|Drawing rooms and old leather, single malt, neat, maybe a brandy, deep and portentous discussions concerning the state of the Raj and what to do about the "sick man of Europe"... how else can I describe Black House? It is elegant, refined, and so very, very rich that lighting a bowl almost requires setting fire to a $100 bill.
My experience with Sobranie goes back to my college days in the late '70's. My uncle worked a B&M back then. Being from Scotland, he steered me hard away from anything that wasn't a "real tobacco." That meant a heavy dose of English, Balkan and Virginia mixtures. I wish i had appreciated my "tobacco upbringing' more at the time. i drifted from pipes to cigarettes (although, in my defense, they were Camels, Sobranies, and the occasional pack of Players or straight Virginia's). I do remember that late 1970's incarnation of 759, though. Like a ghost on the edge of a dream, it has toyed with my memory for 30 years, and I've never found any blender who managed to capture that ghost.
Until Russ Ouelette, that is. Black House isn't the 759, but it is darned close. Greg Pease wrote an outstanding article describing that perfect smoke. Mr. Ouelette delivers that with this blend. I sat through an enchanted hour with this paragon of a Balkan blend.
On opening, the tobacco weaves it way through your senses. It is ready to smoke right out of the tin, no drying need. Its aroma is a fine incense, a tribute to the blender's art. It is black, and brown, and golden. It feels like it wants to be smoked "right now." really, it smells so good, the temptation is there to snack on it.
I chose an egg meerschaum for this, but I'm thinking of dedicating and expensive briar (donations accepted to assist in this research goal). It took the first light immediately. i could have probably stayed with that, but I settled down and gave it a second light after the char. No further lighting was necessary. black House burns evenly, with a light gray ash, all the way to the bottom of the bowl.
The smoke is heavy, fragrant, and luxurious. yes, there is Latakia, but the Turkish varietals provide that heady incense. As for flavor... if you eat steak, you'll know what a perfect rib eye or prime rib will do for you. I felt the same with black House. It's full, smoky, and sweet. The Virginia and Orientals weave in and around the Latakia, while the Kentucky provides a solid foundation for the whole. The sweetness is evident from the first of the bowl until the end. And, like any great meal, try not to gulp it down. it's hard not to, but patience really does reward this smoke.
Oh, hey, absolutely no bite, whatsoever, in case that's a worry.
My wife says I've spent more time writing this review than i do on the garden, so I'd better stop. Still, even she enjoys the tin note, and is looking forward to sitting with me during a bowl. plusses there, too.
Anyway... 5 out of 4 stars for a more than faithful recreation of the 759. I've started cellaring Black House. It's going to be that sought after in years to come.