Most pipe smokers will be familiar, if only in the sense of having heard mention of it, with the “Magic Inch” system invented and distributed by “Mr. Carey”. I must start by saying that when I first tried this system many years ago, I was unimpressed. I simply could not get on with the pipe. It seemed to smoke wet, to leak from the holes intended to admit air, and to need a new filter for every bowl; worst of all, it seemed as if I had to huff and puff like Billy-oh to get even the smallest amount of smoke from the thing. I smoked a couple of bowls and put the pipe away somewhere.
However, over the years my tastes have changed, and since the business kept sending me catalogues (one of the few mail-order firms to do so if you don’t buy anything regularly) and since I hadn’t bought any of their own-brand pipes since that first one, though I had bought other brands from them now and then, it seemed appropriate to venture £20 on one of their cheapest models, just to see if things had changed. (In passing, I couldn’t tell you what happened to the old pipe. I put it to one side, as I said, and somehow over the years it just vanished, as these things do). From the first, the new little pipe smoked like a dream. I was unable to detect any difference between the amount of puffing and blowing needed with the “Magic Inch” as compared to any other sort of pipe; indeed, it seemed to take less effort to smoke and keep alight generally than many of my other pipes. The smoke was as claimed, cool and dry, though I smoked the first fill in a good Yorkshire gale – the bowl heated up a bit, but the smoke remained cool on the palate. The patented “Papyrate” filters don’t need changing every time either, lasting for four or five bowlfuls. (This may be a minimum, and it may vary with the smoker’s technique, of course, but I can get four or five from them as a regular average.) Another good thing is that since the pipe must be dismantled to change the filter, it encourages you to give the whole thing a good clean on a regular basis. Particularly beneficial if, like me, you try not to separate your pipes unless it’s absolutely unavoidable. And for good measure, I like the rustic carving on the bowl – the “rusticated” finish it seems to me is very much under-estimated, though that’s another story.
Perhaps the greatest bonus though – and one which the makers don’t really play up, though they do claim that the system “makes any tobacco taste better” – is the way it deals with aromatics. You’ll all know how some casings behave rather like curry powder which hasn’t been properly cooked before the other ingredients go in – raw, harsh, “industrial” and nowhere as delicious as the aroma promises.
Not so with the Magic Inch, which gives you what one can only call a clean taste, rather like that from a clay or corncob pipe. Even a strongly cased aromatic tastes as if it had real, natural flavourings. (Although even the Carey system cannot eliminate the furry aftertaste with such tobacco! Not the system’s fault, that.) If I didn’t intend using the pipe in my regular rotation, which I do, it would still see some use as one in which to try out new tobaccos on an objective basis.
Negative aspects? Of course there are. However careful you are the filters must be replac ed sometime, and that’s an ongoing cost. But I worked out that at today’s prices (end of April, 2009, £2:10 for 36) and with my own usage in mind, it costs about 1 Devalued Decimal Currency Unit per bowl of tobacco – not excessive. The pipe stems are rather thin, a bit like those on the old corncob, so if you have a strong bite you’d need to be careful. My pipe is the cheapest in the range, so higher end ones may be better in this respect. The worst thing I can say about the pipe was that the bowl was heavily coated with that dreadful “pre-carbon” gunk, and even then a few moments with some fine grade sandpaper sorted that one out. There’s really no other fault I can find, try as I might.
I planned to end by saying that I’d recommend the pipe to anybody, but I’m not sure if that would be legal; it might be “promoting” smoking or some such BS. However, since every form of perversion now seems legal as long as it’s between consenting adults, then I would say that if you, as a consenting adult were to ask me if the system is any good, I would return a hearty “Yes, it jolly well is”. I fully intend to add one or two more of these to my collection..