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Is it ever stated, or agreed upon by the hobbits, men, dwarves, or elves that there is a "best" or "most popular" pipe Weed? Or, more specifically, do any characters state their personal preference?

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    VTC: Recreation drug recommendations are offtopic for this StackExchange Oct 28 '15 at 15:01
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    @DVK it's fiction and there are no middle-earth pipe weeds in the real world.
    – Escoce
    Oct 28 '15 at 15:28
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    @Escoce - you forgot the spoiler markup! Oct 28 '15 at 15:33
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    @Escoce DVK is troll
    – Himarm
    Oct 28 '15 at 15:34
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    @Himarm - Am I a Stone, Hill, Cave, Mountain or Snow Troll? Or Olog-hai? Oct 28 '15 at 18:21
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Longbottom Leaf, and variants thereof (emphasis mine):

But all accounts agree that Tobold Hornblower of Longbottom in the Southfarthing first grew the true pipe-weed in his gardens in the days of Isengrim the Second, about the year 1070 of Shire-reckoning. The best home-grown still comes from that district, especially the varieties now known as Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby, and Southern Star.

Fellowship of the Ring Prologue 2: "Concerning Pipe-weed"

Merry sings its praises later, when he and Pippin discover a barrel at Isengard (emphasis mine):

[Merry] produced a small leather bag full of tobacco. 'We have heaps of it,' he said; 'and you can all pack as much as you wish, when we go. We did some salvage-work this morning, Pippin and I. There are lots of things floating about. It was Pippin who found two small barrels, washed up out of some cellar or store-house, I suppose. When we opened them, we found they were filled with this: as fine a pipe-weed as you could wish for, and quite unspoilt.'

Gimli took some and rubbed it in his palms and sniffed it. 'It feels good, and it smells good,' he said.

'It is good!' said Merry. 'My dear Gimli, it is Longbottom Leaf! There were the Hornblower brandmarks on the barrels, as plain as plain. How it came here, I can't imagine. For Saruman's private use. I fancy. I never knew that it went so far abroad. But it comes in handy now?'

Two Towers Book III Chapter 9: "Flotsam and Jetsam"

Although quality doesn't necessarily correlate to popularity, the only other variety a character is explicitly identified as smoking (Southlinch, in Bree), is also explicitly identified as substandard, and presumably comes from the very back of the store-room:

[I]f you [Butterbur] have any pipe-weed, we'll bless you.'

'Well, if you'd called for anything else, I'd have been happier,' said Butterbur. 'That's just a thing that we're short of, seeing how we've only got what we grow ourselves, and that's not enough. There's none to be had from the Shire these days. But I'll do what I can.'

When he came back he brought them enough to last them for a day or two, a wad of uncut leaf. 'Southlinch,' he said, 'and the best we have; but not the match of Southfarthing, as I've always said though I'm all for Bree in most matters, begging your pardon.'

Return of the King Book VI Chapter 7: "Homeward Bound"

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    I think the clincher is that Saruman - who didn't particularly care for Hobbit culture in general - could get any pipe-weed he wanted, yet he specifically had Longbottom Leaf in his pantry. Unless he kept it on-hand for when Gandalf visited.
    – Omegacron
    Oct 28 '15 at 18:00
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Actually, one can argue that pipeweed (or sweet galenas, the wild-growing variant thereof as known in Gondor) thrives the better as one moves southwards.

Apart from the references to Bree and to Longbottom in the Southfarthing, we have Merry's account in his Herblore of the Shire, quoted in LOTR, Prologue, 2: Concerning Pipe-weed.

It grows abundantly in Gondor, and there is richer and larger than in the North, where it is never found wild, and flourishes only in warm sheltered places like Longbottom.

For Bree, Merry has this to say:

It is said that in his youth he [Tobold Hornblower] went often to Bree, though he certainly never went further from the Shire than that. It is thus quite possible that he learned of this plant in Bree, where now, at any rate, it grows well on the south slopes of the hill. The Bree-hobbits claim to have been the first actual smokers of the pipe-weed. They claim, of course, to have done everything before the people of the Shire, whom they refer to as "colonists"; but in this case their claim is, I think, likely to be true.

[ibid., emphasis mine]

Merry, whom we can trust to be enough of a hedonist to know good stuff when he sees it, recognizes the (wild) pipeweed of Gondor to be superior to the (cultivated) pipe-weed of the Southfarthing, as a plant; and similarly, the Southfarthing brands seem to be superior to that of Bree, altough even that seems acceptable.

Taking into account also that the plant was presumably introduced to Middle-earth by the Men of Westernesse, it is not unreasonable to concude that the quality of this warm-loving plant improves with the milder climate.

It is quite another thing, of course, whether, where, and how the raw material is gathered, processed and marketed. That is an industry, without a doubt, best achieved by hobbits of the Southfarthing.

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  • My memory must be going; when does Merry sample the Gondorian leaf? Oct 28 '15 at 19:57
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    @JasonBaker - Pipeweed will do that to you. Oct 28 '15 at 20:07
  • @JasonBaker I don't know. But he refers, again in the Prologue, to "observations that I have made on my own many journeys south". Presumably there's no detailed track of these journeys, but if there were many, and since he's writing about herbs, and taking into account his interest in pipe-weed, I'd assume that he or his acquaintance there sampled it sometime. It would seem remiss not to do so.
    – anemone
    Oct 28 '15 at 20:11
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    Merry could have tried a Gondorian variety of pipeweed during the time before the coronation of King Elessar. Merry was recovering in the Houses of Healing from March 15th after the Battle of the Pelennor, and the coronation took place on May 1st. However, Merry and Pippin had replenished their supplies from the flotsam of Isengard shortly before, so he may not have documented Gondorian varieties until a much later time. Jan 1 '16 at 5:25

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