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  • Writer's pictureGary Cruice

Perique Tobacco: from Pierre Chenet to Pappy van Winkle

In the Lafayette area, discussions of Cajun history tend to focus on the arrival of Joseph "Beausoleil" Broussard in 1765. In St. James Parish, though, those discussions center around four families who arrived in 1764 - Cormier, Landry, Poirier, and Richard). Most stories make Pierre Chenet as an Acadian, but it is most likely that he was born in New Orleans.

Regardless of his origins, Chenet's name is synonymous with perique tobacco. So much so, that an Indigenous Peoples News article says this of perique tobacco, "The name is misleading attributed to Pierre Perique Chenet, who learned this technique from the Choctaws in Louisiana, and began selling pressure-fermented tobacco in 1824 from St. James Parish on the Mississippi River." By 1866 the New Orleans Times was lamenting that perique "is raised only in St. James Parish, and the quantity is not sufficient to supply our own demands."

While perique was never a major crop in Louisiana, several families specialized in growing and processing perique. All were located in St. James Parish and a few acres still produce perique. L.A. Poche Processing is the only facility still processing perique. It was the site of those previously mentioned Drew Estate Barn Smokers!

That facility is currently owned by Mark Ryan. It is he and Jonathan Drew who partnered with Pappy & Company to create the Pappy van Winkle Barrel Fermented cigars. Pappy & Company was the brainchild of the three ladies pictured - Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle’s great-granddaughters (who are triplets!), Chenault, Carrie and Louise.

Which brings us to the end of our journey. We started a few posts ago and have now wandered from Kentucky to St. James Parish to Esteli to Carencro, from Nova Scotia and the Carribean to Convent and Lutcher, from Pierre to Pappy. We hope you enjoyed the trip!

Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle’s great-granddaughters (who are triplets!), Chenault, Carrie and Louise.
Pappy’s great-granddaughters: triplets Chenault, Carrie and Louise.

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