120 Fresh Peterson Pipes
2 Fresh Bill Shalosky Pipes
48 Fresh Estate Pipes
12 Fresh Brebbia Pipes
9 Fresh Mastro Geppetto Pipes

Radio Talk Show

  • Pastor-Joda
    Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 550

    Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 550! Our featured interview tonight is with Pastor Joda. This is the fifth in our series of interviews with “Journeymen Pipe Smokers” – guys that have been smoking pipes between five and 10 years. Joda grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and knew several people working in the tobacco business. Before he became a pastor, he had a graphic design business that took on a job from Scandinavian Tobacco Group, which left some pipe tobacco in his office. It wouldn’t be until years later that he would become a regular pipe smoker though. His pipe smoking journey will have you knowingly nodding, if not laughing a little. At the top of the show, Brian will report on his trip to Tennessee and The Muletown Pipe Show. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!

  • Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 549

    Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 549! Our featured interview tonight is with Neville Smith. This is the fourth in our series of interviews with “Journeymen Pipe Smokers” – guys that have been smoking pipes between five and 10 years. Neville is from Perth, Australia and is a Senior Consultant with The Illuminate Group. He is a company director with over ten years working in the corporate training and speaking industry. He is a renowned public speaker and an award winning Toastmaster. 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!

  • Andre-Tessier-cropped
    Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 548

    Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 548! Our featured interview tonight is with Andre Tessier. Andre was born and raised on Long Island, New York and still resides there today. He is a member of the New York City Pipe Club, and is the Secretary for the United Pipe Clubs of America. He is also a member of New York Sky Blues which is New York City’s Official Supporters Club branch of Manchester City. At the top of the show, Brian will give us an update on his custom-blended tobacco that he’s been aging since December 2019. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!

