Recommend a pipe and pipe tobacco

As a followup to this thread from a few months ago.

I am now working my way very slowly through another set of cigars, but I think my next fumatory endeavor should be a pipe. There’s an intriguing tobacconist right around the corner from my apartment, and when the time comes, I’ll consult with the merchant.

But in the mean time, I’d love some tips from my fellow dopers. What type of pipe is good for a beginner? I know there are several important variables, notably the length of the stem, and the size of the bowl. What do you recommend? What else should I look out for? What type of tobacco should I start out with?

Also, what do you smoke? Do you have a pipe collection? Pipe smoking stories? Fond memories? Pipe-related Elizabethan sonnets?

(Let’s limit this thread to the discussion of tobacco pipes only, please.)

Let me just say: there is nothing better than sitting down with a book or the paper and smoking a good pipe. It’s so relaxing. I hope you find a good one.

I am currently on a pipe smoking hiatus. I just had a baby and tobacco smoke is bad for the youngun so I am taking a year or two off. I am, because of this, unfortunately not on the cutting edge with my knowledge of what is available anymore.

That said I do have thoughts on what a beginner should have.

Thought the first, since you already smoke cigars you probably don’t need to go though the “do I really like pipes” trial period where I suggest only super cheep pipes. So I would start out by saying you should get a briar pipe. 1 briar pipe. Only one. Because, while you will probably like pipes, this is not a guarantee. That does not mean you should only get one pipe, but I will get to that later.

Another reason why I am saying only 1 briar is that, you are likely to do terrible things to this first pipe. If you follow my (IMHO) very good advice your pipe should be fine, but you might do terrible things to it anyway. Pipe smoking is something that is hard to describe well in text, it’s easier to show someone what to do than it is to instruct them. So again, get a single briar pipe. But do get yourself a briar. Don’t spend more than $50, but get yourself something better than the cheep Dr. Grabows you see in your local Walgreens.

I will be back with some specific brand recommendations later.

So, now you have your briar. Next you have a rule for the briar. While you are a new pipe smoker (and this period lasts untill you can pack a pipe correctly on the first try without having to think about it too much) you are only allowed to smoke this pipe once every 48 hours. In between smokes you clean it and let it rest and dry out. This is not something that you will need to follow the rest of your smoking career, but it’s a good rule of thumb to start out with while you are learning how to smoke a pipe as it will help prevent you from ruining the pipe. There are a lot of schools of though regarding resting pipes and how much rest a given pipe needs, but you won’t go wrong following this one.

But what if you want to smoke your new tobacco more than once every two days? For those smokes you should use your trusty corn cob pipe! Only buy cobs made by the Missouri Meerschaum company, but buy as many of them as you like. I personally like the diplomat model. Buy at least 3 of these. Smoke them as much as you want, don’t rest them just keep them clean and, don’t worry. They smoke fantastically and are dirt cheep.

Questions of bowl size and stem length are too advanced for you at the moment. Don’t worry about all that yet. The big question you need to deal with is, bent or straight? I would say go with straight corn cobs but try a bent briar. The advantage of straight is that they smoke a tiny little bit drier than bent, the disadvantage is that new smokers have a tendency to tip the liquid into their mouths and that they are a tiny bit harder to light (you can’t see what you are doing as well). So get a bent briar since you will be less likely to burn the rim of the bowl, and with a briar pipe you are going to care, but get straight cobs so you can see what straight pipes are all about and not worry about burning the rim. Just remember not to tip the liquid into your mouth (I have never done this myself and have trouble believing that this is a real problem, but I am told it is. So what do I know?)
Now you have 4 pipes and can start learning to smoke in earnest.

Ok, I have to run for now, but I will be back with tobacco recommendations and specific briar pipe recommendations as well as some tips on how to pack and smoke a pipe.

Question for the tobacco recommendation, what types of cigars do you like? Are you looking for something “pipey”, scented, sweet, spicey, full bodied, delicate? What do you like?

God I love this place.

The pleasure I derive from smoking is in the flavor. I’m not a cigarette smoker, and some cigars give me an unpleasant buzz. In particular, the cigars I’ve tried that have been described to me as “strong” or “full-bodied” do not rank amongst my favorites. While I’m open to anything – and I intend to have a range of options available – I think I’d like to start with something a little more on the light/sweet side.

