At the back of the hill

Warning: May contain traces of soy, wheat, lecithin and tree nuts. That you are here
strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton.
And that you might like cheese-doodles.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016


With the British Exit vote looming, I have taken a serious look at all the products in my life that originate in Great Britain. Trade deals with the Empire will probably all have to be re-negotiated, there may be hiccoughs, and changes could affect supplies for a while.


Naturally, most of the British products I use are essentials for civilized living in the hinterland. That basically means tobacco, tea, and marmalade.
Plus mosquito nets.

I actually have two mosquito nets,

No items of clothing, because since the early-sixties English taste in that regard has been notoriously horrid, and tweed is largely unsuitable for the climate here.

The less said about their ghastly neckties the better.

I do not drink Watneys Red Barrel.
That just isn't done.

Here's a list:

Astleys: The charming tobacconists at 109 Jermyn Street (in the Arcade) closed a long time ago (1989), and while they 'commissioned' from Charatan and Comoys (briars) and McConnells (pipe tobacco), they did not "make", but "purveyed". Blends with their name have been German since Kohlhase & Kopp acquired the entire portfolio of McConnells Tobacco in the nineties.

Balkan Sobranie: This tobacco house doesn't really exist anymore. The new version of their most famous blend (issued after a two-decade hiatus) is made by Germain & Son in the Channel Islands, and is an interesting and fun product, but it is not what the original was.
The company was founded a century ago by a political trouble maker from Odessa, who after many years of meddling in the Bulgarian question and running afoul of everybody, settled in London, and made splendid pipe tobaccos and luxury cigarettes. England doesn't actually grow tobacco.
As you no doubt realize.

Barling: Formerly silversmiths, the Barlings went into briar pipe manufacture in the nineteenth century and excelled. The company is now defunct, and their "pre-transition" pipes are avidly sought be collectors.
I only own one. A lovely piece.

Charatan: Briar pipes made by a company started by a Russian immigrant in London. It was once the premier producer of smoking equipment in the world. The current trademark holders are the fifth or sixth bunch since Dunhill bought the company to wreck the name, and while some of their modern products are decent, most are crap.
Older Charatans were splendid. I own six Charatans in all.
Shan't acquire anymore new ones.

Comoy: When the Comoys produced pipes, the world was a better place. Since the seventies the company made garbage under the direction of corporate slime at Cadogan.
Over three dozen, one of which is an unsmoked Blue Riband from a long time ago. Some are under other names, being pipes made for now long-gone tobacconists. Whatever they're doing at present is sometimes semi-decent, but there are better pipes available.

Crabs (and eels): Pacific.

Cross & Blackwell: Pickles, relishes, and strange condiments.
Man lives by the condiment of providence.
And curry paste.

Dunhill: Bought by Carreras, which was then swallowed by Rothmans, and eventually broken up into three separate endeavors. The pipes are still made in Britain, but no longer nearly so desirable. Overpriced snob-muck. The cigarettes are part of B.A.T., the tobacco has been farmed out to Kohlhase & Kopp who have it made for them by Orlik in Denmark. After the skite that Gallaher and Murrays churned out in the eighties and nineties, that's a very considerable improvement. The luxury goods are held by a bunch of Euries, and are quite overpriced besides.
I have only three Dunhill pipes. I refuse to pay the idiotic prices that new and used ones demand. Ridiculous!
There is a fair amount of Dunhill tobacco in my stockpile.
The old sandblasts were lovely.

Frank Cooper & Sons Original Oxford Marmalade: Truly a monumental product. There is ALWAYS a jar on the premises.

Fribourg & Treyer: A famous Londonian supplier of pipes, tobacco mixtures, and snuff. Founded in 1720, closed in 1981. The pipes were made by other companies, the tobacco was produced by Imperial and is now manufactured in Germany.
I have heard interesting reports about their blends.
Their snuff was extraordinary.

GBD: Ganneval, Bondier, & Donninger. Briar pipes made in London by a Frenchman, a Swiss-Frenchman, and a Viennese, and their various successors. Like so many other respected pipe companies it has been swallowed by Cadogan and turned into a garbage brand.
Several. None acquired new.

Germain & Son: Tobacco made by a small company in the Channel Islands. Splendid stuff.

Gin: Dutch. Can't stand English gin.
Tastes like aftershave.

James Keiller and Son marmalade: Nice. I favour the thick-cut Seville. But I haven't bought any in years.

McConnells Tobacco: Almost none. Part of the Kohlhase & Kopp portfolio in any case. No longer British.

Ogden's St. Bruno Flake: Like all marques held by Imperial, this was unavailable in the United States for many years, after Imperial decided they didn't need us damned colonials as customers. It's now made by MacBarens in Denmark, and will soon be present all up and down the West Coast again. Like Erinmore Flake (see here), it is a most peculiar product of which some Anglophiles are incredibly fond. I find that baffling, but I will gladly smoke it again.

