In the thick emerald forests of Belgium, nestled amongst the foggy breadth of the Ardennes Valley, there lives a brilliant wizard named Vincent Manil, and he creates MAGIC!
It may sound like the beginning of some Harry Potter Style fantasy book, but the place I speak of is real, and so is the man (and his tobacco wizardry).
If you are a fan of rich burley tobaccos and you haven't yet tried one of the three offerings from the artisan blender at Tabac Manil, you are sadly missing out. There are three fantastic blends of pure, additive free, tobacco on offer, and each one brings a unique approach to an age-old burley that has been delighting smokers for a very long time.
The Tabac Manil Series
The Tabac Manil Semois line-up is simple: There is La Brumeuse, Le Petit Robin, and Reserve du Patron. Each tobacco offers a distinct experience to the discerning smoker. I find that once someone experiences these fine tobaccos, they often have at least one of them on hand in their rotation.
When you get your first brick of Tabac Manil tobacco, you will no doubt make a note of its arid nature. All three of the blends come very dry in pressed blocks of ribbon cut tobacco than you crumble off and push into the pipe. New smokers must resist the urge to rehydrate before they smoke, as the dry leaf brings an excited, perfect burn that is all a part of the experience. As a result, the smoker must pack the tobacco tighter than he or she would typically pack a pipe. Also worth noting is that Tabac Manil blends require no charring light and usually do not require a touch-up as you smoke.
Today we are going to discuss them and compare their characteristics so that you can make the right decision on where to begin your Ardennes adventure!
Before we begin, let's talk about the magic that is the jewel center of all three of Vincent Manil's blends, which he painstakingly crafts from the first seed in the ground to the last package on the truck. Semois. You may have heard of it. It is an offshoot of Burley known for it's hefty, lightly floral, complex Sumatra leaf qualities. In fact, you will sometimes hear Tabac Manil mentioned by those in the know when a cigar smoker claims they are looking to dip their toe into the world of pipe tobacco.
While it's true that Tabac Manil offers a transformative gateway smoke to the cigar smoker, there is much more on offer than merely passing the torch to a fresh hobbyist with a taste for rolled goods. These three blends bring new meaning to the word "subtle nuance" and can inspire years of calm, contemplative smoking for those who are interested.
Though they all have similar qualities, thanks to the Semois, the smoke of each blend is entirely different. So where do you begin?
Let's look at each one, shall we?
First, there is La Brumeuse.
Upon unwrapping the pressed brick of thick cut ribbon, you are met with a hearty tin note of earth, charred forest bark, and fresh leather. You will also notice a hint of rye bread essence and fresh mushroom scent there as well. Many say it is an intoxicating aroma.
When you light it up, these tin notes intensify with a base of dry hay baking in the afternoon sunlight, followed by a very light floral taste in the background, just a bystander, barely noticeable but there none the less. As you go deeper into the bowl, there are meaty fungal notes, something dark like a rainsoaked cellar at night and tingling spices. There are hints of coffee grounds and whisps of a loaf of bread cooling in the window on an Autumn day. Around the corner, I taste a touch of hops, like the aftertaste of a Guinness Stout, which is why I sometimes pair the two.
Though it is a singular blend, you will find that simplicity stops there, as many tastes will flood the mind of the distinguished smoker from the first puff to the last draw. It serves both leagues, the contemplative smoker or the person who just wants to relax. It burns clean and satisfying, leaving behind beautiful gray-white ash.
Next is Le Petit Robin.
This unusual blend has a sweeter tin note and is a bit heavier on the hay characteristics and floral aromas than the other
two. It includes around thirty percent of the magical Semois, with the other seventy percent made up of mysterious golden tobaccos, the identity of which Mr. Manil keeps a secret.
Le Petit Robin is finely cut into a beautifully spun shag and pressed into a firm brick for your smoking pleasure. You will pick up on the exquisite quality of the leaves the moment you unwrap the packaging and break it apart, releasing the sweet and savory aromas.
From first light, the experience is intense. As it burns, you will notice it has more sugar to the taste and is smoother, almost buttery, with hints of dry wood on a campfire, crackling. There are roasted nuts and early morning coffee memories that come to mind.
The Semois is there, as with La Brumeuse, and brings the full-bodied qualities, but it is added with a light hand, offering that lush mineral burn and meaty dirt-floored-cellar quality of an exotic cigar, but it is not as pronounced. I would say that those who find the earthy, leathery tones of the other two tobaccos to be a bit much, will see that Le Petit Robin is their tobacco of choice.
This blend provides a volley of sweet and savory that keeps the smoker awake with possibilities. It offers a bit more for the contemplative smoker to chew on than the other two. There are grassy layers of smoke mixed with piquant spices that burn to the very bottom of the bowl with white ash and deep contentment.
Overall, I'd say that Le Petit Robin gives you slightly more nuance to explore than the other two tobaccos on offer from Tabac Manil and may not be as ideal for straight relaxation as the other two.
Finally, we finish with Reserve du Patron.
As you unwrap the pressed block of medium-cut ribbon, you will smell a deep woodsy, spicey, cigar-like aroma that brings to mind stepping into an age-old barn and breathing deep.
Upon first light, the experience is profound and mysterious with notes of oats, herbs, nuts, spice, and earth all rushing past your palette like no other.
The throughline of Semois that connects them all is, of course, present here, but you find it has a more robust hand in the La Brumeuse and a lighter touch in the Le Petit Robin. Reserve du Patron also offers less of the floral notes than the other two, and a more standard Burley experience to my taste, though the noteworthy nuances are still there to explore.
Like La Brumeuse, it can be enjoyed for relaxation or profound meditation on the tobacco qualities alone, I've approached it both ways myself.
Reserve du Patron blend offers a middle ground for someone who wants to experience a little of both worlds and packs a punch from the first kiss of flame to the last puff at the bottom of the bowl, ending with whitish gray ash.
Explore the Mystic Blends
And there you have it! I hope that one of them sounds right for you. I wish you the best in your exploration of the mystic Ardennes Valley. Thanks for coming with me today! It was my pleasure, and I hope I transferred some excitement about the prospects of smoking such a fantastic artisan blend. Smoke deep and enjoy it! See you next time!