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The Devil's Scent--What Is It?

(19 posts)
  1. ryeguy

    ryeguy

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    This must be a newbie question, but I'm at my wit's end so turning to you all for help: There is a (very unpleasant) flavor I frequently encounter in pipe tobaccos that I can't name. The best I can do to describe it is the flavor of the thick dark stuff that comes out on a pipe-cleaner from the bottom of a still-warm bowl.

    This flavor is the bane of my pipe-smoking existence.

    I associate it with the following:

    -Too much moisture (drying tobacco tends to reduce it, but in some blends it won't go away until the stuff is tinder).
    -A pipe that is going out or burning too cool (although I get it in some blends when the pipe is burning quite well).
    -DGT--I tend to notice this flavor when relighting a cold bowl; it doesn't always dissipate quickly.
    -A dirty pipe--If I start a new bowl after not smoking the last bowl to the bottom; Combined with the fact that relighting a bowl also tends to cause this taste to come out, I end up in a pickle if I ever have to put down a pipe mid-smoke--or if I get a bowl that just won't stay lit. My solution has been to give a couple quick draws while holding a lighted match into the empty bowl.
    --It seems to be most eager to show its head in "strong", "full-flavored", or "palate wrecking" tobaccos.
    --I also associate it with a constricted feeling in my esophagus, a tightness swallowing, that I get after a while if I bare-knuckle it and struggle on with the bowl despite this flavor coming out; this leads me think there is something about my physiology that makes me more sensitive to something in tobacco than the average bear--Perhaps this is why the rest of the world seems blissfully unaware of what is to me such an obvious defect of some tobaccos.

    The perplexing thing is that, although I've figure out how to avoid it in some tobaccos, this flavor seems to come out in other tobaccos no matter what I do. So it doesn't seem to be just a dirty pipe or wet tobacco issue. E.g., Dunhill Flake, Three Nuns, Capstan Yellow, OGS won't manifest it as long as I avoid moisture, dirty pipes, and letting it burn too cool for too long. PS LNF or PS LBF will manifest this taste no matter what I do. To a lesser degree Escudo or Capstan Blue also have a strong propensity to produce this flavor, though they are not quite as bad as the Stokkebye's flakes. Though it's been a long while since I've smoked any, I also associate it with Latakia blends, but in Latakia blends I remember noticing it more in the aftertaste (I suspect the Latakia masked it while I was actually smoking, so it only dominated in a palate-wrecking lingering effect).

    I want to call it tar, but I've never heard anyone mention a strong tar taste in a tobacco review (or any other description that seems to capture the taste, like, "taste of a dirty pipe cleaner" or "tastes like dottle"), and I've never heard people complaining about a tarry smoke in the way they complain about, say, tongue bite.

    And this is my problem--I can't articulate what it is I don't like about certain tobaccos, at least not in terms that seem to be a standard and readily understood part of the tobacconist's vocabulary. If there are some tobaccos that will just insist on tasting like this, I want to be able to identify them before I plop down money for a tin I won't be able to smoke with any enjoyment. I want to know what it is that makes some tobaccos tamable and others intransigent. And that's where I'm stuck.

    So, is there some varietal, some casing (Rum?), or curing method (Perique?) that causes this taste in the tobacco? Will I have this problem with any tobacco that falls into the medium-to-strong end of the flavor range, so that I just need to resign myself to only buying light tobaccos?

    Many thanks in advance!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  2. cortezattic

    Cortez

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    Can you describe the foul taste a little better, like: acrid, bitter, sour, pungent, etc.?
    Does this occur in only one pipe?
    Do you encounter this taste under all circumstances, like: morning (clear palate), or perhaps after a meal, with a freshly cleaned pipe?

    The best advice I could give is to just stick to those blends that taste good to you!?

    I find myself sitting idly on the line dividing past and future,
    as if I could kill time without injuring eternity. -- Thoreau
    Posted 1 year ago #
  3. brightleaf

    brightleaf

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    Have you tried a meerschaum pipe?

    POSSIBLY, contentment is not only the chief element of life, but also one of the very foundations of society. If this be so, then as Tobacco is the enemy of malice, friend of virtue, and a direct cause for content, its use should be encouraged. -J.W. Cundall 1901
    Posted 1 year ago #
  4. bluegrasspipe

    bluegrasspipe

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    The Stokkebye blends are heavily "topped" with flavors, but if you are getting it from a VaPer like Escudo that is where I am a bit confused. If it's not the toppings, all I can think is maybe it could be perique that is weird for you.

