- Luigi Radice
- Radice Chubby AeroBilliard
- Radice Chubby Billiard
- Don Carlos
- Paolo Becker
- Claudio Cavicchi
- Le Nuvole
- Tonino Jacono
- Alex Florov
- Anne Julie
- J.T. Cooke
- Hiroyuki Tokutomi
- Stanislav Kamensky
- Michael Linder
- Poul Ilsted
- Peter Heeschen
- PS Studio
- Sergey Ailarov
- Rad Davis
- Scott Klein
- Todd Johnson
- Victor Yashtylov
- Vladimir Grechukhin
- ONLY Chubby Pipes
- Baldo Baldi
- Butz Choquin
- Paolo Becker
- Claudio Cavicchi
- Fiamma di Re
- Gabriele Dal Fiume
- Il Ceppo
- Mastro de Paja
- Peter Heding
- Peter Heeschen
- James Upshall
- J. T. Cooke
- J. Alan
- Leo Borgart
- Le Nuvole
- Luigi Radice
- Ser Jacopo
- Scott Klein
- Tom Eltang
- Tonni Nielsen
Posted On 20 March 2013
Launch of the Neatpipes Chubby AeroBilliard
Case N° 130320
THE LAUNCH OF THE NEATPIPES CHUBBY AEROBILLIARD
by Mark Irwin
Fauxtographs by Chas Mundungus
Neatpipes Chubby AeroBilliard Rolls out of the Radice Hangar
1. RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
A few weeks ago Luca emailed me that he was sending a prototype for a new kind of Neatpipes Chubby, an AeroBilliard. Without knowing what it was, the name nevertheless sent my mind racing. You see, I come from a long line of aviators. During World War II, all three of my mother’s brothers served in the Army Air Force, and my father’s only brother was killed on a routine training mission after the war. My father-in-law was navigator on Gettin’ Ready, one of the colossal B-29 Superfortresses that flew out of the Tinian Islands. I built countless WWII scale-model fighters as a kid.
But what really piqued my imagination were the lighter-than-air craft of the generation before my uncles: the rigid airships known as Zeppelins. Their immensity and majesty overwhelmed my imagination, and while my hero Snoopy was battled the Red Baron in the mid-1960s, I daydreamed of being a Zeppelin pilot, serenely piloting a group of wealthy patrons over the polar icecaps. When Luca’s pipe arrived, I found it housed a second chamber in the mortoise—what Luca calls an “inverted calabash”—and the idea of the lighter-than-air rigid airship returned in force as clouds of tobacco smoke swirled around my first puffs.
If you own or have smoked a traditional meerschaum-bowl gourd calabash, you have some idea of what’s going on here, and the addition of Gary Schrier’s incredible History of Calabash Pipes, Second Edition to your library will give you a solid foundation of the historical antecedents of the 21st-century briar calabash. The idea is simple: place an air chamber between the smoker and the tobacco. My Pipe Sensei, RaiKo, one of the few people on the planet who actually understands fluid dynamics (but don’t call him a “pipe nerd” to his face), writes that “there is some mystery involved in why an inverted calabash smokes cooler and more flavorfully than a traditionally-designed pipe. Part of this has to do with the fact that the smoke has a chance to expand and cool inside the chamber prior to its arrival through the bit. The hotter the smoke, the more flavor is lost. It’s not the volume of the chamber that matters nearly so much as the fact of the chamber itself.”
From what I can gather, it seems like the “New Wave Briar Calabashes” were made by a handful of artisan pipe-makers almost simultaneously in just the past few years: first by Russian artisan Michail Revyagin (2010), then by Romanian (now in up-state NY) Rolando Negoita (2011), followed by his Danish friend Tom Eltang (2011), and most recently by American pipe-maker Andrew Harris (2012). I haven’t seen any of their pipes go for less than $450, and I’d be surprised if you couldn’t display every calabash the four artisans have made quite comfortably on one table at a pipe show.
