Moderation is essential in any such endeavor and we offer our assessments of various tobacco products with sensible, moderate use in mind. We don't want new smokers, we don't encourage our readership to smoke. We simply understand that many folks do, and will continue to do so, and we offer our opinions on products that best serve the needs of those who make that choice. We have consistently outlined our attitudes about tobacco and offer again this simple advice: If you want to quit, then quit. Few people we have communicated with have had trouble with tobacco cessation after converting to the RYO/MYO/CMC methodology. It should be as it once was - an occasional, freely chosen pleasurable hobby and not a huge part of your life and certainly never a habit or addiction. If you don't smoke, it would seem illogical to start and if you want to quit, just do so. This page is for those of legal age who enjoy tobacco and can handle it with complete control and while certainly opting for moderation. I hope that includes everyone involved in the CMC/MYO/RYO experience. We know it CAN be that way, for that is how we and most of our readers handle it and have for many years. Now that many tobacco producers have migrated to pipe cut tobaccos and, even worse, to blends that are stronger and taste like pipe tobacco, this page will have to be completely updated from time to time. We've waited this long as the final designations of pipe versus rolling tobaccos have remained solely based on what the packaging states and we feel that is fair. Although the various states and federal authorities have made it tough, especially for those that remained faithful to the accurate and ultimately legal description, it looked like, for awhile, that the TTB (the tax arm of the BATFE) was going to make a rather quick ruling on new definitions to differentiate pipe tobaccos from rolling tobaccos. Those decisions are still not forthcoming and likely never will be. The TTB does not want to define the two types of tobacco according to taste and other characteristics, and I don't blame them. But we will, in the next few weeks, try to give you as much information as possible and as responsibly as possible to help you understand where this is all heading.
So for now, many of the tobaccos here may be affected, some are now pipe rather than rolling tobacco with a much larger cut and some only addressed their cut size and called it pipe tobacco. That was not smart and only resulted in poorer grades of tobacco (in some cases at least). And that thereby left us with lots to say on namely the impact of using the larger cuts on injectors as well as the actual differences in the smoking experience. Give us a couple of months (say ~ November 2019) and we will lay it all out as it currently stands - at least hopefully.
For now, pipe tobacco has begun to eclipse the sale of RYO and while pipe tobacco sales soared and, because of the new FDA deeming rules as to brand names, those that chose the pipe tobacco alternative could not return to a finer cut with their historic names. Even more confusion. I am glad to see that some manufacturers chose a bit finer cut and simply labeled it pipe tobacco. That does not mean things will not change once again and with the new Vaping scandal - AND, the fact that Vaping has little to nothing to do with true tobacco enjoyment, it has led to the recent danger signs, though poorly understood, that remains the current situation. In fact, the same thing can be said with the broad term use of opioids. Frankly in my opinion the only opiod that is causing serious problems is Oxycontin. Why this particular drug? The answer is relatively simple. Oxycontin is a time release drug and if a person has pain and takes a small dose, the effect is minor so after too short of time they take another one - a bit later, yet another one and before you know it, you can overdose when the full strength of a mass overdose finally kicks in. People are not patient with pain killers. When they hurt, most, especially those who do not read the warning labels carefully, or lack patience with pain, keep taking the drug and eventually they can reach the overdose level and they are screwed. Time release drugs have had this problem since their inception. There is no such thing as time release tobacco, so once taken, you feel the effect rather quickly. And this is only one example of the government abusing the power of what people should like or make use of. The point is, I have yet to hear during an opiod news report any single anchor or reporter mention the true danger of OXYcontin. Un-intended overdose. Most people can manage their moderate use of OXYCODONE, the active ingredient in Oxycontin unless they are so strung out on the drug that they need a near fatal dose to feel the effect. Tobacco users face the same problem. If they smoke too much too quickly, they lose their sensitivity to especially powerful, low-grade tobaccos. What's the answer? One of our favorite and oft repeated credos is the concept of moderation - MODERATION. Sip, don't Gulp. With that, we will return to the to the subject at hand in this section. Smoke the best you can afford and, above all, treat it with respect. Even on limited budgets, people can smoke the finest tobacco in the world in amounts that show wisdom and respect for the plant. This section covers the highest grades of tobacco on the planet we have yet to see which is completely affordable (with a little self control) which, by the way, will make it taste even better as well.
Preserving Tobacco Perfection
Nearly without exception, the MOST asked question we receive from reader's emails, concern how to keep their tobacco at perfect moisture content. We have a number of videos on this subject in our MultiMedia section, but in general those videos show pretty simple, though sometimes time consuming, procedures that work well but are less than elegant in both effect and practice. And there is a real solution, a very simple one indeed. Simply, on occasion (depending on the relative humidity at your house), we have shown videos of how (i.e., when too moist, the tobacco sticks to the dry hand and conversely, too dry it does not stick to the hand at all) so again simply drizzle with your fingers a few drops of pure water every so often (once a week) into your storage bag (which should not hold more than 1/2 pound of tobacco at a time). The larger master storage bags can be hydrated when it becomes less than half a pound. Like everything else about tobacco, consistent monitoring is necessary with the hand test, and moderation is once again of utmost importance, both in the smoking of and the hydration of great tobacco.
