- Kevin Godbee
- May 22, 2013
- 1 min read
The most popular material for making tobacco smoking pipes is by far—Briar. The Comoy family started making briar pipes in Saint-Claude, France in 1856 when they found that it was far superior to other woods and clays being used at the time. There are other woods used to make smoking pipes, but briar is considered the best because of several qualities—resistance to burning, density that withstands moisture produced from smoking, porosity that reduces heat, and the flavor that the wood itself adds to the tobacco in some cases. Briar comes from the Heath Tree, which looks more like a shrub than a tree, and is actually a flowering plant. It is small and grows in the Mediterranean Basin, coming from countries such as; Spain, France, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, and Greece.
The briar wood actually comes from the root system of the plant. There is a large roundish burl that is formed underground, below the trunk, from which the individual roots then spread out. It is this burl that is harvested, boiled and cut into rough pieces of wood called ebauchons. The ebauchons, or briar blocks eventually get delivered to factories or individual pipe makers to be crafted into actual pipes.
The Achaiki Amadeus briar block processing plant was kind enough to provide this 10-minute video that shows what happens with the burls after harvest.
Written by Kevin Godbee
View all posts by: Kevin Godbee
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- January 18, 2022 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 488
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 488! Our featured interview tonight is with John Brandt. John is the owner of the Wilke Pipe Tobacco, which has been in existence since 1872. Wilke has a great history of pipe making and tobacco blending. John is the second owner, since 2017, after the founding family, and he continues to make some of the original tobacco blends from over a century ago. In the “Pipe Parts” segment we will have “Ask the Pipemaker” with pipe artisan Jeff Gracik. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- January 11, 2022 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 487
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 487! Our featured interview tonight is with Phil Morgan, the General Manager of the Missouri Meerschaum Co. Missouri Meerschaum has been making the original American-made Corn Cob Pipes for over 150-years. Phil is joined on the show by his daughter, Shannon Hock. She has been working at the company for several years and will be increasing her role there. We will also talk about Missouri Meerschaum’s take over of sales and marketing for Old Dominion corn cob and clay pipes, and the differences between the brands. In the “Pipe Parts” segment Brian will have a review of one our listener’s pipe collections. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- January 6, 2022 Give it a Rest
Something somewhat out of character has been afoot in the House of Pease. For more than a week, I have been smoking the same pipe every day, sometimes twice. What’s the big deal? Lots of people do that. I’ve always been a rather outspoken advocate for the “Well Rested Pipe,” and I don’t mean just setting it aside for a day or two between smokes. Typically, after I’ve finished a bowl, I’ll give the pipe a solid fortnight, often longer, before picking it up again. This may strike some as little more than a convenient justification for maintaining a large collection, and I wouldn’t deny this benevolent side-effect of a well worn habit. But more importantly, at least to me, I’ve always found that pipes just taste much better when they’ve had a little R-and-R. Smoked too frequently, they tend to deliver a harsher, more astringent smoke than I prefer. I’ve known many pipe smokers who feel similarly, but over the years I’ve also talked to those who are equally dedicated to the notion that the whole “resting” thing is a load of rubbish, and are content to smoke their pipes as frequently as they like without experiencing any ill-effects. I once talked about this with Larry Roush, who insisted that a good pipe should be able to be smoked bowl after bowl, and it will still taste just fine as long as it’s kept clean. (Honestly, I’ve always thought this a bit nuts, but de gustibus non disputandum est.) How can there be such a difference in perception? And, which side is right? So, here I find myself doing the opposite of what has been my custom for nearly as long as I’ve been a pipe smoker, and doing so in a couple of ways. First, for much of the past year, I’ve found myself rummaging through the “cellar,” and smoking a lot of the aged and vintage VA blends I’ve accumulated, which is a bit out of character for me. I