Tobacco Juice 1:1 - April 1, 2004
1. A note from the publisher
3. A Tale of Two Latakias
4. Of Smoking
5. Odd Epigrams for Tobacco Jars
Quote for the week:
"I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective
judgment in all human affairs."
Homepage of the week: Gary Malmberg
1. A note from the publisher
Editing and publishing Library Juice for the past six and a quarter years
has been a great pleasure. I cannot begin to count the ways that this
project has rewarded me and taught me. Participating in the library
community in this way has spurred me to think more deeply about library
issues and stay on top of new developments, has introduced me to many
wonderful people, and has given me a voice that I wouldn't have otherwise.
I have debts to many at this juncture for help along the way.
Readers, it is with joy and sadness that I retire this publication as you
have known it, and recreate it with this, the premiere issue of Tobacco
Juice. Please allow me to introduce you to another wonderful community,
the community of pipe smokers and collectors.
Pipe smoking shares much in common with librarianship - the taste for
reflective study, a rich history and tradition and a corpus of cherished
lore, and a supportive community engaged in experimentation, research and
fellowship. I will bring the same enthusiasm to my engagement with the
world of pipe smoking that you have known in Library Juice. For these
reasons, I think you will gradually come to appreciate receiving the new
publication in your inbox.
So, dear readers, welcome to Tobacco Juice!!
Pipes Digest Pipe Smoking FAQ
"Tobacco"... an article from the August 1860 issue of the Atlantic Monthly
By David William Cheever
Pipe shape chart
Eat Tobacco? On the health benefits of smoking
Pipe Smoker's Bookshelf
Tobacco and the Soul
By Michael P. Foley
How to Start Smoking a Pipe
3. A Tale of Two Latakias
By Greg L. Pease
Originally published in Pipe Friendly Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2.
Republished here with the author's permission.
For many years, Syrian Latakia has been virtually unobtainable. We've heard
many lament the passing of this noble leaf, often accompanied by a feeling
that if Syrian Latakia were still available, everything would suddenly be
right in the world of tobacco. (A similar hysteria exists in the cigar
world. The mystique of Habanas is so great, that some will do anything to
get them, and extol their virtues, despite the fact that there are superb
cigars being made elsewhere, and that many of today's Cuban sticks are,
quite frankly, bordering on the bad side of mediocrity.) But, this delusion
is certainly not limited to our Lady Nicotine. In our quest for the Arcadia
Mixture of olde, we often seem to lose sight of the fact that things of the
past often become more precious once they are no longer available to us.
(This is one of the tragedies of art; an artist is rarely fully recognized,
financially, for his or her talent until their death assures us that no
more work will be produced, thus rendering priceless what was once merely
acclaimed - or in some cases, just odd.)
In our collective mourning over the absence of the sacred Syrian, it
becomes easy to take for granted what we do have. What about the fine leaf
from Cyprus? With Syrian Latakia once again finding its way into our pipes,
perhaps it is a good time to examine briefly the world of Latakia in
general. Taking a little closer look at each type will offer us the
opportunity to gain a new perspective on both varieties of this wonderfully
smoky, noble weed.
Characteristics of Latakia
Though the original Latakia of Syria, a necessary ingredient of many
classic mixtures of yesteryear, and the now more common Cyprian leaf, share
a name and a curing technique, these two tobaccos are quite distinct from
one another, each having unique qualities, and very different
Syrian Latakia is produced from the long, narrow leaves of the plant known
as "shekk-el-bint." After harvesting, the leaf is sun-dried, then hung in
barns to be smoked over smoldering fires of local herbs and woods,
imparting the characteristic smoky aroma and distinctive flavor.
Shekk-el-bint is a strong tobacco, possessing a hefty dose of nicotine
which is partially responsible for the robust "body" of the smoke. After
the long curing process, the leaf is a deep mahogany/brown color, with a
pungent, earthy, slightly sharp, smoky aroma reminiscent of driftwood
campfires on the beach. Its very assertive flavor is spicy and somewhat
tangy; perhaps one could even consider it tart, and it can easily dominate
a blend if used in large measure, prevailing over all but the most robust
Virginias. In small amounts, it mingles delicately with its cohorts; in
large quantities, it tends to elect itself to high office. Smoked straight,
it becomes downright dictatorial - sensory overload occurs quickly, and the
tangy aftertaste lingers on the tongue. It can also create spinning rooms
for those not accustomed to or tolerant of large doses of nicotine.
