Where, Oh Where Has Gregory Gone?
Wednesday, 28 May, 2014
Oh where, oh where can be be? Yeah, I know it's been seven months since my last update. I'm not dead, as those of you who read my columns over in Pipes Magazine know, though I suppose that's not really much proof. L. Ron Hubbard seems to publish the occasional "new" book posthumously, so I could be doing the same thing. Even this could be sent via OUIJA board as a message from beyond, so just take my word for it; I'm still here. Neither is it true that I've been on holiday in Monaco, basking in the golden rays, frolicking in the azure sea, and spending evenings sucking down martinis whilst brushing elbows with the illuminati at elaborate cocktail parties hosted on my yacht. (Actually, that sounds great. I haven't been on holiday in nearly 12 years. I need to work on that. Not the yacht part. I have nowhere to park it.)
Fact is, I've been working on a few really fun and interesting things that I can't talk about. Yet. In the fairly near future, or so I tell myself, I'll be able to make some real announcements, rather than taunt you with meta-news, and it's some stuff that I'm really excited about. Which actually explains my radio-silence. See, it's really hard to talk about something without talking about it, and when I'm excited about things, I tend to spill too many beans.
Oh, and I didn't even mention that Gaslight has met with rave reviews, which makes me really happy, and is now available in 8-oz tins, but that's probably already old news at this point, so I guess I'll just stop, now, and get back into the lab...
Today Is The Day: Gaslight, On Its Way
29 October, 2013
Gaslight begins its journey to US retailers today. It's obvious that I'm excited about this one, and so are the few people who have had the opportunity to sample it prior to its release. Of course, with any new release, it takes time to get the pipelines filled, but we think we're ready. The factory has redoubled their production, and we should be set for the early demand as everyone scrambles to try the next new thing. But, you never know, right? If you're reading this and your favourite stockist is out of stock, have patience. It shouldn't be too long before it's back on the shelves.
I've been on a pretty steady diet of this for some time. I just can't seem to shake the habit. Part of it is just that it's new, and my new projects always have a certain appeal to me by virtue of their newness, and the intimacy I've formed with them during their development, but I also just really like it. As the weather cools, as fall wanders in, Gaslight has been the perfect companion. I've enjoyed it mostly in smaller pipes. It's slow burning and long-lasting, so the 30 to 40-minutes I usually get from a gr3 sized briar often turns into an hour. As previously mentioned, don't pack this one too tightly; gravity fill with just the slightest tamp works best. I like to slice it fairly thin, crumble it slightly, and drop it in. Remember to slice across the layers, not with them, and please, don't just break it up, or tear off sheets. You won't be getting the blend if you do. The same things that apply to JackKnife PLug apply to this one, too.
The aging potential is, I think, extraordinary. It's great now, absolutely ready to smoke, but it will continue developing nuance and increased complexity over at least the next 5-10 years, and probably longer. Buy a few to smoke, and a few to put away for rainy days in the future.
Illuminated Shadows: Gaslight Details…
20 October, 2013
Word is getting out, as was inevitable. I gave some production samples of Gaslight to a few friends, who went a little crazy for the stuff. Reviews are appearing on forums, and there are even a couple of video reviews on YouTube. To have one of my new blends met with such enthusiasm is huge for me. It really makes my day.
So, time for some details. I've been planning this for a very long time, and working hard on developing just the right blend for months. It finally started to come together in September, when the first prototypes of the final formula were done. Then it was just a matter of getting the production details ironed out.
Gaslight is a rich Latakia mixture, structured with layers of mature red virginias and spiced with orientals. It's pressed and aged in cakes, then cut into one ounce bars of about 1" x 1" x 2". I opted for the bars rather than "brownies" like JackKnife and Triple Play, as it makes it a bit easier to slice; Latakia can be tough stuff. The result is deep, satisfying, dynamic, and very slow-burning. Be careful not to pack the pipe too tightly, or it'll be hard to keep lit and will last forever. It develops beautifully in the bowl from first puff to ash. It's my first new release in nearly a year, and I'm really excited about this one. I've smoked up most of the production samples myself… The labels are now at the printer, and production is ramped up. Watch for Gaslight's release later this month.
9 October, 2013
On a misty, moonless night, along twisted cobblestone lanes illuminated only by the glow of ancient iron lanterns, you follow a scent as dark as the night itself, the exotic fragrance hauntingly familiar, compelling, irresistible...
26 December, 2012
The first shipments of Navigator have found their way, and some retailers have already announced its arrival to their docks. It won't be long before the reports start finding their way to the web, so I figured I'd take a few minutes to say something about it myself.
