DUNHILL PIPE TOBACCO: 1907 – 1990
Written by John C. Loring
Contributed by Yang Forcióri
When Alfred Dunhill opened his shop on Duke Street in 1907 it was a tobacco shop. He was a tobacconist, or as he put it in his first catalog a “Mixture Specialist”, prominently displaying a sign in his shop window reading: “Tobacco Specialist”. But first and foremost Alfred Dunhill was a marketer and when he opened his tobacco shop he knew exactly where he wanted to go. In short order however, he recognized that he had set his sights too low, this is a part of that story.
When he opened the doors that first day, it was not to the type of shop where you or I buy our pipe tobacco, a shop with a wide variety of pre-tinned, vacuum packed tobacco made by any number of manufacturers. Rather the shop Alfred opened was that of a bespoke blender of tobacco, with each “My Mixture” custom blended for an individual customer with the blending tobacco, according to Balfour, Alfred Dunhill One Hundred Years And More, initially obtained from George Dobie & Son of Paisley (makers of the ‘4 Square’ blends) and the Tobacco Supply Syndicate. Or as he wrote (and most assuredly these are his words):
“The senses of taste and smell are distinct senses in each separate person …. It is impossible for a ready-made mixture to exactly suit the individual senses of taste and smell. Consequently the only method available is the scientific method whereby the tone of the sense of taste, and the quality of the sense of smell, is accurately determined and assured …. No method avails save that of individual test …. by personal interview.
“[The shop] is not in any way like the ordinary tobacco shop.
“’A particular mixture cannot be expected to suit the tastes of all and sundry, any more than one medical prescription can be efficacious in all diseases. I [Alfred Dunhill] therefore make it my business here to prescribe (if I may be allowed to use such a term with reference to tobacco) a special mixture to suit each individual customer. If my first attempt does not quite attain the ideal, I alter the proportions of the mixture until absolute success is achieved."
“A few skilful questions from Mr. Dunhill soon enabled him to assort the tobaccos for the mixture I [a customer] longed for. Taking a bunch of the weed from one cell, a mere pinch from another, and so on, for the world like a chemist making up a prescription! Then a few rapid movements of the hands and the different tobaccos were uniformly blended and the mixture wrapped up. … In my case I must say that Mr. Dunhill hit the right thing first time. … The prescription was duly register in a book and I was given its number.” 1910 Dunhill About Smoke Catalog
Then again, not to make to fine a point of it, when Alfred Dunhill published his first catalog in 1910 success was already forcing alteration of this marketing model. A bespoke blending shop has its limits, one can not expect every wealthy English pipe smoker to visit a small shop on Duke Street for an interview. Far more can be expected to page through a catalog where ever they may be lighting up their pipe. And so even as Alfred mouthed the words, he did not hesitate in that first 1910 catalog to prominently present ten “My Mixture” blends for general customer consideration at “10/8 per lb post paid to any address in the United Kingdom”. (Although, according to Balfour, supra, if you actually visited the shop you could get #75, a mixture of all the blending ‘leavings’ at 4/ a pound.) And while the original customers for nine of those blends were noted by name, the tenth blend, “Alfred Dunhill’s Newest Mixture, a Perfect Blend” bore no such attribution. The transition from ‘bespoke’ had begun.
Custom blending of the sort Alfred described in his catalog had another problem as well. It does not necessarily produce the best possible blend. Blending is more then just mixing together different leaf in proportion. There are blending techniques, e.g., stoving, toasting, pressing, that take time and experimentation and can hardly be done at the store’s blending counter. Then too, once a blend is mixed it needs time to ‘marry’ both in bulk and in the tin. Above all else Alfred strove for the best, thus it was only natural that a few years later, in 1912, bespoke blending took a back seat again as Alfred Dunhill introduced his first pre-packaged ‘name’ blends: “Royal Yacht”, “Cuba” and “Durbar”. And priced not at the “My Mixture” 10/8 but at the very considerable premium of 16/- per lb for “Durbar” and 21/- per lb for “Royal Yacht” and “Cuba”.
