There were fifty of us on the bus, heading west out of New Orleans early on a Friday morning. A cross section of backgrounds, men and women, old and not so old, we were making a pilgrimage of sorts to the Mecca of our most revered subject of adulation: Convent, Louisiana, to the L.A. Poche factory, the de facto home of Perique tobacco. As the bus traced the course of the Mississippi for an hour outside of town, I gave in to my particular brand of narcolepsy and promptly fell asleep, though not for lack of anticipation. I’d been dreaming about this trip since I first read the article in PipesMagazine.com, The Mystique of Perique. This one-time tour was arranged by Toby Ducote and the New Orleans Pipe Club with Mark Ryan to help kick off the inaugural NOLA Pipe Show, and believe me, it was one hell of a kickstarter. Normally civilians like us never get this peek inside the chocolate factory, as it were; it’s reserved for the occasional industry visit or the like.
The Standard Tobacco Company of Pennsylvania is a new company focusing on old tobaccos—and some famous ones at that. They are bringing back recreations of iconic pipe tobacco brands such as; John Cotton’s, Bengal Slices and War Horse. This company should not be confused with the Standard Tobacco Company which was established in Maysville Kentucky in 1932. This defunct tobacco warehouse is now a storage facility for a cable company, and industrial supplies. (They kept the name on the building for historical purposes since Maysville was once the second largest burley tobacco market in the world.)
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius—Ralph Waldo Emmerson, "Self-Reliance" Essay, Boston, 1841
J.M. Boswell is the living embodiment of self-reliance, a belief that the ultimate source of truth lies within himself.
Lofty? Perhaps, but J.M. Boswell is a professional pipe maker of rare talent. He makes a perfect pipe because it is true to his code: it has to be flawless, or he will not let it leave his shop in Chambersburg, Pa.
You have no doubt heard of Boswell pipes. He has become, in many estimations, a kind of guru at the top of the mountain, dispensing vast knowledge about the mystique of pipe smoking.
It was announced today that Cornell & Diehl, the well-known boutique pipe tobacco manufacturer based in Morganton, North Carolina will be merged with Laudisi Distribution Group (LDG). LDG is a subsidiary of Laudisi Enterprises, run by Sykes Wilford. Laudisi Enterprises is the U.S. distributor for Savinelli products and also runs Smokingpipes.com. The merger of LDG and C&D will be effective January 1, 2014.
The two founders of the companies, the late Craig Tarler of C&D and Sykes Wilford of LDG had done business together for over ten years, and in the process became friends and confidants. Mr. Tarler approached Mr. Wilford with the idea of taking over Cornell & Diehl years ago, but as Wilford puts it; “It wasn’t something we were ready for then.” Tarler, advancing in years and with an eye towards a succession plan, in 2008, brought in his son Chris to help run the business.
Gradually, Chris Tarler took over most of the management responsibilities from his father, and then all of them when the elder Tarler passed in September 2012.
After LDG took over the distribution of Savinelli products in October 2012, they instituted new processes and procedures which created efficiencies that afforded the opportunity for improved customer service, marketing and product development. While Wilford and Chris Tarler were in the process of working together on special tobacco projects, they became friends and Wilford told Tarler of his success with the Savinelli arrangement.
In an exclusive interview, Sykes Wilford told PipesMagazine.com:
"Since Chris and I are friends, we spent a good bit of time discussing the sorts of things we were doing with Savinelli distribution in our distribution division, Laudisi Distribution Group. As we got talking, it became clear that while Cornell & Diehl were clearly making great tobacco (I’m smoking some right now), there were a number of areas peripheral to their core business (i.e. important things that don’t have anything to do with the actual making of tobacco) that we could help with. Laudisi has a lot of experience with business processes, software, logistics and marketing. Further, we think that with the help of Laudisi Distribution Group, perhaps Cornell & Diehl–along with the other brands they manufacture, such as G. L. Pease and Captain Earle’s–could be more widely distributed into smaller shops across the country. We decided to start exploring the possibility of Cornell & Diehl joining the Laudisi family of companies."
