Kissin’ Sippin’ Suckin’ Puffin’ and Other Stuff
Have you ever been with a large group of pipe smokers – either at a pipe show or a pipe club meeting – and just sat back and watched how your fellow hobbyists draw on their pipes? I know, it’s kind of a weird thing to be observing but there are some things in life where I just can’t seem to help myself. At the recent West Coast Pipe Show a gentleman came up to my table puffing on a pipe that I think must have had a very tight draw. He would suck in and get a real puckered up look and turn red in the face and then blow out just a smidgen of smoke. He did this several times while just looking at the pipes on my table. I thought about offering him a pipe cleaner or perhaps an auger.
There’s a member of my local pipe club that I just can’t look at while he’s smoking his pipe. I swear, it looks like he’s kissing the dadgum stem. He’ll put his tongue on the button of the stem as he slowly brings the lip of the stem into his kisser and then proceed to do some rapid fire sucking and exhaling that gets a thick haze of smoke around his face and makes his eyes water. What’s up with that? And another member of my club puts the stem in his mouth, and will, over the span of about thirty seconds, sip one single puff slowly into his mouth and then with puffed up cheeks, will exhale through his nose as his cheeks deflate. How does he do that?
On another subject; while walking the room at the Columbus Pipe Show this past August (what a great show, by the way!) I got into a conversation with a fellow hobbyist regarding the pipe tobaccos being produced today compared to some of the great old and no longer produced blends of yesteryear. I think I really surprised the fellow by saying that we are blessed to be in what I call the golden age of great tobaccos being made right now in the good old USA and that in the future, hobbyists will greatly appreciate well aged tobacco that is currently new on the shelf. Think of it, blenders like Mike & Mary McNiel, G.L. Pease, Russ Ouellette, Mark Ryan, Joe Lankford and others, have been inventing some really outstanding tobaccos that we are privy to smoking and that are readily available. In my humble opinion, the aforementioned lady and gentlemen are absolute tobacco geniuses and I’d like to give a quick shout out to them for helping us dedicated pipe smokers appreciate our hobby to the max.
I have tried a lot of new tobacco blends of late and also revisited some old faithful classics that sure do improve with age – although they were darned good fresh! I still enjoy smoking the Lankford creation, the Seattle Pipe Club’s Plum Pudding. Not normally a back to back Latakia smoker, I can down a couple of bowls of that stuff in a hurry. The Perique is far in the background, the Orientals smooth out any roughness and what I really find to be a terrific addition is the Cavendish that gives Plum Pudding a full body. When I first saw the name Plum Pudding, I was sure it was an aromatic. Strangest name for an English blend I’ve come across. Another sizzler that is new on the market came from McClelland’s. Mike McNiel’s 40th Anniversary blend, frankly, is the best straight Virginia I think I’ve ever smoked from the strong stable of McClelland’s matured Virginias. 40th Anniversary is a Red Virginia Flake with undertones of a sweet spiciness that I’ve never before encountered with a straight Virginia. The depth is incredible and I like the subtle sweetness of the blend. Best of all, this one was made to age and I can’t wait to try a tin once it reaches 5-years or so of age.
Another great pipe show that I recently attended was the early November West Coast Pipe Show in Las Vegas. My wife (Beverly), was with me, and that allowed me some free time to roam the show room while she guarded my table. How the heck did she sell more pipes when I wasn’t at the table than when I was? Oh well… Anyway, there were a lot of sales at that show, but mostly from the American pipe makers who had their pipes priced right at market value. A few of the just getting started pipe makers were charging impressive prices for their pipes. And they went back home with them. I’m sure they will figure out that they need to pay their dues and earn the respect of the hobbyists for making great smoking pipes before they can get prices commanded by the established makers. And, as always, there were what I call “showoff” tables where hobbyists would display their collections and have unreasonably high prices on their pipes and wonder why no one was buying them. The more astute collectors who had tables with wood at reasonable prices sold a lot of them as many hobbyists were roaming the show room. Kudos to Marty Pulvers and Steve O’Neal along with their staff for putting on another great WCPS for all of us.
