The first cigarettes I smoked were Dunhill King Size. They came in a dark red box with gold edges. They were strong, at least 10mg of tar. I liked the fact that they had the signature of Alfred Dunhill on the back, the same Dunhill who founded the Dunhill fashion brand. a pack of twenty retailed at £4.89. That was usually enough for a week’s worth.
Occasionally I went for a box of Dunhill lights. Funnily enough they were cheaper as they were so unpopular they never put the price up. The box was beautifully designed, with clean white packaging and bevelled sides. I used to love holding the box whilst smoking or leaving the box on pub tables next to my glasses of beer. I think they had a kind of crest on the front which always made the cigarette I was smoking an extra special kind of event.
Finally I sometimes opted for Dunhill Internationals, the same as the ones Robert De Niro smokes in Casino.
Even though I was loyal to Dunhills, I made my way through pretty much every brand of tobacco I could find. Between 2001 and 2005, the years of my heaviest smoking I smoked:
Peter Stuyvescent 100s (as advertised in old magazines I looked at from the seventies showing people sailing or lounging by the pool)
Camel lights and camel regulars (I always felt that the packaging of these was cheap and somewhat shoddy. The box never stood up well and got misshapen in the pocket. These cigarettes are mentioned by Bukowski in Ham on Rye, so I guess they will always have some cultish appeal.
Park Drive – these came in an art deco box with stylish old fashioned logo. I only ever bought one pack of these.
Gitanes: smoked a few of these. i learnt that they were made with dark Turkish tobacco, which explained why they tasted like petrol.
Gauloises: with an Asterisk helmet. popular all over the continent. Again, the packaging was too flimsy for me.
Lucky Strike: these were advertised with the meaningless but effective slogan ‘its toasted’, seen on Mad Men.
Benson and Hedges Special: these have always been smoked by a particular kind of smoker. I still remember the advertising of these on giant billboards.
Lambert & Butler: horrible packaging, ok fags.
Marlboro reds/ Marlboro lights: according to someone in the pub, these are the most popular cigarettes. Or at least they were when it was still legal to smoke in pubs. I once bought a pack of Marlboro Reds in the Almeida restaurant. They were presented on a saucer by the waiter. What glorious times!
Petra/Sparta: I smoked these in Prague, 2004. They were at least 10 krowns cheaper than more famous brands.
Drum tobacco; when I couldn’t afford tabs, I opted for tobacco. I rolled Drum consistently through my second year at uni.
Golden Virginia: what everybody else smoked at the student union.
Craven A: another old cigarette brand, smoked a lot in France but oddly not in England where they originated from.