But first! There is a tobacco company by the name of Leaves and Shredders making products under the Fresh Choice name and selling incredibly pure tobaccos. In each package comes 12.5 lbs. of 1 (one) of 4 (four) of the finest blends you will be lucky to find anywhere on the planet. They are all Fresh Choice tobaccos and they come in 4 flavors, each with a color designation ribbon. Red, Blue, Green, and Purple, wrapping the high grade plastic bag enclosure. From the start, it is essential to know that these tobaccos are sold in only fairly large quantities (12.5 pounds each), which reduces the mass of the excise tax slapped on the buyer. These blends are cut from whole leaf, but with the stems removed. Both cuts are considered agricultural products (unfinished) hence the tax break. The incredible shredder that comes with both products is massive and cuts to a perfect 1/6" strand. The shredder is a nearly 50 pound, extremely high tech device that can shred a carton worth of cigarette tobacco in less than a minute and keep doing so for a lifetime. It is really impressive. Click the banner above for the full story of this newest advance in the world of RYO, and with each packaged set, you get choices of the newest and best injectors, like the full line of the PowerMatic models, large heavy duty plastic state-of-the-art storage containers, and many other assorted accessories never before offered in such a bundle. Go to the web page by clicking on the Leaves and Shredders banner above and begin a whole new adventure in quality and convenience. You will be amazed at the quality of the systems and the tobaccos are downright Precious!
Now as to the Tobacco
The Red Ribbon version of this tobacco is a wonderful and more reminiscent example of a full strength Marlboro, but with a lot of added smoothness provided by toasting, and a small amount of Turkish (Oriental) in the blend. The Red has a bit more punch than the others, but not so much as to be a distraction. It is absolutely delicious and, so far, the largest selling blend. Again, 100% pure tobacco - just tobacco and water (and a lot of work and testing) as are shared in the results of all Four of these blends. Currently, the second most popular blend is the Blue Ribbon version which is the most mild and smoothest of all the blends. The Blue Ribbon offering which has a bit more oriental and more attention paid to leaf blending and aging which is so smooth that one only gets the flavor and no harshness whatsoever. It is as smooth as silk and has a wonderful full flavor to boot. It is most often my favorite and the less I smoke, the more I truly love it. What can compete with mild and gentle with lots and lots of flavor? It is a signature blend (as well as a Historic one) and I think that even those who are looking for more kick, will love the Blue version of this tobacco to the extreme. Again, 100% pure tobacco - just tobacco and water (and a lot of work and testing). The third blend is the Green version of this tobacco. The Green Ribbon reminds one of what American Spirit once was, but is even milder. This Green is a toasted Virginia-based blend which has a bit of Oriental and extra aging to make it even smoother and...smooth it is. Again 100% pure tobacco - just tobacco and water (and a lot of work and testing). The fourth blend is the Purple Ribbon version which has more flue-cured Virginia and Oriental, thus a bit more impact on the palette. Though not the slightest hint of harshness, you can definitely tell you are smoking, but depending on the strength of your palette, the more you will enjoy the Purple. This was supposed to have a more Turkish ambience, but with the condition of the Turkish tobacco market today, that is a tough call. There is not enough true (historically Turkish) tobacco around to satisfy those who love it. Consequently, even the cigarette blends that advertise as Turkish or Oriental blends exhibit far less of the authentic Turkish taste than they used to and those who love it would seek more. I am such a person. However, the Purple Ribbon is incredibly good, but it has a bit more kick than the other three. It is not harsh nor bitter, but it leans just a bit forward from the other blends in its presentation and is most likely best for those with tougher or more mature, somewhat desensitized palettes, (i.e., those who have smoked a lot of stronger cigarettes than the average smoker). To those more hearty souls, this will be a very tasty alternative, still milder than most all of the stronger additive filled cigarettes but will provide plenty enough bite still to please. This is still great tobacco, much less like the pipe tobacco blends that will continue to pervade the market place for a while longer. Bottom line is I love them all, and though I like milder tobaccos usually to a point, I find the Purple a great companion with high-end coffees. Simply put, any and all of these blends knock my lights out and are so superior to what has existed before that the choice is tough. Personally, I find the Blue's soft and come hither delicious approach enticing, while the Reds slightly (and I mean slightly) more aggressive demeanor irresistible, whereas the Green is somewhere in between and wonderful! These blends are as good as it gets - just pick your favorite.
Writing about tobacco, discovering that new blend with all the excitement that accompanies trying something new and innovative is, without doubt, the most immediately gratifying part of producing this publication. It is also time consuming. We take a lot of time with new blends and hesitate to publish information about them until we, and others we personally know and trust, have had a chance to truly know them. This particular issue has been a long time in arriving, in part, because of our dedicated participation in assessing much of what you are about to read as well as and perhaps even more importantly, the impact that recent legislation (S-CHIP for one) has had on the industry and consequently the consumer. At no time in history has so much innovation been possible in the US rolling tobacco industry. While new products do frequently find their way to us, I can't think of a time when so many of the new ones we are about to share with you, have exhibited this level of intelligent design. Each of the blends we will look at have been examined and tested through several subsequent sample shipments. As tobacco blends can vary with each batch, it is especially the case with any new blend. Often manufacturers may change the blend in question slightly in the early stages of marketing to optimize and to deal with public opinion and perception. We like to be involved in that process, so many of the blends this time we first saw many years ago. Once the particular blend stabilizes, we feel comfortable in sharing it with you, if and only if it has merit. Some don't make the grade and as we continue to exclude negative reviews, the following is the best of the latest and, in some cases, even the best of the best. We will focus on the the two top offerings, one is clearly pipe tobacco as is the other, but somehow Mark Ryan avoided the ostensibly large cut size and with it the problems with some injectors as well as taste buds. RYO product Just remember they all come from D&R and Mark Ryan has avoided much of the negative with his blends, especially the cut and cheap ass filler tobaccos and is still obeying the rules as to pipe tobacco, which means clearly what it says on the label is what is in the bag. Yes, Three Sails is pipe tobacco and is sold as such exclusively but the cut is a little finer and the component tobaccos are predominately wonderful Virginia blends.