It is interesting to note at this point, some five years after Alfred opened his shop, that if the shop he opened was not the type of store we go to today, five years later it was. For when one reviews the pre tinned blends offered in the early catalogs through 1912 you find that they include the full range of what we consider today to be the English style blends, from matured Virginias such as “Royal Yacht” and “My Mixture #288”, to straight Virginias such as “#36” and “#190”, Oriental blends such as “Durbar”, “#1”, “#28”, “#108”, “#187”, and “#850”, Latakia blends such as “#10” and “#965” and for the odd occasion, “Cuba”, a cigar leaf blend. Thus for the balance of the near century, from 1912 through 1990, we find that the keynote for Dunhill the tobacconist is “refining” with an increasing emphasis on generally available ‘name’ blends as opposed to custom “My Mixture” blends. For in most all respects everything was in place by 1912. Although that is not to say that the custom blending business withered away, for by the end of the century over 36,700 individual blends had been recorded in the Duke Street shop “My Mixture Book”. However, even from very early on most of those individual My Mixture recipes were somewhat less then ‘bespoke’ and more like a custom tailored ‘pre cut’ suit, that is rather then recorded in terms of raw ingredients, for the very great most part the Duke Street “My Mixture Book” records them as mixtures of existing blends, e.g. “2x127 2x128”, or “2x965 1x77 1x27” or as variants of existing blends, e.g. “3x144 1xLat[akia]” with an occasional extra touch, e.g. “cut short & dry”.
Two additional pre tinned blends were introduced during the World War I a straight Virginia, “Ye Olde Signe” in 1915 and an Oriental, “Harmony” in 1917 but Dunhill’s primary concern was to meet the needs of the fighting forces. Aside from packaging changes discussed later there were two essential ‘war time’ measures: reduced tobacco pricing of standard blends to overseas forces and introducing temporary blends for servicemen at still lower prices. In 1915 rather then 25/ per lb for “Cuba” Expeditionary Forces paid 19/ and Naval Forces 18/, and rather then 19/ per lb for “Durbar” or “Ye Olde Signe” soldiers paid 13/4 and sailors 12/6. (I suspect the difference in price for soldiers and sailors may relate to tax savings for on tobacco sent to a ship.) The three temporary war time blends, “Campaign Plug” a matured Virginia, “Campaign Mixture” (blend type unknown) and “Best Scotch Thick Black Twist” were offered at still lower prices. “Campaign Plug”, priced 3/- per lb was “of a strength and character to appeal to the non commissioned officers and men [and of a] form suitable for campaign conditions”. It was really intended to be purchased in bulk and contributed to overseas units for distribution to the troops. To that end Dunhill also offered a pipe, the “Campaign Pipe”, “in lots of not less then 100” at a shilling each. The other two war blends, were a bit more expensive 5/- per lb for “Campaign Mixture” and 4/6 per lb for “Best Scotch” but still considerably less then the standard blends even at reduced military prices.
However, while prices to the armed services were reduced, by the end of the decade, the Great War and aftermath had taken its toll on prices to civilians with “My Mixture” blends at 19/8 per lb, “Durbar”, “Ye Olde Signe” and “Harmony” at 24/8 per lb, and “Royal Yacht” and “Cuba” at 30/8 per lb.
Prices continued to rapidly increase in the 1920’s and by 1923 the 24/8 mixtures were 28/8 and the 30/8 had increased to 34/8. These increases however, were somewhat alleviated by the introduction some lower priced ‘name’ blends at 20/- per lb: “Standard Mixture” (in all three Latakia strengths - mild, medium and full), a light matured Virginia, “Prince of Wales” and a Virginia “Three Year Matured”. One new 28/8 blend, “Super” which appears to have been a Virginia or Oriental, was also introduced in the early 1920’s. Then, save for the 1928 introduction of the Latakia/Cavendish “London Mixture” at 20/8 per lb, the blend card remained unchanged in terms of mixture and fairly stable in terms of pricing for more then a decade. In 1928 for instance: “Standard Mixture”, “London Mixture”, “Three Year Matured” were all 20/8 per lb; all the “My Mixture” blends were 21/8 per lb; “Ye Olde Signe”, “Harmony” “Durbar” and “Super” were all 29/4 per lb; and “Royal Yacht” and “Cuba” were 35/4 per lb. By the mid (and late) 1930’s we find that the “My Mixture” blend price had been lowered slightly to 21/2 per lb and that the higher priced blends had been ‘rounded’ slightly higher to 30/- and 36/- . (Two additional notes: First, the “Prince of Wales” mixture was specifically blended for and in honor of Edward, Prince of Wales as a ‘thank you’ for granting of his Royal Warrant in 1921. Somewhat surprisingly, that blend survived the subsequent and varied scandals of three decades and was not dropped from the line until the 1960s. Second, although never carried as a “Dunhill” product or at Dunhill shops, at least during the pre World War II period beginning in 1923 Dunhill wholesaled the Continental Tobacco Co/Philip Morris & Co blended ‘Barking Dog’ pipe tobacco mixture outside the US through its Parker subsidiary.)
