Monday, May 26, 2008

DGT: Delayed Gratification Technique

I noticed the recent poll at My Pipes Community is about DGTing. As is common with online polls, the multiple-choice answers are not complete enough. Especially egregious and misleading is the final choice: "Never. I know how to keep my pipe lit."

Knowing how to keep your pipe lit is entirely irrelevant when it comes to the DGT. The entire purpose of DGTing is not to give up on a pipe that is difficult to keep lit, but to intentionally delay re-lighting to create a new flavor experience.

If you are unfamiliar with the term Delayed Gratification Technique, or DGT, it is simply this: light your pipe and smoke part of it, but leave at least half a bowl unsmoked (in my opinion). Then put it down, allow it to go out, and re-light it again some time later.

I always like to quote Kinky Friedman on the topic. Although he was writing about cigars, the principle stills applies.
I was on my second cup of coffee and slightly past the midway point of the cigar I'd lit after I talked to Bill Dick. I didn't usually like to smoke a cigar past the midway point. I liked to store them for a while in the wastebasket and fire up the remaining portion at a later date. In the manner of a fine wine, you had to let a half-smoked cigar age a bit. Had to let it breathe. A lot of people didn't understand this, but I didn't understand a lot of people.

I smoke as many as ten cigars a day and I expect to live forever. Of course I don't inhale. I just blow the smoke at small children, green plants, vegetarians, and anybody who happens to be jogging by at the same time that I'm exhaling.

You have to work at it if you want to be a good smoker. Especially today with all the nonsmoking world constantly harassing you. It's enough to make you drink. I poured a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey into a third cup of coffee and I sat down at my desk.

I thought of what Charles Lamb, the renowned British essayist, had said when someone asked him how he could smoke so many cigars and pipes. He said: "I toil after it, sir, as some men toil after virtue." Not bad, Chuck.

(excerpt from A Case of Lone Star)
There are two good reasons to DGT a pipe, and neither of them have anything to do with having trouble keeping the leaf burning: one; you are interrupted by unavoidable business during the smoke and have no option but to put it down and re-start it again later, and two; you do it because you enjoy it.

I can honestly say that I fall into both categories.

So one may ask: how long should one allow the pipe to sit cool and fallow before re-lighting it? The answer is entirely subjective and at the whim of the individual pipe smoker. If I am going to DGT a pipe, I personally prefer to let it sit and stew in its own juices for several hours, often overnight.

I have no doubt that the DGT is not for everyone. It has a way of dramatically increasing the robustness of even the most robust of blends. I would especially warn all smokers that if you are not a terribly huge fan of Perique, you absolutely do not want to DGT any blend with an appreciable amount of Perique. I, on the other hand, often add extra Perique to various blends and have DGT'd them all in my quest for the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster of pipe tobaccos.

Give it a try if you haven't. You may be pleasantly surprised at the fresh (and I use that term figuratively) dimensions of flavor that are introduced. Or, you may be thoroughly disgusted. But do not make the mistake of thinking that it has anything to do with difficulty in keeping a pipe lit. It is simply another technique available to the pipe smoker to allow further exploration of the flavors and smells inherent in any given blend of tobacco.


  1. DGTing is seen by many as an accident just as many see it as what it's described as - a technique, thus not making the "I know how to keep my pipe lit" option irrelevant. On the contrary. Such options are there as a debate / discussion starter. A poll would never be complete, becayse the number of voting options would grow out of proportion to compliment all views.

    What some consider DGTing other see as a waste of time or effort in spite of the flavor difference.

    Me, I rarely DGT as I like the flavor of what I'm smoking too much to let it sit and "develop".

    YMMV and all that.

  2. In truth I often inadvertently DGT because I only ever seem to have time for a half bowl, and my result has never been positive. The phrase 'harsh on the relight' slips off the tongue between myself and my pipe smoking friend without even thinking of it. Some tobaccos fare better than others, but none are really to my taste.

    A word to the wary: Mick McQuaid plug is a deathtrap on the relight. Even a mere 30 seconds between first light and true light is enough to turn the stuff into a smouldering bowl of knives. There's no question of 'robust' in the matter, here is the perfect distinction between harsh and heavy.

    Surprisingly, aromatics can also fare particularly badly on the relight, with Peterson's Sunset Breeze being a notable example. What's usually a real crowd pleaser to offer to the curious bystander turns into a snarling, crackling beast (the casing no doubt adding to the gurgle) ready to scour the throat of the innocent one-time sampler.

    My last problem with leaving bowls to sit is that they seem to sour my bowl much quicker than usual, usually prompting me to perform the ever-overdue sweetening ritual, always including sullied tissues, brown fingers, and copious amounts of whiskey for both the pipe and myself.

    It's disconcerting to see that my complete confusion with regards to internet acronyms is not refined to 15 year old facebooking girls, and that even hobbies dear to my heart are loaded with apocryphal abbreviations unveiled only thanks to a swift tap into google, which indeed led me to your charming blog.

    I bow to your laudable trove of information and personal musings, your eloquence and tasteful references (I must get a copy of that 'Case of Lone Star'), your website background that enchanted both myself and the aforementioned friend, and of course to the man behind the pixels, a fellow Peterson seconds owner (shame on me for reserving mine for aromatics!)and upholder of the virtuous art of the pipe.