Now that you know a little about what’s in pipe tobacco, it’s time to decide what you’re going to be taking home with you, and this is where I think many experienced pipe smokers unintentionally guide newcomers down the wrong path. Nine times out of ten, an experienced pipe smoker will recommend an aromatic as the first blend for a beginning pipe smoker. The most common reasoning behind this advice is because aromatics tend to smell more pleasant, and I think that’s missing the point. As a new pipe smoker, you’re not going to have developed the ability to puff slowly and will be almost guaranteed to burn your mouth. Most aromatics tend worsen this situation. As a beginning pipe smoker, I picked out things that smelled sweet and proceeded to puff my mouth into a charred mess, causing me to put the pipe down and go back to cigarettes. This is not what we want. Since non-aromatics do not have the extra sugar and additives that tend to burn hotter, the result is a much cooler smoke, and what better for a new pipe smoker?
So with that knowledge, I say get both. Grab an aromatic that smells good to you and ask
the tobacconist for a non-aromatic that’s not overwhelming. Again, don’t be afraid to ask
questions. Most tobacconists are usually thrilled to usher a young guy into their world.
All you need now are a few small but important things. You’ll definitely want to get a
package of pipe cleaners. Remember those things you used to make art in the 2nd grade? Yes,
they’re actually used to clean pipes. You’ll also need a pipe tool. A good choice is a Czech 3-
pronged pipe tool which has a tamp, a miniature scoop, and a thin prong to aid in cleaning. Oh,
and a box of matches. Unless you’re a purist, your average plastic lighter will work fine. Now
with your pipe, two tobacco blends, pipe tool, pipe cleaners, and matches/lighter, you’re ready to
When it comes to actually smoking your pipe, there are many varying methods and styles
of doing things. Figuring out your preferences is one of the enjoyable things about the hobby, so
don’t worry about whether you’re doing things “right.” As far as packing the pipe goes, a good
place to start is the 3-pinch method. Take a generous pinch of tobacco from your pouch or tin
and pack it in the bowl with the same firmness that you would grip a baby’s hand. Now take a
second pinch and pack it in the bowl with the same firmness that you would use when squeezing
a woman’s hand. Then take a third pinch and pack it in the bowl with the same firmness you
would use when squeezing/shaking a man’s hand. With this method you’ll get a decent pack that
will work just fine until you can figure out exactly how you like to do it.
Lighting the bowl is pretty straight-forward. Most smokers perform what’s known as
a “charring light.” Since tobacco expands from the heat of the flame, a post-lighting tamp is
usually necessary. So with your first match you want to liberally light the entire top surface of
the tobacco (while trying not to torch the rim of the bowl itself). You’ll see the tobacco move
and rise slightly. Now take the tamp on that Czech pipe tool you picked up and tamp down the
tobacco firmly, but not too firmly. You should still be able to feel the sponginess of the tobacco.
If you don’t have your tool then a finger works just fine. Be mindful of the burning embers in the
bowl when tamping with your finger.
Now that you have your pipe, tobacco, and all the accoutrements, you’re ready to see if
this hobby’s for you. The best advice I can give to the new pipe smoker is, above all, PUFF
GENTLY AND SLOWLY. Avoiding a burnt tongue and mouth is pretty easy if you’re mindful
of what you’re doing. With that being said, pipe smoking is all about enjoyment. Don’t get
caught up in following the “rules.” All the rules discussed by older pipe smokers and on forums
are just guidelines. Above all, do what you enjoy. Experience will teach you how to get the
most enjoyment from your pipe adventures. Cheers!