"Ultimately, we worked out a deal where Chris Tarler and Patty Tarler, the owners of Cornell & Diehl, would become part owners in Laudisi Enterprises. Chris will join Laudisi as VP for Manufacturing and the entire C&D staff will become Laudisi team members. Keith Toney will move from C&D to LDG as we shift the distribution for C&D to LDG for the US market. Manufacturing will continue in Morganton, NC at the current C&D facilities."
Wilford stressed that there will be no changes to the tobacco blend recipes. Some of the tin art will change, and the C&D website will get a much-needed makeover. Direct-to-consumer sales will cease, but special orders can still be placed through any retailer interested in doing so.
Cornell & Diehl will maintain the same phone number and facilities so they can still be reached just as before.
Wilford summed-up by saying; "I’ve long been a fan of Cornell & Diehl’s tobacco and good friends with the Tarlers. Working on all of this with Chris and Patty has been really rewarding, learning about their business and about making tobacco (at a level of detail that I didn’t know existed) has been a ton of fun. Helping them with technology and marketing has also been a lot of fun. I’ve known for years that they were great people; I’m excited that Chris and I will be working closely to make Cornell & Diehl even better than it already is."
We asked Chris Tarler what excited him most about the new arrangement and he said; "The fact that the day-to-day administration of the business is lifted from my shoulders and I can concentrate solely on being creative with new blends and production has me extremely enthused. The company has been growing so fast that the management duties have grown to take up too much of my time. Now we can concentrate on manufacturing. This will reinvigorate the company for new blend development and increased manufacturing. Orders will be speeded up, customer service improved… this is better for the customer all around."
"It was a dream for my father to secure the future of Cornell & Diehl and this gives us a way to do that. We have such a great relationship with Sykes that this was the next logical step."
We also spoke to Gregory Pease, Blendmeister at G.L. Pease Tobaccos, which are produced by Cornell & Diehl.
Pease asserts; "This is really exciting for me, opening the door for some wonderful new opportunities. Not only will it help expand distribution, making my blends more accessible to a wider audience, but it will also make possible some ideas that I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but just haven’t had the business resources to accomplish. I plan on creating more limited edition blends, and have some top secret new projects that I wasn’t able to do before the merger. Additionally, just having more marketing muscle behind the product is going to be good for the G. L. Pease brand overall."
Bennington Tobacconist has been in business in the state of Florida for nearly 50-years. This second-generation family business was founded on the central west coast of Florida in 1965 by William Bennington. The original store is still located in the beautiful St. Armand’s Circle tourist area of Sarasota. Fifteen years after opening his first store, Mr. Bennington conducted a meticulous 3-year search and negotiations to open his second location in 1980. This location is in the swanky town of Boca Raton on the southeast coast of Florida. It’s quite an impressive feat for any small business to still be thriving after this many years. It’s even more remarkable if you’re a retail tobacconist in today’s ever-increasing climate of anti-smoking, anti-tobacco zealots with their jihad-like activism. Bennington’s must be doing something right though. I made a visit to the Boca Raton store recently and spent a few hours with the owner, Jim Bennington.
The most popular material for making tobacco smoking pipes is by far—Briar. The Comoy family started making briar pipes in Saint-Claude, France in 1856 when they found that it was far superior to other woods and clays being used at the time. There are other woods used to make smoking pipes, but briar is considered the best because of several qualities—resistance to burning, density that withstands moisture produced from smoking, porosity that reduces heat, and the flavor that the wood itself adds to the tobacco in some cases. Briar comes from the Heath Tree, which looks more like a shrub than a tree, and is actually a flowering plant. It is small and grows in the Mediterranean Basin, coming from countries such as; Spain, France, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, and Greece.
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.