Thursday, July 31, 2008

Playing with Packing

I've noticed recently that I have to draw more frequently when smoking certain blends. I have more relights and get less smoke per puff. After some experimentation with my packing method I have come to the conclusion that my pipes are being packed too loosely.

I had been using the "lightly sprinkle...barely tamp" version of the "Three Levels" method. It seems that when the tobacco was sprinkled very lightly and the tamping was also very light, the pipe would smoke too "loose" and was going out almost constantly, especially with English blends.

To correct this problem I started "feeding" the tobacco into the pipe while it was tilted sideways in one hand. This seemed to take the pressure off the airhole so the airflow was not obstructed yet there was less space between the tobacco strands. This manner of packing seemed to keep the strands more consistent for keeping lit on it's own better. I also pressed the levels down a bit harder but not "too" hard as to "mash" it down.

In the end, the pipe seemed to be borderline overpacked. The initial light was a bit tighter than I like but it was working well. After the first char then second light I took a pipe cleaner and gently went down the stem and gave the tobacco load a little push. This cleared the airway in the chamber and opened up the draw to a perfect tension. The result was a good long smoke with fewer relights, a better flavor and slower cadence.

This method is far from foolproof but so far it is working well. Give it a try and let us know how it works for you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why We Don't Inhale

A common question I am often asked, usually by a new pipe smoker or a non-smoker, is “Why don’t you inhale the smoke?” Unlike cigarette smokers, pipe and cigar smokers generally do not inhale their smoke. I have heard many explanations as to why this is, most of which have been incorrect. It seems that there are more inaccurate perceptions about the briar than there are anti-smokers.

The reasons behind not inhaling are rather philosophical in a sense. The concept of pipesmoking is to relax and enjoy the wonderful flavors that the tobacco provides. Inhaling the smoke gives you a much different flavor and experience than if you just puff and slowly blow it out of the mouth and nose. A good parable is that of someone who is a connoisseur of fine wines and someone who guzzles cheap beer to get drunk. A cigarette is simply a vessel for nicotine whereas a pipe or a fine cigar is to be savored slowly to promote a relaxed state and a celebration of the complex flavors that only they can provide. With a pipe you can sit back...relax...reflect and enjoy a blissful escape from the daily stresses of life.

With these thoughts in mind, fill up your favorite briar…strike a match and light up…enjoy.