How to Fill, Light and Smoke a Tobacco Pipe like a Gentleman

by June 23, 2012
filed under Life
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Smoking a PipeTo point out the painfully obvious, you will require a pipe. And tobacco. Aaaand matches (you can use a lighter, but I find the use of matches adds to the experience). Also, to make the process easier, I would recommend something to tamp the tobacco with. Something like a tamper; those work quite well.

Make sure the pipe is clean and free of obstructions. Take a few test draws to ensure everything is functional and there is no resistance. Next, feel up your tobacco. Oh, baby! Open the tin/pouch/whatever and assess the moisture content. You don’t want to use dry tobacco, but it also shouldn’t be overly moist. I would liken it to a fresh stick of gum: not brittle or flaky; malleable but not sticky. If your tobacco is a little too moist yet, leave it to air for a good 5-10 minutes.

When you’re good to go, lightly pinch the tobacco and sprinkle it into the bowl of the pipe. At this point, you want to ensure you’re not packing the tobacco at all. Be gentle with it. Coddle it. Treat it like a goddamned baby made out of goddamned glass. Fill the bowl to the top.

Now…now we’re gonna pack it. Use the tamper to tamp (!) the contents of the bowl down to, roughly, the halfway point. Take a draw from the stem and there should be no resistance. If there is, dump it all out and start from scratch. No biggie. This is a learning process.

So, presuming that the bowl is tamped down and there is no resistance, we move steadfastly on. In this stage, we pinch and sprinkle tobacco into the pipe. Again. To the top. The difference being that the tamping should be a touch firmer. The bowl should be filled to the three-quarter point, but the resistance should still be minimal.

Because you’re a particularly bright young woman (it’s one of my favourite things about you), I’m sure that you’ve guessed the next phase requires yet more pinching and sprinkling. Again, the bowl should be filled to the top (or a little over) but! the tamping should be quite firm at this point. Be sure to tamp evenly. A good litmus is to tip the bowl of the pipe over; the body of the tobacco should stay in at this point. A little debris isn’t an issue. Take another draw. You may notice some resistance, but it should still be easy to draw breath. Any sort of whistling sound means a poor packing.

Now’s the fun bit – the “false light” or the “charring light.” Using your match or lighter, light the top of the tobacco using a circular motion, taking a series of shallow puffs of the pipe while doing so. The object of this is to even out the amount of moisture and density. Let the tobacco go out. This, in theory, should be the last tamp. Tamp gently – oh, so gently – solely to even out the top. Re-light in the same way as before – circular ignition while taking shallow puffs. It may take a number of shallow puffs, but you want to get to the point where you get a nice, satisfying amount of smoke from the pipe signifying an even distribution of tobacco and heat.

My last word of advice would be not to inhale. Not because you’re some delicate flower that can’t handle it, but because it impedes your ability to actually taste the tobacco. Smoking a pipe isn’t about the nicotine buzz – it’s about the experience.


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