Classic OTC Blends: Sir Walter Raleigh First Impressions

Sir Walter Raleigh Regular is one of pipe-smoking's most beloved and enduring over-the-counter (OTC) blends and is fittingly named after a pioneering historical figure who helped popularize pipe smoking centuries ago. The legendary blend has been enjoyed by pipe smokers for over 90 years and continues to remain popular among both veteran and beginner pipe smokers. Like many other OTC blends, Sir Walter Raleigh is one that I've never tried and unfortunately overlooked since I began my pipe-smoking journey. I've made it a personal goal to experience as many classic OTC mixtures as possible, offering my first impressions after smoking several bowls of each one.

History Of Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh Regular was first introduced in 1927 and is currently produced in the United States by Scandinavian Tobacco Group Lane Ltd., who acquired the rights to manufacture and sell the blend in 2000. Sir Walter Raleigh is a cross-cut Burley blend, somewhere in between cube cut and ribbon form as the pieces are somewhat chunkier compared to most ribbon-cut mixtures that are usually quite thin and finely cut. Along with the Regular mixture, an Aromatic version is also produced and features Virginia and Burley tobaccos topped with imported French and Dutch liqueurs.

Packaging, Components, & Flavor

Similar to other OTC blends I've previously tried, Sir Walter Raleigh Regular is presented in a 1.5-ounce pouch or a 14-ounce tub, offering options for pipe smokers who never tried it as well as those who have been enjoying the blend for many years and prefer to have a steady supply on hand. I purchased a pouch to try in one of my Missouri Meerschaum corn cobs and transferred the tobacco to a mason jar to preserve its freshness.

Sir Walter Raleigh features a topping of anise and molasses, which technically makes the blend an Aromatic, though the topping is not overpowering, nor does it mask the Burley's natural flavor. While I could detect both flavors while smoking, the anise was far more subtle compared to the molasses, which nicely complemented and enhanced the nutty, toasty notes of the Burley. The toppings also provided a consistent, pleasant flavor from start to finish, starting with a stronger presence before gradually mellowing.

Upon opening the pouch, I immediately noticed a deep, rich, chocolatey scent and was impressed at how well the toppings worked with the Burley's natural nuttiness. The pouch's inner sleeve refers to Sir Walter Raleigh Regular as "an Aromatic blend of Burley tobaccos excellent for stand alone use or blending." Though I smoked it straight, Sir Walter Raleigh certainly has the potential to be used as a blending component to add flavor to other mixtures or base tobaccos.

Sir Walter Raleigh's 1.5oz Pouch

Moisture Content & First Light

I found the moisture content to be perfect directly from the pouch, though it's somewhat on the drier side but is still pliable, with a texture reminiscent of finely-cut granola. Thanks to the loose cut and ideal moisture content, the tobacco packed easily into my corn cob and didn't require any special packing techniques, though I imagine any packing method can be used to deliver satisfactory results.

Each time I smoked Sir Walter Raleigh, I started with an initial charring light before a true light, and those were the only times I needed to use my lighter while smoking this tobacco. While smoking, I found this blend to be extremely user-friendly and forgiving no matter my puffing pace or cadence as it never became too harsh or bitter. However, toward the end of some bowls, there were times when I experienced some slight roughness from puffing too aggressively.

Flavor & Strength

Though I primarily smoke Virginia and Virginia-Perique blends, Sir Walter Raleigh offered a nice change of pace as it's a fairly straightforward blend with some subtle, underlying complexities present when retrohaling, such as hints of semi-sweet chocolate and baking spices. At the start of each bowl, I picked up notes of hazelnut and coffee mixed with a small touch of chocolate which then softened but remained consistent throughout the bowl. The toasted, earthy qualities of the Burley were also present and acted harmoniously with the toppings.

In terms of strength, I'd classify Sir Walter Raleigh as medium-strong, slightly higher than Carter Hall but not nearly as strong as Five Brothers based on my prior experiences. There was also a smooth creaminess that is easy on the palate while the room note is tolerable and fairly inoffensive. I found it to be a dependable blend that did not require much attending to while working, yet it was also a comforting blend to sit down with and enjoy during quieter moments.

