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The Pipe Test

(45 posts)
  • Started 2 years ago by toobfreak
  • Latest reply from dochudson
  1. toobfreak

    toobfreak

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    I was running a thought experiment the other day asking myself what people like about their pipes. I mean, some people go out spending $800 for a Dunhill, BBB or Barling, others swear by Savinellis, Petes, Big Bens, Ascortis, etc., and while a lot of it is antique, collector, and rarity issues, pride of possession, much of it is also cosmetics, surely somewhere in there is how they smoke too!

    At the same time I note the many people buying Grabows, cobs, Kaywoodies or some other lesser grade and swearing by them as well. I've seen the Grabow collectors. Indeed, you can get a beautiful, well made and fine smoking pipe from any of these lines!

    Now obviously, there is personal tastes involved, but briar is briar, it all comes out of the ground and before being harvested, there is little chance of knowing an exceptional bruyere from an average one, and while a high-end company might be very selective in the briar they choose, there is nothing stopping a no-name company from getting top notch briar (if even buy accident), and their carver doing a first class bang-up job in carving and drilling it too. Yes?

    So then there is the other issue: the old adage that with the better lines, you just get a higher likelihood of getting a perfect pipe. But then, if you bought a B-line pipe and it had an unsatisfactory issue, you could always send it back for another.

    That leaves us with the brand name. But does having a given company's name stamped on the shank mean that much to people? Obviously yes, but what if you can get just as nice a pipe in grade and quality for a lot less money from another company? I know a lot of people just don't care.

    Now, lots of people are willing to pay a certain price for the pipe they want regardless, but what I wondered, blindfolded, how well could people tell one brand from another /just by smoking it?/

    My idea and question is whether anyone has ever conducted a double blind test, individually or as a group, where they took six pipes all of identical size and shape, each from a different brand of widely varying cost, and blindfolded or however in a way that no one knew which pipe was which, smoked each with the same tobacco to see if they could even tell them apart? As they did so, picking pipe A as the best smoking, pipe B as the next best, etc. To be meaningful, repeat the experiment at least three times and see what results they got.

    Has anyone ever thought of doing this? And if not, why? I mean, considering the time, money and effort many people put into pipes, I find it difficult to understand, if even only for the idle curiosity of a club, etc., how the different pipes would fare smoked side by side in the dark?

    The idea here is that we all know what we think of different brands of pipes in the light of day--- the question is, why hasn't anyone ever tested them to see how they really deliver objectively? Everyone complains of the subjectivity of this hobby, here is one way to create some objective opinions. What if a $60 pipe consistently challenges a $300 pipe, or is even often preferred?

    Not predicting anything, just saying that with the large collections and many clubs, I'm surprised no one has ever tried this just to see how different pipes really stand up toe to toe when you know nothing about them other than the smoke they deliver!

    To Master Po: Is it not being able to see that makes you tire of life?
    Master Po: No! It is being able to hear!
    Posted 2 years ago #
  2. davet

    davet

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    Interesting, no preconceived biases

    $40

    $1480

    How much of a difference in smoking quality could there be ?

    Posted 2 years ago #
  3. aquadoc

    aquadoc

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    As someone who does not have a vast collection of pipes nor any of the quality name pipes, I know that my cobs smoke some blends better than my cheap briar and my lone beat up Savinelli is generally a smoother, more consistent smoke than my cobs but, my old, aged Weber pipes blow all of them away for consistency and sweetness. They just smoke better and seem to taste better. But, I have no high end pipes to compare them too. Would love to take part in such an experiment but who would do this? So many pipers do not even like the idea of estates because of the prior ownership aspect. I would love to know if a Peterson is really that much better than my cheaply restored estates or if Dunhill pipe smoke really does make me 2 inches taller and all my tobacco taste like the breath of angels.

