What makes a Good Smoke?
In the past few weeks posters have been discussing and evaluating the relative
importance of briar in smoking pipes. I think there are others factors equally
important that while obvious to the experienced smoker may not be evident
to the newbie. There are times when the experience of pipe smoking is indescribable.
The subtle, textured taste of your favorite tobacco is a pleasure to behold.
Unfortunately every smoke is not like that.
Of foremost importance in getting a good smoke is finding a tobacco that
tastes good and smokes well. When I first started smoking a pipe I started
on, what else, Middleton's Cherry Blend and a corncob. I still remember
glimmers of good taste before my tongue was reduced to char by that hot
burning blend. I think it was that hint of good taste that kept me smoking.
While working for Jack Weinberger I was exposed to Tinder Box blends and
smoked their Crown Royale. Working for a pipe maker I had a free supply
of good pipes too. However, while Crown Royale was better than Cherry Blend,
that elusive good smoke wasn' t there for me yet.
Sometime in the early 80's I discovered Georgetown Tobacco. I wound up smoking
one of there blends for a while that was made by Lane Ltd. Its trade name
is I-Q. That blend tasted similar to the Vanilla flavored Crown Royale but
it burnt better. I remember CR as being kind of gooey toward the bottom.
As I became a more experienced smoker I was able to consistently pack a
pipe better, draw the smoke more evenly and control the burn. Though the
good smoke, wasn' t consistent yet. While I was able to get I- Q at almost
any good shop it suffered from a lot of the problems associated with aromatics.
In my quest to find a better burning tobacco that still has a sweet taste
I experimented and liked Mac Barren's Golden Extra and a few years later
their Navy Flake. I now smoke these blends exclusively and one in one set
of pipes and one in another. When I get a new pipe I smoke it with the Golden
Extra, if its not sweet it usually works great for the Navy Flake. Golden
Extra seems to smoke best in shorter straighter bowls, Navy Flake in tapers.
I m very happy with this two tobacco, two set of pipes situation. Most of
the time I get a really fine smoking experience with it.
I realize there are other factors involved. One I rotate my pipes a lot.
I try not to smoke one more than once a week. Is this strictly necessary?
Probably not, but I usually get a good smoke when I do this
. I think a great factor in tobacco tasting good is temperature. Many people
talk about Canadians smoking cool. As an experiment a few years back I made
sort of a water pipe without the water. I used a briar free standing bowl
connected to a three foot tube that I fitted over a regular bit. It smoked
cool, very cool, but tasted lousy. Kind of like cold pizza tastes. Tobacco
needs some heat to bring out its flavor. Too much or too little and its
untastable. I' ve never heard any studies done on this but I would bet there
is a certain temperature envelope where tobacco tastes the best. I think
this is why I prefer smoking indoors where I can control the airflow into
the pipe better.
In summary I think the most important factors in a good smoke are a good
tasting, good burning tobacco, and a good pipe. When I say good pipe I mean
one that is broken in, dry, and not sealed with lacquer and soaked in stain.
I think for a pipe to function well in the long run it needs to have some
grain which facilitates the pipes drying function. For a newbie I'd recommend
pipes without any stain in the bowls or even any coloring on the outside.
Don t worry about the fills. Peterson makes a nice line of Natural seconds
that are excellent starter pipes. Lastly, experience in controlling the
burn, keeping the tobacco warm enough to taste good but not so hot as to
. I guess if this was easy there would be a lot more pipe smokers. A great
smoke is the result of experimenting and practice. People who are seeking
immediate gratification generally aren't pipe smokers. For those who take
the time to find a Good Smoke, the wait is well worth it. Mark Tinsky
American Smoking Pipe Co.
HC 88 Box 223
Pocono Lake, Pa. 18347