Monday, May 9, 2011

Back in Black

by J.S. Holland

I was all excited a few days ago about obtaining a second pack of Captain Black pipe tobacco - of all the brands of tobacco I've sampled so far, my favorite has been Captain Black Gold, and now I was all set to experience the blue-packaged finery of Captain Black Royal.

But, much to my consternation, I found that I could no longer get a good draw on my pipe. I thought maybe this pack was too moist and tried to dry out the bowl with some very dried-out cigar butt flakes. That worked a little bit, it seemed, but soon it was worse than ever - totally clogged up and no draw whatsoever.

I took it apart, looked down the barrel, nothing seemed terribly amiss. The filter was black as night, black as coal, coated in gunky grasshopper juice, so I switched it out with a clean fresh one. Reassembled the pipe, and struck a match.

Nothing. Not even the faintest hint of a draw.

I didn't have any pipe cleaners around, but fashioned what I thought would be a suitable substitute from a long folded narrow strip of stiff cardstock. Not much crud came out of the stem, so I thought, "well, I guess that's not it either." Then while reading a cigar/pipe smoker's forum online, I learned that most of the serious-type people don't even use pipe filters at all, and look upon those that do as rubes of the highest order. Most complained that filters add too much additional effort to get a draw, without really making the smoke any tastier or safer.

Thinking eliminating the filter was the answer to my problems, I removed it. Nope. No go. Like trying to suck a building through a straw. Not wishing to go out and purchase another pipe, I was thinking it was back to cigars for me. I smoked a CAO Maduro at my Derby party and found it refreshingly simple just to snip it, light it, rev it up and go.

Then, on a whim, I bought a pack of pipe cleaners at Kroger in a last-ditch attempt to resuscitate my old friend. Sure enough, that did the trick! The tiny hole inside the bowl of the pipe had become completely covered over in black sooty cake and I hadn't realized it (apparently my screen went the way of Carthage at some point and I didn't know that either - I musta dumped it out on the ground when emptying my pipe in the snow back in the winter). My recent dalliance with Carter Hall, renowned for its cake-generating qualities, clearly must have been the reason for this abrupt and unexpected buildup.

I'm new at the pipe game, and am still figuring things out for myself. Now I know, when it comes to the accoutrement of pipedom, filters are unnecessary, but never, never, never skimp on the pipe cleaners. A must!

So what do I think of Captain Black Royal, now that I'm finally happily puffing away at it? Well, honestly, I can't tell much difference between it and the Gold. I think the Gold was a little sweeter and Cavendishy, but it's hard to say because I've already smoked up all the Gold and can no longer do a side-by-side comparison. Surely these subtleties will come to me in time. But for now, Captain Black, in any variety, still remains my undisputed heavyweight champion shagstuff of the world.

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