    "If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and sex, you don't actually live longer; it just seems that way."
    Posted 2 years ago #
  4. aquadoc

    aquadoc

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    Davet, whoa!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  5. jmatt

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    $1480 for a Savinelli 320? That's a lot of money to pay for grain, right? Most Sav 320's are in the $100 to $120 range. And yes, the Rossi's are Savinelli 2nds.

    Back to the original premise: I think it's wrong to say that even a low grade pipemaker could randomly end up with a nice chunk of briar. Briar is harvested, cut to rough sizes, and graded long before any pipemaker purchases the briar. So the most premium of all briars generally goes to the top artisans who can charge a lot more for their pipes based on artistry alone. Then there's differences in how aged and light the briar is per volume, etc. All of the best gets sold off long before the Peterson's of the pipemaking world get their hands on any briar at all.

    But in the end, I think people are mostly paying for artistry and craftsmanship, not an objectively better smoke. But even with that generalization I'm ignoring the bottom of the barrel pipes with poorly engineered bowl and draft hole alignment, etc.

    Is a Van Gogh really any better than a Thomas Kinkade?

    Posted 2 years ago #
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    aldecaker

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    Sometimes I'm in the mood for irises, sometimes I'm in the mood for kitchsy nostalgia. Oh wait, we were talking pipes.

    A man who serves his country is a patriot. A man who serves his government is an employee. The two are not always the same thing.
    Posted 2 years ago #
  7. jpmcwjr

    jpmcwjr

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    Now obviously, there is personal tastes involved, but briar is briar, it all comes out of the ground and before being harvested, there is little chance of knowing an exceptional bruyere from an average one, and while a high-end company might be very selective in the briar they choose, there is nothing stopping a no-name company from getting top notch briar (if even buy accident), and their carver doing a first class bang-up job in carving and drilling it too. Yes?

    No to the first part, and yes, a no name could pay up for superior briar, but not an economical choice.

    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 2 years ago #
  8. aquadoc

    aquadoc

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    JMatt, that may be the rule now but there are beautiful machine made estate pipes with incredible grain, as good as any top artisans grain today. Maybe it was generally more available back in the day. Kashmir posted photos of a $95 Comoy that will blow your socks off. And I do not think his example is an exception.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  9. uperepik

    uperepik

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    I want to know where that $40 Ross is, I like it

    -
    "A pipe gives a wise man time to think and a fool something to stick in his mouth."
    C.S Lewis
    Posted 2 years ago #
  10. uperepik

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    Rossi my bad

    Posted 2 years ago #
  11. brian64

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    The inherent problem with attempting a "blind" test would be that not seeing the smoke tends to have a profound effect on taste...for most people at least.

    “Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.” – George Carlin
    Posted 2 years ago #
  12. chasingembers

    Embers

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    I want to know where that $40 Ross is, I like it

    https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/new/rossi/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=235309

    $40

    Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you.
    -Edward Teach
    Posted 2 years ago #
  13. warren

    warren

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    I'll speak only to my "wind down" evening pipes. Without the visual and tactile part of the pipe I might as well just pop an MCD cigarette into my mouth. Smoking blind would take away from the experience, greatly. My work pipes are more for the nicotine and my oral fixation gratification.

    A man without a shillelagh is a man without an expedient.
    Posted 2 years ago #
  14. theloniousmonkfish

    theloniousmonkfish

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    "Back to the original premise: I think it's wrong to say that even a low grade pipemaker could randomly end up with a nice chunk of briar. Briar is harvested, cut to rough sizes, and graded long before any pipemaker purchases the briar."

    It's wrong to think one of them could even randomly end up with a nice piece of Briar?

