A Pipe Smoking Primer

by A Manly Guest Contributor on October 14, 2009 · 183 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.

{ 180 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dan October 14, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Great post! As an avid pipe smoker, I was just thinking this morning that AOM should have an article about my favorite manly pastime, and lo and behold, here it is!

2 Theodore October 14, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Very enjoyable piece. I have no interest in pipe smoking myself but find it interesting to read about. My grandfather smoked a pipe and I absolutely loved that smell.

3 billy d October 14, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Having been a pipe smoker for some time now, I am quite glad to see AOM give the ritual the attention it deserves. Very well done! I’d recommend cleaning your pipe immediately though, albeit WITHOUT taking it apart. That’s the only thing you should wait until it’s cold to do.

Also, I find a lot of pipes with filters in the stem. . . I think it’s best just to remove these. They only get dirty and clog it up, and since you’re smoking for the flavor and not inhaling, the filter is all but useless anyway.

4 Daniel Hanf October 14, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Very good. I’ve loved smoking my pipe over the years…I bought it as a graduation present to myself after high shcool. I really need to smoke him again soon, it’s been too long…

5 library_goon October 14, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Great article! My uncle used to smoke a pipe when I was a kid. He was an architect, and I can still see him sitting at his drawing table with pipe in hand.

6 Seth B. October 14, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Absolutely great post. I’m a pipe smoker myself and came by the knowledge through trial and error.

One thing that I might suggest is using your pipe tool’s reamer to put a hole in the center of your bowl of packed tobacco. This creates an easier draw and will lead to a cooler smoke.

7 Ron October 14, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Been a pipe man for 30+ years. My dad is. My great grand dad(s) and grand dad on my father’s side were pipe men.

Nice to see some resurgence in this wonderfully relaxing craft.

The “gurgle” can also be caused by too tightly packing the pipe and smoking too fast. The speed of your draws may cause condensation and tongue bite. Tongue bite is the result of steam from the condensation caused by that little ‘stove’ you are smoking. You should check your draw by packing your pipe and then puffing on it unlit at first. The draw should be about the same or a little “tighter” than sucking with the same effort on a soda straw.

8 Barz October 14, 2009 at 9:15 pm

A note on the “false light,” I tamp the tobacco down again after I light my pipe for the first time. The tobacco “fluffs up” from the first lighting and will burn too hot with all the extra space/air in the bowl. Other than that, great article!

9 Crankin October 14, 2009 at 9:41 pm

I’ve been a pipe smoker for 15 years now. I also like to tamp after the first light for the reason Barz states. Allows the bowl to smoke more smoothly. I also find that I get a better smoke if I tamp periodically throughout my smoke. This helps the smoke remain consistent (fewer relights) and, as I understand, helps develop an even cake along the inside of the bowl. My understanding is that the cake will help protect the pipe, but that when it becomes too thick, it must be scraped away to some extent. I have a stable of pipes that I smoke in rotation and have favorites for different occasions. Good sub-topics worthy of posts at some point are how to recondition tobacco that has dried out, different types of tobacco, and how to properly clean a pipe. Great post!

10 Ike October 14, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Great article! I’ve been smoking a pipe since I legally could here in the States, even though many people look at me funny and say, “Pipes are for old men.” Well, I say that we need a resurgence in pipe smoking! I enjoy it much more than cigarettes or cigars, and it really is a relaxation thing for me. Thanks for the assurance that I have, indeed, chosen correctly in my tobacco consumption.

11 Elliott October 14, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Great post! For me a big part of pipe smoking is the shop where I buy my tobacco. Buying your blend from a cookie cutter tobacco chain is like getting your hair cut from a unisex stylist- gets the job done but you just don’t feel as manly. If you can find a local tobacco shop with a good selection of pipe tobacco chances are there’s a man there who has smoked them all. A really good tobacco shop will even give a loyal customer a free bowl to try. It’s a great way to find a favorite blend.

12 Gen Y Investor October 14, 2009 at 10:36 pm

I’ve always been interested in pipe smoking; however, I’ve never actually had the opportunity to smoke one. I thoroughly enjoy smoking a cigar from time to time and have my own small humidor. I appreciate this post for giving us the basics… just enough knowledge to get me to try a pipe perhaps.

13 Uncballzer October 14, 2009 at 10:45 pm

I was wondering if there was going to be a post on this topic soon! I’m only 25, and have been smoking a pipe for roughly 3 years now. It is one of the most relaxing things I do (I had a doc that was surprised by this answer in a recent interview as well). One of the best things about it is that I get to inform people about the “lost art” when asked about my pipe. Usually it’s to the tune of, “but you’re so young,” but that just gears me up into hopefully converting someone to smoking a pipe; as there is nothing better than a Savinelli packed with Peter Stokkebye Luxury Twist Flake!

14 James S. October 14, 2009 at 11:52 pm

Great article! I have been hoping to see AOM do an article on pipe smoking since I first started reading. I started smoking a pipe about 5 months ago, and I love it. Being younger (21) I get a lot of odd reactions just because it is something you don’t see younger men do very often. However; I get a lot of compliments on the smell and the overall awesomeness of smoking a pipe. A lot of people speak about how it reminds them of their dad/grandpa/friend’s grandpa or dad/mentor/etc. For anyone interested in pipe smoking that may already be a cigar efficianato, I would reccoment trying an english tobacco too. It is very different than regular pipe tobacco, and has a very smokey flavour. It is also a nice alternative to cigarette smoking because a.) it tastes better b.) it is more manly and c.) it is just more classy.

A note on inhaling: I inhale several times throughout a bowl, but I only french inhale (draw it into your mouth, let it slowly go out as you inhale it through your nose) which lets you get a good whiff of the smoke, and it gives the smoke more time to cool so you don’t make your throat all burned feeling.

Thanks again! Been looking forward to this article for a few months.

15 Russell Booth October 14, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Love the post. It is about damn time that a post like this comes up.

A month or so ago I came across the most fantastic book in an antique shop. It is acalled “Pipe and Pouch” – The Smokers own Book of Poetry. It is a great read. I believe they still print it. Here is a sample of a great read to conduct while smoking:

My Pipe:
When love grows cool, thy fire still warms me; When friends are fled, thy presence charms me. If thou art full, though purse be bare, I smoke, and cast away all care! – German Smoking Song

Fire up a bowl and enjoy!

