The holidays are just around the corner, and some folks can be harder to shop for than others. With pipe smokers, it can be frustrating because you know they love their pipes and tobacco, but you’re not sure that you know enough on the subject to pick the right gift. It’s like someone said they’d like a “music album” for the holidays and you’re standing perturbed in the record store with a Steely Dan LP in one hand and Cats the Musical soundtrack in the other, none the wiser. A little direction would be nice, right?
We thought so, that’s why we’re going to try and help you find just what you need to delight the pipe smoker in your life with this tobacco pipe holiday shopping guide.
Knowing Who You’re Buying For
Like any gift buying, who you’re shopping for should be kept in mind through every step of the process. I know, I know—duh. Despite sounding like stating the obvious, what I really mean is who they are as a pipe smoker. The world of pipes and tobaccos is more vast than one might realize from looking in, and without getting a little background knowledge, it’s easy to pick a gift that doesn’t align with your pipe smoker's taste.
The variable experience and preferences (be they aesthetic, taste, method, etc.) are different for any pipe smoker. To find that gift that’s just right, let’s see if we can’t build out their profile as a pipe smoker, and I’ll offer some suggestions along the way.
We’ll start with level of experience—
Shopping For a Beginner Pipe Smoker
Maybe you have a new pipe smoker on your hands. The nice thing about buying for newbies is they’re often looking to try a lot of things as they’re figuring out their preferences. Sure, maybe you get them a tobacco blend or pipe that doesn’t end up being their favorite, but they probably would have come around to the blend soon enough, and will appreciate that they can try something new as they navigate their taste. It’s all trial and error! Here’s a few ideas:
- A low to mid-priced pipe is always a winner with new smokers. It’s important to remember, if one is starting to smoke more regularly, having one pipe won’t really cut it. It’s important to have at least a few in rotation. Moisture can collect in a pipe leading to a sour taste if it’s consistently smoked without a rest. A pipe will also often need a cool off period. A new pipe could help your smoker fill out their rotation, and also give them the chance to try something new. I also suspect that a pipe may have a good chance in the lottery of success for a smoker still developing preference via the power of sentimentality. A pipe that was a gift is simply special.
I suggest you take a look at your smoker’s current pipe(s) and use them as a compass for finding a pipe that fits their style, but that is perhaps a bit of a departure from their usual—a different shape or texture maybe. Molina Pipes’ Tromba line has some great options for a classic look.
- Maybe you’re buying for a truly green beginner who hasn’t yet gotten their kit together, or someone who has just expressed interest in trying a pipe. Pipe sets are perfect for these budding pipers. We have some great Rattray and Savinelli kits that will hook them up with everything they need: pipe, multi-purpose tool, cleaners, filters, and a case.
- Pipes aside, what about tobacco? One great idea for many new pipers is to treat them to a nice boutique blend. A lot of us start out on much cheaper tobaccos since we’re finding our taste, but I think folks need not be too shy to get a taste of a bit higher quality earlier on. I recommend the classic Balkan blend from Seattle Pipe Club, Plum Pudding.
Of course, if you can find out if they lean toward certain types of blends, you would do well to use that as a barometer in this case. Like I said, beginners are nice to shop for because their lack of development broadens things, but if you’re going for a quality boutique blend, it might be good to look for a type of blend they already like. If you know their taste, Seattle Pipe Club has other great blends, or another solid option is Cornell & Diehl.
- One thing many seasoned pipe smokers recommend for beginners is to keep a piping journal. It really helps with the process of learning, developing, and inevitably curating your pipecraft to what pleases and works for you. It’s nice to have a dedicated notebook just for journaling your pipe smoking. We have a great selection of durable quality notebooks and pens for this very thing.
Shopping For an Experienced Pipe Smoker
“Experienced” is a pretty ambiguous term—one doesn’t necessarily have to be an aficionado to be an experienced pipe smoker. But whether piping is a passion or hobby, we can assume these smokers have been around the block enough to have developed some preferences. With the beginner stage, it’s easier to generalize, because they’re probably a little curious about everything. For those who have developed their taste a bit more, it can be a little trickier to make that profile from the outside looking in. But with the material in this section it shouldn’t be too tough to navigate.
Do They Have a Niche?
It’s important to know if the smoker you’re shopping for has an area of focus in their pipecraft. That is to say, some aren’t so picky about pipes, maybe even priding themselves for never having spent more than X amount on one. Some might have a similar levity toward tobacco blends—liking this or that family (ie. English, Virginia/Perique, Aromatic, etc.) but don’t find all that much discernibly different between the less costly stuff and the boutiques.
However, for some, pipes or tobacco can be the nucleus of their interest. Some are fanatics about pipe collecting or cellaring and aging their tobacco. These can be important to keep in mind, and it may be as easy as recalling if they’ve mentioned such interests (but remember, none of these piper’s leanings are mutually exclusive. I’d say most pipe smokers have a foot in all these aspects of the craft). But if this is a family member or someone you otherwise live with, you would do well to sneak a peek at what they have. If you don’t live with them but have a mutual connection who does, maybe send them on an investigatory mission.
(Disclaimer: snoop with caution. TobaccoPipes.com bears no responsibility for any tension, quarrelling, or back pain as a result of couch sleeping that may arise from snooping fallout.)
