Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Cheer

I've held off on trying this tobacco for a while now. But this
year the time had come. And I was unable to find it because my local tobacconist had not received his shipment in. So I bought a tin of last year's Christmas Cheer. Seeing as I bought it a year late, I figured I should review it a day late. Good logic, right? So here I am a day after Christmas, still enjoying wonderful Christmas Cheer. It is a beautiful smoke. Though I have no other years of "Christmas Cheer" to compare it to, 2009 is simply lovely. I didn't realize how very much I enjoyed Virginias until I tried this blend. I have had plenty of Virginias, this one just took it to a ne
w level for me.

I have written at least once about the importance of a good name for a tobacco. I am very responsive to advertising and am happy to mentally embrace whatever picture is offered by the title of a given tobacco blend. I must now moderate my previous view. I thought my imagination could overpower most any tobacco, but it turns out I was wrong. I recently tried some bulk aromatics that were so incredible terrible that even the witty names that they were given couldn't redeem the experience. Always having gone to Edwards before, I was used to bulk blends that weren't overly goopy, and tasted like tasty tobacco, rather than a mouth full of napalm death. I have not liked every bulk blend from Edwards, but they are mostly good and many of the aromatics are so lightly cased that they maintain the wonder of the tobacco.

Getting back to McClelland's Christmas Cheer. I notice that it is it seems almost trendy to give McClellands a hard time. I can't figure out why for the life of me. I have found them to be far the superior of many other "boutique" blends. Frog Morton is fantastic, this Christmas Cheer blend is beautiful. The three Oaks blends are miraculous. More investigation is needed, but I have to say that McClellands is a favorite tobacconist for me personally. I must also note that this tobacco has brought me a great deal of Christmas cheer for the last month, and I look forward to trying 2010 when the time is ripe.

On another note my new pipe came in. It was a miracle (and a testament to the greatness Virtual Smoking Lounge - that it came before Christmas. It came and it was smoked on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. What pipe, you ask? It is the Bing's Pleasure from Savinelli:
It is a Balsa System filter pipe, which I thought I would immediately replace, but after 3 filtered smokes, I am resolved to try more (because they have been great). I ordered some extra filters (which Dave at the VSL makes very easy for the buyer). In any event a thoroughly enjoyed pipe, and in honor of finally moving a step closer to smoking like one of my pipe heroes (Bing Crosby) I watched the Bells of St. Mary's and Going My Way this weekend. Beautiful movies, absolutely uplifting and beautiful movies.

I loved the laid back and loving way in which Father O'Malley goes about his business of loving people and gently encouraging them to a better life, to better choices. I so much enjoy the balanced, loving and caring view that doesn't need to be right all the time, even when he knows he's right. He just gently tries to point people to where they need to be, and away from the danger that they are driving into. That gentle, cool confidence that takes him right where he needs to be and doesn't strive to fix everything, but rather facilitates things to be fixed of their own means. I want to be like that when I grow up.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Picky Pipers?

I would not say that a healthy fear of making money is the average business owners problem. Though perhaps it may be the fear of the unwitting employee. My topic today is one that I would be interested to hear many responses from varied sources. We all, as pipe smokers, have our own way. For some of us it is more about the pipe, for others, about the tobacco. These are both fine and admirable. For some it is about the lore, and feel, for others it is about the experience. We all smoke pipes for different reasons, and may judge a pipe by wholly different standards when the day is done. That being said, how particular are you?

My mother-in-law wanted to buy a pipe for me this year for Christmas. This is actually one of my favorite exercises in life. Two of my favorite pipes, though they may not be my nicest pipes, are the two my wife picked out for me. One is a larger rusticated pipe (Eriksen) and the other is a smooth finish (unbranded). Both 3/4 bent stems. The first large rusticated one reminded her of a teddy bear, thus naturally, was meaningful to me. The second was "more intellectual and academic" and made her think of C.S. Lewis (something of a hero of mine). I like that, I like the idea of people picking out the pipes that they think suit me, or fit my personality.

The checker at the store they went into, however, claimed that "You should NEVER buy a pipe for a pipe smoker! It's FAR too personal!" And thus cost herself a sale. Hmm...This seems silly. Isn't the best thing to do to say, "I would be happy to find a pipe I'm sure he will love, but just in case I would keep the receipt. Pipe smokers can be finicky." Seriously, it's like someone bottled stupidity and anointed this poor clerk's head with it to make sure that no money was made that day. I couldn't understand it if I wanted to.

That being said, how picky of a smoker are you? Every pipe I own has its own character. Certain tobaccos work better in certain pipes. This is just the way of things. I don't even think I can make correlation between nicer pipes and nicer tobaccos working exclusively in them. Could someone buy you a pipe, or would you rather have the money to pick it out on your own? Is the value of a pipe sentimental or is it purely based on quality? Inquiring minds want to know.