In 1936 “Throgmorton” and “Old Colonial” (blend types unknown) were introduced, as was “Twist” (referred to as “Negro Head Twist” in 1938) which was sold in the form of three twisted rolls, either sliced or unsliced. Also in the late 1930s Dunhill bought the assets of the Savory tobacco shop, including two Oriental blends “Baby’s Bottom” and “Savory’s Mixture” as well a third, straight Virginia “Baby’s Bottom” blend. I lack English pricing data for the Savory tobacco additions but in the United States, “Baby’s Bottom” was priced in line with “Standard Mixture” and “Savory Mixture” 20% below making “Savory Mixture” the then least expensive Dunhill ‘name’ blend tobacco. “Throgmorton” was named after the second Dunhill London “City” store (1923 – 1946). “Old Colonial” was a blend of tobaccos from the then British empire intended to take advantage of lower import duties on those tobaccos thus allowing for significantly lower pricing, 24/- per lb, although not as low as the “My Mixtures” or “Standard Mixture” or, one can assume, “Savory’s Mixture”. It might also be noted that while several ‘name’ blends were added to the line card between 1912 and World War II, none were dropped. With the coming of the Second World War however, that was to change.
The onset of World War II curtailed the introduction of new blends save for the American blended “American Mixture”. That blend, probably introduced because cross Atlantic commerce was limited by the war, was never marketed outside the US although it continued to be offered in America into the 1980s. Interestingly, unlike during the Great War I have never seen any indication that Dunhill offered World War II servicemen either special low cost blends or reduced prices on standard blends.
Following the Second World War several blends were dropped, “Harmony”, “Throgmorton” “Twist”/“Negro Head Twist” and “Old Colonial” by the late 1940’s and “Super” in the early 1950’s. But three important new blends were introduced in 1951, Orientals “Aperitif” and “Early Morning Pipe” and “Nightcap” a Latakia blend. I suspect that blends were dropped because the English post war economy forced Dunhill to focus on its more popular pre war blends and that nonetheless three blends were added for the specific purpose of increasing penetration of the critically important post war American market. It may also be that certain raw tobaccos necessary for the dropped blends were unavailable. In any event the early to mid 1950s catalogs expressly offer only the “My Mixture” blends, the three new blends and “Royal Yacht”, “Cuba” and “Durbar”, thus clearly there were still production bottlenecks in England even a decade after VE Day (if nothing else, perhaps due to a lack of sufficiently aged tobacco because of the inability to purchase raw leaf during the war years).
The aftermath of World War II saw a major, or better said, awesome increase in pricing. In 1951 the pre-war 21/2 per lb “My Mixture” blends quadrupled to 84/- per lb, similarly the new “Aperitif”, “Early Morning Pipe” and “Nightcap”; “Durbar”, as well as “Ye Olde Signe” and “Super” were 89/- per lb and “Royal Yacht” and “Cuba” were 96/- per lb. (For comparison purpose the increase in pipe prices was similar with a 1939 25/- standard Bruyere priced in 1951 at 90/- to 105/-). Beginning in 1956 those prices increased annually and by the end of the decade most blends, e.g. “My Mixture” blends, “Standard Mixture”, “Three Year Matured”, “London Mixture”, “Early Morning Pipe”, “Aperitif”, “Nightcap”, “Flake” and “Shell” were 98/- per lb, while a few were somewhat more, “Durbar” and“Ye Olde Signe” being 104/- per lb and “Royal Yacht” and “Cuba” at the top at 112/- per lb.
