Meet 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.
The first part of this series on matching pipes and tobacco began by discussing pipe materials and how they each react different to a family/blend of tobacco. Click here to read about how different tobacco pipe materials affect tobacco.
In part two, we will discuss some of the most popular pipe shapes and their tendencies when smoking different blends. We will take a look at some common pipe shapes and I’ll share a suggested tobacco pairing for that shape.
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 smoking pipes and how they usually react to certain tobaccos. It may be that your pipe acts differently. That is absolutely possible. What is most important is figuring out your own personalized system for enjoying your favorite pipes.
Billiard Shape Tobacco Pipe
The Billiard is, without a doubt, the most recognized and common tobacco pipe. It is perfect for beginners who want to learn about pipe smoking, and perfect for the distinguished pros who enjoy smoking a few bowls every night.
The defining characteristics of a Billiard are the cylindrical bowl and chamber with parallel thickness running all the way down the bowl.
Billiard’s are often favored because they usually have at least a fourth of an inch thick bowl-wall, which is suggested by Brian Levine to be the minimum thickness of a briar bowl.
Tobacco Recommendation for Billiard
The Billiard is the perfect pipe for any tobacco.
With its straight forward design, thick bowl, and long stem, any tobacco will taste great inside your billiard-shaped pipe.
I would suggest smoking Sutliff 1849 in your Billiard. 1849 is an excellently flavored tobacco that has a deep but straightforward flavor profile.
Poker Shape Tobacco Pipe
Generally, Pokers are sitters that have parallel sides, and a shorter stem that is perpendicular to the bowl.
Pokers are loved by experienced smokers. The Poker shape is one of the smoothest smoking pipe shapes. It is also notorious for being the working mans pipe because the short shank makes it easy to hold in the mouth and you can set it down while working with your hands.
Due to the short and straight stem on a Poker, it’s often suggested that Virginias and heavily coated tobaccos are poor choices for this shape. When smoking a Poker, you are more likely to produce a buildup of spittle in the shank. If you tend to do manual work while smoking, odds are you will be in a position where the spittle can run up the shank, a most unpleasant experience.
Tobacco to Smoke in Poker Shape
I personally prefer smoking a strong Latakia flake in my Poker. I feel as though it puts me in the proper mindset, because the Poker was intended for this type of pipe tobacco blend.
Pokers also work well with oily high nicotine blends. The Poker’s thick walls helps absorb flavor, and after a few uses with the blend, the taste will start to amplify and becomes more and more pleasant with every bowl.
I suggest smoking McClelland’s Frog Morton Cellar in your Poker. This is an excellent blend that will satisfy any smoker.
Bulldog Shape Tobacco Pipe
Bulldog shaped pipes have been a long time favorite of countless collectors because of their beautiful unique diamond shaped stem design and superior smoking ability.
The bowl of the Bulldog resembles two cones stacked on top of one another. This cone shape gives the Bulldog a very thick briar bowl that makes it perfect for smoking heavier blends.
The thick center of the bowl allows an exceptional amount of heat and oil to be absorbed into the the pipe.
As stated above, the suggested minimal thickness of your bowl wall is a fourth of an inch. While the Bulldog keeps a quarter inch thickness at the top of the bowl, the cone shape expands the thickness of the bowl towards the bottom, usually becoming around half an inch thick.
Smoking a Bulldog Shape Pipe
The thicker bowl makes the Bulldog the perfect shape for smoking flake tobaccos.
A flake tobacco is a pressed and sliced tobacco that has a high nicotine content --due to the compressed oil -- and burns at a high temperature. It is imperative that when smoking a flake it is smoked with a pipe that can handle the higher temperature created by all the oil present in the tobacco. The Bulldog’s thick walls makes it the ideal pipe.
I suggest smoking Mac Barens HH Latakia Flake in your Bulldog.
Bent Tobacco Pipes
There is a plethora of bent pipe shapes: Apple, Billiard, Calabash, Rhodesian, Bulldog, Pear, and Freehand to name a few.
While there are differences in each of these, what matters here is the bent stem.
What Tobacco to Smoke in a Bent Pipe
Bent pipes are without a doubt the best pipe for smoking Virginia blends.
Virginia blended tobaccos are notorious for giving smoker’s tongue bite. The chemical make-up and the hot burning temperature require a patient smoker. When smoking a bent pipe, the stem is generally built longer so that the bowl is still the same distance from the mouth. The longer stem allows the smoke more time to cool off and to disperse its energy through the stem before hitting the tongue.
Bent pipes are also perfect for smoking heavily cased aromatics.
The casing on some aromatics is what gives the pipe smoker the occasionally spittle attack. But the bent nature of the pipe sets physics out against runback. Most of the time the spittle will be unable to travel upwards toward the bit. When you find that your favorite Aromatic tends to smoke super wet, try smoking it in a bent pipe. It will make all the difference in the world.
I think the one of the best blends you can smoke in your Bent pipe is Peterson’s Sherlock Holmes blend. Not only will the Burley and Virginia mixture accompany the Bent shape, but smoking a Sherlock Holmes tribute must definitely take place in a Bent pipe.
What do I do Now?
In the end, pipe smoking is a personal endeavor. Making it work for yourself is what makes smoking a pipe such an enchanting hobby.
You know how your favorite pipes smoke. Smoke them the way you want to smoke them.
But if you you find yourself troubled and unable to find the perfect pipe and tobacco pairing, use this guide to help.
Now it’s your turn. Tell us, what pipe and tobacco combinations have you found that works best for you in the comments below.