Tobacco Reviews

  • Ashton-Guilty-Pleasure-Review
    Ashton Guilty Pleasure Tobacco Review

    Guilty pleasures—we all have them; whether it’s bingeing the latest water-cooler television show, midnight-snacking entire pints of ice cream, or devoting hours to an online debate that we’re sure we’ve won. Us pipe snobs (face it, if you’re reading this article, you’re likely past the point of no return into the hobby) often catch flack—or give flack—for full aromatic blends, mistakenly thinking them the piper’s equivalent of a bike with training wheels, or confections for filthy casuals. A true pipe smoker, such prevailing wisdom may say, can only find enlightenment in the most mephitic of concoctions, the kernel of bodhi within which they have unlocked through years of trial and sacrifice, with wonderful tastes that they alone know how to perceive, naysayers be damned! Well, that’s poppycock. As the holidays came and went, I thoroughly enjoyed working my way through the tins of the aromatic C&D offerings reviewed in the last column, finding subtle little hints of new flavors here and there with every bowl full; I was particularly saddened when I went to re-order them and found them sold out; perhaps my guilty pleasure of being an unabashed aromatic smoker was not so singular as I had presumed? Such it was that I found myself pondering as I navigated the streets of the Financial District and popped in to Barclay-Rex, the City’s oldest family-run tobacconist—and indeed one of the few left of its ilk anywhere. Perusing through their offerings for new review material, my eye was drawn to the jazz-age graphic of a couple of flamenco dancers mid-embrace on a rose-colored tin of Ashton’s Guilty Pleasure, a no-pretense aromatic manufactured by Kohlhase & Kopp for the Ashton brand. Sure, there were English and cigar-leaf blends aplenty, various Virginias as far as the eye could see, but my holiday sweet tooth had not quite yet been fully sated. “This glorious mixture of Cavendish, Virginia and Carolina burley carries an irresistible aroma of vanilla, mango, and exotic citrus,” reads the tin, promising an immodestly candied experience. Kohlhase & Kopp have produced many of my favorite aromatic blends, notably the erstwhile Peterson special editions, so I had great confidence that the tobacco would be of the best quality and not a waste of my time or money, as the price of tobacco in Manhattan is on the verge of requiring a bank loan. Popping the tin certainly confirmed this hypothesis; it unleashed a bright and floral confectionery sweetness that was sure to send the burliest he-man Latakiaphile running for the hills. The tobacco itself was that perfect melange of light-gold to dark-mahogany leaf of consistent cut that is a trademark of K&K blends in my experience. Parsing the aromas back in the laboratory, I kept searching for vanilla and mango—‘exotic citrus’ being indefinite enough to discount. Vanilla firmly chimes in as an overall binding aroma that the fruity notes couch themselves within, but I found mango or citrus aromas neither overt nor distinct in the blend; rather, they are verbal proxies for the overall sweetness and fruitiness with a decidedly floral bent of the bouquet; in fact the unique and unmistakable—though confoundingly unspecific—flavor of Necco wafers popped into my head as the best analog, a notion which would later prove to be shockingly precise. Even after weeks of an open-and-closed tin while sampling, the aroma remains quite strong and readily induces salivation. Not to say that it’s done with too heavy or indelicate a hand—the tobaccos are clearly highest quality and allowed to shine through the mix to shape the smoke, which is quite a bit more restrained than the tin note would suggest. Puffing through a half-dozen bowls in search of the best instrument, I found the smoke then to be quite good and much more rounded than merely aromatic, if perhaps lacking a little in real depth, particularly held up against the last review blends mentioned. Bowl after bowl it presented quite brightly on top and faded to a good sweet nutty Cavendish-burley by mid-bowl, and tapered down slowly through to the heel—a heel that was easily reached with slow sipping and temperature control as well as a few rest periods and relights, and not goopy at all. Once I’d honed in on the proper pipe, cadence, and drink pairing, it was sweet heaven through the end of the tin. As for the room note, it is sweet but rather tame compared to the tin note; I would place both flavor and room note on the bright and fruity side of mild-to-medium. While swapping out pipes to find a good mate for this blend I stumbled upon my cache of several years’ worth of Kaywoodie pipes from the holiday dinner and slow-smoke, to my good fortune. The straight billiards and clay cutty I started with weren’t really bringing out the full experience of the blend, tending to get too hot past top-bowl and not really hitting the mark on the aromatic notes while smoking. The delightful Shellcraft half-bent billiard pictured, handmade by Bill Feuerbach of very old-stock Algerian briar and vulcanite stem, nailed it like Mary Lou Retton on a floor routine—the perfect geometry of chamber to coax down a small ember, and the bend deep enough that the smoke could drift up to the nose easily for sidestream olfaction, all at barely an ounce of weight—as fine as any Dunhill in my collection, not to mention a repository of fond memories. There’s a lesson to be learned here: before finding just the right pipe, the blend would score below fair-to-middling; after, it was sweet euphoria. Finding the best drink pairing for such a sweet blend proved challenging as well. Sometimes the notions come to me and I test them out to find they work perfectly, other times it’s down to a more Edisonian approach: determine the prevailing notes and alkalinity, then find drinks to congenially act as foils or amplifiers through brute force trial and error. In general it’s a good start to look for mildly acidic drinks, […]

  • 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, 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 […]


  • Lots of Pipe Bags Means Lots of Pipes
    You Have HOW Many Pipes?

