A Ritzy DIY Blend to Recommend - A Recipe-in-Review

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jbfrady

Can't Leave
Jul 27, 2023
416
1,497
South Carolina
I can't promise I'll keep this short. But I'll try to keep it amusing.
This past Christmas my wife bought me a tin of MacBaren's HH Rustica with a little age on it. I've eyed it often, but I remained too hesitant to pop the tin. I've only been back to smoking in earnest for about a year and a half now. Before that, I took roughly an 8-year hiatus; getting married, starting a career, moving for that career, getting laid off and evicted from the lack of that career, picking up the tattered remains of what seemed to be a well-planned life, and then stitching it back together like a Build-a-Bear took its inevitable toll both on my time and my sanity.
My tobaccianic return occurred in either September or October of 2022. When we were moving to the house we finally managed to purchase (millennial problems) I found my long-lost friends stuffed in a box along with the blends that I was smoking, as well as small quantities of the first tobaccos I ever purchased by mail from the Gatlinburlier in '08 or '09. In a moment of pure nostalgia, I packed and lit the now-tasteless aromatic and toked away in the office of my new home, armed with a new career and a new life.
When first I smoked, I was working my ass off at a retail gig where I made what felt like negative three bucks an hour. I bought mostly aromatics from a glass jar and not once did I consider tin tobacco. Things were different now. I had a career and a little expendable income, so I swung for the good shit. I bought classics and limited releases; aromatics, English blends, anything that called to me.
Among these first purchases was Sutliff's Krumble Kake Rustica. Coming off a hiatus and used to smoking the medium-est of strengths, sucking a bowl of Rustica made me feel that my very soul was being dropkicked in the nuts by a demon in steel-toed boots made for coal miners. I didn’t want to waste it, so I began sprinkling small quantities in nearly every blend I opened. Almost never did it fail to improve any blend to which it was added.
I began to understand why Per Georg Jensen was so fond of lacing his blends with a hint of it. As I tried more and more in my new-found culinary quest to sample the pipe tobacco world, I also learned that I tend to love any blend with Per's name affixed. (In fact, I'll purchase several of any new blend if his name is stamped on it.) He also happened to be the very first person I met at Palace Station this past November at #lvips23.
My wife, of course, knew that I was - and still am - a Per fan. She nabbed me a tin of HH Rustica with a little age on it this past Christmas and day after day I've eyed that blend, asking myself if I'm ready to revisit this particular leaf, especially in the HH tradition. I wondered and hoped, until this past weekend. I decided the time had come. I'd like to describe what comes next, but I'll have to take a quick detour.
Matthew Polly, my favorite author, has a fantastic biography on the life of Bruce Lee. In the book, there's a particularly amusing anecdote in which Bruce does a little filming in North Carolina. Carolinians from this era, mind you, might’ve gone their entire lives seeing nary an Asian man, so you can imagine how hard these two corn-fed mother farmers (reaching over six feet tall and topping two hundred pounds) laughed when they were informed that this little wiry guy could kick both their asses in seconds.
Not only were these two men incredulous, but they were simply unwilling to believably pretend within the confines of the film that they were fearful of this tiny little bastard. So, it was on Bruce to demonstrate. A member of Bruce's entourage - noting the delicious dramaticism at hand - directed these hillbilly ogres to please stand in front of the swimming pool. Once in place, they were to brace themselves for a kick and please remember to hold the mat as tightly as possible, so as to avoid injury.
The idea was that Bruce could knock them off their feet and into the pool. What actually happened: Bruce kicked these dunderheaded momes so hard that he risked crippling them for life. They'd almost flown over the entire pool. Any further and they could've broken necks or backs.
What I'm getting at here is... I'm a Carolinian. I'm over six feet tall and I'm over 200 pounds. And I was Lee-kicked by HH Brucetica.
After Christmas, my buddy Alex and I decided we'd start sampling more classics and reopening some of our favorites. As I sat there cowering in fear at the thought of hopping back in the ring with Bruce, I scoped out the open tins we had on hand.
Whether ironically or providentially, the first tin my eyes happened across which might soften the Fist of Fury was John Aylesbury's Dragon. An aromatic flake of my favorite tradition, this would help mellow it out, but one couldn't hope to mix merely these two without having A) still too strong a blend, and B) one hell of a sensory imbalance. So I gathered together the tins, experimented a little, and devised my favorite Rustica recipe:
Proportioned 1:1:1:1
- HH Rustica
- St Bruno
- Dragon Flake
- Capstan Blue
Bruno's dark-fired leaves help to cover some of the potent spice in the Rustica, while also lending an ability to meld to the VA leaves in the Dragon and Capstan. Dragon, by being the only aromatic at hand, doesn't come off so strong as it does alone. Capstan is simply the perfect mixer. Like Frank's Red Hot, you can put that shit on anything.
Taken together, this makes for a medium-strong smoke which, admittedly, simply refuses to stay lit to the bottom. Still, it loses no flavor along the way and, thanks to the Dragon, is not unpleasant for those around you. It's not a cheap blend to mix, as each of the ingredients can be a little pricey on its own. But if you ever happen to have those four open at once, make 'em marry. You'll see why.
 
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yanoJL

Lifer
Oct 21, 2022
1,352
3,880
Pismo Beach, California
@jbfrady you're an excellent writer, friend. And you make a compelling case for tinkering with Rustica. I've know folks to use Five Brothers similarly. And I personally have added Burleys to a few blends because, you know, science!
But this kitchen sink blend you describe sounds interesting.
Great share, man. Thank you.
 

sean.

Lurker
Feb 6, 2024
26
86
New England
I wholeheartedly agree about Per. He knows how to execute on a good blend. He also knows how to transform rustica into a better tasting leaf. There isn't ever a ton of rustica in each tin but you can taste the wild, woody, and earthy notes that it adds.