Had a neighbor express interest in smoking tobacco pipes. Coming from the cigar world, he is. Wrote him the following. Thought it may be of interest to other newbies, just starting the journey…
Hi Jim –
I’ve been enjoying smoking and collecting tobacco pipes since 1982. At present, I own sixty high end vintage briar pipes, and have a fully stocked cellar of aged tobaccos, some dating back decades. Like wine, tabac improves immeasurably with age. I also help run and manage a group on Facebook called the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society. We gave 9,500+ members from all corners of the world. I’m on Facebook under my name, and on Instagram as eboehmjr. Tobacco pipes are pretty much a central focus of my life.
As for safety and historical legacy, many of the greatest minds of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were ardent pipe smokers, many living to their late eighties. Think A. Einstein, JRR Tolkein, M Twain, R Oppenheimer, E Hubble, AC Doyle, C Jung, P Casal, S Foote, B Russell, PG Wodehouse, CS Lewis, R Kipling, etc. And when I say ardent, I mean five to ten bowls a day. A Surgeon General’s Report, issued some years ago, noted that there was no difference in life expectancy for pipe smokers (< 10/day), as compared to the non-smoking public. Cigarette smokers died 10 to 20 yrs earlier than the non-smoking public. There are numerous exceptions, but that’s what the stats show. Too often, tobacco pipes (and cigars) are erroneously conflated with cigarettes. Most pipers I know do not inhale, and abhor cigarettes, which contain a plethora of carcinogenic additives, in addition to low grade leaf.
Coming from the cigar world, you’ll take note of a myriad of differences between tobacco pipes and cigars. Although both involve quality leaf, with no chemical additives, and both do not involve inhalation, the two activities are strikingly different. Cigars usually cost a lot, and represent status among Type A personalities, are consumed socially often at a bar with alcohol – as compared to pipe tabac, which is dirt cheap in comparison (30$ to $50/lb), often consumed in isolation, usually with coffee or tea. Cigars are raucous and boisterous, involving usually billowing clouds of smoke, whereas piping, if done right, releases a minimal amount of smoke, and is downright taciturn in comparison. The comparisons with extrovert vs introvert are notable in this respect.
Where to shop? I do everything on-line. It’s cheaper, the selection greater and they bring it right to your door. I use this company almost exclusively:
They are self contained, and in addition to pipes and tobaccos, represent a study site for all things pipe related, with blogs, articles etc. Look no further than smoking pipes for all your needs.
What you’ll need from the get-go:
1. A briar pipe – I’d recommend you start with a Peterson pipe, out of Dublin, selling for between $85 – $150. Can’t go wrong with a Pete, as has been said for the last 15O yrs.
2. Tabac – Here it gets complicated. In brief, you have:
(a) Aromatics – Try Captain Black in the White pouch or tin for a vanilla nougat flavor.
(b) Burley – Over-the-counter or OTC codger Burley has been around forever. For good reason. Try Prince Albert, Half & Half, Carter Hall etc.
(c) Virginia blends – Try McCranies.
(d) Virginia Perique or VaPer blends – Try Escudo.
(e) Balkan blends – Try Balkan Sasieni.
(f) English blends – Try Dunhill’s London Mixture.
(g) Cigar blends – Try Key West or Billy Budd.
You’ll also need:
3. Pipe cleaners, Qtips, paper towels for cleaning.
4. EverClear high proof grain alcohol or 91% Isopropanol rubbing alcohol for cleaning.
5. A decent lighter. No cigar torch lighters. A Bic will do, or any butane cool flame lighter.
6. A pipe tamper. A large nail will do, but a three way Czech pipe tool works best. Perhaps a pipe reamer for later.
That’ll get you started.
Tobacco Reviews online reviews thousands of pipe tobaccos. It’s truly mind blowing the number of tobacco choices available. A lot of newbies complain that the choices are overwhelming. That’s why it’s good to go on line a study your options.
Pipedia is the online encyclopedia for pipes, much like Wikipedia:
Another place to gather knowledge on line is Pipe Magazine. They have great articles, reviews, everything pipe related:
They also have the best on line forum for tobacco pipes. Join and introduce yourself and you’ll have access to the world’s greatest concentration of pipe smokers. Gents often willing to answer any question you may have.
So, have a look at these sites to gather up some knowledge. This will help you decide what kind of pipe you desire, what type of tabac you’d like to try, etc. Piping has a learning curve, to be sure, not too steep, but the rewards are tremendous. It’s no small wonder that many of the greatest minds of the last two centuries ordered their entire lives around the act of pipe smoking. Don’t hesitate to ask me questions, or join me on the porch for a smoke.