By the time you read this, it’ll be too late to reliably order anything online to get to you for whichever holiday you choose. I’m sure you’ve heard of Christmas in July (I still have no idea what that means), but if one absurdity deserves another, let’s have a July in Christmas. If one thing the holidays can lack at times is understanding. Kindness and giving have been on forced overdrive for most people since Halloween, even if some pious guilt lead them there. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about holidays is they’re pretty terrible for some people. It’s a chaotic month before a holiday specifically for kids, families and of course a heavy dose of religious dogma. Most people just buy love, and the gift card industry knows this. If you’re alone or troubled for whatever reason at all, it sucks. Cheer isn’t on everyone’s mind. Even if you’re kind enough to take a lonely soul into your home to share the love, understand it’s a way for some to get through the event more than anything. Let them do their thing if they seem a tad detached.
This time of year I tend to extend my hand to those like myself who find themselves alienated or bothered by the holidays. I’ve spent a vast majority of my own Novembers and Decembers alone and at the very least, feeling awkward. At some point I began to reach out to veterans, the divorced, the disabled and the heartbroken that I know: I invited them to come sit with me, on traditional days or not. I will not force anyone to open things unnecessary nor expect those that do show up to be burdened by an uncomfortably organized dinner party with people trying to force happiness. Pull up a chair. Bring food, bring booze, bring your heavy heart and distressed mind—or don’t. No pressure. Some years I remain by myself, others I can have just shy of a dozen people with me. It is a time I do ask the invited to bring a pipe if one can be had, or a cigar, because smoke bonds a lot of us. Hell, I’ve bought or given more pipes this way. If you’re new to the briar, there’s no better time than to share an experience like smoking a pipe. Tobacco holds the power to make this time of year a little more interesting.
Maybe that’s why the 2019 Independence Day by Missouri Meerschaum Co. seemed an appropriate pipe tobacco to write about this month. Released last August to my understanding, it might have been a little late to its namesake, but after reading the notes on what people thought of it, I believed it might be a mellow blend with a little something for everyone or anyone regardless of what the calendar reads.
The tin is round, bespangled with stars and stripes, and denotes nothing about what might be inside. Past incarnations of this tobacco left little for me to consider personally as I’m not a fan of aromatics, so I hoped this one might be a little different. Based on random comments about the piping world, it has a pleasant sweetness rather than an overpowering one, and quite a few people appreciated its classic flavor. Popping open the tin I’m reminded immediately of a familiar memory: Carter Hall. It doesn’t smell quite the same, but a similar mellow sweetness and Burley warmth is right up front on the nose. The tobacco is comprised of a lot of long ribbons and is a little on the moist side.
I specifically chose all Missouri Meerschaum cob pipes for diving into Independence Day. There was no real reason other than my briars were all in cleaning rotation, and what the hell, I’m okay with sticking to a theme. Besides the long ribbons, the tobacco loaded into my cobs easily enough. I did find breaking up the ribbons in the tin made loading a little less messy. It takes to a flame easily, and the first puffs are instant memories to me, if not even a little better. I started smoking Carter Hall when I was but a wee teen, when pipe smoking was more for rebellious effect than a serious endeavor. Still, the experience of the smell, the taste and the scent has always been a fond one. The difference here is this tobacco is more defined: Carter Hall has a dusty, old-book kind of spirit and nuance to it. Independence Day, while similar, has some wonderfully mellow Burley and perhaps a little basic Virginia mixed in. It is an idea of sweet rather than coming right out and giving sweetness. There’s a bit of a tongue-tingle, and a baked cracker quality. There’s a cavendish-type tobacco in there as well, which normally would put me personally on high alert for scoffing, but it is so non-invasive I didn’t bitch. I wanted to, but I couldn’t.
By the time mid-bowl comes about, the flavor overall mellows to the point the smoker (me, in this case) can smell his own room note. I can confirm, as well as others have, it has the most “classic” pipe scent I’ve come across in a while. It’s not vanilla, it’s not caramel, it’s not fruity. It’s something else, and it’s not simply detached nostalgia. For lack of a better description, in my childhood I visited family in North Carolina. They’re fond of curing pretty good hams there. They’re also really into tobacco. The room note is pretty much curing Carolina ham near a barn curing tobacco. Perhaps it is nostalgia after all.
Independence Day smokes slowly. It more smolders than puffs, and that suits me just fine. Dangling a pipe on the jaw and going mindlessly into a task is easy. A few tugs with the cheeks on the bit and the ember brings the bowl back to life. At the end of a bowl of this tobacco gets a little spicier, a little nuttier, and bit meatier. The character of this tobacco is pretty simple and mild-mannered. Even at the end of a bowl, the smoke produced stays remarkably cool. A few of my newer cobs, known for getting a little hot and uppity when not broken in, handled Independence Day like a champ.
Pipes, along with other kinds of tobacco, I’m convinced is an effective weapon against things like the end of the year holiday season. It’s an excuse to do something other than focus on pressure and tasks that might get out of hand. One can walk away from clashes of attempted perfection and take a break. Independence Day is July in Christmas. This tobacco is no-frills as non-innovative as one can get, and yet it holds a little bright spirit inside. Classic attitude with just the right amount of sweetness and nicotine, it’s easy to manage while smoking and it isn’t terribly expensive. I found non-alcoholic beverages to be the best pairing, as beer made smoking Independence Day oddly bitter, and whiskey was too bitey. Maybe brandy or eggnog could work, both of which I cannot consume. Coffee was by far the best companion.
My conclusion is the holidays et al are what they are. For some it’s tradition, others a near military operation, others it’s just a thing to endure. You can be as independent or filled with cheer as you want, within reason, it just helps when you have a pipe in your hand. In my tobacconist days it was common for our shop during the holidays to be a mellow hive of activity from those with nowhere else to go. I very much enjoyed those moments, and I understood them quite well.
I hope those of you out there merely getting by do so with dignity and a little peace, and maybe a thoughtful puff or two.
- Editor Rating
- Rated 5 stars
- Missouri Meerschaum Independence Day Tobacco Review
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From Missouri Meerschaum: The newest version of our Missouri Meerschaum’s Independence Day Blend is a must try! This soft aromatic blend has a vanilla leading the way with a light splash of Cyprian Latakia to add a smoky note. Though different from the 2015 version this intriguing aromatic English blend will fast become a favorite in your Missouri Meerschaum corncob pipe.