Of course, I don’t want to make this thread only about me. I’d love to see advice that doesn’t necessarily apply to me, and I’d love to hear other people’s unrelated experiences with pipe smoking.

Thanks for the input so far!

Ok, I am going to cannibalize some stuff I wrote for another message board. I did a brief re read to make sure it all makes sense, but if there is anything weird in this post it’s because this is a distillation of several posts I made answering specific questions. But there is some good advice and I probably won’t have time to write it all out again fresh.

Then I will be back with brand recommendations and maybe some specific recommendations of stuff I like that I think you will like too, Randy.

First, general info about pipe tobacco.

This is stuff you need to know when you go to the tobacconist (though if they are any good they will help you with learning all this stuff. But I don’t trust random tobacconists these days, particularly if they deal primarily with cigars).

Pipe tobacco falls into two basic large groups with smaller sub groups.

The two big groups are, aromatic and English. This essentially means flavored and unflavored (I am talking in huge generalizations here, there are nuances that I am not really covering). So in the aromatics each item will taste different, and sometimes taste like it’s scent. So vanilla tobacco will taste like vanilla, cherry will taste like cherry etc. Sometimes it won’t. There is a rather excellent tobacco called Christmas Cookie which smells, I swear, just like baking cookies. It doesn’t taste like eating a cookie though. It tastes…more tobaccoey than that, with hints of chocolate and caramel.

On the other side, English tobacco’s are anything that isn’t aromatic. Within that category you have English blends (I not the same as English Tobacco, I know it’s strange terminology) and Balkan blends, which are predominantly flavored by a tobacco called Latakia. Latakia is a middle eastern tobacco that smells (depending on who you ask) either like woodsy incense or like burning camel dung. It has a strong distinctive flavor that is much more pleasant than its smell, but isn’t for everyone. There are also Burley tobaccos which smell a bit like really good smelling cigarettes, and taste vagely nutty and slightly bitter; Virginia tobaccos which are what cigarettes are primarily made from, but pipe tobacco genenerally uses a higher quality leaf so they actually taste much less like cigarettes than burleys do, and Perique which is fermented and has a sort of sweet and sour tang to it.

As for my favorite, it’s hard to pick. I like Red VA blends quite a bit (they are sweet and slightly tangy) I also like cube cut burley blends. There is one blend in particular called Grandfather (made by The Tobacco Barn) which uses the herb deertounge to give it a vanilla-y taste and it smells exactly like what you imagine pipe tobacco should smell like. There is a flake blend called University flake (made by Peterson and widely available) which is a mix of Burley and VA with a very faint blackberry topping which is also quite nice. I found what I liked partly by trial and error, and partly by joining the pipe smoking community and learning from the “old timers”, people who have been smoking pipes for anywhere from 30-70 years.

**On why you should always own more than one pipe, and pipe materials. **

There are many functional reasons to own multiple pipes beyond the simple desire to collect. I would say that anyone who plans to smoke their pipe more than once a weeks needs at least two pipes and anyone who expects to smoke more often than that needs three. The reason is one of maintenance of the pipe. Assuming you are smoking a wood pipe (usually made of briar) you need to let the pipe rest for anywhere from 24-48 hours (depending on who you ask) between smokes. This is to allow the pipe time to totally dry and and prevent it from turning sour. Now if you are smoking a corncob pipe, and there is nothing wrong with that, you don’t need to let it rest as long, maybe only a few hours, and if you are smoking a clay pipe of any sort (including meerschaum) you don’t need to let it rest at all, the same is true with metal pipes, though if you are using briar inserts with a metal pipe you do need to let it rest.

So why smoke out of different materials? Because the pipe itself effects the taste of the tobacco. This one is more subtle than the type of tobacco, but it is absolutely there. Briar pipes tend to round off the edges of flavors giving everything a slightly sweeter mellower taste, corncobs do the same but with more sweetness. Clay and meerschaum pipes to the opposite, providing very little flavor of their own so there is little to no filter on what you are tasting, leaving some things tasting very sharp but also bringing out subtle notes that you might have missed in a briar pipe.

