Trial by Fire : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Trial by Fire

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TBFBy Tad Gage and Bobby Fabian

Single-crop, one-region tobaccos walk a tightrope. Too little or too much rain, or blight, wind and hail, or any other pitfalls that come with tobacco production can mean a great crop one year and a poor crop or no crop the next. It’s a treat to experience rare artisanal tobaccos. Tabac Manil’s latest, Le Petit Robin, features that intriguing Semois tobacco, grown in the rainy Belgian region of the Ardennes valley, then aged and roasted. We also share with you a real rarity—Perique from the famed “Golden Triangle” of Louisiana’s St. James Parish, saved from near extinction by Mark Ryan. Blender Russ Ouellette used four varietals from this tiny region, usually blended to create St. James Perique, to create four distinct blends for taste testing. Plus, we take a look at some blend reintroductions from Dunhill and the first tobaccos to carry the venerable Chacom name. — Tad Gage

Dunhill-Ye-Olde-SigneDunhill Ye Olde Signe
Gage: The original Ye Olde Signe (YOS) was introduced in 1915, and after a long absence it has reappeared. Now made in Denmark, but with every nod to the British tradition, YOS features a fine ribbon cut of bright, orange and mahogany Virginias, with a hint of toasted, unflavored Cavendish. It was perfectly humidified out of the tin. On smoking, this easy-lighting and -burning mixture delivered a playful mix of citrusy Virginia and deeper molasses and pepper flavors from the matured Virginia. With great smoke volume from light puffing, the blend offers up a growing hit of nicotine sweetness after the first half-bowl. The blond flue-cured threads add a citrus element and may account for a peppery kick to the sinuses on first lighting, but the mixture settles down after that first light. Though it is described as a dark Virginia blend, I would place it closer to medium, but one that delivers a complex and nuanced smoke that offers sweetness and a crescendo of nicotine punch at the end. It seems like a good candidate for aging.

Fabian: Grassy and light, Ye Olde Signe greets you from the tin with lovely notes of grass and caramelized sugar, and just a slight hint of chocolate and fruit. At first, this blend came across as very bright, full of hay and orange peel, though with a slightly sharp smell that was unexpected. After achieving a good rate of burn and really getting into the rhythm of the tobacco, the blend’s flavor began to even out, presenting more than just hay and orange peel—a good amount of clove and leather to fill in the gaps around the sharper, brighter tones. While Ye Olde Signe is a brighter, lighter blend, I found that a freshly brewed, lightly sweetened green tea made for a lovely companion. This blend doesn’t try to be anything other than light and bright, and the green tea does a great job of accentuating the grassier notes while also toning down the spice ever so slightly.

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Category: Spring 2017, Trial by Fire

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