Syrian Latakia's island cousin from across the Mediterranean begins life as
as a plant of the the small leafed Smyrna, or Izmir variety. This is a
Turkish type tobacco, containing little nicotine, and known for its
delicately sweet flavor and excellent burning characteristics. The
harvested leaf is air-cured in sheds, and then fumigated in a manner
similar that used for Syrian Latakia. The finished product is nearly black,
with a deeper, darker aroma than the Syrian counterpart. Its flavor, in
comparison, presents less piquancy, and a rounder, less focused smokiness.
Its notable sweetness is unlike that of a matured Virginia, or a flavored
aromatic, but somewhat more sneaky, coming in to camp under cover of
darkness. Though more gentle than Syrian in its nature, Cyprian Latakia can
nevertheless be opaque, overwhelming more delicate tobaccos if used in very
large measure. A similar sensory overload to that of the Syrian variety
occurs if Cyprian is smoked straight, sans Hollywood special effects,
though the aftertaste is somewhat more ephemeral.
Each of these tobaccos provides a distinct and unique color on the
blender's palette, and with Syrian Latakia's long absence, many hues in the
spectrum of English style mixtures have been all but missing. That the
supply line is once again open is truly exciting news for the lover of
these sophisticated tobaccos, as it expands and extends the range of
possibilities for creating new blends, while simultaneously affording the
opportunity to perhaps revive some of the classic blends of the past.
Blending with Latakia
Blending is a balancing act; though guidelines can be invented, there are
no hard rules. The strength and depth of each individual tobacco in a blend
must be considered, along with the result the blender is seeking. The
percentages indicated in the following paragraphs merely serve as a
practical point of reference. Every smoker will have an individual reaction
to the various components of a recipe, but, in a well executed blend, each
ingredient should combine harmoniously, resulting in a blend which is truly
more than the sum of the parts.
If Cyprian Latakia can be compared to a fine Vintage Port, Syrian could be
likened to a dry Fino Sherry. For this reason, these two tobaccos must be
handled very differently when creating a blend. Latakia of either type can
be detected in a mixture in quantities as small as 3%, and by 5%, their
presence is unmistakable. Beyond these small portions, they really begin to
puff out their feathers.
When the amount of Cyprian leaf in a blend approaches 10%, its deep,
uniquely sweet flavors come alive, and its character develops continually
up to a level of about 40-45%, at which point the Latakia will overshadow
just about any other tobacco in a blend, resulting in a loss of nuance and
complexity, and a rather mono dimensional smoking experience. Certainly,
there are blends which contain even more Cyprian Latakia than 45%, and
these are enjoyed by many smokers, though more for the "Latakia Experience"
than for any allusion at subtlety.
Because of its sweetness, Cyprian Latakia blends seamlessly, in moderate
measures, with Virginias, enhancing the complexity of the mixture, while
adding some body and its distinctive, smoky flavor. The combination of
Cyprian leaf with oriental tobaccos is perhaps where the greatest care must
be employed. Because of their delicacy, these "Turkish" tobaccos are easily
overpowered by the more intense flavors of the Latakia. While a delicate
hand is rewarded by a blend of sublime subtlety, a heavy touch is akin
putting too many habaneros in the salsa; one doesn't soon forget the
Syrian Latakia's wine-like character begins to fully emerge at about 10% to
12%, increasing the strength of its "voice" until it becomes quite dominant
as the quantity approaches 30-35%, where its tanginess can become
unpleasant. Care must especially be taken when blending with the more
delicate tobaccos to avoid sensory saturation, where the spice and tart
flavors of the Latakia consume much of the smoker's attention, leaving
little room for nuance. An additional consideration is nicotine content;
Syrian Latakia is a strong tobacco, and too much in a blend can create a
real "sit-down" smoke.
The flavor of Syrian Latakia, while intense, is somehow more transparent
than that of Cyprian. Used sparingly, It can add new dimensions to an
oriental mixture with its sharp, direct smokiness. Care must especially be
taken when blending it with Virginias, however. In small amounts, it can
add a pleasant brightness to a darker, matured Virginia, but if too much is
used, the result can be quite discordant. As with any spice, erring on the
side of caution is generally the wise approach.
Latakia is known in Syria as "Abourihm," the King of Flavor, and it's easy
to see how this sobriquet was coined. It's also easy to see that, out of
balance, Latakia can become an overbearing despot, imprisoning any flavor
who dares to challenge his rule. The blender, acting as advisor to the
throne, can bring out the best this reigning monarch has to offer,
suggesting that his rule be gentle, fair and just, and that he not place
himself too high above his loyal subjects, each of whom contributes
something essential to the Kingdom.
It has been rare, in recent times, that the pipe smoking community has
gotten any truly great news, especially concerning tobacco. The arrival of
Syrian Latakia to our shores should be met with Champagne toasts and a
ribbon cutting ceremony, though we must not forget to honor the reigning
sovereign from Cyprus. Whether we prefer one to the other, or, better
still, enjoy them both, each for its unique qualities, let us raise our
pipes to both thrones with a hearty cheer! Long live the Kings!
