Tobacco blends with added flavourings and aromas; usually relatively sweet additions such as berry fruits, vanilla, coconut or chocolate. Rum or whisky/whiskey are also common additions as flavour enhancers. Aromatic tobaccos vary tremendously in the extent to which they present these added flavours. Some are very subtle and provoke discussion as to whether they really are aromatics, others are super sweet and barely note a true tobacco flavour. Statistics suggest that the vast majority of pipe tobacco sold globally is in the aromatic category, as high as 90% in some markets. Despite this, some seasoned pipe smokers can take a somewhat negative view of aromatics, feeling that the added flavours get in the way of a true quality tobacco experience. Lakelands (see below) are a subsection of very traditional aromatics using mainly botanical and floral essences.
A tobacco pipe design where the stem push-fits directly to the mortise of the pipe, without a tenon. The briar at the mortise will usually be reinforced with a metal band of silver, nickel or copper. Such designs allow the smoker to remove the stem while the pipe is hot unlike normal designs where this is not recommended. The name comes from the supposed military origins of the design which allowed soldiers (1st World War) to replace a broken stem with whatever was to hand and would fit the mortise; for example a spent cartridge.
Tobacco pipes which are entirely handmade by a single maker, as opposed to 'factory' made pipes where a pipe may be made by various workers as it passes through the different stages of production.
Brick and Mortar. Used in reference to tobacconists with a physical shop which you can visit, versus purely online stores.
A particularly attractive type of grain that can be found in briar pipes. If a straight grain pipe is cut perpendicular to the direction of the grain the resultant face may exhibit bird's eye. If one imagines the lines of the grain as straws, the bird's eye is the grain you see when looking at the cut end of the straws. Bird's eye grain may appear on any facet of a tobacco pipe, depending on the orientation of the grain. In a pipe where the grain runs vertically up the sides of the bowl the bird's eye would be seen (if present) on the top or bottom of the pipe. Tightly set, clearly visible bird's eye is considered a very attractive attribute by many pipe smokers and pipes showing good bird's eye grain will usually command a higher than average price. When a pipe maker, especially an artisan maker, finds a block showing good bird's eye they will usually orintate the pipe to best display it in the finished piece.
The piece of 'raw' wood used to make a pipe, most commonly briar. Generally defined as either ebauchon or plateaux
The inner diameter of key elements of the pipe, mainly referring to the drilling of the airways. Can also refer to the inner diameter of the smoking chamber.
The burning chamber of a tobacco pipe
Derived from bruyère, the French name of the Tree Heath, Erica arborea. This is the most commonly used material for tobacco pipe manufacture today, thanks to its relative availability, excellent heat resistance, porosity to the moisture and oils released through tobacco combustion, and its often highly attractive grain. The wood used in pipe manufacture is sourced from the root of the Tree Heath which grows wild in the Mediterranean area. The most prolific sources are from Italy and Algeria, but quality wood is also found in Greece, Spain and other Mediterranean locations. Correct harvesting, seasoning, aging and preparation are critical steps in achieving a high quality product, even before it is crafted into a finished pipe. Briar's first use in tobacco pipes is unclear as many craftsmen will have been making pipes from a wide variety of woods for many years, but the first commercial scale production is generally credited as having been in the French town of Saint-Claude in the mid 19th century. For some pipe smokers, briar is the ultimate pipe making material, but in truth there are a number of other woods and materials which give an equally fine smoking experience, which some would argue are even better in some aspects.
A tobacco variety containing little or no sugar. Burley typically has a nutty flavour but is also noted to be very receptive to absorbing flavours from other tobaccos when used in a blend. It is often blended with Virginas to reduce the burn rate (it burns more slowly than Virginias) and to balance out the flavour profile. Kentucky is a dark fired cured variety of burley.
The unfortunate event of the wood of the pipe burning, in extreme cases even burning a hole through to the outside of the bowl. Woods used for tobacco pipe manufacture(such as briar) are highly heat resistant but burnouts can still occur if the pipe has been repeatedly smoked very hot, especially when new, or if there have been hidden flaws such as sand pits within the bowl. A properly smoked and maintained (briar) pipe should never burnout. Allowing a thin layer of cake to develop within the bowl and starting a new briar pipe off gently is the key to it having a long life.
