A Pipe Smoking Primer

by A Manly Guest Contributor on October 14, 2009 · 184 comments

in Manly Skills

moviepipeImage from Fractal Artist

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from AoM reader Jason Mills.

I can remember visiting my best friend when I was younger.  It was fun to get together and have adventures like boys do, but one thing I really, really liked was his dad.  His dad was an old farm man and looked like it from the weather-beaten lines on his face to his calloused hands. He was quiet spoken and loved smoking his pipe.  Since my dad was a non-smoker, this fact really intrigued me as a young boy.  I’d see him lighting up and smoking his pipe in complete happiness.  He always smelled like pipe tobacco (Sir Walter Raleigh) and now, whenever I smell that brand, I always think of him.

Maybe you had a grandpa who was like my friend’s dad.  Maybe you saw him smoking his pipe in quiet contentment and enjoyed that manly smell as I did. Maybe you’ve never known a man who smoked a pipe, so you don’t know what I’m talking about. Either way it doesn’t change the fact that pipe smoking is a manly art.

Why?  Well, pipe smoking is as much ritual as it is relaxation. There’s a certain satisfaction you get when you pack the tobacco into the bowl just right.  Then, the whoosh of the match followed by that wonderful, aromatic smell.  Smoke a pipe with one of your favorite cocktails (maybe an Old Fashioned or a Martini) in the comfort of your favorite armchair, and you’ve got the makings of a perfect evening.

manchairpipePipe? Check. Man chair? Check. Grab the sports section and you’ve got the perfect evening ahead of you.

Even in cinema from the 1930s and 1940s, oftentimes you’ll see men with a pipe in their mouths.  Movies like The Quiet Man, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and even It’s a Wonderful Life find men of all stripes smoking their pipes. Today, men who smoke a pipe are taking part in a manly ritual that stretches back to the dawn of time and has continued unbroken to the present.  Convinced?  Then let’s get started.

Basic Supplies

Since this article is for newbies, I don’t want you to go broke trying something you may not like. So, I’ve provided a list of the minimum items you need to start.  When I first started smoking a pipe, I paid $12 for all of my stuff, but prices may vary in your area.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A pipe. I recommend starting with a corn cob pipe. Yeah I know it sounds corny (no pun intended) but they’re cheap (mine was $4) and if you find you don’t like  smoking a pipe, just toss it with little out of your pocket.
  • Pipe tamper/tool. Although not absolutely necessary, this is very helpful in packing the tobacco. Mine was $3 and was a combo tamper/cleaner.
  • Pipe cleaners. Obviously for cleaning your pipe when you’re finished.  Most tobaccoists will gladly provide you with a handful at no charge
  • Wooden Matches or a pipe lighter.
  • Tobacco. This is where a knowledgeable tobacconist is HIGHLY needed. Tobacco comes in a variety of flavors and strengths.  I recommend starting out with a blended flavor.  The one I started with is called Almost Heaven and is a vanilla flavored tobacco.  My tobaccoist sold me a 3 oz sample pouch for about $5.

Once you have all this, you can get started.

How to Smoke a Pipe

“I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.” -Albert Einstein

To start with, smoking a pipe is a leisurely activity.  I’d recommend setting aside at least 20 minutes. That’s one of the reasons pipe smoking is so enjoyable. It lets you take some time to slow down. Again, make yourself one of the 5 Classic Cocktails Every Man Should Know, grab your pipe and tobacco, and take a seat on the porch to enjoy the evening.  Now you’re really ready to begin.

1. Fill the bowl of your pipe. This step is the most difficult to master, but it affects the rest of your smoke.  Fill the bowl loosely with tobacco and press it lightly down with the tamper. The bowl should now be filled halfway from the bottom. Fill the bowl again to the top and compress a bit more, packing more firmly. Now your bowl is about 3/4 full.  Now top off the bowl with more tobacco and press down.  There should be a slight space between the top of the bowl and the tobacco.

2.  Put the pipe to your mouth and take a test draw. If air doesn’t flow freely through the tobacco, it’s too tight.  If that’s the case, remove and try again. If your test draw is fine, you’re ready to light.

3.  When lighting your pipe, use a wooden match or pipe lighter. I recommend wooden matches because they’re cheaper.  Pipe lighters are made specifically for tobacco pipes and don’t alter the taste of the tobacco.  If using a match, strike it and let it burn for a few seconds to get the sulphur off.  Then, as you take gentle draws on the pipe, move the match in a circular movement over the surface of the tobacco. Do this until the tobacco is evenly lit.  Once it’s lit, you’re still not quite there.  This is simply the “false light.” Let it go out, then relight the same way. Once it’s evenly lit, this is the “true light” and you’re ready to smoke.  Note: It is suggested that you NOT inhale the smoke into your lungs.  Pipe smoking is different than cigarette smoking.  This type of tobacco is a bit stronger and is more for the flavor.

4.  Take it easy when smoking your pipe. Slow and steady, this is a marathon, not a 50 yard dash.  If you puff too quickly, you’ll get what’s known as “tongue bite”– a burning sensation on your tongue.  Definitely not what you want.  Your pipe may go out 2 or 3 times during your smoke, but that’s OK.  Remember, relax and enjoy.  If you have a friend over, your pipe may go out more often as you talk!  Enjoy the flavor of the tobacco.

That’s all there is to it.  If you enjoy your first and subsequent smokes, you can buy the more expensive pipes and tobaccos.  Who knows, there may be another article on the types of pipes and tobaccos in the future.

