Piping – the pastime with endless vistas. You can smoke morning, noon, and night for decades on end, but the blends keep coming out, the palate continues to improve, your collection of briar, meerschaum, and morta swells, and your friendships in the dedicated piping community flourish. We’re plumbing the depths when we light a tobacco pipe, and that’s all you can ask for in a pastime.
The pipe community is ripe with resources to enrich your smoking experience. Depending on where you’re at in your journey, some of these offerings range in usefulness; if you’ve just picked up the first pipe in your collection, the online friendly sparring over the intricacies of tobacco blends or the dating of rare estate pipes can be a bit over one’s head. But press on; pick up what you can. The evolution of piping knowledge resembles, say, a cloud of smoke more than it does a linear line. The pieces fall into place as you go, and immersive bits of trivia pay dividends in unforeseen ways.
So where to go to improve your pipecraft? In days of old, the piper was beholden to a periodical or conversations at the local shop. But in contemporary times, a new rolodex of resources spans everything from social media to documentaries to pipe shows. We’ve sifted through the abundance and put together a shortlist of twenty exceptional resources to enrich and invigorate your pipe smoking experience. You can also check out our 10 Tips About Pipes and Tobacco from Industry Experts to learn more.
Magazines about Tobacco Pipes
2019 marked a sad year for the pipe community—the folding of Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine. The premier publication for pipe and tobacco industry news and reviews, along with excellent interviews, it’s well worth getting your hands on back issues of this piece of history if any pop up online. While the pipe world presently doesn’t have the equivalent of a glossy mag like Cigar Aficionado or Cigar Snob, digital publications have stepped in to fill the void for info-hungry pipers.
PipesMagazine.com launched in 2009 as a digital hub for pipe conversations. Founded by Kevin Godbee, the platform has evolved from its original iteration as a forum and now includes categories for industry events, tobacco reviews, the aforementioned (and often-updated) forums, general industry news, and retailer spotlights. The fun continues with ancillary tidbits like fiction and poetry dedicated to tobacco and even a specialist column with queries for pipe veteran, G. L. Pease.
Another online publication, Briar Report (established 2016) centers its content around tobacco industry news, especially as it applies to pipe tobacco and cigars. Expect to find updates about legislation, taxation, industry shows, and brick and mortar pipe shops opening their doors and closing up shop. Briar Report also offers a free newsletter so you can keep abreast on the crème de la crème of their written content.
Youtube for Pipe Smokers
YouTube has exploded as a resource for the piping community in the last decade. From tobacco reviews to pipe techniques to hot takes on new blends to maker interviews, there’s a truly unbelievable depth of resources to improve your pipe knowledge while immersing yourself in a sea of pipe personalities. Here are a few favorites to wet your whistle.
Muttnchop is an elder statesmen of YouTube’s pipe commentators. With his grandly calm presence, enviable chops befitting a Civil War general, and wealth of videos on tobacco reviews, books, and smoking technique, sitting with one of Muttn’s offerings is a fast track to nuanced piping and a good reminder that pipes are for your leisure.
Bremen Pipe Smoker offers signature long-form tobacco videos. A practitioner of “lunting,” taking your pipe outdoors for a leisurely stroll, Bremen Pipe Smoker’s videos are extended meditations on tobacco craft, first-hand experience in nature, and historical sites. No surprise given our notable host is a history professor. For in depth meditations, a truly relaxing experience, and a good deal of content on Meerschaum pipes, pack a bowl and settle down with one of Bremen’s tranquil videos.
Another well-viewed YouTuber on our roster is George Bruno, “The Sultan,” who releases ancillary content on topics like beard care, fashion, and literature alongside his gems of pipe philosophy. Lively and engaging with a sonorous voice that puts most audiobooks to shame, The Sultan’s wide-ranging content is a lovely complement to the piper’s varied life interests.
Podcasts for Tobacco Pipe Smokers
YouTube offers loads of superb content, but sometimes we need our stimulus without the visuals; content for long roadtrips, or to withstand the drudgery of the gym, or the bumper-to-bumper commute to work, or even a little pleasant diversion while we’re at the office. To that end, we turn to podcasts and a special two that are guaranteed to flare your passion for pipes.
For the enthusiast, Pipe and Tamper features interviews with pipe community mainstays and carvers, quick reviews on tobaccos new and old, and dedicated segments to briar and blends. The interviews are engaging and the historical details substantive. Episodes are fairly consistent though we haven’t heard from Pipe and Tamper’s host, Mike, since March of this year. Nevertheless, there are 80+ episodes to hold you over until the return.
