Rolling papers have not begun to reach the
diverse & unique brand proportions that they once did in the rolling paper heydays of
the 60's and 70's. While there are definitely far fewer "Head" shop, many
tobacco stores have finally realized that carrying a wide variety of these eye catching,
utilitarian, and reasonably inexpensive products can boost sales and traffic. While the
profit one makes on a pack of papers varies, it rarely exceeds keystone (100%). The prices
vary depending on where you shop but most of the papers we review sell for less than $2
apiece, some for much less. However they can be the most attractive singular display or POS item in the
store. And the more variety the more the gawking crowds who turn into customers. Now no
one has more diversity than HBI. They are the leader in the sheer quantity and variety of
brands they both manufacture and sell. There are many players in this market like Zig-Zag
(Lots of styles, extremely popular), Gizeh (Mascotte, Gizeh, Sphinx
Twister, Hanf, etc, outstanding quality), Republic Tobacco with Job,
Golden Wraps, Ventura, Tribal, likewise top of the line quality, and others including
plain old TOP papers which, while mundane perhaps, are a huge seller nonetheless), Robert
Burton Associates (Rizla, EZ-Wider, Joker, Club, names that all speak for
themselves). Randy's is making a comeback with a new line soon to be
announced, Chills has been absorbed by HBI and so it
goes almost to infinity.
One thing is certain in this highly competitive market and that is, there are more than enough brands papers to satisfy even the most discerning of taste or the weirdest of brain fevers. We have written about and shown you literally hundreds of brands over the years but once a month or so, something new always shows up from HBI. So we are gonna start with them.
Not being a fan of flavored smokes, as even in my "altered consciousness" days, I preferred non-flavored papers. For tobacco presently, I feel much the same way. I like good tobacco and no amount of "flavoring" is going to do anything but distract from the seductive nature of a truly fine blend. However I am pretty set in my ways and my views, most especially when it comes to rolling papers, don't even begin to represent the majority of the consumer market. HBI has, as mentioned, consistently been sending me new and different papers for a long time and a whole lot of them. To the point that I have trouble fitting them into each new issue. And even though the flavored offerings are not specifically my cup o' tea, I do have a great appreciation for quality products and especially if you are going to flavor something, I insist on quality extracts. Consequently one brand that HBI produces (they both manufacture and distribute) that has consistently made it into these pages is Juicy Jays. And mainly for their sheer audacity and really strikingly yummy flavor.
Now who'd be kidding whom if you think that I initially believed the name had something to do with someone named Jay. Well the fact is it does, as one of the original principals of HBI used his college nickname for branding this product (as well as the Cool Jays line). Regardless, everyone (other than the few around who are as traditional as I am) that has tried these papers, absolutely LOVE them. There are too many flavors to list them all here and we have shared with you many of the flavors already in the past issues. We want to show you a few more this time but heartily suggest, if you want a real artistic and visually rewarding experience, go to the HBI site where these papers live. Its www.zensmoke.com . After you verify you are of proper age and not an Islamic Fundamentalist, they allow you to view their wares. Click on the flavored papers. Hell, click on all of their papers. You are in for a treat. It will take you an hour or more just to go through all of the cool papers they have there, flavored or not. The Juicy Jays represent the pinnacle in paper flavoring with their "triple dipped" methodology. You can chew these papers for sheer mouthwatering enjoyment. In fact some are so olfactorally strong, like their new "Sizzling Bacon" (I kid you not) that I had to keep them outside of the office.
Others are equally as pungent though few are as downright visceral as these of porcine variety. And of course each flavor has a distinct graphic design right on the paper. The ones we show in the picture (in case you can't read the small print) are from left to right down, Caramel, Sizzling Bacon, CandyCane, Marshmallow, Fudge (killer), and Butterscotch. The only flavors missing seems to be "Woman", OR "Man", depending of course on which side of the aisle you sit. Their Elements line (reviewed here before) complete with rollers (we'll look at these in the Rollers Section this time, are a big hit and their new Skulls, and Brown Sugar (with even more flavors) we will look at next time. They even have a "Pouched" paper (shown at right) that makes rolling in a windstorm a snap and is of great aid to the novice handroller. Suffice it to say, HBI is incredibly progressive and seems not only to address the needs of the RYO/MYO sector but anticipates the unanticipated as well as anyone in this business. They even have cool Juicy Jays Clocks like the one you see at the head of this page that now hangs in my recording studio. The lime green Neon ring (very bright green light with psychedelic patterns) remains in the off position as it was giving me flashbacks. Totally, man. Were I still to have a store (remember the experiment?) I would have every flavor of these irresistible packets.