Teaser: I just bought a new pipe from Dave at the VSL. It relates to one of my favorite iconic pipe smokers. A free smiley face emoticon goes to the person who can guess who that iconic pipe smoker might be. It should be here in a week or so...
First impression: this guy is top notch. Friendly, helpful and more than fair with pricing. Check it out.

or on his Youtube Channel:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Black Gold

Truthfully, I don't know if I would ever have tried this tobacco had it not come so highly recommended to me! When thinking of the words "black gold" I would have happily applied it to coffee, or to oil, even to a Blackberry telephone (never really got into it as the trackball always seemed to get messed up), but a tobacco that could be defined by its mere monochrome coloring doesn't seem to promise quite enough to draw my attention. This tobacco, available in bulk from Hiland Cigars (, is described as: "Medium to full aromatic cavendish. Rare Green River Burley is the only tobacco used in this blend. The process is top secret!" Of course there is a challenge given in this description, and while I have some guesses, I wouldn't want to make them public, as they are bordering on the ridiculous! But onto the tobacco review.

This tobacco was recommended by PipePastor, (Youtube channel page - Finally, I put in my order and waited. First thing's first I must say the gentlemen at Hilands Cigars were helpful and shipped quickly, even responding personally to my questions. Before going on with my appreciation of the tobacco I have to share (with permission) PipePastor's instructions to me before I packed my first bowl (which was, consequently, a total success):

"Open it carefully. Take your time. Smell the box, feel the moist weed in your hands. Squeeze it and feel it stick together like chocolate cake crumbs. Rub it and smell it as it releases the "love". Pack it classically, holding your pipe bowl so that your first finger and thumb overlap the top of the bowl a little. Gravity fill it to the top of your finger and thumb. pac it gently down till it's almost half way down the bowl. Repeat but this time pac it a little harder till it's almost at the same level as the first. Repeat one more time and pac it a little harder till its just below or level with the pipe bowl. Then char it good, around 10 - 15 puffs making sure the flame hits the tobacco evenly. It will expand alot and some will spill over the edge of the bowl. Not to worry, they are behaving themselves Christianly, gladly giving their lives so that you can get an excellent first light. Now tamp rather hard, while puffing around 5 times. Tamp again, and do the same. One more time and do the same. Now you're ready to enjoy the whole bowl without it going out with frequent tamping due to the moistness and expansiveness of the tobacco. Take your time, breath a little through your nose and see if you can pick up all the glorious nuances of taste and smell."

I would hope that the care with which this introduction was written helps explain just how much a tobacco can mean to us. It was written with the care of someone introducing an old friend to a new friend, knowing that the mutual acquaintance will enrich everyone involved. So, in case you were wondering, I had absolutely no chance of giving this tobacco an objective review. But since I don't believe there is much value in objective reviewing in the realm of pipe tobacco (movies, books, coffee or any other matters of taste) I won't hesitate to move forward!

This is an aromatic to beat all aromatics. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have no bias against aromatics, and don't even suffer from the the tongue bite that so many report when smoking aromatics (and I thank the Lord for the tongue that I have!), so this comes from a lover of non-goopy aromatics as a preset preference. This tobacco is an absolute delight. There is a wonderful fullness of taste that simply coats the mouth beautifully. The aroma as it burns, and is breathed out the nose has the decadent and rich flavors of chocolate and vanilla together (my two favorite aromatic flavors), combined with a great tobacco flavor in the burley.

This will probably not become the only tobacco I will ever smoke (as stated in previous posts, I am too much of a tobacco whore, and I'm not looking to commit!) however, I can firmly say that I have no intention of ever being caught without this tobacco, henceforth. This has become (in only a few short weeks) my "go to" tobacco for parties, smoking groups, Bible studies. This has become the tobacco that my pouch has been full a few weekend trips and long drives, and when I do bring it to groups with other pipe smokers I find the people I smoke with emptying out their bowls of whatever else they are used to to get another bowl of this in.

I wouldn't want to oversell this tobacco, but I must share one more note. When tobaccos are rated words like "room-note", "flavor", "strength", and "flavoring" are used (as seen at "") however there is another category that I would like to add. The name "aftertaste" has such a nasty connotation, however I would prefer to call it the "echo." The Echo of this Tobacco is miraculous. The taste of frosted chocolate stays on the tongue and permeates the mouth. I came in from a nice bowl of this tobacco and my wife offered me a brownie and I declined feeling like I had already had too much desert today, because the taste was still so vivid from 30 minutes ago. Then I realized that tobacco was calorie free and had my brownie with all the more pleasure! (how did I get so chubby again?) I actually even detect a note of this a day after often times (this is two toothbrushings and 3&1/2 meals later, mind you!) and the taste is simply delightful.

