| One of the
most exciting things to ever emerge in the RYO arena was the ability to produce a
periodical that substantially exists in real time. There is little or no time lag between
conception, execution and distribution. No waiting for printing presses and no fear that
something vital has been left out and must remain absent until the next issue goes to
print. This current issue will be the culmination of 20 years of publication. It may well
be my last. There is always good news and bad but of all the things in life that interest
me, I have found the world of RYO to be among the most fascinating. Now, of course, such
is life in general and accordingly, so too is it for the world of tobacco enthusiasts.
Many things have happened in the last few months regarding the initial focus of this cover
article. While we will go into great detail in the EDITORIAL section
about the many SERIOUS issues that face our relationship with the
Internet itself, one major event has occurred that should strike at the very heart of
all of those involved within the RYO industry. But for now, we will explore the
fascinating subject of the FULL CIRCLE, a Reality
that is finally happening as I write this.
I have been convinced that the Full Circle of the highest quality RYO ever seen would come back around, and even better than ever, though I honestly did not expect it to take 20 YEARS. When I started this magazine in the year 2000, I felt convinced way back then that once people tried really amazingly superior tobacco, placed in tubes of their choosing, dwarfing the quality and significance of even the finest premanufactured brand, that this concept would be the way everyone who chose to smoke would eventually enjoy smoking, and it would be possible for purveyors of sheer excellence to do quite well financially as well. Having first been introduced to RYO, or Custom Made Cigarettes, a term I have used consistently for over two decades, the story begins.
The Full Circle actually started for me in about 1996-98. when Costco, who used to sell a generic brand of smokes referred to as Bonus Value in Alaska where I lived at the time, stopped selling them. These, though a heavily discounted brand, were among the finest cigarettes I had ever smoked and a lot less expensive than Marlboros. Although I had no need to shop for Cheap, I found them to be much better than any brand name cigarette I had ever tried including, of course, Marlboros.
The Circle actually begins in the mid-80s and early 90s when Peter Stokkebye, a good friend, and a true icon of the rolling tobacco industry, certainly at least in the US, began bringing rare rolling tobaccos from around the world into the US. Peter with 4 generations of pipe tobacco history in his family in Denmark, knew it was time to show American smokers the vast possibilities of what a truly dedicated maker of tobacco blends could accomplish for the cigarette smoker. We did several biographical sketches on Peter and his Stokkebye company over the years, and his presence has been felt in every issue of this magazine. Most prominent was a biography in one of the first issues of RYO Magazine of Peter, as well as an interesting three-way conversation between Peter, Arnold Kastner, founder of the Clinton Tube Company (CTC) and whose family who were the original makers of the first Supermatic injectors, and myself in issue 1 where we explored the future of RYO/MYO in the US. Needless to say, it was an intriguing moment for myself and for all concerned, including those readers who happened to stumble upon the first issue of the magazine. Peter, Arnold and I began a journey rich with attention and rewards as few have enjoyed. The readership of RYO Magazine soared.
Now the most interesting thing began very quickly to happen. Not only did the readership of RYO Magazine grow exponentially and with amazing speed, but it also spoke very loudly of people's frustration with the quality that their cigarettes had been degraded. RYO tobacco was available at that time, but mostly in more European flavors such as pretty heady Halfzwares and, except for a few Oriental (Turkish strains to be more specific) which while very mild and wonderful tasting tobaccos (depending on your palette), were simply not what most American smokers were used to. Of course, with the exception of a really small handful of connoisseurs and fairly aristocratic smokers who had, by one way or another, become familiar with truly ultra high quality tobacco, this tobacco, though available to a degree, was not common in the American marketplace, except of course for high-end tobacco shops where name brand American cigarettes were seldom sold. There was a certain snob appeal to smoking this tobacco and, though it was more expensive than say a Marlboro, it was truly pure tobacco. In fact, just tobacco and water, a marketing tools phrase that is beginning to show up in the advertising of better cigarettes like Sherman's, Dunhills, Davidoffs, and a few European exceptions like Treasurer (some at nearly $50 a pack.). However, those superior brands are not even close to the tobacco were going to discuss today. The Full Circle is now complete. From the early beginnings of Peter Stokkebye to a visionary man by the name of John Roscoe, the circle from good to bad to exquisite is now intact. And here it comes.
Namely, the Elegant Brand. And the Elegant BRAND is a complete system as well. Peter, if he had lived long enough (although 75+ years is damn good), perhaps would have come up with such a system or at least the incredible tobacco that crowns this massive achievement. But alas, we had to wait nearly 20 years for another human to take the step. And what a step it was. The man's name is John Roscoe. John, though known much for Cheap Tobacco and Cheap Gas stations and Cheap markets, is a study both in duality and more importantly in a humans' willingness to grow. Now I've only known John for a few years, though I was aware of his products for many more. His take on the word Cheap could just as likely and more properly fashioned the word VALUE as well, as his goals in life and as a business man ran much truer to the path of value rather than mere cheapness. He was honestly concerned for the little guy and marketed various goods, including tobacco, under that appellation. His desires both financial and political went even deeper. He was successful for so many years (and still is) because of his concern for the consumer, whom he felt too often got the short end of the stick because of mass marketing practices at the cost of value. I could write many books on the deeds this man has accomplished, but instead I'll let his idea for the finest cigarette anyone will ever smoke speak for itself. He was not a smoker. He instead observed smokers and felt the pain they went through due to the diminishing quality of products, including tobacco, and especially packaged cigarettes and made it his life's work (actually a renaissance man with many, many interests) to reveal the inequities suffered by just about everyone at one time or another and set about balancing the table. Yeah, he made money for sure, but few would claim he did so without taking the good of the people as his first premise.
