Once Upon A Time ...
... In this galaxy, just a few minutes ago, I was prompted to write a "catchy" title. Yes, that was the best I could come up with on short notice. And, I'm not going to apologize.
To start things off, I will endeavor to write a new blog post once a week. However, I don't like beating a dead horse (it's a waste of time/effort), so, if there isn't a new topic that strikes my fancy any given week, I might not write anything. On the flip side, if there's a piping topic that you would like me to write about, please don't hesitate to let me know!
Furthermore, I will endeavor to keep my blog posts short, mostly on topic, and liberally seasoned with as much wit, sarcasm, and humor as I can manage. :) So, fill a bowl with your favorite tobacco blend, kick back with an appropriate beverage, and enjoy!
The one question I have been asked most frequently over the past few months since starting The Story Teller's Pipe online retail store is, "Why did you decide to open a pipe and tobacco store?" The short answer to that is "Why not?" One of the things I most enjoy in life is the ritual of smoking a bowl of good tobacco, so why not help other pipers enjoy that as well? "What is this ritual?", you ask. Well, lend me your ear and I'll share with you the secrets of the mystical ritual of pipe smoking.
First, there's the excitement of getting a new (or your favorite hard-to-get) tobacco. You spent days, weeks, even months doing research, narrowed down the selections, and purchased what you believe is going to be an awesome blend. You wait ... 3, 4, 5 (Argh! I can't wait any longer!!) days ... for it to arrive. And, when it finally does, the anticipation is simply overwhelming. You begin to catch a faint aroma of the leaf the minute you open the shipping box. It smells as good as you thought it would and that sets your primal instincts in motion to pop the lid on that tin (rip open that bag!).
When you do open it, you can't help but take a good whiff. Let's be real ... it's purely involuntary. The scent of sweet grassy hay, campfire smoke, leather, spice, nuts, creamy/fruity/floral/liqueur, etc. fills your nose and tickles your nose hairs (by the way, have you trimmed those lately?). You close your eyes and take another, more practiced, whiff so your brain can process the dimensions and depth of the tobacco. Admit it ... it doesn't matter if it's a new blend or your absolute favorite go-to blend, you inhale that scent from the tin (or bag) like you're doing a line of snuff.
The degree of excitement and anticipation dictates whether or not you spread some of the leaf out to dry for awhile or just start stuffing the bowl. If you can control yourself long enough and if the blend needs it, part of this mystic ritual includes delicately reaching into the container, grasping some of the leaf, and carefully spreading it out on a plate (or other flat surface) to dry. Of course, more sniffing and lots of fluffing are required at this point. If the blend is not ribbon cut, the ritual entails cutting and/or rubbing out the leaf onto the plate, along with copious amounts of sniffing and fluffing.
And, that takes us to the next step in the ritual ... selecting the right pipe. As some pipe smokers have said, certain tobacco blends call for being smoked in certain pipes in order to fully experience all of the flavor nuances. While there may be some truth to that, my palate is not that sophisticated or refined. Just give me a pipe that smokes well and I'm a happy camper! For me, it's about selecting a pipe that I haven't smoked in awhile. For others, it may be about choosing a pipe dedicated to smoking a certain type of blend. Whatever parameter you use, just pick a pipe, man, and get on with it!!
With pipe in hand and tobacco appropriately dried, so begins the art of filling the bowl and tamping. I know the excitement and anticipation are nearly killing you by now and all you really want to do is stuff that bowl and light it up, but this is not the time to rush things. If you want to really enjoy this bowl of tobacco, to allow the leaf to open like a delicate flower so you can experience the best of its flavor, and ensure that it burns cool and clean, it's important to correctly pack and tamp it. Consider this step a critical part of foreplay ... the tobacco isn't going to love you back if you don't make sure it's really ready! "And, that's all I have to say about that!"
It's time. The moment is finally ... FINALLY!! ... here. The bowl is filled and ready, we settle in to our chair with a beverage close at hand, and we light the leaf. The bouquet of the smoke wafts from the bowl and around us. We savor it. Dare I say ... we bask in it? We sit quietly and sip, puff, and relish the flavors and scents. The fragrance calms us and allows us to clear our mind so we can contemplate the important matters of life for awhile -- the wondrous bounty God has provided in the form of bright grassy Virginias, nutty Burleys, sweet smoky Latakia and spicy Oriental leafs and all of the heavenly toppings used to enhance them.
And that, my friends, is why I decided to open my own pipe and tobacco store. :)