Consider the Pipe:

As I sit by the fire, canine buddy at my feet, puffing slowly on a well seasoned briar, I wax philosophical. The warmth and feel of pipe in hand, filled with finely aged and seasoned tobacco, produce a synergy that tantalizes my senses. The thick, sultry smoke wafting up my nose yields an almost narcotic composure, a halo of sorts, reducing the day’s tribulations to insignificance. I ponder life and enter a world of my own, a personal space where I can sort out my feelings, my priorities, my desires and my dreams. Time seems to stand still. . . for the next hour or so there is goodness and well-being.

The preceding episode isn’t unique. Many practiced pipe smokers relate similar experiences and feelings; the particulars may vary, but in short, it doesn’t get any better than this!

The pipe smoker considers himself in good company: Mark Twain, Albert Schweitzer, J.R.R Tolkien and Ernest Hemingway indulged in this passion. Picture Sherlock Holmes, deep in thought, sorting out “a three pipe problem” or Albert Einstein pondering relativity while gently puffing on his briar. The brotherhood of the briar has included presidents, Nobel Prize winners, as well as many of our own role models. Few among us smell a fine blend of tobacco smoldering without it conjuring up memories of their youth. .

Pipe smoking is an art that requires thought and dedication. The rituals of loading your pipe, lighting and tamping to produce a wonderful smoke take patience and practice. In time, as you become accustomed to your new briar friend, you develop your own rites of preparation and puffing to achieve full smoking enjoyment. There are as many opinions on the “correct” techniques as there are pipe smokers. The whole ritual, from loading, smoking and emptying your pipe is a very personal thing, an art rather than a science, that you may find well worth the effort.

Moderate pipe smoking is a hobby rather than a habit, a diversion rather than a mechanical need, a well earned indulgence. Aged and meticulously blended pipe tobacco is enjoyed for its flavor and aroma; there is no need to inhale. While conceding any burning substance inhaled, even incidentally, is somewhat unhealthy, the benefits, such as stress reduction and general well-being, provide compensation.

Pipe smokers are generally viewed as thoughtful, reliable and relaxed.  Even in this day of anti-smoking fanaticism I have received positive comments from both men and women regarding the aroma and memories of pipe smokers long gone.

During the era of the 1980s when people sought instant gratification, pipe smoking suffered a substantial decline. This trend is slowly reversing itself. The cigar boom in the mid 1990s has been a step in the right direction. The pipe isn’t far behind; smokers are rediscovering the finer things in life are worth the time and effort.

Once you obtain the basics (a few pipes, pipe cleaners and a tamper) the cost is minimal; 15 to 40 cents, depending on the blend, will provide an hour of pleasure. There are literally thousands of tobacco blends and pipes available, each combination providing a unique taste sensation. The quest for the “ultimate smoke” is a fun ride.

Pipe clubs, where smokers gather once a month or so to discuss blends, show off new acquisitions and maybe engage in a trade or two, flourish across the country.  Here in Raleigh, NC, we have regular pipe club meetings that attracts 20-25 smokers regularly and a yearly pipe show attended by hundreds of devotees. The Triangle Area Pipe Smokers or T.A.P.S. meet once a month to share knowledge, sample tobaccos and enjoy genial conversation, all in all a great night out. There is probably a club near you also. If you decide to give pipe smoking a try, speak to your tobacconist or give us a call at Pipes by George.  We can get you started correctly and/or provide information on clubs near you. The pipe certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you decide it is for you, welcome to the brotherhood of the briar!


Dave Halliday

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