16 Schaefer October 15, 2009 at 12:09 am

Great post Jason!

Just like Gen Y Investor, I’ve enjoyed cigars for a few years now, but always been intrigued by pipe smoking. This guide is exactly what I needed to get me started. Do different types of wood used in the actual pipes themselves matter much for the smoking experience? I know you said corn cob to start due to the cheap price. What are some of the next steps up from there for pipes?

17 Katherine Taylor October 15, 2009 at 2:32 am

I have never really found pipe smoking sexy, although there is something very manly about it, there are not a lot of people who can pull off pipe smoking.

18 mp October 15, 2009 at 2:44 am

Want to be even cheaper? Replace the Pipe Tool with a properly sized nail. Most Pipe Tools have a tamper/pick/scraper. Since I always have a pocket knife, the lack of scraper doesn’t bother me and I see no downsides.

Lastly: Standard butane lighters work just fine, if not as much fun as matches.

19 ArmedGeek October 15, 2009 at 4:42 am

I’ve also recently started smoking a pipe. Proper packing of the pipe just takes practice, trial and error. Regular “Bic” lighters work fine, but wooden matches are the best.

Anyone interested in giving a pipe a try should google ‘tobacco pipe getting started’ or something to that effect. There are lots of excellent “tutorials” on getting into pipe smoking.

“If you check your watch while you’re smoking your pipe, you’re doing it wrong.” — not sure who said this.

20 dlibbon October 15, 2009 at 6:43 am

Great article, a theology professor of mine in college would always have is pipe packed on his desk for when class ended. It’s what drew me to this hobby. My favorite part doesn’t deal with world of different flavors of tobacco, my ever growing collection, or the fact that this is actually really cost effective. For me the draw is that if forces me to slow down for half an hour and bring some close to the day.

21 Andrew October 15, 2009 at 6:59 am

I also thought this article was pretty good. I think the traditional packing technique is a little hard to master. I prefer the “Frank method.” There are youtube videos made by Frank himself that explain it in depth, but you basically fill the pipe loosely then lightly push a pinch of tobacco in. It seems a whole lot simpler to me and has the same effect.

22 larrycrunch October 15, 2009 at 7:33 am

I don’t know who said it, but here’s the quote: “Never hire a man who smokes a pipe–he already has a job.”

23 Napoleangunner October 15, 2009 at 8:23 am

I’ve been smoking a pipe for almost 15 years now, and have become nearly an everyday smoker. When you get to that point, you will need to have a collection of pipes because they need time to dry out, particularly if you are what’s considered a “wet smoker” like I am. In other words, I have a hard time keeping a pipe dry while smoking and will insert a pipe cleaner to remove moisture two or three times during the course of a smoke. Although I own more, I usually keep between four and six pipes in a constant rotation, giving each a day or two (or sometimes more) in between smokes. Good article! And I agree that having a good tobacconist is essential. Go to a real pipe and cigar store, not a discount outlet or the drug/grocery store. You’ll thank yourself later.

24 Scott White October 15, 2009 at 8:34 am

Well done, Brett. I’ve found since I started smoking that I prefer Achim Frank’s method, just so I don’t have to tamp as often.

25 paul manogue October 15, 2009 at 8:36 am

Thanks Jason, brings back a lot of good memories. My grandfather was a pipe smoker, and I always think of him when I smell one. One of the other AOM recent posts, (manly smells) also brought to mind my granfather, he would pick me up after school and we would spend time in his garage were he did his woodworking. Sawdust, oil, leather woodstove and pipe tobacco, and even old spice. I never smoked cigarettes, only ocasionally smoked cigars (too expensive, and dont re-light well) and now that I’m in my forties I feel I can smoke a pipe without stares. Smoking a pipe is definitely one of the most relaxing pastimes, especially on a hike or after a hunt. And health concern aside, although many people will complain of cigarette smoke, few people mind a waft of pipe tobbaco once in a while.

26 Geoff October 15, 2009 at 8:50 am

Alas, having sworn off of cigarette smoking over 10 years ago, I found myself having to renounce all ties with tobacco. Pipe smoking was a minor pastime for me, but an enjoyable one. I would gladly go back to it if I knew the cigarettes wouldn’t follow shortly thereafter, but a man has to know his limitations and respect them. For those of you who can keep their tobacco use under control and at a healthy level, I salute you for your aromatic contribution to the world. Now I gotta go find a piece of gum, dammit.

27 Charlie Kondek October 15, 2009 at 9:09 am

I’ve been quit for more than 12 years. That said, the only thing I miss is THE PIPE.

28 Jim October 15, 2009 at 9:11 am

I’m feelin’ pretty manly here, let’s see:
* Pipe – Been smoking one for years, all-time favorite manly pastime, and have a nice collection of briars and one meerschaum that I only smoke on my birthday
* Tawny port – check, beverage of choice in front of the fire
* Safety Razor – check, face nice and smooth and smelling like Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood
* Hankerchief – check, monogrammed
* pocketknife – check, always in my pocket

So far I’m batting .1000

29 P October 15, 2009 at 9:32 am

I think you could have gone into much greater detail in this story. Perhaps the few main types of tobacco, different pipe materials, shapes, …… This barely scratched the surface of pipe smoking. I enjoy my pipe everyday after work as I have a cup of tea to ease me into dinner time and the like.

30 Scott October 15, 2009 at 9:43 am

I found an excellent resource in http://www.tobaccoreviews.com. The array of tobaccos (and the variance in quality, aromatics versus “english” blends versus burley blends, etc.) can be quite daunting. The folks at Tobacco Reviews can be relied on to give honest opinions, and if you want to get deeper into pipe smoking, you can figure out what you like from reading the reviews there. Happy smoking!

31 Michael October 15, 2009 at 9:58 am

This is a fine pipe smoking primer, but I would suggest to anyone interested in smoking a pipe that they just find a tobacconist’s shop and just tell him that they are interested in taking up the art.

I have yet to meet a dishonest tobacconist, most of them are older, and definitely old school. Tobacconists enjoy educating people on the joys of smoking a pipe, and are quite helpful.

