For some reason, a lot of people are asking my advice about pipe smoking.

Am I becoming the iconic pipe smoker?

Anyway, I’m delighted, as I hate cigarettes. They are unhealthy, messy and they smell foul.

Really there is nothing to smoking a pipe.  There are those who will try to build up a mystique around it as if it were some Masonic Rite.  They will list out the amazing amount of equipment you will need like a pipe for each day of the week [and the materials they must be made of], and the reamers and the knives and the cleaning equipment.  They will whisper the rituals of ‘letting pipes breathe between smokes’ and will clean their bowls [nearly put an extra ‘e’ in there!] with whiskey or honey.


All you need is a pipe, some tobacco and something to light it with.

The only tricky thing about smoking a pipe is the start.  It is an art of experience. 

So how do you go about it?

My advice would be to get a relatively cheap pipe to start with.  There is no point in lashing out a fortune on something that’s going to end up at the back of a drawer.  If you like it, you can move on to something more expensive.

Then there is the tobacco.  Again there is a lot of crap about this.  It is down to personal taste.  There are ‘standard’ tobaccos, aromatic tobaccos and flavoured tobaccos, and all sorts of variations in between.  I would recommend starting with something standard and mild.

For a long time, I smoked Benson & Hedges Mellow Virginia which is a fairly mild one.  Nowadays, I tend to smoke Condor, for two reasons – I like it, and most shops sell it.

Lighting your first pipe is the trickiest bit.  The chances are you will have packed the tobacco too tight or too loose [this is where experience comes in].  Too tight, and you can’t draw on it properly; too loose and it just goes out.

Try not to inhale.  This is difficult if you are a cigarette smoker, but you’ll soon get out of the habit.

There are loads of advantages to pipe smoking.  It is more relaxing, for some reason.  You will be more socially acceptable. It is cheaper.  It is cleaner [you’re not dropping ash everywhere, and there are no butts to litter the ground]. 

There are some disadvantages.  You have to carry a pipe, tobacco and a lighter or matches instead of just a pack of fags.  It is also more difficult to bum a smoke!  you have to clean the pipe regularly [but, in fact that is part of the pleasure and ritual].

I now smoke one of Elie’s pipes.  It’s a great yoke.  The smoke has to travel three times the length of the stem and then through a paper filter so it cools the smoke beautifully and takes the majority of the sh*t out.


So, go on.

Give it a try.

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Show me your pipe — 19 Comments

  1. Why? I think it would enhance it. Become the new Peig Sayers.

    I know a couple of women who smoke pipes, and our K8 is seriously talking of changing.

  2. I’m still “young” and “fairly” vital, but I’ll bookmark this page and save it for later years……..when the arthritis prevents me from rolling my own smokes…..

  3. I smoked a pipe before, man, the hit was unreal. I’ve also tried bongs, hookahs, chillums, buckets, cans, hot knives, vaporizers and pint glasses but none could compare to the little wooden pipe that I bought in the Himalayas from a little Tibetan man.
    I love watching men gesticulate with their pipes, very theatrical. Do you point with yours Grandad?

  4. The guys on Topgear have jumped on that bandwagon recently.

    Maybe you should present a couple of episodes of it – I think you’d fit right in with them. I haven’t heard them mention anything of the finer points of tourist shooting, but that’s probably just been an oversight on their part. They certainly have a strong dislike for caravan holidays – so that’s almost the same thing.

  5. Swiss Job – I have grand head of hair as people can now testify. And anyway that only mentions cigarettes.

    Jack – I stick my pipe wherever it will fit. I don’t wave it around too much though, unless I’m asked.

    5h4mr0(k – That is a classic! 😆
    [I’m the bloke on the left]

    Steph – Couldn’t have put it better myself. When are you starting?

  6. Thanks GD but I think I’ll stick to my addiction of drinking coffee.

    I reckon brewing good coffee is an art form not unlike smoking a pipe.

    And woe betide anyone who gets between me and my supply!

  7. I knew a man who started smoking a a pipe when he was 11 and generally smoked stuff called Warhorse or something like that. He died just short of 99 years of age. If he hadn’t smoked he would have lived to 150 at least.

  8. “You have to carry a pipe, tobacco and a lighter or matches instead of just a pack of fags”.


    No slippers,dressing gown and deerstalker hat???

    Standards have gone down.

  9. I’m sold. No messing, I’m bleedin getting one and that’s it, I’ve even priced them in that shop near Trinity, €35-€50.

    Where do you stand on Old Holborn? Or is that even a pipe tobacco?

    There was an old man used to live next door to us (early 1980s) and he used to smoke tobacco from a little navy blue, round tins the size of a shoe polish tin. He’d always give me the empty ones when he was finished and I collected them all, my mum used to use them for storing pins and stuff in. Like you and your Cully and Sully bowls.

    The other half will think I’m nuts but I’m VERY excited.

  10. My husband smokes a pipe; it keeps the midges off him when he works outside in the evening. I think he’s lovely with his pipe and old hat out there working…

    …maybe one day I’ll let him back inside.

    Meanwhile, thanks for the recommendation on pipes, Grandad: I’ve gotten him a selection of tobacco for one of his Christmas presents, and may pick up one of these yokes to go with it.

  11. Steph – OK so. I can’t win ’em all.

    Ian – If he hadn’t smoked a pipe, he’d have gone at 60.

    SID – You are the type who gives pipe smoking a bad name. The slippers and dressing gown image went out with Sherlock Holmes. Puppychild started at six months.

    Terence – Calm down, lad. I’m glad you’ve seen the light! Old Holborn is a cigarette tobacco [I think]. As their advice, but don’t go for any of their exotic bullshit.

    Those tins were great. I still have a few Mick McQuaid tins in the garage holding screws and nails.

    Susan – You prove my point. His pipe smoking does you both good. 🙂

    What other ‘yoke’ do you mean? I’m intrigued…

  12. By ‘yoke’ I meant your explanation of Elie’s pipes, and how they work: sounds nice! I always like to get him something special that he’ll like, and that shows I care about him, and his health so that he’ll be with me forever, something he’ll enjoy, you know–

    …because he’s going to get ME something shite, if he remembers to get anything at all, and then with my own conscience at ease I can go spend all his money in the January sales in guilt-free revenge.

    I think it’s a lady thing.

  13. Susan – You had me worried for a moment. I used to smoke a Ronson, but they stopped making them years ago. I found Elie when I was looking for someone who might produce a Ronson bowl. He sent me two but they both leaked. I got one of his new ones that and it’s far better.

    Tell him Grandad sent you [and mention this site] 😉

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