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Visit to G Smith and Sons

BradMajorsBradMajors Member
edited September 2012 in Snuffhouse Archives
Since we recently discovered that Smith's Cafe Royale is now being sold in pots labelled "Gawith Hoggarth" I'd been meaning to pop into the store to find out which of Smith's snuffs are made by GH and which are made by Samuel Gawith.

Well I finally made the trip yesterday and the results were rather surprising.

They now have a selection of their own snuffs on display in the main part of the store, although most of them are still stacked up behind the counter. The stock levels were the highest I've ever seen - an entire 5 foot shelf stacked up with their own brand. But with the exception of the F&T range, the selection of other snuffs in stock had declined. I only saw two SG tap boxes (Peach and Strawberry), small tins of J&H Wilsons Top Mill, Red Bull and a single box of large Wilsons tins.

First surprise - every single one of the Smith's snuffs was in a plastic tub labelled Gawith Hoggarth. I spotted the following:
Attar of Roses
Cafe Royale
Golden Cardinal
George IV
Kendal Brown
Spanish
Special Menthol
SP Best
Top Mill
Strawberry (the "Wild" has been dropped).

I didn't see Cardinal Menthol, Cinnamon or Princes Dark but I couldn't read the labels of all the snuff behind the counter. If they were in stock, I can guarantee that they were in the same plastic tubs.

Another surprise was that they had large vacuum sealed tins of Samuel Gawith with a sticky label reading "Smith's Blend".

This is all a bit strange, especially as ermtony visited the SG factory a few years back and they told him that they made Golden Cardinal.

I can think of a couple of scenarios.

(1) Gawith Hoggarth are being supplied by Samuel Gawith with snuff which they are rebadging as "Smiths" snuff and adding the GH name to them.
(2) SG have lost the contract for producing the whole range of Smiths snuffs to GH and SG are now only supplying a single new snuff called "Smith's Blend".

Yet another surprise - these 25g GH tubs are now a bollock-shrivelling £7.80 apiece. Given that My Smoking Shop are selling the same GH tubs at £2.09, I think the old argument that the high business rates on a central London shop justified the price can now be replaced with a charge of blatant profiteering.

There was no sign of the old 10g tins so they appear to have been dropped from the range.

Comments

  • CarolCarol Member
    Too rich for my blood.
  • Pricewise, they must be taking tips from Mr Snuff. He is charging £5.53 inc vat (uk sales tax) for F@T 25g containers instead of about £3.15.( for USD multiply by 1.5) in the uk and he is now based here.
    This is taking the p**s.
  • Cardinal Menthol is no longer being made, according to a friend of mine who asked at the shop a month or so ago.

    They have had Smith's Blend (in GH pots) for some time - I bought a large tin about 6 months ago, it wasn't quite as eye-wateringly expensive as it is now, (but still over 6 quid). The SB is very similar to Kendal Brown, but not exactly the same. It may well be a special exclusive blend, but that doesn't excuse the sky-high cost. Snuff Store UK have exclusive blends but at reasonable prices.

    If you buy snuff from G Smith's, you have to be prepared to pay over the odds for a comparatively small selection.
    They haven't done 10g tins for a while either - probably couldn't get away with charging £4.00+ for them any more.
  • @toffeenose: "They have had Smith's Blend (in GH pots) for some time - I bought a large tin about 6 months ago"

    You mean you bought a 25g GH tub or a large SG tin ?
  • I was going to pay a visit in a few weeks as I will be in London, but I think I won't bother now. I'm not being fleeced for mutton dressed as lamb. I think I'll head for Mullins & Westley instead - I enjoy their snuffs and they're cheaper too.
  • @ BradMajors: good research, there. So did you buy anything?
  • Mullins & Westley are just a short tube (subway) ride from me. Might pop down when I have time. Anyone know what they stock and how much they charge?
  • @Xander: Having tried most of the Smiths range in the past, the only thing I was tempted to buy was the Smith's Blend - but I didn't. Had I known in advance that it was a KB-style effort from Samuel Gawith I'd probably have been more tempted.