For excellence in tobacco talk, look no further than The Pipes Magazine Radio Show. Hosted by Brian Levine, a Dr. of Pipes, this one-hour show boasts an impressive back catalog of 450 episodes on everything from informative updates on tobacco legislation to interviews with legendary makers like Tom Eltang to the popular “7 Shows with 7 Questions for 7 Experts” series. Engaging and clever, get this podcast in your rotation to stay abreast with current issues along with ancient pipe history.
Instagram for Pipe Smokers
Pipes are visual elements and so much goes into their making. It’d be tragic to miss out on their unique lines, craftsmanship, and maker’s process. That’s why we turn to Instagram for a visual gallery of modern shapers, gorgeous estates, and general pipe inspiration. There are hordes of worthy pipers out there that you should track down and follow, but here are a few of our favorites that win the day with pipe knowledge, style and flair, and gorgeous briar to boot.
First to the plate is Rory O'Callough, “The Reasonable Madman.” O'Callough sallies forth with personality in spades, offering his “Health Tips”—unique bits of wisdom for your everyday life, and all while holding a fine briar pipe. Check out the Puthatinyerpipeandsmokeit YouTube channel for longer form content. And somebody cast this guy in a film already.
From across the pond, JC of @Pipesandbriar brings soul-restoring imagery: pipes, nature, tins of tobacco, and even a sketch here and there. Pipes out in the glory of nature is one of the most elevated ways to enjoy our favorite pastime, and JC’s brief reflections and gorgeous photography are a stellar example of the pleasures of wide sampling, natural wonders, piper enthusiasm, and art on the go.
Scott Thieman, aka “Scottie, aka “@Smoknjazz” serves as a vivid reminder that piping is a lifestyle well-accompanied by other notable hobbies and interests. Presence of great books? Check. Intros to the lore and deep cuts of jazz luminaries like Miles Davis, Coltrane, and the Almighty Charles Mingus on vinyl? Check. And loads of gorgeous briar? That too. Report for inspiration with Scottie to get your pipe fix along with a healthy satiation of ancillary piper pursuits.
The Database for Pipe Smokers
Have you ever wished for an easily accessible online location that cohered deep knowledge and trivia of everything from current pipe shows to modern blenders to makers to legends of the trade? If only the internet had made such a thing possible. Such a thing as Pipedia.
The shortcut to so much knowledge, Pipedia is a wiki for all things pipecraft. At the time of this writing, Pipedia boasts 18,142 pages of glorious deep dives into the craft. From brand history to situating makers, Pipedia is a living document; a compendium for your rabbit hole evenings. It’s a beautiful thing to watch our pipe community come together from across the globe to produce such shared knowledge. Spend a few minutes here and we’re sure you’ll agree.
The Pipe Forums
In the spirit of communal contributions to pipe craft . . . The pipe forums are a not-so-secret arsenal of pipe knowledge. The largest exemplars are active and engaging, with long term contributors that weigh in with expertise much vaster than your Apple store’s Genius Bar. Forget doomscrolling mindless memes and party with the impressive knowledge and fine camaraderie of these digital hubs.
Pipe Smokers’ Forums is warm; to a full bowl in the briar and to new members. With 600+ members and a couple thousand topics, this active community engages everything from fishing to the culinary arts to, of course, pipes. Peruse the conversation and pipe in when you’re ready.
A terrifically robust forum hosted by Pipes Magazine, there is a tangible ethos to the members’ sense of humor, familiarity, and general way of doing business. Dedicated members are at the ready for healthy discussion about tobaccos, photographs of member’s pipes, discussion of legislation, and even a little corner for the pipe smoker’s occasional treat, cigars. If you’ve got a burning question about virtually any topic related to pipecraft, it’s likely someone has raised the issue over at Pipes Magazine’s forum. Shortcut your education and get involved with a livewire community here.
The Printed Pipe Word
Digital content has its advantages from ease of accessibility to multitasking, but still, what beats a book? For a hobby that’s so indebted to history, we can’t pass on the printed word. While glossy magazines for pipecraft may be out of circulation at the time of this writing, that doesn’t mean there aren’t longer-form alternatives that are worth your time. At the very least, they make a pretty picture for your coffee table and you’ll thumb through the articles in the wind down hours. Your spouse may not let the pipe in the house, but we bet these will pass muster.
Curl up with a copy of The Book of Pipes & Tobacco, available for a meager fifteen bucks used. Chock full of vintage photos, this 1973 volume of pipe lore may be dated in terms of its prices (afterall, we’re tracking back fifty years now), but it still provides a wealth of enduring information along with an easy to access style for garnering invaluable information about historical context. A win on all counts.
