There is a mistery and a particular weight of tradition that makes pipe smoking rare these days. However, I believe there are very few moments in life that ressemble more to the attitude of the old world’s wealth and arrogance. Pipe smoking is a manly obscene art, smelly and tasty. Myths and legends surround many brands that still manufacture pipes but the time when fathers tought their sons how to properly light a pipe up is over. Fortunately though, I did some extensive research lately and here are a few instructions that I hope will make you ask your dad’s pipe or even buy your own !
Pipe smoking is as much like a ritual. From choosing the tobacco to actually cleaning the pipe, the whole story of pipe smoking lies in the ritual. There’s certainly a satisfaction when you pack the tobacco into the bowl just right, like men have done over centuries. Then, there’s a complex moment of understanding and confronting the wonderful, aromatic smell. In our era of public smoking prohibition, you won’t be smoking your pipe everywhere (like in the cinemas back in the 1930s and 1940s). Today, pipe smoking is more of a home pleasure that has to be shared just like a good bottle of whiskey.
Starte’rs kit : here’s what you’ll need !
- A pipe. The best would be your dad’s old pipe or even your grandpa’s ! If not, head to so-called “estate” pipes meaning second-hand pipes. Most of the time, you can find the best value deals in vintage tobacco shops or online.
- A pipe tool. Although not absolutely necessary, this is very helpful in packing the tobacco. I found my dad’s one that has a tamper and a cleaner.
- Pipe cleaners. Obviously for cleaning your pipe when you’re finished. Most tobaccoists will gladly provide you with a handful at no charge…
- Lond wooden matches.
- Tobacco. With the help of a knowledgeable tobacconist, you’ll start with something light and not too complex flavored tobacco. Something like vanilla flavored for example.
How to Smoke a Pipe
Once you’ve gathered your equipement, just clear your head and slow your pace down. Fix yourself a drink or even take the time to mix a nice cocktail like an Old Fashioned. Grab your pipe and tobacco, whatever device your reading this on and take a comfortable seat. Now we’re ready to go.
1. Fill the bowl of your pipe progressively. This step is the most tricky one because it sets the perfect compression of the tobacco in the bowl for you to enjoy your smoke. Fill the bowl very loosely with tobacco up to the top. Then press it slowly and lightly down with the tamper or your finger. The bowl should now be filled halfway from the bottom. Fill the bowl again to the top and compress a bit more, packing more firmly. Now your bowl is about 3/4 full. Now top off the bowl with more tobacco and press down. There should be a slight space between the top of the bowl and the tobacco.
2. Put the pipe to your mouth and take a test draw. If air doesn’t flow freely through the tobacco, it’s too tight. If that’s the case, remove and try again. If your test draw is fine, you’re ready for step 3.
3. When lighting your pipe, use a long wooden match or a dedicated pipe lighter. I recommend long wooden matches because they’re way cheaper than pipe lighters that are made specifically for tobacco pipes and don’t alter the taste of the tobacco. Pro tip : if using a match, strike it and let it burn for a few seconds to get the sulphur off. Then, as you take gentle draws on the pipe, move the match in a circular movement over the surface of the tobacco. Do this until the tobacco is evenly lit. Once it’s lit, you’re still not quite there. This is simply the “false light.” Let it go out, then relight the same way. Once it’s evenly lit, this is the “true light” and you’re ready to smoke. Note: It is suggested that you do not inhale the smoke into your lungs. Pipe smoking is different than cigarette smoking. This type of tobacco is a bit stronger and is more for the flavor, just like cigars.
4. Take it easy when smoking your pipe. Slow and steady. this is a marathon, not a 50 meters dash. If you puff too quickly, you’ll get what’s known as “tongue bite”– a burning sensation on your tongue, plus the bowl is going to heat up. Definitely not what you want. Your pipe may go out 2 or 3 times during your smoke, but that’s totally OK. Remember, relax and enjoy. If you have a friend over, your pipe may go out more often as you talk! Enjoy the flavor of the tobacco. Study it and remember it ! This is how you educate your senses and learn what kind of tobacco you like !
That’s all there is to it. If you enjoy your first and subsequent smokes, you can buy the more expensive pipes and tobaccos. Who knows, there may be another article on the types of pipes and tobaccos in the future…
Some more pro tips :
- If you find that the pipe starts “gurgling,” there’s too much moisture in the pipe stem. Simply take the pipe out of your mouth and put a pipe cleaner in the end for a second or two to remove the moisture. Try to keep your mouth as dry as possible to prevent this from happening.
- If the pipe gets too hot on your hand, let it go out and then relight. If it’s burning too hot, it can alter the taste of the tobacco…
- When finished with your smoke, always allow the pipe to cool before cleaning.
Sources : Pipedia, Smokingpipes.com and Art of Man