    @London Jack: Mullins and Westley always have four core brands in stock (Keen Scented, Jock's Choice, Particular and Mature Crumbled) and one or two "Manager's Specials" which were Emerald Mocha and Citrus Delight on my last visit a few months back. They're £4.40 for a 25g tin.
  • @BradMajors. Thanks. Are there any reviews of the Mullins and Westley brands anywhere?. Your own opinion on these snuffs would be appreciated.
  • BradMajorsBradMajors Member
    edited July 2010 PM
    They're all Wilsons snuffs so they're obviously good quality.

    I like Jock's Choice and Mature Crumbled the most. The former is like a toned down F&T Seville with the standard Wilsons tobacco base. Mature Crumbled is like a subdued Best SP with a more pronounced tobacco flavour.

    Particular and Keen Scented are okay, though I wouldn't rate them as anything special over other Wilsons blends.

    Citrus Delight is way too strong on the orange flavour for my taste - I was expecting something more akin to Lemon Grove. Emerald Mocha does what it says on the tin - coffee and chocolate flavour. It's similar to Irish Coffee with chocolate hints added. Not really my kind of thing, but if you like "candy" snuffs you may like it.
  • @ JakubM and BradMajors. Thanks for the information. Its really appreciated. Work permitting, next week I will pop into Mullins and Westley and buy a cople of tins.
  • Jock's Choice is a first class snuff. I've not had most of the rest, but that one I'd get again.
  • Reading this topic made me want Jock's Choice that I bought and didn't yet have an occasion to enjoy, so I just took a pinch and yes, it's a very nice snuff indeed. The scent from the tin is just great, good Wilsons tobacco base and nice citrus taste, I only wish it would be stronger in the nose, but maybe I'm not getting full aroma after a few nice piles of Molens Oranje I took before.
  • "Yet another surprise - these 25g GH tubs are now a bollock-shrivelling £7.80 apiece. Given that My Smoking Shop are selling the same GH tubs at £2.09, I think the old argument that the high business rates on a central London shop justified the price can now be replaced with a charge of blatant profiteering."

    As a mere 25 grams now costs £7.80 it is clear that the guv wot now runs G. Smith & Sons is, in his own Cockney rhyming slang, havin’ a right ole Turkish at the load of ole Hamptons and Steamers wot pays nearly Ayrton Senna for a pot of Salmon and Trout.

    I have a very tatty booklet from Smiths. It’s not dated, but was probably obtained about 1964/65. As was the case until the 1980s, almost every snuff has a different price tag.

    The cheapest snuff was Kendal Brown at 6/4 an ounce (28 grams) followed by Black Rappee at 7/4. The most expensive by far was Cafe Royale at 16/0, which was also the cost of Fribourg & Treyer‘s Santo Domingo. The average cost for an ounce was 9/6. Although old prices include the steep Customs and Excise duty, which was (thankfully) lifted in 1978, it‘s mildly interesting to convert these to modern prices. An online inflation guide reckons £1/0 in 1965 = £12.96 in 2010.

    Old prices are in shillings/pence. (Before 1971 there were 12 pennies to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound.)

    Royal Cardinal 11/0 - £7.07
    Golden Cardinal 10/0 - £6.43
    Orange Cardinal 8/8 - £5.57
    English Cardinal 8/0 - £5.14
    White Cardinal 8/0 - £5.14
    Red Cardinal 8/0 - £5.14
    Green Cardinal 8/0 - £5.14
    Apple Blossom 9/0 - £5.79
    Attar of Roses 13/10 - £8.89
    Black Rappee 7/4 - £4.72
    Café Royale 16/0 - £10.29
    Carnation 9/4 - £6.00
    Cinnamon 8/4 - £5.36
    Consort 8/4 - £5.36
    Copenhagen 8/4 - £5.36
    Cuba 11/0 - £7.07
    French 7/8 - £4.93
    Garden Mint 11/2 - £7.18
    George IV 9/8 - £6.22
    Golden Lavender 10/0 - £6.43
    Grand Opera 10/0 - £6.43
    Heliotrope 13/10 - £8.89
    Irish High Toast 7/8 - £4.93
    Jockey Club 7/4 - £4.72
    Kendal Brown 6/4 - £4.07
    Latakia 10/0 - £6.43
    Lavender 8/8 - £5.57
    Lemon 9/0 - £5.79
    Menthol Extra 7/4 - £4.72
    Otterburn 11/8 - £7.50
    Peppermint 8/00 - £5.14
    Princes Dark 7/4 - £4.72
    Rose 7/4 - £4.72
    Sandalwood 13/10 - £8.89
    Spanish 8/8 - £5.57
    Special M 10/0 - £6.43
    Superb 11/8 - £7.50
    Super Menthol 10/4 - £6.64
    Tonquin 7/8 - £4.93
    Town Clerk 9/8 - £6.22
    Vanity Fair 13/10 - £8.89
    Violet 9/0 - £5.79
    Wallflower 7/8 - £4.93
    No. 34 Special 9/4 - £6.00
    No. 74 Special 7/8 - £4.93
  • That is indeed interesting. So some prices are actually quite a bit lower now, particularly Café Royale. I'm pretty sure the "Copenhagen" on those old price lists refers to the oral snuff as a US import. I've seen it listed as "Copenhagen Chewing" as well.

