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Little known fact, Fort Knox doesn’t have gold bars in it. It’s full of Esoterica tins.
In the realm of pipe smoking, there exist certain blends that are whispered among pipers in hushed tones, full of reverence and respect. When the new, greenhorn piper seeks out new tobacco blends to try, they inevitable catch wind of these blends from their reputation alone. Yet when the hapless piper searches their trusty pipe sites to purchase these legendary blends for themselves, they run into the three most dreaded words a pipe smoker can find online.
“Out of Stock”
It might as well say “Abandon all hope, ye who wish to purchase.”
I ran into this problem many times when I first took up the pipe. I’d go on my usual pipe forum haunts, hear about a blend a user was raving about, and take a look on my pipe purchasing sites. More often than not, I’d encounter the “Out of Stock” conundrum, sigh, and make a mental note to check back later. Sometimes, the blend would come back in stock, having just temporarily run out of their supply.
But some of these blends would never ever come back in stock. I’d wonder if the blend had been discontinued, yet I’d read about lucky forum users purchasing these blends in acquisition threads. I wondered if they had four leaf clovers and lucky horse shoes, or made some dark pact with a demon to find them. I began noticing this was a problem in particular with certain tobacco companies, with the main culprits being Samuel Gawith, Dunhill, and especially Esoterica.
Since those early days, some of the blenders improved their stock of pipe tobacco for online retailers. Dunhill came back in distribution to the US, and Samuel Gawith blends have become easier to find. Whereas once Full Virginia Flake was a rarity, it’s not so much these days. I’ve been able to purchase a few tins of Squadron Leader, which is still tricky to find at times.
Not so with Esoterica, and their blends had the most ardent followers of them all. I’d see threads devoted to their blends, such legendary tobacco such as Stonehaven, Penzance, as well as And So To Bed. Even lesser talked about blends like Pembroke and Tilbury were impossible to find, ever. Yet still many forum goers would rave about them, continuing the legacy of these blends.
Sometimes I’ll hear about these blends showing up on eBay. Want a bag of Penzance? Well sonny, it could be yours for the small ‘Buy It Now ‘price of $500! What a deal, right? Better act fast before another shrewd piper jumps on it before you do.
Right, I think I’ll pass.
Then there are the sell/trade sections on forums. Someone will inevitably offer their supply of an Esoterica blend. Don’t expect to find yourself a deal there, either. Every piper worth their salt knows how lauded these blends are, so expect to break that piggy bank for every penny to buy it. No thank you!
Nowadays on places like Instagram and the pipe Reddit forums, I’ll see threads with the title “Esoterica/Balkan Sobranie blends in stock on [insert obscure pipe site here]!” pop up once a month. Of course, I’m not in a financial place to jump on these deals, so that’s out of the question. It doesn’t matter, though, because by the time I see that the white whale has surfaced, it’s already out of stock.
My pipe mentor from christianpipesmokers.com once sent me a large sampling of different pipe tobaccos to try. As I dug through the many samples, I found a couple of Esoterica blends tucked away among the various blends. At last, I could finally see what all the hubbub was about with Stonehaven!
When I learned that I was all clear to graduate with my MFA Scriptwriting degree one night, I decided I’d celebrate with a bowl of Stonehaven and a good book. There was just enough of the blend to fill my poker, and off I went to try this rare blend. I lit my bowl, and began puffing away on the golden flake.
It was good. Fireworks didn’t shoot off in the distance. A symphony didn’t suddenly appear out of thin air and play the Masterpiece Theater theme for me while I puffed away. It was a nice smoke, plain and simple.
When the tobacco burned into a white ash, I tapped out my pipe and reflected on my experience. Sure, it was a good blend, but you know what? I have lots of good blends stored away in my basement. I could just replenish many of those blends for the price of one bag of Stonehaven. For all the hype, I decided that others could fight over Stonehaven.
Ultimately, I’ve decided that Esoterica blends will never be part of my cellar. As nice as these popular blends are, it’s just not worth the hassle of hunting them down just to say I’m smoking Stonehaven on Instagram. Give me a few tins of Cornell & Diehl or McClelland blends over a bag of Esoterica.
Just recently, I started attending the local Chicagoland Pipe Club meetings. The tobacco shop we meet at has some of the lesser known Esoterica blends available for purchase. For $40, I can have a bag of Tilsbury in my cellar. I instead went with other blends I found at the shop, because I’d rather use my pipe funds for other things.
So if Esoterica blends are your pride and joy, by all means hunt them down. The effort it takes to find them just doesn’t appeal to me. I’ll take my Exhausted Rooster or Three Friars instead. At least I know they’re in stock until the mean old FDA gets their evil claws on them.
Puff in peace friends!