- May 31, 2012
There's nowt like KendalPerhaps no other tobacco known to man excites such unyielding passion or loathing hatred than that of the infamous Lakeland blends.
They are most certainly a love/hate proposition, as they occupy a completely unique place in the world of tobacco. A sort of mythology has developed, and the legends to go along with it. At some point it seems, many pipesmokers are drawn to them, in a curious enchantment, and either end up being totally revolted or hopelessly enamored.
I had my fling with them. I had to experience them for myself, to see what all the fuss was about, to satiate my desire for traditional British tobacco and to figure out what everybody was talking about.
Well, I wasn't exactly revolted, but I wasn't too enthused either, I mean some of them were pleasant enough and I could understand the attraction and why they developed such a large fan-base, there simply isn't anything else like them out there. I ended up coming to a common conclusion that I've often read from others, that the underlying leaf was indeed of very high quality, but the toppings and casings ruined the natural goodness of the leaf. But there was a brief 2 week period when I was enthralled by 'em, and enthusiastic about smoking 'em, enjoying the "mood" they set, actually enjoying some of the flavor profiles --- but that all changed when I finally got around to No.7 Broken Flake, a bacca I had extremely high hopes for because I had read from numerous sources that it was a very close match for St. Bruno, of which I love greatly, but that stuff was nowhere close to St. Bruno at all, not at all! Not only did that experience underscore my general distrust of general "reviewers", but it pissed me off that so much misinformation and falsehoods work their way into such matters.
To add insult to injury, after smoking the No.7 Broken Flake I had an intense allergic reaction, of which I'd read about too and one of the reasons why I had avoided them for so long, after smoking a bowl of it my throat had swollen and felt scratchily uncomfortable, and I felt little bumps on the back of my palate, also little bumps actually popped up on my lips as well. scary as hell! Not a pleasant experience at all! I was horrified when I examined my mouth in the mirror, it was red as the devil and I could clearly see the little bumps, whatever they were, I have no idea! After that unlovely experience, I hated the hell outta Lakelands and swore them off forever, banishing them to the realm of yucky-stuff and joining the chorus of ridicule regarding the grannies panties flower power sissy stuff proclamations that one will often read. But, my hatred wore off and now I will sometimes smoke something like Dark Flake Scented and enjoy it, but I much prefer the unscented versions, because the leaf is really really good. I like the African bacca alot. The scented bacca itself has a strange tactility, feeling silky-smooth, but laced with an odd glistening powder-like substance and imho they're nothing like the traditional "big tobacco house" offerings that're heavily cased or topped, but seem more integrated somehow, maybe it's those huge industrial steam-presses that the larger manufacturers can afford to use?
You may ask yourself, then why in the hell have you spent the time researching all this crap if you don't even really like the stuff that much?
Well, I like researching this kinda stuff, and the Lakelands play a rather large role in our modern pipesmoking experience, and their histories are longstanding and of interest.
I definitely respect them.
And I'm glad they've survived all the turmoil and still exist, offering us a unique take on what bacca can be, and still proudly standing upon British soil.
That they've become quite popular in North America is something to be celebrated, methinks, because these companies truly do love tobacco and actually have a bona fide historical pedigree which is so rare now-a-days after all the famous old brands have been put thru the wash and wrung out thru the wringer.
So, I'm asking that anyone who has anything to add, anything at all, please do so because these things are interesting, after all, that's why we spend so much goddamm'd time here on the Pipesmagazine.com forums ain't it?
Also, any comments regarding my "snuff theory" are most welcomed!
On with the blue-hair scented show!
Kendal lies in a Westmorland valley and, if viewed from one of the neighbouring fells, presents but a minority of red roofs. Nearly all the buildings are roofed with greenish-grey Westmorland slate. The local accent is like that of Lancashire, yet unlike it.
On a dominating hill stand the ruins of Kendal Castle, home of Katherine Parr, the lady whom Henry VIII married, and who managed to outlive him. The town is small as towns go - 17,000 - and is some seven miles from the lapping shores of Lake Windermere. A pleasant home town for the "fragrant pinch!"
Lakeland-style is of course unto itself, as the names indicates, only made in that one specific region --- but, there was a time when more of these traditional "perfumed tobaccos" from the U.K. were available, not precisely Lakelands because they came not from Kendal, I really don't know what or how to refer to the genre of those nonLakeland perfumed tobaccos, but as I said, there was plenty of 'em at one time, usually they were quite stout tobaccos but had that grannies panties scent thing, perhaps a strategy to keep the missus pleased? Good strong bacca for daddy and mummy didn't complain too much acausa it smelled right good?
The most obvious and well-known to North American readers, and thus providing an excellent concrete example, would be the old Murray's of Belfast produced Erinmore Flake --- many readers here may think that they do indeed know Erinmore Flake, but they know it not, for in its true original form it was intensely and heavily perfumed, so much so that I was astounded when I opened an early 70's tin I had found on the cheap, even after all the years, its strong fragrant floral aroma flooded my sense of smell with overwhelming aggressive floral ferocity, so vibrant was the aroma that it soon overtook the room, lingering like a scented candle for even hours after opening!
