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France's oldest "Army"-issue tobacco. A dark, coarse, finely-shredded shag. Not to be confused with the better-matured CAPORAL Export.

Notes: Made of what is called in France "dark" tobacco[s]. Naturally-flavoured (no casings.)

BrandImperial Tobacco Group, PLC
Blend TypeCigar Leaf Based
ContentsCigar Leaf, Virginia
Packaging50g Pouch
ProductionCurrently available
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Very Strong
None Detected
Room Note
Very Strong
11 reviews
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Eulenburg Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Eulenburg (193)
Very Strong None Detected Full Very Strong

From the time of the Sun King, Louis XIV, until the early 1990s, all tobacco-related activities in France were a State monopoly, and since at least the time of the first emperor Napoleon (beginning of the XIXth century) one of that monopoly?s duties was to provide free tobacco to the soldiers in France?s armies.

Napoleon thought tobacco was good for soldiers: it kept them awake during guard duty, held them entertained and relaxed during the long waits involved in classic warfare, and, as anyone who has smoked a clay pipe well knows, a lit pipe is a source of warmth and comfort.

After the fall of the old Soviet Union, mass-graves have been investigated belonging to the Grande Armée, the formidable army with which Napoleon invaded the Russian Empire in 1812. Practically every soldier excavated in these archæological searches was found to have an army-issue clay pipe with him.

It was the corporals? duty to distribute their rations of free tobacco to the troops: hence this type of tobacco became known as tabac de caporal (?corporal?s tobacco?), a dark, opaque shag known as petit gris (?little grey?.) Men would go into the service in their teens. They would there learn to smoke. Naturally, after leaving, they would want to keep smoking the same caporal. And this they did, in clays, in the rugged briars of 19th Cent. Saint-Claude, and as cigarettes?shag being suitable ?roll-your-own? material.

For generations, farmers and peasants bought their caporal in rough paper cubes containing 50 grammes of the stuff: it was the plain working man?s tobacco: harsh, acrid, sour, rough; like home-made lightning water. Not for town sissies!

The marquis in his hôtel particulier, the banker in his club, would smoke English tobacco, or expensive cigares de La Havanne. But the peasantry, the working class, inpecunious students, leftists, counterculturists, artists, bohemians, they all would proudly smoke the coarse, harsh scaferlati, leaving the soigné stuff for the hated bourgeoisie. There is an enormous amount of cultural folklore behind this tobacco.

It is emphatically NOT for the faint of heart! Highly nicotinous, vile-smelling, sharp-tasting...wondefully garanteed to make animal-rights types collapse in a bundle! Try it with home-made fire-water?whiskey or brandy. You will feel the hair sprouting on your chest.


I am told that the old American classic, Plow Boy, was not unlike Caporal.

4 people found this review helpful.

BriarChef Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
BriarChef (100)
Strong None Detected Medium Tolerable

So THIS is what horse doody tastes like!

After one bowl of this I felt a strange urge to stop bathing, worship Jerry Lewis, eat cheese, act superior and surrender to the nearest gendarme.

I rolled some up in a ciggie. Not a good idea.

3 people found this review helpful.

poupehan Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
poupehan (23)
Very Strong None Detected Mild Tolerable

My slw bought me a bunch of Maigret novels, in which I have been delving lately. Caporal being the tobacco the great detective smokes, this is the reason why I bought some Caporal yesterday.

Actually, it is one of the first types of tobacco I smoked, in my late highschool/early college years. I used to smoke it as gauloises cigarettes, pipe tobacco and even gauloises ryo tobacco (some of which smoked in my pipe). So lighting up some yesterday bore no real surprises, just a new perspective of a finer palatte which has been tasting numerous blends ever since college.

