The Conspicuous Consumer Tobacco Roads

"One man’s ambrosial pipe mixture is another man’s bowl of burning rubber bands."

Pipe smoking is an art which few non-pipe smokers understand. Many pipe smokers don’t understand it either, and consequently never derive the full pleasures from the practice. The pipe is a noble device into which tobacco is stuffed and then set afire. In short – a weed cooker. There are probably more different types of pipes than anyone would care to know about – briars, meerschaums, lucite, and space-age atomized hard rubber.

My mainstay pipes are Savinellis, beautifully crafted briars from Milan. They smoke well, they stand up to rough handling, and they have a beautiful grain. Savinellis have several levels of quality: the better grades start at just under $20 and range up to $150.I also enjoy smoking a Castello sea rock briar – also Italian-made. Mine has a tall bowl that resembles a smokestack, perfect for a windy day. It costs $75.

The gem of my collection is a sculptured, mildly free-form Hansen which I picked up in Copenhagen. I had to endure a 13-hour train ride from Amsterdam to get it; I paid the Danish equivalent of $50. Hansens can be bought in this country in New York and Chicago, where they sell for a minimum of $350. I have smoked it regularly, and it never seems to get too hot or bitter.

Another good pipe is the Estella – a subsidiary product of the Savinelli line. Estellas are big, almost like washtubs. Most, however, are lightweight and have fine lucite bits which are almost unbreakable. They range in price from $29 up to $60.

I have never owned a Dunhill, because they are small and easily get hot. Richard Dunhill, grandson of the great Alfred Dunhill, and deputy chairman of Dunhill’s board of directors, laments the fact that Americans don’t buy many of his pipes. “Americans like those big, curved Danish pipes,” he said. Even so, Dunhill’s rack up 31 per cent of their sales in this country.

Charatan, a large, curved and wildly free-formed pipe is also not in my collection. These pipes look ludicrous – they resemble a piece of burning driftwood. They are also very expensive, and I just can’t justify spending money for an ugly pipe. I am told by knowledgeable owners that they are very good.

I have a few odds and ends for which I paid less than $20 apiece. I use them for switch-offs when one of the other pipes gets overused. Believe me, full enjoyment of pipe smoking depends on a large quantity of good pipes. A pipe should never be smoked more than one day at a time. It should have a good two-day rest and preferably a week’s rest. I have eight good pipes and three switch-offs; I usually give them a seven to nine-day rest between smokings.

If you just love one style of pipe, buy several of the same type. Otherwise, experiment with shapes and lengths and try to key them to what you’re doing that day. For instance, if I am going to be working at my desk, I select a curved briar that will keep the smoke down and out of my eyes. If I’m on the run, a smaller, straight bit pipe works fine for short smokes.

Taking care of a pipe is almost as important as the selection of tobacco. Maybe more so. I have always treated pipes like I would treat a fine piece of sculpture. Don’t knock them on the heel of your shoe or any other hard surface. If they’re hot, they’ll break. For 35 cents you can purchase a three-prong pipe tool that includes a spoon for scraping, a metal punch for clearing airholes and loosening tobacco, and a tamper for pressing the tobacco flat to give you an even lighting. Ream the stem and bowl once or twice a day with ream-and-clean bristles, and about every third or fourth bowl, run a big, fluffy pipe cleaner through to soak up the moisture and dry out the bottom of the bowl. But please never disassemble a pipe that you have just emptied of hot embers. Briar is pliable, and if you pull the stem out of a hot pipe you could easily damage it by breaking the bit or wallowing out the stem hole. Finally, when you buy your pipes, immediately remove the metal filter. Americans like things filtered, but the only thing that metal filter will do for you is transmit heat to your mouth.

Tobacco is a sticky wicket. One man’s ambrosia is another man’s bowl of burning rubber bands. My personal tobacco is a mild mixture of white burley, perique, toasted cavendish and five other tobaccos. It’s called Canterbury and I purchase it from Lacy’s in Preston Royal Shopping Center. Most of these pipe and tobacco shops offer sampler kits or have sample jars which you can try. Whatever you like is available, from the sweet, honey-smelling stuff to straight latakia or perique. Purchase a couple of tobacco jars with humidifiers or sponges for moisture – one jar for home and one for the office – and a zipper or roll-type tobacco pouch for carrying around in your pocket.

