@Monk, my suggestion would be to first decide your price point and if you want new or presmoked. If you choose presmoked, then you decide if you want really old like 1970-1980s vs more modern (older "tend' to have tighter draw, and those after 1990s have that open draw so often talked about. Then decide finish. Remember, ALL Castello pipes are made from the same aged briar, so they all smoke the same. If you want an inexpensive introduction Castello, sea rock 1990-2017 would be a good choice. If you want to go all out on your first Castello, then a new Collection grade smooth pipe would do you well.
Also, think about your own preference in stems. Castello stems are Lucite, and some can be huge with big thick buttons, and will drive you crazy if you are used to Vulcanite stems. Also, Castello's "tend" to be heavy, not always, but they like big pipes and if you are a clencher that will be something to take note of.
Opinions vary, but I can vouch for the following shapes, they are dandy and will be a good first Castello because of the weight, stem, etc. Again, just my opinion based on experience.
The pot with small stem (wonderful work horse if you prefer flakes)
The wood is the same as has been mentioned. Buy whichever strikes your fancy. However, consider the following, pipes stamped Kino have an airway in the shank of 4.5mm. Older pipes are more narrow. When it comes to the mouthpiece, Castello’s are inconsistent. I find older Kino’s have a well trumpeted slot, while many of the new one’s are very narrow, like what you find an average factory pipe. Kinos doesn’t seem to really give a hoot about stem work.
Don’t buy from an American dealer. Italian vendors offer far more favorable rates.
If you’re buying a Castello, you’re buying it for the wood and then the design. So buy a pipe with a lot of wood and a lot of style. I would not buy a thin walled light pipe as my first and possibly only Castello. Unless it’s a Castelline. Those are great pipes.
My favorite designs are the 33, 65, 55 and 10. Yes, Greg Pease inspired my interest in Castello’s but the wood is good and kept me around. I have more 10’s then anything else. The shape is very handy, and well, just cute.
I think the safest bets for a greater smoker are likely a 65 (because I’ve never heard anyone proclaim otherwise) or a saddle bit, thick walled, wide bowled, lumberman/Liverpool. If you were to throw those two pipes into a blender an add a dash of Cinzano you would arrive at a shape 55, which, conveniently, is the right Castello to own.
As far as finish goes, If you like textured pipes, castello has great options. Same goes for smooth. Sometimes both on the same pipe. Which is nice. I like the sandblast, vergin and trademark finishes the most. The blasts are generally really well defined and entirely unheralded. The vergin pipes change over time but can go through an ugly phase which may be unsettling in a “show” pipe.
Lastly, what about the wood? Well, you’ve probably read about Castello’s mythical vault with a mountain of aging blocks all covered, dewlike, with a mysterious white substance. These folks understand wood is at the root (insert eye roll), of pipe making and have the aged briar to back it up. (Personal note: this has been my largest hang up with artisan pipemakers...thin bits do not make up for using young blocks.)
The curing process, the provenance of the blocks and whatever that really is inside the bowl all combine to add a recognizable and distinct taste to the wood which comes across like turning up the treble on your stereo. Pease says it fades with breakin. I say otherwise. There’s a zing that these pipes add that is absent the rest of my stock even after hundreds of bowls.imdont smoke lat, perhaps that has something to do with it.
The G.L. Pease inspired line is that the best Castellos ever made are the ones being made now. That would mean sticking with the pipes that carry the Kino stamp, indicative of a pipe made in 2007 and later. I urge every one to follow this advice without exception. In particular, never bid on a pre-2007 piece on eBay.
Tongue firmly in cheek.
As noted above, the bits on recent production pieces can be problematic. I find the shanks on current production 12,14, 16 and 75's to be thicker and less tapered than what I like. The thin round tapered shanks and bits that look miniscule placed side by side with current production on these straight shapes are a thing of the past. Perhaps that had to be done to accommodate the "wide open" wind tunnel draw. Or perhaps the carvers just aren't as good as they used to be.
I do frequent the various Italian shops. My experience has been very good. But that is not where I would buy my first Castello. If you don't have a B&M nearby who is an authorized dealer, in addition to Smoking Pipes I would highly recommend Briar Blues and Marty Pulvers. They are both authorized dealers, they both have new and estate pieces, and they both are as honest as the day is long. Briar Blues is a site sponsor and a link can be found on the sidebar here. A link to Marty is HERE
There has been a bit of scuttlebutt in the last few years about carver turnover. Scotti pipes are not necessarily any less worthy than kino’s, of course. Shaping is often better and there is no finer rustication than a Scotti sea rock. I also firmly believe that older pipes tend to smoke better. I just do not like to have to drill out a pipe, which I’ve had to do on at least three old castello’s.
As far as choice of vendor is concerned...what is an authorized dealer wrt pipes? Will the factory refuse warranty service? I guess you’ll have to rotate your wheels and change your own oil. Spc and Marty are good for the industry. I got my start years ago at Sherlock’s Haven. Both, however tack on a premium that is often hundreds more for the same pipe over EU vendors. This goes way beyond import duties and shiping expenses. That’s ok though, less competition here.
Awesome views, suggestions, wisdom and discussion lads and gents. As of now I own one Castello pipe, a tiny bent billiard I got it from Mike at Briar Blues. Although I am not in the market to buy any new pipe (lots of pipes in lying with restoration experts on my behalf,I want to get those repaired and ready to smoke and sell a bit before I buy a new pipe.) After my surgery its been tough to not invest in pipes, but hey I still have another 30-40 years in me hopefully.
I want this thread to be a guide and mentor of sorts to pipe smokers who want to try Castello pipes but have no idea where to start.
BTW heres my lone Castello
@bigpond,it is a lot easier and cheaper to return a pipe to Briar Blues, Marty or SPC than it is to an Italian shop, at least for an individual shipper. There was a thread at another place a few months ago about a new Castellos bowl interior having visible fissures. Guy felt he was stuck with it because he was going to have to pay $50-60 to get it back to Italy tracked and insured. I buy from Italy all the time, but I fully expect that I am going to own the pipe regardless and am willing to take the chance. Not sure that is true of the OP.