Smoking the Old Racine
It was indeed with some trepidation that I decided I would have to smoke the Racine from 1920. The pipe simply cried out for tobacco but one shouldn’t rush into these things, Firstly, the briar has been drying for nearly ninety years as a pipe. Lord knows how long the original block had. I may be up in the order of 110 years with out this piece of wood having been dampened or heated. Afraid then, that I might damage the wood in some way, I went slowly to it.
I packed the pipe loosely with mainly virginia, a little burley and latakia for flavour. I only packed the bowl to a little over half way. I decided on the virginia because I believed that the oils boiled out of the tobacco would be promptly soaked up by the dry bowl and will probably set as a ghost for a long time to come. As most tobacco blends hold a good deal of virginia anyway, this seemed the most reasonable course to follow. Gently then, and with one match poised over the bowl, I lit the pipe. It fired up straight away. Which is no surprise, I’m an old hand at lighting a pipe.
Smoking a new pipe is never a rewarding experience. One is in effect charring the wood inside the bowl and this generally imparts a harsh taste to the tobacco smoke. I tasted it here too, but it was not as unpleasant as is usual. I smoked the pipe until it died of its own accord and found nothing but ash left in the bowl. It held about an hour. The bowl was beautifully darkened inside and I could see no sign of burning. I cleaned the pipe and put her to rest in my rack.
The following evening, I tried again, packing the bowl slightly higher and repeated the gentle process that is required for break in. Smoke slow, gentle and be mindful of the temperature. Once again, it burned to ashes and the bowl took no damage. The taste was definitely better. There is a good draw on this pipe despite the somewhat restrictive size of the inner tube which effectively reduces the airway to 2 mm. I thought I may try smoking it again “sans tube” for comparison.
Since then, I have smoked two or three bowls in the pipe and it is coming along nicely. This will be a good pipe. No doubt about that. I realise that when writing about it before, I did not really describe the size or dimensions of this pipe. It was made in another era, when tobacco was perhaps less expensive. I feel this pipe was also made to impress. It has some generous proportions!