Classic OTC Blends: Carter Hall First Impressions

Since I started working at Smokingpipes, I've had the opportunity to sample exquisite blends that have aged for years from colleagues and have been able to find my favorite mixtures using the Tobacco Locator and reading reviews online. Upon realizing that I've never smoked any of the classic over-the-counter (OTC) blends, I've made it my goal to try as many of these cherished staples as possible. Also called "codger" blends, these mixtures have endured for decades and continue to be enjoyed by pipe smokers around the world. These tobaccos are often inexpensive and widely available, allowing pipe smokers the opportunity to try them for the first time or stock up on them at an affordable price. One of the most popular and beloved OTC blends of all time is Carter Hall.

History of Carter Hall

Wanting to know more about Carter Hall, I did some research before trying out the celebrated blend. Carter Hall is currently manufactured by John Middleton Co., which originally began in 1856 as a small tobacco shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and grew over the years, eventually opening a chain of stores. However, it should be noted that while Carter Hall reportedly dates back to 1895, John Middleton didn't begin producing it until 1987 when they purchased the brand from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, after announcing it was seeking buyers for their pipe tobaccos and roll-your-own tobaccos to concentrate more on high-volume cigarette production. While sources indicate R.J. Reynolds originally manufactured the blend starting in August 1956 and filed for the trademark later that same year, there's virtually no information about Carter Hall's production prior to this. Other than some scarce newspaper clippings and vintage advertisements from the mid- 20th century, there's a surprising lack of information on the classic blend.

Components, Cut & Tin Note

Carter Hall is a ribbon-cut blend consisting primarily of Burley with a touch of Virginia, and while there's a topping of bourbon and cocoa, which technically makes it an Aromatic, I don't consider it to be an Aromatic and view it strictly as a Burley blend. The topping is light-to-mild and not overwhelming, which is something I had reservations about before opening the pouch. From the pouch note I was getting more of a fig, raisin-like smell and the nuttiness of the Burley was particularly prominent but not overpowering. The grassy and hay notes typically associated with Virginia leaf were slightly noticeable but they were more in the background compared to everything else.

Moisture Content

For me, the moisture was perfect straight from the pouch and required no drying time, though for others, a couple minutes should be adequate. Thanks to its ribbon-cut form and ideal moisture content, I found it incredibly easy to pack. After lighting, the Burley's natural nuttiness comes forward, along with a molasses-like flavor with chocolate undertones. As someone who tends to smoke somewhat on the hot side, I was surprised at how forgiving Carter Hall was in terms of my puffing pace and cadence. The bowl would become warm at times but wasn't unbearable and the tobacco required little relighting.

Flavor Profile

While it's a fairly unassuming, humble, and straightforward blend, there are some underlying complexities if you're looking for them, particularly on the retrohale as I was picking up hints of baking spices. Several times I smoked Carter Hall while having a cup of coffee and found that it's a wonderful pairing as both play off each other perfectly in terms of their flavor profiles, with the coffee emphasizing the tobacco's cocoa/nutty notes.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with Carter Hall and regret not having tried it sooner as it has already become not only one of my favorite Burley blends, but a mixture I find myself going back to almost daily. For anyone who primarily smokes Virginia or English mixtures, I feel Carter Hall would be an excellent and accessible introduction to a tried and true Burley blend. It's perfect for anyone looking for an easy going, dependable blend for working around the house or one that can be enjoyed any time of day. The 1.5-ounce pouch is great for anyone curious about trying Carter Hall for the first time and can be transported easily for on-the-go smoking, while the 14-ounce tub ensures you'll have a steady supply on hand. I've grown to appreciate Carter Hall and understand why it has endured for so long and has remained a favorite for generations of pipe smokers.

Have you ever tried Carter Hall? If so, what are your thoughts on it? I would love to hear your opinion!

Category:   Tobacco Talk
Tagged in:   Carter Hall Reviews Tobacco


    • Mark S on October 22, 2020
    • I find it to be a superior OTC burley smoke. More oomph than Prince Albert, and a fantastic room aroma. The finish is the only downside I've encountered: a bit soggy and bitter. Drying it out might help, but the tobacco seems to stay moist forever.