Some Other Tips

  • If you find that the pipe starts “gurgling,” there’s too much moisture in the pipe stem.  Simply take the pipe out of your mouth and put a pipe cleaner in the end for a second or two to remove the moisture.  Try to keep your mouth as dry as possible to prevent this from happening.
  • If the pipe gets too hot on your hand, let it go out and then relight.  If it’s burning too hot, it can alter the taste of the tobacco.
  • When finished with your smoke, always allow the pipe to cool before cleaning.

Editor’s note: If you’re intrigued by the idea of pipe smoking but for a variety of reasons want to avoid tobacco, you may wish to look into trying an e-pipe. E-pipes are electronic pipes that produce a vapor-like smoke but don’t contain tobacco. You can control the level of nicotine in the vapor from high to none at all. It’s a far cry from real pipe smoking, but an interesting alternative.

What are your manly pipe smoking tips? Share them with us in the comments!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that smoking or using tobacco products comes with health risks like cancer and emphysema. Thus, like most things in life, from driving to eating refined carbs, there are both risks and benefits to pipe smoking. Smokers would argue that studies done specifically on the risks of pipe smoking are quite sparse, and that some actually found that occasional pipe smokers live longer than non-smokers. On the other hand, the National Cancer Institute argues that “Pipe smoking confers a risk of tobacco-associated disease similar to cigar smoking,” and puts the user at risk for a variety of cancers. Make your own informed decision.

{ 181 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Drew Martin November 15, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Two words: Frog Morton. Best tobacco for a beginner unless you like to smoke cherry-watermelon-grapeseed bubblegum surprise or something like that. Not too strong, not too sweet – just right enough to get you to feel what it’s like to smoke tobacco from a pipe. Give it a try.

Another good idea: visit a local pipe or tobacco shop. A real one, that is.

I’ve been enjoying pipes since college on an off. It’s a great way to enjoy tobacco and I always have one with me fishing and outdoors. Love it.

102 Grumpy November 24, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Well it’s for sure New York City has banned all flaverd cigars. Man if they say all tobacco including pipe tobacco were in deep dew – dew

103 Grumpy December 4, 2009 at 7:27 am

Well it is true New York City has banned flavored cigars, Legislators stopped the pipe tobacco flavored from being banned. Is this what we have to look forward to?

104 Grumpy January 7, 2010 at 9:24 am

Check this web sight out sure has a lot to offer.

105 Grumpy January 7, 2010 at 9:25 am

Here is the right web page.

106 Bob January 17, 2010 at 9:41 am

Hold on here a second! This is a very commendable article, but finishing it with a tip about an e-pipe(!) is just plain weird. I mean this page is called the art of manliness, now could there be something more ridiculous than prancing around with a piece of plastic in your mouth PRETENDING to smoke a pipe?! I think not. Doing something halfarsed or faking it is perhaps the most unmanly thing a man can do. “Do, or do not” – to quote Yoda….

107 Katie January 20, 2010 at 3:59 am

Glorious. :) I think this website is my new favorite. I started smoking a pipe to spite all the cigarette smokers at the smoke decks on base. It is very enjoyable and much better smelling than cancer sticks. I, as an attractive young female, find a pipe smoke to be quite handsome, especially if he wears a beard and is partial to old fashioned hats.

108 TMIB January 28, 2010 at 12:25 am

Just a couple more suggestions/tips:

1) Definitely find a good brick & mortar store to support, and don’t be hesitant to ask questions.

2) Your tobacconist should point this out, but just in case- a tobacco that smells pretty may not smoke or taste as good as it smells. Don’t be afraid to try a variety of tobaccos. Many newcomers just try aromatics and wind up deciding they don’t like pipe smoking. Aromatics smell great when smoked, but sometimes can smoke quite wet or hot, or simply have an over-sweet flavor. There are some fantastic aromatics out there too, so try a little bit of a few different kinds to see what you like.

3) Like new boots a briar pipe takes some time to break in. It may smoke a little hot to begin with, so be patient and go slow. Tongue bite is very common, and is nearly always a sign that you’re smoking too fast and/or your packing is too loose.

4) when you find a particular blend you like, buy more of it than you intend to smoke in the near future. Seal it up and store it somewhere cool and dark. This does two things- it “cellars” the tobacco- it’ll improve with age, getting a fuller taste and a more smooth mellowness to it. It also serves as a backup when the company that makes it stops producing it. There’s something nice about pulling out some tobacco that you cellared 5 years ago.

109 Josh - E Cigarettes Advocate February 7, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I’ve been a big advocate of the “electronic” movement of tobacco if for no other reason than the alleged health benefits. This is why I am so surprised to hear that they have an electronic pipe. If they manage to create the wide variety of flavors and variations with the electronic solutions, I’m all about it, but I can’t help but feeling something is lost. There is a romanticism to pipes that can’t be duplicated with E-juice.

Nice post,


110 smoke plus smoking blend February 9, 2010 at 11:40 pm

I myself don’t smoke,
Great article, thank you for the post, keep going on.

111 Skysail Jack February 10, 2010 at 10:20 am

Great Article!
We need rituals and pipesmoking is one fo this rituals we can still clebrate. Once i have hade a very choleric boss, a italian from sardinia. he was a absolute choleric in the best sense. During meetings he used to shout and sometimes swear in italian languge, but when i lit my pipe he was quiet and curiously watching, during that i could think and find arguments to encounter. That was during a time when smoking in business meeting was acceptable.
I also tamp after the first light, it is part of the lighting-ritual and makes a bett draw.
As i am allways telling to my sons “boys smoke cigarettes, man smoke pipe”
hehehe, that keep them from smoking till now,which boy want to be called “boy”?