Then there is the issue of flavor ghosting and pipe dedication. Like I said before there are significant differences between some blends of tobacco, and while some tobaccos smoke “clean” many will leave some sort of a flavor ghost behind. This can be purged from the pipe by reaming and cleaning and smoking, but in general people like to at least dedicate some pipes to only smoking aromatics and some to only smoking english. Some go farther and dedicate certain pipes to VA blends (which have the most subtle flavor and are most suceptable to being altered by a ghost) and certain pipes to Latakia blends (which have the strongest flavor and are most likely to ghost.

Some go even farther than that and will dedicate a pipe to only one particular blend so that any ghost will be from that same blend. People who do this say that it gets the pipe in tune with the blend and that the blend tastes better in this particular pipe than it would in other non dedicated pipes. Personally, I am skeptical. I have my pipes divided into Latakia, VA, Aromatic and “other”.

Starter tobaccos for anyone and advice on how to pack a pipe.

I would avoid Captain Black, which is going to be tough since most places it is the easiest thing to find. There is nothing wrong with it per se, but it isn’t a great example of what pipe smoking can be. I would say to look for Carter Hall or Prince Albert. Sir Walter Raleigh is good too but might be a touch difficult to get lit as a first timer. One of those three should be relatively easy to find, and shockingly inexpensive. You will also either need one of these or a nail, or something else that will allow you to tamp down the tobacco without using your finger (which is messy and could lead to you burning your finger).

So, the first thing you want to do after you get all this stuff home is figure out how to pack your pipe.* There are all sorts of elaborate methods you can find online to help you learn to properly pack a pipe, but they all aim toward the same goal, and that is getting enough tobacco in the pipe so that it burns consistently without there being so much tobacco that you can’t draw air through. I find that I like the three layer method when it comes to teaching new folks how to pack and light a pipe for the first time.

What you want to do is take a pinch of tobacco and sprinkle it into the bowl of the pipe (you will make a mess until you get used to how to do this, so put down a paper towel or something) so that the pipe is losely filled with tobacco. Give the bowl a gentel tap on the side with your hand a couple of times to make sure that everything has settledten top it off so that the tobacco is just a little higher than the rim of the bowl. Now tamp this down so the pipe is only 1/2 full. Repeat the process and this time when the bowl is full tamp down so that the pipe is 2/3 full. Then one more time and tamp down so that the tobacco is just below the rim of the pipe. So you are packing the tobacco more tightly as you get toward the top. The saying goes “The first time with the hand of a child, the second with the hand of a lady, the third with the hand of a man” Sexist, but you get the idea.

Now, before you light it, draw through the pipe. There should be some, but not much, resistence. MUCH less resistance than you would get off a cigar or a cigarette. The resistance you feel should be about the same as sucking soda through a straw. If it is closer to a milkshake than a soda, unpack it and start again. If it is too tight you will never keep it lit and you will get frustrated. It takes some practice and everyone has trouble packing and lighting the first time, so don’t worry too much, it will come. It’s easier for me to pack a pipe and then show you what the correct pack feels like then it is to try to describe it.

Then you want to light. Many people will tell you to use matches, but go ahead and use a lighter if that’s what you have handy. You can get into specialty lighting equipment later if you want to. You are going to want to start with a charring light. The first light you are going to pass the flame over the tobacco slowly while gently puffing to draw the flame down just a bit. You aren’t trying to keep the whole pipe lit here, you are just trying to get an even char across the top tobacco so that the pipe burns at an even rate. Once you have the whole top of the pipe lit (you will know), take another couple of puffs and then let the pipe go out. Tap down the ash GENTLY using only the weight of the tamper, you don’t want to ruin your pack now, so that the ash is even across the top. Then you can light it again.

I do one or two bigger puffs to get things started and then follow up with a series of smaller puffs (another two or three) to get it lit, and then put the pipe down for a bit. You probably want to puff at a rate of 1 to 2 puffs a minute. This is a slow contemplateve past time. Don’t speed through like it was a cigarette. Even a small corncob pipe should take at least 30 minutes to smoke start to finish. If you smoke too fast you will burn your tongue, gentle shallow little sips at the pipe are what you are looking for, almost like you aren’t smoking it at all. How do you know if you are smoking too fast or too hard? Well the bowl of the pipe will get warm as you smoke. This is ok, but you never want it to get hot. If you can hold the bowl against your cheek for a count of 15 without it feeling unpleasant, you are probably fine.

