We live in times unable to cope with the satisfaction of others. Whether it’s parades, mermaids or bumper sticker election campaigns, if someone is enjoying or into…well, anything, this makes others upset. It becomes then a mission to upend them. Reactions to pipe smoking is not exempt. Much like all things misunderstood or misinformed, it is by many considered nothing more than a masked cigarette, and is not always revered as those of us who know better. Many things around us are easy to dismiss, and easier to vilify. Which is why I’m comfortable being a pipe smoker: I’m a marginalized guy in many areas, and I have more important things to give a shit about. Pipes and tobacco being two of them.
For example, the folks at Cornell & Diehl have come up with their Chicagoland International Pipe and Tobacciana Show 2019 Virgina Oriental. This commemorative blend features bright Virginia, Izmir and Basma oriental, Perique and Burley. Summertime is usually when I dive into the lighter and brighter tobaccos, when I’m tired after a sweltering day. Throw a cold glass of gin limeade in my hand and a pipeful of something like this and watch as my list of what I give a winged monkey’s posterior about magically dwindles further.
In the tin Virginia Oriental is about as light in color as tobaccos get. It’s a true blonde, if you will. The scent isn’t much of a wowing event, sweet and pleasant, a little tart and sour, but not much beyond that. I have to admire the label, as whoever chose the flower art and color scheme really did a great job of catching my eye.
Loading bowls, I had to note how moist my particular tin of tobacco was. I had several cases of very compressed and unbroken chunks of leaf mixed in that were far darker than the rest. This concerned me as this is a “kitchen sink” mixture, and if I’m smoldering one component out of proportion to the others, it may throw things off.
My first lights showed me I struggled a little with the loading, as this tobacco is springy. A few times I stood up and brushed embers off my lap after they decided to slowly expand and drop in my lap. This led me to let future bowls to dry out a little and pack a little looser. Unfortunately this also made the tobacco get a little warmer than I like, and puffing at a snail’s pace was all I could do. Flavors are grapefruit and peppery, pleasantly leather-like and sometimes grassy.
Mid-bowls are where I’m getting in the stride of things, and something happens that hasn’t happened in a long time: bite. Quite a bit of it. It wasn’t a heat issue, as that is easily solved. This wasn’t Perique, as too much of that to me simply tastes bitter. This was pure chemistry causing my tongue and roof of my mouth to become quite uncomfortable. I’ve had this happen with certain burleys when mixed with very bright or non-aged Virginia leaf, so this wasn’t a surprise. I have a secret weapon here if this happens to be a curse of yours as well: a very broken-in cob pipe. Smoke this combo at mere smoldering (or slower) speeds and you’ll do quite well.
The end of any bowl of Virginia Oriental (once I found cobs to be the key for me) was my favorite experience. It was then the contemplative realm mellowed my frontal lobe. The heat and tamping, slow-smoking and setting the pipe down once in a while really transformed the tobacco at the finale. There’s a toasted note from the Burley, a keen sweet black pepper note and a buttery finish that melds together quite nicely. It goes from being a spirited teenage garage band trying to figure out who is playing what part to a seasoned quartet playing Strauss. When I learned this tobacco does better after a little practice, I found my smallest (cob) pipes to be the best and most ideal setup for yours truly.
The real world can be over thought and patience-testing, and the drama needs be relieved by some sort of distractive tinkering. Engines, woodworking, gardening, and even the very personal art of the pipe. Whatever does it for you. C&D’s Virginia Oriental is mellow to moderate on nicotine, lively and a great combination of tobaccos. It also seems to me to be a little fickle, might need to be tended to for some palates before it gets truly unlocked, and would be a very likely candidate for a Kismetesque experience after some aging. Those who happen to smell it might say the room note sweet and even tea-like. It’s a mixed bag as far as my experience led me. Seasoned smokers might get annoyed with it, and newbies might find it troublesome, but I think with a little experimentation it yields a nice smoke. While not as complex now as it could be after a few years in the tin, there’s a unique combination of quality tobaccos that my chemistry and bumbling shouldn’t dissuade others from giving a chance. Life is kind of like that sometimes as well, I suppose. Which is why pipe smoking just might be one of the most peaceful rebellions one can partake in this strange world.
Enjoy your smoking, all, and always do it in a way you see fit.