112 ESmoker February 10, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Great Post! I have been quit for sometime now, but smoking a pipe has always had a different feeling to me than cigarettes. I was not much for smoking a pipe in public, but enjoyed it with my father and grandfather while hanging and drinking some good alcohol.

113 Jarrod Cicero Murdock March 4, 2010 at 10:02 pm

I don’t currently smoke, but if and when I do, I would definitely smoke a pipe. With the nature of pipe smoking being slow and enjoyable, it would be easier for me to smoke a pipe in moderation than it would be to be moderate with cigarette smoking. It also seems more mature to me, as an 18-year-old, to smoke a pipe, when I many of my friends recklessly waste their money on cigarettes and become addicted. So in a few years I plan to try out pipe smoking and see if I like it.

114 kvmoorthy March 17, 2010 at 8:06 am

I have just started pipe smoking, I smoke a lot of cigarettes and didn’t find the flavor of tobacco . I switch to cigars time to time to get the flavor of tobacco. I have just got a tongue bite, I now come to know that it is due to fast smoking. Could some one gimme a good duration for a refill of tobacco. With this I could train up my inhales.

115 Eric G. April 17, 2010 at 12:13 am

I have been pipe smoking for 5 years now and find it a great way to unwind and clear your mind. Since I smoke outdoors mostly, I find myself smoking primarily in the spring and fall when the weather is most agreeable. Patience and practice is key to learning, it is not as simple as it seems to get the most enjoyment out of your pipe.

A couple of lighting recommendations…Never use a torch lighter, they will burn your briar. Although matches are a great traditional method of lighting your bowl, I find a butane lighter much more effective. Especially for relights or with any wind, matches are difficult to deal with the further down the bowl you have to relight. Once you decide pipe smoking is for you, treat yourself to an Old Boy pipe lighter. They look and feel like something your grandfather would have used. They really add to the romance and ritual of pipe smoking. The flame points to the side of the lighter which is ideal for pipes and they have a built in pipe tool and tamper. They have several variations, mine is silver plated with wood inlay and it is a joy to use. Of course for camping trips, leave it at home and bring a cheap butane lighter.

116 Keith Claridge April 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I bought a pipe the other day and have used it 3 times, struggling to pack it properly and it keeps going out, but I seem to be getting better each time. Struggle to get tobbaco from the high st, so going to have to go the internet route. I have been enjoying reading up about different tobaccos and flavours etc.

117 Brutus April 20, 2010 at 12:31 am

I quit pipe smoking in 1962 due to peer pressure; lately,though, I’ve been hearing the call of the pipe and I believe it to be just a matter of time until I return to my first love.

118 Eric G. April 21, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Hang in there Keith! It’s tricky teaching yourself. The hardest part for me was figuring out how tightly to pack it. For a long time I was packing too loosely and not realizing it. Gently tamping the tobacco down occasionally keeps the embers in contact with the unburned tobacco. Click on my name above to go to my favorite internet forum for talking and learning about pipes.

119 Fisherking May 4, 2010 at 8:23 am

I’m 46…glad I’ve reached the age when I can smoke my pipe without coming off as pretentious…as if I ever really cared anyway.


120 Barry May 14, 2010 at 11:04 am

Great topic!!
Beginners I suggest a corn cob “Missouri Meerschaum Company” brand only. Tobacco should be a mild aromatic cheap brand “Captain Black” in white pouch is a good first choice. Fill bowl loose to top, use tamper to push gently like touching a baby’s arm , fill to top, push down like touching a women’s arm, fill top top and push down until slightly below top of bowl. Light in circle while slowly drawing in. The tobacco will raise up, push it back down and relight. push down every now and then. A full bowl will take approx. 35 to 45 minutes to smoke…any faster you are smoking to fast and may get a sore tongue…..good luck

121 Craig May 21, 2010 at 2:25 am

I’ve been smoking a pipe for about 9 months. Sure, I get some flak from my friends for not going the cigar or cigarette route, but I don’t really care. I enjoy a nice smoke every so often. My favorite tobacco is the classic Cherry, like my gramps used to smoke. Love that stuff

122 Rob June 10, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Great article!

I’m a new pipe smoker and I’m having some trouble with packing the pipe. Would welcome any advice

123 Latinojedi June 25, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Thank you for the article. More importantly I would like to thank everyone who made comments on here. I learned more about traditions, rituals, cathartic and empathetic feelings when it came to pipes from all the comments. I am 37 years old and have never smoked. Although my mom and dad smoked cigarettes like a chimney, I am sure I obtained quite a bit of second hand smoke from all those summer vacations in a rolled up window stationwagon.

Because of my father’s smoking and later in life lung cancer diagnosis, I never really took up smoking. However, pipe smoking has always had a strange allure to me. Chalk it to Tolkein characters or my grandfather’s porch moments, I can’t wait to sit on my porch tonight and try my first puff. I will take all of your comments in mind and this article will be in my thoughts. I will have a shiner or a Pyrut Rum Cask 23 to sip on as I embark on my own rich (responsibly once or twice a month) pepe tradition. Thank you for giving me the inspiration.

124 Louis Bartolomeo June 29, 2010 at 4:30 pm

You failed to mention the initial “charring light,” re-tamping the bowl, then re-lighting.


125 Louis Bartolomeo June 29, 2010 at 4:31 pm

You also neglected to give instructions on how to “season” a new pipe.


