I’m finally getting around to trying some tobacco I’ve wanted to try for a while now, from a company for which I have always had a fondness. I remember buying my first cob pipe about seven years ago. I was told it was cheap, disposable and in not many more words that the pipe was uncool. It didn’t have a white spot, perfect grain, and wasn’t made of actual meerschaum—it was Missouri Meerschaum.
Almost immediately the charm of the low-brow idea of this hokey pipe grew. I fielded questions like, "Is that a real corn cob pops?" To which off course I had plenty of snarky retorts, like, no, I couldn’t afford the real thing, it’s made of paper. To this day I still have my first Washington model cob, named after the small Missouri town from which so much cob pipe history hails. I have at least a dozen and a half more, because to this day they charm me and perform admirably.
What I needed to do was try Missouri Meerschaum’s tobaccos, blended by Russ Ouellette. In the past I’ve had hit and miss experiences with Russ’ efforts, which I can squarely blame my tongue and not him. Never one to generalize, my sense of adventure piqued when I read about MM’s Country Gentleman tobacco. A cob pipe shape with the same namesake, Country Gentleman tobacco is described clearly on the simple folding pouch:
"Flue-cured leaf with a bit of dark-fired and Perique; smooth and unflavored."
There’s nothing fancy about any of it, and that’s fine with me—smoking quality is not something that can be hidden by packaging and marketing. The smell in the pouch is of carob and apricot. It smells sweet, just barely, but not offensively. The tawny and wrinkled ribbons are packed pretty good in the pouch, so if roughed-up too much you may have a tough time getting it closed. To be honest, I’d ditch the pouch Country Gentleman comes in and put it all in a mason jar with a good lid.
Loading a pipeful is straightforward, but there’s a resistant spring of the tobacco which seems to come from heartier leaves. If you use the provided pouch packaging, your tobacco might be a tad dry, which means lighting is a cinch. The first light gives a wonderful nutty and molasses blast, but soon subsides to a leathery and spicy smoke. It’s right at the point where I like my Perique, especially if it is mixed with Kentucky or other dark-fired components. It isn’t a sweet tobacco, and it isn’t flavored. The "seasoning" sweetener all pipe tobacco has (whether you like it or not!) is here just as it should be: a little pinch in the mix to bring out character, not create an aromatic.
Midway through the bowl the tobacco really mellows out. The Perique achieves almost a red pepper quality warming the mouth rather than nibbling at the soft parts. There’s
an oaken, barrel-aged quality to the smoke here, and boy does it make for a good match to morning coffee. It’s at this point the nicotine, a bit slow in the uptake at first, starts to kick in. I do like a good nicotine punch, and while Country Gentleman doesn’t give me the sweats and the shakes,
it gives a nice heavy-in-the-chair feeling. Smoke this tobacco and drink a neat
dram of whiskey. Nothing fancy, a bourbon, a rye, or if you’re desperate—Canadian. You’ll thank me later.
The parting dregs of the bowl when the smoldering is nearly over is pleasant. Back comes the Perique to say hello, a wood and tannin dryness come about and just like that—it’s over. I think subsequent bowls of Country Gentleman never needed more than a single re-light, and for those who like to forget about their smoking so they can task freely, this is a bonus.
I liked this tobacco. I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me, but with some pretty bold character, a nice price point, great performance (especially in the cobs for which it is intended), my only criticism is the packaging. This isn’t the kind of tobacco you’re likely to cellar and wait a decade for the gifts of aging, but having tobacco fall everywhere and possibly dry out too much could be a hassle. If someone is so inclined, jar it up and let it age—see what happens. Why not?
A lack of pretense and posh image is partly why I fell for Missouri Meerschaum’s humble pipes and I’m glad there’s an equal tobacco to match that spirit. I can put aside my snobbish, quasi-educated leanings and let my simple breeding out for some fresh perspective, which I enjoy. The history, location and truly American background Missouri Meerschaum boasts is well-deserved. Sure, it all seems quaint, but don’t underestimate a product that’s been around in the same capacity and quality longer than most. Since almost anyone can enter into pipe smoking and collecting at the cob level, I’d suggest giving their tobaccos a try as well.