When we turn to American pricing it becomes clear that the tremendous post war increase in tobacco prices in England was almost wholly the product of the British government. In the United States Dunhill tobacco pricing was remarkably stable from the early 1920s through World War II. Specifically during that quarter century “Standard Mixture”, “Three Year Matured”, “London Mixture” sold for $5 per lb; the “My Mixture” blends, and “Prince of Wales” sold at $6 per lb.; “Durbar”, “Ye Olde Signe”, “Harmony”, and “Super” sold for $7 per lb; and “Royal Yacht” and “Cuba” sold for $10 per lb. I lack data for the immediate post war US pricing but even by 1962 there had only been a 20% price increase over pre war prices with the pre war $6 per lb mixtures selling for $8 (“Apertif”, “Early Morning Pipe” and “Nightcap” were also priced with this group); the pre war $7 per lb mixtures selling in 1962 for $10; and the premium pre war $10 per lb mixtures selling in 1962 for $12 per lb. (US pipe pricing shows a more dramatic increase, although somewhat less than in England - before the war a standard Bruyere pipe sold for $12, by 1962 the cost was $30 - $35. It should also be noted that for consistency I have used ‘per pound pricing’ throughout but it appears that after World War II only “My Mixture” blends continued to be offered by the pound with all other blends offered in either two or four ounce tins.)
In the late 1950s “Flake” (later known as “Light Flake”) a pressed straight Virginia was introduced, as were “Negrohead” and “Shell” (the latter likely being a quickly renamed version of former, both appear in turn to have been a sliced form of the pre-World War II “Twist”/“Negro Head Twist” – obviously Dunhill in this pre/post war period was uncomfortable in the naming of a tobacco blend style that typically was given a cruder name by other blenders). In 1963 a fourth blend was introduced, “Rough Cut Virginia”, but this blend, like “Negrohead” and “Shell” was offered for only a few years. The 1960s also saw the demise of “Prince of Wales”, “Savory’s Mixture” “Three Year Matured” and, no doubt a consequence of the American embargo, “Cuba”.
Although I have not seen it in a catalog, in my collection I also have a 2 oz knife-lid/cutter-top tin of “My Lady’s Dunhill Mixture” which appears to date to the mid 1960’s. Over the years Dunhill made at least three attempts to develop a market for feminine pipe smoking. The first came in the early 1920’s and while I know of no tobacco blends specifically directed to the effort at that time, I do have a small Japanese lacquer tobacco container with a Dunhill My Mixture # 50 label that appears to date from this period and the initial marketing efforts directed at female smokers. The second marketing effort appears to have been made in the late 1930’s but I know of no tobacco blends with respect to that promotion, although there may be a possible connection to “My Mixture #950” a denicontinesed blend introduced in 1938. A third attempt dates to the 1950’s - 1960s. A 1954 catalog identifies three “My Lady’s” blends, #s 101, “recommended by Mary Dunhill”, 102 and 103 – two oriental blends and a Virginia blend respectively. In addition of course is the unnumbered “My Lady’s Dunhill Mixture” noted above (blend type unknown) and which dates to the mid 1960s.
The late 1960a and 1970s saw a significant but temporary expansion of catalog offered ‘name’ blends including Orientals “Mr. Alfred’s Own”, and “Aromatic”, three Virginia’s “Baby’s Bottom Virginia” and “Baby’s Bottom Flake” and “Dark Flake” (a stronger version of “Flake” which was renamed “Light Flake”), a Virginia/Perique “Elizabethan”, a Cavendish “Golden Label (aka Gold Blend), an aromatic “Golden Hours”, and a matured Virginia “Virginia Ready Rubbed”. But the end of the 1970s and 1980s also saw a number of blends dropped including “American Mixture”, “Aperitif”, all of the Baby’s Bottom mixtures, “Dark Flake”, “Durbar” (aka “1066”), “Mr. Alfred’s Own” and “Ye Olde Signe”.
The longest running Dunhill ‘name’ blend? “My Mixture #965” “Originally blended for E. A. Baxter, Esq.” sometime before 1910 and proclaimed in the catalog of that year and most all subsequent :”the finest Mixture ever produced”, followed by “Royal Yacht” first introduced in1912, “Standard Mixture” (in all three Latakia strengths) introduced in 1921, and “London Mixture” introduced in 1928. An interesting selection heavily weighted on the Latakia and matured Virginia extremes with the middle ground completely absent, a middle that includes such dearly beloved but, as of the 1990s, departed blends as:”Aperitif”, “Baby’s Bottom”, “Durbar”, “Mr. Alfred’s Own”, and “Three Year Matured”.
It’s difficult to opine a rationale for many of the deleted ‘name’ blends after the late 1960s since they include blends that were particular favorites of pipe smokers. The answer however, probably lies in substantial part in a changing blending environment generally and equally important, Dunhill’s efforts to rationalize its own specific business.
