Monday, February 20, 2012


Brash young boys and elderly roués smoke strong Latakia mixtures or Turkish blends. Scholars and well-bred young ladies, however, vastly prefer good solid Virginia flakes.
I am somewhere in between youthful brashness and aged rake - where exactly depends on my mood - but there are also times when the pressed flue-cured tobaccos hold my attention.
For the past four months I have smoked a fair amount of such.
Particularly products manufactured under the Rattray name.

Charles Rattray of Perth made four stellar Virginias which have become standards, and which have attracted fans for generations.
It is not known how many of those aficionados were intelligent little women with sharp intellects.
One suspects rather an awful lot.
Those that didn't smoke Rattrays may have instead preferred Samuel Gawith, but Rattrays was nevertheless a standard in their universe.
One or two of them may have loaded their pipes with a navy flake, but they were just asking for trouble.
Probably liked dark twist and shag tobacco too.
Some people are eccentric.

Even today, here in San Francisco, there are probably numerous bright-eyed bespectacled misses who keep a canister or two of Charles Rattray's fine leaf in a desk drawer, to be stealthily enjoyed while their older sisters are out of the house or their parents are asleep.
When all is quiet, and the rest of the family has gone off to that dreary clan-association banquet at the large restaurant on Pacific Avenue near Stockton Street, they pull a favourite book from the shelf, fill a bent sandblast with tobacco, and settle down in the battered wicker chair behind the pantry for a good long read.
One match. Puff. Tamp.
Ah, heaven!

Let us explore the tobacco preferences of brilliant demoiselles in the descriptions below.


Broken flake.
Slightly comparable to Escudo and McConnel's Scotch Cake, earthy with a fruity tin aroma.
Hints of molasses and chocolate due to a Kentucky leaf addition, low level of Perique.
Clean and rich, if puffed slowly. It is mellow, and a good solid smoke.
Leaves one a bit light headed if too much is smoked.
Renders to a fine white ash.


Long folded strips of pressed tobacco.
When fully rubbed it provides a soft smooth smoke with considerable character.
Not really similar to McClelland's or McBarens products, though some have drawn comparisons, possibly because a prune - plum - fruitcake redolence.
Mixed mostly dark and flecks of bright. Toasty, tangy, slightly tart.
A milder flavour than Hal O' The Wynd, but seemingly more nicotine.
One can smoke a full deep bowl, or two pipes in succession.


Ready rubbed brown flake.
Semi-sweet, spicy and toasty. Reminiscent of good black tea, with a natural aroma of fresh-mown hay and summer fruits.
Delicately spicy. A fine Virginia (perhaps with a touch of Kentucky?), and a mighty good introduction to its class.
Burns easily, requiring little thought. Soft and smooth, simple and straightforward for the most part .
There is a slight darkness near the end of the bowl, a hint of hidden complexity and character.


Ready-rubbed Red Virginia flake.
Presents a spectrum somewhere in between peaty, fruity, herbal, and earthy.
Zesty and complex, but with a straightforwardly satisfying quality. This is a tobacco that has both brightness and a very likable character.
In many ways the most old-fashioned of the lot, with a beguiling room-note.
Probably the one which this smoker will open up again and again.

The type of young lady who smokes any one of these four products probably also has a favourite tea cup and saucer. Maybe willow pattern, if she has a sense of irony, or a lovely mille-fleur for the sparkly type, even plain ivory glaze with a blue line around the rim café style, or celadon for a sense of summer.
Her tastes are neither loud nor brash, and she tends toward quietness.
What's certain, however, is that she is unique among her friends and kin, and does not read the same books or pursue the same interests.
An independent type, of considerable character.
Charming, attractive, but self-contained.
Keen, strong-minded, and resolute.
Someone worth knowing.

NOTE: a few years ago I spoke ill of Kohlhase & Kopp in Germany who now manufacture the Rattrays product line, based on bad experiences with some of their products. Since then I have been quite favourably impressed. Not only by their approach to Charles Rattray's legacy, also by other horses in their stable.
Consequently I must take back what I said then.
It was undeserved.


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


Anonymous said...

I LOVE Marlin Flake. Smoked a bowl last night. I also enjoy Old Gowrie. After reading your reviews of the others, I'm going to place a tobacco order directly.


doc said...

I'm a fan of Brown Clunee and Old Gowrie. A big fan of Marlin Flake, it even usually finds its way on my top five, a permanent resident on the top ten. Although dear, I enjoy a lot of the Rattray's straight, (untopped), blends.
Enjoyed your reviews.
BTW, I too lived on the back of a hill in the Bay Area whilst attending Berkeley. In the mid 70s, I lived just down the wooden staircase on the Bay side of Coit Tower, on Filbert in SF. Between playing music, Cal, and UCSanta Cruz, I lived around the Bay Area, from San Jose to the hills on the way to UCSC, (Go Banana Slugs!), and I consider it my second home town, although I haven't been down for some years due to a disability.
Nice to run into a pipe smoker who loves the Bay. Keep up the fine work.

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