In the YouTube Pipesphere, unless you have been living in a sealed tin deep in an actual, literal cellar, you have seen a barrage of giveaways. Resulting from content creator anniversaries or subscription milestone celebrations. The contests have ranged from straight-forward lists or responses like Buckeye Pipers’ pairing to the enormously entertaining Steph and Skip’s haiku (or as I would like to say in my most cheesey manner – the pipeku).
These video responses have generated a lot of reaction. It has been very interesting and have given some interesting insights into a lot of the lovely brethren in the pipe community. Yep, we are a quirky but grounded bunch. The King of Quirk, in my mind, has got to be Cliff Higgins. If the world had any sense and sense of humor, would have awarded him the entire internet for congratulatory video to the aforementioned Steph and Skip. I mean, seriously, the dude handled nun-chucks like you or I would put on socks in the morning.
Can’t Win It Unless You’re In It
So far, I have thrown my hat in the ring towards several of these giveaways. Usually coming away empty handed in all except for Flat Cap and Lady Fire’s 1K giveaway. I was getting a very interesting pipe along with the equivalent of 6 tins of tobacco. Therefore, my participation requires as part of my own conviction to now host one myself. And knowing that I would, I have racked my mental cage on what I would do. The result was usually met with an extensive nothing jotted down in my journal by the end of bowl.
All that I knew was that I did not want to do a 100 sub giveaway. I don’t have any objections to them at all, but I like to be a little different, if not contrarian. Considering how the Lord of the Rings, both Tolkien’s and Jackson’s, have endeavored to keep the hobby alive, it seemed to me that an 111 sub giveaway would be the right way to go. So, at eleventy-one subscribers, clearing enough of my own arbitrary space from 100, I have my opportunity.
Now I needed a subject. As providence would have it, a friendship that I have developed through this video process has delivered the idea. Which was in itself is completely appropriate. Doug, the Michigan Epiper, sent me an email one day to discuss a few issues he was traversing in the hobby. The poor guy coming to me deserves much sympathy, but I am thankful that he did.
In all honesty, I tend to sit down to a bowl and not think too deeply about it, outside of the flavors and the form of the smoke, the aesthetic of the pipe…okay, maybe I think more that I let on. But I do not track my issues and I usually do not associate the issues very well with my own process. But in reflecting on Doug’s questions, I found that I did do those very things, if on a more subconscious level.
One particular issue was getting into a rut where flavors tend to taste the same from one pipe to the next. And I am certain that this is a common occurrence among us shredded-leaf-aficionados. We get going on a blend or a style of blends that become a focus. For us and the consequence can be that the nuances in each blend could meld together. Though base components for the styles are the same, it isn’t that GL Pease Gaslight all of the sudden tastes like Samuel Gawith’s Skiff Mixture. If that is the case, you might need medical attention. But what I think the issue is, is that those unique nuances of a blend get lost in your operation.
I really enjoy Capstan Blue. Yes, part of that is the nerd-boy in me hopping from on of Tolkien’s giant footsteps into the next. However, mostly, it is just a really enjoyable Virginia blend. What stands out the most to me is not the typical grassy or sweet hay notes of a Virginia, but it is that subtle, lemony note that wafts over the tongue. That is a nuance that I covet every time I open my jar of Capstan. If that nuance fades, my mind will instantly know it and the cognitive dissonance will crack my head like the ringing of the Liberty Bell. Maybe that is a bit hyperbolic, but I think you get my point. At the point, the brain will start cycling through the potential issues, and one of those is that I may need to shock my palette back into proper functionality.
What Are You Talking About?
Now, what do I mean by that? Well, why do our palettes dull at times? My un-scientific brain can think of a few things. What have I eaten today? What I have a drank today? Or, if it is drink related, am I consistently drinking one thing when I sit down with a pipe? Have I been to focused on one style of tobacco? What is the meaning of life? Have I burned my bowls too hot? Is it allergy season? Have a had too many bowls? Do I still have a tongue? Is it a specific pipe or even pipe shape that seems to challenge me?
Along the realm of eating, for me, spicy foods (which I love) will ruin my palette for a short bit of time. And the more consistently that I eat them, the longer that short bit of time becomes. If my diet for the day includes too much salt, it tends to rub my tongue raw and leave it susceptible to the dreaded bite. Too much sugar coats my palette and impacts the taste, potentially to the point of changing the blend entirely. I am not saying to be a diet hawk at all, but if you are getting issues with what you are tasting (or not tasting in this case), then it is just something to consider in your own personal analysis.
Can I Get A Glass of Water?
In the same vein as eating, there is drinking – what you drink and how frequently. I give you permission to enter your own obligatory drinking puns here. The drink with the least impact is obviously water. It will leave you with the best opportunity to taste the blend and the blend only. All that you would lose is any enhancement of flavors that other drinks may provide. I would recommend that if one has an issue tasting nuance, that this is a great place to start. Fall back to water and let it possibly refresh your tongue, naturally soothing and cleansing it.