    I would have liked to try Heliotrope, being a lover of florals. Apple Blossom also sounds interesting, as do all the Cardinal series.
    I really need to save my shillings & pence and try the rest of the current range before they reduce the list even further.
  • “That is indeed interesting. So some prices are actually quite a bit lower now, particularly Café Royale. I'm pretty sure the "Copenhagen" on those old price lists refers to the oral snuff as a US import. I've seen it listed as "Copenhagen Chewing" as well.”

    The cost of snuff in the UK is much lower than was the case prior to 1978. Firstly, in 1976 the Chancellor removed the ad valorem tobacco excise duty in the UK. Secondly, after commissioning much research the EEC (now the EU) decided to remove all Customs and Excise duty from tobacco intended for snuff manufacture for health reasons alone. The costs of snuff-taking plummeted.

    Although Value Added Tax was restored we all still benefit financially from the tax lifting by the EEC ... unless of course you shop at G. Smith & Sons, which imposes a rip-off tax all of its own.

    Copenhagen was listed as a snuff, but is oral as you observed.

    “I would have liked to try Heliotrope, being a lover of florals. Apple Blossom also sounds interesting, as do all the Cardinal series.”

    The booklet available at Smith’s was very informative. Adorned by a tall Highlander the lengthy motto was:

    Till man had all he could enjoy,
    He had not joys enough;
    Nor fully could each sense employ
    Till Fortune gave him snuff

    Heliotrope is described as: “A special blend of North American and Oriental tobaccos which carries to best advantage the delicate Heliotrope perfume.”

    The Cardinal series were all perfumed. English Cardinal was high-dried. White Cardinal was a mixture of fruit, floral and menthol! Royal Cardinal was the classic Tonquin snuff and the only one I liked from the series.

    Until very recently all snuffs could be obtained in little glass jars called Miniatures - an effective method of sampling for the curious.
  • BradMajorsBradMajors Member
    edited July 2010 PM
    @PhilipS: Very interesting, thanks for posting the list me old china.

    I didn't know Special M was originally a Smith's blend. And I'm guessing that "Otterburn" is what's now called "Otterhound" ?

    Interesting too that Latakia is priced at just over the average - I guess the steep rise in the tobacco price happened later.
  • I didn't know Special M was originally a Smith's blend. And I'm guessing that "Otterburn" is what's now called "Otterhound" ?

    @BradMajors - It is more than likely that the almond flavoured 'Special M' now made in Kendal was always made in Kendal and that the customer simply paid extra for the ‘privilege’ of buying it on the Charing Cross Road instead of a windswept town in Westmoreland (now Cumbria).

    Can’t recall whether I ever tried Otterburn or not. My booklet describes it as: “A mild highly-perfumed (in bold) snuff of distinct characteristics blended from Kentucky Burley and West Indian air-cured tobacco. Extra fine milled.”

    If Otter Hound (Otterhound) is the same as Otterburn, then they were being marketed at the same time under different names and at vastly different costs to the customer. Quite possibly they were. If so it would be neither the first or last time that such a deception was practised between brothers of the box. For example, Jim Palmer, manager at the Haymarket establishment, confided to me that their then ‘High Dry Toast’ came straight from the mill at Samuel Gawith and was not altered or changed in any way whatsoever except to re-label it..

