The smoking quality of the pipe depends on several related elements.  For example, if smoking a briar pipe the briar must be well aged with most, if not all, of the sap removed. The air hole must precisely meet the base of the tobacco chamber. Also, the air hole and stem must have a wide, clear passage.  Keep in mind that one block of briar will smoke slightly differently to another block.  The grain in the briar controls the breathing qualities of the wood, giving the pipe its characteristic smoke.

Smoking a new pipe can be a wonderful experience, a mediocre experience, or even a horrible experience. How a virgin pipe smokes on the first bowl depends greatly on how the wood was cured and somewhat on the pipes manufacture.  Some of the finest pipe artisans add an oil curing process to ensure a proper tasting pipe. Others may boil the wood or wipe it with a oil. In any event, the more thorough the curing of the wood, the better it will smoke from the first bowl.

Like cigar smoke, pipe smoke should not usually be inhaled. It's merely drawn into the smokers mouth, then released. It is often the case that you have to relight a pipe periodically. If your smoking pipe is smoked too slowly, this will happen more frequently. On the other hand, if it's smoked too quickly it can produce an excess of moisture, making a gurgling sound within your pipe and a rather uncomfortable sensation on your tongue, which is often referred to as pipe tongue! You can use a pipe cleaner to dry it out. The bowl of your pipe may also get uncomfortably hot, this is usually dependant on the material your pipe is made from and the rate of your smoking. It's for this reason that clay pipes in particular are usually held by the stem. Meerschaum pipes can be held with gloves, in a square of chamois leather, or by the stem in order to prevent an uneven coloring of the material.