Now we certainly have had a lot to say about Mark Ryan's (D&R Tobacco) blends in the past. The last several issues had a whole bunch of new blends from this tobacco connoisseur/developer. The newest ones we will look at here are equally exciting. Keep in mind, there is no other entity on the planet like D&R. Only a couple of true giant pipe tobacco manufacturers offer a similar diversity of blends. In the rolling tobacco industry, there is no one even close in sheer blend numbers not to mention the splendid and increasingly higher quality and innovative standards. Fact is, Ryan takes a back seat to no one on the planet in sheer quantity of products. Mark is a well rounded and engaging entrepreneur who came from a big city corporate background to return to a simpler, less cluttered life in small town Mayberry USA. That is really NOT much of an exaggeration as D&R is located very close to the fictitious burg of Andy, Opie, Aunt Bea, and of course Barney Fife. Smithfield, North Carolina, a few dozen miles south of Raleigh, is right where Mayberry was purported to exist. It is in the heart of tobacco country. Not just any tobacco but some of the world's finest. Mark has assimilated himself into this small community and into the hearts of the tobacco growers, a task most of us would find difficult. His influence has spread as well to Kentucky and Louisiana where he has cultivated relationships with not only the incredible burley growers, but the more esoteric Perique blends as well. Last time we covered his newer GR and SJ Rimboche Perique blends and from all accounts, these new exotic blends are doing extremely well. And to ensure his supply of the rare Perique strain, he along with a friend and partner, Steve Coley (who by the way is one of the MOST authoritative experts on tobacco one will find anywhere) have now assumed ownership of two of the three sources of this tobacco. This is really great news for folks who like the Perique as a cigarette tobacco component, but even more importantly, it stabilizes the world-wide demand for Perique as a component of fine pipe tobaccos. Such a comparatively small amount of Perique exists at any given time and, as the aging and fermentation of this product are nearly as labor and knowledge intensive as great wines, it is a very good thing that this rare entree is in hands that have a long-term eye on dedication to the future. In the last issue we looked at D&R's Perique blends. Now lets look even deeper into the future, a future that has arrived and continues to expand. His various blends with our perceptions of them, remains in the table below.
Some time ago, while Mark at D&R was developing several blends for another manufacturer (the name of whom shall remain anonymous for now) he came up with a pure Virginia flue cured which was the best single strain cigarette tobacco I had ever tasted. For various reasons, the deal did not work out and, to my great joy, Mark decided to incorporate this fine new component in many of his newest products. The pure stuff, the stuff that is pure magic, is now his Windsail brand's Windsail Platinum and most especially his Three Sails blend. Never had I been happier with a blend. It is rich and mild and so satisfying that one cannot think of a time when even the best cigarettes of old approached this quality. Now we've reviewed many of his tobaccos in the past (as previously stated) and on the D&R website under Tobacco, one can find his descriptions of nearly all of his blends. Two, which are really new are not yet ready for distribution but by the time you read this, they likely will be. To save you time (so you don't have to go through a whole bunch of archived issues of this magazine) we will present here a listing of all of his tobacco creations thus far. Again since Mark develops new blends as fast as most candy manufacturers create new flavors, there will, no doubt, may be more to come in the near future. Here is his current selection, twenty-seven in all, with descriptions and my personal impressions along with their appropriate category. And I must admit that after writing this (Mark) came up with the finest Virginia blend I had yet discovered. And that (again) is his Three Sails, which now for many years has remained my favorite. All of his tobaccos are special but Three Sails is by far the finest pure Virginia I have tasted. Now Virginia tobacco can sometimes be a bit bright to the palette (in other words a bit harsh) but not Three Sails. As with all tobaccos the longer the toasting process the milder the smoke (at least usually). Three Sails has the flavor of pure Virginia toned down with extra aging (heating - toasting). Now these tobacco below have been on this site for some time as there has been not a single competitor to challenge them - and with the mass exodus to pipe tobaccos we did not expect much in the future. But the future once again has arrived So look at the blends below and see what a huge variety of tobaccos can accomplish. And then prepare yourself for yet another NEW product which I must say is the finest tobacco I have ever smoked at the top of this page!