The raised rib at the tip of the mouthpiece, giving the smoker a comfortable point to hold the pipe between their teeth. Button designs can vary significantly between brands in terms of profile and size.
The pace at which one smokes. Most tobacco pipe smokers develop a natural rhythm of breaths and pipe draws. It is not uncommon for new pipe smokers to smoke too quickly, potentially resulting in harsher flavours and / or tongue bite. Finding a smooth and relaxed cadance appropriate to the pipe and the tobacco is a skill we all develop with patience and practice.
A 'true' calabash pipe is made from an African gourd with a tobacco bowl of porcelain or meerschaum suspended above the main bowl of the pipe. Today wood is more commonly used in place of the gourd.
Deposits of carbon that build up as a coating on the inside of the pipe’s bowl. These offer protection to the wood beneath and are considered by many to add a sweetness to the taste of the smoke. Excessive build up reduces the capacity of the chamber (more cake means less space for tobacco) and in extreme cases may cause pressure on the bowl when expanded through heating, potentially causing cracks. For this reason it is advised to keep cake to around 2mm thickness, reducing it by use of a pipe reaming tool. Meerschaum and morta pipes do not develop cake to the same extent of briar pipes and can easily be kept in good condition by cleaning after use with paper towel.
Flavours or essences added, for example as a spray or sauce, to the tobacco during its processing (before finishing)
Named after the 16th Century English explorer Sir Thomas Cavendish, this is made (most commonly) from Virginia or Burley tobacco, rather than being a tobacco variety in its own right. Cavendish is produced by heat treating then pressing the tobacco, resulting in a sweet tobacco which is generally added to Virginia and Burley blends. Some Cavendish varieties are further flavoured with additives and are a common element of many aromatic blends. 'Unsweetened' Cavendish has no additives and exhibits only the natural sweetness derived from the heat and pressure process.
Collecting and storing tobacco for future use. Tobaccos develop different nuances and flavours over time . Many smokers cellar tobaccos for years to let it age and mature, delivering a richer and more balanced smoke.
Also known as a ‘false light’. The first light of the pipe tobacco, intended to burn off excess moisture from the tobacco and provide an evenly charred bed of tobacco for the next, proper light. After the charring light the surface of the tobacco should be tamped to gain an even surface. Sometimes more than one charring light will be needed to achieve an optimal surface.
A tobacco pipe design with a style-defining long stem. The origins of the style are believed to be Ottoman with versions moving across Europe from the 17th century, particularly from Russia, then through Central Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. The current iteration was popularised in the late 18th century. The long stem of these pipes promotes a cool flow of smoke and they have seen something of a revival in recent years, not least due to the influence of the Lord of the Rings film releases in which they frequently appear.
Commission (made pipes)
A service offered by most artisan tobacco pipe makers, whereby you can ask for a specific piece made personally for you, with your choice of shape, style and finish.
Organised events at a club, national or international level, where tobacco pipe smokers compete to achieve the longest possible smoke with a set amount of tobacco. Competitions follow clear rules where competitors are issued with identical pipes and equal amounts of the same tobacco. Entrants are given a set amount of time (usually 5 minutes) to prepare their tobacco and then start smoking. The smoker is issued with only two matches and cannot use any more. The winner is the smoker whose pipe stays lit for the longest.
The form in which tobacco is presented. for example plug / flake / rope / coin ready rubbed etc.
A very popular, simple and low cost '3-in-1' folding pipe tool combining a tamper, spike and spoon.
A tenon design where the tenon is a separate piece inserted into the mouthpiece, as distinct from single-piece mouthpieces where the tenon is a carved element of the overall mouthpiece. Delrins are cut to size by the pipe maker and bonded into place (not user removable).
Unburnt tobacco sometimes left at the bottom of a pipe bowl after smoking. If you experience this often, the draft hole of your pipe may be drilled too high (entering the bowl higher than its base), or your packing technique may need some improvement.
The hole at the back of the bowl through which smoke is drawn. This should be ideally positioned at the centre and virtually at the base of the bowl to promote even burning of the tobacco and avoid leftover dottle.
