Elephant & Castle Tobacco Article - The Pipe Collector

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ssjones

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May 11, 2011
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As a member of the North American Society of Pipe Collectors (NASPC), for a mere $10, you can get a digital membership which includes "The Pipe Collector" newsletter.
In the April issue, I was pleased to read an article about the "Elephant & Castle" tobacco blends. They were created and distributed by Peter and Rob Sigel in the 1980's. This article immediately caught my attention as I know Peter through this forum, as member "Neverbend". Marble Arch was their importing/distributing arm. Peters experiences and knowledge about many pipe makers is amazing. However I was unaware they also created their own blends.
I include a copy of the article below and I'll let Peter add his comments.


 

settersbrace

Lifer
Mar 20, 2014
1,565
5
I was a member years ago when I first got into pipe smoking and for whatever reason I let it lapse. It's time to get back on the wagon again. Neverbend has been very helpful to me personally lately and I'm sure I'll enjoy that article. Thanks for posting!

 

ssjones

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May 11, 2011
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I've definitely enjoyed my interactions with Pete. I'm on the East coast and near his area on occasion, I'll hope to meet him in person some day.

 

neverbend

Starting to Get Obsessed
Apr 20, 2014
230
5
Thanks for the kind words Al and to Mr. Randolph for his article.
The idea for a line of tobaccos started in late 1981. I was going to the 2nd Dunhill Main Dealer Conference in London the following April but my real goals were to see C.E. McConnell about making a line of tobaccos for us and to find James Upshall (but that’s another story).
We had wanted two currently available blends, two that were out of production and two blends of mine. We were green and naive and really didn’t understand what we were asking for in the first two instances.
I’d never met Ken McConnell but we hit it off immediately. He apologized and told me that we couldn’t have Red Rapparee and Davidoff’s Royalty as they were proprietary blends (duh). Fribourg & Treyer’s Golden Mixture used leaf that was no longer available and Dunhill’s Shell Mixture couldn’t be made for technical reasons. My two blends he would start on immediately.
I spent two long days with Ken that moved like a blur through the factory and leaf wholesalers but I’ve never forgotten what I learned in that crash course of master tobacco blending or the many other visits that I had with him.
By the time I left I’d suggested these changes:

Adding more latakia and red virginia to Royalty and that became, without further alteration, Cromwell, a medium English that was fuller than Royalty.
Making the Dunhill Shell Mixture as flakes instead of curlies.
Creating a new blend rather than trying to replace the F&T Golden Mixture.
Having Ken make alterations to Red Rapparee since it was a blend that he knew so well.
We hired our friend, artist Anthony Spinelli, to do the artwork for Elephant & Castle (he also did the art for Marble Arch) and he came up with a beautiful design that we decided to repeat in different colors for each mixture. If you look closely at the E&C labels there are small characters on the ground, one freshly stomped by the elephant and another running away as well as “Made in London England” and “E&C”.
When I returned, Rob suggested that we add a shag cut Turkish mixture since Balkan Sobranie had discontinued their similar blend and Ken used 100% kavallah leaf that was more supple and very consistent in burn, flavor and aroma. This became Blue Mosque.
I’d given Ken the formulas for my two mixtures and although he expressed doubts about making a mixture with so much latakia but it turned out well and became The Stout.
In 1980 I’d made a mixture at the London Dunhill store that featured cigar leaf from an island in the Caribbean. Ken’s only alteration was to add the superior but more costly Basma A that was more fragrant and this mixture became New World.
I had once expected that the discontinued mixtures, Shell and Golden, would be easy to replicate but they were the ones that proved most difficult. The change from curly to flake cut required alterations that included sourcing and adding Old Belt Carolinas and when we were satisfied this became The Deerstalker. For continuity (and cost) we decided to pack it in a round tin rather than a smaller square one.
The most difficult was the Golden Mixture reproduction that was originally a shag of mostly American sourced lemon virginia that was no longer available. By 1982, India was the main source of these types of tobacco but they were stronger and had more citrus and edge so we had to scrap the idea and make an entirely new blend. I worked extensively with Ken until we’d made a thicker cut (ribbon) that was fuller and more nuanced and that used a wide variety of matured leaf, especially Pekoe Virginia and this became The Roanoke.
The problem child of the line was the one that was originally to have been Red Rapparee. I didn’t realize that I’d not given Ken enough guidance in what we wanted to do with this mixture and there ended up being three different incarnations that finally stabilized in 1985. This mixture is a story unto itself but it was named Isle of Skye. The other night I started the only tin (from 1985) that I’ve had since 1982 and my ageing method might have some calling for my incarceration but it was, Wow!
In early 1989, Ken invited me and my wife to dine with him and his Danish and German agents at the famous Mount Street restaurant, Scotts, where he made the formal announcement (we already knew) that C.E. McConnell would be closing their doors. It was a bittersweet night.
I’ll finish with a story.
We received a call from an irate smoker (that some, especially from NY may know) who identified himself as Sailorman Jack. He wanted to know how we could be so insensitive to celebrate a genocidal maniac like Cromwell by naming a tobacco after him!
Rob explained that we’d worked off of a base that was Davidoff’s Royalty and that the name was intended to say that, like Cromwell, it wasn’t Royalty.
Jack grunted but accepted the explanation and we had several more nice chats with him afterwards. RIP Jack.

