Review by Cortezattic
A VaPer courting the dark side.
My supply of HOTW comes from bulk, purchased in Oct., 2010. Its thin, dark brown shreds are ready for packing, and appear to come from a flake that was fully rubbed-out by the manufacturer. It is a little bit too moist for my immediate use, but I really like the presentation because the moisture level is ideal for jarring and cellaring. I use a hobby-type hot air blower to slightly dry-out what I intend to smoke.
The aroma from the jar is hay-like more than anything else, with just a suggestion of some sweetness. On first light some grassy Va. sweetness appears, accompanied by a gentle salinity that whets the appetite. The true light starts out by threatening to bite, but I think this is from the heat of the match, and not a characteristic of the tobacco because it settles down right away. This is a good time to point out that HOTW's Va. component belongs to that family of racy leaf possessing a "hot" character - what I generally call a "sassy" smoke. Rattray's HOTW is really toned-down - probably by the Perique and whatever else is in the blend. In brief, it behaves well and won't bite.
The Perique, as it is used in this blend, does not produce very much of a musty, plummy, dark fruit flavor. Rather, it works beneath the Va. with pungency. I frequently think I can detect a flavor element also found in Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar, though the overall Va. sweetness keeps these flavors in check. I think most folks will find this a very satisfying taste, riding on a good volume of chewy smoke.
HOTW has great body, or depth of character, and respectable strength. There's nothing harsh or unbalanced here, and it should prove to be a smooth, if somewhat assertive smoke. Although I reserve it for those special moments when I need a treat, it could easily fit into anyone's regular rotation. I would suggest that one use a smaller pipe lest it fatigues the palate before you have a chance to explore the toasty heel of the bowl.
HOTW smokes dryly, coolly and cleanly. I can't find any negative issues with it - except perhaps price - which comes as no surprise in a blend of this caliber.