Italy might not be widely-known for its tobacco cultivation, but like most European countries, it has locales and regions that a few hundred years ago were found suitable for just that. Sansepolcro is a Tuscan town roughly two hours north of Rome and in an area favored for climate and soil. Tobacco seems to really like growing there, too. In turn, the people that live there also really like tobacco, as do the Italians who grow it. In fact, doing some quick research, I had no idea the country produces about 90,000 tons annually. Italians as a whole are passionate and exacting people, so I was looking forward to what they could do with tobacco.
Cornell & Diehl have been taking their “Small Batch” line seriously. I sheepishly admit I thought it was a bandwagoning fad. Pipe smoking isn’t exactly an Everyman activity any longer and I’d hazard a guess nearly all pipe tobacco of any decent reputation is technically small-batch. C&D is really introducing unique blending ideas and offering tobacco we might not otherwise know was out there. I think we often forget there’s a whole planet of exotic tobacco waiting for us.
“Sansepolcro” is a new kid in the C&D Small Batch line, and as usual, it is limited to so many produced tins: 8000 in this case. A blend of Carolina Red and an Italian dark-fired of the same name, Sansepolcro combines a familiar flavor experience and an exotic twist—I couldn’t say no. Opening the tin, the tobacco feels plump and soft but not overly moist. Colors are tawny, tan and reddish. The smell is mute; slightly sweet and herbaceous, mild and toasty. It has a springy quality when loading up a bowl but isn’t annoying to deal with.
First lights are pleasant and easygoing, yet alive and nodding to a white pepper. There isn’t much in the way of sweetness, however the scent of the smoke gives it a slight glazed bread note. Immediately I’m reminded of Semois tobacco, the Belgian treat that won me over a few years back.
Midway through my smokes I’m reminded this easygoing tobacco needs to become a summertime staple. The Red Virginia plays a solid and foundational role that keeps the spice of the dark-fired curing from getting too monotonous and adds the toasted signature for which I’m so fond. The Tuscan tobacco is easy to get to know, and unapologetically stays easygoing, dry to the mouth, cool and fresh. I kept expecting a grassy quality, but there is none. While not as garden-floral as Semois, Sansepolcro seems to attain a more savory attitude and quite often brought tea-like enjoyment and flavors.
Finishing bowls end much like they began. There is no intense punch of flavors as with many tobaccos, and the consistency is enjoyable. Usually with gentler tobacco I have concerns with an ashy taste toward the end, but Sansepolcro finishes clean and pleasant. It’s a simple smoke with tons of personality.
My initial concerns as I first smoked this tobacco is that it might be nothing more than a derivative of other European-style methods and cures. This is not a Semois, nor should be considered as such—but fans of such leaf will be very happy with it. It is spicier, just as sophisticated, and has a character all its own. Tamping should be minimal, but feel free to choose any pipe to enjoy Sansepolcro—it is very forgiving. Nicotine is moderate and room note was reported as spring-floral and sweet. Please choose any beverage, hot or cold; though it might favor Saison beers and IPAs, teas and coffee more than a stiff dram of peaty Scotch or espresso. As for aging, I’m not sure what direction it would go: the dryer leaf might take a while to allow the process to take hold. Not to mention it’s so good fresh, I doubt I’d have the patience necessary to let it sit around.
Sansepolcro is lively enough to be truly from Italy yet mild enough to introduce to mellow company. Sunrise to sunset, and ideal for all the warmth the Northern Hemisphere currently has to offer, I’d suggest my fellow puffers looking to expand their taste experiences to look into this blend. The spirit and care are right in the leaf, and it’s a little cheaper than a full trip to Tuscany. Stock up before it disappears.