Drum is a brand of fine-cut handrolling tobacco, or shag. It was originally produced and distributed by the Dutch Douwe Egberts corporation. Douwe Egberts was purchased by the Sara Lee Corporation, which sold Drum to Imperial Tobacco, the current British producer. After Douwe Egberts discontinued Drum in the USA, Republic Tobacco of Glenview, Illinois, began making its own version of Drum for distribution in the United States, usually sold accompanied by a package of JOB rolling papers. Both versions are considered halfzware (Dutch for "half-strength") type tobaccos, although the flavors and cuts are not the same due to different methods of curing. Halfzware usually indicates a combination of dark Kentucky burley and bright Virginia tobaccos. Imperial also produces Drum in gold (blonde) and light (mild) varieties. Drum's main competitor in the US is Bali Shag rolling tobacco.
The two versions of Drum are made in different locations and have different sensory properties. European Drum is barrel-cured in the Netherlands using a centuries-old process, whereas the American version is made at the Top Tobacco factory in North Carolina.
Outside the US
Drum is worldwide the #1 brand for shag tobacco. Before Sara Lee sold their Drum and Van Nelle tobacco section to Imperial the main factories for Drum were Drachten and Joure. The factory in Drachten was closed directly after the move to Imperial in 1989 and IT decided to further integrate the production within Douwe Egberts / Van Nelle (DEVN) which also had production facilities in the nearby Joure (30 km) and Meppel (60 km). IT invested 22 million guilders (€10 million) in new machinery for the remaining locations. Drum Tobacco is also produced outside the Netherlands in several factories of the Imperial Tobacco group.
Unlike in the US, shag-tobacco, including Drum does not include rolling papers. An exception to this is Ireland: when you buy a pouch (12,5 or 25 gram) it comes without papers, but when you buy a box containing a paper wrapper with 12,5 gram tobacco it comes with papers; while box including papers is cheaper than the pouch without. But the type of tobacco in the pouch is different: the cut is rougher and is not as dry as the "wrapper". You get Job papers in the United States in 25g pouches.
Before Douwe Egberts introduced Drum in the UK there was an active gray market and Drum had a large market-share: as the tobacco prices were once much higher in the UK than on the European mainland, there were many people who traveled to (mainly) Belgium or France by ferry to import alcohol and tobacco. Although this is still going on, the price differences from 10 years ago have decreased. However, rolling tobacco is still around a third of the price in Belgium as it is in the UK, and smuggling continues. When Douwe Egberts was ready to introduce Drum they faced some legal problems, forcing them to change the brand name to Duma, and was struggling to get a foothold on the UK duty-paid market
In the Netherlands, Drum is the #2 selling brand of shag-tobacco, just below Van Nelle, which is also a brand of Imperial Tobacco. Smoking shag tobacco used to be more popular in The Netherlands than smoking ready-made cigarettes. In 1989, the 'market share' of shag-tobacco was 53%, but decreased to 42% in 2010.
The main reason for the popularity is the price. A typical cigarette contains less than 1 gram of tobacco. A pouch of 40-42.5 grams is about the same price as a box of 19-20 cigarettes, so the cost of a self-rolled cigarette is half the price of a ready-made cigarette. Many people also put much less tobacco in a self-rolled cigarette. The taxes on tobacco, however, are mainly based on the weight of tobacco, so the margins for the producer are lower on shag than on ready-made cigarettes.
Even in countries where the price of shag tobacco is much higher, people may smoke shag to save money by putting less tobacco in each cigarette.
As the original terms "half-zwaar" (medium strong) and "mild" can't be used anymore due to European rules the different blends are now referenced by their color. Not all blends are available in each country.
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Sources and references
- NY Times: Sara Lee sells tobacco division for $ 1,1 billion, 8 April 1998. Visited 1 July 2012
- Trouw (newspaper) Tobacco factory bought and closed (Dutch), 8 December 1998. Visited: 30 June 2012
- Evilzone How to smuggle cigarettes from mainland Europe, visited 2 July 2012
- Tobaccopapers website Drum advertising strategy, retrieved: 2 July 2012
- VNK: Top 10 most sold shag brands 2010, visited: 1 July 2010
- VNK (Combined Dutch (shag)tobacco producers):Overview newsarticles (Dutch), visited 1 July 2012
- VNK Website Price breakdown (excise, VAT & trade), visited 1 July 2012