There is even more to say about what impressive things Mark of D&R is up to, but we don't want to completely spoil the surprise. Let's put it this way. Once upon a time there was a blend of rolling tobacco that excelled all others in mildness. It came in green, round flat tins and was a favorite all over the world. Several years ago, like the original Drum and an ever increasing number of blends we all used to love (like Gauloises, Export A and many others), it disappeared from US shelves. Now when that happens, when a manufacturer stops selling a trademarked item in a country, the mark can be in jeopardy or even sold or assimilated for use in the country where distribution has ceased. Such is and will be the case of the aforementioned name brands. But the particular brand we speak of is revered by connoisseurs even more fanatically than those above. Well, a company well known to us and our readers and with Mark Ryan's expertise (and a number of samples back and forth to us to verify both the nature and quality) will begin marketing this timeless blend. It is reborn, with Mark's considerable help, into what may become the most sought after roll your own tobacco in history. Based on the last sample batch we tried and signed off on, it really is that good. How good? It is incredibly mild and yet amazingly flavorful. The term elegance is an understatement. Fine and long cut, which helps it hold its moisture for extended periods.
Now the tobaccos above in the table - most we have reviewed. The ones marked NEW but new as they are now they are now on D&Rs website as well You can order them by phone, which I suggest anyway as speaking with the folks at D&R is quite educational and rewarding and will keep you up to date on issues of taxation, payment option and shipping, all three of which are becoming more restrictive and regressive. Though by the time you read this, these new blends may, in fact, be described on the D&R website, (you will have to fill out identity certification to currently view the site) so we want to give you our detailed impressions here. Keep in mind when we use as references terms like Marlboro, Camel and other brand name cigarettes, we are trying to give our readers a "rough" idea of what they can expect and give credit to the intellectual property rights of all of the products. But remember these analogies refer to a time when these brand name cigarettes were much better than today's similarly branded offerings. We are talking about the classic namesake brands of the 60's and early 70's and prior. If you are too young to be familiar with just how good these classic American Brands used to be, you truly missed something special. Also a few of the light versions in the table are relatively new as well but I think the brief descriptions in the table serve them well enough. It is the truly new blends that we will discuss here and, in all cases, these new offerings have to do with the blending of the current Ryan blends with D&Rs new high grade flue cured Virginia, packaged as a standalone as Windsail Platinum. As we stated above, this new 100% flue cured Virginia is the finest we have ever seen. And when blended with just about anything, the difference is striking. We could probably stop right here, suggest those who smoke (and are of legal age) to order Windsail Platinum and be done with it or 3Sails which is even better (IMHO)
I suspect not one of our hundreds of thousands readers would find a more satisfying smoke (except for the menthol leaning and there is even something later on for them as well). However, since diversity (along with moderation) should be the cornerstones of the MYO experience, the following blends are all exciting, depending on how you view flavor. Let's start with one of our favorite D&R blends of the fairly recent past. Ramback! Now those who have faithfully read this magazine over the years need not be reminded of my affection for real Turkish Tobacco, nor my frustration in not being able to find it. After a year or so of trial and error, D&R (Mark Ryan) and the master blenders he works with came up finally with a true Turkish I could appreciate. Now Turkish is not for everyone and my experience with it dates back to my college days of the late 60's when great Turkish cigarette blends were available in the myriad of authentic tobacco shops that populated nearly every mall in every decent sized city in the US.
Back then one had a choice between either Turkish cigarettes, like Ramses, Balkan Sobranie, Turkish Special and others (all at a hefty premium price) and bulk tobacco of the same heritage. The bulk blends were mostly Yenidje, a strain of Turkish that is still grown at a specific latitude in both Turkey and Greece. Yenidje is on the Greek side of the Aegean and Izmir on the Turkish side. These two tobaccos are indistinguishable from one another in flavor and are the very tobaccos that, for quite some time, have not found their way into the US tobacco market (or the European market), at least in any significant quantity. They are expensive, but well worth it. D&R developed Ramback around these two strains but added other Turkish components as well. We have pure Izmir here, sent to us by an individual in Turkey associated with Tekel, the Turkish Monopoly. It is of the highest grade (AG) and it is incredible. However, whether one speaks of this eloquent pure Izmir or the blended version that is Ramback, not all folks like pure Turkish. It is so mild that you really can't feel the inhaled smoke. The flavor on release is glorious but cigarette smokers traditionally want to feel as well as taste the experience. This is why those classic Turkish cigarettes mentioned above had other tobacco blended with the pure Turkish or Greek leaf as well. It was usually a fairly bright Virginia style leaf that would heat up more quickly and thus release the Turkish flavor and at the same time give one the feeling of inhaling something. Since Ramback emerged, I have found that blending it with Canadians like Penhooker, Sagamore and others or with bright Virginias like McClintock, or Windsail light nearly achieved the classic Turkish cigarettes I remember. With the introduction of Ramback Gold, I no longer have to blend components myself to achieve the perfect (in my opinion) Turkish Cigarette. Mark has added his Windsail Platinum high grade Virginia to the original Ramback and saved me all the trouble. There are distinct advantages to having a professional blending operation combine components for you. Done by hand, one rarely achieves a perfect mix. Done by a machine, with the infinite patience machines have over us, the blend is uniform and the result is unbelievable every time.
