So You Started Smoking a Pipe, Now What?

So you’ve taken the plunge and decided to become a pipe smoker. You’ve read the how-to’s and watched some youtube videos on how to get started. You’ve picked up a briar or cob, some pipe tobacco to smoke, and a few of the necessary tools to get your pipe journey started. You know how to light a pipe, keep it going, and hopefully how to take care of your new passion. Now that you have a handle on the hobby and decided it’s for you, the question now is— where do you go next?

In all the information out there for beginning pipe smokers, there’s a lot of material on starting the journey, but once you get going, there’s very little guidance for what you should focus on next. There are so many different directions you can go, yet there really isn’t a guide on how to build up a collection or cellar to set yourself up for years to come. So consider this entry a kind of intermediate class on what I would recommend for a pipe smoker ready to move onto the next step in the hobby.

The Essential Extras

If you’ve bought the basics already, such as a pipe, some tobacco, and the pipe tool and pipe cleaners, then you’re set for everything you need for your entire pipe journey. Yet, there are three items that I consider valuable for every pipe smoker, but not exactly necessary for when you start. Now that you’re in the hobby and know this is for you, it’s time to add these in your personal arsenal to add to your overall experience. All three items are relatively inexpensive, and you’ll use them regularly in your pipe journey.

First we have the pipe ashtray, and yes, this is different from your standard ashtray. You can get by using a normal ashtray when starting out, but a pipe ashtray will come in handy as you smoke a pipe on a more regular basis.

There are many different combinations of pipe ashtrays, offering different uses to suit your needs. A normal pipe ashtray comes with one or two pipe rests to hold your pipes as you smoke, and a cork in the middle of the ashtray for you to tap out the dottle from your pipe once finished. I have a pipe ashtray made by Peterson that has the two rests and a cork, and it’s perfect for my evening smoking time. The two pipe rests are invaluable assets, and while I often don’t use the cork, it’s a nice addition. You might only need one rest, but I highly suggest making sure there’s at least one on whatever ashtray you buy. You won’t regret the investment, and for the most part, they’re reasonably priced.

If you plan on taking your pipes or tobacco with you while travelling, a pipe case is a must own. After putting the cash down for your first pipe, the last thing you want to do is have it break in your backpack or pocket when you want to enjoy an evening smoke. In addition, most pipe cases have space for tobacco, a Czech tool, and pipe cleaners, keeping everything together in one convenient location.

Most pipe retailers have a few modestly priced pipe cases for sale under $30, which is great for your tobacco budget. These cases usually hold about two pipes comfortably, and have a pouch for some bulk tobacco. If two pipes aren’t enough, you can find larger cases that hold more, but expect to pay an additional cost for the extra space.

There’s also an artisan market out there for the crafty types that make their own leather pipe cases on Etsy. These pipe cases are usually made with love, and offer a variety of different sizes and customization to fit your smoking style. While the prices for these cases are higher than your basic pipe cases on, say, smokingpipes.com, but you’re getting a nice case that’ll last you for the rest of your life.

Some of the more economically minded pipe smokers out there do create their own custom pipe cases, or will use a small utility bag to hold their pipes and tobacco. While it will save you some money, they don’t have a spot to secure your pipe in place, so use these at your own risk.

Finally, every pipe smoker should look into buying a pipe rack when starting out. Almost every pipe smoker owns at least one, if not a few, for where they keep their pipes and tobacco. Pipe racks come in many sizes, holding at least two pipes, but some going as far as holding thirty pipes or more. You might not think you need one when you own just one pipe, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly you accumulate more pipes, ushering the need for a solid pipe rack.

Most pipe retailers sell pipe racks, but I suggest turning to ebay for finding a pipe rack. You can get a better deal buying one used, and there are a lot of great antique pipe racks that will serve you well after a quick cleaning. Some even come with old glass jar humidors to store a favorite bulk tobacco. If you do buy one with a glass humidor, give it a good cleaning and a look over to check that the seal works properly. The last thing you want to do is store some tobacco in there, only for it to dry out due to a poor seal.

There are two different kinds of pipe racks, ones that hold the pipe with the bowl sitting on the base of the rack, and others where you store them with the stem facing the base. While either will work just fine, I recommend buying ones that rest the pipe bowl at the base. As the pipe rests, any remaining tobacco residue will make its way downward on a pipe. You don’t want that residue going down into the stem, as it’ll make for a less enjoyable smoke the next time you use it.

A word of caution, there’s one minor issue with buying a pipe rack when starting out. When you store your pipe on it, you’ll see the extra spaces without any pipes on it, and have the desire to fill that rack out. This leads to the beginnings of the dreaded pipe mania known as PAD, or Pipe Acquisition Disorder. PAD can be a powerful force, as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog entry, but let’s be honest— you’re planning on buying more pipes anyway, right? Well, once you fill out that rack, you’ll end up buying another pipe that won’t fit into the rack. Off to eBay you’ll go, and the cycle will begin once more, so be warned.

Pipes

So you have your first pipe, and since you’re reading this, I can surmise that all went well with it. But if you’re sticking with pipe smoking, you’re going to want to buy a second pipe, and eventually a collection of them.

There are a lot of directions that you can go in now, and without guidance or a plan, it’s difficult to narrow exactly what to do. Allow me to offer some suggestions to help you fill out your pipe rack and avoid buyer’s remorse as much as possible.

Let’s remember some basic principles when searching for a new pipe. The first rule is, be wary of cheap new pipes. While there are some reliable brands that offer good pipes at a budget price, these are few and far between. A good rule of thumb is this— if you see a pipe that catches your interest, but haven’t heard of the brand before, do yourself a favor and do a quick internet search on them. More likely than not, there’s a pipe forum thread or social media discussion on the brand, and that’ll give you a good foundation on whether you should consider looking into them further.

Second, don’t buy pipes from Amazon. Just don’t. Support a pipe retailer instead. This isn’t an anti-Amazon rant, as I certainly use them regularly for many things. However, pipes aren’t exactly amazon’s specialty. You run the risk of running into a lemon more often than not with them. Besides, Jeff Bezos doesn’t exactly need your business, but I know of a few pipe websites that do.

Finally, be wary of pipes sold at functions that aren’t related to pipe smoking. You’ll sometimes find pipes sold at places such as Renaissance Faires and other gatherings. Some of these pipes can look quite appealing, and their prices are at that “too good to be true” range. I personally have purchased a Churchwarden at one, and after two times smoking it; the pipe now sits as a decoration, rather than a rotation pipe.

[On a side note, Churchwardens seem to fit into this category pretty often. If you see that Lord of the Rings style Churchwarden for sale at some sort of geeky function, BEWARE! You can’t even trust some pipe sites for Churchwardens, as they happen to sell a certain name brand Warden that rhymes with MacWeen, and you DON’T want to buy one of those. You’re much better off looking for one sold by a normal name brand pipe maker, like Stanwell or Savinelli. A good, budget Warden can be purchased by Missouri Meerschaum, and you’ll be much happier as a hillbilly hobbit over being a sad Renn Faire impulse buyer like I was.]

New Vs Estate Pipes

Now that we have those caveats out of the way, lets narrow our focus a bit more. Let’s start off with the very basic question of quality VS quantity. Do you want to build up a solid rotation of pipes quickly, or would you rather take your time and focus on higher quality pipes?

By now, I’m guessing you’ve dipped your toes in the social media pipe world and have seen the kind of pipes other pipers are smoking. Some of these pipe smokers have very nice looking briars, such as Castellos, Ardor, Dunhill, and countless Artisan made pipes. It’s easy to develop a bit of pipe envy when looking at them, but don’t go running to smokingpipes.com to see how much they are. You’ll need to be very patient, or have a large pipe budget if you want to add one of these beauties to your pipe rack. Even adding new, mid-ranged pipes like Peterson and Savinelli can set you back over $100 a pop for a single pipe.

Yet, if you’re willing to take the time to take the quality path and save up for new pipes, this isn’t exactly a bad way to go. After all, these are very nice pipes, and investing in one of these new briars will easily last you the rest of your life, to be passed down to a new piper when the time is right. You can always buy a cob or two to put in your rotation while you save up, as long as you don’t mind smoking a cob. You’ll just have to ignore the pictures of full pipe racks, and take pleasure in each hard earned new briar you acquire.

If you’re a less patient piper and want to fill that rack quickly, then you’ll want to take the quantity path. This isn’t a bad path, either, as there are ways to score some quality briars at a lower cost—but it’ll involve some legwork on your end. Before we go down that road, I’d like to once again suggest at looking into buying a few cobs. For the price of a new briar pipe, you can end up with a sizable collection of Missouri Meerschaum cobs that will handle anything you throw at them. Never ever underestimate the value of a solid cob.

Back to briars, you can find some great ones if you’re willing to look for them, but there’s a catch—these won’t be new pipes, but rather estate (used) pipes. There will be some people out there that might balk at smoking a pipe used by someone else, but don’t let that keep you from giving them a look. Some of my most treasured briars happen to be estates, so there’s treasure to be found in them thar auctions my lads.

It’s not that hard to find an assortment of estates available, all you need to do is open up eBay or check the various used pipe retailers on the web, or social media. This won’t be easy, as a small consequence for the resurgence of pipe smoking means there’s much more competition out there for each estate auction. Estate pipes can go for absurd prices at auction, so deals are fewer and farther between. Even a budget pipe from the likes of Kaywoodie can go for outrageous prices, due to the Kaywoodie collectors out there. But don’t lose heart, for those with eyes of a hawk and fingers of a cheetah can score the occasional steal.

I would advise not to start off looking for those pretty Dunhills and Castellos, and instead familiarize yourself with some of the other brands of the past. GBD, Jobey, BBB, Chacom, Comoy, Brigham, Parker, and Hardcastle are all worth looking up on eBay and searching through the current auctions. Heck, even “lesser” brands like Longchamp and Custombilt are worth looking up for a good deal. Sometimes, you can even find reasonable prices on estate Petersons, Savinelli, Stanwell, Nording, and others, but more often than not they tend to go for just under the current price of a new pipe.

It’s also useful to look up seconds for brands like Peterson or Savinelli, often called Irish or Italian Seconds. Stanwell has some seconds as well, going under names such as Royal Guard and others. A second is simply a pipe that doesn’t meet to the standards of being sold with the official brand stamp on them, as they have an imperfection to them in some way, but they’re still smokable and worth looking up. I have a second from both Stanwell and Sasieni, and I’d never sell either unless I was getting out of the hobby.

Estate pipe hunting can be a bit of a challenge. For one thing, the stock is always changing, and if you see a briar that you want and it sells, it might take years to find a similar pipe. Then you have the dreaded snipers and stalkers that will steal the pipe right under your nose just as you’re seconds away from winning. As someone who has lost plenty of auctions this way, it can be incredibly frustrating, and you might need to smoke your pipe while you cool off.

Another difficulty on estate hunting is figuring out if the pipe for sale is a lemon or not. If you see a pipe that catches your fancy, take a look at ALL of the pictures and study them in full. You’ll run into an occasional pipe that looks nice in the first picture, but subsequent pictures show cracks in the stem or fills on the bowl. Keep a sharp lookout for strange and out of place dark spots on the bowl, as that’s a sign that the pipe is heading towards burning out, and you don’t want to happen to your new purchase.