If you are already a cigar smoker you are probably smoking at close to the right pace, but will likely draw much harder than you need to, so slow down. Enjoy it. There is nothing wrong with letting the pipe go out and needing to re light. Very few people make it through a whole bowl without a re light. If the pipe goes out just tamp down the ash (gently) and start again.

That should get you started.
Pre Treated vs untreated pipes and pipe cake**

As for Pre-treated vs “naked” I don’t think it makes a difference. Some folks say that they can taste the carbon treatment, but my taste buds aren’t that good. I don’t notice that it makes the break in period for a pipe any easier either, but it probably does cut down on instances of burn out with new smokers. I don’t avoid it, but I don’t seek it out either. Properly breaking in your pipe is something you are going to want to do regardless because, despite claims from manufacturers, I have never noticed that the treatments on pipes reduce the need for break it or make the pipe smoke sweeter right from the start.

Ok, now some background for the people who are playing the home game.

Disclaimer, the following only applies to Briar and other wood pipes. Wood pipes make up the majority of pipes out there, and of the wood pipes in the world most of them are made of Briar wood. But there are many other types of pipe materials, and the following does not apply when you are talking about anything other than wood.

Briar is a very hard wood. It does not burn easily, but, being wood, it will still burn. This is obviously a bad thing if you want to keep your pipe in good smoking condition. New pipe smokers frequently ruin pipes because they smoke too hot and cause the pipes to “burn out”. They literally burn a hole into them (or the start of a hole, you normally notice the burn out before it makes it all the way through the pipe.) So what do you do about this? How do you protect your pipe? Well fortunately one of the things that happens when you light a fire in your pipe is that you create a carbon char that sticks to/is the inside of your pipe’s bowl. Some of the char is from the briar, most of it is remainder from the tobacco. This char that lines the inside of the bowl after you burn the tobacco is known as cake, and cake is a good thing (remember, wood pipes only!) for a few reasons. The primary reason for the purposes of this particular discussion is that cake protects the wood of the pipe. It acts as a natural insulator keeping the actual flame away from the flammable wood. If you get the pipe too hot, even with a good cake, you can still burn the pipe, but it’s harder.

One of the (many) other things that cake does is it cuts down on the “woody” flavor of the pipe. Wood brings a lot of flavors to the mix, some of them good some not so good. The cake tones down all of these flavors so that the not so good ones fade away and all you are left with are the good ones. Because of this many pipe smokers dislike the break in period because the bitter bad flavors from the wood are more prominent and over the years they have come up with ways to help speed the break in process. Some people smear a little bit of honey on the inside of the pipe and let that dry on before the first smoke, instant carbon char on the first light. Some use jelly to similar effect (the jelly dries faster, but doesn’t give you as solid a cake). Some use nothing. Many pipe manufacturers have started making pipes that are “pre-smoked” or “pre-broken in” or “carbon lined”. In my experience, these pipes still need to be broken in for flavor and smoking properties that cake brings to the table, but they are (I think) slightly less susceptible to burn out. I don’t think that they help proper cake build any more quickly, and in some cases I think they make the process take longer. They certainly are not a substitute for having a proper cake (not that any manufacturer claims that, but I have seen pipe smokers who believe it).

Ok, next time I post it will be with new thoughts.

I highly recommend you join this online this community:

There’s excellent advice in the 101 thread, and there’s a very healthy sample trading/gifting forum that you can access after you rack up a small number of posts. There’s a world of premium tobacco out there, and buying up every 2oz tin that sounds good is just too expensive and too much of something you might not like. Samples are a great way to discover what blends and flavors are down your alley.

I’m a huge fan of the artisan blender, G.L. Pease. I’ve never smoked a blend of his that wasn’t the finest quality for the style.

Wow…not sure what I can add. NAF1138 has covered a lot, and well, too. Still, maybe I can add a few things:

– Invest in a pipe tool. This is a tool, sort of like a pocketknife, that has a shovel, a poker, and a tamper. It’s a small investment, costing as little as $2 or so.