Some things to keep in mind: The shape of the pipe matters! Depending on how you personally smoke, the shape of the pipe will either lend itself to your style or hinder you. For example, I am a “wet” smoker, meaning I salivate more when I am smoking, therefore, I use a straight stem pipe. I know, it doesn’t look as cool as a curved stem, bell-shaped bowl, but it makes my smoking experience much more enjoyable.

32 Matt October 15, 2009 at 10:01 am

I’ve been thinking about starting pipe smoking for a while–I already have my tobacconist picked out. I think it would go well with my beard, too, so I’ll give it a whirl.

33 Hrimgrimnir October 15, 2009 at 10:45 am

Fantastic article. After I took up pipe smoking my blood pressure dropped like a stone. I really enjoy walking my dog and enjoying a pipe. I get funny looks, but I really don’t care.

I tend to use a butane lighter, as I am outdoors (due to the my wife’s allergies). I find it works well enough.

One more bit of advice, as a Canadian load up on pipe tobacco any chance you can while out of the country. The taxes are brutal.

34 Luke - AspiringGentleman October 15, 2009 at 10:47 am

Great primer, thanks! So good in fact I even wrote about it on my blog.

35 Kevin Godbee October 15, 2009 at 11:07 am

Thanks for a great article which certainly belongs on a site about “The Art of Manliness”.

As a matter of fact, pipe smoking is making a comeback.

Not only did the Wall Street Journal publish an article about this earlier this year, but it has been proven by my talking to several luxury tobacconists across the country.

Popular men’s lifestyle blogger and satellite radio guest, “The Z Man” wrote an article about it for our site which you can see by clicking the link on my name above.

36 Tyler October 15, 2009 at 11:11 am

I smoked cigarettes for about 4 years, and when I could already tell that there were causing some problems, I had to quit. I loved the relaxing and thinking that I would do when I would smoke cigarettes and missed it dearly.

That’s when I starting looking into pipe smoking. I limit myself to once a month (otherwise I would just buy a pack of smokes), and it has really helped me quit smoking cigarettes. I don’t know why I wasn’t doing this from the beginning!!

Pipe smoking is wonderfully relaxing, and I have done some of my best thinking while smoking my pipe.

37 Jason October 15, 2009 at 11:11 am

Yesterday was the 3 year anniversary of the day my dad passed away. He smoked a pipe all throughout my childhood. There is nothing like the smell of black cavendish or cherry tobacco. Anytime I smell that atone, I am taken back to thrwoin around a baseball with my pops, him smoking his pipe and just being with him. I ended up smoking a pipe when I was probably 16 , but stopped and have since quit all smoking. But should I ever take up the tobacco again, I would be partial to the pipe.

38 Jon October 15, 2009 at 11:17 am

Good article. Definitely covers the basic skills needed to begin and test the hobby. Could have been more thorough though- for instance, as you smoke you have to keep tamping the tobacco to make new unburnt tobacco reach the ember in the bowl. Otherwise you’ll keep relighting burnt tobacco and waste half of your bowl.
I haven’t smoked my pipe in a while- this article definitely made me recall all the fun and relaxing things about it and I think I’m going to hit it today if possible.

39 Anthony N. Emmel October 15, 2009 at 11:23 am


Ah, yes, the joys of pipe smoking. I’m 39 and I bought my first pipe when I was 20. I’m currently down to 2, a churchwarden and a meerschaum. IMO, every pipe smoker needs at least 1 meerschaum. They look pricey but if you look around, you can find some good deals. I got mine off of Ebay (new & unused) from a store in Montana for $35.

I say that because, I always resisted getting one, but when I finally did….I didn’t thinking smoking could get any better, but the meerschaum has a nice clean smoke all the way down to the end. And I’ve never had to “relight” after the initial “setup” of packing and lighting.

40 Mister Moo October 15, 2009 at 11:58 am

Smoking pipes. The practically perfect agents of relaxation, debate, introspection, patience and gentle manliness.

41 Rick Scoutmaster October 15, 2009 at 12:31 pm

oooh, the memories that flood in when I smell pipe smoke. My Dad often smoked his pipe upside down to keep it dry, as the best duck hunting is usually in nasty weather. Hmmm, I think 50 is not too old to start something new, I think I’m headed to the smoke shop.

42 Adam October 15, 2009 at 12:38 pm

I love smoking cigars, maybe 1 or 2 a week. Since I love my wife I don’t smoke in the house. But she will gladly (translation: occasionally) smoke a pipe in the house. It’s a good alternative to cigars and has a certain theraputic quality to it.

And when it comes to smoking cigars or pipes there is a “right or wrong” way to do it. It’s about enjoying yourself. Have fun, don’t ever be intimidated by the process. Any tobacconist or person enjoying a smoke in a tobacco shop will gladly answer any questions you’d have about anything. Smoke up, and enjoy you well spent time!

43 Todd October 15, 2009 at 12:40 pm

suprisingly,many people(non-smokers) enjoy the smell of a pipe.Many have equally fond memories of a pipe-smoker in the family.The only caveat I would add to the start-up instructions: avoid ANY tobacco with flavoring…the sugars cause it to burn much hotter.Look for a basic “English” blend and your tongue will thank you.Also,remember,the initial pipe-lighting sequence gives off a suprising amount of smoke,so excuse yourself from company until the pipe is properly lit and drawing well.

44 Thomas Gray October 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Have you been spying on me? :D First an article about straight razor shaving, now one on pipe smoking – both of which I took up this year! Thanks!

45 paul October 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

If Katherine doesn’t find it sexy, sorry boys; i can’t do it. At least not in her presence.

46 Kevin October 15, 2009 at 1:24 pm

I’ve been enjoying a pipe since my first days in undergrad many years ago. This article was a great primer, and while I have never used a corncob and can’t testify to their effectiveness, just about ALL pipes are carved out of a briar root. Sure, there are corncob, meerschaum and even clay pipes, but briar tends to dominate. I think my first pipe was a briar around $25 on sale, found at a small tobacconist. I’d recommend this route, as most corncobs I see involve lots of plastics.

Like most things personal, have fun experimenting along the way. John Hacker’s “Pipesmoking: A 21st Century Guide” is a great source of printed information.

47 Jeremiah October 15, 2009 at 2:00 pm

I heartily agree with the Old Fashioned. Scotch on the rocks is also a manly way to cool your tongue and relax with the pipe. I like smoking alone on a rainy day with a good book just as much as smoking with my buds.

