Thursday, October 19, 2006


A reader writes:

I found your web blog, which is the only reference Google could find on "Drucquer Levant" blend. I've got a very small amount left which is pretty dry. I'd like to find something similar in flavor, possibly with less nicotine.

Any idea what were the components in Levant, and the rough proportions?
Or any similar blend, maybe from Pease? I think I also liked Drucquer's 805, but I like Levant better. I don't think I ever tried Royal Ransom, but it sounds like I would have liked it, too.

So. Let us discuss tobacco (readers who are not interested should probably skip this post...).


Brief description of Drucquer & Sons Ltd pipe tobacco blends:
Royal Ransom - slightly more than half Latakia, with Turkish and Virginia (including black Virginia to mellow the Latakia). Similar to Sobranie black and Nightcap.
Levant Mixture - full strength English-Balkan mixture. Possibly like Royal Ransom but with a bit more Turkish.
Mixture 805 - the classic English mixture, half Latakia with the remainder evenly divided between Turkish and Virginias (comparable to Sobranie white and 965).
Trafalgar - a classic Balkan, the oriental balanced by enough Latakia to be noticed (around 37.5 percent?) and Virginia to support.
Red Lion - about forty percent Latakia, the rest a mixture of Virginias, no Turkish (I wish I could remember what the Virginias were - it tasted complex enough that I didn't miss the Turkish.
Arcadia Mixture - lower on the Latakia totem-pole than the blends mentioned precedingly, with some dark Virginias to boost the Turkish, ribbon Virginia to lighten the load, and a hint of toasted Cavendish.
Temple Bar - no Turkish, a blend of light and medium Virginias spiced with Latakia (probably slightly over a third of the total), and maybe (?) a touch of Perique.
Inns of Court - a complex mixture containing the full range of Virginias with some Burley and Maryland, plus Latakia (less than Temple Bar) and Perique.
Prince's Blend - a Virginia Mixture with minor amounts of Latakia and Perique as spice, some air-cured (?).
The Devil's Own - a Virginia base with depth, spiced with less Latakia than Inns of Court.
Ye Olde London Baccy - a Virginia and Burley mixture which I found hard to like (hardly any Latakia).
Blairgowrie - matured Virginias with some Perique, somewhat dry.
St. James - a classic Scottish mixture with both Oriental leaf and Perique.

[Years before I started working at Drucquers each of these blends had its own label, the printing blocks for which were still in the backroom. But by the late seventies a light brown generic label was used, with the blend name rubber-stamped in the space provided. Early in the eighties five other blends were developed, stoved and aged in the tin - they were actually pretty good, but I don't remember a darn thing about them. I think all of them were English blends.]


Levant was a full English blend. Those are usually around fifty percent Latakia, twenty five percent Turkish (Oriental), and twenty five percent Virginia (flue-cured) - these were the exact proportions of the 805.
With English and Balkan blends the proportions may vary, but there is usually twice as much Latakia as Turkish - though blends identified as Balkan often increase the Turkish slightly in proportion.

If I remember correctly, Levant was just at or slightly above that fifty percent Latakia mark (but maybe not quite twenty five percent Turkish). Both Latakia and Turkish have relatively low nicotine levels. Virginias (and all other flue-cureds) have medium to medium-high levels of nicotine. Burleys (none to my knowledge in the Levant mixture - mentioning them for perspective) have medium-high to quite high levels of nicotine.

Sweetness (the natural sugars) vary also - Latakia is hardly sweet, Turkish is low-medium, Virginia is high. Burley, depending on how it was processed after aircuring, may have no sweetness whatsoever, or be so sweet (added sugars and flavourings) as to leave your pipe a tar-pit of bubbling ick.


If you want low nicotine, go for a full English or Balkan mixture.

GL Pease produces a number of blends which are very good. See here:
I would think that Abingdon would be a good choice. But his products are all quite good.

Dunhill ups the Turkish ante nicely, see here:
For a really full Latakia level, I recommend Nightcap. For an emphasis on Turkish, try Durbar.

