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The Emperor's New Clothes, Musings of a New Pipe Smoker

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  1. mudcamper

    mudcamper

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    New pipe smoker here. I am really loving this hobby, and thought I'd share some impressions from a relative newb's perspective. Perhaps this could be useful to other newbies.

    I have smoked cigars most of my adult life, albeit very infrequently. I smoke them by the campfire when I go camping, so just a few times a year. I wouldn't call myself a cigar aficionado, by any stretch. While I have always enjoyed the activity, and the scent, I have never really enjoyed the flavor. So I was curious about pipe tobacco. After doing a lot of online research, I recently decided to dive in.

    On pipes. I started out by purchasing a few Missouri Meerschaum corn cob pipes, and 2 Peterson briar pipes. While I am liking them both, I am finding that I prefer the cobs over the briars. They smoke cooler and dryer, they are easier to clean and maintain, and all this at a 10th to a 20th the cost! What's not to like? I will admit that the briars do have them beat when it comes to style. But even on this, the more I enjoy smoking my cobs, the more I appreciate the American Country style.

    On tobaccos. So like I mentioned, I've been an infrequent but long term cigar smoker, but have never particularly liked the taste. I have an hypotheses, which may be considered heresy, but here goes. The emperor wears no clothes. Tobacco smoke doesn't taste good. It really has no taste at all. I know. I'm wrong. I'm a newb and don't know what I'm talking about. But like the child in The Emperor's New Clothes, maybe it takes an unsophisticated rube like me to admit that tobacco smoke has no taste. But before I get burned at the stake, let me explain. I think that the majority, if not all, of the "taste" that people get from tobacco smoke is, in fact, the "smell". It is mostly (if not all) the olfactory sense that we get the "taste" from, not the tongue. Now I know different people are different, so maybe some of you really do taste that smoke with your tongues. But I don't. I really don't. And, on my second or third smoke, I made a conscious effort to sniff into my nose just a little of that smoke after I blow it out my mouth, and it was an Epiphany for me. My enjoyment went from good (just fun just from the activity) to tremendously great. I really started enjoying it.

    I have since learned about retrohaling. Scott Markwood has a really good video on it ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXZYxWwReOc ). But it is VERY DIFFICULT for me to do. I can just manage it, but it is forced and awkward. Perhaps I am different than others in this way, maybe my nasal passage is further down my throat or something, and that is why I cannot "taste" smoke. Regardless, if I just let a tiny bit of smoke into my nose now and again, I gain the benefit. Perhaps this information could be beneficial to other new pipe smokers out there that aren't getting any taste.

    I've tried aromatics, and non-aromatics, VaPers, and English blends. I've intentionally tried both cheap OTCs, and specialty tobaccos recommended on these forums. Thus far I prefer the aromatics. But what else would you expect from an unsophisticated rube? And I do not like anything that has Latakia in it. It just smells like the toxic char left over from an industrial fire. It kind of reminds me of the chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents used to make cheep Chinese rubber that is sold at Harbor Freight. It's definitely not for me. As for VaPers, they are OK, but just that, OK. They taste/smell very much like cigars. (But that's a good thing.)

    I've tried close 20 blends so far. There are a lot more aromatics in my list than non-aromatics, but that is because a tried just a few of each type at first, and then kept buying what I thought I'd like. Also there are several more commonly recommended English blends that I originally planned to try, but after disliking the first three I tried, I decided against getting more, especially since most of those only come in large tins. So here's my list. I rate them with a simple system, a plus if I like them, a minus if I dislike them, and a letter N for neutral or neither like nor dislike.

