Briar-Brained for a New Year

Fred Brown
You’ve often heard people claim how they are "right-brained," or "left-brained."
I won’t go into some of the other "brain" word games, i.e., lame brain, no-brainer, brain-dead, scatter-brained, bird brain, etc., etc.

It has been well established now by neurologists that right-brain/left-brain thinking is pretty much brainless. Those of us with enough gray matter to fill a thimble tend to think with at least one side or the other of our brain, most of the time.

But for many of us, it is necessary to use the front, back and all the sides and lobes we can get when it comes to thinking.

Now that I have established the ground rules, I would like to start the year 2016 with a revelation and a number of resolutions and a couple of predictions. I am divulging for the first time right here on that I am briar-brained. Yes, sir, right down to the ol’ burlwood.

It is not that my brain is divided into two hemispheres where math and emotions of some sort take place. My brain is in the shape of a bent billiard in the left hemisphere and a straight billiard in the right hemisphere, which is where most of my genius lies, so to speak.

Now, for all you other briar-brained folks, here are my resolutions and some predictions for 2016. Remember, you read it first here from the ol’ half brain-dead briar brained Pipe Pundit:

I resolve to smoke more, not less in 2016. The zealots be damned; it is full Virginia ahead.

My most sacred 2016 resolution is to purchase at least two-to-four pipes, all from great artisans. (Note to self: ease into the artisan ranks from the lower end before heading for the deep part of the pool. Your bank account will thank you.)

This will be the year that I break all known records for smoking Va/Pers.

Hold the Latakia, boys, we are headed for the Arcadian perique barns where barrels of tobacco remind you of Tennessee’s and Kentucky’s finest sipping whiskeys. They have that beautiful coloration and mash looking stuff draped like moss on Florida oaks.

First prediction for 2016: Tobacco High Priest Russ Ouellette will astound us again with a unique blend. Also, of course, look for the master of the universe G.L. Pease to birth another in his series of brainy blends. And if Joe Lankford of the Seattle Pipe Club brews up another blend in the vintage of Mississippi River, Plum Pudding or Deception Pass, he will enter the realm of Middle-earth Master.

I further resolve to try more aromatics in 2016. I’m not a purist when it comes to tobacco. I once smoked a raw leaf. (Note to self: never, ever do that again.)

Aromatics are not the bad bogey of many characterizations. They just take a little getting used to, like a new pair of cowboy boots, sans horse, as it were. I like aros for a change, especially in one of my beloved cobs. You smoke an aro in a cob and you will think you have just added brain cells.

Second prediction for 2016: We will see funkier pipes that look as if they might flap and fly off, gobble down a frog, ignite both engines at once, or leap tall buildings on their springs.

We will also see more of the most beautiful pipes being made in any era. Today’s pipe makers are rare air for the most part. We are experiencing an epic movement in the pipe making world commensurate with the fine art realm of say, Impressionism, Neo-Classicism, Art Nouveau, or Post-Impressionism. It is truly a renaissance.

My next resolution is to firmly refrain from continuing to hunt down the esoteric tobaccos that live mostly in the imaginations of men.

I am returning to the old standbys when the urge hits me to once again go on the big hunt for the Penzances and the Stonehavens. That’s like hunting big game in the bush without a guide. I’ll stick to the old Grangers, Sir Walter Raleighs, Carter Halls (and Russ’s masterful Chatham Manor in his Mid-town Series). I’m pulling out of the safari.

Prediction No. 3: The zealots will intensify their anti-tobacco propaganda in television commercials that focus on "hookahs" and "other tobacco products" in 2016.

I saw a television commercial the other night just after one of the interminable news hours on the crazy political season. I thought it was apropos for what had just taken place in what was being cast as a "political debate."

The ad specifically pointed to "hookah" pipes and other tobacco products, without specifically mentioning "pipe tobacco." The advertising also went after the new e-cigarettes, grouping everything related to tobacco together as something to be feared, even more than political debates.

Since 2016 is famously a presidential election year, you can also look for more extremists to pop out of the woodwork and from beneath rocks to throw more stones at the tobacco world. We are easy to chuck rocks at during high political fever.

And with the political season in mind, this might also be a good time to meet and greet your favorite pol and bend his or her ear about your side of the story of tobacco and our treasured pipes.

My last resolution is to try (one more time) to not purchase any more pipe tools or pouches. I have a drawer filled with pipe tampers, tools, nails, knives, rollup pouches, bags, pull-string leather pouches that belong to medieval times and pipe racks, small, large, and desktop leather jobs.

This past year, I even bought a beautiful copper tobacco holder just for flakes. There is one problem with copper and tobacco: sitting in said holder and cohabitating with copper, tobacco becomes toxic, or so I read.

When I called the manufacturer, a PR type told me in a rather salty voice: "Well, you have to put a piece of wax paper in the bottom of the holder" to separate tobacco from copper bottom. As if everyone knew that.

I protested and said, "There were no such instructions." The PR type said once again, "You have to put wax paper, cut to shape, and form it inside the holder to prevent the tobacco from touching the copper."

Oh, I see. Batteries not included!

I further resolve to purchase more pipe books, especially anything by Rick Newcombe, pipe magazines and any other reading material on pipes and tobacco.

Which brings me to a subject close to my heart: pipe writing and writers of pipes and tobacco stories.

We are a fortunate band of brothers now to have some of the finest pipes and tobacco writers plying their talents for us.

This time reminds me of the 1970-80s in the sport of fly-fishing (I grew up with a fly rod in my hand and wish I could still wade a stream).

Young fly-fishing writers were testing their wings in a time that was simply magical for fly-fishermen who, like pipe smokers, will read anything they can on their sport.

Ours is not rod, reel and dry fly, but pipe and tobacco; ours is not steamy streams early of a morning, but coffee and pipe smoke curling skyward to start another day. Ours is not the sweet sound of a murmuring stream, but the relaxing silence of a pipe on a blue-sky day when our brains are able to release the stress of the times.

Happy New Year and pleasant pipe adventures from the Pipe Pundit!



Fred Brown
is a journalist who lives in Knoxville, TN. He will write this column for monthly. He can be contacted at


6 Responses

  • Nice article with which to launch the coming year in the pipe world. New blends in the offing? Please, I’m already overwhelmed.

  • Another fine article!
    My resolution among others is smoke and enjoy more pipes filled with more tobacco blends.
    And stay away from politics if possible.

  • Thank you, fine gentlemen, for your kind words.
    And, Max, please feel free to adopt my resolutions and add your own, so that I might pick up some good ones that eluded me.

  • All’s good in the piping world except for the anti zealots. Takin’ away my freedom!
    I’m not a fan of far-out pipe shapes, but as always, diff folks, diff strokes…..Thanks for the article, and I promise to read more and attend more conventions, and not smoke any less! And to support our great American blenders.