Classic OTC Blends: Half and Half First Impressions

Half and Half has remained a beloved pipe tobacco blend for over 100 years, continually delighting generations of pipe smokers with its affordability, availability, and memorable taste. It's a mixture cherished by veteran pipe smokers as well as newer ones, like me, who have finally decided to try one of the most popular over-the-counter (OTC) blends still in production. Half and Half is a distinctive mixture with unique toppings that set it apart from other OTC blends, yet it has maintained a loyal following thanks to its nostalgic room note and mellow flavor.

History of Half and Half

Half and Half's origins date back to 1909 when American Tobacco Company (ATC) combined Lucky Strike tobacco with another ATC brand called Buckingham. ATC acquired the Lucky Strike brand in 1905 and its presence in Half and Half may have been the company's attempt to create a smooth, crossover tobacco that would appeal to both cigarette and pipe smokers. Whatever the intended plan was, it worked, and by 1938 ATC ranked second in market share largely thanks to Half and Half's popularity. The following year, the Lucky Strike logo was removed from the packaging though the blend continued to be marketed as Half and Half. For several years, the blend was produced in Owensboro, Kentucky until 2011 when production was moved to Tucker, Georgia where it continues to be manufactured by Scandinavian Tobacco Group Lane Ltd.

Packaging, Components & Cut

Half and Half Tobacco

Like other OTC blends, Half and Half is presented in a 1.5-ounce pouch or a 12-ounce tub. The pouch offers a convenient option for travel and a smaller size for those who are curious about trying Half and Half for the first time, while the tub offers a substantial amount for those who love the blend and prefer to have a large supply. I purchased a pouch to try in one of my Missouri Meerschaum corn cobs and immediately transferred the tobacco to a mason jar to conserve its freshness. The tobacco is presented in a fine, granulated ribbon cut, so I'd advise using a tobacco plate or paper towel to catch any excess that falls from the fingers while packing a pipe. However, the old school method of scooping the tobacco into the bowl's chamber right from the pouch would also be sufficient.

The brand's website notes that, "Half and Half is a timeless mix of loose cut Burley and Virginia tobaccos with flavorful notes of Cardamom, Coriander and Maze." While the use of toppings technically makes Half and Half an Aromatic blend, the flavors work surprisingly well with the Burley and Bright Virginia tobaccos. The combination of cardamom and coriander in a pipe tobacco mixture was something I was unfamiliar with, but was excited to try. I believe the maze listed on their website refers to mace, the outer shell of nutmeg, which is typically spicier than the inner seed and can be described as a combination of cinnamon and pepper.

Once I opened the pouch, I was met with several unique scents that were unlike the aromas I have previously associated with OTC mixtures. Usually with the majority of OTC blends I've tried, I've picked up shared hints of chocolate, molasses, and nuts, but with Half and Half there were other notes that were familiar yet hard to identify. This blend offered some of the most intriguing pouch notes in any OTC blend and without looking it up online, there was no way I'd even come close to correctly guessing the toppings.

Tin Note and Moisture Content

I found the moisture content to be excellent directly from the pouch, though it's somewhat moist compared to other OTC blends and presents a texture reminiscent of finely-cut granola, immediately calling to mind the style of Sir Walter Raleigh Regular. A few minutes of drying time should be sufficient, though I encountered no issues with lighting or smoking Half and Half straight from the pouch. The tobacco's loose cut and ideal moisture content made bowl packing an easy endeavor, only taking a few pinches to fill the chamber of any pipe I used. Though I primarily smoked Half and Half out of my corn cob pipes, I used a few briar pipes I have dedicated to Burley-based blends to gauge its performance in chambers of various shapes and dimensions. The blend performed quite well across the multiple pipes I used, was easy to pack into any chamber, and burned consistently and evenly all the way through.