Shopping For the Tobacco Enthusiast
- If the pipe smoker you’re shopping for has a penchant for cellaring tobacco, gifting a great blend can be very special. But some types of blends take better to aging. The one thing you really want to avoid is Aromatic blends. These are blends with additional flavoring—they can be good for aging depending on how heavy they are coated, but it’s probably best for these purposes to avoid that route all-together.
Here are some great blends for aging:
- Then there’s storage. Aging tobacco is a finicky business and calls for particular conditions. It’s important to have your tobacco in an air-tight sealed container. The Chacom Tobacco Jar is especially convenient as it is equipped with an integrated hygrometer to easily monitor moisture.
(And remember, humidor jars are for cigar storage, cigars and pipe tobacco need different environments.)
Shopping For the Pipe Enthusiast
- For those with the utmost pride in their instrument, there’s nothing like an artisan pipe. The appreciation for a one of a kind pipe, made with the precision and care of a craftsman’s two hands is hard to surpass.
Here are a few incredible artisan pipe makers to check out:
- One of the most wonderful things about pipes in contrast to other mediums of smoking is the artistry of the smoking apparatus in-and-of-itself. Pipes are beautiful instruments, and when you have an enthusiast who takes great pride in their collection, no doubt they like having them on display. That makes pipe racks a great gift for your pipe smoker.
The Neal Yarm Tilt Head 7 Pipe Stand is a favorite for elegantly and conveniently displaying a week’s pipe rotation. But we have a large selection of pipe racks and stands of many styles and sizes to fulfill whatever your smokers needs may be.
Filling Out the Piper’s Profile
Whatever the experience of the piper for whom you’re shopping, consider what they don’t have.
Many folks enjoy their pipes when they’re working or lunting (that is, hiking with a pipe). This often leads to a collection of pipes one isn’t so afraid of getting roughed up. So they might appreciate a higher quality pipe relegated to leisure. In my opinion, every pipe smoker should have (at least) that one posh pipe. A beautiful Meerschaum—such as this Altinay Calabash—is always a great option for the smoker who’s never really treated themself to something sophisticated.
And of course, the inverse applies too. Maybe their collection is mostly nicer, upscale pieces; and so they refrain from smoking in certain situations in which they would otherwise be happy to for fear of tarnishing their pipe. In this case, a pipe that’s inexpensively replaceable, yet still offers a great smoke, is perfect. A Corn Cob from Missouri Meerschaum is the standard for such a purpose. Heck, you can get fine Corn Cobs from Missouri Meerschaum for no more than $10, it’s common for pipe smokers to stock up on a few as a reserve of expendable pipes.
Another route to consider; if the piper in question enjoys accompanying yardwork, tinkering in the garage, or other such tasks with a smoke, smaller bent shapes can be great. The lightness and downward weight distribution from the bend make them easy to clench and therefore allows one comfort while keeping their hands free. My Lorenzetti Avitus 95 is one of my favorite pipes for this very reason.
More Gifts For Pipe Smokers
- Lighters might not sound like much, but we’re talking about a quality refillable lighter here, not a fragile gas station lighter. I actually think a lighter is one of the coolest little gifts. Our Zippos have all kinds of designs—sports team logos, military emblems, and just cool graphics—it’s a great little thing that you can personalize to the receiver, something they’ll use all the time and will carry a fond association to the person who gifted it. Everyone’s different, but I have a feeling your average pipe smoker values little gestures like that.
- Vauen Minni pipes are another great little item to find in your stocking. Incredibly mobile-friendly, stylish, and despite how compact they are, these little pipes still fit Vauen 9mm carbon filters.
- You could also pack that sock with some pipe maintenance gear. I know, not very sexy, but it can’t be all Santa Baby all the time. Taking care of our pipes is a big part of the craft, and if we want to keep our pipes smoking smoothly, we need our little arsenal of pipe cleaning solutions, filters, and tools ready to go. And like lighters, these utility gifts can still have a personal touch—these tampers from brands like Neerup and Antonenko take a simple tool and give it personality.
Keep in mind, filters come in different sizes and types, they won’t be compatible with every pipe, so make sure you know your smoker can use the filter before you buy. Also, filters aren’t necessary but a matter of preference. If you’d like to learn more, this guide to pipe filters should be a helpful resource, but try to find out what their preference for filters is. Unless you’re trying to drop a hint, I’ll leave that between the two of you.
The holiday season is a great time to check out some limited edition releases made specifically for the season. These Christmas themed pipes and tobaccos are perfect for a gift that holds many of the special associations that the season brings.
Some of our Christmas edition pipes:
- Cornell & Diehl We Three Kings
- Sutliff Christmas Spice
- Sutliff Cringle Flake
This one’s a favorite during the holidays. Though this 2021 flake isn’t out yet, add your email to be notified when it drops—it won’t last long!
What to Remember When Shopping
Even though you’re looking for a knockout pipe smoker’s gift that the smoker in your life will love, remember the significance of yourself as the giver. There’s a reason gift giving isn’t just handing someone the sum you would spend and saying “find something you like.” The giver is ever associated with that present.
The very convention implores us to think deeply about a person in full, for all their quirks and idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes—that can get a little frustrating. It usually starts with ideas being nixed as quickly as they’re spawned, but most exercises in strengthening bonds don't come without a little effort.
We want your gift to be perfect, but we hope it is a mere notch in the jolly belt of cheer this season. One of many sources of joy and comfort and of course a bringing together of people, whatever may be special about this year.
If you have a question or are looking for a more specific suggestion, leave us a comment or contact us for help.
And of course, happy holidays from all of us at TobacooPipes to you and yours!