48 Andrew D October 15, 2009 at 2:17 pm

I have been a pipe smoker for maybe 8 years now or so. In fact, I’m enjoying some GL Pease Montgomery in a Peterson Donegal Rocky bulldog right now! Great to see AOM doing an article on this and promoting this manly pursuit.

I will echo the advice above – if you want to try it, this primer is a good start, but you should really go to your local tobacconist and have them set you up and get you started. Or find a local club (getting harder these days!).


49 Jason Mills October 15, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Hey all, Thanks for the nice comments on the article. Glad I could be of service.

As to the comments that I didn’t include more of the “how to”, I agree. I was debating doing that, but I decided that it would be better without it. This was just a small article to get you curious. There’s only so much you can learn by reading and I the “mentoring” approach is a much better way to learn this manly art.

I think it was Michael above who said that he had yet to meet a dishonest tobaccoist. I agree. Most of them are small business owners and wouldn’t lie to you because that’s bad business. Most are MORE than willing to help you take up this past-time because it’s money in their pocket. Bill has been very helpful to me in learning the in’s and out’s of pipe smoking.

Plus, you just can’t beat a tobacco shop for a manly vibe (well, toss up with the barber shop). Every time I go into the King Street Tobacco and Coffee Emporium, there are at least 3 or 4 guys hanging out, smoking and debating everything from politics to the weather.

Anyway, thanks again. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up article on the different types of tobacco you can get (time permitting).

50 Geoff R. Casavant October 15, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I’ve been a veteran pipe smoker myself for 15 years. Always enjoyable, and when I travel abroad I try to stop in a tobacconist and pick up a new pipe.

A few pointers for those who tried the corncob, liked it, and are ready to step up:

When you first use a briar pipe, the advice I’ve always heard is never to fill up the bowl on the first few smokes. Fill it halfway for the first smoke, 3/4 full for the next, and finally go for the full bowl.

Most pipes are made from briar wood, and there are all kinds of styles of bowl and stem. One of my favorites is a pipe I picked up in Florence, with a stem made from deer antler. Find a style that suits you.

Meerschaum pipes are fun as well. Meerschaum is a porous white stone that can be carved into intricate shapes, and as you smoke it gradually turns darker. But be careful — it is easily breakable and conducts heat better than briar, so the bowl tends to get hotter.

51 MG October 15, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Nice post on a great topic!

I’ve been smoking a pipe for a few years, and I’d just like to add a few additional comments for anyone thinking of taking it up.

First, be patient. In the beginning I had to relight very, very often, but eventually, through trial and error, I learned how to pack the pipe properly; sometimes now I can get by with only one match. It might take you weeks to learn. Be patient.

Second, a new corncob pipe can give you a strongish popcorn flavor, but that goes goes away. Even if you move up to a briar pipe, save the cob for camping and fishing–it’s fun, and if it falls overboard or into the fire, you won’t mind very much.

Third, eventually it does make sense to move up to a more expensive pipe ($50-75). I’m super-frugal, and this disturbed me, but it does make a difference. I don’t really know why, but a Peterson (to choose just one example) really does smoke better than a cheap pipe.

Fourth, if pipe-smoking makes you feel like throwing up, you’re smoking too fast. It’s ok if it goes out and you have to relight! If you still find this a problem, then use tobaccoreviews.com to find tobaccos with LOW nicotine. It’s the nicotine that makes you want to hurl.

Lastly, if my experience is anything to go by, pipe-smoking is very non-addictive. I can give it up for two weeks or two months without any problem at all. This is a plus.

52 Michael D. Denny October 15, 2009 at 2:34 pm

I’ve been a pipe smoker for some,,,15 or 16 years now. I looked a little odd when I started, sure. A 22 year old kid with hair down to his butt dressed up like a bad Motley Crue video, smoking a 70 dollar sympatico pipe. But that is ok.

I would like to say a couple quick things.

For the Love of all that is tobacco, please do not EVER get a corn cob pipe. No matter what, a corn cob pipe tastes and smokes terrible. TERRIBLE. Smells like crap, tastes like crap, smokes like crap. Start with a corn cob and you are almost guaranteed not to enjoy it.

53 Jake October 15, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Good article. I have been smoking a pipe off and on for the past couple of years and enjoy it. Nothing like a long stroll with a pipe.

I’d add one piece of advice. I use a golf tee as a tamp and it seems to be not only cheaper, but work much better than any purpose-built tamp I’ve used.

54 Nate October 15, 2009 at 2:46 pm

It’s a good feeling to read this from AoM. We all know it’s a manly art but where I’m from it really is a dieing art…. if not dead. I’m twenty and I smoke out of a English briar, I used to get stopped by police officers all the time wondering if I smoked pot, but to their relief it was just plain tobacco. I might have converted one cigarette smoking officer into a pipe smoking one.

I agree with Mr. Denny, the Corn Cob is a terrible start. I bought one for giggles and tried it, it turned my favorite blend’s taste into burned cream-o-corn.

I will also say if you have a choice between a pipe lighter or matches, go with matches. Sometimes a pipe lighter will super-heat the tobacco and give it a very mild caramel flavor. Those who only use lighters, treat yourselves to a match and I guarantee you will notice a difference!

55 Patrick October 15, 2009 at 2:47 pm

This is a pretty good introduction to pipe smoking. I’ve been smoking a pipe for a little over a year, and the only advice I would offer is to give it a good three to five smokes to really decide if you like it. It takes a lot of trial and error to pack the bowl correctly. Once you do, it’s a very relaxing experience.

Additionally, the part about a good tobacconist is really nice. They can really help you getting started and in exploring other types of tobacco. Some shops even have unique house blends which can be a fun experience.

56 Jeffrey Andresen October 15, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I use the tamper to cool a hot burning bowl, just hold it to the ember for a couple seconds and it calms it down without having to relight.
Bought my first pipe at 16 from a CVS pharmacy, the Dr. Graybow filter pipes, I wouldn’t recommend those now however.