really like Virginias, but I’m primarily a pretty devout latakiaphile, and always have been so it’s been something of an interesting change of direction to spend so much time deeply exploring outside the comfort zone of the smoky stuff, and in doing so I’ve gained an even greater appreciation, especially for well-aged Virginias, with or without perique. It’s been great to expand the horizons in such a concentrated way. But back on topic. For over a week, I’ve smoked the same pipe day after day, sometimes more than once. I didn’t set out to do this; I was just continuously drawn back to this particular pipe, and figured that as long as it continued treating my tongue well, I might as well stay calm and carry on. To my surprise, neither pipe, nor smoker suffered at all from repeated encounters. In fact, bowl after bowl, I enjoyed it immensely. Finally, after many smokes, the flavors the pipe delivered were a bit less than ideal, but still far better than I expected. A quick swab with a pipe cleaner dipped in alcohol, and everything was again right as rain. Wondering, then, if my old habit might perhaps be more superstition than reality, I grabbed a tin of one of my most beloved full latakia mixtures, and carried out the same experiment with another well seasoned and long-favored pipe. Off to a great start, the first smoke was ambrosial. But within a few bowls, that same harshness I’d experienced in the past grabbed my tongue in its caustic tentacles like an ill-tempered Cthulhu rising from the murky depths of R’yleh. Fending off the demon, I gave the pipe a good scrub, and tried again. No joy. At least with those fuller-bodied latakia mixtures, resting the pipe seems essential for the optimal smoking experience. How many who claim not to like latakia mixtures might feel differently if they changed the way they treated them? This old dog may have been taught a couple new tricks. While I am reluctant to over-generalize, there seems to be some evidence that what we fill our pipes with may have a significant role to play in both how we smoke and how we treat our pipes, and in turn, how our pipes treat us. Virginias have shown themselves to be more forgiving both of the pipe in which they are smoked, and of what I once would have considered pipe-abuse. Latakia mixtures, not so much. Retrospectively, this seems to make some sense. Those fellows who insisted pipes don’t need rest were mostly Virginia devotees. So is Larry Roush. The ones who were on my side of the discussion? They love their latakias. I realize this is anecdotal; of course not all pipes, nor all pipe smokers, are guaranteed to behave the same way, so your mileage may vary, and there’s often a sort of mystical synergy between briar and leaf that we might never fully understand. But maybe this experience can pull up the covers and let the rest debate rest, at least in my own head. Which side is right? It seems both are. We all have our traditions, our rituals, our unique taste, but maybe it’s a good thing to relax our grasp on them once in a while and explore the alternatives. There are many ways to enjoy the pipe, and none of them is right or wrong. Seems like this might be some generally good advice for life, too. Photos by G.L. Pease
- January 4, 2022 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 486
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 486! Tonight we have Rich Esserman back with us. Rich was on last week, and we want to thank him for jumping in at the last minute as our scheduled guest had a last minute conflict. 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. He also never runs out of interesting things to talk about with pipes and tobaccos. At the top of the show we have “Ask the Tobacco Blender” with Jeremy Reeves, the head blender at Cornell & Diehl. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- January 4, 2022 Peterson – Sunset Breeze Review
The holiday season has crept upon us again, and with it the urge, in me at least, to indulge in some unabashed aromatic smoking. In normal times, the holidays are a reason to enjoy feasting and the company of family and friends; aromatics of course make for a pleasant atmosphere for smokers and non-smokers alike, while the pipe itself hearkens to a sense of tradition and hearth concomitant with the season. In these uncertain days, while we may not be able to enjoy all of those things in the traditional manner, I do hope that our readers are able to find a reasonable facsimile thereof in some small measure. Looking back on this past year, I find something missing: Peterson special editions. It used to be I looked forward to them annually—summer, limited, and especially the holiday blend. Sadly, they are no longer, but some cellar diving did unearth a curiosity: a jar of Sunset