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My experience so far...

rusiriusrusirius Posts: 565 ✭✭
So for many years I've been a cigar smoker. I only just recently however decided to try picking up a pipe. After a bit of research and a quick chat with Andy I placed an order for some various tabaccos, a Nording pipe, and various supplies I'd need for my adventure. I placed a couple more orders for other tobaccos from other retailers, and before long I was set! The very first tobacco I tried was CAO Eileen's Dream, and what a dream it was. I really enjoyed it, and didn't even realize at the time I wasn't REALLY enjoying it. I'll explain a bit more about that later. Anyway, I tried many bowls of aromatics, virginia flake and english blends. At this point I'd have to say the virigina flakes are probably my favorite, but I really enjoy the variety (and room notes) of the aromatics. As for the english blends, I'm not too sure about those... There are undertones of flavors that I really enjoy in them, but I'm just not too hip on the Latakia. I can see breaking them out on a cold winter night before snuggling up in bed, but as a general every day smoke, I just can't get into it. So I couldn't really say how many bowls I had before that "aha!" moment came, but it was quite a few. I think I was doing okay. Though occasionally one would get a little warm, I didn't suffer any real tongue bite... I would have to re-light a fair bit, but nothing that ruined the experience. However, while the nuiances were there, the one thing that disappointed me was that most of them all seemed to "taste the same" to me when it came to the aromatics. Finally it clicked and I figured it out... It was because of my technique. I just hadn't gotten it "down" yet. Finally it happend... That first bowl where everything came together perfectly. With an Altadis "Hot Chocolate" blend packed in the bowl, I charred it, tamped it, noticed the draw seemed perfect, and lit it up again... This time I had a perfectly lit puck sitting right on the top... As I smoked I noticed the flavors really came through much more than in the past. Not just the casing, but the tobaccos themselves. Subtle nuiances that I had never been able to pick up on before. As the draw loosened up a little I tamped again and she just kept chugging away... The sweetness, the texture and mouth feel... It was all perfect.... As the draw loosened again, another quick tamp and off she goes.... Rich thick clouds of smoke, yet burning just as cool as could be... The whole bowl went right down to ash without a single re-light. Towards the end the flavors really intensified and what once were subtle nuainces became bold and in your face. One thing came to mind after dumping the ash... PERFECTION! I knew it the moment it was over... I knew I had just had the perfect bowl... Everything came together just perfectly... Wondering if it was a result of my refined technique or simply a good tobacco, I decided to give it another whirl with CAO Cherry Bomb... Once again an absolutely perfect smoke! No re-lights, burned perfectly right to the bottom, and had the most delightful flavor you could ever imagine! So it was me... It was my technique! and apparently I had perfected it... Revisiting several of the tobaccos I had smoked previously yielded a much different result.. The flavors were much better, the burn was fantastic, etc... I was stoked!!! So my word of advice to anyone out there just starting with pipes... If you're getting tongue bite, having to do a lot of re-lights, not getting a good flavor, etc... Stick with it! Don't give up! Once everything "clicks" into place, I can assure you you'll start having some fantastic experiences!!! Will I give up my cigars for a pipe? Never! But I think my daily cigar ritual has been replaced with a daily pipe ritual accented by the weekend cigar!!


  • J.S.J.S. Posts: 754
    Way to stay with it! It does take time but it seems that you have found the reward! I am not sure that I will ever find myself having cigars as weekend only smokes, for me it is more about the mood then anything else but enjoy the pipe. It has its own rewards.
  • j0z3rj0z3r Posts: 9,403
    There's nothing quite like the first time you get the perfect pack, eh Greg? I've been dabbling in pipes for a little while now, about 18 months I guess, and it took me a good while before things started to click. I used to pay so much attention to packing the bowl just right and would screw it up every time...now it's like I don't even really pay attention but have gained the touch to know I've done it right.

