By Bob Tate
To dedicate or not to dedicate? That is a question that is asked frequently by pipe smokers. Before I give my answer to this question, I would like to explain a few things. There are some advantages to dedicating pipes to certain tobaccos and there can be some disadvantages as well. The reason why piper smokers wonder about this is; ghosting can and does occur while smoking pipes. A lot of pipe smokers wonder if the ghosting will affect the next blend that they smoke in the same pipe. Dedicating pipes to specific tobaccos mainly apply to briar pipes. Briar pipes have the most tendencies to ghost than other types of pipes. Ghosting is pretty easy to define and understand. It is when the flavor of a blend stays with the pipe after you have smoked it. It can and will affect the flavor and aroma of the next blend that is smoked in that same pipe.
Now a lot of you are going to say, “I must dedicate my pipes because I don’t want any ghosting to happen!”. Ghosting is going to happen to some degree or the other with every blend that you smoke. Since every blend tastes different, no matter how small the difference is, it is going to have some type of an effect on the next blend. Sometimes ghosting can be a good thing, so don’t get carried away just yet. When it comes to pipe smokers and pipe dedication, there are basically three groups;
Those who don’t dedicate at all (No Dedication*)
Those who dedicate a pipe to one particular blend (Strict Dedication*)
Those who dedicate pipes to different genres of tobacco (Genre Dedication*).
Now I will explain a little bit about each of these groups and some of the pros and cons to dedicating pipes to different tobaccos.
[Editors Note: The terms marked with an * are just terms that I made up to simplify the length of the wording.]
The pipers that don’t dedicate their pipes just don’t want to deal with the hassle of dedicating pipes to certain tobaccos. If they want to smoke a particular pipe, they just grab that pipe and load it with whatever blend that they want to smoke at that time. They don’t care about ghosting and actually like the way that some blends play off of each other that way. It is also cost efficient because you don’t have to own a lot of pipes to enjoy a lot of different blends.
•You can smoke whatever pipe you want without regard to the blend
•You can smoke whatever blend you want without regard to the pipe
•No hassle in picking out a pipe and tobacco combo
•Sometimes the ghost can have a really tasty effect on the smoke
•Less expensive (than Strict Dedication and Genre Dedication) – You don’t have to own a lot of pipes to enjoy a lot of different blends
•You will have a ghosting effect on other blends
•Ghosts may take longer to smoke out
•You may lose the subtle nuances of blends
•You may not taste the intended characteristics and flavors of a particular blend
The pipers that dedicate one pipe to one blend enjoy tasting every single nuance of a particular blend. They don’t want any other flavors intruding on the flavor of whatever blend that they smoke in that pipe. They don’t want any ghosting at all to take place. They have one pipe dedicated to one blend and that is the only blend smoked in that pipe until they want to change the blend. If you smoke less than ten different blends, this is OK. But if you are an eclectic smoker, who likes a lot of variety and smokes a lot of different blends, it will get very costly because you will need a lot of pipes.
•You will get the true flavor of a blend and every subtle nuance
•You will taste the intended characteristics and flavors of a particular blend
•There will be no ghosting effects on other blends because you smoke only one blend per pipe
•More expensive (than No Dedication and Genre Dedication) – You will have to own a lot of pipes if you enjoy smoking a lot of different blends
•If you want to smoke a certain blend, you have to smoke the pipe dedicated to it
•If you want to smoke a certain pipe, you have to smoke the blend dedicated to it
The pipers that dedicate pipes to different genres of tobacco may have the best of both worlds. They fall in between both of the other groups. They dedicate pipes to each genre of tobacco. They have pipes that are dedicated to English/Balkan blends, Virginia and Virginia/Perique blends, and Aromatic blends. This gives them a variety of choices of different pipes and tobaccos to choose from for a smoking combination. There is a small amount of ghosting that can happen, but since the pipes are smoked with blends from the same genre, the ghost can be smoked out very quickly. It is a lot more economical than Strict Dedication and not much more expensive than No Dedication.
•You can smoke whatever blend you want with any pipe from the genre dedication
•You can smoke whatever pipe you want from the blend genre
•Less hassle picking out a pipe and tobacco combo
•Ghosts are easily smoked out
•Less bowls (than No Dedication) to pick up on subtle nuances
•You can more easily taste (than No Dedication) the intended characteristics and flavors of a particular blend
•Less expensive (than Strict Dedication) – You don’t have to own very many pipes
•Light ghosting effect may happen
•Slightly more bowls (than Strict Dedication) to pick up on subtle nuances
•Slightly more expensive (than No Dedication) – You need to own a few more pipes
These are just a few of the differences between the groups. Don’t take them to be the ‘end all, be all’ for pipe and tobacco dedication. I wanted to give everyone a good starting point. Now back to the original question of “Should I or shouldn’t I dedicate my pipes to certain tobaccos?” The only correct answer to this is; do whatever makes you happy and is enjoyable for you. If you enjoy Strict Dedication, then dedicate your pipes that way. If you don’t enjoy dedicating your pipes at all, then don’t. Don’t get caught up in all of the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of pipe smoking. There are very few absolute rules, most of them are opinions. I will say that you should give every technique a chance to see if you would like it or not and whether or not it enhances your enjoyment of pipe smoking, but other than that, there is only one absolutely right way of doing things in pipe smoking. And that is; if you are enjoying it, you’re doing it right.