For those of you who remember the Balkan Sobranies, or Turkish Specials of old, you simply must try this new blend. And for you Camel Smokers who remember the days when you could actually taste the Turkish tobacco in even a Camel filtered, adding about 50% of this next new blend, Vengeur Platinum, to the Ramback Gold will get you there. Deja Vu - big time! This new Vengeur, while at least half of the component is the original US blend D&R has been offering for a decade or more, is a whole new experience for those that don't remember how good Camels used to be. Though there is some burley from the original mix, it serves to smooth the rest of the components, and the addition of the Windsail Platinum flue cured in significant amount resulted in yet another remarkable blend. No earthy taste whatsoever and the exceptional quality of the brighter golden Virginia accelerates one's taste bud activity to the max. Without the Ramback Gold mixed in, the new Vengeur Platinum is very reminiscent of another classic, the Chesterfield of old. Either way you will find that this blend is unlike anything you have seen in the RYO market. But you legacy Camel smokers really need to try adding some of the Ramback Gold to this blend. Remember in blending these two you are getting the high graded, flue cured Virginia from both components. Simply Unbelievable.
Next we look at another of D&R's blend innovations that uses their double toasted Two Timer Burley (a lot like Lucky Strikes of old but milder) and adds roughly 50% of the new flue cured Virginia. As toasty and smooth as the original Two Timer was/is (and for someone like me who dislikes most Burley, this blend was a real surprise), the addition of the Virginia here creates and even better Lucky and yet exceeds even that venerable brand's satisfaction. For some reason, the double toasting of the Burley (exceptionally high grade Burley - by the way) when added to the Virginia makes for one of the smoothest, nuttiest, campfire-like smokes one could imagine. I suppose there are a lot of adjectives one could use to describe the overall flavor of this combination. Sure it's nutty (what the hell that means may not be clear to anyone), and sweet (not sugar or honey sweet) expressed as a light refreshing tingle on the tongue without bitterness, and the smoothness can only be best described as being completely non-intrusive on the throat. Whatever language one would use to describe this blend, one thing that is apparent is that it is unique. Now unique may be a term that is over used in the world of marketing but sometimes there is no better way to describe something this . . . unique. Let's try it this way. Cigarettes did not always have the stale and artificial odor that most packaged brands have today. I can remember a time when I actually enjoyed the smell of someone lighting a cigarette around an early morning campfire with a pot of "cowboy" coffee boiling happily away. This blend reminds me of this vivid experience and for those that are puzzled by the term Cowboy Coffee, it simply refers to the practice of making coffee by putting the ground coffee directly in the water in the pot and cooking it until both the flavor was released and the grounds had settled to the bottom so you could pour a cup without eating coffee grounds. This is why those old stove top coffee pots had holes in the pouring spout to help strain any excess grounds.
Too much information - perhaps - but for those that have experienced the above, this tobacco can help take you back there. And speaking of unforgettable memories, few who have tried European style Halfzwares will ever forget the experience. Many in fact, once bitten - stay bitten. D&R has offered a fine German/Dutch blend for some time. Under the newer name Ryback, this tasty and potent form of dark fire cured tobaccos is similar in nature to US Drum, Gauloises, etc. It is not as long cut as Bali Blue, Samson Blue, or Stokkebye's benchmark Amsterdam Shag. Now I like these kinds of stronger, more aromatic and frankly, exotic tobaccos quite a bit but in small quantities. I find they are more suited for handrolling in thin sticks rather than injecting into an MYO tube. By keeping the stick thin, one gets far less dizzy and the flavor is desert-like in the best sense of the term. However, as most of you long time readers must know by now, I usually mix these fine tobaccos with American styles for injection as they lend an exquisite flavor to such blends. Well once again D&R comes through - with their new Ryback Gold. With about a 50/50 mix of the original Ryback and the new Virginia flue cured, they have achieved what I often mix for injection. The high grade Virginia brings American sensibility to the overall experience and likely will attract those who, in the past, may have found Euro style dark fireds interesting but a bit too much. This is a great blend for not only handrolling but for injection as well. The Virginia component effectively controls the dark fired Euro ambience in a very productive way, leaving one with not only a great smoke but an experience that may change some minds about dark fired tobaccos. Overall it is much milder and the high class Virginia component is balanced perfectly such that one can selectively taste both tobaccos. Another unique experience for all but those who have been blending their own for a while. As a treat mix about 20% Ramback Gold with the Ryback Gold and you have about as close as one can get to the old style Egyptian cigarettes that were the rage in the 30's and 40's. Very elegant.
Now the word elegant may overused as much as the word unique. Often I don't agree with either terms in assessing products unless they really knock me out. I am confident in using terms like this with these new D&R offerings and this last one, while a member of a style of tobacco that I truly can't stand, is the most smokeable of this genre I have yet to experience. D&R's newest menthol (arghh) is their Wingate Gold. By mixing the original Wingate menthol blend (there is also a new light version of Wingate) with the high grade flue cured post mentholation, you wind up with a blend that addresses a concern that many menthol cigarette smokers have about mentholated rolling tobacco. That is, too much menthol. Now of course some folks want even more menthol, so don't ever get the idea we are speaking in absolutes here. Nonetheless, the addition of the non-mentholated flue cured makes for a delicious and much more tobacco flavored blend - one that I can even smoke (on occasion). It still has the menthol character, just less of it and the added quality the Virginia imparts make this a very refreshing and ultra-premium smoke. Now I honestly can't smoke menthol much (or have Vicks rubbed on my chest - even pneumonia is a preferable alternative) as it usually gives me a headache immediately. Something in my checkered past no doubt. But we do have friends and business associates who smoke menthol tobacco exclusively and we share menthol blends with them for their evaluation. They absolutely love this blend. Any less menthol flavor they perceive is more than made up by the great flavor the Virginia component contributes. I have smoked it and there is no doubt it is a great blend with a robust tobacco flavor which is not completely masked by the menthol. That is in itself a rarity and for those that like menthol, this may be of extreme interest. Again, it is unique.