Beginning in the 1960s there were major, adverse, developments in the supply of Oriental tobaccos. The complexities of some of Dunhill’s blends depended upon being able to source individual Oriental sub-varieties, but beginning in the 1960’s there was an increasing tendency for leaf from various localities to be bulked and sold together. Better known, the Syrian government banned production of Latakia in that country in order to preserve what remained of its forests (the production of Syrian Latakia involves large log fires). As a consequence blenders were forced to turn to Cypriot and Turkish Latakia which has distinctly different characteristics and results in a different tasting blend.
The effect on Dunhill blends was not immediate as Dunhill had significant supplies of Oriental on hand in various stages of its aging process, but ultimately there was no avoiding the more generalized Oriental leaf and the disappearance of Syrian Latakia. In order to postpone those effects Dunhill may have had to consolidate, cut some ‘name’ blends in order preserve leaf for other blends. And in time, lacking the proper leaf it may have abandoned some blends altogether, rather then change blend characteristics through substitution. I suspect that such may have been the case with the “Durbar” blend, which was dropped from the line in the late 1960s and then in short order replaced, at least on American store shelves, with “My Mixture 1066” with the explanation that it was ‘Durbar’. While this may have just been an attempt to placate customers upset over the loss of “Durbar” it is also possible that a lack of the correct leaf meant that Dunhill either had to drop or change the blend, and that this was their answer. One acquaintance who has smoked both “1066” from the 1970s and “Durbar” datable to a few years before believes that in fact the blends differed.
Equally important were changes at Dunhill itself. Traditional English tobacco blending is a costly business. Limited during most of the twentieth century by English blending laws from freely using flavor additives in blending, Dunhill and other English blenders, in contrast to those of Continental Europe and America, had to rely much more heavily on the natural flavor characteristics of Virginia and Oriental leaf as opposed to naturally blander, less costly, additive enhanced Burley and similar leaf. Moreover those Virginia and Oriental flavor characteristics had to be developed naturally through aging and pressing. But money tied up in aging inventory has an interest cost and blending techniques such as pressing, toasting and stoving not only take time, they also require additional equipment and increased labor expense. Dunhill used all these blending techniques and aged its tobacco as raw leaf, then in marrying blends in bulk and lastly in marrying and settling blends in the tin before shipment. Tobacco blended and aged in this manner gives off a distinct ‘matured’, ‘spoiled’ or, not to mince words, ‘rotten’ aroma when the tin is first opened. Undoubtedly, during this period Dunhill was wrestling with managing traditional blending methods in the context of remaining a for-profit enterprise, and one can not help but suspect that blends such as “Three Year Matured” lost out in the upshot.
At the same time Dunhill was in the process of evolving from simply being a leading provider of smoker requisites to being part of a retail oriented corporate conglomerate, one of whose members was Murrays of Northern Ireland, itself a major blender of pipe tobacco. The 1981 consolidation of most all tobacco blending into Murrays was an obvious rationalization (specifically, the transfer to Murrays included all ‘name’ blends including “My Mixture #965”). However, while Dunhill and Murrays were both blenders, there were significant differences. Being in Northern Ireland, Murrays was subject to less restrictive blending laws then Dunhill. More importantly, Murrays tended to mass production blending using fewer varieties of leaf to produce blends of less complexity and with significantly less aging at all stages. One immediate consequence was that the Murrays Dunhill ‘name’ blends did not ‘stink’ when opened, most likely reflecting a sharp curtailments of the traditional Dunhill aging processes. I suspect another consequence was that some ‘name’ Dunhill blends were discontinued because they were too complex to be produced efficiently. The net effect in any case was that not only were blends discontinued but equally, there were distinct changes in all of the continuing blends, in some cases undoubtedly due to recipe changes, e.g. substitution of Cypriot Latakia for Syrian, in other cases due to changes in blending technique, and in all cases due to significantly less aging. (In all fairness problems in leaf supply and economic realities would probably have led to at least some of the same results even had Dunhill ‘name’ blends not been transferred to Murrays. I suspect for instance that by the 1981 transfer, Dunhill had very little aged leaf left on hand.)