If you come across a pipe that had only one or two pictures that don’t show every spot of the briar, then I suggest either moving on or asking the seller for more pictures or information. Also, check to see the activity on the pipe. Has it been on sale for a long time without any bids? Does the pipe have a price that seems too good to be true? If so, I recommend giving that pipe a real close look over, as that might be a hint that this isn’t a pipe worth buying. Finally, if you see an estate briar pipe with an absurd price tag, then move along and ignore it. Some sellers out there think that anything old must be worth lots of money. No, that old BBB pipe isn’t worth $500, take off that extra zero and then we’ll talk. Take a good look at any measurements given for the pipe, too. I once bought a Wellington pipe that looked like a regular sized pipe in the pictures. Once it arrived, I found out to my dismay that it was a very small pocket pipe, which was of no use for me. I ended up using it as a prop for a badger stuffed animal that was made for me as a birthday gift. It works for him much more than it would for me.

Another tip— don’t let an extremely dirty or old pipe scare you away from buying it. These pipes tend to have less bids going for it, as most pipers don’t want to take the time to give it the cleaning it needs to make it smokable again. As long as there’s no fills or cracks, then you can bring that old pipe back out of retirement. Likewise, a chewed up stem with bite marks can be sent in for repairs where it can be made new again.

If you do choose to bid on an estate, then decide how much that pipe is worth to you and bid at that number. If you’re set on getting a deal and playing the auction game by only bidding just enough to be the highest bidder, then I hope you’re ready to camp out at that auction, otherwise you’ll be spending a good amount of time securing the highest bid until the action is over. For peace of mind, I go straight for my top bid and let it be. If I lose it, then it wasn’t meant for my rack. There are always more pipes in the sea, so you’ll catch the right one eventually.

The very first thing you’ll want to do when that estate pipe arrives is give it a good cleaning. Even if the pipe is listed as brand new, I’d suggest wiping the stem down with a little bit of everclear (or your cleaning alcohol of choice, except Isopropyl, don’t use that one) for sanitizing purposes. You don’t know where that pipe has been, so you’re better off staying on the safe side and making sure it’s clean. If the pipe looks like it’s in good condition, then I’d do a basic salt treatment, a quick wash of the briar with Murphy’s Wood Soap (making sure not to get any soap into the bowl of the pipe), run some alcohol dipped pipe cleaners through the stem and shank until clean, and end with polishing the briar and stem.

For reference, a salt treatment is when you pour table salt into the bowl of the pipe until full, and then saturating the salt with your alcohol of choice. Leave the pipe to rest with the salt overnight, and remove the salt the next day. This is to draw out any unwanted ghosting from the bowl, so the previous owner’s tobacco choice won’t interfere with whatever you choose to smoke (though some ghosts are harder to remove than others…).

If that new estate pipe is in rough shape and needs a deeper clean or repairing, then there are other steps you’ll need to take to get it in a better condition. One example of this is if your pipe has an oxidized stem. If that black stem is a sickly greenish tan, then you’re going to need to do more to bring it back to its original look. While I’ve done these deep cleanings before, I’d rather send you to a place that can give you the directions you’ll need, rather than try to regurgitate them here. YouTube, as always, has some great resource videos on there to help out with that, but I also suggest checking out Reborn Pipes’ blog on the subject. Reborn Pipes restores pipes on a daily basis, and goes into great detail in the methods he uses on bringing old briars back from the dead. Give him a read, and ask him any questions, should you run into any issues you’re not sure how to remedy.

Whether you choose to buy new or estate pipes to build your collection, use this opportunity to expand the variety of pipe shapes beyond your first pipe. There’s a plethora of wildly different shapes and sizes for pipes, and now that you’ve dipped your toes in, you’re more than ready to wade into the deep end. This is especially true if you started off with a simple straight billiard shape, as the billiard is the building block that many shapes are based off. Take what you’ve learned from your billiard and go into a direction that best suits what you like about that shape, or wish you could improve. Do you wish the billiard had a larger bowl? Then you might be interested in buying the Pot shape and its generous bowl size. Wish the length of the billiard was a tad longer? Well, the Canadian and its ilk are just what you’re looking for in a new pipe. Are you interested in trying flake tobacco? Then give the Dublin shape a try, with its longer and thinner bowl size, which is perfect for flakes.

If you want to expand beyond the billiard, bulldogs are a wildly popular shape with their unique bowls and diamond shaped shanks. Pokers have a look similar to a corncob pipe with their cylinder shaped bowls with a flat bottom, perfect for resting on a table without the need of a pipe rest. Apples and Authors both have rounder bowls, and feel right at home in the palm of your hand.

You can also use this opportunity to change things up and switch to a bent (or straight) pipe and see how you like it. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, as well as their ardent fans. You might even come away with preferring the other style after spending some time with them. My first two pipes were bent shapes, but as time has gone on, I’ve come to prefer the simplicity and ease of use of a straight pipe. That doesn’t mean I don’t dearly love my bents, but more often than not, I’ll reach for my straights.

Regardless of your choices, you’re starting on a fun adventure that will expand your pipe collection. It won’t always be easy, and you’re liable to run into a few duds along the way. This is to be expected, as you won’t know if your new pipe is a good one or not until you try it out. Even if the first smoke isn’t a successful one, don’t give up on the pipe just yet. Chances are, there’s a tobacco out there that will pair perfectly with that disappointing briar. In the first year I smoked a pipe, I bought a neat looking Savinelli Dublin that caught my fancy. Yet when I smoked my Boswell aromatics in it, I wasn’t all that impressed with my new purchase. It took smoking a flake tobacco in the Dublin to unlock its true potential, and I haven’t used anything else in it since. Pipes are like people in that sense. They can’t be good at everything, but give it time and care, and more often than not, you’ll find the pipe’s hidden talents.

Tobacco

Chances are, your first pipe tobacco experience was with an aromatic. Almost all of us started with them, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you like smoking aromatic pipe tobacco, then don’t let anyone guilt you into feeling otherwise. Even if you choose to move on from aromatics, it’s always good to have a jar or two of them around for company or when smoking in public.

If you choose to stick with aromatic tobacco, then I suggest taking a look out there and decide what other blends you’d like to add into your rotation. If you started with a vanilla blend, then you might like to try a chocolate or berry aromatic. There are even tobaccos like Erinmore, which is a pineapple aromatic that leans more into being a Virginia blend. 

The only aromatic I’d caution against is the infamous cherry blend. Ah, cherry blends, they are a mystery that has yet to be solved. We all want to like cherry blends, because after all, who doesn’t like cherries? Yet for some reason, cherry blends happen to bite pipe smokers like nothing else. I would do some research into a cherry tobacco before buying a tin, otherwise you might end up tossing what you have away in frustration (or to gift to an unsuspecting newbie).

But you’ve probably seen the wide variety of tobaccos out there, and you might be curious in expanding your tastes a bit. Don’t feel intimidated in trying something outside of your usual tastes, as you might find that you actually enjoy it. The only way to truly know what you like is to take that risk and go for it.

With new blends, unless you’re confident you’re going to like it, try to order in small quantities, either with one tin or one ounce in bulk. You can always order more if you like it, but if you try it and end up hating it, then you’re stuck with a bunch of tobacco that’s taking up space. If you do end up with a blend you don’t like, don’t throw it in the garbage! Keep it stored away, and come back to it in a few months or a year. Some tobacco needs a bit of age before it truly sings, and a few months in a mason jar should do it good. Also, you’ll find that your tastes in blends will change over time. That Virginia blend that you didn’t like last year might end up becoming your new favorite if you give it another shot.

If you want to branch out from aromatics, I highly suggest giving an English blend a try. English blends tend to be on the kinder side when it comes to nicotine, and the campfire aroma has a better chance at being accepted by non-smokers. Most English blends have Latakia tobacco in it, which gives the English blend that distinct campfire smell, or stink if you’re a Latakia hater. Your tolerance of Latakia will determine whether English tobaccos are for you. If you want to give them a try, check out Boswell’s Countryside for a milder English, or their Northwoods for a stronger version. If you want to try an English/Aromatic crossover blend, give Sutliff’s Eastfarthing a try. It has that classic pipe aroma with a good peppering of Latakia.

While not an official blend category like English and Virginia, Navy blends are a wonderful starting tobacco for aromatic fans. Navy blends get their name from the old days, where sailors would case their tobacco in rum to keep them fresh during long voyages. All Navy flakes have a rum casing to them, which makes them a pleasurable smoke for their sweet taste. MacBaren has a fantastic Navy Flake, as does Stokkebye, but GLP has some wonderful Navy blends, including Sextant, which is a Navy/English crossover blend.

Next up, we have Virginia blends. Virginia and VaPer (Virginia/Perique) blends are quite popular with more experienced smokers, due to their bright and citrusy/grassy taste. These aren’t the crowd-pleasing blends that will win over new pipe smokers, but for you the smoker, they will hit the spot if they appeal to you. If the blend happens to have Perique in it, then expect a peppery flavor added to your smoke. This might not appeal to everyone, but if you like spice, then you might end up with quite a few new favorites. If I had to pick one blend for beginners, I’d give Orlik Golden Sliced a look. Most pipe smokers tend to enjoy it, and there are a few variations that might interest you, depending on your tobacco preferences. C&D’s Manhattan Afternoon and Exhausted Rooster are favorites of mine, and I’d recommend giving them a look, too.

Burley blends give an earthy and smoky taste and aroma that pipe smokers love, but again, not so much for those around them. I’m a huge burley fan, but it took time to get there. The reason is that burley blends are not for the faint of heart and stomach due to their nicotine content. Puff carelessly with a burley blend in your pipe, and suddenly you’re trapped on a tilt awhirl of immense suffering. If you’re new to a burley blend and start feeling a bit off while smoking it, put that pipe down, grab some water and get to fresh air. Otherwise, your last meal might be making a return visit into your porcelain throne. If you want to give burleys a chance, then MacBaren’s Burley Flake is a pretty safe entry point. Try it after eating a good meal, trust me.

Codger blends aren’t the first tobaccos that come to mind when you’re searching for new tins online. After all, these are gas station blends that have been around for years, so why waste time on them? I’d argue that the fact that their longevity is proof that these are blends worth exploring. Prince Albert, Carter Hall, Lane’s Ready Rubbed, Amphora, and Half and Half are all classics, and it’s good to try them, if only to know what they’re like. Who knows, you might find that Prince Albert is your favorite tobacco. Just avoid Borkum Riff, as I’ve yet to find a pipe smoker that actually likes it, as well as RYO tobacco masquerading as pipe tobacco.

One final tip for buying new tobacco—consider buying a few bulk blends that only contain one kind of tobacco. Stokkebye sells single component tobaccos in bulk, such as Cavendish, Latakia, Perique, Virginias, etc. If you end up buying a blend that doesn’t seem all that special, you can always mix in one or two of your favorite components to give that bland blend an extra punch. That blend didn’t just grow together on a single tobacco leaf and placed in a tin. It took a tobacconist hundreds of hours to fine tune, messing with the percentages of components until it came out just right. You’re more than welcome to play around like a tobacconist mad scientist in your basement, tinkering with established blends until it’s the way you want it. I often mess around with my aromatics, adding Perique or Latakia to add some depth to the blend.

Pipe Tobacco Cuts

As you explore the world of pipe tobacco, you’re going to run into different cuts outside of the usual bulk ribbon cut. The ones you’ll most often encounter are flakes, broken flakes, cakes (or kakes), and plugs. Don’t let these different forms intimidate you from trying them, as each one is fairly simple to prepare for your pipe.

Flake tobacco comes in square tins, and appears as a flat, rectangular sheet of pressed tobacco. You have two options for smoking flake tobacco— fold and stuff or rubbed out. For the folding method, grab a flake of tobacco, fold the longer section in half, bend it so both ends are touching each other, and stuff it in the bowl. Narrower bowls can be a bit trickier with a whole flake, so you might want to tear part of it off before folding. While I don’t use the fold method often, in my experience you can get a longer smoke out of the flake. The rub method is pretty self-explanatory, just grab a flake and rub it in the palms of your hand to make it into a ribbon cut. Then fill up your pipe like normal and place the unused portion back into the tin. This is my preferred method for smoking flakes, as the tin lasts a bit longer.

