Greetings Pipe Friends, I wish to express some opinions on a controversial subject.
Please remember that these are just my opinions, not truth, or the final word. I don't have the final word on anything.
As some of you know, I am the author of a pipe book that has been read by at least 14 people and has put people to sleep all across America. The book has been highly praised as the most effective cure for insomnia known to humanity. It is titled, The Perfect Smoke: Gourmet Pipe Smoking for Relaxation and Reflection. The book is dedicated to achieving the most sublime and superb pipe smoking experience possible.
Thus, I get questions from people all the time related to what makes for the highest quality smoke. One of the most common questions I get is related to corn cob pipes and how they compare in smoking quality to the much more expensive briar pipes. Cobs range in price $5 to $30 (although I was once gifted a very nice $60 cob). Briar, by contrast, ranges from $25 into the thousands of dollars. I have smoked estate pipes that would sell, used, for thousands of dollars.
Remember, it is IMPORTANT to note that the core of this discussion is not which type of pipe is prettier or more aesthetic (briar pipes win that hands down), but the quality of the smoke itself--the smoke that reaches and makes contact with the tongue and taste buds. I am not talking about stem quality either. What I am focusing on in this brief analysis is taste of the smoke, the temperature of the smoke, and the flavor imparted by the briar or the cob, to the flavor of the tobacco. Of course, it is assumed, in this discussion, that the smoker knows how to smoke a pipe no matter what it is made of.
The staunch proponents of corn cobs will swear up and down that briar pipes are overpriced and overrated. They claim that a corn cob will provide a smoke every bit as good or better than a briar. In fact, the largest corn cob pipe producer, Missouri Meerschaum, claims that the cob provides the sweetest, coolest smoke obtainable.
The briar lovers, although some of them do highly appreciate corn cobs (such as myself), often dismiss or disregard corn cobs as being inferior, even crude, and beneath their notice.
Question: So who is right? Answer: This is not an either/or answer. But the answer is very cool nonetheless.
And the answer, fortunately, can be summarized quite easily.
Corn cobs, in my experience, provide, on a scale of 1 to 10, about a 7.0 level smoke. In other words it provides a very good, solid smoking experience. And for the money, it is the best value in tobacco smoking hands down. No doubt in my mind about that.
Briar pipes provide a range of ratings. I have had them as low as 3.0 on a scale of 10 all the way to 9.5. I once had a brand new unsmoked $1500 Castello pipe, with fantastic grain and a beautiful briar insert in the stem. It tasted like a sewer--3.0 would be a kind and generous rating. As you know, Castello pipes are famous for being great smoking pipes. I did everything I could to improve that pipe, including trying only Virginias and reaming it down to bare wood and starting over, but nothing worked. I even gave it to 3 or 4 friends to smoke and they all agreed that it was a nasty smoke. But it performed very well. It was well made and well drilled, and smoked very well indeed. Of course it did--it was a Castello. But it tasted like crap.
But when you get a briar that smokes in the 8.5 range and higher, you never forget it and if you are like me, you are hooked on briar for the rest of your pipe smoking life. I have had 9.5 smoking briars. They are extraordinary and powerful and sublime experiences. These are very rare but I have a few in my possession. Once you have smoked a pipe like that, you no longer think about cobs, except maybe to taste new tobaccos or something such. And if I ever get a pipe that is not as tasty as a cob, I get rid of it asap. But now, every pipe in my collection is 8.0 smoker or better, in my opinion of course.
That is my opinion and I am sticking to it. I could be wrong of course but I smoked my first briars and corn cobs in 1967, so at least my opinion is backed by a small amount of experience in any case. Thank you.
I would love to hear your view of all this. And if you think I am delusional, please let me know.