Sucking air / smoke through the pipe. Correct draw is critical to good pipe performance. Too great a draw may result in overly quick and hot smoking, too restricted a draw may cause the smoker to draw harder, thereby creating hotter and less pleasing smoke. Experienced pipe smokers will adjust the strength of their draw according to the characteristics of the pipe to retain a smooth pace of smoking and rate of tobacco combustion.
A block of briar cut from the central section of the root burl. Usually supplied in rectangular form. Tends to have more random and less consistent grain than plateaux blocks but also lower cost.
Ebonite (also known as Vulcanite)
Hardened rubber used for pipe stems (see 'stems'). Ebonite is a brand name for this product, generically known as hard rubber.
English (tobacco blend)
Generally used to describe non-aromatic pipe tobacco blends with a Virginia base, Orientals and a notable content Latakia, the latter being a defining component. Some also contain Perique.
An area where the pipe manufacturer has filled a small pit or flaw on the outer surface of the briar to improve its cosmetic appearance. A number of different fill materials are used by makers, most commonly including briar dust mixed with glue, or wood putty. Small fills have no effect on smoking performance or the longevity of the pipe. Fills are common on low cost pipes and are likely to be present but discrete in mid-priced pipes. An absence of any need for fills is an expected feature of higher grade pipes.
Filter (tobacco pipe context)
Mostly commonly 6mm or 9mm inserts which sit in the tenon of a tobacco pipe, these are intended to capture excess moisture and tars, preventing them from reaching the smoker. Many designs have been popularised including paper filters containing charcoal as a filter media (from various manufacturers), and balsa wood filters popularised by Savinelli. The pros and cons of filters are a frequent talking point amongst pipe enthusiasts and opinions vary. Some value the drier and 'cleaner' smoke they feel they achieve, others note that most filters subdue the tobacco flavours and often create excessive drag in the pipe's draw.
This is a prized grain pattern found in some briar pipes. It is similar to straight grain in that the grain lines are clearly visible and regular, however the grain lines are not parallel, instead 'flaring' apart, creating a flame pattern.
An approach to making a pipe where the pipe maker does not set out to make a predetermined shape, instead following their imagination and the nature of the wood to define the final shape.
Accumulated tars and residues in your pipe.
Aroma / flavour residues taken on by a (briar) pipe, particularly after smoking strong or distinctively scented tobaccos such as Latakia, Lakeland or aromatic blends. Meerschaum, corncob and morta pipes are generally regarded as being free of this phenomenon.
Kentucky (tobacco variety)
Dark fire cured Burley is known as Kentucky. This is a strong tobacco in terms of aroma and (woody, earthy) flavours; also noted for its high nicotine content.
A type of traditional aromatic tobacco blend originating from the Lake District of England, the best known manufacturers being Samuel Gawith and Gawith Hoggarth. Some blends have been made unchanged for over 200 years. These tobaccos use natural botanical and often floral essences to add aromas and flavours, for example; rose, geranium, bergamot. This is in contrast to the usually sweet fruit and vanilla flavours added to the majority of aromatics. Lakelands can be a little polarising as they are certainly very different to any other blends. The tin note of many is somewhat like potpourri, and it can take a little time to adjust to the nuances. Many smokers who do not generally enjoy these blends often refer to them as 'soapy'. Fans of Lakeland blends appreciate their varied flavour profiles, the best examples offering interesting notes which emerge throughout the smoke, whilst retaining a natural tobacco feel. A word of warning - Lakeland blends are notorious for ghosting pipes,so some smokers keep a pipe reserved only for Lakelands.
Tobacco leaf which has been first sun-cured, then secondary cured over fires of aromatic botanicals and wood, creating heavy, smoky, leathery notes and flavours. named after the Syrian port city from where it was first exported but now more commonly sourced from Cyprus. Latakia is a defining content of English blend tobaccos.
Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) , also knows as acrylic. A popular material for the manufacture of pipe stems / mouthpieces.
Lunting / to Lunt
The act of walking and smoking a pipe. The etymology of the word suggests origins from either the Dutch word 'lont', meaning a slow match or fuse, or the Middle Low German 'lonte' meaning, 'a wick'. Introduced to the English language via Scots, appearing in the Robert Burns poem The Twa Dogs 1822: "The luntin pipe, an' sneeshin mill", in this context meaning to emit smoke.
