With summer almost gone, it's time to break out your fall vices: brown liquors, sweater-lust, and of course, pipe-smoking. We asked America's foremost pipe expert Richard Carleton Hacker for advice on taking up a habit that'll delight your palate and make you smell just like higher education.
Richard recommends novices get condescension-free help at Nat Sherman (12 East 42nd Street). Go for a briar pipe in the $65-$125 range (Peterson, Nording, Savinelli, or Stanwell) -- anything cheaper won't draw smoke well, and you'll develop the crumpled cheeks of an 1840s gold prospector.
As for tobacco, start mild. Here are some options:
Aromatic (flavored): Davidoff Cool (not affiliated with Kools)
English (unflavored): Dunhill Early Morning Pipe
Value: Try the "House Blend", which dealers'll let you "test puff". (Remember: when shopping w/ friends, always test-puff - test-puff - pass.)
To load, trickle in tobacco 'til the bowl's filled, then gently tamp down. Add/tamp two more layers for a "springy" mound. Light w/ long wooden matches or a clean-burning butane lighter -- cardboard matches/fluid lighters leave an "Early Morning Chemical" residue. To prevent disgustingness, clean after every use.
Lastly: although pipe users never actually inhale, you might still have health concerns -- fears Richard counters by noting that even his doctor smokes a pipe. The fact that Richard's doctor is 1) very distinguished looking and 2) still alive, should be all the reassurance you need to load your first bowl.