A broken flake blend is exactly like it sounds. Most of the blend is already in a ribbon cut, with chunks of flakes mixed in for good measure. Admittedly, I’m not sure why blenders make this type, as it gives the tobacco an unfortunate personality disorder. Is it a flake? Is it a ribbon cut? That’s up to you to decide, just don’t tell the tobacco, or you’ll be paying for a therapist visit. Rub the tobacco out and smoke it, and don’t think too hard about these deep questions, or you’re liable to get a headache.

Cake/Kake tobacco has become one of my favorite blend types out there. The tobacco comes in a pressed brick of goodness, and can be prepared however you’d like. You can rip off a layer on the top and rub it out into a ribbon cut, which is my usual method for this type. If flakes are more your style, take a knife and cut off a slice, folding and stuffing it into your pipe. For those tobacco mad scientists out there, you can create your own cakes with a ribbon cut, but that’s an experiment you’ll need to do some research on for yourself. I’ve never tried it, but I’ll get around to it one of these days.

Want to feel like a real rugged tobacco smoker of old? Then pick up a tin of plug tobacco and have a go at it. A plug has the appearance of a solid block or brick of pressed tobacco, and unlike a kake, you’ll require a knife if you want to smoke it. Slice a flake from the plug, and then prepare how you want to smoke it. The same goes for rope tobacco, though you’ll be slicing the tobacco into coins rather than a flake. One bit of warning, plug and rope tobacco tend to be heavyweights in the nicotine department, so I’d caution newer smokers from starting out with them. If you do want to venture into the world of plugs, I’d say give either GLP’s Jack Knife Plug or War Horse Bar a look.

So now that you have all your options in front of you, where should you start? That choice is honestly up to you and your tastes. Start off by checking out what other pipe smokers are enjoying and make a list on your phone or computer. Ask around, too, as pipe smokers always enjoy sharing which blends they’re currently enjoying or recently discovered. Then, give tobaccoreviews.com a look and read up on what other pipe smokers think of the blend. The reviews on the site for each blend should paint an adequate picture of what to expect in the tobacco, and you can decide for yourself if you think it’s a blend worth picking up for your cellar. Remember, even if a blend has an overall four star review, it doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way. Always approach each new blend with caution until you can try it yourself, and then decide if you want to stock up on it.

Another Badger recommended tip— don’t worry about seeking out rare and hard to buy tobacco. You’ll hear some pipe smokers sing the praises of blends from Esoterica, McConnell, Samuel Gawith, and Rattray’s, but these blends are often out of stock. Unless you have a reliable way to acquire more of these tins, I’d suggest starting off with easier to find blends, so you can purchase more without any trouble if it ends up becoming a favorite.

Finding the right blends for you will take some time and trial and error. I’ve picked up blends that I end up passing along to others, while others have become daily favorites. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to add a few samples of each blend type and start experimenting for yourself. If you try an English blend and find you don’t like Latakia, move on to Virginias or VaPers. If you’re happy with aromatics and don’t want to try anything else, that’s perfectly fine, too. Don’t buy blends because they’re popular, buy them because they sound good to you.

Once you find blends you like, start adding additional tins or bulk tobacco of those blends as you search for new ones to try. That way, you can have some spare tins aging in your cellar as you work through each tin or jar. Now, some blends like aromatics will lose their potency if you store them too long, so try to keep your aromatics limited to what you plan on smoking soon. Otherwise, when you pop that new tin and smoke a bowl, you won’t be taken aback by the lack of flavor and aroma. Other blend types like Virginias will excel with age, so buying multiples of them will work in your favor.

Another reason to stock up on blends you know you like is that you never know how long a blend will stick around, or if the company making that blend will still be in business the next time you place an order. In recent years, we’ve had two major pipe tobacco manufacturers disappear from the market in McClelland and Dunhill. With Dunhill, we were lucky in the fact that their blends stuck around for a bit if you wanted to stock up, and Peterson ended up taking over their production. However, McClelland dropped out with little warning, and many of their blends disappeared within a day of the announcement that they were ceasing production. Unlike Dunhill, you won’t find reproductions of McClelland blends, which is a real shame. I was strapped for cash when the news hit, so I was out of luck and couldn’t buy any of my favorites before they were gone for good. We also have our “friends” in the FDA that have their eyes on our hobby from their dark and sinister lair, so who knows how long we have to enjoy the amount of pipe tobacco in the market before most of it disappears forever. Stay vigilant and proactive, and stock up when you can, and don’t be at the mercy of fate. I’d especially keep an eye on those aromatics, as they’ll most likely be the first to go.

Your pipe journey has only just begun, and the whole hobby is wide open for exploring. This is an exciting time, and with every discovery you make, the more you’ll learn and grow as a pipe smoker. Take it slow and enjoy the process, much like you would in smoking a pipe. With time, you’ll become a pipe expert as well, and be able to help others along the path of pipe smoking. If you ever have any questions or you’re in need of further recommendations, I’m always here as a trusty guide to help you find your footing.

Keep those pipes puffing, my friends, and keep steady on the path.

-TheBadgerPiper

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Sergeant MacBadger’s Official Christmas 2019 Buying Guide for Pipe Smokers

A Guest Article by Sgt. MacBadger

Ah-ten-shun!

All right, maggots, listen up an’ light yer pipes. It appears that my last address to the Woodlander Regiment caught a bit of controversy, due to my unorthodox methods of pipe warfare. Well, I’m back from Nome, Alaska, an’ jus’ in time for the holidays. It’s a shame, as I was gettin’ a squad of reindeer recruits together for an all out assault on the abominable snowmen causin’ trouble up there. Those good fer nuthin’ furballs were lucky our country decided to call me back, otherwise our troops woulda been feastin’ on abominable burgers fer Christmas chow.

Anyhow, with the holidays fast approachin’, I thought it was important to share with y’all a handy dandy primer on what to buy fer yerselves for Christmas. With all the options ya have online with pipes, baccy, stands, cleaners, an’ whatnot, it’s enough ta make yer head spin. Well, don’t ya worry, ol’ Sarge MacBadger’s here to set ya straight towards a holiday worth celebratin’.

So when that fat man thinks he’s sneakin’ into yer home an’ ya take ‘im prisoner, you can give ‘im this list an’ negotiate his release. Believe me, it works. Now when ol’ Saint Nick pays me a visit, he comes with the white flag wavin’ an’ an open sack.

Anyhow, let’s get on with the list. First things first, let’s take a look at pipes.

MacArthur Classic (‘Neked’ Unfinished) Missouri Meerschaum Corn Cob Pipe $13.97

https://aristocob.com/MacARTHUR-CLASSIC-Neked-Unfinished-Missouri-Meerschaum-Corn-Cob-Pipe-P664361.aspx

Here we go, let’s get started with the king of cobs. This is the cob that makes Missouri Meerschaum’s General cob look like one o’ those pathetic nosewarmers. There’s only one cob out there worthy to call itself after the great general, an’ it happens to be the one the man smoked. Most likely, it’s cause you can use it as a weapon to defend yerself in a pinch should ya encounter the enemy while out havin’ a pipe. Some might balk at smokin’ this massive cob, but yer not a true pipe smoker if yer not willin’ to walk around in public smokin’ one. Remember, a pipe smoker should distinguish themselves from the crowd, an’ the MacArthur’ll do jus’ that.

I happen to prefer the rugged style of the, ahem, ‘neked’ variation, but you can find smooth ones if that’s more yer preference. I suppose ya like wearin’ deodorant, too. Natural’s the only way to go, soldier, both in cobs and body odor.

Seven Day Set of Smokable Seconds $26.29

https://corncobpipe.com/seven-day-set-of-smokable-seconds

Lookin’ to build up a collection of cobs without breakin’ yer paycheck? Then give this set of cob seconds a glance. Yer gonna get a buncha cobs at a discount price compared to buyin’ ‘em individually. Sure, all these cobs failed their inspections to be sold on their own, but they’re still worthy of smokin’, despite a minor defect or two.

Of course, ya don’t know exactly what’ll end up bein’ sent to ya, but that’s part of the fun of orderin’ a mystery bag. An’ if yer into that cob moddin’ hobby, this is the perfect way to get a buncha cobs to hack an’ shape as ya please. I find it similar to gettin’ a squad of new recruits. They’re not all there in the head, but once ya break ‘em in, they’ll fall in line. Good luck findin’ these fer sale, though, as these sets are in high demand.

Peterson 2019 Christmas Pipe $100

https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/new/peterson/

I might be more of a cob fan, but even this badger knows the Irish can make a good pipe. Peterson of Dublin are experts in makin’ briar pipes in traditional shapes that every pipe smoker should own. However, their Christmas pipes are a cut above the rest, even among their top class briars. With a rugged bowl and antique brass ring on the shank, smokin’ one of these pipes on watch’ll make ya the envy of all yer squadmates. But ya better act fast if ya want one, as once they’re gone, they’re gone fer good.

BriarWorks Calabash Pipe with Magnetic Bowl $550

www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/new/Briarworks/

Now we’re movin’ to the top tier of pipes with BriarWorks Calabash pipes. Like the MacArthur, every pipe smoker should have a good calabash in their arsenal. These might not be marchin’ pipes, but a calabash is a high caliber pipe all on its own. There ain’t nothin’ like sittin’ by the campfire an’ puffin’ on a calabash while givin’ yer tired paws a rest. Also, there’s jus’ somethin’ ‘bout a calabash that gives others the impression that ya got smarts up in yer noggin. It ain’t no coincidence that ol’ Sherlock is often depicted with one. Ya see a guy smokin’ a calabash, an ya jus’ wanna hire ‘im fer solvin’ the mystery of where yer missin’ socks go in the dryer. Not that I wash mine or anythin’, so don’t ya go spreadin’ that rumor ‘round here.

What makes BriarWorks calabash pipes worthy of yer money is their magnetic bowls. If ya don’t know, calabash pipes have removable bowls fer ease of cleanin’ both the bowl an’ the gourd chamber. With that magnetic system in place, ya don’t have ta worry ‘bout that bowl suddenly poppin’ off while yer duckin’ fer cover.

Grand Croupier Boneyard $1.26 per Oz

https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipe-tobacco/Grand-Croupier/Boneyard/product_id/150302/bulk/

Talk about gettin’ a bang fer yer buck, Grand Croupier’s Boneyard is the thrifty English smoker’s dream, lads. If ya haven’t been payin’ attention, Grand Croupier is one o’ Cornell an’ Diehl’s labels. All their blends are the leftovers from C&D’s normal lines that didn’t make it into a tin. C&D already makes great tobacco, so ya know yer gettin’ high quality baccy, even if it’s the stuff they didn’t use. This ain’t yer Auntie Betsy’s leftover headcheese casserole, it’s prime tobacco.

Boneyard comes from the leftovers of C&D’s English blends, so each bag’ll have a different consistency of blending components. One bag’ll have more Latakia to it, while another might be more Oriental heavy. To quote a famous soldier, “Life’s like a box of unmarked pipe tobacco, ya never know what yer gonna get!” Me? I live dangerously already, so surprises bother me none. A good soldier’s resourceful, so ya should jump on Boneyard and add it to yer arsenal.

