Tobacco has a long history in Europe and forms part of a shared European cultural heritage. The Spanish first brought tobacco to Europe in the early 16th century, when the leafy green plant was used as decoration, and later as a medicine and sleep aid. In 1559, French diplomat Jean Nicot returned from Portugal with tobacco plants and an early form of smokeless snuff tobacco. Later named in his honour, the Nicotiana plant quickly gained favour in the Parisian court for its perceived medicinal properties. Across the Channel, poet and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh made smoking tobacco an essential form of recreation in the English court under Queen Elizabeth I.
During this time, the increasing popularity of tobacco in Europe brought with it opposition, particularly from religious authorities who considered smoking to be ‘allying oneself with devilry and pagan savagery.’ In many countries, smoking faced imprisonment and even death. Murad the Fourth, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, had smokers dragged from their homes and strangled in the streets. In Russia, the punishment for pipe smoking included beatings and exile to Siberia until Peter the Great came to power in 1682. Over time, smoking became more commonplace and an important source of trade, providing income for merchants and tax revenue for governments while assuming an important position in European social life.
As tobacco use spread across Europe, the tobacco craft further developed. Methods of production became more sophisticated and the range of products more varied. Liquorice, cocoa, vanilla and other ingredients were added to moisturise, preserve and infuse the tobacco with aromas, or replace the sugars lost during curing. The initial spirit of inventiveness that popularised early favourites likes snuff and pipe tobacco evolved into a full artisan craft, as generations saw the techniques and skills of tobacco cultivation and production passed on and refined.
Today, the manufacture of traditional fine-cut, pipe, nasal snuff and chewing tobaccos continues this storied tradition. Skilled craftspeople expertly apply these techniques, perfecting the mixture of dozens of varieties, tastes, smells and flavours that combine to provide smokers with a large and varied range of tobacco products. Although each of these products has its own character, tailored to meet the tastes and preferences of different consumers, they are all part of the same cultural heritage, continuing a centuries-old tradition of fine European craftsmanship.