Whenever I smoked Half and Half, I began with an initial charring light before a true light, and that was all I needed to last until the end of the bowl. It's a very easy blend to smoke, requiring little to no maintenance and was never harsh or unpleasant. I found it to be an excellent mixture that can be enjoyed while working, especially when a reliable tobacco that doesn't need to be babied is required. However, when there's time to settle down and relax is when Half and Half truly shines as there are plenty of subtleties that can go unnoticed and unappreciated.

Flavor Profile & Strength

Prior to smoking Half and Half, I read various online reviews to see what people said about the blend's flavor and their experiences, and I was quite surprised at how many different flavors pipe smokers were picking up while smoking. I can't recall ever seeing a blend where multiple people were noticing drastically different or seemingly contradictory flavors. Some of the flavors or scents people mentioned when smoking Half and Half were things like cranberry, licorice, butterscotch, mint, and chocolate. As such, it can be a rather divisive and polarizing blend that only individual palates can truly judge and assess.

After smoking multiple bowls myself, I noticed something new nearly every time and picked up flavors I did not previously notice. I found the cardamom, coriander, and mace toppings contributed flavors of spice, nuts, and a subtle hint of citrus to the tobacco, which provided a sweet and savory smoking experience. The spicy aspect of the blend was most noticeable when retrohaling but was never too rough, and was reminiscent of baking spices. That said, the natural nuttines of the Burley was still detectable and acted harmoniously with the toppings, offering a pleasant taste and room note. I found the Burley to be the predominant and most noticeable tobacco, though the sweetness of the Bright Virginia did come through while smoking.

If you're a fan of other cherished OTC blends such as Carter Hall, Prince Albert, or Sir Walter Raleigh and have yet to try Half and Half, I highly recommend picking up a pouch. While Half and Half has rightfully earned its status as a timeless OTC blend, it's a unique and distinctive blend that is unlike any other. Even if you primarily smoke non-Aromatic Burley or Virginia blends, Half and Half still has the potential to provide a pleasant smoking experience and the ability to keep things interesting with its subtle nuances. If you already enjoy Aromatic mixtures but want to experience a historic blend with distinct and memorable flavors, Half and Half is a must-try tobacco.

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

Sir Walter Raleigh's 1.5oz Pouch
Category:   Tobacco Talk
Tagged in:   Half and Half History Reviews

Comments

    • Gary Barnes on January 15, 2021
    • With so many C&D blends in my cellar sometimes it's just nice to go pick up a simple straight forward blend and that is what you get with Half & Half. I loved it from my first bowl full and I too had not problems with the smoke. I am an old codger and this is considered one if not the best old codger blends so I guess we were meant to be. I shall always have an ample supply of Half & Half in my cellar. I strongly suggest that next time you can pick up a pouch and see what you think. I'm willing to bet that you will be presently surprised and glad that you picked it up.

    • RustedRailSmokes on January 15, 2021
    • I found an reproduction tin of half/half at a flea market with the old Lucky Strike Logo on it which I added to my collection on the shelf. That got me wanting to try the real thing. I smoked a pouch on a business trip and found it to be an easy smoking blend which worked really well in cobs. Each bowl seemed to have a slightly different note to it but you could still taste the burley base under it.

    • Brian Gleason on January 17, 2021
    • I consider half and half like an old friend. It's very tasty, and just a straightforward blend. I can honestly see why it's been around for so many years it is really really top shelf and very good.

    • Ludky_Felix on January 17, 2021
    • In me younger, Army days I'd buy a pack of Lucky Strikes every now and again. I loved the history, flavor (it's toasted!), and simplicity. Now someone is telling me I can get Lucky Strike tobacco in pipe form? Sold!

    • Stan on January 17, 2021
    • Very interesting article. I’m afraid I looked down on most OTC blends.

    • Astrocomical on January 17, 2021
    • Yes, I tried half & half and liked it a lot. It reminded me of a milder version of Captain Blacks but with a much more "creamier" taste and aroma. I now see why it's called that and been on the market for a long time.

    • L. Kleinjan on January 17, 2021
    • Ik rook deze tabak al meer dan 40 jaar, en vindt het nog steeds een geweldig goede tabak.

