- May 31, 2012
Here's to the king of glen and crag!
Scotland used to be a powerhouse in the tobacco business, going way back to the pre-independence days of the USA, doing much trade with the baccy farmers over here.
Scotland has given us the most legendary blend outside of Balkan Sobranie,
and that's Three Nuns, originally conceived by J&F Bell's of Glasgow.
A major league of heavy-hitters proudly wearing that Scottish thistle emblem have blessed this Earth with their masterful talents of tobacco blending:
F & J Smith
...probably more of I know not,
and of course,
Thomson & Porteous,
makers of the baccy which is the subject of our study.
This thread will be a group review of one of their offerings, albeit with just a wee bit of age on her.
Thomson & Porteous seem to be quite obscure, with nary a hair of info online, so sadly (for me), I won't go waffling on about all the historical aspects of the company and bore you to tears in glazed eyeballs of intricate lacework involving their founding and evolution, as I am so wont to do with these olde UK tobacco houses (lucky for you).
About the only substantive bits showing up is this great old picture of some workers circa 1907:
...and this site record for Leith Street:
Not even many tins are floating around out there.
Their most famous blend, gauged by the amount of advertising surrounding it, was Luntin Mixture.
A couple of their other blends had great names, like Celebrated Half Dark Nail Rod Plug and Two Hours Mixture.
But what we're gonna talk about is Scots Cake, and there just ain't much known about it as far as I could find.
I did cast a net though and was lucky enough to get a response from a very knowledgeable gent in Edinburgh.
I reached out to Alan Myerthall of The Pipe Shop in Scotland to see if he could shed any light on the subject.
He graciously replied and explained that Scots Cake was still on the market in 1972 when he started up in the business, but discontinued shortly thereafter. He said that he thought that the factory in Leith was already closed by that time because he would get it from Benson & Hedges.
So, we do know that it had a fairly good long run in the marketplace.
Thank you for that info Alan.
And btw, anyone reading this that may interested in getting a nice new pipe,
The Pipe Shop has an excellent selection of well-priced Northern Briars by Ian Walker,
...and also quite a few nice looking Parker pipes at a super bargain price.
The late production Scots Cake came inna tin that looked like this:
...and in this old thread you can see towards the end when I actually got my mitts on my old 1949 knife-lid tin:
That was three months ago.
I finally opened it last week.
It only cost me $25, I gotta great deal I reckon, and there weren't no guarantee that the stuff would even be smokeable, one tiny rust pinhole and it would've been mummy dust.
I did have high hopes.
And those hopes were somewhat satisfied when I finally opened it up, the erotic twisting of a cutter-top adding deeper pleasure to the whole experience, and once pierced it expelled a nectareous aroma of plummy raisin.
Eagerly, I lifted the lid to inspect the bounties within and gauge their state of grace - I was taken aback at how well-preserved this sixty-five year old baccy was!
A cutter-top tin is the perfect vessel, and a flake is the perfect content.
It had survived, and had the promise of providing a grand smoke.
Here are my first impressions on the initial bowlfull:
...I suspected it may be a VaPer due to its Scottish heritage, and I think it actually may be, but I'm very inexperienced with VaPers, barely having smoked much at all, but this stuff after one sample bowl, distinctly reminded me of Esoterica Dorchester, mainly due to the predominantly intense raisin note and flavors, and Dorchester is one of the few VaPers that I've smoked which displays a sort of fruitiness.
I opened the tin just today, not knowing really what to expect but hoping against all odds it would at least be well-preserved. My hopes came true. In glorious outdoor sunlight, I snapped a few pix of it still in its unmolested state, then, I anxiously molested it.
A forceful puncture with the knife-lid produced a rather long swoosh of air, a good 5 or 7 seconds, and along with that escaping air wafted the most intense aroma of raisins, a saturated incense which enchanted my senses and promised delight within - and indeed, softly lifting the now cut lid and then the slightly yellowed paper top cover, revealed that these flakes were in prime condition - my spirit soared!
In the sunlight I could see crystallizations, but not until examining it indoors did I see the full cosmic sparkle of its sugary dust coating the whole flake like dewdrops glistening at daybreak.
I immediately had to sample it and see if it'd be worthy of my plans to distribute it amongst some PipeMag briarbrothers - I chose a very clean Stanwell 19 reserved for Va's.
Char-light revealed the flavor to be a match of the intense raisin smell it initially displayed. Then true-light and the evaluation was under way. It seemed to have a rather light body, quite mellow, not a very dense smoke, almost airy, yet somehow robust with that characteristic raisin profile, and continued somewhat soft 'n subtle in that manner, not exactly a heavy palate hitter, yet giving a distinct satisfaction - by midbowl a very muted spiciness showed up, along with a slight increase in overall body, as well as a deeper richness - and it continued like that right on down to the heel, leaving no dottle and burning effortlessly as most well-aged tobaccos seem to do.
On my second bowl, the initial intensity had seemed to have faded a bit, perhaps my lighting technique was at fault, or perhaps a bit of the magic had already gone to the angels, but after a few puffs it started regaining those plummy raisin notes, and like before, it gained momentum in the middle and retained a nice profile until the end.
There was an instance, however, that it tasted almost harsh, like an unfiltered Lucky Strike cigarette, losing its sweetness and gentle bouquet - because I was overpuffing.
This stuff needs to be sipped and smoked with thoughtfulness.
I also thought that perhaps that fruitiness I was tasting was actually a Whisky casing, or some other alcohol, and not actually perique at all, just because the flavor seemed so accentuated, sort of heightened.
I dunno if that's from the aging, perhaps perique, or maybe a casing - I'm simply too inexperienced to accurately gauge what it actually is.
Not to mention my emotional bias due to the patina of the tin, the act of opening a virgin knife-lid, and my overly romantic enthusiasm for olde UK tobacco in general --- which may have tainted my observations.
And that's one reason why I decided to send out samples to a diverse clutch of my PipeMag brothers - to help me decipher it, to give their objective impressions, to write whatever they wished about it however they wished to write it.
All with blunt honesty I reminded them, please be frank.
If it's flat, say it's flat.
If it's past it's prime, say it's past it's prime.
Indeed, I did detect a sort of flat element, kind of like a funky staleness around the edges, but overall it was quite flavorsome I thought.
This will be an educational process for me, I think I'll learn something here, and I thank all the participants for taking the time to share your thoughts about this olde flaked baccie.
I think nearly everyone in North America has their samples, but it'll be maybe another week before the baccy reaches friends over in Scotland, Ireland, and The Netherlands - for that I apologize, perhaps I should have planned this out all better, but I was excited after opening it up and went into a sort of frenzy, wanting to get the baccy sent out as soon as possible before it started fading.
So, hopefully this post will keep growing as everyone comes to chime in --- on their own time and in their own way.
It should be interesting to see the different interpretations of this olde Scots Cake, and I'm greatly looking forward to reading it all!
(...and apologies for such a long rambling post.)
The stuff itself: