Well, as you may or may not be aware, our January feature tobacconist was Glynn Quelch of GQ Tobaccos fame. I approached Glynn in mid December about doing this feature, and he was, naturally, elated, but took care to inform me that we were approaching his busiest time and might not have much time to do this interview. So, we settled on an e-mail interview, and I sat down to patiently wait for Glynn to have the time to fill this out. So, here we are at the end of January, and I guess Glynn is finally caught up because here you have it; my interview with Glynn Quelch.
SJM: To start with, tell us a bit about Glynn Quelch. Are you married? If so, for how long? Do you have any children? If so, how old? Do you have any pets? If so, what sort? How old are you? Were you born in Nottingham? If not, how long have you lived there?
Glynn: I’m a local Nottingham lad, only ever moved 7 miles from my town of birth (Hucknall), to Nottingham city and back to Hucknall again. I like living on the edge of a small city and Sherwood forest. I am not married but been with my better half now for over 6.5 years and we have a 2-year-old “blender in waiting”. I have no Pets, with the joys of running my own business and having a 2-year-old, its nice to have a little down time every evening and not spending that walking the dog or cleaning a cat litter box.
SJM: Well, if you ever do get the opportunity or desire to tie the knot with your better half, I hope I get an invitation. I also noticed that you neglected to tell us how old you are, don’t worry, I won’t push but if somebody were to ask, “what should somebody know about Glynn Quelch?” what is the first thing that comes to mind that you should tell them?
Glynn: This is not suitable for publication *wink*
SJM: *laugh* OK, again, I won’t push; probably better than I don’t anyway! Do you have any hobbies? Or does being a tobacconist take up too much time?
Glynn: I have a few hobbies; playing computer games, climbing and hiking. Not that I get much chance for either of these anymore, family and work take priority over everything.
SJM: *nod* I hear that! Did you attend postsecondary school? If so, where and when and what did you study?
Glynn: Ha ha no I have pretty much no qualifications, I was unable to get a job at MacDonalds in my 20’s. I’m not really a fan of exams or college, but I have failed to finish 5 different courses at various levels.
SJM: Well, it’s probably good that you found something that you really enjoy then, but tell us, how did you decide to become a tobacconist?
Glynn: I kinda just fell into the industry, in fact I just needed a job and the local job centre sent me for an interview at (what they classed) an “Up market Off licence and Newsagents” as the assistant manager. Having worked in many retail jobs, I applied and when I went for the interview, I was convinced I had the wrong place. Even though they sold newspapers and chocolate bars, it was the 150 tobaccos, 80+ cigarettes and 150+ cigars which scared me a little. I was happy I got the job, but I knew this would be a place where you are expected to know everything. So my first few weeks felt like being in hell, people coming in asking for a tobacco like “this” or a cigar like “that” and not being happy with “oh let me ask” as an answer.
My old manager gave me a few cigars to try, and I brought my first pipe (a Parker Bruyere 01). The experimenting began there, after burning my mouth to pieces or packing so tight I needed bellows up my backside to draw. After talking to reps and regular customers I slowly picked up “the knack” and then started trying to sample every tobacco/cigar we sold. I soon started looking around on YouTube for advice and found the community very helpful. I also ran a blog (now offline), where I shared my views not only on tobacco, but also on the industry. I got in a lot of trouble with some big names in the industry over the years, but I am not afraid to say what I think.
I then left my job at the tobacconist to pursue a career as a website and graphic designer. At the time I ran a local music magazine with some friends and that was going from strength to strength, but it didn’t last. The two guys I ran the operation with landed jobs at one of the cities best independent music venues and I was left with no job and no staff. So I kinda went crawling back to my old boss and begged for my job back, I had not lost my love for tobacco and was very happy to get back behind that old wooden counter.
After being back for a few months, my old boss retired and I took over the reins of the shop. I gave that job my all for about 5 years, teaching my self blending (something I am still working out to this day, before anyone comments you have not tried the hundred of failures, ha!). I worked my ass off with 60/70 hour weeks, causing me all sorts of issues with relationships and friends, but when you love doing something, you have to do it!
I wont go into the details, but needless to say I and the owner of the tobacconist had different ideas on the future of the trade and 2.5 years ago I made the boldest and some would say craziest decision I have ever done. With the news of our son Garren (GQ Jr.) would soon be entering the world, I finally plucked up the courage and handed my notice in and started getting GQ Tobaccos from my head into reality.
SJM: Wow, a great story, we are all certainly glad that you did finally get GQ tobaccos started! Is there a school that you have to attend, or an apprenticeship program? How long did you study? How long have you been in the tobacco industry?
Glynn: Nope the trade teaches its own, from the shop owners to the suppliers and their reps, but also the customers. Everyone is willing to share information and advice, we are now a small shell of what the English tobacco trade used to be and without this sharing attitude it would fade away into history. I have been involved in the industry now for over 10 years and I still learn new things, but mainly I love sharing what others shared with me.
SJM: And is the career as rewarding as you thought it was going to be when you decided to become one, a tobacconist, I mean?
Glynn: It’s very rewarding, more so than I expected it to be. I have worked in TOO MANY different roles over the years, never really sticking at any job for longer than a year. But something about the tobacco industry gets me excited; I still wake up every day and look forward to what it offers. Well that’s a lie, now I run my own business sometimes you wake up thinking out money (it’s not the most financially rewarding job at all!), but I do love the buzz of buying / selling our wares and dealing with customers, never a dull day (again another lie; its grey and wet outside, but it is the UK in winter after all).
