Monday, January 31, 2011

Missing the Aroma of Pipes

When was the last time you saw someone smoking a pipe?

There was a time when pipe smoking was an acceptable practice in America. It even provided a pleasant aroma that many found familial and fascinating.

And some of our great icons were pipe smokers, including Santa Claus, Albert Einstein, Douglas MacArthur, Mark Twain, Hugh Hefner, Bing Crosby and, of course, Popeye.

Alas, the pipe has been banned along with cigarettes and cigars to that nether region where people retreat to enjoy unpopular pleasures.

But it hasn't disappeared completely.

"You don't see people out smoking pipes any more because of the smoking laws," said Lola Marley, owner of The Smoking Lamp, a King Street tobacco shop. "But many people who object to cigarette smoke do not object to pipe smoke because it smells wonderful."

Southern Magic

Indeed, some people still have olfactory memories of pipe smoke that reminds them of their fathers or grandfathers.

We all remember those commercial cherry-flavored tobaccos that floated around in the old days. But today Marley makes her own special blends that are in great demand.

"We have a strong mail-order business for our custom blends," she said. "Some of those include Charleston Choice, Watson's Blend and Southern Magic."

And her customers range in age from college students to people in their 70s, said Marley, who herself is a cigar smoker.

But there's just something special and separate about pipe smoking, even if it has been driven underground by society's effort to create a smoke-free world.

"Pipe smoking is very relaxing," Marley said. "The ritual is very relaxing. And, of course, you don't inhale pipe smoke. I'm not going to make any health claims for tobacco, but pipe tobacco is extremely pure. It doesn't have any chemicals or additives. It's all natural."

Different culture

There's also the creation of the instruments themselves, a subject that can be discussed at great length while lighting, relighting and puffing away on a pipe.

Marley said all pipes are made out of briar, a burl of the root of the heath tree that only grows in the Mediterranean.

"It has to be harvested by hand in such a way that it doesn't kill the plant," she said. "It's really an art form. The briar has to age and dry for many years. Then, of course, the better pipes are hand carved.

"Some are like sculpture. The aesthetics of it is all part of how it looks and how it feels in your hand. That's all part of it."

After 24 years in the tobacco business, Marley says pipe smoking is different in many ways.

"It's a whole culture," she said. "Pipe smokers are not like other people. They are very interesting, very thoughtful and tend to be opinionated."

If, of course, you can find one.

Reach Ken Burger at or 937-5598 or follow him on Twitter at

To read previous columns go to

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Shelley's Back Room, Washington, D.C.

Join Us Tonight (Saturday, 29 JAN 2011) at Shelly's Back Room for Pipe/Cigar Night @ 7 P.M.

Shelly's Back Room Washington, D.C.

If Sheldon Jacobs has his way, the "civilized cigar parlor" he created will soon undergo a metamorphosis. Jacobs, a world-renowned cigar connoisseur, will reposition Shelly's Back Room as "the American tavern." This nominal change seems aimed mostly at communicating that the restaurant is not just a cigar bar.

At lunch, the idea of catering to nonsmokers is working. Several of the tables consistently accommodate people who "don't do cigars." The $140,000 Kleen-Aire Fresh Indoor Purification System, which is based on a principle called "thermal displacement ventilation" (ask Britt Meyer, the manager, to explain it to you), is replacing the air in the room every two minutes.

"We wanted to create a club feeling for the common man," says Jacobs, the chairman and chief executive officer of Minneapolis-based Woodroast Systems Inc., parent to the Back Room concept, which began as an adjunct to its full-size restaurant in suburban Maryland. Jacobs sees a further difference between his cigar-friendly establishment and the image of many cigar bars. "Some of these places are pretentious," Jacobs says. "They're uppity. So, I wanted to have an upscale feeling for people who hadn't experienced a club before. A place where a guy who owns a gas station can meet the elite of Washington."

Shelly's Back Room succeeds. A former chairman of a presidential commission on physical fitness shares a table with lobbyists from U.S. Tobacco. The former press secretary of a former president enjoys a cigar after work. Others are just there to have a light dinner before attending a show at the nearby Warner or National theaters.

The menu is ample and reasonably varied for a kitchen run by two people. Start with one of the three sausages--preferably the one called Fire--if you have been smoking a cigar before you eat. It goes well with Shelly's own Birch Bay microbrewed beer. The smoked oysters are perfection and the campfire chicken wings are prepared in the restaurant's patented slow-roaster--not fried like most--which locks in the chicken flavor under a deceptively spicy jerk seasoning. The double chicken breast sandwich can be garnished with swaths of sweetly smoked bacon worthy of its own EKG and topped with a roasted red pepper mayo.

