Publisher & Founder of PipesMagazine.com
Certified Master Tobacconist (CMT) #1858 from TobacconistUniversity.org
My grandfather didn't smoke a pipe, but my uncle and some of my elementary school teachers did. In 1998, my neighbor Sam invited me out, and we ended up back at his place where there was a cigar humidor, and pipe rack on the coffee table. I had my first cigar, and then decided to try pipes too. I love the elegance and relaxation of smoking a pipe. In 2002, I started learning how to make websites, do SEO, and create content. I had a cigar content site and forums from 2005-2008 when it was bought out. In 2009, I launched PipesMagazine.com, which is now the largest, busiest community forums, and article content site for pipe and tobacco enthusiasts. We have one of the longest running pipe and tobacco focused podcasts since 2012 with lifetime industry veteran, Brian Levine.
At last, maybe, summer’s hot breath is fading into fall’s blessed currents that chill the morning air and put a lively step in the morning walk. Fall mornings are ready-made for a pipe and a walk. Especially if you have a dog tagging along, or leading the way. Of course, the Pundit is the proud owner of a beautiful Golden Retriever. Best dog on the planet hands down. There might be an argument or two on that little brag, but in the Pundit’s world, nothing quite matches the Golden. The fact that she is European in heritage (all Scottish from paws to ears) is another plus. Give that a moment to sink in. I’m thinking pipes and tobacco with that marvelous European heritage as well. Ok. Dog school is adjourned. On to fall and pipes and tobacco. When the crispness of autumn arrives, Pundit usually goes to one of the older pipes in the herd, one that has been through the toils and tremors of life. And offered comfort, resolve, and relaxation all of what a day presents, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some of my best companions on cool mornings are a couple of Ashtons and Petersons, and just maybe a special meerschaum that has logged many a mile with me. Or, one of Ian Walker’s Northern Briars English pipes, especially his Countryman, a Charatan shape. You can find Ian on his web page. I first encountered this master craftsman at a pipe show, which one escapes me now. It was either the big Chicagoland International Pipe and Tobacciana Show extravaganza or in Richmond, Va., at the Conclave Of Richmond Pipe Smokers. A “Southron” adventure. Ahem and harumph! I was intrigued by Ian’s pipe-making history and the superbly made pipes. His grandfather, George Walker, began Northern Briars in 1958 but had been creating pipes since 1922. Ian began in his grandfather’s shop and worked up from sweeping the place clean to working with silver to repairing. He later went on his own with Northern Briars, absorbed in an extraordinary pipe-making atelier. And just to add to this unique artisan’s history, a note from his web page points out that: “Ian lives with his wife, Catriona, on a traditional style narrow beam canal boat in the heart of England. His workshop on the 70-foot boat is inspired by the lifestyle of the working boats of Britain’s industrial heritage. With over 2000 miles of rural waterways to meander through, Ian has combined all the essentials of home and work into a practical, mobile reality.” The Pundit owns several of Ian’s wonders. And the tobacco? That would have to be a Virginia blend or a really good Virginia with Perique. And some English to lighten and brighten up the day a bit. Some burly, mayhaps, or a little velvety Kentucky burly aromatic, Scandinavian Group-Lane Blended sweetheart of a tobacco. Just right for a pipe, coat, dog and morning walk. I also especially enjoy one of William Faulkner’s favorite pipe blends, My Mixture 965, now blended by Peterson. Smoking “My Mixture” reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Huzzah! An old and now departed friend once showed me his special mixture: Half and Half, Bugler, with a dash of Sir Walter Raleigh. It was strong enough to stop a buffalo in full stampede mode. His pipes looked as if they had endured trench warfare. And perhaps they had. That friend, who will go unnamed here, was an author and erstwhile political publicist. He, too, had been through many a battle, political and otherwise. I never saw him without a lit pipe. I took a clue from him—leave tobacco blending to the experts. That