By Joshua Dodson
It is common to see tobacco growing in small fields and patches of land in Kentucky. The beautiful light green and yellowish tobacco is an unmistakable presence in the commonwealth. Driving along, it is also common to see many roadside stands selling discount tobacco or “cheap cigarettes.” Many of the discount tobacco stands are quite literally sheds that have been reconfigured to act as a means to deliver an inferior product that is cheap and demeaning to many of the farmers that labor in care to produce a quality tobacco. If you go into one of the many shops and ask for a cigar or pipe tobacco, they will look at you in a funny way before offering one of the few mass-produced versions that they stock–if they even offer that.
When you become accustomed to seeing so many of these “cheap tobacco” shops, you begin to realize how much of an oasis that a place like Schwab’s Pipes ’n Stuff actually is in Kentucky. Tucked away in an unassuming location in Lexington, Kentucky, Schwab’s stands as one of the few places that provide a high quality experience for those who appreciate pipe tobacco and fine cigars. If you are looking for cheap cigarettes, Schwab’s is not the place for you. If you want to enjoy high quality tobacco that respects the growers and producers in Kentucky and throughout the world, then Schwab’s is exactly what you want.
The first time I walked into Schwab’s, I was struck by the cigar store Indian statue at the entrance–a vestige of a different time. Jeff Schwab, who now runs the family store after his father, founder Paul Schwab, passed away a few years ago, greeted me. Jeff immediately asked how he could help. After telling him about my experience with aromatics and my interest in trying something a bit different, he told me about several English blends that were blended in the store.
Jeff took time to go over many of the different blends that were on the counter, each blended in the back of the store with a concrete mixer. He talked about a moderately mellow English blend named Merish. “Go ahead and dip your pipe in and smoke some,” he urged. A great trademark of Schwab’s is that anyone is welcome to stop in and try a free bowl of their pipe tobacco blends right there in the store. If you like the blend, you can purchase some at a reasonable price. If not, try something else.
I lit the Merish in the billiard I brought with me and walked around the store for a few minutes. The “stuff” of Schwab’s Pipes ’n Stuff is a magnificent array of pipes, cigars, and accessories. If there is anything that you might need for your pipe smoking hobby, you can likely find it here.
One of the nice features of Schwab’s is that they have many different pipe options. You can find very nice Peterson’s pipes, a meerschaum, a corncob, and other unique pipes. The options range from extremely reasonable to more expensive, artisan pipes. Schwab’s even has a barrel of briar pipes for $40 each. It is a random assortment of seconds and other lower end pipes. If you buy a pipe or two, they will throw in a free ounce of one of their blends so that you can enjoy it immediately.
“How do you like that Merish?” Jeff said after I had been puffing on it for a few minutes. I told him it was excellent. He told me that I was done for and would likely also be an English man. He made the recommendation to dedicate a pipe to English blends, a solid piece of advice.
We talked about some of the other blends. He told me that he smokes them all, but has a few favorites. Blackmoor is a unique and delightful aromatic that Jeff could not recommend highly enough. As for English blends, he also recommended Paul’s Stuff, a full-bodied blend with a complex range of flavors. Tom, an employee of Schwab’s, told me about Tom’s Stuff, a blend that Paul had created in the 1970s to mirror a blend that Tom had become accustomed to while in the military. Tom was unable to find it after returning home. Paul created the light, but flavorful aromatic for Tom, who has been smoking it ever since.
Jeff is quick to say that he doesn’t just enjoy pipe tobacco; he is also a connoisseur of cigars. This is apparent by the large, walk-in humidor. The humidor is filled with many different options. Jeff takes great care to ensure that he provides a variety of quality cigars for his customers, offering any guidance or suggestions.
Once you have selected a cigar or pipe tobacco, there is a comfortable smoking lounge equipped with a TV, magazines, and other friendly cigar and pipe smokers. It is a great place to watch a game (University of Kentucky games are often on), discuss the news, and solve all of the world’s problems while enjoying a pipe.
Schwab’s Pipes ’n Stuff offers helpful and knowledgeable staff, a welcoming atmosphere, and many options for the pipe and cigar smoking hobby. They will help you find something you will enjoy and can appreciate. Schwab’s is for anyone who wants to appreciate the benefits of fine tobacco in an unpretentious and uncommon way.
[Editor’s Note] You can find Schwab’s Pipes N Stuff @ 245 Southland Dr, Lexington, KY 40503 And phone them @ +1 859-266-1011