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 Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company

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JimInks

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Location : North Carolina
Registration date : 2012-08-31

PostSubject: Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company   Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:40 pm


M'lady and I were invited guests at the Sutliff Tobacco Company on Friday, Nov. 1. We were greeted by much of the front office, and given a very detailed tour of their headquarters. Upon entering the manufacturing plant, we were immediately greeted with an intoxicating aroma of latakia, which was what was being processed that day. It was fascinating to see the steps that go into taking tobacco leaves, and turning them into quality smoking pipe tobacco. I saw the giant containers of different kinds of Virginias and burleys before their use, and in various stages of preparation. I saw the different ways tobaccos are flavored, and all the steps leading to bagging and tinning products for sale. I was shown production sheets of what was being blended, and percentages of what went into one particular blend. Their production equipment was an interesting hybrid of old school machinery merged with present day computers. Everybody in the plant were well trained and efficient in their duties, and were exceptionally friendly. I was greeted by genuinely warm smiles by every single worker I encountered, and chatted with a few of them. It was easy to see that the employees enjoy their jobs.

It's common knowledge that a number of local B&Ms relabel blends with their own house names, and I saw some of them used in that process under both real and house blend designations. There are some companies that come to Sutliff for their tobacco, some I knew about, a few I didn't. Their inventory is logically detailed in its storage, and is easily accessed when needed. I also saw large, heavy duty cabinets containing flavors for some products, and though I didn't get to personally sample the rum or the bourbon (darn it!), I was assured that they came from top companies. Well, having smoked Barbados Plantation (a rum based blend) and Top Shelf (a bourbon based blend), I have no doubt it's true.

At one point, several of us sat in the lobby in very comfortable chairs, and discussed the ins and outs of the pipe smoking world, not to mention baseball and cigars. Previously, I had only been known to them by e-mail and a few telephone calls, and of course, by the reviews I've been writing for their company as one of several taste testers. I was treated like an old familiar relative visiting the family, and simultaneously as a special guest of importance. To a man, they profusely and repeatedly thanked me for what I have done for them, pointedly noting that I was fair in my reviews, whether I was complimentary or constructively critical.

Though Carl McAllister is the artistic mastermind behind their blends, and certainly, absolutely knows infinitely more about his craft than I do, he was very appreciative of my praise and suggestions. I learned a lot about his thoughts on various tobaccos and their properties, and how they work together. Carl has an open minded approach on the subject of blending, and treated my comments as though they came from someone of greater standing and knowledge than I possess. He also had lots of praise for his fellow blenders, particularly Russ Ouellette of Pipes & Cigars, whom I have had the fortunate privilege of speaking to on more than one occasion. We filled the room with pipe smoke as the time flew by, and he gifted me a tin of MacBaren Old Dark Fired from which we both smoked.

Sutliff's purchasing and logistics point man, John Schone, arranged our visit, and along with Carl, was our tour guide. John also does other jobs for the company when needed, and generously made sure I was loaded up with a number of sample products, including a few he knew I already smoked and liked. He was funny, unpretentious, with an easy going manner. He thoughtfully gave m'lady a Sutliff baseball cap, t-shirt and coffee mug. In fact, everybody made sure she was part of the lively conservations that dominated the day.

One of the things that pleasantly surprised me was that the President of Sutliff, Paul Creasy, came out of his office to greet me, and later, after the plant tour, joined in on our gab fest in the lobby for a while. He was funny, very down-to-Earth, and keenly interested in what I had to say during our exchange of ideas about the nuances regarding the state of the industry and his business philosophy. I found him to be a self-assured man eager to listen to others, and willing to adapt or change his views when presented with an idea that makes sense to him. His knowledge of his craft and company is exhaustive in detail and thought. He clearly loves and believes in his products. When he discovered I hadn't tried either Voodoo Queen or Count Pulaski, he saw to it that I was given very generous amounts of each. Paul has created an atmosphere of cordiality, fun, and consideration that one seldom sees in a business of their size.

In this day of corporate mega-structures and faceless, insensitive businessmen who care about nothing but the bottom line, it's refreshing to see how a smaller company like Sutliff conducts their business. Don't think of the former Altadis Pipe Division as the large corporate guys; they have been in the Richmond plant functioning with less than thirty people for over fifty years, many of whom enjoy long tenures. Top to bottom, the people at Sutliff have the look of family about them. A family that cares about their jobs, their customers, and the world of pipe smoking that means so much to serious and occasional smokers alike. They may be used to being the small guys, but to me, they are important players in our smoking lives, and we are the richer for what they do and how they do it. After all, how many companies would shut down much of their front office work for a customer/tobacco reviewer and his wife for the better part of a day? I dare say not many.