    Briar in Grabow pipes.
    "The sawyers, based on where the cut came from in relation to the burl edge, decided on the quality. Extra Extra, Extra, First. Mixed was "I don't know", or what missed the bag they threw it at"

    Fit and finish is the big difference to me. How much can vary between blocks except grain when they're cut from the same burl? Grabow will not sand to a high grit and lovingly buff each pipe to a shine and rather than discard they will slap filler in pits and seal with shellac but now and again, due to the high volume, nice examples do come out of factories.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  15. cosmicfolklore

    Cosmic

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    My own pipe collection ranges from artisans to factories, Savinelli to Stanwells to Beckers to Dunhills, old and new, all in the same two shape categories, bulldogs and Dublins, 20$ pipes to $1200, and which pipe I grab always depends on my mood and what I am going to smoke. But, after the new has worn off, I have learned how each wants to be smoked best, then each pipe is as equal as if I had picked them off the same tree. Only two of them have ever left me feeling buyers remorse. I don't equate price with smoking quality at all, AT ALL. I see price as being just the obstacle for me to get through to get a particular pipe by a particular brand or artisan. A Dunhill bulldog smokes no different from a $20 no name estate pipe, IMO.

    People talk about mechanics of the pipes. Sure, sure, sure, maybe I am a neanderthal who codgers scoops and uses a Bic to light all of my pipes, but any subtle nuances in mechanics, engineering, and what not is lost on me. I am not a princess and the pea sort of guy. Maybe other guys are. Good for them.

    But, to me price is just marketing and demand. Some are worth the marketing if owning something with a certain stamp on it, some may not be. Price rarely has any impact for me, unless it is just going to take me too long to save up to buy it.
    I may never be able to own a rich man's Porsche or Lamborghini. But, the most expensive pipes are still within reach, so it is possible for me to own the Lamborghini of pipes.

    So... make of it what you will...

    Michael
    Posted 2 years ago #
  16. mawnansmiff

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    I posed the question of the blind smoke a year or so ago and some folks swore blind they could distinguish a £500 pipe from a £50 pipe though I was not convinced and nor were other contributors.

    My collection of pipes is a very mixed bag with some premium brands (all bought as estates) and some less than premium including some 'basket' pipes. In all honesty I cannot say the premium pipes I own are any better smokers than my others, in fact of the ten or twelve regulars in my rotation the majority are lesser quality (defined purely by price) pipes and they smoke great.

    "the old adage that with the better lines"

    Toob, an adage by its very nature is 'old'

    Regards,

    Jay.

    ...take up thy stethoscope and walk...
    Posted 2 years ago #
  17. pipestud

    pipestud

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    My experience has been just the opposite of mawnansmiff. While not "always," my chances of getting the better smoking experience is with many of the artisan hand made pipes where the maker uses a higher quality of briar that has been properly cured and pays attention to the drilling, the hand work on the stem to make it a comfort and joy to put in one's kisser, and the overall aesthetics (which enhances the smoking experience for me). There does come a certain point where you start paying for the nomenclature rather than the actual smoking presentation. And there is where your mileage will vary.

    Pipestud
    Posted 2 years ago #
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    aldecaker

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    Low-end pipes are usually not that great. Low-quality pipes are never that great. High-quality pipes usually are that great. High-end pipes are simply a scam.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  19. jpmcwjr

    jpmcwjr

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    So, could we conclude that probably the quality of the smoke itself—in isolation from all other factors— doesn't vary pipe to pipe as long as the briar is cured and is reasonably well shaped? Of course, packing and drying all done expertly for each smoke. And, natch, YMMV!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  20. kirkland

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    Several years ago I brought up this same "challenge" on another pipe forum and also would have liked to include a corncob pipe in the mix along with factory (high end and low end pipes)... and artisan made pipes. I thought there could be some issues as some pipesters would be able to distinguish the higher end pipes due to the better construction of the feel of the mouthpiece (button shape, finishing, etc) so that may have skewed he stats.

    I also brought up a challenge wanting to see if blindfolded smokers could pick out their favorite tobacco blends.

    On both topics I got very little responses to the post and zero poeple willing to undergo the challenge. I think it'd be a cool experiment to do at a pipe show. But how many people would be willing to possibly find out that they couldn't pick out Stovehaven from OTC ERR or realize the better smoke came from a cob instead of a $800 artesian pipe.I'd also like to think there would be a few guys who could nail them dead-on. But who really knows unless they are put to the test.