    + Captain Black Original (Aromatic)

    + Captain Black Royal (Aromatic)

    + Captain Black Gold (Aromatic)

    n Prince Albert (Non-Aromatic)

    n Carter Hall (Non-Aromatic)

    + Lane 1-Q (Aromatic)

    ++ Missouri Meerschaum Great Dane (Aromatic)

    n Orlik Golden Sliced (VaPer)

    n P&C MATCH Elizabethan (VaPer)

    - Missouri Meerschaum American Patriot (English)

    n Cornell & Diehl Bayou Night (English)

    -- Sutliff Burma Road (Frogmorton alternative) (Aromatic English)

    + Cornell & Diehl Berry Good (Aromatic)

    + Cornell & Diehl Founding Fathers (Aromatic)

    ++ Mac Baren 7 Seas Regular (Aromatic)

    n Mac Baren Vanilla Cream (Aromatic)

    + Lane BCA (Aromatic)

    ++ Lane RLP-6 (Aromatic)

    I've got just an ounce of most of these, or a 1.5 ounce pouch of the OTCs. And I've smoked most of them only once. So over time I will be sampling all of these again several times. I'll see if or how my opinion may change. And of course I welcome any advice, or recommendations of tobaccos to try.

    MudCamper aka Paul
    http://www.paul.net/pipes/

    Posted 1 month ago #
  2. chasingembers

    Embers

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    Welcome aboard Paul! Were it not for retrohaling I would taste nothing at all. Definitely sounds like you're an aromatic smoker. Here's a couple more to try. Duane

    C&D Autumn Evening
    Cult Blood Red Moon
    Newminster Blackberry Brandy

    Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you.
    -Edward Teach
    Posted 1 month ago #
  3. ssjones

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    Welcome aboard Mud! Looks like you are well on your way with all of those choices.

    Al

    Posted 1 month ago #
  4. workman

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    You're on to something there. When I talk about tobacco flavors I'm really talking about the cumulative flavor sensation from tongue, nose, throat etc. That said, there IS flavor in tobacco. It's subtle, but it's there. Try smoking for a while and then swallow your saliva if you have any. It tastes of tobacco. Also try focusing on the flavors when you light or relight. It's there, I tell you.

    Smoking is one of the leading causes of all statistics.
    Posted 1 month ago #
  5. cosmicfolklore

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    Welcome to the forum. If you can't taste it, then stick to the most affordable of your favorites so far. There would be no point in buying up Esotericas if they are on par with Captain Black for you. In a way, you're lucky. You know what you like, and how you sense them. And, you're tastes in pipes and tobaccos are very affordable. Win/win for you.

    Michael
    Posted 1 month ago #
  6. cortezattic

    Cortez

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    It might be helpful to read GL Pease's blogs on tasting. Here's a start (with internal links):
    http://pipesmagazine.com/blog/out-of-the-ashes/dont-think-of-a-purple-giraffe/

    I find myself sitting idly on the line dividing past and future,
    as if I could kill time without injuring eternity. -- Thoreau
    Posted 1 month ago #
  7. bnichols23

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    Welcome, mud! Some good insights there. [I'll cut you some slack for not liking lat bombs. }:) ... For now. ;)]

    Personally I'm an aro fan myself too, but I also like the heavy stuff. BTW, speaking of which, Duane's dead on about Blood Red Moon. There's also one called Cherry Bomb you might like. I'm not partial to it straight out of the tin; it needs to air out first. Tends to be a little sour if you don't. That might just be me, but like Popeye said, "I yam what I yam & that's all what I yam."

    You might want to try Captain Black Grape if you like the others. No, if you don't know of it, seriously, there really is one named that. We in the Frigate crew aren't particularly partial to it, but it does have its uses if you're trying to [ahem] "encourage" another ship's crew to, er, shall we say, "depart their present surroundings."

    The cleanup's a mess, true, but we always have a wait-list of new scurvy-dog wanna-bes for that. If they survive it still breathing,we keelhaul them to get the dregs out & then they'e "part of the ship part of the crew."

