- Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 481
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 481! This week’s show is a unique holiday themed show with Brian’s Zoom Pipe Club looking at pipes and tobacco in a Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ sort of way. The guys will talk about pipes and tobaccos of the past, present, and future. Joining the discussion with Brian will be Fred Hanna, Tad Gage, Barry Goldstein, Ronni B, Rich Esserman, Fred Janusek, Brad Pohlmann, Dave in LAX, Rob Cappuccio, Dino Argyropoulos, and several others. At the top of the show in Pipe Parts, Brian found some old tobacco ads, which you can find at this link – Almay.com. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 480
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 480! Tonight we have Rich Esserman back with us for an epic show. Rich is quite well known in the hobby. He has been smoking, collecting, and writing about pipes for over 40-years, and he is best known for collecting large-size Dunhill pipes. We will have Brian and Rich discussing the different types of pipe collectors. Find out which one you are … or are you just a “pipe accumulator”? This episode will go right into the conversation, and bypass the usual Pipe Parts segment. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 479
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 479! Our featured interview tonight is with pipe maker Brian G. Rowley of Growley Pipes. Brian is also a leather crafter and produces handmade merchandise in that area as well. He makes all types of pipe shapes, including some of the classics, but leans more towards the Danish freehand styles. He takes commissions on pipes as well. At the top of the show, We’ll have our “Ask the Pipemaker” segment with artisan pipe maker, Jeff Gracik. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- Cornell & Diehl Sunday Picnic Review
It’s been quite some time since I sat down to write one of these reviews, so naturally I turned to a blend that is an old favorite—Cornell & Diehl’s Sunday Picnic. Sunday Picnic, from C&D’s Simply Elegant series, was one of the first labels I really fell in love with when transitioning from whatever was offered in bulk at the tobacconist to discovering the world of “luxury” blends, and one that is well-represented in my cellar. While I wasn’t really aware of it then, it’s a blend that would come to exemplify my favored taste in tobaccos for the pipe—sweet Virginia body, counterpoint of Perique, and a dash of Oriental for spice and complexity. I tend to refer to these as “VaPerO” blends, although as an acronym that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. With tasting notes going back to 2010, I can readily quantify and qualify the variety of flavors and experiences I’ve had with this particular mixture. Spoiler alert ahead for those of you who are building your cellars: age certainly does work its magic on this blend, deepening the composition considerably after a single year and perhaps peaking after four or five, leveling out to a fine plateau. Let’s hope that age is so kind to me, in fact. Presentation points are earned first for the tin art, retaining the central figures of the classic Robb Pritchard artwork, now enlarged and further highlighted on the field of, naturally, Turkish blue. The fragrance in young tins tends very Virginia-forward, with brighter citrusy character and the familiar chocolate-covered raisin notes of Perique. Developing incrementally with age is a rounder, complex umami bouquet, evincing shades of truffle, black tea, lavender, waxed leather, pomander balls, sandalwood. The fresh flakes are dense and uniform, with a pleasing striation of color—light blond to leathery brown in young tins, rich supple reds to black in older ones. A bit moist straight from the tin, I generally prepare by taking out three flakes or so—enough for a couple group 3-ish pipes—allow for some air-dry time, and then roll gently in my hands to the desired consistency for loading, in this case fairly well shredded, as opposed to a more fold-and-stuff preparation. From the char, this tobacco always manages to take a light easily. The Izmir in the aged blend plays its characteristic role most noticeably in the top half of the bowl, with its particular nutty and slightly astringent tone readily recognizable—think Earl Grey, weathered oak, cedar campfire. The Perique too first announces its peppery-sweet character here in fine concert with the rest, offering a tingle in the nose and retrohale up front, quickly mellowing to tease out the umami in concert with the Virginia. Somewhat decreased with significant age are the young tin’s more prominent bready notes and high lemony tinge, those