The Negoita “Conducta” calabash, as Negoita explains on his website, “is a variation on the principle of the gourd calabash. I have engineered these pipes so that the smoke from the tobacco chamber will pass through a “cooling chamber” in the shank before being delivered to the stem. In addition to cooling, this chamber will act to decant and filter the smoke as well.” Andrew Harris writes in Pipes and Tobaccos that “it is the second chamber that is key” (30). For him, the size of the chamber needs to approximate the size of a gourd calabash chamber—“a quarter cup of rice is pretty close to the average amount of air space” in a gourd calabash. This results in a rather bulbous briar, certainly more of a hand-held pipe. Eltang’s “Tubos” shape evolved into a calabash, in collaboration with Negoita, its industrial styling evoking quite a bit of discussion in the hobby. Some of Michael Revyagin’s calabash shapes quite literally copy Lagenaria siceraria, the bottle gourd, and others resembled inflated fortune cookies (and that’s not a slam—they’re awesome). But for me (and I certainly can’t speak for anyone else), aside from the prohibitive cost factor, none speaks to my traditionalist aesthetic of function and form—I’m hopelessly high church and like something to have both high functionality and an aesthetic rooted in tradition. Enter Mr. Luca di Piazza (drum roll, please).
“I started to think about these Inverted Calabashes,” writes Luca, “after visiting Rolando last October, when he gave me one of his calabashes. Then I saw a few of the Russian inverted calabashes at the St. Petersburg show in December. One night after I got home I suddenly woke up and I realized that I had to design my own “Inverted Chubby Billiard Calabash” as natural evolution of the Neatpipes Chubby Billiard and Neatpipes Saddled Chubby Billiard.
“I started from a fixed point: the pipe should looks like a normalSaddled Chubby Billiard. With this in mind I developed a technical sketch and began talking with Radice. He made a prototype for me that I smoked everyday for almost two months. Amazing pipe. Then I considered the dimensions of my chubby Billiard with the saddled bit. It is approximately 107mm long with a 28mm shank (where it meets the bowl) and 25mm stem.
“I designed the new inverted calabash Chubby Billiard with a saddled bit in mind, starting from the idea that the new Chubby’s tobacco chamber should be approximately the same as the older Chubby saddle. The result is a slightly longer pipe (approx 112 mm long, including mouthpiece). The Chamber diameter is 20mm, its depth at the center is 40mm. I considered it as a truncated cone, flared. I calculated the volume considering an hypothetical diameter of 12 mm at the bottom of the chamber. The volume is not perfect, but it is approximately C= 7,2 cm3.
“Now let’s talk about the calabash chamber. The shank of the AeroBilliard has the same size as the regular chubby billiard, but is 7 mm longer, or approximately 29mm in length. The cylindrical chamber is drilled at a diameter of 17mm. The walls of the shank are approximately 4mm where it meets the mouthpiece and approx 4.5mm where it meets the bowl.
“On the first twelve AeroBilliards I fitted a lucite ring where the tenon enters the shank (which I’ve since changed to ebonite). The ring is 1mm thick and 7mm deep. I calculated the volume of the chamber when the mouthpiece is fitted, dividing it into 2 parts: A is the chamber, B is the flaring of the tenon: the volume of A is approx 6.35 cm3. The volume of B is approximately 0.65 cm3. The total volume of the calabash chamber (A+B) is approx 7 cm3. Having said all this, it’s important to remember that each pipe is unique and therefore the dimensions will vary slightly from pipe to pipe. Oh, and I forgot to mention the wall between the tobacco chamber and the calabash chamber: it is approximately 6 mm thick at the thinnest part.
“Of course it goes without saying that Radice would execute my project. They made my highly successful first Chubby (300 pipes sold), the second, shorter version (200 pipes sold), and the third, saddled version (250 pipes sold).
“I didn’t design the chamber for any specific type of tobacco, I simply got the same dimension of the regular chubby saddled billiard and made it less deep in order to have the right centered connection with drilling.”
