It’s hard to convey the excitement I feel when I see that Fall has officially begun. I realize it before most people. My reminder comes in the form of sweet sweet smoke because my Autumn starts when Straus is selling Sleepy Hollow again.
It reminds me of when I was little and I saw the first Halloween-flavored McDonald’s adds on TV. They’d be advertising their candy collecting pales with a spookie jingle and I would know summer would soon be over. These reminders normally come before the weather turns, like a little wink and nudge that summer will soon be over and it will be time for Apple Cider and hoodies and technicolor leaves on the trees.
Straus putting out their fall aromatic does that for me now, carrying on a wonderful tradition in my life. So let’s talk about it, and why you might want to try it, even if you aren’t an aromatic smoker.
I’m not quite sure when I began the tradition, like most things in my life, the details are fuzzy, but at some point, I just decided that I was going to smoke Sleepy Hollow as a way to connect to my childhood and the wonderful Halloween memories I have. I’d say I’ve been enjoying Sleepy Hollow on the regular and looking forward to it for the last ten years, but who knows. It feels like I’ve always had the tradition. Perhaps that is the Hallmark of a true tradition? It just feels like things have always been this way.
For me, as a kid, Halloween was a time of freedom. You get to step out of your own restrictive skin and you can be anyone or anything you like. You get to run around the neighborhood with your friends, collecting treasures in an old pillowcase and getting spooked and connecting with neighbors and friends you don’t normally see or interact with. Everyone is playing pretend, and you are in on it. It is the perfect time of the year.
So when I light up a pipe filled with Straus Sleepy Hollow, these are the memories that come rushing back to me. Happy memories.
I was never much of an aromatic smoker. I usually get bored with the toppings or annoyed by the tongue bite that they usually have. I knew early on in my smoking tradition that if I was going to smoke an aromatic, it would have to be high quality and I would have to change up what I was smoking to keep things interesting. I could smoke the same English blend again and again and never tire of it, but aros are different. So when I realized that Straus had seasonal aromatics, I got excited. Maybe I could just smoke them part of the year and then put them away until next time? I could use their own marketing as my restriction. It would be like candy. We don’t eat candy all the time, we’d get sick if we did. But it is good as a treat. So that’s what I decided to do. Sleepy Hollow is my Autumn treat.
At this point, you may be asking, what makes this wonderful little creation from the great minds at Straus the true treat of the Halloween Spirit? Let’s take a look at the tobacco and why it hits the mark.
Sleepy Hollow is a pumpkin spice flavored aromatic that is made of Black Cavendish, Burley, Cavendish and Virginia tobaccos. It is quite wet when you first open the baggie, but the tin note is AMAZING and you know straight away, even as it sits drying in your office, that this stuff is going to be good. The tin note is spicy and sweet, like archaic incense. It speaks of dark nights and black, leafless trees reaching into the sky like bone fingers to scratch the eye of the moon. This aroma will fill the room as the tobacco dries.
Drying time will differ from place to place. One to three hours seems to be the sweet spot here depending on the weather. Once it is dry and ready to smoke, it loads into the pipe easily. I like to smoke it out of cob because I feel like the cob lends another level of sweetness to the leaf. It has a seasonal theme.
Once it is loaded up, the false light can be a bit overwhelming. Sleepy Hollow starts out intense. I always forget this each year and when I take the first draw, I wonder, is this the year that I get tired of my tradition? This feeling quickly subsides at the true light when the tobacco has calmed down a bit and the topping has burnt off a little. Just know that the first light is going to hit you hard with a burst of flavor.
Once the bowl gets going you can taste the galaxy of spooky flavors. There is deeply sweet sorghum molasses, vanilla, and honey in the mix with baking spices such as cinnamon, allspice and a touch of chocolate coming around the corner as you puff. It’s like walking into an old Halloween shop filled with candy and pumpkins and latex masks. Nutmeg. Caramel. Creamy and sweet brown sugar, the smoke will delight everyone within a half a mile. My partner Amanda always enjoys when it is time for Sleepy Hollow.
Then the topping calms down and the tobaccos begin to peak in, just as you are ready for a bit of change in the bowl. The burley offers a nice nutty flavor that mixes with the waning topping like roasted cashews. The Cavendish tobaccos bring a tart sweetness and you get a nice grassy straw note from the Virginias. I love how the bowl transforms as you smoke, it is quite magical and one of the more memorable things about smoking Sleepy Hollow. It evolves as you burn it and stays interesting the whole time.
The tobacco is best sipped slow and carried into the wind. I like smoking it outside so that others can enjoy it as well. It burns cool all the way down. I never get any clogging or moisture problems as I would with other aromatics, so long as it is dried out properly. The nicotine is missing, but that is how most aromatics perform, so I don’t mind it. I just smoke it along with an extra strong coffee and that does the trick.
Bowl after bowl, as summer wanes and fall ripens on the vine, I sip my Sleepy Hollow and watch the changes of another year come into play. I can easily smoke one to two bowls a day, so I normally have to get quite a bit of Sleepy Hollow to get me through all of Autumn. And then their Winter Aromatic comes out, it’s called Wenceslas, and it is just as good, but we will talk about that on another day. For now, I want to thank you for going on this journey with me.
If you are interested in Straus and their Sleepy Hollow, you can join their facebook to get announcements on when it is available. If you’d like to order some for yourself, they don’t have a website as they prefer to keep things old school and friendly, just call 888-347-8728 and the manager Matt will get it out to you. You’ll be surprised how nice it is to call up and talk to a real person who can help you out, answer questions and shoot the breeze with you. I talk to Matt on a weekly basis and the guy really cares about his customers and the leaf itself.
So give them a call and you can enjoy the tradition along with me. Happy Autumn and pleasant smokes, dear friends.