    Bill

    Head Black Frigate keelhauler, boss powder monkey, & troublemaker 1st class.
    Posted 1 month ago #
  8. mudcamper

    mudcamper

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    Thanks for the encouragement, advice, and kind words everyone. You all are a friendlier and more helpful lot than many other forums I've traveled.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  9. mso489

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    Welcome aboard. Looks like you're a natural match with Forums.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  10. hawky454

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    Basically what you are doing is called French Inhaling (taking the smoke up through your nose). You need to get retrohaling down, for me it was totally a natural part of smoking a pipe but I've learned that it doesn't come so easily for others, just like some people have a hard time whistling or rolling their tongues. . Of course you do taste most of the the tobacco with your olfactory senses but a part of that is combined with tasting it with your taste buds as well, just like with food, you need the two to work together to get the most enjoyment (taste, flavor) from your food and your smoke. I was a lot like you when I first started smoking a pipe, however I loved English blends with heavy Latakia and part of the reasoning for that was because I could actually taste it. I think it is very common for new pipe smokers to have a hard time tasting anything at first which is why a lot of people go with English or aromatics (though aromatics can be hard to taste properly at first as well), I've even noticed, after some health issues I put my pipe smoking on hold for a few months and when I came back to it, I had a small learning curve to relearn how to taste the tobacco, it didn't take near as long as it did when I was first picking up the pipe though. That being said, this is not an instant gratifying hobby, they call pipe smoke a gentle art for a reason, it takes time. For some, they can taste VA's right away, it took me a long time to learn how to taste those but once I came around, a whole new world opened up to me and it became a joy to try different blends and enjoy the different subtitles that different genres provide or even the differences between two Virginia/Perique blends can be vastly different. You'll even start tasting a difference by a certain cut of tobacco be it, ribbon, rope/twist, ready rubbed, flake, coin or plug, I prefer plugs because they offer a rich, depth and complexity that only that cut can provide. I think it is one of the greatest pleasures in existence, if you are just patient, you will get there. For now, I recommend what Cosmic said but try introducing new blends in from time to time. I think it's also very helpful to smoke individual varietals like, Burly's, VA's, Oriental's, Perique and even Latakia. This will better help you identify what you are tasting in blend.

    Now all that said, maybe you just can't taste tobacco and you never will be able to. It's like certain people can't hear certain pitches maybe you can't taste certain notes in tobacco, maybe you are anosmic to it entirely but let's hope not as it's such a pleasure, I really wish that everyone could discover the mysteries of a pipe and the joy that it gives. But then again, maybe we are all just jumping on the bandwagon and claiming that we are tasting something in tobacco that we are really not. The truth? Well that is for you to discover on your own, I can't make you believe me.

    Good luck on your journey and I hope that your olfactory fairies spread their magical pixie dust so that you can experience the true joy of tasting tobacco. A lot of us smoke for the flavor not necessarily for the nicotine, the nicotine is just a huge plus as I don't think de-nicotined tobacco would taste all that great, just like decaffeinated tea and coffee are an abomination.

    Oh and of course, welcome to the forums!

    Edit* I just took a look at your website, good content. Do you happen to know css by chance? It's an easy language that can help you style your page up some. If you are interested I can point you in the direction of some good, free tutorials, just PM me.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  11. maxx

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    This is definitely the place for intelligent and courteous conversation about pipe smoking.

    "Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect."
    ~ Samuel Johnson ~
    Posted 1 month ago #
  12. mudcamper

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    I just took a look at your website, good content. Do you happen to know css by chance?

    Yes, but I will admit that I am weakest on CSS. I am adept in the programing side of web development, JS, PHP, etc., but not so much in the style department. I spend the effort for my clients or employers, but tend not to bother for myself. The cobbler's children have no shoes!

    Posted 1 month ago #
  13. hawky454

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    Haha, it can be tedious.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  14. scloyd

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    Welcome Paul, I'm a big fan of Latakia and now every time I smoke it I'll think of Chinese rubber at Harbor Freight...thanks!

    You might want to try some Sutliff Molto Dolce and Rattray's Exotic Passion.

    Posted 1 month ago #
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    frozenchurchwarden

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    OP has a lot of good insight, but my first recommendation is to get some high quality Virginia Flake and let it age for a year. Day and night difference.
    Secondly, go get some straight Latakia, then compare it with a good G.L. Pease blend with lots of Orientals (I fell in love with Gaslight on my first bowl).
    “Latakia” is relatively flavourless (or maybe that’s just the bulk Lat that I got), but has an intense aroma. When you have the smoke layered on top of a foundation of some pungent Orientals it’s a very different beast.