    I did a blindfolded beer test once and had some friends attempt to pick out their favorite beers. They all failed horribly. After many MANY failed attempts to pick out the brands they did a great job picking out the ugliest girls in the bar though. Beer goggles are wonderful things.

    Posted 2 years ago #
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    aldecaker

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    John, the engineering of the airway to keep gurgling to a minimum is important, too. I'd rather smoke a cob than put up with a thousand-dollar art piece with a miniscule draft hole that gurgles like a son of a bitch.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  22. rigmedic1

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    I don't think I could tell the difference in a blind test. Over the years, I have let the pipe determine what tobaccos smoke best in each one, and sometimes a stellar combination reveals itself. But that may have more to do with the tobacco, the time of day, and ambient air temp than the pipe itself. BUT I have found that many cheaper pipes without well cured briar are hotter to the touch; cheap stems feel funny in the teeth, and break in periods vary. A lot of the reason that I buy estates is that the break-in is already done.
    Right now, I am smoking an estate Ferndown. The smoke flows freely, the bowl still feels cool after 30 minutes, and I taste the Virginia and Perique within. By comparison, my Rossi became very hot, and clenching the stem is uncomfortable. The air flow on the Rossi seemed restricted, so I pulled the stem and beveled the tenon, which improved it greatly. It's more smokeable, but still not as good as the Ferndown. And the Rossi, while smaller, is near the same weight as the Ferndown.
    My Kaywoodie from the 1930's smokes just as well as my Dunhill. I have a Dr. Grabow that I bought new in the 70's that is terrific. I also have a Butz Choquin from 1983 that has yet to smoke well, except during the winter. I should probably sand the coating off, like I did with an old Yellowbowl. The Yellowbowl was hot and terrible till I sanded the varnish off.
    And I in spite of all that, the best smoking, most flavorful pipe I have, is a Reddog from Basil Meadows. The Reddog give a cool, flavorful smoke every time, no matter what I smoke in it.
    Cost isn't necessarily a determining factor, but quality of briar, workmanship, and the right tobacco seem to make a difference.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  23. jpmcwjr

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    Alde- By shaping I include the airway, but I could have made it clear, and didn't.

    As to a test for smoke quality only, you'd have to remove the feel of the stem. Hence a rubber tube attached to the bit... Gross!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  24. toobfreak

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    We have to assume that all pipes are similar enough in size and shape that blindfolded, you cannot reasonably tell which is which. So I am assuming classic shapes and not some fancy artisan shape. While I have seen some amazingly beautiful grains on artisan pipes selling for high prices that were stunning to look at and it ate my heart out wanting them, I'm not yet convinced that beautiful birds-eye makes for a better smoke than some other.

    I've bought estate pipes that had gorgeous looking grain--- it looks like as nice a briar as 80-90% of what I see out there and they smoke great, so I'm not sure about only a few select companies getting the very best briar--- maybe the very best in looks that they could charge more for and maybe better seasoned, but is that to say that the other company does not then let the briar rest and season further on their own? And what about the natural age of an old estate? Surely it is seasoned by now.

    We are not talking about any new pipes--- all pipes have to be broken in enough so as to minimize as many variables as possible. The question is how much hype from top list pipe companies actually really does contribute to a superior smoke and how much is just wishful thinking and/or marketing? Not that I'd expect to get many bad smokes from a really good pipe, but rather, how close average and even factory pipes really do come, or can come, assuming they were made well?

    Posted 2 years ago #
  25. ashdigger

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    I obviously failed the test. I buy pipes to smoke and since I own very old pipes up to modern artisans and I just smoke them without thinking. I'd fail any thought process about which is which.

    Ubi Ignis Est?
    Posted 2 years ago #
  26. jpmcwjr

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    We have to assume that all pipes are similar enough in size and shape that blindfolded, you cannot reasonably tell which is which.

    No we don't.

    And what is it you're really unsure of? The answer seems clear to me, and I am also sure there will never be a scientific approach to prove whatever.

