I walked into The Tobacco Hut this afternoon eager to fire up a bowl of a tobacco that I haven't had in years, Dunhill's Early Morning Pipe. The Dunhill collection of tobaccos have been off the market for a number of years. From my understanding, it was a marketing decision by Dunhill to retreat from the U.S. market, while maintaining their brand presence overseas. Some pipe smokers have publicly announced a boycott when the Dunhill tobaccos returned in November of last years, but I was excited they were back. Dunhill has always produced a premium pipe tobacco and I couldn't wait to light up a pipe full of one of their blends.
I've tried many of the Dunhill blends over the years and settled on two favorites: Early Morning Pipe and My Mixture 965. The latter is one of the first English blends I tried while working for the Tinder Box over twenty years ago and it opened up a whole new world for me as a pipe smoker. The intricacies and nuances of a fine English blend of tobacco are sometimes an acquired taste but, once obtained, bring a new appreciation to pipe smoking.
Last week I ordered a tin of Early Morning Pipe from my old manager, Mike, at the Tinder Box in Dublin, Ohio and today was its inaugural smoke. Early Morning is a light tobacco, in taste and body, with sweet Oriental tobacco blended with Bright and Red Virginias and just a hint of Latakia. I haven't smoked EMP in probably eight years but the aroma and flavor came rushing back. The vessel I was enjoying it in was a Crown Viking pipe I had bought from Lou several years ago and the combination was a winner! The tobacco burned beautifully all the way to the bottom. When I was done I tapped the underside of the bowl a couple times and out came pure white ash. No dottle or unburned bits of tobacco. A perfect smoke!
Alas, there were no hard core pipe smokers in attendance today at the Hut with which to share my revelry. The smoking pleasure was mine alone. However, my arrival was greeted with the smiling faces of Vic and Joe, and Lou, of course. The two retirees compared notes but the talk soon turned to Apple's new iPad. One of the last times Vic was in the store, Joe showed him his and I think Vic has been keen to purchase one. We talked at length about the merits of the iPad 2 versus the original one and then suddenly the two aforementioned retirees were in the middle of negotiations. I wasn't sure who started it, but by the end hands were shaken and Joe's iPad became Vic's. No money or merchandise actually exchanged hands, but the official transfer will take place in two weeks. Harkening back to September of last year when Joe sold me his iMac, it was like deja vu all over again.
In addition to being anxious to light up some Early Morning, I was also eager to peruse the new freehand pipes I knew Lou had gotten in. He said he had ordered three Crown Viking pipes and after the initial pleasantries were exchanged, I quickly glanced over to the pipe showcase. I didn't really notice anything new and then Lou informed me that, in fact, he had received three Crowns during the week and almost immediately sold two of them.
I was incredulous! It couldn't be! I had my heart set on buying a new pipe and I just couldn't believe that two of the three would have moved that quickly. The remaining Crown, although a beautiful specimen, wasn't exactly what I had in mind, so I will have to wait until Lou orders some more. It is my fervent belief that, because of the celerity that the first two sold, he will order replacements forthwith.
Box Ed made a brief appearance. He was looking forward to settling in for a smoke, but got called to a job. Duty calls, I'm afraid, so hopefully he'll have time next week. And apparently we have to change his nom de guerre to Pouch Ed because he no longer transports his pipe and assorted accoutrements in a cigar box, but rather a newly purchased pipe pouch. I don't know...I kind of like Box Ed. Pouch Ed doesn't have the same ring.
I was kind of thinking that I would see Adrian when I arrived at the shop, considering that last week he didn't make it in time to do battle over the chessboard. He had pledged to come early today so we could play and I must say I was disappointed to not see him. Fearful that perhaps he had turned, well, "yellow" as it were, I was heartened to see him bustling in at around 3:30. His first words were, "Set up the board!" Yes - the game was afoot!
I quickly set up the pieces while my opponent selected a cigar and lit up. Adrian began with the white pieces and chose a king's pawn opening. We both moved deliberately and thoughtfully, and we soon progressed to the point where I was employing only my long-range weapons, the bishops, Adrian had only the short-range pieces, the knights, at his disposal. It was an interesting conflict and while I was preparing an attack on his queenside, he was coming dangerously close to mounting an attack on my own queenside. Unfortunately for Adrian, he wasn't able to get his knights in to position as I had at least one of them pinned, and I finally prevailed.
Barry made a surprise visit and sat down to enjoy a cigar. It was good to see Barry after an absence of several weeks (months?) and he provided rich commentary on our chess game. Don't be a stranger, Barry!
Adrian and I began another game with about a half hour left in the day and our initial moves were made rather quickly. I played as white and opened with a Queen's Gambit, which was immediately accepted. The benefit of a Queen's Gambit Accepted is that white, while down a pawn initially, has superior position in the middle, and I did enjoy that advantage for a time. However, I soon found myself with a gaping hole in my kingside defense, after castling kingside. We had to adjourn the game as it was closing time, so the board has been safely placed - intact - in an empty spot of the front showcase. Lou was very gracious to let us use the space and his gesture is most appreciated. The game will continue next Saturday.