If you’re a pipe smoker … and for the first time writing here, I don’t just mean a tobacco pipe smoker—whether you smoke tobacco or marijuana in your pipe, you may have noticed a change in social attitudes and acceptability of these two "weeds". If you’re a pot smoker, you may have noticed that the future looks bright as far as being able to enjoy your pastime with less hassles. If you’re an avid enthusiast of pipe tobacco, you’re much more likely to be considered weird at best, and at worst, a source of impending doom, a disgusting addict trying to bring down not only yourself, but all the innocent bystanders around you. Sometimes I exaggerate a bit to make a point… this isn’t one of those times.
G. L. Pease
The tobacco of Semois—the seed, the soil, the climate, what in the wine world is referred to as terroir, along with ages-old traditional methods of growing, harvesting and curing—there is simply nothing like it produced anywhere else in the world. It’s one of those rare and unique things, like the cigars of Tuscany, that has no peer. If you want to taste Semois, you must taste Semois; nothing else comes close. Yet, only a few outside of Belgium know much, if anything about this rare gem, because there are now only three growers/producers, and local demand consumes much of the available supply; it’s all but unavailable outside of its home turf.
Let me paint you a picture with a my word-brush. A police officer leans on his car near the sidewalk of one of the more hipster neighborhoods of Seattle. In between sips of his delicious coffee, the officer sees three young adults, around 21 years old, shuffle out of a dispensary, guffawing and talking drowsily. One of them carries a plastic bag with a very recognizable leaf splattered all over it. Despite the roasted coffee inches from his nose, the officer detects the not-so-subtle aroma of cannabis wafting from the three bohemians. His face contorts as he resists the temptation to stop them—old habits die hard. He sighs, takes another sip from his coffee, and lets them go. Nothing to be done.
Dr. Michael Garr, Ph. D. aka "Doc Garr"
The 2011 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) data were recently made public by the Centers for Disease Control. The NYTS is a nationally representative sample of students grades 6 through 12. The survey yielded a total sample size of 18,866.
The survey asks two questions about pipe smoking. The first is: "Have you ever tried smoking tobacco in a pipe, even one or two puffs?" Of the 18,595 that answered the question, 7.9% responded yes to it. Now this is a pretty broad measure capturing anyone just taking a puff from dad’s pipe even once years ago to regular users of pipes.
No, this isn’t a novel, but the title applies, because few things are as polarizing as our particular preferences about pipes, tobaccos and accessories. Much of it is meant to be humorous, some is said half-jokingly and the balance is loaded with vitriol and passionate hatred. Come to think of it, it often sounds like the discussion about the designated hitter.
Without question, the number one target of derision is one of the most popular items among pipe smokers- aromatic tobacco. Non-aromatic smokers will ask "what kind of crap is in your pipe?" and will frequently compare the aroma to fruit salad, a fire in a bakery or what it must smell like if Carmen Miranda’s hat went to hell.
Dr. Michael Garr, Ph. D. aka "Doc Garr"
A frequently asked question among pipe smokers is whether pipe smoking among college-aged people is on the increase. Much of the information to answer the question is anecdotal. Nor has anyone to my knowledge looked at the ages of pipe smokers over a number of years.
Ours is a hobby fraught with nostalgic thoughts. When a gathering of pipe smokers occurs, I’m willing to bet that the single most common phrase uttered is “I remember when…”. This issue is only exacerbated when a group of older pipesters is interspersed among some twenty and thirty-somethings, and that’s when the stories begin in earnest.
I recently had an idea (which is usually a sign of impending doom) regarding how we perceive the taste of pipe tobacco and cigars. I was aware of the theory of taste bud “zones” on the tongue, with sweet sensed on the tip, salt on the front sides, sour on the middle sides and bitter on the back of the tongue. Additionally, harsh spice seems to be sensed most in the back of the throat. This thought has recently been modified to include savory flavors (often referred to as “umami") being detected in the center of the tongue (see illustration).
Since returning to PipesandCigars.com from my illness, I’ve spent a good amount of time preparing for the release of my newest entry to the Hearth & Home Marquee Series- Fusilier’s Ration. I’m really excited about this one as it’s the culmination of three years worth of trial and error, but I feel that it is one of the best things that I have done in the last seven years. So I thought that I would recount the process regarding this new pressed Latakia-based cake.
You’d think that, by now, I would know better than to urinate into the wind, but, what the hell. I’m bringing up a subject that is a constant source of consternation for us- packaging. Let me begin by saying that the problem is partially one of my own making by wanting to please more people rather than standing firm on a decision. When we started making the Hearth & Home tobaccos, they were all in a bulk format. After a while, I received comments and requests to tin our blends, as some folks don’t want to buy loose tobacco and jar it. I understood, but I had some angst in making the choice (with Scott’s okay, of course) because there would be the inevitable comparisons- were the two versions the same (in our case, yes); and why the big price difference? The added labor, container, labeling and shipping costs mean that tinned tobacco has to be, of necessity, more expensive.