E. Roberts “Burley doesn’t age” is a common wisdom that any pipe enthusiast who’s begun building their cellar has certainly come across. The truth is that all tobacco will age, […]Read more
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- June 1, 2023 Looking Ahead, Far, and Near
In attempting to make sense of my years-long pipes and tobacco hobby, I have looked back and ahead through the mists of time. My muses on June’s contemplative journey with you are quotes from the Pulitzer Prize-winning and former U.S. Poet Laureate, Robert Frost, the great New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra’s unassailable philosophy of life, and the distinguished historian and writer James Michener. First the Poet: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Now the Catcher: “When you come to the fork in the road, take it!” And the Historian: “…millions of years ago, when the continents were already formed, and the principal features of the earth had been decided, there existed, then as now, one aspect of the world that dwarfed all others. It was a mighty ocean…” Until one day when… “with a patience difficult to comprehend… trees and vines and crawling things eventually crept.” These philosophies describe much of my passion for pipes. I realize this is an odd viewpoint, but it has been a truth-seeking trip as well as a personally rewarding adventure. Like others in Pipelandia, you, as I, have marveled at the many profound thinkers and remarkable artists who have taken up the pipe. This enthrallment fits with Pundit’s love of geology and how it describes not only the earth we share, but even us pipe smokers as well in some ways. For example, let me recall an experience far back in time. One bright morning, standing atop a high point in the Blue Ridge Mountains, my geologist friend pointed to a shimmering cerulean-hued rim illuminating in the distance. That range, he announced, was once the bottom of the ocean off the coast of North Carolina. How many years ago? I asked. Oh, the geologist replied, 600 million years ago, give or take a million or two, when the world was flooding, erupting, uplifting, arising. That’s known as the orogeny, or mountain building time. These spectacular events took place as massive tectonic plates muscled against each other for dominion. Thus did the valleys and ridges of our very own Blue Ridge Mountains form. In fact, all portions of our present land assembled in similar fashion and pace, followed by our vast oceans and all flora and fauna. Trees and oceans are the two major sources for many pipes we enjoy today. The burl of the flowering heath shrub is native to the Mediterranean and provides briarwood for our precious pipes. Briar burl is part of the tree’s root system. Seas off Turkey formed the ancient raw materials for meerschaum pipes. Meerschaum translated means “sea foam,” or sepiolite, from compressed prehistoric animal bones and sea shells. The silica-like glittery detritus of animal bones and sea shells settled on sea floors near Turkey over the eons. And why is Pundit staring out into space? It has to do with looking back over a lifetime of writing and pipe smoking, give or take a year or two. Like you, I have pipes dear to the heart. Smoked, loved, and retired as good soldiers must. And there were the missed opportunities. In the 1960s, a young Pundit failed to do the right sort of search and research for his pipes and tobacco obsession. Many famously named pipe brands sold for what today would seem bargain-basement prices. But out of reach of a poor college student. Looking at some of those same pipes today on estate sales has Pundit’s head a-twisting. Like those tectonic plates. And have you noticed the price of vintage tobacco? Yes, like you, Pundit cellared his favorite blends, especially the beloved and now departed McClelland’s brand. Not just some of them. An entire range of the treasured McClelland blends have faded over the horizon. The thrust of this epistle is today we have more opportunities to soak up treasure-troves of pipe and tobacco knowledge from online sites such as PipesMagazine.com, and a host of others—all of them rich in wisdom and advice. One can learn an encyclopedic amount of pipe knowledge in an afternoon. And this is not even close to addressing what can be found on sites selling estate pipes and tobacco. It’s enough to make your head swim in a sea of questions and answers. At the same time, many apex pipe prices that once seemed out of reach, have now risen to stratospheric heights. But now let’s switch from orogeny and ocean-formation to more historical happenings. While reading a bit of history recently, I was reminded once more of the generosity of Pipelandia. How many times have you joined your pipe-puffing buds in the local pipe club, and someone brought in a bag of tobacco to share all around? Perhaps even a bag of delicious, cellared Virginia leaf! Or, in some cases, be given a pipe with which to puff said aged blend? During World War I, Alfred Dunhill and the historic Dunhill Company sent boxes of tobacco and pipes to the boys in the trenches. If you have ever visited the graves at Verdun, the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, or the Somme-American Cemetery, you know why those pipes and tobaccos were important to the soldier boys. The boxes were from home, providing a bit of love and relaxation in a world in turmoil. Now for a notable pipe smoker of the past: Burl Ivanhoe Ives, was born June 14, 1909, and died April 14, 1995. Ives, as most of us old-timers know, was a folk-singing legend in the 1950s through the 1990s, and narrator of the classic and much-beloved 1964 Christmas television special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, which still airs around Christmastime to this day. In addition, he was an actor and country music star over six decades. His hit song, “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” became a holiday standard in the 1960s. Let us end June’s visit with a quote from the great, jolly singer: “When you’ve set goals and dreams, you don’t feel old.” Now that, my […]
- May 30, 2023 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 559
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 559! Our featured interview tonight is with Jason Smith. Jason has lived in Cincinnati most of his life, and his first influence towards pipe smoking was from his grandfather who seemingly only didn’t smoke his pipe if he was sleeping. This is the ninth in our series of interviews with “Journeymen Pipe Smokers” – guys that have been smoking pipes between five and 10 years, and Jason has a great journey to tell us about. At the top of the show, Brian will have a review of Solani Blue Label Blend No. 369. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- 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!