I Bleed Black
My Adventure with Hearth and Home’s Marquee Series, “Black House”
I was first introduced to Russ Ouellette and the H&H Marquee Series through the Magnum Opus offering. It is a brilliant, complex English and I wasn’t sure if Black House, a strong Balkan, would measure up.
Upon opening the tin, I started to realize that I had little to worry about. I immediately smelled the leather and dark coffee note that I loved with Magnum Opus, telling me the Latakia wasn’t going to be pushed around in this blend. It seemed a little sweeter and the leather came through a little more for me and there was something else…what is that?
The ribbon cut strands are full of color variety, and rightly so. Black House is an incredibly bold blend of Kentucky, Virginia, Black Cavendish, the aromatic Turkish and our old friend Latakia, standing stalwart in the tin aroma. Its texture was light and fluffy and begged to be smoked straight away!
I enjoyed this blend on a summer day in Texas with the ambient temperature at about 95°F and the humidity hovering from 80-90%. The sky was overcast and a few drops of rain fell from the sky occasionally, almost evaporating into the muggy heat before hitting the ground. This kind of weather makes smoking anything a challenge, particularly full-bodied English. Intrepidly, I loaded my Meer and made the first pass with my lighter.
Immediately, I knew I was going to be in for a treat. The familiar roundness of Latakia, balanced with Virginia immediately came through along with the smell of parchment and leather, like flipping the pages of an antique book. There was also chocolate and….What the Hell is THAT??
Bent on figuring out just what the Hell that was, I judiciously tamped and lit the Black House, taking several long draws, practically daring the bowl to get hot. As I puffed, I was greeted by a taste full of subtle nuance, as is what I am coming to expect when dealing with a blend from Russ Ouellette. Also, as with Magnum Opus, there is a flavor sneak-attack toward the middle of the bowl. Suddenly, you are in a place where everything gets smoother and more pronounced.
The Latakia gave right of way to the Cavendish and the leather-bound books now had the company of an aperitif…and I figured out what that was! It was anise! Incredible! Every now and then, the smoke would hit my nose just right and I would get the hint of that anise/liquorices bouquet that I experience when I louche a glass of absinthe! Fear not, though, it is a subtle nuance, just like many in this blend that will tease your senses to distraction, while the sweetness, mixed with old, soft leather holds up the taste like your most favorite armchair. A substantial dose of Nicotine arrives slowly but surely to boost your flight on this magical journey. The smoke was cool and defiant of the atmospheric punishment to which I had subjected it. In fact, I wasn’t even in Texas anymore. I no longer felt the humidity that I had been wearing or the heat, which caused my shirt to adhere to my back.
An old and familiar iciness filled my veins and I was now seemingly a thousand feet above the plain and peering from the ruins of a Carpathian stronghold at the crack of midnight. I breathe in the magic; smelling the fog with my absinthe and hearing the wolves serenade a moon hidden in an endless expanse of dismal grey sky, taunting my mind to create beneath it all the monsters that nature would not dare. I could smell and taste the fungal earthiness of the old stone and the ground that my mind’s eye created beneath my feet. In the Turkish and Latakia, I could smell the candles, ink and leather as the likes of Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley crafted their work and I could hear the raucous revelries of Lord Byron, defiant in his exile.
Throughout, the bowl was determined to stay cool and fresh, even toward the end, where the parchment pages began to be burned one by one in the candle like pages of prose, once written only to be forgotten by its creator.
So it was until I carefully picked the last of the grey ash, along with just a tiny bit of dottle from the big bowl of my favorite Meer.
A fool I was to doubt the masterful creation of this blend! And to think, I knew nothing of its original intent, to revive the memory of the legendary and almost mythical Balkan Sobranie 759! I never had the pleasure, but if it was anything close to this, then it has died too soon or I was born too late.
Once again, Russ Ouellette has done it, and with Black House has ensured that I, a lowly student of the mysteries shall forever bleed black…