    Posted 2 years ago #
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    aldecaker

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    Not when you've got sickos like Cosmic running around claiming they like the taste of an un-broken-in briar! Blecch.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  28. aquadoc

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    Wearing a pair of denim/leather work gloves should solve the touch/feel ID issue. You might be able to discern a bent from a straight billiard or a poker, etc. but that would be about it.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  29. cosmicfolklore

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    To make it interesting, you could have standard bulldogs of various makes, or billiards. I would be even more amused to see guys not be able to tell a $5 eBay bulldog from a brand new Dunhill bulldog, or billiard, etc... Then wearing gloves would be all that it would take. Comparing a bent billiard to a zulu, no matter what the two makes are would open up even more questions. Was it the shape that was superior, etc...

    Posted 2 years ago #
  30. toobfreak

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    Right. All pipes of close enough shape that they don't give away their identity by holding them. If you have to, wear a thin glove. You are blindfolded. All the same tobacco. All pipes are broken in and good smokers. Someone hands you one pipe at a time and you smoke it for a while, you score them by your smoking impressions, 1 thru 6.

    Then change the order of the pipes, you smoke them again. Do you pick the same ones all three times as the better smokers? The same ones as the worst? If there is a fair consistency on the ones you pick best to worst, that is significant, scientific. But the interesting part is if you do that, then /which ones/ do you pick as the better smokers? If the better (higher priced) ones score higher, that is significant, but what if they don't?

    I can't believe people pay hundreds and thousands of dollars and excruciate over the tiniest details of pipes and various blends yet would not wonder if they are really getting a better smoke with their higher-end pipes. If not better, then maybe different, more liked? Not to prove anything, but just out of curiosity to KNOW! How often do people say they cannot find any info on this or that or everything is just subjective opinion--- here is a perfect opportunity especially for clubs and others deep into pipes to make a real contribution into what is apparently an unexplored territory of producing something of a meaningful study of shedding real light on the effects of briar, etc.

    Or maybe NOTHING will come of it. Inconclusive, nothing proven. But that is how it sometimes works out.

    Naturally, the more this is repeated, larger number of pipes, more repeat sessions, more groups of people involved, the more meaningful the results. Looked at a different way, instead of always reviewing tobaccos, this would be more of a review on pipes themselves, and when was the last time you read a PIPE review? Perhaps way overdue?

    Posted 2 years ago #
  31. cosmicfolklore

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    There are some guys in this world with small-tool-syndrome that will only ever buy big named stuff. Drills, cars, car tires, ties, blue jeans, shoes, etc... they have never stepped out of their world of big name brands enough to really see what the difference is.

    Sometimes it matters to me, or used to. I used to buy Craftsman tools because I was constantly using them, and breaking a wrench makes for less work that day. But, now I don't even think there is a single tool that I would state my life on as being any better than the cheapest Walmart tool. When I took my wife's Krups coffeemaker apart, I found that there is absolutely no difference in the way it works compared to an $18 Mr. Coffee. etc, etc... It just depends on what is important to you. Like I said, some guys need quality to get through a project, and some need name brand to distract people from their very small parts.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  32. kirkland

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    As to toobfreaks last comment? This is why I got ZERO interest from pipesters from a large pipe forum when I presented this "challenege" many years ago.

    Can you imagine a guy with "small tool syndrome" being blindfolded and picking out the $10 corncob pipe as being the best smoker ?

    Posted 2 years ago #
  33. calabashed

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    The problem with blind tests for any form of connoisseurship is that taste is totally subjective. Your expectations play as much of a role as the actual sensory information in what the brain generates as taste. It would be possible for someone to prefer a cheaper pipe in a blind test, then upon doffing the blindfold and trying again say with complete honesty that they now think the more expensive pipe smokes better.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  34. cosmicfolklore

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    It would be possible for someone to prefer a cheaper pipe in a blind test, then upon doffing the blindfold and trying again say with complete honesty that they now think the more expensive pipe smokes better.