One exception to the 1981 blending transfer should be noted. The Dunhill Duke Street shop continued to offer custom blending for the next two decades and as part of that continuation, a small batch blender in London (I suspect with Dunhill associations) continued to produce a number of My Mixture blends available only from the Duke Street shop. (While a good number of the “My Mixture” blends of quite superior quality thankfully remain available today from the Duke Street shop, and only that shop, with the new century actual blending in London has ceased with all Dunhill blends, ‘name’ and “My Mixture” alike now done by Murrays. To alleviate the inevitable calls I also provide the following information: the dialed number from the US for the London Duke Street shop is 011 4420 7290 8600. Ask for Mr. Burrows. Alternatively you can email Mr. Burrows at > Marc.Burrows@alfreddunhill.co.uk < who can provide you with an available blend list. Depending upon quantity of tins ordered the delivered cost, because of the offset between UK taxes forgiven and shipping cost, may actually be slightly less then you would pay in the UK.)
Today, it is a commonly held view among pipe smokers who smoke both older and contemporary tins of Dunhill tobacco that the blends available today represent for the most part an evolution and simply are not the same blends of the past. Of course that view may in part be simply a case of several decades of additional aging in the tin as opposed to being just off the store shelf. But I do not doubt that in most cases the newer blends do represent an evolution as well, the work of skilled blenders attempting to capture the spirit of the older blend handicapped by a lack of aging and having to use different leaf.
I turn now to packaging. Initially, Alfred Dunhill offered his tobaccos in non-air tight, unsealed quarter pound, half pound and one pound tins imprinted “My Mixture” in fancy broad red letters similar to that found yet today. Lesser weights were sold in folding foil packs. Vacuum packaging was commercially available in the 1900’s but the newly opened London tobacco shop catered to a local market and had no need.
The first packaging development was the 1910 offering of “Self-Filling Tobacco Cartridges”, paper ‘shotgun shell like’ cylinders of tobacco that slipped right into the pipe bowl. While Dunhill obtained a patent for its version of this packaging/filling system in 1910, the concept was not a new one and was offered at the time by others as well. Aside from cost the basic problem with the system was the need to keep the pipe well and evenly reamed so that the cartridges would continue to fit over time. Dunhill continued to both develop the concept, obtaining additional patents in 1918 and 1920, and to offer its blends in cartridge form up to and probably briefly after World War II. The self filling cartridges were sold by unit rather then weight and were favored by both Edward Prince of Wales and his brother King George VI. Indeed according to Balfour, supra, the former abandoned his namesake “prince” (shape 314) pipe for the somewhat similar 302 shape that was better suited for cartridges. Similarly, George VI had Dunhill make him a special pipe, with a built in reamer, particularly suited to the cartridge system.
A second, little noticed today, packaging development dates to the Great War when, in 1915 Dunhill began offering all its blends “packed for campaigning” in a patented quarter pound compressed pack covered with lead foil and sold in a canvas bag intended to serve as a tobacco pouch when the tobacco was rubbed out. This compressed packaging, unchanged in form and design, was offered into the 1960s “for Sportsmen and Travellers”. It appears that throughout the time offered there was essentially no pricing premium for the compressed packaging.
The most important packaging development however, was the introduction of the ‘knife-lid’ or ‘cutter-top’ air tight tin in 1916. This packaging method, which had been in general commercial use even in the 19th century, became necessary for Dunhill in order to better serve the troops in France and sailors on the high seas. A ‘knife-lid’ or ‘cutter-top’ tin is an air tight tin with two tops. The inner thin metal top seals the tobacco in the tin. The outer, loose fitting top has a small sliding knife element which is used to open and cut away the sealed inner top. Only “Campaign Mixture” was offered in this form in 1916, in a 4” tall 4 ounce tin (of the style used for the Rattrays blends) but by the next year the catalog shows all the ‘name’ blends, i.e. “Durbar”, “Ye Olde Signe”, “The Harmony”, “Royal Yacht” and “Cuba” in this packaging (although the “Ye Olde Signe” tin was shorter and wider, 2” x 3”). Each of these tins had colorful paper labels around and atop the tin with an additional strip of paper running across the outer top holding that top to the tin and imprinted with facsimiles of a red seal and Alfred Dunhill’s signature.
The importance of this tin style for Dunhill was that it allowed its tobacco to be sold and shipped throughout the world after World War I, not just to the front lines in France and to sailors at sea during that war. In late 1920 the four ounce 4” tall tins were changed to 4” x 2” tins, and in that form remained unchanged until the change over to ‘coin twist’ style tins in the mid 1960s. During this ‘knife-lid’ tin period, Dunhill tobaccos were generally available in two, four, eight and sixteen ounce tins with the four ounce variety being the most common.
