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Another new pipe tobacco range: Nording

Last week I taste tested a new range of pipe tobacco from a brand that is generally more associated with making pipes, rather than tobacco: Chacom. Strangely enough, this week we have more of the same. The Erik Nording brand is normally associated with making exquisite and unique pipes. As is also the case with Chacom, Nording is a small, family-run business. If you haven’t looked through the range of Nording Pipes before, I highly recommend at least having a glance through it, as they make some of the most striking, eye-catching and unusual pipes on the market. As I’ve suggested though, this week I’m not looking at the pipes, as – like Chacom – Nording have now made the leap into the world of pipe tobacco blending, with a modest but fulfilling range of three tobacco blends. So once again, it falls to me to give the new range a thorough taste test.

Erik’s Reserve

Erik’s Reserve gets the ball rolling in simple, classic style. It is a straight, no-frills “Fairly bright” Virginia Flake. That’s it; beautifully straightforward. The flake itself, while described as “Bright,” certainly has some darker flecks, but I’d agree that it falls just on the lighter side of the spectrum. The cold aroma is about what you’d expect from this type of tobacco, subtly sweet with a slight tanginess. What did stand out was how easily the flake rubbed down, I barely had to poke it with a finger before it was mostly crumbled. It also lit (and remained lit) exceptionally easily, straight from the tin, with no need for drying or any other prep.  Taste-wise, it’s also about you’d expect; slightly sweet and woody, developing a warm toasty character as the bowl progresses. That classic Virginia tang is also present. All in all, this flake probably isn’t going to surprise you, but it does what you expect of it in a very competent manner. Actually, I tell a lie; the ease of preparation might surprise you, as I found it striking enough to bring up twice in one paragraph…

 

Sea Weed

Next up we have Sea Weed. This takes us in a different direction as it is a traditional yet striking Scandinavian style aromatic tobacco. The tobacco blend is a mix of Virginia, Burley and Black Cavendish, with a “Caramel and Cream” casing. One thing that immediately struck me on opening the tin was just how pronounced the “Cream” element of the casing is. All too often, when tobaccos promise a cream flavour, it turns out to be a bit nothing-y; just a vague hint or a light tobacco that gives the impression of creaminess. However, I’ll be damned if this blend doesn’t actually smell and taste of cream. The caramel side of the casing pulls its weight equally well too, which when combined with the cream taste, gives a flavour similar to crème brulee. As far as the casing: tobacco taste ratio goes, I’d call this a textbook Scandinavian aromatic, as the casing is strong enough to be noticed, but not so strong that you can’t taste the tobacco. Perfect balance.

Tumbleweed

Finally, here is Tumbleweed. As with the Sea Weed, this is a traditional Scandinavian aromatic, but there’s something quite arresting about it. It starts fairly by the book, a mixture of Virginia, Burley and Black Cavendish, with a Vanilla casing. Classic, right? The reason I call this blend “arresting” is that the aromatic casing is surprisingly pronounced for a Scandinavian Style Aromatic. The blenders also describe a more floral element, along with the vanilla, but to me it all comes together to make something a bit different. This is especially noticeable in the cold aroma. In fact, from the second you unseal and unscrew the lid, the aroma immediately seeps out to entice anyone in the vicinity. This aroma lead to a debate between me and my colleague, Karen. My immediate thought on the aroma was chocolate sponge cake, while she thought it was more of a fruit cake. Either way, we could agree it was definitely very “Cakey.” Once lit, I found the taste to be a combination of chocolate and a gentle vanilla undertone. Once again, I found the casing to be surprisingly strong for a Scandi Aro – almost bordering on American Style – but I could just about taste the tobacco underneath.

So, that’s the small but intriguing range of tobacco from Erik Nording, yet another pipe manufacturer turning their skilled hands to producing pipe tobacco. All in all, I’d recommend this range. It does a lot in a small range and dares to wander outside the confines of tradition, which is always a plus for me!

-Calum

Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester

My A-Z of pipe tobacco

A is for Amphora

Another week in the A’s! Give it a few more and we might eventually hit the B’s. This week I’m looking at Amphora, a small but varied range, brought to us by MacBaren.

Amphora Full

Formerly known as “Full Aromatic,” this is a genuinely interesting blend. It has the base of a traditional English style aromatic (Virginia, Burley and Oriental/Turkish) but it also uses a surprisingly varied casing, with hints of chocolate and fruit with a slightly floral element. Pipe tobacco tends to sit in either one of these camps, so it’s very unusual to see a blend with a foot in both territories. The result is very satisfying. The cold aroma is very distinctive: deep, rich tobacco, invigorated by the fruitiness of the casing. It translates really nicely to the taste when burning too. The natural tobacco taste comes through very powerfully, which is a rarity in a cased blend. Again, the tobacco is rich, full-bodied and earthy with a slightly smoky edge. The casing doesn’t fight with this taste, it simply adds a slight puddingy sweetness to it. Overall, this blend has really surprised me (in a good way) as it uses casings in a way very few blends do, but with excellent results.