was after I tried his blend. Let’s just leave the rest to your imagination. And that is one good reason I purchase tried and true brands by the masters. You know who they are. My attempts at blending resulted in something on the order of blah and bah, humbug. So, some of my choices for brisk fall mornings or the evening chill are Capstan Blue Flake, now under the Mac Baren tobacco blending umbrella, Plum Pudding (Seattle Pipe Club), Escudo under the A&C Petersen flag, and Orlik Golden Sliced by Orlik. And many a C&D Tobacco from its master blender Jeremy Reeves, a true chef of tobacco blends. These are just a few of Pundit favorites (see photo for more Pundit favs). Don’t get me started running down the list I enjoy on snappy fall days. It would take us a while, like sitting around listening to ancients smoking and solving the world’s problems, warming achy bones at a pot-bellied stove in a country grocery store. Just sayin’! And now a couple of literature’s finest authors and pipe smokers of the past: Evelyn Waugh, English novelist, and author/journalist was born Oct. 28, 1903, and died April 10, 1966. And P.G. Wodehouse, also an English author, was born Oct. 15, and died Feb. 14, 1975. For just a superb piece on P.G. Wodehouse, his literary legacy, and his love of his pipes and tobacco, be sure to check out Chuck Stanion’s Pipe Line at SmokingPipes.com, Aug. 20, 2021. Outstanding writing about one of English literature’s greatest storytellers by Chuck Stanion, one of pipes and tobaccos finest writers. A parting thought: Here’s to a spectacular fall in all its beauty with a fine pipe in hand.
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 576. Our featured interview tonight is with pipe maker Jesse Kulp. Jesse makes the Oliphant brand of pipes. He’s been a pipe smoker since he turned 18 in 2001. He started carving pipes in 2014 and started restoring estate pipes in 2016. He resides in the state of Wisconsin. When he is not making pipes, or smoking pipes, he is smoking meat. At the top of the show we will have a Pipe Smoking 101 segment where Brian will review the pipe tamper.
Recently, on the Pipes Magazine Forums, a user asked an open question about the Rattray’s Grand Lighter. I had not used or spent much time looking into those, so I thought it would be a good time to pick one up and do a review of it. When I do my lighter reviews, I generally like to do some deep digging and get in touch with the manufacturers such as IM Corona (Old Boy) or Tsutobo (Peterson, Kiribi), but in this case, there is scarce information available. Rattrays is distributed in the US by Sutliff, and you’ll find their lighters on SmokingPipes.com and other great retailers. I pinged Jeremy over at Sutliff to help me get in touch with the folks at Rattrays/Kopp and he got me connected to Oliver Kopp who was able to answer a few of my more detailed questions. The lighter that I chose to review is the Rattray’s Grand “Squares” lighter, which features a square line design on a highly polished stainless steel lighter. The Grand lighter was introduced about three years ago, and the Bel lighter was released about five years ago for context. It features a 45-degree soft flame, which helps (but not completely) keep build-up off the striker wheel – a problem that seems to plague my other lighters. These lighters fall square in the same competitive market of the Old Boy and the Kiribi, with a retail price of around $105 to $120. Some of their other lighters, like the Bel, retail for slightly less, around $82. Unboxing, you can see a few provided flints, which, upon inspection, are very similar to zippo flints if you’re looking for future replacements. The box contains instructions and warranty information and has silver foil inlaid text and decoration. Rattray’s states that their lighters are designed by them in Germany. But until I received it, I had no idea where it was actually made—China. That said, Oliver tells me that the Bel lighter is the same lighter used for Pierre Cardin and that the manufacturer they chose to go with also manufactures the Dupont Jet lighters. On the bottom of the lighter is a flip-up cover with Rattray’s name etched into it, which protects the refill valve and adjustment screws. The cover, though, you can see by the pictures, is less finished and does not quite feel as quality as one would expect for a $100+ lighter. But I do appreciate the cover. