Smoking a pipe is a sensual experience that simply can't be rushed if it is to be enjoyed to its fullest. As with wine, beer and coffee, there is a wealth of flavours to be experienced, whether one's preference runs toward natural or flavoured tobaccos. Pipe smokers don't have to inhale from their pipes to obtain full enjoyment and they usually enjoy their habit. Given the current social climate though, one wonders if Tobacco Leaves, a book published in 1903, could be published today.
Looking for hints on how to smoke a pipe?
The Tobacco Bar
In these pages are comments on many tobacco blends that have resided—and which might still reside—in my bar. These reviews began quite informally as a way for this absent-minded pipe smoker to record his observations and on what he liked and didn't like. Attempting to describe a good smoke in a meaningful way is a challenge for which there are never enough words or perception. The only way for me to write a tobacco review is to sit down and do nothing but smoke, reflect on the tobacco, write, drift off now and again, come back to the subject, write, rewrite and rewrite... Some turn out better than others. See, there is an intellectual side to pipe smoking after all, beyond the appearance.
I don't stick to a single favourite blend though I certainly have favourites that I come back to over and over... variety is the spice of life. However, these favourites do change over time. A few that have been long-term favourites at different times are, from past to present, Blatter Reserve, Esoterica's Pembroke, Skandinavik, Amphora Red, Patriot Flake, Hamborger Veermaster, G.L. Pease's Haddo's Delight and Gawith Hoggarth's Bob's Chocolate.
For several years, English-style blends packed with latakia and fragrant Orientals pleased me most. In a progression that seems natural for many a pipe smoker, I've come to appreciate the qualities of many Virginia-based blends. Burley blends often lack the richness of flavour that I look for, but sometimes this very quality makes for a very nice change. I often say that I'm not as fond of heavily flavoured blends, but there are many that I enjoy a great deal nonetheless, especially among the old-style, strong-flavoured British flakes. There's no accounting for taste... As they say, "Smoke what you enjoy, and enjoy what you smoke."
It's interesting for me to look back at many of these reviews and see the inconsistencies and how my tastes have evolved. I don't agree today with everything I've written in the past!
Now that the Internet is a mainstream medium, there are plenty of pipe-smoking sites on the web now, but it wasn't always this way. Go to PIPES.ORG and find links to lots and lots of them. Here are a few of my favourites:
La Pipe C'est Mieux image comes from a sticker put out by the Confrerie de Maîtres Pipiers
de Saint-Claude, France. In English, the slogan says Pipes are Better. I picked it up at Blatter
and Blatter in Montréal.
This image was taken from an old Dr. Grabow promotional pamphlet that introduces the reader to the pleasures of the pipe. After describing the basic steps on how to smoke a pipe, we get the above image, complete with the caption
Congratulations, now you're a pipe smoker...
I've always enjoyed this image for its kitsch value and had this brochure tucked away in a file of funky imagery for several years before I starting smoking a pipe. So pipe smoking can aid in attracting a partner? If the advertisers say it, it must be true... Indeed, more than once that I have been in a bar puffing away and got a compliment on my pipe (even while smoking one of those heavy English blends that scare some people away!)
Or surf the Pipes Web Ring...