Concluding Thoughts

Sir Walter Raleigh Regular is an excellent example of a classic, OTC Burley blend that offers a consistently pleasant smoking experience and can be an easy going, all day smoke. It's readily available, accessibly priced, packs easily, and burns nicely — characteristics appreciated by many pipe smokers. While it's an Aromatic, I feel this blend has excellent crossover appeal for Virginia and English smokers as there's still a natural tobacco flavor to admire that's not overpowered by the toppings. Aromatic pipe smokers who appreciate blends with chocolatey, nutty, and semi-sweet notes will likely enjoy the toppings used in this tobacco. I'd strongly encourage any Burley enthusiast who has yet to try Sir Walter Raleigh to check it out as it has the potential to be a new favorite.

Have you ever smoked Sir Walter Raleigh Regular or the Aromatic version? If so, what are your thoughts on them? Let me know in the comment section!

Sir Walter Raleigh's 14oz Tub
Category:   Tobacco Talk
Tagged in:   History Reviews Sir Walter Raleigh


    • Mark S on December 3, 2020
    • Nice, accurate review. To me SWR is the most satisfying OTC while still retaining a pleasant room note, as long as it is puffed on gently. Once when growing up, a friend's father had some pretty dry SWR in his humidor, and I was struck by how sweet-smelling it was. And it smelled fantastic when it was burning. Lesson: NEVER throw away SWR when it gets dry! You might be surprised at just how good it smokes.

    • Franklin Brake on December 5, 2020
    • Very good information. You learn something new every day.

    • Byron N Kimball on December 6, 2020
    • SWR was one of the first blends I tried when starting my pipe smoking journey back in the early '60's. I smoke it infrequently now as I have moved on to other Burleys; but continue to recommend it to those who have not tried it! My late father mixed SWR and Middleton's Cherry Blend 50/50 as his everyday smoke; not a bad mix quite frankly!!

    • JLBTEX on December 6, 2020
    • My very first tobacco over 50 years ago. Found it pleasant and easy smoking for a beginning pipe smoker. It smokes cool unless pushed and it can be an all day smoke. Although it is considered an aromatic, it does not have the sweet aromatic qualities of others OTC blends I tried such as Cherry Blend or Sugar Barrel as a new smoker. I still keep a package on hand for an occasional smoke.

    • Redcoat‘s Return on December 6, 2020
    • Sir Walter Raleigh Aromatic is in the top three of all my aromatics and I have at least 100 tins worth in my cellar.Its beautiful tobacco, a nirvana for new pipe smokers too! 😊🎄

    • Richard Lanning on December 6, 2020
    • I started with Sir Walter Raleigh over 40 years ago, and it is still my favorite pipe tobacco—love it!

    • Dave Damron on December 6, 2020
    • Nice to see some love for SWR. It’s my favorite OTC.

    • Billy Cagle on December 6, 2020
    • I really enjoy SWR. Easy to light and a solid flavor of Burley tobacco. I recommend it highly. I'll be buying more!!!

    • Rob Kipling on December 6, 2020
    • The aromatic SWR, which doesn't seem even remotely related to the regular except for the name, is delicious stuff. I smoke it daily--and I don't like aromatics.

    • Jeff Ashley on December 7, 2020
    • Add my voice to the chorus. I really enjoy SWR. The aromatic aspect is muted compared to other brands. I keep SWR and Five Brothers always at hand and will mix to give SWR an extra kick.

    • Jim Gavin on December 13, 2020
    • I have been at this for 40 plus years and SWR is one tobacco that I have never been without. I don't necessarily smoke it everyday, but if there isn't a tub of it in the house I know good and well there is a pouch and at least one cob in the truck.

    • brian b on January 31, 2021
    • When I was a lad, it was my first tobacco, and one night as an inexperienced piper who knew nothing of cadence, packing, and cleaning a pipe, I got sick as a dog. So I swore off of it for almost 50 years. I like the semi-cube cut tobaccos, and burley, so on a whim based on the description, I bought a pouch. Well, I ordered a 14oz tub that is now sitting in canning jars, and I will order more when my supply is low. OTCs have been around a long time for a good reason.

    • Andrew on January 23, 2023
    • Bought a pouch today.So far I like it slightly more than Half Half...Although I have favored Latakia-heavy English blends, I like this for an easy smoke. My pipe likes it too. Not sure if my wife does...

    • Geoffry on September 7, 2023
    • Great article, thank you. Could you tell me what you think the nicotine level is for Sir Walter Raleigh regular?Thank you.

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