How to match your pipe & tobacco, #1

How to match your pipe & tobacco, #1

Posted by Chris Hopkins on 2nd Apr 2015

It takes most pipe smokers about three years to find their favorite tobacco.

During those three years, you probably amassed a few pipes.

If your pipe smoking journey began like mine, then you probably tried at least five or six blends in each of your pipes. In the beginning we just pick a pipe we want to smoke, pick a tobacco we want to smoke, and pair the two.

But what if I told you there is a relationship between your pipe and the tobacco you pack in it--that some shapes pair more spectacularly with certain blends than others.. Yes you can smoke any tobacco out of any pipe and you can enjoy it. But, if you are interested in getting the most flavor out of each bowl, the greatest longevity out of the pipe, and want to take your hobby more seriously, than you will find the following principles helpful.

A Piper's Disclaimer

This is a very opinion based topic. There is not necessarily one absolute answer.

This article will be discussing different types of pipes and how they usually react to certain tobaccos. So it may be that your pipe acts differently. That is absolutely possible. What is most important is figuring out your own personalized system for smoking your pipes.

Briar Pipes

Briar Pipes are, by far, the most common type of tobacco pipe smoked.There are many reasons why Briar pipes are generally referred to as the best.

The quality that concerns this article however, is that a well made Briar pipe has no intrinsic aroma or taste. It is also loaded with tiny air pockets that make the pipe very light and capable of absorbing the oils in the tobacco and the overall flavor of a blend.

It is a blank slate. A perfect starting point for any tobacco.

Once you start to fill in these tiny air pockets that allow the pipe to absorb a tobacco flavor, then you really start to enjoy your briar.

But be Careful! Because the briar is so quick to absorb flavors, an overwhelming dose of oil or casing may stress out the wood and consume all the air pockets to quickly. This means that your pipe is now not able to as adequately absorb flavor for the rest of its life. It can go sour and be stuck on a flavor.

This is why it is so important to build a good cake in your briar. Consistently smoking the same tobacco is the best way to flavor your pipe your way and build the perfect cake.

Because of Briar’s zealous absorption rate, I recommend avoiding intense aromatics and heavily cased tobaccos. Let your pipe be broken in gently with chemically simple pipe tobaccos, such as a Burley or Latakia blend(Read more about different pipe tobacco blends here).

Meerschaum Pipes

The most important thing you need to know about Meerschaum pipes is that meerschaum is one of the most porous materials on Earth. It is an incredibly cool smoke.

Like briar, Meerschaum is incredibly absorbent.

How it differs is that Meerschaum is much more sensitive. A large amount of oils can not only change the taste of the meerschaum, but it will cause it to burn hot (which is not what you want) and can even cause the pipe to crack.

Handle Meerschaum pipes with care.

Typically, it is better to smoke English blends in Meerschaum pipes which are heavy in Latakia, Perique, and Orientals.Not only will the oil content in these blends be ideal for a Meerschaum, but you will be able to smoke these blends very cool.

Meerschaum Coloring Considerations

Another aspect to consider with your own Meerschaum is the level at which it changes colors. Now there is no real science or method to tracking this. Every Meerschaum pipe make has a different process for their pipes. This process can cause the pipe to darken with one tobacco or another.

Pay attention to your own pipe and don’t rely on the tendencies of meerschaum pipes you’ve smoked in the past.

Smoke it the way you want y to smoke it. If one blend turns it darker faster, and you want that, smoke that blend in it, and vice versa.

Corncob Pipes

Now here is a pipe that is hard to mess up!

I doubt that any of you--unless you have an artisan made cob--have ever been too concerned about messing up your corncob pipe. They are cheap and durable. That is why we love them.

A fresh, new corncob pipe is an elegant thing to smoke.

A new corncob adds a tremendous level of sweetness and nut flavor to your tobacco. So if you prefer to avoid sweet/nutty notes of flavor when smoking, a fresh cob pipe may not be for you.

Another great aspect of corncob pipes is that they are super absorbent.

Just like Briar and Meerschaum, corncob pipes really love to take on the flavor of the tobaccos being smoked. Cob’s can also be over smoked, just like the other two.

Because of the low cost of the corncob pipe, it is no big deal for the pipe to be abused and to turn sour. Eventually the corncob pipe would turn sour anyway; there is no way to stop it.

Smoke the super sweet aromatics and the heavily cased tobaccos in your corncob.

Personally, if I am going to smoke an oily wet tobacco, I would much rather do it in my corncob than in a different pipe that cost easily ten times more.

In the end, you know how your favorite tobaccos smoke.

You have learned if your favorite blends smoke hot, are sweet, leave residue in the bowl and so on.

The most important principle to remember is that being familiar with your own pipes and tobaccos is the key to the perfect smoke.

Find a rhythm that works for you and stick to it. Make pipe smoking more than an afternoon or evening activity, make it your hobby and passion.

Chris HopkinsMeet Chris Hopkins, a pipe blogger and former tobacconist. Chris worked for his first tobacco company at the age of 17 in Kentucky, then later as a tobacconist in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Chris currently operates an in- depth blog review of pipe tobacco and products at Pipe Tobacco Critique. He is currently a graduate student of theology at Kentucky Christian University and a minister in Winston Salem. Chris' passions include pipe blogging, movies, and cooking for his beautiful wife Emily. Chris will be writing a monthly column on pipe tobacco related subjects for us.