My wife and I have a tradition we’ve kept up over the years while in Las Vegas. Once the show concludes on Sunday, we take a short cab ride from Palace Station (the show hotel), to Caesar’s Palace. We head immediately to the Casa Fuente Cigar Lounge & Bar for a drink. I always take a pipe to enjoy and get a lot of comments from the patrons who are all smoking cigars. After our first drink, Beverly takes my credit card and heads off to the Mall Shops. The longer she’s gone the more I drink! The next time you go to Las Vegas, I highly recommend that you visit Casa Fuente. It is really a fun place.
I was recently reading on an Internet pipe forum a thread from a new pipe smoker asking for recommendations regarding what blend of tobacco would be the best for a beginner to start with. He had switched from cigarettes and was having a tough time getting satisfaction from his pipe. And judging from the advice he was getting, it is no wonder he was having trouble. Most were having the guy smoke light aromatics or Virginias with the thought being that a lighter blend would acclimate him and that as he progressed he could start experimenting with stronger blends including those with a lot of Latakia. Over the 20-years of being a member of my local pipe club and having a lot of new pipe smokers join the club over that period of time, I have observed that there are different approaches to take, depending on the new smoker. The worst advice, in my opinion, is to tell a cigarette smoker to get a light Virginia or Aromatic. Cigarette smokers receive large doses of nicotine, and when switching to a pipe, they tend to puff a lot harder and faster as they try to get the same effect. So, they wind up with tongue bite as aromatics and Virginias tobaccos burn a lot hotter than ones with Burley or a lot of Orientals. Toss out the Orientals as a suggestion though as the nicotine content in those are light. And while Latakia is heavy on flavor, it is also light on Nicotine, so, chunk that one as a beginner tobacco, too. A good strong straight Burley blend is the answer. Many Burly tobaccos have a lot of nicotine, taste similar (although much more refined and flavorful) to cigarettes and smoke somewhat cooler than Virginias or aromatics in most cases. Now, if the new pipe smoker is coming from the ranks of the cigar smokers, then Latakia blends may be the ticket. And someone who has never smoked in his/her life who has taken up the pipe may enjoy just about any type of tobacco blend as long as they are not overwhelmed by full strength blends.
I loved reading Dr. Fred Hanna’s article in the last issue of The Pipe Collector – “Corn Cobs vs. Briar Pipes.” I pretty much read anything Fred writes because the man loves Pea Salad, which is also a favorite side dish of mine as well as just about all folks who live down here in Texas. In his article, Fred stated that in his experience cobs, on a scale of 1 to 10, on average score about a 7 for him. Personally, I’ve never met a cob that scored higher than a 5 for me and most scored lower. Maybe it’s my poor talent at knowing how to smoke and appreciate a cob. Maybe it would behoove me to bribe Fred with a big old plate of pea salad in exchange for showing me how to properly smoke one. Just a thought…
As many of you know, I like to get some therapy from time to time by sharing my experiences with buyers and potential buyers on both my eBay and private websites. I keep the best Q&A stuff in a file and for some reason, I feel better once I am able to share some of these little jewels with my brothers (and sisters), of the briar. So, here are a couple of dandies that I’d like to share with you today:
Question – A few weeks ago a buyer won a Dunhill pipe lighter on my eBay site that I had indicated was in perfect working order. I dutifully sent out the invoice and after not receiving payment for a week I sent out a gentle reminder that payment was past due. I then received an email from the guy with this response, “Hey man, before I pay for that lighter, shoot me a picture of it lighted so I can have proof that it really works as you say it does.”
Answer – That’s not exactly how eBay works. You should ask questions before placing a bid, not after you’ve won the item. I would love to send you a picture of the lighter in action, but I need some proof, too. Please pay me first so that I can have proof that you actually intend to honor your eBay contract to pay for what you won.
Here’s another one that I admit did make me spew my coffee on my keyboard –
Question – Dear Sir, I am thinking about being a new customer to your website. I notice that you have a tin of G.L. Pease Bohemian Scandal for sale and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. I am a little concerned about paying the high price you have on that tin without a guarantee, though. Do you give guarantees and will you refund me my payment if I decide it is not my cup of tea, so to speak?
Answer – Thank you for your interest in my website. The only guarantee that I can give you is that you will never purchase a tin of Bohemian Scandal or any other pipe tobacco on my website. Thanks again and have a great day!
And happy puffing to all!