At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Over a year ago I posted a piece about pipe-smoking ladies. Since then, I have met a few. I had always known they existed, and in fact actually knew some of them a long time ago. But they are, as you probably understand, a rarity. More so than female cigar smokers.
Still, that post attracts an extraordinary number of visitors. So there must be women out there who wish to take up the habit. Though they may be flying under the radar.


There seems to be a general belief that pipes are the pigeon solely of either serious intellectuals, such as college professors, OR huge hairy men like Hemmingway and Hefner, probably with coarse curly hair cascading down their chest towards the big vulgar gold blingy-bling that repines upon the enormous tanned abdomen. And that anyone who does not resemble those stereotypes is pretentious and affected.
Much more so if they are a woman.
A little teenage miss smoking a pipe is appallingly and utterly misguided, quite the most repulsive and degenerate of Satan's handmaidens.
Why, she should be caned!

Unless she is smoking that pipe on stage of an evening, wearing nothing but tiny pink ruffled panties as part of a show, it is just not so.
I will never admit it, but even I might willingly be among the audience.
Though not to discuss pipe tobacco mixtures with the girl.
More likely to question her choice of clothing.
Bikini briefs, French cut, High cut.
Aesthetic issues.

Please let me know which school is putting on that performance art.

It sounds très avant garde.

Gentlemen, what would you rather see - your daughters growing up to be junior college sluts swilling vodka and smoking cigarettes, OR getting a P.H.D. in an impossibly heavy subject, and going on to lecture with considerable wit, eloquence, and verve at a respected place of learning?
If your mother had smoked a pipe while she was pregnant instead of cigarettes, you would now have a high domed forehead and a Jaguar, instead of a cleft palate, furry palms, and a Prius.

Pipe smoking is far better for your mental health than any number of ciggies huffed out on the pavement in front of your office building during a downpour with all those lower-middleclass droodges from South City. They've largely given up on their dreams, and merely want their thug-brats to finish high-school without a conviction.
It's darned sad.

That said, the new lady pipe smoker would be well-advised to do some research on the matter. While a pipe is definitely an accessory, the primary consideratum in choosing a briar is not how it looks coming out of your face, but whether it's a decent piece of wood, with correct design and proportion for smoking.
Will it be satisfying to use?

Given the desirable characteristics of pipes, it is clear that there is no difference between a woman smoker and a man smoker: they both need the same bowl dimensions, and they should both tend toward practical shapes that 'feel right'.

The beginning pipe smoker will of course start off with only one pipe, to be used occasionally when in the mood. As time goes by more pipes will be acquired, and shape-preferences will be honed. A small collection will grow, which over the years will change as some pieces are given away and others added.

Likewise, the first tobacco chosen will likely not be the regular blend smoked later. Irrespective of whether she started off with an aromatic, a flake, a mild cavendish, or an English blend -- and I would recommend the English blend, because it is clean tobacco and will bite far less than a flake if smoked too fast, as is the tendency when first taking up the habit -- she will soon enough experiment with other products, figure out which work best for her, and end up with a range of favourites, including one or two anomalies that fall outside of type.

Pipes can be a bit expensive -- a decent piece runs anywhere between fifty and several hundred dollars -- but with proper care they will last a lifetime.
I am still smoking exemplars that are decades old, and they yield me more pleasure than you can possibly imagine.
If you smoke two or three bowls a day, you should have at least four or five pipes, but take your time acquiring them, especially if you're in the one bowl every two or three days phase. Develop an eye for fills (small surface pits or gaps obscured by wood-coloured putty) and surface translucence (the glassy semi-transparent look of the lighter grain and it's refractile quality when angled in the light). The first indicates poorer wood, and besides being an aesthetic debit also hints that there may be unseen flaws that affect performance, the latter is a measure of age and quality.

Ancient briar is best. It will smoke sweeter, cooler, drier, and bring out the complexities of a blend far better, than young sappy root.
Comparatively speaking, old wood will feel lighter than a similar exemplar made from young stock.

A good pipe will look more beautiful with each passing year, and you will be thankful that you invested in something worthwhile.
Treat it well; it is your solace and your companion.


At present I have over one hundred and fifty pipes. Some of them cost next to nothing, some of them are priceless. Among the pipes in my regular rotation -- currently twenty bowls -- are one or two that are older than I am, a few with decades of service, and others that have been with me for less than ten years.
My favourite is a Benton Select bought in 2007 which cost around sixty dollars.
Yes, it has a few minor fills, and it isn't worth anywhere near as much as the Dunhill Patent Root or the Charatans, but the wood is superlatively mature, and it smokes like a dream. It is the one pipe I am in danger of overworking.
I have to restrain myself, lest I light it too often.