    For tho' at my simile many may joke,
    Man is but a pipe—and his life but smoke.
    Posted 1 year ago #
  5. ryeguy

    ryeguy

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    Thanks for the replies.

    I haven't tried a Meerschaum. Without having confidence in some working theory of what is causing this effect, I'm reluctant to drop the kind of money a meershaum would cost just as an experiment.

    Can you describe the foul taste a little better, like: acrid, bitter, sour, pungent, etc.?

    This is tough. (I'm reminded of the joke about mechanics asking customers to describe one more time what sound their car is making.)

    It isn't rancid or rotten (I'd say it isn't even necessarily offensive just in itself, it isn't especially pleasant, and more importantly it overwhelms everything else and quickly fatigues my palate; if it was subdued I think I could tolerate it just fine, unlike, e.g., the smell of rotting flesh which is too much in any quantity).

    Aside from describing it as the smell of a used pipe cleaner, or the smell of dottle, I'd say it is very much in the dark end of the flavor spectrum (down with used motor oil and creosote), but slightly acidic. I really can't put my finger on something not related to pipes that captures what it is. I might fire up some PS LNF or Escudo in a minute to see if I can put my finger on a description.

    Does this occur in only one pipe?

    I've been using one pipe pretty much exclusively for 6 months or so, but in the past I have had the same experience in others.

    Do you encounter this taste under all circumstances, like: morning (clear palate), or perhaps after a meal, with a freshly cleaned pipe?

    With those tobaccos that insist on showing this effect, yes. Although, I've never done a deep clean on the pipe. I'm pretty rigorous about making sure it is dry when I'm done, and I've put a reamer in it, but not the full soaking it in alcohol treatment.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  6. ryeguy

    ryeguy

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    Just finished a bowl of LNF and here is my report.

    The flavor I'm describing came out in the second half of the bowl--as I think of it this is typical, the light is euphoric, but the flavors of those first draws quickly mellow and (sooner or later) give way to the flavor and experience I'm trying to describe.

    Overall there is a strong flavor of ash (the actual taste of tobacco ash). There is also an underlying oily or maybe chalky mouthfeel. That is more or less the sensation, but there is also a flavor that colors this, a flavor that I can't find a way to describe without pipes. It just is the smell of old, stale pipe smoke. The smell my hand gets after holding my pipe while I smoke. The smell a cold but recently smoked pipe bowl has. The smell of a pipe cleaner. This combination just dominates and displaces every other flavor; whatever brilliant notes there were in the first puffs are gone.

    And that's how the bowl ends, leaving me with the taste of ash and stale smoke, and the feel of chalk in my mouth.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  7. saltedplug

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    I didn't know what to say until you said that you've been smoking the same pipe for 6 mos. Though I think the need to rest pipes is overstated, I've always gone by the convention that allowing the moisture accumulated in the bowl to evaporate between smokes makes sense. Some guys rest a pipe two weeks after a single smoke, some only 3 days, but somewhere in-between is acceptable.

    You say that this taste shows up in the second half of the bowl, which makes sense as it is in the bottom of the bowl that moisture accumulates. You seem to smoke several bowls a day. I'd say that after 3-6 smokes the pipe should go down for a week.

    Cobs are dirt cheap @ ~$10.00; you might buy ten. If you want to stick to briar, I would say factory pipes are your friend. Yes, branded pipes are usually prettier, and artisans more so, but after a number of years trying to wade through all the hype about pipes, I've come to the conclusion that drilling, adequate cure of the wood and a comfortable stem can be had for much less of an expense. smokingpipes has a page full of Stanwells made in Denmark for ~$100.00.

    Good luck, and we'll look forward to more progress reports. You'll get through this. Google "resting tobacco pipes" if you want to be more confused:).

    Posted 1 year ago #
  8. weezell

    weezell

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    Buy some MM Cobs Bro and report back...

    "the weez"...
    Posted 1 year ago #
  9. rigmedic1

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    Try a pipe that uses a 9mm charcoal filter. I used to experience the same thing with Virginia blends until I tried a 9mm filter.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  10. josephcross

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    Sounds like you have a sensitive palate. It’s hard to say why you are tasting these flavours the way you are. Taste in general is subjective, and maybe you are over thinking the flavour tasting process. My best advice is to buy cobs, and when you pack a bowl( especially flakes), is use the air pocket method. Twist it into the top of the bowl and leave a sizeable space at the bottom of the bowl. Smaller bowls mean less tobacco wasted and more enjoyed. Good luck on the adventure!

