What Is So Great About Castellos

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workman

Preferred Member
Jan 5, 2018
1,702
5
The title says it. I see a lot of love for Castellos. Everyone seems to agree that they are great smokers.

I've been very satisfied with my pipes from Stanwell, Savinelli and Chacom. They all smoke well. So what makes a Castello better in your opinion?

They cost 2-3 times more. Are they worth it, compared to the above mentioned brands, and why?

Don't tell me it's because they look better. They don't and that's not what I'm interested in anyway.

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,598
5
It doesn't matter in any sort of "breakdown" sense. Objectivity and quantification doesn't apply in cases where a large group of people simply Feel a Certain Way About Something.
Hollywood used to refer to it as the "It Factor" when auditioning starlets.
Why is the Ferrari 250 250 GTO considered the most beautiful performance car ever built by enough people to make the statement true?
I'm sure Sasquatch will weigh in on this one. He's both a Castello lover and a philosopher.

 

alaskanpiper

Preferred Member
May 23, 2019
1,319
92
Alaska
They don't and that's not what I'm interested in anyway.
This is a subjective statement. I think some do look better. I also think some don't, it depends. I just got my first Castello, so I will weigh in more on this when I've had some time to smoke it more. I also own an Ashton, and to me, I do notice a difference in the way it smokes over the Savs/Petes, etc. that I have. Enough to warrant the additional cost? Probably not.....
I'm sure their famed 10 year minimum aged briar has something to do with it for some people. Does that make them smoke better? I don't know.....Does it make them last longer.......maybe?
I'm sure alot of it has to do with collecting for some people also, but there is probably some of the above mentioned "it" factor as well. Same reason Coach bags cost a paycheck or certain shoes cost thousands or whatever. "Luxury" branding I suppose, something that allows the buyer to feel like they are part of an elite club or exclusive community. A sense of achievement of some kind for being able to afford "high end" shit. Of course anyone for whom this is the driving force behind the purchase (consciously or subconsciously) would certainly deny that up and down, so we'll never know for sure, hahaha.
I guess we'll see what the experts say. Good question.

 

olkofri

Preferred Member
Sep 9, 2017
2,203
49
I'm yet to own a Castello. Promised that when I got a job I'd buy one with the first paycheque —hasn't happened, so I'm still smoking Vauens, Brighams and, ugh, cobs.
However, I've heard that, unlike other makers which will use any part of the briar, Castello will only use plateaux; this part of the briar is the best: having been exposed to the elements has hardened it (the image of the gold having its purity/worthiness being tested in the crucible comes to mind) and imbued it with better smoking qualities. That's probably one reason why they're better.

 

hoosierpipeguy

Preferred Member
Jan 28, 2018
1,973
29
In my own experience, I've found Castellos consistently smoke better than any other factory made pipe? Why? I would assume it is the aged briar combined with their expertise.

 

bnichols23

Preferred Member
Mar 13, 2018
2,723
50
SC Piedmont
Unlike Dunhills, Castellos have a deserved rep for actually being worth the extra premium over Savs or Stanwells. I've yet to buy one myself, but I've known more than a few from seeing them from the perspective of being behind the counter.
My love for Savs & Stanwells is of course well known, & I base it on quality & bang for buck. I've seen crap Dunhills & they cost an arm & *2* legs. I've never seen a garbage Sav, ever. And the Castellos I've seen have always been even better than my beloved Savs -- grain, drilling, stamping, fit/finish. Dunhills I've seen have been double even Castello pricing, & frankly nowhere near as good. Dunhill = mystique. Castello = quality. Period. :)
B

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,598
5
My love for Savs & Stanwells is of course well known, & I base it on quality & bang for buck. I've seen crap Dunhills & they cost an arm & *2* legs. I've never seen a garbage Sav, ever. And the Castellos I've seen have always been even better than my beloved Savs -- grain, drilling, stamping, fit/finish. Dunhills I've seen have been double even Castello pricing, & frankly nowhere near as good. Dunhill = mystique. Castello = quality. Period.
Confirmation bias 101. :lol:
I've seen construction/design techniques used that were unforgivably, hideously bad on both Savinelli and Castello. Pipes that were literally not repairable/recoverable when damaged and/or smoked past a certain point. Hell, I own one of them.
And, from time to time, Castello QA allows apparent "beginner's projects" out the door. Laughably bad examples of shaping that would draw fire on the pipemakers forum critique board if they were an aspiring carver's third-ever pipe.
Dunhill has made some notable clunkers as well---their Collector series in the 70's was spectacularly horrible---and their shaping has been off and on since around 1970. I've never seen a functional design problem with one, though. Not once in 45 years.