Magnesium silicate, a soft clay like material, the name coming from the German for ‘sea foam’. Prized by many pipe smokers since the early 18th Century for its neutral taste, resistance to ghosting and its suitability for elaborate carving. Of the two available types; pressed and block, the latter is by far the more desirable for its smoking qualities and ability to beautifully colour through usage.
Briar (see image above) sourced from Romeo Domenico, 'Mimmo'. Based in Taggia, Province of Imperia in Italy, Mimmo is a 2nd generation briar cutter. Mimmo briar is frequently indicated as the source of raw material by pipe makers, particularly artisans, as it is recognised as a consistently high quality product. Whilst best known for briar, Mimmo also offers other woods including strawberry wood. Mimmo not only supplies pipe makers around the World with briar, he is also recognised as one of the World's premier artisan pipe makers, and his pieces are much sought after, commanding very high prices. Mimmo features extensively in the highly recommended 'Father The Flame' film; you can find a link to this on our links page.
Petrified bog oak formed >2000 years ago from trees that have fallen into peat bogs. It provides a highly heat resistant and flavour neutral material for making tobacco pipes. The best-known sources for quality morta are Ireland, particularly County Longford, and parts of France and Ukraine.
The hole drilled in the pipe to accept the tenon or spigot of the stem / mouthpiece.
Mystery Mix / Mystery Blend
There is a commercial tobacco blend called Mystery Blend but the term is also (and more frequently) used by many pipe smokers in reference to their own randomly composed blend, created by adding leftover tobacco from known blends to a jar. Rather than smoke a partial bowl with the last of a blend, many like to add this to a jar together with all other 'leftovers', resulting in a random blend that can be nice to turn to when in the mood for something different. Some smokers enjoy their resultant mystery mix so much that they try to recreate it. For this reason some make a note of what they add and in which proportions. Others are happy with the always changing and random nature of it, and accept that the results may be good, bad, indifferent, or genius.
A short pipe, where the bowl is relatively close to you while smoking. The currently very popular Devil Anse shape would be a good example.
A patented mouthpiece design (1894) of the Peterson brand. The P-Lip differs from normal mouthpieces in that smoke exits from the top of the button on the mouthpiece, rather than directly from an open end as with all others. The concept is to direct smoke away from the smoker's tongue to the palette, reducing the potential of tongue bite. Some smokers prefer the smoke flow and feel derived from a normal mouthpiece, but many do highly rate the P-Lip design. Peterson currently offers a broad range of pipes and the P-Lip is only available with certain models, particularly within their range of System pipes.
The act of filling the pipe bowl with tobacco in preparation for smoking.
A condition when the smoker experiences what some describe as a 'dead tongue'. This can occur when smoking a number of consecutive bowls, especially with strong tobaccos. The obvious cure is to take a break until your sense of taste recovers but you can reduce the chances of this occurring by rotating through a range of tobaccos of different compositions. Regular smoking of tobacco with high Latakia content is commonly cited as likely to bring this on.
Tobacco created through a unique process of pressure-fermentation, credited to Pierre Chenet of St James Parish, Louisinane in 1824. The harvested tobacco leaves are hung in a sideless barn for ~2 weeks to partially dry. They are next moistened and then rolled and pressed into barrels. Screw jacks are used to exert high pressure to press out remaining moisture. The pressure is periodically released and the tobacco worked by hand to allow some air to permeate it before being again pressed. The final result is a very dark tobacco with a distinct fruity, peppery, vinegary scent and flavour. Sometimes considered the truffle of pipe smokers, Perique is normally found in blends with a Virginian tobacco base, known as VaPers. Perique is also sometimes used as an addition for English tobaccos, adding an extra 'spice' dynamic to the smoky Latakia tones.
Pipe Acquisition Disorder (PAD)
A commonly used term in tobacco pipe smoking websites, forums and groups. This relates to a frequent 'condition' where the pipe smoker inadvertently becomes an avid collector, indulging their hobby by seeking out and purchasing new pipes on a regular basis.