The other drinks that I tend to keep on the regular with are coffee, hot tea (like oolong or darjeeling), ginger ale, bourbon or scotch occasionally, or a low-carbonated, low-hop infused beer. Other drinks do not play well with my hobby – but if Dr. Pepper floats your boat, pop that top, buddy. The key with these for me is not sticking with one particular drink each time. For instance, with ginger ale, while it does a great job keep the palette cleansed, the ginger spice in it, when I’m consuming too much, will do what spicy foods do. It will almost open up my tongue too much and actually make the smoke less enjoyable than what I was anticipating. Bourbon will dry out my tongue too much, so I need to make sure I have a cooler burning tobacco (oddly enough, scotch does not have this same effect on me).
Therefore, it pays for me to rotate drinks with the tobacco. I have not gone as far to say this drink with that tobacco, as my process in the hobby is so haphazard that writing this article and thinking about the giveaway has been what has forced to me really consider these things. But I would say over the course of a week, water is on my table 30% of the time, coffee is a morning deal and so on. I have discovered, as a result, that my haphazardness has been a saving grace in this arena of flavors.
In The Moment Smoker
I am more of an “in-the-moment” smoker. What sounds good in the moment, rather than having it being in a rotation of sorts. I think most people are in my camp (I would cite my un-scientific assumptions on that statistic). Blends are not best suited to me in a certain season, or time of day. So I could be in the middle of August and be fully comfortable with a bowl full of the roughest perique-laden latakia blend, if it suits my craving. Admittedly, that one has not hit me yet, though I refuse to rule out its potential.
I recall that when I was picking up the pipe again, and this time recognizing it as a hobby for the first time, and came to the conclusion that aromatics did not carry the consistency of flavor through the bowl that I desired, I move fast into the English style. Boy, did that do it for me, let me tell you. All of the sudden I was dealing with a depth of flavor and quality that I did not see in the aromatics. So I kept on with the English styles and the Balkan styles to the point that I think the oils in the latakia started the blend from one to the next. My tongue lost the nuances of the blends. Maltese Falcon lost the tease. Mississippi River became a minor tributary. Presbyterian lost the faith.
I wish I could tell you there was a happy ending. So I will! I shocked the palette.
The Hunt For The Perfect Blend
There is no doubt that phrase is not mine. I recall hearing it somewhere and perhaps you, the reader, may know. I probably saw something on YouTube and read something in the forums that said get into another style. There is plenty more, including some variants of English and Balkan that can accomplish the same end.
And there I was, standing in my local B&M, staring at what is my favorite blend – Old Dark Fired. It is my “wow” blend that got me into flakes. It introduced me to this leaf called Kentucky. All blended together in a hot press and it opened my palette. The Falcon’s wings were no longer clipped. The Mississippi flowed as it should. And the Presbyterian was redeemed.
I proceeded into VAPers and Virginia blends that then taught me to cool it and slow my cadence. But most importantly, all of these combine into the resolution to the my problem in the yesteryear of 2018. And like I said, I am not in any recollection that it was a problem for me, outside of that novice-like perception of the blends not tasting like they initially were.
LetMyCameronGo!’s First Give Away
Now, we return to the topic of the giveaway. It is about a hobby issue that we all run into here and there. Whether its cadence or burn consistency, smoking slower, etc, we all have them. And it does not even have to be related to the process of smoking or tasting. It can involve the process of picking a pipe and how that was refined. Of mistakes and resolutions of pipe tools and use. While the hobby is simple, it has variety, and it has variety because we are all individuals of that hobby. My solution may not be your solution or the solution to the new pipe smoker.
What I want to do is create an online resource – that of a video repository for any content creator to post. Any responses to my giveaway will initially go into a public playlist. This list then can be a reference for new and veteran pipe smokers out there to go to view in case they have a similar issue and are looking for other possible avenues of solving their problem.
Knowing how the folks of the YTPC and other pipe clubs are so generous with their thoughts and time, it is my hope this would generate a lot of feedback. Perhaps even to instigate new presenters into the video fold would be great. I know that there have been plenty of giveaways that have done that very thing. Here is the link to my video – https://youtu.be/NC0AfwvK9Nk – I hope you can join in on the fun.
Well, there is my say. I am excited to see the responses that may come, however many there are. It is all much to be thankful for.
As I say in my videos, count your blessings. Be thankful for them. And when all that is said and done, grace and peace to you!
Nathan Murton is a follower of God and blessed with a wife of over 15 years with 2 girls. He enjoys a good obscure movie quote, cooking for his family and blowing smoke rings. You can see more of Nathan on his YouTube channel LetMyCameronGo!