Blended By Hand, Or Contractor?

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mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
26,237
435
Blenders are like chefs. Their personal touch can work magic. Their mere name isn't a guarantee of any personal touch. All blenders can't personally fulfill the recipes they have created, but when they hover -- over the sourcing of leaf, the storage, the handling, the proportions and processing -- the results will be best. Restaurants who have a master chef on staff charge accordingly. Chain restaurants have a chef in a faraway city who prepares a spiral notebook which relatively untrained employees, part timers, students, and folks working interim jobs, may or may not refer to when cooking the food. How do blenders themselves feel about deputizing others to do the hands-on blending? How do pipe smokers feel about that, and how much do we know? I think a good blender could ably fulfill another blender's requirements, but I'm not sure how many of the second tier folks have real talent and aptitude. Most of what we smoke, and the best of blends, are not blended by the person who formulated the blend. What do you know, and what do you think?

 

onestrangeone

Preferred Member
Sep 18, 2015
657
0
I’m not a very good cook but even I can follow a recipe and get decent results. I would think that a tobacco blend recipe could be followed by most people.

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
26,237
435
onestrange', it's a good point that anyone hiring on as a blender for a "large" blending company would soon have experience, more than a short-term restaurant employee. However, I think the achievement of highly artful blends might take a level of attention and, frankly, ego-involvement that would go beyond the recipe. The couple who owned McClellands illustrate the point. They could have easily hired folks to put together their blends, more or less, with what leaf became available. That just isn't what they did, which delivered a superior somewhat irreplaceable product. Blenders are artistes. There, I've said it.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
9,712
363
Given that our favored blends largely taste as we expect, year after year, batch after batch, someone with a good palate is minding the store. Granted there will be some variation, crops are not consistent year to year and adjustments are made to deal with that. When you factor that into the manufacturing equation the level of consistency is pretty remarkable. And it's not just because there's a recipe. That recipe needs to be tweaked to maintain flavor consistency. And maybe that flavor consistency has much to do with the casing and toppings. Talk about "pure" tobacco is largely rubbish. But someone has to be checking the batches, which is why manufacturers employ blenders. They may not be the "name above the title" but they can keep the blend on track.

Is the commercially released version of the SToP John Cotton's the same as the stuff I have that Russ hand blended? Pretty much. Not so with the WarHorse RR, but that's because a decision was made to alter the blend so that it would satisfy the Nic junkies and which blurred the flavor slightly.

But I think it comes down to this. Regardless of what what kind of product, whether it be a tin of tobacco, or an animated feature, good product is the result of many talented hands, never the result of just one.

 

onestrangeone

Preferred Member
Sep 18, 2015
657
0
Mso, you’re absolutely correct there has to be a master blender involved, someone who can make the necessary tweaks needed to maintain consistency. I don’t know how the tobacco houses operate, my assumption is that there is a master blender that oversees the operation, once the MB makes whatever adjustments are needed I would think that he or she would then turn it over to someone else to actually put together. This would give the MB the time to create and fine tune other blends.

 

warren

Preferred Member
Sep 13, 2013
7,429
179
Amen sable! Amen! Maintaining a reasonable sameness to a blend has to be the result of attention to components, percentages of additives and leaf, and can only be maintained by the actions and knowledge of the people in the tiers of the process. I'm guessing an acuteness of taste, feel and smell are all assets for a blender or the person charged with maintaining consistency. The grower must stay aware of soil changes, weather, etc. The buyer of the components, year after year, is as important to the blend's consistency as is the person monitoring the actual process year after year, season after season. Many hands, noses, etc are required to maintain consistency.

 

dukdalf

Member
Aug 24, 2011
239
0
I've seen one of those master-blenders for a large manufacturer at work. His job started in Zimbabwe, at harvest time. Judging crops, picking those he liked. On to Indonesia for the next harvest and then Brasil. Half a year later he'd receive his orders and start blending to achieve the same flavor result as last year and the year before. This starts by rehydrating the cured leaves in large drums fed with steam. I'd like to think of myself as a nicotine-hardy, shiver-me-timbers type, but standing next to the wet and steaming contents of such a drum will shake your intestines, even if it's just African Virginia you're inhaling.

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
26,237
435
I'll second sable's observation about blends taking the effort of many hands. I'm a proponent of blends that are produced in sufficient quantity and well enough distributed so that supply usually meets demand. Most blends that fit this description are produced by a team not one exalted individual blender, although the master blender comes up with the recipe.

 

dukdalf

Member
Aug 24, 2011
239
0
There may be a source of confusion in my wording: the blender I referred to did not attempt to create a new blend, he was perpetuating a standing recipe of some sixty years old. His skill was picking just those batches of tobacco from different crops that would help him create (almost) exactly the same flavor as the batch from last year, from two years ago, etcetera.

 

blendtobac

Preferred Member
Oct 16, 2009
1,218
41
The manufacturers I work with follow my recipes faithfully, but I do some quality control by smoking them. Very rarely I will notice something being a bit "off" and I will ask for the blend to be altered, but I think it has only happened twice in eight years. The key is that the manufacturers source the same leaf consistently, which they generally do.
Russ