Monday, September 2, 2019

Some Good Tobacco, Some Bad Tobacco, and Some to Come

I have had the opportunity to enjoy more.  Enjoying more tobacco is always good.  A brief perusal of these articles will make it abundantly clear that I am no snob.  I simply love simple tobacco.  The interesting thing is the over the counter blends, and old American standbys are really not significantly cheaper, pound-for-pound than many "premium blends".  That means if you smoke Carter Hall, and I do, then you do it because it is easy on the palate rather than the wallet.  Nevertheless, those simple old standbys and classics that never seem to let you down do tend to be a bit monochromatic.  The minute I think that I am done going for the more upper-crust blends something happens.  I find and old tin that I had cellared, or I get an itch that can only be scratched by a good healthy dose of perique or latakia.  So it is...

I was enjoying some smoker friendly cherry blend, and some Captain Black Dark.  These blends were very clearly the chemically treated simple experience they always are.  They were not amazing, nor were they terrible.  The Cherry was the smoked cool and long and was not overbearing on the cherry flavoring.  Really nice, right over the plate, good tobacco.  The Captian Black Dark I think should just be called CB Extra.  It is everything that I expect out of the White with just a bit more.  More of the vanilla, more of the CB experience, but it did bite me.  Almost every time. 

All this was going along just fine...until my day off.  I found an older cellared tin of the last few bowls of Kajun Kake by C&D's.  That started off my smoky day with a reminder that my OTC blends are good...but there is a difference.  That bowl got me going onto a Briar Fox.  The burley in that blend is something that is absolutely amazing.  Then a bowl of the cherry, just to be sure that I wasn't hallucinating the difference of depth.  I was not.  Heading into the evening, after the kids went down, I had a long chat with a friend and had not less than four bowls (smaller, clay pipe bowls) of Rattray's Black Mallory.  There is something magical about ending the day with Latakia...and a lotta Latakia is the best.  This caused me to order some Old Tartan (H&H) and Star of the East (C&D) because I clearly need some variety in my pipe world.

The moral of the story.  I love to smoke my pipe.  I really enjoy each tobacco for what it offers.  I read a lovely review of an aromatic tobacco on Tobacco  It was pointing out how unfair it is that the English smokers will criticize a blend just because it is an aromatic.  They knew what it was when they ordered it, and it is fine not to like a blend, but you have to be even-handed enough to criticize a blend for what it is trying to accomplish.  That is where each blend shines - once you know what the blend is for you can know how to enjoy it...and if it was even made for you!  Fortunately, I find that most tobaccos were made for me to enjoy and that makes me very glad.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Capstan Blue

Most of my pipe pleasure has been found in Carter Hall of late. So simple, so satisfying. I never seem to tire of this magnificent all-day smoke. But there are those times when one wants a bit more complexity and distraction. 

For this I have been turning to the blue tin of Capstan which sat on my shelf for the last two years or so. It is a lovely flake that fits in well with all of those good, honest tobaccos that offers a purity and goodness that I love in a pipe tobacco. It burns well and has a satisfying sweetness that draws me in beautifully. 

Progressing into the bowl both weight and complexity increase. The blend gets more intense just as you would want a blend to become more intense. Like a casual acquaintance who becomes more interesting the longer you know him, this blend is not gaudy or insecure. It keeps me masterfully entertained throughout the smoke. 

It finishes with a lovely flourish in which I always wind up trying a bit to hard to light the dottle. It is too satisfying to want another bowl but to satisfied to want to see the bowl end. This tobacco is lovely.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Moderate Success!

The concept of "spin" seems to have caused most things to be described in the superlative.  Everything in life seems to have become some kind of perverse sales affair.  Not only is this true on the large commercial scale; but social media seems to have brought that concept down to the point of making it some sort of individual responsibility.  It seems we are compelled by forces beyond our control to try and make all of our efforts and adventures out to be extraordinary.  The trouble with this is quite apparent.

You may ask why I am ranting.  Why it is something trivial, of course!  I just finished my experiment mentioned in a previous post.  This is an experiment I have been working on for a bit over two months.  This experiment involves dedicating a new cob to a new tin of tobacco through the whole tin.  I have done this before and never been disappointed with the results.  Those cobs then go on to be graced by other blends and move through  their life as a happy cob in my collection until they pass their ultimate usefulness.  

So this experiment was absolutely, totally, remarkably and amazingly: fine.  I must admit I will likely not be buying another tin of Durbar.  It claims to be for the "experienced pipe smoker", though it fails to tell us what experiences are required. I found this blend to be on my medium low end of preference.  It was by no means painful to get through the tin, nor was it one I gave up on (as I did with Early Morning Pipe and Sweet Killarney).  But it just didn't make it quite to the place of expectation that I have set with My Mixture 965, London Mixture, and Nightcap.  Those blends never fail to blow me away.  