First, if you're expecting an "aromatic" tobacco because of the mention of rum in the description, and an aromatic is what you're seeking for, this ain't that. Second, if you're afraid of tobaccos with a little rum in them, don't be. It's an enhancement, not something overpowering. It brings out the natural fruitiness of the bright and red virginias that comprise the backbone of the blend, and softens the edges and the earthiness of the dark-fired Kentucky a bit. Think of it as a nice, stout and sturdy VA with a little something extra, and you won't be far off.
As far as strength is concerned, it doesn't warrant a skull and crossbones on the label, like some of the wickedly potent English death-rattle flakes, but neither would I consider it a breakfast blend, except for those with iron constitutions. In other words, don't be afraid of it, but treat it with some respect. On the strength-o-meter, I'd say it's a little south of JackKnife Plug, but definitely fuller bodied and more heady than the other VA flakes in my catalogue.
Enough with the disclaimers. If you like a fuller VA experience, give Navigator a go. I'm guessing it's going to gain more than a few fans amongst the unscented Lake District lovers, and once the pipeline is full, it should be at least a little easier to get your hands on.
Brief Update on Navigator
19 November, 2012
I'm expecting the label proofs by the end of the week. Assuming all is well, I can simply call the printer with my approval, and go. Production has begun on the blend itself. I've sent out a few samples of the prototype, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive, which is always exciting. I'm anticipating shipment towards the end of the month, or early December. Stay tuned! I'll update as we get closer.
Setting a Course: Navigator, Coming Soon
2 October, 2012
I started planning this one whilst working on the now very popular Sextant, and am happy to report that it's getting close. Creating a new blend in a conventional ribbon form is one thing. Though not as simple as it may seem, it's at least relatively straight-forward; blend some ribbons together, then smoke the result over a few weeks' time, noting how the mixture develops. With plugs, flakes, and even the pressed, sliced and tumbled form that most of the Old London series comprises, there's more to the process. There's time. How long to press? How will it change after four days under pressure? Five? What will that bit of additional fermentation do over time? It's tricky, but the result is worth the extra effort.
So, what is Navigator? A base of red virginias, sweetened with high-sugar orange and yellow leaf, given body and depth with a bit of beautiful dark-fired, then softened with a little of the same dark rum that makes Sextant so engaging. The result is pressed, aged and sliced, and served up in flakes. It's not as potent as JackKnife, but it's certainly fuller than Union Square, and the rum adds a very distinctive element.
Lovers of virginia flakes with "something extra," as well as those who just want something a little different to add to their bag of smoking tricks are encouraged to try this one when it comes out. I'm not exactly sure when we'll be releasing it, but it's certainly on the horizon. Keep your spyglasses pointed here for an update when the news is more certain.
Sextant Sets Sail
6 April, 2012
Say that ten times fast. Anyway, the best laid plans...
Despite planning ahead, production has lagged demand a bit, and the first run of Sextant sold out a little faster than anticipated. But, new shipments went out earlier this week, and we're hoping to keep the pipeline filled regularly from now on. For those who have your orders in, rest assured that your retailers will be receiving their shipments within a few days.
Word on the street is that this one is really good. The early reviews are very positive, and fellow members at my local club meething last night filled their bowls enthusiastically. Do I have to say that I'm pretty excited about it?
The Brand New Sextant is Here...Sort Of
29 March, 2012
This one has been in the works for months, and I'm really thrilled with it. I'm not ready to reveal the details quite yet, as it's still a few weeks before it'll start finding its way to the retailers, but it's different, and it's special. It's a Latakia mixture with a twist, and I don't mean lemon. A few carefully selected beta-tasters have tried it, and reported that they loved it, so I think it's going to be a hit. I just sent the labels off for proofing, and should have them finalized next week, and it's been scheduled into production, so it really is imminent, barring unforseen complications. Stay tuned for further details. If you can't tell, I'm very excited about this one.
Update: Kevin Godbee did a nice teaser on Pipes Magazine. Yes, he got to taste the final prototype, and apparently liked it a little. I'm hoping to seee label proofs tomorrow or Tuesday, so I can finalize everything, but production has already commenced. It's only a matter of a couple weeks, now. More to follow!
Update: Production is going according to schedule, and I've approved the label proofs, so Sextant will be shipping at the end of the week, or mid- next week at the latest. If you know your way around the site, you'll be able to find a description of the blend, but it's not where you'd first look...
A fellow member of the Golden Gate Pipe Club got to taste the final prototype of Sextant (it hadn't been named, yet—I was calling it Das Rum Baba) at our last meeting, and coerced me to give him what was left of the tin. Based on what he wrote in his review, I'm thinking that he rather liked it.