126 Mike July 2, 2010 at 9:29 pm

I’ve been a pipe smoker for almost ten years and I’ve found it to be a rewarding experience. There are a few things that were left out of this article – some commenters have already hinted at a few – that I would like to add.

Gurgling in the pipe can also be a sign that you’re smoking too fast. While slobbering over your pipe like a St. Bernard certainly contributes to that nasty tobacco juice, a good portion of it is actually released from the tobacco. Many pipe tobaccos are fairly moist and as they burn, that moisture is released along with smoke. By smoking too quickly that moisture can be denied the opportunity to fully evaporate and will condense in the bottom of your bowl. The moral: take your time, smoke slowly. It is better to have to re-light your pipe than to suffer tongueburn and bitter tobacco juice.

This patience should carry over to all aspects of your pipes, even when you’re not smoking them. Trying a corncob is an excellent recommendation for a beginner, and some people develop such a fondness for these Missouri Meerschaums that they smoke them their entire lives. I’m a briar man myself, but regardless of your pipe’s composition it will take a while for the pipe to reach full potential. How long? Often between 50 and 100 smokes. This process is called seasoning, and while pre-seasoned pipes exist, they only shorten the process rather than eliminating it completely.

When you first purchase a pipe it is recommended that smoke it no more than twice a day. Smoke between a quarter and half a bowl at a time, very slowly so that the carbon released from the burning tobacco coats the inside of the bowl. This helps to insulate the pipe from the damaging effects of the burning tobacco and should never be completely removed, though after years of use it will likely become necessary to scrape that layer down to an appropriate level. After the first 20 or so short bowls, you can start packing full bowls, but you must still be very careful to smoke slowly. Remember, always better to relight your pipe (being careful not to char the inside with, the goal is to deposit carbon ONTO the inside of the bowl, not to turn the inside of the bowl INTO carbon) than to make it burn too fast. With proper practice, your pipe will be seasoned at about the same time you become a proficient pipe smoker.

I also recommend buying multiple pipes. Some people say that one pipe for each day of the week is ideal, and I would love to justify such luxury for myself, but I get by with four. Multiple pipes allows your pipes to dry out completely after a day of smoking and they will be in even better shape the next time you pick them up. As a side note, NEVER try to clean your pipe immediately after smoking. Between the heat and the moisture, the wood will have expanded and you risk breaking the stem. I had a beautiful Bjarne that I inadvertently snapped when I went to remove its stem immediately after smoking. An expensive mistake.

Finally, before I end up writing an entire article of my own, I want to say a few words about the Frank Method of packing a pipe. The traditional layered method described in this article is time-honored and, with much practice, will provide enjoyable smoking. However, it can be time consuming and tedious, and EVERY pipe will layer differently. It can be very frustrating when you have to not only season a new pipe, but discover such idiosyncrasies as well. I’ve been experimenting with the Frank Method for about a year now and I have had wonderful smokes from all of my pipes with remarkable consistency. Every bowl now smokes down to a fine, dry dust and next to zero tobacco gets wasted at the bottom. For instruction in the method from the man himself, he offers a three-video course on YouTube beginning at this address:

127 Ron C July 19, 2010 at 12:41 am

I just turned 20. I have been smoking a pipe for two years now, and recieved my first pipe as a birthday/graduation present. I had a few pipe smokers in my lineage but had never truly experienced knowing a pipe smoker directly.
I absolutely love it. It is one one my favorite and most cherished pass times. I have since purchased other pipes and experimented with different tobaccos, i now have a selection of a few excellent stand-bys and I even have a nice rapport with my local tobacconist. I brought my small collection with me to University where I quickly discovered that while it is not a common thing, it encourages people to sit down and have a chat with you, whether because they enjoy the smell, know someone who smokes a pipe, or simply think it looks academic. (by far my most recieved comment) Its helped me start a few good friendships and I’ve even directly convinced more than one person to go and smoke a bowl of their own. Nice article!

128 TBV August 10, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I’m not sure if anyone is still reading this thread, but I just found it. I’ve been smoking a pipe for 22 years and if I may, I’d like to add my two cents.

On Tobacco: there are many different types, with the differences being in the actual leaf, as well as the processing, the flavoring, the cut, the packaging, etc. You would do well to avoid Captain Black and other “drug store” varieties. Sure, they may smell nice, but that’s because they’re LOADED with sugar. And as anyone who took junior high school chemistry can tell you, sugar burns HOT. This means tongue bite. Plus the quality of tobacco used is not the highest. Find a real tobaccanist (not a “Cheap Smokes”). They should have a variety of good quality blends to try. Of these, keep in mind the three major blend types:
- aromatics. These are artificially flavored with sugars, and will burn HOT (see above). Most pipe smokers start w/ aromatics (cherry, vanilla, and chocolate being popular flavors) but will usually move on.
- Virginias. This is a type of tobacco with a high natural sugar content and relatively low (some say nonexistent) nicotine level. Virginia tobacco should be smoked SLOWLY to prevent the bowl from becoming too hot to handle. Unlike aromatics, Virgina tobacco will never leave a “goopy” residue in the bottom of the bowl.
- English. (For the sake of discussion, I’m including “Balkan” blends here.) This type of tobacco is preferred by most “serious” pipe men. Usually (but not always) using Virginia tobacco as a base, it’s flavored with Latakia, a smokey flavored “condiment” tobacco. Try to think of it like this; English blends are the exact opposite of aromatic blends. English blends smell “bad” to the novice (much like pencils), but taste GREAT. Aromatics smell great, but taste BAD.

