Zippos: Yay or Nay?

John Coltrane

An emailer wants to know what I think about Zippo lighters. He asks if my tobacco ever tastes like “jet fuel” when I use my Zippo. As he points out, butane lighters and matches can be frustratingly ineffective outside. The slightest breeze is the foe of the pipe smoker. He noticed that on my videos the Zippo works perfectly well. But what about the taste?

After using a Zippo for several months I can say that I’ve gotten a fleeting whiff of fluid only once or twice, and I’ve never noticed a change in the taste of the tobacco. I’ve been told by experienced people that the Zippo fluid — which is what I use — was changed some time ago to address complaints that it made the smoke yucky.

So I can unhesitatingly recommend Zippos. I use the pipe version, though I know of one veteran pipe smoker who prefers the regular insert.

Who’s Afraid of Ghosts? Or, Confessions of a Passionate, Yet Undedicated Pipe Smoker


I don’t dedicate my pipes to particular blend or even genres. I smoke the tobacco I want at the moment in the pipe I want at the moment. I refuse to be hamstrung by self-imposed rules and limitations.

I realize that many pipe smokers disagree, which is fine. Your own enjoyment is what counts here. But I want to put my approach on the record.

I am just not haunted by ghosts of tobaccos past. Maybe I that’s because I have an unrefined palate, which is as much a gift as a curse. Maybe it’s because I don’t mind the faint taste of latakia or perique or maple or even Lakeland in everything I smoke. I’m not sure. What I know is that I don’t mind. At any rate, they don’t call it “ghosting” for nothing. Ghosts are faint and barely visible (or tasteable). So I’m not going to worry about them.

Whatever you do, enjoy the puff!

Tobacco to Work by; Tobacco to Relax by

Dutch painting

It’s dawning on me that I have yet another way to divide tobacco blends: tobaccos to work by and tobacco to relax by. What do I mean?

I find that when I am working — I spend much of the day at my laptop writing or editing — I want to enjoy my pipe without being distracted by it. If I’m smoking a complex and highly flavorful blend — the kind that makes my mouth water — I have a harder time concentrating on my work. The same goes of course for a high-nicotine blend. No mystery there

But if I am smoking something that is simply tasty, perhaps even one-dimensional, it remains in the background. I can enjoy the pipe without its taking center stage. For me, that’s just right when I have to get work out. This applies to when I am doing serious reading also.

On the other hand, if I am simply relaxing or if the smoke is my main object of attention, then I want all the flavor I can get. In that case contemplation of what’s going on with my palate is a distraction from absolutely nothing. So bring it on!

I’m sure I haven’t said anything startling, but there it is.