Update: Sextant is shipping! I'm waiting for my finished tins to arrive so I can shoot the product photos and update the page. All I've had were prototype tins, which are unlabeled, and label proofs, which were just to make sure the art was right, and didn't have the description copy on them. (I completely forgot about this part of the whole process earlier, so I'm behind the game, here. Some of you will see completed production tins before I do!) So, get your orders in to your favorite stockists!
In the News—JackKnife ReadyRubbed, and More
23 January, 2012
Pipes Magazine just published an outstanding review of JackKnife ReadyRubbed. Honestly, this review is so well done that I'd love it even if it wasn't about one of my own blends, and even if it didn't all but glow over my latest addition. It's a great read, so check it out.
On other fronts, those who have seen, and maybe even read my latest Ask G.L. Pease column in the magazine already know that I've been burning the midnight oil on a new tobacco blend. My lab-grown prototype is really making me happy, so I sent the formula and protocol off for a production prototype to be made. It should be back in my hands sometime next week, and I can't wait. Inevitably, some adjustments will have to be made, so don't expect to see it before March, but if the stars align and things go right at every step, I might be making an announcement in February. Until then, no hints, other than it's going to be really good, and probably just a little surprising.
For those who don't know it yet, and I've discovered there are at least one or two who fall into that category, I've been doing two monthly columns for Pipes Magazine, Out of the Ashes (including January's controversial Balkan Sobriety), and the previously mentioned Ask G.L. Pease, as well as another for Cigar Chronicles, called Up in Smoke. It's a lot of fun, of course, and there's some really good information there, so stop by and have a read.
Now in Full Size and Compact Models!
27 December, 2011
Announcing the availability of Lagonda in 8oz tins! In time for the New Year, Lagonda is now available in the large, 8oz tins, and is on the motorway to your favourite retailers. If they don't have it, just ask!
JackKnife ReadyRubbed - By Popular Demand
9 December, 2011
Quite a few folks were asking for JackKnife in a more convenient, ready-rubbed form, so, here it is, the latest member of the New World Collection. It's the same recipe as the original, but rather than being presented in cakes, the master blocks, after several days at full pressure to integrate the flavors and allow some gentle fermentation to take place, are sliced and tumbled into a convenient, easy to carry, easy to load format.
For those who have been curious about the plug, but haven't wanted the bother, here's your chance to see what the fuss is all about. For those who already enjoy JackKnife Plug, here's another way to experience it. And, for lovers of fine virginia blends who want something a little fuller bodied, this one is a must try. It's a cool, rich, satisfying smoke. JackKnife ReadyRubbed is available at many fine tobacconist's.
Yes, Meridian is Available in 8oz Tins!
6 December, 2011
Another email, just today, asking when I will be releasing Meridian in 8oz tins. The answer is, almost a year ago. Yes, Meridian has been available in 8oz tins since January of this year. And, for months, I've been receiving email from people asking when it will be coming, and I always answer the same way. It never dawned on me that I might save myself a few keystrokes by just announcing it, here. Better late than never. A couple of retailers are stocking it, but apparently, many of them are not, and there's only so much we can do to convince sellers that it's really a good idea, that their customers are asking after it, that they'll sell it if they have it. So, if you want Meridian in 8oz tins, and your favorite shop doesn't carry it, ask for it. They'll be happy to get it for you! And, I know the photo is of a 2oz tin, but I don't have a big one to shoot, either! Maybe that's the problem...
JackKnife ReadyRubbed Coming Soon to a Tobacconist Near You
1 November, 2011
JackKnife Plug was such a hit, that I never considered that some people might enjoy a more convenient form of the tobacco, but, then the email started. "I love JackKnife, but there are times when I just don't have the time or patience to deal with a plug." I can certainly understand that. Or, "I haven't tried JackKnife, because it seems like so much work." It isn't really that much work, but I agree that it can seem that way. It's actually a lot of fun to play with knives, slicing the block into different thicknesses, seeing how the cut can change the experience.
Truth is, I often don't have the patience to deal with it, myself. So, to answer these concerns, I'm happy to offer JackKnife ReadyRubbed. It's the same blend, still pressed and aged in cakes, but sliced and tumbled using the same methods I developed for the Old London Series. The result is a form that's finer than a broken flake, but denser than a ribbon cut. It's ready to smoke out of the tin, or can be further rubbed-out for a finer cut. Either way, it has all the delicious satisfaction of JackKnife Plug, just in a more convenient form.
