The Search for the Missing Tinning Machine & The Real Recipe for Crown Achievement
Leonard Wortzel, Brand Manager for Pipe and RYO tobaccos at Lane / STG was recently channeling his inner Sherlock Holmes. He decided to re-introduce the popular English tinned blend, Crown Achievement. It was a popular blend that had been discontinued for years. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, this was more than a three pipe problem – the tinning machine was no longer at the factory, and nobody knew where it was … and the recipe for the blend had been changed by R.J. Reynolds, the previous corporate owner of Lane Limited.
Several of our readers know that Mr. Wortzel is an active participant in the PipesMagazine.com Forums, posting under the screen name of “LeonardW”. Some of his participation has been to listen to the community’s requests to bring back some of their old discontinued Lane favorites. Some of the bulk blends that have returned in the past year include; HGL, Hazelenut, Black Raspberry, LL-7 and HG-2000.
The short story is that the tinning machine has been found along with the original recipe, and that Crown Achievement will be available in January, temporarily-exclusively through PipesAndCigars.com. Later, more of the old Lane tinned blends will return as as well.
The longer and much more interesting story goes like this.
Something that unfortunately happens on occasion in the pipe tobacco business is that a “Big Tobacco” cigarette company will buy a pipe tobacco manufacturer. The “cigarette guys” frequently don’t “get” pipe tobacco, let the accountants make the decisions, resulting in blends being discontinued and recipes being changed in the name of efficiency.
This is what happened to Crown Achievement. First, the recipe was changed, then, the blend was discontinued completely. The fact that the recipe had been changed was not even known when the decision to bring the blend back was made. Oh, and by the way … the original tin-art was nowhere to be found.
Where in the World is the Tinning Machine?
Leonard started asking around about the tinning machine that was no longer in the factory. The Lane tins are the flat, European-style tobacco tins, similar to the tins produced by their corporate parent, Scandinavian Tobacco Group. Lane Limited was the only American pipe tobacco manufacturer with a tinning machine like this, and they preferred to keep the new production in the USA. So the search for the tinning machine went on, but with little success.
Finally, Leonard thought to call on Frank Blews. Frank has been in the pipe and tobacco business his entire adult life, and is now retired, living in Florida. Frank’s past experience included working at Lane Limited, amongst several other pipe and tobacco companies.
|Frank Blews||Leonard Wortzel|
Frank has lots of great stories, which are a joy and a pleasure to listen to, but the phone call was running long, and the suspense was killing Leonard. He finally had to interrupt and say; “Frank! Where’s the tinning machine!?!?” To which Frank replied, “Oh. We gave it to Nat Sherman a long time ago.”
Nat Sherman, although located in New York City, has their tobacco production in North Carolina. They used to sell their pipe tobacco in tins, but it is currently only available in bulk, as the tins were discontinued. Since Nat Sherman stopped packaging tobacco in tins, the machine is useless to them now and has just been sitting unused. They were happy to return it to Lane’s factory in Tucker, Georgia. Leonard was finally having some luck with the project. To add to that luck, the same two employees that used to run the tinning machine still work at the Lane factory!
New / Old Tin Art
As previously mentioned, the original tin art for Crown Achievement no longer existed. Leonard had to purchase a vintage tin from a seller at the Columbus Pipe Show, and send it to his ad agency to re-create the graphics from scratch based on the old tin.
Now, with the tinning machine recovered and the artwork re-created, the factory started preparing a production run. Once again, lady luck was on their side when another long-time employee looked at the recipe and exclaimed; “That’s not the recipe for Crown Achievement!”
When Lane Limited was purchased by R.J. Reynolds, and the offices were moving from New York to Georgia, a couple of employees thought it would be a good idea to write down the blend recipes in a notebook for safe-keeping.
It turns out that R.J. Reynolds decided to change the recipe for cost-savings. They removed Perique tobacco and replaced it with Black Cavendish. Leonard thinks this was somewhere around the year 2006.
Crown Achievement will be available on or around January 15, 2014, initially with PipesAndCigars.com having an exclusive on the first production run. Later, other retailers will have it as well.
There are plans to re-introduce other Lane tinned tobaccos in the future.
Great story about the wayward tinning machine, glad to see that it, and a recipe were pulled out of retirement, I am looking forward to purchasing Lane products.
I am anxiously looking forward to trying this blend.
I’ve had this blend in it’s original form, I believe, thanks to one of our fine members. I’m very excited that it is returning, and I’ll certainly be picking a couple tins up to smoke and cellar.