Hearth & Home: Fusilier’s Ration 1.75oz $10.59

https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipe-tobacco/HearthandHome/Fusilier’s-Ration-1.75oz/product_id/277591

Now, how can ya pass on a blend with a name like Fusilier’s Ration? Hearth & Home’s Marquee blends are well-respected blends among pipe smokers, an’ Fusilier’s Ration ain’t no exception. Based on the legendary Bengal Slices blend, Fusilier’s Ration is a thick, dark cake of baccy that’ll stain yer fingertips black. If ya think that ain’t a sign of a high quality blend, then maybe this hobby ain’t right for ya. Go make one of those artisan soaps or somethin’, I don’t know.

Rich with Latakia, Fusilier’s Ration is a tasty and smoky English blend, perfect for an after dinner pipe. The baccy generates a fair amount of smoke, too, great for givin’ yerself some extra cover on the battlefield. The only downside is that all yer squadmates’ll be buggin’ ya for some to smoke in their pipes. Tell ‘em to get their own, an’ enjoy yer well deserved ration, soldier.

Prince Albert 14oz Can $35.99

https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipe-tobacco/prince-albert/Prince-Albert-14oz/product_id/274405

That’s right, THE Prince Albert. Ya know, the one yer grandpappy smoked. In my always right opinion, ever young strappin’ pipe smoker should be assigned to startin’ out on the classics, an’ ya can’t get more classic than the Prince. This champion of codger blends combines the strength and flavor of a burley blend with the sweet aroma of an aromatic. Puff this blend in yer cob while on leave an’ yer gonna have a trail of civilians followin’ after ya, singin’ yer praises. The only problem is ya open yerself up for punk prank callers, thinkin’ they’re mighty clever. The last kid that tried pullin’ that on me still won’t leave his house after I gave ‘im a friendly talkin’ to. Regardless, let the Prince out, an’ let ‘im out often.

Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation Brown Tobacco Pouch Messenger Bag $135

https://www.smokingpipes.com/accessories/pipe%20accessories/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=150178

While a pipe smoker’s main essentials are pipes and tobacco, ya need somethin’ to store ‘em in when yer travellin’. My kit and pouches are full of pipes an’ tobacco, but when I’m out on leave, I need a reliable bag to store all the stuff I plan on smokin’. While any bag’ll do, the good folks over at Erik Stokkebye have ya covered with a stylish messenger bag that ya won’t feel ashamed carryin’ ‘round.

Now, most bags out there aren’t made with the pipe smoker in mind, so ya have to be creative in storin’ yer pipes. It can be a pain in the neck tryin’ to keep yer pipes secure so they don’t go knockin’ into each other. The Erik Stokkebye bag has been made from the ground up for pipe smokers, with pouches for two pipes, two tins, space for extra stuff ya want to bring, an’ a section for one of those new fangled tablets all the trendy folks like to carry with ‘em. There’s enough room here to keep ya prepared fer a day trip, or longer dependin’ on how much ya smoke. Personally, I could do for a larger bag, but fer most of ya lightweights; this should suffice.

B. J. Long Regular Pipe Cleaners (100 pack) $2.10

https://www.smokingpipes.com/accessories/pipe-supplies/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=238272

Now I ain’t one fer worryin’ about keepin’ my pipes clean, but even I like to keep a few pipe cleaners around for clearin’ up the occasional gurgle in my stem. B.J. Long is my personal choice for pipe cleaners, an’ they get the job done. Sure, pipe cleaners ain’t the most excitin’ thing to get under yer Christmas tree, but they’re never a bad thing to have with ya. You can also get the tapered and bristled versions, dependin’ on the job ya need ‘em fer.

The nice thing about pipe cleaners is ya can use ‘em for more than jus’ for yer pipe. As I said, a pipe smoker should be resourceful, and I’ve used mine durin’ some close calls out on duty. You’d be surprised at how much damage one can do with a pack of bristled pipe cleaners when ya put yer mind to it.

ThrowFlame.Com’s XL18 Flamethrower $3,199

Now yer playin’ with power! This sucker will get yer pipe lit no problem while ya incinerate the obstacles ol’ mother nature likes to throw at ya. The XL18 delivers incredible downrange power with a generous 110 foot range. Not to mention that you can hook up some napalm to this beast an’ really go to town. I’ve had squadmates in the past tell me it’s a bit overkill to light my pipe with it, but sometimes ya need more than a zippo to get the job done. Believe me, there ain’t no tobacco too damp that won’t light when ya use this beauty. It brings a tear to this hardened badger’s eye every time I use it.

The Ultimate Pipe Book by Richard Carleton Hacker (Used Prices Vary)

Pipesmoking: A 21st Century Guide $19.95

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0931253152/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

It might come to some as a surprise, but I do enjoy readin’ a good book when I have some down time; an’ what better way to unwind than readin’ the definitive book on pipe smokin’? Richard Carlton Hacker knows his briars and baccy, an’ he dumps all of his knowledge for all o’ us novices in the appropriately titled The Ultimate Pipe Book. While it’s been years since the book went out of print, you can still find a lot of useful information that you can use today.

The Ultimate Pipe Book covers a wide range of topics about pipe smokin’, an’ is the kind of book you can read a bit here an’ there without feelin’ like ya have to finish it in one go. The book’s topics range from the history of pipe smokin’, to how to pick the right pipe an’ tobacco, an’ how to properly collect pipes. There’s even a chapter dedicated to the lady pipe smokers out there, if ya can believe it. My personal favorite chapters focus on pipe smokers in real life an’ in fiction.

Unfortunately, as I alluded to before, the book is long out of print. However, it’s easy to find a used copy fer sale on yer favorite book buyin’ websites. If used books aren’t yer thing, there’s also Pipesmoking: A 21st Century Guide, which ya can buy new. While I don’t own the 21st Century Guide (yet), there’s enough new content in there to justify ownin’ both, as it has a lengthy pipe tobacco review section among other things. Buy both if ya want to have a solid pipe library.

Salamandastron by Brian Jacques, art by Gary Chalk $8.72

While my list is all about pipes, I couldn’t help m’self from addin’ a favorite book of mine. The late great Brian Jacques spent over twenty years writin’ the finest adventure series in all of literature, pennin’ over twenty books chronicling the events of Redwall Abbey, the fortress of Salamandastron, an’ the land of Mossflower country. In this book series, you’ll read about the heroic adventures of brave mice, fierce badgers, bold otters, humorous hares, an’ all sorts of memorable beasts an’ nasty villains that’ll stick with ya fer years to come. This ain’t jus’ fer kids, but readers of all ages, so don’t ya go scoffin’ at it.

While I’d recommend any of the books, my personal favorite has ta be Salamandastron. Salamandastron ain’t yer normal adventurin’ fantasy book— it’s an all out war, an’ the stakes ain’t never been higher in the series. The evil Ferahgo the Assassin an’ his Corpsemakers have laid siege on the fortress of Salamandastron, an’ it’s up to the fearless Badgerlord Urthstripe the Strong an’ his perilous band of hares in the Long Patrol to fend ‘em off. Redwall Abbey doesn’t have it easy either, as an outbreak of dryditch fever threatens to wipe out the peaceful creatures of the Abbey from within unless a cure can be found. Not only that, but the legendary Sword of Martin the Warrior has been stolen from the Abbey an’ must be returned to its rightful place. Bloody battles are fought, characters are killed, an’ heroes rise to the occasion. Add in legendary fantasy illustrator Gary Chalk’s whimsical art, an’ ya have a page turner that’ll keep ya readin’ well past lights out. There’s even an excellent audiobook version, if that’s more yer style.

Briar Report TV Coffee Mug $20 (with shipping included)

Ya might be surprised to learn ya can’t live on pipe smokin’ alone. I know, I couldn’t believe it when our troop’s medic told me that durin’ my boot camp days after passin’ out from dehydration. Turns out ya need to drink, too, an’ what better drink is there than coffee? Nowadays, I can’t start my day without a freshly brewed mug of Death Wish coffee. There’s only one mug that I reach for in the mornin’, an’ that’s my 16oz Briar Report TV mug. Now, I ain’t never stepped a paw in a bistro before, but if they have mugs like this, then I might have ta remedy that, stat. This glossy finished mug holds all the coffee I need in the mornin’, which is enough ta jumpstart my groggy noggin’ fer mornin’ inspection.

Not only are ya gettin’ the finest pipe related coffee mug ya can buy, but yer puttin’ yer money towards supportin’ the best pipe site on the web. Phil an’ the Briar Report team work tirelessly in informin’ all pipe smokers about what’s goin’ on in our favorite hobby, an’ they deserve our support in any way we can help ‘em. Plus, ya get a great mug ta go along with it. So pick up a mug or five, an’ enjoy the blessed black nectar.

 That ‘bout sums up my personal picks ya should be keepin’ yer eyes on this holiday season. Pipe smokers have their own preferences fer what they like, but there should be somethin’ here that everyone should enjoy.

Now ta put gifts aside fer a moment, I wanna take a moment ta speak directly to all of you maggots out there. While Christmas is a special time of the year, I know it ain’t everyone’s cup o’ joe. Certainly, I’ve spent many a Christmas away from loved ones alone on the battlefield. Maybe ya’ve lost loved ones durin’ the holidays, or ya had a bad experience that’s tainted the cheerful season.

Regardless of how ya feel ‘bout it, I want all of ya numbskulls out there to know that deep down inside, I appreciate every one of ya. It ain’t all ‘bout gettin’ gifts or eatin’ a fancy meal, it’s the people in yer life that matters. So even if the holidays make ya feel like yer in a foxhole all alone, remember that there’s someone out there that cares ‘bout ya.

Pa-tooie, that’s ‘nuff of that disgustin’ sent-e-mental stuff. Now go out there, have a pipe on the big day, an’ show that red house intruder who’s boss! ‘Till then, I have some business to take care of with this pipsqueak that keeps showin’ up on my shelf. I’ve got a whole list of holiday ‘activities’ to make that runt spill his beans. Let’s jus’ say those bristled pipe cleaners are gonna come in handy.

Now what are ya waitin’ fer? DIS-MISSED!

-Sgt. MacBadger

Here at TheBadgerPiper blog, I want to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 2019 has been an incredible year, and I couldn’t have done it without all of you reading my site.

When I started this little project, I figured it would be a fun way to talk about my favorite hobby that maybe a few people would read. I was honestly worried that I’d quickly run out of things to talk about, but the more I spent on it, the more I had to say. It wasn’t until late this year that I realized I needed to revamp my blog and organize it for newer readers. Hey, I’m a writer, not a design guy! Now, though, I’m happy with where the blog is at, but I’m not done with it yet! I already have multiple articles started for the new year, as well as some other pipe related projects I’m starting.

So for this Christmas season, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, full of joy and plenty of pipe smoke. I’ll see all of you in 2020!

-TheBadgerPiper

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Pipe Travels- The Missouri Meerschaum Factory

Outside the Factory

I don’t have it written down anywhere yet, but in my head I have a bucket list of places I’d like to visit that are pipe related in some way, be it a tobacco shop or a place I associate with pipes. One of these days I’ll get around to writing it down, and maybe even make an entry about it, but for now, know that one does exist up in my noggin. I’ve managed to scratch a few places off that list, like Peterson’s of Dublin and Uhle’s up in Milwaukee. After my trip back to Peterson’s, I didn’t think I’d actually have the opportunity to scratch another location off my list this year, but sometimes fate throws me a bone.

With Peterson’s scratched off my list for the past few years, the number one spot has been taken up by Washington, Missouri, the home base for the Missouri Meerschaum factory. It should come as no surprise to anyone that reads this blog or follows my Instagram that I’m a corncob pipe fanatic. More often than not, you’ll see a picture of me enjoying one of my trusty cobs. Heck, I’m even a proud, patch-carrying member of Cob Nation #cobstrong.

