On Tasting Smoke
“When you smoke that pipe, you are burning incense before the Lord. Be mindful.”-Dr. John Talmadge
The following is not a “how to” guide to pipe smoking per se, but a few suggestions gleaned from ten years with a pipe in my mouth. I’d encourage you to do a little research and read and watch the material available on the net to get a feel for the process. Like all worthy hobbies, pipe smoking takes practice. You need to smoke several times before you will be able to really enjoy it. The effort is worth it. Unlike cigarettes which are a vile habit and a vice, pipe smoking is a contemplative act and a luxury, albeit much more economical than cigarettes. Be aware that the smoke is different. Cigarette smoke is alkaline; pipe smoke is more acidic and should not be inhaled. Cigarettes have additives that encourage burning. A pipe, like any controlled fire, craves careful attention. The social atmosphere of a pipe is wholly distinct from the five minute pause that is a cigarette. A bowl takes time, and the time should be taken. Another matter that should be addressed now is the bane of all pipe smokers, tongue bite or burn. A result of chemical reactions from tobacco burned too quickly, that is, at too high a temperature, tongue bite is rarely completely avoidable. Good smoking technique, with the judicious use of either scotch or brandy to moisten the mucosal linings, is the best solution. Tongue bite, especially while learning to smoke, is the reason I have invariably encouraged would be smokers to smoke at least five bowls over a few days before giving up. The first few smokes may not be all that enjoyable, but, like building any fire, the smoke in your eyes (and the burn on your tongue) are worth the result. There are three basic skills to smoking a pipe: packing it, lighting it, and keeping it lit. Each is the necessary condition for the other. A pipe improperly packed will not be properly lit, and a pipe not properly lit will not stay lit at all for long. There is no dishonor in relighting, but the less futzing required, the better your smoke will be. Also, the cut and quality of the tobacco has a marked influence on how the pipe will pack and light. Those intricacies you learn from experience. In packing a pipe there are a number of methods. The goal is to have tobacco packed gradually more densely from the bottom up. Thus, the top layer of burning tobacco seamlessly ignites the more loosely packed tobacco below. Some leap down the throat of the idea and simply leave a pocket of air in the bottom of the pipe, and you may wish to explore this method via a google search.
To light. Google it as you wish. Having done your “charring lights”. Also. draw slowly through the pipe. (Simply use a screw driver or key to prise up the two prongs holding it in place where the flame comes out and gently wiggle it free. short puffs. you must first draw or puff properly. Just dribble it in. Every now and then. With the pipe in your mouth. Take a few draws of the pipe. is to create a more or less solid ember of slowly burning tobacco covering the entire surface of the plug that will burn downward continuously.The most traditional packing method is done in three layers. I suggest a standard bic lighter with the child proof guard removed. but it seems to me to be a bit over wrought. usually needing to relight occasionally. called “catching the bloom” by some. trying to get a fire going under the worst possible conditions. then press the prongs back down. As you light. which makes the task of making a single burning ember rather easier. The tobacco will slightly expand as the surface layer burns. remove the tobacco and re-pack. about which there is much information available including explanatory videos on youtube. and let it go. This acts as a flue which keeps the fire going. Remember. the tasting of another’s soul and saliva.
. The goal of lighting the pipe. bring the flame just above the tobacco. More of the tobacco will ignite and more smoke will be produced. Let the embers go out and repeat this step. Blow smoke rings if you can. you have a rather tricky task ahead. and continue over filling till you have a neat mound of tobacco on top of the mouth of your pipe. Very lightly smooth it out with your tamper. and. created a grate of charred tobacco atop the tobacco which will burn. moving it around slowly. I prefer a two stage pack. bring the flame above the tobacco once more. blow gently through the pipe.) There are fancy pipe lighters but I find them too fastidious. and matches are wastefull. Too much resistance. With your pipe tool (the flat. The settling should leave the pipe half to two-thirds full. and nearly every basic guide teaches this technique. Aim to get most of the surface smoldering. Tap the sides to settle the tobacco in the bowl. drawing fire into the weed with the breath (don’t inhale). To light the pipe. taking smoke into the mouth. Again dribble in tobacco to fill the bowl. Think of sipping rather than sucking. essentially. The goal is to very lightly char the surface. draw the flame down in to the tobacco with short draws. but it is a matter of patience. The closest analogue is a gentle kiss. nail head like end) gently stuff the over-filled tobacco into the bowl such that the tobacco is level with the top of the pipe. and let the entire surface ignite into a red ember. I pack a pipe as follows: Drop enough tobacco into your pipe to fill it. Rarely does one get there. The mouth feel is like drinking through a straw. Savor the taste. There is a very rigorous method of two stage pipe packing called the Frank Method. You have.
the intrinsically meditative act is beneficial. You can never have too many pipe cleaners. and suggestions on that matter are readily found. Find your balance. that is. on occasion. If the pipe gurgles as you smoke from saliva collecting in the stem.” CA
. need to clean your pipe. “Guard your heart and mind with all care. that the ember on top burns slowly and continuously as you draw through the pipe. not often enough and it goes out. A couple short puffs followed by a longer one may suit you. run a pipe cleaner into it to absorb the moisture. Use cheap brandy and pipe cleaners to get the gunk out. The rate of your puffing is important. you are in the delightful moment of a good smoke. You will.If the lighting process has “caught the bloom”. Remember to gently blow out occasionally. Even if you have to relight. Too often and the pipe burns hot. I hope these suggestions are of use to you.