As described by the esteemed Eulenburg of course Caporal is a rough blend. Harsh and bitter and STRONG. Today, I would compare it to st Bruno ready rubbed or Semois, although these are somewhat finer and more aromatic blends. And perhaps not as strong (except perhaps Florina vieux semois). So why would one even think of lighting up that stuff, when there are so many better tasting and more refined blends? - Except for being a Maigret fan anyway ;-)

For one, no matter how harsh it is, even how hot it burns, it goes easy on the tonge. No bite. Maybe...if you'd smoke it realy fast - no: impossible, you'd probably faint before it'd bite you :-). The sidestream smoke actually smels nice, it reminds me of how pipes, smoked by old men, used to smell when I was a kid. Robust, woody, smoky. A smell of the past.. The taste itself is not that strong, in that you could smoke it all day (you'd need to be able to handle the nicotine, of course). And in fact, the old chaps used to smoke this all day. Those were different times - pipe smokers didn't allways have one or two hours to leisurely savour their pipes with imported tobacco in an expensive big freehand. Rather there used to be a need for a quick and preferably cheap (or at least economical) nicotine fix. And Caporal does just that: a half an hour smoke is just as satisfieing as one or two hours of nightcap. Ok , it's not as good, but since it does not contain latakia, it passes the "wife test" without problems. This must be worth something! ;-)

You know what? I really enjoyed this caporal yesterday, and I'm going to return to it tonight, and I even think it is going to stay in my rotation (for some time anyway)

3 people found this review helpful.

Loco Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Loco (1)
Very Strong None Detected Full Very Strong

Being an old Frog and an old tobacco smoker I'd like to correct some of what Eulenburg said, despite it is imho the best opinion related to this tobacco. Basically, the tobacco was called "du gris" [some grey] (the "petits gris" are small snails which are good to eat ;) -Helix aspersa aspersa-). It was freely distributed to every soldier. Since military service was compulsory for all male French till 1997, every male French citizen know this tobacco. It's a very acrid hard high nicotine tobacco. The "not for sissies" tobacco indeed. From the deepest of the countryside to the slums of cities, everybody used to know what "du Gris" was. Sorry to say, but smoking american tobacco such as Marlboro was perceived as being "sensitive" or "posh". There used to be two packages: the grey one which was the ordinary ranks and the blue one, called "scaferlati supérieur", which was reserved for higher ranks. The name in fact comes from the colour of the package, not from anything else. The package contained 40g of tobacco. Personnal appreciation? Well, in my beginning as a pipe smoker, I used to mix it with some tobaccos I found to mild. To be honnest, it's a throat killer and it SMELLS tobacco in the room after; not pipe tobacco but Tobacco. Good point: 0% flavoring. So if I need a spike, I'll have one, otherwise no thank you. By the way: good point for it: Either old and dessicated or new and wet, it taste the same! :D. Ready for the trench life of WWI... The only other tobacco I tried which was a bit similar to it may have been dehydrated Capstan Original Navy Cut.

Pipe Used: unamed huge bryar pipe "imperial kind"

Age When Smoked: new

Purchased From: Paris

2 people found this review helpful.

DrDyson Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
DrDyson (117)
Very Strong None Detected Medium to Full Strong

In a sort of Jean-Paul Sartre-type moment, I acquired some of this in Paris, in one of those strange paper cubes. Hmmm. If you like French cigarettes, you'll probably like this, because (to my palate at least) it tastes exactly the same: strong, pungent and (as my old dad used to say) rough as a badger's arse. It's nothing like what, in the UK, most people think of as pipe tobacco. Gawith's Kendal Dark shag is probably the closest equivalent. Maybe, like suffering in general, it's an experience worth having as a way of purifying and strengthening the soul. Personally, I thought it vile. I couldn't recommend it, except as a sort of Lenten penance. When you light up, expect people to beg you to stop and the leaves to fall from the trees. If the cat has fleas, puff some of this over it and watch the little varmints run away coughing. No. No.No.

2 people found this review helpful.

Xeneize Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Xeneize (275)
Strong None Detected Medium Tolerable

This tobacco resembles Kentucky, with milder taste and the same or a bit stronger nicotine punch. The problem with this is a horrid tongue bite.

Not bad for a nicotine kick now and then, as long as it's smoked slowly to avoid tongue bite.

2 people found this review helpful.

Guyrox Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Guyrox (131)
Strong None Detected Very Full Very Strong

I got a few boxes from french friends visiting.

I can resume in one word: acrid, strong and too dry. But I would use it if I needed to stay awake for an extensive length of time...

Think of Gitanes, but for a pipe.

The good side: puts hair on your chest, if you need any more!

2 people found this review helpful.