 

ssjones

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Ala Paul Harvey, it is great to hear the rest of the story. The Stout blend sounds like it would be right up my alley. I did brief search for some tins, but came up with zip. Has anyone (Pipestud) encountered any vintage tins?
I did find this Marble Arch/Ser Jacapo website that shows all of the blends and artwork for each tin.

http://www.serjacopo.com/e%26c/E%26C_008a.html
Included are some promotional items used to support the brand.
01_canvas%20car%20large.JPG


 

neverbend

Starting to Get Obsessed
Apr 20, 2014
230
5
Hi Al,
I'm looking forward to meeting you as well and I'll wait to crack open my last tin of Cromwell or The Stout for that occasion. Thanks for the link.
The Earthworks ad was my first experience with co-op advertising. The E&C banner was used by me at collector shows and Marble Arch used it at the RTDA. We weren't the slickest marketers. There's not as much detail on the banner as there is on the tin art. I remember that last shipment of tobacco but most of it disappeared.
The E&C story on the site reads like a Hollywood hot mess where the source book is barely recognizable and the blend descriptions are largely inaccurate. Deerstalker is a VA, not a VaPer like Escudo (that McConnell never made). Isle of Skye is a VaPer (perhaps a VaPerBalk) and definitely not a Scottish. Etc. The writer (not me) knew little about these tobaccos.

 

beefeater33

Lifer
Apr 14, 2014
4,115
6,288
Central Ohio
This has been one of the most enlightening threads I've read..........Fascinating bit 'O history here.......Thanks Al and Neverbend!! :clap:

 

jackswilling

Lifer
Feb 15, 2015
1,777
24
Great stuff. Adding more pieces of the puzzle for me. Glad to be among such august company.

Note to self: Join NASPC ASAP.

 

tarak

Lifer
Jun 23, 2013
1,528
15
South Dakota
I have not had the opportunity to smoke any of those tobaccos...but what a fascinating read to hear the history behind some of that. Would every tin in my cellar come with a story! Thanks for sharing!

 

neverbend

Starting to Get Obsessed
Apr 20, 2014
230
5
...Would every tin in my cellar come with a story!
Hi Tarak,
I think my inexperience added a touch of drama to the creation of E&C. Ken later told me that usually a customer would approach him to blend a line of tobaccos that covered a range and that might included a couple of English, a Virginia or two and perhaps a Balkan. He’d make samples and when the customer was satisfied the line was made. Not much of a story there. I was 27 and I think he liked my attitude and was genuinely interested in where this would all go.

 
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