Published in 2006 by Rick Newcombe, another Dr. of Pipes, this outstanding comprehensive volume contains yarns about legendary pipers, contemporary makers in the biz, and everything in between. Written in essay form, Newcombe’s vantage point is informed by first-hand experience across the world and the reader is treated to masterful perspectives on every element of the pipe process. Not to be missed, this volume is a must for every serious piper’s library.
A pastime as rich as piping is well-served by the longer form medium of documentary film. The richness of personalities in the pipe community, the ability to take a deep dive, and of course, the visual imagery of elegant briar makes for a most pleasing hour and a half. For a sustained event that isn’t beholden to hyperlinking to another topic on Pipedia, consider the following films.
An Official Selection at 2018’s Chicago International Film Festival, Father the Flame is best understood as an effort of safeguarding; it’s a filmic preservation of knowledge, history, craft, and story. Directed by Chad Terpstra, a cinematographerby training, this gorgeous documentary tracks the world-renowned pipe maker, Lee Erck, across the world as he delves into the art of making pipes. The documentary boasts an inspiring roster of folks who broaden the viewer’s understanding of pipes, including appearances from Danish makers, Italian adepts, and Native American masters. Widening our lense to history and the modern age, Father the Flame is a testament to the glowing embers of history and to the future of piping in our modern era.
It’s rare to find a long-form treatment of famed pipers in video format, although YouTube interviews have helped to illuminate a few of the greats. Fortunately, a 2017 documentary profiles two terrifically worthy makers, Anne Julie and Manduela Riger Kusk. These Danish makers’ friendship and innovative dedication to pipecraft is absolutely infectious and a sound reminder of the joy of community. Though not streaming at present, track down a DVD of these two at the link above for a significant piece of pipe history.
Your Tobacconist and Local Pipe Community
Another plug here for the importance of conversation. There’s a great distance you can go researching through all of the aforementioned wealth, but just like a musician develops exponentially the first time they sit in at a gig, so does a pipe smoker rapidly elevate their understanding of craft through watching others, participating in conversation, or just being a fly on a wall. Be sure to put in enough visitation time to become a regular face and take caution to ease in with respect; these are ongoing, regular meet-ups with established cadences and personalities. The first rule of Pipe Club is be respectful of Pipe Club.
Tobacco Pipes Shows
Like the communal elements mentioned above, attending one of the handful of spectacular pipe shows across the country jumpstarts your pipe education and provides you with an extraordinary spectacle of the depth and breadth of the pipe smoking lifestyle. Here, you’ll rub shoulders with master makers, industry bigwigs, and legions of pipe appreciators from stateside and beyond. Each pipe show carries its own unique flavor, regulars, and events, but for the sake of brevity we’ll give you one of the heavies.
Chicagoland International Pipe and Tobacciana Show
Muttnchop Piper at the 2016 Show
Christened in 1996, the Chicago International Pipe and Tobacciana Show is the grand dame of pipe events. The exhibition is filled with activities leading up to the major weekend showcase. Hosted at Pheasant Run Resort, a dedicated smoking tent is available for taking your new purchases and old flames on a date alongside leagues of like-minded pipers. For the curious attendee, there are also pipe making workshops and craft presentations too. And best of all, the show is well-attended by famed makers and industry pipe figures so you are always puffing in the company of greatness.
Take Your Own Pipe and Tobacco Notes
We advocate for all the above resources, but never neglect your own experiential process of sampling often and widely. Afterall, it’s your own preferences that are at stake.
Sample with a Smoking Journal
Last but not least, this final entry requires a bit of initiative from you, the piper. We’re speaking of course of the pipe journal. Memory only lives for so long, and immediately clouds with time. That crystal revelation or association you had last week while smoking Nightcap is only as good as your memory holds. Fight the fatigue of time with a good old-fashioned notebook. Use it to chart your observations, your tin notes, your flavor profiles, all with dates and the briar you brought to the occasion. Track your favorite blenders over time to suss out their particularities. Nothing helps one grow in pipecraft like intentionality, and nothing keeps your smoking in order like a good journal.
Pipecraft is best considered as a long form pursuit. It’s one of the particular joys above, say, cigars. You can plumb the deep cuts of tobacco profiles of course, but piping is that and more; it’s technique, it’s collecting, it’s subtleties and nuance, it’s community, and it’s ritual. The call to arms is to deepen your relationship to the storied art, so pick a handful of these twenty ways and get started stat!