Tuesday, November 03, 2009


The Scots, as is well known, are the meanest, stingiest, penny-pinchingest, cheapest, most penuriating tightwads in the entire world. Tightest bunch of skinflinting, coin-hoarding, expense-begrudging, penny-dragging turnips in all of human history. They are very unpleasant about money.

Being a Dutchman, it gives me great pleasure to say so. We Dutch also have a modest reputation in that regard. I am happy to note that the Scots are far far worse, the bastards.

[I am American-Dutch. Not one of those rapacious and sadistic Netherlands-Dutch, not a degenerated southerner from Flanders, not a rigid and constipated Afrikaner, nor a Ceylonese or Malaccan Burger, and certainly not one of those sneering young immigrants who have decided that they might as well experience the world a bit and screw stupid Yankee chicks before going back to marry a nice girl and talk trash about Americans.]

Yes, the Scots are indeed everything they are made out to be.


They aren't.

Not really cheap, that is. A nation that produces very fine woolens, great cakes, and the best whisky in the world should NOT be called 'cheap'. High quality and 'cheap' are not on the same page.

Which makes the prevalence of Scotch pipe tobaccos among the nomenclature of so many manufacturers baffling. One would not imagine that a reputation for cheapity would be a desirable mental connection for one's product. The more so as there is no such thing as a Scotch blend - it's merely a naming convention.


The Scandinavians think it means Cavendish mixed with ribbon Burley and mild flavourings. The Dutch and the Germans call anything sauced with honey and liquor a Scotch blend. American companies think it's a Burley-Virginia mixture, or the cheapest nastiest leaf in the store dolled up with an aromatic agent, or even a cheap strong flake mixed with Perique to cut the tongue-bite.
The Scots no longer produce tobacco, and the British companies always called a darker English blend a Scots mixture.

[English blend: a goodly amount of smoke-cured leaf from Syria (Latakia), Turkish and Greek leaves, on a basis of Virginias. Maybe some Perique added, only rarely air-cured leaf, and then only Maryland, in minute quantities.]

The confusion probably stems from enterprises like Charles Rattray in Perth, who manufactured several different tobaccos, all based on full Virginia flakes. At one end of the scale, these would be blended with Virginia ribbon for smokability and Orientals for complexity. At the other end, Perique might be added, or two or three flakes mixed in proportion. Other than the assertiveness of the Virginias, the only thing they had in common was a heat-process (panning) and a brief aging period to meld the flavours.
Most Scots tobacco companies used panning or steampressing to improve their products.

[Heating tobacco, in addition to rounding the rough edges of some tobaccos and making them more gentle on the tongue, allows the addition of flavouring agents, as the leaf is receptive and will readily absorb aromas. Which, of course, explains why Charles Rattray used that method - the various tobaccos absorbed each other's characteristics, and the result was a much more uniform product.]

Much Burley is processed with heat to make it mellow. Cheaper grades of air-cured tobacco definitely also benefit from such treatment. And both Burley and cheap Virginia are common ingredients in aromatic mixtures and Cavendish. It's but a short leap to call anything made with heat-treated cheap leaf 'Scots'.
It is, however, a horrible misnomer, and a repulsive canard.

None of this has anything to do with 'Scotch Cut Mixture' by Samuel Gawith. They produced it for the 2009 Chicago Pipe Show in a limited edition. Scotch in this case probably means that they didn't know what else to call it. The tartan on the label looks like the material Ronald Reagan had suits made from, twixt dull and dowdy-garish.

Samuel Gawith

'Blended from Fine Virginias, Black Cavendish, Burley & Latakia for the Chicago Pipe Club'

This product has been described as being like an electrical fire, smouldering rubber, dead chickens, mildewed sofa, and mother-in-law repellant.
So naturally I had to try it.

It's fine.

Not enough Latakia to satisfy the members of the dark side, nor enough Burley to keep all the drug-store blend smoking old farts happy. The Virginia is excellent, but not of a type that would please smokers of flake. This is a pleasant medium strength natural mixture that would appeal to many Europeans finally making their escape from syrup-soaked Dutch and Danish steampress garbage, being a fairly neutral mixture of good quality leaf.
I cannot judge the smell - it smells okay to me. The taste is like some of the Dutch natural mixtures which lost the battle with the candy Cavendishes before most Dutch tobacco companies were sold to the Americans. The texture, too, is reminiscent of products long unavailable, being a crinkled narrow ribbon-cut that packs easily.

It is not at all perfumy, but faintly earthy - the merest echo-whisp of pasture, with a hint of cow.

All in all a decent and somewhat unremarkable product, the kind of blend one might purchase every month from the tobacconist in the nearest city while supply-shopping.
Assuming one lived out on the moors or beyond the forest.

The smell from the tin reminds me of rainy summer days years ago, when I was still living in Valkenswaard. All the day would seem dull and gloomy, and wherever you went, you switched on the light. Sitting in an unlit room made even space and the distance between objects hard to gauge, let alone details and textures. During the frequent downpours a wave of darkness enveloped the world and the falling water muffled the sounds from outside.
It was very womblike, and I thoroughly enjoyed those days.

Naturally, the comfort of the womb is much better with a good smoke.

You should probably have some tea while you're at it.
And take off those sodden socks , just hang them on a chair to dry.
You are glad to finally be inside.


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