I Want to Know the Unknowable

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pipesmokingtom

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May 4, 2015
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I continue to be curious about manufacturing and blending processes, especially after all the discussion about what impact McClelland's departure from the industry will have.
So how does it all work behind the curtain? Which "houses" actually process their own blends and to what extent? Does C&D only source whole untreated leaf and then cut it, case it and blend it all themselves? Do the Gawiths do the same? Does Esoterica use commercially available blending components and then just mix them, press them and age them? Does Boswells do anything with leaf themselves or are they sourcing bulk from Stokkebye, Lane, et al to make their blends?
Who is doing what and when?! Who are the "cradle-to-grave," or "leaf-to-tin" manufacturers?

 

saltedplug

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Aug 20, 2013
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Once the tobacco is picked it is cured and sold in bales to C&D, etc. Once in-house we usually know if they flavor it aromatically or stove it, but that's all we know as everything becomes proprietary, and the houses guard their secrets carefully. Used to be that Pease disclosed all? of his blends' ingredients, but he has grown more guarded. If a house concocts a seller they don't want anyone else muscling in. Pease told me that he has to be very careful as plenty watch him closely; if he concocts a seller he doesn't want anyone muscling in.
I think there's any number of steps the houses use that aren't disclosed, but I suppose there are ways of finding out, if you're a blender and you earn their trust.
That's all I know.

 

tozert

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Apr 26, 2017
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There are a few really good YouTube videos, namely C&D and MacBaren, that show some good behind the curtain footage. Some others about the process of making perique.

 

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pipesmokingtom

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May 4, 2015
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There are a few really good YouTube videos, namely C&D and MacBaren, that show some good behind the curtain footage. Some others about the process of making perique.
I've seen these and am generally familiar with how tobaccos themselves get processed from leaf. I guess I'm more interested in who is starting "from scratch" to put their blends out, as opposed to who those who start from components and then modify, as opposed to those who are just 1 part X to 1 part y to 2 parts z...
I'm not saying one thing is superior to another but if for example, it was discovered that Esoterica is making all these coveted blends with Stokkebye bulk that they are just tweaking in house with some simple processes and modifications, it would be interesting. Not in a mind-blowing "gotcha" way - but interesting. How involved is a coveted "house" like Esoterica in what they put out?

 

mso489

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Feb 21, 2013
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It's like really good cooks and chefs will give you their recipe, if not all of the ingredients, steps, and secrets. If you want a brilliant dish, go work on one.
My wife grew up in the (remote) country and learned to cook from both her mom and grandma in the household. But then she went on to learn more about cooking as a restaurant reviewer and food writer in Manhattan and on Long Island, international food from many different sources, traveled to Italy with restauranteur friends and learned there, etc. She knows to do things that she wouldn't even think of to tell someone to do. You get all the expertise you are willing to learn.

 

sablebrush52

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With a lot of these companies it's a mixture of sources. For example, Sutliff buys leaf and either sells it directly to different blenders, processes some of it it to sell to different blenders who further process it for their blends, or create fully finished blends for other companies that they tin and label with the companies' names. Thus they supplied tobacco to McClelland, Peretti, H&H and other houses. For some houses they manufactured the blend, for others they supplied component leaf. And some blenders make their own blends for some of their line and contract a company like McClelland, Lane or Sutliff to make some of their blends. It's not as simple as one blender makes everything from scratch and another blender had it made for them. And if you're looking for L.A. Poche Perique you buy from L.A. Poche and use that component in your blend. The blends you smoke may be made up of tobaccos sourced from a variety of suppliers from all over the world.

 

cigrmaster

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May 26, 2012
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I would imagine that there are some mfgs. who grown their own leaf and process it themselves to make their blends. There are others who buy the leaf through the auctions and then process everything themselves from there. There are probably some who buy processed leaf and tweak it from there.
I do wonder how Samuel Gawith and Gawith and Hoggart make their blends as they have been around longer than any other mfg. I would think they have relationships with the farmers and may get theirs without dealing with the auction houses?

 

pipesmokingtom

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May 4, 2015
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I do wonder how Samuel Gawith and Gawith and Hoggart make their blends as they have been around longer than any other mfg. I would think they have relationships with the farmers and may get theirs without dealing with the auction houses?
It's a mystery. And mystery drives me nuts.

 

pipesmokingtom

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May 4, 2015
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How many whole leaf wholesalers are there/could there be, I wonder. And, I was under the impression the tobacco auction is largely a thing of the past.

 

mawnansmiff

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Oct 14, 2015
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"And, I was under the impression the tobacco auction is largely a thing of the past."
Me too. This should turn out to be an interesting thread if sufficient information is forthcoming.
Regards Samuel Gawith and Gawith & Hoggarth, I believe they source the bulk of their leaf from such places as Africa and Asia. I read somewhere they tell the growers precisely what they want and if the end product is up to scratch they guarantee to purchase all they can provide. I would wager all the processing takes place in the source country and it arrives in Kendal in huge bales ready to be blended, pressed, stoved etc to make the final product.
Regards,
Jay.

 

hawky454

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Feb 11, 2016
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You’ve asked some really good questions and I have also wanted to know the answer to these. Like is Hearth and Home’s Black House just Lane Limited varietals mixed by Russ or are they involved on a much deeper level? I never was one for “House Blends” as I figured if I was going to buy something that is just mixed up varietals I may as well just blend my own to my personal tastes. Before people get all upset at me, I’m talking about my local house blends where more than likely they are just using a pre-made blend and slapping a new name on it. I also happen to like a lot of Hearth and Home blends including Black House but I sometimes wonder about their most recent releases like Red Eye and Anniversary Flake and even the new Dobie blends, they appear to be repackaged Stokkebye blends.

 

mso489

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Feb 21, 2013
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Sourcing tobacco is a major factor in how blends taste. Soil, climate, year, season, all play into how a particular variety of leaf tastes. Blenders are fussy about this, I think, and keep it to themselves.

 

sablebrush52

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The auction system is pretty much dead and it's now mostly contracts from major buyers with them setting the prices.
Tobacco is grown all over the world and commercial blenders use leaf from anywhere that will give them the flavors they are looking for. For example, GL Pease Stonehenge flake uses some leaf sourced from Brazil.
Relabeling blends is a time honored tradition in the blending business. There are dozens of relabeled tins of 1Q.

 

mso489

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Feb 21, 2013
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'tom, I don't know how accomplished you are at blending already. You may be far along, have grown your own, and have experimented (or perfected) pressure and stoving techniques. I doubt I'll ever get that far. But for those of us almost certain to remain rank amateurs, I think mixing single leaf, condiments, and modifying blends provides a world of entertainment and taste variations. Maybe it's just the ego-involvment of mixing something "new," but quite a few of my best smokes are self-concocted mixes. With a little thought, you often get something quite smokeable or downright delicious. It always takes me by surprise, since I start out braced for something perfectly awful. My intuition is to not throw in too many different things. Usually simpler is better, with a little forethought on what might go with what. For an hour, I think I'm the best blender in the world. I know better, but gosh, it can be pretty good.

 

pipesmokingtom

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May 4, 2015
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I didn't really realize manufacturers had contracts with farms directly. I would have just thought farmers sold to wholesalers who then made the tobaccos available to manufacturers. Huh.

 

pipesmokingtom

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May 4, 2015
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Also curious if a blender like GL Pease's process. Since his stuff is made by C&D, presumably he's restricted to their components when he's coming up with something? I assume he modifies them with some top secret processes that they're able to duplicate in scale, though.

 
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