I have to say that I have been smoking pipes for a few years now and I can safely say that time has not diminished my enjoyment of the hobby, rather, it has fine tuned my love for it. Since I was a boy I have always been fascinated with oddities of a vintage era, perhaps that why I study history. Essentially I love antiquity and anything that is antique. Needless to say people think that I am odd or as some have described me “eccentric”. Over the years I have collected things like pocket watches, antique nautical instruments, leatherbound books and journals and of course…. fine briar pipes.
There is something about the hobby that attracts me too it, and even after a long hiatus of smoking, I always return to the same pipes, and the same tobaccos. I think it is the very fact that while I am smoking it I am transported to another time, a time long past
Pipes come in every shape, size and material one can think of, such as clay, metal, cherry wood, olive wood, and of course briar wood; which is the most common pipe material. The allure of collecting pipes is the variety of choice. The sheer amount that are available suit all tastes, which over the career of a pipe smoker, becomes cultivated and fine tuned to a few favourite shapes and materials. Pipe collecting is addicting to say the least, so BEWARE.
The first pipe I had bought was on ebay years back, the pipe was made by a relatively well know carver in Rome called Mario Grandi. As of now they sell exclusively on ebay. Unlike most well know pipe manufacturers Mario Grandi does not sell a line of pipes. They instead make one of a kind pieces, they never make the same pipe twice. That is one of the novelties of Mario Grandi, their pipes are limited to 1, so every one they make is unique.
When I received the pipe in the mail I was gitty to say the least, like a child on Christmas morning. The pipe was beautifully packaged in a faux leather box and tucked inside a embossed felt drawstring pouch. I was impressed! But what was more impressive was my first smoke of this Italian beauty. The draw was smooth, and without restriction. It was a dream. My first smoke was without any incident, unlike most novices. I had done hours of research and even more hours watching YouTube tutorials on packing, lighting and caring for pipes. My first tobacco I had smoked until this day remains my tobacco of choice and favourite tobacco, Petersons University Flake.
“If you can’t sent money, send tobacco.” -George Washington to the Continental Congress, 1776
For you pipe novices, pipe tobacco comes in essentially 3 different forms: loose, flake, and twist (rope). Loose tobacco is self-explanatory, it is tobacco which is cut finely into thin little strips, such as the famed ribbon cut. Flake (my favourite) is tobacco which has be pressed under immense pressure until it turned into a hard cake, which is then sliced into rectangles which can then be folded or rubbed out and packed into your pipe. Finally there is twist or rope tobacco which is when the whole tobacco leaves are stacked and twisted until it appears the the tobacco is in the form of a twisted rope, hence “twist”. Each of these forms are prepared and packed in the pipe differently. You must choose the style and method which best suits you. This of course will take time, and a lot of practice.
Pipe smoking, or even simply pipe collecting has an air of brotherhood (or sisterhood for you smoking ladies!). When a group of pipe smokers congregate to have a bowl of their favourite tabac, pipe smoking itself becomes the social glue, even if the topics of conversation are not pipe related (which is seldom of course). Pipe smoking in such events evolves from simple smoking and becomes an art form which is truly beautiful to behold, and even more beautiful to take part in.
“I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgement in all human affairs.” -Albert Einstein, 1950
Regardless if you are a new recruit into the hobby or your someone who is re-familiarizing yourself with your long lost briars, remember that there is a vast and growing community of people who appreciate the art as much as you do. You are always welcome to the conversation, all you have to do it pack, light and puff !
By: Steven Umbrello
Steven Umbrello is a student of philosophy and an avid cigar and pipe smoker. He has been smoking cigars and pipes for over five years and has made it his mission to learn as much about the industry as possible. He has attended some high profile cigar events and is a leading member of the Toronto Cigar Club. You can find more from Steven at his blog The Leather Library Blog.