St-James Parish is a small county whose eastern border is nestled along the banks of the Mississippi. This county belongs to the original nineteen counties and was founded by territorial legislature on March 31st, 1807. St-James Parish is part of the Acadian Coast that has been settled by immigrant Acadians from New-Brunswick starting in 1764. The original families, there were four, had in total twenty members.
Pierre Chenet whose moniker was Perique was a descendant of one of these families. Both the Nicotiana rustica and Nicotiana tabacum tobacco varieties were available to Chenet. Pierre Chenet was credited with an ingenious and original recipe of producing his tobacco. Beginning in 1824 a method was developed that involved fermenting the tobacco under pressure into what is now know as Perique tobacco.
The process is rather labor intensive and begins with pruning the plant to twelve leaves.The plant is left to to grow until late June where the leaves are a dark rich green having a stature of between two and a half and three feet. The plants are then harvested, root ball and all as one unit and hung upside down in side less curing sheds to dry. After a fortnight of drying the plants are cleaned of any dirt and moistened with water and stemmed by hand. The leaves are then rolled into torquettes weighing approximately one pound each.
The torquettes are then stored in whiskey barrels and the contents vised under pressure to remove the air using screw jacks. Once a month the pressure is relieved and the torquettes are hand massaged to allow some air between the leaves and then re-pressurized in the barrels. This procedure goes on for a year before the tobacco twists are ready. The result is a dark and fruity concoction that has developed many volatile compounds due to the anaerobic nature of the fermentation, as would a fine wine, and is now worthy to be named Perique.
Pierre Chenet's granddaughter, Coralie Decareau, married Celestin Poche in 1829 and the family has been cultivating and producing this rare and robust tobacco for close to two centuries. Perique is mostly used as a blender, due to its robust nature, in pipe and cigar manufacturing. However, you can enjoy this special spicy blend in a snuff. S'Nuff said, see you in the funny papers!