Great story with a happy end. It looks the guys at Lane were really determined to bring that blend back to life.
Very cool! Another storied blend rescued from history. Can’t wait to buy a couple tins.
The fact that simply procuring their own tinning machine and tin art was so difficult tells you how neglected the pipe tobacco business was/is by corporate ownership. I wonder if this whole exercise was necessary because the suits at STG said “if you want to tin blends again at the Lane factory you better find your old tinning machine, because we’re not buying you one”. I suspect we should just be glad they gave the green light to even trying to resurrect old blends. Regardless, the fact that a corporate tobacco concern is producing and tinning in the U.S. is heartening.
Holy cow that’s a lot of work to bring back a blend. I certaintly can’t wait to try it. I believe I made my wife purchase some HGL and HG-2000 for the holidays and I can’t wait to dig into them! Great article. Very exciting stuff.
This is great news: for Lane, pipe smokers everywhere, and the whole industry. Good luck on the resurrection!
Great tale. I have heard good things about the old Crown Achievement, but never tried it. I’ll have to check it out.
Thank goodness for the rank and file to preserve the old recipes before the suits changed them!
Great story. Good things always return to good people. Now we can once again enjoy one of Lane Limited’s hallmark mixtures.
I am totally looking forward to trying this!! Another example of how Big Tobacco has effectively killed brands and blends by making recipe changes, cheapening the product in one way or another, or simply killing a brand and sending the formula to the dead files. It’s great to see some efforts being made to rectify some of these past bean counter disasters by resurrecting old recipes using quality tobacco!
It was also nice to see Frank Blews mentioned, as he is one of the great pipe tobacco mavens of all time. I’m sad to say that a number of years ago, Blews created a Balkan blend he was hoping Lane would introduce (they nixed it as being too costly and challenging to produce). He made this sample batch using fantastic old tobaccos from the Lane warehouse. The blend was incredible, although I doubt Lane could have replicated the quality of tobacco Frank used in these samples.
They were given out at a Chicago pipe show many years ago, wrapped up in tin foil cubes like plug. One of the best English blends ever. A lot of people left these gifts on their tables, not knowing what they were passing up. Slimily and cunningly, I scarfed them all up as people left them behind. Even having smoked these treasures as the rare occasional treat, I still have a large bag full of these goodies. Sometimes it’s better to be smart than lucky. I would love to see Frank Blews, one of the most gifted and perhaps under-appreciated tobacco men in the world (IMHO), be cajoled out of retirement by a tobacco company that could fully appreciate his skills.
Restores my faith in the business world, that there are people out there that willing to put quality over profits, and are devoted enough to preserve the past. I am looking forward to the return of Crown Achievement. I have been enjoying Lane’s LEO blend for a few months now, another of their tinned blends.
This is a great story, I will most certainly be trying the Crown Achievement when it becomes available.
I can’t wait to get some of this. I’ve been looking forward to it from the first time I heard it might be coming back. Great news.
Outstanding news! One of the all-time greats returns. Love it!
What great news , I’am so over joyed .
And a great post Kevin.
Have yet to enjoy any Lane tobaccos but this story, and comments on PM forums, has me keen to check some out. Will have to wait till a vendor who ships to Canada carries CA to sample that particular blend.
Bully for you, Leonard. You are indeed a man of your word – I remember your saying a year ago what your intentions were. The obstacles you had to overcome speak to your perspicacity, I have a few pounds of CA stockpiled but now I look forward to a continuing fresh supply. Thanks, and looking forward to Medal of Honor and others.
A great story and I will look for the resurrected tin when it is brought to market.
Great news … now, if only someone could do something along these same lines to re-issue Three Nuns as it was in the 70s …
Wonderful story, Kevin. I can hardly wait to try the “New/Old” Crown Achievement. I’ve had the “other” version, but never the original. I will be watching for it and will snag a couple of tins, hopefully.
This story does this pipe smoker’s heart good as it is a tale that is the obverse of the stories I usually read, of how a corporate profit-only mentality has changed/gutted a venerated tobacco. But this time I read of a tobacco resurrected and a mindset that tries to copy the original production. Good show!
I sold this blend back in the 1970’s. It’s an excellent smoke, though at the time I preferred the convenience of Bengal Slices smaller flake tin size. Glad it’s back- but if it matters, I seem to remember the tin with a black background – rather than blue – and the script was a bright shining gold.