A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I hope you won't mind. . .

. . .a little more self-indulgence. It's just that I have certain things that I'm passionate about, and a blog seems like a good place to talk about them.

Obviously, I have a keen interest in politics, as well as music as you can see below. Well, that goes for tobacco, as well. How I got that way is a matter of serendipity.

A while back, I was going through some money woes -- only worse than normal -- and it was just about that time that cigarette prices spiked in Kentucky. Being a dedicated Camel Filters enthusiast, I was filled with proverbial righteous indignation and decided to explore other avenues of satisfying my habit.

I'd heard about "roll-your-own" cigarettes from a frequent poster on Lucianne.com in those days, and decided to do a little research on the subject. This led me to a website called RYOMagazine.com, which is dedicated to the "roll-your-own," or RYO industry. (Some refer to it as "MYO" for "make-your-own," for reasons of anal-retentiveness.) It really is a great site with a wealth of information for anyone who might be interested in trying it out.

Granted, making your own isn't for everyone, but I've been doing it now for three years, or more. I have to say that I wouldn't go back to buying prepackaged cigarettes on a bet, and there are several reasons.

Admittedly, I've talked a couple of people into trying it, and they gave up after a couple of weeks. I didn't ask why, but I suspect that it was just too much of a bother for them to go to the trouble of taking the time out of their day in order to make up a pack to carry with them. And, that's understandable. For some people, it takes a while to get the hang of it. I'm fortunate enough to have fairly deft hands, and can usually fix up a pack's worth in about twenty minutes, which is less time than it takes me to run to the store and back for a pack. So, one of the reasons I make my own is that, in the long run, it's much more convenient for me.

Also, there's the not-so-minor consideration of price. I can get two cartons for about half the price I'd normally pay for one carton of prepackaged cigarettes. Over the course of a year, that adds up to a lot of money. So, I have that extra cash to spend on gasoline, or groceries, or shoes, or whatever I want. I like to think of it as beer money. But that's a subject for another self-indulgent post.

But, the main reason I'll always go the RYO route is quality. It's something you can't really appreciate until you've actually made your own cigarettes for a while, but the taste and texture of the tobacco you get in hand-rolled tobacco is so superior compared to that of the pre-rolled type as to make you wonder whether the two actually come from the same plant. I say this not so much as a criticism of premade cigarettes as a praise of the quality of tobacco you get when you make your own. I smoked Camel Filters for over 15 years before I made the switch, so it's not as though I'm trying to say I'm somehow "too good" for them. I'm just a convert -- more Catholic than the Pope, perhaps.

And, what's even better is the array of tobaccoes from which you have to choose. There are so many different varieties, flavors, and blends out there that to catalogue them here in any detail would require a blog of its own. And even a tin of the finest, most expensive tobacco is roughly half the price one would pay for a carton. Throw in a couple of bucks for a box of cigarette tubes and a little effort to stuff them with the tobacco and you can have a truly enjoyable smoke for the price of a song.

I have a tobacco that I normally smoke, for everyday usage, and from time to time, I'll buy a tin of something else for pure enjoyment, or just to try something new. Granted, not every tobacco is wonderful to my taste, and I quickly learned to avoid the "flavored" tobaccoes -- like vanilla -- no matter how great they might smell in the can. But, there are many styles that make for great, pleasurable smoking.

My everyday tobacco is a brand called McClintock Full Flavor, which is one of the more affordable brands but, in my opinion, some of the best-tasting tobacco available. It's made by a man named Peter Stokkebye, of Denmark, with Kentucky and Virginia leaf (as most all American-style tobaccoes are) and it's full, rich and smooth to a degree that is hard to get across to the uninitiated. One woman friend of mine absolutely loves it, and always has to "bum" one whenever she comes by, or we happen to be in the same place.

At the moment my "coffee break" tobacco is a brand called Jester, which is more of a European-styled shag cut tobacco. I bought the can just to give it a try, and it really is enjoyable. It has a spicy flavor to it that you don't get in American styles, but is a little milder than most of the European-style halfzware shags, which have a richer, fuller, more complex taste -- overpowering to some.

Normally, I'm not one to go for overly sophisticated flavors, but my first encounter with the European-style halfzware shag tobaccoes sold me on them. I guess I'd found the last two pouches of Drum tobacco in existence that were actually made in Holland, by Douwe-Egberts, before the brand was sold to the Sara Lee company. (There is a major difference in the product these days, though Drum is still a fine tobacco.) It was a bit dried out, but still had a great flavor that went so well with black coffee that I was tempted to go on a sleepless binge for two days, until I'd smoked every bit of it with one cup of coffee after another.

My favorite indulgence tobacco, however, has to be Peter Stokkebye's Amsterdam Shag No. 93. If you're a smoker, and you have any appreciation for somewhat exotic flavors, you have to try this tobacco at some point in your life. Compared to other brands, it's a little steep, but still vastly affordable compared to brand-name packaged cigarettes. I used to smoke it as an everyday tobacco, but after a while, the flavor loses its distinctiveness, and you become habituated so that you lose your ability to truly appreciate it. It's best used as a treat to help you relax, unwind and just enjoy a little change of pace now and then. Sort of like an extra dry martini in cigarette form.

So, that's the end of another guitar solo. I hope I haven't bored you too badly with my personal peccadilloes and self-indulgence. Again, I'll return to matters of importance in due course.

Thank you for your time.

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