Flight Testing The New AeroBilliard Over Grand Prairie, Texas
2. FLIGHT TESTING
After the first dozen pipes were made, Luca sent out four for flight testing all around the globe—to America, Germany, Italy and Japan—and took the remainder to the Tokyo Pipe Show in January. The AeroBilliard first took flight in Italy. Vincenzo Castella writes of his experience: “I already have in my little arsenal one Tom Eltang and one Rolando Negoita, and find the AeroBilliard to be a not drastically different animal. The AeroBilliard is a really powerful item, it never seems to get tired. I have experimented with it, smoking three bowls in rapid-fire succession the same day—with great results! It’s also a great outdoor companion, an instrument you can use “in the field.” I’m an ex-musician and an instruments nut, and only rarely have I come across a pipe that makes me think of a musical instrument. The AeroBilliard, however, is one, especially when considered under the aspect of the “Dynamics of Sound”—or in this case, smoke. The draw is such that you can really control the dynamic of the smoke with this pipe.
The AeroBilliard then touched down at the Tokyo pipe show early in 2013, where the remainder of the original batch of twelve quickly took flight. Shin-ichi Tsukahara writes of his AeroBilliard: “I was really surprised at how cool and dry the smoke was. I found the taste very rich, more concentrated than my traditional pipes, especially with Virginia flakes, which taste milder, richer, and sweeter than in my usual pipes.”
Crossing the hemisphere, the AeroBilliard then found its way to our own Chas. Mundungus, whose Flight Log is excerpted at the end of this article. One of the things that amazed him was the AeroBilliard’s draw, the way the tobacco burns to the very last fiber at the bottom of the bowl. The other big surprise was the pipe’s defiance of traditional bowl geometries when it comes to types of tobacco. There seems (to date) little correlation between the type of tobacco and the size of the bowl—whereas traditionally-designed pipes seem to favor one type of tobacco over another, the AeroBilliard seems to have no such preferences.
The AeroBilliard’s last stop was in Germany, at the compound of Rainer Kockegey-Lorenz, aka RaiKo, who writes “it smokes like a dream, definitely outperforming regularly-designed pipes. What I like even more is the comfortable looking “classic” Chubby concept, but with the enhanced smoking performance of a briar calabash.”
The launch Party, just outside the Neatpipes Studio, Milan
3. USING THE AEROBILLIARD
It’s important to remember that the AeroBilliard isn’t just another briar calabash—which would (quite honestly) be awesome enough—but a Chubby briar calabash, something sui generis, bringing us more of what makes Chubbies so wonderful in the first place. For me, the Chubby experience is first, foremost and always about comfort. Like its predecessors, the AeroBilliard clinches lightly and easily between the teeth with a well-made button. Slightly longer than previous Chubbies, the AeroBilliard is also about 5 to 10 grams lighter, depending on the pipe. The button and weight make it perfect for working at the computer, in the shop, or out in the field—anywhere you need two hands away from the pipe. It also shares the Chubby’s cozy, fat “hand feel” with its outsized dimensions and thick bowl walls.
In addition to the classic Chubby experience, the AeroBilliard’s inverted calabash delivers an incredibly cool, dry and “wide-spectrum” smoking experience. You will immediately notice the openness of the AeroBilliard’s draw. If you’ve only smoked traditionally drilled pipes or even pipes that have been opened up for an easier draw, be mindful as you smoke of just how easy the draw is: this pipe is made for sipping, for slowing down and relaxing. I’m a puffer, and it’s always difficult for me to slow down and sip, but no fears here, even with over-puffing, I’ve yet to burn my tongue.
The Mystery of the Second Chamber
The inverted calabash seems to defy the logic of traditional tobacco chamber geometry when it comes to the smoking experience. If you haven’t, you should read what Neill Archer Roan and Greg Pease have to say about this fascinating topic (see “For Further Reading” below). You can even read my own abstruse musings in last month’s “Quest for the Ultimate Flake Pipe.” There are no hard-and-fast rules, but many experienced pipeman have found Virginia flakes, VaPers, English and Balkans each respond best to specific chamber sizes. But this is simply not the case with the AeroBilliard. In every case, I found the flavor spectrum of the tobaccos I tried open up, revealing themselves in new ways. It was like listening to my favorite Bach cantata on a new high-end set of audiophile speakers, I could hear “notes” that I thought were there, but now were clearer, more distinct. That this has also been the experience of the AeroBilliard Flight-Testing is interesting in light of the fact that I’ve heard some Very Important People in the hobby say that any system pipe (briar calabash, Peterson system, et al) that works by intentionally condensing smoke does so by removing some of the flavor and flavor intensity, in effect narrowing the spectrum of flavors. The opposite, in fact, is what happens in our experience. Go figure, right?
