Blends, People, and Moods

Russ Ouellette, Hearth & Home Master Blender

Russ Ouellette, the man behind the blends

I was recently thinking about the hobby of smoking pipes, all the different kinds of blends we make and sell, and also about all the pipe smokers I know, and it got me to wondering if there’s a common thread tying certain types of tobaccos to particular personality types. To take it a step further, as someone who frequently smokes a variety of tobaccos, I tried to think if I chose different blends to suit my mood. What follows is not scientific, rather, it’s extremely subjective, and I hope it will be the source of comments and feedback about your views.

When I think about Latakia blends, I get thoughts of quiet rumination. To take it even further, I imagine being warm and snug on a cold, snowy winter’s evening while puffing on a rich and smoky blend of Orientals, Virginias and Latakia, with a cloud of blue-white smoke hanging around my chair. The very taste and aroma of these blends are so comforting to me that my mood transforms as I smoke them. These mixtures work well for me while listening to my favorite music, reading a good book or watching a movie. When the weather gets warm, or if I’m doing something more active, like taking a walk or doing research, Latakia loses some of its appeal, except in lighter doses, as in our Hearth & Home Victorian Stroll. But when the snow is falling outside my window, my pipe will most likely be loaded with Magnum Opus, BlackHouse or Fusilier’s Ration.

For those more active times, I lean toward Virginia blends. The sweetness and acidity seems to cut through whatever it is I’m doing to make it more enjoyable, but at the same time, it’s not complex enough to draw my attention away from what I’m doing. The brighter, tangier va/pers seem to suit higher energy activities. The deeper and more intense flavors of Virginia, like Virginia Night, approach the feel I get from lighter Latakia blends, but don’t seem to have the same calming effect.

Burley blends, in my mind, are divided into two groups, The first category is for blends made with mostly white Burley. These tobaccos are typified by Prince Albert, Carter Hall and our own Old Companion and Angler’s Dream. These tobaccos are all-day smokes. They’re comforting and non-obtrusive. They can be there when you want a distraction but you don’t want the smoke to be the center of attention all the time. They’re perfect for fishing or taking a stroll. The other group contains the blends made of darker Burleys. They can be somewhat aromatic (like our Classic Burley Kake) or not (think Mac Baren HH Old Dark Fired or Solani Aged Burley Flake). They flavor isn’t overwhelming, but the blends have a bit of a kick that helps stimulate the senses, but has a relaxing effect at the same time.

Aromatics kind of follow the path of Burleys, which isn’t surprising considering that most aromatics contain some Burley, either in their more natural form or in the guise of black Cavendish. In both the cases of Burleys and aromatics, they seem to come across as a companion while doing other things. People who work outside, drive for a living or who spend a lot of time in front of a computer tend to enjoy puffing away while pursuing their activities, and it’s not unusual to catch the scent of vanilla, cherry or the nuttiness of Burley when walking near these smokers.

The only universal truth about the type of people and their tobaccos are that there are no universal truths. I think about the wide variety of people I know who smoke a pipe and what their preferences are and although there may be some tendencies that appear to have a common thread, I don’t really notice a clear pattern. This makes a lot of sense to me, actually. There are maybe eight to a dozen possible categories of pipe tobaccos, depending on how fussy you are about defining them, yet in our own products, we have about sixty different blends. There’s a reason why we make so many distinct mixtures- because there are even more distinct pipe smokers. We could probably make a hundred more blends that would still find a market, so the search continues.

The one thing that I can state definitively is that the more I learn about tobaccos and blending, the more I realize that I don’t know. I never cease to be surprised by the result of certain combinations that turn out completely different than logic would dictate.

I almost wish that there was some kind of pattern to personality types and those people’s preferences in pipe tobacco. It would certainly make things easier in making recommendations. But at the same time, the diversity and the journey are often the most enjoyable part of being a pipe smoker, and I wouldn’t  want to deprive anyone of that.

What are your observations on this subject? Leave a comment. This could get interesting.

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About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for www.pipesandcigars.com in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at russo@pipesandcigars.com or by calling 1-800-494-9144.