- Kevin Godbee
- Mar 9, 2021
- 1 min read
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 443! Our featured interview tonight is with Mike Zicha. Mike has some of the stereotypical pipe smoker attributes. He is contemplative, analytical, and smart. He has an MBA in statistics, and owns and leads his own market research firm. He also has one of the best tobacco review forms, which you can download here. We’re going to get pipe and tobacco geeky on this episode with a vertical tobacco tasting. At the top of the show in the Pipe Parts segment, we continue the theme of a technical show with “Ask the Pipe Maker” with Jeff Gracik. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
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The Pipes Magazine Radio Show features interviews with pipe makers, tobacco blenders, pipe and tobacco aficionados, collectors, and more. Episodes air every Tuesday.
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Mike Zicha Interview
Written by Kevin Godbee
View all posts by: Kevin Godbee
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- May 23, 2023 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 558
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 558! Our featured interview tonight is with Dr. Kyle Andrew a.k.a. “The Pipe Professor”. Kyle holds a PhD in the field of educational leadership. His “The Pipe Professor” YouTube Channel has 93 videos, and 2.3k followers, and he has been at it for eight years. He reviews all kinds of pipe tobacco, and does an occasional cigar review as well. At the top of the show we will have an installment of Pipe Smoking 101 covering the inside of the bowl, or the tobacco chamber. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- May 16, 2023 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 557
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 557! Our featured interview tonight is with Steve Davenport. Steve is a geologist working in the field of environmental consulting. This is the eighth in our series of interviews with “Journeymen Pipe Smokers” – guys that have been smoking pipes between five and 10 years. At the top of the show we will have Jeff Gracik reporting on the “Battle of the Briar” pipe making competition that was held at the Chicago pipe show. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- May 15, 2023 Bones to Pick
It doesn’t happen very often – I’m usually a pretty laid back guy – but there are times when I can get really cranky. Usually, it’s over a driver performing stupid human tricks on the overcrowded California highways. Or it can be some loudmouthed wackadoodle, clearly unfettered by even a rudimentary knowledge of the pertinent facts, regurgitating preposterous propaganda. Most often, it’s something I’ve read on the interwebs about things I care deeply about that raises my ire. Maybe I’m not quite as Jimmy Buffett laid-back as I’d like to be. A brief holiday in Margaritaville might be in order, or a cheeseburger in paradise. If you haven’t sussed it, I’m proudly wearing my cranky pants today. Why? A friend made me aware of comments made by a self-styled expert in which a tobacco was described as “garbage.” No, it wasn’t one of mine; the manufacturer and the blend are irrelevant. What set my neck hairs on edge was the fact that this “expert” hadn’t even finished one bowl of the blend, and felt fully and righteously justified in proclaiming it as worthy only of being consigned to the rubbish bin. We’ve all seen similar comments; they’re all over the interwebs. A brief scan of the review sites for any kind of product reveals similar silliness; the web has made it far too easy for people to say all kinds of nasty things without the restraint of being eye-to-eye with someone when they do it. This sort of thing drives me crazy in general, but when it’s about pipes and tobacco, the twisting of my knickers is soon to follow. I haven’t tried them all, but it’s highly improbable that any pipe tobacco being made today is deserving of this sort of damning. Every manufacturer of premium pipe tobacco on the planet carefully selects their leaf, and contrary to statements made by someone who should have known better, the leaf available to us today is as good, and in many cases better, than it’s ever been. By the time we make our selections, inferior leaf has all gone on to other products, and we’re choosing from high-quality, carefully aged tobaccos. All of us. We are actually afforded some slight benefit from the fact that our little corner of the overall tobacco market is a small fraction of what it was decades ago. The competition for premium leaf is not as high as it once was, so we get to choose from some really good stuff. The leaf we’re offered is carefully managed from grower to supplier, is properly cured and aged. It’s then skillfully processed into thoughtfully considered blends. The finished product may not be to our tastes, but that’s okay. There’s a lot of stuff out there that I don’t care for; that doesn’t make it bad. Different horses for different courses. Making statements like, “This is just crap,” is not only insulting to the people behind the product, it’s also insulting to the many who might actually like it. Economic forces pretty much ensure that products would not survive long in a crowded market if there weren’t people buying and enjoying them. Garbage? I’d be hard pressed to find anything currently produced that deserves that appellation. But, the bigger deal, the thing that really gets me het up is this. I’ve said it a thousand times. Okay, maybe not, but I’ve thought it at least that many times. If we smoke a single bowl of any tobacco in a single pipe, we actually know very little about it. Last month, I talked about the ghosts of tobaccos past that haunt our bowls, and in a way, this is