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Radio Talk Show

  • Gabe Skypala
    Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 542

    Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 542! Our featured interview tonight is with Gabe Skypala. This is the first in our series of interviews with “Journeymen Pipe Smokers” – guys that have been smoking pipes between five and 10 years. Gabe is a native Texan from Amarillo. He grew up helping out on his uncle’s cow farm and thought that might be his trade at the time. He also played college basketball (he’s 6’9″), was pre-med at Samford University, did some youth ministry, and is now in sales in the electrical equipment business. Gabe also is a BJJ white belt, and amateur pipe maker. At the top of the show, Brian will give us a list of pipe makers that have quit making pipes that you should seek out on the estate market. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!

  • Fred Hanna & Rich Esserman
    Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 541

    Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 541! We have a pipe personalities packed show tonight. We’ve been running two different series with two different prominent pipe collectors and authors. We have “Inside Fred’s Head” with Fred Hanna. He is the author of the book, “The Perfect Smoke”, and known for collecting straight grain pipes. The other series is a follow-up to Fred, “Rich Responds” with Rich Esserman. Rich has penned innumerous articles about pipes and tobacco for several publications, and he is known for collecting quite large pipes. We’ll be featuring the final remnants of those two series all in this show. As if that’s not enough, at the top of the show our segment will feature pipe artisan Jeff Gracik with another installment of “Ask the Pipemaker”. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!

  • Pete Prevost
    Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 540

    Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 540! Our featured interview tonight is with Pete Prevost. Pete is a pipe maker and the President of the BriarWorks pipe factory in Columbia Tennessee. BriarWorks is a a pipe maker co-op with several other pipe makers, including Todd Johnson, who co-founded it with Pete. Brian and Pete will be talking about that as well as the up-coming 2023 Muletown Pipe Show which is held at BriarWorks. In a past life, Pete was the guitar player in the band Sanctus Real. Our music segment will feature one of their Grammy-nominated songs. At the top of the show, Brian will give us his comparisons between three different vintages of Sutliff’s Kringle Flake tobacco from the last three years. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!

Tobacco Reviews

  • C&D Jolly Old St. Nicholas & We Three Kings
    C&D Jolly Old St. Nicholas & We Three Kings

    For one who generally trends toward the curmudgeonly, particularly around the holidays, this season finds me in an uncharacteristically cheerful frame of mind; though at times tumultuous, the year has brought many changes and challenges, and as the accounting goes I feel satisfied that my balance stretches into the black in all regards. With plenty to be grateful for and the prospect of yuletide gatherings ahead, a selection of seasonal aromatics further enhance my congenial mood and, hopefully, will be tolerated (if not appreciated) by the innocent bystanders at parties. The lineup for this month’s review are two blends eminently suitable for smoking amongst a crowd, holiday releases from Cornell & Diehl with the perfect combination of charming room notes and satisfying smokes: We Three Kings and Jolly Old St Nicholas—offerings that should intrigue even the grinchiest among us. Inspired by the first widely popular Christmas carol written in the U.S. (1857), We Three Kings alludes to the Magi who traveled to the nativity bearing exotic spices and treasures. Delivering rich Black Cavendish with equal measures of matured Red and Bright Virginias and specially sourced Katerini Turkish leaf, this magical holiday mixture delights with notes of allspice, cinnamon, and vanilla. So reads the tin description for C&D’s twist on a bog-standard aromatic formula, and it’s certainly spot-on in the tin description for its mild mid-range palette of decidedly tobacco-forward flavors. The Katerini leaf here is in fine form, taking cues from the light casing and further enhancing the spice profile rather than being just another leaf in the mix. Opening the year-old tin from its slumber releases a core of sweet Virginia aromas couched in complementary shades and tones: wine and parchment, sour fruit, pecan pie fresh from the oven, smoky cherry, furniture polish and a vanilla candle in the kitchen. Immediately apparent is that this is not in the category of goopy aromatics; the leaf is soft and lightly moist, and feels good in the fingers with its strands of ribbon, bits of tumbled flake, and thicker jet-black Cavendish leaving no sticky residue from handling during preparation. A few minutes’ drying time and the flavors transcribe from tin to palate admirably from the first light. The smoke is mildly sharp and tangy with the Katerini leaf evincing the strengths of the Turkish profile, leaning the flavors into the smoky end of the spectrum while being propped up by the natural sweetness of the Virginia and the subtle casing. Paired with a nice cup of Earl Grey or an after-dinner coffee, a couple of bowls close out an evening magnificently, enveloping the smoker and surrounds in a very cozy rustic aroma; it does lay a smidge on the astringent side, so exercise caution with repeated bowls. First introduced in 2014, We Three Kings was in stock at SmokingPipes.com, and worth keeping a tin on hand even during the off season. [Editor’s note: This is sold out at time of publication, but check this link in the future.] A largesse of St. Nick’s personal smoking mixture, this magical blend combines the finest golden Virginias with mellow Black Cavendish and a whisper of genuine St. James Perique for complex tobacco flavor enhanced by notes of orange liqueur and hints of ginger – alluding to an early legend of Kris Kringle secretly gifting gold to a needful family. Fresh for this 2022 season, a revamping of the 2018 Christmas release Jolly Old St Nicholas, this time with a bit of St. James Perique in the mix. An aromatic twist on a solid VaPer base has been done before, calling to mind BriarWorks’ Sweet Tea among other concoctions; this one just hits all the right spots in all the right places. The tin aroma is especially alluring, considering it’s only a month old—Virginia hay-tone sweetness set against a mouth-watering orange liqueur, with creamy undertones of anise and ginger, building hearty chocolate-covered cherry overtones along with the familiar woody and leathery Virginia backbone after some airing time in the tin. The blend of leaf is a roughly even mix of light Virginia leaf and nuggety Black Cavendish and Perique, and like We Three Kings it is not heavily sauced, only slightly moist in the tin and needing a short fifteen-ish minutes’ dry time to prepare a bowl. [Available here.] The smoke itself does not carry over as much of the orange flavor as the tin note, instead shifting complexion to offer some nutty character reminiscent of burley—“chestnuts roasting on an open fire” certainly comes to mind—with a spicy melange wrapped around the core tastes of sweet Virginia and Cavendish. The Perique lends a wonderful earthiness to the tones even while accentuating the sweetness, presenting flavors of chocolate and bready treats, the citrusy spice of orange pomander balls, butternut squash, cinnamon latte and panettone. The sidestream smoke and room note are equally delicious, and have elicited nothing but compliments amongst friends. Burning easily and cool with small sips, an added bonus is the subdued aftertaste of Necco wafers when finishing a bowl. Smells delightful, lights easily, burns easily, delivers superb flavor with subtlety and complexity, no bite—this is easily the best aromatic blend I’ve had this year, and gives my all-time favorite, the erstwhile Peterson 2010 holiday blend made by Kohlhase & Kopp, a run for the gold; I would love to see this blend kept in regular production. Just in case it’s not, I’ll be stocking my cellar up in anticipation of Christmases future. Again reflecting on the relative luxury which I am afforded this year, I hope that all our readers have ample time this holiday to enjoy one of these blends or pull out a favorite from their own cellar, reflect on the past year with temperate eyes and count their blessings, and be pleased with the dividends while striving for a better tomorrow.