flavors having been tempered down to supporting roles with time. As mentioned, just a year in the cellar builds remarkable character in the blend. Enjoying this particular tin from my stash, dated June 11 2007 (from the first production run, or thereabouts) with a hefty fourteen-and-a-half years on it is, well, a not-so-guilty pleasure indeed. While the top of the bowl is mildly sharp with nutty, dusty overtones from the Turkish component—pecan shells, fine cigarettes—it quickly exhibits an exceptional kernel of sweetness in every puff, with the best comparison that comes to mind being a lychee wrapped in a campfire. Young tins of course highlight more of the lemony-peppery synthesis of the Virginia and Perique up front, somewhat pushing aside the Izmir until an equilibrium is achieved. Puffing is easy and light, with just the slightest draw able to keep the ember going. For my money, it makes a great accompaniment to pursuits such as curling up with a hefty book, hunkering down over a chess board with a friend, or a walk in the park to enjoy the autumn foliage; that is to say it does not demand much attention while smoking, nor is it so uninteresting as to be easily relegated to thoughtless background noise. The flavor composition reaches a crescendo mid-bowl, and manages to hold tempo through to the heel. While it may start off a bit sharp, the drier, more piquant notes begin to recede a bit and fall in step with the sweeter, richer Virginia-Perique structure once it’s warmed and a good cadence is established. Reaching into the mid-bowl, it becomes a colorful, complex harmony of flavors that speak well of the blender’s art—it’s not by accident that the Cornell & Diehl brand earned the reputation that it still enjoys. Individual notes are easily discernible, with none drowning out or overpowering each other; it’s a truly cohesive blending. With a tin this well-aged the sweetness is rich and pronounced, yet for all that not in a flavored aromatic sense by any measure—this is the supple sweetness of premium leaf. I prefer this particular flake in a pipe on the smaller side of medium—the ’65 Dunhill bulldog and K. Anastasopoulos freehand pictured both have chambers roughly ¾” wide and 1¼” deep, with straight sides. To note, the Dunhill sports an inner tube which can be finicky with too much moisture; with this blend it’s never a problem. Too large or tall a bowl, for me at least, seems to muddle the flavor profile, while too wide a taper ignores the top end and over-concentrates the bottom. In these group 3 sizes, it’s a perfect 40- to 60-minute smoke which in my estimation is best enjoyed with a coffee or wine that’s decidedly on the sweet side—think a large flat white in the cooler weather, or a nice Port, sparkling moscato, or ice wine in the warmer months. With its mild-to-medium strength profile it perfectly satisfies the nicotine craving, and makes both an exemplary morning coffee smoke and an after-dinner digestif. As for the room note and sidestream smoke, it’s fairly mild and conventional. Owing largely to the Izmir, it’s in the range of fine cigarettes—perhaps too smoky […]
- Vincent Manil Réserve du Patron Tobacco Review
Goodbye, summer—hello autumn. An interesting theory is summertime is only wildly and emphatically celebrated for one reason: for a long time, many schooling and education models were designed to both leave room for learning and then agriculture, so families could rely on help from their children during harvest season. When agriculture productivity changed, the several months of summers off persisted, and lo, we turned it into a “vacation.” It was the only time we believed we could, or should, take time off or enjoy ourselves. Thus is born a tolerance of soaring temperatures, scalding sun, unpredictable weather all for the sake of a few moments to extract as much skin-bearing joy as possible out of a lot of daylight. I never particularly understood it or enjoyed it. I’m an autumn guy, and I have been since I was a lad.
- G.L. Pease Samarra Review 2011 Vintage
There are few things nicer than experiencing the satisfactory hiss of a tin of pipe tobacco that’s been waiting for you to pop it open for a decade. The smell that comes off the tobacco the second normal atmosphere hits it is as good as opening an oven door to a loaf of freshly baked bread: and in a way, it smells like it, too. I almost want to apologize to this tin of GL Pease Samarra from 2011, because the world has changed a lot in that time. I’ve changed a lot in that time. It brings about a line a good friend of mine used to say a lot: “Life isn’t complicated.” He’s right. It isn’t. We certainly can make it that way at times, but pipes have this funny damned way of reinforcing this point.