    I actually don’t really know. I mean, I have some vague idea, more of a guess, a sort of order of magnitude dart throw. I swear, this isn’t a point of pride or some kind of bench racing brag, but rather something closer to embarrassment. As I wander through the boxes, racks, pouches, bags full of pipes, in an attempt to 1) get them into a semblance of order, and 2) think about thinning the herd a little, it’s feeling a little daunting. Worse, it’s not the first time I’ve been through this, and I’m afraid it might not be the last.  It all began at a time when I would answer the question, “How many pipes do you need?” with the ever so witty, “Just one more.” I know I’m not alone there. I sometimes feel like there should be a twelve-step program for the pipe acquisition afflicted. But, they’re such compelling little things; tiny works of functional art, where the beauty of the wood and the skill of the maker come together to yield something that’s too often hard to resist.  I easily recall my early days as a young pipe smoker, enthusiast, burgeoning collector, fanatic, whatever I was at the time. I was full of wild enthusiasm towards building up a good collection. It began with just wanting a nice seven-day set, so I could let my pipes rest a week between smokes as I was told was necessary for optimal smoking. That happened fairly quickly, though my seven pipes weren’t all anything to be truly proud of. Then, I wanted enough pipes for two weeks, because I began to think that if one week of rest was good, two would surely be better. After that, it really did seem a good idea to have different pipes for different types of tobacco. (I still adhere to this notion fairly strictly.) And, then there should be smaller pipes for shorter smokes, larger ones for the longer, leisurely periods. See where it starts? When we’re told that a seven-day “set” is an almost necessary practicality, at least if we’re going to truly enjoy smoking a pipe on a daily basis, “they” might as well give us the first one free. The seven-day, at least for me, quickly revealed itself to be a gateway drug, leading me by the hand down a dark corridor to a much more sinister affliction.  So, thus disordered over the years, I’ve found myself collecting brands, makers, pipes from specific countries, shapes, finishes – if there’s a way to categorize pipes, I’ve probably at some point had a sub-collection specializing in that particular categorization. I’m a pipe nerd; things like this are bound to happen. At some point in the journey, I had the bizarre notion that if I ever were ever to reach 100 pipes, I’d surely have enough, and I could stop looking for new ones. Or, perhaps better still, the collection could remain at or near that figure by careful selling and trading. This delusional strategy worked just fine. Until it didn’t. The collection continued to grow. More and more of the pipes in my collection began to take on some sort of emotional value.  I’ve mentioned in the past that pipes can be talismans of events, or even more importantly, of people. Recently, I was reminded of an old friend who sold me a very special Castello 55 from his own collection. He is no longer with us, but that pipe will always remind me of him, of his vast knowledge, freely shared, of Castello pipes.  I now have a lot of pipes like that. Some of them I smoke regularly, and the idea of parting with them never even occurs to me. Others, I don’t, for whatever reason, but when I think about putting them on the block, they whisper their stories in my ear, and back they go until the next round. The century mark has long ago come and gone. A bunch of years ago, I was fairly successful in weeding the garden a bit, selling off quite a few, and feeling quite proud of myself for thinking that, just maybe, I might once again find 100 pipes in my collection, this time coming at it from the other direction. I’m sure it’s no surprise that this hasn’t happened. What’s wrong with having so many, some would say too many pipes? It’s hard to find an answer I can really live with. I suppose perhaps the worst thing is that some of them, even the special ones, might be too-long ignored. Maybe this isn’t really a bad thing. Once in a while, there’s the opportunity to rediscover some old gem, listen again to the stories it might tell, put it into rotation for a while, and experience it all over again. Maybe it’s just keeping track of everything amidst my disorganized chaos, or finding suitable ways to display them all, while keeping them clean and dusted, or just finding them if they’re bagged up in their fancy leather gloves. Maybe it’s just me fostering feelings of excess, latent notions of decadent overindulgence. I should talk with my therapist about that. What I do know is that no matter how, or how many times I examine my “condition,” the same conclusion persists. I have a lot of pipes, and it’s highly likely that this will not only be an enduring condition, but it’s probably only going to get worse.  There are times when a particular piece just stops speaking to me, and even that can be a problem. In the past, I’ve too hastily sold off or traded a piece that no longer felt special, only to years later regret parting with it, wishing I’d kept it. Or worse, scouring estate pipe offerings looking for it, or at least a suitable stand-in. There was this lovely old Charatan Executive, you know, and a pair of Larsen bulldogs, one straight, the other bent, that were different from any seen […]

