Before there were cigarettes or cigars, there were pipes. Most early tobacco use was for pipes. Today, pipes can range in cost from $25 to several thousand dollars each. The beauty of pipe smoking is the advantage of being able to smoke a variety of tobaccos, each with a different aroma and taste. Like varieties of coffee, pipe tobacco tends to smell better than it tastes, but aficionados enjoy savoring the smell and the taste in combination.
Start with basic down-the-street stores like pharmacies. Several pharmacy chains still carry pipe tobacco and some of it isn’t bad. Some pharmacies have their own brand on pipe tobacco. Try basic cavendish styles or cherry-flavored tobacco. There are some better-known brands, too, such as Captain Black available there.
Move to an actual tobacconist shop. Even a small shop will have a variety of pipe tobaccos in glass humidors. Get a sense for how the blend looks. Tobacco blenders tend to make their blends so they look appealing. Look at what appeals to you.
Ask the tobacconist to let you smell the tobaccos that appeal to you. This is quite standard and the proprietors will be happy to help you.
Choose two to four tobaccos that smell good. They will taste different than they smell, but you will come to extrapolate the difference as you become more experienced. Pipe tobacco generally is sold by the ounce, so get one ounce of each one you like.
Choose the correct pipe to smoke each tobacco in. One of the reasons pipe smokers have a variety of pipes is because they will use only one tobacco in each pipe. This maintains a pure taste.
Smoking a tobacco pipe is a time honored tradition as old as our great nation. America’s very first cash crop was tobacco. And while smoking cigarettes has fallen out of favor, the relaxing pastime of reading the paper while smoking a pipe by the fire has kept it’s popularity. Perhaps it reminds us all of a simpler time.
Choose your pipe. There are a myriad of pipes from which to choose. Everything from corncob, (which may be best for the person just trying it out) to wooden and clay. If you are an avid pipe smoker you probably know the idiosyncrasies of each. But if you just want to having a nice relaxing smoke, a corn cob pipe is suitable. It requires no breaking in.
Pick your tobacco. This is the most important step as it’s the one that will define everything about your experience. There are literally thousands of tobaccos. From sweet to spicy or savory to bitter, choosing the tobacco is a very personal thing. If you’re not sure, speak with your local tobacconist; they may even let you try some samples!
Pack the pipe. If this isn’t the first time you’ve used your pipe, be sure to “blow” through the stem to remove any residual bits from the bowl. Pinch an amount of tobacco that looks like it would be slightly bigger than the bowl of your pipe. Pack it lightly into the bowl, being careful not to stuff it too tightly. It should be firm but still with some residual spring. If your pipe is significantly overflowing, remove the excess.
Use your tamper. This is a tool that is sold at your local tobacco store and it is used to push any loose ends of tobacco into the pipe. Again push down gently not to over pack the pipe.
Light your pipe. Take a few puffs of your pipe, inhaling gently. Air should flow easily and you should get a nice taste and aroma of the flavor you chose. The best matches with which to light your pipe are long kitchen matches. Of course a lighter will work as well. But some purists recommend wood. Now, holding the flame over the pipe, inhale the smoke, puffing it in your mouth. Then use the tamper to pat down the extra tobacco which may have puffed up again after lighting.
Relight. This sounds odd, but the process you just completed is called the “false light.” The flame does not hold as the initial sulfur burns off. So repeat the previous process drawing the smoke in to your mouth and puffing as you hold the second flame over the bowl of the pipe. Please note it may take up to fifteen to twenty seconds to light your pipe. Now you should be on your way to a relaxing night of smoking your pipe and resting your feet by the fire!