SJM: *laugh* I hear that! I’ve been in the UK in winter. Without revealing any trade secrets, what is the magic ingredient to a GQ tobacco? What set apart a GQ tobacco from other English blenders, such as Dunhill and Samuel Gawith?
Glynn: I guess I try to be different and having no history to “guide me”, I am free to try anything and everything. As I mentioned before, some things I make are awful and I would not wish them on my worst enemy. In the early days I would have said the biggest difference is the amount of tobaccos I used in those blends. I had the wrong attitude when I started, rather than trying to keep things simple, I would add another tobacco to counteract a problem I had. So the blends would have 12+ different tobaccos. Kentucky Dark Fired was a favourite of mine, but this did result in strong blends. As I honed my skills and expanded my range of tobaccos to draw on, I figured out simplicity is the key and trying to stick to 5 different tobaccos or less makes life easier. It’s amazing how changing the ratios by small amounts changes the final blend.
With the GQ blends I guess I would say that lots of Perique in our Perique blends is a trademark feature. I was always told over 5% is pointless, but I don’t use less than 12% in any of my blends, with Burper being close to 30%. I guess the lesson is history and wisdom is a good starting point, but still try to prove them wrong.
SJM: And you do! So, tell us Glynn, what equipment do you require to create your own tobaccos and where can you get it?
Glynn: I am not a big fan of buying things, so most of my tobaccos are made using simple household tools. The only thing we have which you can’t just grab from Ikea, is our press, which isn’t exactly cutting edge. It is made from a recycled steel bed frame, HGV (high tensile steel) bolts and chunky planks of wood. Its got a very homemade kinda feel, but does the job nicely for my crumble cakes. Other than that I use mixing bowls, cling film and an array of natural food extracts plus booze (a little rum for the tobacco and a little for me!)
SJM: I wish you had a picture of your press, but alas. Next question, Glynn; who names your blends, and do you write your own descriptions?
Naming blends takes me as long to do as creating the tobaccos sometimes. I write all my own descriptions for the website and that includes the typos and poor grammar!
(I laughed when I read this sentence because it contained both a typo and a grammatical error).
SJM: What is your favorite way to enjoy tobacco?
Glynn: Wow, I am not fussy at all; I enjoy smoking (pipe, cigar and cigarettes), snuff and chewing (not so keen on Dip, but English Twist or Snus).
SJM: OK, “mister-non-fussy,” are there any methods that you haven’t tried, but would like to?
Glynn: I will be honest, there are not any forms of tobacco I have not tried.
SJM: That you are aware of, I could probably list a couple that you haven’t! Are there any methods that you have tried and regret?
Glynn: Yeah Dip is awful if you ask me, i can’t stand all the loose bits in my mouth and the flavours I have tried do not agree with me. What the hell is it about Wintergreen?
SJM: To be honest, mate, I don’t know! Do you have a favourite pipe? Do you have PAD (Pipe Acquisition Disorder)?
Glynn: Wow erm I do have some favourite pipes, but these are mainly due to who brought them for me or who made them. After what happened last month, my K’s nose warmer is my pride possession (RIP Shin-Ichi). My collection has over 150 pipes from simple cobs to vintage Victorian briars. But if I was to try to narrow it down, I have a thing for Lovats, Lumbermen, Canadian and Liverpool shapes. Also I have a soft spot for Zulus!
SJM: Amazing! Those are my five favourite shapes of a pipe too! Not, necessarily, in that order! What is your favorite blend? Why that one?
Glynn: Again too many good tobaccos out there to pin point this into a small grouping. Dunhill Navy Rolls was my first love and I get excited every time a tin of Penzance comes into my possession.
SJM: OK, instead of a favourite tobacco then, English, Balkan, Va/per, aromatic, what is your favorite TYPE of tobacco?
Glynn: I am not a fan of most Aromatics, they all tend to be flavoured hot air and that seems a waste to me. As for other tobaccos, they all have their own qualities based on the time of year/weather. I love Vaper, VA’s and Lakelands in the spring and summer months. The warm and less damp weather really brings out the best in these tobaccos, all the subtleties that come through. In winter and autumn (fall) I love dark Virginia flakes, Kentucky blends and lots of Latakia. Not that I don’t enjoy those tobaccos at other times, I just find certain conditions bring out the best and worst in some blends.
SJM: Thanks for taking the time to answer all our questions, Glynn, one last question before we let you go; what can we expect from GQ tobaccos in the next few years?
Glynn: I have lots of ideas, none of which I will share, but basically a lot more of what we already do!
SJM: That’s awesome, Glynn, I wouldn’t want you to give away any trade secrets anyway, I can tell you we look forward to new creations at GQ tobaccos.
Well, while we say goodbye to Glynn, I’ll take this time to point out that you can get Glynn’s fine personal blends from his website at www.gqtobaccos.com Or you can contact Glynn, directly, on Facebook. For our American friends, Glynn doesn’t normally ship to the USA, but talk to him, you might be able to work something out, he is very approachable.
That’s all for now, please feel free to leave (respectful) comments, and
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!