  • Give Me Liberty Tobacco Review
    Give Me Liberty Review

    A notion that’s been on my mind of late is legacy; what remains from one’s hour of strutting and fretting upon the stage? I suppose it’s a not-uncommon preoccupation as one gets older and more mature—neither of which I’ll admit to readily, by the way. So it’s fitting that this month’s review is an appraisal of Give Me Liberty, the latest entry in the Signature Series from the Seattle Pipe Club blends produced by Sutliff, and the legacy of departed brother of the briar Joe Lankford, whose passing in September lessened the pipe world. Though I did not know Joe personally, I came to know of him through his blends for the Seattle club, as did many of us in the community. Joe created blends with such a sterling reputation that many of them, like Mississippi River and Plum Pudding, are already assured places in the pantheon of all-time great smokes. The man had many talents, and we are fortunate to have benefited from his passion for pipe tobacco. Virginia tobacco is the queen of leaf, to be certain; the backbone around which the lion’s share of blends are built. Give Me Liberty as well as its sister plug, Hogshead, (released in May) is an homage to this, as well as recognition that the cultivation of tobacco played such a central role in the establishment of America as a nation—tobacco was so important a crop that it functioned as a primary currency in the colonies for its first couple of centuries. Having had the pleasure of reviewing a few of the SPC blends over the years, I’ve personally found them to be remarkable for their individuality. Liberty is no exception to this: a hefty and hearty four-ounce brick of Old Belt Red Virginia from North Carolina tempered with stoved Brazilian leaf is packaged in the cardboard tin, which naturally features a stylized version of the Currier & Ives lithograph of Patrick Henry uttering his famous entreaty. There’s something special about a plug—the stoutness of it, the craftsmanship of it. For me it calls to mind woodworking or chefing; manipulating something with your hands, forging a thing into shape, has a very visceral appeal. Evidencing a shortish time in the press along with a good amount of moisture, Liberty when sliced easily crumbles into a tumble of evenly-cut leaf of a mahogany brindle, making for easy preparation and packing. The tin aroma when fresh is quite tart, high on the citrusy scale with that ketchupy tang of well-aged VA; with some time acclimating to oxygen it tempers down to a stewed cherry richness, with hints of cocoa, string beans, fresh-cut hay, and fallen autumn leaves. Noticeably absent are very woody overtones or much in the way of the oily leather aromas that one often finds with pure Virginia blends. This leads me to believe that a very particular care was taken in selection of leaf for the blend, and builds the anticipation of lighting it up. Smoking a well-dried first bowl of Liberty at first is deceptively subtle and mild. There are initial tart notes on the tongue, and a bit of the softened woody tones that seemed absent from the tin bouquet—light wood; think willow or beech, as opposed to more commonplace tannic oak or bitter walnut. True to labeling, and despite the tingling on the tongue, there really is no bite in the smoke at all, down through to the heel of repeated bowls. Liberty starts to develop some complexity mid-bowl; as I find I’ve tended toward over-drying it in my preparation, a light but steady cadence with some breath smoking to gently add some hydration back into the bowl opens the bloom of flavors. This blend is all about the subtleties—a diaphanous mouthfeel, with tastes of woody char, fresh white bread, and mild-mannered sweet and herbaceous notes in the range of soft grilled citrus and burnt lemongrass, as well as a faint umami of wild game, predominate. The bowl requires a bit of tending as well, with several relights and close attention from the tamper and pick—not at all a detractor from the experience, though, as it demands that the smoker slow down, dedicate the time to focusing on the task at hand, and remain contemplative to get the full feel of it. My main testing implement for this blend was an early 19th century cutty in meerschaum and amber with a rather capacious bowl. I found it best to pack it only half-full, allowing plenty of air and room for cherry tending, and the pipe itself demanded I pay attention as it’s decidedly not a clench-and-forget piece. This blend is not about trumpets blaring, neon lights flashing, or explosions of flavor in your mouth—it’s about settling in for some quality rumination and reverie. While the flavors certainly build over the course of a bowl, they never shout, never overplay their hand. Heading toward the heel, each performance ends with a perfect denouement redolent with the taste of burnt ends and much more of the woody, vegetal, and tarry notes so concealed from the onset. Overall a mild-medium flavor and aroma profile, as well as nicotine content; the sidestream smoke is equally mild and quickly dissipates. To note, drink accompaniments were tricky to pair with this, as overly sweet or sour drinks really tend to drown out the flavors of the smoke; I recommend a very light tea or simply a sparkling water to be best. Another recommendation for accompaniment is a reading of the book of Ecclesiastes. While personally not a religious man, I accept great wisdoms wherever they may be written. Give Me Liberty is an earthy smoke that really calls out for measured reflection; and meditating on the passing of a season, and the passing of a friend to us all, is worthy pursuit indeed. The heart of pipe smoking is that it is an act of remembrance, through its self-contained rituals and appurtenances. Along with everything else he will be remembered for, Joe […]

