Staking out Tobaccos in Ireland

photo 1The first Monday of August is a national holiday in Ireland and like Ferragosto in Italy, just about every shop in the entire country is closed. The Fox and Peterson shops in the central Grafton Street of Dublin are closed and do not open again until Tuesday morning. A little too late for someone like me who had set aside exactly that Monday for the last (and main) shopping spree, as my return flight from Dublin to Rome was booked on Tuesday and I had returned to the Irish capital (after a trip around the island) on Sunday. So much for the planned tobacco stash! But, at least, I had some tobacco I bought two weeks earlier, when I had arrived. I will review the Peterson tobaccos separately in this very issue. Here, I will describe two Fox mixtures (Fox tobaccos were born here, but then moved to London). One is the "Banker's Mixture" which I already knew and am sure that many of you have at least heard of, as it has often been discussed in this magazine. You have probably realized how much I love this mixture. I would compare it to Dunhill's Cuba which also contains Havana wrap among its ingredients, but I think that it is even better: richer and fuller in body, more complex in nuances, and more satisfying in general.
Personally, I think that it is better than any Dunhill. The other Fox mixture was a loose tobacco sold in brown cellophane pouches with the make's name. I had asked if they had a dark, traditional flake, possibly with a dash of perique. When they showed me this partly broken, dark and greasy flake, smelling fresh and strong with whiffs of petroleum and laundry soap,
I was so enthusiastic that I asked for four ounces without even knowing its price! Smoking it was an immense satisfaction: fresh, yet full of taste, soft, oily and delicately bitter, rich in nuances. It was elegant even in its roughness!
I looked for Mick McQuaid's Square Cut, which I really enjoy, but I was told that it is no longer produced (but some friends found it in England).
I did find the Ready Rubbed version and (with a bit more trouble) the Plug. The Ready Rubbed is not as fully satisfying (it's cut too fine) and the Plug is a little rough, not quite as soft as the little square flakes, but I¹m still happy I found it. Plugs deserve a separate note: they are miniature "cakes" of compressed tobacco, which I believe were originally meant as chewing tobacco. Naturally, before smoking it one has to use a knife to cut it into slices and then crumble the slices into one's preferred flake size. As I have already said, I think that the McQuaid and the Murray's Yachtsman are very similar to the above in appearance (dark with golden strands) and odor (toasted with rum and cocoa), but a little stronger and heavier ( also for the stomach). Last but not least, the Condor is even darker and has that hint of soap that I could smell in the Fox flake. These are full tobaccos, hard to break into a good smokable size. You must draw slowly on your pipe if you do not wish to "harass" your stomach, but punctually it will go out and every time you light it you dangerously draw a little more heartily. This is not stuff for beginners - nor is it an all day tobacco for the more expert. I think that it must be similar to what our grandfathers used to smoke and tasting it was like taking a step back into the past and trying something ancestral from an old tradition now in danger of extinction... almost like watching a giant panda, a Siberian tiger or a whale in its natural habitat and knowing that you are one of the last to do so. You are aware that you are experiencing something that might be lost to all those coming after you in this "falser", increasingly standardized and homogenized world, constantly poorer in animal species and also in tastes, odors and perfumes. photo 2