Friday, July 2, 2010

Pipe Smoking - Getting Started

I'm sure a lot of you will identify, in one way or another, with the following story; My first experience with pipe smoking came when I attended college...up until then I had been a cigarette smoker for several years, and would continue to be one for the next fifteen years or so...I had flirted with cigars a bit, trying out Hav-A-Tampa Jewels, machine-made with birchwood tips...what the hell did I know from premium cigars? They were okay, a little on the mild side, nothing to really write home about, and I guess as time went on I sorta forgot about them...graduated from high school in 1964, and then went on to college...I never really gave much thought to smoking a pipe, but upon arrival at the campus of the University Of Cincinnati, I noticed a lot of upperclassmen walking around campus with pipes in their mouths...and some of the professors were smoking them that time (before all the anti-smoking nazi's came out of the woodwork) you could even smoke in I might not have noticed all of this pipe smoking right at the beginning because college was a whole new thing to me...I was free...I lived in a dorm and I was allowed to do anything I wanted, with no parents to hassle me...since I had attended a military academy for the last three years of high school, freedom with little rules or restrictions was something new to me...of course, the work load was a bit overwhelming as I was taking fifteen credit hours each semester, and I had pledged a fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi...AEΠ...OMG...the parties...the booze...the broads...well, those days hazing was still allowed but the brothers were pretty good...mostly they had you doing chores around the frat house as opposed to some of the ridiculous stunts the other fraternities pulled (and often got in trouble for) for the booze, in Ohio you were allowed to drink beer at age eighteen...actually a watered down version of beer...3.2% alcohol went through you so fast you might as well have been a fire hose pumping at about 300 PSI (and I should know, as in later years I would become a volunteer firefighter handling hose, but I digress)...and as for broads, well, there were a lot of groupies...mostly high school seniors, as the college girls were usually looking for the older guys...but still, plenty of girls hanging out around the frat house...way more than I was used to, as for me, as mentioned previously, high school was an all male affair, no, as I got settled in with all the coursework, and the fraternity, and all the drinking, and all the dating, I noticed seemed, at least to me at that time, that the females of our species were drawn to older men (around age twenty or so) who smoked pipes...and just to clarify things, you can be sure that with all the drinking and dating and partying, my classwork suffered and I wound up on academic probation for my first semester, but I had discovered pipes, more or less.

Where to start? Needless to say, the upperclassmen walking around with pipes would hardly give a freshman the time of day, and who knew from tobacconists? So it was off to the drugstore...back then, before all the anti-smoking nazi's came out of the woodwork (notice a theme here?), drugstores sold pipes and pipe memory of those days is rather on the dim side but I am sure they must have stocked what we pipe smokers call OTC's today...over-the-counter...Walnut, Sir Walter Raleigh, Prince Albert, Carter Hall, Field & Stream, etc...and Cherry Blend...yep, it smelled like cherry syrup, and was liberally dosed with was wet and goopy...and they had pipes...Kaywoodies, Yellow-Boles, Dr. Grabow's, Medico' full of them...that was how they were displayed back then, mounted on such thing as blister you sorta have to figure here that a college freshman would be on a bit of a budget, money still being supplied by the parents, so no high end Kaywoodie Flame Grain or Super Grain...not in those days...I probably couldn't even afford a Kaywoodie Standard...only heaven knows what that first pipe was, or what it cost...what I do know is that it must have been one of the cheapest, probably a Yellow-Bole or a Medico (the filters would have been an attraction)...and you can just bet that I wound up walking out with a pouch of Cherry Blend too...I probably bought a cheap pipe tool of some kind, some pipe cleaners, and an inexpensive lighter, all recommended by the guy behind the counter...ya think he knew what he was recommending? Nope. He just went with what most of the local college pipe smokers were buying, as if they knew what they were was highly unlikely that any of the pipe smoking professors took their valuable time to pass tips on to the pipe smoking collegians, especially if they were pipe smokers of long standing...I'm sure they just considered us dilettantes.

So, there I was, pipe in hand, and open pouch of Cherry Blend on the table in front of me...having no specific information on how to load a pipe I probably stuffed as much tobacco into the bowl as I could...of course I'd never heard of a charring light, so I kept the lighter going above the tobacco until the whole thing glowed, and I'm sure I scorched the dickens out of the rim...then, being a cigarette smoker, I proceeded to puff away...hard, and fast, smoke about bite, and heat and steam in my tongue was burnt beyond recognition...this was pipe smoking? Of course, who had ever heard of pipe break-in, or sipping? Was everyone who walked around with a pipe in their mouth crazy? Or was I missing something? Needless to say, the drugstore clerk, when asked, didn't have a clue...and neither did, what to do? I'm sure along the way that I asked questions of pipe smokers and got some answers, however I never quite got the hang of it...bought one or two more pipes, tried some other blends with pretty much the same results, and eventually gave up...round 1 to the pipe.

