You want to find a new pipe tobacco blend but there are so many to choose from and your budget is only big enough to pick up a few tins from your favorite retailer. What’s the best way to narrow your choices down? Pick the ones with the great tin art? Go by what’s on sale? I know, see what everyone’s talking about. That last one may be just as random as the first two. Mike owner of Briar Blues made a video this past week on finding the tobacco reviewer that’s just right for you, and making the most of it.
Mike is well known for his knowledge on Pipes, especially Estate Pipes, and occasionally chimes in on subjects like this, but the advice is more valuable than you think. I’ve been using this tactic for many years and it has paid off not only in finding gems but in saving me a ton of time and money. Finding the right reviewer is just as important as finding the next blend.
So what Mike recommends is starting out by evaluating yourself, your own tobacco preferences and not only what you enjoy, but what you don’t like. Make a note of those things going right down the list, rating what’s important to you and what your thoughts are. I used to use a 1-5 rating but now I just use an arrow shorthand method. An arrow pointing up is the best, pointing down is the worst. Most arrows point somewhere in-between. Making heads or tails of my notes would be confusing to anyone else, but it works for me.
Now the fun part, I start watching videos and reading reviews on blogs and websites. Listing them all and taking notes. Some guys like Martin at Over A Pipe make it easy for you. He lays everything out on a board, breaking down his reviews into specific categories. His reviews are very well done. David at the Gentleman’s Corner is very similar. Well laid out and structured. I’m sure you can name many others that do the same thing. The first impressions are nice, but I never go by those. Everyone knows the first time you try a blend you only get a fraction of the picture and until you have smoked enough of it, through different pipes do you get the familiarity necessary to do a well thought out review. Begin making a list of blend reviews from each one of them using the same method as your own. Profiles from each of them will begin to emerge. The production of the videos makes no difference to me, only what they are saying.
Mike’s advice then is to start going down the list. Highlight the points that match up with yours. What you will end up with is a few that very closely match your own. These are going to be your guys (or gals). Don’t get me wrong I never stop watching them all, not only because even when someone’s profile doesn’t match my own, they often bring up great points, but also because I love to hear what people have to say.
I’m not going to start listing all the people who do reviews, it would be too long plus I’d leave someone good off the list and feel bad afterwards. There are a couple that I will point out. The reviewer that most closely matched my own tastes, so close it was eerie, was Tree Top Piper. It’s been so long since he made a video I’m starting to worry a little bit. He was trying out blends left and right and reviewing blends nobody else was doing at the time. I can’t tell you how much I miss his reviews. His library is worth going through is you are not familiar with him. My new “Top Guy” has become MD of the North. Not a prolific reviewer, but the ones he does are so well thought out and presented they are worth watching. His profile is why I look to him when it comes to blends on my wish list. Everyone should have a few reviewers that they put their stock into. When they say something is really good, there’s a high probability that you are going to enjoy it as well. When they make a face or are so-so about a blend, that’s one you might want to pass on or put on the back burner.
Do yourself a big favor, watch the Briar Blues video and set out compiling your own tobacco profile then get to work sifting through the blogs and YouTube channels. You might be surprised at who agrees with you most often and then you will have found a valuable asset.