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  • Writer's pictureGary Cruice

Prick, Plug, or Perique Tobacco?

In April, we started discussing perique tobacco, defined by Tobacconist University:

A burley tobacco grown only in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Perique is air-cured, then fermented in oak barrels to produce an extremely robust tobacco with high nicotine levels. Primarily used as a condiment in pipe tobacco blends and occasionally in cigarettes.

We promised more details, and Uncle Brody has done his part. Time for another post about perique and St James Parish! Locally, we tend to focus on the history of perique in St James Parish, but perique tobacco really has multiple histories and they have a worldwide range.

The title of this post is stolen from author Julian Stockwin. He writes historical novels, best known for the Kydd Series, and maintains a blog. We start here because Stockwin provides an interesting origin story for the term perique, similar to the one Mark Ryan (pictured) tells - often at those Drew Estate Barn Smokers. While Ryan's version focuses on cigars and Frenchmen, Stockwin is more concerned with pipe smoking and the British Navy. Both stories, though, involve tobacco and French vocabulary/pronunciation - which brings us to St James Parish!

The Louisiana Digital Library stores pictures of perique processing from the 1920s onward, but documents discuss tobacco in Louisiana much earlier. The New Orleans Times ran an article about perique in 1866, while King Philip II of Spain's Pomar Codex features a drawing of a tobacco plant that was made before 1590.

Researching perique tobacco brings one through just about every industry you can imagine - tourism, agriculture, history, business, and academia. Perique pops up in academic subjects including Food Chemistry, Economic Botany, and Pharmacology! One encounters not only Frenchmen and Spaniards, but multiple indigenous tribes (Choctaw, Chicasaw, Chicasas).

Dig deep enough and, in addition to the sailor/author already mentioned, you'll meet a Chaplain who is also an author. Eventually, though, all roads lead to Pierre Chenet!

We'll start with him next time...

Mark Ryan of Daughters and Ryan. Picture from Tobacco Business
Mark Ryan examines perique leaves at the Pche Processing Facility.

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