continually strive to find new products to share with our readers. Likewise, our readers
constantly tell us what they would like to know more about. Such is the case of menthol
cigarettes. We have avoided reviews of menthol tobacco for several reasons. First, most of
our readers that have tried menthol RYO tobacco have found it to be too strong. Secondly,
if one does not share a like for mentholated smoking, it becomes very difficult to review
these tobaccos objectively. Frankly, once menthol is present I can't tell a good tobacco
from a bad one.
Years ago, 1970 to be specific, when I was serving as a draftee in the US Army, I began smoking. Marlboros was my brand of choice and they cost something like $1.25 per carton at the PX. As I was living off-post (I couldn't stand Army barracks and I was stationed state-side near a small mid-western college town which was a lot more fun to hang in) and after deductions for certain obligations, my spendable income was about $90/month not including rent, which was over half of that. Needless to say, I would run out of cigarettes about halfway through the month and would manage to mooch a few for the remainder of the time to compliment the grilled cheese sandwich diet that I enjoyed the latter half of each month. But mooching got old quick with my Marlboro smoking buddies, so I had no choice but to turn to my black friends who always seemed more disciplined in their smoking habits and generously always had a smoke or two for poor me. The problem was they all smoked Kool's. I have no idea why but they all smoked Kool's. It was my theory at the time that they had smokes left until the end of the month because Kool's were so noxious that you couldn't smoke more than a few a day without having a stroke, lung failure, or brain freeze. I really hated those cigarettes and by the end of the month was convinced I would never smoke again. Needless to say, once payday came around I would stop by the PX on the way back from the paymaster and pick up the 4 cartons of Marlboros that were my normal month's allowance.
Fast forward to November, 10, 2000. I had business in New York City and decided to take the train instead of my normal and increasingly distasteful method of travel, flying. From Portland, Oregon to Penn Station, New York City took six days and for the most part was enjoyable and interesting. (A photo of my "room" in the sleeping car is at right which was taken just before I threw up from all of the rocking and shaking that is unfortunately a by-product of train travel.) There were smoking "Lounge" cars on the trains. I put lounge in quotes because the Amtrak car section that allowed smoking was incredibly austere, more like an old cheap diner with linoleum floors and a Formica table if you were fortunate enough to have a table at all, and wobbly plastic chairs. Still, we could smoke there and nowhere else on the train. I met a lot of folks and demonstrated roll your own products to several hundred smokers during the trip. The reaction was incredibly positive and I am sure that a significant portion of those who injected and tasted the various blends I used in the roll your own cigarettes I provided, are now customers of RYO. However, there was one group who could not be persuaded. As I found in the army, a large portion of the black passengers who smoked, smoked menthol cigarettes. Not Kool's this time, but Newports. In fact, I don't remember seeing any other brand of menthol cigarette on the train. Had I possessed some menthol tobacco, I think this group would have been, at least, tempted to try RYO, but I had none and with few exceptions, they simply were not interested in anything but menthol.
Now the foregoing narrative is not intended to make assumptions about the smoking habits of black Americans nor is it intended in any way to infer that only black people smoke menthol cigarettes. (The term "black" may no longer be politically correct as I am now referred to (lovingly, mind you) by my black friends as being pigmentationally challenged.) I found it interesting though, that in each era, a corresponding brand was universally preferred. However, the real point of all of this is that there are a lot of menthol smokers out there that this magazine has not addressed who have either had no experience with, or negative experiences with Menthol RYO tobacco. I am sure they are of all ethnic groups, male and female alike. Part, or even most, of the problem is that mentholated RYO tobacco may simply be too strong in menthol character to attract a sufficient number of RYO smokers. I have tried quite a bit of mentholated RYO tobacco. We receive numerous sample of it among the larger group of non-menthol samples we receive from various tobacco companies. I also tried the Newports that the folks on the train offered me (though they hesitated to try mine). I consider the Newports, and Kools for that matter, to be pretty strong cigarettes but nothing compared to every kind of RYO menthol tobacco tested. My opinions are validated by the volumes of e-mail we receive from menthol smokers who, with few exceptions, are in agreement that most if not all menthol tobacco is simply too pungent.
So what can you do if you are a menthol lover and want to roll your own? Of course, you can mix regular tobacco with your mentholated tobacco to lessen the menthol taste but the real problem is that menthol, as a flavoring, is very pervasive. By that I mean that even a little menthol in a bag of tobacco will soon "infect" the whole bag with an increasingly stronger sense of menthol. Proof of this came to me rather quickly as I initially stored menthol and non-menthol samples together in bins segregated by source. It did not take long before the non-menthol tobacco began to exhibit menthol flavor characteristics. Now, when RYO menthol blenders first make their menthol blends, the mix is probably not too strong. But after the menthol constituent has a chance to "pervade", it seems to increase quickly the amount of menthol one perceives and it does so aggressively. It is kind of like mildew. It only takes a little mold to ruin a large bag of tobacco. Now tobacco blenders obviously could start with less menthol in their mix but even doing that may not be the answer to a light, yet satisfying menthol smoke.
