Hmmm...the elusive "perfect smoke", how would I describe it? When everything is just right, many facets converge to create one of life's most contemplative and tranquil moments. Naturally, I love the taste and aroma of the burning tobacco. At times, I'm in the mood for a richer smoke, something that doesn't necessarily please others, but something that pleases my own palate. Then, I might load a bowl of an English blend, like "Balkan Sobranie Original Mixture" or "Dunhill My Mixture 965". The Latakia in these blends brings to my mind a woodsy, outdoors type of flavor, thick and rich. Between puffs, especially with the difficult-to-find Balkan Sobranie, I like to actually sniff the hot ashes within the bowl and draw in the rich, almost chocolatey dark aroma. It's nearly like sampling a luxuriant, gourmet dish. I enjoy pleasures somewhat similar to these when I smoke a matured Virginia tobacco, like Dunhill "Royal Yacht".
Other times, I enjoy more of an aromatic smoke, but it must be one that's only lightly cased with flavorings so that it still burns to a dry ash and doesn't foul my pipe with too much moisture. When such a mood strikes me, I might load a bowl of one of the MacBaren blends, possibly MacBaren's "Gold of Denmark" or "Dark Twist". Not only do these blends satisfy me, they also please those around me, most notably, my wife. Perhaps when both the smoker and the non- smoker are pleased, the overall smoking experience becomes more harmonious.
So I love the taste, and the aroma, and there is likely a chemically pleasing effect as well, something I've gotten used to. But there's also a tactile element. As my hand caresses the bowl of one of my favorite briars, the wood caresses my hand in return with its calming warmth. I'm partial to smooths; I don't really know why, I just am. They feel so...smooth. So during one of those "perfect" smokes, the bowl gets nice and warm, but doesn't get too hot, and the smooth surface of the warm briar enriches my hand. I don't know about others, but sometimes I prefer the bowl to feel slightly oily, so that if I rub it with my thumb, the surface glides beneath my skin. Some of my pipes feel dry to the touch while I smoke, and then I seem to prefer that. In liking it both ways, all my pipes feel comfortable and reassuring in my hand.
Although I love the smokes I get from my meerschaums, I don't enjoy them quite as much as those offered by my briars since I hold my meerschaums by the stem as I smoke. During these times, I miss being able to caress the bowl, to feel its calming warmth in my hand.
Finally, I feel visual pleasure from smoking my favorite pipes. Naturally, the beauty of the grain, some of them extremely well- organized, and some of them random, is something I enjoy tremendously; especially if the grain is well-defined. The rich look of the thing, carved from nature, showing its beautiful grain, billowing its gentle smoke trails from the bowl, is a pleasing sight to behold.
But the visual pleasure doesn't stop there. As I draw on the pipe, I feel the warm wood in my hands, I taste and smell the delicious smoke, and then I release it from my lips. The thick smoke moving away from me, churning its random paths in the air, is a pleasure to watch. The very movement of the smoke, curling into the ether, elicits in me a calming effect with its lazy, slow-motion aspect. I love watching it. It relaxes me.
To me, smoking is a wonderful thing, and I really find it nearly impossible to imagine how anyone could ever find it repulsive. And they do, poor misguided souls that they are.
So these are some of my thoughts on that elusive perfect smoke. They aren't all perfect, but when they are, the only disappointment is reaching the end of the bowl.
Earthy damp leaves plucked from jar, into trembling hands.
The feel of wood, softened by time, stirred with passion, sculpted with genius
Strength and subtlety in one.
Silk on lips, the damp earth of Virginia
One delicate draw, the breeze of peace stirred the soul.
Flame danced languidly above prefect leaf, and then unrestrainedly and unabashedly leapt into eternity.
One curl of smoke drifted lazily from the bowl, stimulating the nostrils.
Spontaneous combustion and superlative excitement in a single draw
I stood for a moment in the good earth, feeling warm rain on my upturned face and I knew-
Knew the truth at last- and was content, completely satiated, if only for an hour...........