The draw of the AeroBilliard is also something worth remarking, not only because it’s so open, but because it requires much fewer relights during your smoke. Another of the “Mysteries of the Second Chamber” has to do with how the tobacco smokes all the way to the last grain. I never smoke a bowl to complete ash in my traditional pipes—not that I’m complaining, but there’s always a grain or a flake or a small dottle leftover.
The break-in process for the AeroBilliard is also a little different. I hate first smokes—I hate the break-in process in general (in fact, it’s the break-in that probably keeps my P.A.D. in check). But the AeroBilliard may surprise you. My AeroBilliard’s first smoke had me thinking it was already broken-in. Usually it takes five to twenty bowls before I have any idea what a new pipe’s going to be like. The only thing I can say so far, after smoking mine once or twice a day for nearly a month, is that during the last five or six smokes I’ve noticed some heat on the bowl walls as the carbon begins to build up a little.
Another of the “Mysteries of the Second Chamber” has to do with how you can smoke the AeroBilliard several times a day in succession. I’ve only smoked mine in back-to-back bowls, but Luca’s smoked his three times in a row, and Vincenzio has smoked his six times in a single day with outstanding results. I would caution that any pipe’s optimum performance will depend on your attention to its cleanliness. After smoking you need to let the pipe cool, then remove the tenon from the mortoise with a twist. I’d recommend you apply torque at the juncture on either side of tenon and mortoise rather than applying torque back at the bowl. Blow through the stem onto a tissue, wiping the moisture off the back of the stem. Follow this with a looped fluffy pipe-cleaner to swab the calabash walls, or make a loose twist from the tissue and corkscrew it into chamber. I do both. Then I run my pipe cleaner through both the stem and the short opening between the calabash chamber and the tobacco chamber.
Since I’ve been sorely handicapped by having only ONE AeroBilliard thus far, I’ve been forced to switch between Virginias, VaPers, English, Orientals, and VaBurs, not something I’d ordinarily do with a pipe. After the first dozen or so smokes, I scrubbed the stem, draft hole and chamber with a pipe cleaner dipped in 91% isopropyl, taking care not to splash alcohol on the outside finish of the bowl. The alcohol dries in less than a minute, leaving the chamber clean and smelling sweet.
For Further Reading
“A Born Pipemaker” [Tom Eltang], Pipes and Tobaccos 10, no. 2 (Summer 2005), 14ff.
“The Calabash Effect,” by Neill Archer Roan. Posted at www.apassionforpipes.com, Tuesday, March 1, 2011.
“How and Why Chamber Geometry Impacts Tobacco Flavor,” by Neill Archer Roan. Posted at www.apassionforpipes.com, Sunday, October 31st, 2010.
“Matching Pipes and Tobaccos—Part 1,” 1 December 2003, by Greg Pease, http://glpease.com/BriarAndLeaf/?p=7.
“Matching Pipes and Tobaccos—Part 2,” 5 April 2004, by Greg Pease, http://glpease.com/BriarAndLeaf/?p=22.
“Pipe Dreams Found” [Rolando Negoita], Pipes and Tobaccos 9, no. 2 (Summer 2004), 42ff.
Schrier’s History of the Calabash Pipe, 2nd Edition, by Gary Schrier. Briar Books Press, 2012.
“The Second Chamber” [Anthony Harris], Pipes and Tobaccos 16, no. 4 (Winter 2012), 30ff.
AN AEROBILLIARD FLIGHT QUESTIONAIRE
If you decide to join the League of AeroBilliard Aviators, please consider responding to any or all of the following questions for a follow-up article here at Diary of a Mad P.A.D.ster. Simply hit the “Comments” button below, or email me c/o Neatpipes.com with your experiences. I’d like to hear from you.