In contrast to the greats I would say that Durbar is a good blend.  I found that the orientals didn't speak too much, but it had that nice middle or the road experience.  It also took quite some time to really get comfortable with it.  For some reason I often had a mild tongue-bite that started right around the middle of the bowl.  

So try for your self, dear reader.  I don't think you could be too disappointed.  Durbar is a nice blend of quality tobacco and perhaps you will be the pipe expert experienced enough to draw all of the greatness out of Durbar Mixture. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Distinguished Society of Fine Gentlemen

Greetings good lovers of the brier!  While summer smoking ends and autumn smoking begins I  wanted to draw your attention to a site for which I have written a guest article.

The Distinguished Society of Fine Gentlemen is a fine group of men who are pursuing the worthy endeavors of cultivating the finer tastes as well as supporting a more civilized, polite and caring world.  I highly recommend looking into their material as well as considering the pursuit of beginning a chapter among your own circle of smoking friends.  If pursued with sincerity I believe this pursuit will improve your life, your relationships and the world in which you have influence.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New Pipes and New Tobaccos

I have tried this experiment before. I enjoyed it thoroughly and have decided to repeat it. The experiment? I'm glad you asked. The goal is to go deep wth a new tobacco. I found this fun shaped cob at a local tobacconist and I have been sitting on this tin of Dunhill Durbar for more than a year. The tin description reads as follows: "BLENDED FOR THE MORE EXPERIENCED AND MATURE PIPE TOBACCO SMOKER". I am unsure precisely what this means but I am excited. 

Yet that still is not an experiment, is it?  The experiment goes as follows. For the coming weeks I will smoke mostly this tobacco and I will only smoke it in this brand new cob. What is the point? Tobaccos are complex, they have personality and style. 

This is, for me, the equivalent of meeting a friend of a friend that you are fairly sure to like and then going on a long fishing trip with him. There can be bumps and bruises. You may find put quickly that this fellow has some strange character oddities, but commitment to delve deep brings results. I am excited to really dig in with this tobacco. I may even write about it. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Preferring the Pipe - Part III

A pipe is a work of art.  This has been previously mentioned in this series, but it must be more fully explained.

A pipe begins with a material.  Briar, clay, meerchaum, even a corncob!  Yet these natural elements must be foremed.  The right piece of briar must be selected, the clay must be mixed correctly, only certain cobs will do for making a great corncob pipe...

The right materials will bring about the best experience.  They will look beautiful, when crafted with skill.    Many pipe smokers can attest to the hours of pleasure they have recieved from examining pipe after pipe after pipe at a tobacconist, or at an online retailer.  Shapes are considerd, and grain patterns are scrutinized.  The best materials will also provide a smoking experience that is cool and dry, without gurgling or overheating to the discomfort of the hand.  Some materials allow are affected by what is smoked in them and begin to provide a deliciously layered "seasoned" experince.  Other materials give the smoker the purest "just the facts" view of the particularly tobacco.

Not only thisbut the shapes themselves are appealing.  From soft curves to hard angles.  From big bowls that almost take two hands to hold, to a tiny cup from which only a few sweet sips can be made before the experience has run its course.  Some will argue for a favorite or best size of bowl, but not me.  I like them all.  Small, medium and large bowls all provide such wonderful experiences when they are treated properly, and they all offer different kinds of appreciation.  For many collectors things will go in phases.  Once drawn to bulldogs, then brought to a phase of looking at Canadians, then obsessed with apple shapes, it is difficult to imagine that a person could run out of new pipes to appreciate.

But many pipes may look the same, no two are.  They all bring their own little nuances and personalities to the table.  Thus the pipe I hold in my hand that came from a major manufacturerer is still very especially mine, and while strikingly similar to the uninformed a true pipe smoker will be able to pick his pipe out of a lineup of similar ones because of this lttle ding, or pecularity in the grain.  Each pipe is much like a snowflake in its dear and subtle uniqueness. 

Finally, while this work of art will be supporting a flaming ember for hours on end proper use could mean a lifetime of enjoyment, and often even more.  This gives a continuity to the experience of pipe enjoyment that seems absent elsewhere in life.  It is personal, and while you may borrow another man's pipe, you will not know it as a friend.  It can only be a passing meeting, until you have invested enough in that bit of art to really appreciate it.  