  • Davidoff Flake Medallions Review
    Davidoff Flake Medallions Review

    Looking for that 4-leaf-clover The late summer weather has been a glorious oven to bask in, for those of us who enjoy the heat. It’s led me to spend quite a bit of time in concerted pursuit of quality lollygagging in the local park to enjoy my tobaccos, for one thing. Having focused so much on old tobaccos lately, it seemed like a good time to switch up the menu with a recent production tin of Davidoff Flake Medallions. An afternoon found me puffing idly in a field of grass, killing time without injuring eternity, pondering what makes this pursuit of flavors such an always-new endeavor. As any good chef knows, you eat with your eyes first. Presentation begins before we even get to the tobacco, whether we admit it to ourselves or not—the name, tin art, and reputation of a blend all begin to shape opinion well before the flame touches the leaf. Davidoff’s offerings, while not extensive, represent a solid range of tobaccos for the pipe smoker, in the vein of the erstwhile luxury brands Dunhill and Nat Sherman. Perhaps more well known for their cigar bands, their quality and consistency positions them as a well-regarded marque in pipes, pipe tobaccos, and cigarettes as well. That said, the presentation here begins with the tin, a regal label in crimson with gold filigree lettering—simple, straightforward, and très classy. Opening the tin releases a fresh bouquet of rich sweet dried plum, dry grassy summer hay, moist fig, and hints of sweet chocolate, with light leathery and woody undertones. After some time airing out to settle, the earthy and woody range of aromas dominate, though still with the hints of sweetness around the edges. The coins themselves are gorgeous and uniform, with the brindle of lemon-yellow to dark mahogany leaf surrounding the core of ebony Cavendish. So far, everything about the presentation speaks of care and craftsmanship in the process; whether it’s called curly cut, spun cut, roll cut, or rope, this particular style of tobacco is also one of the most expensive and time consuming to produce, and Flake Medallions certainly represents well here on all points. While there are a few other fairly well-known takes on the coin cut presentation, we’ll steer clear of direct comparisons here. My preferred preparation is to rub out a couple coins rather than folding and stuffing, though I will admit to occasionally enjoying placing the Cavendish centers strategically in the middle and top third of the bowl. From the light to the heel, the blend smokes cool, smooth, and steady, with few relights and not a hint of bite, even from this fresh tin. The balance of the tobaccos here is exquisite. The Virginia base is solid and well-tamed, Perique is restrained to a supporting role as a condimental spice, and the Cavendish balances the two, rounding it all out and adding depth and sweetness to the structure. This is definitely on the (mildly) spicy and savory end of the VaPer spectrum, with just a bit of tang at the top of the bowl which, upon reaching the heel, has transformed into a well-measured umami, with a great mouthfeel and excellent aftertaste. To confirm my initial impressions, I spent some time in the kitchen matching up the aromas to the flavors represented. The primary aromas and flavors of fig are spot on, and decidedly on the side of black Mission figs; the tempered sweetness here is more honey than the Mediterranean varieties (which tend more toward a floral or fruity bent), while still structured around a very earthy vegetal profile. Whichever preparation was used, bowl after bowl found a varying cadence that also drew out the familiar raisin / plum / date / prune notes, drying hay, toasted bread, brewer’s yeast, fresh cut oak, and turned earth in the secondary and tertiary aromas. The sidestream smoke, which was commented on from a passerby as being “rustic”, is generally mild and lightly touches all of the aromas well, making it a not unpleasant experience for the bystander. Also evidenced bowl after bowl was the satisfying flat-cola aftertaste it leaves, like a memory of sweetness. Overall the blend is superb, and I could kick myself for not having dozens of tins already socked away in the cellar.Again, there are more than a few representative entries in this style of blend, and for my money Davidoff Flake Medallions certainly deserves its own particular niche within the field. What strikes me most about the blend is the balance that it achieves, which sets the flavor slightly apart from any of its direct competitors. Mild on the nicotine, mild to medium on the side smoke, and remarkable consistency and refinement in the smoking itself. With a reasonable price point it’s worthy of the all-day smoke category, while the presentation makes for a classy choice when out on the town or for special occasions. It has certainly found a place in my cellaring list. Speaking of coin cut tobaccos, special occasions, and summertime…. I picked up my tin of Flake Medallions on the way to the most recent New York Pipe Club meeting. I’d been missing in action from the club for a few years; work became a bit all-consuming to the detriment of social activities for a while, followed by a couple years of relocation far afield. Enjoying this blend at the meeting got me thinking about what to bring to our upcoming annual picnic at the end of the month; it had to be something that was as refined, classy, and memorable. Unfortunately I didn’t have any well-aged tins of Flake Medallions to bring, so I went with the next-best thing: a cutter-top tin of Escudo from the 1950s. In the interest of full disclosure, I was a little disappointed at first. The tin had lost its integrity sometime in the last five years and as many moves, to my eternal regret. Fortunately it was at least kept with other tobaccos in sealed plastic bins, so […]