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to check out the place where my favorite corn based pipes are carved, but I feared I’d never have the chance. Even though I live only one state away from Missouri, it’s a five-hour trip just to get there. It’s close enough that a trip is possible; yet far enough that convincing my wife to take the trip would be a fool’s errand. While the odds were stacked against me, I never gave up hope that once day I’d find an excuse to make my dream come true.

I never gave up that hope because Missouri and I go back, way back. For me, it’s a second home, as I spent five years of my life living in the Ozarks while at college. I met my wife in Missouri, and made my best friends there. However, all of this was before I smoked a pipe. See, smoking was forbidden at my seminary, so even owning a pipe would have been out of the question. In the five years I lived in the state, I never once even considered owning a corncob pipe. Yet cobs are everywhere in Missouri, from gas station shelves to hanging from the jaws of the hillbillies seen on highway billboards. I promised myself if I ever had the chance to go back to Missouri, I’d smoke a cob and make up for lost time. Thankfully, I finally had that chance this past November.

A college friend of mine announced that she was getting married, and asked my wife to be her maid of honor. My wife immediately accepted, and we learned the wedding would take place in Kansas City, Missouri. Finally, I had the chance I was looking for, so now all I had to do was convince my wife to make a small, minor detour.

I made my case to my wife about a month ago, asking if it was possible for us to stop in Washington during the drive. She wasn’t opposed to the idea until we checked Google maps for a possible route. Unfortunately, Washington was a bit out of the way from the fastest route, and the stop would add about three hours to our drive. My wife didn’t think that it was wise to make the stop, so for the moment it looked like my dream would have to remain just that. Being so close and yet so far, I half contemplated taking part of a day to make the trip while she worked on wedding stuff, but even that seemed unlikely.

Then, a few days before the trip, my wife surprised me with some good news. Apparently she had a change of heart, as she booked a hotel about a half hour away from Washington for the drive down to Kansas City. She would stay at the hotel for the morning and get some work done while I went off on my merry way to Washington. I thanked her, and promised I’d handle most of the driving for the trip, which I think is a fair trade.

A few days later, we drove down from Chicago to the outskirts of St. Louis to spend the night, listening to music from our college years out of nostalgia. Along the way, my wife asked me what part excited me the most about my upcoming trip to Missouri Meerschaum. There was only one answer, “Everything,” I said with a smirk. My wife laughed and said, “I should’ve known.” I gave her my real answer after that. Honestly, I was excited about finally seeing this mythical place with my own eyes. This place wasn’t just where my favorite corncobs were made, but it’s also a place of historical importance. Corncobs are total classic Americana, and I couldn’t wait to get the full experience.

The next morning, I felt right back at home during my solo drive to Washington. The winding and hilly back roads brought me back to my college days when my friends and I would escape from the city limits of Springfield after classes. This route snaked through small country towns, abandoned farm buildings, and rusted out vehicles decaying alongside the road. In some ways, it’s sad to see these languishing parts of America’s heartland, but at the same time, it reminds me of happy times travelling around as a young adult. Had I not been under a time crunch, I would’ve loved to just aimlessly drive and soak in all Missouri had to offer.

After travelling these old roads for roughly forty minutes, I crossed a long bridge that led into the first real city that I had encountered since leaving St. Louis. Washington, Missouri gives a wonderful first impression, as it’s quite a nice small town. It’s big enough to make a day visit, but doesn’t suffer from the congestion of a larger city like Kansas City, St. Louis, or even Springfield. There are plenty of restaurants and small shops for a visitor to walk around and explore, perfect for a spouse that would die from boredom following their pipe smoking significant other around.

The Missouri Meerschaum factory sits at the edge of downtown Washington, across from the great Missouri River. Between the factory and the river is the old Missouri Union Train Station, which has now been repurposed into multiple little shops. The current working station is only a stones throw away, but I couldn’t help but look around the retired station and admire the place while snapping a few pictures. The adventurer in me wanted to hop up on the old platform and wander about, but I didn’t exactly feel like chatting with the local law enforcement officers and be escorted out of town. What can I say? I’m not much of a rule breaker, which is probably why I’m not an urban explorer.

I took a walk around the Missouri Meerschaum factory building for a few moments, taking a good look at the place and getting a feel for my surroundings. Even from standing outside the place, I could smell the varnish used to seal the corncob pipes once they’ve been made, and I could hear the machines hard at work cranking out pipes to put out for the market. An official city plaque had been placed at the corner of the building, explaining the historical significance of the factory. Even though we live in a society that despises our hobby, it’s nice to see Washington honor the Missouri Meerschaum factory in this fashion.

I walked around the corner and made my way up to the factory’s retail store and museum. Stepping inside the shop honestly feels like turning the clock back in time to a different era, when pipes were commonplace and a respected business. According to Missouri Meerschaum’s site, their building dates back to the 1880’s, and that’s easily apparent within moments of being in the place. There’s not much in the room that’s all that modern, other than the register and TV. The old hardwood floor creaks with every step you make, which just sets the mood for the place like a saloon in a western. In the middle of the room sat three wooden rocking chairs, and it took every ounce of willpower not to sit in one and break out a cob and tin and have a smoke. Sadly, smoking isn’t allowed in the shop, otherwise I could see myself staying there for a long time, happily puffing away without a care in the world.

The retail store and museum is in an “L” shaped room, with the retail shop in the front section, and the museum taking up the back portion. The entire space is filled with items from the factory’s past, celebrating all things corn and corncob pipe. There’s even a large wooden corncob with “Welcome” carved into the piece, which I absolutely love, though some might find it corny *Insert Rimshot.

Immediately to my left sat a wall of corncob pipes, all styles and shapes represented for sale. As a corncob fanatic, I was in heaven. I’ve been to Missouri Meerschaum’s table at the Chicago Pipe Show, and while they always bring plenty of their stock, even that can’t hold a corn kernel to their inventory at the retail shop. The shop also boasts an impressive selection of pipe tobacco tins and jars. I expected to find Missouri Meerschaum’s pipe tobacco line to be there, but that’s just a small sample of their selection. Companies like Cornell & Diehl, MacBaren, G.L. Pease, Lane, Sutliff, Seattle Pipe Club, and others all sat on rows of shelves, with sample tins available for sniffing for every blend. A cabinet next to the shelves held multiple tobacco jars of bulk tobacco, giving the shopper a multitude of choices to mull over while they shopped.

The Retail Shop

Before I had much of a chance to look around, an employee stepped out from the office in the back and welcomed me to the shop. He asked me if he could be of assistance, but hey, I’m TheBadgerPiper, I’m what you call an expert. I have to give props to the guy, though, as he gave me space to shop around without hovering, and only pointed out merchandise around the shop when he thought it would be of interest. We even had a nice conversation about our favorite pipe tobacco tins. I welcomed the interruption to chat about good tobacco, considering how rare it is to find other pipe smokers.

Once the employee left me to my own devices, I immediately descended upon the corncob pipes. I felt like a kid in a candy store with all the choices in front of me and eagerly searched through the shelves for the right cobs. As much as I appreciate Missouri Meerschaum’s online store, there’s nothing like having the pipes in front of you instead of a picture and written out dimension measurements. You can pick up any cob you want, give it a thorough glance over, and decide if it’s up to snuff.

I told myself not to go wild in buying cobs, but when you have the entire line at your fingertips, restraint is the last thing on your mind. One of my goals is to one day collect one of every style of cob available and review them all for this blog, but now was not the time to make that happen. After all, I had to go back to my wife at the hotel, and the last thing I wanted to do was explain why I spent that much money on corncob pipes. I didn’t like the idea of spending a night or two sleeping on a hotel room floor.

Before the trip, I made a mental list of the cobs I was the most interested in purchasing. At the very top of that list was the Corndog, a bulldog style corncob specially made in honor of Missouri Meerschaum’s 150th year of operation. The corndog used to be part of Missouri Meerschaum’s standard line, but the shape had long been out of production. Missouri Meerschaum only made a certain amount of these 150th Anniversary corndogs, so if you missed it, you’re out of luck. Previously, I had the chance to buy one at the Chicago Pipe Show, but passed on it in favor of other pipes. With the cob no longer listed on their site, I knew if I didn’t find one at the retail shop, then I was out of luck for good. Thankfully, fate smiled upon me that day, as the shop had two corndogs left for purchase, perhaps the very last two corndogs in the wild. I snatched one for myself and left the last one for the next lucky individual hoping to buy one.

Besides the corndog, I picked up three other cobs— a Cobbit Shire pipe, a bent Emerald pipe, and the Briar Patch Forum Bing. While I’m not the biggest fan of churchwarden pipes, Dave from the Maple City Pipe Cast network told me the Cobbit Shire is his all-time favorite pipe. With that kind of praise, I had to give it a try. Plus, who doesn’t want a LOTR style cob? The Emerald was another cob I almost purchased at the Chicago Pipe Show. The bent version reminds me of a larger Charles Towne cob, not just from the acrylic stem, but in size as well. As for the Bing, it’s a style that’s unusual for a cob, and a briar Bing is near the top of my list of pipes I’d like to own. 

The retail shop also has gift sets of cobs you can buy, with two matching themed cobs in a bent and straight shape. They’re neat gifts to buy for the cob fan in your life, but I didn’t need one myself. I will say, the Let Freedom Ring set looks sharp, and I had to think about it for a moment. It comes with a straight 5th Avenue and a bent Rob Roy cob in a dark yellow stain and rugged finish. If you’re looking for a set to purchase, I’d suggest giving this one a chance.

With my cobs selected, it was time to check the pipe tobacco. This turned out to be a much more difficult task than I expected. When I made the trip, I figured I’d pick up one of the Missouri Meerschaum branded pipe tobacco pouches and call it a day. My plans quickly fell by the wayside as I discovered the sheer quantity of tobacco tins available for purchase. By buying a few tins at the retail store, I could pick up a few new blends I was interested in without having to deal with the postal service.

Here’s a little secret for all you blog readers, since I like you all— the retail shop has some hard to find tobacco that you can’t find on the usual sites. While scouring through their stock, I found tins for C&D’s The Haunting, as well as some of their small batch artisan blends like Sun Bear. The pipe websites like to post these new blends while I’m at work, so by the time I hear about them; they’re usually sold out. It’s not just C&D, either. They had MacBaren Old Dark Fired Plug in stock, too, and that sold out just as fast.

Because the retail store had open tins for all their stock, I took the opportunity to go up to all the tins I haven’t tried, popped the tin open, and took a sniff. Even if I couldn’t buy every tin I was interested in, I could at least smell them and make a note to buy them later. Maybe one day science will create a computer that offers the option for smell-o-vision, but until then, this was my only chance to sample all these blends.

In the end, I decided not to buy any of their small batch tobacco. Instead, I picked up two C&D blends—their Christmas blend of Corn Cob Pipe and a Button Nose, and Redburn. Corn Cob and a Button Nose has been on my “to try” list for some time, so I wasn’t going to let it pass me by this time, especially with it in front of me. I also went with Redburn, as it reminded me of both Blockade Runner and Black Frigate, two Navy blends that are mainstays in my weekly blends. I might’ve passed on Redburn while ordering online, but thanks to being able to smell a sample of it; I knew it was a winner. Just goes to show you that while online ordering is great, there are advantages to going to an actual tobacconist to see what they have. Otherwise, I might’ve missed out on a great blend.