In general, the food is accessible. Nothing fancy. Very comforting. Yeah, yeah, they have salads and steaks, too. And lots of cigars. Thirty different makes, starting at $4.50. Standouts among the list are four sizes of La Gloria Cubana, Ashton, 8-9-8, enough Arturo Fuente Hemingways to merit a second drink, and five from Paul Garmirian, who lives in nearby McLean, Virginia. Shelly's also carries 10 cigars from Punch, including the Vintage No. 40 Natural, a selection made exclusively for Philadelphia's Holt's Cigars.

As impressive as anything else about Shelly's Back Room is that at 9:30 on a school night--Washington is an early burg--the place is hopping. People are smoking and drinking and eating in an area of downtown that used to empty out hours earlier and from which some of the less knowledgeable commuters flee for fear of their safety. But now with Shelly's Back Room, there's a better place than the long ride home to enjoy a cigar. --Alejandro Benes

Alejandro Benes is a writer and business executive in Washington, D.C.

Shelly's Back Room
1331 F Street, NW
Phone (202) 737-3003

Monday, January 24, 2011

Healthy Pipe Smoking Diet

Pipe smoking has becoming a popular past time, with not just the older generations but the younger ones too. Men my age (thirty-something's), are stepping up to the plate and realizing that life has gotten way too complex. We need something to help us settle down after a hard day's work. Although my father's days were labor intensive with physical exertion, the only manual labor I get today is in the gym or going for a trail run. Due to my desk job, I am not exposed to the elements that my father was - plowing in the treacherous blizzards in Massachusetts, fixing a water main in the hottest day of a New England summer, or working two and sometimes three jobs to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads! But, we did alright and I'm thankful for his sacrifices.

Once I became a man, I realized the importance of good nutrition, to keep the body strong. Being an advocate for sound nutrition and taking pleasures in pipe smoking, it is imperative to get enough vitamins and minerals to keep the body going strong like the Savoy Express! The following is my dinner last night (pictured below), which consisted of grilled salmon and a pound of spinach with a glass of red wine.

Salmon is rich in vitamin B12, niacin, omega-3 fats, tryptophan, vitamin D, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B6, not to mention a great source of protein. Popeye ate loads of spinach and smoked a pipe! Popeye was strong to the finish 'cause he ate his spinach - so follow his advice. Spinach is extremely rich in antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, lutein, folate, iron, vitamin B12, potassium, vitamin B6, protein, and niacin. To wash it all down, a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Red wine has health benefits that the Italians and French have known about for centuries. Red wine can raise HDL cholesterol (the good) and lower LDL cholesterol (the bad). Red wine prevents blood clots, heart attacks, and reduces blood vessel damage caused by fat deposits. Rich in antioxidants, many studies have concluded that a glass of red wine a day will lead to good health. To finish off dinner, my desert was a bowl of Boswell's Premium Burley ( Remember to remain healthy, that way you can live as long as Jack LaLanne (September 26, 1914 - January 23, 2011), 96 years young - you will be missed!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Pipe Smokers Guild

The Pipe Smoker's Guild is a fraternity of scholars dedicated to maintaining and advancing the Ancient and most Noble art of Pipe smoking. The primary ambitions of this organization will be to:
Preserve and advance the art and tradition of Pipe smoking, and to foster the noble spirit which pervades the Brotherhood of the Briar,

Celebrate the rich heritage of pipes, tobacco, pipe smoking, and the related art, literature and associated tobacciana which has greatly influenced the social and commercial development of the United States through its history,

Educate interested University students and faculty members as to this magnificent legacy,

Bring together people of differing backgrounds in the spirit of friendship, benevolence, and tranquility.

Group's principal activities, events, or programs:

The Pipe Smoker's Guild is a fraternity of scholars dedicated to maintaining and advancing the Ancient and most Noble art of Pipe smoking.

How this group's activities benefit the University community:

We hope to advance the university community by fostering intellectual conversation, inviting diversity and policies of inclusion, and by providing an outlet for scholarly reflection. We also hope to provide advice "gratis" on stress management and relaxation techniques.

How this group fits into its categories:

Cultural and Diversity: By celebrating the rich cultural heritage of pipes, tobacco, pipe smoking, and the related art, literature and associated tobacciana which has greatly influenced the social and commercial development of the United States through its history.
Political and Social Action: By inspiring profound reflection on the most relevant of todays issues or the pasts.
Special interest or Hobby: We hope to foster and grow the most Noble art of Pipe smoking, pipe enthusiasm, etc. etc.

Retrieved from:

Friday, January 21, 2011

King of Pipes: The Meerschaum

The Song of the Pipe

When the night air is shading ’round you,
And the lake is lying still;
When you hear the evening tuning,
Of the lonely whippoorwill;
When the woods are big and silent,
And the world seems all at rest;
And the cheerful fire is blazing,
Then your good old pipe is best.

