, one can read descriptions of the products on line now.
    Life would be very grim otherwise.

    The sample tin of 1897 at Telfords was opened nine months ago. It is not yet even half empty.

  • At 10:21 AM, Anonymous ecumenically amphibious said…

    I don't see why this is an either/or issue. Why can't Zwarte Piet have an elfin assistant, say for example "a teenage Japanese chickadee wearing a tight leather bodice and frilly Hello Kitty underwear"? Have you no respect for the concept of multiculturalism?

  • At 10:59 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Have you no respect for the concept of multiculturalism?

    Nope, none.

    There's nothing Japanese about mid-winter.

    Anything involving tight leather bodices and Hello Kitty panties better be a present.
    It's too contradictory otherwise.


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