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.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Someone commented recently that he was hesitant about revealing to his girl-friend that he smoked a pipe. I could not understand why, as pipes are far more likeable than cigars. One of my friends even remarked, while lighting her stogie, that pipes are a total chick magnet.
Unfortunately, that particular woman is married.
To another cigar smoker.

Which, you will agree, rather casts doubt on her assertion.

"Pipes are a total chick magnet."

And some people, alas, are negatively charged.

People who find pipes and pipe smokers interesting tend to be folks who fondly remember a relative who smoked, with the possible exception of English voters who chose Harold Wilson during the seventies.
If they are men, they will likely take up the habit themselves. Such is largely my case; my father was a pipe smoker when I was small, as were several other admirable people in our circle.
If they are women however, they may be too hesitant to take that leap.
So far, three ladies in the past year have ogled my equipment with a fascination that was deeply disturbing to their husbands. Who should themselves purchase pipes, if only to enchant the women in their lives.

I've never understood why women usually don't go for briar.

They ought to.

It's such a gentle habit.

Maybe they are scared to go into a tobacconists and ask for advice?

If that is so, the problem is easily dealt with. Do some research on line, find out about brands and qualities, and boldly go in. Then lie through your teeth. Announce to the clerkiwerkie that you wish to purchase a briar for your uncle Whizzo, and could you please see some standard shapes within a certain price-range. Discuss the pluses and minuses, pay for the selected item plus a few tins of tobacco from reputable brands, and leave.

[Standard shapes: Sensible pipes of non-extrovert design; classic dimensions, sound manufacture. You do not wish to be known as an eccentric. Normal-looking pipes smoke very well, and their attraction will not pall. Whereas strange freehands and Nordic oddities will eventually leave you wondering why you bought that monstrosity.
Reputable brands: One tin of Best Brown Flake or Golden Glow from Samuel Gawith. One tin of Westminster from G.L.Pease, one tin of Kensington, also from G.L.Pease. Note that both of these are English (Latakia) mixtures, which means that they are on the smoky side. Additionally, one or two tins of Rattray's, either a Virginia or any of the Latakia blends, whichever hits your whim; and one tin of a McClelland flake.
Read about all of them here: Tobacco Reviews
A few tins: Because this will give you a good selection with which to experiment while you familiarize yourself with smoking a pipe. One of them may eventually become your go-to blend, they are all excellent, and you don't have to finish the tin -- you can set it aside to re-discover later, just make sure it doesn't dry out in the interim.]

Also acquire a pipe-tamper ('three piece tool') and a packet of pipe-cleaners.


On an afternoon when you have the time and will not be disturbed, take some tobacco out of the tin, and dry it till it is nearly crumbly. Then fill your new pipe loosely, slightly less than half full. Press the top surface of the tobacco smooth, and light it with a match, gently pulling smoke into your mouth till most or all of the surface is lit. After puffing a little more, tamp down the burning surface slightly, using the three piece tool. Smoke slowly, relight if necessary. It is better that the pipe go out than that you drag furiously to keep it lit.
Re-tamp as needed to compress the burning area.

That first bowl will not be particularly enjoyable, because it takes a while to get the hang of the process, and the pipe is not yet broken in (conditioned). If you don't finish all the tobacco in the pipe, don't worry. Just remove the remnant, chase a pipe-cleaner or two through the shank, and set it aside for a day.

It's a good idea to have a cup of tea or a glass of fruit juice to drink while smoking, as it will soothe the mouth and prevent discomfort.


Over the next several weeks build up to smoking a full bowl.
By this time there should be a layer of carbon inside the pipe, which will make the pipe smoke cooler, and protects the wood. This is called 'the cake'. When it gets too thick (more than a nickel), you should pare it down gently.
At that point you're probably ready to buy a second pipe.

When the time comes that you smoke more than once a day you should have three or four pipes, so that they can rest between use.

You really do need more than one, as rotating them will make them last for years longer. But we all started with one. And, as our tastes in shapes and qualities changed, that first pipe may have eventually faded out of daily use.
When I was sixteen I got by with eight, only one of which I still have, though I've acquired others since. Bear in mind that pipe-smoking is perfect for neurotic packrats, so the urge to buy just one more will keep recurring.
Rather like shoes and handbags.

If you oversmoke a pipe it will inevitably get soggy, and likely turn rancid. But even the most over-used pipe can be restored to sweetness by filling the bowl almost entirely with non-iodized kosher salt and adding a few drops of liquor to make it pull the tars and cooked-in gunk out of the wood.
Put a pipe-cleaner into the shank before you do this.

After a day's rest you can repeat the treatment, but the final part is removing the salt, rinsing the bowl with liquor (I use whatever whisky I'm drinking), and then running pipe-cleaners moistened with liquor through the stem and shank till they come out clean, which may require quite a considerable number. Take care not to get the alcohol on the outside of the bowl or stem.
After this, rest the pipe for a week. You'll be surprised at how clean and sweat it will taste.

Do not rap the pipe against hard surfaces. Do not leave it in sunlight or warm places. Do not wash it. Do not sand it. Do not lend it to pot-heads.
Do not casually jam it into the tool-drawer. Do not smoke aromatics.


Virginias tend toward nicotine, so one medium-small bowl smoked calmly ("sipped") is the perfect way to start the day.
It takes some smokers a while before they can appreciate Virginias. First off, smoke slow. Really slow. It is best if the pipe threatens to go out occasionally. Secondly, let it whisp at you, and enjoy both the grassy fruity fragrance, as well as the tingle of sweetness on the tongue. Thirdly, unlike English blends (Virginia plus Latakia, and often Turkish, sometimes also Perique), it is okay if the entire surface doesn't light. Often enough tobacco will be smoldering that the smoke can progress from that point on quite satisfactorily.
Lastly, feel free to let it go out if it wants to. Again unlike an English blend, it can be re-lit without significant degradation of taste.

Virginias to consider: Orlik Golden Sliced, MacBaren's Virginia Flake, Wessex Red Virginia Flake, Wessex Brown Virginia Flake, Samuel Gawith's Golden Glow, Germain's Brown flake, and Germain's Medium Flake.
For fuller flavour, try Samuel Gawith Best Brown, or their St. James Flake.
As a total oomph overload, experiment gingerly with Samuel Gawith's 1792 Flake or Bracken Flake, and Peterson's Irish Flake, all of wich have a significant inclusion of Kentucky leaf.
The Rattrays Virginias are also extremely worthwhile: Hal O' The Wynd, Marlin Flake, Old Gowrie, and Brown Clunee.


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



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