When you are tired out from tramping,
Through the winding forest ways;
And you’ve had your trout and coffee,
And you dream of future days;
When you sit close to the fire,
Then the time is surely ripe;
With the owl’s bark resounding,
To fill up the good old pipe.

When the dreary rain is falling,
And the world is wet and gray;
When the loon’s long, dismal holler,
Rolls out clear and dies away;
When the woods are all adripping,
From the alder to the oak;
Then just lay back in your chair,
And hit good old pipe, and smoke.

-Earle P. Stafford

Retrieved from:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tobaccos of Hawaii

Tobacco Shop
Editors’ Pick

Don’t look for Kools and Camels at Tobaccos of Hawaii — this quality tobacconist carries the good stuff. “We serve a niche market,” says owner Christopher Maxwell. Cigarette smokers can pick up premium brands such as Shepherd’s Hotel and Nat Sherman, as well as eight blends of Peter Stokkebye loose tobacco. Pipe smokers will want to check out the Mac Baren tobacco, and any smoking enthusiast will enjoy browsing through all the shop’s specialized tools and accessories, including cigarette-rolling machines, pipes and hookahs. If the store name sounds familiar, yes, Tobaccos of Hawaii was the one busted in 1999 (under a previous owner) for selling Cuban cigars. “We don’t sell them anymore; we learned his lesson,” says Maxwell. “But we got hundreds of thousands of dollars in free advertising and business skyrocketed,” he laughs. 512 Atkinson Drive, Suite 101, 942-7833.

Retrieved from:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pipe Smoking and Health

Pipe Smoking and Health: "Risky business or casual pleasure?"
by Mark Beale, MD

In making the decision to smoke or not, we must educate ourselves about the risks and benefits. Unfortunately, the scientific data which attempts to quantify the risks of pipe smoking remain sparse. In 1964, the Surgeon General of the United States issued a landmark report on tobacco usage. This report, which described the dangers of cigarette smoking, including heart disease, lung damage, and an increased cancer risk, raised the public's awareness regarding the health consequences of certain behaviors.

Specifically, this report confirmed what had been suspected for quite some time, that cigarette smoking could be dangerous. However, the conclusion drawn from several studies about pipe smokers was that they tended to live longer than the general population!

A subsequent revision of this report, which appeared in 1979, concluded that pipe smoking increased the mortality ratio slightly, when compared with non-smokers, but the effect was minimal when compared to cigarette smokers. Pipe smokers using four or fewer bowls of tobacco per day had a lower mortality ratio than non-smokers - meaning the death rate was less for occasional pipe smokers than for the general population.

Since then, other reports have emerged, including the 1982 Surgeon General's report which concluded that pipe smokers have a 2 - 4.3 times greater risk of lung cancer than non-smokers. However, the studies upon which this conclusion is based did not differentiate between inhalers and non-inhalers. Presumably, non-inhaling pipe smokers would have had a lower lung cancer risk than inhalers.

Other interesting findings include a Swedish twin study which found that pipe smoking twins lived longer than non-smoking twins. This same study found a much higher mortality rate in cigarette smoking twins compared to their non-smoking siblings.

Other Potential Risks

Importantly, there is more to health risks than death! In pipe smokers these risks include heart disease, chronic lung disease, and cancer of the lip, tongue and throat. In fact, the largest risk for pipe smokers may be in developing cancer of the lip. This type of cancer is more responsive to treatment than, for example, lung cancer and therefore is not reflected in studies examining mortality.

When a Feller Needs a Friend

The old advertising slogan for Briggs Pipe Tobacco "When a Feller Needs a Friend", I think emphasizes the psychological aspects of pipe smoking. This phenomenon of pipe smoking as mental comfort can be found in other advertising slogans as well, including the phrase, "Relax with a Marxman", used by the popular New York pipe firm. Indeed, when we examine the risks and potential benefits of pipe smoking, we must also consider the psychological aspects of the hobby.

Many pipe smokers will tell you that one of life's greatest pleasures is to enjoy a fine tobacco in a favorite pipe. The key word here is "enjoy".

The psychological benefits of pipe smoking have been described by many who have enjoyed the hobby, including Mark Twain, Albert Einstein and others. Einstein felt that pipe smoking facilitated his mental clarity when working on a difficult project. Many pictures of him at work show that he favored billard-shaped pipes. Pipe smokers often like to recite one of his most relevant quotes: "I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs". Indeed, it is difficult to measure the calming qualities of pipe smoking and the possible beneficial effects on our work, productivity, relationships, and relaxation.