  • Vintage Tobaccos
    Of a Certain Age

    No, I’m not talking about me, though I struggle with the acceptance that  the expression is at least beginning to be applicable. I’m talking about tobacco. It’s well established that I’ve long been a champion of aging tobacco. I’ve extolled its virtues, rattled on about cellaring strategies and what happens as microflora have their way with the leaf whilst nestled within their tiny sarcophagi. I’ve been known to do comparisons amongst various old tobaccos of different vintages, and to get almost poetic regarding recalled experiences of ancient blends. It’s true; I love old tobaccos. But, at least recently, that little affaire de coeur may not be necessarily exclusive. I enjoy drawing parallels between pipe tobacco and wine because I like them both, and because it’s rather easy to do, since these parallels are many. When I come across an interesting wine that’s affordable, I’ll buy several bottles, a case, perhaps two, depending on what I assess its aging potential to be. I’ll taste it in its youth, and then explore its evolution through the years. Sometimes, this doesn’t work out. Either I find myself enjoying its youthful exuberance so much that no bottles remain to enjoy their maturity. Other times, I wait too long, and the stuff takes an ungraceful journey over the hill. Either way, it’s just part of the game.  And while a tin of pipe tobacco will easily shrug off decades of relative neglect, most wines will get a bit tired, or worse, after five to seven years for reds, sooner for most whites, and in order to experience even that much longevity, they need to be kept at a cool, fairly constant temperature. Through the years, I’ve enjoyed a lot of vintage bottles. I’ve also had more than a few that were consigned to duty as expensive drain wash. It’s a rather bigger gamble than tobacco, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. When I find an interesting tobacco, on the other hand, I can buy a couple tins, put one aside, and sample from the other over several weeks or months, getting a pretty good picture both of what it is, and what it is likely to become. If I like it, I might add a few more to the cellar. If not, I’ve got that second one to explore in a year’s time or so, in case it may change in a way that I like, or that my tastes may change, or that the appearance of giant white spy balloons might affect my sensibilities in unpredictable ways.  In any event, aging tobacco is a relatively safe gamble. Tobacco’s journey to dottage is a much longer one than that of all but the best wines from the best vintages, and its storage requirements are much less stringent; as long as it’s protected from temperature extremes and wild swings, it will remain pretty happy. Barring catastrophes like mold blooms (it happens to the best of blends—I recently lost a tin of State Express Rondells to the stuff) rust, or seal failures, in my experience, aging tobacco never makes it worse.  But lately, I’m finding some pretty deep fascination with young tobaccos. For a variety of reasons, over the past couple months, I’ve been opening and smoking tobacco from freshly minted tins. Some of these have been prototypes, others, current examples of old things. It’s been quite enlightening, especially revisiting some of my old standards that I generally smoke with a minimum of six months to a year under their belts, and often more than that. It started out innocently as a bit of investigation, adding data points to my understanding of the whole aging equation, but it quickly evolved into something more than that, as I found myself not only gaining some interesting insight, but also deeply enjoying it. Just as some young wines may lack the development and complexity of their older counterparts, yet exhibit a vibrancy and enthusiasm that can be attenuated with age, some tobaccos offer a similar experience. One, a straight Virginia flake straight out of the cutter, displayed bright citrus notes, with a background of sweet clover, whereas the same tobacco when aged has deeper, darker undertones, with a more developed body and richer sweetness to support those brighter notes. Another, a light latakia mixture just a week old, was lively on the palate, with a soft campfire smokiness and virginias clearly dominating the orientals, while the same blend with only about 16 months of age has a much more prominent midrange of dark cocoa and figs, and the richness of the orientals get more of the spotlight. These differences were far from surprising. What did catch me off the pitch was just how much I liked the young leaf, and I think part of this was because I was taking a slightly different approach than I normally do. Because I do tobacco things for a living, I’m too often tasting with an overly analytical brain engaged, forgetting that it’s okay to switch off that part of my noggin sometimes, and just kick back and enjoy a great smoke. What I found so interesting here, and immensely satisfying, was that I found myself more often doing just that—enjoying the tobacco for what it was in the moment, not thinking about how it could be better, comparing it with other things, or trying to predict what it might become. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t going to turn into a chapter in Zen and the Art of Pipe Smoking, it’s just a casual observation that even after all these years, I’ve got stuff to learn about just kicking back and enjoying a pipe. I still love aged tobaccos, and always will. I will continue to advocate cellaring and experiencing the blends we enjoy throughout the years to come, and also revisiting things we may be indifferent to, or even may not like today. After all, tobaccos and tastes both change, and today’s flat tire might be tomorrow’s checkered flag. […]

  • 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 […]

The Pipe Pundit

  • A couple of "authors," better known as Savinelli 320s, worth packing with good leaf and topping off with a good book. Photo by Fred Brown
    The Pipes and Tobacco Life