Amphora Special Reserve No.2

After quite an “Out there” start, we’re getting into more tried and tested territory with the Special Reserve No.2. It has its feet planted firmly in the aromatic side of the scale, with a blend of Virginia, Burley and Black Cavendish, topped with a “Ripe cherry” casing. While cherry is very familiar grounds for any aromatic pipe smoker, this blend takes it in an interesting direction by choosing a casing that isn’t “Black” cherry. This means it has a much more fresh and natural character, compared to Black Cherry, which is often extremely sweet and can sometimes stray into sickly sweet. The casing is clearly applied with restraint as it doesn’t totally dominate the blend, allowing for the quality of the tobacco to shine through amongst the sweetness. This is definitely one to try if you like cherries, but have found other cherry flavoured pipe blends not to be to your taste.

Amphora Original

After straying back to more traditional territory, the final blend I’m tasting goes straight back to the more unusual (but not totally unheard of) side of the tracks. It begins simply enough; a blend of Virginia, Kentucky, Burley and Oriental. So far, so normal; a traditional sweet, slightly spicy and smoky English style mixture. However, the interesting twist on this blend is the addition of a chocolate flavoured casing, not something you usually see in conjunction with “Spice” tobaccos. Like I said though, it’s not totally unheard of; Bob’s Flake from Gawith & Hoggarth goes for a similar concept.

While it might seem a little strange at first, I think it works really well. The chocolate is sweet but subtle, so it simply balances out some of the base blend’s intensity, rather than trying to override it. As the bowl progresses, the two types of flavour start to mingle beautifully, turning into a crisp, caramel type flavour, almost like burnt sugar/Crème Brulee. I feel they’ve also made a smart choice with the cut of the blend: It is a long, ribbon type cut, with pieces of what appears to be broken flake. This creates a very cool, slow burning mixture, which really allows the blend’s character to develop in a slow, tantalising manner.

All in all, this range has really pleasantly surprised me. Considering it only features three blends it manages to cover a lot of different bases, sometimes within the same blend in ways you might not expect. The blend names are quite unassuming, so I imagine a lot of people could have overlooked this range, not knowing the intriguing concepts that lie within the packaging (I definitely did.) If you’re in the same boat, I definitely recommend giving them a go, even if it’s just for a change of pace.

Next time… I’m still on the A’s but I think it’s the last one and then I can finally move onto the B’s!

-Calum – Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester.

New Pipe Tobacco Range: Chacom!

I have a rare but very welcome experience this week in Chester; a whole new range of pipe tobacco has just arrived. New individual pipe tobacco blends aren’t that common, so it’s especially exciting when we get a whole new range (and not just because It means I get the arduous task of taste testing it…)

This time our new arrival is from brand with whom you might already be familiar: Chacom. However, those who already know of Chacom will most likely associate them with their pipes, rather than pipe tobacco. Chacom (a portmanteau of “Chapuis-Comoy&Cie”) are a French pipe-maker from St. Claude with a well-earned reputation for making extremely high-quality pipes. They are a small, family-run company, with their current MD being the sixth generation to head the small team of 20 dedicated employees. After a storied history of pipe-making they have decided to throw their hat into the ring of tobacco blending, by launching an interesting and varied range of four tobacco blends. Naturally, that means it’s time for me to roll up my sleeves, fire up my pipe and get to taste testing!

While the range is small – featuring just four blends – Chacom have done a very good job of giving a wide range of blends a fair representation, with two natural/non-aromatic blends and two with casings, as well as a combination of three shags/ready rubbed mixtures and one flake.

Chacom No.1

Chacom are starting off their range with a traditional English mixture that confidently and competently hits all the right notes. It utilises broken Virginia and Black Cavendish for a comforting, naturally sweet base, with the broken flake style of Virginia allowing for a cool and slow burning smoke. Naturally, this wouldn’t be a true English Mixture without a little bit of added spice: this comes in the form of the classic combo of Oriental tobacco and Cypriot Latakia. As is often the case, this stands at the forefront of the blend’s flavour, giving it a rich, smoky taste with a slight hint of perfumey spiciness. However, they manage to nail the essential task of not letting these elements completely overshadow the other tobacco, but simply allowing each to enhance the character of the other. It is fairly strong, but not flooringly so, all in all a very well-balanced blend.

Chacom No.2

While it would’ve made sense for me to work through these blends in numeric/name order, I’ll be honest and say I couldn’t resist trying this one first after reading the description. This aromatic blend uses a base of “Various Virginia and broken Virginia” as well as Burley and Black Cavendish. All of these have been chosen for their natural sweetness, so as someone with a massive sweet tooth, it would have already really appealed to me. However, that’s not the thing that hooked me. That would be the casing: a “Delicious but subtle flavour of fruity yellow plum and sweet vanilla.” Right?! As someone who loves it when blends use slightly more “Out there” flavours that stray off the beaten path, I couldn’t resist a plum-based flavour. Man, I can tell you it does not disappoint. The tobacco itself is sweet, but subtle enough that the fruity flavour can shine and it does so beautifully. The taste and aroma with its sweet fruitiness and vanilla reminds me of a delicious comforting pudding, like fruit sponge (or maybe crumble?) with custard. Super warming and comforting but without being overwhelming or sickly. Definitely a potential all-day smoke and I can’t recommend it enough.