    • David Newman on October 23, 2020
    • This is what I schlep when I need an all-day smoke. It's perfect for fishing and camping trips, smoked in a cob. Once packed and lit, I don't have to futz with it much.It's very mild, missing some of the bold fullness of other blends. That's OK, as you will also have a hard time getting tongue bite from it, like I often get when I'm not paying enough attention to my smoke. The wife enjoys the aroma too unlike my (according to her) "nasty, gag-inducing" english blends.I've had tubs that were open for a year and were still perfectly fine. This stuff does not seem to dry out at all.

    • Dave Shipman on October 24, 2020
    • I'm still not sure about this blend

    • Gene Bowker on October 24, 2020
    • I really enjoy Carter Hall as a way to break in pipes. I also use PS 41 Cube Cut for this, but the Carter Hall has that slight flavoring which like you said pairs great with coffee.

    • Andy Lowry on October 25, 2020
    • Carter Hall is what I smoke while driving, since it's so well-behaved. Easy to pack, light, and keep lit. The flavor has some subtle things going on that keep it from being boring, and it smokes all the way to the bottom without really changing much. If Middleton sold it in bulk, I'd get five pounds at a time. I always have some around.

    • Christian on October 25, 2020
    • I just recently tried Carter Hall for the first time as well. My biggest concern was that it was going to be too much like a cigarette, which is what I got from the only other otc blend I've tried. Carter Hall was amazing. Mildly sweet, cool, satisfying all the way through. I enjoyed it so much I immediately packed another bowl after I finished the first, and I will definitely be making this a staple in my rotation, especially for the price.

    • Bill Cook on October 25, 2020
    • Where (or Who) was Carter Hall?

    • brian bailey on October 25, 2020
    • Back in the 80's when the budget was really tight, I smoked tin after tin of Prince Albert. I tried Carter Hall once and did not like it, for some reason I can't remember. This year, after reading some reviews, I thought it would be worth another shot. Glad I did. If Carter Hall were the only tobacco I could purchase, it would be fine with me. Carter Hall, and C&D Pegasus (which to me, has some similarities to CH) have essentially convinced me that I am a burley man. If I can make a recommendation, I would say to my other pipers, give it a shot; don't be put off by the fact that it is an OTC. As others will tell you, CH is a good all-day smoke.

    • Blaine Culhane on October 25, 2020
    • I tend to smoke more Carter Hall than any other pipe tobacco. Packs easily, burns well, is soft on the tongue, and tastes like tobacco. Would probably be my choice to take on, say, an Antarctic expedition if quantities were limited.

    • Joe Ahearn on October 25, 2020
    • Thanks for your informative and enjoyable review of Carter Hall. I agree with you that Carter Hall is a worthy smoke, but for me Sir Walter Raleigh is the king of the codger burlies. I would love to see you do a review of SWR soon.

    • KevinM on October 25, 2020
    • CH is widely available, affordable, accommodating and eminently satisfying. And you can probably say the same thing about many or most of the other well-known codger blends. It’s not by chance they’ve been around so long. But each codger blend is also distinct enough that codgers have their favorites. I look forward to your reviews.

    • Joe B. on October 27, 2020
    • For Bill Cook:,_Virginia)

    • Binthair Dunthat on October 28, 2020
    • Nice review, thanks. I like a burley (my favorite codger blend is Prince Albert) in the morning. Also pairs well with beer in my opinion.

    • johnny robison on October 29, 2020

    • johnny robison on October 29, 2020

    • johnny robison on October 29, 2020

    • johnny robison on October 29, 2020

    • johnny robison on October 29, 2020

    • johnny robison on October 29, 2020

    • Bill Pope on November 11, 2020
    • Outstanding article Jeff. I have been smoking pipes for many years. Other than my first attempts at smoking a pipe in my early days I have shied away from OTC blends preferring English, American English and Virginia blends. Your write up convinced me to try it and I was amazed at how good this blend is. Lots of tobacco taste, packs easy, stays lit, smokes to clean ash and doesn’t bite. Great traveling companion and anytime smoke. It is now parked in a place of honor right between my jars of Highland Targe and Old Joe Krantz.

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