    Posted 1 month ago #
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    philcabrera

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    Hey Just purchased the Peterson Donegal 80s and I’m trying to figure out how to remove the stem. I’m afraid I might break it, is it come apart before or after the silver band? Thanks>>phil

    Posted 1 month ago #
  17. jpmcwjr

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    Carefully twist the stem holding onto the bowl. That should show you where the tenon joins the mortise. Keep twisting until it's out. One should not push or pull a stem out.

    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 month ago #
  18. cajomu

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    I think that the majority, if not all, of the "taste" that people get from tobacco smoke is, in fact, the "smell". It is mostly (if not all) the olfactory sense that we get the "taste" from, not the tongue.

    True. But this is also the case with the food we eat -- most of the "taste" comes from the aroma of the food. Our tastes buds can only detect sweet, salty, sour and bitter. By comparison, we can detect about 10,000 different smells. The amazing range of tastes that we experience is the result of this. This is also why, when you have a cold and your nose is "stuffed up," food doesn't have much taste.

    So, tasting tobacco is just like tasting anything else.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  19. mudcamper

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    True. But this is also the case with the food we eat -- most of the "taste" comes from the aroma of the food. Our tastes buds can only detect sweet, salty, sour and bitter. By comparison, we can detect about 10,000 different smells. The amazing range of tastes that we experience is the result of this. This is also why, when you have a cold and your nose is "stuffed up," food doesn't have much taste.

    So, tasting tobacco is just like tasting anything else.

    Yes. This makes sense in principle. But in practice it somehow seems different to me. I almost think that when I bring smoke into my mouth, I am somehow blocking my nasal passage in a way that I must not be doing when I chew food. It seems so very disconnected. Thus no taste. Perhaps I should make chewing motions!

    Basically what you are doing is called French Inhaling

    Interesting.

    Posted 1 month ago #
  20. sablebrush52

    sablebrush52

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    Pipe smoking is a journey. Today's rules are rarely tomorrow's rules. I certainly get some of the flavor by mouth, but I also get a lot of flavor notes by snorking.

    It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. - Mark Twain

    It is pointless to argue with a fanatic since a dim bulb can't be converted into a searchlight. - Jesse Silver
    Posted 1 month ago #
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    foursidedtriangle

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    Cigarette smokers would love the taste of pure unflavoured tobacco. I once said that Latakia is the undisputed king of tobaccos, but if there was a queen it would be orientals. Have a try at something that is mostly orientals and the taste is very inoffensive.

    Posted 4 weeks ago #
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    bullet08

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    i do understand senses involved in taste. sight, smell, then taste. tongue does have regions for specific taste, but they are rather limited. smell and taste work together to give full flavor. yet, i do taste va, and perique. latakia and oriental, i need to try more. i know i have problem picking out latakia with taste, but i can smell it. i used to cook a lot. can pick out specific ingredients from eating something from restaurants. it takes lot of eating and experiences to identify some of the ingredients to recreate at home. i think it's same with pipe smoke. need time and experience to taste and identify specific tobaccos.

    Posted 3 weeks ago #
  23. jttnk

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    Welcome, I am relatively new to pipes as well about 1.5 years in. I hated Latakia for about a year. As my technique with packing and slowing down and sipping got better, more flavors presented themselves. Then I tried Edward G. Robinson, a crossover blend. It’s an aromatic with Latakia. It was the best thing I had ever smoked since I started. I now love English tobaccos, balkans, and other crossovers. My taste for aro’s has diminished. Bonus, I have a bunch of aros aging and waiting till my taste shifts again.

    Point being don’t toss any tobacco you don’t like at this point, your tastes change. You’ll open up new experiences over time, that’s the fun of this endeavor.

    Enjoy the ride.

