Meet Chris Hopkins, a pipe blogger and former tobacconist. Chris worked for his first tobacco company at the age of 17 in Kentucky, then later as a tobacconist in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Chris currently operates an in- depth blog review of pipe tobacco and products at Pipe Tobacco Critique. He is currently a graduate student of theology at Kentucky Christian University and a minister in Winston Salem. Chris' passions include pipe blogging, movies, and cooking for his beautiful wife Emily. Chris will be writing a monthly column on pipe tobacco related subjects for us.
Smoking a pipe is about mood and culture more than anything.
An important part of the pipe smoking hobby is choosing the right tobacco. Special tobacco series add to the feel and the culture of pipe smoking. They all tell a different story.
One of the highest quality -- and one of my personal favorites -- is the Craftsbury Series made by McClelland Tobacco Company.
The Craftsbury line is inspired by settings that are both real and fictional. With just a few bowls, Craftsbury will begin to overlap reality and fantasy and transport the smoker to a place where pipe smoking is essential and beloved.
The overall inspiration for this series comes from every pipe smokers favorite author: J. R. R. Tolkien. The epic universe of Middle Earth is, without a doubt, the best possible backdrop for a clan of heros who love pipe smoking. It is in the heart of the Shire, the area filled with the most dedicated pipe smokers, where we find the towns and cities responsible for Craftsbury.
Just East of Hobbiton, the home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, lies the city of Frogmorton. Located on the Great East Road between the Three Farthing Stone and Whitfurrows, Frogmorton is the city Shire walked through in the beginning of The Hobbit.
Frogmorton seemed to be a peaceful city, where a large number of peaceful Hobbits dwelt. Next to eating and drinking, pipe smoking was the favorite hobby of these Hobbits. It seems that McClelland sought to capture the culture of this pipe friendly city and establish a culture of freedom and smoke.
Flavors of Frog Morton
Blends included under the name of Frog Morton are: Frog Morton, On the Town, On the Bayou, Across the Pond and Frog Morton Cellar.
Overall, every blend of the collection is of medium strength. Each of the five blends are heavy Latakia blends ranging from mild to full flavor. Many times Latakia blends are pressed into a flake tobacco, but Frog Morton keeps their tobacco ribbon cut, I suspect because it was unlikely for a Hobbit to have a tobacco press accessable.
Any of the Frog Morton labeled tobacco’s are going to deliver a perfect English smoke. Every single blend is one that can be smoked all day long by most smokers.
Deephallow is a small city that also resides in the Shire. Deep Hallow resides on the far southeastern border of the
Shire and borders the Brandywine river.
The Brandywine river separates the Shire from the mysterious world the Hobbits know nothing of, for they do not venture out of their homeland. Deep Hallow seems to be named so because of what it means to the Hobbits: adventure. Deephallow is the last known comfort for those who are so daring to venture into the unknown.
Flavors of Deep Hollow
Moving from the English blends, we find ourselves in a pleasant aromatic adventure with Deep Hollow. A total Virginia blend, rubbed out cut that is not only a pleasure to those around but to the smoker themselves.
Perhaps that most exceptional aspect of Deep Hollow is that it is an aromatic, a delicious one at that, which still reminds the smoker of being in the great outdoors. There is an apple and vanilla flavor that instantly takes the smoker to the feeling of an outdoor camping trip. This is a wonderful blend to accompany the English Frog Morton blends.
Grey Havens, also known as Mithlond, is an elvish port city. McClelland has now brought us from the Shire, to the borderlands, and now we have arrived at an elvish coast. Before many of the great wars taking place in Middle Earth, Grey Havens stood, and through all the battles remains.
This port city and its personal tale of survival is a symbol of hope for all elves. It stands for the power of endurance through the most heinous of evils. This is also the message to pipe smokers. This blend serves as joy and hope for those travelers who have endured the pain and stress of travel and now need nothing more than a good meal and quality smoke.
Flavors of Grey Havens
In paying homage to the Elven port city, Grey Havens tobacco tastes exactly as you would expect an Elven city to be like: delicious but intense. A Virginia blend that has a healthy addition of Perique and a dash of Burley. Grey Havens is definitely unique.
This blend is a pleasantly scented aromatic. This may seem surprising because of the large taste of Perique, but the aroma does not match the medium level intensity of the blend. Overall this is an Aromatic that will deliver and taste like an Aromatic, but will have the strength to satisfy the palates of those who are looking for more.
What use is there in fantasy unless we can connect it to real life?
It is for this reason Virginia Woods exists. While it is not named after a Middle Earth village, it is still inspired by it. Without a doubt, the Blue Ridge Mountains is the closest thing America has to Middle Earth. Beautiful scenery,
imposing mountainsides, and lush vegetation make the Virginia scene remarkable similar to Middle Earth.
It seems that McClelland is telling us that by taking in Virginia, we may take in the wonderful epic Tolkien has laid before us. Virginia is what makes fantasy come to life in each bowl we light.
Flavors of Virginia Woods
Once again McClelland gives us another pure Virginia blend, which is appropriate here, because the name of the tobacco is “Virginia Woods”. Although the blend delivers some mild tongue bite, the nicotine content of this blend is incredibly low, meaning it is quite easy to enjoy this blend early in the morning.
With a miscellaneous assortment of flavors, Virginia Woods makes the smoker want to be a part of an epic fantasy such as the Lord of the Rings.
Directions for your journey
So know we know where we are going on our journey, it is time to set off. Just as Bilbo had to take a leap into his adventure, we pipe smokers now have to jump into our own tobacco narrative. Begin with Frog Morton so that you will understand your roots in excellent English tobacco. Then head out and taste Deep Hollow that blends the worlds of English and aromatic together. Now we arrive to Grey Havens where we may enjoy a delicious light smoke that has a strong refreshing flavor. Finally, we end with smoking Virginia Woods smoking a tobacco that is common but tastes extraordinary. Ending our journey on a note of familiarity allows us to embrace the journey and make it special for ourselves.
There is no better end to such an incredible journey than to end it on a sweet note. When enjoying a spectacular series of tobaccos by one of the premier top quality tobacco manufacturers in the world, it is hard not to get a grasp of the culture of pipe smoking and fall in love with the hobby all over again.