ADDENDUM as of September 16, 2016:
What has Greg Pease done since drucquers? just a few GLP tobaccos.
For the past several years I have been smoking mostly flakes, though I still love Latakia blends. There are moments of crystal clarity that require dark leaf, but during the working days Virginias are very forgiving.
Another great blender was Mr. Bob Runowski, who is no longer among us. His efforts lay in the Burley realm.
One person who should have gone into blending, but didn't, is Miss Lim, with whom I lost contact in the nineties. Two decades later I am still influenced by her taste in literature, food, and pipes. Not sure if she would appreciate that.


If you want to blend your own full English mixture, think in these proportions to start:

10 or 11 parts Latakia.
5 parts Turkish (also called Oriental, includes Greek tobacco).
3 to 5 parts mixed Virginias.
1 part Black Virginia.

Your choice of Virginias will determine how you proceed from here. And you may decide that the black Virginia is unnecessary. On the other hand, several blends from English and Scottish houses relied on black Virginia as a component that could well carry its own weight in blends dominated by the Orientals (Turkish and Latakia).

Latakia is Oriental leaf from Syria or nowadays Cyprus, cured over smoldering fires till dark and resinous. Surprisingly, it can be used in large proportion, though anything more than about forty-five percent is risky - the remainder of the blend may lack complexity and character. Thirty to forty percent is quite noticeable. McClelland sells this in fifty gramme tins. Most wholesalers should carry it, and any tobacco store which has house blends should also have some.

Turkish by itself has a grassy smell, and needs the Latakia (which develops the resinous quality of the Turkish, in addition to contributing its own smoky creosote-like aroma). Greek, Balkan, and Persian tobacco is included under the nomen 'Turkish'. It is available in a pure form from McClelland in 50 gramme tins (Oriental).

Red Virginia and Bright Virginia (usually ribbon-cut) are bland and fruity, but combine well with Turkish - nevertheless, they can bite ferociously if they dominate, so I would rub out a medium flake (unflavoured - McClelland produces some very fine examples) and use that with only a little bright or red ribbon. Note that Virginias also come from elsewhere - Mozambique, India, Canada, etcetera. Available at most tobacconists.

Black Virginia (NOT Toasted Cavendish!) is a heavily stoved black shiny sweet leaf - it cuts tongue bite, and assists Latakia. Any blend which has bright ribbon Virginia will probably benefit from Black Virginia. Available at most tobacconists.

Toasted Cavendish, in small quantities, adds an old-fashioned perfumy quality. Available at most tobacconists.

Perique may also be added. Two to five percent of a blend. Unless you want to grow hair inside your breathing apparatus, in which case up to ten or twelve percent. It counters the bitey-ness of ribbon Virginias, and adds a saltiness, plus complexity. Best used at a low percentage, just under the radar. Made in Louisiana by a process of controlled rot.
Available at most tobacconists, but also in fifty gramme tins from McClelland.

Burley is nutlike in taste and smell. In small quantities it emphasizes the smokiness of Latakia, but suppresses the floweriness of Turkish. Quality and level of adulteration with stinky sweeteners vary from supplier to supplier. Formerly only Kentucky, now from all over.

Maryland is a mild and not very distinctive relative of Burley, good to add in proportions of up to about twelve percent to improve how a blend smokes. It can be smoked straight, but that would prove unexciting. Nicotine content is roughly the same as Virginia or slightly higher, with which it pairs nicely as the lesser component. Usually not available from local tobacco stores, but probably on the internet.

[Correction as of 2014: Maryland is actually quite low on the nicotine score, and not, as I had assumed, simply a relative of Burley. The state is discouraging its cultivation now, and paying farmers to convert their curing sheds to art-spaces, cottages, and studios. Consequently much Maryland leaf is now grown in Italy. Bless those Italians.]

Cavendish is pressed and heated leaf, usually Virginia, but the process is also used for Burleys. The heating opens the cells and lets the leaf absorb a disturbing amount of flavouring. Unflavoured Cavendish can be a valuable addition - Dunhill uses Cavendish Virginias in a lot of their English mixtures (it allows a greater proportion of Turkish).