JKRR will be shipping this week, so you can begin finding it on your dealers' shelves in a few days. (And, if they don't have it, ask for it, and they'll be happy, I'm sure, to get it for you!) If you love the plug, try this version! If you haven't tried the plug because the preparation seemed daunting, try this version! Better yet, get some of each for different moods! (I've now exhausted my tolerance for exclamation points, so I'll close this entry now. Just try it.)
Lagondoa a Hit at ICPCR!
27 July, 2011
Just a quick word to say that that Lagonda, the latest entry in the Old London Series, is now available, and the reviews are coming in. Pipes Magazine had great things to say, and this just came in from a happy customer.
Just finishing my first tin of Lagonda and I am blown away by the remarkable boldness and, at the same time, smoothness of this mixture. Although It has all the components of the traditional English blend, it is incomparable, even to the others in your series. Morning, noon or night it never fails to please. My favorite is in the early morning with the first cup of black coffee. Thank you for another big winner! —B.A., Reno, NV
There isn't much that can make a guy happier than reading that first thing in the morning! If you like Latakia blends, you'll love this one–I sure do. I've already been through three tins myself since its release! And, according to inside sources, it was a real hit at the ICPCR in Las Vegas, and a lot of retailers placed new orders. If yours doesn't have it yet, just ask, and they'll get it for you.
Lagonda—Coming Soon to a Retailer Near You…
15 June, 2011
Lagonda, a rich, luxurious old style mixture, will be the newest entry in the Old London Series, and though it shares some characteristics with its siblings, it's nevertheless all new.
What's the same is the method of production, in which the leaf is layered, pressed and aged in cakes for several days in order for the flavours to integrate, and to sort of 'jump start' the aging and fermentation process. The cakes are then sliced and tumbled. Some people have referred to this cutting style (also used for Chelsea Morning and Meridian) as a 'broken flake,' but it's really not that. It's much more closely related to standard ribbon cutting, but since some of the tobacco strands continue to bind together, the result is somewhat denser than conventional ribbon-cut. It's the way a lot of the old English tobaccos were produced. I revived the method, thinking that it would offer something interesting, and have been thrilled with the result. (It's been difficult not to change the production of all of the ribbon cut blends to this method, but it changes the character of the blend so much, they'd turn into entirely different things. I don't need the hate-mail.)
What's different is the blend's composition. The proportion of Cyprus Latakia is more significant in Lagonda, and there's also more of an oriental component. It's spicy, but not aggressively so, and dry, in the sense of not being sweet. It's got mouth-filling flavours, and a wonderful aroma, both in the tin and in the air when it's smoked. The virginias give the mixture legs to stand on, but aren't the dominant note. Don't let my talk of how big it is scare you. Despite it's largeness, the blend is all about finesse and balance, which was a bit of a challenge with something as full-bodied as Lagonda. It has a lot to offer, but doesn't overpower. It'll age beautifully, but is smoking fantastically right out of the gate.
If I sound like a proud papa, it's because I am. Like any child, this one took some interesting turns during the early stages of its development, sometimes making me think it had a mind of its own, and it would never grow up to amount to anything. But, it did, and the result is even more than I was hoping for when I first started on it. If you've enjoyed the other blends in the series, you'll love this one. If you've been a fan of mixtures like Westminster, Abingndon, or Charing Cross, you'll also find something really enjoyable here. If you're used to somewhat sweeter mixtures, like Maltese Falcon, you should still give Lagonda a go. It's lovely stuff.
Lagonda will begin shipping in mid-July.
Here We Go Again
10th May, 2011
No, I'm not paraphrasing the soft-core, 1980s Whitesnake ballad whose most redeeming characteristic was, arguably, its predictably self-indulgent hair-band video, featuring Tawny Kitaen dancing barefoot over a not very subtly suggestive "pair" of Jaguar sedans. No. That's not what I'm talking about. At all.
I'm talking about the release, more accurately, the pre-release release of Triple Play, the latest member of the New World Collection. A few retailers got orders in early, in preparation for the blend's official unveiling in Chicago, and, once again, within hours of receiving their shipments and making their internet announcements, they were sold out.
Didn't we learn our lesson with JackKnife Plug? Yes. We did. We're much better prepared to keep the supply line full, but since the C&D crew are on their way to Chicago, nothing more will ship until their return next week. They are taking a healthy supply with them for the show, so if you're going, stop by early and check it out. And, while you're waiting, read Kevin Godbee's excellent review in PipesMagazine.com.
Coming Soon—Triple Play, and the June Bug!
20th April, 2011
After the wonderful reception of JackKnife Plug, more than a few of you asked for a virginia/perique plug. Some suggested adding perique to JackKnife, which, of course, I tried, but the balance was wrong. The overall profile was nice, but the amount of dark-fired leaf competed with, rather than enhanced the addition of perique. If enough perique was added, the virginias got lost. After some fiddling with the percentages of the different virginias, and reducing the amount of dark-fired leaf, everything came wonderfully into balance, and the result is Triple Play.
