Popcorn and Film Noir (E. Hoffman Company Distinguished Gentleman)


          Do you never get nostalgic for those younger, simpler times? You know, those days when you were carefree, and spent time in the company of friends, and didn’t concern yourself overly with how much things cost? You look back on those times, and they seem almost idyllic, when gas was 20¢ a liter, a loaf of bread 35¢, a gallon of milk for a buck fifty, and even a new car would cost less than $5000. When the average household made over $10,000 a year, $2.50 for a double billed movie (sometimes triple billed) seemed like a good babysitter for a seven year old and his 10 year old cousin.

          Truthfully, of all those things I mention in 1978, and accounting for inflation in 2014, the only thing that cost more then than it does now, is the movie, but that doesn’t take into the fact that it was often a double or triple bill movie. And in any event, I’m sure that my mother saw it as a great expenditure of money.

        Also truthfully, being that I was the seven year old my memory of that time is really quite shaky, and the statistics were something that I had to look up not something that I remembered. What I do remember, is the resurgence of interest in the dark, 1940s and 50s crime dramas that had recently become widely termed as “Film Noir” by film critics. And I remember my first acquaintance with them.

          I couldn’t begin to tell you what day of the week it was, but I remember it was summer and I was almost seven years old, and quite advanced for my age. My cousin, Ted, was 10 and equally advanced. So, it really wasn’t surprising for the two of us to want to sit through crime drama. So, early in the afternoon, presumably with the errands of the house to run, my mother dropped my cousin and myself off at the theatre with $10.00 between us. Now, I wasn’t exactly sure, but $10.00 seemed like an awfully lot of money to us so I looked that up too. The minimum wage in British Columbia set in 1976, was $3.00 an hour. In 1976 that was among the highest in the country, but was about par with the rest of the country by 1978 until it was raised again to the highest in the country in 1980. By contrast, the minimum wage currently in British Columbia set in 2012 is $10.25 an hour and ranks among the third lowest in the country. That’s progress for you. In any event, it’s about the equivalent of paying about $31.50 to go out to two movies, sometimes three, for two people, and that includes drinks and snacks.

          I tell you, if I could’ve released my children upon the theatre for 5 hours when they were seven and 10 and get them stuffed on pop and popcorn for $30.00, I’d have been all over that like flies on feces, at least once a week. No offence my wonderful children, but note that I am mostly bald.

Back to my story. The movies playing were The Roaring Twenties and The Maltese Falcon. And though honestly, my memories of The Roaring Twenties are much foggier than my memories of Bogart’s Sam Spade, but my memories of that theatre are ingrained in my nostrils and they say smell is the strongest nostalgic force!

          The lobby of the theatre, dimly lit and smoky as many buildings in that time were, smelled of popcorn and blended tobacco smoke from cigars, cigarettes and pipes. Being seven, and less than 4 feet tall, much of the tobacco smoke hovered above my head level, but enough of it sifted down to mingle with the buttery smell of the theatre popcorn to create a very distinct aroma that is deeply rooted in my nostalgic consciousness, and apparently other’s too.

          Though my sense of smell is largely gone now, the faction that remains was enough to bring to mind that first meeting with Sam Spade and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, and both my spouses said it reminded them of theatres as well, and described the smell as, “in a word, buttery.”

But, drawing back to the tin note; it is rich, sugary, and pungent in the way of a very good rum or brandy with a bright Virginia tobacco tone that is delightfully soured by the Latakia. I’m not incredibly familiar with Burley tobaccos, so I doubt I could pick up the scent with my diminish sense of smell, even though tobacco is something that I can smell, and the smell of Cavendish is so mild, that I am sure that the alcohol fragrance would cover that up to somebody with even a decent sense of smell, since Cavendish smells slightly fermented and sweet.

          I am guessing that the theatres must have smelled like the room note this tobacco, because each time I smoke it I’m drawn back to that theatre in the late seventies and early eighties and especially those film noir that I’m still fond of to this day.

Brigid O’Shaughnessy: I haven’t lived a good life. I’ve been bad, worse than you could know.

Sam Spade: You know, that’s good, because if you actually were as innocent as you pretend to be, we’d never get anywhere.

          And so I found myself testing this tobacco in different pipes throughout the week, and enjoying a trip down memory lane. That, is why I didn’t review a pipe with this review, because I tried it in so many. By the time I got around to writing this review I had tried it in so many pipes, that I had smoked the whole 2.5 ounce can. And, what I had to say about it is, buttery, rich, sweet, peppery and distinguished.

          In truth, the taste of this tobacco is almost too complex. It’s hard to put a finger on, hard to describe, like someone who’s never seen film noir, but also like these stock characters so brilliantly brought to life on the forties and fifties screen there is just something about it that leaves you wanting the next one.

          When I got to the bottom of the can, there was a hard, dark crust of what I assume is powdered tobacco and settled topping. I don’t know what this means, if anything, and it sure didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the can of tobacco.

          Not normally one for aromatics, this one is a definite exception, and I will be buying it often, from smokingpipes.com, HERE, for $10.14 USD for 2.5 ounce can but I suggest that you spring for the 7 ounce can for $21.34 USD, HERE, as it certainly lives up to its disclaimer;

An elegant & captivating pipe tobacco comprised of select choice leaf, gently fragrant with an intoxicating aroma.

The taste and aroma preferred by men of distinction.

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!

By: Erin McRoy



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.