When you picture someone enjoying a pipe, is he frantically puffing on a big ol’ bowl of some Latakia blend as he lounges by the pool, covered in SPF 4 Million, roasting like a wild boar at a Luau? Or do you imagine someone curled up by the fire with a nice book and a wee dram? Pipe smoking and cool weather just seem to go hand in hand, which presents a bit of a problem during the warmer months.
Here at Smokingpipes.com HQ we are experiencing full-fledged hot-and-humid summer weather. I was born and raised in Southern California, where every day of the year is a mild summer’s day. Having recently relocated to the South, I can categorically say that this feels like the first real summer of my life. Now, in my years as a tobacco enthusiast, if I had a nickle for every time that I have heard someone say “this is cigar weather” when the days became longer and warmer, then I would finally be able to afford a seven day set of Dunhill DR five-stars. While I can’t argue with the sentiment that a good stogie flat-out works on a hot day, I refuse to submit to Mother Nature’s whim and abandon my pipes until autumn.
Sometime last week, during a particularly warm afternoon, Andy stopped by my desk with a request for a warm-weather tobacco recommendation. Having recently spent no small amount of time discussing this very topic with my tobacco cohorts, Josh and Jeremy, I jumped at the chance to apply our theory:
A quenching Summer pipe tobacco should be mild-medium in strength, and full-flavored. Blends with plenty of flavor will tend to keep one from “smoking hot” since over-puffing is all too often a result of the smoker trying to get more flavor from a tobacco than it has to offer. The smoke must be satisfying even in smaller doses since you may not want a lengthy smoke in the heat. Small-chambered briars and corn cobs are perfectly suited to warm-weather puffing, with cobs being the preferred tool for those residing in areas that are prone to extreme humidity; corn cob pipes smoke cool and dry, and do a great job of absorbing unavoidable moisture. Ideally, a warm-weather blend will be predominantly Virginia-based with Burley to add body and, if condiment tobaccos are a must, cool-burning Perique is the clear winner over Oriental varieties and Latakia.
Keeping all of this in mind, I began to sift through my pile of jars and tins until I found the golden tin labeled: “Reiner Blend No. 71”, and handed it to Andy. Blend No. 71, or Long Golden Flake, is a medium-strength flake comprised of golden Virginias, white Burley and a bit of Perique; it delivers plenty of creamy, flavorful smoke and burns well. I caught up with Andy later that day and asked what his impressions were. He found the blend to be “light, yet full of flavor and the perfect strength.” He said the blend burned slowly and the flavor intensified as the bowl progressed, but it never became hot or acrid. The end result was a “satisfying and refreshing smoke, perfect for a hot summer’s day”.
In our experimentation, we have returned to old favorites such as Reiner’s Long Golden Flake, Escudo, Cornell & Diehl's Briar Fox and Sunday Picnic (every blend in the C&D Simply Elegant series deserves consideration), and don’t forget the exception to the “no Latakia” rule, G. L. Pease’s Key Largo; a perfect seasonal change of pace for the dedicated heavy-English/Balkan puffer. We have also discovered several other perfectly suitable swelter smokes including Cornell & Diehl's Five O'Clock Shadow, which is a rich, very flavorful blend, packed with cool-smoking Perique, and a new favorite. The new Seasonal Flakes recently released by Samuel Gawith are winners across the board and, although we currently favor the Springtime and English Summer flakes, we have sampled and can’t wait to bring out the Scottish Autumn and Winter Time flakes when the weather finally does cool down.
These are, of course, simply guidelines and let’s face it; rules truly are meant to be broken. While I always look forward to summer yard work during which I exclusively enjoy Samuel Gawith’s 1792 in my cobs, for the past few days Jeremy (he’s a bit of a wildcard) has been smoking a lot of Cornell & Diehl’s Easy Times which is a stout blend of Red Virginia, Dark Fired Kentucky and Latakia!
A little trial and error is necessary when trying to find what works best for you so put away your large-chambered briars and those heavy Latakia blends, and stuff your favorite corn cob with some Virginia because Summer ain’t just for cigars!