Pipe Cleaner Test
There is much debate on the importance of this factor - the ability to easily pass a pipe cleaner through the mouthpiece of the fully assembled pipe, and for it to reach the bowl via the draught hole. Some pipe smokers reject any pipe that will not allow this, perceiving it as a design / manufacturing fault. Others accept that it is simply a factor in some pipes and something that they can live with. It is NOT necessarily an indication that the pipe will smoke any poorer. The issue occurs when the hole at the tenon and the hole drilled in the centre of the mortise are not perfectly aligned, or in pipes with extreme curvature. Some pipe designs mean that passing a pipe cleaner from mouthpiece to bowl would be impossible; for example Peterson (or similar) System pipes, reverse calabash designs, some asymmetrical freehand designs where there is an offset between the tenon's draught hole and the draught hole of the mortise. Your author owns a very fine piece from a renowned artisan maker which falls into this latter category, and can note that the pipe smokes exceptionally well. It's slight 'step' between the two draught holes actually creates as a moisture and 'funk' trap, producing a dry and smooth smoke from what is (in this case) a very short stemmed pipe. With many pipes where a cleaner will not pass all the way easily, particularly with bent designs, you might find that slightly bending the tip of the cleaner and giving it a slight twist as it reaches through the tenon may then allow it to pass all the way.
Small imperfections and holes in briar which can become apparent while the pipemaker is working with the wood. Often caused by sand or grit around which the wood has grown. Pipemakers may choose to fill small pits, sandblast or rusticate the bowl. When making a freehand pipe the maker can adjust the shape to accommodate any minor imperfections that are found. Pits found inside the bowl are likely to encourage hot spots and potential burnout and such pipes will generally be discarded by the maker.
Block cut from the outer section of the briar root burl. Usually supplied as a quarter circle cut with the outer surface of the burl intact. This cut tends to have more consistent and better defined grain than ebauchon cuts and will be higher cost.
The act of scraping away excess cake from the inside of a pipe bowl. Best done with a specific pipe reaming tool but can also be done by careful use of a blunt ended knife or rolled / folded sandpaper. care must be taken to only remove cake through this process and not damage the surface of the wood directly. The optimal amount of cake in a briar pipe is generally considered to be ~1.5 - 2mm.
This is a tobacco pipe design featuring a secondary chamber between the main (combustion) bowl and the mouthpiece. The design is intended to encourage the condensation and collection of excess moisture, resulting in a cool dry smoke.
A circular grain exposed in briar through sand blasting. These rings are the growth rings of the briar.
The smell in a room during or soon after a tobacco has been smoked there, as distinct from the smell of the tobacco experienced by the smoker. Room note is more apparent to people near the smoker than the smoker themself. Some tobacco pipe smokers will deliberately select a tobacco with a more pleasing room note when they know they will be smoking near other people.
The practice of using more than one tobacco pipe to ensure that each pipe has adequate resting time (typically recommended as a minimum of 24 hours) before reuse.
A process of finishing a (usually) briar tobacco pipe by carving its surface to give a knobbled effect. Famous examples include Castello's Sea Rock finish and the Northern Briars Roc Cut.
A finishing process whereby particles of sand or another abrasive medium are air blasted at the surface of a pipe to create a dynamic relief of the grain. Strawberry wood pipes are particularly known for their capacity to offer a very pronounced grain following this process. Sandblasting varies notably between different manufactures in terms of the finish achieved. Some artisan makers are particularly famed for the quality and uniqueness of their sandblasting finish, for example Walt Cannoy's 'Signature Suede Blast'.
The part of the pipe between the bowl and the mouthpiece.
A tobacco pipe which can stand upright and unsupported on a flat surface.
Rubber sleeves which are placed over the tip of a tobacco pipe mouthpiece. These protect the mouthpiece from bitemarks and some smokers find them more comfortable. On the downside, they should be regularly removed and cleaned, and many smokers feel that they substantially detract from the aesthetics of the pipe.
A stem to mouthpiece connection design very similar to the Army Mount but with both the briar around the mortice and the tenon end of the mouthpiece both wrapped with metal, often silver.
The mouthpiece of the tobacco pipe. Most commonly made from ebonite/vulcanite which is hardened rubber or from acrylic (a form of plastic). Many pipe smokers prefer the subtly softer feel of vulcanite stems but they can oxidise over time, particularly if exposed to natural light, giving them a brown/greenish colouration. Acrylic is a more stable material and available in a much wider range of colours. Other, less common materials used include amber, animal horn, and sometimes briar, where the complete pipe is carved as a single piece.