The retail shop has more than just cobs and tobacco for sale. In addition to normal pipe shop items like pipe tools, rubber bits, and wind caps, there’s a wide variety of Missouri Meerschaum themed merchandise available. You can show the world your cob pride with coffee mugs, shot glasses, duck callers, patches, t-shirts, hoodies, bandanas, baseball hats, posters, and postcards. I was highly impressed with the ceramic coffee mugs, as they put most of the coffee mugs I own at home to shame. I had a hard time putting it back, but cobs were my priority. You can find all of these items on their web store, though, and would make for a great stocking stuffer, along with a cob of course. I did end up adding in a postcard and poster, as both were a buck each, and make for great souvenirs for the pipe corner in my basement.

After purchasing cobs and tobacco at the counter, it was time to move into the museum portion of the shop. The museum isn’t all that big, but there’s enough cool memorabilia to justify a visit. Before I began, there was a guestbook sitting by one of the display cabinets, surrounded by leaflets for pipe clubs and local areas of interest. The guestbook had signatures of visitors from all around the world, and I enjoyed reading all the places people hailed from that stopped by the shop. Of course, I had to make my mark and sign the guestbook, providing proof that I made my visit. If you stop at the store, you’ll find my signature in there somewhere. 

The museum consisted of a few different display cabinets spread out in the larger part of the back of the room. Every shelf had at least two or three antique cobs sitting around, many of them being shapes that were out of production. The cabinets by the guest book detailed the history of the Missouri Meerschaum factory, and corncob pipes in general. The top shelf told the story of Henry Tibbe and how he carved his first corncob pipe in the 1800’s. From one simple pipe, Tibbe built an empire that’s still going strong today. The shelf had a lot of information and photos showing the progression of the company, including how they were responsible for bringing electricity to Washington, MO. As someone that only knew a fraction of Tibbe’s story, I found it fascinating how important the factory and Tibbe family was in the history of Washington.

The shelf below had letters from important people who wrote to the Missouri Meerschaum Company. Most of the letters came from politicians, who thanked the company for sending them a package of corncob pipes. One politician in particular wrote to thank them, saying that while he didn’t smoke a pipe, another gentleman in his office was making good use of the cobs. Overall, none of the letters were earthshattering, but I found it interesting.

The centerpiece letter came from General Douglas MacArthur himself, thanking the company for sending him one of the famous cobs that now bears his name. Considering that General MacArthur is one of the most iconic corncob pipe smokers in history, it only makes sense that the company would devote part of their museum to the famous General. Next to the General’s letter proudly sat a 5-Star General cob, a shape that’s still in production today. One interesting factoid I learned at the museum involved one of MacArthur’s peculiar quirks that he’d do with each of his cobs. Whenever General MacArthur broke in a new 5-Star cob, he would take his lighter and burn a ring in the middle of the shank of his cob. All MacArthur cobs in production today come with that ring pre-burnt into the shank in honor of the General’s unique habit.

The middle section of the museum focused on corncob pipes in popular culture. There were comic books featuring Popeye and Frosty the Snowman, the two biggest corncob pipe smokers in fiction today. Everyone’s favorite cob smoking sailor man even had a wooden statue of himself on one of the shelves, with a little cob sticking out of his mouth.  MacArthur and Mark Twain also had small sections devoted to them here, as both are well known for their love of cobs. Besides some old advertisements for the Missouri Meerschaum Company, they also displayed some older shapes devoted to specific people, such as the Ty Cobb cob, as well as a cob in honor of Popeye’s hometown of Chester, Illinois. Seeing these old cobs in person was a real treat, and makes me wish the Missouri Meerschaum Company would consider doing some small runs of these forgotten shapes. With the success of the corndog, one can hope that Missouri Meerschaum will surprise their fans with another old shape making a comeback. I, for one, would be at the front of the line for one of those Ty Cobb pipes.

The last cabinet section was devoted to the history of the tobacco pipe. A row of pipes was laid out, with an information card describing each pipe and their place in history. The pipes started with stone pipes, moving onto clays, and briars, and everything in-between. The display was a nice primer for visitors who might not be as familiar with the history of pipes, as well as many examples of each kind of pipe.

The St. Louis Worlds Fair Corncob Pipe Displays from 1904

Perhaps the coolest part of the whole museum had to be the memorabilia and historical items scattered throughout the room. At the top of the room above the first display cabinet sat two dusty old art pieces, two boards covered from top to bottom in corncob pipes, each with their own unique pattern. To a normal passer-by, these two dusty displays might not seem worthy of any real significance, perhaps a curiosity at best. However, these aren’t just for some art project to decorate the museum. The Missouri Meerschaum Company created these displays all the way back for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, and are over 115 years old. It’s amazing that these two historically significant art pieces have are still hanging up in the museum and weren’t lost to time.

In the back corner of the room sat what I like to call the Corncob Throne. The throne consisted of a wooden chair, with tons of corncob pipes with amber stems sticking out on top of the back. The chair reminded me of the Iron Throne, seen in HBO’s The Game of Thrones, but with a focus on pipes rather than swords. I imagine any pipe smoker out there would love to have a chair like this in their smoking spot. I mean, come on, it’s a chair decorated with corncob pipes! Despite being a huge corncob pipe fan, I didn’t myself worthy of having such an honor. I’ve seen enough Indiana Jones films to know what happens when you presume you deserve something. Knowing my luck, I’d probably dissolve into pipe ash and corn kernels. This is a seat worthy for someone like Aristocob, not some simple blogger such as myself.

The Cob Throne

Once I finished up at the museum, it was time to wrap up my visit. So after one more look around the place, I stepped outside and headed out to my car. However, I wasn’t quite ready to head back to my hotel room, and I wanted to look around Washington a bit more. So I loaded up my 150th Anniversary Corndog cob with a codger blend— Lane’s Ready Rubbed, fired up the bowl with my pipe lighter, and took a stroll down the sloping Missouri streets surrounding the factory.

I took in the scenery while puffing my new cob and thought how fortunate the Missouri Meerschaum Factory was to be located in such a wonderful small town. Sitting on the banks of the mighty Missouri river, built atop the soil of America’s heartland, the very DNA of the Missouri Meerschaum factory is as Americana as they come. It’s true that Washington doesn’t have the same draw as St. Louis or Kansas City, but it provides more of a picturesque and idyllic setting to spend a day away from the madness of the crowds. 

As the tobacco burned low in my cob, and I leaned next to that old, out-of-commission train station, I found it hard to leave this quaint, yet welcoming city. While my visit had unfortunately come to an end, I dearly hoped that one day I could return and make another visit to the Missouri Meerschaum factory. And if you ever find yourself driving through the “Show Me” state and have some spare time, I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than in Washington, MO.

Until next time, you’ll find me here, breaking in my new cobs. Happy puffing, my friends,

-TheBadgerPiper

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*On a side note, if you do go to the Missouri Meerschaum factory, I highly suggest you use the bathroom beforehand, or save it until after. The retail store and museum doesn’t have a bathroom available for customers, so you’ll have to walk two blocks away to the public market. Kinda annoying, but at least there’s a public restroom close by. Be warned.

A Review of Sutliff’s Eastfarthing

When I first smoked a pipe, I started out with aromatic blends. Yet, like many pipe smokers out there, I gradually moved onto English blends, then VaPers, Burley, and so on. Over time, my aromatic blends collected dust in my cellar, and I soon gifted my unused aromatics to newer pipe smokers who would appreciate the blends more than I did. I certainly don’t sneer my nose up at aromatics like some out there, but my tastes naturally changed to more complex blends.

Still, I have a fondness for a good aromatic. After all, most of us probably gained an interest in pipe smoking from smelling a codger blend, so I’m always on the lookout for a pleasing aromatic that I can still enjoy. In my opinion, the best pipe tobacco blends on the market combine a pleasing aroma without sacrificing a good tobacco flavor.

I recently picked up a tin of Sutliff’s Eastfarthing, after hearing some of my online pipe buddies rave about the blend. I decided to give the blend a try, though I didn’t pay much attention to what kind of blend it was until it arrived. I wanted to go into Eastfarthing blind and make up my mind on my own. If I had known it was considered an aromatic, I might not have picked it up.

Image from PipesandCigars.com

After Eastfarthing arrived, I read the description printed on the label, which read, “Mature red Virginias, stoved burley & aged Latakia with a hint of sweetness.” Red Virginias? Good. Stoved burley? Excellent, I love burley. Aged Latakia? So it’s an English blend. I’m game. A hint of sweetness? Well, I do have a sweet tooth; so don’t mind if I do.

I popped the tin and went ahead and gave the tobacco a sniff. I could smell the wondrous aroma of vanilla, my favorite kind of aromatic. I knew at least the room note of Eastfarthing would be a winner, if nothing else. However, the tobacco in the tin was quite damp, so I put some out to dry overnight to smoke the next day. If you end up trying Eastfarthing for yourself, I highly recommend letting it dry, or you’re going to have a rough time getting the tobacco lit.

The next day, I loaded up my large Peterson XL14 with the dried Eastfarthing and headed out to my garage to smoke. The tobacco still had a tiny bit of moisture to it, even after being out for 24 hours, but leaving it out made it suitable for smoking. Your drying time my vary depending on your preferred method.

The tobacco lit easily in my pipe, and I sat back and puffed away, paying close attention to how the blend smoked. It didn’t take long for Eastfarthing to convert me into a fan. I could taste the aged Latakia in the smoke, solidifying it as an English blend to my palate. Yet like the description says, there was also a definite sweetness in the mix, making it more of a dessert English blend.

Now, as most pipe smokers quickly learn as they take up the pipe, usually the smoker is immune to the room note of the pipe as they puff. However, as I smoked Eastfarthing, my nostrils detected a distinctive change in the air. I removed my pipe from my mouth and took a long sniff to smell what it was.

Ah, there it is, I thought to myself with a smile as I resumed puffing away. There’s that classic pipe smell I’ve missed.

Folks, Eastfarthing smells exactly as a pipe tobacco should—rich, deep, and earthy. It reminded me of all the times I walked by a pipe smoker in the past before I took up the pipe. As soon as I’d smell that warm aroma, I’d stop in my tracks and look for the source. Sure enough, I’d find a pipe smoker, puffing away without a care in the world. Despite having Latakia in the blend, it doesn’t have that campfire smell that some find off-putting, but you will taste it.

The name Eastfarthing comes from a location in the Lord of the Rings books, and I think it’s an appropriate title. This is the type of tobacco I can see hobbits, dwarves, elves, and men all keeping in their pouches as they travel Middle Earth. I know some pipe smokers say Eastfarthing reminds them of Frog Morton Cellar. I never had the chance to try Cellar, but it reminds me of another LOTR style blend that’s sadly disappeared—Just for Him’s Shortcut to Mushrooms. As much as I liked STM, I’d wager to say I actually like Eastfarthing a bit more. For me, it’s a bit of a richer smoke than what I remember of STM.

Eastfarthing is a complex blend, and Sutliff should be commended for their work. This is a pipe tobacco for absolutely everyone— both the smoker and those around them. The flavor is full of sweet English goodness while still retaining that classic pipe smell that reminds non-smokers of favorite pipe smoking relatives.

So if you’re in the market for a blend that manages to combine the best of an English blend and an aromatic, I highly recommend you take a long holiday to Eastfarthing.

My rating for this blend: 4 out of 4 stars.

Returning to Peterson’s of Dublin

Monday, September 30th, 2019 – Dublin, Ireland

I stepped outside the lobby of my hotel and pulled the protective hood of my raincoat over my wool flat cap. Rainclouds covered the city of Dublin like a dark grey blanket, unleashing a constant barrage of rain on the waterlogged city. While Ireland’s known for its rain, even the normally chipper Dubliners had grown tired of the constant downpour. Still, despite the rain and massive puddles, the citizens of Dublin braved the weather, dressed in their own raincoats and holding their umbrellas above their heads.

