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Brown Leaf Member Spotlight: 73mountaineer

:a50:Welcome to the second instalment of the Brown Leaf Member’s Spotlight :a50:

The Brown Leaf is like a virtual Brick and Mortar tobacconist. The armchairs are tattooed with body prints of the regulars, friendly faces are never too far away and we all have one thing in common; our love of tobacco products and enjoying the stories shared with those that share our passion. This is a chance to get the know those familiar faces and discuss our beloved leaf.

A man who needs no introduction, Steve, a.k.a 73mountaineer

Q: Steve, first of thank you for doing this interview with us.
A: You are very welcome, and thank you for inviting me to do so. As I mentioned when you first approached me, I am both flattered and surprised to be asked, but I will do my best to appear interesting.

Q: Nothing to be surprised about, you have done so much for the Brown Leaf. But some of us only know you as the gentleman that brings out the wonderful Brown Leaf pipes, tell us a little more about yourself.
A: Me, I'm just a hillbilly from West Virginia at heart; Scotch-Irish, and a proud Mountaineer. I served in the military in my younger years, then worked in law enforcement for a while before paying a bunch of money, hanging a fancy paper on my wall and settling in as a safety professional. I come from a line of coal miners dating back to the early 1900's in WV, so fittingly I guess, that's where I started in safety. It was very personal to me, having nearly lost my grandfather in the mines several times before I even knew him. I have moved on from that particular industry, but I will always be very proud to have been a WV coal miner.
My family and I moved to Delaware a couple of years ago, where we enjoy coastal sunsets and tax free booze. Hmm, I probably could've just told you that to start with and skipped the rest of that blah, blah, blah.

Q: So quite a varied, and interesting past. What do you think the future holds for you?
A: I like to think of myself as....um, diverse, lol! Honestly, who knows what the future may hold, but I am happy with where I am in life. I have never been very content to sit still or stay in the same role for too long, as I tend to get bored when I don't have a goal or challenge in front of me. My kids keep me occupied for much of the time, but with one graduating from high school in less than two years, and the other becoming more involved with activities outside of the house, I guess I had better find a hobby!
Is becoming a moonshiner considered a hobby?

Q: You might want to keep your moonshining activities hidden otherwise the feds will come a knocking.
So tell us a bit about your tobacco journey, when did it start?
A: Yep, gotta' watch out for the revenooer man!
I started out like more than a few of us did, I guess; a dumb punk swiping smokes out of his parent's supply. Like a lot of kids in WV, I branched out into snuff too, as it was easier to come by and slightly easier to hide. There was a little corner store within walking distance of my house that would sell us kids a can of Skoal or Copenhagen if there were no other customers around. Back then there were cigarette machines everywhere too so it was just a matter of being bold enough to walk up to one and dump your change into the slot, yank the lever, grab your pack of nicotine goodness and get outta there!
Fast forward a decade or two and I moved away from tobacco as a habit completely before rediscovering it several years later as a hobby. I dabbled in cigars a bit without really knowing much about anything and happened to find a few good sticks which I still appreciate to this day, namely the Rocky Patel Vintage series, 1990 and 1992.

Q: Haha, I know where you are coming from. What exactly drew you to the leaf?
A: In a word, NICOTINE, daddy-o! Strange thing about the Big N, when you're a habitual user it just keeps you from random acts of murder, but as an "aficionado", only getting it once in a while, it's just all good. Makes you feel like you could be the President!

Q: Aficionado, what great word to describe our hobby. Much like a gastronomer. So what kind of beauties do you have ageing away in your humidors?
A: Oh, there's a few goodies lurking in the dark and dusty corners, to be sure. When I first got into cigars, like really "seriously" into cigars, I couldn't imagine how folks acquired so many well-aged sticks. Now I know the secret: CRITICAL MASS! At some point acquisition far outpaces consumption, and before you know it, you have this kind of nonsense:

Q: I can reach critical mass with one box ;-) Cigar sales are about to be banned, heaven forbid, which cigars do you stock up on?
A: Whatever everyone else wants; I'm going to be rich! Seriously though, assuming I can still continue to buy the ones that are already banned (to us 'Mericans), I'm grabbing every Liga Privada, Fuente, My Father, Tatuaje and Padron I can get my grubby hands on! There are others of course, but not a single one of those five have ever let me down. I'll also take a truckload of 7-20-4, cause you guys just don't seem to know about them yet.

Q: 7-20-4 you say? *Jeeves fetch the car* What is your absolute favourite smoke? And what do you pair it with?
A: I'm not one for large cigars, a robusto being about as large as I will buy for myself, and a corona is my hands down favorite. This one little guy in particular has been at the top of my list for several years, and no others have knocked it off the perch.

