While visiting the Inter-Tabac in Dortmund a few weeks ago we were privy to some very interesting discussions regarding the seasonal popularity of cigar smoking, and how this has changed dramatically over the past few years. It is widely accepted that the appreciation of fine cigars shares much in common with pipe smoking, and so this led me to wondering whether the same seasonal changes exist within our favourite past-time.
The detail of these discussions was along the lines that for as long as people in the know can remember, cigar smoking was always seen as more of a winter activity. The winter months seem to have been more conducive to long lunches and cosy dinners, copious amounts of red wine and perhaps even the odd port or tipple of something stronger here and there. And that’s when the fine Cubans would appear. But over the last four or five years sales of fine cigars, anecdotally at least, have been stronger in the Spring and Summer months, with a subsequent drop in sales heading into Winter. Why so?
Well it appears that we have one of our favourite subjects to blame once again… the dreaded smoking ban! Apart from the occassional Private Club here and there, or a well heeled dinner party at an obliging friend’s house, the simple fact is that there are very few places indoors that one can take the time to enjoy the ‘rigmarole’ of the cigar – the inspection, the cutting, the lighting, the rotating and lastly, the satisfaction of a job well done! So the cigar smoker becomes an exile, and let’s face it even the most imaginative among us can’t pretend that those outside heaters do a good job of turning a chilly evening on the patio into the same ambience as a cosy drawing room with a roaring open fire! So the cigar smoker has done the sensible thing and decided that rather than suffer frostbite in pursuit of the perfect smoke, he’ll wait a few months and partake when the days and evenings are a little warmer and there is marginally less chance of precipitation! And so, in the relative blink of an eye, cigar smoking has effectively shifted from a winter to a summer past-time.
Enough of cigars however, what about pipe smoking I hear you ask?!
Well the same logic must ring true to a certain extent. The heavy restriction on where one can smoke a pipe has also in effect placed a limitation on when one can smoke a pipe, with our wet and cold weather certainly making ‘al fresco’ puffing less attractive in the winter months. A bowl of Old English Ready Rubbed out on the patio in the snow after Christmas Lunch anyone?? No thanks. But I also think there is once again a fundamental difference between pipe smoking and other forms of smoking (in this case most notably cigars) that keeps it unique, and that is the notion of its being a more introverted past-time. Cigars tend to be enjoyed ‘en masse’ rather than alone (in my own, no doubt limited, experience), whilst pipe smoking always strikes me as an intensely personal affair. Of course it can be done in company should one wish as witnessed by the many successful Pipe Clubs around the country, but this seems to be the exception rather than the rule, where people are making the effort to smoke socially. No, for me it is almost as if the pipe is the company and, as such, pipe smoking is not limited by the necessary presence of friends, or by the prevailing conditions. It is as pleasant to hold a warm, rusticated bowl on a crisp winter walk alone as it is to settle into a favourite armchair surrounded by friends, a favourite briar and a night time tipple.
Outdoor, indoor, alone or in company the pipe seems to be the perfect smoking companion whatever the situation. A comtemplative bowl can brighten up the most dreary of days whilst there are not many things that can better a smoke outside on a warm evening with perhaps an accompanying sunset, and that’s why once again we are lucky to have found pipe smoking!