The winter chill is radiating from the closed window as I stand in my office in my robe looking out at the blanket of satin white. I just woke up, and I’m waiting for the coffee to finish percolating as I watch the wind blow around the fine powder. I reach for my Mr. Brog #89, considering what I should smoke. I want something that will wake me up and push away these chills that are radiating to my bone. I think back to my recent experience with Tabac Manil’s Le Petit Robin and what a great experience that was. I decide to try another one of Mr. Manil’s offerings: Pure Semois La Brumeuse.
Once again, before I talk about the tobacco itself, I have to mention the unique packaging. The 3.5 oz pressed blocks of ribbon tobacco is wrapped in a beautiful paper foil. Covering the foil, a pastel white paper label with fine printing that looks like it came straight out of the 1950s makes this tobacco stand out from the usual stickered tins. The unwrapping process is pleasurable, like opening a mysterious gift on Christmas morning, and the aroma of the Semois tobacco, a cousin to burley, hits you as you unwrap and excites any burley fan out there.
I sit down at my desk and grab my trusty Folding Tobacco Mat, knowing from my experience with Le Petit Robin that, when I prepare this tobacco, it does tend to go everywhere. It is best done over a mat because you don’t want to lose any of the tiny filaments into the carpet as you work.
The brick is now unwrapped, and I take a moment to appreciate it before breaking it up. Inexperienced smokers who are used to OTC blends may think it is too dry, but in all truth, it is perfect for smoking. I crack into it.
There is something so satisfying about pulling at the firmly pressed ribbons of tobacco that make up the block and undoing the pieces that were locked together by force. As I discussed in my article Zen and the Art of Prepping Your Own Pipe Tobacco, there is a distinctive characteristic to tobacco that you must handle in one way or another before you smoke it.
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 aromas unfold into my nose with hints of bark and leather and something like toasted rye bread? It’s only slight and challenging to describe. It looms about with a spicy mushroom smell, hearty and warming to the nose, like sniffing an unknown jar of herbs.
I pull off the artistically pressed tobacco from the brick, as filament dust falls to my tobacco mat. I pack the pipe tight, very tight, as Mr. Manil himself insists with his tobacco because if you don’t, it will burn away in an instant. I take time to press it into the bowl, something I would never do with another tobacco, but this one is unique. You have to treat it a bit differently. I set aside the rest of the block so I can jar it up later in a Ball jar.
Upon the false light, I find that the Semois scent of mud, fresh leather, and bark I smelled in the tin note intensifies with flame. There are strong notes of dirt mottled 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; earthy mushroom, tastes like a dirt-floored cellar at night after it rains. Dark soil and mystery mixed with tingling spice.
I give it the true light, and the taste deepens, building to full strength as I smoke.
It smokes warm, and care must be taken not to chug it, for the ribbons will burn hot, you’ll bite your tongue up, and you’ll miss out on the subtle nuances of the pure Semois. It’s not a fussy smoke, mind you; you just need to watch your pacing. Trust me; you’ll be glad you did.
The Semois is sharp like a good cigar, campfires, leather bark, coffee grounds, and earth. There are hints of bread and oats; a light spiciness is there as well, white pepper and curry. Next, there is a touch of blooming fungi developing, wild mushrooms grown in secret basement somewhere special that is kept to yourself. This tobacco is not as complex with nuance as his Le Petit Robin, but what it lacks in complexity, it makes up in purity and intensity. It has a drive to it that is undeniable.
When I say it is not as nuanced as Le Petit Robin, that is not to say that it lacks nuance. There is a complexity to the pure Semois as well, but it is a heady, focused complexity where many tastes break away but are all headed in the same direction. Whereas Le Petit Robin feels like Jazz music, La Brumeuse is like a warm puff of Blue Grass.
The smoke is thick and inviting with a strong room note that is deep with the burley scents but what it does put out there is nicely flavored. This tobacco would not be considered a crowd pleaser for others around you unless of course you are surrounded by cigar smokers, and it certainly does not pass the “wife test.” It has a heavy room note, so be careful around friends.
I finish the bowl with fine gray ash, all the way to the bottom with no relights. What a fantastic ride! Heady and strong, a pallette barage of strength and conviction on Manil’s part.
La Brumeuse is another masterpiece of pure tobacco blending. You can sense Vincent Manil’s careful hand in the process from the planting of the seed to the moment of packaging. He is an old-school operation with no intermediary, and it shows. There aren’t many people doing tobacco from seed to packaging the way he does. It produces one of the most purely pleasing smoking experiences I have ever had, and the experienced smoker could spend years picking apart the details of this mystery called Semois.
I will always have some in my cellar. Due to its heaviness, I wouldn’t say it is an everyday smoke, but rather a weekly visit to a particular spot in your basement where you can relax with nothing on your mind but pure tobacco. Out of the two I’ve tried, I prefer the slightly more complex Le Petit Robin, but I will be visiting this one quite often as well.
Other Tobacco Notes:
Pure Semois La Brumeuse is a solid, quality tobacco. It is a mastercraft of creation from a singlular vision. It burns nicely to a perfect, fine gray ash. No goop or doddle. And it remains enjoyable for the whole bowl.
Strength Notes: This tobacco is very strong, both in nicotine and smoke density.
Cut: A uniquely fine and long ribbon 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 or a firm stout.
Smoking Time: Best enjoyed early morning to start your day. It has a medium burn time if packed properly (very tight in the bowl) and took about an hour 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 steadfast nature of a pure and true tobacco blender
|Blended By||Vincent Manil|
|Manufactured By||Vincent Manil|
|Blend Type||Burley Based|
|Packaging||100 grams or 250 grams pack|
|Where to Buy||TobaccoPipes.com|
All photos are the property of Justin Day at Photography By Day Studio. You can find more of my work here.