    Posted 1 week ago #
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    mau1

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    Excellent post Mud, and discussion. I also like your attached file; good idea! Your not organized at all

    "He was loosely dressed, but tightly wound". Louise Penny.
    Posted 1 week ago #
  25. tuold

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    Tasting the flavors in tobacco seems to be a much more subtle experience than tasting flavors in food. We use food analogies to describe tobacco flavors but I found that to be very misleading in my early pipe smoking years. Like many of us, I started out smoking aromatic blends because I could easily taste the vanilla or cherry toppings and therefor not much else. Since the flavors that are present in non aromatics really don't seem to have definite food analogs I really had no idea what I was supposed to be tasting. For me, it took a lot comparing tobaccos to develop a sense for tobacco flavors. I still can't really tell what you a Balkan blend actually taste like but I can definitely tell a Balkan from a Virginia/Perique. So I'd say there is absolutely taste in tobacco smoke. It's just that it takes time to sort them out and judge them on their own qualities, not by something you have tasted before.

    It really wasn't until after I had been smoking a pipe for many years that I really enjoyed a cigar for the first time. It was a revelation for me at the time. The friend who had given it to me asked what I thought it tasted like. I could only answer him, "Like a steak dinner". It was just a full and satisfying smoke.

    The pipe is an instrument of civilization.
    Posted 1 week ago #
  26. mudcamper

    mudcamper

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    Point being don’t toss any tobacco you don’t like at this point, your tastes change. You’ll open up new experiences over time, that’s the fun of this endeavor.

    Definitely. I've jarred everything in small Ball canning jars for just that reason.

    I also like your attached file; good idea! Your not organized at all [:-)]

    Since I am really liking pipes and pipe tobaccos, I've decided to catalog my beginner's advice so that I can share it with any friends and family that express interest.

    It really wasn't until after I had been smoking a pipe for many years that I really enjoyed a cigar for the first time. It was a revelation for me at the time.

    Yes. I have wondered about that, if I will enjoy cigars more, now that I have had some experience with pipe tobaccos.

    Posted 1 week ago #
  27. rfernand

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    I strongly disagree with the “tastes like nothing” premise. Most obvious in pipes and cigars. In cigarettes, compare a Camel straight, a Dunhill Red, and a Ducados negro. There very different flavors straight from the leaf!

    Dunhill will return.
    Posted 1 week ago #
  28. mudcamper

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    I strongly disagree with the “tastes like nothing” premise. Most obvious in pipes and cigars. In cigarettes, compare a Camel straight, a Dunhill Red, and a Ducados negro. There very different flavors straight from the leaf!

    But cigarette smokers are inhaling. When inhaling, it's almost impossible NOT to get smoke to your olfactory nerves. Thus, full bodied "taste". Presumably, most pipe smokers are not inhaling. The smoke is getting to the tongue but not necessarily the olfactory. Thus little to no taste. (An onion "tastes" the same as an apple remember.)

    I have been practicing retrohaling, just a few times per bowl. It does come easier. It does deliver a "burst of flavor".

    Posted 1 week ago #
  29. rfernand

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    The perception of flavor is not exclusive to the mouth, we taste with our nose as well. Go eat something with your nose pinched, see what happens. Chances are you did this in your fourth grade science class and forgot about it. Kids lose their mind with this and start chewing onions

    You do not need to inhale to taste a cigarette. Treat it as a cigar (which I do when I get a hold of a pack of Ducados Negros or Davidoffs).

    The retrohale is indeed giving you more insight into the tobacco you’re smoking. Coincidentally, I’ve just discovered a very interesting spicy quality Of Half and Half that way.

    Posted 1 week ago #
  30. deckpiper

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    OP has a lot of good insight, but my first recommendation is to get some high quality Virginia Flake and let it age for a year. Day and night difference.

    Frozenchurchwarden: Any specific recommendations for high quality Virginia Flake?

    I've been looking for some Samuel Gawith Full Virginia Flake, but it is never available. Starting to wonder if the company has gone out of business. Maybe just not available in the States???

    Posted 1 week ago #
  31. jazz

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    Maybe just not available in the States???

    Yep. It's easy to get hold of here in the UK.

    Posted 1 week ago #

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