- Confessions of a Coffee Drinker
I love coffee. I always have. Even as a child, coffee had a strange attraction for me. Though I wasn’t allowed more than a sip or two for fear that it would stunt my growth, something which clearly did not occur, I loved everything about it. I can easily recall trips to our local java shop to pick up the week’s freshly roasted beans, still warm and fragrant. I’d walk home, clutching the bag to my chest, delighting in the rich aroma rising in the air to tantalize my senses, taunting me with the promise of the dark, forbidden nectar locked within. After dinner most nights, with the kettle on the cooker, filter cone folded for the Chemex, an old manual grinder filled with the proper measure of beans would make its journey round the table as many times as necessary, everyone having a few turns until the ritual was complete. The grounds were tapped from its light maple drawer into the filter, then water just off the boil was swirled over them, and the delicious liquor would first trickle slowly and then drip into the glass flask, each drop dancing enthusiastically as it landed on the surface below until the brew was ready to be shared. It was inevitable that the ritual of coffee, as much as the fluid itself, would follow me through life. When I went out on my own, I bought my first French press and my own grinder, and was well set on a path of coffee exploration. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before a new acquaintance, a self-styled member of a burgeoning movement of the coffee cognoscenti, told me I was “doing it all wrong,” that if I was ever to become a true connoisseur, I’d have to forgo my childish fascination with darker roasts, and seek out only exotic single origins beans, roasted to perfection, just enough to bring out each variety’s exotic nuances. And, that grinder would never do! It’s whirling blade didn’t actually grind the beans, but pulverized them into an inconsistent muddle of particles totally unsuited to the extraction of the more delicate flavor compounds. And so it began. I bought a spendy burr grinder, a new Chemex flask and a box of unbleached filter rounds. I began frequenting smaller roasteries, expanding my exploration to reach every new coffee I could find, from every part of the globe it was grown. (I still remember one particular batch of Sumatra Mandheling from a small roaster in Berkeley, an experience that has never since been duplicated.) I started researching the best water temperatures and grind size for different brewing methods. I used filtered water. I experimented with vacuum pots, all the various stove-top contrivances, different filter cones and materials. At one point, I constructed my own apparatus, a temperature controlled hot plate to heat the water to precisely the correct temperature, found through experimentation, bubbling it evenly over the waiting grounds. I learned how to “cup.” I took notes of all the different aromas and flavors I’d detect in each new coffee, each new preparation. I became, for a while, truly obsessed. It was fun, of course; this is just the sort of avocation that is well-suited to my temperament. For years, I chased the perfect cup, often coming close, but never quite reaching it. Through all this, there was just one troublesome little problem. Even though I was wildly enjoying the process, I wasn’t often enjoying the results. Fact is, I missed my dark, pungent French roast. If you’re into coffee, you’ll know that there’s a fairly negative association surrounding the darker roasts. Search the interwebs, and you’ll soon discover all the reasons you should avoid the stuff, that dark roasts are employed to mask off-flavors of inferior beans, that they have no “unique coffee taste,” lacking the “fruits and flowers” of lighter roasts, and, in the apparently rare case when good beans are used, the dark roasting ruins them, obscuring all the subtle notes of the beans and their complex sensory profiles behind the roast itself, leaving little behind but an earthy, smoky, bitter taste some call charred, others ashy. Some of this may be true, of course, and if you’re the cork-sniffing sort, it might even be something that matters a lot to you, but if, like me, you like a deep dark roast, who dares to say you’re wrong? And, there’s the rub. I like the dark, chocolatey, smoky aromas and flavors of a good French roast, brewed in a press pot, or a Chemex, or my faithful, well used Bialetti Moka. It makes me happy, and that’s what really matters. I still enjoy exploring the fancy beans wearing lighter robes, but my first love is the dusky stuff, and no one should dictate what we should or should not enjoy. But, what’s this got to do with pipes and tobacco? The other day, whilst enjoying my morning cup, an old pipe smoking friend rang up, squawking over the fact that he’d recently learned he’s been doing it wrong all these years. He’d apparently read a schooner load of commentary from the interweb pundits, and came to the realization that if he’s ever going to be a “real” pipe smoker (he’s had a pipe in his gob for more years than many of the “influencers” have not had a binky in theirs), he should be stoking his pipes only with the purest of tobaccos of a particular type, that everything else is for amateurs. Sound familiar? He’s tried many of these tobaccos more than once, often at my suggestion, and just hasn’t found much joy in them. He likes his sweet, aromatic blends, and he likes his cobs. So, he called to rant for a bit, and solicit whatever counsel I might offer, which set my mind meandering along the winding road of my own journey with tobacco, and with the dark French roast coffee in my cup. I’ve known this guy for a long time, have become […]
- How Does it Smoke?