I am excited to know that there is yet more "gold" at the end of this rainbow as there is also a "Black Gold Plus" which, evidently, has some Virginia flake in it. So that means that there is yet another adventure ahead when I am finished with the half pound of "Black Gold" that I am enjoying! I will, of course, update when I make the leap!

Both of these tobaccos are available from Hiland's Cigars (as mentioned above) and are available in half pound increments and up, and well worth it! Here are the links:

Deepest thanks to PipePastor for his fellowship, thoughtful words and great recommendation! And a happy Thanksgiving to every pipe smoker, cigar smoker, and then to everyone after that in alphabetical order!

Friday, October 29, 2010

On Pipes

O what can match the true delight
Of pipe and fire, both burning bright
The knees and cheeks and hands kept warm
while good tobacco does no harm

The fire roaring, the pipe well packed
Bids weary travelers to relax
The pouch is fat, the day is done
Loss deep bound thoughts to oblivion

Whilst fire and air combine to free
The flavor of the mind's reprieve
So many friends this moment share
As a modest collection of pipes to bare

To briar, sweet briar, the start and end
The great gift of the Mediterranean
As time is passed your colors change
Hard evidence of a friend well made

And clay, dear clay, my earthy friend,
our sweet simplicity to lend
Meerschaum, so dear, so elegant,
The sea's great gift to thinking gents

My corn cob, thoughtful, from the land
Pensive, impermanent, in my hand

Oh my friends, me to outlast
when from this body, free I'm cast
Who shall you next accompany
Through thoughtful tempest and reverie?

Could all my thoughts run out my nose
into your bowl, then up in smoke
Would my time spent less worthy be
If not to learn, I'm much like thee?

Consumed and burning, funeral pyre
Some pleasure bring as leaf in briar
As burn I in this bowl of clay
I'll hope to hear The Tobacconist say:

"Ah, what a sweet, unbiting bowl."
Then scraped, tapped out, and be made whole.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vanilla, Brownies and more leaves to rake...

Another beautiful fall day yesterday (but for some rather pushy winds). However, the fact that it was dry out gave me the opportunity to rake up no less than 14 bags of leaves in the back yard. I don't think it would have taken just so long, but the kids do love to help. That kind of help comes with the price tag of lengthening the task while making it endless amounts of fun! Yet still we had a good romp in the leaves again, which was lovely. Nothing seemed to go so well with raking leaves as some Special Balkan from Edwards, which I love (heavy latakia, cool burning, very nice), and then I wrapped up with a nice bowl of Bjorkum Riff whiskey. (By "nice" of course, I mean that my tongue was bitten off completely!) However, on other occasions I have enjoyed the BR's whiskey immensely.

I must admit I have something of a fetish for over the counter blends. I realize the many things that bring them disrespect, (chemicals, cheap tobacco, tongue bite, etc), however there is something good and honest about the over the counter blends that I truly appreciate. I suppose it simply does my heart good in the first place to see pipe tobacco in a supermarket or drug store. It makes me hopeful that more and more may be enjoying our hobby, which has a multitude of great effects. The least of which are the fact that more demand may mean more supply for our town, but more so, it appears to me that the nature of enjoying pipe tobacco is somehow generally edifying and conducive to the growth and amiability of most humans. I must say truthfully that pipe tobacco actually seems to make the world a better place, even if the impact is small.

However, I can't leave my penchant for over the counter pipe tobacco's there, acting as if it were all for "high" and "intellectual" reasons. While most OTC blends are not as complex as the bulks and boutiques that we all spend so much time talking about, they are honest. In my experience they taste and smell much like what they claim to. I adore half and half, carter hall, and prince albert. All of which are regular in my pipe smoking routine (particularly when I have the chance to enjoy a bowl in the morning). Burley is wonderful, and I love the nuttiness of each of the aforementioned blends. Things get a bit "stickier" when we get to the over the counter aromatics, but I still can appreciate an evening with the Captain or Bjorkum Riff without much complaint (if, of course I pack and smoke them correctly).

To close that rant, I have to say that smoking the whiskey tobacco while working out doors (particularly heavy working) most always results in a bit of a bite, and that's no reason to induce criticism on Bjorkum Riff. The whiskey flavor comes through well and the tobacco doesn't seem in any way "goopy" or "nasty." To be quite honest, dollar for dollar this produces a better experience than Plumcake (again, as a personal preference).

However, I have one more note to play for today's entry. Not many nights ago I had the opportunity to sample MacBaren's Vanilla blend. I was a bit apprehensive based on my not altogether impressive experience with Plumcake. However, a friend bought it, so that eased the tension. The presentation was much like Plumcake. Looking at the open tin you can tell with great clarity that you are looking at (and smelling) very high quality tobacco. Most acts like ribbon cut with an occasional flake (kind of like looking for the cashews in a jar of mixed nuts). The vanilla is more clear from the tin aroma (as compared to the lack of rum scent in Plumcake). I am predisposed to enjoy vanilla and chocolate in general as far as aromatics. The tobacco burned well and tasted nice, the slight vanilla topping came through beautifully and it was altogether an enjoyable smoking experience. The scent off of the bowl and second hand was delicious and charming. While I am not planning on running out and buying a tin of this any time soon, it was a pleasant smoke for someone who wants just a touch of vanilla in their otherwise high quality smoke. Delicious.

