209. The Peterson Special Tobaccos, 2008-2018: An Interview with Elke Ullmann

I spent one of the most enjoyable evenings I can remember over dinner with Tom Palmer and his wife Elke Ullmann in June of 2019 in a gorgeous suburb just outside Dublin. I’m not the kind of person who dines out much, but it turned out to be the kind of dinner where the food and wine were not only incredible but were surpassed by the conversation, and the conversation was such that there came a point in the evening when I looked up and saw the restaurant was empty, lights being turned off and a lovely young waitress telling us (very politely) that it was time to go.

I knew Elke had worked for Peterson but had no idea of the extent or range of that work, and when I found out she designed both tobacco tins and pipe collection art for the company, I asked if I might interview her for the blog. In this first part, Elke talks about her design work for Peterson’s amazing special release tins from 2008-2018. For each tin, I have added descriptions of the tobaccos gleaned from TobaccoReviews.com.

How did you get involved in designing the tins for Peterson’s special release tobaccos?

Well, Tom and I met in business in Germany about a thousand years ago. At the time I was working for a company in Offenbach, near Frankfurt. It was a family business, and I had worked in that company for about twenty-five years. The company sold leather goods for pipe smokers and cigarette smokers and cigar smokers—all sorts of leather goods for smokers, and they sold pipes as well. The company and Tom talked together and Tom gave that company Peterson’s distribution—and that’s how we met.

And so I had a good bit of background about the business and the pipes and accessories, and so finally a few years later, after we were business partners, we became friends, then even more so, necessitating that I move to Dublin. At first, I still went back to Germany to do business for the company in Offenbach, traveling back and forth for two years.  So I was in Dublin for about three weeks, then I traveled to Offenbach for a week. Then I had to undergo major surgery for my back, which knocked me out for about twelve months. I was told if I didn’t take it easy, I might end up in a wheelchair, which was quite scary. To cut a  long story short, I stopped working for the company in Offenbach, moved to Dublin full time, went to hospital, got all that done—in 2006—then slowly recovered. I was used to working daily, then I had nothing to do was was really bored. And Tom said, “Why don’t you start doing some design work for Peterson? You know the business as well as I do and you know a lot about design,” because I was already involved in interior design. “Why don’t you start with the Special Reserve tin for 2008?—that was in 2007, and I said, “I have no idea about graphic design,” and typical Tom, he said, “Just learn it!” And this is how it started with getting involved with Peterson.

As for the tobacco, it was mostly outsourced to Kohlhase, Kopp & Co. to our specifications. We would ask for several aromatic samples. Not being a pipe smoker, I always went for the flavors that appealed to my nose, then looked for different cuts and colors in the tobacco from the year before. Then samples would be given to customers, to crafts folk who worked for us at the factory and smoked pipes, and to the guys who run the Peterson shop in Dublin. They were asked to evaluate the tobaccos on a number of factors—flavor, how easy it was to smoke and so forth. With those results in hand, Tom and I would make the final decision. It wasn’t magic, just common sense.

 

Special Reserve Tins

2008

Special Reserve 2008—I had no clue about graphic design and it was the first time I’d heard I had to stay within Pantone colors and so forth, but I was very interested and challenged. The brief was: “think outside the box (the tin!) and do something different.” The only thing I had to stay within was the tin, which was an existing shape we had used in previous years: the 2006 140th Anniversary tin and the the brown 2007 Special Reserve. What I immediately thought about was silver, black and brown—typical colors you’d expect in the tobacco industry. So I thought, “Why not go with blue?” And Tom said, “it’s not a tobacco color” and that’s how the design began. I incorporated the Celtic knot as well as a medium-brown color (tobacco). It took me ages to do that tin, but I was quite happy with the result. And I still think, after all these years, it’s a nice tin.

Description: Bright orange and dark Virginias, black cavendish and a hint of nutty burley. The aroma and flavor of citrus with subtle notes of almonds.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Almond, Fruit / Citrus
Cut:                 Ribbon
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            2.8 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2009

For the 2009 tin, we looked at samples of other types of tin, but this was I think, my weakest design. The tin was very flat, but we couldn’t change the shape of it.