    Ah, yes, March rolls in a-roarin’ like a lion and trots out like a sweet, innocent little lamb. So they say, whoever they are. Let’s not forget college basketball’s March Madness is also in this maelstrom. And Pundit is here to tell you that means only one thing, my pipe-loving amigos. The weather is getting about right and it’s time to grab a pipe and a new blend. And make certain the tele is in good working order for crazy Final Four Bracket hoops time. Just what the Pundit had in mind: a new pipe and a new blend for this mad, mad, mad month. But first, a bit of history. It will be brief for you non-history aficionados out there. Shame, shame. So, there was a day when the Pundit was a touch wet behind the ears (groan) and green as a freshly harvested stalk of green tobacco (better). One day in the deep iron and wheels of Atlanta while sauntering about and looking at pipes in a corner shop, well-known then for its fine offerings of Charatans and other legendary pipes, a veteran B&M and owner suggested I take a peek at his Savinellis. Now being a be-bopping college guy, Pundit said, “sure, is it parked outside?” and proceeded to look about for a snappy Italian sportscar. Let’s just say the B&M veteran pipe store owner tried to hold back a cheek-filling guffaw before sputtering, “you are kidding, of course!” Not to expose more ignorance, I just nodded and stared at a wall of pipes. Welcome to Pundit’s introduction to the famed Italian pipe makers of Savinelli. Today, Pundit owns quite a few Savinells, especially the “author” or the 320 KS, 320, and 321 series. All three have that pure “writerly” look to the Pundit’s eye. In a word or three, Savinellis are exquisite works of operatic tone and aura. Yes, most Savinellis are machined but are completely finished by hand, meaning artisans take over from the industrial side to finish things. So, Pundit was off and puffing with Savinellis, especially when he found the author group. Throw in a couple of Savinelli handmade Autographs and the mighty Hercules style of Roman and Greek mythology to sweeten the herd. While on mystical thoughts, the Savinellis—which ring with foreign intrigue for the Pundit—opened a brave new world for fresh pipe adventures. No longer a stranger in a strange pipelandia, basket pipes of questionable heritage, gave way to handmade wonders to behold. Oh, the Pundit fell in love with the singular Savinelli Autographs, but this also brought into focus other Italian pipe makers, such as Ardor, Ser Jacopo, and Claudio Cavicchi, among others. This of course led to the sky is no limit sort of thinking. Next arrived the Great Danes, such as Neerup, Bjarne Nielsen, Harcourt, Stanwell, and Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation. You’ll note that none of these brands were in the stratospheric price range, such as a Bo Nordh. Then came a whole array of exquisitely made English pipes, such as Dunhill, Ashton, and Peterson (in the Irish tradition, of course, in pipe making in Great Britain). Never mind independent pipe-carvers, who abound in our galaxy of wonder. This is just a quick history of loping down one pipe-puffing lane, as it were. This is to say, pipe smokers of today are blessed and afforded such magnificent pieces of briar for smoking, relaxing and just simply enjoying a day away from stress and worry. Looking at you, March Madness! Just to be transparent, as they like to say in today’s media frenzy, Pundit apologizes for not alerting you to International Pipe Smoking Day on Feb. 20. Oh, the horror! So a respectful roundup of pipes in the Pundit pack serves as a kiss and make-up for overlooking one of our global events enjoyed by millions. And, yes, more expensive pipes do smoke better in most cases. However, I have a couple of basket pipes that outperform some herd pipes in the posh and ritzy crowd. For any newbies out there, in an old-school B&M, you can still find decent basket pipes. Later you can reach for the stars of pipe making and tobacco blending. Pundit began stuffing Prince Albert, Granger, Sir Walter Raleigh, and non-descript drug store bulk blends into his first pipes. It was good enough for many of my college professors, so I thought it would naturally make me smarter if I mimicked the academics. That scheme didn’t work out as planned. But there is always hope and another pipeful. So, here is to more pipes, more pipe tobacco, and more pipe puffing enjoyment for the wilds of March, and beyond. Now for our pipe-smoking celeb for March: Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known simply as Dr. Seuss, legendary children’s author. He was born March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Mass., and died: on Sept. 24, 1991, in San Diego, Calif. Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one—Dr. Seuss And a philosophical note from The Pundit: Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus philosophized around 535 BC that “change is the only constant in life.” Pundit, a primordial pipelospher says “constant change in pipes and tobacco is the life.”

  • 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 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 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!