But enough about John. His real contribution to the subject at hand is the finest tobacco I have ever smoked, PERIOD. He has made it possible for anyone to hand craft the finest cigarette ever produced. That is a very big thing and here is how he did it. He started with the concept known to most roll your own patrons of being in control of the production of one's own smokes and I mean total control. He contacted the top expert in tobacco selection (there is none better) and gave him the task of making the finest tobacco blend ever produced. Now this isn't marketing hype. The tobacco (being the most important part of the process) is unmatched. It is extremely mild with a rich natural flavor, and burns superbly and evenly. It is pure gold. He didn't stop there. He knew one would have to craft their own cigarettes from the purest of tobaccos with tools that would make it possible to create sticks of unmatched quality both in flavor and in construction. He sought various manufacturers with impeccable reputations, both from within and outside the tobacco industry, for equipment that would honor the tobacco that would be used. He gave the job of creating a shredder to be manufactured by a man who has shown his genius in making machines. This shredder is a nearly 50 pound beast that runs almost silently and shreds larger cuts of tobacco like nothing I have ever seen. A pound a minute and perfect strands. He bundles with the package the finest electronic injector ever made, Zico's Incredible Powermatic 3. He sells the tobacco in 10+ pound bags to lessen the tax burden for the consumer. He provides a humidifier system (the Boveda Packaged humidty packs) and tubes that are absolutely as fine as the finest Vera Cruz brand (made by the same company as the Vera Cruz, of course). He provides high quality, elite looking, heavy duty cigarette boxes (packs if you will) to put your smokes in, as well as a large plastic tub (also heavy duty plastic) to hold your immaculately packaged tobacco, (again 10+ pounds of it) wrapped in a thick gold mylar plastic bag that then is packed in a beautiful thick display box to insure the tobacco inside will last a very long time. Years, if truth be told.
But with all the heavy duty equipment you get, it is still the tobacco that really makes the magic. He would not even tell me the master blenders name, which is now a trade secret. The man is a genius and the blend has the rare character of extreme mildness and wonderful rich flavor that only is possible with extended aging sessions over long periods of time. The result is the finest cigarette I have ever smoked with nary an even close second. This is a game changer for all smokers. The mildness of the tobacco itself almost certainly will reduce any addictive behavior in a relatively short time. It is a well known fact that people who smoke less are less likely to abuse or have a strong addiction to tobacco. Overly strong tobacco carries with it the same baggage. This blend is so pure and satisfying, that one can only imagine that consumption will go down and absolute and superb pleasure will be the result. This is the finest of the fine. There is nothing like it. And you will have the pleasure of making each stick yourself to your own desires and with professional grade tools that will do everything needed, and do it masterfully. You cannot buy such a cigarette. You simply have to CRAFT it yourself, all accomplished with professional ease and professional results - every time. That is the Elegant Philosophy. As The Circle finally closes, it will mean a rebirth. Not only a rebirth and more in the flavor experience itself, but in a much more measured way one looks at the act of smoking tobacco.
Tobacco is not just some other addictive substance. Its properties arise from is a very special plant and once was used occasionally as a ceremonial tool. Somehow, sometime, somewhere mass consumption, especially mass consumption in the US became the new normal. Every film, from the 1920s on, showed people smoking in nearly every scene until it became a regular prop of entertainment and entertainers en masse! Its properties and risks are far more complex than drugs like opiates. Though ostensibly the same order of organs are receptive to the effects of addiction, the organs (receptors) vary in their functions and sensitivity to a wide variety of chemicals. In general, the dopamine receptors are the most sensitive, but not one bit of research after the CDC's proclamations to the medical communities was ever undertaken to consider the differences in the addictive nature of various brands of cigarettes or even the many strains of tobacco available. There is a lot of historical data about certain strains of tobacco not only being addictive but, in some cases, down right deadly. For instance, nRustica, one of the most powerful forms of tobacco, can be downright deadly if over consumed. That is why our American Indian forefathers sipped it through a long pipe and only a very few "hits" per person were allowed. Tobacco then was hybridized from ultra strong versions of this tobacco and other ultra strong tobaccos to, overtime, reduce the deadliness of its product (smoke) though many other medicinal uses were found for this extremely potent form of the plant. Today's tobacco is far more milder than the tobacco found in the very early 20th century. That is why more people begin to smoke so much. Still the process of creating non-toxic forms of tobacco has been an ongoing passion. But it wasn't until the tobacco industry began adding other artificial chemicals to tobacco that you will find even in today's cigarettes a plethora of absolutely unnecessary (and understudied chemicals, many of which are/were not studied at all). Since the 1964 Surgeon Generals tobacco report, the CDC's actions along with the S-Chip requirements as well as all other scientifically sound explorations into tobacco, mandated that no further studies of tobacco in general be conducted (in other words that the science of tobacco harm was immutable and settled science, period) with the all encompassing statement simply that "Tobacco kills". Statements like this, having no relative advice about type of tobacco, or usage, consumption, or all the other "little" details involved with smoking remains a great disservice to the population as a whole.
