Forty Years of Leaf and Bowl with Friends and Heroes

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The heart of every pipe smoker beats precipitously faster at the thought of that one go-to pipe in his or her collection.
Let’s talk pipes and tobaccos, shall we? We all love our pipes and tobaccos, right?
And most of us have the pipe addition affliction, and the tobacco addiction affliction, which means we are constantly on the watch for “that one great pipe to go with that one great tobacco.”
Adding another pipe and a pound or two of that one exalted tobacco to our beloved collections can become an all-consuming quest.
It is purely a subjective hunt, of course. And I am no expert at this. I can’t match the likes of pipedom maestros such as Maxim ( in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, or Chuck Stanion with (
These legendary pipe men have forgotten more than I will ever know.
Maxim’s pipe missives have taught me that flakes smoke best in pipes whose inside diameter narrows a smidgen from top to bottom. Picture a V here.
And English or straight Virginia blends seemingly smoke best in larger bowls with thick walls. A large and thick O here.

My take is that a hefty Canadian-style with a thick-walled bowl can handle Virginias, burleys, and English blends well.
But I like latakia-laced blends when it is just a touch cooler. On warmer days, I move over to Virginia and burley-forward blends.
Some of my fondest memories are with flake tobacco. I’m an old stuff and smoke codger.
Also, I have toyed with folding the flakes into a Z-shape and cramming the whole gob of tobacco so that the top of the Z looks like a wild and wooly groundhog needing a haircut.
I have also employed the Fred Hanna “air pocket” method of working a wad of flakes into the bowl while leaving an air pocket at the bottom of the bowl.
If I’m not wrong, and I seldom am, ahem, the Hanna air pocket is like the “Frank” method of packing a pipe with tobacco. I enjoy both methods, and really can’t discern the difference.

Now, I am also a confirmed believer in the White Goddess, meerschaum. I own several white beauties that I would not trade for anything.
Meers can handle just about anything you throw at them. I even try new blends in my meers, never fretting about ghosts or if I’ll have to employ a ghostbuster method to bring the meer back to normal.
Meers can cut through the smoke, as it were, and give you a precise reading on the taste of a particular blend.
I also employ cobs, which I love, for these new blend experiments. I do not fear ghosts in my cobs, either.
Some do panic over the thought of smoky ghosts left in their cobs, and that’s fine.
That’s life. Some folks like vanilla ice cream and some of us like chocolate ice cream with nuts on top.
But I have found over the years, my cobs and meers just give up the ghost with little or no effort.
What about bents? I love them since they don’t put a lot of weight and pressure on the jaw.
They are not called jaw-hangers for nothing, you know.
I love English blends in my bents and save strong burleys or Virginias for billiards.
There is just something about a billiard that I find, well, masculine. Sort of that Clark Gable look (for all you whippersnappers, locate an old film copy of “Gone with the Wind” and watch it).
Maybe the billiard hints toward the distinguished. Perchance that’s what I like. You look very professorial with the billiard.
But I like billiards with big, thick bowls, which seem to me to cool the smoke.
I still possess a couple of Algerian briars by Edwards and a beauty of an Algerian Canadian by that same old Edwards franchise. They both smoke Virginias like they were born for the job, which I believe they were.
The Edwardian Canadian is well over 60 years old and, yes, it smokes like an old-timer should, slowly letting all the taste burst forward, leaving a fond farewell on the tongue.
I will also admit to some hero worship in selecting a pipe.
I continue to scour retail markets for pipe shapes popular with C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Einstein, and a few others.
Bertrand Russell comes to mind. I love a bent he is often pictured with. I also enjoy smoking Fribourg & Treyer’s “Golden Mixture,” one of his favorite tobaccos.

I have no shame when it comes to copycatting one of my heroes in pipes and tobaccos.
For me, learning from the masters is the best way to feel your way through pipes and tobaccos.
We all are different, of course. Your cup of tea will be my yuck just as my cup of tea will get tossed by you.
I can tell you the past four-plus decades of collecting pipe wisdom has been the most pleasant of journeys. I cannot think of another way I would prefer to spend my time: reading great books and conversations with friends while smoking my pipe with exquisite tobaccos.
As I have said ad nauseam, I believe we are in a pipe and tobacco renaissance, an enlightened time.
We have some of the finest pipe makers creating works of art and master tobacco blenders working magic with the golden leaf.
In good times or bad, my pipes and tobacco have sustained me, picking me up when I was down, and enhancing my joy when happy.
I hope you have found the kind of pleasure I’m referring to in your journey through pipes and tobacco.
There are countless ways to spend your money and time, but I can’t think of a better one than wandering around a smoke shop, looking at pipes and smelling the wonderful aromatic tobaccos.
And finding that one, right pipe and tobacco to while away the time in puffs of fine smoke and conversation.

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

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