The weather recently took a pleasant nosedive here in Northern Nevada. Days pushing triple digits went down to the low thirties nearly overnight, and it rained and it snowed. I had absolutely no sympathy for the tender California economical refugee transplants complaining their “…fall was ruined.” No, it wasn’t. Snow-dusted red maple trees and blooming sagebrush are gorgeous, fried green tomatoes rescued from frost are tasty, and feel free to start wearing weather-appropriate clothing. October could very well be the best month of the year, as I very much so enjoy Halloween (despite my cantankerous disposition toward candy and children), and call me a basic bitch, but spiced tea, cider and whiskey after buying fake bats and skeleton cats sure is fun. As goes the famous line from a famous show, winter is coming…so enjoy try to enjoy today. As usual I look for two things to prepare myself this time of year, and that’s a fire to sit next to and a pipe to grab. I happily turn into a walking cliché. Fall is great. I need nicotine to replace my anxiety once reserved for beach revelers and thick smoke to offset the stench of bug spray and sunblock. Winter is coming, but autumn is here—and I couldn’t be more delighted.
As it turns out, I could in fact be more delighted. Hearth and Home has a new set of tobaccos coming out, and I had the opportunity to get to know one in particular: Smoky Mountain. It’s a crumble cake, which I affectionately call “lazy man’s plug,” it has matured Virginia and Kentucky dark-fired tobacco lovingly pressed and held for a month before tinning, and it went right into my pipes. Kentucky dark-fired has enjoyed a serious and dedicated following in the past few years, and many of our favorite blenders are doing things with it. I’ve heard it criticized as wannabe Perique, cheap source of nicotine, rough-and-ready, and while I’ve had various experiences with it, I enjoy the colloquial maverick poise it has attained. Smoky Mountain couldn’t have come my way at a better time.
The crumble cake of Smoky Mountain comes modestly nestled in paper inside the tin, breaks apart with little effort, and loads into pipes just as easily. The smell in the tin is meaty, bacon-like and raises an eyebrow. A little drier than most tobaccos first opened (which I appreciate), it takes a flame readily, and gives up a rich, earthy and peppery nose right off the bat. This eliminated a concern I’ve had with other Kentucky dark-fired products, which can lean a little sour and tarry due to the pressing process. It also doesn’t sap the mouth for moisture being too dry on the palate. There’s not much of the Virginia once you fire up, but don’t worry, it’ll be back for a visit.
Halfway through bowls of this tobacco left me pleasantly heavy from a decent amount of nicotine. Not quite a powerhouse but not for the faint of heart, Smoky Mountain delivers an easy thick smoke that maintains itself with minimal tamping and lighting. The peppery nature subsides but the meatiness stays true. The nose-tingling is effervescent and the undertones savory and herbaceous. The Virginias, fairly subdued in the beginning, give a little more body and higher tone at this point. It became clear early on this isn’t a deeply complex tobacco, but it has plenty of character to give me pause. This isn’t a smoke trying to be too bold nor understated, and I for one greatly appreciated it. There’s a wonderful attribute worth mentioning as well, and that’s picking up nuances in briar: if your pipe’s briar is from a good piece, well-cured and taken care of, the sweetness will open up to you. I’ve commented a few times and I’m convinced briar, as a natural product, has different end results upon harvest. Be it tree, terroir or conditions, some are tart, some sweet, others deep and earthy by themselves. Certain tobaccos obfuscate this, and certainly the curing of the briar can change this. I’ve had cheap pipes that smoke incredibly sweet and expensive pipes that lean bitter. Choose your winners with Smoky Mountain, regardless of price tag. Cobs, naturally, are even more corn-like and lend themselves well to a bowl full.
Finishing bowls of many mixtures including Kentucky Dark-fired can be a gamble. They’re thick not only in smoke but can really ramp up the acrid tars toward the end. Normally I enjoy this concentrated experience, but a few times I’ve had to call it quits because the bitter components are simply too much. Smoky Mountain doesn’t seem to suffer from this, and yet the volume of smoke didn’t diminish. Interestingly, any natural sweetness lent by the Virginias comes to the forefront rather than the beginning, and I found this to be a lot of fun. There’s a distant apricot goodness that comes and goes. Too many relights getting the last bit at the heel of your bowl might give a little ashy flavor, so I’d suggest purging the bowl before this happens.
The Hearth & Home line of tobaccos I’ve delved into have sometimes impressed me, while other times they haven’t been quite enough to inspire me. The ones I’ve been partial to in the past have contained Latakia, so to enjoy one that features Kentucky dark-fired and (to me) the right way deserves a nod. I’ve never been much of a brand-whore, I think nearly every serious tobacco company makes at least one thing that I like and pick up to smoke, even if it’s only once in a while. Smoky Mountain jumps in at the right time, both in the realm of current trend and darlings of the pipe smoking world and the time of year. Your favorite beverages from coffee to brown liquor to beer are going to pair nicely with it, and you can rake leaves, over-scare the crap out of children or read a book by a fire pit all just as easily with a smoldering pipeful. While it isn’t anything groundbreaking or new, pick up a tin and have a good time getting to know the season change with it.
(Special thanks to the historic Silver Queen Hotel in Virginia City, NV for a fabulous stay and haunting experience.)
- Editor Rating
- Rated 5 stars
- Hearth & Home Smoky Mountain
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From PipesAndCigars.com: Hearth & Home Slow-Aged is a new addition to the Hearth & Home Family. But this tobacco is unique and we know our P&C Faithful will love it! Smoky Mountain, made with dark-fired, combines time and pressure that impacts the tobacco flavor. The blend was pressed into cakes and transferred to holding presses for a month to make the flavors deeper, richer, and smoother. For those that are on the hunt for new and exciting, pick up a tin of Hearth & Home Slow-Aged Smoky Mountain!