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Classic Tin-Same Great Taste

Pairing pipes and tobaccos

I have read a couple of times that certain pipe tobaccos work better in certain types of bowl. As a noob with limited experiences of both different pipes and different tobaccos, I'm still figuring out what works best and why.

I thought it might be useful for me and other noobs to have a thread where our more experienced members can advise which bowls they find best for their flakes, aros, English ribbons, VaPers, twist, and shags.

Wide and shallow for flakes and twists?
Narrow and deep for shags and VaPers?


  • My only preference is smaller bowls for flakes. In all my years of smoking I've come to the conclusion that any weed can work in any pipe. With the caveat that sometimes a single pipe, for no apparent reason makes a particular blend shine. It's nothing you can plan, it's just something you use and enjoy when it happens.
  • I don't tend to dedicate pipes. Sometimes it takes a long time to discover what any given pipe plays best with. After years I have only singled out one particular pipe as having such a personality. An old estate Grabow pipe that likes burley blends and aromatics. There's a Peretti pipe that's showing some signs of preferring Virginias, but that's about as far as I've gotten.

  • I've been smoking pipes for about 16 years or so. I don't dedicate a pipe to one blend for the most part. I don't know about other people, but this is what I generally pair up:
    Twists go in smaller bowls
    Virginia blends and flakes go in narrow bowls
    Latakia blends go in wider shorter bowls
    Burley blends go in my cobs.
    Sometimes a certain blend goes in a certain pipe better for no rhyme or reason. I do have one pipe I only smoke two specific blends in that contain deer tounge. If I smoke anything else in them, they taste like crap due to ghosting by the deer tongue.
  • I have  dedicated pipes to genres. A few for Latakia , 2 briar and cobs for Aromatics, everything else for , well, everything else.  I primarily smoke VA/VAPER/VABUR blends and tend to rub out flakes. I like U shaped bowls for Lat, conical cut for VAs. Most of my VA pipes are Dublins or Billiards, or variations thereof. 
  • MouseMouse Member
    I have two pipes that are dedicated to a particular blend, other than that it's pretty much anything goes depending on mood.
  • I like a tall, narrow bowl for Virginias and wider and shallower the more components there are in the blend. I'm told the right briar/blend combo really sings, though I find everything smokes well in cob. I have a small-bowled Grabow billiard that often gets my evening Brown Irish, but mostly it's mix-n-match cobs. A couple cobs see all my scented Lakelands and one gets the rare American aromatic. That's to prevent ghosting, not due to chamber geometry.
  • It's all to personal preference, as far as I can tell.

    It's blocked at work, but search "Finding That Magic Fit Between Pipe and Tobacco", and amongst the tons of links to forum discussions, there is a link to the Blog "A Passion for Pipes".  It's an interesting discussion on the topic, but gets into bowl shapes, and (potential) influences on smoke and flavors.

    I've heard long time smokers say the exact opposite things about a shape and tobacco pairing, with equal zeal.  Shape influences flavor, but so does the cut, moisture content, packing, cadence, etc., etc., etc.

  • Good stuff from @Direwolf. Another big factor that people like to avoid since they believe there's some scientific method to all this is mood and mouth preparedness. There are occasions when my favorite tobaccos taste "off."  I'm almost sure that's attributable to these 2 factors. "What's the last thing you ate/drank?" "What's the ambient setting?"

    Bottom line is folks would like to boil pipe smoking down to measurables, and it's just danged hard to do that.
  • Excellent posts here guys. Thanks for the input
  • @Direwolf Unfortunately that blog is no more. I ran it through a search engine, and according to a number of pipe forums, the owner decided to pull the plug on it
  • No worries.

    While interesting, it provided minimal answers to your question.

    Experiment, and keep what works.  That's the most definitive answer I've come across.

  • Sounds like a good plan to me :D For what it's worth, here's my findings so far. Bear in mind I'm still a noob and haven't tried many things.

    MM Country Gentleman Cob - Great with Commonwealth Mixture and superb with Squadron Leader. Shag burns too hot. Flake doesn't burn evenly

    MM Washington Cob - Reserved for Ennerdale Flake and sweet twist, not smoked anything else in it. Can burn hot, even with cube cut flake.

    MM Ozark Cherrywood Bent - works well with everything I've tried. This is my "Old Faithful"

    MM Mizzou Bent - works well with everything, particularly dark shag tobaccos firmly packed

    MM Mini Legend - Shag tobacco, or a slice of pigtail with a shag topping. A very small pipe indeed.

    Mini Wellbent (Offbrand) - Pigtail or Squadron Leader. Shag burns hot, and the pipe can smoke wet.

