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Pack a Bowl of Sutliff Tobacco for a Remarkable Experience

Sutliff tobacco, self-styled as America’s oldest tobacco company, enjoys a reputation that few other pipe tobacco companies can claim. There are a lot of crowd favorites out there, but some of the blends in Sutliff’s lineup are nearly without peerage. Their widely appreciated blends, quality control, and longevity have come together to make some of them the most popular tobaccos in the United States, and probably in the world.

Sutliff Tobacco Company owns brands such as their Backwoods Classics, Dutch Masters, Sutliff 1849, and many others. Some of their most popular and enduring tobacco products are the Mac Baren Tobacco brands that have been widely lauded for their complexity and flavor. Popular Mac Baren blends include aromatic pipe tobaccos like their Vanilla Cream blend as well as powerful blends like their Latakia Flake and Scottish Blends.

Whether you’re a seasoned pipe smoker or simply looking to try it out to see if you’ll appreciate it, a good Sutliff Tobacco will not do you wrong, especially for a first time experience. You’ll be standing on the shoulders of over 170 years of experience in aging, cutting, and blending tobacco, and it’s only a matter of time before you find a favorite.

Getting Started Smoking a Pipe

Smoking a pipe is a wonderful contemplative experience that few tobacco users practice any longer. It’s rare to see a pipe smoker about, which is a shame, because the world of fine pipe tobacco is extremely diverse and rewarding, to say the absolute minimum. Between the sweet room notes of aromatics to the powerful, peppery notes of Perique tobaccos, there is a world of opportunities to experience. There is extreme diversity in pipe tobacco that is hard to find elsewhere.

In addition to the flavors you can enjoy in pipe tobacco, the experience itself is one that demands the senses to relax and attune themselves. You cannot rush smoking a pipe, just like you cannot rush smoking a cigar. There is a right way, and yes, there is a wrong way to do it. Learning to slow down and enjoy the complexity of a blend is one of the simplest things in life. Here’s what you need.

What You Need

In order to properly smoke a pipe, just like a cigar, there are some accessories you will actually need. Here are some of them - but you can learn more from a fellow pipe smoker.

  • A pipe - If it is a briar or a corn cob pipe, do not fill it up more than a third of the way the first time you smoke it; it will need to be broken in, but that is a topic for another blog. Clay pipes and meerschaum pipes can be filled up to the top of the bowl right from the start, but if this is your first time smoking, we recommend trying a third of a bowl.
  • Some tobacco - Choose one that you think you might like.
  • A way to light the pipe - you can use a lighter, matches or even a strip of cedar like cigar smokers use, although this is uncommon among pipe smokers.
  • A tamper - You cannot smoke or even pack a pipe without a tamper. This will help you get the proper pack as well as ensuring that the pipe stays lit and burns evenly.

These are the absolutely minimum essentials that you will need if you want to try smoking a pipe, but you might also want to have:

  • A pick - For cleaning the stem and opening up the pack.
  • A reamer - Can be useful for clearing excess cake, but this is an individual preference and not completely necessary for smoking a pipe, at least not the first time.
  • A rest for the pipe - Not completely necessary, but some like a place to rest their pipe.
  • Pipe cleaners - These will be necessary to clean the stem after you have smoked the pipe, or if the pipe starts to gurgle.

One thing to note - while you definitely need a tamper, you might want to get a pipe tool, which usually has a reamer, a tamper, and a pick combined into one. Czech pipe tools, for example, are very cheap and extremely practical.

Once you have everything you need, set them aside. You want them all at the ready because you won’t want to be rushing around looking for anything while you’re ready to enjoy the pipe.

  1. Prepare the tobacco and pack the bowl

Some experienced smokers prefer plug or rope tobacco, but these can be difficult to cut and prepare, so for your first smoke, you should choose one of the cut ribbon tobaccos from Sutliff tobacco that you can find right here at Rocky’s Cigars.

Open the tin or package of tobacco and pick some between your thumb and index and middle fingers. It should not feel quite moist to the touch, but it should not be crackly and dry. It should stick together for a moment when you pinch it before lazily separating from itself. This is the mark of properly kept and hydrated tobacco.

Take a pinch of tobacco within your fingers and drop it lightly into the bowl of the pipe. Shake the pipe a little to let the tobacco settle before you pinch more and drop it in. Allow the loose tobacco to fill up the bowl to the brim. Shake the pipe gently to allow it to settle once more, then take your tamper and firmly and evenly tamp the tobacco down.

All pipes have different bowls, but many pipes have bowls that are arranged in such a fashion that loose tobacco filled up to the brim of the bowl can be properly tamped down to only ⅓ of the way up from the bottom. Press the tobacco down into the bowl lightly until the “loose-filled bowl” is now filled up to ⅓ from the bottom.

