Furthest Right

International Pipe Smoking Day (IPSD)

What more can we do, as moderns, except to attempt to raise that which is not past but eternal in parallel, both adapting the behaviors and goals of the past simultaneously as we attempt to transcend and then escape modernity?

As part of a revitalization of the past, many of us have brought back the smoking of pipes and cigars in order to push back against the convenience-driven modern order of cigarettes, antidepressants, vapes, and sedatives.

No doubt for millennia people have smoked wild herbs of both a depressant and stimulant effect, probably from mixtures they invented using local herbs, or having borrowed Nicotiana rustica and Cannabis ruderalis from Africa and the middle east.

The brain settles when able to kick back with a pipe, or work with pipe in mouth, since one is able to appreciate the pleasure and beauty of life as opening up a gateway to seeing how the whole of it is good, even if the thing you are struggling with right then is an unholy beast to be tamed.

For IPSD this year, pipes around here were filled with a tribute to Sherlock Holmes, namely the dark shag he kept in a slipper nailed to his wall for his “three-pipe problems,” a blend which has been made since 1792 using the same equipment at Gawith Hoggarth Ltd, namely Dark Bird’s Eye.

Summary: a strong, comfortable smoke that varies the sweetness of Virginia leaf with spice and mid-range flavors.

Among the codger blends, the shag cuts often tend to be both the most unassuming and the least likely to take prisoners. This dark shag reveals its origins in smoke curing which transfer the sweetness of Virginia leaf into a broader range of flavors and gives it a smoky tang. The odious Lakeland essence, a cousin of AIDS and funeral home rosewater, burns off quickly and leaves a strong dark smoke with undertones of sweetness and earthy flavor. This is a great all-day smoke for people who enjoy being outdoors.

This incredibly strong mixture is flavorful if you breath-smoke it and an absolute horror otherwise. It forces slow contemplation and alerts the mind in a way that even caffeine cannot (although why not combine the two). Unlike most it smokes down to grey-white ash with a complete burn.

Like most of the old UK tobaccos, this one relies on the power of the steam press which mashes the little cells in the tobacco leaf and lets them give off all the chemicals we do not want including those responsible for the vaguely cabbagy taste of raw and wild tobacco.

In this case, the blend was mixed with Five Brothers, a strong basic American Burley engineered by five brothers of Swiss extraction back when people used the same tobacco in their hand-rolled cigarettes as they smoked and sometimes chewed.

To be enjoyed, it must be smoked correctly. Push it down into the pipe and tamp in three layers. Then light it to char, tamp, and light again. Now, smoke slowly while walking so the initial blast of top smoke goes away. Keep that pipe in your teeth at an angle and draw slowly, gently for long puffs, then savor the flavor.

You will taste relatively unadulterated and unmodified Burley. It has a forest flavor, like the smell of the leaves on the floor in fall, and a richness that emerges as the smoke dissipates from your mouth. Keep sipping. This blend favors the pipe smoker who lets it smoulder, not the one who makes it burn. Over time, its internal texture reveals itself, an alternating mix of harvest flavors like hay and woodsy, darker tastes.

Mixed with the dark shag, this blend emerges in a mixture that tastes like molasses and honey over roast grain, maybe one of those great Barley breads the Germans make toasted on an outdoor fire. It will keep you awake but is also simply fun to smoke.

As we often say around here, when smoking a pipe, you are never alone. You have joined the community of all of us experiencing a similar sensation, namely a contemplative quietus that allows the subconscious mind to play as it does in dreams and creativity.

Even more, smoking is fun independent of its effects. First of all, fire is involved, and if that does not bring out your inner seven-year-old boy, there may be no hope for you. Next there are cool fiddly things like pipes, lighters, cleaners, tampers, scrapers, knives, and pouches.

Taking that further, nothing may be more pleasurable than ritual of accomplishment and relaxation. The battle is over; the mammoth is slain; all that remains is the gratitude of reverence. We thank the universe, the heavens, and the old gods in that order for our success and hope for another day.

This is the perfect time for a pipe. Let me know if you see any mammoths.

To round out IPSD, a homebrew blend originally called “Trafalgar” but now nameless since a professional blender adopted that label for their own was stuffed into an old Peterson pipe, celebrating the English blend — even if a Scots-American hybrid — in its glory.

If memory serves, this one has roughly the following composition:

  • bright Virginia (20%)
  • red Virginia (20%)
  • Latakia (15%)
  • dark Burley (25%)
  • Orientals (10%)
  • Perique (10%)

It then sat in a cupboard for almost a decade and now the bright Virginias have lost some acidity but none of their citrus flavor, the red Virginia tastes more like a late-season apple, the Latakia is less herbal and more smoky, and the dark Burley has a warm nuttiness that broadens and intensifies flavor.

The Orientals, as always, have the sweet-sour tang of the Orient, like nostalgia on a sunny day, and the Perique has its traditional “peppered fig” flavor modulate quietly into a spicy wine-like scent and taste, giving this blend almost an aromatic aspect.

Life could be much worse. Humanity had to drop to its present low in order to recognize its persistent error which comes about not through intentional evil, but through misunderstanding the nature of reality, and we who arrive at this time were born to fix it.

For now, the mammoth is slain, but there are more mammoths. Luckily there may be more pipes as well, and for the present, these flavorful blends make it easy to prepare for the battles of tomorrow. We carry the will, as the morning is near.

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