A few days ago I decided I’d like to try out some of the so-called “codger” pipe tobacco blends. These are the ones that our fathers, grandfathers, and maybe great-grandfathers smoked. Brands like Half & Half, Prince Albert, Borkum Riff and so on. I mean, if something has been on the market for decades and is still sold, there’s got to be a reason, right?
Through the magic of the Internet and the US Postal Service, today I received a package with a few blends to try. Half & Half, Borkum Riff Bourbon Whiskey, and Amphora – plus some Mac Baren Vanilla Cream, just for good measure. I remember Dad smoking Borkum Riff and Amphora in the 70s and 80s.
I decided to start out with something completely new to me – Half & Half. The first thing I noticed when I opened the sealed pouch was the incredibly wonderful aroma of this stuff. You’re not hit with the smell of toppings or flavorings, just a rich tobacco smell. If it smokes half as good as it smells this could be a winner!
I loaded up a bowl in my Peterson Atlantic 221, a bent billiard, and tried it out. Of course, it’s a different experience than an aromatic blend. I love the mix of burley and bright Virginia. There’s just a tiny hint of bite on the tongue and in the nose, but not enough to distract. Just enough to let you know you’re smoking tobacco, not candy. There’s nothing to cover up the flavor of the tobacco, but it doesn’t try to club you over the head (looking at you, here, Latakia). My wife said the smell was “just OK”, not the wonderful smell of the aromatics and Cavendish I’ve mostly been smoking but not as bad as the Latakia blend.
Unfortunately I seem to have packed the bowl a bit too tightly or tamped a bit too much, as it quickly developed a draw not unlike a plug of concrete and required a re-light every couple of minutes. I ended up cleaning out the bowl about 2/3 of the way through, but not before developing a real appreciation for this blend. Overall it seems a solid, very likable smoke. I can understand why it’s been on the market for over a hundred years.
I’ll revisit Half & Half again with a little drying time and a more careful packing of the pipe. And don’t take my two mentions of Latakia to mean I don’t like it… I’ve got some Consummate Gentleman in a jar for those times when I’m feeling like some serious smoky flavor. I like it, but like Lagavulin it’s not an every day thing for me.
Update: The second bowl smoked well also. I should have let it dry some before packing, and I’ve really got to watch not to pack or tamp this too tight. It’s the opposite of Amphora in that respect.
Update 2: The third bowl was even better. I let it dry longer than I had planned, a couple of hours, but it still smoked well. I was more careful about packing and tamping. It smoked quite well all the way to the bottom of the bowl, with I think two re-lights and a tiny little dottle. Very well behaved and consistent all the way through. That was in my Peterson 221, so no filter.