During the Chicago Pipe Show last weekend, renowned tobacco blender Erik Stokkebye debuted some exciting new pipes. He was there representing Phillips & King International, which distributes several pipe and tobacco lines, including Erik’s own 4th Generation Tobaccos.
Building on the 4th Generation brand, there will now be an accompanying line of 4th Generation Pipes. The pipes are made in Denmark and developed by Erik and an undisclosed pipe maker. There are 4 shapes available; 1855, 1897, 1931 and 1957 –as with the tobacco each shape is based on the birth year of the four generations.
Here’s an extremely interesting video from Savinelli Pipes that shows the entire pipe making process from when the wood arrives at the factory to the finished pipe. It’s a long process that includes the aging of the briar ebauchons, inspecting and sorting for different shapes, cutting, drilling, turning of the shank - there are as many as 90 distinct steps on the pipe’s way to completion.
Rumors and speculation were running rampant yesterday about the future of PipesAndCigars.com. They were in fact acquired by Cigars International. The confusion and conflicting information was the result of their original intent of not making the announcement until the The Chicagoland Int’l Pipe & Tobacciana Show. The show takes place in early May.
The Chicago show is the largest pipe and tobacco show in the world, so many companies make their big announcements there. Those plans were foiled for PipesAndCigars.com when an email from a former disgruntled employee was posted and re-posted in different online forums—the sender and recipient names having been removed. The email is shown below.
Richmond, VA - Today it was announced that the Mac Baren Tobacco Company of Denmark has agreed to buy the Pipe Tobacco Division of Altadis USA in Richmond, Virginia. The transfer of ownership will be final on or about May 1, 2013.
With the new ownership comes a new / old name for the company. Altadis USA Pipe Tobacco Division will now be a stand-alone company named Sutliff Tobacco Company. This was the original name of the business when H.W. Sutliff founded it in San Francisco in 1849.
All production and distribution will remain the same, including product lines that do not contain the Sutliff brand name, such as Tobacco Galleria pouches. In other words, everything made in the Richmond factory will continue to be produced and distributed just as before. The product mix will not be limited to Sutliff-branded products, even though that will be the new company name.
In time, the pace of new product introductions from Sutliff is expected to increase, and there may be new jobs created with the need for an expanded salesforce. (No layoffs are anticipated with the new ownership.) Additional salespeople may be needed to take over the Mac Baren distribution from Phillips & King International.
As part of the deal, Sutliff Tobacco Company will be the new U.S. importer / distributor of Mac Baren products. There are synergies with Sutliff’s stronger focus on pipe tobacco, which should increase market share of Mac Baren products in the U.S. Sutliff’s retailer-base is more closely aligned with Mac Baren’s. The former distributor, P&K is involved in several other product categories that did not afford them the opportunity to focus solely on pipe tobacco. (All Mac Baren products will continue to be made in their factory in Denmark. See the factory video tour here.)
In a quid pro quo, Mac Baren will distribute Sutliff products outside of the U.S. It seems both organizations are poised for increased sales and market share globally.
In a telephone conversation with Paul Creasy, the former General Manager of the Altadis division, and now President of the new company, he spoke about how this deal will reinvigorate the Sutliff Tobacco Company. "The last time this company was owned by an actual pipe tobacco company was 1969! This deal has been in the works for over a year, and I’m thrilled to have it come to fruition."
"Commonwealth-Altadis is in the cigarette and cigar business. Pipe tobacco is so different and so small that it doesn’t even merit an asterisks in the annual report. On the other hand, The Halberg Family has owned Mac Baren Tobacco Company for 125 years. They are pipe tobacco people." (In other words, they "get it.")
"I’ve known all of the guys at Mac Baren for years. I’ve been to the factory in Denmark, we see each other at shows… you should remember to always be nice to people because you never know who you’re going to end up working for."
Creasy explained that being owned by an actual pipe tobacco company will make it much easier to allocate resources for new products and marketing. He expects there to be an increase in new product introductions and promotions as the bureaucratic handcuffs have been removed, so-to-speak.
"It’s hard to make the case for a new flake that will set the pipe tobacco world tingling, but not even register on the radar of a large company—cigarette people deal in billions, cigar people deal in millions and pipe tobacco people deal in thousands. Thousands still means something to us. They don’t mean as much to very large corporations. Expect to see more new products and promotions in the future."
Since the Sutliff Pipe Tobacco Company has such a history, and part of the appeal of pipe smoking for some people is the nostalgia, we asked Creasy if some old, historic Sutliff blends may be brought back.
He quipped; "Well, we could bring back Carolina Queen, which was probably last on the market when Benjamin Harrison was in office." (Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd President of the U.S. from 1889 - 1893.)
History of Sutliff Tobacco Company as told by Paul Creasy via telephone
It’s a long history. When I originally came to the company 25-years ago, it was referred to as the Sutliff Division (1988). The Sutliff family owned the company from 1849 to 1969 when it was bought by Consolidated Cigar. Gordon Sutliff the great, great, great nephew of the founder of Sutliff comes to our Christmas party every once in a while. He sold the company to Consolidated Cigar in 1969.
