I remember back when I bought my first pipe … I hunted high and low for one that felt just right and looked good too. I knew that it had to be a genuine briar and for some reason I wanted one that looked just like the pipes my father and grandfather used to smoke.
When I found the one that was right for me I thought that I was set for life. I had the perfect pipe and I was sure that, baring accidents, this was the pipe that I was going to use for the rest of my days. Sure I’d heard of guys who had a collection of pipes and used them all but besides being a collector, why do you need more than one pipe, and how many do you need?
If all my grandfather needed was just one pipe then why should I be any different? Of course, back then just about everyone who smoked a pipe had only one pipe and it may well have been because the huge selection that’s available today wasn’t quite so available back then.
Of course there were plenty of different pipes around back then but maybe tobacco stores just didn’t stock them in the country towns where my folks lived. And then there was the fact that my forebears didn’t see the need for more than one pipe. As far as I can remember both my father and grandfather only ever smoked one blend of pipe tobacco and I don’t remember seeing all those different blends that we have today.
However things are very different now. We have access to an incredible selection of tobacco blends that my forebears would never have imagined and we also have access to far more pipes than they would have dreamed of. But just because we can buy all these pipes is that any reason why we should?
If you’re a very logical disciplined person that needs a reason to justify the purchase of another pipe, there are couple of good strong reasons why you should. You should have at least a small selection of pipes … and who knows, maybe your ‘selection’ will eventually turn into a ‘collection’.
For many people like myself, once you start getting a few pipes you like, it gets easier and easier to acquire more. They are like little friends that you love equally, but then you get some special favorites, and then the special favorites can change when you bump into a gorgeous specimen that just must have.
But let’s get back to the technical reasons why you need more than one pipe.
As I said before, there is a huge range of tobacco blends that we have access to with a broad range of tastes and special nuances. When you smoke a particular blend of tobacco and you want to get the real taste, you don’t want it to be spoiled by the lingering hints of the previous blend that you smoked in your pipe.
All briar pipes are porous and that means that some of the resins from the tobacco you’re smoking will find their way into the wood and remain there even after you’ve thoroughly cleaned your pipe. Now if you go on smoking the same blend there’s no problem but when you change to a different blend those resins that linger in the bowl of your pipe will come back to haunt you and the resulting taste of those resins and your current tobacco may be nothing like what you were hoping to taste.
To avoid this problem there are some who suggest that you should have a separate pipe for each blend that you smoke. Some people do this, but that may be going a little too far.
While some of us have more pipes than tobacco blends we smoke, or even if it’s vice versa, I think it’s a little too much to try to keep track of which pipe goes with which specific tobacco blend. However, what many people do is reserve certain pipes for certain types of tobacco. Some people just go as far as having some pipes for aromatic blends and other pipes for English style blends. You can go further by divvying up pipes for different types of English blends. For example, some pipes can be for Latakia blends only, since this is a tobacco style with a ‘smokey’ taste, while other pipes can be for a "VA/Per" (Virginia and Perique blend) which will be a little more sweet and tangy, and so on.
Rotating your pipes
These days I’m sure most experts would have been horrified to see my grandfather smoke just one pipe numerous times throughout the day, seven days a week. For him there was no such thing as rotation but these days it seems that it’s advisable to allow a pipe to rest between smokes and some would suggest that you really need to have a separate pipe for each day of the week.
The common wisdom today is that a pipe should not be smoked more than once in a day. Actually, you should let it ‘rest’ for a few days before smoking it again. A pipe gets extremely hot while being smoked. The heat causes the wood to expand. If you keep smoking it without letting it rest, this can cause problems like cracks and burnout – where a hole will burn through the pipe. Resting a pipe also helps the moisture that the briar absorbs to evaporate out. This helps prevent the tars and oils from causing the pipe to have a sour taste.
Some manufacturers offer "7-day pipe sets" with the idea that you will smoke one pipe each day of the week.
In many ways, how many pipes you have in your selection depends on your lifestyle and on how far you want to go to enjoy this pleasurable pastime. It’s also going to depend on how easy it is to convince the love of your life that you really do need to purchase just one more pipe to add to your selection. My trick is that for each new Dunhill or other high-end pipe I acquire, she gets a new piece of jewelry. Another one of my tricks that is less expensive is to just hide some of your pipes.
See if you start to experience what many of us have as we’ve evolved from smokers to also being collectors. There are just so many beautiful pipes and such a large variety of different shapes, sizes and designs. I think I’m going to go look at some pipes right now.