Fireside

  • Original Bengal Slices by James B. Russell
    Doin’ the Bengal Breakdown

    It’s far from a closely-held secret that for years I’ve had a bit of a love affair with the old, Celebrated Bengal Slices. I fondly recall my first experience with it in the late 1970s when, on one of my almost daily visits to Drucquer & Sons, a fresh shipment had just arrived. There it was, in its beautiful gloss black, red and gold livery, dramatically standing out from its peers, calling attention to itself from its perch on the shelf behind the counter.  “What’s that, in the black tin?” I asked Ken, who had become something of a tobacco mentor to me. “The Bengal Slices? It’s great stuff,” he said, pulling a tin from the shelf and handing it to me, explaining that it was a Latakia mixture with a difference. The ribbons were pressed in blocks and sliced, so it had to be broken up to prepare it for smoking. “You have to pack it lightly, or it’ll clog the pipe and become impossible to smoke when it expands. It’s got a little bit of scent added to it.”  That last bit nearly put me off it; I was still recoiling from early experiences with heavily perfumed, goopy, pouched tobaccos that smelled better than they smoked. But curiosity, as it too often does, had its way with me, and I couldn’t resist the singular beauty of that tin. I bought it, dropped it into my satchel, and off I went.  Later that day, I popped the lid and was instantly captivated. The perfect slices, standing at attention in a tight array, dark and mysterious, almost glistening with the same hues as the tin’s lid — black, red and golden. The aroma was rich and bold, ripe with Latakia, orientals and virginias. The scent Ken had mentioned, which I’d taken as a warning, wasn’t at all overbearing, but rather soft and seductive, beautifully integrated with the tobaccos’ natural aromas. It transformed what was basically a “typical” Latakia mixture into something  that seemed more luxurious, even opulent. Though still fairly new to smoking flakes at the time, and certainly inexperienced, I had developed  a bit of understanding of them. These were different, though — thicker, more robust looking. I gently removed one from the tin, placed it in my palm, and began teasing it apart. It took little encouragement for it to crumble into small fragments. As I filled my bowl, Ken’s counsel about packing forgotten (more likely arrogantly ignored), I looked forward to the first taste of my new treasure. Disaster! The charring light almost went okay, promising something good to come, but the tobacco soon went out, and stubbornly refused to light. Trying to get an ember going was the equivalent to a futile attempt to set fire to a brick of asbestos.  Frustrated, I dumped the bowl, and started again, this time heeding Ken’s advice, allowing gravity to do the work. Much better. Even at first light, it was transcendent. The richness of the tobaccos, pressed and fermented in cakes, already set it apart from its ribbon-cut peers, but that scent! Soft and diaphanous, it didn’t clash with the flavor of the tobacco, but somehow enhanced it, bringing another layer, greater dimension to what was already something pretty special, and it remained throughout the bowl, never shouting, but whispering its presence. I was immediately smitten. The next time I was in the shop, I bought three more tins, something I would continue to do periodically through the years. At the time, I thought this was a truly unique tobacco, the only thing of its kind, but I would find out years later that it wasn’t the first, or the only, and that its story was both interesting and infused with dram of controversy. And, as it turns out, the fires of that controversy ultimately forged this tobacco into what became something so very, very special.  The Celebrated Bengal Slices was originally made by Sobranie House exclusively for James B. Russell (JBR), and first found its way to market around September of 1977. But, as early as the mid- to late-1960s, Sobranie were making a similar product for Joe Zieve’s Smoker’s Haven in Columbus, OH. Joe wanted to bring something unique to the market, something that hadn’t been done before, so he had Sobranie, who were already making the Haven’s renown Our Best Blend for him, press the ribbons, age the blend in cakes, and cut the cakes into slices. This was different from the more traditional form of flake tobacco, made from whole leaf strips, and resulted in a product Joe called Krumble Kake. It was his intention that this tobacco be compact, like a plug, yet easier than a flake to prepare for smoking. It was a hit, becoming one of the shop’s most successful blends for decades to follow. The controversy finds us in the late 1970s, when JBR contracted Sobranie to make something similar for them. Apparently, it was a little too similar to Krumble Kake for Joe’s liking, and from what I’ve heard, his reaction was predictably cinematic, possibly going as far as threatening to discontinue his relationship with Sobranie over the apparent infraction, so JBR and Sobranie were forced to change the recipe. Whether or not the leaf formulation was changed is unknown, but the changes certainly resulted in that elusive scent joining the party. The Celebrated Bengal Slices was born. (Interestingly, JBR did not register the trademark until March, 1979, though the blend did appear in their catalogue in 1978.) When Sobranie shuttered in 1980, licensing the production of their blends to Gallaher’s, both Bengal Slices and Krumble Kake, being proprietary products, were not transitioned to the new manufacturer. Production of Krumble Kake and the other Smoker’s Haven blends moved to G.F. Germain on Jersey, while Bengal Slices was transferred to Manchester Tobacco Company, where it was produced until 1991, then making its final move to Denmark’s A&C Peterson. For whatever reason, the Danish product didn’t hold my affection like […]

