Review by Bäron Samedi
A Chameleon of Depth and Complexity
Magnum Opus is part of the Marquee Series of Hearth and Home, blended by Russ Ouellette. According to the Tin, it's a Balkan Blend with some quality Orientals. From Pipes Magazine- According to blender Russ Ouellette, "The yellow is Virginia from the US and Bulgaria, the light and dark browns are Yenidje, Basma and Izmir. Latakia content is around 40% and the Perique is about 8% of the blend."
The first smell of the tobacco when I opened the tin was powerful and pleasant. I would assume that the smoky, peat-like smell was the latakia and I understand why folks say it can be overwhelming on its own. There was also a nice round sweetness to it, though. The fruitiness (presumably the Perique) was hanging out in the background somewhere. The smell was rich and deep and to be honest there were so many little flavors floating around the dominant earthy aroma like caramels, peppers, and even citrus that it is really hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. I remember thinking, "Man, this is deep. All tobacco should smell like this!"
It looked cool, too. There was every color from gold to black and many shades of brown. There were also various cuts of tobacco, from short and fat to long and stringy. It was drier than my usual EMP, which is OK because I tend to be a wet smoker anyway.
The conditions were an afternoon on my porch, where the temperature was about 95°, cooled by mist from the sprinkler, which was hydrating my garden. At first I only drank water so as not to muddle the taste. Later I had some of my favorite summer beverage, lemonade mixed with iced tea. I also smoked it in my recently cleaned-up Meer.
I loaded half a bowl, since I only had an hour to kill and the big bowl on that Meer can smoke for days. I packed it using the 2 step method. A full bowl may well have required 4 steps. The stringier of the ribbons of tobacco put up a little argument, but I wasn’t having it.
My lighting ritual is light, 4-6 puffs, tamp, light, and puff until the smoke rolls so YMMV on first light. That deep, peppery earth came through nice and strong and told me I was smoking some serious tobacco, but before it could whack me, it rounded off and even when I let the smoke roll and the bowl get warm, a surprisingly calm too over. It was sort of like when I rap the throttle on my motorbike to get ahead of the pack and then throw it into fifth, roll off and cruise.
The room note was very pleasant to me, but I like strong beers, port wine, funky French cheese and gnarly, iodine-tasting Scotches, so YMMV there, too. Funny, but this stuff would have complimented any of those things. It was my first inkling of what I consider to be a chameleon property to this stuff.
I puffed away, contemplating different flavors, and there are many in here. You start to think it is sweet, but really, it is just full-bodied and the sweetness fades in and out of sight. I felt for some reason that I should be on a river, surrounded by Cypress trees and Spanish moss for some reason. That was where the taste took me. The taste of the smoke was a milder version of the room note but laced with a roasted overtone, like the difference between sweet corn and sweet corn roasted in the husk over an open fire. In spite of that, it wasn’t a hot smoke and didn’t billow. I typically smoke a little hot because instead of clenching the pipe in my teeth, I will talk, contemplate, space out or whatever until the curl of rising smoke begins to diminish and then I will take several long pulls in a row to fire it back up. I did walk around with it in my teeth this time and it smoked more productively that way.
It was no problem for even a novice like me to keep it alight. Just an occasional tamp while I puff (I use a 16 penny nail) and I was able to smoke clear to the bottom of my Meer with only a few pieces of dottle left behind in the gray ash.
It was during the last half of the smoke when I introduced my lemonade/tea drink to the equation. That was an experience! Suddenly the sweet and citrus in the smoke popped out and perfectly complimented my summer drink. I have a feeling it would do the same for coffee, scotch or whatever you put in your mouth while smoking this stuff. There are many flavors hiding in this stuff, but they are not fighting for attention. They just fade in and out and come up to the front if called.
This blend is definitely a masterpiece worthy of its name! Mr. Ouellette has done it!