I stepped onto the sidewalk and began my short trek alongside Trinity College, avoiding the puddles and pedestrians as I checked my phone to make sure I was headed in the right direction. While I knew where I was going, being a bit navigationally challenged, I find it reassuring to check to make sure I’m headed in the right direction. Considering I had been anticipating this visit for months, the last thing I wanted to do was get lost on the way to Peterson’s of Dublin.

I had been in Ireland for over a week, having travelled to the Emerald Isle with my wife and Mother-in-law for a family vacation. This was the third time my wife and I had been to Ireland, but this was the first for my Mother-in-law. While my Mother-in-law has travelled to many different places around the world, it was always a dream of hers to visit Ireland and see her family’s homeland. My wife and I brought her along as a way to thank her for giving my wife the chance to travel overseas while growing up. Now some might find travelling with their mother-in-law a punishment worse than death, but I actually get along quite well with mine, so it didn’t bother me. The only caveat for me is that she’s very anti-tobacco, so that meant no pipe smoking while on the trip. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a disappointment, but a trip to Ireland is worth a brief break from the briar. However, once we were in Dublin, I worked it out so I could stop at Peterson’s while my wife and mother-in-law were busy elsewhere.

For the past week, we explored the scarred remnants of bitter conflict in Belfast, the magnificent crags of Donegal, the glorious seaside port of Galway, and the ancient streets of Kilkenny. We only had one day in rainy Dublin before it was time for us to head back to the states, but all I needed was a good hour at Peterson’s to accomplish my mission.

Now, I’ve been to Peterson’s before, having stopped in during both of my previous trips to Dublin, but no matter how many times I get to go, it still fills me with a giddy excitement with every visit. Peterson pipes hold a special place in my heart, as my very first pipe was a Peterson Aran 408 Author. Since then, I’ve collected a number of Petersons, all different shapes, and they outnumber any other brand in my collection. So when I go to Peterson’s, I feel like a pipe pilgrim reaching my long desired destination.

Peterson’s of Dublin

By the time I reached Peterson’s, I took only a moment to snap a quick picture before venturing inside so I could get out of the ever-present rain. The shop itself is sandwiched in a long row of buildings, standing right across the street from Trinity College. I can’t think of a better location for “The Thinking Man’s Pipe” than being across from a legendary establishment of learning like Trinity.

It’s funny, for a shop as lauded as Peterson’s; it’s actually quite small in person. However, if your business is located centrally in an old city like Dublin, you deal with the hand you’re dealt, so expansion is kind of difficult. Still, the pipe section of Peterson’s puts most tobacconists to shame, so they work with what they have.

The first floor of the shop holds all of their available pipes in a glass case on the wall, with a display case containing a selection of non-Peterson pipes. There are also various knickknacks for sale, such as flasks, knives, and watches, which might interest pipe smokers looking for souvenirs. Besides the first floor, there’s a basement that holds their cigar selection, though I’ve yet to see it as I’m not a cigar smoker. Besides, if you’re a pipe smoker, the pipes are what you’re there for. There’s also an upper floor that’s off limits, which I imagine holds some of their extra stock. There’s a life sized Sherlock Holmes guarding the stairs, keeping an eye on travelling Americans that might venture up there out of curiosity. As much as I’d like to take a peek up there, I’d rather not to be banned from the store. The last thing I’d need is for my picture to be plastered on the back of the counter with the phrase “Do not serve this American.”

If I’m being honest, I’d have to admit their pipe tobacco selection is a bit lacking. One would think you would find their entire line of tobaccos in the shop, but that’s not the case. There’s a small selection of Peterson tobacco pouches behind their counter, as well as some C&D blends and a number of European only brands— such as Condor, Clan, and Mick McQuaid. In previous visits, they had a larger selection of tobaccos, but it’s been paired down to only the essentials. I’m not sure why their in-shop inventory is so sparse, but if I had to wager a guess, I’d put my money on regulations. But what do I know? I’m just some Yankee tourist.

After moving my hood back and shaking off the rain, I greeting the two friendly employees behind the counter and went straight for the pipe case. I had about an hour to spend in the shop before I needed to meet my wife and mother-in-law at Trinity College for the Book of Kells exhibit, so time was of the essence.

During my last two visits, I was able to pick up two pipes each, as buying Peterson pipes in Ireland is a bit cheaper than buying online in America. I had planned on doing the same for this visit; however, after glancing at a few prices on the pipes, I discovered that their pipes had gone up in price since 2015. I soon changed my tactic from buying two cheaper pipes to buying one nicer Peterson. Initially, this was a bit of a letdown, but looking back, I think it was a blessing in disguise. I’m not lacking in pipes, and this freed me into looking at more expensive pipes I normally avoid.

The Pipe Rack at Peterson’s

An hour seems like a long time to look for a pipe, but when you’re dealing with over one hundred pipes in multiple cases with sliding walls, it can be a bit of a sensory overload. Normally, when I’m searching for something, I tend to go in a logical order of moving from left to right, going up and down each row of pipes. I immediately ran into an obstacle to my system, as there was another American looking at the pipe case where I’d normally start. I had to break my system and work backwards, even if it disrupted my regular flow.

The pipes themselves were grouped together by their brands, moving from left to right from affordable to expensive. This made it a bit easier to find what type of pipe you wanted, as the Aran’s were with Arans’, Rocky’s with Rocky’s, and so on.  Occasionally, I’d find a single pipe by itself, as it was the last style left, such as the St. Patrick’s Day pipe I came across during my searching. Overall, though, everything was orderly and clearly defined for my logical brain.

Peterson’s had a pretty decent selection to choose from, with most of their brands represented. Their pipe stock did feel a tiny bit picked over, but there were still plenty of pipes to choose from. While I was disappointed that they didn’t have any 2019 Christmas pipes in stock, there were a good amount of 2018 Christmas pipes to make up for it. Their normal brands had plenty of shapes represented, but once you got into their more obscure lines like their Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde pipes, you were stuck picking from the few shapes available.

What wasn’t as clearly defined, and my one brief criticism I have, was figuring out the prices for the pipes. Their cases had some general prices listed, but some areas didn’t have tags available. This potentially wasn’t a problem, as the pipes did have tags stuffed in the bowls of their pipes, but about half of the pipes didn’t have a price listed, only a barcode. I can’t interpret a barcode, so I was out of luck. I wasn’t about to ask the clerks to price check every pipe, so I’d have to find out the price of my pipe once I picked it out.

After about forty minutes of searching through each pipe that caught my eye, picking them up and giving them a look over, I finally narrowed my selection between a charming Rosslare 68 and one of the Sherlock Holmes pipes that were available. Now, Peterson’s Sherlock pipes exude that classy Peterson look, but go a step further with their heftier size. If you’re buying a pipe from Peterson’s and have the budget, what better pipe to bring home as a memento from a trip to Ireland than a Sherlock? I mean there’s even a statue of the man in the store, so why not go for one?

Ultimately, the look of the pipe became the deciding factor for my purchase. The Sherlock pipes had style to them; no doubt about it, but the finish for each pipe resembled the average Aran or Rocky pipe. I love both styles, but I already own plenty of Peterson’s with those particular finishes. The Rosslare pipes, however, caught my eye the moment I saw them— with the glossy yet rusticated briar, silver band, and golden stem.

I’ll admit I almost walked away with a Sherlock Professor pipe. It had the same bent billiard shape as a 68, but larger for longer smokes. I had to pose myself a question— which of the two pipes would I look back and regret not buying once I got back from my trip? As cool as the Professor pipe was, I knew as soon as I got home I’d be thinking about that Rosslare finish, and make that my next purchase. Could I say the same about the Professor? The decision was clear as day, and I put the Professor back in the case and took the Rosslare 68 to the attendant at the counter.

As I checked out, I decided to pick up some pipe tobacco not available in the United States. While Mick McQuaid Plug was high on my UK pipe tobacco wish list, there was only one choice for me—Condor Plug. For years, I’ve read user reviews on tobaccoreviews.org for the classic British blends such as St. Bruno Flake, and Condor Plug was always up there as a tobacco I wished I could try. Now that I had the chance, I wasn’t going to miss my opportunity. I ended up picking up two 50-gram pouches and added them with the pipe.

I must say, I feel for my pipe brethren overseas. As annoying as it is to have large warning labels on our pipe tobacco in the USA, it doesn’t compare to the absolute fear mongering plastered on the European pouches. The pouches are pure black, with the name of the tobacco in plain white text. Instead of tin art, pictures of babies on life support, black lungs, weeping wives, and other guilt tripping images are front and center on the pouches. They gave the impression you’d suddenly keel over the moment you touched the pouch. It’s utter hogwash, and when I open my two pouches of Condor Plug, the original packaging is going straight into the trash where it belongs. I fear it’s a sign of things to come over here in America, if our moralizing politicians have anything to say about it, but at least they can’t control what we do with our tobacco once we have it.

After placing my new Peterson 68 and tobacco in my backpack, it was time for me to step back in the wet drizzly weather and make my way over to Trinity College. While I was sad to leave Peterson’s, I was equally as eager to see my favorite exhibit in the world— the Book of Kells and the Long Library. I couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate my newest purchase than inside an old library with old, dusty books. Of course, I couldn’t leave without giving my regards to the great detective himself as he stood watch over one of the finest pipe shops in the world. It’s just a shame I couldn’t enjoy a pipe with him.

The Great Detective in the Wax

Overall, I had a wonderful time visiting Peterson’s of Dublin, and while I had a few nit picks, they’re only to help improve an already great pipe shop. The two clerks in attendance were cheerful and treated me well, helping every customer that came through their doors. If you happen to visit Ireland, you’d be crazy not to give Peterson’s a visit. I look forward to coming back and visiting their shop the next time I decide to endure another seven-hour flight overseas.

Further thoughts on Ireland

The Rock of Cashel

As I’ve said before, I’ve been to Ireland a total of three times now, and I still pine to go back and spend more time in the Emerald Isle. As a history buff, Ireland is chock full of castles, ruins, forgotten cemeteries, and old buildings that you’ll want to spend hours at. Here in America, it’s a big deal when a building is over a hundred years old, whereas in Ireland, that’s quite the norm. I’ll confess that when I’m at an old ruin, I feel like a kid again, climbing over the ancient stones and exploring every nook and cranny for little details some might completely miss.

I’m not much of an outdoors person, but when I’m in Ireland, that completely changes. Some of the most fun I’ve had has been climbing the rocks of the Giants Causeway, hiking up the seaside cliffs for breathtaking views, and taking in the magnificent views of the Ireland highlands. I’d gladly sacrifice a day of lounging around at home to witness the natural splendor of Ireland any time. It’s moments like this where I heartily advocate for an afternoon lunt amongst the scenery.

The people of Ireland are also exceedingly friendly and welcoming. During my time, I had many chats with locals and getting to know them on a personal level. Once they learned of my wife’s heritage, they all wanted to know her family’s story and her connection to Ireland. The people in Belfast were also very open about their history with the Troubles, filling us in on how Northern Ireland has progressed since the fighting ceased. It gave me a new appreciation for what they went through, and how the country has grown since those turbulent times. The Irish are wonderful people, and I hope all of my readers get a chance to have a pint with one over a good chat and pipe.

If I had only one disappointment, it was that I didn’t encounter any pipe smokers out in the wild. I’ve seen pipe smokers in all other countries that I’ve visited, so it’s odd to me that Ireland remains the one exception. Pipe smoking seems so tied to Ireland, as it’s in their artwork and photography. I even found a pipe smoker painted on the side of one of the pubs we visited up near Donnegal. I know they’re there, but I’ve had bad luck in all of my searching. Next time I hope to enjoy my pipe there, so maybe it’ll encourage another pipe smoker to come out of hiding.