Patak's: Indian pickles and chutneys made by mr. Lakshmishankar Pathak in Lancashire. Quite the best thing to come out Blighty in recent years. And far better than that Pakistani muck that the grocer around the corner sells. Higher quality manufacture and ingredients, no shifty inclusions or substitutions.

Pimm's: A liqueur added to various cocktails, notoriously the Pimm's Cup, which is refreshing on hot days. There is no need to have the liqueur at home, and the cup made by Curtis Post at the Occidental Cigar Club on Pine Street, though regretfully missing the long thin wedge of cucumber, is quite as good as you will get anywhere, possibly excepting what can be ordered at The Old Bell Inn.

Rattrays: Formerly of Perth Scotland, now produced by Kohlhase & Kopp. So they're really German, but they weren't Scottish since McConnell started producing them in London before the war.

Samuel Gawith: Seriously good tobacco. Both stodgy stuff preferred by nice people, as well as nasty aromatics beloved by tattooed freaks.
We have more tattooed freaks than there are in England.

Sasieni: briar pipes of various quality ranges made by a company started by an Italian in London. Now a defunct venture.
I've got just one. Squat bulldog. 1950s.

Single Malt Whisky: Let us not discuss this sensitive subject.

Taylors of Harrowgate: Strong black tea. Very good stuff.

Twinings Tea: Actually, I haven't had any on the premises in quite a while. Most tea I drink regularly is produced by Chinese companies, and available in Chinatown.

W.D. & H.O. Wills Capstan: Flake tobacco in a familiar blue tin. Was long unavailable, but as it is now produced by MacBarens in Denmark, it can be found at suppliers all across California.

Well, that's it then. I consume almost no products still made in Britain. So if there is any glitch in the supply chain it will not effect me. A pity, because when they leave the European Union, the pound should drop precipitously, and the English will no doubt become third world people with low pay and absolutely no buying power, and whatever they make, assuming that they maintain a good level of quality, will be cheap.

Really, really cheap. For a long time to come.

I like cheap. Underneath my ├╝ber-cultured veneer, the cruel skinflint Dutchman in me runs all the way to the bone.


My clothes are all made by starvation-wage workers sweltering in the tropics, which due to global warming we all soon will be anyhow.
Nothing I wear was ever sewn or woven in Britain.

Pottery and porcelain? China and California.

My soy sauce comes from California and Japan, the oyster and abalone sauces, shrimp paste, and Hue-style fish sauce, are all made in Hong Kong, which is also where good dried fish originates.

The little cheroots I like are Dutch.

London as a concept was always better than its actuality.


NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


  • At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I once banished you because you wished grievous harm upon a country.

    How could I stay away? I couldn't, so here I am, as I have been for some time.

    Do, or did, you snuff? At least the F&T snuff recipes landed in the quite capable hands of Wilson's of Sharrow.

    No mention of Gawith, Hoggarth & Co.? I was taken aback, rather!

    Carry on.

  • At 12:49 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    When I was twelve I started using Singleton's Super Menthol Snuff' after vacation in Switzerland, where many of the local farmers who drank kaffee-schnaps at the local hotel-bar snorted.

    The tobacconist located where the Aalsterweg turns into Stratumsdijk (at the juncture with the Leenderweg, where the road bends) carried it, and I would buy two or three tins every two months or so. There was also a very exciting porno shop a few doors down, where browsing among the magazines was a voyage of discovery. Especially for a twelve year old.

    Yes, upon return to the United States, when I was eighteen, I discovered Fribourg & Treyer. Haven't experimented with what Wilsons makes, other than Dr. Rumney.

    Gawith Hoggarth is barely represented at all in my cellar. There are about half a dozen tins from the time when Marty Pulvers still owned Sherlock's Haven, over ten years ago. So they must be more than a decade old. But other than the very rare tin of Balkan Mixture, plus one tin of Rum Flake, and two tins of Ennerdale, I have little experience with that brand. Ennerdale is peculiar.

  • At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    " tweed is largely unsuitable for the climate here."


    Woolen cardies and tweed jackets are the only way to stay warm in English winters and San Fran summers.

    Very good summary of Brit tobacco brands, and oh have they fallen on hard times. Still, some are worth smoking. Please do consider GH's Brown Flake.

    Today is the In - Out vote.

    A friend in the UK writes: "I have just been accosted by a driver in Bootle for wearing a remain badge - he gave me a nazi salute!"

    For your readers who have not yet seen John Oliver's view on Brexit, go to:


  • At 8:33 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    "Rubbish. Woolen cardies and tweed jackets are the only way to stay warm in English winters and San Fran summers."

    San Fran summer hasn't started yet. It's worse than shirt sleeve weather. It gets later and later each year, and less and less.

    Climate change.


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