Breeze dated 2014, my favored blend from their standard lineup, which it seemed only fitting to compare to a new production tin. With the K&P portfolio of blends being acquired by Scandinavian Tobacco Group in 2018, would it be the same old blend? Would it even still be palatable? My worries proved unfounded, as upon opening it, it smelled every bit as sweet and almondy as it should, identical in nature to a fresh tin, if only the slightest bit muted. Preferring the ideology of a tropical sunset to a winter’s chill, it all seems to come together perfectly for this smoke. Peterson tobaccos have never let me down, at least not in terms of smoking enjoyment. I am, however, more than a little heartbroken that their holiday blend series is a thing of the past. From my first tin in 2009 to the last, extremely difficult to obtain tin from 2019, the special editions were a sort of side adventure that I anticipated embarking on, both for the aromatic creations—some of which were remarkable, some wacky, some forgettable—but also for the tin art; tins that I now keep various trinkets, sewing kits, pens, and other odds and ends in, but which also encapsulate memories of those years within—the year I went to the Chicago show, the year I started writing for PipesMagazine, the year old Romeo passed on, the year I broke off an engagement. I daresay we pipe smokers tend toward being a sentimental lot, if anything. Just looking at the blood-orange red tin of Sunset Breeze evokes for me the sense-memory of its delicious amaretto aroma. The bouquet of the fresh tin as well as its color is, as expected, a bit more vibrant and bright as compared to the jarred sample, though the latter has retained the larger part of its aroma, if a bit more tempered and a smidge darker of leaf. Inhaling deeply nets a full bouquet of almond, orangey citrus, light cherry hints, and the faint nuttiness of the burley threading it all together. Pomander balls, those clove-studded oranges my aunt was famous for making, come to mind—recommending this blend suitably in the range of the traditional scents of the season. Speaking of the leaf, comparing the two vintages reassures me that STG has taken great care in its stewardship of the Peterson marque—aside from the darkening of the color, the cut and texture of the leaf from the samples are remarkably similar, and the aroma of the casing is spot-on the same. I see the same melange of lots of dark Cavendish with burley and Virginia crosscut, artfully arranged in the Peterson manner. From charring light to about mid-bowl, it’s all about the room note. The nose aroma for the smoker is enticing and spicy with a promise of sweetness, and is certainly a crowd-pleaser for bystanders—as prescribed, always an excellent choice to recommend for lighting up at any gatherings. Care and patience are rewarded with Cavendish-forward blends like these, for they can be a dangerous temptress, urging the smoker to puff a little too fast while chasing the translation of aroma to flavor, only to be rewarded with a sharply bitten tongue. To that end, I find that a double espresso, or at the very least a strong black coffee, makes a perfect accompaniment for tending the start of the bowl to balance out the alkalinity of the blend as well as a counterpoint to the flavors—perfect for the after-dinner cup. The second half of the bowl is the real reward for the patient smoker. The components of the blend by now have fully orchestrated and mingled into an earthy, slightly floral melange, redolent with the amaretto sweetness, and it is here the smoker will find those tastes they’ve been chasing while sharing them with the room. The nuttiness of the burley is perfectly suited to the almond casing, and is just slightly sour and sweet enough to satisfy the post-prandial craving. Smoked sparingly, it leaves a light and pleasantly soapy and nutty aftertaste on the palate, not unlike an almond in the shell. It’s always good enough to beg another bowl, so I’ll often find myself packing several in succession; usually smaller sized pipes, and there’s always a cob handy, which suits the blend well. I also find it does best prepared bone-dry for smoking. Enjoying the pipe after a holiday feast also makes a perfect time for contemplation. For my part, I’ll be spending what is likely the last holiday with an old friend, a companion for the past couple decades who’s been around the world and back with me, my cat Le Stryge. We’ll reminisce about the tastes of yesteryear, and not give too much thought to the year ahead, at least for now. We’ll give some thoughts to those who have left us, blessed us by their passing, and though it will be a quiet Christmas with just the two of us, we’ll be contented, him purring in my lap and fur smelling faintly of amaretto smoke.