Now, for the real anticipation. The Pipe Pastor has recommended Black Gold from Hiland Tobacco ( and I finally ordered a half pound to get me started. It fascinates me when a person finds that one tobacco that they can commit to forsaking all others. One Youtube presenter is rarely seen without Billy Budd, another continually favors various flake tobaccos. Of course Jeoffrey is very commonly enjoying the ever awesome (and awesomely named) "chocolate manhood" which I am remiss for having never tried. I have a great number of tobaccos I have enjoyed immensely. I would like to do a post on my desert island top five (which very few seem to be willing to commit to declaring) tobaccos, as I am in the mood for different tobaccos at different times, and am usually possessed of such a sunny disposition that I am able to enjoy whatever tobacco I am smoking as if it were the best tobacco on earth (take this into account when you read my reviews). In any event, once I got through my top five there are simply days where I want to try something new. I wonder, will it ever go away? Will Black Gold be the tobacco that makes me never again yearn for another? Tough to say.
I am earnestly and fully committed to my wife, to the point where other women are not even considered romantically or sexually. I my wife so much that I can't imagine life with anyone else, so I don't consider it. I love my job, and were another to open up offering me all of the money I could never hope to spend I wouldn't even consider it because I am right where the Lord wants me, and that's where I want to be. Is it possible that a tobacco exists out there that so characterizes who I am and why I enjoy pipe smoking that I forsake all other tobaccos? This is a matter for serious thought and consideration.

Monday, October 18, 2010

This One Goes to Eleven

I have a deep appreciation for the work and comedy of Christopher Guest (though I know Rob Reiner did the original Spinal Tap), however, this is not about a guitar amp. This is about tobacco. Good tobacco - tobacco that goes to eleven. To fully appreciate the wonder of this tobacco experience I must lay the back drop.

Autumn is here. In my world Autumn is when the year is perfected. Pushkin wrote of Autumn:
The latter days of fall are often cursed, 
But as for me, kind reader, she is precious 
In all her quiet beauty, mellow glow. 
Thus might a child, disfavored in its family, 
Draw my regard. To tell you honestly, 
Of all the times of year, I cherish her alone. 
She's full of worth; and I, a humble lover, 
Have found in her peculiar charms.

You can find the rest of that poem here, it is worth your time.  To celebrate Autumn, and my day off I decided to rake leaves with my children.  Colorado Autumns are such that this task can be done in no shoes, making it at least twice as enjoy
able.  So I raked and the children ran through what I had just raked.  Kicking through carefully rakes piles is, of course, the perennial right of children and I dared not interfere.  However, I did choose to commemorate this wonderful Autumnal occasion with the tobacco that goes to 11, every time.  So I packed my pipe with Rattray's Black Mallory Tobacco, and smiled as my leaves went from disorder, to order, and back to disorder.
I generally give good reviews for tobacco, and I only tend to write about the tobaccos that I enjoy. This is mostly because it seems unfair and rather useless to spend time criticizing something that I simply "didn't get." So when I am unimpressed with a tobacco I will generally keep it to myself. However, this tobacco is glorious. This is one of those consistent smoking experiences that makes me want to go to every other tobacco I have rated and bring it down one point because this is the tobacco that deserves top honors. I will say that Dunhill's London Mixture was absolutely of this character and quality, and nothing else I've ever had. Both of those tobaccos have something extra. There is something about them that cries out to you. They are like a little bowl of art that you get to set fire to.

It sounds strange that I like the idea of setting fire to art, but I am a musician, so I hope you can understand. Pipe tobacco, like music is destroyed in the consumption. When listening to a symphony you should never stand up in the middle and ask to do the last movement again as your thoughts drifted away from the art before you. Poetry is the same way, always best read, and listened to with a focused desire to hear and be blessed. Of course this is only a parallel and is not intended to depreciate the value of the visual arts. Yet the similarities are almost unending, aren't they?

