Esoterica Penzance, Balkan Sobranie, Samuel Gawith and Germain’s Brown Flake are but a few of the mystical tobaccos which eluded me for years, always lurking just out of reach. I would hear people praise them in forums or at my local smoking parlor and get angry because I wanted to be a part of the discussion.
After some time, that anger turned to forced apathy and sour grapes. I had convinced myself that the tobaccos they were talking about weren’t ACTUALLY that great, people just talked about them because they were hard to get. I thought it was a way for the inner circle to flaunt their luck of the draw.
And that’s where I stayed for the longest time, locked in a holding pattern between being jealous and apathetic. I couldn’t have been more wrong about these tobaccos; the truth is people talk about them because they are in a whole different league. The smoke IS that good. Sadly, I stayed in that frozen position until I did a little work, and then I realized that these Tobaccos aren’t that hard to get if you know what you are doing.
Let’s discuss how you too can try all these great smokes.
EMAIL NOTIFICATIONS ARE BECOMING USELESS
Before we talk about what you SHOULD do, let’s talk about the amount of work most people put into acquiring these tobaccos, thinking they can get these precious smokes with a copy and pasted address. Email notifications. It’s what everyone does, thinking they will land the hard to reach treasures.
I talk to a lot of Esoterica and Germains fans. We all put in for the announcements. Many people do. I’m sad to report that this time around, a lot of folks who put in for the notifications didn’t even get them. The tobacco came and went without many people even knowing. I put in for the warnings despite the fact that I had secured my sources, just to see if they came through because I was already thinking about writing this post. Out of 9 online vendors that offer notifications, I received one. A heads-up for one of their 8oz bags of Pembroke. I won’t be mentioning any names here, but you do the math. Email notifications aren’t cutting it, and sadly, I am in the majority here.
So what can you do to secure some of these golden dragons?
BRICK AND MORTAR IS THE KEY
The most accessible place to get Esoterica and Germains is your local Brick and Mortar Tobacconist. They get massive shipments, and they hold onto them for their regular customers, so the window of time goes from maybe five minutes to react to a stock alert at an online retailer to a few weeks to purchase at a brick and mortar. BIG DIFFERENCE!
Many people will tell you to go to a Brick and Mortar shop and start glad-handing the workers, feigning support, for a quick in. This is NOT the way to go about it. They will see through your efforts right away.
It comes down to genuine support. If you scratch their back, they will happily scratch yours. Going into a place you hardly visit and trying to make fast friends with the owner will get you nowhere. They can spot you a mile away. The workers at Tobacco Shops are used to this stuff, trust me.
To prove my point, my girlfriend and I traveled to a Brick and Mortar store a few states from mine in Tennessee that I have a connection with, but who are unaware of what she looks like or who she is. I had to go to a place other than my regular shop because they know her all too well.
I knew that they had recently received a shipment of Eso. I sent her in with $400 in cash and instructed her to ask about Esoterica. She came out empty handed, saying that they told her that lots of people were asking about it, but they hadn’t gotten any. I then went in not long after her and came out with a full selection of Esoterica and Germain’s goods.
So what do we learn here? Brick and Mortar tobacco shops hold onto their high demand goods for their regulars. Period. B&M’s can’t compete with online retailers on the straight dollar, so every customer counts. If you regularly buy from them, you mean more to them than Joe Schmoe who just walked in off the street inquiring about their most demanded goods. So they save their valuable stuff for the people who support them all year. Once all their regulars have a go at it, they will put out the word for everyone else and sell what’s left in a few hours. That’s just how it works.
As you can see, you have to put some work into it and be genuine about it. You can’t just have your eye on the prize; this is about making a positive change in the world of tobacco, not just about scoring a good smoke. Go to your local store. Talk to people. Smoke in their parlor and most importantly: BUY THEIR TOBACCOS. You’ll enjoy it, and you will be supporting a good cause! Sure, the prices may be slightly higher, but they offer a real experience of camaraderie and genuine knowledge that you can’t get anywhere else. Not to mention, once you earn their trust, you will get to buy goods they hold back for their most dedicated customers. Everyone wins.
The vast majority of my Esoterica, Germains, and Samual Gawith comes from brick and mortar stores. I’d say at least 80% of what I buy I get from REAL places, not online.
FACEBOOK GROUPS, REDDIT AND OTHER BOARDS
So let’s say that you, for one reason or another, can’t get your Esoterica from a brick and mortar. Maybe there aren’t any in your area? This, unfortunately, is all too common.
There’s still hope!
The vast majority of people who DO experience success with online retailers are on individual, curated boards, and groups that concentrate on the acquisition of those elusive leaves.
I’m not going to do the work for you and name names, but if you look around, you’ll find groups on Reddit, Facebook, and other boards that will help you out when it comes to acquiring the hard to get tobaccos.
Many of the people who take part on these boards and groups have connections with retailers and will put the word out to start watching a site before the tobacco even drops. This puts you at a VERY STRONG advantage over the people who are relying on E-Mail Notifications and page refreshing.
I’ve had people in groups tell me the site, the tobacco that was dropping, and when it was going to drop — all this information was given to me four hours before the drop even happened. I had my choice of lot. Most online sellers trickle out their releases over a few days, putting up one or two blends at a time, so there isn’t too much confusion.
Some of these boards and groups are heavily vetted and have rules about conduct, sales, and participation, so pay attention and follow the rules or you may find yourself banned before you even score a drop. It’s all about being a helpful person and sharing information.
Once again, in this situation, it’s about making the community better and valuing that over just scoring the best smoke. Starting to see a trend here?
START A BLOG OR YOUTUBE CHANNEL
One last way that you can put yourself on the map and try some excellent tobaccos is by giving to the community in some way. If you develop a valuable voice, the smoke will find you. The most common outlets are Blogs and YouTube Channels.
The key here is practice, knowledge, and creativity. You need to practice reviewing tobacco, learn about the tobacco, and give the information in a new and exciting way. Just jumping on camera and talking about how much you like Carter Hall in a monotone voice isn’t enough. You need to inspire people. Inform them. Entertain them. Hopefully, you’ll do a bit of all three.
Not only will you be opening the door to new blends for smoking, you’ll be giving good material to the world of pipe smoking, and this is valuable to everyone.
I hope that I have given you some ideas about how you too can try some of these great tobaccos. They are out there for everyone to enjoy, and they are certainly worth the work it takes to get them.
I also hope that you see how working toward a richer, fuller, experience in the tobacco hobby can benefit you in many ways. Being a good piper is paramount to everything else, the perks that follow are simply the icing on the cake.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, I know. If you have other suggestions, please put them in the comments section.
Thanks for reading and good luck hunting those treasures!
All photos are the property of Justin Day at Photography By Day Studio. You can find more of my work here.