– If you travel and you take your pipes in your carryon, your pipe tool probably won’t be allowed. At such times, a wooden golf tee will work in a pinch.

– As you understand from the above, a new pipe must be “broken in.” I’m one of those who uses honey on the interior of the bowl before the first smoke. Just a dab on my finger and a roll through the bowl; just enough to coat the bowl without dripping or pooling. Then, I wait at least 24 hours. As indicated, there are other ways to prepare a pipe for the first smoke, but I find this works well for me.

Ah, something just occurred to me that I don’t think has been addressed so far: filter pipes.

When pipe shopping, you will run across some “filtered” pipes, or pipes that state they use the “XYZ filter system.” There are any number of these systems, and whether you choose one or not is up to you.

Note first of all that a filter pipe doesn’t use a filter for your health, but rather for the flavour of what you’re smoking. Filters can “take the edge off” the smoke, providing a smoother, less “bitey” flavour experience. The tradeoff is that you may miss some of the subtleties that the blender included in the tobacco. But if you’re like me, you’ll have some filter and some non-filter pipes, and select what pipe and what tobacco to use based on what you feel like today. Of course, even with a filter pipe, you can always remove the filter and smoke it without

There are any number of filter systems available, but note that a pipe will be designed to use one only–to the best of my knowledge, you cannot use a system in a pipe that was not designed to use it. For example, you will never fit a 9-millimeter filter in a Brigham system pipe. So if you get a Brigham system pipe and plan to use it with filters, make sure you have a source for Brigham system filters.

The two filter systems I’m most familiar with, as you may have guessed, are the 9mm and the Brigham. A 9mm system uses small tubes, 9mm in diameter by an inch long and usually full of charcoal. A Brigham system uses thin wooden (maple) tubes, maybe 3mm in diameter and about 2.5 inches long. Of the two, the 9mm is likely more common in the US; Brigham seems to be somewhat rarer. At any rate, each filter is good for three to five smokes, depending on tobacco and your smoking style. Remember that a filter system does not mean that you can neglect to clean your pipe regularly.

Hope this is useful–I did it on one coffee. I’ll leave this for now, and get more coffee. :slight_smile:

I like G.L. Pease too, and highly recommend checking out his website. He is one of the most interesting and lucid writers on the subject of pipe smoking that I have seen. He makes another of my favorite blends, Barbary Coast. I would recommend him for an intro to Latakia blends I think. I actually don’t love the majority of his blends, most of them don’t quite work for me, but I am not a huge fan of heavy Latakia. I prefer it as a condiment and not the main course, and I think Pease’s blends focus too heavily on Latakia for my taste (as a general rule). I would, however, say that the blends of his that I love I really love. Robusto is probably the best cigar leaf blend I have ever had, and Barbary Coast is near to being perfect.

On the other hand, I love the people at Cornell & Diehl (who produce Pease’s mixtures). They have many great blends of their own but more importantly, and very friendly when you call them on the phone. I would recommend any new smoker give them a call and order a sampler package and have them guide you through your selections. Be sure to get at least one light Latakia blend, one blend featuring Perique, one featuring Burley, and one featuring a VA (if you can get one featuring a red VA and one featuring a Golden).

Chiming in to thank you for the advice. I just bought my first pipe a couple of months ago and have smoked it four or five times. I think I’ve been smoking them too quickly - I puff closer to four or five times a minute than one or two, though the bowl of the pipe never felt terribly hot against my cheek. I’ll slow things down next time.

Question for the experienced: what do you do when you want to smoke away from home? How do you transport your tobacco, tamper, pipe cleaners, matches, etc.?

For travel I bought a small leather case from my tobacco shop. It looks much like an eyeglass case and is just big enough for the pipe, tool and may 1.5 oz. of tobacco.

Around the house I keep everything in a nice wooden cigar box. It’s just the right size and blends in perfectly with our antique furnishings.

When I started I relied heavily on my shop owner, himself a pipe smoker for 30 years or so. He first steered me towards a popular mix and, knowing which ingredients went into it, I’ve since modified it to suit my tastes.