Rather than spell it all out from my view I would ask you if you see other similarities between pipe tobacco and art? As for the masterpiece of Black Mallory, if you like full flavored, English tobacco. Cool smoking and delicious. If you ever wanted to know what is "nearly perfect" to my humble mouth, the tobacco I would stain my last white tooth for - Go and buy a tin of this.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

plumcake and a joyful reunion

Before starting, I have to say that I LOVE MacBaren's Navy Flake. It is perfect, slow burning, delicious and wonderful. It is my understanding that this blend is based on that one, plus a bit minus a bit. I have been read that there is latakia in this, I haven't tasted it, but so it goes. This is supposed to have a bit of rum flavor. The MacBaren aromatics are preportedly not the "overpowering and goopy" aromatics that give aromatics such a bad name. This is true. This blend is nice and dry. I would put this in my list of thoroughly mediocre smokes. It is nice and has a great smell all around, it certainly falls in the baby bear category ("just right") in many respects. I enjoy all types of pipe tobacco, and have no prejudice against any one or the other. Even still there the Rum thing never really came off, that is to say, I never really tasted it. That wasn't terribly disappointing, it just left me with a sort of "did I miss it?" type of feeling. One review that I read claimed that the smoke was actually better after the topping sort of "burned off." It is a good smoke and a good tobacco. I think what made me feel somewhat ambivalent about it is that I paid quite a bit for the tin. Call me crazy, when I pay more I expect more. I suppose I would try it again if I weren't in a place where every purchase has to count. There is only so much money I can justify spending on the hobby. ("Sorry kids, no meat this month, it's a MacBeran month!) I would like to reiterate, however, the Navy Flake delivers every single time. So this is by no means a bash on MacBaren, just that this one isn't for me. I'm pretty excited to try the "mixture modern" but all in good time.

And now, given what was written before, something that may stun, amaze and discredit me to my entire readership. I have recently had a reunion that has warmed my heart tremendously. Anyone who has been estranged from a friend for an extended period of time and then sees them on the street may have this sensation. The moment of disbelief. The doubt and wonder, if it could really be them. Then the moment of courage, on the possibility that it was just how the light fell on a perfect stranger, reminding you of the loved one, when you go and tap them on the shoulder...Then the joyous meeting commences. This is the moment I have just had.

Upon moving to a new city I have been able to find a smoke shop, order most of my other premium tobaccos from Cornell and Deihl, and mama brings me up some treasured favorites when she comes up from the home town. Nevertheless, I have not been able to find a single walgreens or supermarket that sells Prince Albert, Carter Hall, or even Half and Half. I have been able to find one that has old packages of Captain Black, which has never been my favorite over the counter blend. And have actually had a pouch of Bjorkum Riff (whiskey) which was...okay. All of this changed when I went to go pick up some milk for my wife after work. Stopping off at a different grocery store I saw it. The beautiful Red and white box, and even the beautiful big circular tin. Delicious, wonderful, Prince Albert. I almost wondered if I had built it up too much.

Surely, this is not a high fallootin' complicated mix of fruits and oriental magic. This is tobacco. This isn't the Mocha-Yemen-Java Dark Roast Bean from the big green monster that comes in individually wrapped packages of snottyness. This is the honest, straightforward red can that says "COFFEE" on it and delivers exactly what it claims. I used to start my day with the floral cup of complex, individually roasted, overpriced bean drink. But I have now come to appreciate "COFFEE". And that is why I love Prince Albert. It is nutty, sweet, not complex, or overpowering. But it is just tobacco. I have been told that it has chemicals in it. Perhaps. I don't really notice it. Besides. I like a little cancer with my cancer. I feel like I met up with an old friend. The one who you don't necessarily have out for a "night on the town", but the one who tells you the truth, doesn't dress things up, and just enjoys your company.

I know you are wondering. And yes, I also have grown to appreciate PBR. Sue me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Long Absence and a Trip to Stonehenge

I am not certain that I can claim any good excuse for not posting to this blog recently. I have been enjoying some great new tobaccos recently, and have been thinking what I would write about them. I have also been enjoying some great pipe related fellowship and appreciating the people with whom I can appreciate a good pipe together. My current dream is to find a person that I can share a pipe and a game of cribbage, dominoes and/or backgammon. But I will have to be patient.

I recently spent an evening with a Bible Study/pipe circle that I enjoyed for many years. This group of fellows could not be beat for great conversation and like-minded enjoyment of tobacco and of the Word. Being there and chatting as if no time had passed at all made me think in no small part as to what heaven will be like. This too, however, is a matter for another time. What is on my mind at the moment is: Stonehenge.

I have three major tobacco reviews I am waiting to post, but all in good time, this is the first and foremost. My most avid reader went down to Edwards and boldly picked a blend for me to try (in a large quantity, no less!). The choice: Stonehenge! (Cue the dancing midget and 12" tall replica of Stonehenge descending from the ceiling). This is a great blend. It has that familiar hint of my favorite of all flavors: vanilla! But is mostly a really great lighter blend of tobacco. It doesn't have the same burley flavors that Black Watch has, however it is about the same level (or a bit less) of vanilla. Having tried some really nasty goopey aromatics, I appreciate Edward's natural aromatics a great deal! Just a taste of topping over the more abiding sense of great tobacco. One must be careful as the bowl continues as there is a bit of bite for the careless or "fast smoker", however, if you respect the blend it gets nice and intense about half way through the bowl. I would say it almost becomes pensive, brooding, and serious.