 

bnichols23

Preferred Member
Mar 13, 2018
2,723
50
SC Piedmont
-laugh- Okay, george, I'm willing to accept that you got all the bad ones in the world & I got all the good. :) I also admit I've only worked in 6 or so shops off/on over the last 50 or so sun-cycles, so I could be suffering from too small a significant sample behind the scales. :)
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swan

New member
Dec 9, 2018
9
0
NYC
Honestly I don't consider Castello factory pipes if you see how they are made.

They are great pipes, made with the best briar you can find.

Yes, shape are not always at the top but some other times you are able to find authentic jewels.
My only issue with them is the acrylic stem which I cannot stand, I sold almost all my Castellos for this reason, together with any other pipe with an acrylic stem.

I kept 4 or 5 and they smoke great, nothing to say.

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
965
4
What makes Castellos a great pipe?
Same thing that makes other great pipes great. Physics.
Allow me to philosophize. When Dunhill got into making pipes, he realized that there was a market going unserved - the high end "this is really perfect" market. I don't have the book in front of me but he says something like "Most people pay 50 cents for a pipe, and then complain that it's a piece of crap, because it is. We are selling pipes for 5 dollars, which is unheard of, but they're great, and people love them." To make a really good pipe, you have to do a bunch of things kind of carefully - drilling, shaping, fitting etc. This takes time. Yes, it's EXACTLY the kind of stuff you should, in theory be able to mechanize and keep a tight tolerance on. In practice... you need eyes and hands to really do it, to dial in every pipe.
But eyes and hands are expensive. It's actually easier (obviously) to manufacture low-tolerance one-size-fits all stuff and then add some kind of 10 cent miracle ingredient - an aluminum whirligig for example, something to separate your pipe from other, ostensibly lesser pipes. There was a sort of space-race in this regard, back in the day. Every pipe had a magic something or other. Dunhill never really did though - the magic was that they made these pipes with very smoothly fitted interiors - even their magic aluminum fitment was... just a plain tube.
Castello carries this tradition further - no tube, no nothing. Briar and a stem. Drilled correctly, polished out, lined up. And ... by golly... that's all there is to it. You buy good briar, you sit on it for a couple years (Castello says ten, I believe them, but 2 is probably enough to see real stabilization of the wood). You build a pipe carefully out of the wood, you line up holes, you make things smooth, and bingo, the thing is a cracking smoker! It's that simple.
It's hard enough to do that most pipe companies don't even try. I think it's quite correct to NOT call Castello a factory pipe. They are not really factory-ish in a lot of ways.
Are they all perfect exemplars of the pipe making craft? Hell no. But even the eccentric examples I have seen have mostly not been BAD. And I've seen BAD from a lot of other makers. Some makers really specialize in mediocrity. Some only occassionally rise to mediocrity. Castello seem to half way give a shit, to put it bluntly.
Yet they are not perfect pipes - the drilling can be a little off, or a little rough. The slotting in the stems is... a joke, honestly, compared to American artisan standards. Buttons a bit wonky, shaping... well, find a good one I guess. But smoking? Yeah, they work.
For the physics part... what we're talking about is getting a hot gas from point A to point B in one piece. Give it a nice, smooth ride. You do that, you got yourself a pipe.

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
965
4
So.... earlier this year, in a fit of madness, I bought a Savinelli Punto Oro Gold. Nice looking piece of wood, supposed to be Savinelli's flagship pipe. Nice billiard, tight little sandblast. I smoke the thing... it's adequate. 200 dollar pipe, so yeah, half the price of the equivalent Castello.
Heel gets hot. Like I mean, hot hot.
So I look into it. And the thing is drilled... downhill.

You can see the airway angled DOWN.
Down.
So yeah the briar in the heel measures like... .02" or something. There's nothing there. It'll burn out eventually. Unless I'm just ultra careful.
Nice looking pipe though.
Go to tabacheria corti. Find a Castello, put it in the cart, watch the price drop by 22% because you are not in Italy, and enjoy a real decent pipe. 50 bucks more I coulda had a castello and not this stupid savinelli. Grrr!

