Background information: The range of Esoterica tobaccos was founded by Steve Richman, the owner of the Piedmont Tobacconist in Oakland, somewhere halfway the 1980’s. He was looking for someone who could produce his blends. Tobacco company JF Germain and Son on the British Channel Island Jersey heard about his interest and made contact through the British embassy. They must have been what Steve Richman was looking for because they started doing business together immediately. For the evaluation of the created blends Steve Richman founded a panel in which GL Pease also took place. The tobacco about which this review goes, Penzance, was fashioned after Smokers Haven Krumble Kake (which was already made by Germain). The only difference was that Penzance contained more latakia. Later Steve Richman found that just running his business was enough for him and he wanted a bigger and better distribution for the Esoterica range. So he sold everything to Mike Butera who, according to mr. Pease, did not change the recipes. In 2009 Butera Pipe Company’s entire line of pipe tobacco blends, plus the rights to the Butera Pipe Tobacco names, was sold to US distributor Arango Cigar Co. Yes, the same company who now holds the right to the Balkan Sobranie name in the US.
07.30 am on a weekly day. *Beepbeepbeep* I awake startled, set off the alarm and smack a few times with my mouth. Jeepers! What a smell, what did I do yesterday? My sleepy brain sits down to work. What did I ate last night.. Noodles with chicken. No it’s not that. What have I been drinking? Water from the tap, it’s not that. Did I do certain things with my girlfriend Ellen? Yes but no, not that. Oh wait! I remember! Yesterday I smoked Esoterica Tobacciana Penzance! The tobacco that you enjoy extra long no matter what you eat and how well you brush your teeth.
Package: The by JF Germain and Son on the British Channel Islands made Penzance comes in two packages. 1. A tiny gold tin of 2 oz. with a label that could be printed on a standard house, garden and kitchen printer. 2. An airtight bag in which the loose tobacco occupies 8 oz. Personally, I use a tin which I fill up with Penzance from the bigger bag when it is empty.
Contents/composition: “Finest English mottled flake” says the tin. It is a wonderful complex secret recipe of the finest Virginia, choice Turkish, Orientals and Cyprian Latakia. All hand blended together, hard pressed and broad cut into thick flakes. This is what they call a crumble cake (no not THE Krumble Kake) and it is a rightful name. The tobacco already crumbles when you shout too hard at it: Clan (by Theodorus Niemeyer) is the best tobacco ever!!
Smell from the tin: Wow, uhm .. Fierce, penetrating, leathery, earthy. If you know the smell of a freshly ploughed field when it has just rained just know what I mean. Seasoned pipe smokers who can not smoke in the vicinity of their girlfriend / wife, you simply have to smell it to get a kick out of it. I think that when you leave it half open on the ground it would make a fine ant-exterminator.
Taste: The first time I lit it, I just thought: Whoa! Greasy smoke and flavor! Latakia! You can say that other tobaccos are coffee but this is espresso. I also tasted an after-taste that I could not place until a number of pipes later: salty licorice (a candy in Holland)! Not that that dominates in a nasty way, it actually belongs to the whole experience. The smoke is very smooth (Penzance will not bite even when you step on it) with ever present Virginias waving in and out and hints of orientals coming forth halfway the bowl. A class act from the creators! According to Robert Germain the secret is the time that Penzance stays in the press: 14 days. Disadvantage, oh well, disadvantage, depending on how you look at it, the taste lingers in your mouth for a loooong time. As described above, you have fun of it the next morning and afternoon. Avoid actions and intimate conversations with family and colleagues.
Combustibility: The flakes are very moist / oily. It is recommended that you let them dry out a while before smoking. The flakes from the large 8 oz. bag are even more wet / oily. Once you’ve lit the pipe they burn a long period. I lit a pipe at the beginning of a soccer match. At the end of the match I was not through yet. Life can be good.
Miscellaneous: The tobacco crumbles easy so filling the pipe is even for folks who are not used to flakes not too difficult. If the pipe is filled you need to gently treat the tobacco and when smoking don’t tamp too hard. If you are too heavy handed with the tobacco, you get a wet lump at the bottom of the bowl. Talking about the bowl, I discovered that this tobacco tasted the best in a somewhat larger, relatively shallow bowl. I liked Penzance best in a prince model pipe. That is when you give the tobacco the opportunity to really shine. As for the vitamin N, I found this tobacco to be spot on. It makes me nice and relaxed but without any side effects.
Price: Penzance is very difficult to obtain, and that is going on for years now. Occasionally a small shipment is sold in a (online) tobacco shop but when the great crowd of Penzance enthusiasts discovers that, it is sold out in no time. If you have the luck to be there on time than you pay for a tin ± $ 10.15 and a bag ± $ 28.95. Of course you can often buy Penzance on ebay, but those prices.. *pheww* And as it takes longer for a new shipment to arrive, the prices only get higher..
Conclusion: Because of the scarcity of the tobacco people begin to make comparisons with Balkan Sobranie and Bengal Slices. There is great fear that Penzance also disappears (Ok, Balkan Sobranie is back now). Although that is not true and there is no evidence for it. The thing is that there are so many fans that JF Germain and Son can not keep up with the production, they are only a small company. But the large fan base does point out one thing: This is good stuff of great quality! Not for everyday use, but if you’re sitting on your own in the evening in your living room or porch without having anything to do, Penzance is your best friend.
Oh Penzance, my Penzance,
What penitence I pay for my Penzance.
And yet what puissance I have for my Penzance.
To hold and to love, to long for and to wait,
As my pince-nez falls, I note:
For where there is a presence, there is Penzance,
A renaissance of prescience required,
Fore there shall I wait, for my penitence
For my love, my Penzance.