I suppose the parallel to THE Stonehenge (but only in my mind) would be the fact that upon seeing it for the first time everyone is awestruck, amazed and tickled at the curiosity of it...then we begin to wonder about the original purpose for which it was build? Oh, I'm sure we have figured it out, we're just so smart now, aren't we? But if you know, please don't tell me. I am having more fun wondering. Perhaps it was the first bird house that man started and got bored of halfway through construction. Perhaps it was giants playing with their parents dominoes. I could certainly imagine that in the absence of cards this would be the closest these men could come to making card houses. I like the idea of people with enough extra time that they would want to figure out how to put some rocks up on their ends and set others on top of it. I can just see them getting the villages together to dig up the rocks move them all to the top of the hill and saying to themselves, "I hope this whole calendar idea works, but if it doesn't, everyone else will have a heck of a time figuring out what we were doing." It certainly beats the massive wasting of time on the internet!

Additionally, if you would like to get some of this tobacco, you will have to go to the Edwards in Denver, Colorado. For some reason that is fully beyond my comprehension each individual store orders the same bulks AND THEN ARBITRARILY RENAMES THEM! This means that you can't go into your local Edwards and say "give me a pound of Stonehenge" because they will look at you like you have the wrong sort of substance in your pipe! What is yet more uncanny about this process is that they are afraid to tell you any information at all about what the tobaccos make up the blend or give you any sort of code by which you could locate the tobaccos at another Edward's store! It's the funniest, most self defeating thing I've seen in a while! But if you can find the one in Denver, Stonehenge is worth a try!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Wizened Old Pipe Smoker

The Lord is so good. When we moved our location I didn't know how long it would take to find a pipe smoker or two to enjoy some of the Lord's wonderful provision of tobacco with. The thought was even more daunting when I realized that the only real tobacconist around these parts wants to charge money in order to enjoy sitting around and shooting the breeze in the pipe/cigar store. Hope dwindled, I smoked alone.

Then I was introduced to a couple of college students who also enjoyed the Pipe. They are great guys and smoke mostly aromatics. It has been such a joy to expose them to some new tobaccos and watch them suck on their pipes like it was a speed smoking event. In turn, they give me a hard time for the fact that they will smoke three or four bowls to my one. Hey, I like to enjoy the that such a crime ;) ?

I am thankful for my new pipe smoking buddies, there is a reality that pipe smoking is better when shared. I never find myself wishing that I had not given away a bowl or two of tobacco, even a whole bag, when the fellowship and conversation is good. Coffee seems to have this power, perhaps a cigar, Bible study clearly promotes it, but there is something to be said for the simple reality that there seem to be too few things that encourage community, conversation, laughter, and the like. Most activities that I see today (television, movies, internet, reading, etc.) seem to draw people deeper into isolation. Why are there things that are better said over a pipe?

An Australian friend once alluded to the pipe as a "prop" for conversation. I like the theatrical feel of that, but I feel like there is a reality that is far more genuine. It gives us something to do when the conversation has a gap, something to default to, "my this does taste nice...". It does seem odd that we need a less important reason (pipe smoking) to get together and do something infinitely more important (sharing stories, struggles, life, etc.). But there it is. It saddens me that those less important things seem to fall out of vogue for even less important things (ipods, internets, computers, televisions, movies, etc.) that don't have the added benefit of directing us toward something better.

Thus, I am all the more thankful for my cadre of gentlemen who enjoy being a part of the brotherhood of the briar!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Thanks, Ma!

My son has the best "thanks" in the world (in my humble opinion). He looks up and beams at me and fires off a quick "den-kyoo" (with the accent on the "den"). As he is one year old this is adorable. My mother, and possible the only one who reads this blog, gave me some fun money and this is one of the things I bought (I also bought another Greek New Testament, as my old one is getting ragged). This is the first Mac Baren tobacco I have ever had. It was reviewed well, and I still am not sure what makes something a "navy flake" but I believe it means that it is pressed with molasses, honey or some other natural sweetener. Whatever the case, it's good!

The flakes themselves are dryer than some others that I have had (perhaps it's the tin that I got), however they pack and smoke wonderfully. A fold, a fold and I'm off to singing with the Village People ("in the Navy..." but smoking this tobacco doesn't seem to get me a tan at all!). I often wonder about the amazing power of the naming of tobacco. Given the fact that our government restricts tobacco advertisement so heavily (a policy I respectfully disagree with) a great deal of the selling power is wrapped up in the name.

