The Prince and I

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Four days into my road trip, the Prince and I are doing fine. I resolved to take only Prince Albert tobacco with me on this trip, and he’s holding up well. Only occasionally have I felt a desire for variety. But that feeling passed quickly, and I soon renewed my appreciation for the Prince’s textured flavor. It is a remarkable blend, whatever it is exactly.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will acknowledge that I had one small bowl of another tobacco. I thought the circumstances justified that slight deviation from my self-imposed rule. Cheryl and I visited En Fuego, a tobacco shop at the harbor in Rockwall, Texas. It’s mainly a cigar shop, but it had one panel of pipes and several bulk tobaccos (no tins at all). Being a newcomer and wishing to enjoy its lounge, I bought a cigar and an ounce of a tobacco labeled “Mark Twain,” which the tobacconist said was “pre-blended.” (It best-selling house blend, “Fuego,” was too rummy for me.) My research indicates it’s Sutliff’s No. 50 Mark Twain, which Tobaccoreviews.com says is

A new pipe tobacco from A&C Peterson designed with Mark Twain in mind. Made with selected choice tobaccos, this blend has a striking, rich aroma. A wonderful Danish style aromatic, with great taste and no bite.

Notes: Now made by the Sutliff Tobacco Company under their banner as per Smoking Pipes website: “Previously known as an A&C Peterson blend, No.150 Mark Twain now flies under the Sutliff banner. A Danish-style aromatic, this mix of black Cavendish, Burley, and Virginia is known for its creamy aromatic flavors and mild strength, making for an easy smoke and a pleasing room note.”

It is a pleasant smoke, which means it has few of the drawbacks of the mass-market aromatics. I’ll smoke more of it when I am home.

Mark Twain No 50

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Getting back to Prince Albert, he will be my constant companion for the rest of the trip, though I am starting to miss perique and latakia.

Albert

Incidentally, here’s what I’ve brought with me: 2 Chris Morgan Bones pipes (Bent Rhodesian and Short Pot), two HIS mini-churchwardens, three Missouri Meerschaum corncobs (Charles Town Cobbler, Dagner Poker, and Little Devil Acorn), and one small smooth bent meerschaum.

Comfort Tobacco

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My Dad, circa 1942

Comfort food is that category of food we all can retreat to during times of stress or other adversity. No two persons have the same list of such foods, of course, but we all know what the term means and why.

I think pipe tobacco blends can be similarly described as comfort tobacco. When I just want to relax and not have to deal with complexity, bite, burn, or nic-hits, I seek comfort in one of a number of blends. Top of my list these days is Prince Albert, which has been around for over 110 years. Exactly what’s in it I cannot say. Tobaccoreviews.com says it’s burley and Cavendish without flavoring. Others say it is flavored. Still others say Virginia and Turkish lurk in the blend. I don’t know. What I do know is that Prince Albert has the pleasant burley taste I identify with plain honest tobacco. It’s mildly sweet and nutty in a way that does not suggest artificial flavoring. I assume the room note is not off-putting.

I’ve been breaking in two Chris Morgan Bones pipes with it, leading me to the conviction that Prince Albert is a fine way to start the morning. Good stuff. It never lets me down.

You can find it in 1.5oz pouches (including six-pouch packs), 14oz plastic tubs (no longer in cans), and bulk. It’s a great buy. It’s easily found online, and my local Walmart carries it.

I recommend it.

PS: My enjoyment of Prince Albert has prompted me to undertake a personal challenge. I’ll be away for a few days later this month, so I’ve decided to take only one tobacco with me: Prince Albert. (I usually pack several.) I’ll bring along a couple of briars, a meerschaum, and a corn cob, most likely the Charles Town Cobbler. We’ll see how it goes.

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In Praise of the Pot

GBD 9442
GBD Granitan 9442

The pipes I inherited from my dad included a few pots: a GBD, Comoy, BBB, and Kaywoodie. I did not take to them because they looked stodgy, something an old guy would smoke. (Never mind that I probably qualify as an old guy.) They have short stems and the defining wide-diameter short bowls. They were not nearly as cool-looking as bent bulldogs and freehands. So I didn’t smoke them.