In fact, it is to the left of the computer as I type, and I'm eyeing it speculatively.
Matured cake, perhaps, or a smidge of full English? Maybe one of my own blends? Or something from the row of small glass sample jars behind me: John Cotton's Number 1 and 2 Medium, Bengal Slices from 1981, or the Balkan Sobranie from thirty years ago that I opened recently?
Samovar? No. 622?

Flake. I'm thinking flake. It's early in the morning, a nice bit of Virginia would be wonderful right now.



NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.



  • At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have a confession to make. I am a woman. And I smoke a pipe. There, I said it. And to cast aside any negative preconceptions, I am not a truck driver, rock star or a lesbian. I am fairly well-educated, consider myself very feminine, and I'm quite shy and introverted, so not an exhibitionist either. Which probably explains why I only smoke in private. :)

    I simply find that smoking an occasional bowl is, to me, very calming as well as an enjoyable experience. There's just something very relaxing, and mesmerizing, in just sitting there puffing away (especially with a glass of Chardonnay) and watching the smoke drifting and wafting about. Not to mention the pleasant taste of a bourbon-cherry blend tobacco.

    To me, this is an experience that can be enjoyed and appreciated by males as well as females. I really don't understand why a pipe-smoking man is seen by society as somewhat comical, and a pipe-smoking woman is perceived as outlandish.

    Now, I would never encourage a nonsmoker to take up smoking. That's a very personal decision that only the individual can make for himself/herself, and it's not for everyone. But if you have ever had any curiosity about pipes and have thought about maybe trying it, I suggest you go for it. You may love it as I do, or you may hate it, but at least you will have tried.

    Bottom line, a woman smoking a pipe does not have to be "making a statement" or trying to "prove" something. It can simply be, as it is for me, an enjoyable and pleasurable experience. And that's something that has no gender boundaries. :)


  • At 11:53 AM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Hi Angie,

    Excellent. I appreciate confirmation that there are indeed women out there who smoke pipes.

    While I myself am not feminine, and few people would describe me as shy (introverted, perhaps), I can understand that you would not wish to make a big thing of it in public; nowadays the public tends to object to smoking anyway, and people are apt to say stupid things.
    Pipesmoking has always been an inward-looking thing.

    My only quibble, and that is merely a matter of opinionation, is the bourbon-cherry blend. I do not like aromatics, but then there are some that I will on occasion load up and thoroughly enjoy, though seldom around friends, who expect something more in keeping with what they have come to expect from me.

    Keep on enjoying the habit, and feel free to leave more comments.
    Very nice seeing that you visited; come again.

  • At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well, since tobacco preference is a very subjective thing, and we all like what we like, I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree on that. :) I have tried various other kinds, but the bourbon/cherry works best for me. I wonder if that's true for all/most women -- that we prefer aromatics over the more robust ones?

    But you hit the nail on the head about not making "a big thing of it in public." Being socially inept, I am a "wallflower" type who does not at all like calling attention to myself. In fact, other than my parents and siblings (who are all over the lot on their reactions to my uncharacteristic behavior in this regard), there is only a very small handful of people who know I smoke a pipe, and I'm perfectly content to keep it that way. So it leads me to wonder -- we consider pipe-smoking women to be a rarity, but how do we truly know? It's possible there could be many more like me who just keep it in the closet, and we are simply unaware of their existence. Something to ponder thoughtfully over a bowl of bourbon-cherry blend and a hot cup of coffee on a chilly Sunday afternoon. :)

    Thank you for allowing me to post on your blog and expound on my thoughts!


  • At 5:54 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    How many women secretly smoke a pipe?

    There may be a fair number of them, judging by the customers I have dealt with at the tobacconist. When a women asks informed questions, carefully examines the piece of briar, and then carefully makes a choice after holding the pipe for a while, it strongly suggests that the phrase "I'm buying it for my ... " may not be entirely true.

    Just this past weekend it was the female half of a couple who had the most interest in various pipes, including what to look for in estate pieces. I got the strong impression her male companion felt that he was shoe-shopping. Quite likely I will see her again, and I suspect that the next time she will buy a pipe, and want to know about the various tobaccos.

  • At 12:10 PM, Blogger Betsy Hogan said…

    I used to smoke cigarettes and mostly cloves blends like Djarum. I was a heavy smoker of menthols like Newport and Marlboro Mild the Blue pack. I was smoking about a pack a day for 18 years. And then one day I decided I would invest in a churchwarden and get a variety of blends of pipe tobacco. And I have never gone back to smoking cigarettes. My house in the evening smells of vanilla and nightcap blends. Now I may smoke 5 bowls a day if that... But to me it is a forced meditation time. Time to reflect and ponder and to rest a moment. I have briar pipes that have long bent stems that I enjoy. But my favorite is the churchwarden ashwood or clay.


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