Pipe smokers are a romantic sort (or at least I am) and are really being sold an experience, rather than just some dried leaves that come from different parts of the world. I often find myself rolling the name over in my mind as I enjoy a bowl of tobacco. Even one that I have had quite often. When I smoke Frog Morton I drift hazily back and forth between a smoke in the swamp with the dignified character on the front, and the Middle Earth Shire village for which tobacco was named. And yes, "The Frog" does a wonderful version of "the rainbow connection."

Smoking Rattray's Black Mallory (usually from my clay pipes) I find myself being gently carried into a proper English pub to enjoy the Virginia and Latakia that permeates the air. The sweet vanillas of Edward's Black Watch, take me back to many nights of friendship and Bible studies with by brothers in Denver. The wonderful flavors of C&D's Bayou AM and Bayou PM send me thinking of a peaceful repose on a Louisiana Dock after a full dinner of pine needle pie and sweetened gator stew. And I do tend to enjoy them at their recommended times.

Would I come up with any of the associations if I was given an unlabled baggie of tobacco? Certainly not. But I can be honest: sell me a dream, a vision, a fantasy. Sell me a picture that I can see with my tongue, a smell that will take me somewhere and show me something new...I'm buying. Vulnerable to advertising: yes. But I'm still buying!

Navy Flake is delicous, sweet and fun. Long, slow, cool burning and sweet. Such a nice delicate sweetness that it demands to be breathed out the nose as often as it can be. Pleasant and to the point. It isn't something that I would want to smoke inattentively, there would be too much to miss, and I think the Nicotine level would catch me by surprise if I wasn't careful. Great for a long night's smoke, one flake takes me more than an hour and a half to get through, if I smoke continuously. 3.5 oz of that is going to go quite some ways. I'm excited! (music fade out... "in the Navy...")

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cigar Tobacco?

On the recommendation of another pipe smoker I decided to try Billy Budd by Cornell and Deihl. This is described by C&D's as: "A heavy Latakia blend with rough-cut burly,bright Virginia flake and a good amount of rough-cut cigar leaf. Created for our late friend Sailorman Jack." I enjoyed this blend great deal. At first, the idea of a cigar leaf in a pipe tobacco blend didn't really appeal to me. I'm not really enamored with cigars in any way, however, this was so highly recommended that I had to give it a shot.

I love the latakia, I love the cool feeling that this provides in the tongue. This tobacco smokes cool and is enjoyably. It is a truly unique tobacco. I don't imagine that this would ever become one of my mainstay tobaccos, but I do enjoy it every time I smoke it. The cigar leaf does come through in force, and even seems to eclipse the pipe tobacco in it, but there is a sense of a continued conversation throughout the bowl. It's different, and fun, not too exciting to be an every day smoke.

I don't imagine that I will be a serious cigar smoker any time soon, but this is a nice experience. I will surely order this tobacco again!

Monday, April 26, 2010


Is it normal to be willing to try a new tobacco because of a beloved association? I have previously written about how I love the tobacco Blackwatch more for it's historical association, so I guess I'm just susceptible to a good title. Many tobaccos thrive on a title alone, just like coffee, tea, etc. (for example "Chock Full 'O Nuts" - Worst coffee ever!) Crooner, by Cornell and Deihl, however, is more than just a pretty face. What really attracted me to this blend is not just the fact that they associated it with the iconic pipe smoker, but the fact that it was a copy blend of the blend that Bing actually smoked. Is it close, would Bing like it? I don't know.
I don't know about the nuts and bolts, but the basics of the thing are Cubed burley and deer tongue. At first I didn't understand exactly how one would smoke cubed burley, but it came with time. The first few bowls didn't "wow" me as they were following stronger English tobaccos. However, since then I have given it first shot at my unburned palate and have found it to be a really nice, light easy burning blend. It is nutty and sweet and almost has a hint of vanilla. Very nice.
I am not licensed to speak about the disparity between the private and public life of Mr. Bing Crosby. This tobacco, however, seems to fit perfectly with his public personae. It is easy going and enjoyable. Wonderfully, smooth and it helps to hum "Sam's Song" or "Blue Skies" while burning through the wonderful duration of it. What a gas!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Celebrate with Me

Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!' Luke 15:8-9

This passage of the Bible is near and dear to my heart. It records the Father's joy at finding us! How wonderful is that? Pretty great news. The joy of my most current "find" isn't even closely comparable to what the verse is talking about but there is a slight similarity which made me want to bring it up! Any chance to think about the great news of God's love for us expressed through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ on the Cross for our sins.

Now, to the find! I recently moved from one town to another. I was a bit sad to leave my comfortable old Tobacco Shop (mentioned in previous posts) and the fellowship that was shared there, but the move was certainly of the Lord, and it would be insane to reject a great opportunity for the love of a smoke shop. So move we did, and since up here I have dedicated only a small amount of time to trying to find comparable digs around my new town. Alas, the hunt has not been successful! However, one great thing did come of the excursion.