57 IHT October 15, 2009 at 3:26 pm

great little article, good advice on how to start out on the cheap. a cob, some matches, cleaners, a tamper (you can use a large head nail or dowel rod – some men use their pinky finger), and the most important ingredient is the tobacco.
find a good pipe shop, head in there with the intent to learn from someone with experience and spend a couple hours – they’d be glad to show you.

i see a lot of familiar names in the replies. what’s shakin, moo’, uncballzer?

if those of you that have not attempted pipe smoking, or have and want to learn more, there are many online forums dedicated to pipes and tobaccos where you can learn more than you’d think possible.

58 Nathan Richard October 15, 2009 at 3:43 pm

I enjoyed the post as, with seemingly a good number of AoM readers, I took up smoking a pipe within the last year. I think the best thing about the whole experience so far is being able to convert a cigar smoking friend over to smoking a pipe.

59 mozartboy October 15, 2009 at 4:05 pm

When you refer to a “draw,” is that inhaling or exhaling?

60 Aaron October 15, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Ok, someone has to speak out so I guess I will. Contrary to what many people have said so far, the corncob is not as bad as you might think. In fact, longtime smokers like myself as well as tobacco blenders often make use of corncobs for testing blends. The reason for this is the fact that a new corncob requires no breaking in as opposed to a new briar. Corncobs are very useful in this regard so long as you use a new one whenever testing a new blend (an old one will retain flavours from the last blend you tested). It should also be noted that corncob pipes only last about a year or two before needing to be replaced due to what is known to as ‘souring’. Finally, in all my years of using corncobs to test blends I will add that I have found only one brand that offers consistent results in regard to their corncobs and those are made by the Missouri Meerschaum Company. I suggest you give their pipes a try before you take the piss when it comes to corncobs and I also recommend their pipes for testing new blends that you are interested in adding to your repertoire.

61 Aaron October 15, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Addendum: In regard to MMC pipes, they do have filters. These should ideally be removed to avoid loss of flavour (no matter what pipe you are smoking). However, if you prefer the measure of ‘protection’ that a filter offers, you should replace it every time you smoke as filters retain flavours from previous smoking and tend to become clogged over time.

62 Phil October 15, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Great to see this post come up on AoM! I love smoking my pipe and especially with a couple of my mates. There is nothing more relaxing after a hard week at work or just getting together with other men and having a chat and a quiet puff on the ole pipe together. We all take them on our hiking trips and after the days walking sit around the camp fire, light up and sip some smooth whisky. Last winter we got holed up in a stockman’s hut in the mountains for a few days during a blizzard – lots of pipe smoking, whisky drinking (in moderation of course) and good manly company and conversation – it rarely gets better than that. To me pipe smoking is all part a way of life which exudes the quiet confidence of just being a man.

63 Jack Emmerich October 15, 2009 at 5:57 pm

I too, received a good feel from this article. Very basic, but very satisfying for a starter article. Having as of late trying to have manly activities to do with a friend this one will be another to add to the list of “Manly Activities – Leisure”. In so far I’ve been trying different Whiskeys and beers.

Not sure how taboo this is but is it out of the question to request an article for Cannabis or Hooka smoking?

64 Natros October 15, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Thanks for the post! I received my first pipe as a birthday present a year ago, but I only started using it this year. I’m finally learning how to properly fill and light my pipe, and I upgraded to a somewhat nicer Peterson pipe as well. I’ve found that taking the time to sit down and enjoy a pipe provides a read-made opportunity to read or to journal, both manly arts that I’m trying to make a part of my life.

65 Karthik October 15, 2009 at 7:21 pm

If I were to start smoking a pipe, what would be a good (non corn) pipe to start smoking with? What brand of tobacco?

66 Jason Mills October 15, 2009 at 9:15 pm


The pipe I bought after my initial experience was a Kaywoodie drinkless. I think it was $30 and that’s on the cheap side of things. As for a “brand”, you don’t want one. If you get a brand, it won’t be a quality smoke.

Most tobacco shops (their owners are called tobaccoists or tobacconists, I’ve seen it both ways) work with small tobacco companies and have their own blends made to their specifications or sell those companies products. Either way, the tobacco they produce is in very small batches so that it stays fresh. Stale tobacco isn’t as good a smoke.

As an example, I offer my own newbie experience. I went to my tobacco shop and got my first batch. After that ran out, I went to a locally Smoker Friendly shop to get pipe tobacco. It was horrible. It was dry and stale because they mass produce the stuff and it sits on the shelf in the warehouse for months before being sent to the store.

If you want to give it a try, talk with your local tobaccoist. They will help you out.

Jack Emmerich,

To you I would state that the traditional smoking of a hookah in the Middle East uses tobacco and not any illegal substances as most “head shops” would have you believe. You can also change the flavor of your smoke depending on what liquid you put into the hookah. I’ve heard that if you’re a guest in an Arab household and they offer you a hookah with fruit juice in it, you must be a VERY honored guest. Not sure how true that is, but that’s what I’ve heard.

I’m not even touching the cannabis thing.

67 Ron October 15, 2009 at 10:01 pm


“Draw” refers to the effort required to pull the smoke through the pipe into your mouth.

One note on lighters that may affect the longevity of your briars. Most long-time pipesters don’t recommend butane lighters. The flame is very hot and can scorch the rim of the bowl if you aren’t careful and which will physically damage the briar. I have one Peterson bulldog that I scorched the rim with a butane lighter years ago and I won”t use them again unless in a pinch. Likewise, lighters like the Zippo pipe lighters “may” impart foreign flavours from the fluid to the tobacco (although I have used one for years and haven’t really noticed, but then I smoke predominantly English blends). The preferred connoisseur’s ignition source are either wooden or paper matches.

68 prufock October 16, 2009 at 10:08 am

“[P]ipe smoking is a manly art”? Really? Your proposal is that this is so because it’s leisurely, ritualistic, and because it’s been done a long time. Is anyone actually convinced by this?

I’m not knocking smokers, I’ve had an occasional cigar myself. I’m only questioning this ridiculous notion that smoking of any sort is somehow “manly.” While well-written and informative, this is a far cry from the usual quality of articles as far as concept goes.