Flake is heavily pressed aged tobacco. Like Cavendish this is usually Virginia. Flakes can be used as blending bases with little other Virginia added, or to add sweetness and a matured taste. One must be careful, however, as these dense products can also unbalance the smoking characteristics of Oriental blends.

Some more on blending, as of January 2013: further notes

Cornell & Diehl (here: and here: ) is a good source for various blending tobaccos, but they also produce a number of interesting compounds - explore their website.


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


Anonymous said...

Confess..."a reader" is a figment of your imagination, a rhetorical device to give you the opportunity to get what followed of your chest.

The back of the hill said...

Confess what? It actually was a reader, who sent me an e-mail to northbeachlizardatYahoodotcom.

Is it really likely that I have so much tobacco on my chest?

The back of the hill said...

As a firm friend and afficionado of all things Hawaiian, I have no major objections to spam.
Pity there is no egg or rice to go with it, though.

cigarettes said...

like you article, keep posting, thanks.

Quoting fr. elsewhere said...

"1481 Solano Ave., Albany, CA 94706
Former address (late 1980s):
2059 University Ave., Berkeley CA 94704
"Red Lion" was the name of a home Virginia based blend. The lion appeared on the original Drucquer family crest. John Drucquer founded the pipe shop in London in 1841 and had C. Dickens as customer for pipes and tobaccos. John Drucquer III moved Drucquer & Sons Ltd. to Berkeley, California in 1921."

Quoting fr. elsewhere said...

"When John Drucquer opened Drucquer & Sons tobacco shop in Berkeley in 1928, cigars were just cigars. You lit them. You smoked them. You savored the flavor with little fanfare or fuss.

Drucquer knew this. A fourth-generation tobacconist, he ran his University Avenue business in low-key, no-frills, John Wayne style. Over the years, the shop changed owners. And locations. But the spirit of the place remained the same.

The back of the hill said...

Note more recent essay about Drucquers here:

Also please note: Nowadays, Cavendish usually is Burley steamed with sweet flavourings, rather than steam-pressed Virginia.
But Toasted Cavendish has become the trade name for smoke-cured Kentucky leaf, which means that it's actually an air-cured tobacco.
Remarkably, it does complement Latakia mixtures if not used excessively.

Black Virginia is often confused with Toasted Cavendish on the one hand, and Black Cavendish on the other. It is neither, and it may be extremely hard to find. Black Virginia is lemon Virginia lightly pressed, cooked till significantly darkened, ribbon cut.
Black cavendish is steam-press heated, often with added sugars and flavourings like vanilla, till pitch black and soggy.
Straight black cavendish without added flavours can be used as a blending tobacco, whereas heavily flavoured black cavendish is more suited to perfuming your Hello Kitty underwear drawer.

Drucquers used black Virginia in some old-fashioned blends, black cavendish in some aromatic abortions for the degenerate crowd.

pipe tobacco in Phoenix, Arizona said...

There are 100's of different types of pipe tobacco available in small or large quantities. But I am searching good quality and in large amount of pipe tobacco in Phoenix, Arizona. Is there any whole sale company gave me pipe tobacco in large quantity in discount rate?

The back of the hill said...

Remarkably, there are. But the real question should be 'would any of those pipe tobaccos actually be worth smoking?'

Most places that sell in bulk do not concentrate on quality.

They're satisfying a market demand for quantity, and catering to an audience that has little discernment.

I'm sure you could probably negotiate a favourable price with an internet retailer for your favourite Balkan tobacco or aged Virginia flake if you were to purchase several pounds. But unless you have a business license and are yourself a tobacco retailer, the price you will pay cannot go lower than a certain level. And like alcohol and firearms (the other two thirds of the trinity), the trade in tobacco products is rather tightly regulated.

Let me know if you find a place that truly makes the purchase of large amounts irresistible.

Anti-spammer said...

By the way, sometimes urls are stripped from comments. Or leastways, from the names of commenters.
I don't know why.
Just one of the risks of botting, I guess.

The back of the hill said...

For the curious, please note: the articles which most prominently mention Drucquer & Sons in Berkeley are these:





Feel free to leave a comment under any one of them, or questions.
I'll respond after the system notifies me that you have written something (if you require a response, of course).

The back of the hill said...