Monday, May 4, 2015

Preferring the Pipe - Part II

The Art of Pipe Smoking

Why I prefer the pipe, first and foremost, is that it truly is a skill.  There is a definite artistry to every aspect of pipe smoking.  Some are meant to be evaluated in future articles.  A pipe itself is a work of art.  A functional and beautiful mix of design and purpose that far surpasses most other tools and vessels of pleasure (save perhaps a well crafted tea-pot).  A tobacco blend is no less an artisitic affair.  Taking just the right tobaccos, treated in just the right way to fit a specific mood, or a specific taste profile would sent most "foodies" to a state of madness for the amount of effort that has to go into a truly great blend.  But, I only apprecaite those artistic sides of pipe smoking.  The art form I am interested in now is the actual smoking.

First the art of selecting a pipe.

Every pipe is different.  Different shapes, sizes and stem considerations all make a great deal of difference in how the pipe is best to be enjoyed and what tobaccos are going to go best a given pipe.  This means that the maximum enjoyment isn't available to the beginner.  To be sure there is great enjoyement for the beginner, but as a pipe smoker learns his or her pipes the enjoyment grows by leaps and bounds.  To the point where a certain pipe will be selected at a certain time of day, or with only a certain type of blend...or even just one specific blend!  This level of appreciation can only come with time and effort.  This special treasure is only available to the one who is willing to make the effort to get to know the pipes that are involved.  

The Art of Burning.

Like so many I started by attempting to keep the fire burning as hot as possible.  I didn't think was enjoying my pipe (or any tobacco) untill I had burned away any sensation available in my mouth.  It wasn't until much later that I learned to sip at my pipe.  To mainatian the fire in the bowl at the perfect cool, slow smoldering level to release the maximum amount of flavor and pleasure without any pain or discomfort.  It has been years since I have had tongue bite, and years since I have felt "burnt out" the next morning from the enjoyment of a pipe.  Yet this also came only through time and practice.  I always liked the pipe, but I grew to like and apprecaite it more.  As I connected with masters of the art, taking note of their ways and their advice, my smoking improved and I was the sole beneficiary.  However, the journey is not done.  There is yet so much more to learn, and so much more enjoyment to be had.

The Art of Working with a Tobacco.

There are tobaccos that will just naturally work for a given pipe enthusiast and others that simply will not work for the same person.  I have so often had the experience of sharing a favorite blend with a friend only to find that there was little or no pleasure in that blend for them.  That being said, the humble pipe smoker is never hasty.  When the first experience with a blend goes badly the response is most commonly not a jundgment of the blend, but a resolve to find a better way to work with this tobacco in the future.  Perhaps the solution it to pack the tobacco more firmly, or more loosely.  Perhaps the pleasure was locked away because of puffing too hard, or not tamping firmly enough.  Often times a different pipe will yeild better results, and sometimes a few months in the tobacco cellar will do wonders for the blend.  I know of no other method of tobacco enjoyment that offers this ability to give countless second chances to explore and draw the goodness out of a given product.  It seems to me that all other forms come mostly prepared...if you don't like how the product is wrapped or stuffed, or created you simply didn't like that tobacco product.  But not the pipe.  So much control to make sure that the leaf gets the best viewing before judgment can be passed.

The Art of Maintaining a Pipe

My last thought for this article is simple.  The art of maintaing a pipe is a pleasure all it's own.  It begins simple for the amature.  Just running an occasional pipe cleaner through the stem.  This is a great start!  As more beloved pipes are collected, however, the desire to seem them continue in their usefulness becomes deeper.  The use of different tools begins: reamers, chapstick, alcohol, and polish.  Before you know it you find that the first estate pipe has fallen into your hands and you must start salt treatments and deep cleanses to get out the ghosts.  With hard work a pipe can be restored to usefulness after years of abuse or neglect, skill applied properly brings about the redemption of an historical artifact that is now ready to function again.  What an art form.

This is the first reason I enjoy the pipe.  There is always room to improve and grow.  Certainly, there will be times when a pipe is just comfortably and thoughtlessly puffed.  An old blend, like a dear friend, fits like a comfortable shoe and needs very little consideration about how it must be enjoyed, but that because the comfort has been earned from getting to know that blend well.  There will also always be new adventures, new tobaccos and new pipes with which to perfect our interactions.  So the blessed pipe smoker sits underneath a canopy of new delights and old standbys with no need to fear that he must be either complacent or forever forging ahead for the "El Dorado" of pipe smoking.  Knowing that as he enjoys his pipe, he will get better at enjoying his pipe and thus will enjoy it more for every moment that he spends enjoying it.   Bliss.