One of my favourite people is an elegant-looking woman who smokes Oliva Series V and other cigars. She and her husband sometimes share a cheroot case, often each brings their own selection when they visit the smoking place in the Financial District. It's very cute. His and hers cigar sleeves.
It shows that they have different but compatible tastes.
Many years ago a woman I knew had one of the best pipe-collections I have ever seen. She smoked a mixture that was fifty percent Latakia, twenty five percent Djubec (Turkish), and twenty five percent Virginia.
No, I do not remember what the Virginias were. And they're all unavailable now, because the industry has changed enormously since then.
So all in all the exact blend cannot be reproduced.
But the equivalent can be found.
And with both of those examples, the concept that pipes and cigars are not for women is shot out of the water.
It is in fact a fond fantasy of mine that all over the world there are women, ranging from the teenage minx all the way to the superannuated great grandma, who are fond of their pipes, and when the disapproving stares of the moo herd are absent, light up and enjoy something spicy and medium full-bodied. Perhaps they're hiding out on the back porch, or in that little room off the library where the French literature is kept. Maybe putting on a fedora and an overcoat, and wandering around Russian Hill after dark, collar up and with a determined stride. "Don't you dare bug me, stranger, I'm a grouchy person! I will blow smoke at your wussy face if you speak!"
Personally I have a preference for pipes.
But cigars can also be nice.
Pipe-smoking in particular evokes a kinder and gentler age, when people still habitually read books, had a spot of tea now and then, took long walks, and might have a little sherry later in the day. Extensive moorlands, autumn leaves, a typewriter on a desk with a big glass ashtray, plus a cup and saucer, half of the black coffee now having gone cold.
Sunlight slanting in, reflective flickering.
A vase of flowers on a side table.
Quiet, and comfort.
If you disapprove of women pipe or cigar smokers, you likely also believe that they shouldn't vote. Or hold down serious jobs at equal pay. Or, for that matter, concern themselves with anything other than raising the kids and slopping the hogs.
And while I wholeheartedly support hog-slopping -- the pig is one of my favourite animals, so round so plump so packed with goodness -- it must be pointed out that many people who perform that altruistic service are in fact men, and plenty of them smoke. You have heard of corncob pipes? Yes?
They go perfectly with overalls, boots, tractors, pitchforks, and pigslop.
Despite being nowhere near a farm, I possess several cobs.
They are very decent smokes; sweet and mild.
Relatively durable, too.
A woman should probably not smoke a corncob, though. Too much of a frisson. It smacks of hills, hollows, baling twine, and bad whiskey, when a woman lights up the old Missouri Meerschaum. You almost expect to see her shooting a varmint or driving a beat-up pickup through the woods.
Women should smoke real briar, standard shapes, well-made, and preferably of top-quality brands. Charatan, Dunhill, Sasieni, Comoy, GBD, BBB, Peterson, Stanwell, Butz-Choquin. Admittedly nearly everything I just named is no longer up to the extremely high standards of the past, as those companies have mostly been absorbed into a giant cheapazoid pipe-combine whose name I shall not mention, but there are several Italian companies that have sprung into the breach and now manufacture superior equipment.
Two great names to remember are Savinelli and Castello.
Mastro De Paya, Mastro Beraldi; also excellent.
Whereas your pipes are from Southern Europe, your tobacco naturally needs to come from the North. Italy is NOT known for decent mixtures, the Danes and the Germans are. Formerly all the best pressed aged Virginias and full Orientals were manufactured in England, now most of the famous brands have been farmed out to Kohlhase & Kopp (in Germany), Orlik, and Macbarens (both in Denmark).
Three notable exceptions are the firms Samuel Gawith and Gawith-Hoggarth in Cumbria, and J. F. Germain and Son in Jersey who in addition to their own products also put up the Esoterica line of tobaccos. These three English companies make splendid stuff, but their production is limited, and due to increasing popularity in the United States -- let's call it by it's real name: desperation -- supplies are more often than not bottlenecked, with frantic aficionados sometimes travelling hundreds of miles to deplete the one store in the entire territory that has any left.
You can't really go wrong with products from Kohlhase & Kopp. They hold various brands, like Astleys, McConnell, Rattrays, and Wessex, to name but four. For aged Virginias and pressed flakes, manufacture is farmed out north of the german-Danish border, where Orlik still operates steampresses, spinning machines, and heavy block cutters.
Nothing quite says refined femininity quite as well as a medium flake.
Last week I was smoking Orlik Golden Sliced - on the light side.
Yesterday I opened up a tin of Marlin Flake; medium-full.
The tin aroma is almost plum-like, rich, fruity.
Well aged, and a tactile pleasure.
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I've been rediscovering my favourite female authors lately: Marguerite Yourcenar, Mary Rennault, Nadine Gordimer. Among Dutch-language writers: Annemie MacGillavry, Maria Dermoût , Beb Vuyk, and Madelon Szekely-Lulofs.
There's just something about these books that demands fine flue-cured leaf, smoked slow. Stimulating, and requiring thought. Perhaps it's a memory of the pipe-smoking woman I mentioned earlier -- she introduced me to the first three authors -- or possibly it is the carefully constructed texts themselves that suggest calmer tobaccos.
Today I finished re-reading A Coin In Nine Hands.
Soon I'll be heading out over Nob Hill, to find a hot cup of milk-tea and something to nosh on. Afterwards, a long walk with a pipe.
It's late Autumn. Smoke weather.
Yellow ginkgo leaves.
For the unbearably curious -- and who could not be so after considering the text above -- there are a few posts you might find interesting.
A SUITABLE PIPE TOBACCO FOR A WOMAN
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
Opinions about women, tobacco, and the tobacco that women might like.
BREAKING IN A NEW PIPE
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Advice on a crucial matter, which is fundamental to all later enjoyment of the habit, and must not be casually approached.
PIPE SMOKING LADIES - FLAKE AND DARK TWIST
Friday, October 19, 2012
Fantasy. Dragonflies and pearls are mentioned. Fantasy.
VALKENSWAARD: THE FRAGRANCE OF CIGARS
Sunday, November 06, 2011
Narrative. Remembering a woman who smoked cigars.
FLAKES: A BRIEF PERSONAL INTRODUCTION
Friday, August 09, 2013
Sorry, it's not really brief. Except if you take into account that the vast majority of available flake is not mentioned at all. Nearly forty products ARE described, however, and that's as good an overview as any.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
An essay about full smoky mixtures that include Latakia, in which several good products are described.
And, as a lagniappe, here's the site of someone else who writes about pipes and tobacco:
DUTCH PIPE SMOKER
Unlike my own blog, which veers off into tangents, he stays on the subject.
He's readable, witty, and all-round decent. I like everything he's written, and many of his essays are more in-depth than I have the patience to be.
Very highly recommended.
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As you can see, there is a lot more to enjoying a good smoke than merely combustion. If you decide to investigate, or even take up the habit, please drop me a line; it would be encouraging to know someone who does not consider pipe-smoking something that only elderly men do.
I am not an elderly man, by the way.
Possibly not even grown-up
Though I am male.
NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.