    Exactly, and knowing this, is exactly why no one ever needs to do the blindfolded test. Guys who only ever buy the most expensive pipes are terrified that this might be true, thus they would never submit to such a test; and the rest of us knows that whatever we discover is much less interesting than just enjoying the hell out of the pipes that we do have.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  35. crashthegrey

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    I believe that the line between all pipes would be heavily blurred in a blind test, but it is nearly impossible to pull this test off as broadly as it should be. I don't really care about price anymore. I tend to buy artisan pipes from people that I know. If a pipe smokes exceptionally well, I continue to buy from them, knowing that if one doesn't, they'll fix it or refund me. It's about comfort level for me now.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  36. toobfreak

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    I only thought of this initially because of the many marketing claims over the years--- everything from the various stingers and chambers to the class of briar used. I've read many claims that this or that makes for an improved smoking experience. Of course, people who buy a rather upper end pipe of higher cost that they know great pains went into making will tend to think well of them and be highly satisfied so long as they smoke well because they are interested in more than just the utility of the pipe.

    The problem with blind tests for any form of connoisseurship is that taste is totally subjective. Your expectations play as much of a role as the actual sensory information in what the brain generates as taste. It would be possible for someone to prefer a cheaper pipe in a blind test, then upon doffing the blindfold and trying again say with complete honesty that they now think the more expensive pipe smokes better.

    The whole point of the test is to take away expectations. In the blind test, you don't know what to expect. All you have is your tongue and nose. Taking the blindfold off and now thinking you like xyz pipe KNOWING which pipe is which is irrelevant and defeats the point of the experiment. I tend to agree with crash that just having someone stick a pipe in your mouth and say: Puff! Then having to guess whether you thought you liked your fav tobacco in it more or less than pipe B might be harder or more unexpected in the results than many think.

    Of course, this has nothing to do with buying custom designer pipes that you pay extra for their beauty and one-of-a-kind uniqueness. These are meant as fine tactile craftsmanship far beyond just the smoke itself and given their care, I should think almost always smoke good to great enough to justify their owning. But I think I agree with Cosmic's statement that there is probably no absolute connection between cost of pipe and how well it smokes. I offer as support of that the many chewed up, bowl-cracked and cake-laden pipes shown here occasionally that the owner puts forth as his best smoking and most preferred pipe.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  37. sablebrush52

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    but briar is briar,

    Well, not exactly. Briar is harvested from a variety of locations and its characteristics vary in terms of hardness, grain structure, porosity, density, color, etc, as a result. The age of the burl when harvested has an effect on the quality of the capillary structure that we see as grain. There can be variances from burl to burl and even within a burl. The climate conditions under which the burl formed can have a profound effect. There's no end of variations.

    So even if one created a line up of pipes of closely similar chamber shape, broken in with the same blend for the same amount of time, packed with the same blend in exactly the same manner, there would be no definitive result, not just because the briar varies, but because the sample used would only amount to a dip in the river. Perhaps if one lined up a hundred examples of each make, all of the same model, broken in with the same blend, packed the same with all having the same blend, a pattern might emerge.

    Quality from a single manufacturer varies. I own about 93 Family Era Barlings and they don't all smoke the same. They're all good smokers, but there are 6 or so that are exceptional smokers. And that was true of the Dunhills I've owned, though I found the Barlings more to my liking. I suspect that's true of any maker.

    Then change the order of the pipes, you smoke them again. Do you pick the same ones all three times as the better smokers? The same ones as the worst? If there is a fair consistency on the ones you pick best to worst, that is significant, scientific. But the interesting part is if you do that, then /which ones/ do you pick as the better smokers? If the better (higher priced) ones score higher, that is significant, but what if they don't?

