A DTM/Orlik Question for Those in the Know

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jbfrady

Part of the Furniture Now
Jul 27, 2023
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South Carolina
All things considered, I believe Dan Tobacco to be my favorite brand, though great producers abound. I happened across an anomaly as to their catalog, however, that I'd like to know more about.

I've got a tin of Ropers Roundels on the way - I'm a serious sucker for spun cuts - and I usually read through smokingpipes.com reviews to see what I'm in for. This not being a product on the American market, I had to use tobaccoreviews instead.

On their listing, it claims that Ropers is made by Orlik. Assuming this must've been in error, I began looking up the order Dans in my cellar and the only other one I see which claims to be made by Orlik is Salty Dogs, a DTM staple.

My question is... is this accurate, or a mis-typing?
 
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lestrout

Lifer
Jan 28, 2010
1,771
320
Chester County, PA
Only a very few houses have the machinery to roll ropes or press full leaf plugs (vs. crumble cakes, which are pressed, already blended and processed tobacco). A brand like KK, Dan, even Sutliff, wanting to introduce such specialized products into their product line while lacking the equipment will contract with a nominal competitor for contract manufacturing.
 

jbfrady

Part of the Furniture Now
Jul 27, 2023
568
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South Carolina
Only a very few houses have the machinery to roll ropes or press full leaf plugs (vs. crumble cakes, which are pressed, already blended and processed tobacco). A brand like KK, Dan, even Sutliff, wanting to introduce such specialized products into their product line while lacking the equipment will contract with a nominal competitor for contract manufacturing.
I was assuming that was likely the case, given that everything else I've had from Dan tobacco is either a hot press flake or a cube cut. Still, I find the process intriguing.

I was talking with Jeremy Reeves about the same matter back at the Muletown show. I had asked if they had any plans to begin hot pressing and he said that they would have an impossible time acquiring the machinery but that he would love it if they could. So I asked about coins instead and he gave me a similar answer.

The reason I find it intriguing... Per Jensen's Jamestown video goes over how rolled tobaccos developed in the early 1600's. Don't get me wrong, I understand the desire for the machinery to do all the cutting, but I find it surprising that nobody has tried either replicating old world techniques, or else developing new machinery. Perhaps the demand just isn't sufficiently built for such costs.
 

chilllucky

Lifer
Jul 15, 2018
1,165
3,010
Chicago, IL, USA
scoosa.com
The "old world" machinery you might be referring to requires a lot of hand labor before, along, and after the mechanized element. There's a YouTube video of the old Sam Gawith factory making ropes, for example.

In modern manufacturing, most firms can neither afford the lifetimes of skilled labor that are require to work along side "cheap" machinery nor the time and capitol investment into a new machine that could replace both the worker and the obsolete equipment.
 

jbfrady

Part of the Furniture Now
Jul 27, 2023
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Don't get me
The "old world" machinery you might be referring to requires a lot of hand labor before, along, and after the mechanized element. There's a YouTube video of the old Sam Gawith factory making ropes, for example.

In modern manufacturing, most firms can neither afford the lifetimes of skilled labor that are require to work along side "cheap" machinery nor the time and capitol investment into a new machine that could replace both the worker and the obsolete equipment.
Don't get me wrong, it's not that I disagree. It wouldn't be cost effective until popularized, but it also wouldn't be so different from the world of cigars. You can tell a machine made cigar from one rolled by hand and if you're into cigars you happily cough up the difference. A good portion, if not most of the cost of a given cigar, goes to labor. My wish here is that the pipe world could siphon off some of that glitz and glamour. I'd happily pay more for it, but I can't say with any certainty that I'm not alone.
 
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Jan 30, 2020
2,053
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New Jersey
Don't get me

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I disagree. It wouldn't be cost effective until popularized, but it also wouldn't be so different from the world of cigars. You can tell a machine made cigar from one rolled by hand and if you're into cigars you happily cough up the difference. A good portion, if not most of the cost of a given cigar, goes to labor. My wish here is that the pipe world could siphon off some of that glitz and glamour. I'd happily pay more for it, but I can't say with any certainty that I'm not alone.
The challenge would be a regular customer of the notably increased products coming off the machine. If you only will have a few blends coming off that machine, and the cost of a tin needs to be 3x or 4x your other products, it’s going to be very challenging to recoup that capitol. Many people don’t blink at a $20 cigar, but you try dropping a $20 tin and most folks won’t pay that even for a small batch release.