And finally, as to D&R's newer blends there is Rowland Light. This is arguably the least unique of the new blends as it is simply a lighter version of their original American Flavor. At least that is what we initially thought. However, one must be reminded that blends change over time and this blend, since acquiring the new name Rowland several years ago saw a marked improvement at that time. This new light reflects its original heritage but the overall experience is, to our taste, dramatically improved. A very delicious light blend without the harshness that characterize some light blends. A good old fashioned cigarette taste with some Kentucky aged Burley and Virginia with just a tidge of oriental to smooth it out. This blend exudes a cocoa aroma when the bag or tub is opened and that subtle but fetching aroma accompanies the resultant smoke. Rowland has gone from a blend I like okay to a blend that is dynamite. This blend was one of D&R's most popular original blends and for those that have stuck by it, this new light will no doubt be an exciting evolution. We certainly enjoy it.
Remember, the D&R lineup of fine tobacco comes in both 14 oz. gold foil lined bags and 3.5 oz. plastic tubs. The tubs are really unique and provide both an excellent barrier to the environment while giving one the opportunity of trying dozens of incredible blends in smaller quantities. We reviewed the new tub packaging in our Winter 2003 issue.
Needless to say, Tobacco has enjoyed a fascinating history, some of it quite mystical. It has been in use by humans for at least 14,000 years and has gone through incredibly restrictive, Draconian attitudes throughout history. These periods were usually followed by much longer periods of mass acceptance or even frenzied worship. People have been beheaded for its use - people have been made royalty by its use. In fact, here is as good a time as any to bring up a very special book that we feel everyone of our readers should read. Its called, simply TOBACCO with the subtitle "A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization." The author, Iian Gately, who is a noted journalist in Britain, explores the entire history of this special plant and, in a very entertaining and interesting way, with an amazing amount of research that pulls no punches. It is without doubt the most comprehensive history ever written on the subject of tobacco.
The importance of learning about tobacco is an imperative each tobacco user should welcome. The restrictive nature of the current regulations on tobacco and the absurd taxation it's under has been attempted time and time again throughout its long history. More importantly, even more frequently were its uses decried as the ultimate medicine, treating everything from cancerous growths to mental illness. The sheer number of philosophical and societal flip-flops over the use of tobacco is staggering. We are in one cycle of an incredibly complex cyclic attitude about this plant. Empires rose and fell at the whim of tobacco. The slave trade began as a way for the Dutch to pay for their prohibitionist driven high priced tobacco (a lesson not seemed to be easily learned by groups and governments who would tax and regulate tobacco right into the hands of black market smugglers - who then use their ill-gotten gains for practices that threaten everyone). Even our own United States was founded and financed on its back. It was highly thought of, in certain cultures, as currency more valuable than gold itself. This is a truly interesting story that takes one right up to the restrictions and Puritan prohibitionist attitudes of today. Throughout history taxation of one form or another, not to mention violence against its users, was always the first thrust for certain control minded groups attempting to irradicate its very existence. A strongly recommended read for the smoker who is currently under attack from so many directions. Buy it, read it. It is a worthy investment and a hell of a lot of fun. Click on the book graphic to go to Amazon.com where it is available - at a reasonable price for a change
For several years now (from the beginning as a matter of fact) we have spoken of the ceremonial heritage of tobacco and the obvious advantages of the use of tobacco within the restraints imposed by a higher regard for the plant and the amount consumed. Walking softly on the Earth entails using its treasures in wise measure, whether its tobacco or petroleum. Again, we urge you to read the book, "Tobacco - A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization." You will gain incredible insight into all aspects of tobacco usage, past, present, and future. During our six years in existence, we have met a large number of Indian and others folks who historically and currently treat tobacco with the care, moderation and reverence it deserves. In Indian cultures, tobacco was seldom abused. In fact, any sacrilegious use of the plant was considered a high offense. There are many entities who grow, harvest, process, cure, and sell tobacco. Some are extremely conscientious about the endeavor, some have no more feeling for tobacco than some used car salesman have for the cars they sell. These less than "connected" tobacco people are fortunately, fairly rare. What you find as you get to know this industry (this industry, once again being tobacco - not cigarette makers) is that most of its principals, including growers and leaf cutters as well as most reputable manufacturers, take great pride in their products - and not the kind of pride that is solely expressed in terms of a bank account.
Perhaps the most interesting/important aspect of all of this is that it should put you in touch with the possibility and the fact that tobacco is an easily grown plant, and moreover, is a "crop" that anyone could create in their own growing space. While there are flavoring and other curing techniques that will make home grown tobacco taste more like excellent (the very few) manufactured blends, every American has the right to grow tobacco for their own consumption. You may not be able to easily accomplish the intricate hand tying techniques as shown at right, but the finished product can still be unbelievably attractive and delicious if you learn your stuff. And if the governmental controls and the anti-smoking regulations and taxation continue to escalate, this is an art that might be a good idea to learn. Great tobacco is as easy to grow as the crap. It is the tending of the crop and the curing process where the true difference lies. Certainly not the offensive after production chemicals and flavorings that so many cigarette manufacturers use as well as a good many of the pipe tobacco folks as well.