69 Nick October 16, 2009 at 12:44 pm

This is a great article! Not only is smoking a pipe a great way to relax but it is a very gentlemenly pursuit. My friend & I bought our first pipes about 10 years ago & immediately loved it. I do have to take issue however with idea of smoking anything other than fine tobacco in your pipe. First off, it is illegal to smoke marijuana in any way. Second, smoking to alter one’s mood or senses in any way is not only unmanly but harmful. As a side note: It is extremely frustrating to a relatively young (30) pipe smoker as myself that most people assume when they see my pipe come out thAt I
am some sort of criminal or pothead. This is very unfortunate by way of their assumption but equally unfortunate is the fact that anyone here might feel the need to actually ask the question “is smoking pot in your pipe ok?” (of course that is not the exact quote but rather my interpretation of it. & probably many of yours’ as well. As far as hooka is concerned there seems to be mixed feelings about it socially as well as medically. But considering the fact that most of us who enjoy AOM want to restore some of the class & dignity that men have given up over recent years we should strive towards the orthodoxy of manly pursuits not the fringes. In fact, I’m having a smoke right now on the porch with some good french press & an hour to myself. Ahh…

70 Zachariah October 16, 2009 at 2:25 pm

I’ve always regarded this as quite a gentlemanly pursuit. I mean, how many villians or social malcontents favored a pipe? (j/k)

I like it when men tuck them into the waistband of their khakis or through their belt loops like pistols when swinging a golf club or taking aim with a rifle or pair of binoculars. Of course, pipe smoking is a good excuse to buy a smoking jacket or a heavy leather chair.

71 William Trzcinski October 16, 2009 at 10:33 pm

A quiet night with a silent snowfall, a cheery fire in the fireplace, some light classical in the background, my favorite leather chair, a good book, some old cognac, and my favorite briar packed with a wonderful cavendish. Does life get any better than this?
I know I have arrived as a man. Thank you for the article.

72 Ben October 17, 2009 at 12:04 am

When i was 16 i picked up my first pipe at a yard sale, I had no idea what exactly i just bought but thought it looked pretty cool. I figured 30 dollars was a bit much for a pipe but it was carved to look like Baccus so i figured why not? I walked away with an antique meerschaum pipe. It was only later that i found out how ridiculously inexpensive it was. I still love the heft in the hand that the old pipe has, and it warms nicely on a chilly autumn morning.

73 Ewan October 17, 2009 at 5:29 am

@Zachariah (re: ‘how many villians or social malcontents favored a pipe?’). When I studied history at university many of us used to say that most of the moustache-sporting men in history were bad guys and most of the pipe-smoking men in history were good guys. The enigma was Stalin.

74 James Clark October 17, 2009 at 11:06 am

(Forward: I am almost 24, and I smoked my first cigarette before I turned 19, and owned my first pipe within 6 months. I quit “smoking” for quite some time now, but I’ll occasionally bring out the pipe. Especially in the cooler autumn months…)

First, I would like to begin by sharing how much better pipe smoke smells than other forms of tobacco smoke. I could never get away with smoking a cigarette in the house; my wife would have a fit! Secondly, it tastes better. These are important points.

Also, the corn cob issue I think *is* important, and as has been mentioned, they are *very* useful for testing new blends. Or for keeping in the car for emergency use . . .
Missouri Meerchaum is definitely the way to go, by the way. And yes, they do taste a bit like corn, but after a few times, it goes away – besides, it tastes like the “sweet” of corn, not like popcorn.

What I was disappointed with regarding the article itself, though, was the lack of information about pipe “rotation”. If one does take up the hobby, and has a pipe anywhere close to every evening, he should know that it would be best to own multiple pipes, and how to season them. Perhaps even pipes dedicated to english blends, et cetera, et cetera, but maybe all of this information will be included in a subsequent “intermediate pipe smoking” article?

@ Jack Emerich: to request an article on Canabis suggests to me that you are not a regular reader of this site, or that you are missing the point of the site. Either way, I’m going to hope that a suggestion for a Cannabis article *is* out of the question.

Although, an article on Hookah smoking might not be such a bad idea, as it is becoming more popular in out culture. The problem is that “kids” are using Hookahs either for illegal substance use, or at the very least with poor conduct. An article on how to “properly” use and share a Hookah could be quite enlightening. Almost akin to a tea-party, but a bit more manly . . .

75 Andre October 17, 2009 at 11:13 am

Pipe smoking is one of the few truly masculine activities we have left as a gender. THAT’S why it’s manly.

76 Eric (Oahu) October 17, 2009 at 2:14 pm

@prufock I’ve been a pipe smoker for most of my adult life and I’ve spent a considerable amount of the last few years helping others new to the hobby. I don’t like to call myself an expert but I’ve done a lot of thinking and reflecting on the hobby.


I agree with you. I’m not really keen on calling it “manly” either any more than I’d call any other life-enhancing activity or interest manly. I also like to see women enjoy the pipe smoking and there are a few out there who do. But then, look at the name of this site.

Anyway, regarding the article: Very well written and a great introduction. I don’t think someone new to the hobby can get enough information and it still won’t be enough. There is a considerable learning curve. That is why I do what I do.

Pipe smoking is not for the “manly,” it is not for people who think it is cool or ironic or whatever, it is for men and women who are patient. I liken it to learning a musical instrument. I don’t think you ever master it or stop learning. It just keeps getting better and better. But it takes an investment of patience, practice, and being able to relax.

77 Matthew October 17, 2009 at 3:38 pm

I just purchased my first pipe and had my first smoke thanks to the advise found here as well as the getle prodding of my fiance. I found it to be very pleasurable and much better than the cigars I have become accoustomed to. I purchased a inexpensive $25 briar pipe and some quality tobacco from Emerson’s in Chesapeake, VA this afternoon. This tobacconist is by far the best I have visited and the level of expertise found there is second to none in the Hampton Roads area. We were treated like more than just customers as soon as we entered the store and by the time we left I knew we would be back many times in the future for good smokes and great times with good friends. Thanks for this excellent article and advice on such a wonderful, manly exploit.

78 jbird October 17, 2009 at 11:42 pm
79 Wrathbone October 18, 2009 at 1:58 am

I don’t think it’s any more “un-manly” to use cannabis in moderation then it is to drink alcohol or smoke tobacco. True, it’s still illegal (not counting medicinal in some states), but then again, so was alcohol at one point. And I think we all know how well that went.

