Pipe tobacco, like most other consumable goods, is evolving over time. As we inevitably become more demanding in our tastes, tobacco growers and blenders are faced with the challenge of again improving their already world-class products. This can be a difficult thing to do, yet because the consumer makes the calls, producers continually search for ways to stay ahead of the pack. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don’t.
Backwards or Forwards?
Despite what the young, overly privileged hip kids in the finer parts of Brooklyn might swear as truth, it’s not always the case that backward is the way forward, or that older is always better (try treating tuberculosis with milk thistle). But sometimes, when our tenacious pursuit of betterment leads us astray, or advances in technology and methodology do as much harm as they do good, the ways of the past can be healing ways. Our search for the “perfect smoke” will never yield true fruit, but it’s this process of turning and returning that brings us ever closer to the unattainable.
Semois tobacco is something of a mystery for us Americans, especially those of us who haven’t been fortunate enough to smoke it, but it’s producers in the lovely Ardennes Valley claim that what makes their tobacco so special is no mystery at all. It’s simply the seed and the soil, the air and the fog; it’s the nature of the tobacco itself. It’s the old ways that produce this “new” and exciting tobacco. Of course, it’s only new to us. Some form of tobacco has been grown by the Semois river since the 17th century at least, long before the States of America were United. An interview with Vincent Manil reveals that the preparation of Semois
tobacco, while quite energy and time consuming, is simple. After years of aging, the tobacco leaves are roughly cut, and roasted in a vessel, much like coffee beans would be. Vincent contends that the simple, traditional preparation of his tobacco is the best way to evoke the complexities and intensity of the leaf, and it seems he is right. Semois tobacco shares as much with a fine cigar as it does with a quality pipe blend. There are new subtleties to be discovered in every bowl, just underneath a remarkably natural earthy tobacco flavor.
Vincent recently announced that he will be selling his tobacco here in the US, and we like the rest of you are wringing our hands in anticipation, ready to sink our proverbial teeth into what some have called the best pipe tobacco in the world. While opinions on it’s status certainly vary, one thing is certain: Semois tobacco is a unique and wonderful product, and will be a welcome addition to the tobacco shelf of anyone who is fortunate enough to get their hands on it when it arrives on American soil. Vive la Semois!