We are not here to argue for tobacco use. There of course is risk in putting any foreign matter into your body, especially when it impacts more sensitive parts of the body like the lungs. However this is not, nor has it ever been, a one size fits all proposition. What idiot would smoke if it was sure to kill you immediately. Most people are not that suicidal. And as far as long term exposure data, some people do get sick and many more do not. It depends a lot on dosage, how much and what you smoke as well as thousands of other variables. All aspects of life is a risk that is best balanced by the truly and accurately informed individual. Heavy Smoking can be very bad for you. On the other hand, a much lighter measured approach (not chemically enhanced artificially light cigarettes), but with a true highly measured approach to smoking in general should prove more successful for one's overall health. In other words, Sip don't Gulp. And that is possible to an amazing degree on the absolute purity of what you are smoking. That is why the Elegant System approach is such a remarkable and sensible idea.
It is our position that because of the sheer enormity of money that is involved in the tobacco debate, and the fact that such vast amounts of resource can breed fraud and corruption, as evidenced by the large number of claims of violations attributed to the cigarette industry, as well as counter-claims of fraudulent research methods by those on the other side of the issue, much more needs to be done to quantify the specific elements of tobacco smoke as well as specific elements of other sources of smoke and pollution in our environment that can lead to health problems. We therefore stress as a logical and necessary step forward, in order to ameliorate the controversy and lessen the divisive nature of the subject, that any and all tax revenues that are collected on tobacco, as well as all punitive damages collected on behalf of US citizens by all local, state, and federal litigation's against tobacco, other than those funds already allocated that are needed to satisfy current regulation and enforcement, be applied to five (5) areas of investigation and compensation exclusively. These areas are:
The above needs more in the way of specifics, especially concerning the definition of "scientifically qualified panels" as well as specific methods of oversight and redress of these panels by the public. The Master Settlement Agreement (which you should read sometime) already addresses the cigarette companies' faults and responsibilities of issues 4 & 5 above. However, unlike President Bush's Homeland Security Bill that grew from 40 pages as it left his desk to over 400 pages by the time it left the House of Representatives, there should be no need for over-engineering a simple and logical plan that addresses the stated interests of the medical community and the individual rights of the people to know. The details of taxation, punitive damages, and research are beyond the understanding of very few.
The emerging Make You Own philosophy, (which is basically to regain control of our ability to chose and be proactive in our views) especially as it extends well beyond the scope of tobacco, is potentially a very powerful political force that, with enough visibility, could foreseeably change the way our government looks at the control of its population and better define the risks governments take in supporting tax-driven, social engineering schemes. We at RYO Magazine are dedicated to the prospect of accurate and fair information regardless of subject, as well as the uncompromising appreciation of quality above profit. Profit will come from purity and quality and have more lasting benefits as well. We also believe that given complete and honest data, most humans are more than capable of making wise decisions. With the recent increases in taxation on packaged cigarettes in so many states, even greater interest is being directed at this magazine and the industry as a whole - this is increasing daily. We feel an obligation to play it straight with our readers, who come from every point of view imaginable, from every continent on the planet, as they are our most valuable resource.
Just remember Obama's S-Chip tax hike (from $2/lb. to $24.78/lb.) and the damage done to the real tobacco industry which at the time was trying very hard to make better tobacco than packaged cigarettes. And now the taxes are growing higher every day on those cigarettes as well and the RYO market is left mostly to Pipe tobacco. The sheep will continue to be sheared as long as the SHEARS are in the sole hands of the Government.
|EDITOR'S NOTE: These reviews are solely for the convenience of people of legal age who already smoke, are trying to cut down on smoking, wish to spend less money on their smoking, want to roll their own cigarettes from high quality tobacco, and, in general, wish to have a far more satisfying, and economical smoking experience when compared with smoking pre-manufactured cigarettes. We, in no way, encourage people to smoke. Further, we subscribe to a sane, more logical approach to smoking that involves common sense as to quantity coupled with a strong desire to manage the habit until it becomes an occasional, freely chosen, diversion, that can be fully enjoyed with minimal health risks. Finally, we strongly encourage those who do smoke to take it outdoors, or to appropriate environments where tobacco can be enjoyed away from those who do not smoke, most especially children. We do not sell tobacco or related products from this site. We distribute information about our perceptions of the quality of what is available and where it can be obtained. If you are under 18, it is illegal to buy tobacco and you should immediately exit this site. If you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start.|
© 1999 RYO Magazine
A Publication of
The Andromedan Design Company
is a trademark of The Andromedan Design Company,
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