PENZANCE: A PIPE TOBACCO OF CULT STATURE
But not all of their products are sacramental.
Among other things they make King James Mixture, Germain's Latakia Mixture, 1820, and various very nice flakes. All fine products. Along with Special Latakia Flake, Uncle Tom's Mixture, and Plum Cake.
[Respectively: a medium Latakia blend, a delightful full blend, and a spicy medium full. The flakes are excellent Virginias, very rewarding. Uncle Tom's is a medium Virginia with touches of unflavoured black Cavendish and air-cured leaf, and Plum Cake is a most peculiar aromatic which I rather like, despite my severe Protestant disapproval of such froofy products. I smoked fifty grammes with great enjoyment, and have a few enamel tins in my stockpile.]
But the ditzy devotees are focused specifically and obsessively on only two items, both in the Esoterica Tobacciana line.
Stonehaven, and Penzance.
All bow down and make obeisance.
And thank you. Your abjection is acceptable.
Stonehaven and Penzance have a vicious and thoroughly oppressive cult-following, who delight in making other smokers' lives hell, by snapping up every shred they can, when and wherever it is sold.
As well as tormenting tobacco vendors far afield, whom they will obsessively telephone, demanding that all supplies of Stonehaven and Penzance be shipped to them immediately, expense be buggered.
And Margate, if that is available.
NEENER, NEENER, NEENER!
These religious nuts then expend overmuch energy boasting about their growing stockpile, and what great age it already has, as well as how buggery much they shall savour this EXQUISE treasure which you can't do, because you don't have any, you poor sodding inferior person!
Penzance particularly attracts the batshit crazies.
Good lord, they are a plague.
Remarkable for a tobacco which is hardly ever available. Deliveries from the importer (Arango) are sporadic, and based not on demand, but on whatever gets shipped over from the Channel Islands.
Germain and Son have been in business for over two centuries, and at present have only half a dozen people on staff.
They are a small enterprise.
Production will not be ramped up to meet demand, for two reasons:
1) Stocks of blending tobacco are laid down years before they will be used. Consequently, any increase would necessarily be gradual, and would be based on very sober assessment of long-term needs.
2) Quality control. They've got it with the current levels of production, they like what they've got, and they're not in the business of taking risks in that regard.
I should mention that due to the peculiarities of the equipment used to manufacture tobacco into a finished product for the pipe, adding to the machinery would take quite an investment. It would have to be tailor-made. Nowadays that might be somewhat difficult.
In short: while demand exploded, supply barely increased.
So what is this manna among the mixtures?
A mottled heavy-pressed English-style compound, comprised of Latakia, Turkish, and Virginia. Thick slices that crumble almost without effort into shreds and fragments perfect for the pipe. Quite likely the best echo of Bengal Slices anyone is likely to encounter, although Blakeney's Best Latakia Flake by McClelland, and several extraordinary English slices by Gregory Pease are as good, and as addictive.
The peculiar nature of compressed full Latakia blends is that the Latakia, even at fifty percent more or less, is softened considerably, and rather than dominating, lends an almost perfumed mildness to the smoke. Turkish changes too, adding a sweeter taste by that 'densification' than would otherwise be the case.
Because of the Virginias, a little age has extraordinary effect.
Note that heat also plays a part in production.
They are well-melded in consequence.
What this means to you is that you will not taste it the same way as other smokers. It is indeed a full Latakia strength. But you might not think so.
It has a fair measure of Turkish, which may not dominate either. And the Virginias, by contributing carotenoids (the flavour component in stonefruits), may trick you into assuming an added perfume, especially in concert with the resins of the Ottoman leaf.
In such a tobacco mixture, Latakia functions almost like a fixing agent, as used in parfumerie.
It could seem too mild. Or too full-bodied.
Or, like bear porridge, just right.
It depends entirely on you.
Smoke it contemplatively, preferably late at night, when you have a bottle of sherry on the table. Think of railroads, and steamers unloading. Wharves, docks, magazines. Distant termini. Far boundaries of empire.
All good things come again, in one form or another.
Yes, I have some of it set aside for a rainy day.
Acquired a few more tins recently.
Not planning to smoke it for a while, as I have many other tobaccos open.
Sixpence, by Greg Pease. Triple Play. Jackknife Plug. Navigator. Hal O'The Wynd, by Rattray, Professional Mixture and Old Gowrie. Samuel Gawith's Best Brown Flake. Capstan, and Orlik Golden Sliced.
McClelland's No. 24 Virginia.
And I've run out of sherry.
NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.