Long before the Orlik tobacco brand era, a keen smoker by the name of Louis Orlik founded a pipe manufacturer under the same name in the heart of London’s Bond Street. In those earliest days, Orlik was setting up a business of importing Meerschaum pipes, amber cigars and even cigarette holders among several other items. This was the year of 1899 and tobacco smoking was perhaps more popular than ever before in the thriving city, the demand for quality products within reasonable prices increasing by the turn of the century. One of the reasons that made the company so popular among the British was the droll advertising that soon became one of the hallmarks of the company: an image of a judge with a long white wig smoking a classic billiard, accompanied by the words Smoked by all shrewd judges - an exceptional icon of pipe smoking that has been carefully kept to this day.
Orlik Tobacco Company U.S. advertisement for Dark Kentucky Flakes and Golden Sliced, sold in short square cut.
The story of how Orlik came to be a tobacco brand is entirely different. In 1979, the Orlik merged with the Cadogan, a company that had no interest in tobaccos, merely the crafting of pipes. However before the merge with Cadogan, Eric Edinger (father of Nicolai Edinger) was using the London warehouse (at the time producing 75.000 tobacco barrels a year) to initiate most of the Danish Orlik series we know today, then known by the tin colors as Red, Yellow, Green or Blue, launched to the market with the help of Gunnar Lewinsky’s W.Ø. Larsen factory - already a powerful reference of Dane tobacco in the mid 20th century. In 1971, tobacco production was moved to the production of Assens Tobacco Factory in Denmark, where an increase in the variety of this series was verified, with the release of Gray Orlik tobacco, as well as Sailor, Black, Gold and Golden Mixture. In time, this factory took over the full range of the Orlik Tobacco Company: by 1990, the company added a few new blends namely the White and the Brown that, for a period, were exclusively produced in the A&C Petersen factory in Horsens. The last brands the company produced included the Orlik Club, Brown Mellow Mixture and the unique Orlik Vintage.
However, the last twenty years have not been without deep changes as far as the sphere of tobacco production is concerned. With the subsiding fascination for pipes and pipe-smoking, the Orlik Tobacco Company is now entirely focused on a smaller selection of its own age-old blends - the most popular of which inside this tin under the name Golden Sliced.
Upon opening this appealing and thick 100g red top tin the old judge appears as a larger illustration, wisely smoking his vintage billiard pipe in an expression of utmost approval of this blend. The paper wrapping the tobacco is quite durable and the cardboard circle has a peculiarity to it, as do all round-tinned Orlik brands: a half-moon shaped cut can be used to lift the cardboard and avoid any uncomfortable attempts to use one’s nails to remove it. Small details, of course, but the sort that bring joy to the pipe smoking experience.
Behind the cardboard protection lies one of the most beautiful sights in years of tobacco smoking: an almost perfect, extraordinary long flake that seems to have curled itself into the tin as if by its own free will (view a larger version of the photo for additional detail). The nostrils delight at the ascending smell of a tobacco that is bare and pure. Unlike the square cut tin, this 100g brand allows the smoker to slowly unravel the curled flake and cut according to his own desire so as to match the size of the pipe bowl selected to taste this half a century old recipe. Interestingly enough, the round 50g tin variety also holds its unique surprises: while the quantity is obviously smaller, the flake concealed therein is also very long and considerably wider than the 100g counterpart - as this photo demonstrates. In either case, filling the pipe is fairly easy for anyone already familiar with flake cut tobaccos.
This is, as mentioned before, a remarkable Danish mixture. Of course, a tradition of light aromatics from that provenance have created among the less informed smokers the myth that all Dane tobaccos are flavored with high doses of vanilla, chocolate or hazelnut: and while this is entirely true for known brands like Holger Danske or Ålsbo it does not suit the example of the Orlik flaked or rolled tobaccos where flavors are softly hinted and by no means invasive.
The camera flash light was used to expose the diversity of tobacco leaf colours included in this mixture, the bright and red Virginias contrasting with the darker brown burleys.
Fortunately, the tobacco inside the tin was at the perfect level of humidity, as the flakes were fairly easy to remove without breaking (which would indicate excessive dryness) or leaving any noteworthy amount of scraps behind. To produce this unique brand, Orlik uses mature virginias together with a dose of (invariably) sweet burleys that enable the smoking to be durable and mild. The tin comes with a very noticeable smell of citrus, which does make a difference in the taste of the smoke around the mid-bowl when the tobacco will also unveil a remote hint of its spicy quintessence.
Flake tobaccos are, by definition, slow burning tobaccos and this red variety - whose name refers to the use of distinctive red Virginia leaf - is no exception. Because of the purity of the tobacco and the quality of the Virginia leaf used to craft this blend, it requires no additional flavoring or casing, which is also very noticeable in its very subtle room-note. Additionally, the Golden Sliced flakes stand to the test of regular everyday smoking and pose a serious alternative for those who may consider Samuel Gawith’s Full Virginia Flake as a flake lacking in surprising nuances and sweetness. It is also recommended as an invitation card to the realm of flake tobacco smoking for all those seeking the pleasures of earnest virginia blends of the likes of Erinmore Flake or the classic Capstan Navy Cut. Moreover presence of a noticeable measure of Burley brings to mind Mac Baren’s Navy Flake.
It is most fortunate for pipe smokers that this brand still exists today and is offered with great availability world over, bearing in mind all the hardship faced by the Orlik company and its branches across Europe throughout the last decades. As the old ones might say, this finest of tobaccos does tend to alleviate the troubled mind and to aid in the making of great decisions.
The author of this blog entry wishes to thank Knud Nis-Hansen at Danish Pipes for the historical background leading to the current Orlik Tobacco Company.