|I want to use this review as a work in progress to evaluate the potential for using this classic cousin to our more familiar Nicotiana Tabacum as a blender, and as a smoke in its own right, but let it be noted first of all that you do not want to load up your largest pipe with it and start happily puffing away. The nicotine content is reputed to be up to 20 times higher than that of the N.Tabacum we are more used to, though to me at least, the samples I have obtained don't seem much scarier than the Gawith ropes or something like GH Kendal Kentucky. In addition to being famous as the Native American "ceremonial tobacco," there is evidence that this was the first strain grown in Virginia, and that many early European pipe smokers may have had this as their daily smoke! Therefore, this variety is historically important for us pipe smokers, and, well, fun to play with-respectfully.
The bundles come very dry, and having tried this stuff in the past before I was a real pipe smoker, I know it can be harsh. Therefore, I have cased my entire sample in dark rum and agave sweetener to give it a more familiar pipe tobacco taste. Tonight, I smoked some straight for the first time as pipe tobacco, loading a small pipe halfway full. Like the stronger "Kendal" type products, it is strong in nicotine but surprisingly mild (relatively speaking of course) to smoke. No Virginia sweetness, burley nuttiness, or smoky Latakia complexity, but good all the same. Even from a small amount (the pipe smoked about ten minutes) the nicotine content is quite evident. Next chapter: use in a blend with McClelland #27 and some dark Virginia (McConnells RDV) to see how that strikes me. Then I will sample it again straight and as a blender after a few weeks when the casing has started to "take" and do its work.
1-16-10 next day. I tried the blend above for my first pipe of the day. The Rustica I blended in (10% or so) was uncased-the shake from the envelope it was mailed in. What I got was a blend of #27 and RDV spiked with some high octane. The Rustica adds a sort of oriental spiciness but does not stand out too much, except for the strength it imparts, so it will probably make a great blender, especially when I have time to experiment with more blends. The nicotine hit is more of a heightened-awareness thing than the nauseous, hiccupy overdose one sometimes gets from smoking a rope or strong plug too fast. More later!
1-17-10 Tried a blend of 30% Rustica to 70% Gawith Bracken Flake. (I said I would wait a few weeks, but I am anxious to get along with this project.) This is a nicotine monster, as the Rustica brings the levels above those of 1792 Flake easily, and I loaded up a big pipe. Sipped it slowly and carefully, I can tell you, but still as I write this I am buzzing! Gawith flakes are probably a good thing to blend this with; the tastes seem to complement one another. It may have even improved Bracken Flake for me: by itself, it scratches my throat a bit. The addition of Rustica certainly calms down my puffing cadence. Tiny sips were rich and strong, but the Rustica, while adding nicotine strength, seems to mellow the blend. My rum and agave casing may have something to do with this as well. If I survive, I will continue to experiment, but thus far must say that this strain of tobacco could be used to create many fine blends for the experienced (and preferably nicotine jaded) pipe smoker.
1-24-10 30% Rustica, 70% GH Kendal Kentucky. Nicotine bomb. I think Rustica works well with these strong tobaccos, rather than blended with, say, a light Virginia, or God forbid, an aromatic. You need a blender that is strong, that you know is strong, and that you know how to smoke. I'm going to lie down now...
10-18-11 A few months later, my casing experiment with rum and agave syrup turned out to be a bad idea. It molded. If you buy this product, even though it is bone-dry, just leave it alone and put it in a jar. I got one more bundle. They are smaller now, like half the size, and not as good of a deal. Still, a unique addition to any pipe smoker's collection. Best in a blend: straight won't kill you, but a bit harsh and one-dimensional.