The $80 per tin pipe smoker just doesn’t exist in the US.
 
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jbfrady

Part of the Furniture Now
Jul 27, 2023
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The $80 per tin pipe smoker just doesn’t exist in the US.
Not commonly, anyhow. The way I see it, C&D has access to some of the most unadulterated perique on the market, as well as pretty locally sourced Virginia tobaccos. If they hand rolled and aged it, I'd be happy to pay a premium for it and cut it up myself.

I think it's a history problem. Minus a brief moment after their inception, cigars have been a premium product, whereas pipes were economical. Now, cigarettes occupy the economical lane, with pipes playing a small supporting role. I think this is a lane that shouldn't be abandoned, but it also shouldn't be relied upon.

I think SPC, Capstan, Escudo, etc. prove that there's a sizeable share of the market willing to pay for what it likes. But for the average premium cigar smoker interested in pipes, I'd wager a guess that the low prices are actually inhibiting the curiosity surrounding pipes and pipe tobacco. They're used to paying ten to twenty bucks every time they light up, so when they find out to can snag a $12 tin and smoke it til Jesus comes back, it's likely causing alarm. If it's so cheap, something must be wrong with it.
 
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Terry Lennox

Can't Leave
Aug 11, 2021
419
2,318
Southern California
I believe STG is the only house in the world right now that can do the large coin cuts like Escudo and LBF. Mac Baren's spun cut is a smaller diameter. So any time you see these by another house (Wessex, DTM) it is contract manufactured by STG.

The STG coins are cut from rolls spun in long metal tubes made for the process. I read somewhere that the equipment was shipped over to Denmark at some point in the 1980's when production of Escudo shifted from the UK (Cope Brothers) to Denmark (A & C Petersen).

I once asked Greg Pease if he would do a coin cut and he said making the equipment would be too expensive given the size of the market.
 

jbfrady

Part of the Furniture Now
Jul 27, 2023
568
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South Carolina
I believe STG is the only house in the world right now that can do the large coin cuts like Escudo and LBF. Mac Baren's spun cut is a smaller diameter. So any time you see these by another house (Wessex, DTM) it is contract manufactured by STG.

The STG coins are cut from rolls spun in long metal tubes made for the process. I read somewhere that the equipment was shipped over to Denmark at some point in the 1980's when production of Escudo shifted from the UK (Cope Brothers) to Denmark (A & C Petersen).

I once asked Greg Pease if he would do a coin cut and he said making the equipment would be too expensive given the size of the market.
I appreciate you sharing that.

A small part of me has to wonder if the pipe tobacco market isn't meant to be more counterintuitive than it is. Rocky Patel now sells cigars at a hundred bucks a stick. A decent pipe cutter runs $50+, but you can find plenty that go three figures.

Bruce Lee struggled to pay his rent as a martial arts teacher until he happened upon his first Hollywood client, who told him to raise his prices... tenfold. Sure, that took Bruce Lee out of the market for 99% of martial arts students, but he had no problem finding a few enough clients to not only keep the lights on, but to prosper.

Maybe this makes me a pipe tobacco heretic, but I'd like to see special release tins up to $100 or even $200, to set a real premium ceiling. And personally, were Capstan $30 rather than $20, I'd still buy it at about the same frequency. Were it $40, I might slow down, but the novelty of it would still compel me.

The first few years I smoked, I cheaped out. I bought bulk rather than tin, I bought inexpensive pipes, and the one time I sprung for something nice it was a Corona lighter. After a layoff prompted a hiatus and I've gotten back to it, I've loved exploring the world of tin tobaccos, but I do find it strange that there's a particular ceiling in terms of quality because of this invisible ideal that nobody would buy anything nicer than [insert product here].