Anyone with an open mind and a little extra time on their hands can do the research for themselves and see what a senseless waste of money and police work the War on Pot has been. When compared to the deaths caused by alcohol and cigarettes alone, cannabis is way out of league. It’s a cheaply-grown plant that when used recreationally, medicinally, and in production, cuts into the profits of a great many industries. Political campaign contributions from these industries have ensured that no politician will allow the debate in the federal government.

Most cannabis users are not the losers and deadbeats most Hollywood movies and propaganda commercials would have you believe. They are people culled from every ethnicity and almost every profession. I say “almost” because despite it’s legal status for a great many patients in certain states, businesses still do random drug tests. In my opinion, urine testing without provocation is not only unethical, but unconstitutional. But aside from that, you’d be surprised who you know who uses cannabis. And they VOTE too.

If you’d like to know what I consider to be unmanly, it’s taking a self-righteous stance on an issue that most people know little to nothing about, all while promoting a double-standard. Some men have a cocktail, some smoke tobacco, and some smoke a little herb. The big difference is that the person who smokes the herb won’t think less of the ones who don’t.

80 Grumpy October 18, 2009 at 9:54 am

I have been smoking a pipe for 7 years now and enjoy it very much time for relaxing. I have about 18 pipes and switch them about every 3 smokes. I work in a tobacco shop and there is plenty of blends to choose from. I use a very mild cavendish tobacco it dosn’t burn hot. I find by changing my pipes often don’t have to clean them to often.

81 Jason Mills (author) October 18, 2009 at 10:47 am

@James Clark,

Being a bit of a newbie myself (only 1 year), I just recently learned about pipe rotation. Since I only smoke on the weekends, it’s not as big an issue for me. For those who smoke more frequently, that would be very important.

@ Eric (Oahu)

I agree, the article isn’t nearly “in depth” enough to “truly” learn how to smoke a pipe. But as I said in another comment, I wanted the article to peak curiosity (as it seems to have for one reader already) so that they would seek out a mentor such as you or their local tobacconist. I think this is a hobby where a mentor or friend who knows what he’s doing will be of tremendous help. I have no friends in my life who smoke a pipe (or smoke in any manner), so I’m sorta on my own (with the exception of Bill, my tobacconist).

Maybe those of you who’ve been smoking a pipe for awhile could submit an article with some of the things you’ve learned over the years. I’d be happy to learn from some of you old timers ;-)


82 Papou Paul October 18, 2009 at 9:26 pm

At the behest of my family, I gave up my pipes after 25 years. I look forward to my 70th birthday, when (for reasons to complex to explain here) I am going to start again. Just a couple caveats; in my experience, there can be an inverse correlation between the smell and taste of tobacco – I found that the sweeter and better it smelled to others, the hotter it burned. Even Tinderbox (which I highly recommend if you find one where a pipe smoker works) which makes some wonderful blends can’t make a cherry blend that doesn’t burn hot. Whereas Balkan Sobranie smells like a burning horse barn and is a very smooth burn. If you want a little scent and flavor, Tinderbox used to make a cognac blend called Aalborg that was pleasant to smell and very light. Especially if you smoke very often you want something like that.
And if you can, let your pipes a rest – have enough to only smoke them every other day, and they will thoroughly dry between smokes.

83 mozartboy October 19, 2009 at 11:28 am



84 Chris Hodapp October 19, 2009 at 6:22 pm

“A pipe is the fountain of contemplation, the source of pleasure, the companion of the wise; and the man who smokes, thinks like a philosopher and acts like a Samaritan.”
-Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton
An important tip for new pipe smokers that was not mentioned in the article. Cleaning your pipe is very important to keep it smoking and tasting properly. But NEVER twist the pipe apart at the tenon while it is still hot from smoking. The reason is that this will loosen the shank over time (sometimes almost immediately), or even crack the tenon. Let the pipe cool, then always make it a habit to twist the stem apart continuously in the same direction (as opposed to rocking it back and forth while yanking it out). Don’t be afraid to use too many pipe cleaners-they are cheap. Occasionally deep clean the dip a new pipe cleaner in denatured alcohol, or a little scotch to completely clean it.

A great article on proper cleaning can be found here: http://www.smokingpipes.com/information/howto/cleaning.cfm

Chris Hodapp
“Freemasons For Dummies”

“The pipe draws wisdom from the lips of the philosopher, and shuts up the mouth of the foolish; it generates a style of conversation, contemplative, thoughtful, benevolent, and unaffected…”
-William Makepeace Thackeray, from The Social Pipe

85 Dave October 19, 2009 at 7:28 pm

I would like to mention that you can also pick up very nice “used” pipes at a fraction of the price of the same pipe new.

Pipes are very easy to sanitize, and top quality “estate pipes” (sounds much better than “used”) can be had for less than the cost of an inferior new pipe. Many tobacconists offer such pipes, and they will be cleaned, sanitized, polished, etc., to a like-new condition in most cases. Every estate pipe in my collection was indistinguishable from new when I bought it.

I recommend the “Professor’s Pipe- Sweetening” (Google it!) method for use in your own pipes if they sour, or if you switch from a strongly aromatic tobacco to a milder blend.

86 James! October 20, 2009 at 12:25 pm

I just came in from smoking a Streamline pipe that I inherited from my grandfather. I have used a nail as a tamper. I liked to smoke some Captain Black, Black Cherry tobacco because my father used to smoke that when I was a kid. Good article.

87 Reid Miller October 20, 2009 at 11:35 pm

I have smoked a corn cob pipe for almost 25 years during my annual trips to Canada. Nothing “low-rent” about it…they are fine when taken care of, and a great look can be had for not very much money.

88 Peter Stenbuck October 21, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Can anyone tell me about how to use a clay pipe, as in 18th century?
Another question – what kind of tobacco do they use at the colonial recreation sites, like Williamsburg and Old Salem? The stuff smells great just hanging from the rafters!


89 Ron October 21, 2009 at 10:56 pm


I have had a few clays but only one survivor right now.

They do not impart any flavours to the tobacco but they do get quite hot because of the thinness of the bowl. If you can find one around I recommend them to all. Pollock is one of the manufacturers still around (from the UK I think).
It is about as close to the old school as you are ever going to get.