    Molina Hobby 9mm - Cube cut 1792 or Commonwealth Mixture. Both burn well, and the filter tones it down a little without making it pointless.

    Cheapo offbrand churchwarden: Squadron Leader or Commonwealth Mixture. Flake is futile, shag burns too hot.

    That's my entire array :\"> I'll get myself a nice mid range briar at some point, but these will do nicely till then
  • I'm a big MM fan; I must have two dozen in regular use, mostly Legends. All those cobs are great smokers. I have a couple of the Ozark "Cherry" bents. They smoke well, especially after the bottom of the bowl cakes up. They are about $4 here, so I wouldn't care if I damaged one. I give them a beating and they stand up to it, though.

    When I thought I was moving up, I bought a basket briar for about $30. I hated it. I have a couple other basket briars that are a little better, but the only briars I use regularly are a Kaywoodie and three Dr. Grabows. That first briar that I thought was going to open up a world of new tobacco experiences sits on a shelf, having gurgled through fewer than 20 bowls in half as many years.

    I think the wide open draught of the cobs is very forgiving of technique, therefore more likely to deliver a good experience to someone new. They are easier to keep lit without puffing until one has a gurgling blowtorch in one's mouth. That said, it can be quite satisfying for me when I smoke a bowl perfectly in a briar. It was a long time before I could do that consistently. I'm glad I learned good technique when tobacco was cheaper!
  • MM are excellent, and I'd certainly like a few more when the income recovers. I'd still like a nice briar though. The styles that appeal to me are volcano/table pipe, horn, and curved dublin. I expect I'll get one of each eventually.
  • Some folks are turned off by MM's fit and finish. They aren't always pretty and sometimes need a little work with a craft knife at the shank/bowl junction or in the bowl proper. Really, though, a Legend is under $5, Washington and Country Gentlemen are under $10, and they are made out of organic materials. I never had one that didn't smoke well. I have heard plenty of folks complaining about rather expensive pipes that just don't smoke well. So, I don't mind a rough-looking, good-smoking cob at five bucks. I would be downright unhappy to have shelled out hundreds for a beautiful Dunghill that smoked hot and wet. I would understand that the variable nature of briar burls is not 100% apparent visually. Even an expert will pick a block that's a dud once in a while. I'd still be unhappy as a consumer. Maybe that's why I'm loyal to MM.
  • I just wasn't prepared to spend good money on a pipe I might ruin as I was learning the art. Since then my income got hit, so buying new pipes isn't an option anyway.

    As to performance, I can't fault the MM offerings in any way. They have served me well, even if I haven't necessarily been as kind to them ;) Now that I'm getting the hang of it, I'd like a nice pipe or two to take out and about with me (I've only really smoked a pipe at home so far), but I'll certainly continue to smoke the MMs at home, even when I do finally add a nice pipe to the array.

    I suppose the MMs are like a comfy pair of slippers to me, and are great for relaxing at home, I just want something a little dressier for elsewhere when funds permit - even if it isn't as "comfy" as the MMs
  • I love my cobs. They smoke great. And if you lose them oh well, get another one for 5-10 dollars. Luckily I've only had 2 pipes not smoke well. That was when I first started and bought cheap pipes not knowing what to look for in a pipe and sub $30 pipes.
  • I suppose one of the purposes of this thread, was to help shorten the learning curve when I do "upgrade". I don't want a vast array of expensive pipes, and would rather avoid having to buy half a dozen "proper" pipes before finding one that both fits in terms of style and performance.

    It seems the overwhelming feeling here is that you won't know until you try it, and it depends on your technique. In which case I think it's a case of pick a bowl size that isn't too large on diameter, and just go for it. If I can find a nice table pipe/stable sitter, and a nice horn/zulu/curved dublin that appeals to my tastes, I'll be happy.

    It's all academic at the moment anyway, until the financial side changes :P
  • I understand the con$traints. I would probably have some bulldogs, Rhodesians, princes, Lovats, and Dublins if my financial situation were different. My social activity is limited, but I bring one of three decent looking briars if I'm out in a situation where I'm more formally dressed. If I'm just out and about, I don't care what I look like with a blackened cob in my gob.

    I've been told that Peterson, Stanwell, and Savinelli are the brands that won't disappoint at the entry level. I've also heard Peterson's quality control has slipped in recent years, too.
  • @50ft_trad- there are things to look for when you buy your first pipe. Looking at the construction of the pipe will help, but still not be %100 guarantee. Picking a pipe that has good construction is a good start, all the pipes I chose that had good construction have worked for me. I have heard of a few from others that didn't quite work, but that's in the minority. Here is a link on smoking

  • @TerrapinFlyer @Psicko Thanks for your input guys. I think I'd be having to look at the cheaper brands, or off-brand basket pipes, even if that meant I had to do a bit of jiggery pokery to get it working right. 50+ pounds for a pipe (which I what those three brands are) won't be an option for me for a long time, unless something miraculous happens. Even if the draft is drilled a little high, I reckon I should be able to compensate with chalk philtpads or the denicool stones, which I already have some of anyway to compensate for poor technique while I'm still learning.