Wood grain, most commonly when referring to a briar tobacco pipe, is where the grain lines run parallel and evenly in one direction. Aesthetically very pleasing and highly valued by many collectors The closer together and better defined the grain lines are, the more desirable the piece. Many manufacturers specifically select their best straight grain briar for their most prestigious production series, for example Chacom's 'Selected Straight Grain' models.
A metal (usually aluminium) extension at the end of the tenon, extending into the mortice of a tobacco pipe. These were particularly common mid-20th century and are still offered by some manufacturers today. The stinger is designed to encourage condensation of excess moisture in the smoke, promoting a cooler and drier smoke.
Arbutus unedo, the Strawberry Tree, a member of the Ericaceae family of heaths and heathers, as is briar. Like it's cousin briar, strawberry wood is highly heat resistant and well suited to tobacco pipe manufacture. Pipes made from strawberry wood are lighter in weight than briar but otherwise similar in terms of their smoking characteristics. This wood is particularly appreciated by pipe makers and smokers for the highly attractive grain that it reveals through sand blasting. It is not a commonly used material for the large 'factory' manufacturers, being more frequently used by artisan makers
Stoving / Stoved Tobacco
The process of heating the tobacco to caramlise the sugars within it. This results in a darker and more complex, deeper flavoured tobacco. This is sometimes done at home by some enthusiasts and those wanting to experiment with homemade blends. Video example here.
The main body of the pipe, basically everything except the mouthpiece
Patented by the Peterson brand in 1890, their 'System' is a special tobacco pipe design including a moisture reservoir between the draft hole and the mouthpiece. This innovation was developed to provide a drier smoke and remains a core product range within Peterson's line up. Some other manufacturers have developed very similar designs, for example Savinelli's 'Dry System' pipes, but none have the recognised iconic and ubiquitous status of the Peterson models.
Simple device to compress tobacco after the charring light and during smoking. Often combined into a pipe smoker’s multi-tool but also available as a standalone item. Can be made from a wide range of materials including briar and other woods, steel, silver, horn, nails, and even bullet casings.
An extension of the mouthpiece which slots into the mortice of the pipe. Tenons can either be a carved section of a single-piece mouthpiece, or a separate inserted Delrin, whereby the tenon is technically a separate and replaceable component.
The aroma of a newly opened tobacco tin. A relished moment for virtually all pipe smokers when experiencing a new tobacco, the tin note gives a hint of the flavours to come.
A burning sensation on the tongue during or after smoking a tobacco pipe. There is some debate as to the cause and best corrections to avoid this and there appear to be several potential contributors to the problem. Many believe the issue to be excessive heat from the tobacco smoke burning the tongue, but the most recent research suggests that it is chemical burning from compounds in the tobacco. Excessive smoking, smoking overly moist tobacco, smoking too quickly, or with a very hard draw due to a too tightly packed bowl are potential contributors.
Flavours or essences added, for example as a spray or sauce, to the tobacco after its main processing (after finishing).
A blend of Virginia and Perique tobaccos. This is one of the most popular blend types, with good examples offering a very pleasing balance of sweet and savoury flavours. There's some more useful information and insights on VaPers here
Virgin / Natural Finish
Pipes that are finished without a stain, leaving the wood with its natural colour. Such pipes, particularly when of briar, tend to take on darker tones which can enhance the grain of the wood as they are smoked over time.
Virginia (tobacco type)
Originally cultivated by indigenous North Americans, Virginia tobaccos are very versatile and also highly variable in character according to how they have been processed. The degree to which they have been flue cured (cured over heat) determines their colour and flavour characteristics; ranging from lightly coloured, citrus / grass / hay flavoured 'bright' Virginias through to the earthy, leathery notes of dark Virginias; the latter having been subjected to more heat and some pressure. Red and brown Virginias fall between the aforementioned variants, offering a balance of sweet, fruity and nutty, earthy tones. Many tobacco blends use Virginia as their base and pure Virginia blends are also very popular. Pure virginais, especially if they are predominantly of the bright variety, do tend to smoke a little hotter than other varieties.
A colloquial term within the pipe smoking community to refer to nicotine.
Vulcanite (also known as Ebonite)
Hardened rubber used for pipe stems (see 'stems').
Plateaux cut (Mimmo) briar block; a Mike Couch artisan pipe in progress