  • Embarcadero Tobacco with Pease-King Designed Pipe
    The Charring Light

    Sometimes, fortunately not too often, I forget stuff, and it bugs me. What’s worse, though, is when I don’t remember that I forgot it, though I guess that bugs me less because I don’t even know I should be bugged. When something is out of mind long enough, though, it can be fun to rediscover what it was, sometimes in a whole new way. This happened recently in a couple ways, and it’s been a blast.  First up, the charring light. Some time ago, my friend Quinton reintroduced me to the advantages of using the first light to gently warm the tobacco at first, not drawing deeply to get an ember going, but to take very soft puffs to draw a bit of heat into the bowl, letting the tobacco bloom a bit, and pull the volatiles that are released softly through the tobacco below. It’s no great revelation, but it’s something that I’d been ignoring. Too often, I find myself rushing the process, wanting to get the pipe lit before scurrying off to do something else. Not ideal.  His method? Instead of pulling it into the bowl on the initial light, hold the flame a good distance from the tobacco, about ⅜” (1cm), and draw delicately while moving the flame in a “Circular motion hitherto unknown to the people in this area.” (Apologies to the late Frank Zappa, but bonus points if you catch the reference.) When the tobacco is ready, it will begin to glow and smolder and dance, sort of spontaneously lighting itself. Tamp delicately, let it just sit for a few relaxing minutes, and re-light, again gently. It might take a couple times to get the hang of it, but the reward is a noticeable amplification of the flavor and aroma, an enhancement of the tobacco’s natural sweetness, and just a more beautiful smoking experience. To be clear, this is not the same thing as the once popularly discussed Delayed Gratification Technique, or DGT. Honestly, I was never, and still am not a big fan of that. The idea was to get the pipe lit, then put it aside for some hours, even overnight, and return to it later. Perhaps the worst aspect of this technique is the inconsistency it can produce. If all is done perfectly, the initial light gently applied, not too much distillate finding its way to the bottom of the bowl to oxidize and potentially foul the smoke and so on, it can present an interesting difference in taste, but too often, I would find the result harsh, acrid and far from satisfying. I don’t like re-lit cigars for very much the same reasons. This isn’t that. It’s about taking time, slowing down, lighting the pipe with intention, gradually building the ember to maximize the smoking experience. Try it. You might like it. (Then again, you probably already do it, and I’m just talking to myself. That seems to happen a lot these days.) Next up, the idea of letting a tin of tobacco breathe once it’s been opened, especially young tins. When tobacco is tinned, it begins a new journey, undergoing a unique sequence of chemical changes that are different from those that occur when it’s sitting out in the open, or even in plastic bags. These changes start out happening quite rapidly, and slow down over time, but once the tin is opened, everything changes. And, the first bowl from that freshly opened tin can be awkward, disjointed and unbalanced, not revealing all the goodness the tobacco has to offer, and even present some “off” tastes. Like a good wine, it can benefit dramatically from a little breathing room to develop its full flavor and aroma profile. I was reminded of this very recently, and posted something about it on Instagram. Here’s a paraphrase of what I wrote: “I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of this one over the years, usually with some age behind it. As I’ve often written, the first year of a tinned blend’s life is its most dramatic. After that, the processes involved and the changes begin to slow down, and while tobaccos will continue to develop over five, ten, even twenty years or more, never is the change so noticeable as it is in that first year. So, I decided to open a tin produced within the last couple months to re-experience the leaf in its fresh state. “I found the first bowl from that freshly opened tin disappointing. It did not exhibit the character I’ve come to know.” In the enthusiasm of my curiosity, I’d ignored, or more correctly forgotten about the breathing time. But, after just a couple days, everything had come together, and the blend was smoking beautifully. The character it exhibits when aged is certainly deeper, more complex, a little richer as the Virginias ferment more and develop substance, but in its younger guise, there’s a vibrance I found myself really enjoying. It’s sparkling and exuberant. Kind of like a Beaujolais Nouveau as compared with a nicely aged Cru. Yeah, aged tobaccos are wonderful, but it’s nice to remember that even when young, blends can be delightful, as long as we don’t light them too aggressively, and remember to let them breathe a bit. Thanks to Quinton and a tin of young tobacco for the reminders. Thanks, too, to Mr. Zappa for the bonus points. I’m off to St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast to steal the margarine. I just hope Father O’Blivion doesn’t catch me and send me into the Cosmic Debris. The Excentrifugal Forz can really make my head spin. Photo by G.L. Pease