The Montecristo No. 4, Habano.
Bourbon, or maybe a nice scotch, neat.

Q: Great booze, great smoke, what more could one ask for. Doing some digging it seems that up until 2011 you were quite the cigar fiend. What made you change over to pipe?
A: Nostalgia, really. I lost my Stepfather several years ago - he was a second Dad to me - and one of the few things I got from him was an old drugstore Grabow pipe. I decided to smoke the thing a few years ago, and let me tell you, it was AWFUL. Worst tongue bite you can imagine; I must've re-lit that pipe 20 times to get through half a bowl! Stuck that pipe on a shelf and didn't touch it for close to a year.
Finally, one day I decided to try to figure out if all pipe smokers were masochistic or if I had screwed something up. Turns out, the pipe was fine and I was AWFUL. I became determined to conquer the pipe, and I did, eventually, sorta'.

Q: Beautiful story, do you have a picture of that pipe?
A: This is the one that started it all:

Q: So now show us the rest of your pipes, and pipe tobacco stash. Any hidden gems?
A: There may be one or two things here that don't suck.

Q: That is quite a collection you have there, I think we know who is hosting the next herf. With such a variety to choose from what is your favourite pipe, and tobacco?
A: That is the easiest question you have asked, by far. The above-mentioned Grabow has huge sentimental value, of course, and then there are the two lovely B&B Tinskys that I own, but one pipe stands head and shoulders above all others: A birth year Dunhill that was a gift from a fellow B&B'er. They say, that much like the Grinch, my hillbilly heart grew three sizes that day.

As for a favorite tobacco, that is a bit more difficult. If I had to pick only one, it would be

Q: A hillbilly grinch… wonder what that would look like, actually never mind… You mentioned the Tinsky, would you mind sharing a bit more about the process of the B&B Pipes? Or is that a “trade secret”?
A: Not a trade secret by any means, but it helps that the foundation was laid before me by Jason and one of our Brown Leaf founders, James, aka JWhite. They established the relationship with Mark Tinsky and set the bar really high on what a B&B BL LE pipe should be. That is, an exceptional piece of craftsmanship that is nonetheless as accessible as we can make it by as many of our members as possible.

We know that not everyone can spend that kind of money on something like a pipe, which is completely understandable. Hell, I didn't get the first year's pipe, couldn't turn down Jason's exceptional poker last year & almost couldn't scrape together the dough to get one of my own design this year! In the end, I had to have it though, and they tell me I will never miss my other kidney.

Point being, that was why I was so happy to be able to offer two distinct pipes this year at two price points. We really wanted to be able to offer a smooth finish, as we had never been able to do so due to pricing concerns, but I also wanted a lower-priced option so maybe a few more guys could make the stretch to get a Tinsky that might otherwise be out of their price range.

Mark has been exceptionally generous to us in discounting his pipes, and I think it probably goes without saying that he is a really great guy. Just in case though, I'll go ahead and say it; Mark Tinsky is a really great guy. I am proud to have been able to work with him and establish a friendship with a truly exceptional person and craftsman.

I'm sorry, what was the question? Sheesh, I'm awfully wordy today.

The process, in a nutshell is that we pitch our idea, or "vision" of what the pipe should be to Mark, including shape and possible finish, maybe rough pricing. Mark then takes that idea and starts working his magic. In my case, I could see the pipe in my head, but I had to find a way to help Mark see it. I threw a bunch of examples at him, taking small details from each one to illustrate pieces of the whole.

To his credit, it only took Mark a couple of tries until he found my pipe design in a chunk of briar. After that, the rest is just details of finish color, production schedule/availability, release date and expected delivery. It was a lot of fun, but it was a bit of work and a few headaches too, to be honest.

Q: Steve, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us. It has been great, and all the best in your continuing journey of the leaf.
A: Till, it was my pleasure, truly. Thank you for the opportunity to blabber on and on for way too long. Though I don't much like to listen to myself talk, I do apparently like to make lots of words on the screen.
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Nice to get to know the man behind the myth. Steve's efforts on this years pipe do not go unappreciated. I've frozen my sweet little tuckus a couple of times this year to enjoy a bowl of something divine from it.
I tip my cap to a fellow Delawarean.

I find it interesting how many people take up the pipe because a family member/loved one used to smoke.
I really dig these threads. Great job, Till. And it is cool to get some background from our fellow BOTL. It is a pleasure to share this community with you, Steve, as with all of the rest of you.
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