Soren Stjernholm is a long-time pipe smoker from Denmark. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him a bit on Instagram, where he posts artful photos with his tobacco pipes in the great outdoors.
We sat down for an ocean-crossing Skype session a few weeks ago. Read our conversation about tobacco flavors and other random topics below:
An Interview with Soren Stjernholm
Renia: What is your favorite pipe?
Soren: Nothing like starting off with a tough question! I’m not sure I could tell you a favorite. I match certain pipes with certain tobaccos -- so it’s hard to name just one. Recently, I’ve grown more and more fond of “natural” tobaccos. I prefer to smoke this type of tobacco in a lightweight and elegant pipe. For that, my favorite is my Dunhill Shell Briar 4103.
Renia: What is your favorite tobacco?
Soren: My current favorite pipe tobacco is the Dunhill De Luxe Navy Rolls, which are a VaPer (Virginia Perique). Probably second is Mac Baren Vanilla Cream.
Renia: Where is your favorite place to smoke?
Soren: Any outdoor place. I almost exclusively smoke my pipes outside. I’m always looking for the optimal taste/flavor experience, and I get this when smoking outside. Usually, I’m sitting on the porch in my garden -- I also do my Instagram channel while smoking my pipes outside. I find that smoking my pipes is a great way to reflect on things.
Renia: Do you prefer to smoke alone or with a group?
Soren: I like both. Usually, I close off each day by smoking a nice bowl of tobacco - together with my cousin, Gert, through Skype. We share taste, flavor experiences and discuss this and that. It is such a nice time of day.
Renia: How many pipes do you own?
Soren: I own about 50 pipes -- and try to keep it at that level, as I want to smoke on all my pipes. No pipe should be left to die! Once and a while I give away a pipe that I can spare, especially if I can make someone switch from cigarettes to the pipe.
With that said, I find smoking pipes comparable to jewels in some ways. It is a part of who you are. This is also the reason I am quite picky about which pipes I purchase. When I smoke, I always smoke ‘with intent’. I don’t smoke a lot, but when I do I want it to be the best possible experience. You could say I am looking for the gourmet experience. I invest a lot of time exploring the flavor and taste.
Renia: It sounds like you approach your pipe collection in the same way a wine collector
might approach her cellar. How did you get into pipe smoking, did you begin as a collector?
Soren: No I didn’t. Though my father smoked a pipe, I have to say that it was two co-workers on my very first job. They were both pipe smokers and I just loved the smell of their tobaccos. When one of them ordered a new pipe from France through mail order, I decided to buy my first pipe. If I recall correctly, the first tobacco I smoked out of it was Mac Baren Virginia Mixture.
Renia: Tell me about why you enjoy smoking a pipe?
Soren: Well, let me start off by saying that I love a good gourmet meal. There are people who eat to live -- and then there are people who live to eat. I absolutely belong in the latter category, and just as I always explore taste and flavors in food, I find that pipe smoking provides me with similar gourmet experiences.
I’m into smoking pipes because I find that there is such a wide variety of different tobaccos, pipes -- you know, shapes, forms, materials, blends. If you add to that weather conditions at the time you’re smoking, which I find contributes to the experience, there is yet another variable. Taste and flavor is a primary reason why I enjoy smoking my pipe and all these factors contribute.
In addition to the flavor experience, I find that the act of smoking my pipes requires taking time to rest each day. It’s not like me to just throw some tobacco in my pipe, light it up and smoke for a few minutes. I only smoke if I have the time to get the most out of the experience. As earlier mentioned, I often use my time smoking in the evenings as a time for reflection.
I’ve smoked a pipe since I was about 17. I’ve always loved it and it’s become just part of who I am. It’s a part of me and I am proud of it.
Renia: You said you enjoy fly fishing, tell me about your other hobbies.
Soren: Yes, I’ve been fly fishing for sea trout and salmon for a great many years now. Primarily in Denmark, Sweden and Norway and occasionally in Iceland. Recently, I’ve picked up playing golf. I find that both of these hobbies are enjoyed even more when combined with a good bowl of tobacco. If I have my salmon pipe or a golf pipe, it’s a perfect match!
Renia: If you could smoke a pipe with one person who would it be?
Soren: Living or dead?
Dead, I’d say Albert Einstein. I think he nailed it by saying: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Thinking about that, I’m struggling to explain things in a simple way, what smoking the pipe means to me. I do know that I consider the the contemplating a most pleasurable torment.
As to the living, I’m not terribly picky. Any person who loves smoking the pipe and enjoys a good pipe tobacco is welcome any time.
Renia: If you could give a piece of advice to a new pipe smoker, what would it be?
Soren: It will take time to learn how to smoke properly and how to get the most out of every bowl. Despite the wish we all have for quick success, it is on the journey towards the goal that we have an opportunity to learn. I encourage you to enjoy the journey itself. It has changed my life. It may change yours too.
For us too Soren.
I think you did Mr. Einstein proud with that last statement, making the explanation as simple as it is supposed to be.