sort of an extension of that, and this morning’s bowl serves as an excellent example. I filled a great smoking pipe with some wonderful vintage leaf, and the resulting smoke damn near set my senses on fire, and not in a good way. There are a few factors that might have caused this: my own mood, or the way I packed the bowl, or the lingering effects of my morning java, or what I ate for dinner last night, or, I dunno, maybe cosmic rays or space alien mind-control experiments. That very same tobacco smoked later in a different pipe was pretty darn marvelous. Neither of these two experiences reveals much about the tobacco itself. I’ll have finished the tin before I would be willing to tell its story, and, to be completely candid, there is not one tobacco that I’ve enjoyedl that hasn’t disappointed me in some way at least once along the road to grokking it. This doesn’t mean we have to smoke a dozen or more bowls of anything to discover whether or not we like it. But, putting something we don’t care for aside for a while, coming back to it another time still might not be a bad course of action. Tastes change, sometimes with the seasons or the years, and what suits us today may be very different from what brings us joy later, but most of us have a pretty good idea of what fits our tastes today and what doesn’t. I’m pretty confident in my own tastes after all these years, and if someone offers me a bowl of Cherries Jubilee, I can fairly accurately predict that I ain’t gonna like it, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s bad, and someday, I might change my mind and give it a fair shot. Pronouncing judgment without a trial would be in violation of the Pipe Smoker’s Constitution. (There isn’t one. Maybe there should be.) If a tobacco is in a style we enjoy, and we decide to try it, don’t we owe it more than a few minutes of our time? More than a bowl or two? After all, for some reason, we were enticed by it enough to buy it. Fact is, no matter how long we’ve been at this, pipe smoking remains an art of exploration. It’s all about experiences, […]
- May 9, 2023 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 556
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 556! Our featured interview tonight is with Benedict Goes. Ben is the Director of the Amsterdam Pipe Museum. He became the director in 2015, but has been involved with the museum since 2013. He was the Co-founder and Secretary of the Amsterdam Pipe Smokers Club from 2000-2010. The museum has over 2,500 pipes on display and “ten times that in reserve”. They were all collected by one man over 60+ years. So, next time your wife tells you that you have too many pipes, tell her that it’s all relative. At the top of the show, Brian will a tobacco review of the new Captain Black Platinum. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- May 4, 2023 Chicago Pipe Show 2023 Round Up
Would you believe that this year was my first year to ever attend a Chicago Pipe Show? It was. Most of the time, the Chicago show overlapped other conferences that I had to attend for my day job so I couldn’t fly out and buy pipes. So year after year, I gawked at pictures and wished I could be there. This year though, I managed to make it out, which was a good thing, as you’ll see later. This was the second year at the show’s new location, the Lincolnshire Marriot Resort, and as far as attendance went, it seemed like a success as there were many more people there this year than last. The trip from the airport (O’Hare) is about a 20-minute taxi or Uber ride down the road. Like previous shows, this show featured a climate-controlled smoking tent and not one, but two show floor rooms with tables galore. Many of you have been to the show year after year, so you’re used to these show summation articles written by me and my fellow compadres. So this year, I’ll focus on the new and interesting, and a slight slant on it since it was my first year attending. And this year was a doozy as we had the first ever “Reality TV Style” Battle of the Briar, which was the brainchild of Jeff Gracik (J Alan Pipes) . “The whole thing was Jeff’s brainchild. When he first pitched it to me I thought he was crazy. Turns out I was the one who was crazy!” – Steve Fallon I circled with Jeff and asked him how he conceptualized this new program: Jeff Gracik: I’m sure many pipe makers have had a similar idea—essentially the Iron Chef or Forged in Fire but with pipe making. The problem is the equipment required to make it happen. Last year, I revamped and led the show’s pipe-making seminar. The show committee was receptive to the changes I wanted to make, and the reviews afterward were positive. It dawned on me that we had all the needed equipment, and I felt like I had a little extra confidence to propose the idea to the show committee after the seminar went so well. After pitching it and receiving very positive feedback, I worked with Tim Garrity (the president of the CPCC) and Allan Boyd (head of pipe-making events) to make it happen. Everything fell into place as more people volunteered to support the event, with Steve Fallon generously offering to sponsor and co-host the Battle, Hasan Abid heading up the IT side, making sure that we could be heard and seen outside the room, Jeffthechef live-streaming the event on YouTube, and Adam and Nick from the GetPiped podcast filming everything for a documentary to be published in the future. It was a group effort that wouldn’t have been as successful without everyone pitching in to get us across the finish line. Each of the pipe makers brought their A-games to the event and, despite the “pressure-cooker feel” imposed by the 60-minute time limit, made really, really good pipes. Everyone watching, whether in person or by video in the smoking tent, was on the edges of their seats