SopwithCamel Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
SopwithCamel (255)
Very Strong None Detected Full Very Strong

This is sold as RYO tobacco where I live. It really isn't pipe tobacco per se. It is just tobacco. It occupies the same place that Five Brothers, Prince Albert and Sir Walter Raleigh occupy in the U. S.

It's a cheap reliable nicotine fix for those who prefer to get it from a pipe or roll their own. Not for the faint of heart.

1 person found this review helpful.

cajun Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
cajun (10)
Medium Extremely Mild Medium Very Strong

It would appear that the tobacco content of this offering has been altered at various times over the years. I used to smoke the slightly more refined Scaferlati Superieur, which purported to contain between 50-60% of home grown French tobaccos (all regions from the Dordogne to the Nord), with the remainder being made up of relatively small amounts of Burley, as well as dark tobaccos from Algeria, Brazil, Turkey, and what is referred to as "The Levant", an area of the Eastern Mediterranean which roughly comprises Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. There was always a "gris" area which referred to non-specific tobaccos which made up about 6% of the "melange" or mixture.

I'll get back to the main topic, and I have smoked gris at various times in France, as well as the other mainstream French pipe tobaccos. All of these "Caporal" themed varieties can leave a bitter taste in the mouth if too much moisture from the mouthpiece seeps into the bowl. To those of us who prefer pipes with bent stems this can be problematic. The classic French smoking pipe in the older days was a straight stemmed briar.

To get the best out of these tobaccos it is best to tease out and even break the long strands of shag somewhat before smoking. In France I used to be able to buy small rubber tobacco pouches with a twist top. Every tobacconist sold them and it was ideal for keeping the teased shag in before smoking. The trick is to pack tight, smoke slow and dry, and you'll get the best flavour. Re-lights are not always successful, as the very fine ash tends to fall through the tobacco into the bottom of the bowl when smoking. Many a time I have re-lit and thought I had taken a mouthful of ash from an ashtray!!

An acquired taste if ever there was one, and I haven't seen many pipes smoked in France in recent years. It would appear that most modern French pipe smokers tend to favour the more expensive English type mixtures.

Pipe Used: St Claude briars

Age When Smoked: straight from pouch/packet

Purchased From: Various "Tabacs" in France

Similar Blends: Amsterdamer, St Claude, Coopvaert, and various other shag pipe tobaccos currently found in Belgium and The Netherlands..

Nobody has rated this review yet.

Davie Jones Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Davie Jones (61)
Medium to Strong None Detected Medium to Full Pleasant to Tolerable

This tobacco, because of its cut, needs to be smoked slowly, needs a minimal moistness and must be smoked in a medium sized-bowl.

You also need to pack your bowl tightly.

By doing so, you will discover a tobacco, yes maybe a bit on the unidimensional side, but still unveiling lot of flavors that are mainly smoky, spicy and earthly. The last third will see a nice sweet note come in.

However, Caporal is mainly made with kentucky tobaccos, not VAs, just like his cousin, Caporal Export.

It deserves a lot more credit.

Nobody has rated this review yet.

Claudius Stradivarius Reviewed By DateRating StrengthFlavoringTasteRoom Note
Claudius Stradivarius (171)
Medium to Strong None Detected Medium Pleasant

Final Update 12/24/2010

The more I smoke it, the more I enjoy it! As the cut is very fine, very shag like, you must smoke it slowly. Then a world of flavors will outburst: wood, earth, spices and some subtle sweetness.

This tobacco is actually very enjoyable! But it has to have some moisture into it. If not, you will miss the whole experience!

Highly Recommended


Update 11/13/2010

I received a sample of the Red Band variety of Scaferlati Caporal. I must upgrade my assessment to recommended. This one was moister and made a world of difference in my appreciation of it.

This is a long shag cut, very easy to fill, light and smoke. There is nothing but pure tobacco taste that is smoky, earthy and woodsy. Not very pronounced, but very enjoyable when smoked at a slow pace.

If you can get some that has the right moisture level, this Caporal will prove surprisingly delightful!


Original review 07/25/2010

A rather harsh tobacco, what the French call "tabac gris" because of its colour.

I think that this tobacco is called Scaferlatti.

Nobody has rated this review yet.