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Pipe Smoking 101 Part Two

Pipe smoking 101 Part II

How to smoke a pipe without burning your tongue.

“Tongue bite” is probably the main reason people who start smoking a pipe decide to abandon the practice early on.

Sometimes when a person sees me smoking a pipe, they’ll mention that they tried it but it burned their tongue, or made their mouth hot and found pipe smoking to be an unpleasant experience.

There are several reasons why this could occur.

  1. It may be the tobacco. If your tobacco is old and dried out, or new, but dried out, chances are the tobacco will burn quite quickly and can send the heat right through the stem and into your mouth. The remedy for this is to keep your tobacco moist, not wet, but supple instead of crumbly. Use distilled water on a small piece of sponge or with a humidifier designed for pipe tobacco and set in the pouch, tin or tobacco jar.
  2. It may be how you smoke the pipe. If you tend to puff heavily and aggressively on the pipe, even fresh tobacco that is not particularly dry to begin with will burn quite hot and will shoot the heat along with hot moisture from the tobacco up the stem and into your mouth. Not only is the thought disgusting, but the taste and consequent tongue bite can be quite nasty. You should try to slow it down a bit. A pipe will treat you nice if you are gentle with it, relax into the smoke. Don’t inhale, just sip or drink the smoke as the early explorers described what they saw the Native Americans doing with the tobacco they smoked. Just let the smoke softly enter your mouth and then blow it out through your lips. It is the process of slowly puffing that allows the pipe smoker to truly enjoy a smoke while avoiding the unpleasant tongue bite. We’ll get more into the proper way to smoke a pipe later.
  3. It could be the type of tobacco you are using. Shag cut or cigarette cut tobacco will burn faster than most other cuts and can result in a hot pipe that can lead to tongue bite.
  4. It could be how the tobacco is packed inside the bowl. Tobacco should be packed firmly in the bowl. It takes a little practice. A pipe that is packed too tightly will be hard to draw on and it is best to take all the tobacco out and start over again. Tobacco packed too loosely can burn hot, or go out frequently. If the tobacco is packed just right, not too tight and not too loose, you may be able to keep it lit with only a match or two and with regular gentle pulls on the stem. Avoid puffing continuously or very strongly, just a gentle puff will do ya. Of course, your pipe will eventually need to be relit, but this method should minimize the tongue burn.

5 thoughts on “Pipe Smoking 101 Part Two

  • JR

    Very informative for the new pipe smoker. At the tobacconist, I enquiered about various brands and was steered away from “pipe tobacco” that was geared toward those who roll their own cigarettes. The attendants didn’t know why the drier tobacco was bad for pipes. Your pipes 101 explained it beautifully.

    • admin

      Hi JR,

      The tobacco used for rolling cigarettes is a shag cut tobacco which is very thin so it tends to burn rather quickly in a pipe. It also tends to dry out faster due to the fineness of the tobacco and the greater surface area. Shag tobaccos such as Robert McConnell’s Special London Mature and Special London Mild are fine examples of high quality shag cut pipe tobaccos. Both can be enjoyed in a pipe if you don’t try to smoke them fast. If you are gentle with a shag tobacco, it will be gentle with you. The bulk “pipe tobacco” used for cigarettes is better for cigarettes than pipes, in my opinion, largely because the quality is geared more for the cigarette smoker and may contain additives that are not present in a high quality pipe tobacco, but I have to say I am not all that familiar with bulk roll your own “pipe tobacco”, take my statement with a puff of salt.

  • Joey

    Having just bought my first non-clay pipe, I got to enjoy a good smoke on the front porch yesterday. Still learning how to pack in properly though. I know it is about draw, and have read that it is like sucking through a straw… of course getting it right will take time I am sure. Clay pipes are very nice for my occasional pirate look and smoking but I have to say my new churchwarden is very pleasant.

    Any chance you can discuss more about proper packing maybe a small video?

    I know I for one enjoy cigars and my pipe as well, but the smells that come out of smoking a pipe has me leaning more toward the pipe everyday.

    Thanks for the write up.

    • admin

      I’ll try to get a post up this week about packing the pipe to give you the maximum enjoyment of pipe smoking. Your video suggestion is great, I’ll try to work on one.

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