If you've read any of the threads I've started in this or other forums, you may recall that all this started with me inquiring about Edward G. Robinson's Pipe Blend earlier this year. Jonathan, the company Operations Manager and my first contact with Sutliff, was the man who kindly gifted me the sample of EGR, which lead to me promoting the blend at several pipe smoking forums, and eventually being a taste tester. It was he who started this train down the tracks, and aptly noted, "Who knew that all this would happen because of Edward G. Robinson's Pipe Blend?" Who knew indeed, Jonathan? You have my profound gratitude for all that this has led to for me: a great day with great people who generously gave their most of their work day and sample products for m'lady and me. I thank all of you for a truly wonderful visit.
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Brewdude

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Age : 64
Location : Near the Emerald city
Registration date : 2011-05-04

PostSubject: Re: Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company   Tue Nov 05, 2013 8:47 pm

What a wonderful read and account of your experience Jim. You clearly have had a unique insight into Sutliff, and the fact that the principles of the company came out to personally give you their time and hospitality speaks volumes about their integrity.

Very nice write up, and any pics (if they were allowed) will be appreciated!


cheers cheers cheers cheers cheers 

Cheers,

RR
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JimInks

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Location : North Carolina
Registration date : 2012-08-31

PostSubject: Re: Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company   Tue Nov 05, 2013 9:09 pm

Brewdude wrote:
What a wonderful read and account of your experience Jim. You clearly have had a unique insight into Sutliff, and the fact that the principles of the company came out to personally give you their time and hospitality speaks volumes about their integrity.

Very nice write up, and any pics (if they were allowed) will be appreciated!


cheers cheers cheers cheers cheers 

Cheers,

RR
Thank you for the kind words about my article. I did take some pics, and will post them when I can.
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Fr_Tom

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Location : Diocese of Northern Indiana
Registration date : 2013-05-29

PostSubject: Re: Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company   Tue Nov 05, 2013 9:10 pm

Brewdude wrote:
the principles of the company came out to personally give you their time and hospitality speaks volumes...
They found out how much Jim smokes.
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Brewdude

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Age : 64
Location : Near the Emerald city
Registration date : 2011-05-04

PostSubject: Re: Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company   Tue Nov 05, 2013 10:15 pm

Fr_Tom wrote:
Brewdude wrote:
the principles of the company came out to personally give you their time and hospitality speaks volumes...
They found out how much Jim smokes.
Ya, that too!!


drunken 



Cheers,

RR
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MrRetentive

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Age : 66
Location : Cottage Grove, MN
Registration date : 2013-08-26

PostSubject: Re: Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company   Wed Nov 06, 2013 1:05 pm

Great post Jim!

I find myself most often patronizing small local companies and start-ups where passion for excellence and creativity exists, and everyone is valued. That's probably why so many BoB members support and talk about the many individual artists who create pipes.


Sutliff Tobacco doesn't exactly fit the mold in terms of size, but it definitely shows the spirit I love to support. Your post has inspired me to sample some of their products.


I'd love to see photos of your visit when you have time to post them.
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docwatson

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Location : Central Massachusetts and midcoast Maine
Registration date : 2008-03-21

PostSubject: Re: Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company   Wed Nov 06, 2013 1:39 pm

Thanks for your observations at Sutliff Tobacco Company. I visited and had a tour myself some years ago with Mr. Paul Creasy showing us through the whole operation. Totally amazing, interesting, and historical.
Everything you said is right on the money, a great company that is led and run by qualified and caring individuals.
While taking the tour there are many photographs that I have saved as well, some day to be shared with the brothers. Presently smoking some R Blend that some may find very one dimensional and mild but it's a Sutliff Blend that satisfies IMO. Again thanks for sharing your experiences with us.
Very Happy 
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huffelpuff

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Age : 47
Location : Laramie, WY
Registration date : 2011-12-10

PostSubject: Re: Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company   Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:23 pm

Jim, glad to hear you and the Mrs. had such a great experience! So few companies go to such lengths for anyone now days. They will definitely be getting a good portion of my future business!

Jim
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DrumsAndBeer

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Age : 45
Location : Northern, CA
Registration date : 2012-04-04

PostSubject: Re: Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company   Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:32 pm

Great read. It's always nice to read about a company that does it right. Sounds like a wonderful experience you had.

Thanks Jim.
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Rob_In_MO

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Age : 44
Location : Park Hills, MO
Registration date : 2011-01-19

PostSubject: Re: Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company   Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:12 pm

Fantastic article, Jim!  That would be an incredible experience, for sure.  Congrats on the invite and yes - please post a few pics when you get a chance.

It's good to see postive articles like this come up, and Thank You very much for posting this. It's also nice to see a company that has such devoted and caring employees - that is becoming a thing of the past in the modern workplace.
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Rob_In_MO

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Age : 44
Location : Park Hills, MO
Registration date : 2011-01-19

PostSubject: Re: Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company   Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:17 pm

Fr_Tom wrote:
Brewdude wrote:
the principles of the company came out to personally give you their time and hospitality speaks volumes...
They found out how much Jim smokes.
Yeah Yeah - probably just an annual shareholder's meeting.  Razz   Laughing
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JimInks

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Location : North Carolina
Registration date : 2012-08-31

PostSubject: Re: Jim's Visit to Sutliff Tobacco Company   Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:21 pm

Rob_In_MO wrote:
Fr_Tom wrote:
Brewdude wrote:
the principles of the company came out to personally give you their time and hospitality speaks volumes...
They found out how much Jim smokes.
Yeah Yeah - probably just an annual shareholder's meeting.  Razz   Laughing
Okay. That was funny as hell!!!! lol! 
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