If you can't tell, I'm a prudish dick. And sorry to all if these rambles seem off-topic. But to me, they're related in a linear sense. (My only hesitation regarding Ropers Roundels is that the price seems too good for the quantity in the tin.)
 

karam

Lifer
Feb 2, 2019
2,461
9,308
Basel, Switzerland
I think SPC, Capstan, Escudo, etc. prove that there's a sizeable share of the market willing to pay for what it likes. But for the average premium cigar smoker interested in pipes, I'd wager a guess that the low prices are actually inhibiting the curiosity surrounding pipes and pipe tobacco. They're used to paying ten to twenty bucks every time they light up, so when they find out to can snag a $12 tin and smoke it til Jesus comes back, it's likely causing alarm. If it's so cheap, something must be wrong with it.
I'd agree that there is something fishy somewhere in tobacco. Cigars seem overpriced to me (and I can't help but wonder if it's the Cuban government massively jacking up margins and the rest of the cigar industry happily hoping on the ride) and at times I wonder if pipe tobacco is very underpriced - or just right. Then throwing cigarettes into the mix again really makes any comparison difficult without knowing the real production and tax costs and I'm not interested to do the research to find out.

Let's see, a 30g pouch of RYO tobacco costs (me) let's say $12 (with papers and filters), and gives about 40 smokes, cost of $0.30/smoke. A pack of cigarettes is basically double the price already as it costs the same as the pouch and has 20 cigs in it. A 50g pipe tobacco tin is $15-20 and gives me about 20 smokes, cost of $0.75-1/smoke. Then looking at cigars, EVEN the pleb Toscanos I smoke cost $2/smoke, and non-pleb don't even start before $10/smoke and sky is the limit.

If you factor in time of smoking, pipe depends on the bowl size but it's never below 45 mins, can go up to 1-1.5 hour, same with bigger cigars. So let's see, very rough ballparks:
RYO tobacco: $12 for 200 minutes of smoking, cost/minute $0.06
Pipe tobacco: $15 for 900 minutes of smoking, cost/minute $0.02
Cigars: $10 for 45 minutes of smoking, cost/minute $0.22

Does any of the above brain farting make me any less keen on pipe smoking? Not at all! In fact I am laughing all the way to the proverbial bank given the enjoyment I'm getting from it knowing it's actually SHOCKINGLY cheap! If anything it puts me away from cigars. I'd only call spoiled/mouldy tobacco "bad", the rest is just taste.

P.S. these are the meanderings, or ruminations as Briar Lee would put it, that have occasionally gone through my head while smoking and walking over many years, I'll check myself back into the asylum now :P
 

jbfrady

Part of the Furniture Now
Jul 27, 2023
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South Carolina
The $100 cigar is being grown and cared for by the maker from seed to customer. On the contrary, I don’t think there’s a single pipe tobacco manufacturer that grows even a single leaf themselves.
I'd agree that there is something fishy somewhere in tobacco. Cigars seem overpriced to me (and I can't help but wonder if it's the Cuban government massively jacking up margins and the rest of the cigar industry happily hoping on the ride) and at times I wonder if pipe tobacco is very underpriced - or just right. Then throwing cigarettes into the mix again really makes any comparison difficult without knowing the real production and tax costs and I'm not interested to do the research to find out.

Let's see, a 30g pouch of RYO tobacco costs (me) let's say $12 (with papers and filters), and gives about 40 smokes, cost of $0.30/smoke. A pack of cigarettes is basically double the price already as it costs the same as the pouch and has 20 cigs in it. A 50g pipe tobacco tin is $15-20 and gives me about 20 smokes, cost of $0.75-1/smoke. Then looking at cigars, EVEN the pleb Toscanos I smoke cost $2/smoke, and non-pleb don't even start before $10/smoke and sky is the limit.

If you factor in time of smoking, pipe depends on the bowl size but it's never below 45 mins, can go up to 1-1.5 hour, same with bigger cigars. So let's see, very rough ballparks:
RYO tobacco: $12 for 200 minutes of smoking, cost/minute $0.06
Pipe tobacco: $15 for 900 minutes of smoking, cost/minute $0.02
Cigars: $10 for 45 minutes of smoking, cost/minute $0.22

Does any of the above brain farting make me any less keen on pipe smoking? Not at all! In fact I am laughing all the way to the proverbial bank given the enjoyment I'm getting from it knowing it's actually SHOCKINGLY cheap! If anything it puts me away from cigars. I'd only call spoiled/mouldy tobacco "bad", the rest is just taste.