Description: Golden, red and dark Virginia and some black cavendish. An aroma of white wine.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Cavendish, Virginia
Flavoring:       Alcohol / Liquor
Cut:                 Ribbon
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            2.9 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

2010

In 2010 we were back to a tin with a beveled edge, slightly different, but it had to be possible to stack it on tobacconist shelves. It was gold with a light mesh over it, very elegant and understated. Classy.

Description: Black cavendish, Virginia and burley with notes of yellow plum, nougat and vanilla.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Fruit / Citrus, Nougat, Plum, Vanilla
Cut:                 Coarse Cut
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.1 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

2010 Ebony & Ivory Briar & Meer

2011

The 2011 tin was based on a chessboard, because we had just released the Ebony and Ivory Collection, the ebony and ivory pipes already in hand, and what’s black and white?—a chessboard. It was my thought to go with something very different every year—not simply year after year of more or less the same thing, but come out each year with a surprise. I think I achieved that with 2011’s tin, but there were still people who came back and said, “Jesus Christ, what were you thinking?!” You can’t please everyone.

Description: Black and brown cavendish with red, orange and gold Virginia and the flavors of strawberries, cream and Tonquin bean.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Virginia
Flavoring:       Cream, Fruit / Citrus, Tonquin Bean
Cut:                 Coarse Cut
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.4 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

2012

So in 2012 I went for a grayish design, adding hallmarks we use on the silver band, enlarging them on the tin. As you see in the 2011 package (above), we designed a special Pipe of the Year box to accompany the Special Reserve tin as a set. That’s because women fifteen years ago were buying more pipes and tobacco than men—at least, for gifts. But it also needed to appeal to men—so keeping in mind both the feminine as well as the masculine side is important.

Description: Two kinds of black cavendish, one sweet and the other with a hint of chocolate, blended with brown cavendish and three different Virginias, rounded off with a hint of Virginia and burley flake. The aroma suggests coffee, chocolate and caramel.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Caramel, Cocoa / Chocolate, Coffee
Cut:                 Coarse Cut
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.4 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2013

In 2013, the design utilized the Irish harp. I always tried to connect to the Irish heritage, because there is so much to choose from. And I also tried to make a connection to the pipes.

Description: A Virginia flake combined with yellow and mahogany Virginias and dark-cut cavendish, flavored with passion fruit and peach flavors.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Virginia
Flavoring:       Fruit / Citrus, Peach
Cut:                 Broken Flake
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            2.7 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

2014

The 2014 design looked like it was covered with a tobacco leaf, but to make it distinctively Peterson, I added the Thinking Man.

Description: Burley and bright Virginia pressed into cakes, cut into small pieces, then blended with ribbon and cross-cut Virginia, topped with blackberry flavoring.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Blackberry
Cut:                 Broken Flake
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.2 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2015

I worked very little for Peterson during 2015, so the basic tin design was outsourced to another company. Conor Palmer [Tom Palmer’s son] took an active hand in the design, having come to the company in December of 2014, and he decided to have certain design elements repeat every year, so customers immediately recognize it as a Peterson tin. But for this first year it was just the Peterson logo appearing in white.

In subsequent years, under the logo would be the script “Crafted by Master Blenders” and “Limited Edition” with the Thinking Man between the words, with the year displayed underneath and “Special Reserve” in the same script below that.

Description: Loose cut Virginias, burley and black cavendish with fruit and citrus topping.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Fruit / Citrus
Cut:                 Mixture
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.0 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2016

In 2016 I was back in the game and went back to an idea from 2006, the matte-black tin, with a light shaded design in the background, like a carbon sheet—just three little tobacco leaves, with the Peterson scrawl underneath.

