A Pipe Smoker’s Inquiry

A Few of My Favorite Things – 2017 Edition  

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As we approach the finale of 2017, it makes sense to take time and reflect back on the things that brought us both joy and happiness over the course of 2017.  Although it may be easy to allow the negative, less than desirable, events to creep into our memories, I would rather reflect back on the things that helped ease the way through 2017.  There truly is no method to this madness, rather, just a list of things that I have enjoyed over the past 365 days.  I hope you enjoy this catalog of favorites and if you haven’t experienced the items discussed below, give them a try.  You never know how they may influence and even support you through 2018.

Favorite Beer of 2017

MadTree Lift

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I was introduced to this beer at a small Cincinnati, Ohio bar in July of this past year.  A group of friends and myself attended the Incubus 8 concert and decided to pre-game at a local hang out.  With the heat of summer in its prime, I was craving a pilsner/kolsch style beer.  The bartender inquired if I had ever tried MadTree Lift.  I replied no, and he smiled, left, and returned with what I classify as a piece of heaven on Earth.  From that moment on MadTree Lift has been my go to beer of choice.  Creamy and crisp with innocent hop notes and tastes of citrus and wheat, Lift is truly a choice you won’t regret.

Favorite Bourbon of 2017

Knob Creek Single Barrel Small Batch Reserve

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Being a native Kentuckian, bourbon runs in my veins and has simply become an everyday part of life.  It truly is second nature to most of my family, friends, and acquaintances.  Similar to cigars, I am always on the hunt for that perfect bourbon.  This year there were several contenders for top bourbon, however, in the end Knob Creek Single Barrel Small Batch Reserve came out the winner. With a nose showing notes of vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, and candy the smell alone is worth the $40 price tag.  Tastes are rich and sweet, mimicking the profile found on the nose with an added maple syrup characteristic.  Tasters will easily note the 120 proof, however, the bourbon is well balanced and the heat of the alcohol is in no way overpowering.  If available in your area pick up a bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel Small Batch Reserve and enjoy with your favorite cigar or pipe tobacco.

Favorite Wine of 2017

Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir

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No, not all of my favorite things in 2017 were alcohol related, but I figured I would let the best go first.  Aside from beer and bourbon I highly enjoy wine.  Without a doubt, I am the furthest thing from being a master sommelier, however, I do enjoy tasting and pairing wines and typically try 15 – 20 new wines every year.  The front runner this year was the Au Bon Climat 2015 Pinot Noir.  Being produced in the Santa Maria Valley of California, this wine is bold and vibrant displaying a smooth balanced taste of plum, sweet berries, chocolate and earth.  At $25 a bottle this wine is worth a try by those who can appreciate a quality handmade adult beverage.

Favorite Board Game of 2017

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition

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Yes, it may seem extremely nerdy to play board games, further, admit that my favorite of the year was Dungeons and Dragons 5e.  However, this game system is truly a ton of fun if you enjoy adventure and role playing.  I actually started playing D&D back in high school under the 3.5 system but my real-life adventure to college meant my D&D days were put on hold.  Fast forward 15 years, 3 degrees, 4 children, 1 spouse, and a mortgage later, and we have my restart into Dungeons and Dragons with the most recent 5th edition rules.  I currently DM for two different groups, that convene once a month to play, and have been doing so since December 2016.  Cheers to friends, fun, games, and lots of laughs with a little D&D 5e!

Favorite Book of 2017

Finders Keepers by: Stephen King

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I’m a sucker for a good fiction novel, the only problem is finding one that doesn’t a.) turn into a sappy soap opera love story, b.) have a predictable outcome, and c.) lose momentum during the story.  Finders Keepers certainly avoids all three of these issues while maintaining a constant crescendo of suspense and surprise.  I am not a huge Stephen King fan but must admit that he created a brilliant piece of work in Finders Keepers.  This novel is the second in the Mr. Mercedes collection, however, having not read the first or last books in the series, I was still able to completely understand the story while relating to each character’s background.  Be warned, if you dare to give this book a read, clear your schedule because you won’t want to put it down.

Favorite Music Album of 2017

Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau (2017)

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I was first introduced to this album through the Pipes Magazine Radio Show as Brian Levine showcased the duo during the weekly music segment.  With my roots being grounded in bluegrass music, and jazz holding a close place to my heart, this album proved to be an absolute perfect balance of each musical genre.  Both Chris and Brad have work together flawlessly to create a musical masterpiece that reflects a rich bluegrass heritage while interweaving unpredictable jazz functionality.  This album is sure to keep your ears busy while helping your mind relax.