Perhaps this angle is better told by someone who was actually there and flirted with this florid mistress, and I've read no better or entertaining description than that of the pipesmoking badger over at atthebackofthehill...
(excerpt from post)
Relevant and purely imaginary quote: "Good heavens, Cletus, it smells like a Turkish cat-house here". There are three things that mark a misspent pipe-smoking youth. One of which is Erinmore Flake.
All pipe smokers of a certain age have experimented with it - it is hard to avoid buying this product at least once, as the friendly and colourful tin with its garish red blazoon on a yellow field beckons one from across a counter, lures one with its cheery appearance, shakes an appealing visual leg at the easily distracted young rake. And like an adventure with a drug-addled whore, one very quickly regrets the decision. From close up, the perfume is strictly drugstore bargain, the make-up thick and smeared, the hotel-room mildewed and depressing.
Erinmore Flake, with its fruity reek and foul habits, was the veritable tart among the tobaccos, the whore of Babylon, the shameless Catholic Church among the sober Protestants. I loathed it. For years those attractive yellow tins mocked me, from dark corners of tobacconists, or neatly stacked shelves, on two continents. Where-ever I saw an Erinmore tin, it seemed to wink and say "how about it, big boy, I've had my shots".
I resented the implied familiarity - I did NOT want to be seen in its company under any circumstances.
full article, inwhich he compares his experiences of Erinmore of old to the new style version:
...and related, is his review of Erinmore Mixture,
The trollop was great fun. But this girl is a bore to be with, and wears too much cologne; the cousin is not nearly as zesty as the bouncy trollop herself. More like a haggard German bar-woman, who probably has a brute named Günter as her boy-toy cum strong-arm guy. She is past her prime, if she ever had one.
Really, one wonders what others see in her, and thinks it would have been better not to have given in to that sassy come-hither winking; she looked better from a distance. Even her perfume seems cheap.
Full Virginia and Squadron Leader were first produced in around 1925, we know this from a firsthand source, as quoted in this thread:
But it remains unknown, to me at least, when some of the other blends were first introduced, from both of the Gawith houses, that've become very popular here in the States. I'm hoping that someone may be able to shed some light on this.
Another thing is that we North Americans had no idea that the Gawith houses even existed until like the late 80's or early 90's?
Does anyone know exactly when they first started exporting their bacca to the States?
It seems they were such small outfits that they were totally off the radar over here and completely unknown.
Another oddity I must discuss here is the fact that I've seen it on more than one occasion where a British pipeman will state that the term "Lakeland" to describe a class of tobaccos is an invented word that Americans have made up...
...well, right here in black and white, Illingworth's describes one of their blends as Lakeland Mixture, and this page is from 1935, so here's proof that well in advance of any American neologism, it was used by the Kendal manufacturers themselves to differentiate their goods:
From the same 1935 edition of Retail Tobacco Prices, one can see that Gawith, Hoggarth & Co had a pretty limited range of available pipe tobaccos, this is one reason why I'm curious as to exactly when they began producing a much broader range, because it looks like they didn't used to offer too much variety:
Traditionally, their primary business was snuff and it's my theory that's where many of the famous Lakeland aromas originated, in the manufacture of snuff, which has always traditionally been laced with perfumes or essences of some sort. I think perhaps that they simply transferred this flavoring knowledge of snuff-making and applied it to pipe tobacco.
So, to try and illustrate my theory, this thread will have a lot of snuff talk.
excerpt from W.D. & H.O. Wills and the development of the U.K. tobacco industry 1786-1965 by B.W.E. Alford, 1973
"Techniques in one respect could call for substantial capital. In an age in which a knowledge of different sorts of snuff was part of a gentleman's education, and when it was not uncommon for wealthy men to lay down 'cellars' of snuff, it is not surprising that recipes and certain processes of manufacture were of considerable value to their possessors. One manufacturer pointed out that generally 'the principal part of the revenue raised on the tobacco is collected from those articles in which there is a mystery in the manufacture'. Naturally, great care was taken to conceal these secrets from employees, with the result that formal apprenticeship, providing instruction in the arts of manufacture, was a rarity in the industry. It was quite common for the owner to perform the secret processes after the business of the day was over, he himself having inherited the knowledge from his father or former associate. The worth of such knowledge was described by another manufacturer in 1789:
There are secrets of infinite consequence to the possessors - it is upon philosophical principles and by a philosophical process that a snuff manufacturer works his snuff, and which process he has formed on great attention, industry, experience, and observation of the natural qualities of different sorts of tobacco - and by which means he has acquired a peculiarity of flavour known only to himself.
I've yet to get myself a copy of Kendal Brown by William Dunderdale,
as it's a bit pricey, but I suspect it would focus on snuff, with pipe tobacco only to get a passing mention --- I hope to find this book at a reasonable price someday, then I'll find out for sure, but in the meantime I can only speculate on the topic...
