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
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!