Sunday, October 09, 2011


As I mentioned last Sunday, the Balkan Sobranie Original Smoking Mixture is available once again.
This iteration is made by J. F. Germain & Son in Jersey, Channel Islands.
The copyright holder is Arango.

When first I wrote about it, all the internet retailers were out of stock, and panicked chatter in various corners of the internet speculated about shortages, dearths, lacks, and black complots - for that is what the unavailability of what one dearly wants to smoke often seems to pipe aficionados.
That, however, did not affect me.

[This post: The return of Balkan Sobranie. ]

"Given that supplies are likely to be spotty for a while, it may take a few weeks before I lay my hands on this new iteration. When I do, I will be quite keen to find out how it compares to my nose-memory of what I smoked back in the seventies."
End quote.

I really wasn't expecting to try it for another month at least.
As of this writing I have already had several bowls.
Courtesy of the local tobacconists.
They had a few tins.


Yes, it's not the same as the Balkan Sobranie of the nineteen seventies.
You already knew that.
But it IS the real McCoy.

No product based on natural ingredients can be exactly like a version of itself from another era. Each iteration will differ in some respects. Tobacco crops vary from year to year.
But this is as close to what you smoked when you were a teenager as you are ever going to get.
I'm fairly convinced that Arango got the recipe book, and that Germains was the best choice to manufacture the product.

Admittedly, the Latakia is not quite so creosote-rich as the Syrian stinko leaf from a generation ago. So that aspect will be a little different.
And before Gallagher laid their claws on it in the eighties, it was not so narrowly cut either, but I shall not quibble.
I do not recall it being so moist in the tin, however. That is a particular Germains touch, also noticable with their Royal Jersey Original Latakia Mixture.

[NOTE: Both cut and moisture level affect how it will taste in the pipe. The pre-Gallagher Balkan Sobranie was a slightly broader ribbon cut, and was not blended so wet. The visual effect was consequently more striking, showing off the contrasting hues, and a high moisture level 'dampens' some of the sharpness from bright tobacco. That Latakia was more sooty and smudgy back then probably made it lighter in weight too, so proportionally it would have had a difference in blending. These observations do not detract from the appeal of this current product, nor the pleasure at rediscovering the past, courtesy of Arango and Germain - both excellent companies.]

What Arango has brought back is good stuff.
It's revives corners of the mind.
Echoes and shimmering.

After a late lunch in Chinatown, I wandered down to the office smoking a bowl of Balkan Sobranie in an old Charatan. Let's just say that the day at that moment could not seem better, brighter, more beautiful. It was a splendid hour.
Actually the entire last two and a half days have been darned nice. Well, other than a fracas the other night in Chinatown, where glass was thrown and blood was flowed. That was a bit too educational. There are strange things in the air.
But since acquiring a few tins of Balkan Sobranie, my nose has been aquiver, there's a spring to my step, and lead in my pencil.
Or something. La la la.
Don't even mind the Blue Angels and their testicular excessities high in the skies over San Francisco. Fleet Week will be over soon enough, the macho display of precision fighter jet flying has ended, the ships and sailors will depart, the whores will go back to suburbia, and life will return to normal.
I have some tins of good tobacco. And there will be more.


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All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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