Published: 02 March 2014
Here are what I see as the positives:
Published: 23 February 2014
For the first couple years I smoked a pipe I explored Latakia blends and Burley. I think Latakia blends are easy to appreciate. They don't take much of a palate to derive satisfaction from. They're obvious, consistent. Similarly Burley provides the definition for consistency. These are tobaccos that are easy to master and don't demand much of the smoker.
I'm one of the guys who was really worried what FDA regulation was going to do to the availability of tobacco, so I started cellaring in earnest almost from the beginning. I was winding down on putting in my cellar, at least I thought so at the time, and thought to myself that this was my last chance to see if I wanted to represent Virginias in my cellar before I had my weight put away.
I started diving into Virginias with a passion, and found to my surprise that smoking them was a revelation for me. Quality of flavor, subtlety, compelling tobacco sugar, intrinsically the essence of good tobacco to my mind. All of a sudden Va's were all I wanted to smoke. At the time Samuel Gawith's catalog was readily available online, and it hadn't been for a while, so I started putting away BBF, FVF and MVF like my life depended on it.
I quickly went from about a pound of Virginia mixtures in my cellar to a quarter of my total weight, half of my total weight, three quarters of my total weight. Along the way I explored each major house associated with blending fine Virginia mixtures, and developed a repertoire of tobaccos that would see me through to the end. This continues whether I want it to or not of course, and I am still finding good blends that I feel warrant poundage in my basement and screwing up my tobacco roadmap.
Published: 16 February 2014
The following is strictly opinion. I am the arbiter of taste and sensibility for no one but myself. Ultimately smoke what you like and don't let yourself be influenced by the opinions of anonymous people encountered on the internet whose opinions may or may not be valid:
Over the years watching YouTube videos and reading web forums I get the impression that a lot of pipe smokers suffer from horrible technique. Technique is crucial to the enjoyment of smoking a pipe, as flavor is distilled by as low a temperature burn as you can manage. Puffing away on a pipe for big plumes of smoke is about as far away from how I smoke a pipe as you can get.
When I first started smoking a pipe someone told me that if I was doing it right my pipe would be always right on the verge of extinguishing itself. I took that to heart, and I have sipped on and breathed with my pipes since the beginning. At first it took a conscious effort, but before too long it became automatic.
I smoke mostly group 3 and group 4 pipes. I generally select the pipes I smoke based on their ability to give me a smoke with a duration of about 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours. I feel that is enough time to really get into and enjoy the tobacco without crossing the line to where my palate is fatigued and I'm just burning money for something to do. For some ribbon blends I can manage a group 5, and for Latakia and Burley they work well because those tobaccos burn quicker. Even so, with Burley I often like a shorter smoke and will use a normal capacity pipe. Burley is my morning coffee smoke, and an hour is sufficient for me. Already going off on a tangent here.
Published: 13 August 2013
I've laid out some of my favorite Va's in the two previous articles and just thought I'd tack on a little addendum. Sometimes tobaccos that make a big first impression lose their luster after you've acquired more intimacy with them, and sometimes tobaccos you've always liked just keep getting better and better in your esteem.
I still think the Samuel Gawith trilogy of MVF/BBF/FVF is worthy of a lot of weight in any Va lover's cellar. During the warmer months MVF definitely becomes my favorite of the three. It's as fine a golden Va as is made, and if you love Va flakes just ignore all the reviews that call this one bland. It is not bland if you have a palate for straight Va's. BBF is finicky but never bad, and when your palate syncs with it I think it's the finest Va on the planet. FVF is more forgiving and I find it to be a Va that I can smoke during the cold months moreso than the lighter flakes.
The McClelland stuff is great, but I have a love hate relationship with it. My esteem for Rich Virginia Ribbon and Royal Cajun Ebony has diminished somewhat. No. 24 is always good and perhaps the best thing they produce for my tastes.
Published: 05 June 2013
Published: 03 June 2013
If you asked me my favorite shape I'd say without hesitation the Liverpool. The best part of the Liverpool in my opinion is how it pleases the eye. The longer shank and short stem just flows visually. I always think of all my pipes my Liverpools look best just sitting there. Somehow Canadians don't attract me in the same way, but I love a good Liverpool. It's the mild tweak to the billiard that sends it from attractive to gotta have it.
I'm fond of Lovats also. It's such a comfortable shape to smoke, and the smaller capacity of the average Lovat makes it perfect for Samuel Gawith flakes, which are what I smoke most often.
As I look at my rack there is one shape that is starting to dominate every tier. It's a shape that could be called pedestrian. It's certainly the poster pipe for what I used to consider boring, and I never would have owned one a couple of years ago, having a younger man's more superficial tastes in pipe aesthetics.
This shape has cast a spell of compulsion on me. I long to smoke this shape, and every time I acquire a new one for the rack, it seems that I redo my roadmap and add one or two more of them. No matter how many times I scratch this itch, it keeps coming back. I think in my mind I want to cover all the bases for this shape, so I set out to get, I don't know, three or four iconic versions, and then as I acquire them my eye falls on another version that has some trivial difference from the others yet seems like a universe of new experiences to me.
The shape I'm talking about is the mundane, amazing billiard.