Chacom No.3

Chacom’s third blend is another sweetly cased aromatic. This time, they have gone for a mixture of double fermented Black Cavendish, golden and red Virginias and a small portion of Burley. This is topped with a “Bourbon Vanilla” flavour. The Black Cavendish makes up a large proportion of the blend which gives it an extremely smooth, creamy and slightly sweet flavour and the casing really amps up that sweetness, while still remaining pleasantly light. Personally, the aroma and flavour of the casing reminds me of honeycomb, with a satisfying crisp edge to the sweetness. It is definitely the sweeter of the two aromatic blends, but it manages this without being sickly. The room note is super enticing too; my colleague, Joss walked by while I was testing this one and he immediately asked for a bowl so he could also “Help me test it.” Always a promising sign…!

Chacom No.4

The final blend in the range, Chacom No.4 is a flake cut, Virginia and Perique combo. “VaPers” – as they are often referred to – are very popular among pipe aficionados, yet they are surprisingly uncommon (pure Virginia/Perique blends, that is, without other tobaccos mixed in too.) For some reason, Chacom have decided not to actually state that this is a flake cut tobacco on the tin, so it might come as a surprise to some people. I can’t see it being a huge issue though, as this is a masterfully made flake; fine and precisely cut, mid-brown in colour with some golden highlights and some smaller, dark patches. It rubs down very easily and is packaged at a perfect level of moisture content, so it is ready to be rubbed, loaded and lit straight out of the tin, with no need for drying. This makes it an ideal “First flake” for a curious new pipe smoker. For a Perique-driven blend, the flavour and aroma are surprisingly subtle, as the four-week cold-pressing process really gives the tobaccos time to marry and merge flavours. The Virginias have that classic sweet tang that develops a great toasty character as the bowl progresses, while the Perique adds an ever so subtle layer of fruit and spice to elevate it from a straight Virginia blend. As I’ve already said, this would make a great introduction to flake tobacco. However, now I’ve tested a few bowls, I can also say it would make a great introduction to Virginia/Perique blends (or just Perique-centred blends) in general.

So that’s the full range of Chacom’s new pipe tobacco blends. Overall, I’m impressed; In a small range they have managed to give even representation to a number of different types of blends and styles of presentation, while also offering something a little different from the standard varieties. Not only that, but they have done so with impressive competence for a completely new range. I’d strongly recommend trying them. If you can’t make up your mind on which to try first (and frankly, I wouldn’t blame you; even now, I’d struggle to pick a favourite) we offer all four in a sampler, so you can do your own taste test.

Amazingly, Chacom isn’t the only new range of pipe tobacco to launch recently, we have another brand new range to test, which I’ll be covering in my next blog. You’ll have to wait till then to see what it is though. Hope to see you there.

Calum

-Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester

MY A-Z OF PIPE TOBACCO

A (Again) is for AMERICAN BLENDS

Now that we’re gradually returning to (the new) normal, I’m getting back on track with the series I started I began before the craziness kicked off; my A-Z of Pipe Tobacco. Some letters are more popular than others, so it might be a little while until I move out of the A’s. So this week I’m carrying on with a very useful range to get to know: American Blends.

American Blends are a great place to start for new pipe smokers, especially those with a sweet tooth. While there is a wide range of flavours available, the range itself fits within a distinctive style. They are all extremely mild, tobacco-wise with a much larger emphasis on the casing/flavouring.  Naturally, this makes them great starter blends, right off the bat. However, as an added bonus, it can make it a lot easier to pick a blend, as you can base it around the flavours you know you already enjoy, such as Scotch Whisky or Vanilla.

They’re also what I’d like to call a “People pleaser,” in that the aroma given off when they burn is extremely pleasant and inviting. So if you’re ever around people who would normally complain about the smell of your pipe (along with the mandatory dramatic wafting of a hand, of course) try filling up with a bowl of one of these and you might be surprised by how quickly their tone changes.

Even though I’d recommend basically any of the range for a first timer (not to say they can’t be enjoyed by the more experienced too, of course) there are a couple that stand out as particularly popular:

Cherry & Vanilla

If you’ve ever read or watched any of the content I’ve made for this company, you’ll have almost certainly seen me talk about this blend. It’s my go-to recommendation when people are putting together a starter pack for pipe smoking. The cold aroma is absolutely delectable, very reminiscent of Christmas pudding, with a rich, fruity character and subtle creamy undertone from the vanilla. It’s slightly more subtle when smoked, but remains very tasty. It’s very rare for a customer to take a smell of this and then not immediately buy a portion.

Coffee Caramel

I may have said this range tends to fit a certain formula, but this is one that really stands out, as it is a jet-black mixture of tobacco. Some people mistakenly associate this with a higher strength tobacco, but that certainly isn’t the case here. It remains as mild as any of the other blends in this range, with a crisp, chocolatey edge, on top of the advertised coffee and caramel, with occasional hints of burnt sugar or crème brulee.

Those are pretty easy to wrap your head around at a glance. However, some aren’t as clear. So to finish off, here’s a quick breakdown of those blends which are named in a slightly more abstract manner:

American Delite:

As the name could suggest, this is a “best of” from the American Blends range: It boasts a combination of aromas, including chocolate, vanilla, caramel and a general fruity character.

Black & Brown

The name Black and Brown refers to the contrasting colours of tobacco in this blend. That’s not all it has to write home about though, as its casing offers notes of milk chocolate and syrupy, fermented fruits.