- January 4, 2022 A New Year: New Pipes and Tobacco
Here we are on the cusp of a new year. Like Satchel Paige, I am just a bit fearful these days to look over my shoulder. Something might be gaining on me. With apologies to the great baseball pitcher and Hall of Famer. Actually, the new year is getting off to a decent start. Now, to all you New Year’s Eve party hounds who whooped it up, I long ago left that part of the New Year to the amateurs, as an old colleague of mine once opined. We did very well amongst ourselves in various bars and wherever, however. The Pundit’s idea of a wild and wooly evening these days is trying out a new tobacco blend and watching a movie from the 1940s. At least, I can understand the plot and what’s being said. People seemed to speak a little clearer and slower then. Or it’s just that my hearing has moved to a granny slow gear. But it is refreshing to wipe the yearly slate clean and start anew, isn’t it? Especially when it comes to pipes and tobacco blends, eh? Now, let’s just say the Pundit has become very persnickety when it comes to adding to the pipe herd or ordering more tobacco. It has to be something special and a missing link in the herd for it to attract special attention. Not saying that a beautiful, must-have pipe or blend, won’t make it to the shopping cart, but I’ve decided this is the year that the Pundit will be very precise indeed. No more wild flourishes of just adding a basketful of pipes and tobacco and then later thinking, “What was that all about?” The reason? After 45-plus years of collecting pipes and tobacco and smoking my beloved pipes, it has come time to reflect on the future of the herd. Not to worry. Pundit will never give up his pipes voluntarily. And the Pundit tobacco cellar is well-positioned to manage things should the regulatory tobacco apocalypse hit tomorrow, perhaps collapsing the industry as we know it today in one huge wallop! At last count, the herd was well north of 200 pipes. The cellar is prepared for the worst possible outcomes, barring meteor strikes. So, it would seem the Pundit is primed for whatever curves the new year might toss out on the tobacco and pipes front. But who knows what might bubble up in other confusing situations Sapiens insist upon as the world turns. On a more important note, this month marks the 142nd anniversary of the birth of one of America’s greatest World War II heroes, who also happened to be an iconic pipe smoker. Gen. Douglas MacArthur was born on Jan. 26, 1880, in Little Rock, Ark. Most of the world recognizes the famous American general as the one who guided the South Pacific war in WWII. He left the island of Corregidor with his family under orders from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but then returned, as he said he would in his famous island farewell “I shall return” promise. He waded ashore in Oct. 1944, in the Philippines during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The general with the iconic long-stemmed corncob pipe had made good on his vow. Others will recall the general as the military leader who oversaw the Japanese surrender documents aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Sept. 2, 1945. Probably one of the most famous photos of MacArthur is with his 5 Star General corncob pipe. He was rarely photographed without either holding or clenching that iconic large pipe. You can find the MacArthur 5-Star Corncob Pipe at Missouri Meerschaum, the legendary company that continues to produce the corncob pipe based upon a design the general sent to the renowned manufacture in Washington, Mo. That company has been making corn cob pipes since 1869. And if you haven’t fired up a cob, you are missing one of the sweetest smokes you’ll have. The Pundit, of course, owns several, including The 5-Star MacArthur General. To the Pundit’s way of thinking, that MacArthur is a 5-star smoke! Now for a couple of Pundit musings: As we contemplate a new season of possibilities, I am hopeful. Walking with my pipe in winter is a special moment. It seems to connect synergistically: nature to nature. Now, the Pundit isn’t the best at pontificating, but just being able to smoke my beloved pipes and tobaccos on a frosty winter morning on a brisk walk, seems to be a kind of connection that we all need. Let’s take a break from all the sad news and reflect on the good. For example, did you add to your pipe collection this past year, but long to see what talented pipe artisans have in store this coming year? The Pundit is chomping at the bit to see what’s on the horizon not only from pipe makers but also from the wizards of tobacco blending. Their pestle and mortar mixing various leaves of Nicotiana tabacum is such magic. It’s like having a tobacco apothecary in our midst to take care of our everyday needs in blends and information. In this time of discontent, the winter of our discontent—apologies to The Bard William Shakespeare and John Steinbeck for popularizing this famous quote—it’s time to look forward to all the goodness that is before us. Just think of all the new pipes and blends that hover on the horizons. Christmas and the New Year have come and gone. Presents unwrapped and parties are vague memories. But what is before us is more than what is behind us pipe smokers. Here’s looking toward a new year, new pipes, and tobacco blends. Here’s to new pipe smoking friends, and to you who keep our hobby so alive and interesting. Like you, the Pundit is aiming for brighter days and more pipes and tobacco. And now in parting, a quote from the general that may set the stage for our new seasons of 2022: “Life is a lively process […]