A Beginner’s Guide to Smoking a Wooden Pipe | Pipe Smoking 101
Intro to Pipe History
Pipe smoking is considered to be a gentleman’s hobby. From Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to C.S. Lewis, pipe smoking is seen as a classy, scholarly way to smoke tobacco. The art of pipe smoking used to be popular back in the 1700s and 1800s. However, with the rise of cigars and cigarettes, pipe smoking has sunken in popularity. Although, there are a small few who still enjoy the simple, chivalrous art of smoking, and view it as an art-form, rather than just a way to take the edge off.
When you picture pipe smokers, you typically think of professor-like, elbow-patch tweed blazer wearing men with a monocle. However, your typical pipe smoker could be a regular Joe, partaking in the fine art of smoking a wooden pipe.
Pipe smoking can be intimidating to a beginner if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. However, with a little research and practice, you’ll be puffin’ that pipe in no time! All you need to figure out is what kind of tobacco you like, what supplies you’ll need, and how to keep your pipe clean, so it lasts forever!
Types of Tobacco
I prefer to divide pipe tobacco into four categories. Searching for the perfect tobacco type can be extremely daunting if you don’t know what to look for. Let me break it down for you. The four main types of tobaccos are Aromatic, English, Virginia, and Burley.
Aromatic tobacco has a sweet, pleasant smell and taste. The “aroma” comes from a flavor that is put on top of the tobacco by the manufacturer.
English tobacco is a non-aromatic tobacco that has a bold, strong flavor with a more foul-smell. It can have a higher sugar content (depending on the level of Virginia leaf used in the blend), which means the tobacco sometimes has to be smoked slower, or you’ll end up burning your tongue.
Virginian tobacco gets its name from the way it is cured, not where it comes from. The leaves are flue-cured, profiling the tobacco's natural high sugar content. Virginian tobacco is also known for its “bright” color and its citrusy taste when smoked.
Burley tobacco is the most common form of tobacco, often used in cigarettes but most definitely the base of many traditional American pipe blends. It has a low sugar content, and is known for its earthy, nutty, and molasses flavor.
Obviously, you’ll need a pipe as your main piece of equipment. Most modern pipes are made of briar wood, and can be bought either online or your local cigar shop. You’ll also want to consider the shape of the pipe. You can spring for a curved stem, which is very Sherlock Holmes, or you can get a straight-stemmed pipe if that’s what you prefer. You can also go for a corn cob pipe, which is much cheaper, but won’t last as long as a wooden pipe.
However, there’s so much more to pipe smoking than a wooden pipe. You’ll need cleaning supplies, a case, a lighter, a tamper, and a stand for your pipe. For cleaning supplies, you’ll need bristled and fluffy pipe cleaners, a liquor of your choice, Q-tips, and a reamer for cleaning out the bowl.
You might want a case, which can either be leather or hard plastic. A lighter (or matches) is another important tool for smoking a pipe. You can either spring for a single or double flame lighter, but the quality isn’t as important for this piece of equipment. A tamper is what is used to push down the tobacco to pack it into the bowl. You can use your hands for this part, but if you want a specific tool for doing that, I’d buy a tamper.
Lastly, you’ll need a stand for your pipe, or something to keep your pipe safe when it’s not in use. I prefer a wooden stand to place my pipe on, but you can also get a magnetic stand that holds your pipe firm to the stand.
Cleaning your pipe
Cleaning your pipe is just as important as smoking it. While cleaning your pipe isn’t the most fun thing in the world, it’s the one thing that will keep it from becoming damaged over time. As mentioned earlier, you’ll need your cleaning supplies, and you’ll want to do a quick maintenance clean every so often. Deep cleaning can be done on a monthly basis as long as you keep up with more frequent mini cleanings.
Pipe smoking is a classic hobby that has been around for centuries. It is the symbol of a gentleman, and is more of an art than a hobby. If you do you research, and keep your pipe clean, you’ll be left with an art that you can carry with you for the rest of your life.
Anderberg, J. (2015, November 10). Pipe Smoking for Beginners: How to Pack, Light, and Enjoy a Tobacco Pipe. Art of Manliness. Retrieved June 8, 2021, from https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/pipe-smoking-for-beginners-how-to-pack-light-and-enjoy-a-tobacco-pipe/
Briar Report Magazine. (2019, March 1). What Does Pipe Tobacco Really Taste Like? Expectations vs Reality. Briar Report Magazine. Retrieved May 26, 2021, from https://www.briarreport.org/2019/03/01/what-does-pipe-tobacco-really-taste-like-expectations-vs-reality/#:~:text=Virginia%20Tobacco%2C%20referred%20to%20as,hay%2Dlike%20taste%20to%20them
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Tobacco Business. (2018, March 20). Pipe Tobacco Fundamentals. Tobacco Business. Retrieved May 26, 2021, from https://tobaccobusiness.com/pipe-tobacco-fundamentals/