* * *
1. Is this your first Neatpipes Chubby? If so, how would you rate it for comfort when clenched between the teeth? If not, how does it compare with your other Neatpipes Chubbies?
2. Is this your first experience with a briar calabash? If not, please describe how it compares with other briar calabashes you smoke. If so, how does the smoking experience of this pipe differ from the pipes you usually smoke?
3. If you’ve smoked other calabash pipes—meerschaum/gourd or briar—how does the inverted calabash experience compare to the traditional calabash in your experience?
4. “Flight Log”: what types of tobaccos have you have smoked so far in your AeroBilliard, and how has the experience differed from smoking the same tobaccos in your usual pipes?
5. Other comments:
MUNDUNGUS PIPE STATISTICS:
61 pipes in current rotation
17 unsmoked pipes
Average time spent daily looking at pipes: 06 minutes
Average time spent daily thinking about pipes: The tape is always running...
Average time spent daily smoking pipes: 2 hrs, 13 min
On the Radar: Another AeroBilliard!
EXCERPTS FROM THE MUNDUNGUS
AEROBILLIARD FLIGHT LOG
PAB Flight #130212. My PAB, the prototype for the new AeroBilliard, arrived today, in Radice’s Silk Cut, a nice blast with good hand feel. It’s ebony, with the lower stem of the pipe left natural for the COM stamping. I wish they’d stained the whole pipe, but I kind of get the black/prototype thing: I remember back in the 70s when we all wanted pro 35mm cameras because they were black—we didn’t know that just meant the camera companies were saving money on the chrome. We thought black was very chic. I still do.
Here’s the vital stats:
Total Length: 4.42 in / 112mm
Length of Mouthpiece: 41.6mm / 1.63 in
Outside Bowl Diameter: 40.85mm / 1.61 in
Chamber Diameter: 20.7mm / .82 in
Chamber Depth: 40.55mm / 1.6 in
Bowl Height: 49.9mm 1.96 in
Weight: 1.8oz / 55 gr
Tobacco. I thought I’d try a fairly tricky tobacco on my first flight, one that I know well, the immortal Rattray’s Red Rapparee, which to my palate is one of the inimitable flavor-profile tobaccos that somehow manages to be both a Virginia and an English at the same time. That said, RRR also has a tendency to give me a little tongue bite because, try as I might, if I’m writing, I’m nearly always puffing too fast.
Break-in Method. Call me unorthodox, but I’ve given up all the old-fashioned break-in methods of yore. Remember when you were told to rub the inside of the bowl with honey (like 1975)? Then just fill it 1/8 of the way full the first bowl? Then a 1/4th, a 1/3rd, a ½, and so on? I hated waiting all the time to smoke a full bowl of tobacco. And of course, in many circles I’m known as “The Human Torch” because of all the burnouts I’ve racked up over the years. I think I’m The Guinness Book of World Records holder here, with 8 or 9 in a single year. But that’s another story. But because of those series of freak burnouts (I still claim it wasn’t my fault—how can skydiving or riding a Harley at 80 miles per down Route 66 with a lit pipe be bad for it? It’s getting fresh air, right? doesn’t it need oxygen?), I tooled over to the Tim West method, in which you take a little grape jelly (a very little), smooth it over the inside of the bowl, then drop mundungus (dry tobacco ground out as fine or finer than snuff) into it, then shake it out and let the coating dry). That certainly didn’t help, except to secure my place in the Guinness Record. In despair I went to my Pipe Sensei, RaiKo, who gave me this advice:
2. Fill the pipe 7/8th full (more and you risk black carbon on the bowl rim).
3. Smoke it.
What did I have to lose? I was buying pipes but never smoking them because I hated breaking in new pipes. Well, for me, the RaiKo method works, and I haven’t burned out a pipe since then. Well, maybe once when we were skiing down Mt. Everest over Christmas. But I blame that on the avalanche. So: I used the RaiKo method here. Just filled it up and applied the flame. Indoors, this time, just so there’s no confusion.