Ultimum

Ultimum is primarily a Cherry Cavendish blend, but that’s not all that it’s about. It also has slight hints of caramel to add sweetness to what can sometimes be a slightly tarte style of blend. Quite a few smokers have also commented on how easy it is to pack and light, which is always a pleasant added bonus.

That’s my rundown of the fantastic American Blends range. I’ll see you next time I carry on my A-Z with erm… another A.

-Calum

Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester

WE’RE BACK, BABY!

A quick aside from Calum:

So, full disclosure:  I started writing this blog around the end of March/start of April, before y’know… that THING happened. We remained open, but mostly focused on our massively increased demand for mail orders. It was insanely busy, so I didn’t have any time to sit and write, in order to finish that blog. It is now late June and things are starting to return to normal, so I’m picking the blog back up again. The first couple of paragraphs are from the abandoned March/April blog (with some dates/tenses changed a bit so it makes more sense) as it had some stuff in that I still want to say. The actual blog starts from the “ANYWAY.”

Wow. It’s amazing how much stuff can change in such a short period. I’m sure there isn’t a single person who (at the time of this blog going live) hasn’t felt that personally in some way over the last few months. Today’s topic was planned to basically be an extra addition to this blog that went live on Jan 31st 2020. So I read back through it to check I’m not repeating myself and couldn’t help an embarrassed, schadenfreude-filled laugh at my past self as I sit here now,  for lamenting that January 2020 had it already shaping up to be a rough year (with only the briefest reference to what I called a “scary virus.”) Oh, how naïve I was back then, if only I’d known what the next few months would hold.

Also, I don’t think I’ve actually said anything formally in any of my ramblings, but I sincerely hope everyone reading this is getting on OK, staying safe but most importantly, taking care of themselves, both physically and mentally. This is an insane and unprecedented period to be living through and it’s putting a lot of stress and pressure on all of us, but we’re all in this together and humans are a damn resilient species: we will get through this. If you are self-isolating, starting to get cabin-fever and want some digital company to chat about pipes or cigars or anything, please don’t hesitate to hit me up on twitter (@see_a_con.) Finally, I just want to give a massive shout out to all the key workers and essential service providers who have kept the country going through this madness, from NHS staff, to care workers, to supermarket workers and delivery drivers. You are the heroes who have kept us going through all of this and shown who among us is truly essential to keep this country going. Thank you all.

ANYWAY…

What’s happening on our end?

 Mushiness aside, we’re back to business as normal… ish. Naturally, our mail orders have been running round the clock, but our retail shops are now fully open to the public again too. Sadly, we still have a bit longer to wait before we can reopen our bars and sampling lounges (and start our sampling events up again.) but hopefully we’re nearing the end of the tunnel. Keep an eye on our various social media outlets for news and updates.

So, what’s new?

It’s peculiar, isn’t it? Due to “The situation,” even though it has been months since my last blog, there isn’t actually a huge amount new to talk about. However, there are a couple of things to report.

New Menthol Cigarillos?!

So, as I alluded to before, I was initially planning on writing about some additions to the options for menthol smokers, post menthol ban. These take the form of these interesting hybrids of cigarettes and cigarillos. They have the same filter and are roughly the size of a cigarette, but are wrapped in a tobacco leaf, so they are classed as cigarillos, rather than cigarettes. Now, here’s the kicker: due to the fact they’re technically cigarillos, they aren’t under the rules of cigarettes, so they can (and do) have a menthol capsule in them. If you are particularly adverse to cigarillos, but miss menthol cigarettes, there is even a thin layer of paper under the tobacco leaf, so you could potentially peel it off to make it even more like a cigarette. TBH though, it’s very fiddly and the paper is extremely thin, so it’s not very much like a cigarette and is more effort than it’s worth IMO, especially as they’re perfectly fine as a normal cigarillo. So far, two options are available:  Signature Dual Green and Sterling Dual Capsule.

“New” Cuban UK Regional Edition

Arriving fashionably late, the Gloria Cubana Britanica Extra was initially destined for release in 2017 but after multiple delays, it finally arrived Mid 2020. It is an extremely uncommon shape, based on the 2012 Bolivar Regional edition, named simply the “Britanica.” but two ring gauges larger, hence the “Extra” suffix. The Britanica style is extremely distinctive; it is a 5 3/8” x 48 vitola, pointed at both ends, similar to a perfecto, but with a far more open foot that still remains as pointed as possible. This makes for an easier light and draw, while retaining as many of the unique characteristics of the perfecto/double figurado format as possible. La Gloria Cubana itself is a rarely used blend in the UK, so any addition to its portfolio is a big plus in my book. As with any Regional Editions, they are only available in limited quantities, so don’t miss your chance to try them.  Expect roughly an hour of burn time, with medium bodied notes of wood and leather with a slight sweetness in the final third.

So, that’s us all caught up, I hope. I should be going back to weekly blogs, articles and videos going forward.

Until then: All the best and stay safe out there!

