It is axiomatic in the pipe world that new pipe smokers begin by smoking aromatics, then graduate to English blends, and finally move into the realm of straight Virginias and Virginia-Periques (VaPers). Of course not everyone begins with aromatics, but many pipe smokers do. For some reason, light aromatics seem to taste better to new pipe smokers then do other blends.
The biggest selling pipe blend in North America is the light aromatic blend I mentioned above, 1-Q, a blend made by Lane Limited. 1-Q is sold in bulk in tobacco shops throughout North America. Presumably, 1-Q is pervasively popular because most pipe-smokers like it or at least can tolerate it, and it is widely available. It is a smooth, mild, Virginia cavendish ribbon-cut blend with vanilla flavoring. There is also a smidgeon of fire-cured leaf that gives it a bit of character.
You won’t find 1-Q if you look for it under its name in a tobacco shop. 1-Q is the name used by the trade. It is not marketed with that name to the public. 1-Q is marketed by shops using the particular shop’s proprietary name for it. Shop owners hope that you will believe you can’t find it anywhere else and will keep coming back to them for it. The truth is that 1-Q is sold almost everywhere. Chances are, if you ask a salesperson, they will know what you’re asking for even if the shop sells the blend using another name. If you don’t have a tobacconist in your burg, you can order 1Q online from Smokershaven.com.
My tobacco shop, Old Viriginia Tobacco Company, sells 1-Q as “Checkmate.” Another shop I frequent (The Tobacco Shop in Fayetteville, Arkansas) calls the tobacco “Norseman.” Tinderbox sells it as “Wilshire.” Obviously, one could name it “Dust Motes” or “Man Candy” or whatever; it is still good ol’ 1-Q. If you do smoke it, you’ll have to be vigilant about keeping your pipe clean. 1-Q will goop up the bowl and draft hole and cause the pipe to sour if you don’t keep it clean.
Because I have such an aversion to most aromatic blends, I recommend light English-Cavendish blends to my young, pipe-smoking friends. McClelland makes a series of tinned blends under the Frog Morton name that are remarkably good, even to the inexperienced palate. I used to recommend the original Frog Morton, but McClelland has recently released a new blend, Frog Morton’s Cellar, that is absolutely spectacular. Cellar has a chunk of white oak bourbon cask stave in every tin. It’s a sweet and flavorful flue-cured Virginia with Latakia as the flavoring condiment. The other blends in the Frog Morton line – Frog Morton Across the Pond and Frog Morton On the Town – are also accessible and delicious light English blends.
As an aside, one of the great things about McClelland’s tobacco blends is that the nicotine content of their tobaccos is relatively low compared to other manufacturers. What this means to the new pipe smoker is plenty of flavor and plenty of choice without the fear of nicotine-hit that can cause you to feel woozy or sick after smoking your pipe for awhile.
Getting too much nicotine in your pipe’s smoke stream is a nasty experience. Don’t assume that you won’t experience nicotine’s effect if you do not inhale. Nicotine will enter your bloodstream through the membranes inside your mouth. Nicotine sickness can turn you off completely to pipe-smoking. If you are new to pipe-smoking, it is very important that you appraise the nicotine content in any blend you contemplate smoking. Especially if you’re sensitive to nicotine as I am.
Let me underscore that what’s important is finding tobacco choices early that you may enjoy so that your early pipe-smoking experience is a good one. So many people I know who gave pipe-smoking a try were turned off almost immediately because they wound up smoking a wet and fruit-goopy aromatic in a tightly drilled pipe that was too heavy and awkward. Had that been my experience, I doubt I’d have stuck with it either.