Description: Black Cavendish, Burley, Cavendish, Virginia with fruit and citrus topping.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Brown Cavendish, Virginia
Flavoring:       Fruit / Citrus
Cut:                 Mixture
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            2.5 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2017

In 2017, I went back to brown and to a gloss finish, with a Peterson script flourish across the bottom of the tin, and two faces of one of Charles Peterson’s Patent exhibition medals displayed in the middle.

Description: South American and African virginias, burley and cavendish with vanilla and caramel topping.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Cavendish, Virginia
Flavoring:       Caramel, Vanilla
Cut:                 Mixture
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.3 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

2018

In 2018 we went back to the Racing Green color that symbolizes Ireland, using the continuity layout Conor had come up with the year before.

Description: A roll-cut virginia / burley, the first in the Special Reserve series and the first (and only) to be blended by MacBaren, topped (naturally) with a bit of MacBaren’s honey.

Blend:             MacBaren
Type:               Va/Bur
Contents:         Kentucky, Virginia
Flavoring:       Honey
Cut:                 Mixture
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.3 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

 

Holiday Season Tins

2010

2010 remains my favorite Christmas tobacco tin. I got my ideas from all other the place—I might have been out for a walk and saw someone with a nice pattern on their clothes, or saw an interesting fabric on a cushion in a furniture store. And then sometimes I’d just look through hours and hours of iStock samples, picking and choosing and mixing things together. To get an idea for a tin was sometimes just—bang!—it’s there, like with the 2010, because what’s nicer than the first look you get of Christmas in a home: in this case, a beautiful wreath on a typical Irish-colored door.

Description: Red and gold virginias from the US and Africa blended with fermented broad-cut black cavendish and a smidge of roasted burley, topped with cookies and cream and a touch of espresso.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Coffee, Cream
Cut:                 Ready Rubbed
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.1 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2011

In 2011, with the stockings and snow in the background. . .

Description: Golden and orange virginias, burley and black cavendish topped with cinnamon and candied fruit.

Blend:             Scandinavian Tobacco Group
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Cinnamon, Fruit / Citrus
Cut:                 Ribbon
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.4 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

2012

. . . and in 2012, with the Christmas tree with all the gifts underneath . . .

Description: Various virginias blended with three types of black cavendish and topped with hazelnut, caramel and baked apples.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Virginia
Flavoring:       Apple, caramel, Nuts / Beans
Cut:                 Coarse Cut
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.3 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2013

In 2013, we went back to blue, which isn’t a Christmassy-color at all, but Rudolph and the reindeers flying through the sky seemed to demand it.

Description: Black cavendish, burley and virginia topped with honey, plum and cinnamon.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Burley, Cavendish, Virginia
Flavoring:       Cinnamon, Honey, Nuts / Beans, Plum
Cut:                 Ribbon
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.1 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

2014

In 2014, a very contemporary background, with black and white  stripes. Still, one of my favorite tins. I thought it was a lot of fun with the jolly Santa Claus.

Description: Burley with cavendish and virginia topped with cocoa and vanilla.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Burley, Cavendish, Virginia
Flavoring:       Cocoa / Chocolate, Vanilla
Cut:                 Ribbon
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            2.7 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

2015

In 2015, I downplayed the fun and went for elegant: understated with the rich pale gold, Christmas tree and ornaments.

Description: Black cavendish, virginia and burley topped with blackberry and cognac.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Blackberry, Cognac
Cut:                 Ribbon
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.3 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2016

In 2016, reindeer, but with a totally different background. Green, red, gold and white are for me the typical Christmas colors. And so I always used red, green or gold, or all three.

Description: Rough cut and broken flake burley, ribbon cut black cavendish and chucks of bright virginias topped with the flavor of apricot liqueur.

Blend:             Scandinavian Tobacco Group
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Alcohol / Liquor, Apricot
Cut:                 Mixture
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3,0 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2017

And in 2017, I first used a gold background, which Conor didn’t care for, so we went back to the red, this time with snow and the green bow.

Description: Ready rubbed and broken flake virginia and burley topped with wild berries, vanilla and a hint of amaretto.