P.S. these are the meanderings, or ruminations as Briar Lee would put it, that have occasionally gone through my head while smoking and walking over many years, I'll check myself back into the asylum now :P
I think it's a bit of both. Cigar manufacturers really know their audience. Over time, they've establish clear hierarchies in the quality of tobacco. These days, a high end smoke is likely to have a Mexican San Andres wrapper over aged Nicaraguan guts. Simple, but elegant and made with care.

I feel like there's a fear in that market in regards to pipe tobacco, as though there's a $20/tin dogmatic limit which can't be surpassed without exceeding quantities. I think that wall would be better broken down, and that we'd find better quality pipe tobacco if it happened.
 
Jan 30, 2020
2,053
6,752
New Jersey
I think it's a bit of both. Cigar manufacturers really know their audience. Over time, they've establish clear hierarchies in the quality of tobacco. These days, a high end smoke is likely to have a Mexican San Andres wrapper over aged Nicaraguan guts. Simple, but elegant and made with care.

I feel like there's a fear in that market in regards to pipe tobacco, as though there's a $20/tin dogmatic limit which can't be surpassed without exceeding quantities. I think that wall would be better broken down, and that we'd find better quality pipe tobacco if it happened.
Where is your quality coming from? Increasing price when you don’t control raw material does not mean you all of the sudden have a new level of quality out of the farms.

I imagine the investment would be significant to make deals around the world with various farms for exclusive product.

The 31 farms deal with C&D is an intersting one for their perique. I’m curious what their terms are but even then that only covers a very specific condiment tobacco. With the amount of grades and growing regions, doing it at scale seems unrealistic.
 
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VDL_Piper

Lifer
Jun 4, 2021
1,232
12,392
Tasmania, Australia
I had asked if they had any plans to begin hot pressing and he said that they would have an impossible time acquiring the machinery but that he would love it if they could. So I asked about coins instead and he gave me a similar answer.
I have often wondered what has happened to all the old steam presses, they must still be out there and quite a few of them if the history of plugs is anything to go by. One could buy any number of hot pressed plugs and none came out of the Gawith set up. My guess is the presses are out there and need some love and a refit by a good boiler maker to be be serviceable or get a machine shop to look at the Gawith system and build something that is more in keeping with modern work practice. Great thread by the way @jbfrady
IMG_5029.jpegIMG_5028.jpeg
 

karam

Lifer
Feb 2, 2019
2,461
9,308
Basel, Switzerland
My guess is the presses are out there and need some love and a refit by a good boiler maker to be be serviceable or get a machine shop to look at the Gawith system and build something that is more in keeping with modern work practice. Great thread by the way @jbfrady
That's the bit which would push the cost up. These aren't high-tech machines, 19th century technology or older, but the designs to make them are likely in crumbling bits of paper in various places in Europe. I don't know if they are cast iron - I'd imagine not because it'd rust - so they're likely steel. I guess the R&D cost to design a steam press for tobacco from scratch would be huge. So will be making the parts as they are pretty hefty. The other option would be to find, buy and restore old presses. I'm sure C&D have done the due diligence and figured out it's not economically viable.
Some nice pictures: Luxury tobacco from Lauenburg | Dutch Pipe Smoker - https://dutchpipesmoker.com/2015/08/04/luxury-tobacco-from-lauenburg/, Irish Plug Tobacco - A Pictorial & Historical Survey of Their Far Famed Renown - https://pipesmokersdens.com/threads/irish-plug-tobacco-a-pictorial-historical-survey-of-their-far-famed-renown.1214/
 
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Sigmund

Lifer
Sep 17, 2023
2,093
19,118
France
Keep in mind, Salty Dogs is NOT an expensive tobacco. It is expensive in the US because its an import and not many people have easy access to it. You can buy it all day long for 12 bucks a pouch in Germany. That is with 20 percent VAT so its basically a 10 buck pouch.

Conversely C&D and GL Pease costs 22 a tin in the EU.

There is no way that these differences are based on cost but more about what the market will tollerate.