-Calum – Store Manager @ Turmeaus @ LCDH Chester

My A-Z of pipe tobacco

Week 1: A is for Alsbo

As I’ve said a whole bunch of times, there’s an insane amount of pipe tobacco brands available, even with the UK’s notoriously strict limits on what is available. The choice is daunting and it can be difficult to even decide where to start. So over the coming weeks and months (maybe even years… like I said: there’s a LOT of choice) I’m going to be going through the available brands of tobacco in alphabetical order and looking at each one in a little more depth, along with reviews of some of their blends (or all of them, if they only have a few.)

So, I’m kicking it off with “The remarkable Dane:” Alsbo.

As their tagline -The Remarkable Dane – implies, Alsbo is a Scandinavian style, aromatic range. Stylistically, Scandinavian Aros differ slightly from American ones and massively from English ones. English aromatics are usually more full bodied and powered by “Spice” tobaccos, such as Latakia and Perique. American Aromatics meanwhile, are much milder tobacco-wise and use flavoured “casings” to achieve a specific taste and aroma, such as vanilla or various fruit. On this scale, Scandinavian aromatics are much closer to American ones, in that they use casing rather than spices, but they tend to go a little lighter on the casing. This results in a more subtle taste that also allows the natural taste of the tobacco to shine through. Alsbo is a great representation of this style and they have been producing tobacco and refining their skills for over one hundred years.  Their range features three blends: Black, Sungold (Vanilla) and Ruby (Cherry.)

Alsbo Sungold (Vanilla)

Tobacco: Bright and orange Virginias and “Super mild” orange Black Cavendish.

I’ll probably say this a million times over the course of my life, but there’s something about the combination of tobacco and vanilla that just works and Alsbo Sungold is no exception. However, the risk with such a successful combo is an increased chance of getting lost amongst the competition when there are so many options available. Alsbo must be doing something right though as they have always stood out as one of the more popular vanilla-based options for pipe smokers. For me, the thing that makes them stand out is their unique choice of extremely mild tobaccos, which means they can also use a deliciously delicate vanilla casing, without risk of losing the taste under the flavour of the tobacco. When so many cased tobaccos just bombard your sweet tooth, the fact Sungold uses a more subtle and crisp vanilla flavour, combined with mild and ever so slightly sweet tobacco, really helps it stand out from the bustling crowd.

Alsbo Black

Tobacco: Cavendish and Black Cavendish

Even before we (as a nation) had to swap to using colour-coded names to describe flavours, Alsbo Black was always called Alsbo Black. So it has never actually been named by an “official” flavour. So, what is it? In an interesting choice, the casing used for Alsbo Black is… Vanilla… again. OK, OK, I’m being slightly facetious here, as the original packaging description lists Black as having a “Vanilla and Hazelnut” casing. So, it isn’t just the same flavour again, but it’s always struck me as a slightly odd choice. Just to add to the oddness; despite the name, Alsbo Black is primarily a mid-brown colour, with flecks of black throughout, in a relatively fine-cut shag. All concerns about weirdness (not that I mind things being weird, personally, I’m all about that) will immediately go up in smoke when lighting a bowl (GEDDIT?!)  however, as this blend is both delicious enough and different enough from Sungold just justify its eccentricities. The extra elements to the casing give it a much deeper, richer taste than the Sungold, while still being reserved enough to not compromise the tobacco taste. It also has a nice amount of room for the flavour to develop as you smoke and it sometimes starts to veer into cream and caramel territory; sweet and satisfying but never sickly. The fine cut of the shag also makes it extremely easy to light and keep lit; perfect as an all-day puffer.

Alsbo Ruby

Tobacco: Black Cavendish, Burley, Gold Virginias

The only thing that is on the same level of popularity as a tobacco flavour as vanilla is cherry. So, it should come as no surprise that Alsbo’s third and final flavour option is cherry. As is the case with Sungold, Alsbo have once again achieved the seemingly impossible by having a cherry flavour that stands out as popular in such a hotly contested position. Once again, they achieve this by taking the road less travelled. Most cherry flavour tobacco blends tend to go down the tried and tested “Black Cherry” route: A very sweet and rich type of cherry flavouring, like you might find in a bake well tart or similar. Alsbo Ruby, on the other hand, goes for a much more fresh and tangy version of cherry, making for a more refreshing and less sickly smoke. Definitely worth a try, especially if you already know you like cherry blends but fancy a change of pace.

So all in all, I’d say Alsbo is a great representative for the Scandinavian style of aromatic tobacco, while simultaneously having enough individual character to make it stand out from the competition. Well worth a try, either as in introduction to the style or as a change of pace from similar blends. If you pick up a packet, don’t forget: we love to hear what you think, so drop a review in the comments or via social media!

-Calum

Store manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester

Pipe accessories and everything a new pipe smoker would need

Pipe smoking can be quite daunting when you start out as it can seem like there is an enormous amount of kit that is required to get you going. Once you have your set up sorted, pipe smoking is very economical, compared to cigars and cigarettes. However, it helps to know what you should prioritise when building your kit; what is absolutely necessary, what is useful and what is nice to have, but not vital. So today, I’ll be breaking down the various smoker’s accoutrements into these categories.

THE ESSENTIAL

As the title implies, these are the bits that you really can’t go without. Excuse me for stating the obvious (multiple times) but I’d like this article to be as comprehensive as possible.