Consolidated Cigar went through many different ownerships—it was owned by Gulf & Western, it was private, it went public, there was a leveraged buy-out, and then eventually in 1999—Seita, the French tobacco monopoly bought Consolidated Cigar. They only owned it briefly, then Seita and Tabacalera De España merged (and this is all unrelated to pipe tobacco - we’re just a rider on this roller coaster ride) … Altadis was formed from this merger. At the same time Tabacalera De España owned Hav-A-Tampa and Seita owned Consolidated Cigar, so now the two major cigar companies in the country are merged together because their two parent companies merged. That was around 2000-2001. Altadis USA was founded as a subsidiary of the parent company in Spain.
Altadis was then purchased by Imperial Tobacco in 2008. Prior to the purchase of Altadis, Imperial Tobacco owned Commonwealth Cigarettes here in the United States. Commonwealth Brands (cigarettes) and Altadis USA (cigars) merged to become Commonwealth-Altadis USA. In the meantime, we’re just this little pipe tobacco company along for the ride.
Commonwealth-Altadis, which is now one company that has just gotten progressively bigger, is selling the Pipe Tobacco Division separately to Mac Baren Tobacco Company. We have now come full circle and will once again become Sutliff Tobacco Company, as a stand-alone, separate business with operations being maintained in Richmond Virginia. We are a separate business from Mac Baren, but owned by them, officially around May 1st.
You may remember earlier this year when we reported on the Stokkebye, Lane, STG Shake-Up, which left Erik Stokkebye out of the business he had been in his entire life. Well, now he’s back, and he spoke exclusively to Pipes Magazine. Erik remains in his home state of North Carolina, but he is working with California-based Phillips & King, the largest importer / wholesaler of tobacco products in the U.S. Together, they are marketing Stokkebye’s new line of premium pipe tobaccos aptly named: 4th Generation.
Just out of college in 1987, Jeff Packer was looking for a job to hold him over until he could find something "more permanent". He walked into Tinderbox in Tacoma, Washington, and now 25-years later he is still there. As a matter of fact, he owns the place now—and has for the last 15-years. Jeff worked his way up to manager, and then became the franchise owner in 1997. He had not smoked pipes or cigars prior to working at the store, but soon took to the hobby and became well-versed in pipes, tobaccos, and in running a successful retail store.
When asked what his smoke of choice is, he says; "I like to smoke pipes more in the winter, and cigars more in the summer", which is not uncommon for people that smoke both pipes and cigars. As far as pipe tobacco goes, Packer likes to smoke aromatic tobaccos. Two of his favorites are the Tinder Box’s own blends; Wilshire (a Cavendish blend named for the original Tinder Box on Wilshire Blvd.) and Waffle House.
Last month, Pipes Magazine broke the news of the change in distribution of the Peter Stokkebye Pipe Tobacco line. Now, we have breaking news on how Villiger-Stokkebye, (now Villiger Cigars North America) will fill the void in their pipe tobacco offerings. Villiger, today announced the introduction of the Newminster line of bulk pipe tobaccos. You often hear of new pipe tobacco blends as individual additions being added to existing product portfolios, but this is the first large-scale entire new range of boutique pipe tobaccos introduced in years.
In the works for 9-months, the Newminster blends were developed jointly between Villiger and The Mac Baren Tobacco Company. They will be produced at the Mac Baren factory, with U.S. retailers being serviced via Villiger’s North American operations in Charlotte, North Carolina. The current Villiger 1888 blends will remain available, and will continue to be produced at the STG (formerly Orlik) factory.
It’s almost like a high-profile, celebrity-marriage break-up … or love-triangle kind of story … at least to pipe smokers. The immensely popular and historied Peter Stokkebye Pipe Tobacco line will ironically no longer be marketed by the US company sharing the same family name—Villiger-Stokkebye International. Starting April 1, 2012, Lane Limited of Tucker, GA will be the new U.S. distributor for Stokkebye tobaccos, as well as most of the other brands formerly distributed by Villiger-Stokkebye. These include: Orlik, W.Ø. Larsen, Stanwell, Erinmore, Escudo, Balkan Sasieni, Skandinavik, Sail Tobaccos, and Troost Tobaccos.
As you may already know from previously reading in these pages, Lane Limited, the 122-year old tobacco company, (that may be best known for Captain Black Pipe Tobacco), was sold to Scandinavian Tobacco Group of Denmark, in January of 2011. Reynolds American Inc., finalized the deal to sell the company in March of the same year.
Typically, when pipe tobacco companies or brands take on new ownership, many pipers become skeptical that their favorite pipe tobacco blends will stay the same, or even remain available. There were some concerned reactions earlier this year when the sale was announced. However, it was soon realized that Lane Limited was in much better hands with STG. Scandinavian Tobacco Group was already the largest pipe tobacco company in the world, versus Reynolds American, which put a quite low priority on pipe tobacco. (Lane Limited also produces roll-your-own tobacco and small cigars, but for the purposes of our audience here, we will concentrate on pipe tobacco.)
By Nikolaj Liberoth Nielsen
The Danish Pipe Shop is more of an institution in Copenhagen as being one of the oldest businesses on the famous pedestrian street in the center of the city. The late Steffen Nielsen ran the shop from 1969 until January this year. Now, in the hands of Steffen’s family, the shop still stands strong - mostly due to an ongoing love affair with the talent of Danish pipe makers.
Steffen Nielsen died on Monday the 31st of January this year on his way to work. He didn’t make it to the shop and took his last breath 50 meters away from the front door. This was not only a catastrophe for me personally as I lost my father and my best friend, but also because of the quick decisions we as a family had to take on behalf of the pipe shop. One choice was to close it and/or sell it. Another choice was to continue it in the spirit of Steffen. We made the last choice.