as the clock ticked down and Scottie rushed to get her pipe turned in with one second to spare! It was a blast! I’m so proud of everyone involved for what we created together, and I am looking forward to doing it again next year. Next, I chatted with the contestants Scottie Piersel, Jared Coles, and Tommaso “Tommi” Ascorti, asking them two questions – what was the most interesting or fun thing, and what was the most challenging thing about doing this contest? Jared Coles: The most interesting thing about the competition was that it existed at all! Pipe making isn’t one of those things where you can just throw down in the street. It takes a well-thought-out workshop, and to have three pipe makers together takes a VERY well-thought-out workshop. On top of that, it’s very rare that three pipe makers are in the same place at the same time, except at a pipe show. It also took a huge support staff to pull this off, Jeff Gracik and Steve Fallon, and all the rest of the guys from the Chicago pipe club. Chicago is basically the only show where this can happen because they have the equipment for the pipe-making seminars. It’s such a cool idea, and despite the difficulties of organizing and executing, I feel like it came off really well. Everyone I talked to at the show was jazzed about it, and everyone seemed appreciative that I participated. I feel very honored to have competed, and I hope that it will be an ongoing thing. The most difficult thing about the competition was balancing the quality of the pipe against the time. Technically it was a functional pipe at the very beginning, it had all the holes drilled, and it had a working stem. So the task of the pipe makers was to get an ATTRACTIVE, symmetrical pipe done in an hour. Normally I would spend more time really fine-tuning the shape, staining, etc. So I leaned in that direction, trying to execute the best shape while still finishing before the Bell. I’m amazed that all three of us completed a beautiful pipe in the time allotted: Tommy is a beast; he’s got incredible speed and is a helluva pipe maker. Scotty usually does her pipes on a lathe, and is more classic, but I was really impressed that she got out a very attractive pipe in a freehand environment. I had to leave the show a little early, but I left instructions for someone to bid on her pipe in the silent auction. Scottie Piersel: The most challenging thing for me was using those buffing wheels because I don’t buff that way. I never have. When I started out, I didn’t have a grinder. I didn’t have a buffing motor. […]
- May 2, 2023 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 555
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 555! Our featured interview tonight is with Josh Whitehead. Josh is an artisan pipe maker from Florida. When he is not making pipes he also does woodworking projects, crafts pens, does ink drawings, and makes bread. Josh has been making pipes on a part time basis for ten years. He works in IT for his regular job. At the top of the show, Brian will have a trip report on the Chicago Pipe Show from last weekend. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
Mike is a good friend and fellow club member, with whom I’ve discussed this stuff many times. But, damn, you guys had me quite riveted to this whole conversation. I can’t imagine that those who are new to these experiments and examinations weren’t greatly informed and entertained by Mike’s and your insights. Great job, gents!
I really, [I][U]really[/U],[/I] like Dan’s music! This piece was amazing, and an eloquent commentary on Benton’s painting [I]Bootleggers.[/I]
This show truly lived up to it’s claim of “always entertaining.”
Great episode, but for some reason the form won’t download into Word. Can someone double check this? I’ve tried both on my iPhone and Surface and have had the same result. I’d really love to see this form.
Sorry. I thought I had it fixed, but I didn’t. I asked Mike to save it as a PDF.
Here’s [URL=’https://pipesmagazine.com/Mike-Zicha-Pipe-Tobacco-Evaluation-FormVersion3.pdf’]THE FORM[/URL]
This form is a nice little tool for doing comparative analysis between different yet similar blends. Additionally I can see the usefulness of this tool when assessing various ages of one specific blend, in the effort to define proper aging decisions. I like that there is standardization of the review/assessment criteria.
Currently, I use the Hanna version which is less definitive on the assorted judgment criteria, so there is some potential for noise or inconsistency if the reviewer’s mind is not in the same place blend to blend, review to review. This form eliminates that potential for variation by channeling the path of thoughts on blend attributes. The document nicely allows for recording subjective notes; no question.
One enhancement would be a scoring matrix grouped by the categorical review criterion subsections. Although numeric rankings do contain some level of subjectivity, an assigned numeric value would be another data point for consideration for comparative decision making. Nonetheless this is definitely an improvement to what is currently out there.
Interesting and informative show.
Enjoyable show. I even liked the “Ask the Pipemaker” segment. I must confess that this show was a little too techy for me despite my love of techy things and my degree in Mathematics. I took statistics in grad school and had the lesson hammered home about Twain’s comments on the subject: “There’s lies, there’s damned lies, and there’s statistics.” Surprisingly I found listening to Zicha fairly informative and generally a pleasant fellow. Once a again a pipesmoker represented the fact that any position that is presented in a positive light devoid of ranting can be tolerated by the those of us who are less than tolerant of his position.