Between computer failures requiring the replacement of hardware, accompanied by the expected concomitant grumbling, combined with an attack on my otherwise healthy body by a virus of unknown origin, I’ve spent the last several days being, shall we just say, grouchy. Now that the computer problems are mostly behind me, and my own hardware is back to functioning more or less normally, I figured I’d soothe my mood with a nice bowl of something delicious while sitting down to tap out this month’s column. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
- The Pipe Doesn’t Matter
I hear the rumblings already. “What a load of codswallop, Pease? Of course the pipe matters.” Sure it does, but I can’t count how many times I’ve read similar words to those in the title, and it always makes me a little crazy. Maybe you’re one of those who believes that the briar thing is a load of bogus, that a pipe is nothing more than a vessel in which tobacco is combusted to deliver its smoke to your taste receptors, and once broken in, they’re all about the same. Whichever side of the street you might be on, now that I have your attention, let’s go spelunking a bit, and see what might be found in those dark and spooky caves.
- An Upstart Crow’s Mincer Experience
Rummaging around the pachyderm-sized briar herd recently, I ran across old friends and one surprising ancient addition. You know how it is. For sentimental reasons, you begin to yearn for those dear memories and times. The Pundit is just a softy when it comes to pipes and tobacco reminiscences, which always lead to more stories. This particular pipe was a gift from an old newspaper reporter colleague. Clark Porteous, Memphis (Tenn-o-sea, of course) Press-Scimitar, was one of the best at the game of journalism. For instance, he was present when former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill Jr. from Boston coined the now oft-quoted political phrase in front of a gaggle of news types in Memphis, “All politics is local.” Clark didn’t miss a beat with that delicious description from a master politician. At the time, Clark was not only a veteran reporter but also a constant pipe smoker. I was, as Christopher Marlowe once referred to Shakespeare “an upstart crow” in the newsroom. I was in a room of giants and verily understood my place. Clark loved his pipes. From time to time he emptied an ember-glowing bowl into his trash can, setting the thing ablaze. There was a commotion, naturally, but nothing out of the ordinary. It was classic Clark. Years later, Clark came to me and asked if I continued to smoke a pipe. Of course, I said. Why not (still the upstart crow!) “Here,” Clark said, handing me what appeared to be a beat-up old jalopy of a pot-style pipe. “Well, thanks, Clark,” I said, taking the pipe with just two fingers, not wanting to touch the thing too closely. “It’s a good smoker,” Clark said. My question, of course, was, if that, why give it to me? “I wouldn’t be giving up this good smoker if my doc hadn’t told me I had to stop smoking.” Clark was nearing retirement, and so was his smoking, after maybe six decades of puffing furiously over countless stories on deadline. I took the pipe, of course. Stored it away, thinking maybe I might clean the drabby-looking wad of a pipe one day. And there it rested in a box for many years, until I ran across it and took it with me to a pipe show. I asked a knowledgeable old-timer if he knew anything about the pipe. “Looks like a Tracy Mincer Custom-Bilt to me,” he said. Well, okay, then, who is Tracy Mincer? It was then I discovered that Mincer was something of a legendary pipe maker of the 1930s and ‘40s. His rugged, heavily rusticated pipes became popular for a time. At one point, his pipes were identified “as individual as a thumbprint.” Who knew, right? At least, not an upstart crow. Never imagined such a thing in the pipe world. I cleaned the pipe and began smoking. Clark had been so right. This piece of ancient briar was indeed a marvelous smoker. No matter what I tossed