It’s 6 in the morning on a Tuesday, and I just woke up an hour ago. I reach for my Mr. Brog #89, considering what I should smoke. It’s cold outside, so I want something that will wake me up and warm my body. Something classy, with an old school vibe. I decide on an unopened brick of Tabac Manil’s Le Petit Robin.
Before I even get to the tobacco itself, I have to talk about the packaging. The 3.5 oz pressed blocks of finely-cut shag tobacco is wrapped in a beautiful paper foil. Covering the foil, a manilla paper label that looks like it came straight out of the 1950s screams for attention. The unwrapping process is pleasurable and the aroma of the Semois tobacco that hits you as you unwrap works to further your excitement for smoking it.
I sit down at my desk, slide out my Folding Tobacco Mat. You’ll want to prepare this tobacco over a mat because you don’t want to lose any of this fine leaf filaments into the carpet as load it up.
I begin packing the pipe.
There is something so satisfying about pulling at the firmly pressed shag tobacco block and unraveling the ultra-fine, extremely long strands. Feeling it with my fingertips, I know that it is the perfect smoking humidity. It is dry, but not brittle. The earthy tin-notes hit me as I pull the strands apart, cigar-strength burley unfolds into my nose with hints of bark and leather, that would be the Semois. Then comes a spicy mushroom smell, hearty with a hint of spring flowers and sunshine, fresh grass and a touch of oats and hay, this would be the mystery blond tobacco that Vincent Manil is so tight-lipped about, and there is nothing wrong with that. The world needs more mystery in the crevices of the unknown.
I pinch a bit of the artistically cut, nicely pressed tobacco from the brick, as filament dust falls to my tobacco mat. I pack the pipe tight, as Mr. Manil himself insists, and sprinkle some of the filaments from the mat on top of the packed bowl. I set the rest of the block aside to be jarred up later in a Ball jar. I love the tin note, which is quite hearty with the warmth of summer cigar smoking on the porch.
Upon the false light, I find that the Semois scent of earth, cured hide and tree flesh I smelled in the tin note intensifies with flame. It lights well straight from the tin and requires no drying time, which is very handy. I get the feeling this blend will smoke well in anything, so long as you pack it tight. There are strong notes of fresh hay which remind me of my grandma’s farm as a small boy. I taste a light floral note, just barely detectable. Very slight. This bouquet is followed by a musty note, like an old barn, well used and inviting.
I give it the true light, and the taste deepens but never builds to a full strength.
It smokes warm, and care must be taken not to chug it, for the shag will burn hot. It’s not a fussy smoke; you just need to watch your pacing, which is entirely acceptable for a cut such as this.
The Semois is sharp like a good cigar, campfires, leather bark, coffee grounds, and earth. The additional Virginias come in with hay and grassy sweetness. There are hints of bread and oats; a light spiciness is there as well, white pepper and curry. Buttery smoothness. Next, there is a touch of blooming fungi developing, wild mushrooms on the hiking trail perhaps? They pop up as I walk through the smoke. So much is happening with tobacco that I almost feel overwhelmed, but in the right way — it is refreshing that after all this time tobacco can still surprise me.
The smoke is thick and inviting with a strong room note that is deep with the burley but what it does put out there is nicely flavored. Deeper into the bowl I detect hints of white nuts and freshly cut grass. The play of sweet and savory is impeccable, and you know that Vincent Manil is master blender straight away.
There is a sweetness that comes in, honeysuckles caught on the winds and blown through old growth forest. A subtle hint of fresh tangerine as well, off the back of the wind, delicate, never taking the stage but to the side and modest. Do I detect a bit of cinnamon as well? There’s a touch of moss next, like on the rocks of a quiet creak, but always returning to the Semois.
I finish the bowl with a white ash, all the way to the bottom with no relights. Zen smoke of perfection.
I would say an idea smoking situation would be sitting on the porch on a spring morning with your most excellent coffee. I’d smoke it in a pipe with a medium bowl and a longer stem. The nicotine is high. This is not beginner smoke due to its strength and complexity. It burns well; it’s easy to prepare.
This is a masterpiece in blending. Hands down one of the most complex and appealing smoking experiences I have ever had and the experienced smoker could spend years picking apart the details. I will always have some in my cellar and am curious what may happen if you jar it and let it mingle for a few years. Due to its complexity, I wouldn’t say it is an everyday smoke, but rather a secret spot in the forest you visit once a week that is unlike anywhere else, where the magic happens.
Other Tobacco Notes:
Tabac Manil’s Le Petit Robin is a solid, quality tobacco of mystery and enchantment. It burns nicely to a perfect ash. No goop or doddle. And it remains enjoyable for the whole bowl.
Strength Notes: This tobacco is quite strong, both in nicotine and smoke density.
Cut: A uniquely fine and long shag that is beautifully pressed into a brick.
Nicotine Strength: The nic hit is high with a noticeable tingle on the tongue.
Drink Pairing: I enjoyed this tobacco with a cup of coffee.
Smoking Time: Best enjoyed early morning to start your day. It has a long burn time and took about an hour and a half to smoke in a medium bowl.
Pipes Used: Mr. Brog #89. It works well in a medium bowl. I would have smoked this in a churchwarden, but mine was resting at the time. I think a longer stem would improve the experience. Otherwise, it will smoke in just about anything. There is a chance of ghosting with a blend this strong, so keep that in mind.
Age When Smoked: Fresh from the tin.
4/4 Stars. A masterpiece in the subtlety of tobacco blending.
|Blended By||Vincent Manil|
|Manufactured By||Tabac Manil|
|Contents||Burley, Unknown, Virginia|
|Packaging||3.5 ounce package|
|Where to Buy||TobaccoPipes.com|
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