    It's pretty well understood that price doesn't bear a direct correlation to smoking quality. A $30,000 Bo Nordh doesn't smoke 100 times better than a $300 pipe. I remember a conversation I had a few years ago with a collector of ultra high end pipes, who owned Nordhs, Ivarssons, Chonowitchs, etc. I point blank asked him this question and his response was that they smoked as well as his Grabows. One of my favorite pipes is an Ehrlich that I bought for $2.

    So the reasons that some pipe smokers are willing to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars aren't just about the chamber. It's partly aesthetics, partly the comfort that a well carved stem and bit provides (keep in mind that carving the stem and bit can involve more work than carving the bowl), partly pride of ownership, partly more durable materials, partly better air flow from a carefully drilled and finished airway, partly better fit and finish, partly historical interest if the pipes collected are vintage, and partly insanity.

    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 2 years ago #
  38. cosmicfolklore

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    Aesthetics means a lot to me. The pipes that I have spent the most on, have the most unusual designs. I'd never spend that kind of money on a plane ol billiard, even if it was promised to smoke with every blend tasting like the essence of Esoterica.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  39. toobfreak

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    snip

    Briar is harvested from a variety of locations and its characteristics vary in terms of hardness, grain structure, porosity, density, color, etc, as a result. The age of the burl when harvested has an effect on the quality of the capillary structure that we see as grain. There can be variances from burl to burl and even within a burl. The climate conditions under which the burl formed can have a profound effect. There's no end of variations. I own about 93 Family Era Barlings and they don't all smoke the same. They're all good smokers, but there are 6 or so that are exceptional smokers.

    Great statement, Jesse! That was the point I was trying to make, or ask, that knowing all the above one cannot (or can they) look at a pipe and know in advance it will be one of those exceptional smokers? I don't think so, not until you actually smoke it. My thought is those rare great smokers might occur most anywhere for a variety of reasons, and maybe that is the best argument why such a blind test has never been done--- like you say, you need a LARGE sampling, the more the better, and that would be quite an undertaking. Still, I like the idea.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  40. theloniousmonkfish

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    To me the price paid for a high end or artisan pipe is mostly in the stem, the rest is how fancy the pipe looks. Briar is a natural thing and subject to all manner conditions/variables. It's not a metal we can purify or alter, it came out the ground how it is and there is no way to know what's inside the block beforehand. Lots of Briar gets trashed making pipes.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  41. sablebrush52

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    That was the point I was trying to make, or ask, that knowing all the above one cannot (or can they) look at a pipe and know in advance it will be one of those exceptional smokers?

    Correct, which is where the reputation of the maker comes into play. And even then, there's no guarantee.

    Barling went to extreme lengths to ensure the quality of the wood that it used, much more so than its competitors. They conducted their own harvesting operations in Algeria, did their own seasoning of the wood, their own cutting, their own shaping, etc. They literally controlled the product from the ground to the sales counter to the best of their ability. And while they produced excellent pipes, their product quality still varied. You don't know how well the pipe will smoke until it's smoked.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  42. brian64

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    IMO, the 5 senses are not entirely separate...they function in concert to a great extent. For those of us fortunate enough to have all 5 in working order, the only one that does not play an objective role in pipe smoking is hearing.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  43. theloniousmonkfish

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    "For those of us fortunate enough to have all 5 in working order, the only one that does not play an objective role in pipe smoking is hearing."

    What about the snap, crackle and pop aromatics?

    Posted 2 years ago #
  44. brian64

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    What about the snap, crackle and pop aromatics?

    Good point. Revise as follows:

    For those unfortunate enough to smoke aromatics, all 5 senses are objectively involved.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  45. dochudson

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    I have wondered why pipe smokers are so concerned with how much folks are paying for their pipes

    Every JTCooke pipe I get the email about seems to sell instantly in the $800+ price range and I just can't see them as $800 pipes but obviously someone does.

    In a blind test I'm willing to bet very few could tell the difference between 40, 50 or 60 year old ladies some which are butt ugly snaggletooth and some very nice ladies.

    I Enjoy Aromatics
    I Enjoy Peterson Pipes
    Posted 2 years ago #

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