Wish I could add more but the previous posts have covered everything so well.

I just shove everything into my pockets, but don’t do that! You will end up breaking a stem and get tobacco all over the inside of your pockets. (I don’t smoke away from home all that much).

I know a lot of people who really like to use old camera lens cases for their transport, I know some people who buy specialty cases. Anything that is sturdy and easily portable will work though.

Also, ditto what Spoons said about a pipe tool. If you are anything like me you will misplace them with a great deal of frequency, so buy several. There is nothing worse than sitting down with a pipe and then finding that you can’t find your pipe tool anywhere and you have to construct a make shift tamper or use your finger.

I’m another who uses a pipe case. Mine holds two pipes, and I can also fit my pipe tool, cleaners, etc. in it. It also has a small pouch for tobacco, but I usually carry mine separately.

Just remembered another thing–for the beginner, I usually recommend staying away from flake tobaccos. Go for “ready-rubbed” or similar; these are loose ribbons of tobacco that will be easier to handle when you fill your pipe.

Flake cuts are, as the name implies, flakes of tobacco cut off a block. You break them down yourself (you “rub them out” to use the correct terminology), and you fill your pipe from what you rub out. Flakes have their devotees (I’m one), but learning how to rub out the correct amount of flake to the point where you can fill your pipe evenly and it will take a light takes time and effort. As a beginner, you want the pipe smoking experience instead of a frustrating time preparing flakes for the experience. A “ready-rubbed” or “ribbon-cut” will provide a good smoke as you learn about packing and filling and smoking your pipe.

Agreed. You may be lucky enough to have a tobacconist locally who will sell loose tobacco by weight. He or she will have dozens of airtight jars full of various tobaccos, and will weigh out however much you want, and sell it to you. No need to buy two ounces of something you may not like; you can get a half-ounce sample size.

If you’re really lucky, you’ll find that some places will sell you as little as a pipeful–I once patronized a place where the deal was, “your choice from any jar, as much as you can pack in your pipe, one dollar.” Of course, you had to have your pipe with you and it had to be a reasonable size (i.e. no baseball-sized bowl), but it was a good way to sample the jar tobaccos.

As for tobaccos themselves, I’m unsure exactly what I would recommend for a beginner, but I can make some general comments. Beginners are often lured to aromatics because of the promise of familiar flavours: vanilla, cherry, etc. That’s fine, but avoid those tobaccos that use flavourings to cover up less-than-good tobacco underneath. Some brands just glop on the flavouring, hoping that by doing so, you won’t notice the bitter and harsh tobaccos underneath. In this instance, I don’t think you can go wrong with MacBaren–yes, very common, and yes, mass-produced; but always with good tobaccos under just enough flavouring to allow both the flavour of the topping and the tobaccos to come through. If you choose to try something like this, I’d recommend MacBaren’s Vanilla Cream. Other noteworthy aromatics are Nat Sherman’s No. 314 City Island Dawn (vanilla), Peterson’s Sweet Killarney (caramel) or Sunset Breeze (amaretto), and Samuel Gawith’s Celtic Talisman (cherry).

As far as English blends for the beginner go, I’d be a little bit wary of blends that feature Latakia or Perique. They’re terrific tobaccos and add quite an enjoyable experience to the blends in which they are used to good effect (Dunhill’s Nightcap, for example), but I’d say that you need to work your way up to them. If you want to explore English blends, stick with the milder, sweeter blends featuring Virginias and Burleys for now. I have no specific recommendations as to English blends (hey, I like Nightcap, but I said I wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner; and to the best of my knowledge, Dunhill’s Early Morning Pipe is no longer available), but a tobacconist should be able to set you up with something suitable.

Because I don’t have a good humidor, I get cigars only in tubes – each one theoretically sealed with the proper humidity. Once I start with a pipe, what’s the protocol for storing the tobacco? I know it’s got a lot more moisture than cigar or cigarette tobacco: does this mean it will get moldy if kept too long? Should it be kept in the refrigerator? Should unused portions be thrown out after a few months? If the tin isn’t sealed properly, does it dry out? Is dried out pipe tobacco ruined?

Ok. This is a big question.

