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Interview With Master Blender Russ Ouellette - Part 2

    February 12th, 2010


By Bob Tate

russ-ouellette-01In part 1 of our interview with Russ Ouellette (Blendtobac), we talked about some of the things he has done before he got heavily involved in the tobacco industry. We also talked about how he got started blending pipe tobacco blends, how he maintains the consistency of his blends, some of the problems that he has acquiring certain tobacco components, and a few other things. Here, we pick up the interview where we left off in Part 1:

PipesMagazine (PM): What are some of the major changes that you have seen in the pipe industry over the years that you have been involved?

Russ: Certainly from the pipe end of things, some of the old brands are not quite what they used to be, but there are still a lot of wonderful pipes out there. I think one of the best things to happen is that we’re seeing more individual carvers around the world. There weren’t that many individual artisans in the US in the 70’s even though the market was pretty strong. It was mostly mass manufactured, even though a lot of those brands produced wonderful quality pipes. But now we’re seeing a lot more one-of-a-kind freehand pipes by very, very talented carvers.

In terms of tobaccos though, it’s radically in the other direction where the European cigarette companies have snapped up a lot of the Oriental tobaccos that used to be available for pipe blends and some of those tobaccos that I mentioned to you before just aren’t available. Mike McNeil [McClelland Tobacco] was able to acquire a number of different Orientals because he has a friend in the cigarette business. Unfortunately, I don’t have a contact like that; that would allow me that kind of access. And a lot of the old blends have disappeared; the current versions aren’t the same as what they used to be. The one thing that I think a lot of people don’t understand is the subtle complexities of the tobacco leaf, and they shouldn’t have to. Unless you’re dealing with it, you won’t recognize it unless you’re doing it all the time. One of the problems that I have seen in recent years is that a blend will become unavailable and I’ll get phone call after phone call, you know “Can you reproduce it?” Some people say that they can and they make an attempt, and sometimes they do a great job of it. Read the rest of this entry »

Hearth & Home Virginia Spice - Pipe Tobacco Reviews

    January 27th, 2010


By Bob Tate


Note: I would like to say that I have seen two descriptions on this blend. I have a copy of the old description from 2005 that says that this blend contains cigar leaf. The current description does not say this. I do see pieces of tobacco in this blend that look like cigar leaf, so I assume that it is still used in this blend and have included it in the ‘Tobaccos’ part of the information break down.

The pouch aroma of this blend is sweet, slightly spicy, tangy, and with a hint of, what I would call, plum. I love the way that this blend smells. I love when a Virginia or a Virginia/Perique blend has that tanginess that tingles my nose and makes my mouth water when I smell it. The moisture content of this blend is perfect for smoking immediately with no drying time needed.

I loaded up my pipe using the two step method and proceeded to the charring light. The charring light presented a nice tobacco taste with light hints of sweetness and spice. I also picked up on a little pepper in my nose. I can already tell that this is a very good blend and I settled in for a nice relaxing smoke. Read the rest of this entry »

Cornell & Diehl #412A Billy Budd - Pipe Tobacco Reviews

    September 22nd, 2009


By Bob Tate




The pouch aroma of this blend is a nice smoky, sweet Latakia. The moisture level is perfect for smoking right out of the bag. This blend is a coarse cut and is quite chunky. I left it in its original state and did not rub it out into smaller pieces. I loaded the pipe using a two step method and proceeded to the charring light. Upon the charring light I was greeted by the taste and aroma of a nice smoky, sweet Latakia mixture. I finished lighting the pipe and settled in for the smoke. Read the rest of this entry »