Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sweet, Sweet Anachronisms

Let's face it: we pipe smokers are Romantics. Personally, when I see a pipe-tobacco named something along the lines of “Breakfast Pipe”, I cannot help but want to smoke this tobacco at breakfast, even though I am aware that it is typically so named because of a heavy dose of latakia. The same thing goes with my Oscar Wilde pipe from the Peterson Writers' Collection – while I have been currently making my way through The Portrait of Dorian Grey, I cannot help but want to hold that particular pipe.

As a result of this Romanticism, there are certain things that we imagine go wonderfully with a pipe: a glass of tea, a dram of scotch, a leather-bound book, a fire in the hearth. It is odd to think that quite possibly the modern pipe-smoker's best friend is actually a bit less fitting: the internet. This isn't simply to find great deals on Crocs or view the lasted scandalous picture of Lindsay Lohan (when will she learn?).

There was once a time – so I am told – when one could go to one's local tobacconist to purchase a pipe and find incredible fonts of wisdom in the form of an affable man behind the counter, who was, in all likelihood, smoking a pipe himself. Though these places for still exist – like wild tigers and black rhinos still exist – one is probably more likely to win the lottery.

And winning the lottery is exactly what finding one of these locations is; more than a few potential pipe smokers have been jaded by a horrible initial experience with a briar. This horrible experience is usually a result of having no advice while starting out or having back advice from someone who has never really smoked a pipe.

Luckily, there is a solution for those, like myself, who have never really found a tobacconist complete with pipes, tobacco, and a sage. That is solution is found on the internet.

Nowadays, there are a number of online resources for we lonesome pipe smokers. These offer everything from guides to starting with your first pipe to discussions about the engineering of pipes, musing on a particular artisan's work to advice about which pipe blend to try next. There are even some fantastic resources for locating one's next – or first – pipe, from websites supplying thousands of pipes to the website of particular carvers exhibiting their incredible work.

Here are some of my current favorite websites on pipes, none of which I have any association with, aside from being a member of some forums and a reader of some of the blogs:

www.smokersforums.co.uk – An incredible collection of wonderful pipe smokers offer their experiences and opinions from everything to particular brands to methods of packing a pipe to what is the best type of lighter. A really fun place with a great deal of information and lots of generous people.

www.smokingpipes.com – In my opinion, online retailers don't get much better than this. Not only are the prices better than most online shops, and certainly better than brick and mortar shops, but every pipe is described in detail with a large, high-resolution photo, normally from multiple angles. Want a new pipe? You're in very safe hands with the fine people at Smoking Pipes.

www.apassionforpipes.com – An incredible pipe-blog written by Neill Archer Roan. Subjects are all over the board, from discussing Neill's latest acquisitions to pondering on how certain shapes of pipes impact the flavor of particular types of tobacco (one of my favorite entries, by the way).

www.tobaccoreviews.com – Don't take this website as gospel, but I absolutely love to check in on it. This site has a great collection of reviews on different tobacco blends with many different opinions, whose validity you will be able to determine on your own. It is a good starting point for figuring out what to try next, however.

www.downiepipes.com – Seriously. Check this guy out. I don't even need to say anything more. Look at this guy's work.

www.tobaccocellar.org – This is more of a tool than a resource for information or purchases. Here, you can create a log of what tins (or jars or bags or what have you) you currently have, including price and weight, so that you not only know how much you currently have, but ensure you don't purchase something that you don't already have! Also, it has a very cool (and slightly depressing) feature, where you enter your smoking rate and it will tell you how long your cellar will currently last you. My cellar currently? Over a hundred years...

That's all for now. Enjoy your adventures through cyberspace. And remember: there is nothing wrong with the occasional anachronism, so feel free to puff your pipe while exploring the online world of pipes!

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