Looking back at the many reviews we've done on
cigarette rolling papers, little doubt should remain that we find few major differences in
most of these products. They all pretty much smoke the same and while they are actually
made from relatively different materials, (hemp, rice, flax, etc.) the most notable
differences are in sheerness, length and width and, package design. And of course, as we
discussed last time, a rare few give you more papers per pack than the average 32 or so leaves.
With a few notable exceptions their wholesale prices are similar per pack. While there are
a few bargains out there (the Rizla 50 count 78 mm blue paper, and of
course, the Gizeh 100 count Hanfs, Silvertips and Sphynx) the price of
papers often has more to do with the cost of packaging among other things - more on that
later - than the cost of the papers inside. We have informed estimates that up to 70% or
more of the cost of a pack of rolling papers is their container or packet especially the
printing thereof. Therefore it is no wonder that, in order to gain a marketing advantage,
some manufacturers (brands is a more accurate word here as there are only a very few
manufactures who actually make papers and they do so for hundreds of different companies)
depend heavily on package design to attract customers.
It is a very competitive market as one might expect as seen by the sheer numbers of paper
brands out there.
Recently we received several sample boxes of papers from Music City Marketing, Inc. ( http://www.musiccitymarketing.com ) of Nashville, Tennessee. The papers known as OCB's, is a brand that has been around for some time in Europe, especially in the gumless (meaning no adhesive - not a dental term) market as a competitor to Club Modianos. These newer premium papers are manufactured by the Bollere company whose watermark clearly appears on the paper. Music City negotiated for the sole US distribution rights for this premium, gummed version of these high quality papers with Republic Technologies, owner of Bollere and Zig-Zag European (the US branch of Republic Technologies is Republic Tobacco of Glenview, Illinois, makers of Top, US Drum tobacco, Job, French Lights - one of our favorites, and Ventura Whites, as well as the full line of other JOB and TOP products). As you can see it is not a straightforward journey to track down the makers of most papers as often the distributor and country of origin is the only information one can glean from the packaging. For some reason Music City declined on distribution rights until January, 2002 for the better known OCB gumless papers (Republic currently still has them) but, as we prefer gummed papers anyway (as do most of our readers), we were eager to get a look at the new OCB Premiums and are willing to wait to see what Music City presents (including packaging changes, if any) with regards to the OCB gumless at this year's end.
As stated repeatedly, since we feel the product packaging seems to be rather important to any paper's retail success, when we opened the box and found the incredibly beautiful laser-cut, holographic OCB logo shining out at us, we were quite impressed. The scanned graphics of these papers can not begin to do justice to how beautiful the packaging is. These are without a doubt among the most strikingly packaged papers we have seen to date. The OCB logo is a holographic laser-like cut that is breathtaking in its reflective capabilities and you can see an OCB pack or display from several hundred feet away (given proper light and angle, of course).
The papers come in two sizes. A one-and-a-half and a one-and-a-quarter width both 78 mm long. These very sheer rice papers burn evenly without any hint of taste or burning additives. The Bollere watermark adds class to the design and the papers have a firmness that, even though they are sheer, makes for a tough paper worthy of the most challenging of rolling tobaccos. Although the packages contain only 32 leaves (pretty much standard) we feel that the paper will do well. The bottom line is that this is an exquisite looking paper of the highest quality and the packaging will literally knock your lights out!
Also from the same original company (Republic) comes an new outstanding hemp rolling paper known as Tribal. These things fly out of our trial store and we have yet to have a negative comment either there or from the few readers who have found them. They are not too thin, nor too thick (as a matter of fact they are the sheerest of any hemp paper we have seen to date) yet plenty strong. They are nominally (about standard) priced with great packaging panache. Completely neutral in flavor with just the right amount of food-grade gum, these hemp sheets come in a full range of sizes from single width, one-and-a-quarter, one-and-a-half, to king-size. The king-size is of special interest as few pure hemp papers come in this size (CHILLS, etc). Hemp king-size papers are ideal for rolling long smokes with 100mm plus rolling machines like the Rizla 110mm roller, the new Zig-Zag 100mm roller and such because hemp papers tend to be a little stronger, and thus are capable of giving the finished product a look not unlike a thin, unfiltered manufactured cigarette. Absolutely wonderful for smoking the more heady tobaccos like European halfzwares and tasty Turkish blends. The wider ones are more suited to the novice roller or to those who want a really FAT cigarette. Again, a very good product with potentially very good supply lines. We have yet to see them in the mass distribution channel but expect them very soon (any day now, as a matter of fact) to find that path. As we received a number of boxes to test we were able to make them available for our trial store customers and the reaction, as we said, has been outstanding. These papers can be found immediately at a retail online outlet that is operated by a relative new division of Republic's larger operation designated as RT's Specialty Marketing ( http://www.allinthepapers.com ).