Pipes

I mean… I don’t really need to elaborate on why a pipe is necessary for pipe smoking, do I? So, I’m not going to dwell on this part too much. However, I will put a shout out for some of our budget pipes, which are ideal for newcomers to the hobby. They’re a “Proper” wooden pipe, but you’re not spending a massive amount of money just to test the water. I’ve known far too many people who go for an extremely cheap pipe from eBay or a non-specialist shop, which turns out to be made of plastic with a metal bowl insert. Let’s just say these sorts of pipe are intended for stuff other than tobacco… and will probably shine an unfairly negative light on smoking pipes and possibly put people off for good. You’re much better off spending the few extra quid to get a proper wooden pipe from a specialist, which will give a much fairer representation of pipe smoking.

Tobacco

As with the above, this should go without saying. Once again, however, there are some that I’d particularly recommend for first timers. I usually suggest starting off with American Style tobaccos, such as American Blends or Century (also available as a sampler) as the tobacco itself is usually quite mild with a more prominent flavouring, so it can be easier to choose a blend, based on flavours you know you like already.

Pipe Cleaners

Now we’re moving into the slightly less obvious territory. While they might seem obvious to some, it’s surprising how often people overlook pipe cleaners when kitting themselves out. I don’t know if it’s because people sometimes forget this is their actual purpose, thinking of them as more of an arts and crafts item but it definitely happens more than you might expect (I blame Blue Peter and Art Attack.) In fact, I always remember the time a housemate (who knew I smoked a pipe) genuinely asked me why I had a pack of pipe cleaners. After realising she wasn’t joking, I said “Erm… To clean my pipes..?” and I saw the realisation in her eyes as it hit her. I dunno… I think some people think the “Pipe” part of the name refers to a different sort of pipe, or something.

Seriously though, I can’t understate how important pipe cleaners are when you first get a pipe. For how amazing pipe smoking can taste, it’s impressive just how foul it can become in comparison if the pipe hasn’t been cleaned for a while. Once a pipe gets dirty there is NOTHING that will clean them, other than pipe cleaners (there’s an option for additional cleaning, but I’ll get to that later.) There are various styles of cleaners available for different types of pipes, including slim ones for small pipes or longer ones for churchwardens. However, for simplicity, if you have a vaguely normal pipe, I recommend going for the tapered variety as they as designed to fit most sizes of pipe.

THE VERY USEFUL

Now we’re onto the things that you could technically manage without, or substitute for other things, but life will be much easier with them.

Pipe lighters

What makes a pipe lighter a pipe lighter? Put simply, it is just a regular lighter that has been adapted so the flame comes out horizontally, rather than vertically. This means you can aim the flame for the pipe bowl, with less risk of it licking back up and burning your thumb. Very handy, but you could theoretically still use a regular lighter, you just have to be more careful. A specialised pipe lighter is definitely the way to go for simplicity.

Smokers’ tools/knives

The Swiss Army Knife for smokers. Smokers’ tools/knives come with a variety of accessories on them, but consistently feature a couple of useful tools for pipe smokers. The most universal is a tamper, simply a flat, wide metal “head” of sorts, that is used to compress the ash at the top of your bowl as you smoke. The second and more variable tool is usually either a blade or a “Shovel” so to speak. More elaborate smokers’ tools usually have the blade (and are generally called “Smokers’ knives”) whereas the more budget friendly ones tend to have the shovel (and are usually just called “Smokers’ tools/companions.” Both are handy for helping to empty out any leftover tobacco at the end of a bowl and the knife variety can also be used for slicing Plug Tobacco and removing excess “Cake” on your bowl, more on that shortly…* Both can technically be replaced by anything metal that you don’t mind getting scuzzy from pipe ash (personally, if I don’t have a tool handy I use an old key that I have had on my keyring forever and long since forgotten what it opens… we all have one of those, right?) but it is much better to have a designated tool.

Pipe Reamers

*…and by shortly, I mean right now,

Over time and with normal usage, you should notice a layer of carbon building up on the inside of your pipe’s bowl. This is known as the “Cake” (not a lie) and in small amounts, cake is good. A universal truth, naturally, but it is also true when referring to a pipe’s cake, as it can help with the burn. However, left unattended, cake will continue to build up until you can barely fit anything into your bowl. This is where reamers come in handy. You simply push them down into your bowl and twist (I’m simplifying slightly, but that’s the gist) and they’ll gradually break down and remove the cake. It is possible to do this with a sharp knife and a steady hand, but you have to be extremely careful or you risk cutting yourself or worse: the inside of your pipe bowl!

THE BONUS

This final section features items that really aren’t technically necessary, but can add a bit of extra pleasure or convenience to the hobby of pipe smoking.

Pipe/tobacco  pouches

As this article has hopefully made abundantly clear: Pipe smoking comes with a lot of paraphernalia! As such, it can be handy to have a pouch for keeping everything in one place when you’re on the go. Pouches vary from simple ones that just store tobacco  to elaborate, multi-compartmented beasts, with enough pockets to store tobacco, multiple pipes and all the accessories you’ll need.

Pipe cleaning spray

When you need your pipe to be that extra level of clean, you can get Falcon Cleaning Spray. Technically designed for Falcon pipes, but it can be used for any wooden pipe. Just spray a bit into your bowl, let it sit, clear it out and then leave your pipe to air for little while before smoking, for the cleanest possible experience.