I continued to smoke cigarettes for another fifteen years or so, until 1982...when my wife was pregnant with my youngest son she had to quit smoking so I decided to do the same...since I'd been smoking for close to twenty years it wasn't easy...took about two months of cutting back to
quit, but I finally did, although I discovered something along the way, I actually liked the taste of tobacco...and that was garbage tobacco loaded with additives (thank you, big tobacco companies), I decided to try pipe smoking again...this time around I was local to a Tinder Box, in a nearby mall, with another tobacconist close by in the opposite place to ask questions and learn how to smoke a pipe properly...I know I bought some decent pipes, a Savinelli, a GBD, a Stanwell, a gourd calabash with a meerschaum bowl, and several others...I had some decent pipes, I knew about break-in, I learned how to pack and light a pipe but I still had a problem...tobacco...I knew nothing about pipe I wound up with store blends...the pipe shop guys promoted their store blends over tins so I went along with their choices, and my old adversary poked his head up again...tongue bite and scorching...I tried one tobacco after another, all house blends, never solved the problem, and gave up again...pipe 2, me 0.

Sometime in the early 1990's I took up cigar smoking on a very loose basis...a Macanudo, or a Partagas here or there, but nothing with any frequency, and quit within a few forward to 2000...I was on a cruise, and happened to pass by a large cabinet humidor that was outside of the gift shop, and was loaded with delicious looking grandfather had been a cigar smoker...I remembered the smells in his house from when I was a child, fondly, very fondly...I was his oldest grandchild and he always made a fuss over me...he passed away when I was ten years I wished he'd have lived I looked and one caught my had a label that said RP, with the year 1992 below I bought one to was a Rocky Patel and it was delicious...I was off and running, and could enjoy tobacco without inhaling...could it get any better than this? Actually, yes! I found the online cigar boards and learned a ton of stuff about smoking cigars, discovered ISOM's and how to get them, and nurtured a fairly expensive cigar habit. So, you ask, what has all this to do with getting started pipe smoking? Be patient, I'm almost there. The cigar forum had, within it's bowels, a smaller pipe forum, and I got curious...I began asking questions...before I knew it one of the members of the board took pity on a newbie and sent me a gorgeous Nording freehand, and a half dozen tins of pipe tobacco...tins? I'd never seen tins before and had no concept of premium pipe tobaccos...all I knew was I began again to try to learn how to smoke a pipe...I bought a few more pipes (the others had long been sold) and tried tin after tin looking for blends I liked...and this time I had a place where I could ask questions and get well-meaning informative answers from people who had no vested interest in selling me a pipe or their store tobaccos...I found tobaccos that didn't bite, that smoked dry and cool...I learned how to sip, how to clean a pipe after smoking it, and all sorts of sundry information pertaining to pipe smoking...I was on my way...I finally beat the pipe, or rather tamed it, and discovered what all of those pipe smokers from so long ago knew, how to enjoy a!

Now for the getting started close to ten years of pipe and cigar smoking I've learned a few things along the way and I've read many books dealing with these two very enjoyable hobbies, but I am by no means an expert...I do have what I hope are a few words of wisdom to get a new pipe smoker off and running in the easiest don't have to spend a ton of money on pipes or tobacco and accessories to enjoy pipe's really quite easy, and fairly inexpensive if you follow the simple guidelines I'm going to explain...first, you need a pipe or two, and I'm going to recommend the following...a Dr. Grabow and a Missouri Meerschaum, basically a drugstore pipe and a corncob...the Dr. Grabow pipes are pre-smoked (by machines) at the factory, so require very little break-in, and the corncobs don't require any break-in at all, and they smoke cool and pleasant from the start...I like the Dr. Grabow Omega, and feel it's the best that they can be had for only $25 or $30, here, or's a filter pipe and you can smoke it with or without the paper filters...I actually prefer them as they absorb some of the moisture of the burning tobacco (which gives off steam) and make the smoke, smoke cool...some of the other pipe smokers throw the filters away and smoke without them but I find that screws up the draw...corncobs can be found here, the Diplomat is a favorite of mine, and it happens to be a paper filter pipe also, but that's not why I like'll also need some pipe cleaners, regular and bristle, and some kind of pipe tool, the 3-in-1 Czech Tool being about the best for the money...more paper filters are available here, if you are so'll also need a pipe lighter...the best lighters for a pipe have a soft flame (not a torch as used for cigars) that comes out at a 45° angle such as these IMCO', have I forgotten anything? Ah, pipe tobacco you say...what to smoke? Here's where you can score a freebie...Tobacco Trader has several of their own blends, of them, I recommend the Savannah...if you phone them you can get a one ounce free sample...why this specific tobacco? It's a mild aromatic with slightly nutty taste, and smokes with absolutely no tongue bite burns cool and clean, right to the bottom of the bowl and stays cool even if you puff away like a steam's that'll probably order more, like I did...and by the way, I have absolutely no connection with any of these e-tailers, although I should charge them for the advertising...about the only other thing I can think of that you might need is something to keep your tobacco humidified...these mini-brick humidifiers work wonders using propylene glycol solution or distilled'll need to learn a few things along the way, how to pack and load a bowlful of tobacco, how to use a charring light to get it started, how to smoke slowly and gently, sort of sipping at it, and how to clean a pipe...I can't explain all of this here, or it would go on forever, but I would suggest clicking on one of the links below as I've listed several excellent online pipe and cigar forums where you'll find lots of pipe smokers willing to answer all of your questions...for new pipe smokers I recommend Smokers Forums, a great place to get, guess what? You're now a pipe smoker!

