‘Tis the Season

19th December, 2003: Posted by glpease in Tobacco

This has nothing, really, to do with the holidays, despite the lyrical allusion in the title. But, as we approach the winter solstice, as the sky changes from blue to gray, as the sun sets earlier, the rains come, and a chill fills the night air, changes, too, come to my pipe smoking. During warmer months, I more often reach for a lighter blend, perhaps a Virginia/perique, a light English or subtle Balkan style. Certainly there are times when I still want a good wallop of Latakia in all its glory, but mostly, it’s the more subdued blends that appeal to me then.

Not so the winter! The days are shorter. The air is cool and the sky ominous. Outside, breath is made visible. It’s the time of bulky sweaters, larger pipes, and thick, rich Latakia blends. There is something comforting about walking in the almost rain, a beloved pipe warming the hand, clouds of spicy, pungent, lingering smoke clinging to the moist air, enveloping me as I walk upon damp ground, blending harmoniously with the wood smoke of distant chimneys. The smells of winter are deep, earthy, inviting contemplation and quiet. Richer foods fill the plate, darker malts fill the night’s glass, and darker tobaccos fill the bowl.

We don’t often pay enough attention to the effects of weather on our pipe smoking. The inerplay between temperature, humidity, perhaps even barometric pressure, and our pipes and tobaccos produces a fascinating array of tones with which our total experience is composed. We wear different colors in different seasons, and eat different foods. There are many ways, some of which are subconscious, that we adapt to the experience of the changing weather. Why not do the same with our tobacco preference?

Tonight, it’s cool out, and the rain’s staccato is punctuating the mists. I think of London’s weather, and wonder if the blendmasters of the great Latakia mixtures of yesterday had this in mind as they created their masterpieces. Or was it something subliminal that drove them to create those deep, mysterious blends? Cool, misty days seem to present the perfect canvas for dark tobaccos.

On very humid, hot summer days, I’m more likely to reach for a fine cigar when I want a smoke. Cigars seem to suit my mood better, then, and my tastes. Cigars are creatures of the tropics, perfectly suited for warm, muggy climates. When it’s not so humid, wonderful Burley blends come to mind, echoing the aromas of drying fields, of parched ground. Spring days, though, light and breezy, seem better served by brightly hued, delicate tobaccos. Golden and yellow Virginias, laced gently with perique are just the thing to accompany spring fever. Autumn, with its electric air, its turning leaves, is the season of deeper red Virginas and lighter Latakia blends, spiced with exotic orientals. But now, it’s winter’s turn. Now, it is the time for the dark, mysterious stuff.

My attention turned to the sounds of winter, the wind, the rain’s rhythm, I almost believe I hear the tap, tap, tapping of a well-aged tin of Raven’s Wing on the cellar door. It is indeed late, but perhaps not too late for a little glass of a dusky Islay malt, and a nice, warm bowl of the Raven to help me embrace and celebrate a night of winter.