Other “condiment” tobaccos include orientals and perique. Each are used in small quantities to add to the overall flavor.

On Pipes: forgive me if I repeat anything mentioned above. A good new pipe will probably run you around $60. It may have cosmetic flaws in the grain of the wood, but it’ll smoke just fine. Cheaper are corn cobs, which smoke well, but will sour and/or burn out usually within a year. Someone above mentioned how you should never clean a warm pipe. I think the writer meant you should never remove the stem from a warm pipe. You should DEFINITELY clean a pipe immediately after each use, using lots and lots of pipe cleaners. I usually let my briar pipes sit at least 24 hours between smokes to allow them to dry out completely.

Finally, SLOW DOWN. If an average sized bowl doesn’t last at least 45 mins to an hour, you’re smoking too fast. Relax and enjoy.


129 Symphony Sid August 14, 2010 at 10:57 am

My father gave me a very good piece of advice in my youth.

Never hire a man who smokes a pipe. They are the most shilly-shallying worthless pieces of crap on the planet.

130 David Knapp August 14, 2010 at 4:23 pm

@Symphony Sid, why was that good advise? Please explain.

131 Symphony Sid August 15, 2010 at 1:34 pm

“why was that good advise? Please explain.”

Pipe smokers love to clean, tamp, fiddle and generally screw around with their pipes as an alternative to actually accomplishing anything. They are a contemplative but unproductive breed, best avoided.

132 David Knapp August 16, 2010 at 2:59 am

Thanks for explaining. Not sure I agree. C.S. Lewis smoked a pipe and got plenty done.

People who are contemplative are productive. They are the thinkers of the world. If this world didn’t have thinkers then we wouldn’t have advanced as far as we have. There wouldn’t be the modern technologies that make the non-contemplative’s job easier.

At the end of the day of all that hard thinking maybe they would like to smoke a pipe. It is probably better than sitting down and drinking a 12 pack.

Again, thanks for your explanation.

To the author: Great article!

133 Bill August 18, 2010 at 10:03 pm

One recommendation. If you have never smoked before, you may want to start with a pipe tobacco that is of the type “light aromatic”. If you find this pleasurable, you can get more flavorful and heavier smoking blends, but with all of this new sensation a strong burley can easily overwhelm a newcomer. A light aromatic to start eases you into the process and is a great place to start.

134 Collin August 19, 2010 at 1:31 am

I’ve been smoking a pipe for about six months now (and people always stare, because I’m only 19!) and I learned pretty much all of this through trial and error.
Pipe smoking should become more common, it’s a dignified, manly thing to do, and even if it isn’t HEALTHY it certainly isn’t the worst thing one could do for one’s health.
One more thing: a good English Latakia blend is the very best way to watch the sun go down with.

135 Grant Schooley September 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Many of my adult ‘heroes’ have been smokers. Aldo Leopold among them. Great article :). Would love to share a good smoke from time to time.

136 Dave S September 29, 2012 at 11:17 pm

what’s a good tobacco blend/brand for the fall months to have?

137 Lee October 1, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Much as you might want to accompany your pipe with some scotch, it’s best not to drink alcohol while – or soon before/after – smoking; they’re both irritants and taking them together heightens your risk of developing cancer and other less serious nasties.
The author of this article probably shouldn’t have recommended you settle down with a cocktail to smoke, occasionally won’t hurt but it’s not a good habit to get into.

138 Menachem Har-Zahav October 5, 2012 at 3:16 am

I have been smoking a pipe since I was 16 and yes I got PLENTY of stares. All this non-smoking crap really gets my goat. Pipe smoking is not only manly, but it is relaxing and is certainly a better ritual to observe than the addiction of cigarettes. Cigarettes just look dead common, like tatoos.

We pipe smokers should be trying to get our cigarette smoking brothers to give up the coffin nails and take up the pipe.

Besides, EVERYONE loves the smell of a nice cavendish being smoked in a pipe.

There are too many blends to make any generalizations, however I prefer MacBaren’s Green Velvet or something with a heavy dosage of Latikia. I am a veteran pipe smoker but with the exception of the occaisional English blend, I personally prefer the cavendish mixtures.

Always remember:


139 Phil November 9, 2012 at 10:51 am

fellow gents…may i recomend making your own pipe tamper from a stick (hint maple or oak or walnut works wel.l don’t use everygreen/coniferous trees) about 1/4 inch in daimeter.
enjoy the extra man points you will accrue by making your own tools by hand!

skin off the bark with a good qualirty pocket or fixed blade knife. saw off one end with a fine toothed saw to make the tamper side. then use the knife to make a blunt pointed end or chisel style end on the opposite side and there you go. another manly art you may enjoy.

also i would chime in that if you know how to identify a raspberry or blackberry plant the leaves can be picked, hung and dried to make a nice non-tobacco alternataive smoke that is non addictive but i find to be quite pleasing. you can also mix this with your tabacco if you so choose like the native americas did. it has a very mild flavor and makes a good base for blends.

140 Lee December 4, 2012 at 1:55 pm

@Dave S
When it starts getting cold, I move to English blends, and for some reason, flakes. Dunhill Early Morning Pipe and Erinmore Flake are my favorites right now (although Peterson’s University Flake is wonderful, just make sure you have a full stomach if you aren’t used to nicotine). A piece of advice for those having trouble with tongue bite: you may be over-puffing trying to keep your pipe lit. A trick I recently learned to prevent a pipe going out without puffing away, place two fingers over the top of your bowl to restrict the airflow (not fully block it), and puff. That will relight the tobacco.

