Billie W. Taylor II, Ph.D.
Smoking a the pipe

Veteran pipe smokers are often not enthusiastic about pyrolytic graphite pipes because, for them, the pipes smoke hot and wet and make the tobacco taste bitter. This is because smokers of meerschaum and briar pipes build certain habits that reduce or eliminate the advantages of the pyrolytic graphite bowl liner by:
1. Using aromatic and strong tobacco blends which have much truer flavor in this kind of pipe than in others.
2. Packing tobacco in the bowl too tightly.
3. Puffing too vigorously, reducing the venturi effect of combustion in the liner.
4. Building up cake.
5. Scraping the bowl with a metal pipe tool, damaging the liner.

Briars, and to a lesser extent, meerschaums have a flavor of their own which is augmented by the cake buildup in the pipe. Most pipe smokers enjoy the cake as much or more than the tobacco. They have learned to enjoy the flavor of their pipe, not the tobacco! They say things like, "I never smoke aromatic blends; they spoil the pipe forever." or "Once you smoke Latakia there is no way to get that flavor out of the pipe." or "I always break in a new pipe the same way; 10 bowls of blend-x, 5 bowls of blend-y, and 8 bowls of blend-z."

So be prepared to find the true taste of your tobacco - you may find that your favorite blend is no longer your favorite. Of course, that's exactly why many tobacco blenders keep one of these on the bench to test new blends. When properly maintained, they smoke as if they were perfectly broken in but have no carry-over flavor from blend to blend. The bottom line is that to have a perfect the pipe smoking experience, it must be smoked differently from briars or meerschaums.

1. Be sure to load the tobacco loosely, do not tamp until you have filled the bowl just pouring it in and then tamp only enough to prevent tobacco crumbs from flaring and escaping while you light up.

2. Puff slowly, just enough to keep the the tobacco lit and the smoke flowing.

3. Run a pipe cleaner through the mouthpiece often during a smoke, especially if smoking an aromatic blend. Do this if there is even a hint of condensation or gurgling.

4. Wipe out the bowl after every few smokes with a doubled-over pipe cleaner soaked in alcohol or liquid pipe cleaner - don't allow a cake to build up. Be very sure to do this before changing tobacco blends.

If you get a pipe that has cake or you have carelessly allowed cake build-up follow the suggestions on my Cleaning the pipe page.