After a decade of pipe smoking, I picked up my first meerschaum. It was to be a storient pipe, but the pipe from meerschaummarket.com got to me first. I picked it up through their e-bay store and had it in my hands within 2 days! It's coming up to the two month mark waiting for Storient! To be fair, Yavuz has at least been responding to e-mails and from the comments here, I'm hoping the quality will be similar to what I've got now and worth the wait. At any rate, this one was from I. Baglan and the quality is very impressive. In two days I've run through my favourite virginia blends of Full virginia flake, Dunhill flake, Hal o' the wynd, and Marlin flake. While I enjoy my briars, keep them very clean, well rested and maintained, I was taken by surprise at the quality of smoke from a meerschaum. Each blend seems to have a much wider spectrum of flavour and new things that were always in the background now 'pop' out. My briars are good ones, with some dunhill pipes and other quality factory jobs with good reputation like Savinelli, but I have to admit that I should have got a good meerschaum like this a long time ago.
I'm trying not to be biased, as it is a new pipe and we're all usually infatuated with the latest acquisition, but I'm still surprised at the quality of the smoke compared to my quality briars and it's impossible to ignore. They just don't compare! I won't put the wood to rest, but I can already imagine this one (and the storient pipe when it gets here one of these months) will be the go to pipe for a flavour explosion. The minimal resting period is also pretty convenient.
Has anyone else seen their collection of briars fade into the background after acquiring a meerschaum? I just can't believe the flavour, even with mixing tobaccos in the same pipe.
For any new pipe smokers, I think I would recommend a quality meerschaum before getting into a briar rotation. I think it might be easier with less variables for rotation, cleaning, etc. and the flavour seems to jump out a lot more. I didn't know what I was missing out on for the past 10 years! Maybe it was a lucky strike, or maybe it's just a testament for one of the oldest smoking instruments still being made after the introduction of briar. I can't speak to the pressed meerschaum and the very cheap options, but I'm tempted to pick one up to compare. I can't see why a pressed meerschaum pipe would have a different flavour, but maybe I'm missing something. I think that it is probably somewhat close. This one was $200, but compared with some of the briar options, it's not really that expensive and my instincts are that there is more value in a meerschaum or two that don't need rest rather than a large rotation of mediocre pipes to keep them well rested and cool.
Just a hunch, really, but if you're starting out and don't have a huge budget, I'd try and get my hands on a meerschaum that you like the look of and see what happens!