    Any interest outside of aromatics, or are you primarily sticking with those?
  • DirewolfDirewolf Posts: 3,493
    I'm still working on getting my pack and tamps right
  • rusiriusrusirius Posts: 565 ✭✭
    I'm still working on getting my pack and tamps right
    Wish I could give you some advice that you haven't already heard, but I'm sure it's the same stuff you've heard time and time again.... I'll tell you what I do though, and who knows, maybe it'll help in some way...

    As for packing, I've tried two different methods. The first is the standard "3 step" pack, except I've heard a lot of people say to fill it the first time and then pack to half way... I don't do that.. I just throw some in lightly and push it down very lightly. In other words, I don't care if it's 1/5th of the bowl or 3/4 of the bow, or half, though usually it is closer to half... I just push it down very lightly though... 2nd stage I just put some more in and push it a little firmer... Then fill it again and pack it down a bit tighter...

    Here's the one bit of info I think I read somewhere that really made a big difference for me... When packing it in the last time, draw on it while you're pushing it down... Initially it should draw with no resistance. Keep pushing down and packing it tighter until you get the same draw you would have when sucking a soda or water through a straw... Just a little resistance, but not much...

    The other method I've used is I believe called the "twizzle" method. Basically you put a bit of tobacco in your hand (more than required to fill the bowl) and then put the pipe upside down over top of it. Then you just push down on the bowl and "swirl" it around in small circles. The tobacco will pack up and work it's way up into the bowl. Then once filled, i use the same method above, packing down a little more if needed to get that "liquid through a straw" draw.

    Both method work very well for me... I'm not sure one really seems better than the other, though I seem to gravitate toward the 3-step fill simply because that's the first one I started with.

    Now... Once you've got that pack right.... Comes the light... I usually find myself doing a 3-step light as well (though most people seem to say 2). I "tease" the top of the bowl with the flame... Drawing lightly and just BARELY drawing the flame down to the tobacco... Never drawing it down INTO the bowl. Then once it's lit fairly well, I tamp it down to create a "puck". Then I repeat the same process again... After the second time of tamping down, it's usually ready to go... I'll do the same process, but draw the flame JUST slightly more into the tobacco... Still not way down, just barely into the top layer. Don't go overboard here... If you get it lit "too much" it'll scorch all the flavor out of the rest of the tobacco in the bowl... Just get a nice even cherry just on the top of that "puck" of ash.

    After that here's the most important thing I've found if you want "smooth sailing" for the rest of the bowl... Stay on top of the tamping! But it's very easy to do... Here's how... Just keep puffing away enjoying the pipe, but keep paying attention to the draw... As soon as the draw starts to get loose... In other words, as soon as it starts getting closer to an "empty" straw versus one with liquid in it, grab that tamper... I NEVER tamp unless I'm drawing! That seems to be the secret for me, and what I was **** up with in the past... Start drawing on the pipe and tamping at the same time... Just tamp it down very lightly until the draw get's back to the "liquid through a straw" tightness. Once you've got the draw restored, then enjoy it again and just keep a watchful eye on the draw... when it loosens again repeat the process!

    I've now had 7 bowls since my "Eureka" moment and using this technique... Out of all 7 of them, I've only had to do 1 single re-light, and that was on a bit of very wet dottle at the very end of the bowl, and that was a bit wet to begin with... Should have left it out to dry a bit, but I was in a rush.. ;)

    So it's working fantastic for me! I don't know if what I've said is any easier to follow that any other info out there, or what you may have already known, but it's the best description I can give!

    Hope that helps!!!
  • phobicsquirrelphobicsquirrel Posts: 7,349
    Thanks for the example, I'll try that.
  • jsnakejsnake Kansas CityPosts: 5,932 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Probably the first long post I have ever read in its entirety here. Thanks for sharing. GOing to tweak my method a little. Had it down but started having issues again.
  • phobicsquirrelphobicsquirrel Posts: 7,349
    when you say "puck" what is that?
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