Extra Filters

Some pipes come with a space in the stem for inserting a filter. However, there are additional filters (or similar things that probably aren’t technically filters, but it’s the closest comparison so I’m going to lump them together here) that can be used, regardless of whether the pipe is technically a “Filter pipe” or not. These include chalk filters and stones that are placed at the bottom of a pipe bowl to absorb excess moisture for a dryer smoke and Dri-kules: little mesh baskets that also sit at the bottom of the bowl and prevent the tobacco from sitting in the moisture at the bottom of the bowl, also giving a dryer, cleaner smoke.

I think that’s covered all the “Basics” (and some things beyond that) so if you’re looking at the seemingly endless array of accessories for pipe smoking and don’t know where to start, I hope it helps you get an idea of what to prioritise!

-Calum

Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester

Why we love C. Gars pipe tobacco samplers

Why we love C. Gars pipe tobacco samplers

Whether you’re a new pipe smoker or an experienced puffer on the hunt for something new, the range of pipe tobacco is simply mindboggling with hundreds of different tobaccos available. That’s why pipe tobacco samplers are such a handy idea; rather than committing to a full 50g tin or pouch, only to find you might have preferred something else in the end, you can get a small selection of different tobaccos to try a bunch of different ones for the same price.

So this week, I’m looking at the benefits of samplers, while highlighting a few I particularly like.

A nice entry point

As I mentioned, starting off as a new pipe smoker can be quite intimidating when it comes to choosing which tobacco to start off with. While any number of samplers can be used to give yourself a smattering of options and remove the guesswork, there are some that are especially geared towards this purpose. Our Beginners Lucky Dip sampler is a great place to start, as it will provide you with everything you need to get started, as well as four different, randomly selected tobaccos. Perfect for getting yourself started or as a gift for a friend who has shown interest in your pipe smoking but doesn’t know where to begin.

An air of mystery (as an added bonus)

A bit of a surprise is always fun, isn’t it? That’s why we have a range of “Mystery” samplers, where the tobacco included is a total surprise. Some of Liam’s samplers, such as the Mystery Tobacco/Peterson 101 pouch or the Churchwarden and pouch lucky dip bundle in some mystery tobaccos with some other items. So if you’re in the market for a new pipe or tobacco pouch, why not add an extra bit of fun and get yourself a few new random blends to try.

(Side note: I’ve just looked at the details for the Liam’s Churchwarden sampler and that thing is insane! A churchwarden pipe, a pouch and 5 x 10g portions of tobacco for under £40? Liam, have you gone crazy?!)

As an extra bit of fun (If, for example, you had to remain indoors for an extended period and were slowly losing your mind… not that it’s overly likely, of course, hoho) you could put your palate to the test and see if you could identify the mystery tobacco from smell and taste alone.

A way to try custom blends

You’ve probably seen/heard/read me banging on about this a bunch of times, so I’ll be brief. I used to love making custom blends for our shops or putting together a personal blend for one of our customers. Sadly, that all went down the drain when new laws came in a few years ago. However, thanks to samplers, we’re able to keep the spirit of custom blends alive. You can now buy a sampler that contains all the ingredients in the required amounts for you to simply mix together at home. At present, we only do the one: my very own Christmas pudding blend, but if enough people go for it (Hint hint!) we will look at adding more in the future.

Broadening your Horizons

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of only smoking one or two blends that you really like. After all, like I said earlier, it’s totally understandable that you don’t want to risk ending up stuck with 50g of tobacco that you don’t really like. So rather than taking that risk, you can try a sampler featuring a selection of blends in small, risk-free 10g portions. You could either roll the dice with one of the aforementioned mystery blends or try a selection from a specific brand, if you’re interested in a particular one, such as Jess’s Samuel Gawith Sampler or Lewis’s Century Sampler.

So that’s why we love our samplers, as always: I hope that’s given you some ideas!

-Calum – Store Manager @ Turmeaus Chester

Vaguely Quarantine related blog

Well… It’s been an interesting couple of weeks, hasn’t it!? It looks like it’s only going to get more interesting. I know we’re all sick (great choice of words, Cal) of the influx of “Here’s our plan for COVID-19” emails from every company we’ve ever given our email address to, so I’m not going to dwell on that too much. Suffice to say, we’ll be here until we basically get forced not to be. If we do get forced to close the retail shops, we will try to keep things running on the mail order side and for customers in the local area to our Chester store, we should hopefully be able to do local deliveries in the Tur-mobile (our company van

It’s hard to tell what situation we’ll be in at the time this goes live, but at the time of writing we’ve just had the PM’s announcement to avoid social gatherings and non-essential travel. So, there’s a reasonable chance you could be reading this either while working from home or under some kind of self-isolation circumstances. Now, I’m very much an “every cloud” type chap, so let’s have a look on the bright side and have a look at some XXL cigars that can be enjoyed, now that we have some extra me time and can spend slightly longer with cigars than we usually could. Yes, that is my tenuo

us link to tie current events into cigars and tobacco. Hell, it was either this or “My top 5 Coronas,” but that seemed in pretty bad taste…

Sancho Panza Sanchos

I’m not messing around this week; I’m going straight in with one of the biggest Havanas available. The “Sancho Sancho” is a Gran Corona Vitola, which means it shares the famous Churchill format’s 47 ring gauge (a big enough cigar in and of itself). However, at 9 ¼ inches long, the Sancho Sancho towers above the 7” Churchill. As a bonus, many of the Sancho Sanchos I’ve seen have been from 1999, so are extremely well aged, but even the younger ones tend to have at least 15 years ageing on them, which has really allowed the semi-sweet, woody blend to shine.  You’ll need to allow at least 2-3 hours to let this cigar gradually and sumptuously reveal its flavours to you, but man, it’ll be a good 2-3 hours!

