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.

The Next One

Orson Welles

While having a smoke, I often catch myself thinking about the next one. Why is that? I would hate to miss the full pleasure of the current smoke because I was absorbed in thinking about what I’ll be smoking next. You might think I’m looking forward to a different blend or another pipe in my collection.

Yes, that is all part of it. But I’m also anticipating the procedure I’ll get to execute once again: carefully packing the bowl, testing the draw, applying the char light, puffing the first puff, tamping lightly, relighting, settling in, etc.

It’s all part of the experience, the pleasure.

Let It Go (Out)

Some pipe smokers strain to avoid relights and berate themselves when they fail.

I have come to welcome relights. Relax. Go slow. Sip. Put it down. Let it go out. Talk to someone. Relight. And look at that pile of burnt matches with pride — a measure of relaxation achieved perhaps.

I find it’s better that way. Hence my lack of interest in competitive pipe smoking.