Next: Something About Cigars

Thursday, June 17, 2010

First Words...

Well, it's taken a long time to get around to this, writing a blog...and the first thing I have to do is make a confession...I'm a smoker...I love the taste of tobacco...I'm into sensory input and I enjoy strong coffee...tea with no lemon, or sugar, or milk...extra sharp cheddar cheese...dark, dark chocolate...the sharper and stronger the yeah, I choose to be a smoker, however, in making a choice such as this (and it is my choice, regardless of what all the anti-smoking nazi's have to say about it), I choose to not inhale (hell, Clinton got away with that one, and that was pot), so I smoke cigars and pipes, and that's what this blog is gonna be about, more or less...that, and anything else I happen to think of...but mostly it's gonna be about cigars and pipes and pipe tobacco...but, ummm, it might get a little political too along the way, just a little...and wait until you hear my take on the feds banning online poker, and what my city council has to say about feeding the ducks that roam around down here, in South Florida...but I'm gonna save those for another time.

Ya see, last I heard, tobacco is still a legal product in the good old far as all the laws banning smoking all over the country, they're taking my freedom away, as they've taken away the freedoms of all of us over the last few decades...they're trying to legislate away my right to enjoy a legal product...they, is the government at all levels, city, state, and federal...think back about twenty or thirty years and think of all the laws and restrictions that have been imposed upon us over that period of needs only look at airline travel as a glaring example...and yes, I believe that the non-smokers have a right to not smell my smoke, so I'm a courteous smoker...if it's bothering someone and they're polite about it, I'll move away...if they approach me and act like an ass, then they take their own chances...and I've read all the B.S. about second-hand and third-hand smoke...third-hand smoke? You gotta be kidding. None of it has ever been scientifically proven, except that it's pretty clear that cigarettes kill...of course, they're loaded with about 200 additives that should be outlawed, but that's the fault of our fine federal government for letting the tobacco companies get away with it for about a century or so...they do it to addict additives in cigars...just pure tobacco leaf...pretty much the same with pipe tobacco...I'm not addicted to pipes or cigars...I smoke them when and if I want to...too hot to go out today? Okay, I skip the smoke. I might smoke one or two bowlfuls of tobacco a day in one of my pipes, or a cigar or two, and some days nothing at's all for my own enjoyment, on my own time, and if I don't smoke I don't go into withdrawal like the addicted cigarette smokers do...and, cigarettes stink...even to me...the aroma of a fine cigar or some premium pipe tobacco? Well, that's a whole different story. And my significant other, Marie, likes the smell of my pipes and cigars, and occasionally sits down and enjoys a cigar with me...ain't I a lucky guy?

This is one of my hobbies, and I'm a member of a couple of online forums, Smokers Forums, a great place to learn about and enjoy discussing pipes and pipe tobaccos, and Cigar Asylum where the lunatics run the joint (nah, not really, but the moderators are great guys)...I don't know how frequent or infrequent these posts are gonna be, and I think for now I'm gonna allow comments on my verbiage, as long as it's polite and you don't use nasty wouldn't do that, would you? I'm sure this blog will change quite a bit along the way, as I've got a lot to learn about blogging...hell, learning anything new at my age is a challenge...and speaking of age, I've got a birthday coming up in the next few months so I have a burning question I need to ask you...will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?

Next: Pipe Smoking - Getting Started