How to Smoke a Pipe Like You Know What You’re Doing

What first comes to mind when you picture someone smoking a pipe? For most, it’s hard not to picture a distinguished bearded gentleman in a smoking jacket with wisps of smoke exiting his mouth as he gazes at a fireplace from a man throne, his legs crossed in an ever-so-nonchalant manner. OK, so maybe your mind doesn’t go to that level of description, but most can agree that a pipe is associated with some level of distinction. The next time you want to level up and experience the art form of pipe smoking, possibly with a perfectly paired cocktail like an Old Fashioned, we’ve made a basic tobacco-smoking guide to help you along your journey toward the distinctive. Your next lesson: how to smoke a cigar.

packing a pipe
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Supplies

  • A pipe: This should be the most obvious supply needed although it might be the hardest one to purchase, as pipes come in various shapes, forms, and prices. Beginners should first look at corn pipes, otherwise known as corncob pipes, which are made from corncobs and are cheap and effective. These cheaper pipes are great because they require no “break-in” period like their much more expensive sibling, the briar pipe. Since pipes tend to keep the flavors of tobacco, pipe enthusiasts like to keep extra corn pipes around when sampling new kinds of tobacco, in case there is a bad-tasting one in the mix that might taint their expensive pipe.
  • Pipe tool: This typically consists of a variety of small gadgets designed to aid in packing, smoking and emptying your pipe, often found in the form of a three-in-one tool made up of a pick, a reamer, and a tamper. The pick is a narrow pin that can be used to clear the shank of debris or to aerate tightly packed tobacco (since this is sharp and may scratch the bowl of a pipe, it shouldn’t be used for scraping). The reamer, a flat instrument shaped like a flattened spoon, is used to scrape ash and unused tobacco off the sides and bottom of your pipe. The tamper is a blunt instrument typically shaped like the top of a nail; the flat end is for tamping down the tobacco when the bowl is being packed and for crushing the ash together to aid relighting.
  • Pipe cleaners: A crucial part of your pipe smoking experience, pipe cleaners are a must and should be used each time you are finished smoking your pipe.
  • Lighter: It’s easy to assume that any lighter will do the trick, but when it comes to smoking pipes, there are specially designed lighters made just for the purpose. Both cigar and pipe lighters should be butane, without any exception. Cigar lighters offer a far more aggressive and hot flame that rises from the top of the lighter, while a pipe lighter is a softer flame that covers a broader area and usually jets from the side of the lighter, making it easier to angle the flame into your pipe without burning your fingers.
  • Tobacco: The most crucial supply needed in order to smoke a pipe is most obviously the tobacco. This is the time when you should consult with a tobacconist, which will most likely be the person you are buying your supplies from. Tobacco comes in a variety of strengths and flavors, so having someone knowledgeable explain the differences will prove to be resourceful.
man smoking a pipe
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How to Smoke a Pipe

  1. Fill the bowl with tobacco. This might be the hardest of all the steps to master as it will affect your experience. Fill the bowl loosely with tobaccos and press it lightly down with the tamper tool. At this point, the bowl should be filled halfway from the bottom. Fill the bowl again to the top and compress a bit more, packing firmly this time. By now, your bowl should be about three-quarters full. Now top off the bowl with more tobacco and press down. There should be a slight space between the top of the bowl and the packed tobacco.
  2. Test draw. Put the pipe to your mouth and take a test draw. If air doesn’t flow freely through the tobacco, it’s packed too tight. If that’s the case, remove the tobacco and start over. If your test draw proves to be a success, you are ready to light up.
  3. Light your pipe. Avoid using matches as the sulfur can alter the taste of the tobacco. Instead, grab your new pipe lighter and aim it towards the bowl as you take in gentle draws on the pipe. Move the lighter in a circular motion to ensure the tobacco is evenly lit. Once it’s lit (known as a false light) you are going to let it go out and then relight once again (known as a true light). Pipe smoking is different from cigarette smoking, so avoid inhaling the smoke into your lungs as the tobacco is stronger and is enjoyed more for the flavor than the inhalation.
  4. Relax and enjoy. Part of smoking a pipe is the time you set aside to enjoy the tobacco. Many pipe smoking enthusiasts enjoy the time they have to set aside in their day to relax and savor their pipe. Remember to take slow and steady puffs to avoid a burning sensation on your tongue known as a “tongue bite.” If your pipe goes out during your smoke, that’s perfectly OK, so just relight and continue.

Tips

  • If you hear a gurgling sound, there’s too much moisture in the pipe stem. To correct this, take a pipe cleaner and put it in the end for a moment or two to remove the moisture. Keeping your mouth as dry as possible will help prevent this from happening.
  • If the pipe gets too hot in your hand, let it go out and relight as the excessive burning can alter the taste of the tobacco.

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