90 Chris Hodapp October 22, 2009 at 12:42 am

Ron is correct. Clay pipes can burn VERY hot. However, the very long 10 or 12 inch clays that Williamsburg has for sale work great. Just don’t hold the bowl. Hold by the long stem. Long-stemmed churchwarden style pipes, whether clay or briar, deliver a very cool smoke by the time it gets all the way up to your mouth. Likewise, good, old fashioned calabash pipes (most often associated with a certain Victorian detective) also cool the smoke, as it floats around in the hollow calabash gourd.

The tale told about long clay pipes is that they were made for communal use in pubs. Patrons would break the ends off, have their smoke, and put them back on a pipe rack for the next guest, who would break a little more off and have his smoke. That’s the legend, anyway.

Tobacco? Why, golden “Virginia” of course!

Seriously, smoke what YOU like. The heavily flavored cherry and vanilla black Cavendishes are certainly room pleasers, but not everybody likes them at the smoker’s end of the pipe. I prefer them. Straight Latakia, on the other hand, smells like a cage full of incontinent monkeys, but smokes smoothly. Burleys are usually too dry and thin for my taste. Perique is very bold. Meaning don’t smoke it in a hurry, or you’ll have the headache from hell.

Go to the tobacconist and get a half ounce of three or four of the house mixtures and work your way towards your favorite.

91 Cutter October 22, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Good article for beginners. As Mr. Hodapp mentioned above, it’s important to remember that you should always let the pipe cool completely before removing the stem. There are some tutorial videos on Youtube, but be careful: many, perhaps most, pipe smoking-related videos on YT are some sort of gay fetish thing.

My problem is I smoke a pipe only every couple of weekends or so, less in winter, so my tobacco goes stale quickly. I’m trying to get the hang of keeping it humidified properly. Unfortunately, both tobacconists in my area that carried pipes have now closed (the remaining ones are newer, trendy-centric places that only carry overpriced cigars & know zilch about pipes), so I either have to drive 2 hours to the nearest one or buy online without a knowledgable old-timer to offer advice. Perhaps we should start a Google map tobacconist locator.

As for drinks to go with the pipe, I’ve found that the smokiness of a good Scotch complements a pipe quite well. Most amber-colored spirits mesh well with pipe smoke, so I agree with the Old Fashioned suggestion, but I personally don’t care for clear spirits when smoking a pipe, so I have to disagree with the Martini suggestion. The same goes for wine, if that’s your preference. Full-bodied, robust reds fit well with a pipe; whites, not so much. A quality Port goes very well with a smooth pipe blend.

92 Chris Hodapp October 22, 2009 at 12:29 pm

You’ve got the humidity answer in your glass. When the tobacco gets a little dry, trickle a little water and a little more scotch into it I(not too much—a teaspoon is a lot with a two ounce bag), and stir or shake very well. Don’t keep it in the little plastic bag or tin from the tobacconist. Libby Glass and others make jars in a variety of sizes that are very much like those at the tobacconist, either with a heavy glass lid, or a glass lid with a tight plastic seal. I am still working my way through a ten pound purchase of my Dunhill mixture I laid in when Dunhill went out of the bulk tobacco business several years ago, and it remains fresh and moist.

What will I do when it is gone…

Chris Hodapp

93 Scott October 24, 2009 at 11:13 am

When I was in college, I worked at the oldest tobacco shop in Texas. I even got to meet Peter Stokkebye. We had contracts for distribution of tobacco, pipes and cigars that even the fabled shops on 5th Avenue in New York did not have. I do not smoke a pipe any more on account of health reasons, but I think I can still offer what I think to be the two most important lessons about pipes.

First, aside from avoiding tobacco that can be bought behind the counter at Walgreen’s or Walmart, (except, perhaps, Captain Black) tobacco is about personal preference. It is very much like liquor in that you should use what you like and not what someone else says is the best. “De gustibus non est disputandum; There is no disputing taste.”

Second, if you smoke flavored tobaccos or very strong tobaccos (perique, strong Dunhills, etc.) they will flavor the pipe. Just as you would never put a flavored cigar in a humidor with a beautiful Diamond Crown cigar without fear of flavor transfer, the same is true with the pipe. If you smoke a few varieties, you may need a few pipes.

94 Inkster October 29, 2009 at 9:57 am

As a relatively new pipesmoker I thought I’d share something in particular that I discovered. As someone mentioned, give it a couple of tries. In addition I’d recommend trying different kinds too. I started with aromatics because that’s what beginners are “supposed” to do. I was about to give up on it when I tried some pure Va flake (Sam Gawith as I recall) and was blown away. I cleaned my aro pipe and use it for English blends now.

95 Luke November 4, 2009 at 2:13 am

anyone recommend a good online retailer for tobacco and related supplies? All the local ‘tobacconists’ in my town are nothing but potheads and glassware dealers – unfortunate side of a college town.

96 Brett Fassbind November 4, 2009 at 3:12 pm

This is a wonderful article. I’ve been a pipe smoker for a very long time and would love to see a review of some different tobaccos or pipe styles on this site. I personally am a big fan of Frog Morton tobacco and a nice Vauen pipe.

97 Alec November 6, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Excellent article. I have been a smoker for about a year now (I’m currently 20) and after reading this article, decided to go out and buy a pipe. I absolutely love it. Sure, my friends think I’m a little odd for it, but that’s perfectly fine with me. They don’t know what they’re missing.
I do have one question though… I have a habit of blowing air into the pipe occasionally while smoking to make sure it is still lit and whatnot. Does this affect it at all or cause it to go out if I do it too often?

98 Steven November 11, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Nice article, though it in no way actually tells the read how to smoke a pipe. It tells what equipment you need, and how to pack and light it, but it doesn’t actually explain how to smoke it.

How exactly does one “draw?”

99 pipey November 14, 2009 at 10:01 pm

nice article – couple things i would recommend – cavicchi pipes, dorisco mixture tobacco and BEELINE instead of matches OR a lighter. beeline is far superior to lighting with ANYTHING else.

ask them for a free sample – and they will send it to you – i will be astounded if you dont like it.

100 Grumpy November 15, 2009 at 9:19 am

I heard a rummer that New York Legislature passed a law banning flavored cigars & tobacco. Can’t seem to find any more information. Would anybody else heard this?
If true this would put all tobacco stores out of business. I sure hope I’m wrong about that.

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