The Four Elements of an Exceptional Smoke

The time, the place, the pipe and the tobacco. These are the basic ingredients of a classic smoke.

Pipe smoking is the best way to enjoy tobacco, but not all smokes are created equal. There is that quick bowl you grab in the morning because you know it’s going to be a busy day and you want a moment of peace before it begins. At night a pipe as you reflect on the day can be one of the most satisfying of them all.

Then there is everything in-between.

I would not put all smokes in the category of a classic smoke. For instance, when trying out a tobacco and you are smoking it just to get a feel for it, is one example. But some smokes are fantastic. They make you happy you are a pipe smoker.

To best put it into perspective, let me take a second to tell you what a man once told me about wine. No novice was he, but an expert sommelier and owner of a winery. He told me that the reason people value great wine with dinner is not because it tastes good, but because it makes the food taste better.

That thought stuck with me because it’s so true, but few people think of it like that.

When I start to put these puzzle pieces together, think of that last statement. Smoking a pipe tastes good, but we do it because it makes our experiences better.

The Time

What I’m talking about here is not the pipe you smoke just to smoke a pipe. The corn cob you smoke because you are in traffic and you had a hankering for a smoke. Not that. I’m talking about that pipe you wish would never end.

The time is critical, but it’s not really a time you can schedule. Maybe you enjoy a pipe in the evenings the most, so you can set yourself up by setting aside time after dinner. It’s sort of scheduling, but it is no guarantee. Trying to smoke a pipe when you have five minutes before you have to be somewhere is never going to work out.

The time of the year can be just as important as the time of the day. Maybe even more so. Or the time in your life. That might be the most important of all. You never know. All I’m trying to say is timing is important, even if you don’t realize it, or have control over it.

Each one of these seemingly little factors has an effect on you and is a factor in how much you might enjoy your pipe.

The Place

A very personal thing and different for everyone. It could be your favorite place or one you’ve never been before. There has to be something about it that brings you joy.

It cold be the people who are in that place with you, or it could be a place that is quiet and peaceful.

I strongly advise you to not have just one place you smoke, especially if you have been banished to some cold dark corner, or outside, because you get the “I’m sensitive to smoke” person.

If you’re “not allowed” to smoke in the house, fine. Then drive down to the lake and sit by a tree and be amazed by the beautiful world. There could be a million examples here. Don’t punish yourself by looking at the lawn mower and empty bottles that have to go back. Find a great place, not just settle for a place people will leave you alone.

Also, by trying different places you never know what that one spot turns out to be. Maybe it’s one you will remember for the rest of your life. Vacations are a prime time to find such a place.

These two things, the time and the place go together hand in hand. The combinations are endless. There is no denying that they are critical if you are ever going to have that exceptional smoke.

If you’ve been smoking for any length of time, you have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Never discount how much these things effect your enjoyment of your pipe. And never short change yourself, if you can.

When you put as much importance on these factors as they deserve, it will open new doors for you.

Just like the first two things, the second two go together as well. The pipe and the tobacco. I’m sure that people will have a wide range of opinions on this subject. They might even argue that it doesn’t matter which pipe you use for any given blend. I may not agree with that, but I’m speaking of a much bigger subject.

Some will say the tobacco blend is what’s most important, and the pipe doesn’t matter. While others might say it’s all about the pipe. Most people will be somewhere in between those two views.

The Pipe

There really isn’t much I can say on this subject. People will have such a personal opinion of what constitutes best.

I would say that there are a couple of things one should keep in mind. Is that pipe the right one for where you are? If you’re driving around enjoying the scenery, a giant Freehand that weighs three pounds would not be a good idea.

A pipe that doesn’t smoke well, that you constantly have to fiddle with and gets wet would be a distraction if you are in a calm, quiet place. A place where you might meditate or want to read.

Just like tobaccos, some people like a certain thing, some like many different styles. You never know.

It seems everyone has at least a couple of pipes that they are very familiar with. They know exactly how they smoke and there are no surprises. You can always depend on pipes like those. But it’s also fun to try out new pipes or replace duds in your collection.

A little thought in picking out the right pipe for that particular smoke can go a long way. If you take one minute and gave it some thought, you might be surprised how you might select another pipe and not just that first one you reached for.

The Tobacco

This wil lbe the section with the widest opinions. They will all be right. It is not my intention to tell people what I think they should smoke or to tell you what I smoke.

What I would like to tell you is to know yourself. Find out what appeals to you. There are many ways to go about that and I would suggest, if you are a beginner, to find someone who is experienced. Tell them what your tastes are with regards to food or drink. Have them recommend a place for you to start and a couple of blends you might enjoy.

If you’re a steak and potatoes kind of person, you might want to try a burley blend. Lets say you love anything out of a smoker. Ribs, Brisket, etc . . . I would steer you towards some of the English blends. What about someone with a sweet tooth? Try some aromatics. Those are just a few examples and are very general.

I would also recommend to a new comer, that they try at least one blend from each family of pipe tobaccos. An English, a Va/Per, an aromatic, and oriental, etc . . . That is a quick way to narrow down what you may like.

After awhile when you really figure out your palate, there will be two schools of thought.

Go Wide

You should stock your cellar with as many different tobaccos as you like. This will give you many options in the future. That could be important, as many people’s tastes change as they get older.

Go Deep

This school of thought says that you should choose the few blends that you know you already love and get as much of it as you can. That way you’ll never run out. Even if the blend is discontinued.

I have to say, I lean a bit towards the deep end. If I had to choose only one way to manage my cellar, I’d go deep with about five or six blends. Good thing for me it doesn’t have to be one way or the other.

I also understand that there are also other limitations like space and budget. All that has to be balanced.

What I have done is gone pretty deep with a few blends, and have padded the numbers as you get away from my favorites. Sort of like a bell curve instead of a spike.

But this isn’t about your tobacco cellar strategy. It’s about picking out that tobacco that is going to fit with those other three elements. What is the best tobacco I can put in this pipe, right here, right now?

You will most likely get that tobacco from what you have on hand. Therefore having that blend at the time you need it is important.

You may enjoy different tobaccos at different times of year. You may have a blend that you never smoke in the house and now you’re outside.

Even if people say this ins’t true, I believe that some tobaccos smoke better in certain pipes. There are some that have dedicated pipes, while others will cram anything and everything into their favorite pipe.

What ever works for you, I think is the saying.

The Exceptional Smoke

The point here is that to go from a regular everyday smoke to something exceptional, all of the four elements need to come together.

If any one of them is wrong, while it may not spoil things, it will prevent you from getting maximum enjoyment out of your pipe.

So how does this all tie together? I’ll use an example. Let’s say you have everything perfect (for you). You’re with your friends by the campfire on a nice summer evening. That’s the time and the place.

You have your favorite pipe, and it smokes like a dream. In it, is a blend you really enjoy when it’s warm out. That’s the pipe and the tobacco.

That moment would be great on its own. You would be very happy no matter what. But, if all four of those things come together, that experience, that moment, is made better by that pipe.

It increases your enjoyment of it. It makes the food taste better.