So we mentioned a number of the other greats in the paper business at the top of this article. Zig-Zag is probably still the most requested tobacco paper. They seems to be everywhere including the hard to break into general merchandise environments where only TOP and Bugler dare to tread. Gizeh papers, especially their Hanf Hemp line, remains one of my all time favorites. And of course RBA's Rizla and E-Z Wider, their sheer new Joker Hemp we looked at a couple of issue ago (there's and EZ Wider Hemp now as well that is a very luxurious offering and we'll talk more about that in the Review Section of this issue) all have significant followings and a lot of general merchandise store exposure as well. However, when it comes to flavoreds, with the exception of the RIZLA Licorice, a truly exquisite 100mm brown paper that is sweet and just flavorful enough to soften tobacco bite, only Republic Tobacco has a substantial competing offering for those looking for something extra - like flavor. Their Golden Wrap line, which we wrote about last time, continue to bridge the gap between Blunts, Pure Tobacco Leaf Wraps and rice, hemp or flax papers. And they have a whole new lineup of flavors that are really tasty. Now with Golden Wraps, as the paper itself contains a certain amount of impregnated tobacco, you wind up with a bit stronger smoke, not quite a cigarillo, but depending on the tobacco used, sometimes darn close. The addition of a lovely palette of flavors has made these papers something quite special. Our favorite is the new Coconut (may sound a bit weird but it works). It has kind of the same effect on tobacco that Vanilla does which means it is a helpful companion for a very smooth, lightly sweetened smoke. The Chocolate and the Strawberry are extremely flavorful as well and, like the Juicy Jays, these flavors are realistic and are created using extremely high quality flavor extracts. Golden Wrap Originals are still our favorites for the reasons stated at the beginning of the article, but their Cognac was an immediate hit when it was introduces well over a year ago. An interesting fact about the Golden Wrap papers (officially called a tobacco wrap) and other thicker papers like them including the Rizla Licorice mentioned above is that they are much easier to roll with using a roller. By hand, thinner finer papers are generally easier to manipulate and these more sheer papers are not always easy to get working in a typical hand roller. The thicker wraps style are ideal for hand rolling machines. We'll show you a video in the NEW Multi-Media Section under Hand Rollers, that produced the sample at right.
Though we have a world-wide readership (some 100 countries are represented in e-mails) we get a relative small number of international samples. We do get some and in fact have helped bring a number of items to the US market after seeing them first here for review. While we hear from retailers frequently world-wide, there are only a few retailers who actually send us products they are excited about. However one such exception is a man named Johnnie from the UK. He has a shop and an online tobacco and accessory business and always seems to be on top of the current trends regarding products across the Big Pond. His company, Roll-Ups ( www.roll-ups.co.uk ) operates in an environment in Britain that is even more regulated than here in the US. They don't have the MSA over there, but simply tax the hell out of everything. Johnnie, from time to time sends us interesting brands we have not seen on this side, brands that are popular in Europe and Britain (not the same thing in case you didn't know). He does ship certain non-tobacco items to the US market and provides some really unique product lines, ideally suited to the collector in us all as well as functional items that have not made their way to the US market. Visit his site and get a taste of some of what we are missing in the US and conversely, what they in the UK are missing from us. This truly is a global market and even with pretty Draconian regulations regarding free enterprise when it comes to tobacco itself, the accessories market is fairly wide open and should be explored. Lots of fun stuff in the world, and even with all the negatives one might wish to dwell upon, there is no greater friend to this country than Britain. We have long contended that rolling papers often sell based on the exterior design of the packaging as much as for what is inside. Years ago, when one could find a "head" shop on every corner, the design of paper covers was an art form in and of itself, much like fruit crate labels. Designs like these above, while not as edgy as many of the both older designs and newer ones as well, have a certain flair to them and should occupy a place in the history of this product. Enjoy the art of Rolling Papers.
With each issue, we are increasingly 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. Even more importantly, rolling papers can have a surprisingly positive effect in attracting customers to the tobacco store. Many enthusiasts seek out stores that have a wide variety of papers as it shows a commitment to the whole experience. These often beautiful little items can really dress up the display counter as well, and the variety is almost endless. Companies like HBI and others are very proactive in getting lines of economical, yet high quality paper products into the hands of retailers and thus consumers. And they both manufacture their own lines as well as distributing nearly ever rolling paper ever reviewed here. Rolling one's own is a true experience in economy and pleasure and the artistic content in unquestionable. - Doug
|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.|
© 1999 RYO Magazine
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