141 Samuel December 30, 2012 at 4:21 am

I first smoked a pipe when I was 17; out of an old pouch I found some of my grandfather’s old tobacco in; out of my grandfather’s old pipe. The legal smoking age in my Canadian province is 19. As soon as I turn 19, I’m heading strait to the tobacconist.

142 Leeland February 14, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I’m a heavy wall fabricator and have smoked a pipe for about 12 years now and I just found these posts. Pipe smoking has not money only helped me relax and stay my nerves but has also helped calm my “bad attitude” it helps me to concentrate on the task at hand and keeps money in my pocket by reducing the amount of cigarettes I buy, and whoever said pipe smokers are shilly-shallying peices of crap, I’m a leadman and one of the top production men at my job! Don’t be a bigot just because you disagree

143 PageOnFire March 9, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Been smoking a pipe for about 3 days now. What can I say my grandfather who died when I was 1 smoked a pipe you could see him in pictures with one. Happy,Content, not to mention everybody he ever came into contact with adored him. So I gave it a shot and absolutely love it. And I’m a high producing under the gun all the time loan officer so its seems to calm the nerves after a long day with a glass of Crown XR. My grandpa owned and ran the company the built all the first paved roads in my of Wyoming/Yellowstone park and a few other huge projects so maybe it was a destresser for him also. You put that with Einstien the pipe smoker along with have the staff that invented the A-Bomb, A few US Generals known for kicking a?? And taking names all the time and I’m pretty sure the shilly-shallying prior comment is null. Driven people are driven & lazy people are lazy.

Great article…..

144 Jack March 14, 2013 at 5:45 am

I am currently 16 and have been smoking my corncob pipe for about a week. I gotta say, it’s a wonderful expirience and i recommend it to all of my friends (even though they think it’s a little wierd). i started smoking cigarettes about 7 years ago and have gotten to the point where i can’t afford them and that’s why I bought my pipe. I still roll my pipe tobacco into cigarettes every now and then but it just doesn’t measure up to smoking it in my cob. A good trick i learned recently for packing my pipe is to pack a little at a time and test it each pack, if it feels like you’re sipping on a milkshake: it’s too tight, it it feels like you’re sucking air: too loose, but if it feels like you’re sucking soda through a straw, then it’s just right. Great article by the way!

145 A. Bagley March 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm

If you’re looking for a new pipe – check out a Handcrafted McKie Pipe. Practically, it’s the most well built pipe that I have. It had better instruction on how to break in the pipe and because of that it smoked the best, tasted the best, and didn’t burn nearly as hot. The briar is really high quality. The way that the McKie Pipe smokes and cooks your tobacco is a lot more regulated than a cheaper briar. That gives the tobacco a much better flavor and much more pleasant experience. Appearance wise, it was unlike any other pipe that I had or had seen shaped similar to it. It’s just really cool, a neat pipe.

146 Menachem April 3, 2013 at 11:39 pm

There can be nothing more refined and masculine than smoking a pipe. I’ve been enjoying this pasttime from age sixteen and although I have had, and thirty years later still get some odd looks from people, I have yet to find anyone who has found my pipe bothersome. It IS any will ALWAYS be my favorite pasttime. Pipe smokers make better lovers.

147 Terry Brigner April 20, 2013 at 3:48 am

I find that after the “False start” I get a better draw from the true start if I tamp very gently on the burned tobacco surface. This seems to reduce the amount of smoke leaving the bowl, increasing the draw from the pipe. Most of my smoking is done outside in the wind though, that might have something to do with it:)

148 Adrian April 20, 2013 at 5:10 am

Jack, You are 16 and smoke a pipe?
And you were smoking cigarettes 7 years ago when you were 9 and you JUST ran out of money for them?

Grow some hair on your chest, nobody would buy that.

On another note, most people talk about layering their different tobaccos as a condiment…I made a 50/50 mix the other day and it was amazing, and imo much better than a “layered” type.

Give that a shot and see if it works for you.

149 Brad April 20, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Just started smoking a pipe this week. I have one question: what do you do when you are done smoking? I know you knock out the tobacco, but as a long time cigarette smoker, I feel weird taking the pipe back in the office because it still smells like smoke. Is there a man case or something that holds the smell in? Love the pipe, just trying to figure out all the details.

150 Srinivas Kari April 23, 2013 at 11:21 am

Where can you purchase tobacco in Hyderabad, India?

151 Andy May 21, 2013 at 6:27 am

Great article. Also it’s great to hear from other pipesters. I find it can be quite lonely smoking a pipe as not many smoke pipes, in this crazy climate of Health & Safety police, although pipe-smoking can itself ease feelings of loneliness, how do ya like them apples? I’ve been smoking a pipe for years on and off, since 1969, when I fell in love with the aroma of the Dutch new kids on the block, Clan, Holland House and Zephyr. I took it up again 4 years ago and look forward to many more years of tasty, fragrant clouds.

152 c. wells May 21, 2013 at 10:19 pm

This is a great article, and wonderful site, and i must add, well needed in this day of low hanging trousers and wife beaters on a job interview world that we find ourselves. I am a strong proponent of the manly and gentlemanly arts. And for me the appreciation of tobacco is a definite part of that culture. so smoke on Gents, smoke on.