into it, the Custom-Bilt (if indeed that is correct; you Mincer aficionados can correct me at will) performed like a mythical fairy emerging from the mists of folklore. Sublime aroma swirled from the pipe Clark had so graciously awarded me, for some odd reasoning that I still puzzle over. Soon after the gift, Clark retired, but then took up the editorship of a nearby community newspaper for a time. Of course, I treasure the Clark Porteous pipe. Even an upstart crow knows how to appreciate greatness. And speaking of greatness, we now turn our attention to one of the legendary figures of Tobacciana—Sir Winston Churchill, who was also once a wartime reporter. Yes, you read that correctly. Sir Winston interspersed his yearning for action as an early soldier and war correspondent. While in Sudan using his sterling contacts in London, he was able to attach himself to a campaign. And while at a war front, he also worked as a journalist for The Morning Post, a conservative newspaper in London. Then, as we all are aware, he became one of the most famous politicians, Prime Ministers, and larger-than-life legends in World War II when he took the English language to war. In fact, that quote is oft attributed to another news icon, Edward R. Murrow, who supposedly authored the quote: “Winston Churchill, mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.” Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born Nov. 30, 1874, and died Jan. 24, 1965. Now before you run me out of town on a rail, I am well aware that the PM, as they say in Merry Ol’ England, was a cigar smoker of renown and was rarely seen without his favored Romeo y Julieta or La Aroma de Cuba smokes. Occasionally he also puffed a pipe. I was once given the rare opportunity to interview Sir Winston’s grandson, Winston S. Churchill, a journalist, former war correspondent, and a member of the British House of Commons from 1970-97. He was in Knoxville, in 2006, to honor the 60th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s famed “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946. That speech, his grandson said, alerted America that the United States and the world faced Russia not as an ally, but as an enemy. It marked the beginning of the Cold War. One other premier newsman born in November was “Uncle” Walter Cronkite Jr., the 19-year-veteran anchor (1962-81) of CBS Evening News. Cronkite was born Nov. 4, 1916, and died July 17, 2009. During his time as a broadcast journalist (1937-81), Cronkite covered world events including World War II, Nuremberg, Vietnam, Watergate, the Iran Hostage Crisis, and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Lennon. And, quite naturally, Uncle Walter was fond of his pipes and tobacco. Who can forget the finishing line to his famous TV news broadcasts: “And that’s the way it is,” Cronkite’s end of show catchphrase, which was followed by the day’s date. And a parting quote from PM Churchill: […]
- Drink the Wild Air
Fall is a special time of year for those of us lucky enough to reside near forests. Here lush deciduous trees light up the mornings and evenings with color come October. For those of you in warmer climes, I hear the guffaws already. “Yeah, just wait until the snow flies.” The pundit gets it. Yes, we have snow here in the Southland, but that is a very small price to pay to look out amongst the hills shining brightly in October and November, before shedding leaves all over the place, including clogging house gutters.
- Prepping for Pipe-gating
Say, what is that aroma wafting about? Latakia? Yenidje? Izmir? Maybe. But could it be college football season is in the air and tailgate cookouts are smoking up the place? Or, yes, the World Series is just around the corner, and it’s time for brewskis, bratwurst, and bragging rights? Perhaps it is all of the above. To the Pundit’s way of putting things together, there is not much better in this strange world than a fresh pipe bowl of an English blend or a pure Virginia on a coolish college football Saturday.