If you’re a pipe enthusiast, you may have heard of Semois. An article was written about it in the New York Times, and it has only recently been imported into the US. We now have access to it on www.pipesandcigars.com, so I thought that I’d give you a little info about this intriguing tobacco.
Semois is an offshoot of Burley which is grown along river banks in Belgium. The singular soil and microclimate produce a fairly strong tobacco, which fits into the preferences for many Belgian and French smokers. The tobacco, once cured, is light brown with a bit of an olive green cast to it. The particular Semois I’m referring to is from Vincent Manil, who produces it by himself. He’s very proud of the tobacco and is very protective of it, carefully choosing who can sell it. The version we have available is a thick-cut Semois called La Brumeuse (which means “misty”). It is very dry, and Vincent doesn’t recommend hydrating it. For that reason, a heavy hand is best when packing it, or it will burn very fast.
Before we received our first shipment, I was sent a generous sample by the US importers with the idea that I could experiment with it to make some blends. But before I could do that, I needed to try it to understand the flavor and characteristics.
As I had said, it is very dry, and it was crunchy as I packed it tightly into a small-chambered briar. There is absolutely no need for a charring light as it burns readily. The initial flavor is similar to Sumatra cigar leaf without as much sweetness. There’s a herbal undertone, showing a bit of bitterness, but not unpleasantly so. I get a catch in the back of my throat somewhat like I’ve noticed when smoking a blend with dark-fired Kentucky, but the flavor isn’t quite as intense. It burns fast, as I expected it would, but I also appreciate the fact that the need for relights is nearly non-existent. The strength of the tobacco is evident, especially on the retrohale, where I noticed a sting in my sinuses. I didn’t notice the nicotine hit that many people have mentioned, but don’t read too much into that because I have a pretty decent tolerance for vitamin N. It’s obvious that it has some kick, but I think it would only be a problem for the nicotine-averse.
The aroma is quite pungent, again, somewhat cigar-like. Because of the dryness, it’s very easy to over-smoke Semois, and even though it’s not recommended, I may prefer to add a little moisture going forward. I don’t find it terribly complex, but it delivers a ton of flavor when sipped, and it doesn’t burn anywhere near as hot as I had thought it would. When I finished, there was very little ash left in the bowl. The best indication I had of the overall strength came after I finished it. It was quite a while before I wanted to reach for a smoke again, not because it was a bad experience, but because it was very satisfying.
I’ve gone through quite a bit of it in the past few weeks, and I will probably keep it in my rotation when I want something with some power. It’s not cheap, but because of the dryness, you get quite a bit for the money. I’ll be playing around with it as I think it will make a very interesting blending tobacco, but in the meantime, I’m enjoying it as is.