  • Peterson Silver Spigot 107
    Breaking it In

    Predictably, the Vegas pipe extravaganza of 2022, the first pipe show I’ve attended since 2019, was an absolute delight. I met up with old friends, made some new ones, and just had a complete blast. If you didn’t make it this year, I hope you’ll consider coming in 2023. If you were there, I hope we had at least a few minutes to chat. If we didn’t, see above. One of the most heartening things to me was meeting so many young people, new to the hobby, who brought an infectious enthusiasm with them to the show, and with it hope for a new generation of pipe smokers to keep the embers going in years to come. There were so many beautiful pieces on exhibit, both old and new, and any list I attempt to cobble together would be embarrassingly incomplete, so I’ll stop with that. I came home with only three pipes, though it was very nearly four and easily could have been ten times that number. Two of these are new, one from a maker I met for the first time, the third is an estate piece. Then, there’s the one that got away. I’d spotted a bamboo shank beauty that I really wanted. I was on my way to make it mine when I was briefly distracted. Those few seconds might as well have been an eternity during which the universe conspired against me; as I rounded the corner on my way to this maker’s table, I watched as my pipe was tucked into its bag and put into the hands of another. “Scoundrel! You bought my pipe!” Just as in horse racing, those few seconds were all it took. Those few seconds represented the difference between taking home the purse or going home empty. It’s okay. It’s just a pipe. There will be another. There will always be another. The three of us had a bit of a laugh over it, and in time, yes, I’ll get a similar piece from this maker, maybe one I like even more, and the balance of the universe will be restored. Since returning home, its new caretaker, its maker and I have had a bit of good natured banter over it, as it should be. That pipe stimulated two new relationships more valuable than having the pipe would have been. (Yeah. I’m being philosophical here. Truth is, I’ve been fomenting plans to lay siege to this fellows pipe fortress, nick that pipe, and replace it with an accurate simulacrum produced on my friend’s son’s 3-d printer. In truth, who’s to say that hasn’t already happened?) The two new pipes I brought home are, first, a beautiful Peterson silver spigot 107, a classic stout billiard. Everything about it just called to me – the wood, the silver, the shape – and as I was already working out a trade deal with its vendor, the transaction was painless. Yes! The second is a delightful modern interpretation of a bent bulldog from Dustin Franc, a maker new to me, but one I’ll certainly be watching closely. Dustin’s work is inspired, playful, interesting, and exciting. If you haven’t seen his pipes, look him up.  Both of these pipes have shown themselves to be wonderful smokers, too, but this month’s chat  is really about that third pipe, a beautifully made little sandblasted, squat bulldog by Mike Burkes. Mike is a mechanical engineer by profession, and it shows in the precision of his work. The pipe had been nicely restored, the price was right, and had to have it. The only problem, revealed later, is that its previous owner had enjoyed some pretty powerful aromatic tobaccos. Smoke what you like, of course, I’m all for that, but to my palate, the specters of aromatics past brutally interfere with my enjoyment of the unflavored blends I generally prefer. Some ghosts just don’t play well with others. (I know some feel similarly about Latakia, or even Perique. Such heresy will not be accepted!) So, when I got home, the ancient and sacred rites of exorcism began. I lit candles, drew a small  triangle and a large circle surrounded by mysterious symbols on the floor, turned the lights down, donned ceremonial robes, and lit the censer filled with a consecrated incense of pure Latakia and Perique. I placed my ancient copies of Alfred Dunhill’s The Gentle Art of Smoking, and Georges Herment’s The Pipe (a serious yet diverting treatise) upon an altar made from a bale of nearly petrified tobacco leaves procured from Sobranie House just prior to its shuttering. I take this stuff seriously. Carefully reaming the bowl back to the walls and cleansing the shank thoroughly, I prepared the pipe for its subsequent anointing with holy alcohol and salt purified by the light of the full moon. After carefully placing the pipe on the altar, I began chanting from the sacred tomes, fascinated as diaphanous wisps screeched and howled, attempting to distract me as they were compelled to fly through the smoky air into the prison of the magical triangle. By sunrise, the first part of the ritual was complete. What is this foolishness, Pease? In less esoteric terms, the alcohol helps to dissolve and pull the goo from the wood; the salt serves as a new home in which the goo can take up residence. This method doesn’t reach the deeper layers, of course. Smoking a pipe is a dynamic process, and the temperature gradient that results from smoldering tobacco creates an environment in which the capillaries of the wood can transport oils and aromatic compounds more deeply into its core, and back out when you least expect, or want them. The rest? Theater or madness. You decide. It’s never a 100% cure, but it can really help, and in this case, the ghostly roar was reduced to a whimper that I hoped would dissipate over time as I broke the pipe in to begin its second life. Since I now have essentially three […]

The Pipe Pundit

  • Some old friends take center stage at beginning of a new year of pipes and tobacco. From left, an ancient Ashton Brindle, an English made Royal Fallings basket pipe from the 1960s and a Deluxe Peterson System 9S, one of the large bent billiards in the Deluxe System chart. (Photo by Fred Brown)
    Happy Pipe, Happy Life

    Walking about a rock-strewn riverbank, flyrod in hand and pipe clenched firmly, it came time to just sit and observe life around me. It was a misty morning, coolish, water rushing on its destination to, where? Maybe the Gulf of Mexico, or to join one of Tennessee’s great river chains. A pensive moment among the hoary rivers. Moss-covered rocks, patched in green rugs and teeming with unknown squiggly activity, caught my eye. As did a blue heron (Ardea Herodias). The given avian sex, male or female, escaped me as I watched this great fisherman bend its lean neck and long dagger-shaped pointed beak close to the water’s surface. Faster than the eye could follow, the heron stabbed a small fish, leaving me in wonder about what else swam below the rushing mountain stream. Memories of past fly-fishing adventures flooded over me as I smoked my pipe. The peaceful process of pipe smoking presents a more thoughtful approach to life, methinks. The entire script of packing, lighting, puffing, tamping, and relighting, adds to (with many remorseful apologies to Mr. E=MC2) a more thoughtful approach to our existence on this beautiful blue orb floating in the black vacuum of time. Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity (and, yes, he smoked a pipe tobacco blend named Revelation, shadowing the name of his theories), and quantum mechanics are the basics today for modern physics (Pundit was once overcome with trying to parse physics in  Dr. Neill G. Whitelaw’s Physics 101 class). The spring 1960 issue of Presbyterian College Magazine has one of the best quotes about Dr. Whitelaw that sticks with the Pundit to this day: “Ask any Presbyterian College graduate of the past quarter-century to name PC’s toughest taskmaster, and his likely reply will be Dr. Neill G. Whitelaw.” Ah, yes. And to add to Dr. Whitelaw’s luster in the Pundit’s memory is that his classroom was his laboratory. Across the top of the spacious room was a shelf, lined with empty tobacco cans: Half and Half, Granger, Prince Albert, Bond Street, Velvet, Tuxedo, Dial, Four Roses, Dunhill’s Baby’s Bottom, St. Bruno, Carter Hall, and, of course, Revelation. These are just a few names locked away in the Pundit’s memory of those days long ago lost in Physics 101, attempting to understand not only Dr. Whitelaw but also his friend, Albert Einstein! And Pundit has always admired Mr. E=MC2’s quotes on the subject of pipes and finding the sublime existence surrounding us: I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs—Albert Einstein, 1950. A pipe is the fountain of contemplation, the source of pleasure, the companion of the wise; and the man who smokes, thinks like a philosopher, and acts like a Samaritan. And hopefully, the Pundit isn’t becoming too Kafkaesque here, but over the years, pipes have become a psychological as well as a philosophical buttress for me. Mayhaps Pundit has been reading a bit too much over the holidays and early weeks of the New Year. Trying to catch up on his education, as it were. Now, this epistle is no Kafka “Metamorphosis” in which the main character becomes an insect. I have known a mean creature or two across the decades. But I have yet to confront a two-legged insect, except on one or two occasions on lands far, far away. Ahem, and where is this taking us today? The simple answer is this is to get us off and running for a spanking new season of pipes and tobacco. And as we all know, our pipes and tobacco blends are both a bit psychological and philosophical, if only in a very basic sense. I’m positive you possess a pipe or three you consider indispensable to your well-being mentally. I do. Pundit has a rather large galley of best briar friends. This, after years of smoking my beloved pipes, brings me to the question of just how this all happens. What is the precise connection? In the beginning, the pipe can be a bit sour, overpowering for a newcomer to the leaf. Then after break-in and conversations with veteran pipe smokers, the vision and some fresh understanding beam up to the frontal lobe. It takes time for the new pipe smoker to find just the right pipe and a go-to blend of the precious leaf. Revelation, by the by, is a recommendation for rookies of the leaf! Not too strong, not too sweet. Just right. That’s the fun part for the frontal lobe, don’tcha see. Reasoning, creativity, and a host of other executive functions filter through that part of the brain. Providing you were blessed with a big brain. Just sayin.’ Ok, class, this part of the lecture is complete. A pop quiz comes at the end of this session. And just to prove the Pundit walks the walk and talks the talk (people who know me well say it’s yakity-yak all the time), new pipe orders and tobacco are on their way to the herd and closet. Make no mistake, the Revelation Match is among the orders. And just in case you are interested PipesMagazine.com had an interesting discussion in its forums section a couple of years ago on Revelation and other long-gone blends. As for the Pundit, I enjoy Cornell & Dihel’s Epiphany, a match for the old Revelation. For one of his great in-depth reviews, check out Jiminks on  Epiphany. And now for our pipe-smoking author and poet of February: British-American poet, W. H. Auden, born in York, England, Feb. 21, 1907, and died Sept. 29, 1973. Auden was an occasional pipe smoker and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948. And from one of his poems these words of wisdom: The most important truths are likely to be those which society at that time least wants to hear. Now from the Pundit: Here is to hoping we can enjoy our pipes more in this New Year. Happy pipe, happy life.