Smokers in the US both win and lose. There is a doubled edged sword to having and being accustomed to cheap tobacco. Plugs, cakes, rolls...they take longer to make and the price will be higher. ..not 20 bucks for Salty dogs but still higher. It takes a lot to pry extra money out of customers who are accoustomed to buying tobacco by the pound. Its a whole lot easier for a maker to blend some different tobaccos together, put it in a can with a new label and do some marketing. If it sells they pull a profit, pay for their launch, and if its really successful consider making it as a bulk as well.

Im not saying that is a bad thing but it does discourage real inovation. Real inovation costs money and there is a limited audience. That is a tough business move.
 
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chilllucky

Lifer
Jul 15, 2018
1,165
3,010
Chicago, IL, USA
scoosa.com
The Gawith ropes are made by adding whole leaf or maybe frogged/de-stemmed tobacco to a slow moving capstan. There's probably no economical way to automate that (could be wrong, not an engineer). The MacBaren coins are made on what looks like meter wide Lieberman style cigar rolling kind of machine.

That could probably be developed by a Laudisi-sized concern, but I don't know when it would pay for itself vs contracting with MacBaren and shipping it over.
 

jbfrady

Part of the Furniture Now
Jul 27, 2023
568
2,091
South Carolina
Where is your quality coming from? Increasing price when you don’t control raw material does not mean you all of the sudden have a new level of quality out of the farms... With the amount of grades and growing regions, doing it at scale seems unrealistic.
That's the bit which would push the cost up. These aren't high-tech machines... I'm sure C&D have done the due diligence and figured out it's not economically viable.
There is no way that these differences are based on cost but more about what the market will tollerate... Im not saying that is a bad thing but it does discourage real inovation. Real inovation costs money and there is a limited audience. That is a tough business move.
That could probably be developed by a Laudisi-sized concern, but I don't know when it would pay for itself vs contracting with MacBaren and shipping it over.
All great comments! It's not that a high price means quality, but at the same rate... it can. The same cigar leaves rolled by hand taste different than when rolled by a machine, just as the same chicken tastes better when sauteed on steel rather than teflon. Knowing that you'll be able to charge more for something can allow you to do things the right way - which often involves old-world techniques.

Per Jensen has a great video on how at Jamestown, the colonists brushed maple sugar onto the leaves and then rolled and pressed them. When it was time to use their product, there were no fancy machines to cut and tin them. I can't prove it without sampling the product - which itself does not currently exist on the market - but I'd bet dollars against fools gold that the same leaves would taste better in such a process than machine-made.

There's nothing stopping a company from paying a few employees to crank out whatever stock they can for a limited run, age it, then sell it a few years later. In fact, I'd reckon it's a statistical impossibility that Sutliff or C&D couldn't recoup the cost of mapling up and rolling some whole leaf stock. The risk, so to speak, would lie in eating that cost until the product is sufficiently aged. Still, that's what they do with other tobacco anyhow.

I was working in beverage retail when craft beer was reaching its peak. I couldn't believe when Evil Twin released a 4-pk of cans that ran $37 bucks when $15 was the height of the modern market. I laughed at it and assumed that they'd sit on the shelf and gather dust. Instead, a few people bought out all the stock we had, and they did so within days.

I admit I was disappointed when I saw the Orlik tag on Ropers, because I view them as the Sam Adams of the tobacco world. Their process is on point, sure, but I never come away from their products feeling that it's anything special. But in the craft beer world, small batchers know that they can charge more than a pack of Sam Adams due to the intricacy and care they've put in (and in the same sense, Sammy doesn't find it worth trying to accommodate Miller Lite prices). I find it infinitely strange that tobacco is the only craft market to my knowledge that abides by a - pretty low, if we're being honest - market ceiling.

When I look for pizza, I search for places that use locally sourced ingredients, and if a medium-sized pizza isn't over twenty bucks, I don't trust it. If a beer is a buck a can, I don't drink it. Who knows, perhaps I'm just a pretentious dick upset over my inability to crack into the top shelf shit in this space.
 
Jan 30, 2020
2,053
6,752
New Jersey
But what constitutes an $80 USD tin, to you? What would make an American tobacco retail in that price range justifiably?

These houses already hand strip and hand blend their products. Pressed are loaded and unloaded by hand. A steam press wouldn’t even be a new product to market but just a new product for that manufacturer, that other manufacturers sell at standard prices.

I feel you’d really have to have something notably special to shoot something so high above standard market value.
 
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