Once again, the leaf is pressed and matured in cakes before being cut into 2oz bars. I think the results are fantastic, and this one will appeal to lovers of classic VA/perique blends, with the added fun of having it in plug form. It reminds me a little of another classic blend, but I'll keep my thoughts on that to myself until after this one is released.
Triple Play will be unveiled at the Chicago show. Several retailers have already placed their pre-orders, so we're hoping to avoid at least some of the initial supply problems we experienced with JackKnife.
The Pease/di Piazza June Bug
In other news, Luca and I have been hard at work getting the next of our limted-edition Pease/di Piazza pipes ready. Again, produced by the skilled hands of Luigi Radice, the June Bug is a playful variant of the bent dublin shape, almost like a chubby zulu. At about 5" long, it's not quite a brucianaso, but its stout profile offers a similar feel. It's a great little pipe. Several retailers have their orders in, and the pipes will begin shipping in a couple weeks. Keep an eye on Luca's NeatPipes site for more details as they become available. We're really excited about this one!
7th April, 2011
For the past couple weeks, I've been smoking a prototype of my next blend, another plug. This one comprises some wonderful virginias, a little dark-fired (less than in JackKnife—more about that in a minute), and Acadian perique. Initially, I'd originally wanted to present this one in the same way as JackKnife, as a "layer cake" of leaf, with that beautiful central frosting layer of dark tobaccos. Unfortunately, the dark tobaccos tend to delaminate easly, and the bars broke apart like an Oreo cookie. An easy fix, and not a big deal, really; while I specified JackKnife to be this way for a reason, isolating the brights so they retain their character, that's not important with the new one, and a more complete integration of the different leaf turns out to be a better idea anyway. So a "failed" experiment was a success, after all, and all the tobaccos are being gently coaxed into a harmonious comingled existence.
The new one will be called Triple Play, and is scheduled for release to conicide with the Chicago show. We're planning on being better prepared, this time, so we don't have so much early release issues, and can keep the supply-line flowing more efficiently in the early weeks. (I got enough hate-mail from the last fiasco.) Triple Play contains less dark-fired leaf than JackKnife, and the blend of the virginias is different. Simply adding perique to the JackKnife formula resulted in a blend that was very much out of balance, but with this formulation, the blend is really nice. It's still big and bold, but not out of kilter, at least to my palate.
On Sunday, I stopped by Telford's in Mill Valley for a joint gathering of the Golden Gate Pipe Club and the Sacramento Pipe Collectors' Assembly. It was wonderful to spend a couple hours in the fellowship of pipe afficianados. My thanks to Brian and Susie Telford for their gracious hospitality, and to the secret friend who tipped me off to the meeting.
Finally, if you haven't seen it, pop on over to Pipes Magazine and read my latest column, Affordable Luxury, as well as the other great articles there. It's been a real pleasure writing for Kevin these past months, and having a regular deadline has certainly helped to bring a little discipline to my often overly scattered daze, er, days. Sort of.
JackKnife Plug Update
2nd February, 2011
JackKnife Plug had a somewhat challenging start. Demand was high, and we had a hard time keeping up for the first few weeks. It takes time to make it, and weather conditions were interfering with delivery in some cases. Stores would get their orders, and sell out almost as quickly as they put them on the shelves. I suppose if there's going to be a problem, this is the kind of problem you'd want. Of course, we'd rather not have the problem at all, so…
Good news! We're caught up. It's rolling out consistently, now, and there shouldn't be any future problems with supply, even with the current high demand. I have received quite a few notes in my inbox, some kind, some rather rude. I'll just say, at this point, if you can't get it, it's not my fault, and sending me nastygrams won't make it appear on your retailer's shelves any faster.
Of course, I couldn't be happier that this new blend has developed so much interest and so many fans. The response from those who've already tried it has been wonderful. I really thrilled that people are enjoying this one so much, and I've got some fun things planned for the future of the New World Collection. Yes, we've learned our lessons from this, and will be better prepared next time. I've also put together an article in the Briar & Leaf Chronicles discussing ways to prepare plugs, for those who are not accustomed to tobacco in this form.
- Original Mixtures
- Classic Collection
- Fog City Selection
- Heirloom Series
- Old London Series
- New World Collection
- Limited Editions
- Unabridged List
- Where to Buy
Thoughts & Words
- Photos from the In Celebration of Briar project
- Some Pieces from my Collection
- Pipe Photographs at Imagekind Galleries