153 Michael May 29, 2013 at 8:03 am

A few added points: with a first pipe, try out a corncob. They are cheap and effective. Absolutely do not pick up the first cheap pipe other than the corncob unless they come from a regular shop that has a large variety of pipes; most good pipes are a little pricey. First ones will probably cost at least $50. Also, you’ll need at least two pipes (most recommend three or more) and alternate them day by day. Quality pipes are available on the internet: try cupofjoes.com where you can find virtually thousands of different pipes. I currently own two, a Peterson and a Brebbia, and plan on a third. Both cost on the order of $80-$95. Make sure the pipe has a large surrounding surface around the bowl, or it will burn your fingers quickly. Spend the extra money and you’ll find it’s worth it.

154 Nick June 7, 2013 at 8:55 am

This is an older post, but why not leave a comment? What’s more manly than smoking a pipe? I guess cigars. When people thinking of smoking these days the first thing that comes to mind is cigarettes. I tried cigs for a while. I smoked them but I didn’t really enjoy them. How can you? There’s no class or style. Nothing to it. But with pipe tobacco, there is class and sophistication as well as rugged. Pipe tobacco smells so nice and tastes so good. You don’t enhale it that would be sacrilege! Many great minds in history puffed on a pipe, and not without good reason. Its an exploration. Don’t worry so much about the techniques that seem so important. Go to your local tobacco shop and pick up a tin and then just pack it in. It doesn’t mean anything if you like stronger or weaker tobacco. If you like how it feels then you found your match. Nightcap can be just as enjoyable as Prince Albert. Pipe smoking really is a hobby. You def. can’t say that about cigarettes, though there is an argument that could be made to the contrary. Cheers!

155 Fly Navy! July 1, 2013 at 1:42 am

After 31 years in the Navy, they are finally sending me to sea.In this PC centered, un-manly age of girlified excuses,they can use a few examples of pipe-smoking,,America lovin,God-respecting MEN! I plan on kissing my wife and girls at the Pier,putting my pipe in my mouth,seabag on my shoulder and making my country damn proud.

156 Greylond July 6, 2013 at 3:19 am

Outstanding article! I have been smoking a pipe for four months now and can offer a bit from my experience. Slow down. If you smoke like a cigarette, it’ll spit, gurgle, burn too hot, and forma gooey blob of wet tar in the bowl. If it does, run a pipe cleaner into the stem all the way to the bowl and leave it there until the pipe is cool. Remove, tamp and relight. If the pipe and carbon cake is cool and dry, it’ll taste much better. My favourite blend is a light aromatic Virginia/Cavendish purchased at a real tobacconist. I own two inexpensive Italian briars and a corncob, and will be purchasing a number of estate (used) pipes so I can rotate more. I consider the advice and opportunity to handle a new pipe at the store to be far more valuable than any savings from shopping online. It’s supposed to take time to form a cake properly. Your patience will be handsomely rewarded.

157 Dan July 10, 2013 at 5:15 am

I’ve enjoyed this and many of your posts. I often share them via Twitter and FB. Pipe Smoking is an extremely relaxing and soothing practice that I’ve enjoyed for some time now. A good Pipe, a good tobacco, good pipelighter and of course a good dog. LIfe is Good!


158 Jacob R. July 21, 2013 at 5:21 am

I recently began pipe smoking, and I can definitely it will be a life long hobby and art form for me. I wanted to share a many way to make your own tamper. Take the tip of an antler that is relatively thin, and at the cut-off end, attach the brass from a relatively small caliber bullet. I personally use a .38 special brass, and it looks pretty manly.
Love the article!

159 lucky felix July 26, 2013 at 8:02 pm

no no.. no no no..no.. corn pipe?.. when amazon sells reasonable fruit wood briars for less than £10 0r $15.. start there, and start with a pre-rubbed aromatic tobacco, suck and blow suck and blow, when you’ve got a nice cloud taken that in.. don’t start ugly or you wont ever get to like the wonders of pipe smoking at all…

160 Virginia Boy August 6, 2013 at 10:28 am

Ok I’m amazed that nothing was said of the kid who said he was 9 when he first started smoking. 9! Hey I’m all for manily pasttimes and I enjoy a cigar everyonce in a while but 9?!

161 Steve September 9, 2013 at 2:28 am

Another tip worth mentioning is that most tobacco shops know you may not want to spend $25 for a pouch of tobacco you’ve never tried. My tobacconist in Vancouver, who sells their own blends in addition to off-the-shelf tins, is always more than happy to give me a free sample (1-2 pipes worth) of a different blend whenever I go in to buy a new pouch. I’ve found a couple favourites that I always keep in stock this way, as well as some I’m glad I don’t particularly care for.

162 Steve September 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Lots of variety out there – I’ve enjoyed clay pipes, and especially a Brigham pipe, from Canada – check them out – Agree in general on tobacco selection – less sugar is better, Thanks, Steve

163 Mark Taylor September 30, 2013 at 11:22 pm

I’ve been a pipe smoker for a about 13 years – a late starter..
My first pipe was a $10 estate pipe (ie 2nd hand). It turned out to be a Peterson deluxe in brilliant condition.
I now have about 30 pipes. Nearly all Petersons of different shapes and sizes. My wife had a local carpenter build me a pipe cabinet for my collection. I love it.
My tobacco of choice is Peterson Connoisers Choice. The very pleasant “room note” get lots of positive comments from non-smokers around me (which is a bonus).
I’m about to try a very highly regarded blend from Denver, USA called “Hobbit’s Weed”. The $25 tax per 50g in Australia does make all tobacco expensive here.

164 PizzaSteve October 26, 2013 at 9:05 am

I don’t smoke, but I find that I very much desire a good smoke when I drink. I remember my grandfather smoking a pipe and I liked the smell.

The reasons that men smoke tobacco from pipes are things that I feel I would benefit from if I smoked.

