Out, Damned Spot!

14th March, 2012: Posted by glpease in Pipes, Technique

I originally wrote this article for the now long out of print Pipe Friendly Magazine, where it appeared in Vol. 5 No. 4 (1999). I later republished it in the Essays section of my site, and have subsequently migrated it here to the Chronicles for easier access and searchability. -glp

For years, I’ve collected estate pipes, appreciating their history, the value they represent, and lamenting the fact that some of the old marques are just no longer of the same quality they once were. Generally, I’ve had excellent luck bringing old pipes back to life, restoring them to their former aesthetic beauty, and enjoying some wonderful smokes in them. Sometimes, though, a pipe that can be made beautiful may not end up being a good smoke. There are myriad reasons for this, some having to do with the way the pipe was cared for by its prior owner. If the shank is coated with a thick residue of tars, if the bowl is soured, if the cake is too think, too spongy, the pipe won’t smoke well. Fortunately, these afflictions are easy to remedy with the proper application of some alcohol, some pipe cleaners, and a good reaming.

Other times, it’s the memory of the previous owner’s tobacco that lingers in the pipe, invading the bliss of our own favored smoke, rattling its chains and howling, each bowl reminding us that the ghost of something else is there, haunting our pipe. This same thing can happen any time when we change from one style of tobacco to another, especially from a heavily flavored aromatic tobacco to a more natural English style blend. The result can be a less-than-harmonious relationship with a briar. Read more…»

JackKnife Plug

18th January, 2011: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Technique, Product News

The good news is, JackKnife hit the shelves of one close-to-the-source retailer a week ago Friday. The bad news is, they sold out in less than an hour. More bad news is that inclement weather, by way of snow storms, kept folks out of the factory for a couple of days, which held up shipments. But, fortunately, there’s more good news, too; the shipments will begin going out regularly tomorrow, and many retailers will be getting theirs soon. I hope. I’ve heard rumours of a torch and pitchfork brigade forming, and I’ve been a bit lax in the maintenance of the fortifications.

All that to say that when a new product is released, it takes time to fill the pipelines, but everyone is working hard on it. Promise. That’s the news. Now I’ll spend the rest of this entry talking a little about the tobacco, itself. Read more…»

Befriending those Beguiling Virginias

29th January, 2010: Posted by glpease in Tobacco, Technique

A great virginia can be a wonderful smoke, but for many of us, at least for me, getting the most from the experience doesn’t always come easily, or instantly. I recently read a post on one of the forums written by a fellow who enjoyed many mixtures, and liked the sweetness he experienced in virginias, but lamented that, for the most part, that sweetness is only delivered in hints. I can relate. One of the reasons I was a dedicated Latakiaphile for so long was this very phenomenon. I’d puff a bowl of virginia, enjoy it for a while, but before the end of the bowl, I’d find the experience lacking. Where did the flavour go? Where was all that sweetness I was promised?

The sweetness of a tobacco has to do with the levels of sugar in the leaf. This can be naturally occurring, as in some virginias, and especially bright leaf, or added, as is the case with many virginia blends. It’s not uncommon to find sugar levels of 20-25% in bright leaf, and if the tobaccos are cased, it can be even higher. Sugar equals sweetness, right? Read more…»

Tobacco Reanimation - Bringing it Back to Life

14th May, 2008: Posted by glpease in Technique, Science

The other day, I was cleaning up part of my desk, when my eye fell on an opened tin of State Express London Mixture that had been hiding for a while. This tin dates to sometime in the 1980s, by my best reckoning, and I’d first opened a few months ago. I had smoked a few bowls, taken a few notes, and then had an out-of-sight, out-of-mind experience with it, as it found itself buried under a stack of papers and a few other tins of tobacco - also opened and drying out.

As I always do, or almost always, after I’d opened it, I’d put a double layer of foil over the open top, pressing the lid back in place. This works well for keeping the contents of these flat tins in good smoking condition for a week or three, and I’d fully intended to finish the tin within that time, but the best laid plans, and all that. Had I known I was going to forget about it, the tobacco would have been put into a jar for safe-keeping. On the other hand, I often forget to label these little jars, and once they get shuffled from place to place, usually separating themselves from the original tins on which they are sitting, with the tins ending up on one side of the office, and the jars on the other, I forget what they contain. Maybe it’s a blessing that I forgot to jar this one. But, how did it fare after several months of sitting? Read more…»

Matching Pipes and Tobaccos—Part 2

5th April, 2004: Posted by glpease in Pipes, Enjoyment, Technique

Read Matching Pipes and Tobaccos—Part 1.

A friend of mine dedicates every new pipe to a specific tobacco. I applaud his rigorous bookkeeping, somewhat retentive attention to detail, and his dedication to methodology, but I’ve always wondered if he’s really getting the most out of his experience, or winding up selling some of his pipe and tobacco choices short. How do we know, at the start, what tobaccos will work best with a given pipe? I wish there was some sort of metric, as the process of discovery can sometimes fill a great deal of time. Read more…»

Filling the Bowl

27th December, 2003: Posted by glpease in Technique

When I first began to smoke a pipe, or rather, when I became serious about our delightful pastime, I seemed to find myself nearly obsessed with the techniques of pipe smoking. I read books, talked to inveterate pipe smokers, conducted experiments, all in the interest of increasing my enjoyment of my new hobby. At every turn, though, I found contradictions. It sometimes seemed that if one were to poll 100 experienced pipesters, one would return with at least 101 answers to each question. Still, after over 20 years of puffing, I sometimes have the idea that I know no more today than I did when I touched my first match to a bowlful of tobacco. Read more…»

Matching Pipes and Tobaccos—Part 1

1st December, 2003: Posted by glpease in Pipes, Enjoyment, Technique

For quite a while, I’ve been attempting to discover some rhyme and reason for why some tobaccos just seem to “work” better in some pipes than others. At first, I looked to the conventional wisdom of my pipe smoking brethren to find answers. “Flakes are better in small pipes.” “Latakia blends are best smoked in larger bowls.” What I found there was a lot of disagreement, both amongst the folklore I collected, and within the context of my own experiences. I had to seek further to find the key to this particular mystery. I attempted to forget everything I thought I knew about the subject, and set out anew. Read more…»