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    pipeman7

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    Guys he's obviously literally talking about tar here

    Posted 1 year ago #
  12. jvnshr

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    Anise flavor maybe? That's what I think when I read your comments. I used to get that flavor when I started smoking a pipe, after a year or so, it went away.

    Javan
    Posted 1 year ago #
  13. tschiraldi

    tschiraldi

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    Deep clean your pipe. Any time I can smell that dirty pipe smell when standing near a rack of pipes, I know it's time to pull out the alcohol and bristle cleaners! That taste will invade any blend.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  14. cosmicfolklore

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    I've gotten that with a few estate pipes. Salt and alcohol treatment, and when you clean the stem, secure one end of an alcohol churchwarden pipecleaner to something like a vice, drawer pull, or just a nail in the wall, and hold one end tight, and work the stem back and forth vigorously, using several pipecleaners. I find that sometimes the inside of the stem will oxidize and give the flavor a nasty taste. So, you'll want to clean the devil out of it, maybe even add a touch of wax to the last pipecleaner to prevent it from happening again. Also, clean the stummel end of the stem really good, down to the heal of the chamber.
    I don't think it's the tobacco.

    Michael
    Posted 1 year ago #
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    sumusfumus

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    Over the last few decades I was an on and off piper. One of the main reasons that turned me off to pipe smoking, and a great source for my disappointment, was the flavor changes that any tobacco goes through from the time it is first lit to about mid-bowl. The first half of the bowl is a great smoke, but from about mid-bowl to bottom, the taste of the smoldering tobacco goes from tolerable, and quickly morphs into that disgusting rank, ashy, taste, no matter what tobacco I smoke. No matter how slowly I puff, no matter how often I clean the pipe. Same results. I must go through at least 4-6 pipe cleaners for each pipe session....each dipped into Rum Extract. I am not a wet smoker, and never clench. Re-lighting a half-smoked pipe, is even worse. Can't do it....nauseating taste. Can't even figure out how some guys can smoke a cigar soaked with smelly saliva. Just the sight of some old, wet-looking, stinking, cheroot......never mind.

    Anyway, this rank-ish pipe tobacco experience for me is a real stomach-turner. I just can't avoid it, no matter what I try, or, what I smoke. Aromatics are worse than English blends, but both turn rank/ashy at towards the end of the bowl. New pipes, old estate-pipes, just cleaned pipes...it doesn't matter. It happens. I have to deal with it.

    I am convinced some guys are more aware, more sensitive, of flavor changes than others, or, maybe some guys just don't care, or are not bothered by it....possibly unaware that the tobacco flavors have gone ashy. For me, once that rank, wet, steamy, ashy flavor hits, it's all over. I let the pipe go out, cool off, dump out the spent tobacco, clean out the pipe and stem. I waste a lot of tobacco. Tobacco sellers love me. Can't stand the smell of used pipe-cleaners, stale, smelly ash-trays, and the smell of trash bags with old, smoked, pipe tobacco dumped into them.

    I know exactly what ryeguy is talking about. Some will suggest pipe smoking ain't for me. I'll stick it out for now. Don't imagine there's a cure. Pipes burn tobacco, tobacco flavor changes as it's burned.

    Frank

    Posted 1 year ago #
  16. cosmicfolklore

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    I think sumusfumus' comment is why I really like to dry my tobacco out to bone dry to almost bone dry. The last few puffs to me are the absolute best flavors of the whole smoke. A few aromatics, I just don't care for smoking all of the way down, but most, it is the last few puffs that I relish most. I think that drying helps. But, to each their own. If you don't like it, stop as soon as the experience becomes unpleasant for you. The coolest part of smoking a pipe is that we all approach it differently and no one can tell you how to smoke.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  17. ryeguy

    ryeguy

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    Thanks for all the replies.

    I've given my pipe a thorough cleaning this AM. We'll see in a few minutes what effect that has.

    I'm also planning to go to a tobacconist's within the next week, so I'll get a cheep cob and see what that does.

    I'll keep the charcoal filter in mind as a further thing to try. I'd rather not invest in a pipe with a filter chamber that has to be kept clean, so this will be a sort of last try--although what is a Dr. Grabow? $20?