 

lochinvar

Preferred Member
Oct 22, 2013
1,304
6
I can't tell you if its worth more for everyone or not. To me, they are great smokers and worth what I have paid for them, but I usually buy estate so even my more expensive smooth Castellos were cheaper than a new Sea Rock. I have eight and everyone of them smokes perfectly, or should I say, perfectly for my smoking habits. Their stemwork has always produced a comfortable stem especially the shaping and size of the button, as I tend to let pipes hang in my jaw. As well, I prefer an open draw, which they have...wide open on the later Kino ones. I've yet to have one with a construction issue, so they are either well made or I'm living right. Aesthetically, I find them superior to every Italian pipe, save Rinaldo. Yet again, that is to my eye.
The way they smoke is the major draw for me. Some people have described Castellos as being a brighter smoke. To me, they bring out the broader flavors in Virginas, while making Latakia too sharp and metallic (I only have one Castello that smokes Latakia well, and it makes Bengal Slices a champ). Their combination of physics and briar create a great platform for the smoke.
If you find a Castello that grabs you, try it if the price is agreeable. If you're looking for the Holy Grail of pipes, you'll be let down no matter how it smokes. Nothing lives up to hype, hype leads to letdown.
Now I'm going to light up the greatest pipe ever made, a No Name merely stamped "Algerian Briar" and "Made in France". It was made no later than 1959, cost me $30 and blows every Castello, Dunhill, Stanwell and Savinelli out of the water:)

 

paulfg

Senior Member
Feb 21, 2016
372
14
Corfu Greece
I must be the only one who doesnt get on with castello's

i have had 3 and sold them all as i found the Acrylic stem not to my taste and the draw way to open for my liking.

each to their own I guess

 

oldgeezersmoker

Preferred Member
Oct 7, 2016
1,116
4
My love for Castellos is well known, but they are by no means perfect pipes, always. I have owned one, a 65, that absolutely would not pass a pioe cleaner, and several that would only pass one if you hooked and twisted it carefully. I have owned any number of G, GG, and GGG 75’s and 32’s (Lovat and Canadian) whose draft holes were so far away from the bottom center of the bowl as to be a joke.
Yet 90% of my pipe budget (a nebulous concept) ends up buying new and estate Castellos. In the past, Castellos were so hard to find that you had to put up with the occasional clunker. You don’t anymore if you buy where you have a return privilege.
I have owned numerous Savinellis and a few Stanwells. I had a big black bent Dublin Autograph sandblast that I would love to have back.
I do find that overall my current collection of Castellos smoke better for me than the pipes that they have replaced, I smoke lots of different tobaccos, and I almost never taste a ghost. Yesterday I smoked a bowl of McConnell Scottish Flake in one that had previously been smoked with GH Louisiana Flake, not the heaviest Lakeland out there but still a definite Lakeland. No hint of a ghost.
Sasquatch has noted in a previous thread that the first three or four bowls in a Castello are really where the extra age shines. I would expand that to the first 8 or 10 bowls, which is what I allow to break in a new one (usually, and fortunately still for the foreseeable future, with McClelland 5100, 5105, those two mixed, or 2010), and I believe that the extra aged briar combined with that level of attention to breaking one in has virtually ghost proofed the Castellos I have owned since new. I will smoke any thing in any of them with nary a thought given to “dedicating “ one to a certain tobacco type. Estates are a different story, but I can usually bring them around to that point.
But I fundamentally disagree with a major premise of the OP. You also smoke with your eyes. Around 1984 or 1985, I went to my first pipe show, put on by Bruce Spencer’s long defunct Pipe Collectors International in Chattanooga TN. At that time, I owned exactly one Castello, and I counted myself fortunate to own it as the shop I frequented got about 1 a year. They certainly had nothing in their inventory that looked like it. I was somewhat impressed by the collections of Dunhills,Charatans, etc. that greeted me on arrival in the front row, but I had seen many examples of those brands by then. But I turned a corner, and laid eyes on Chuck Rio’s Castello collection, Sea Rocks for the most part. I was totally blown away. It was only then that I truly realized the artistry behind the name. And only then that I understood why Carlo Scotti was honored for design in Italy, where they appreciate that sort of thing.
To this day, I don’t think I have ever pulled a Castello from my rack without that mental picture of Chucks table flashing in front of me. I was 34 or 35 years old then, and I have never, ever been able to view pipe smoking as a utilitarian exercise since that experience.

 

chasingembers

Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
15,537
168
They pass a pipe cleaner (always).
That's always the deal maker or breaker with me. Out of three Dunhills I've owned, two straight billiards and one zulu, none passed a pipe cleaner. My Castello 293 never failed.

 

bnichols23

Preferred Member
Mar 13, 2018
2,723
50
SC Piedmont
More likely you didn't *see* what you were looking at.
Hey, now, be nice. -grin- I was just being agreeable. :) I knew & know what to look for in a good pipe & a bad one, & did work in that many shops in addition to 50+ years of my own on the customer side of the counter. :) Like you, I can only go by my own experience, which is what I did. No real need to go assumptive & derogatory; I didn't with you, right? :)
No worries either way -- we can all only go by what we ourselves have experienced when forming our opinions. Mine've all been good & yours've not, & that's really all either of us've got. I'm perfectly willing to be happy with that & not call your capability/judgment into question. :)
B