Goodbye, summer—hello autumn. An interesting theory is summertime is only wildly and emphatically celebrated for one reason: for a long time, many schooling and education models were designed to both leave room for learning and then agriculture, so families could rely on help from their children during harvest season. When agriculture productivity changed, the several months of summers off persisted, and lo, we turned it into a “vacation.” It was the only time we believed we could, or should, take time off or enjoy ourselves. Thus is born a tolerance of soaring temperatures, scalding sun, unpredictable weather all for the sake of a few moments to extract as much skin-bearing joy as possible out of a lot of daylight. I never particularly understood it or enjoyed it. I’m an autumn guy, and I have been since I was a lad.
Pipe smoking during autumn is almost a homecoming for many of us, wherein it’s possible to exchange sweaty brows and our pained backs laboring on the weekends in yards for crisper temperatures and a rake, perhaps a burning pile of leaves to take care of. No one’s gonna mind if you sit around and make sure the fire doesn’t get out of control—so, you might as well bring a pipe.
Some years back I fell in love with a Belgian tobacco known as Semois, which came from Vincent Manil, “Le Petit Robin,” I wrote about it here, and was quite chuffed at the spirit of the stuff. If there was ever a time to dive back into such a treat, the Réserve du Patron by the same maker seemed like a good idea. It’s a pure Semois Burley, and if you’re a fan of Burley, you’re going to want to get yourself a brick of this.
In the package, it smells unlike any other tobacco—and there’s a reason for it: it isn’t like any other tobacco. It has an olfactory softness and savory nature that lacks the raisin like attitude most tobacco has inherently. It’s as if one were to merely make toast versus bake a loaf of bread. This unassuming tobacco is an even caramel in color, cut into delicate, long strips, and besides terrible packaging, is lightly compressed into a rectangle. Réserve du Patron differs in cut from Le Petit Robin in that the strips in du Patron is a much more standard ribbon, wherein the Robin is almost almost a hairlike shag. Loading is a breeze, the medium cut manages and complies well with any pipe you choose.
Those flavors on first light are as delicate as the tobacco itself—but even sweeter. This isn’t an aromatic or a topped tobacco, but instead, sweetness from perhaps one of the best Burleys one can buy. There’s almost a very light cigar quality to this particular blend, a warm pepperiness and a buttery finish. This is where Semois Burley differs from others, it isn’t a simple nuttiness but a whole range of other flavors—something remarkable for a humble Burley. Vincent Manil clearly knows how to make this leaf do some tricks.
By mid bowl, it occurred to me each time how fast this tobacco smokes even with careful and mindful puffing. It’s also possible I’m simply enjoying it and that time warp we all look forward to is in full effect. This is also where the pepperiness increases and the waxen and silky smoke increases in volume and flavor. It’s slightly bitter, pith-like, with what I can only describe as angostura bitters, there’s a lovely sweet and herbaceous nose on this that is extremely unique. Such an elegant tobacco like Réserve du Patron was clearly designed to be savored, not rushed, and not once did it get swampy, too warm or unruly in any way.
The end of Réserve du Patron bowls are such a treat, as nicotine is not overwhelming but definitely present, the chair you may be in seems to grip your inclination to get up a little more than usual. The slow pace this tobacco forces the smoker’s compliance is inescapable. The smoke mellows in flavors to a yeasty, toasty and overall warm wheatiness with a honey touch. Retrohaling is such a joy from the beginning, but here especially. There isn’t really a grand finale or thick boost in flavor at the end, and with how clean it smokes, it’s difficult to tell when the smoke is over. It’s really difficult to finish the bowl and not be tempted to grab another pinch to keep going.
I don’t have many final thoughts to summarize this tobacco, I think it’s pretty clear I was a fan. My only real complaint with any of these Semois tobaccos from Vincent Manil is, once again, the packaging. It’s a paper-foil wrap, one that I’m convinced has a label that boasts more sturdiness. It’s something that needs to be purchased, received and immediately put into an appropriate jar with a well-sealed lid. Pairing of brandy, a nice red wine or a simple cup of coffee would be my choice. Hell, it’s nearly fall, a spiced warm mug of spiced apple cider wouldn’t be bad either. Anything to celebrate the dwindling days of summer calming themselves down.