The Smoke. Amazing. Very cool. The RRR smoked down to the last fiber, absolute ash. The tobacco behaved like was in an old-fashioned meer cup gourd calabash, but with the briar difference: every little fiber burned. I can’t remember the last time that happened in the pipes I normally smoke.
Cleanup. I’m a Peterson System user, so I like the ritual of cleaning reservoirs. After letting the pipe cool completely, I removed the stem. Of course there is no pool of moisture in the calabash, but the chamber-face of the stem around the draft hole was covered in tobacco moisture. After wiping it, I used a facial tissue twisted very loosely into a corkscrew to clean out the chamber. Not much residual there, but some. Looks like two tissues would’ve given me more “sponge.”
PAB Flight #130213. RRR again. I forgot to mention last night how sweet the briar tasted, from first to last. Most pipes don’t behave this way on their first smoke. In fact, this one performed so well that question marks were firing off like roman candles—is this going to be a piece of Hannah’s “magic briar”? Anyway, tonight’s smoke is a pleasant rerun of last night’s—same effortless pull, less bite. Smokes to the last fiber, just fine gray ash in the bottom of the bowl.
PAB Flight #130214. Tonight I decided to load the Prototype with some aged2008 McClelland 2015, one of my favorite VaPers, to see how an inverted calabash with this chamber capacity would fare. It’s a bigger chamber than I would normally use for this tobacco, but hey, I’m the Human Guinea Pig and I feel it only right to put my smoking life on the line here, so you don’t have to.
Again there is that effortless, open draw, not quite like a regular pipe opened up. Not the long pull of my old Andreas Bauer meerschaum gourd calabash, more like my Skip Elliott pipe, or even a Missouri Meerschaum. What I immediately notice is the high fidelity of the flavor profile—it’s like listening to Beethoven’s 7thSymphony with high-end audiophile speakers after having just listened to it through an iPod: the whole spectrum has opened up. I get the immediate pepper of the perique in the first puffs in a way that only gradually comes through with my regular pipes. To be honest, I’ve never thought of McClelland 2015 and its more expensive brother St. James Flake as heavy-hitter (i.e., big perique) VaPers—they’re my favorite VaPers, understand, but the perique is never anything I notice much. Here in the PAB, it’s definitely a part of the makeup. I didn’t get to finish this bowl, but I noticed how very dry it was in comparison with most of my Va / VaPer smokes. Even the occasional tipping up or down of the pipe in mid-smoke, which often produces a little wet hiss and sometimes a wet draw or two, was totally lacking. Just the dry smoke, thank you very much, AeroBilliard.
PAB Flight #130215. I turned to Pease’s Abingdon, one of the great “latakia bombs” tonight, and again found the flavor profile broader than in the pipes I normally smoke this type of tobacco. I did experience some tongue bite tonight, perhaps because of “over puffing”—the open draft certainly doesn’t require it—and perhaps because I normally smoke several pipes with the Peterson P-Lip during the week, which of course diverts the smoke away from the tip of the tongue.
PAB Flight #130218. For tonight’s test flight I chose MacBarens’ highly-acclaimed HH Old Dark Fired, a VaBur (Virginia Burley) with a good-sized nicotine punch. I used three full flakes, folded in half, broken, then stacked, but I didn’t like it dry enough, causing a number of relights. That being said, this tobacco normally packs a fair-sized wallop for me. In the PAB the flavor was still there (perhaps not quite as intense?), but the Vitamin N punch was considerably reduced. I had to abandon the test flight about 70 minutes in, having smoking not quite half the bowl. It is quite possible the nicotine punch, as well the flavor, would have intensified in the last part of the smoke.
PAB Flight #130221. RRR again tonight. Again, burnt to ash. Very few relights. Gentler puffing tonight. Is the flavor as intense in the PAB? Hmm. Maybe not quite. But very dry. Dry is good. I’m thinking I will want another one of these pipes, in a smooth finish. Maybe with a sterling ring? Dream on, Mad P.A.D.ster. In the meantime, I’m impressed that there is, at least with this particular piece of briar, no sense of “breaking in” the pipe. Like it’s already broken in. Part of the “Mystery of the Second Chamber” or just the miracle of this piece of wood?