4. Of Smoking
From Pagan Papers, by Kenneth Grahame. First published in 1893.
Concerning Cigarette Smoking: It hath been well observed by a certain
philosopher that this is a practice commendable enough, and pleasant to
indulge in, ``when you're not smoking''; wherein the whole criticism of the
cigarette is found, in a little room. Of the same manner of thinking was
one that I knew, who kept by him an ample case bulging with cigarettes, to
smoke while he was filling his pipe. Toys they be verily, nugæ, and shadows
of the substance. Serviceable, nevertheless, as shadows sometimes be when
the substance is temporarily unattainable; as between the acts of a play,
in the park, or while dressing for dinner: that such moments may not be
entirely wasted. That cigarette, however, which is so prompt to appear
after dinner I would reprehend and ban and totally abolish: as enemy to
that diviner thing before which it should pale its ineffectual fires in
shame -- to wit, good drink, ``la dive bouteille''; except indeed when the
liquor be bad, as is sometimes known to happen. Then it may serve in some
sort as a sorry consolation. But to leave these airy substitutes, and come
It hath been ofttimes debated whether the morning pipe be the sweeter, or
that first pipe of the evening which ``Hesperus, who bringeth all good
things,'' brings to the weary with home and rest. The first is smoked on a
clearer palate, and comes to unjaded senses like the kiss of one's first
love; but lacks that feeling of perfect fruition, of merit recompensed and
the goal and the garland won, which clings to the vesper bowl. Whence it
comes that the majority give the palm to the latter. To which I intend no
slight when I find the incense that arises at matins sweeter even than that
of evensong. For, although with most of us who are labourers in the
vineyard, toilers and swinkers, the morning pipe is smoked in hurry and
fear and a sense of alarums and excursions and fleeting trains, yet with
all this there are certain halcyon periods sure to arrive -- Sundays,
holidays, and the like -- the whole joy and peace of which are summed up in
that one beatific pipe after breakfast, smoked in a careless majesty like
that of the gods ``when they lie beside their nectar, and the clouds are
lightly curled.'' Then only can we be said really to smoke. And so this
particular pipe of the day always carries with it festal reminiscences:
memories of holidays past, hopes for holidays to come; a suggestion of
sunny lawns and flannels and the ungirt loin; a sense withal of something
free and stately, as of ``faint march-music in the air,'' or the old Roman
cry of ``Liberty, freedom, and enfranchisement.''
If there be any fly in the pipe-smoker's ointment, it may be said to lurk
in the matter of ``rings.'' Only the exceptionally gifted smoker can
recline in his chair and emit at will the perfect smoke-ring, in consummate
eddying succession. He of the meaner sort must be content if, at rare
heaven-sent intervals -- while thinking, perhaps, of nothing less -- there
escape from his lips the unpremeditated flawless circle. Then ``deus fio''
he is moved to cry, at that breathless moment when his creation hangs solid
and complete, ere the particles break away and blend with the baser
atmosphere. Nay, some will deny to any of us terrene smokers the gift of
fullest achievement: for what saith the poet of the century? ``On the earth
the broken arcs: in the heaven the perfect round!''
It was well observed by a certain character in one of Wilkie Collins's
novels (if an imperfect memory serveth me rightly) that women will take
pleasure in scents derived from animal emanations, clarified fats, and the
like; yet do illogically abhor the ``clean, dry, vegetable smell'' of
tobacco. Herein the true base of the feminine objection is reached; being,
as usual, inherent want of logic rather than any distaste, in the absolute,
for the thing in question. Thinking that they ought to dislike, they do
painfully cast about for reasons to justify their dislike, when none really
exist. As a specimen of their so-called arguments, I remember how a certain
fair one triumphantly pointed out to me that my dog, though loving me well,
could yet never be brought to like the smell of tobacco. To whom I, who
respected my dog (as Ben saith of Master Shakespeare) on this side idolatry
as much as anything, was yet fain to point out -- more in sorrow than in
anger -- that a dog, being an animal who delights to pass his whole day,
from early morn to dewy eve, in shoving his nose into every carrion
beastliness that he can come across, could hardly be considered arbiter
elegantiarum in the matter of smells. But indeed I did wrong to take such
foolish quibbling seriously; nor would I have done so, if she hadn't
dragged my poor innocent dog into the discussion.