We frankly think that tobacco brings in too much revenue to all of these entities for it to ever be banned, but it has happened before. We'll write about that more on the Cover page and in the Editorial section but it is clear that tobacco cultivation, for one's own use, is a very long and dangerously political way from extermination. The elegance of tobacco starts with the plants which can grow beautiful and extremely aromatic flowers. (For smoking tobacco it is best to trim the flowers and "suckers" (pre buds) from the plant early on to optimize the flavor.) However many people throughout the world grow tobacco as decorative plants.
And finally, for you true connoisseurs, those that have been around long enough to understand and internalize why I rave on about Turkish (Oriental) Tobaccos. Last year, a group in Turkey contacted a friend of mine, who is an international enabler of trade. The trade deals he puts together involve nearly every legal product seen in the world. Often what he sees is merchandise that has either been over produced, under produced or has been overlooked or discarded by first level, potential buyers. It so happens that he likes Turkish tobacco as well and so he passed this possibility on to me. The problem was the Turkish company wanted to move a LOT of Turkish tobacco. I was a bit skeptical so through him they contacted me and sent a 10 pound sample.
Now we have discussed Turkish tobacco to no end in this magazine and most of you by now realize that MOST Turkish leaf is not that special. There are only a couple of provinces in the World that grow the really aromatic and wonderfully mild stuff that made brands like Balkan-Sobranie, Turkish Special, Ramses, etc., the classics they were. It boils down to this. The two (3) locations where this incredible delicacy comes from are the Izmir Province of Turkey and the Yenidje Province of Greece (Macedonia). They are geographically separated by the Aegean Sea but lie at precisely the same latitude. Soil conditions, climate, humidity, whatever aside, the tobacco that comes from these two regions is unmatched in character. Every bit as good as any estate bottled 30 year old cabernet. This tobacco is, I guess, simply too expensive for most companies to use in their blends and as there are almost no "authentic" Turkish cigarettes left in the world, this tobacco has been sitting in storage for as much as 12 years. Even the oldest batch from 1993 was superb. There are three grades of tobacco of this sort, AG, BG, and KP in order of quality, AG being the best. Of course there are hundreds of strains of Turkish, some with names like Samsun, Basra etc., but none of them come close to this flavor. Anyway in the ten pound box was an assortment of the 3 grades, mostly AG as they wanted to impress us. At nearly $3 per pound in containers totaling 60,000 metric tons (that's a hell of a lot of tobacco - a metric ton being 2200 pounds) the deal was just too big for even the largest of potential buyers. We still are interested and are trying to get some entrepreneur to come up with the dough for at least part of the shipment in order to create a new and authentic Turkish cigarette. It does not look promising and unfortunately we can't just buy a few hundred pounds of this tobacco. They want to sell it all at once. Point is, I have my ten pounds and I will sip it like a fine wine for a number of years. We still hope to cause a deal to happen between a potential US manufacturer and this Turkish entity but the point of all this drooling for dollars is to show you what a small portion of this treasure looks like. Remember, what you are seeing is as rare as tobacco gets and as fine as anything ever produced. I hope you suffer along with me until this deal can come about. A Turkish cigarette made form this leaf would be an instant hit. Low nicotine content, very mild and an aroma that is indescribable. Here's the picture - Now you can drool. Also note that this true Turkish has very small leaves, only about 4 inches long. Magic! As an update it is getting increasingly hard to find authentic Turkish (Oriental) tobacco. The latest stuff we tried was inferior and is becoming increasingly so. Production is down and many believe the age of the classic Turkish blend will soon be history. More on that later, we at least hope! I honest think the Camel dung is the secret ingredient when used as fertilizer for oriental fields..
Preview of Things to Come and some History as Well
In our various travels in the US and in many other countries, we have found many interesting products and lifestyles. We love the trade shows and the opportunities afforded to see old friends and make new ones. Sometimes the destinations are less formal as far as required events. Some are really exotic. These kinds of adventures I find personally the most satisfying. Recently, we embarked on a trip to the Philippines that, to say the least, was pure magic. Now though we ostensibly travel to such locations on business, some related to tobacco and many others for the various markets our parent company is involved in, they are always rewarding. The point is I rarely am a "tourist." I find conducting business (while playing of course) to be all the fun I could hope for when in such varied environments and my personal view is that if there is nothing new to learn, why go there? Well my recent trip to Asia (primarily the Philippines) was no disappointment. Not only were the people bright, warm, and highly innovative, but the scenery was nothing short of spectacular (as you can see in the photo above - no I'm not standing in front of a painting - I'm standing on an island beach - Boracay - with the sunset in the background). It was hot, humid and about as sensuous as any one man in his right mind can stand. Even more important, however, was the discovery of a product that was as spectacular as the country itself. And it was completely unexpected. While in the next issue we will explore in detail all that occurred on this glorious journey, one particular discovery is worth noting and which perhaps will provide an irresistibly tantalizing taste of things to come.
