One aspect of pipe smoking that I was immediately drawn to is how the culture around the hobby allows for—encourages even—a certain sentimentality. Not in a cloying way, but it's something about the emphasis and appreciation for the history and the tradition shared by many who engage in the pastime.
I can also say I have a certain romanticism about Richmond, Virginia, as many tend to feel toward their city, town community, etc. So, I thought I’d theme this Tobacco File in appreciation of the historic Edgeworth brand—the original Richmond recipe as I've heard it called. This February I’ve been smoking Sutliff Ready-Rubbed and Cobblestone Hiking, two modern mixtures blended in the likeness of the storied Edgeworth cuts. And of course, I'll wrap things up with the Featured Cigar—ADVentura The Explorer Corona Gorda.
I'm changing things up a bit with this column, starting with a little history on the Edgeworth brand before I get into the blends.
That history begins when Charles and Herbert Larus purchased the Harris Tobacco Company in 1877 on East Franklin St. in downtown Richmond, changing the name to Larus & Brother Company. In 1897, the operation would move a few blocks southward to the now historic Tobacco Row. After a fire destroyed the building in 1911, it was rebuilt and expanded in 1916 and 1925. It's from this building (now an office complex) that a pillar still overlooks the James River with the Edgeworth name.
A little aside—my last job was as an associate at the Virginia Holocaust Museum, right next to the Edgeworth building. The museum was once the American Tobacco Company's (ATC) Climax Warehouse. Climax was a popular plug tobacco from Lorillard, the oldest tobacco manufacturer in the US and part of the ATC until it was dissolved by the U.S. Court of Appeals, making Lorillard independent once again. But during this period of rampant monopolization in the tobacco industry, prior to the ATC's break-up, Larus & Brother were an outlier, remaining independent.
Ben Rapaport writes in An Intimate History of the Tobacco Industry, 1850-1920, “Larus & Brother Company…began manufacturing chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco in plug form, Edgeworth, then a pre-sliced pipe tobacco in 1903, believed to be the first tobacco for pipe smoker, and in 1912, it introduced ‘Edgeworth Ready-Rubbed’ as the first pipe tobacco ready for smoking…pre-sliced and rubbed" (75).
In the decades to come, as business was lost with the trend toward cigarettes, Larus diversified into television and radio broadcasting and the charcoal industry, but by the late 60’s, they had closed their charcoal businesses and sold their television station. The Larus & Brother Company disbanded and the Larus Investment Company was established as a holding company for WRVA-Radio, WRVA-FM, and the tobacco operation. The latter was sold to Rothman’s of Canada in 1968, and would continue to operate out of Tobacco Row until closing the factory in 1974.
The New York Times reported prior to the Richmond factory closing, "[Larus & Brother president, J. A. Gauntley] said the company would maintain offices in Richmond to conduct future operations, which primarily will involve the licensing of Edgeworth's pipe‐tobacco brands to other manufacturers and some cigarette trademarks that mainly are sold abroad.”
I’m interested to know exactly how these two blends bumped around moving forward, but I’ve had difficulty figuring that out. Of course, Ready-Rubbed would end up at Lane Ltd. where it would be made until 2010, only to be briefly introduced as Lane Limited Ready-Rubbed in 2015.
As for Edgeworth Sliced, I’m unsure of the trajectory, but it too is gone. It seems production of these blends may not have stayed together. From the Winter 05 issue of Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine, William Serad offers this tidbit in the Trial by Fire column, “Thought by some to have disappeared, Edgeworth Sliced is still made in England (or the EU according to the tin) under license to the successors of the House of Edgeworth. The Edgeworth ready-rubbed is still made in the U.S.”
Anyway, I don’t have too much of a longing to try all the bygone blends I’ve missed. Don’t get me wrong, the times that the opportunity has presented itself, I've been very excited and grateful, but it’s not something I’m going out of my way for or turning at night over. The exception is Edgeworth. Okay, I’m sleeping fine, but there is a particular interest there, and it really just comes down to curiosity. Every time I see that pillar peeking above Tobacco Row, I can't help but want to try Edgeworth.
First we have Sutliff’s Ready-Rubbed, which Carl McCallister blended as a match for the Edgeworth original. I haven't turned up a product description for this bulk offering, so we'll go right into it.