    Deep clean your pipe. Any time I can smell that dirty pipe smell when standing near a rack of pipes, I know it's time to pull out the alcohol and bristle cleaners! That taste will invade any blend.

    That's the thing though. It is only certain tobaccos that I can't tame it in, and most surprisingly it tends to be lighter tobaccos that are most tamable. It has occurred to me that maybe the pipe is a little on the dirty side, and adding just a little extra dirty tar taste to every bowl; in that case maybe the lighter tobaccos (that have less of that flavor to begin with) fare ok, they basically just get shifted a bit to the robust side of the flavor spectrum, while tobaccos that are already strong get shifted into the overwhelming and unenjoyable end of the spectrum. (I'm imagining a sauce pan that adds the equivalent of 4 cloves of garlic to whatever you cook in it. Sauces that call for one or two cloves end up garlicy but still good; recipes that start out very garlicy end up inedible.) Further experimentation should tell.

    sumusfumus, you have given me consolation. It is really nice to know I'm not the only person who has experienced this. A brief bit of my pipe smoking bio:

    I've been smoking pipes on and off for about 15 years. I'd always end up putting it down and not going back because it just never seemed to end well. First there was tongue bite, second there was this issue that always left an unpleasant but strong taste in my mouth when I was done. I decided about a year ago to crack the puzzle (Lots of men have enjoyed pipes; they can't all have been experiencing what I'm experiencing, so I must be doing something wrong.)

    The tongue bite took a while to figure out (but at least there I was able to put a name to it pretty early--although I'm now convinced that there are a number of fundamentally different things that smokers indiscriminately label 'tongue bite'). After lots of painful pipes, I figured out that my problem was mainly moisture, with some cadence issues. As to moisture, I just dry my tobacco somewhere between point it turns slightly rough to the touch and the point it just starts to crunch under a tamper (but before it starts to crumble when handled); I also run a pipe cleaner through as soon as I start to feel the tell-tale tingle on my tongue. As to cadence, I discovered while investigating breath smoking that gently giving the slightest back-puff on the pipe is key (I know some will say this is terrible form--but watching other smokers I regularly see the little puffs coming out of the bowl that indicating a slight back-pressure). This back pressure--I theorize--both cools the smoke in the stem, and lets me keep the tobacco burning without having a minimum amount of smoke pass into my mouth every minute.

    . .. quickly morphs into that disgusting rank, ashy, taste, no matter what tobacco I smoke

    Have you tried a well-dried out Dunhill Flake? While all tobacco seems to me to turn darker and stronger as the bowl progresses, I can genuinely enjoy something like DF or OGS to the bottom and not be left with an overwhelming aftertaste.

    Anyway, I just got a new tobacco shipment this morning. So enough writing; I have tobaccos to explore. Thanks again!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  18. jpmcwjr

    jpmcwjr

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    As to cadence, I discovered while investigating breath smoking that gently giving the slightest back-puff on the pipe is key (I know some will say this is terrible form--but watching other smokers I regularly see the little puffs coming out of the bowl that indicating a slight back-pressure). This back pressure--I theorize--both cools the smoke in the stem, and lets me keep the tobacco burning without having a minimum amount of smoke pass into my mouth every minute.

    Well put! I think that's exactly right.

    I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
    Posted 1 year ago #
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    sumusfumus

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    rye....

    Just couldn't let your thread go without some supporting comments. Your smoking experiences virtually mirror my decades of sad attempts at learning how to enjoy pipe-smoking, and finding some tobaccos that would not turn my stomach. Thankfully, I found this forum, and many helpful members patiently answered my questions. You-Tube also helped me to learn HOW to smoke and what to smoke.

    Now, today, I can actually smoke my pipes and enjoy the experience. But I really don't smoke the tobacco all the way to the bottom of the bowl. I tried to do just that for years and was rewarded with a tongue full of tarry bitter, juices. Now, I quit as soon as the flavor of the tobacco turns rank and ashy. I cut my losses and will dump out the half-burnt charge, and no longer feel badly about wasting tobacco.

    Thanks for the tobacco suggestions. I do in fact, dry out all my tobaccos before smoking and the drying helps with cutting down on moisture build up/tongue bite. Plenty of pipe cleaners always ready for a quick run through the stem. No longer try to smoke aromatics.

    Now I can enjoy smoking my briars a lot more than before. It's a shame that I had to waste, and struggle through, so many years.

    Thanks for your interest....happy smoking to all.

    Frank

    Posted 1 year ago #

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