  • From left: Cornell & Diehl Charles Towne Cobbler; Southport Ferryman; Kingston Judge; and The Honeypot Photo by Fred Brown
    Happy New Pipe Year!

    Now, don’t take this the wrong way. The Pundit starts each new year with a new cob. It’s been a custom since the beginning of time. Call it a cob addiction, or a demanding obsession to start the season off on the right path. See, the lowly corncob pipe is just a delightful way to become familiar with all those new blends you bought for Christmas, and you have yet to smoke in your precious fresh and new briar purchases. And although cobs are a bit like the old comedian, Rodney Dangerfield, who didn’t “get no respect,” the cob is just the pipe for the job. It will take everything you throw at it, and then some. It never falls flat on its face, like the aforementioned Pundit. Look at the cob as a cheap meerschaum. You can’t bang it up. You can’t scratch it. Even if you carve the bowl rim, you still haven’t hurt it. You smoke until you can’t, smoke it again, and again, and then toss. Get new cob! But the poetic part of this is that the cob just keeps getting better and better until it doesn’t, which could take years. . . . unless you lose it—like the aforementioned Pundit. And if fate should strike, you just haul out another cob and keep on a-puffing. You can thank the Pundit later for this first-of-the-year tip. And it’s a tip that keeps on giving, as they say in hype land. And just to show that the Pundit walks the walk and puffs the puff, he owns roughly 50 cobs at last count. Some are rougher than others and some are just downright dirty and over the hill. But it’s hard to chuck an old friend, especially one that has been through the thickets with you. You can’t go wrong with a Missouri Meerschaum from the wonderful people in Washington, Missouri, located some 50 miles west of St. Louis, on the southern banks of the Missouri River. Ah, yes, the Big Muddy, not to be confused with the Mississippi River, also referred to as the Big Muddy at times when Old Man River is up and roaring. Can’t you just hear that old riverboat whistle blowing? And who is that on the dock near the oldest and largest manufacturer of corncob pipes? Why, I do believe that is ol’ Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, smoking a Missouri Meer. Or, no, could be, looks like, it is Mark Twain! He’s holding a cob standing beside two of his finest creations. You can find the Twain, Sawyer, and Finn pipes in Missouri Meerschaum Hannibal Collection on the company web page. Or head over to the Corn Cob collections page and snag several (if available) of the Cornell & Diehl pipe collaborations. Like the, ahem, Pundit did early when available at SmokingPipes.com. And having rambled this far, let’s just say, the cob company also has some tasty tobacco blends to go in those nice cobs. Well, here we are on the cusp of a new year! The Pundit sincerely hopes all of you out there in Pipes and Tobacco World had special holidays, filled with family fun, new pipes and tobaccos, and other accouterments. Maybe a pint or two. Just sayin.’ If the Pundit has learned one lesson about the end of a year, it brings the promise of New Year’s bright future, without becoming too Pollyannish! It’s a fresh canvas for all of us. Just in time, mayhaps. Sort of compared to Dickens the ghost of future pipes and tobaccos, or some such. Now, exactly what is all this palaver coming down to? It’s a new year and that means looking over your precious herd, maybe weeding out here and there, and of course, adding more to the ever-growing flock of pipes. And let’s not forget to add those new blends arriving from the finest tobacco-blending minds on the planet! I often think of these tobacco alchemists using their mortars and pestles to grind and pulverize the finest of tobacco leaf. Yes, the tobacco cellar will most certainly receive innumerable additions in this New Year in the Pundit cellar. The Pundit views this time as a panorama of promise. New pipes constructed by the greatest of briar and meerschaum artists that simply boggle the mind. Artisan tobacco blenders around the world create concoctions that heretofore have not been tasted. See, for the Pundit, the newest of this time blooms not only with hope, but also with pipes and tobacco possibilities. Blooms. Sunrises! All that sort of thing. Now, let’s move on, shall we? One notable for January: Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, journalist, poet, and author Carl Sandburg. Sandburg was born Jan. 6, 1878, in Galesburg, Ill., and died July 22, 1967, in Flat Rock, N.C., setting of the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, and National Park Service, in Henderson County, close to Asheville, N.C. Although it is fairly well-known the famous writer smoked a pipe, the Pundit has been unable to find out much about his tobacco preferences. Let me know if you find any information. The Pundit is a collector of old poets, doncha know! A quote or two from the great poet: Nothing happens unless first we dream—Carl Sandburg Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance—Carl Sandburg Here’s to all pipe smokers and a new year. Briar and leaf, the best of the best. Happy New Pipe Year!