PAB Flight #130222. Cleaning. Before tonight’s flight, I gave the inverted calabash chamber a sniff test, which seemed to indicate some cleaning might be in order. So I dipped 2 looped fluffy cleaners into 91% isopropyl, then swabbed out the calabash chamber—they removed some buildup. I corkscrewed a facial tissue into the chamber afterwards and noticed there was quite a bit of buildup the isopropyl had loosened from the walls. The chamber was dry in less than a minute (it doesn’t take long for the isopropyl to dry), with no trace of alcohol smell and a fresh smelling, clean chamber. I do this kind of cleaning with my Peterson System reservoirs on a regular basis to keep the reservoir clean, which on that type of pipe means a better-tasting, dryer smoke. I think that will prove to be the case here as well, and I recommend it highly to anyone who acquires one of these remarkable smoking instruments. I know lots of pipemen who don’t bother with such attentions, but they’re the same wankers who pooh-pooh K&P systems and never wash their Mazeratis. Good stewardship means greater enjoyment.
Tobacco. As this was my 7th flight, I thought I’d try one of the great Three Nuns-inspired VaPers in the PAB tonight, Peter Heinrich’s Special Curly. Full flavor, complete burning, and a heightening of both the flavor intensity and Vitamin N during the last quarter of the bowl. I think this was one of my all-time best experience with Special Curly, which would seem to indicate that a bowl geometry of this size (which I normally wouldn’t use for VaPers) works very well in an inverted calabash. Another “Mystery of the Second Chamber.”
PAB Flight #130224. Tonight: a favorite, Penzance. I made the mistake of watching Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat while I smoked, however—I always puff too fast when Lee Marvin tosses that pot of scalding coffee on Gloria Grahame’s gorgeous face—so this gentle tobacco came across a bit hot. And I wonder: does the dryness of the smoke impede the flavor here? Not sure. Have to try it again while reading or just smoking.
PAB Flight #130226. So tonight I turn to my all-time favorite Virginia Flake, McClelland’s triple-aged, pressed & stoved Dark Star. There’s lots of ways to prep this notoriously-difficult-to-light flake, from cube-cutting to folding to rubbing every which way. Tonight I crumble it, but not too much, and leave it to dry for about half an hour. Those who love this tobacco don’t mind the quadruple charring-lights and frequent relights that are usually necessary, while those who don’t like it often don’t like it for same reason. The PAB doesn’t eliminate the start-up procedures for Dark Star, although I notice the lighting is easier and the relights less frequent. If you’ve been reading these entries, then you’ve guessed by now that airflow is substantially improved in an AeroBilliard over a traditionally-engineered pipe. The dryness of the smoke also changes the flavor nuances just a bit.
PAD Flight #130227. Something different: a morning pipe! Loaded it with one of the best Balkan Sobranie White Label homages, the bulk PS Balkan Supreme. Very full flavor, again like listening to your favorite band through a high-end system after having only heard them through computer speakers: flavor notes you miss in other pipes are fully present here. Slow puffing, few relights, burned again to ash with no dottle. Maybe other smokers don’t seem to have a few strands or bits of unsmoked tobacco left, but most all of pipes leave a few “crumbs” in the bottom of the bowl. Not the AeroBilliard. Interesting.
PAD flight #130302 A/B. I don’t normally smoke two bowls of tobacco in the same pipe on the same day, but I thought I’d give it a shot today and see what happened. I chose the PS Balkan Supreme for my morning pipe—again noticing the many nuances of this fine tobacco. Perhaps I should add that I normally accompany my pipes with a cup of coffee or in the evening diet root beer (egad, did I admit that? I’m supposed to say “single malt scotch”—so much for my political correctness). This evening’s bowl, also PSB, is every bit as dry. I can’t believe how wonderful this pipe smokes. I keep expecting a burn-out or a sour smoke or some problem to emerge....