A quality pipe

It's a blissful experience.
I used to be addicted to smoking, now I'm just addicted to pipes. Imagine my surprise when, after struggling to quit smoking, undergoing the depression and the not insignificant weight gain, I discovered that I could have been smoking a pipe all along with nearly no ill effects (it is at this point that I acknowledge and immediately discard the T-Total Abstinence folks' objections). Smoking for me was, apparently, more about the ritual than the tobacco. Within a few months after I quit I could enjoy the occasional cigar without fear of backsliding. A few months after that, I contemplated taking up a pipe. 
Pipes may not be for everyone, but, in retrospect, they clearly were for me. First of all, I always rolled my own cigarettes. I liked carrying around the papers and the tobacco pouch, I liked taking the time to roll out each cigarette before smoking it and, early on, I liked using the quality tobacco. The somewhat raisiny, earthy smell of quality cigarette tobacco is a true pleasure. Frankly, I was always a little grossed out by the smell and taste of production cigarettes, and to be honest, no matter the quality of the tobacco, stale cigarette smoke always smells the same. If you're not in a noir novel, it loses its romance quickly. I smoked +gauloises caporal when they were available in the US. When they no longer were I moved to +Samson bhatti, and finally to Drum and Top in an attempt to quit (the addict's lie is that if you buy tobacco that tastes crappy, you'll be abel to avoid it, it didn't work ing the 90s with "Buck" cigarettes, but I kidded myself that the new millennium would bring new cigarette addiction rules).
After a few cigars, I felt as if I could comfortably take up a pipe and established some rules to keep the tobacco intake to a minimum. The first was what I called the "Grampa Joe" Rule: No more than one pipe a day. No smoking and writing, no midday smoking, one pipe to relax and enjoy with my evening whiskey. The second was that I would "invest" in good pipes and tobacco. It was following this rule that I spent a whopping $20(ish) on my first pipe and $7 on Borkum Riff Bourbon Whiskey tobacco, which was the priciest tobacco I could get my hands on out here in the country.
If you think you might be interested in smoking a pipe, this is the cheapest I would recommend you getting in the game for. There is nothing wrong with Borkum Riff and a $20 pipe in the same way there is nothing wrong with eating Wonder Bread, lots of good people do it their entire lives and still die happy. But within weeks of my picking up a pipe and experimenting with various Borkum Riffs and (completely acceptable) Captain Black, +Drew Estate Cigars, my favorite cigar company, announced it was getting into the pipe tobacco business. If the downside to living in a small rural community is that you have to make a real effort to find some high end products, the upside is you can walk right in and ask the owner to get you something. I told the guys at the Smoke Shop at Etch-Arts I was interested in getting the Drew Estates stuff when it came out and they didn't disappoint. Smoking the "Meat Pie" tobacco was illuminating. It is a fragrant, complex tobacco that naively smells of campfire. Imagine a campfire where you can smell the individual wood types but only as part of the package of the different woods being used and you can begin to get at how distinctive the Meat Pie tobacco is. 
A bargain at twice the price...
For me, Meat Pie made my pipe Yello-Bole pipe taste as cheap as it was. I picked up a vintage Kaywoodie, straight with a rustic finish, for nothing at a flea market, which is another upside of the rural South. Not only haven't , hipsters bought up all the vintage stuff, but there aren't enought of them to affect the "vintage" market. Someone apparently got their dad a pipe, a glass tobacco holder and a huge package of Half and Half for Father's Day, 1962 and the whole present went untouched until I laid down my $12 for it . To be honest, the temptation to just see what 40-year-old stale tobacco tasted like was almost too much, but I felt as if taking a match to it wouldn't be covered by either my homeowner's or life insurance and tossed it instead. Within weeks I snapped the pipe in two learning the hard way about cleaning a cooling pipe and so returned, unhappily, to my crappy ones. I ran out of Meat Pie just before Thanksgiving and, when I went to purchase some more, my darling wife decided to treat me to a quality pipe. She chose a rustic, curved Aldo Velani and from the weight alone I knew it was a massive upgrade. I have to admit I'm not thrilled with the balsa wood filter, though it's growing on me (and certainly better than cotton or fiberglass or whatever synthetic pipes have in them). The filterless pipes can smoke a little hot if you're not careful, which takes away from the taste experience. 
I'm looking forward to trying the rest of the Drew Estates line and hopefully to having a new pipe to go with each of the new tobaccos. As I said in the opening, apparently I was addicted to the the ritual all along.
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