It is with this in mind that we began to explore the world of mentholated filtered tubes. Until recently, they were pretty hard to find though we did know that some existed. Suddenly, we find that there are several tubes of high quality that contain menthol in various forms in their filter that we somehow missed. And THEY are the subject of this review.
Let's start with the newest (so new, in fact, that we were sent the packaging before the tubes were yet available, though production has now begun). These tubes come from CTC, makers of the Escort and Premier tubes that are industry leaders, as well as the Rayo line of tubes and filters, the Supermatic and Excel injection machine - well the list goes on. The point is that CTC (The Clinton Tube Company ) has been making filtered cigarette tubes for decades and has the process down. Their new menthol version uses menthol crystals (rather than soaking the filter fibers in menthol solution or Vicks Vapo-Rub or whatever some may do) and promises to be the lightest of all menthol alternatives. We have not tried them yet, but will soon and are pretty confident that these folks know what they are doing. For example, the responsiveness of CTC to criticisms of the minor flaws and quality control of their Supermatics was immediate and successful. These machines are now for the most part flawless, and having accomplished that masterfully, they now have a new upgraded and beefed up version of the Supermatic and Excel that is about ready to go into production. We anxiously await the new tubes as do, I am sure, the large number of potential RYO smokers out there who want a light manageable menthol taste.
There are other Menthol filtered tubes that, somewhat to our surprise, have been on the market for a while. Gizeh has been making such a tube for a couple of years and we ordered some. They live up to the Gizeh reputation for quality and are indeed much lighter than mentholated tobacco-filled RYO cigarettes. We have not yet had the chance to try them in the presence of menthol cigarette smokers but our first impression was quite favorable. We smoked various blends of tobacco in them and found that, though the menthol flavor was definitely evident, it did not mask the individual characteristics of each tobacco. You could easily discern whichever tobacco was in the blend even with the menthol flavor. This, I think, is the key to the success of RYO menthol smoking. The RYO enthusiast likes diversity and wants the freedom to enjoy the diverse characteristics of different tobaccos and adding a little menthol to the taste need not interfere with that desired outcome. We also noted that with the Gizeh tube, the menthol character remained constant while the actual cigarette tobacco strength increased as it does normally when smoking the second half of a stick. This is an important observation for some who have written that not only does mentholated tobacco make for a strong smoke, but the menthol effect seems to increase as the stick shortens. We have seen the Gizeh tubes available at several online stores and even a few local tobacco shops. You will need to look around as menthol tubes seem to go in and out of favor with retailers.
The final entry that we have found so far in the category of menthol tubes is by the name of Mascotte. We have reviewed their papers in previous issues and found them to be of superb quality. We have yet to find the tubes at any online retailers, but as there are several thousand online retailers out there, the tubes must exist somewhere. You can contact HBI, the importer of these Mascotte products ( www.herbalbar.com ) - their ad banner is at the bottom of this page by the way - for a list of the retailers who sell these products. The Mascotte packaging is certainly beautiful. Which brings up one last point that we find interesting if not anomalous. With the exception of the new Premier Menthol tube discussed above, all other such tubes come in boxes of 100 only. The new CTC tube comes in the more standard 200 count box. Why only 100 per box is so common can only be surmised to reflect the differences in smoking habits between menthol and non-menthol smokers. Perhaps the demand is such that smaller boxes sell better . We really don't know but feel certain that CTC's Premier Menthol tube will have a distinct advantage when it arrives because it is available in the more cost-efficient size of 200 tubes per box. Let us know if we have missed other brands of mentholated tubes and what your reactions (menthol smokers specifically) are to smoking regular RYO tobacco in these kinds of tubes when compared with your previous experiences with mentholated RYO tobacco. - RYO
|EDITOR'S NOTE: These reviews are solely for the convenience of people of legal age who already smoke, are trying to cut down on smoking, wish to spend less money on their smoking, want to roll their own cigarettes from high quality tobacco, and, in general, wish to have a far more satisfying, and economical smoking experience when compared with smoking pre-manufactured cigarettes. We, in no way, encourage people to smoke. Further, we prescribe to a sane, more logical approach to smoking that involves common sense as to quantity coupled with a strong desire to manage the habit until it becomes an occasional, freely chosen, diversion, that can be fully enjoyed with minimal health risks. Finally, we strongly encourage those who do smoke to take it outdoors, or to appropriate environments where tobacco can be enjoyed away from those who do not smoke, most especially children. We do not sell tobacco or related products from this site; We distribute information about our perceptions of the quality of what is available and where it can be obtained. If you are under 18, it is illegal to buy tobacco and you should immediately exit this site. If you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start.|
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