Update: Having found out that EMP does not contain perique, I have adjusted the review to reflect that information.
Sometimes you find something you love that becomes a part of a routine for you and while most people certainly fall into routines, I’d imagine few have something they truly cherish about them. If you are one of the few, then you most likely know exactly what I’m talking about. When it comes to the morning routine, two things immediately spring to mind for me. The first is good coffee, Cafe Altura’s San Francisco Blend, to be precise. It’s a bold coffee perfect for the first cup of the day. The second is Hearth & Home Daybreak. This blend is a staple for me, one that I always make sure to have a ready supply of.
As I understand it, Dunhill’s Early Morning Pipe was unavailable in the US for a few years while changing manufacturers and since Early Morning Pipe is a favorite for many, it created quite a loss. In the midst of this, several from the New York Pipe Club had asked Russ Ouellette if he could come up with something similar. Russ went to work and Daybreak is the product of that effort. As Russ writes, he never intended to make an exact match to Early Morning Pipe. Instead, he sought to capture its character and I’m sure most would agree that he succeeded.
Hearth & Home Daybreak is a Virginia, Latakia and Oriental blend that leans heavily on the floral notes of the Orientals. This typically gets categorized as an English blend but as many who enjoy that style are likely looking for Latakia, this is not a Latakia dominant tobacco. Rather, the Latakia tends to take more of a back seat while the Orientals do most of the work.
The tin note is a fragrant combination of that woodsy, campfire aroma intertwined with a bright floral arrangement. The tobacco is a ribbon cut with mostly light and medium brown strands interspersed with black. It’s ready to smoke right away with little to no air time necessary and packs as easily as you’d expect most ribbon cuts to do. All of this makes it perfect for the early morning when you likely aren’t looking to try delayed gratification or different moisture levels to find any nuances.
There is likely no top dressing or flavoring added although some of the reviews indicate it may be mild. If there is, it is unnoticeable to me and the tobacco is dry to the touch, passing the pinch test with flying colors.
This blend shines in the early morning hours, particularly before 8:00 AM and with a clean palette. Just as many enjoy the aromas and flavors of coffee right when they wake up, Daybreak is much the same and goes perfect with that morning cup. These notes are with all that in mind since that is predominantly when I enjoy the blend.
The char light is truly a delight to the senses. The fragrant Orientals really pop the moment the flame hits the leaf and this comes out in both flavor and aroma. I always make sure to get a couple of puffs in and exhaled through the nose before tamping down in preparation for true light. This really perks up the senses which were usually still asleep just before.
True light only continues to amplify what the char light began. The floral elements are usually driving the experience in both flavor and aroma with the Latakia complimenting the entire smoke rather than making itself known. This is true for the Virginias as well, which may be slightly more noticeable at times, particularly around mid-bowl, but never taking center stage. I get the occasional taste of perique but this may be one of the orientals that is providing that spice. If it is perique, it’s in a very light condiment form. This is a plus for me because that’s how I like my Perique.
Daybreak really doesn’t produce much of the harsh flavors that other blends tend to give in the last third of the bowl but that doesn’t mean the smoke is static. Different flavors weave in and out of the primarily floral main stage. I would say that these are typically more nuanced and mix between the leathery, peaty and very mildly spicy flavors and aromas that you expect from good Latakia. Of course, the Virginias produce that distinctive sweet hay aroma but again, these are not prominent in the blend by any stretch. Towards the very end, the flavors about cease which is usually about the time you notice that only ashes are left.
Comparison to Early Morning Pipe
While Daybreak may have been created with Early Morning Pipe in mind, it really is a distinctive blend in it’s own right. It does capture a lot of the characteristics that make Early Morning Pipe such a memorable smoke but there are some differences that make both blends unique. The two primary things that stand out to me are the boldness of flavors and the spiciness reminiscent of Perique.
Hearth & Home Daybreak is not an all day smoke. It’s just no match for the changes that the day brings with it. You have to figure the day changes temperature, you eat meals and drink different beverages among other things. All of this is going to play a role in affecting your senses while enjoying a bowl. I think that is partly why Daybreak shines so much first thing in the morning. It’s just right for those morning hours and best before anything else has had an opportunity to take over. Because Early Morning Pipe has a much bolder flavor profile I can see why others enjoy it as an all day companion.
As I mentioned earlier, Daybreak may have Perique in a light condiment form. That same spiciness in Early Morning Pipe is much more prevalent. Since I don’t enjoy Perique outside of that light addition, Early Morning Pipe is not a go to for me. While I enjoy that blend, I’m a bit more picky about when I have it. I would really love to know what oriental leaf is being used there that gives off the spicy attributes that are so familiar with Perique.1
All that being said, anyone who enjoys Early Morning Pipe will likely enjoy Daybreak, just don’t expect a clone. The similarities are great but they are not the same and as Russ said, it’s the character he was going for.
Hearth & Home Daybreak
In the second episode of Frasier, Season 1, Frasier wakes up to find his newspaper has been read and the breakfast he’s about to be served is not the normal breakfast he would eat. Frustrated, he goes on to make an announcement to his father and his dad’s physical therapist. He declares “Let us get something clear. I am not a morning person. I have to ease into my day slowly. First I have my coffee – sans eggshells or anything else one tends to pick out of the garbage. Then I have a low-fat, high-fiber breakfast. Finally I sit down and read a crisp, new newspaper. If I am robbed of the richness of my morning routine, I cannot function. My radio show suffers, and like ripples in a pond, so do the many listeners that rely on my advice to help them through their troubled lives. I’m sorry if this may sound priggish, but I have grown comfortable with this part of myself. It is the magic that is me.”
While not having Daybreak on a given morning may not be quite the catastrophe Frasier warns of, it is indeed a part of the day that I enjoy and look forward to a few times a week. It’s a solid blend, perfect for the early morning air with a nice hot cup of coffee.
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