For many of us, having spent money on buying lovely tobacco and a beautiful pipe to smoke it in, it’s essential to make the most of smoking it. Smoking a pipe is a hobby and pastime that can’t be rushed or hurried as it takes time to build experience and to understand what you’re looking for. For many newer pipe smokers, it may come as a surprise that certain pipes actually pair better with certain tobacco than others. Whether this is because of design, construction material or the length of the stem, the flavour and experience can be dramatically different with two different pipes. In this article, we’ll look to uncover the properties of various pipes and tobaccos with which you should pair them.
It’s important to understand that there are different materials used in the construction of smoking pipes. Different materials are used as they each have different properties and can offer something unique to the smoker.
Perhaps the most common type of pipe, briar pipes are made from the wood of the same name and are generally regarded as the best pipes to be smoked. Importantly, well-made briar pipes will have no taste or aroma meaning that all the flavour the pipe absorbs will come from the tobacco. Because of the pipe’s design, it can be quick to absorb flavours which means that an overdose of oil or casing too early on can cause the pipe to go sour and be stuck on a flavour.
It’s important that you build good cake in your briar pipes, as this serve you well further down the road. Here’s our article on building cake in your pipe. Additionally, you should always be smoking the same tobacco with your briar pipe, as this is the best way to produce consistent flavour and a good cake. For tobaccos, avoid those with intense aromatics and ones that are heavily cased. The pipe needs to be treated and broken in gently, a timely process but completely worth it.
One of the defining characteristics of meerschaum pipes is the porous nature of the material, meaning that flavours, oils and aromas are absorbed by the pipes. Another property of the meerschaum is that it can easily be carved into intricate and elaborate designs, allowing for a wealth of styles to be produced. Typically, meerschaums that are well-smoked will turn from white to a golden brown colour. It’s worth noting that meerschaum pipes are more fragile and sensitive which means that a large amount of oil can cause it to burn too hot and potentially crack the pipe.
For the most part, we’d suggest using English tobacco blends with meerschaum pipes as these can be smoked at a cooler temperature. These blends also work well because of their lower oil content.
Something of a workhorse when it comes to pipes, corncobs are durable, cheap and difficult to ruin. Key aspects of a corncob pipe are that they are ideal for beginners as there is no break-in period, which means you can pack your pipe and start smoking! Additionally, because of the low cost of the pipe, it is worth having a stock of them so that you can try new tobacco blends without fear of ruining one of your favourite pipes.
Although offering a sweet and nutty flavour at the start, typically, corncobs will turn sour over time so there isn’t any reason to try to preserve longevity. We’d suggest using a corncob for smoking and oily, wet tobacco as not to risk ruining one of your other more expensive pipes which could potentially be damaged by the oil or heat.
Examples have been found dating back to the 1500s of clay pipes that were used for smoking tobacco. Typically used by Europeans, clay pipes were the smoker’s choice for around 300 years, until the arrival of cigarettes at the end of the 19th century.
Similar to meerschaum, clay pipes offer a dry and clean smoke, mostly due to the porous nature of the clay. For the most part, clay pipes have been fired but are not glazed, and will come in a pale white colour. Pipes made of this material typically burn very hotly in comparison to other materials which can take some time to get used to for smokers. Also, be aware that clay is a fragile material and can break very easily, so handle your pipe with care.
Many well-made clay pipes can provide smokers with a ‘pure’ smoking experience, which means that no flavours or aromas are added from the bowl. Therefore, we’d suggest using clay for your favourite tobacco, but make sure that you have a few test runs first to make sure you can get the right temperature.
If you’re interested in trying out some new tobacco blends, why not check out our range of Ashton Pipe Tobacco? Equally, if you have a great pipe and tobacco combination, let us know on Facebook and Twitter!