Varieties of Snuff...................................................................................................Back to Contents
Snuffs vary from moist to dry, and from coarse to fine (gros, demigros, and fin); and may be natural, or perfumed, or "medicated"
The coarser, moister snuffs are the least "sneezy" (cf. finely ground pepper is "hotter" than coarse pepper) and hence best for the beginner (though often favourites of the seasoned snuff taker). They were the most popular - and cheapest - locally milled snuffs in Britain in the 18th & 19th centuries, called "rappee" (as opposed to "Scotch" = fine-milled snuffs.)cf. Dickens, The Pickwick Papers,Ch.XXXV: "Do you do anything in this way, sir?" inquired the tall footman, producing a small snuff-box with a fox's head on the top of it. "Not without sneezing" replied Sam."Why, it is difficult, sir, I confess," said the tall footman. "It may be done by degrees,sir. Coffee is the best practice. I carried coffee, sir, for a long time. It looks very like rappee, Sir."Examples: Best Dark (Wilsons&Co.Sharrow), Black Rappee( Samuel Gawith & Co.), and Princes (a black snuff, reputedly made for the Prince Regent to avoid brown stains on his black coat).
S.P. is the best known medium natural snuff, purveyed in little tins by almost every British tobacconist. Nobody knows what S.P. stands for. It has been thought to be "Sheffield Pride" because of its main purveyors, Wilsons of Sheffield. But now the consensus is that it means "Spanish" : perhaps because of the Havana snuff looted from a Spanish convoy (though then referred to as "Vigo" snuff) - by Admiral Rooke in 1702 and paid to his sailors as prize money - in consequence of which snuff became cheap and hence popular in England, no longer the reserve of the toffs (or "toffee-nosed").
(The first snuff factory was set up in Seville in the C16th: the grated tobacco produced in that Royal tobacco factory was known as "Spaniol".)
Kendal Brown ( originated by Samuel Gawith & Co. ), Wilson's Royal George and Tranter's Tom Brown are other examples.
Latakia is a very good natural snuff.
Irish High Dry Toast is a very fine snuff, and fine in every sense. It has a wonderful delicate flavour: but sneezy!
Gawith's "Irish `D' Light" is the genuine traditional Irish High Dry Toast. Wilsons, Sharrow offers various kinds of Irish Toast.There are various romantic stories about the mid C18th origins of Irish High Dry Toast; e.g.: Lundy Foot of Essex-bridge, Dublin, manufactured snuff, drying the tobacco stalks in kilns watched over by "Larry" - or "Michael Larey" - who got drunk one night, allowing the tobacco to be over-roasted and apparently beyond reclamation. Next morning the furious Lundy Foot kicked and beat poor Larry and denounced him as a "blackguard". Having milled up the roasted remains in the hope of selling it cheap to the impecunious, he found it delicious; and made a fortune by marketing it under the name "Lundyfoot Irish Blackguard". Only later did it come to be called Irish High Dry Toast. (The details of the various stories vary; but, no doubt, like the varying stories of the loaves and fishes, they all preserve a kernel of truth.)There are many kinds of scented or flavoured (usually medium) snuffs, some not entirely unpalatable to the natural-snuff taker, e.g. Wilsons of Sharrow's Morlaix. Fribourg and Treyer used to pride themselves on their (perfumed) Santo Domingo, still available from Sharrow. There are lots of other sorts - bergamot, carnation, thyme-and-lemon... I am surprised nobody has ever thought of a cumin (jeera) or coriander or garam masala snuff.
Many perfumed snuffs are redolent of a whore's reticule.
Of medicated snuffs the most popular is menthol. I do not know if they have any medical value. All the German snuffs I have tried are mentholated (but see Pöschl.) I regard such adulteration as a breach of of the seventh commandment and an abomination in the face of the Lord, but à chacun son gout.
These, for example, are the varieties offered in the current Wilsons (Sharrow) UK list, (September 2002):
*S.M. 500*: -- "to satisfy Hedges L260 followers now Rizla has transferred production to Germany."
White snuff is nasal snuff, but not tobacco snuff.
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