I bought a pipe today. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, in case the only tobacco I could get hold of was pipe tobacco.
So I went into a tobaconnist (they’re getting quite hard to find), and asked for advice. I bought a small pipe made of cherry wood, with a filter in the stem, for £17. The proprietor said he’d tried all the pipes himself, and this one would be his recommendation for a newbie pipe smoker. I also bought a pipe tool and some pipe cleaners and filters. And some Honey Dew tobacco and some Cherry Vanilla tobacco. He said that it would take a week or so to build up a carbon deposit inside the bowl, which was quite important.
And then got home and started trying it out. It’s a nice lightweight pipe. I didn’t have a job to hold it between my teeth. I wasn’t quite sure how to fill the pipe, so filled the bowl and pressed it down with a finger to what seemed like the same sort of density as a roll-up, and lit it with a match, and puffed away on it. It went out almost immediately, and so I re-lit it and puffed away on it furiously to keep it alight (and getting quite lightheaded in the process). I kept wondering how long it was supposed to last after being lit. I also wondered if you always have to keep relighting pipes, or whether they only stayed lit when when enough carbon had built up. I never seemed to burn the tobacco right down to the base of the bowl.
And then I watched a few YouTube videos about pipe smoking.
The first guy lit his pipe with a gas lighter. But the second one swore by matches. And what’s “tongue bite”? Every one seemed to have different ideas about how to smoke a pipe. Some of them even coat the bowls of their pipes with honey to aid the carbonisation process. One said that you should let your pipe ‘rest’ for a day or two, and have lots of different pipes.
I also wondered how moist pipe tobacco should be. It makes a big difference with roll-ups. Too dry and it burns very hot. Too moist and it’ll hardly burn at all. By comparison with rolling tobacco, my pipe tobacco seemed a tad dry. But what do I know? I’m used to lighting roll-ups and then almost forgetting about them.
Also the loose tobacco I bought seemed very coarse by comparison with rolling tobacco. Which didn’t really surprise me. But I wondered if you were supposed to break it up with your fingers. I have vague memories of pipe smokers rubbing their tobacco between their hands.
At the end of the day, I had the impression that it was a bit of a full time job to smoke a pipe, and that either you let it go out and relit it, or else you puffed away on it furiously, devoting your whole attention to it. And I ended up with an ashtray full of burnt matches. It’s quite a lot messier than smoking cigarettes, and that’s pretty messy already.
But it was a different smoking experience. The smoke was more pungent than in roll-ups, but never hot.
I guess that after a while, you build up experience.