Sutliff Ready-Rubbed is mostly in a cube cut, with some chunks that more resemble the bits you get from loosely breaking apart a crumble cake. This seems to comparable with the Edgeworth cut, going by what I’ve seen in pictures. Of course, our modern concept of a ready-rubbed cut departs from this, which most often describes a partially rubbed out—or, broken—flake.
Being a bulk blend, I jarred some up a few days ago and it’s been sealed in wait. I untwist the lid and take in the aroma.
Cocoa and molasses come through, hazelnut and wood as well.
It’s easy enough to gravity pack, which I do into my Missouri Meerschaum Little Devil Cutty Cob. The tobacco is a bit moist, so I anticipate some relights, especially with the cubed cut, but we'll see.
From the beginning, the flavors are true to the tin note—molasses, nutty, cocoa.
There’s a caramelized sweet note and a light earthy, herbal quality.
I have given a few relights to get it going as I assumed may be necessary. I try to give it a nice stoke just to get some momentum, which helps. Luckily no threat of bite so far. Burley’s isn’t known for its bite, but this teeters on the edge of Aromatic, so I was a bit concerned, but I’ve got Ready-Rubbed smoldering nicely now and I’m getting plenty of flavor (which is to say, my tongue is not leather).
The wood is pine-y and I get a maple note. In some ways it reminds me of Mac Baren Dark Twist Roll Cake, which I smoked for the December Tobacco File.
Sutliff Ready-Rubbed is consistent through and through. From first light to dottle, from smoke to smoke—you know just what to expect. Though the top flavoring is important to the profile, the Burley features prominently, and I suspect there’s some Virginia mixed in. I anticipated a dimming of the top flavoring at some point into my first few smokes, but it didn’t come.
I made a note while smoking Sutliff Ready-Rubbed in my Molina Tromba the other day that I'm notice a taste like honey graham crackers. That still seems to track as I smoke it now in my Missouri Meerschaum Legend.
That docile nature I mention in the first smoke has also been consistent. Not even a mild pinch in the sinus, such as Hiking offers. The retrohale accentuates the woody side, but that’s about it.
Ready-Rubbed has still given me a bit of trouble getting a good light that doesn’t ask for too much relighting, but the last few smokes have been less temperamental in that regard as I’ve broken some chunks into finer pieces and set them aside to dry and then layer that throughout the pack. This seems to avoid losing much top flavoring while facilitating a consistent burn without being too finicky.
I don't mind a few relights, but it's nice to be met halfway, especially when you have a tasty, consistent blend that is such a nice light-it-and-forget-it smoke.
Sutliff Ready-Rubbed has been a very enjoyable blend. Though it’s remained as consistent as my previous entry detailed, I have developed a preference for average to small chambers, but as a matter of capacity more than diameter. It’s a delight from the jump and doesn’t change through the smoke, but if long enough, I do. My interest flattens a bit, that’s just me, but it makes it a fantastic 45 minute to an hour or so smoke, and sometimes that’s all you need.
For fans of...
|The Outdoor series by Cobblestone is designed to be the perfect companion for your next adventure in nature, with the Hiking blend offering Burley in a flake cut for a taste as bold as your next great wilderness escape.|
Cobblestone Hiking is a part of the Outdoors series, and is a favorite from the somewhat green brand. Hiking has been lauded as a great option for fans of its scarcely available peers, Solani Aged Burley Flake, and Wessex Burley Sliced, the latter being a Kohlhase & Kopp production, which Hiking is as well.
This won’t be my first taste of Hiking, I’ve enjoyed it for a while, though haven’t had a bowl since it was featured as a Compare & Share Mystery Blend.
Here we have a flake, sliced thin in the European style. Hiking runs the gamut in shades of brown.
A natural and faint tin note offers cedar, grass, and some cocoa in a faint bouquet.
The thin flakes have a bit of a shine to them, which will sometimes give me the impression that they’ll be quite moist, but breaking down Hiking, it seems to be hydrated perfectly to go ahead and pack.
I’ve packed up a recent estate clean up, a Royal Sovereign, likely an Orlik second. It's been delivering some wonderful smokes the last few weeks, and I'm particularly fond of the stem which is more robust than it appears.