Favorite TV Show of 2017

Game of Thrones Season 7

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Let’s be honest, if you haven’t been participating in the Game of Thrones rave, you are truly missing out.  From the beginning the show has been action packed, gruesome, and unpredictable.  With season seven premiering this past year, many Game of Thrones junkies, like myself, are preparing ourselves for the final season which is set to debut in 2019.  I must admit, however, that this past season (seven) has been my least favorite thus far.  Although still a damn great show, those who have followed the show religiously can easily note that the original creator and author of the book series, George R. R. Martin, has stopped writing the show episodes.  Martin was famously known for his impulsive demise of characters and sudden plot twist, which is one of the many reasons the show is enjoyable to watch.  This past season presented ample opportunities for major characters to meet their end, but they didn’t.  Is it because the viewership has grown too fond of the main appeals, I don’t know, but I hope the eighth and final season brings back the capricious suspense that hooked so many people to the show in the first place.  Winter is coming, I hope you are ready!

Well that does it.  Thank you for taking the time to read through a few of my favorite things this past year.  I hope you have enjoyed my list and feel free to post a comment sharing some of your thoughts or favorites from 2017.  Stay tuned as I will be posting both my Top 5 Pipe Tobaccos and Top 5 Cigars of 2017 in the coming weeks.  As always, be well and cheers!

Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature

A Pipe Smoker’s Inquiry

My Tobacco Cellar: How much is too much?

I started my pipe smoking journey in 2012, thus some may consider me still ‘green’ when it comes to the topic of pipes and pipe tobacco.  However, I have always lived under the mantra that experience isn’t built in the number of years you do something, rather, the number of things you do in those years.  I have met some pipe smokers who have only owned 3 pipes their entire life and have puffed on the same Over the Counter (OTC) blend for 50 years.  This isn’t a bad thing, but does it make them more of a tobacco and pipe smoking expert than the individual who has only smoked a pipe for 5 years, has a 100 + pipe collection, and smokes just about every blend the market has produced.  No.  In fact, they both have an expertise and background that would be helpful to anyone looking to get into the pipe smoking hobby.  I only bring this up because there are indeed individuals on the greater world wide web who would argue otherwise.  If you are one of those individuals please understand….I don’t care what you think.  Anyone who actually knows my background would note that I started smoking a pipe in 2012 but was a cigar smoker long before I ever picked up a pipe.  In fact, I started smoking premium hand rolled cigars in 2006 while still pursing my undergraduate degree in college.  Without a doubt, this was my gateway into pipe smoking and remains a beloved enjoyment of mine.

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So now comes the big question.  How much is too much?  As a hobby, is there ever a true finite beginning and end?  Furthermore, what qualifies someone as owning too much tobacco?  Maybe there isn’t such a thing, however, I am probably close to owning more than I will smoke in my lifetime.  This reality doesn’t upset me.  In fact, I find it enjoyable that I have so many options to choose from when smoking a pipe.  I like to think of it as similar to dinning out.  I don’t know anyone that likes to have the same meal, from the same restaurant, over and over again.  I would be willing to bet that as time goes on, that meal and venue begin to lose their appeal and wanderlust.  Instead, I prefer not just options, but a buffet of choices when it comes to food and tobacco.

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If we dig even further into this analogy we could argue that not only are there several buffets to choose from but different options within each of these establishments.  I attribute my excessively large tobacco cellar to my ever changing and somewhat indecisive personality.  I have always liked options, and although it’s healthy to establish a routine, this is a place in my life where exploration is always welcome.  As stated earlier, I don’t claim to be some tobacco aficionado or expert, but I do value exploration and options, hence why I own so many blends.  Therefore, in my opinion, no, there is never an ending to our hobby or a point where you can own too much tobacco.

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With the constant overreach of federal governments, and frivolous anti-smoking laws, I suggest more people work to stock up your cellars and prepare for the worst.  No, not Armageddon, but when the day comes where we as pipe smokers and tobacco enthusiasts can no longer purchase our beloved leaf, I am confident my own collect will cover my needs until my days on Earth are complete.  So, if you chose to not stock up, sucks for you!  However, you’re always welcome to come share some of my stock.  I don’t think I’ll be running out anytime soon.

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For more pictures and details of my tobacco collection/cellar, visit my YouTube channel at:



Dr. Kyle Andrew Signature