Pipe Smoking Lifestyle

Creation Mode

Russ Ouellette
I’ve been absent from Pipes Magazine for a while now.
It’s not that I don’t want to write anymore, it’s been a sheer matter of lack of time. I’ve been involved with 11 new blends that have hit the market in the last few months, and I’ve got dozens more in the works. But that’s not the only thing that’s kept me hopping.

I’m much more involved, these days, with the day-to-day operation of our company, so I’ve been getting my hands dirty with developing three new lines of pipes and new accessories. I’ve been working on new pipe cleaning products, and the results thus far have turned out great. What I’ve tried to do is to identify some of the drawbacks to some of the mainstream products and find a way to eliminate, or, at the very least, mitigate those properties.

What all of this has done is to give me a new perspective on our pastime, and has allowed me to become more creative. This past year has been rather intense so I haven’t really had the opportunity to take a step back to analyze. But now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, some things are more apparent to me.

The first thing I’ve noticed is that there’s been a lot more innovation in the pipe industry in the last ten years than I can remember in any other decade. The new engineering approaches that have become widespread are leading to pipes that smoke incredibly well. Certainly, there’s a lot of creativity in shapes and finishes by various pipe makers. More blends are surfacing that fly in the face of convention, but at the same time, some great traditional-style blends are being brought to market.

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The diversity in products today is amazing. There are phenomenal large-scale production pipes. Our new
Argo pipes are classically designed, incredibly light and utilize a larger drafthole, so they smoke cooler, drier and stay lit more easily. They share those traits with new brands such as Icarus and Neptune, so modern engineering is now available to more pipe smokers because the pipes are affordable.


Russ Ouellette in the shop working up a blend.

When I look at the hobby as a consumer, I’m amazed at the number of choices we have. Regardless of your tastes, there are a lot of options in every segment of the market. From the reliable and inexpensive Missouri Meerschaum corn cobs to the elegant and intricate designs of master pipe makers, there are a plethora of options for everyone.

Tobacco has changed too, but some of the changes are counter-intuitive. It would make sense that, since a lot of farmers have stopped growing tobacco, the overall quality of pipe tobacco would decline. But with the numbers of pipe smokers remaining fairly level, or modestly increasing and cigarette consumption continuing to wane, pipe tobacco companies have access to fine leaf. Creative thinking has been used to develop new blends unlike anything previously available.

I have so many projects on my plate that I’ve had little spare time, but that’s fine because this has been the most productive period of my life and the opportunities seem limitless. As I continue to work on these tasks, I’ve come to more greatly appreciate the people I know and get to work with on an ongoing basis. This is the only industry that I’ve been involved in where people from competing companies will offer solutions to problems with a competitor. Maybe that’s the reason why I don’t mind long hours. When you feel that you’re even a very small part of such an interesting hobby, full of top-flight people, it makes it really easy to get up in the morning.

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Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe and www.pipesandcigars.com in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at russo@pipesandcigars.com or by calling 1-800-494-9144 on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm and Friday from 1 pm to 5 pm.

See our interview with Russ Ouellette Here

 

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    lordofthepiperings
  • March 5, 2015
Great article! Good to hear from you again Russ. We missed you at the West Coast Pipe Show in Las Vegas back in November. Glad to hear you're busy with some amazing new blends and pipes. Can't wait to give them blends a go. Keep up the good work!
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    gloucesterman
  • March 5, 2015
Your observations are right on. I can't remember a time when more innovative thought was being introduced to pipe smoking. It's one of those things in life that is not just a pastime, it's a passion and today's crop of innovators clearly seek to expand traditional horizons. I dare say history might well view this period as the "golden age" of pipe smoking. There have been times when more people smoked pipes but today there is a true passion in both the purveyors and consumers than I can recall. Creative suppliers, an appreciative consumer base and the internet to quickly spread the word have combined to take pipe smoking to a new level and I for one am delighted they have. Keep up the great work.
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    oldtom
  • March 6, 2015
Good to hear from you again.
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    Cortez
  • March 6, 2015
Thanks for taking the time to keep in touch with us. Above all else, take care of yourself -- we all are too dependent on your skill to suffer any setbacks.
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    ststephen
  • March 6, 2015
Sorry for the non-sequitir, but here's a pipe-smoking author I just read 2 very good novels by:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gardner_%28American_writer%29 Some of his characters are pipe smokers too. John left us a little early; I'm sure he had many more good books in him.
That's a nice pocket-watch. Such watches are more uncommonly seen now than pipes and pipesmokers- Whaddyaknow! Pipe-smoking isn't dead, it just slipped out of favor for a bit....
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