Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Smoke like a Sailor, Drink like a Shark

My recent sojourn into pipedom began with Sir Walter Raleigh (the tobacco, not the guy), which has served me surprisingly well considering its bottom-shelf "strictly for old codger" status. But as an old codger in training myself, one who actually enjoys old Casper comics without a trace of irony, I'm totally down with decrepit-dude culture of yesteryear. I get 1918's papers today.

My latest step along the yellow (toothed) brick road is a pack of Borkum Riff bourbon whiskey tobacco, which according to the packaging purports to contain actual "Kentucky bourbon whiskey traditionally aged eight years".

When I was a kid, Borkum Riff was always something of a surrealist joke to me. I watched old guys in woollen caps and suede jackets with cordoroy patches on the shoulders stand around sucking on pipes that reeked of what I then considered to be the most godawful burning-zoo stench East of Java. Like the similarly schooner-logoed Old Spice cologne, it seemed something beyond the understanding of my toddler mind. Now, I've come to respect and adore that same damn pirate ship pictured on its packaging, even though I've since found out that this tobacco doesn't date back to some previous century. Borkum Riff has only walked this globe since the 1960s, if you can believe what you read on Wikipedia. The original Borkum Riff was a Dutch lighthouse, and the only ship named that came later, as an offshore radio station vessel. Well, at least there's something piratey about the name after all.

I'm still wet behind the ears at this whole pipe thing, but wow, this stuff is surprisingly moist compared to the supreme parchedness of ol' Walt. And sure enough, when you unfold the package, a wonderful aroma of whiskey wafts up into your face and makes you say "Hip-de-hoo!" (Well, it made me say that anyhow.) Can the bourbon, in the final analysis, really be tasted clearly when you actually set it on fire? Well, maybe, maybe not. I'm not really getting an overpowering bourbon taste or scent from the smoke (but my olfactory's turning womanish on me in my old age). But it is leaps n' bounds over Mr. Raleigh. No wonder John Lennon cursed him.

Mind you, these are literally my first impressions, hot off the presses, as I had my premiere puffs of the Riff moments before entering the Cathedral of St. Ernesto, from which I commit these words to the aether, dear reader. As my brain starts to piece together all the data it's being fed, and as my palate for pipe tobacco matures, I'm sure I'll chimey-chime in here with a further report. Meanwhile, you can click here to read reviews by all manner of men ranging from the educated to the idiotic, all with such wildly varying descriptions of this product, one scarcely can fathom that they're all talking about the same thing.

And if you'll excuse me now, I have drinking to do.

- - JSH

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