    • Andy Camire on January 17, 2021
    • Nicely written article Jeffrey and always like reading how others react and describe tobacco blends. I'm an old dude and have smoked Half & Half almost exclusively for many years way back when. I would also use it as a blending tobacco which works really well. I will always have a stash of this fine old blend on hand and it never disappoints. Very interesting to see how many different flavor profiles are described by other reviewers. I certainly don't fall into that category but still enjoy this blend even after previous manufacturers have kept to the same formula where so many other blends change with manufacturer. Hopefully Half & Half will survive for another 100 years for all to enjoy.

    • Carl Huffman on January 17, 2021
    • My grandfather smoked Half and Half for most of his life, and I never saw him without his Kaywoodie pipe and some tobacco in the tin made to fit in a pocket. I have recently returned to pipe smoking myself, and this article was a reminder of Grandad. I'll have to pick up a pouch and give it a try. Thanks for the memories. By the way, at 75 I'm sure I would be at home with it, since I'm and old codger myself. :)

    • W. ADAM MANDELBAUM on January 17, 2021
    • The tasting note I detected from Half and Half was B flat. Then again, I gravitate towards the heavier English types, so it's probably why I'm not a big fan.

    • Bingo Bailey on January 17, 2021
    • You know you're a codger when your idea of what typical pipe smoke should smell like is smouldering Half & Half. I believe all my uncles smoked it exclusively, way back in the '50s. There was even a "pipe tobacco" cigarette around for a while, and the tobacco used was Half & Half. A later generation's idea of typical pipe smoke is, I suppose, Captain Black (or clones), since it's even more ubiquitous than H & H.

    • Robert Silverman on January 17, 2021
    • I have not smoked this tobacco but have experienced it in a most positive way. When in elementary school in the 1940's I was often chosen by the teacher to go down to the janitor's room carrying a copper pot to replenish the ink supply for the desk containers. And typically sitting there, in a very warm setting, were a few janitors smoking their corn cob pipes with empty tins of Half& Half laying around them. What a terrific aroma, what an endearing site seeing these folks talking and laughing gently when they did not have immediate chores. I suspect all this had something to do with my own relationship to the leaf.

    • Joe Ahearn on January 17, 2021
    • I really enjoyed this article and am glad to see you covering the fine old codger blends that are part of our heritage as pipe smokers. I enjoy the latest incarnation of Half and Half and smoke it often.

    • Smokebacca on January 17, 2021
    • What a nice review. I have to agree with most of your findings. Like so many OTCs, they have been mainstaysfor decades for a reason. While they all have similarities, each holds a unique niche in the pipe tobacco world. While I do agree that Half & Half is unique, I have come to find Erin Go Bragh to be a birds-of-a-feather blend by comparison (also by STG). I find the maze/mace confusion fascinating. Like you, I tried to identify the tastes I got from Half & Half for some time. Oddly enough, I thought maze made sense when it dawned on me it reminded me of sweet corn or corn-on-the-cob, maybe even corn syrup? Oh well, just add mine to the long list of flavors people think they taste. Just know I'm a fan of Half & Half, or Burley & Bright as it's sometimes called. It's an oldy but a goodie, as they say.

    • Hannu Hakalisto on January 18, 2021
    • Hi from Imatra, a little town In South Eastern part of Finland. I became very Happy while reading your article about Half & Half. At my age, over 60, I appreciate in good quality and Half & Half has put together good price and taste. It has been with us "pipers" over 100 years. For example George Hemmingway liked it, too. I like Peterson's pipes a lot because of their very good quality. And luckily I find historical, and classical Half & Half from my neighbour store. All the Best to all of you fellow "pipers".

    • 2packs4sure on January 18, 2021
    • My dad smoked Half and Half exclusively for 40 years.He quit in the late 1980's.I still have 3/4 of his last big can in a large clamp jar and I finally realize why he liked it so much.It still isn't a favorite of mine but after being a serious pipe smoker for 7 years I see it now.For years it just tasted and smelled like fire and heat to me. lol

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