Friday, 9 July 2010

Good Tobacco

Writer W. Somerset Maugham promised himself at least one cigar a day and rated this as a serious enjoyment. When the European Union banned cigarettes containing more than 15 mg of tar in each cigarette (wiping out, at a stroke, all the remaining great names in Turkish cigarettes, available witin the EU), playwright John Osborne wrote a corruscating letter to The Times, maintaining that he had smoked only a couple of strong Turkish cigarettes a day; that they were the only cigarettes worth smoking and that they constituted "one of life's few and reliable pleasures". How true is that statement! But it is a truth that is being increasingly denied to a whole generation of youngsters because a handful of Tin Hitlers are tub-thumping about the dangers of all smoking. The fact of the matter is that those who smoke fine tobacco thoughtfully and ceremoniously are little hazard to themselves or to others and, indeed, the therapeutically relaxing qualities of Charles Lamb's Great Plant, when well-used, bring comfort and relief from the pressures and tedium of money-grubbing, modern living. The ban on these great old cigarettes was an act of wanton vandalism. The Tin Hitlers would be far more justified in dealing with the mass consumption of all the highly treated cheap tobacco with which so many fill their lungs, and revisiting their heedless decisions gradually to loosen the prohibitions on ganja.

Ceremonious smoking of good tobacco is, thankfully, still possible and might comprise settling down, in a smoking suit, before a log fire, on a blustery, cold night, balloon of Armagnac to hand, and with one of the fine types of pipe in the photograph (courtesy of C. Paul Taylor): in the top left corner is a Peterson 'Sherlock Holmes Collection' Dr Watson model; in the top right is an Astley Tankard; in the lower right is a Dunhill Sandblast and in the lower left is a Butz Choquin briar Calabash de luxe. There are many fine tobaccos still made to enjoy in such pipes and the Presbyterian Mixture (shown in the shot) would be a good choice (combining Macedonian and Virginia tobaccos). It was a firm favourite of former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin who, no doubt, got through several pipes of it, while mulling over how to deal with the Abdication Crisis of 1936.


  1. Ahhh, I'll have to partake this evening. Beautiful pipes in the photograph.

  2. Is the lower left calabash pipe a push fit/military bit? I was surprised to find that I really like the way those smoke.


  3. Hello, Dopey! Yes, it is a military bit.