Blend:             Scandinavian Tobacco Group
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Amaretto, Fruit / Citrus, Vanilla
Cut:                 Mixture
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            2.5 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

Summertime Tins

2010

I don’t know who came up with the idea for the Summertime tobacco. I think it must have been Tom. Peterson was the first to introduce a summertime tobacco, at least to my knowledge. For summer, we thought we needed to go with something fun—light, easy, and with a bit of humor. So what do men like to do in summer? They like to have their barbeques—which was the inspiration for the 2010 tin, so I paraded barbeque implements, to which I added an ebony spigot. I thought that was witty.

Description: Black cavendish, gold and dark virginia with virginia flake, topped with vanilla and melon.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:        Black Cavendish, Cavendish, Virginia
Flavoring:       Blackberry, Blackcurrant
Cut:                 Ribbon
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            2.9 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

2011

For 2011, a white deck chair and beach umbrella on the beach against a deep sky.

Description: Double-fermented black cavendish and golden virginia with cavendish cube cut and topped with blackberry and blackcurrant.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:       Black Cavendish, Virginia
Flavoring:       Fruit / Citrus, Peace, Vanilla
Cut:                Ribbon
Packaging:     100 gram tin
Rating:           4.0 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

2012

In 2012, a cocktail glass on the right, but instead of a straw, if you look closely, a long mouthpiece!

Description: Yellow sun-cured virginia with burley and a trace of black cavendish topped with coconut, vanilla and lime.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Fruit / Citrus, Irish Mist, Other / Misc., Vanilla
Cut:                 Ribbon
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.1 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2013

In 2013 we had a lovely young German student working with us. And after working with her for two or three days, I said, “Why don’t you come up with something different?” And she came up with the classic Corvette convertible on the island beach, to which I added a pipe in the driver’s mouth.

Description:  Lemon, red and dark virginias with broad cut black cavendish and a hint of burley topped with mango and rum.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Fruit / Citrus, Rum
Cut:                 Ribbon
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            2.9 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

2014

In 2014, I saw somewhere in a catalog a butterfly on a string, lifting a brick. And I thought, instead of a brick, why not a Peterson pipe? So I added that lovely 80s rhodesian.

Description:  Cavendish, loose cut virginia and ready rubbed burley topped with fruit and citrus.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Burley, Cavendish, Virginia
Flavoring:       Fruit / Citrus
Cut:                 Ready Rubbed
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.7 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2015

I wasn’t in the office in 2015, so we outsourced that to another company, who came up with the surfboards with pipes in the stripes.

Description: African burley and Brazilian virginia with black Brazilian cavendish topped with fruit and citrus.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Fruit / Citrus
Cut:                 Mixture
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.4 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2016

In 2016 and 2017 we were using the new design strategy utilizing the “limited edition,” and were a bit more reserved, but still quite bright.

Description: Ready rubbed and loose bright virginias with a hint of burley topped with vanilla, rum and fruit.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Burley, Virginia
Flavoring:       Fruit / Citrus, Rum, Vanilla
Cut:                 Ribbon
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.8 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

2017

Description: Virginia, burley and cavendish topped with peaches and apples.

Blend:             Kohlhase, Kopp & Co.
Type:               Aromatic
Contents:         Black Cavendish, Burley, Cavendish, Virginia
Flavoring:       Apple, Peach
Cut:                 Ready Rubbed
Packaging:      100 gram tin
Rating:            3.7 stars at TobaccoReviews.com

 

With many thanks to Elke Ullmann

Banner photo: An Early Republic Kapet 11 chimney,
from Todd Becker at Deadmanspipes.

Whether you’ve got unwanted pipes you need to turn into Petes
or Petes that just need a new home,
Todd’s Deadmanspipes is a great place to sell your
old pipes and find new ones.
His restoration work is amazing.
You can contact him at toddlandonbecker@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Continue Reading 209. The Peterson Special Tobaccos, 2008-2018: An Interview with Elke Ullmann