The Fickle Palate

5th December, 2003: Posted by glpease in Tobacco

There are pipe smokers who can smoke the same blend, day after day, year after year, never seeming to tire of it, never wishing to try something new. I am not among their ranks, I am afraid. I can’t really even comprehend such unfaltering allegiance, though I’m often jealous of it. I sometimes long for a tobacco blend that I could smoke happily until the end of my days, but I know myself, I know that such a blend could never exist; my palate, and my pipes, are far too fickle.

J. M. Barrie was rumored to have smoked his beloved Arcadia Mixture with stalwart and tireless dedication. So committed was he that, rather than change blends, he would sooner quit smoking altogether. Certainly, as articulated beautifully in My Lady Nicotine, he was also somewhat enslaved by the charms of this ne plus ultra of mixtures, and perhaps it’s the fear of that sort of servitude that induces me to stray, to wander from today’s faithful gratitude for a blend’s patience with my wild nature, seeking the charms that come from variety’s spice.

Of course, as a blender of blends, it’s not only my desire to play the field, but my duty, as well, and I admit that I am often chasing the one blend that will sing its siren song to me, that will woo me with such alluring charms that I will be able to spend the rest of my pipe smoking life in the company of its glorious fragrance. Indeed, each new successful experiment seems to, for a time, be that perfect companion, my favorite among favorites, my eternal leaf sublime. The hunt, though, is always, after all, the real reward, and once captured, my quarry is soon released to join the rest, still loved, but not single-mindedly revered. Is this just another example of one man’s fear of commitment?

“Not so,” my mind can be heard to protest. Every blend has its place, its time, its pipes. What’s perfect for a walk in the woods might be ill-fitted for an evening’s relaxation with a good book, or a lingering puff during an afternoon’s conversation amongst friends. And, once a pipe is chosen, certainly the appropriate tobacco must be selected that best suits that pipe before smoking bliss can be found. Can any single blend ever serve all situations equally well?

After all, I can’t think of a single wine, a single menu, a single piece of music, art or literature that would always reliably spark my embers, why should any one tobacco be expected to fare any better? I love it when justification can pretend to provide reason for what really just amounts to changes in temperament and preference.

One day, I may find that Holy Grail of tobaccos, the one chameleon-like fusion of leaf that will instantly adapt to my every whim, every mood, every set and setting, every pipe, always amusing me with ever changing, but always concordant delights. Until then, it’s good all the blends I enjoy so much seem to get along with each other while I’m off, gallivanting with my current flame. Maybe I’m not really fickle, after all, but just have so much passion for the leaf that it can be shared with all of them, equally, and each can satisfy its purpose in life, knowing that I will never stray too far, or too permanently.

That must be it.