A toasty aroma wisps from the char light. Once I get going I get very natural flavors—wood, molasses, a subtle sugar note that has a bit of a caramelized warmth. A hint of cocoa, not unlike Sutliff Ready-Rubbed in taste but far more discreet.
There’s a bit of spice that plays in the sinus, but quite mellow.
Burns real well, but is one that I make a point not to clench so much while smoking. It has no problem keeping a light but can burn a little too eagerly if not mindful of a moderate pace.
I've seen some reviews positing that Cobblestone Hiking contains some Virginia and Dark-Fired. I can definitely see Virginia—Burley isn't totally without sweetness, but I’d say Hiking's (albeit, moderate) sweetness, coupled with its bready and grassy notes, implies some Virginias in the mix. Though I wouldn’t be floored to know that sweetness is more of the casing at work and the Burley is baking up some bread.
As for Dark-Fired, I can’t say I notice much Kentucky flavor, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that tinge of spice in the olfactory isn’t coming from a moderate mix of the varietal.
Looking at my tasting notes from smoking Cobblestone Hiking in several pipes or varying sizes and materials, it definitely seems my experience with the blend varies. I don't mean that negatively, there’s only been one smoke I’ve not enjoyed (which I'll explain), but it leans into different aspects of the profile with different smokes.
One thing I’ve noticed is that I don’t get as much of the cocoa topping in larger diameter bowls.
That aforementioned bad smoke came from another pipe I recently cleaned up—a Yello-Bole Burley. This is an interesting pipe, it’s made of brylon—a synthetic briar alternative that S. M. Frank developed in 1966 that was used (mostly) for select Yello-Bole and Medico series.
I really love the look of the pipe, and it had delivered a few promising smokes when first testing it out, but the bowl gets very hot, and this last smoke went acrid fast. It couldn’t be helped, and I dumped the remainder. Hate to waste it but no sense burning out the palate on an unsatisfying smoke for principle’s sake.
I immediately packed my trusty Chacom Star and enjoyed a wonderful smoke of Cobblestone Hiking. The Yello-Bole isn’t a lost cause, but I don’t think it will be all that versatile—I’ll have to try and find where its strengths lie.
I definitely noticed the topping better in my Chacom which is one of my more narrow chambers. Like I wrote in the last entry, the topping is lighter yet similar to Sutliff Ready-Rubbed, but Hiking has a more dynamic mélange of flavor beyond that. In addition to the flavor notes I’ve mentioned, I’ve noticed a light anise in some smokes.
It’s been a great month of smoking two wonderful Burley blends. All I can really add to my notes on Cobblestone Hiking is that I’ve come to pick out a little savoriness that hints at a Dark-Fired presence. Then again, knowing that it’s a component others find, the mind can have a way of finding what you’re looking for whether it’s there or not. Maybe it's there, but regardless, there’s more to curiosity than getting answers.
For fans of...
This month I tried several fine cigars from ADVentura, and I truly struggled deciding between featuring Kings Gold and The Explorer. I went with the latter, but just have to give an honorable mention to Kings Gold.
ADVentura The Explorer Corona Gorda
Wrapper - Mexican Habano
Binder - Ecuadorian Sumatra
Filler - Dominican, Ecuadorian
Size - 5 ¾ x 46
The Explorer has a nice medium brown wrapper; a few veins but seems nicely constructed. I first notice a light body of cocoa, dark chocolate, and nut—apt for this month’s column considering the pipe tobacco blends featured. Cedar and grassy notes develop.
A light spice adds a nice dimension. I get a ginger note around halfway. Into the final third and nearing the end I find a rise in the dark chocolate, and a lean into a somewhat earthier profile. A nice even burn down to the finish.
Until next time...
This Tobacco File was a lot of fun for me, and I'd definitely like to explore doing some other themed approaches for future columns. I always enjoy getting a bit into the weeds on the history and whatnot. Any ideas are more than welcome!
As always; feedback, advice, requests, corrections, friendly hellos—email@example.com.
- Ben Rapaport. An Intimate History of the Tobacco Industry, 1850-1920. From The Briar Pipe of Saint-Claude to The Cigarette in The Trenches of World War One. Colorado, Rhodesco Print and Design, 2021.
- William Serad. "Trial By Fire." Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine, Winter 2005
- A Guide to the Larus & Brother Company, Richmond, Virginia, Records, 1877-1974 - Virginia Museum of History & Culture