A friend forwarded a question about the above named Drucquer products.

In response thereto, Those tobaccos were developed after I left.

Menlo Park is a light medium English, XX press, if I remember correctly, was a standard McClelland pressed Virginia.
Both were among of a series of tobaccos that were stoved for about half an hour or so at low temperatures in the can (airhole then sealed with a bit of solder), to jump start the aging / fermentation, and to deepen the flavour.
Stoving works admirably in that regard and also mellows out the rough edges.

With one exception that series of products were developed by Robert Rex.
The exception – and I cannot remember which one it was – was created by Gaston Stephen Chan, who had been in Vietnam, after the war went to Berkeley, majored in archeology, and lived at the tail end of College Avenue right near the Oakland Berkeley border.
He started working at Drucquers in 1981, and by 1983 had become manager.
I believe he’s now retired. He must be in his sixties by now.
Robert Rex is probably over seventy.

Robert Rex, by the way, has (had?) a fabulous collection of pipes. Barlings, Charatans, Dunhills, and Comoy Bleu Ribands.

I once out-manoevred him on the acquisition of a Comoy Blue Riband Lovatt, then acquired the equivalent Liverpool shape Blue Riband. Those two pipes help me remember what a splendid collection Robert had at the time. The man had exceptional taste and a very sharp eye, in addition to a questing palate.

The back of the hill said...

What I really miss about that era is the Liverpool shape Comoy London Pride that I owned when I was still hanging around with the gun-collecting girl who lived on Oxford Street, four blocks from the store.

Great tobacco, great pipe, and a wild woman. Great times.

Occasionally I'll buy some Old Granddad to relive the period.

The back of the hill said...

And, for the curious, I just got into the office after smoking some of Greg Pease's new mixture, Sextant, while wandering down from Powell Street through Chinatown.

It's a lovely day. I feel full of piss and vinegar. Marvelous tobacco.
The past cannot be recaptured.
But it can be equaled.

Thanks, Greg. My ten tins came last week. I'm nearly through one of them already, partly because I shared Sextant with a person who had never smoked a pipe before. Let him smoke Sextant in of one of mine, gave him a generous sample, and encouraged him to acquire a pipe of his own.
Which he did.
That, too, is good.

Anonymous said...

Sextant - it's STILL like smoking an orgasm.

Unknown said...

Loved reading this

Anonymous said...

Do you recall Drucquer’s Bergen Harbor Toasted? Probably too aromatic for you. Was that one of the later blends?

The back of the hill said...

Indeed I do. But I smoked the Bergen Harbor blends so rarely that I do not recall what was in them. I suspect plain cavendish, blonde and black Virginia, and Aged Maduro Cavendish, which is a Sutliff blending tobacco.

[But they may have been just bag blends, like three of the Aros that were in jars to the lower right.]

Bergen Harbor was available in 1978 when I started. It was probably introduced in the mid-seventies.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I recall Bergen Harbor Toasted as an excellent aromatic - one that had a nice mix of flavors without being cloying and overly sweet. A nice rotation among the other more English-styled blends. I had a friend in college from Berkeley who introduced me to Drucquer's. I think they were the best tobacconists I've come across. Unfortunately, I think he spent too much time with his pipe and scotch to stay in school. Always a nice trip down memory lane to remember these various blends.

Bobotie said...

Pipe and Scotch. Mmm.

Anonymous said...

When Drucquers used cured Kentucky (which is called “toasted”) do you know where they sourced it?

Anonymous said...

What I’m reading online is that Bergen Harbor Toasted contained:
“smoke cured Kentucky leaf (called ‘toasted’), steamed and darkened black Virginia,
And a mild added natural flavoring that made this blend fit into
The ‘English aromatic’ category.”

So yes I’m chasing a dream. So wondering where the Kentucky might have come from.
Bet that gave it a bit of its particular flavor.

The back of the hill said...

"When Drucquers used cured Kentucky (which is called “toasted”) do you know where they sourced it"

Nope. And I suspect that the particular wholesaler house is long defunct anyhow. Sorry. By the way, I didn't look at comments (your comments 05/15/2022)awaiting approval until today, so I apologize for responding so late.

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