The ‘coin twist’ style tin was introduced in the mid 1960s and by 1970 was the exclusive tin format. Initially, these tins were offered in two and four ounce tins identical in dimensions to the replaced ‘knife-lid’ tin. However, the old paper labels were abandon with the new ‘coin twists’ having ‘painted’ tops and undecorated sides. The 1970s saw the beginnings of EEOC integration with rarely seen 25, 50 and 100 gram export version tins being offered by mid-decade. By late decade Dunhill generally changed over to 50 and 100 gram tins, perhaps encouraged by the fact that the metric weight tins were 10% lighter in content then the predecessors, i.e. 100 grams equals but 3.53 ounces, not 4 ounces. Of course there was no equivalent price reduction. These late 1970s tins were weight stamped both in grams and ounces, initially with the ounce equivalents being exact, e.g. 3.53 ounces but by 1980, rounded, e.g. 100 grams/3 ½ ounces.
As discussed above, in 1981 tobacco production was generally transferred to Murrays in Northern Ireland, and with that transfer there was a change in tin styles. Initially, a ‘coin-twist’ tin with paper label pasted to the top was used with, for the first time, the country of origin being identified as the “United Kingdom”. (I have seen a few paper label tins with the country of origin labeled as “England”, suggesting either that such tins are the very last of the ‘in-house’ Dunhill blending, or alternatively that there is truth to a rumor that for a brief time some blending was farmed out to McConnells, another English blender.) In addition the 100 grams / 3 1/2 ounces tin became shorter and wider, 1 ½” x 4 7/8” (sometimes referred to as the “pancake” tin). In short order however, still in the early 1980s, ‘painted’ top tins were introduced for the Murrays production with weight usually given only in grams and usually followed by an “e” (a common market reference) and uniformly identifying the country of origin as “the United Kingdom”.
Dating Dunhill tins is relatively easy. The outer boundary dates are of course defined by the blend and tin style in question, e.g. a “Royal Yacht” ‘knife-lid’ tin must date not earlier then 1912 or later then today by virtue of the blend and as our hypothetical tin is a ‘knife-lid’ tin those outer limit dates can further be limited to 1917 – 1970. But label information invariably allows for far greater definition.
- From 1921 through the 1995, Dunhill had a Royal Warrant of one sort or another for its tobaccos and usually (but not always) included a warrant on the label. Specifically:
a Prince of Wales Crest was used between 1921 and 1936;
a George VI Crest with a reference to the King was used between 1937 and 1953;
a George VI Crest with no reference to the King was used in 1954;
a George VI Crest with a reference to the “late King” was used between 1954 and 1962; and an Elizabeth II Crest was used between 1963 and 1995.(note that the use of the Elizabeth II Crest comes a decade after her coronation).
- Tins dating to World War II will have a small reference to war time packaging requirements.
- Older tins from before the 1970s will be found with blue United States ‘Act of 1926’ tax stamps – adding ‘1829’ to the “Series” number on such stamps will give the approximate year of import, also the year of import will sometimes be stamped on the tax stamp.
- Tins showing England or Great Britain as the country of origin date to 1980 or earlier (i.e. ‘in-house’ Dunhill production – note that not all tins prior to 1980 showed the country of origin).
- Tins with words to the effect that the tobacco is blended ‘by Dunhill’ date to 1980 or earlier (i.e. ‘in-house’ Dunhill production. – note that not all tins prior to 1980 show that information).
- Tins showing the United Kingdom as the country of origin date to after 1981 (i.e. Murrays production).
- Tins advising that the tobacco was manufactured under the “authority” of Dunhill date to 1990 – 1995.
- Tins advising that the tobacco was manufactured “in association” with Dunhill date to after 1995.
- Tin weights shown in whole ounces or fractions of a pound date to before the late 1970s.
- Tin weights shown in grams and ounces date to after the late 1970s.
- Tin weights shown in grams only generally date to after 1981.
(The most important dating issue generally is: ‘is it Dunhill or is it Murrays’. Normally, the answer can be quickly determined by looking for the country of origin, if it is the United Kingdom, it is Murrays production. Similarly a 100 gram ‘pancake’ tin indicates Murrays production.)