    Not sure about Latakia wholesale prices, but as a snuff tobacco it has not proven to be too popular. Mark Chaytor of Wilsons (Sharrow) & Co. introduced a Latakia snuff in the early 1980s as a counter to the new confectionary snuffs. It was marketed under the name of Cyprus and was dark, moist and coarse and the same cost as the Grand Sharrow range. Because of lack of sales or wholesale prices it had, before the end of the decade, disappeared as effectively as Banquo's ghost at daybreak.
  • One of my first snuff purchases was a Smith's glass jar. I don't know if it was called "miniature" but its a 1ounce jar. It was the now discontinued Lemon, and still has a few pinches left in it.

    Thank you for the additional information, PhilipS. I may seek out some heliotrope essential oil and scent my own snuff. As you point out, its delicate and will require a very neutral plain snuff. I will think on this.
  • BradMajorsBradMajors Member
    edited July 2010 PM
    @PhilipS: I'm sure I recall reading somewhere that Samuel Gawith's Latakia was discontinued due to the rise in wholesale cost but I could be mistaken. According to Wikipedia, a large warehouse fire destroyed tons of Syrian Latakia in 2004. Maybe this was related to its demise.
  • Here, Brad, is yet more evidence regarding the origin of G. Smith & Sons snuffs. It shows that the Kendal Connection is longstanding. Almost undoubtedly Smiths would once have being supplied by the nearby snuff mills on the Wandle.

    From the New York Times, 1983

    “Mr. Rose buys his more than 50 blends (traditionally called sorts) of snuff from three mills in Kendal, a small market town in the Lake District. The mills are easy to locate: You just follow your nose.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/1983/03/23/garden/snuff-tradition-that-still-persists.html

    Thee three mills mentioned above were Illingworth, Sam Gawith and Gawith Hoggarth. Although Illingworth is no more it’s clear that the current owner has not changed his Gawith sources.

    A brief description by Vivian Rose of all the snuffs available from Smiths in 1963 (identical wording in the price catalogue) is found on pages 45-47 of Snuff Yesterday and Today by C.W Shepherd. There is a lovely photograph of the shop front in the early 1960s showing, among other items, the Highlander that featured in their catalogue.
  • Thanks PhilipS. I was aware that GH and SG still made Smith's snuffs but it was surprising to see last week that all the snuffs bar one were in Gawith Hoggarth branded tubs.
  • The mystery of the production of the Smith's snuffs was solved yesterday following another visit to the store in an attempt to buy some Samuel Gawith Smith's Blend. Of the two scenarios I suggested in the initial post, the second was (almost) correct.

    '(2) SG have lost the contract for producing the whole range of Smiths snuffs to GH and SG are now only supplying a single new snuff called "Smith's Blend"'.

    The tin of Smith's Blend which was on display five weeks ago had disappeared from the shelf. When I asked the assistant for some, there was a bit of initial confusion as he thought I was looking for one of the range of GH "Smith's blends". He then claimed that they hadn't sold any SG for several months. When I insisted that there was a tin of SG "Smith's Blend" in the shop a few weeks ago, he told me that it must have been the last of some old stock.

    "We don't deal with Samuel Gawith any more. They're hopeless. They take three weeks to deliver an order. They can't even keep up with deliveries to the States, which is their biggest market."

    So it seems that Smith's have had the same troubles dealing with SG as those experienced by NicotineRush and MrSnuff.

    I wonder if maybe the Managing Director has maybe decided against having "no plans to give up work" ?

    As i was about to leave he tried to sell me some Spanish instead, claiming that it was similar to Smith's Blend (and if Smith's Blend was a KB style, this obviously wasn't true). I still took a couple of free pinches when they were offered though !
  • Smiths is the classic example of a great small business going down the pan when a truly committed owner retired. It was a glorious place under Vivien Rose, now a pale, pale shadow of its former self. Unless you knew it as it was you can't appreciate the change. I've asked for old Smith's blends - like the fabulous Tonquin - to be told 'never heard of it'. Despite living an hour away I won't go in anymore. Sad.
This discussion has been closed.