I was at a shop that claimed to be a "pipe and tobacco" shop but really was only a cigar shop with a small corner dedicated to pipes and pipe tobacco. This was a bit disappointing but Jim and Armondo made up for the lack of pipe wares with pleasant conversation. During our chat they let me know that Pipe tobacco just didn't move quick enough there, but I could browse through the tins and bulks that they did have. And what to my wandering eye did appear?

Dunhill London Mixture!

For those who may not know (as I did not until somewhat recently) Dunhill was the best selling brand of tinned pipe tobacco across the US. Then one day it mysteriously disappeared (many good explanations on the internet...I just don't know). All of this happened before I decided to make my personal foray into the world of boutique tobaccos. So I can only read reviews and hear people bemoaning the loss of their own favorite Dunhill tobacco. So which I saw it I had to purchase it. I am usually very careful and intentional about trying new blends as they are not cheap and if you don't like them you have a not cheap can of 2 oz. of apathy. But this had to be done.

Having smoked two bowls now I am unable to say if I enjoy it for the fact that I didn't think I would ever get to try a Dunhill tobacco, or for the quality of the tobacco itself. It is a wonderful mild smoke. The Virginias are sweeter and nicer than Virginia blends I have tried. The orientals impart a nice spiciness that make the whole smoke very entertaining and enjoyable. Still it is nice to find something that was supposed to be lost forever, sitting in the corner of that smoke shop for years - completely undervalued. No one seemed to have a clue how rare it was to find it. Just a little pleasure that I could never have deserved!

Friday, January 29, 2010

First Pipe in a While

For the first time in quite some time I got to get outside and have a full bowl. It was a great and wonderful, peaceful and sweet. It was quite cold out and life has been busy, but at long last it was just warm enough to sit out and enjoy the nice taste of some Special Balkan from Edwards. The spicy and rich taste of Latakia and Orientals tantalizes and calls to me. There is a sweetness that comes in and out as the bowl continues.
I enjoyed this bowl in my new pipe, which is still smoking very nicely. I finally broke with an experiment that I have been at for the past three months. For the previous months I had dedicated each pipe to a particular blend. There is a thought that if a pipe is dedicated to a specific blend the smoker will be able to taste new the deeper complexities of the tobacco and thereby enjoy the tobacco more. Results: I'm just not there yet. It was nice, and for a while I wondered if I was tasting more of the subtleties. Then I decided to finish the test by tasting the same familiar tobaccos across the pipes that were dedicated to other blends (even crossing the lines between natural, English and [gasp] aromatics). I decided that there is not much to report for me personally and therefore I'll not bother about it for a while. More to think on...perhaps I will try again later and see.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Black Watch

For 10 years I have been smoking this beautiful tobacco, and for 10 years I have loved it. I won't say I love this tobacco as much as I love my wife...but I have loved it for a longer time. There is a wonderful sweet, cool, beauty to this tobacco that has made it wonderful for 10 years. The taste is vanilla. It turns out I just like vanilla.
It also turns out that it was named for a famous Scottish Military unit. I gotta admire anyone who can fight in plaid, though I imagine that they no longer fight in plaid. They are, however a pretty impressive group of soldiers. Gotta love a military tradition that has stood the test of time. You also have to respect a company that is willing to take advantage of the bravery and dedication of others to help them sell a product that causes cancer. Great stuff. Try it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A New Pipe for My Birthday

And a big thanks to my Grandpa and Grandma B. Their generous gift was funneled towards the purchase of this beautiful pipe. It is officially the most costly (and nicest smoking) pipe I own. My two favorites remain the two that April bought for me, as she picked them out with things in mind. While one of them is packed away in the "moving confusion" this is the first one she picked out for me around an anniversary, with the directive, "pick a pipe that reminds you of me":

It is a great pipe with a nice big bowl. The rustication makes it look extra big. And the bowl size is larger than any of my other pipes. It smokes nice and I have dedicated it to latakia blends. When asked why this pipe made her think of me April replied that it was the pipe that most made her think of a cuddly bear. So there you go. Love that pipe, and yes, I love cuddling as well.
Back to the pipe in question. I have learned some things about myself. Having tried some more pipes I am finding that I like shapes that are a little funky, and I really like the 3/4 bent stem. It just seems to sit so comfortably in the mouth and not demand the amount of work (especially helpful when smoking while doing another task). I was so thankful to go into Edwards to pick out my first "next level up" pipe. It was a fun adventure. The friendly fellow who works there took the time to answer questions and guide me to the right pipe for me and helped me to find the best pipe in my price range. Then he sat with me around the counter for the next hour and change while I broke it in, and he warmly congratulated me on getting a new job. Good times.
So there it is, celebrating the joy of much change it is really nice to be able to enjoy a nice sweet smoke from a pipe that is a cut above what I have had before. Quite thankful.