Think I’ll just give it a shot.

165 Daniel M. October 26, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Hey y’all,

I’m just getting ready to start pipe smoking. Got my pipe in the mail, and once it gets here I am gonna go shopping for tobacco. Any suggestions for a beginner?


166 Dan Salinas November 10, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Awesome, making my sons read this site.

167 Alex November 23, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Here’s a bit of advice from an off and on pipe smoker.
1. Corn-cob’s are ok, spend the extra $ on a Missouri Meerschaum they are way better than the dollar store variety, and you don’t have to feel bad if you wreck it.
2. Stay away from Captain Black and their ilk, nasty goopy stuff, It’ll give you the wrong impression. My favorite that I can’t recommend highly enough would be McClelland’s Deep Hollow. Nice Virginia’s with enough sweetness to satisfy the beginner but not goopy syrup like alot of aromatics.
3. Do try your local B&M blends, they are often far cheaper than branded tins, and you’ll get a feel for the mixes you like. I for example can’t stand latakia (despite being a huge Islay scotch fan) but love those virginia’s and burleys. Don’t let other’s dictate what you like, try it yourself, this is all about you !
4. Enjoy ! Pipe smoking is about relaxing.

168 Dan December 17, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I am 58 and after a 20+ year hiatus am coming back to pipe smoking. Just bought a new Savenelli, but that will take time to break in. I have heard that Missouri Corncobs don’t require any break in period, is this truce? I have a very good tobacco shop two blocks from my home in Lake Forest. does a good English Blend make a good return? Also, should the bowl and pipe be cleabed after every smoke?


169 Matt December 18, 2013 at 7:01 am

Most manly way to light a pipe?
Lighting it from the red-hot steel of an axe you forging with a power hammer!
“Pioneer Axe” from 1965:

170 Bond January 16, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Nice article, I am gonna start Pipe smoking,please tell me good tobacco as a beginner…Thanks

171 The Gent Supernant January 18, 2014 at 3:47 pm

I started for the reason that in the local music scene everyone has switched to a vaporizer, now I bring a pipe out and everyone stats talking about how cool it is. Anything to bring the manliness back.

172 ToBe January 21, 2014 at 8:25 am

It’s nice article.. I’ m thinking to buy pipe.. Everything was easy at first but now i’m very confused that i’ve started to read about pipe, tobacco, pipe cleaners.. blah blah.. =) I think i have to need real recommendation. What kind of pipe should I get? Glass or wood? I’ am thinking to buy briarwood? What kind of pipe do you prefer if it will be your first pipe?

173 Jacob January 22, 2014 at 8:18 am

I am a cigarette smoker and occasionally enjoy a cigar or two. I remember the smell of pipe tobacco from my brands. I’ve been interested in pipe smoking for some time and found this article and the comments very helpful. Next payday I shall be purchasing myself a nice pipe.

174 James January 29, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Im a log time dipper, and i have been thinking about switching to something alot less hatted, butnow i think i am going to start putting down the can and picking up a pipe. great artical.

175 Troy February 15, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I bought my first pipe last summer in Gettysburg, PA. I bought Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco and it has been a great beginner choice. I waited awhile to buy pipe tamper/tool. I highly suggest you invest in one. It helps me keep it lit by packing it down as I smoke. I also suggest a travel case. I found one online that came with a pipe tool.

176 Jesse Trudeau February 16, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Hey guys really liking the work your doing. Much appreciated.

177 cheryl ann suddarth February 21, 2014 at 7:56 pm

I have enjoyed reading everyone’s words here today. I googled pipe smoking as I was admiring my handsome hubby, As he was sitting in the afternoon sun wearing his black cowboy hat, he never takes off, adorned in his western blue canvas shirt and of course his beard is graying and just is beyond handsome, my hubby is one good looking dude, not to mention, he is super intelligent and very loving and kind. So, I was day dreaming of him smoking a pipe, which would be awesome, although I am sure he would never smoke. He is 60 and never touched tobacco or liquor, not once. He is a Christian man, he laughs when I tell him I like to visualize him smoking a pipe. It must be because of my father. He was a man’s man, very successful in his career. He was a people person, always trying to help others and do what ever he could for them. I miss him so much. He smoked Captain Black. I want to smell that again. As I read how to smoke a pipe it brought back images of my dad, it was sweet remembering him.
I did have his old maple pipe stand that I had painted white for many years, it was cool.
Dad died in 2009, he was 78. He worked up till he was gone and he had a sharp mind. He did not die of cancer but puenomia after leg surgery.
He liked his scotch and pipe, like a lot of Irishmen do. I remember him best smoking his pipe in his office with a cup of coffee, with his fluffy white beard.

178 Jacknife March 5, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Three words: Captain Black Royal. Very inexpensive compared to most tobaccos, and has a pretty sound flavor.

179 Rebecca March 17, 2014 at 6:05 pm

I don’t know why more men these days don’t smoke pipes. Cigarettes are smelly, cigars are better but pipe tobacco is better than cigars. I love the smell!

180 Lou March 27, 2014 at 4:58 am

I’m a lady in my fifties and just bought my first pipe. Is it considered OK for ladies to smoke? It won’t stop me either way, just wondering how people are going to take seeing me sitting there puffing away.

181 Reborn Briar April 19, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Lou, there are many female pipe smokers. Probably more than you can imagine. The forum http://www.pipesmokerunlimited.com even has a female admin.

Why not join up in a forum. Everyone is there to offer friendly help and advice on any pipe related topic you may have questions about.

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