We have been advised that Zig-Zag has a new King-Size French-Orange. Since it is well known that we really like king-size papers, we eagerly await receipt of said paper for closer examination. Given Zig-Zag's historic quality, you don't need to wait for us. We are confident it will be of the highest quality. *UPDATE: Just as we finished writing this the new papers arrived at our office. This has been an unusual period for us as much of what is looked at in this issue arrived very late. They are every bit as nice as expected as are the new Zig-Zag 100 mm rollers we will also review in this issue's Rollers section.
Another interesting entry (though it has been around for awhile) is CHILLS Papyrus paper. Nearly a double wide and 78mm in length, this is a beautifully decorative paper. We are usually somewhat leery of highly decorated papers as many of them add flavor (mostly unwanted) to the tobacco smoke. This is obviously due to the extra dyes and inks necessary to the design. This paper however seems to have little or no added taste and as we said is spectacular in appearance with its Egyptian hieroglyphic theme. They are priced about the same as other premium hemp papers and certainly make a vivid statement in public. Rolling is enhanced by their thicker nature and the gum seems to be just right with no excess to turn off the more puritan of smokers. Seems to us this would make a pretty interesting tube design for the artsy crowd who prefer make your own to roll your own smoking. CHILLS makes such a wide variety (incredibly so) of smoking accessories that it would seem logical for them to get into the tube business. They certainly have the innovative flair for design and with a very good following among young adults demographed in the 21-35 year old market, their contribution could certainly spice up the rather mundane, albeit functional, world of filtered cigarette tubes.
And finally we give a look at what is, to our way of thinking, one of the most controversial of papers we have ever come across. The controversy lies in perception and claims of quality as demonstrated by the near religious fervor with which many people view these papers. If you haven't already guessed, we refer to the Club Modianos. Now these are admittedly VERY good quality papers (no doubt) and I remember well using them many many years ago. I never did like the idea of a non-gummed paper, as rolling was not one of my major talents, but their sheerness made hand rolling with them actually pretty forgiving. What has bothered me personally for a long time is the excessive price of these papers and the elitist nature/attitude of their users, not unlike the MacIntosh computer crowd of the early 90's. For heaven's sake, computers are tools not religious icons and tobacco rolling papers are envelopes to BURN tobacco in (ideally at least). So what is the big deal? Well the SD Modiano Club is a VERY sheer paper. Devotees point to the flash test (lighting the paper unrolled and seeing how fast it vaporizes and how much ash it leaves). Now the Club does this little feat quite neatly but so do the very sheer Tribal papers reviewed above as well as many other very sheer papers like some Gizeh and Rizla. While we do not want added chemicals in our papers to slow down their burning, we really don't see the logic of testing the efficacy of a smoking material by how fast it burns. (A Ping-Pong ball burns pretty quickly, too and leaves little residue - not a good smell though - not good at all). We look for clean burning, yes, but not necessarily burning speed. The residue left after burning is ash. Simple logic should point the fact that the thinner (more sheer) the paper, the less ash will be left after combustion. Many tobaccos do much better with a leisurely lower temperature burn anyway and as long as there is no unwanted taste and the paper is substantially pure and made from hemp, rice or flax, there are many lower cost papers we personally enjoy every bit as much as we do the Club. We note that HBI, the huge rolling paper distributor located in Glendale, Arizona often has these papers priced specially for retailers in quantity so you retailers reading this might give them a try if you want the product but have trouble justifying the price to your customers. ( http://www.herbalbar.com )
Perhaps the aficionado-like preference for non-gummed papers came from a time when some paper makers allegedly used chemical adhesives or glue (like from horses) instead of the more common vegetable-based gums of today. Perhaps it is pure snob appeal for those who can roll a cigarette without the obviously wusful (new word?) need of adhesive. Perhaps it is the fact that the box that the packs come in say made in France though the individual packages inside say made in Italy. (What the hell, that's pretty close, geographically, I suppose). Perhaps MY problem really is that they remind me of optical lens cleaning papers (which I admit to having used for rolling more than once in times of youthful and/or fiscal desperation) or their uncanny resemblance to the hair curling/permanent papers (I think they were called Toni) my mom used to use that still creep me out every time I think about them.
We at RYO Magazine are all for the ceremony of smoking as it lends itself well to moderation and concern about the quality and purity of what you are smoking. And don't mistake our criticism of these papers as an assault on their quality. What bothers us most is the perception by their users that anyone who doesn't use them, first off, must not know how to "really" hand roll and secondly must have little or no taste for the finer things. Now my grandfather could roll a Bull Durham cross-cut in a Prince Albert paper with one hand while fly fishing with the other hand. Good story but that's Rolling.
Each issue we are increasing gratified at the emergence of new, exciting products of innovative design and packaging. After all, as the RYO/MYO market grows it is these interesting products that exhibit some flair and style that will help their entry into the mainstream of tobacco enthusiasts. However, as we made note of above, the pricing of rolling papers in the US is becoming somewhat of an issue with our readers and even some distributors. We hear more and more that prices in other countries are substantially lower than those charged for the same products in the US. We hope this situation is not a long term problem and has a reasonable and legal (non anti-trust) explanation. We will cover in a future issue more of what we are able to determine as to the reasons for this apparent and potentially disturbing anomaly. - Doug
See ya next time - 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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