Let’s call this a Christmas story, cut in half.
There are significant influences in our lives other than pipes and tobaccos, as you know.
I don’t believe I just wrote that.
You can probably think of many others who have inspired and motivated you during this time of giving and remembering those who have meant so much to you over the long march of time.
I’m grateful for those who have made Christmas so exceptional—a close friend who gifted a Christmas pipe and a seasonal blend of tobacco; a particular handmade Christmas tree ornament; squeals of a child’s expressions of joy ripping open finely wrapped presents; a buddy who calls and tells you he is thinking of you; the music of Christmas; and finally, smoking that beautiful gift pipe and tobacco.
A Christmas pipe is like no other in your expanding collection. It has a special place in your pipe rack, and each time you see it shining there, it reminds you of the friend who gave it, and all the good times there have been.
And now, on to the other half of a Christmas narrative.
In a recent interview with Leonard Wortzel of the Scandinavian Tobacco Group Lane, it is apparent times they are a-changing.
Wortzel told me the Lane plant in Tucker, Ga., will close by this time next year.
So, what is to happen next?
Here’s the Christmas part: 1Q, or “Our Q,” as I like to think of that majestic, iconic Lane blend, is not falling into the abyss of blends past, contrary to some loud Dickenson prattle I have read.
And this is straight from the horse’s, uhm, Wortzel’s mouth:
“1Q, the most popular blend in the world, is not going anywhere,” he says.
“Yes, it will be made in a different factory (Denmark),” he continued.
But, he adds, quickly, “I’m close to this.”
Pipe smokers are going to believe what they are going to think. So, as Wortzel says, there is only so much you can say.
“If you have ever been to our factory in Denmark, the overall process (from the Tucker, GA plant) is the same.”
1Q will go through the identical moistening, casing, cutting, drying, and top flavoring progression as always, he says.
“1Q will have the same flavor and taste. The same formula. The same black cavendish.”
Another simple of proof, Wortzel says, is that jumping through all the FDA hoops for a product is not only expensive but also does not make economic sense to craft a smidgen of difference in the blend.
That would bring down a thundering host of FDA regs onto the same blend with a slightly different addition, say a dash of perique or just a pinch more of Virginia, or something like that.
“Whether consumers will believe me when I say I am speaking the truth, 1Q is not going away. No one knows more about this (blending Lane 1Q) than the people in Denmark.”
All righty, then, the argument is settled on Lane 1Q.
Now we turn to the other part of our diverse Christmas tale: Dunhill blends.
As all of you are probably aware, unless you have been living under a rock or in a dark cave, Dunhill has stopped producing its almighty blends of yore.
In very deliberate steps, STG hitched its commercial might to the waning Dunhill brand and picked up the approaching slack.
Plainly stated, STG squeezed itself into the middle of the past, present, and future of Dunhill blends.
Wortzel says STG was part of the conversation before BAT (British American Tobacco) decided in 2017 to drop Dunhill pipe tobacco production.
This move effectively ended the giant BAT’s Dunhill history that began in 1999.
“We were finally successful in getting the rights to use the same blends and the actual trademark,” Wortzel says of the history-making venture.
Which means, he says, STG has the rights to use the blend names as well as the tin art.
“The good news is that from a consumer standpoint (that would be pipe smokers), the blends have been made in the same factory for many, many years.
“Nothing, nothing (Wortzel’s emphasis) has changed about these recipes, even from an FDA perspective.”
But, wait yes, one thing has been altered, he says.
“On top of the tin instead of seeing the Dunhill name, now it says Peterson.”
Last October, the pipe-smoking world anxiously awaited the iconic Dunhill blends to hit online and bricks and mortar retail outlets.
When that day arrived, Wortzel says, the first entire shipment was snatched up.
It was a battleground of a Black Friday and Cyber Monday smackdown combined.
The demand was so severe that STG had to make certain the shipment was dispersed evenly to retailers.
The response, Wortzel told me, has so far been very positive.
“Consumers might be dubious, but I dare them to find a difference (between the Dunhill blends of yesteryear and the current blend).
“If they do, they are still wrong,” Wortzel says.
STG hasn’t reincarnated all Dunhill blends, but it did give a future to most of the beloved mixtures, accounting for about 95 percent of the total volume,” he says.
“That’s not to say those (not reproduced) will be off the market forever. We are still working out some things.”
Wortzel says that while the Tucker, Georgia factory is going away, STG Lane is not.
“Our commercial organization—sales and marketing—remains intact.
“We are still going to distribute, sell, market all the same products we always have,” Wortzel says.
“They will simply arrive at our distribution center from a different location—our factory in Assens, Denmark. And you’ll still see us at all pipe shows in 2020.”
So, that is the end of the STG Lane Christmas news.
The rest of the Pundit show now focuses on the holiday itself.
There is still time to get that lovely Christmas pipe in time before old Saint Nick, with his pipe, slip-slides down the chimney.
And, of course, there are the Christmas blends to consider. Or, you can busy yourself by stuffing your stocking with favorite seasonal blends, including Dunhill’s iconic offerings from STG that began some 112 years ago on London’s Duke Street in the St. James district.
But what is most important is the giving part of Christmas.
Here is hoping you and yours find joy in giving and receiving in a happy and Merry Christmas this year.
And pleasant pipe puffing during the New Year.
You can bet the Pipe Pundit will soak up the joy with many a pipeful.
Just picture great cirrus clouds of smoke filling up the room.
Merry Christmas all.
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The real story of iconic Lane Limited closing, the future of 1Q, and the return of Dunhill tobaccos now under the Peterson brand.