Of Smoking in Bed: There be who consider this a depravity -- an instance of
that excess in the practice of a virtue which passes into vice -- and
couple it with dram-drinking: who yet fail to justify themselves by
argument. For if bed be by common consent the greatest bliss, the divinest
spot, on earth, ``ille terrarum qui præter omnes angulus ridet''; and if
tobacco be the true Herb of Grace, and a joy and healing balm, and respite
and nepenthe, -- if all this be admitted, why are two things,
super-excellent separately, noxious in conjunction? And is not the Bed
Smoker rather an epicure in pleasure -- self indulgent perhaps, but still
the triumphant creator of a new ``blend,'' reminding one of a certain
traveller's account of an intoxicant patronised in the South Sea Islands,
which combines the blissful effect of getting drunk and remaining sober to
enjoy it? Yet I shall not insist too much on this point, but would only ask
-- so long as the smoker be unwedded -- for some tolerance in the matter
and a little logic in the discussion thereof.
Concerning Cigars: That there be large sums given for these is within
common knowledge. 1 d., 2 d., nay even 4 d., is not too great a price, if a
man will have of the finest leaf, reckless of expense. In this sort of
smoking, however, I find more of vainglory and ostentation than solid
satisfaction; and its votaries would seem to display less a calm, healthy
affection for tobacco than (as Sir T. Browne hath it) a ``passionate
prodigality.'' And, besides grievous wasting of the pocket, atmospheric
changes, varyings in the crops, and the like, cause uncertainty to cling
about each individual weed, so that man is always more or less at the mercy
of Nature and the elements -- an unsatisfactory and undignified position in
these latter days of the Triumphant Democracy. But worst and fatallest of
all, to every cigar-smoker it is certain to happen that once in his life,
by some happy combination of time, place, temperament, and Nature -- by
some starry influence, maybe, or freak of the gods in mocking sport --
once, and once only, he will taste the aroma of the perfect leaf at just
the perfect point -- the ideal cigar. Henceforth his life is saddened; as
one kissed by a goddess in a dream, he goes thereafter, as one might say,
in a sort of love-sickness. Seeking he scarce knows what, his existence
becomes a dissatisfied yearning; the world is spoiled for him, its joys are
tasteless: so he wanders, vision-haunted, down dreary days to some
Yet, if one will walk this path and take the risks, the thing may be done
at comparatively small expense. To such I would commend the Roman motto,
slightly altered -- Alieni appetens, sui avarus. There be always good
fellows, with good cigars for their friends. Nay, too, the boxes of these
lie open; an the good cigar belongs rather to him that can appreciate it
aright than to the capitalist who, owing to a false social system, happens
to be its temporary guardian and trustee. Again there is a saying -- bred
first, I think, among the schoolmen at Oxford -- that it is the duty of a
son to live up to his father's income. Should any young man have found this
task too hard for him, after the most strenuous and single-minded efforts,
at least he can resolutely smoke his father's cigars. In the path of duty
complete success is not always to be looked for; but an approving
conscience, the sure reward of honest endeavour, is within reach of all.
5. Odd Epigrams for Tobacco Jars
I am, and am not,
A family jar.
Fill the bowl, you jolly soul,
And burn all sorrow to a coal.
A weed you call me, but you'll own
No rose was e'er more fully blown.
Behold! This vessel hath a moral got:
Tobacco smokers all must go to pot.
Your pipe's your friend!
A greater friend am I;
For in itself that friend will lack
What I supply.
"Man's life is but a vapour!"
Believe me or not -- I most truly contain
A soother of woe and an easer of pain!
Great Jove Pandora's box with jars did fill --
This jar alone has power those jars to still.
A jar, behold me! taste my store,
Take all you want, but take no more.
I'm "Solitaire," and Social's pal,
I'm Baccyful, not Bacchinal;
I'm Friendship's bond, I'm Freedom's type,
I'm Welcome's emblem -- take a pipe!
Still, should you choose my worth evoke,
You'll own my faults all end in smoke.
Although no artist, I can draw
My pipe to ease my care;
No architect, yet oft I build
Grand "castles in the air;"
No author, yet I can compose
My nerves, if aught should mar
My happiness, by virtue of
The plant within this jar.
There are jars of jelly, jars of jam,
Jars of potted beef and ham;
But welcome most to me by far
Is my dear old tobacco jar.
There are pipes producing sounds divine,
Pipes containing luscious wine;
But when I consolation need,
I take the pipe that burns the weed.
All ye who fell oppress'd amidst the strife,
The ceaseless wear and strain of busy life;
All ye whose spirits sink beneath the weight
Of dire misfortune, or of advers fate,
Search well within the jar, and you will find
The certain solace for a troubled mind.
Use with discretion what is offer'd there,
Inhale its fragrance, and forget its care.
Cope's Tobacco Plant, pp. 119-122
This has been a special April Fool's day edition of
L I B R A R Y J U I C E
We will resume our regularly scheduled programming.... forthwith!
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