CLE Asylum cigars

As the name implies, these cigars are a little bit insane. While the previous entry shows Havana cigars aren’t afraid to reach out into large sizes, New World cigars are a whole, well… New world. The CLE Asylum range are classic Nicaraguan cigars, with dark, oily wrappers and a powerful blend, with notes of strong espresso and a fiery spiciness simmering just below the surface. Among others, they feature two eyebrow raising cigars; the 7” x 70 Hercule and the 6” x 80 Goliath. To be safe, I’d clear a good three hours for either of these cigars.

Alec Bradley Texas Lancero

Everything’s bigger in Texas! This is one of the tried and tested “Extreme” sized cigars. Rather than coming from a company exclusively makes borderline comedically sized cigars, the Texas Lancero is made by Alec Bradley, one of the best regarded and most popular New World Cigar makers. So you know this isn’t just a novelty cigar, it is a true, premium hand made cigar, that just so happens to be over an inch in diameter! Featuring a combination filler from Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica, this hefty cigar is rich and complex, but manages to maintain a cool smoke, even in its final third, which is impressive, considering its intimidating gauge.

Honourable mention for Pipe Smokers: Mr Brog – Mason

Just so the pipe smokers don’t feel left out, here’s one of our biggest pipes! With a bowl that stands at nearly 10cm tall, Mr. Brog’s Mason pipe can take an enormous amount of tobacco, that you can puff away at for hours!

I hope that’s given some ideas for anyone who is quarantined or self-isolating! Stay safe out there, people!

-Calum

Store Manager @Turmeaus & LCDH Chester

Some things to look forward to… Finally

As I write this, still slightly damp from the sleety rain that bombarded me when I nipped out for lunch,  I can’t help but reflect jealously on C.Gars’ own Mitchell and Roy, whom – if you follow us on social  media – I’m sure you have seen are hard at work out in Cuba, for the annual Habanos  Festival. This is where upcoming Havana releases are announced and sampled, so as solace to those of us still shivering in the UK, I thought I’d give a quick run down of what we can expect to arrive out of Cuba soon.

Romeo y Julieta Linea D’oro

Romeo y Julieta celebrates its 135th birthday this year and to mark the occasion they are releasing a brand-new line; Linea D’Oro (Gold Line.) This will feature three brand new sizes, all of which will be trend-friendly, heavy gauge offerings. Look forward to seeing the Dianas (5 11/16” x 52,) The Hidalgos (4 15/16” x 57) and The Nobles (a 5 5/16” x 56 Figurado.) A significant thing to note here: the 57 gauge Hidalgos will be the heaviest gauge Havana to be available in regular production (previously, we haven’t seen anything above a 56 gauge outside of Edicion Limitadas and even then: only very occasionally.) The Nobles will also be the heaviest gauge figurado Havana to date.  I’ve always been a big fan of heavy gauge Romeos, so I’m very excited to see this chunky trio arrive in the UK.

New LCDH & Havana Specialist Lines

Montecristo are also releasing a new cigar to celebrate a milestone birthday (their 85th anniversary.) So, they are releasing the Herederos; an elegant 6 3/8 x 47 offering. This shares a ring gauge with the legendary Julieta No.2 (More famously known as The Churchill) format, but is just over half an inch shorter. These will be exclusive to Habanos Specialists (which all Turmeaus establishments are) and Casa del Habanos.

Speaking of La Casa del Habanos; the franchise turns 30 this year so a new LCDH Exclusive is being released. Funnily enough, the Juan Lopez brand is celebrating a milestone birthday, their 150th. So, the new LCDH exclusive, the 6 11/16” x 52 Juan Lopez Seleccion Especial is being released as a joint celebration of the two occasions.

…and even more:

We can also look forward to seeing the following:

Partagas Tropicales (6 7/8” x 54) 175th anniversary humidor

Bolivar Belicosos Finos Reserva (Cosecha 2016)

Hoyo de Monterrey Primaveras (6 9/16” x 48)

And the first announced 2020 Edicion Limitada: The Partagas Legado (6 3/16” x 48)

So that’s everything we have to look forward to. Just remember the old adage of this trade; “This is Cuba…”  As any regular cigar smoker knows, Cuban cigar releases run on a particularly erm… “Laid back” time scale, so we might not see all of these cigars this year… or next year, but they’re on their way. Which are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments or via our Social Media outlets.

Personally, I’m always down for a new, heavy gauge Romeo, so the Linea D’oro is very exciting. I’ve also never had a Partagas Edicion Limitada that I didn’t love, so I can’t wait to try the Legado.

-Calum

Store Manager @ Turmeaus & LCDH Chester.