With further study we may find that enjoying a pipe in moderation can prolong life, in a way analogous to the recent finding that consuming alcohol in moderation may protect against the development of certain types of heart disease.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Women Pipe Smokers

Women and Pipes
By Beth Maxwell Boyle

Women Pipe smokers are rare today but female smoking was very popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. Respectable women were commonly seen smoking pipes in public. Many famous paintings exist of noble women of the period drinking in the smoke from a clay pipe. The middle classes were eager to enjoy this new pastime as well. In the Elizabethan times clays were quite delicate with graceful thin bowls and long stems. The Dutch redesigned these clays by enlarging the bowl and lengthened the stem.

Dutch, French and English women all enjoyed the "Indian Weed". For centuries the favorite way of enjoying tobacco was to smoke it in clay pipes. As early as about 1575 pipes were being made in England, but by the 17th century Holland had become the dominant center for the manufacture of clay pipes. Clays were made in many other European countries at this time, as well. Such pipes were usually white, with small bowls and long stems. They were extremely fragile and did not last long. However, by the 1850s, when pipe smoking in general became associated with the working class, female smoking began to decline, at least in public. The acceptance of female smokers seemed to vary between regions at this time. It is believed that many women kept their old habits. It is more than likely it was done in secret while they outwardly treated the act as a disgrace.

International Pipe Smoking Day 2011

International Pipe Smoking Day - February 20, 2011


of pipe-smokers that is bound together by a shared love for pipe-smoking, mutual respect, and goodwill • We envision a society that respects the informed choice and adult use of smoking tobacco • We envision a world where governments act in good faith and integrity, and have the political will and personal courage to express their values appropriately through legislative means • This means that as a group we are united and strong in our beliefs, have understanding, patience, wisdom, enjoy the philosophical aspect of pipe-smoking, and seek to promote pipe-smoking as part of a lifestyle that can be thoroughly enjoyable to adults through the responsible use of tobacco.

To foster links across the globe in honor of friendship, benevolence, and tranquility; and to celebrate the fraternity of pipe-smokers across all borders.

On this day we will take a breather and celebrate the noble art of pipe-smoking and the noble spirit which pervades the brother/sisterhood of the briar. We will put into practice the time-honored and ancestral traditions of raising our pipes in toast to each other in the evening in unison and, thus, share a bowl together.

Today’s hectic environment almost dictates that we run on full efficiency, have total involvement in our work, our families and in every aspect of what we do to survive and achieve in a world set at high speed.• With ever-changing values it is the intent that The International Pipe-Smoking Day will allow us, the Brothers and Sisters of the Briar to step back and appreciate our rich historical value. • For pipe-smokers and pipe-smoking everywhere the day will be emblematic of our shared values, history, traditions, and aspirations.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Pipe Smoking Primer

I can remember visiting my best friend when I was younger. It was fun to get together and have adventures like boys do, but one thing I really, really liked was his dad. His dad was an old farm man and looked like it from the weather-beaten lines on his face to his calloused hands. He was quiet spoken and loved smoking his pipe. Since my dad was a non-smoker, this fact really intrigued me as a young boy. I’d see him lighting up and smoking his pipe in complete happiness. He always smelled like pipe tobacco (Sir Walter Raleigh) and now, whenever I smell that brand, I always think of him.

Maybe you had a grandpa who was like my friend’s dad. Maybe you saw him smoking his pipe in quiet contentment and enjoyed that manly smell as I did. Maybe you’ve never known a man who smoked a pipe, so you don’t know what I’m talking about. Either way it doesn’t change the fact that pipe smoking is a manly art.

Guide to Pipe Smoking - Introduction

So you’ve decided to smoke a pipe? Wise decision! Pipe smoking is one of the most relaxing and pleasurable experiences that a person can enjoy. Smoking a pipe is a distinguished pleasure and you have chosen to join the elite few who call themselves pipe smokers.

As such, always smoke your pipe with respect for others and observe proper smoking etiquette.

There's an almost infinite variety of pipe tobacco available, some of which may offend people around you, so consider the people around you when choosing your tobaccos, especially if you will be indoors. Most of all enjoy the pleasure and peace that smoking a good tobacco pipe can bring.

When cared for properly, your pipes will become favorite friends who will provide you years of relaxing enjoyment.

Of course, pipe smoking requires a certain degree of skill and concentration to maximize your enjoyment of the briar. There are perhaps thousands of people who have imagined themselves as pipe smokers only to give it a try and suffer through it because they didn’t have anyone to teach them the proper methods of pipe smoking.

Avoid the pitfalls and frustrations of learning to smoke a pipe the hard way and allow us to help you to full smoking enjoyment.