Before we get down to business we must first discuss the elephant in the room … you might not be able to see the big grey blighter due to the thick delicious fug of a Careys’ Cavendish Mixture, but he is there nonetheless. The fact is tobacco smoking, in any form, is a dangerous occupation and you should be aware of the all risks before you think of lighting up your first pipe. Right, with that out of the way, shall we move on?

As Mark Twain once said; “There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.” Smoking today makes one feel just a little bit naughty; at anytime we might expect Nanny State to smack our legs and send us to our room just for talking about it. Nevertheless, a smouldering tobacco pipe is the perfect period accessory for the Goodwood Revival; it completes a dashing Wing Commander’s ensemble and adds an air of gentility to a Harris Tweed three piece. However, to pull it off you’ll need to handle your briar with aplomb; all your hard work preparing fabulous outfits for Goodwood will count for nought if you end up being mocked by the Rockers, spivs and enlisted lower ranks for coughing your lungs up or general lack of pipemanship. With the Revival only three months away it’s time to get down to business and learn the basics of smoking a tobacco pipe. With this beginner’s guide we’ll have you puffing away like a Battle of Britain flying ace* in no time.

*Who, between July and October 1940, hardly ever died of smoking related illness, so can it really be that bad for you?


To start with, smoking a pipe should be a leisurely activity. I’d recommend setting aside at least half an hour. One of the key pleasures of pipe smoking is it makes you slow down for some quality “me time” – this also sets itself apart from the crafty “fag breaks” that are so enjoyed by the hoi polloi. To fully unwind from the pressures of modern life you might also like to mix a stiff drink, or idle away some time leafing through your old motoring mags, out on the patio or snuggly ensconced in your potting shed.

Of course, you will need a few basic things to get you started:

A pipe – A simple briar is ideal for the beginner. A saxophone-sized calabash will not make you look like a distinguished consulting detective.
Pipe tamper – A cheap and useful tool for packing the tobacco.
Pipe cleaners – For, erm, cleaning your pipe.
Wooden Matches – It’s more authentic.
Pipe Tobacco – This where you may need the advice of a reputable tobacconist to get you started. Mixed sampler packs might be a good idea if you’re keen to experiment.

1.Fill the pipe bowl. This crucial step is the most tricky to master and has a major affect
on the quality of your smoke. Fill the bowl loosely with tobacco and tap it down with the pipe tamper. The bowl should now be filled halfway from the bottom. Fill the bowl again to the top and compress a bit more, packing more firmly. Your pipe should be about three-quarters full. Now top off the bowl with a few more strands and press down, leaving a slight space between the rim of the bowl and the tobacco.

tamping down

2.Put the pipe to your mouth and take a test draw. If the air doesn’t pull freely, and is more like milkshake through a drinking straw, then the tobacco is packed too tight. If that’s the case, remove and try again. If your test draw is fine, then you’re ready to fire it up.

test draw

3.Us a wooden match to ignite the tobacco. Strike it and let it burn for a few seconds to remove the sulphur. Then, as you take gentle draws on the pipe, move the match in a circular movement over the surface of the tobacco. Do this until the tobacco is evenly lit. Once it’s lit, you’re still not quite there. This is simply the “false light.” Let it go out, and then relight the same way. Once it’s evenly lit, this is the “true light” and you’re ready to smoke.

4.Enjoy. Smoking a pipe can be a very sociable activity; there’s nothing better than inviting a young friend down to your shed and enjoying a little shag and conversation. Sip the tobacco smoke into your mouth, let yourself be delighted by the flavour and the relaxing effects before expelling it out. If you puff too quickly, you’ll get what’s known as “tongue bite” (a burning sensation on your tongue); so take your time – remember that you are a gentleman and a scholar, not a supercharged traction engine.


Havana House (locally known as “The Bear Shop”) was founded in 1870 by William Arthur Lewis who acquired an antique giant stuffed bear, known as Bruno, as a talking point for his Cardiff based tobacconists in 1900.

Don, the shop’s manager, kindly suggested a range of pipe tobaccos to get the newbie started; “American Blend Cherry and Vanilla Pipe Tobacco, is a light, sweet and smooth vanilla flavour combined with a top-note of ripe fresh cherries. It’s an excellent pipe tobacco for the less experienced pipe smoker.” Although you can pay up to £500 for a collector’s Dunhill Cumberland (Pipe of the Year 2011), a simple straight or bent Briar costing around £30 is good enough to get you started.

For 143 years this business has served the smokers of Cardiff and far beyond. The Bear Shop stocks one of the largest ranges of pipe and rolling tobaccos in the UK, not only online, but in store too for the customer to see and sniff before they buy. It is the largest tobacconist in Wales and boasts an incredible range of cigars from all over the world which are all beautifully displayed in the spacious cigar room where Bruno (right) still stands guard.

About The Author

Darryl can usually be found up to his elbows in some unloved piece of BL detritus when he isn’t snapping and scribbling for various print magazines or producing the book on road tripping or tally-ho adventurers. As an occasional presenter on CBS's Carfection YouTube channel, his other hobbies include vintage Scalextrics, ‘60s Bang & Olufsen and dabbling in grassroots motorsport.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.