Press down on the top of the pack; it should not feel too tight. It should actually feel slightly springy. Put the stem of the pipe in your mouth and draw; you should taste the tobacco in the air in your mouth and be able to draw smoothly. Now you can establish the false light.

  1. Establish the false light

When you have packed the pipe, reach for your lighter or matches. We are going to go over how to light a pipe with a wooden match in this article, although you can do so with a lighter or even a strip of cedar.

With the stem of the pipe in your mouth, strike a match, being sure to allow the sulfur on the head to burn off completely. Once it has burned off, hold the match level over the top of the bowl, and draw air down through the bowl and into your mouth - but not into your lungs. Fill your mouth, and then release the smoke. As you draw, circulate the flame over the top of the tobacco. It will start to unfurl as it lights. Continue to draw, evenly and steadily, until you can do so no longer because the match has burned out.

Extinguish the match, and take your tamper, pressing down on the top of the packed tobacco as you continue to draw the smoke through the stem. This will help to pack down the loose tobacco that has unfurled from the heat. This light will probably go out in a few puffs and for that reason is called the false light.

If the false light goes out (it should) take the stem out of your mouth and inspect the top of the tobacco. You should have a little bit of white ash at the top where the tobacco has burned. Press this down lightly with your tamper, then get ready to establish the true light.

  1. Establish a true light

Once you have lost the false light, you can establish the true light. You will basically be repeating the same experience detailed above, but for added clarity:

With the stem of the pipe in your mouth, strike a match, and allow the sulfur on the head to burn off completely. Then, apply the flame over the top of the bowl and draw down into your mouth, circulating the flame as you go. Continue to draw steadily until the match goes out; place it aside (somewhere safe, like an ashtray) and take your tamper. Tamp down over the packed and lit tobacco as you continue to draw the smoke into your mouth. After a few seconds, set the tamper aside and remove the stem from your mouth.

Look into the top of the bowl. You should see an even, round red or orange glow at the top of the packed tobacco. This is called a “cherry” and is a sign that the pipe is properly lit. Now you can get to enjoying the flavors of the smoke.

  1. Draw the tobacco into your mouth and nose and savor the essences of the blend

Now that the pipe is lit, you can draw the smoke into your mouth. Some smokers retrohale, allowing the smoke to fill their sinuses so that they can experience the full profile of the flavors. Others enjoy allowing the smoke to form a wreath around their face and head, which will allow you to taste the flavor of the tobacco at the same time as the room note; these are two different things.

The flavor of the tobacco is what you can taste in your mouth and sinuses, whereas the room note is the “aroma” that others around you can smell. A wreath allows you to savor both at the same time.

  1. Be careful not to smoke too fast

As you enjoy the flavors of the tobacco, be careful not to smoke too fast. If you do, the pipe will overheat. This will burn your hand if you are holding the bowl, but worse, it will damage the delicate flavors of the tobacco. Smoking too fast will cause pipe tobacco to burn too hot, and it will taste acrid in your mouth.

In addition to ruining the flavor of the tobacco itself,  smoking too fast can cause moisture in the tobacco to precipitate in the stem of the pipe. If this happens, you will hear or feel a “gurgle” in the stem; you can clear this by covering the bowl with your hand and quickly and gently ‘flicking’ the stem away from yourself - do this carefully, as tar will come out of the stem.

A good rule of thumb is this - just like with a cigar, don’t take much more than a puff every minute or so. If you do, the pipe will get too hot.

  1. Periodically tamp the tobacco down to keep the cherry even and lit

While smoking, it is normal for a pipe to go out; some smokers even consider this a normal part of smoking a pipe. If it does go out, just repeat the step above for establishing a true light as though nothing has happened.

Otherwise, you can try this trick to keep the pipe from going out. Periodically, as you smoke, the loose ash at the top of the pack and the tobacco around the cherry will unfurl from the heat. As you smoke, tamp down on the pack periodically to keep the cherry tight and lit. This may help to prevent the light from going out.

  1. Allow the pipe to rest before cleaning

Once your pipe goes out, set it aside to cool. You don’t need to shake out the ashes right away, although some people do. Most pipe smokers set their pipes aside to cool before emptying and cleaning them. Also, never remove the stem from a hot pipe, which is why it’s a good practice to let the pipe cool first.

Cleaning is a topic for another blog - for now, you’ve just enjoyed your first pipe!

  1. Refine your tastes!

After you’ve gotten in the habit of how to pack, light, and enjoy a pipe, the next step for you to take is to establish your tastes. This can only be done by sampling a number of tobaccos - so check out what we have in store here at Rocky’s cigars. We have much more than just Sutliff Tobacco in our collection of pipe tobacco - so if you need any help, don’t be a stranger! Give us a call anytime at 888-216-5834. We love to hear from our customers and we’d love even more to make a recommendation!