METALandMIRRORS: Pipes: Journey Through The Briar

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Pipes: Journey Through The Briar

My wife and I have been pipe smokers for the majority of a year, and we've learned a great deal; however, we know we still have much to learn in the art of tobacco itself.  We acquired 52 pipes and 73 blends of tobacco along our journey this year – and that’s a story in itself.  The learning is not in how to smoke a pipe any longer, but what tobaccos to experience and how it all ties together.  If you just want to smoke, then fire up a cigar.  But if you want an experience, then light up a pipe. 

Pipe smoking is a very personal and rewarding affair, and I have never found any pipe smoking experience the same, similar, but never the same for various reasons. From the type of pipe I chose, the blend of tobacco, how my day is going, and even to what I ate and when. You can share your opinion and your experiences all day long, but pipe smoking is an individual journey.  From the first time you light up, to the end of that very first bowl.  If you didn’t have a moment of reminiscent affair, I believe you missed the point of pipe smoking. 

We recently started pipe smoking at our local tobacconist given the weather is turning very cold here in the north.  We only smoke outside or in the garage, never in the house.  Admittedly I was somewhat apprehensive to smoke in tight quarters with others I did not know.  I’m an extroverted person, so my concern was not the social aspect, but the potential loss of the personal journey I enjoy.  What my wife and I have found is everyone seems to get along rather famously. The mix of cigar aficionados and pipe connoisseurs actually blended very well.  In the end, it was hours of intriguing conversation and new acquaintances. I cannot say for sure at this stage if it will always be that way, but so far, we like what we’ve experienced.  New people, like my wife and I, are instantly accepted; everyone has plenty to talk about, and everyone gets along great.

When it comes to our friends and families, they accept that we smoke pipes, but I do see where that acceptance doesn't necessarily include understanding. To a lot of people, smoking is just plain ole’ smoking.  And yes, we all understand the risks of smoking any type of tobacco, regardless of the method or frequency; however, they don’t understand the why of smoking a pipe, just that we do. Only until you become a pipe smoker yourself, can you truly identify what other pipe smokers already know.  Smoking a pipe becomes a lesson in patience, and requires a certain level of skill to master. A skill only obtained through time; there is no substitute.  It’s the combination of time and skill that ultimately takes its toll on those we lose along the way. 

Many try pipe smoking only to give it up before they’ve really given themselves the chance to truly appreciate the art.  My wife and I are still in the learning curve when it comes to the myriad choices of tobacco and how certain blends can make the difference between hanging up the pipe, or squealing like a child on Christmas morning.  Having each other to share the experiences undoubtedly strengthened our ability to move beyond the initial learning curves and experience first-hand what pipe smoking is truly about.  I know we don’t fully appreciate what certain tobaccos can do for us, but that’s the excitement of lighting a pipe as often as we can to discover that next experience.    

As you settle in to enjoy a pipe, the rest of the world takes a back seat and you’re in control.  I liken it to that of an airline captain.  You go through your mental checklist before takeoff.  From choosing a pipe in your rotation, to selecting the tobacco of choice, and yes, even scratching that match all add up to begin your journey.  And when the first hint of the room note makes contact with your senses, it’s a story book of calm and you begin to truly appreciate the flavors and ultimately the skill it took to get where you are. 

Pipe smoking for us is both and art and a craft which forms a state of relaxation.  It’s been said that works of art cultivate conversation, catalyze questions, invoke memories, and stimulate feelings that otherwise may not have been realized.  Once you obtain a degree of pipe smoking finesse, I think you’ll agree. We certainly do.  Pipe smoking will appeal to all of your senses. From the visual, to the olfactory, even the aural (when you hear that match crackle and certain tobaccos crack and pop).  A year ago, we knew nothing about tobacco, today however, hearing the word tobacco takes on a whole new meaning and appreciation for us.  Sure, as I already mentioned we have a great deal to learn about blends as we’ve only scratched the surface.  But opening your first bag or tin, smelling the tobacco notes, and studying the cuts, it all begins to paint a picture and builds the anticipation of lighting your pipe.    

We share all the lessons we’ve learned with anyone who will listen.  From packing less tightly, to drying certain tobaccos more, to not putting a pipe cleaner into a pipe you’re actively smoking (“dottle” is not a pleasant taste in your mouth), not removing your stem from the mortise when it’s hot, and the list goes on.  The lessons are many, but the rewards of determination and success are even more so.  In the end, no matter how many stories you hear, it’s like anything else…you’ll figure it out, but in this story, you don’t have to do it alone.

At the end of each day, a great tobacco paired with a fine pipe is something to cherish, and isn’t that what’s is all about?  Tobaccos are crafted with care and precision, resulting in complex, multi-sensory experiences. Why should packing your pipe and smoking a bowl be anything less.

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