Wednesday, July 25, 2007


[Warning: This post is about tobacco. Which might not be your cup of tea. In which case it would be slightly pointless to read this, wouldn't it? But don't worry, the regular mix of activist indignation, amateurish Talmudic references, and zany food posts may return shortly.]

The Dunhill pipe tobaccos which we fondly remember from our misspent youths are not the same as the Dunhill pipe tobaccos which are available today.

[I’m using the editorial we, because I’m assuming that you, dear reader, also have a misspent youth during which you scrimped your meagre funds to purchase fine pipe tobaccos.]


Alfred Dunhill Ltd was bought by Carreras International in 1967. Rothmans bought Carreras in 1972. The Dunhill manufacturing plant was kept in operation until 1981, when Rothmans consolidated all their pipe tobacco manufacturing at the Belfast plant (formerly Murray Sons & Co., acquired by Carreras in 1953). Other than minor changes in sourcing tobaccos, and substitutions for specific tobaccos which had become unavailable or prohibitive, there had been almost no change whatsoever up to that point.

But by 1982 the Murray’s versions hit the market, and it was clear that any considerations of quality had been thrown out the door.

During the eighties and nineties a large portion of each tin consisted of twigs and crud, and buying a tin of Dunhill meant mounting frustration for the next few days, until, grumbling and swearing that one would NEVER buy that muck again, one chucked the contents of the tin into the garbage chute and switched to something palatable.

Even with far less twigs and crud it would not have been particularly worth smoking. Mediocre is as good a descriptive term as any....... though that may be an overestimation. The degree of desperation needed to improve the experience was hard to achieve.

The name 'Murray' does not give me a warm fuzzy feeling, instead more like feverish fits of shuddering ague.

[I started smoking fine Oriental blends in the seventies; it is the pre-Belfast Dunhill mixtures which I remember. They were very nice. But it should be noted that Dunhill themselves also introduced changes occasionally – the blends were not quite the same as they had been in the fifties and sixties, due to supply lines shifting and some ingredients becoming unavailable.]


In 1999, Rothmans was bought by BAT (British American Tobacco), who closed down the Murray Sons & Co. factory and outsourced all pipe tobaccos to Denmark’s Orlik Tobacco AS.

That last was a considerable improvement – the sourcing of tobaccos was better, and quality control improved immensely.

Orlik did not produce the Dunhill mixtures as we remembered them. Syrian Latakia had been replaced by Cyprus leaf, and varietal Turkish types such as Yenidje, Samsoun, Izmir, and Djubec had largely been consolidated as 'Basma'.
But Orlik did produce mixtures labeled Dunhill that once again were worth smoking. Good stuff. Some darned good stuff.

Then in 2006 BAT and Orlik started going all Byzantine over the pipe tobacco brands, leading to diminished supplies of Dunhill. A few varieties were also discontinued – Aperatif, Elizabethan Mixture, and Standard Mixture Mild.
Three Year Matured and Light Flake also disappeared, though they may have been phased out earlier than the others. If Durbar Mixture is still being made, which I doubt, it is almost inevitable that it, too, will go the way of all flesh - none has been available in the Bay Area for half a year.


On February 20, 2007 British American Tobacco and Orlik Tobacco AS announced the sale of all pipe tobacco brands to Orlik, excepting Dunhill and Captain Black. What this means for the manufacture of the Dunhill mixtures remains to be seen, but as BAT is not geared towards boutique brands, it would not surprise me if they ended up selling the right to use the Dunhill name to some other company. Dunhill mixtures are now nearly impossible to find, however, and nobody seems to know when they will be available again. Or who will put them up.



My stockpile of Dunhill Pipe Tobaccos (as of July 25th., 2007):

London Mixture - 112 Tins.
Durbar - 83 Tins.
EMP - 82 Tins.
Standard-Medium - 81 Tins.
Standard-Mild - 15 Tins.
My Mixture 965 - 39 Tins.
Aperatif - 17 Tins.
Nightcap - 10 Tins.
Three Year Matured - 10 Tins.
Elizabethan Mixture - 13 Tins.
Light Flake - 3 Tins.

Four hundred and sixty six tins. Should last me nearly a decade.

London Mixture through Nightcap are English-style mixtures, meaning that they have Turkish and Latakia in addition to Virginias (also called 'Flue-cured'). London, Standard, and 965 are the medium-full range, Aperatif is heavy on the Turkish, Nightcap is about fifty percent Latakia augmented by Black Virginia and Cavendish.
Three year matured is a very fine Virginia whored up with of all things a berserk essence. Elizabethan is somewhat unremarkable. The light flake should be a medium Lakeland style aged press - but the last time I smoked any Dunhill flakes was in 1979, so who knows what is in those three tins.


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


Anonymous said...

You are a leaf pack rat. Hey when society as we know it crumbles you can always use it as currency. Just like the boys in the state pen.

Anonymous said...

It's 2011 and Dunhill tobacco is back. Will there be updates to your blog I am interested in your opinion.

The back of the hill said...

"It's 2011 and Dunhill tobacco is back. Will there be updates to your blog I am interested in your opinion."

At some point there will be updates. But it may be a while, as I am currently on a Rattray's kick of no mean proportion.

Hal O'The Wynd. Brown Clunee. Old Gowrie. Marlin Flake.
In that order. So far my two favourites are the Hal O'The Wynd and the Marlin Flake.
It's been going on eight weeks now. Most peculiar. Usually I do not stick with Virginias that long.

chijazz said...

Is it possible, do you know, to find in England a flake tobacco combining Turkish, Virginia and Latakia?

The back of the hill said...

"Is it possible, do you know, to find in England a flake tobacco combining Turkish, Virginia and Latakia?"

Something like the old Bengal Slices?
Hard to say. Both Samuel Gawith and Germains produce flakes containing Latakia and Virginia - Balkan Flake and Special Latakia Flake respectively, the latter allegedly also containing Turkish - but I do not know what availability over there is. If the Esoterica line of tobaccos, which is manufactured by Germain & Son in Jersey, is available in England, you will probably like Penzance, described as "finest Virginia, choice Turkish and Orientals and Cyprian Latakia, all hand blended together, hard pressed and broad cut into thick flakes. Long matured and easily crumbled..."
Penzance is an exceptional tobacco, btw.

Dan Tobacco (from Germany, long sold in the U.S. under the CAO label) has Old Ironsides, which is Latakia, Kentucky (fire-cured?), Virginia, and Orientals, as well as Midnight Ride, that being Virginias, Orientals, and a mild amount of Latakia and perique.

As an alternative to purchasing locally, maybe Synjeco in Switzerland can provide what you wish.

Let me know if any of this helped.

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