Still, I had an absolutely wonderful time in Ireland, and this was the first trip where I wasn’t ready to head back to America by the end of my visit. It’s not easy for me to leave my garage and go travelling, but Ireland certainly left a piece of itself with me that will last a lifetime.

Top of the Mornin’/Evenin’ to Ye!

Until next time, happy puffing friends!

-TheBadgerPiper

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The PAD and TAD Zone

            It happens to every pipe smoker eventually. You’ve bought a starter briar or cob, as well as a few ounces of a pleasant sounding aromatic. You’ve struggled with learning how to pack and light a pipe, as well as how to smoke it properly. You’ve watched a few youtube videos, maybe joined the Instagram pipe community or a pipe forum to learn the secret knowledge of the briar. You’ve joined in some conversations with fellow pipe smokers, perhaps even met up with a few to enjoy a bowl. Over time, the pipe becomes easier to smoke, and you’ve come to the decision that you want to stick with it.

Soon, that pouch of tobacco nears the bottom, and now you need to order the blend again. You’re no longer the cautious newbie looking for a way into the hobby; you’re a pipe smoker through and through. Maybe not a “pro” or a distinguished piper, but you’ve dipped you’re toes into the pastime, and now you want to spread your wings a little. You like that nice aromatic, but you’d like to try something else in addition to your favorite.

Other pipers have suggested other blends for you to try, blends with tobaccos that veer perhaps less in Cavendish and more in Virginia, Burley, Latakia, or even that mysterious Perique you’ve heard so much about.

It’s not just tobacco you’re looking for, either. That starter briar or cob has served you well, but perhaps it’s time to look into adding a second pipe to your rotation. After all, variety is the spice of life, and you’ve seen other pipers with all sorts of interesting briars and cobs in their collection. A straight Billiard is a solid shape, but there was a rugged bulldog pipe that caught your eye. Maybe you can find something similar on a pipe website.

So you log onto the page of your preferred pipe retailer of choice with that faithful credit card and start searching around. You have the name of a blend and shape of a pipe on your mind as you click around, astounded by the sheer amount of options before you. You add that blend into your cart, but in the process you spotted another one that had a name you recognized. Soon, the number on the cart icon at the top of the page increases as you add blend after blend, tin after tin, a bulldog pipe and a diplomat cob. You can’t buy every blend you find, so you jot down the names of blends in a document for next time.

By the time you’ve clicked the order button, you’ve gone way past your initial budget. You scratch your head in bewilderment, wondering just how you’ll explain to your significant other why the credit card bill is higher than normal.

How did this happen? Why are you suddenly investing in boxes of mason jars? Why are you already counting down the days until the next time you can place your order?

There’s no need to panic my friend. As your unlicensed and unofficial doctor, I can tell you the obvious diagnosis— you’ve taken the turn right into… the PAD and TAD Zone.

Image of the Twilight Zone belongs to CBS

            Do do do doo, do do do doo, do do do doo, do do do doo.

The Pipe Smoker’s Dictionary defines PAD and TAD as “Pipe Acquisition Disorder” and “Tobacco Acquisition Disorder” respectively. Symptoms include: dizziness, sweaty palms, daily visits to tobaccoreviews.com, memory loss upon viewing a pipe webstore, naming children and pets after pipe brands, and hallucinations of packages arriving on your doorstep. There is no known cure for PAD and TAD. Please do not consult a doctor if you recognize any of these symptoms, they can’t help you.

If you haven’t come down with a case of PAD or TAD, don’t worry, it’ll happen eventually. I’ve seen plenty of forum posts of pipers admitting to contracting PAD and TAD, and often the replies only encourage the sufferer to embrace their affliction.

I came down with PAD not long after I started smoking a pipe. At that point, I only had two briars to my name, and once I knew that pipe smoking was for me, I wanted to add more pipes to my collection. Granted, I had my eye on smoking a pipe for about two years by the time I started, so I had an idea of shapes and brands I wanted to purchase. Being a poor grad student kept me from buying new pipes, but I soon found an enabler by the name of eBay. Over time, I saved what money I could and snagged a few pipes (as long as they weren’t sniped from me…) at a cheaper price.

One of my first early purchases was a pipe rack, and let me tell you, pipe racks do not help with PAD. I’d have an evening smoke, place my pipe back on the rack, and notice the empty spots on the rack.

This won’t do, said the little voice in my head. I bet a nice Comoy would fit right alongside the others. So off I’d go onto eBay and I’d bid on a Comoy within my price range. After cleaning it up, I’d put it on the rack and be satisfied for the moment.

Then that nagging voice would come back once more.

You know, these five pipes are nice, the voice would say. But I’m so close to having a seven-day set. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a pipe for each day of the week?

Two months later, two more briars filled the empty spots, with one pipe resting on it’s own.

Sure is a shame to leave that pipe all alone by itself, I heard the voice say. Better buy a few more racks to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Off I went to eBay, and won a lot of three pipe racks. That solved the problem! Or so I thought…

Over time, those empty spaces filled with briars, with empty beer steins holding the overflow of cobs and smaller briars in my collection. Now, one would think that PAD’s hold over me would finally break after collecting so many pipes, but that’s not the case. Even now, I find myself glancing over at eBay or a pipe store and think, well, one more couldn’t hurt…

However, much to PAD’s chagrin, there’s another voice that stops me from spending my hard earned cash on that new briar. Unfortunately for me, that other voice has ulterior motives and can be just as persuasive. That silky voiced tempter, if you haven’t guessed already, is known as TAD.

I’ve mentioned before that I got into pipe smoking over a fascination with pipes. When I started, tobacco was an afterthought. I spent so long agonizing over my first pipe that I realized I hadn’t even taken the time to pick out a tobacco to smoke in it. I had to make a completely separate order for pipe tobacco, as I didn’t even have a blend in the cart for my pipe purchase. I picked out a few aromatics and an English as my first order without giving it much thought.

It wasn’t until a year later when a friend of mine on the Christian pipe smokers forums sent me a huge sampling of tobacco to try. He had a pretty big cellar, and knew I had much to learn about pipe tobacco. Up to that point, I stuck with aromatics and the occasional English, only recently dipping my toes in other blends with MacBaren’s Navy Flake and Erinmore Flake. Thanks to his generosity, he opened my eyes to all types of blends, from flakes like Exhausted Rooster, to Kendal Plug. My palate changed accordingly, but that would mean investing in more blends. The TAD bug had latched its teeth on me, and it wasn’t about to let go.

I started off purchasing blends I enjoyed from my friend’s samples, such as Exhausted Rooster, Stockton, and Kendal Plug. As I smoked these blends, I searched forums and TobaccoReviews.com for more blends to try, jotting down suggestions I’d find from more experienced pipers. Eventually, I developed my own taste for blends, and I could easily hone in on ones I knew I’d probably like.

Eventually, my cellar had a large variety of tins and mason jars to pick from when readying for my evening smoke. I realized at some point that I needed to pace myself in picking out new blends, and instead focus on stocking up on blends I considered favorites. If I didn’t, I’d just keep buying new blend after new blend at the risk of running out of my go-to blends. I now have a system when ordering tobacco, limiting myself to only a few new blends while using the rest of my funds for favorites. That doesn’t mean I still don’t hear TAD whisper in my ear, but I have it contained (for the most part).

            So why do so many pipe smokers “struggle” with PAD and TAD? I think I have an idea why. See, pipe smokers tend to be of the collecting sort. Before I started smoking a pipe, I was a retro video game collector. Now, my funds are less focused on old video games, and instead go towards new and estate briars.

The pipe hobby is a deep, labyrinthian rabbit hole for the collector, from pipes, to tobacco, and to pipe ephemeris. Every pipe smoker has a different taste in pipes and tobacco, which means no two collections are exactly the same. Oh, everyone might have a billiard in their collection, but most likely, the two billiards will have a different maker, size, or appearance. Likewise, a pipe smoker might only collect Canadian pipes, but chances are, each of those Canadians have some sort of variation to them. Just as soon as a collector buys their latest pipe, a new one ends up at the top of his or her wish list.

With pipe tobacco, while some are content with smoking a single blend, more often than not, most pipers prefer having a variety of blends. Everyone has a favorite meal they like to eat. I love pepperoni pizza, but I wouldn’t want to have it for every meal. For one, I’d get tired of it eventually, and pepperoni pizza would lose its excitement.  

There’s a plethora of different pipe tobacco blends out there, and it would be a shame to limit oneself to a single blend, no matter how much one enjoys it. Likewise, with the sheer volume of pipe tobacco out there, I doubt there’s a piper out there that’s smoked every blend on the market. Still, no matter how many blends we try and enjoy, there’s always another blend we can add to our cart the next time we place an order.

From my own observations, PAD and TAD tend to strike those who are newer to the hobby. Speaking from my own experience, after diving into the hobby, I wanted to add as many pipes and blends into my collection as soon as possible. This is a natural response, as with all the shapes, brands, and blends out there, the new piper wants to find the things they’ll enjoy the most in the hobby. One can’t know what they like until they buy it for themselves, and unless you’re a millionaire, a cellar and collection takes time to procure. 

Another aspect as to why PAD and TAD can hit so hard is the desire to be part of the conversation. When the pipe smoker first joins a pipe forum or the pipe sections in social media, we inundated with images of pipes and tobacco from others. The new pipe smoker can only talk about so much about the handful of blends and pipes they own before they run out of things they can talk about from their point of view. We want to be part of the discussion, so we pay attention to the blends others are smoking and add them into the next online order.

I’m no stranger to this phenomenon. Every autumn, Boston tobacconist L.J. Peretti releases their limited batch pressed Thanksgiving Cake. In the past, I’ve seen others online rave about the blend, so I bought some for my cellar back in November. Now certainly, this is a quality blend, and I’m glad to have it. However, if it weren’t for the influence of pipe forums and social media, I never would’ve heard of the blend. Such is the power of TAD.

So, should you seek professional help if you come down with a case of PAD or TAD? I don’t think so. We all have our own manias from time to time, and as long as it’s not out of control, then I think it’s fine. Now, if you’re going into debt buying pipes and tobacco, then maybe you should give your credit card to your significant other, or keep that wallet far away from the computer. This is a hobby, not an addiction; and if you’re spending more money than you should, take a step back and reevaluate your purchasing habits. This is why I don’t save my cards to pipe sites, just so I don’t make impulse buys.

If you’re looking to keep PAD and TAD in check, then I suggest keeping a budget dedicated to the pipe hobby. Keep to that budget when making purchases, and don’t go overboard. Before making a purchase, have a list of blends you want to try. That way, you have a plan going in when placing an order, which should limit the damage from impulse purchases. Likewise for pipes, have an idea of what you’re looking for before you go searching. If the site doesn’t have what you’re looking for, then wait until your desired pipe is back in stock. Don’t buy a different pipe in its place just to add a new one to the rack. Otherwise, you’ll be kicking yourself when the one you want is back in stock.

Above all else remember, the pipe hobby is all about having fun. Patience and pipe smoking go hand in hand, and much like how it took time to learn how to smoke a pipe, don’t rush in building a cellar. It will happen over time, so sit back and enjoy the ride. Learn how to tune out the siren call of PAD and TAD, and you’ll eventually end up with a bountiful cellar.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I’m meeting with someone to sell my television. There’s a beautiful shell Dunhill I spotted on eBay that’ll look great on my pipe rack. I don’t think my wife will notice, at least right away. The cardboard cut out replacement I put in its place is working so far, so I have about a few hours before she discovers what I’ve done. But by then, it’ll be too late, and that pipe will be mine!

Until next time, happy puffing, and send help.

TheBadgerPiper

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