This article was originally published October 25, 2014. It has been updated for accuracy and to reflect current trends.
Pipe smoking, though quite traditional in some ways, is still an ever-changing hobby. From new tobacco releases, to ultra-rare stamps or shapes, to the latest up-and-coming carvers, there's quite a lot to keep track of. How do we juggle it all? Well, having an extremely knowledgeable staff and great relationships with carvers and blenders alike has allowed us to create some great original content here on the Daily Reader, but sometimes we do consult outside sources — great sites that we would like to share with you. So in no particular order, here are our top ten resources for pipe smokers!
With hundreds of blends on the market, how does a new pipe smoker (or even an experienced one) decide which mixtures to try? For nearly a decade, I've turned to TobaccoReviews.com. Currently cataloging over 84,000 reviews, TobaccoReviews offers detailed descriptions, tasting notes, component breakdowns, and other blend-related information in a simple, easy to use format. The reviews themselves are provided by a broad, diverse range of pipe smokers around the globe who designate a review "helpful" or not, with a sorting system that can prioritize the most reliable content, displaying the most recommended reviews first.
PipesMagazine.com is a comprehensive powerhouse of a resource, focusing on pipe and tobacco related news, ranging from tasting notes and reviews of recently released blends, to interviews with major players in the industry, to editorial articles about the pipe collecting hobby. Kevin Godbee and his team recently redesigned the website to be more mobile friendly and to prioritize content, making each of these articles easy to read (and easy to share).
It's also the home of one of the best pipe-related podcasts in the business: the Pipes Magazine Radio Show, which is now available on the majority of podcast sites and apps for seamless incorporation into your daily commute or walk. After listening to an episode or reading an article, you can keep the conversation going by contributing to the site's robust forums, where enthusiasts discuss everything from beginner tips to historical information to presentations of favorite pipes and tobaccos. With over a million posts and 20,000 members, it's the answer for any question or topic.
If you're in search of a forum in which you can enjoy an easygoing, laidback discussion of pipes and pipe tobacco, the Briar Patch is a great spot. While it's not quite as large as some of the other forums and sites on this list, it has a friendly, communal personality, almost like an online pipe club. Speaking of which, their Pipe Club Directory is a great tool to help you find a local meetup near you. There's also an old-school chatroom where you can hold remote conversations and pipe smoking discussions in real time.
Probably the most extensive resource for information on well-known pipe makers and marques (outside of our own site), Pipedia is a user-friendly wiki for all things pipe related. Scott Thile, who's also a well respected pipe maker and all around great guy, manages the site with the dedication of a scholar; myriad editors also work to keep each article accurate and up to date, generally with some great photography, too. As one of Pipedia's contributors, our own content may be found there as well, and in a format that's conveniently organized (you might find one of our interviews appended to a pipemaker's bio or marque's history, for example).
Pipe Smokers Forums has been on our Top Resources list for years now. While some folks experienced difficulties registering in the past, the moderators and admins have done a great job of streamlining the process. Whether you'd like to share what you're smoking this month, ask for recommendations on advanced techniques, read reviews, or participate in secondary topics like food or hunting or fishing, PSF remains an excellent resource for the pipe smoker.
I can't think of anyone on the planet who knows more about Kapp & Peterson, both past and present, than Mark Irwin. Mark's the Pete Freek Extraordinaire who continues to school me on the ins and outs of the Peterson brand. His recent book, The Peterson Pipe: The Story of Kapp & Peterson, was a best-seller here at Smokingpipes and completely changed my understanding of the System pipe.
While far more specific and targeted than many of the resources on this list, Mark's Peterson Pipe Notes blog is among the first resources I share with those interested in collecting Peterson pipes. His blog even includes articles, photographs, and interesting information that didn't make it into Mark's book.
Another great, laid-back forum in this list, the Pipe Smokers Den is like a micro-community of pipe smokers of all vocations, experience levels, and personalities. Among the threads, you'll find a list of current pipe sales and pipe smoking advice via "Ask an Old Codger," as well as what they call "pipe & tobacco bombs," which are essentially beautiful acts of charity and surprise giveaways. Like the Briar Patch, it feels less like a forum and more like an online pipe club, great for building tight-knit relationships with others who share the same interests.
If you're prone to spending hours and hours diving deeper and deeper down the reddit rabbit hole, you're going to love the site's "pipe tobacco" sub-category. Completely open source, the Ivory Smoking Lounge is an inclusive and friendly place for beginners to ask questions and receive feedback from more experienced smokers. And quite a lot of them, too. With over 33,000 members, it's one of the largest online pipe smoking communities out there. It's also incredibly user-friendly, with pretty flexible CSS and easy-to-use search bars.
Let's face it; some pipe maker's stamping traditions are less than clear, making dating a certain vintage briar quite difficult at times. Luckily, there's Pipephil, a comprehensive study of logos, stamps, and nomenclature, to help with the process. It's user-friendly setup allows you to search for brands by country, name, or logo — making it much easier to figure out whether your Barling is pre- or post-transition.
Trying to identify accents, exotic woods, and the like can be a daunting task. The Wood Database offers examples of a variety of exotic and domestic hardwoods you'll find used in pipe making. With its enlargeable photos, detailed characteristics, and descriptions, it's a resource that our copywriters and data entry team use almost every day. How else do you think we can distinguish Wenge from Macassar Ebony in our descriptions? We ask Adam — or check the Wood Database when even he's not sure.
Created in 2008, the Gentleman's Pipe Smoking Society is an extremely active Facebook Group dedicated to the pipe smoking hobby. The group currently has over 18,000 members. It's perfect for starting up discussions or showing off your new pipe, not to mention super convenient, as most of us are already on Facebook.
If you get tired of watching cat videos or grown men trying to do the "floss" dance, head on over to the Cornell & Diehl page and check out their Tobacco Selection series. In each video, C&D's head blender Jeremy Reeves breaks down one or two grades of tobacco used by the blending house in their mixtures. Aside from an explanation of the leaf itself, Reeves also smokes each component straight, offering tasting notes and tips on how to leverage each component for your own blending experiments.
Much like C&D's Tobacco Selections, Mac Baren's Meet the Master Blender is another extraordinary YouTube series dedicated to exploring the subtle art that is pipe tobacco blending. In this series, Mac Baren's master blender Per Jensen, who fathered the uber-popular HH line, explores different types of tobacco used in popular blends and offers insight into what makes a mixture great.
So there you have it: our Top 10 Pipe Smoking Resources (plus a few extra). Each of these resources has helped us immensely, and all are incredibly important for the hobby. But what about you? What are your favorite pipe smoking resources? Feel free to share your go-tos in the comments below.