First. Think of pipe tobacco like coffee. Light is the enemy, and so is air and so is heat. Moisture, interestingly, is also the enemy, but mostly because it interacts badly with most storage systems and too much will promote mold.

You want to keep your tobacco in an air tight, dry, dark, cool but not cold place. Don’t keep it in the fridge, mostly because it will dry stuff out. Don’t keep it in the freezer for the same reason you don’t keep coffee beans in the freezer, you will form vapor crystals.

I keep mine in mason jars. You can keep unopened tins just like they are, don’t do anything with them other than keep them from rusting. If you buy loose or bulk tobacco that isn’t in a tin you want to put it in a mason jar within a couple of days. If you open a tin you want to smoke all of it in about 2 weeks or transfer it to a mason jar. Pipe tobacco isn’t super fragile, so don’t worry too much, just take a little care. It’s much easier to take care of than cigars.

Properly stored tobacco will keep indefinitely, and some tobaccos will actually improve with age. Most people I know have a large igloo cooler somewhere that is filled with mason jars and tins for aging and general storage. This helps keep the temperature consistent, which is really the most important thing, plus it keeps the light out since opaque mason jars are hard to find.

The other thing to keep in mind is that tobacco is typically tinned with a moisture level that is too high for quality smoking. This is intentional and has to do with aging, you don’t have to worry about it other than to know that you want to dry out the tobacco before you smoke it. How dry you like it is a matter of taste. I like mine fairly dry. The rule of thumb is that if you pick up a pinch and drop it it should sprinkle out of your fingers, not clump together, but it should still be springy and soft.

Ok, so I have been thinking about this for a bit and I think I am going to come in with a couple of actual suggestions for you rather than just guidelines. I am going to give you recommendations of tinned tobaccos because they are easier to store, but most of these can be had in bulk and all can easily be bought online.

  1. Skiff Mixture by Samuel Gawith

This is a light English and, I think a good intro to Latakia. Latakia generally smells bad, but Skiff doesn’t (I don’t think). Its a bit sweet and has almost a chocolaty taste to it. If you like the distinctive Latakia flavor there is a whole world of other blends available to you. But start with this.

2)Pegasus by Cornell & Diehl

This was the first blend I ever really fell in love with. Sweet, but not overly so. A good representation of Burley’s with some Cavendish to take the edge off.

  1. I lied about these being all tins. I was going to make the #3 slot a virginia, but I think it’s likely that you will burn yourself on a straight VA if you start there too soon. So wait until you are comfortable smoking to move to a VA. Instead I am going to direct you to Boswell’s Christmas Cookie. Because it’s the holiday season and because it’s a good smoke.

You have to buy it directly from the Boswells, but that’s ok. They are friendly folks and will be happy to help you pick out a blend you like. They also make fine starter pipes. Check them out here.
These are all sweetish, easy to smoke and a decent representation of their style (Light English, Burley, and Aromatic respectively). Once you start to figure out what you like or don’t like in these blends, post again and we can help you find others.

I would recommend buying both tobacco and briars from if your local brick and mortal has a poor selection.

My favorite pipe makers for the dollar are Stanwell, Savinelli, and Johs.

OK, I’ll do it.

One of the best Virginias I’ve ever had would be Paul Olsson’s “My Own Blend” No. 111. It’s a Virginia flake, but sweet as you can imagine. Just a hint of Perique to balance it out. IMHO, it is perfect for the person who wants to explore Virginias. The flakes rub out into fine ribbons easily too.

Another good one, though perhaps not quite as nice as the above would be Solani’s Blend 633. Again, a nice Virginia flake with a dash of Perique. Like I said, not quite as nice as the No. 111, but it may be easier to find.

I agree that you shouldn’t start on Virginias too soon (and as mentioned, no flakes just yet), but I see no harm in letting a beginner know of the treats that await. :slight_smile:

I have never smoked a pipe. I have no intention of ever smoking a pipe. I just wanted to say that threads like this are why I frequent this board. No matter what the question, someone knows way more about it than most of us would ever dream of learning.


Many many thanks for the input thus far.

Any pipe smokers have any pictures of their implements of destruction that they’d like to share? Browsing some of the linked sites, there are some stunningly beautiful pipes out there.