My Cup Overflows

If you’re anything like me, you’re much happier when you’re busy. The day flies by, and you can really enjoy whatever you do for recreation and relaxation when the day is through. This job has always kept me hopping, but the last year has seen that increase immensely and I couldn’t be happier.

Up until recently, I just worked on expanding the Hearth & Home brand, but in June of 2013 we approached the folks at Missouri Meerschaum about doing a series of blends for them. The project has been quite successful, and it was a real experience because I had to approach things differently than I would for H&H. I had to consider what their brand stands for and I had to come up with blends that worked best with their pipes. It presented a unique challenge and everyone involved seemed to be pleased with the result. That’s opened a number of doors for us, and I’m getting the opportunity to work with some other companies to help build and expand their brands. I’ve completed a series of blends for another pipe company which will be coming out soon, and their image is very different, so my viewpoint for this project had to be very different.

Today, a box arrived at my desk. A well-known cigar company wants to add pipe tobaccos to their product lineup, but they have a little twist to their request. They have a quantity of outstanding mountain-grown cigar leaf that they want to incorporate into their mixtures, so I have a couple of pounds of very fragrant tobacco sitting here that I have to analyze to see how it will fit into some pipe blends. I cut some up to try by itself, and it is some exceptional tobacco. It’s sweet and earthy, with a significant amount of white pepper in the flavor. Now I have to determine what I can blend it with that will transform it, while allowing the true character of the cigar leaf to shine. I’ve never been handed a singular component before with the challenge of using it in a number of different ways. I’m looking forward to this, and because of the respect I have for this brand, every single blend has to be as close to perfect as I can muster. It might take some time, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how things develop.

Earlier this year, a friend of mine who has access to some amazing and exotic leaf approached me to work with him doing limited runs  highlighting some of these superlative tobaccos. Only a few years ago, these were the kinds of projects I had dreamed of doing, never thinking that I’d actually have the chance, so this is the “kid in a candy store” moment for me. The greatest beauty of these tasks is that I know that when they’re completed, these blends will be unlike anything available, anywhere, and that’s what today’s market is looking for – uniqueness.

Speaking of unique, my bosses have given me the opportunity to create a new brand, and they want to put my name on it. These are going to be “think outside the box” tobaccos, and some of them will have to be limited editions because the available leaf for some of them will be in short supply. Because this will be very personal, I have to come up with blends that will be distinctly my own, and I’ll have to use all my resources to do it, but I’m confident that we can pull it off.

Earlier this week, we spoke to one of the owners of a popular tobacco company about the possibility of collaborating on some blends. They’ll send me some components that are unique to their company and let me play with them to create something new. This is going to be particularly fun. I’ve had a really nice relationship with these folks for some time now, and I genuinely like and respect their work so this is like a badge  of honor for me.

We’re also bringing out a line of tobaccos to take the place of some recently departed tobaccos, so people will be able to get replacements for those old favorites, and we’ve found a way to make them so they’ll sell for less than the blends they’re designed to replace. This is a bit of a departure for Hearth & Home since we’ve always been boutique rather than mass-market, but I’m sure that it will work. When you offer a solid product at a value price, finding a market isn’t that hard to do.

On top of that, I’ve been designing a number of new accessory items that will roll out over the next year or two. All of them are unique, and address gaps in the current offerings that are available. For example, large pipe travel bags are usually made of leather (expensive) or vinyl (not very durable). We’re working on some cases made of ballistic, rip-stop nylon that will be ultra-durable and lightweight, and very reasonably priced. We’re doing this because we see that there are a number of you who are looking for items like these, but they currently don’t exist.

We’re trying our best to be innovative so we can bring you singular products that will appeal to a broad audience. I’ll have plenty on my plate for a while, and all I can say is “bring it on”!

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About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for 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 or by calling 1-800-494-9144.