Fortune Tobacco, a very large cigarette producer in the Philippines, has a number of brands under its umbrella. Some represent their own labels and some are licensed from more well known international brands. Honestly, in my experience one often finds foreign made US brands can be inferior. Marlboros and others that come out of Eastern Europe, especially Russia, can be quite harsh when compared with the reconstituted tobacco laden US products. Fortune, in addition to its own brands, licenses Winston from RJR/Japan tobacco. The company provided to me without exception the most thorough tour of any cigarette plant one could ask for. I saw every process from start to finish. I expected pretty much the same experience one would find at any cigarette manufacturing plant. However, before I visited the plant, I smoked the locally produced Winston brand. I compared it to the currently more popular (there) Marlboro and found the Winston dramatically superior in every way.The difference was so significant that I had to investigate further. It was during the tour (tour does not begin to describe the amount of detail I was allowed to see at the Fortune/Winston facilities) that I discovered the reason for my unexpected enjoyment of the Fortune made Winston. They use REAL tobacco. And some of the best real tobacco I've seen. No recon, no chemical additives other than the very few flavorings like found in most great rolling tobaccos. Those that read this publication know I like a pretty light, yet flavorful smoke. I pulled some of the tobacco directly from the manufacturing line and injected it into a tube. The taste was incredible - absolutely incredible! Again the taste of real and fresh tobacco.
Specifically, I asked for the Winston light line and was taken there. I was denied access to nothing in the plant. There was no hidden places where chemicals could be added and I inspected every bale of the various tobaccos (pure Virginia, Burley, and Oriental) that were being put into the manufacturing line. All questions were answered comprehensively. I have to tell you, Fortune is doing things right. They are making cigarettes that are as different and superior to any American made brands I've seen - just as RYO/MYO/CMC is superior to those same American packaged cigarette brands. To make a long story short (much more to come in the next issue), I can categorically say that the Winston Light produced by Fortune Tobacco in Manila is the finest modern packaged cigarette I've tasted. It rivals nearly anything I've enjoyed in a tube and when this blend (again directly from the assembly line) was injected into a tube, it remained as pure, mild, and satisfying as many of the finer RYO tobacco blends available in the US. Fortune Tobacco's rejection of "fake" tobacco (as they call it there) in their formulations as well as their absolute rejection of chemical enhancements make their cigarettes what cigarettes should have always been here. Pure tobacco products - not processed by-products. No, you can't buy these in the US, but perhaps this little story will gain traction with cigarette producers here. So I'll leave you with a quote that I firmly stand by. "Fortune Tobacco's Winston Light is, in my opinion and to my taste, the finest packaged cigarette made in the world." Only the far more expensive Treasurer ($50+ per pack here) comes pretty close. We'll look at the Treasurer next time as it deserves a very worthy mention as well. However Fortune's Winston Light should rightfully own the Philippine market, and the fact that Philip Morris' Marlboro is currently enjoying more market share in the Philippines, can ONLY be attributed to more aggressive marketing. How do we know?
We took "packed" tobacco from both brand's sticks purchased at retail. We emptied the tobacco from Philippine produced Marlboro Regular and Light cigarettes as we had no access to their plant, and to be fair, did the same with both the Winston Light and Regular rather than using the fresher, "straight from the manufacturing line" Winston light sample. We injected the tobacco back into tubes and shared them with quite a number of smokers at a variety of venues. The Winston Light tobacco blend in blind tests (using the new VeraCruz Elegante tubes for both tobaccos, which made it easy to conceal the contents and no doubt contributed to the "test" smoker's perception of sheer elegance) won out every time.The Winston Regular came in second - every time. And again this was tobacco gleaned from already packaged cigarettes, not "fresh" from the manufacturing line. Injecting the fresh tobacco sample of Winston Light I had made the difference even more dramatic for the subjects. Freshness is a key component of CMC (MYO). However these demonstrations should reinforce what we've know for a long time and that is that human beings everywhere who choose to smoke do prefer and recognize real tobacco when they taste it - especially without the hype or the brand name to confuse their senses. I sincerely hope Fortune's model is adopted elsewhere and maintained there. In the case of this one company, and this one line, cigarettes and tobacco are the same thing. Cigarettes are relatively inexpensive in the Philippines - around 50 cents per pack. Taxation is low compared to the US and CMC will be more expensive there than packaged brands. Still, using our injector and VeraCruz tubes, the locals loved the MYO/CMC experience. And they need look no further than Fortune Tobacco for their "real" tobacco blends for injection if such a market develops. We'll go into more detail (without divulging any proprietary engineering we saw at the plant, of course) in the upcoming issue. I simply could not resist sharing with you how much I am enjoying the small bag of tobacco, straight from the manufacturing line, I brought back with me. True tobacco lovers in the Philippines are very lucky indeed - and are very fortunate to have Fortune Tobacco right in their backyard.
As always, no matter what you read in these pages about tobacco, you owe it to yourself to try each blend yourself. Everyone has different tastes and no one opinion is right or wrong. As long as you enjoy the flavor, it is real tobacco, and you can afford to buy it, for you, the tobacco you choose is the best in the world - whether you smoke one brand or fifteen different brands for variety. Never smoke anything you hate just because it is cheap. There is GOOD value tobacco and even the highest priced tobacco in the world is a far better bargain than even cheap cigarettes. After all, that is the logic and specialness of RYO/MYO/CMC. You can put any kind of "real" tobacco you damn well please in your cigarette - whichever mood may strike. Until next time, remember to practice moderation and good taste to a fault. These can be great contributions to our civilization with unintended, and far reaching consequences that can make a significant and positive difference in what we like to think of as our civilization. - RYO
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 prescribe 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.
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