  • The Peterson Christmas 2022 B42 Darwin in all its copper glory. Photo by Fred Brown
    Ghosts of Christmas Present

    Two of the larger-than-life names at this time of year, other than the pipe-puffing big white bearded guy in the North Pole, who runs a shop full of elves and reindeer, are the two named Charles—Darwin and Dickens. You probably already know this, if you have been paying close attention to the Pundit, I love the month of December. And, yes, the Pundit makes a gift list, a Christmas card list, a recipe list, you name it, and the Pundit puts it on a list this time of year. And checks all multiple times. It’s the season of rejoicing after a long, hard year. It is the time when we can all come together over a nicely written poem, a Christmas story, a pint, and a pipe, and two of the Pundit’s favorites: a humongous Christmas meal with family, and a new Christmas pipe and tobacco. So, let’s get back to the Charleses before this missive runs amok with Christmas lights flashing all over the place with reindeer a-leaping and elves dashing for cover. Let’s start with the great biologist first. Charles Darwin roamed the South Seas for five years aboard Her Majesty’s Ship Beagle on a fact-finding voyage. The stop at the Galapagos Islands with its infinite variety of critters provided a foundation for the foundational On the Origin of Species (ahem, one of the Pundit’s favorite reads). Now that your appetite has been whetted here is the punch line: The Pundit is not sure whether or not the great biologist smoked a pipe. I’ve found that he did and didn’t because of notoriously bad health. So, we can’t claim Mr. “Origin” as a pipe smoker, but the wonderful folks at Peterson have produced their version of tribute for one of its Christmas 2022 shapes: The Darwin, beautifully outfitted with Peterson’s first-time presentation of a pipe with copper spigot mounts and finished with a lovely rustication and fishtail stem. Naturally, Pundit leaped right in and purchased the Darwin Christmas 2022 Pipe. It is the classic B42 shape, the Darwin. Here is what Truett Smith at SmokingPipes.com says about the Darwin: “In 2009, Peterson released the Darwin “B42” shape in commemoration of the sesquicentennial of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The English naturalist’s seminal work was published in 1859, just 17 years before another Charles would join Fredrick Kapp in founding the longest-standing pipe manufacturer in the world: Kapp & Peterson. The “B42” is a robust bent Apple, displaying an Author-like substance through the shank and transition that exemplifies Peterson’s signature aesthetic — a perfect homage, to both Charles Darwin and Charles Peterson himself.” Very well said and a perfect picture of a Peterson pipe. Oh, and Pundit also picked up a special Cornell & Diehl “Ghosts of Christmas Present,” blend with which to break in the Darwin. More on this blend in just a moment. And now we turn our attention to one of the greatest novelists of the 19th—and just maybe any century—Charles Dickens. Another recommended author from the Pundit’s library of noted novelists and writers. Each December Pundit and his daughters read “A Christmas Carol” together and talk about its many lessons. Dickens’ novella of Christmas was published in 1843 and has never been out of print! The story tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a penny-pinching aging old coot, who is visited by the spirit of the late Jacob Marley, his former business partner. Other ghosties arrive, too, from Scrooge’s past, present, and future Christmases. Well, if you have never read A Christmas Carol, which Pundit finds hard to believe, there won’t be a review here. Only to say, Scrooge is changed after the ghosts arrive and have their say with him, thus giving him a renewed view of life. You will just have to read the novella to get a better understanding of a great piece of literature. Now, here again, it is not certain that Dickens smoked a pipe. Some accounts say he never smoked because of ill health during his lifespan. Again some stories relate that he enjoyed “latakia” from time to time. But we do know that he wrote some of the best novels of the Victorian era, during Britain’s Industrial Revolution, which was an especially hard time for “street children” who had no home but the hard, filthy life of city slums. Ok, so about “Ghosts of Christmas Present,” blend from Cornell & Diehl from SmokingPipes.com. I picked this blend to go with my Darwin Christmas 2022 pipe because it combines two of the Pundit’s favorite contents, straight Virginia, and a dash of rum flavoring. This sort of hints at the swashbuckling days oer the “wine dark” seas (with poetic apologies to poets everywhere and the nonpareil Homer). And, for a much better review of this special Wintertime Reserve blend by C&D, head over to the nonpareil tobacco reviewer Jiminks. And now a noteworthy mention of an occasional pipe smoker, John Steinbeck. He was born Feb. 27, 1902, in Salinas, Calif., and died Dec. 20, 1968, in New York City. Steinbeck, the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962, was one of America’s greatest writers and another Pundit favorite. You just can’t beat The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, Travels With Charley, The Log from the Sea of Cortez, and any other piece of writing by this master wordsmith. And now a couple of parting quotes from Steinbeck: “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America And this last, one of the Pundit’s favorites from Steinbeck: “I guess there are never enough books.”― John Steinbeck, A John Steinbeck Encyclopedia Merry Christmas and happy puffing on your favorite blends in the New Year.

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