But esthetic tastes change, and I now have a new appreciation for the shape. The change began with a couple of practical considerations. Even though I’ve been smoking pipes for about half a century, I only recently learned that the wide diameter of a pot is well-suited to complex tobacco blends. Because the tobacco surface is larger in a wide bowl than in a narrow one, more tobacco burns at any one time. So more of the components are burning simultaneously. I also heard that the wider bowl makes for a milder smoke, making a pot suitable for blends that are on the pungent side. (For me, these are mainly burley blends, with and without perique, from Cornell & Diehl, but not English — Virginia/latakia/Oriental — blends.) It seemed to follow that a high-nicotine blend (which is how I find those burleys) would have a somewhat lower nic-hit in a pot (or other wide bowls like an author or stubby Rhodesian).

A few blends I know of taste great, but they are a bit stout and nic-heavy. I would like to smoke them regularly but without the downside. Thus the pot seemed the way to go. My first tries were less than successful: I still had the undesirable effects of the nicotine. When I made some inquiries, I was told (thanks, Brian Levine of The Pipes Magazine Radio Show) that the solution is to load the bowl only two-thirds of the way. Less tobacco equals less nicotine. Why didn’t I think of that! I gave that a try and have had some success. Smoking those blends in a wider “shorter” bowl has definitely made those blends (e.g., Haunted Bookshop) more palatable. I find that smoking half-bowls is even better. Half-bowls also enable me to smoke a larger variety of tobaccos throughout the day.

As a result of all this, I now think pot-shaped pipes are just the ticket. My dad’s pots are at the top of my rotation, and I have my eye on another one. Short squat pots are now my new passion in pipes.

You can learn something new every day.

Pipe Bowl Sizes and Their Effects on Tobacco

Millicent Fenwick, former U.S. rep.

UPDATED April 2, 2018

On the Dec. 19  edition of The Pipes Magazine Radio Show, host Brian Levine and guest co-host Shane Ireland of Smokingpipes.com agreed that wide-bowl pipes, such as pots, mellow out a tobacco blend. Their advice, then, was to use such pipes for stout blends and use narrower pipes for milder blends. The logic is that if you smoke a mild blend in a wide pipe, you may find it too mild, and if you smoke a stout blend in a narrow pipe, it might knock your socks off.

That made sense. I had not paid much attention to the effect of pipe diameter on the smoke. So I tried an experiment. I smoked Haunted Bookshop, which I find stout and nicotine-heavy, in a pot (an old Kaywoodie). I’ve been smoking HB in small bowls and have had some success in taming it, enjoying the richness while minimizing the nic kick. I hoped that smoking it in a pot would mellow it still more.

Boy, I was wrong! I enjoyed the rich flavor, but I got kicked in the you-know-what by the nicotine. Luckily, it was the last smoke of the night and I was ready for bed.

I plan to keep experimenting, but I’d like to hear other smokers’ experiences. Leave comments below.

UPDATE 1: Brian wrote me privately to suggest that with a high-nic blend, I should fill the pot to only about the two-thirds mark. The idea here is to get the smoother smoke from the larger surface but without so much nicotine. I tried this with Pegasus, a pretty stout and nic-heavy (for me) C&D burley blend. The results were good. Next, I’ll try Haunted Bookshop that way. We’ll see what happens.

UPDATE 2: Things are looking good. I smoked Haunted Bookshop, two-thirds of a bowl, in my father’s old GBD Granitan 9442 pot — a particularly squat form of the shape — with undiminished pleasure. I had no nic-hit from HB. This is great news indeed!

UPDATE 3: Things are not entirely smooth. I’m still getting nic-hits from the stout burley blends and even some vapers (Dunhill Navy Rolls, for instance). Brian suggested drinking lots of water during the smoke, which has definitely helped with Haunted Bookshop and Pegasus. Stay tuned.