To my way of thinking, one of the finest tobacco shops in Dallas is Lacy’s, 1118 Preston Royal Shopping Center. Earl Lacy is the only tobacconist in the city who blends his own mixtures on the premises. Lacy purchases the finest raw tobaccos and mixes them to specification. He can blend your own to taste. The other tobacconists buy pre-blended mixtures and put their own names on them. That’s why so many smell the same. Lacy’s sells three lines of pipes – Charatan, Savinelli and Ben Wade. And his cigar humidor is excellent, with more than 20 different labels. The plus here is his pipe repair service, which is also done on the premises. He can have a pipe repaired and back in a week, while others take three or four weeks because they have to ship them. Martin Grossman at the Smoker’s Shoppe, 1903 Commerce, is a very knowledgeable and considerate dealer. He makes no effort to sell pipes – the dazzling display of his stock sells itself. Grossman carries Charatan, Savinelli, Castello, Camin-etto, Sasieni, GBD, Jobey, Dunhill, Comoy, and his own line of Algerian and French briars that I use for switch-offs. He also has his own line of tobaccos, as well as tins from Mac-Baren’s, Hayward, Rattray’s, Dunhill and others. His cigar selection is almost as good as Lacy’s, but Marty’s shop is small and therefore limited. He does, however, have the best American-made cigars – Jose Melen-dis, made in Kingston, N.Y., from South and Central American tobaccos. Grossman and Lacy are both highly-qualified and it is a pleasant experience just to drop in at either place and puff and talk.

Dunhill’s, 428 NorthPark, is probably the most austere and cold tobacco shop in town. I once visited Dunhill’s in London, and the reception was much warmer. Maybe they feel they have to present a veddy British atmosphere, but the casual-ness of our lifestyle does not fit with Dunhill’s. Dunhill’s pipe tobaccos, both in jars and tins, are the finest the English firm offers. They are expensive – $9 to $13 a pound. It’s a treat, for me, to switch occasionally to their A-9666 blend. Their cigar humidor is the largest in town, although they push only a few brands such as Dunhill (naturally), Monte-cruz and several others. Maybe when we get Havanas again they’ll fill up the room with fine Punches, Monte Cristos and H. Upmann’s. Their pipes are beautiful but the prices are outrageously higher than any of the other lines, which may explain why they don’t sell so many. This year they are offering a Christmas gift pipe collection that includes one pipe for every day – 365 pipes. They’ll gladly discuss it with you and your banker.

Tinderbox, 2050 Town East Mall, is the best of the shopping center pipe shops. They have their own brand of pipes, some Savinellis, GBD, Comoy and Barling. They offer their own brand of tobacco, pipe repair and a well-stocked cigar humidor.

Two-Eleven Tobacco Shop, 211 N. Ervay, is a long-time fixture in downtown. They sell mostly Comoys and their own line of tobaccos. Some cigars. They also do pipe repair.

Pipe Dreams, 5500 Greenville at Lovers Lane in Old Town (south end), is a small but attractive shop that is well-stocked and has some fine Danish pipes. They have their own tobacco blends and a good selection of cigars. Their other store, 2126 Valley View Center, is a small, rather moderately stocked store that has only a limited selection of pipes. Some of them sell for $5.95! The cigar humidor is good, but the place probably sells more cigarettes than anytliing else. Just fair.

The Crowe Pipe & Tobacco Shop, 205 Preston Royal Shopping Center, is a fair-sized business selling a lot of Savinellis. They have a rather poor selection of cigars, but they sell their own tobacco blends. A friend of mine smokes their Ten Texans brand, which purports to contain deer tongue. Crowe’s was named Dallas’ best tobacco shop in Esquire a few years ago. Rumor has it that the rating was done by a woman, which makes me highly suspicious. They’re okay, but not the best.

Edward’s Pipe & Tobacco Shops, 8310 Preston Center Plaza and 13020 Preston Road are part of anational chain. They’re sort of theMcDonald’s of pipe smoking. The firstshop is very small and not conduciveto any serious pipe smoking on thepremises. The other shop, larger andmore casual, is located east; of ValleyView Shopping Center, and is a prettygood shop for a chain. They sell somepretty sweet tobacco in there, if that’swhat you’re after, and of course, thefamous Edward’s pipes. They alsohave a sampling cart and a coffee pot.Their cigar humidor is a corner of theroom that has a glass wall across itand very few cigars.

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