Below are some excerpts regarding snuff,
most of this info was sourced from the book, Snuff - Yesterday and Today by C.W. Shepherd, 2008
"Rapee may be considered to be the parent of all other snuffs."
"...essential oils and essences have always played a crucial role in snuff manufacture, and a tremendously wide variety of "flavors" were available, and a guarded secrecy always surrounded the perfuming of snuff."
on the use of tonka:
"Great numbers of snuff-takers the world over keep a Tonquin bean in their snuff-box, to add its perfume to that already there...just when the Tonquin bean custom began is difficult to ascertain, but it is believed to have started in far-off days in Venezuela where the Tonquin tree grows."
...and in a detailed example, the author was curious how a snuff called Jockey Club had got its name, he found the answer in a book by Mr. Aytoun Ellis, who had written a book on perfumes called Essence of Beauty, 1960, who tells us that the scent was originally
" ...a bouquet compounded of bergamot, jasmine, mimosa, tuberose, orris and violet in imitation of the pleasant fragrance that pervaded the Downs at Epsom in the late spring, and was wafted across the course from the woods to the Jockey Club in the Grandstand."
...and some general descriptions of miscellaneous well-known snuffs also enlighten us, as the aroma profile may sound familiar to the devout Lakeland aficionados:
A blend of North American and Oriental tobaccos. It is perfumed with the purest Tonquin essence with an underlying nose of pure flower essences.
A high-dried snuff flavoured with a special compound of essential oils having a predominately lemon flavour.
A choice blend of Commonwealth tobaccos, lightly flavoured with menthol and a background of finest Mediterranean fruit essences and English flower essences.
Attar of Roses:
A full-bodied but mild snuff delightfully flavoured with Bulgarian Attar of Roses. A perfect after-dinner tobacco.
Specially manufactured from a blend of North American and Oriental tobaccos, specially treated before grinding to release its natural aroma. It is perfumed with a pure coffee essence backed up with a nose of many fine spices.
Carnation No. 41:
A blend of the finest selected North American and Oriental tobaccos, specially treated to increase the natural pungency in order that it may carry the highly concentrated perfume of Carnation extract. This is backed up with a subtle nose of other flower concentrates.
A very mild, well-balanced blend of West Indian tobaccos. This snuff is virtually unflavoured, but has just a suspicion of Oriental oils to bring out the nose.
A mild delicate snuff slightly perfumed with pure Lavender.
A pungent natural flavoured snuff made from the finest Syrian mountain-type leaf.
...perfumed with a balanced blend of citrous oils.
A pungent medium ground snuff with almond flavour.
A light dry snuff flavoured with oil of tonquin.
A blend of Commonwealth tobaccos. The perfume is predominately pure extract of Violet, but this is cleverly balanced with a selection of the finest quality fixatives.
"...snuff had been traditionally and primarily made in Kendal and Shelffield, and a sizeable amount made in the little market town of Devizes in Wiltshire but it died out there, at one time the makers in Devizes supplied most of the snuff used in London."
Illingworth started making snuff in 1867, he was one of Samuel Gawith's commercial travellers --- back in those days, a traveller was necessary to distribute the product, they would go around to all the towns to supply local tobacconists. They played a crucial role in the success or failure of a tobacco firm, they had to be very aware of what was selling and what wasn't and get to know the local tastes, there was pretty wide variations as to the kinds of tobacco favored by all the different regions, for example, in a cosmopolitan city like London, Balkan Sobranie, Ardath or some similar "sophisticated" blend may hold sway, but in the more working-class or agricultural regions, it was usually something like Digger, or similar strong stout tobaccos --- each region had their own flavor profile preferences as well, it was part of the job of the traveller to determine what all those various preferences were in order to give the company a good handle on where to sell what --- it was like an early form of demographic market research in many ways, except it was on the ground by foot in the actual field.
When asked about declining snuff sales, Mr. G.F. Gawith of Gawith Hoggarth & Co Ltd said, "With nearly three million now on the dole it would be surprising if the volume of work-a-day snuff taking had not suffered."
Mrs. Dakeyne Cannon was a director at Samuel Gawith, perhaps the namesake of Cannon Plug?
Quite the most famous "communal" snuff-box is that in the House of Commons. Not only has it been used regularly by Sir Winston Churchill, but was actually presented by him to Mr. W.A. Brimson, the Chief Doorkeeper. It had long been the custom for the Chief Doorkeeper to be in charge of a substantial snuff-box, which he kept filled at the Government's expense. (Literally "on the House!") Members would take a pinch on their way in or out of the Chamber, among them the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill himself. Then came the Blitz when, among other things blown out of sight, was the Chief Doorkeeper's snuff-box. This was in October, 1941. When Sir Winston heard of it he showed great concern. "We will have another one," he said, and without delay presented a fine Georgian snuff-box to the Chief Doorkeeper. As there are about a hundred snuff-takers in the House of Commons today, Sir Winston's box does not lack patronage.
If you've actually read this far,