    I tend to buy everything online, and my usual tobacconist has some I like the look of in the 20-30 pound range. I'll most likely take a gamble on those when I get a few spare pennies. :)
  • PsickoPsicko Member
    edited June 2016 PM

    Another cheap brand is Carlo Duca. IF I remember correctly, it  is a Savinelli Seconds brand. That was my first "real" pipe about $40 dollars which should be in the 20-30 pound range if Im not mistaken. Some of the other brands have seconds lines as well.

  • @Psicko Yeah, I've been looking at Dunhill seconds, and Prima de Chacom which is Chacom seconds. My usual tobacconist also has a section called Export Specials, which are seconds from other brands. I literally have a Parker pipe in the basket right now, and have been hovering over the checkout button for a few hours. My brother just bought some camping gear off me, so I have a few extra pennies than I did this morning....

    The trouble is, by the time you've added a bit of tobacco, some pipe cleaners, and the other odds and sods that you add to save making another order later, and of course the P&P, it builds to an amount to hesitate about. My brother has just left, so I'm going to pour a brandy and make a decision one way or the other this evening....
  • 50ft_trad50ft_trad Member
    edited June 2016 PM
    Ordered! X_X

    It's a luxury I can't really afford, but it's a while since I bought myself anything, and this is my treat to myself for quitting the cigs. I feel simultaneously very happy and extremely guilty.

    Parker Special Selection Shell Briar Curved Cherrywood Pipe p132


    Samuel Gawith 2013 Limited Edition Pipe Tobacco 100g Tin


    Probably not everybody's cup of tea, but I like a pipe I can put down without it spilling everywhere. The tobacco sounded quite interesting too, and was actually very reasonably priced for 100g (cheaper than "normal" tobacco prices over here) .... not surprising really considering it's still on the shelf after all this time :P

    EDIT: Can't get the frigging image tags to work X(
  • 18022__big
  • PsickoPsicko Member
    edited June 2016 PM
    Those should serve you nice. congrats on the new pipe. I like the look of the pipe. I don't care either way if a pipe can stand on its own. I have a few travel pipe stands that keep the pipe upright.
  • Thank you :)

    I have found being able to set a pipe down pretty much anywhere to be incredibly useful. Whether tinkering in the garden, helping neighbours, shifting stuff about, or even just answering the phone, it seems to make things a lot simpler. I'm not saying I'll never have a pipe that isn't a sitter, but have found that when I've used my cheapo churchwarden or mini wellbent (the only 2 pipes I own that aren't flat bottomed), it's been a PITA trying to prop it upright somehow while I attend to something.

    I don't often get the luxury of staying stationary or being undisturbed during a smoke. It's one of the things I've found very useful about smoking my cobs, my MM Ozark, and my Molina hobby. I think if I was sat in a pub beer garden, nursing a pint of something tasty, I'd be quite happy with a travel pipe rest. Otherwise, a self supporting pipe (resting the mouthpiece on my lighter or pipe tool to keep it off the surface if necessary) is way more practical for me.
  • You can get estate pipes on ebay cheap. with a bit of elbow grease and a little know how you can make them shine like new.  To de-oxify the stem use oxy clean  or a Mr Clean Magic eraser .clean stem interior with alcohol of your choice ,I use mouth wash. use cotton balls in the bowl with alcohol to loosen up cake some use salt & alcohol I don't like the idea; salt drys the natural oils in the wood causing the pipe to break over time. if it's a seriously ghosted pipe; activated charcoal in the bowl  in a warm oven with the stem removed.  I'll let Greg Pease explain the process
    My knowledge is worthless if not shared and applied . "Joseph McKenna"  
  • 50ft_trad50ft_trad Member
    edited June 2016 PM
    To be honest, they aren't all that cheap over here. I also don't have the funds or inclination to gamble, which is the way I tend to consider buying ebay used goods. I like the security of being able to go back to a retailer and getting them to fix the problem. Maybe in time, with a little more knowledge/awareness, and a little less financial constraints, I might take a chance on estate pipes. I could all too easily make a duff purchase right now.

    I've actually just had a quick peek at ebay, and there's estate pipes listed that I don't know the first thing about, which were listed for more than I paid for the brand new Parker I posted a picture of above.
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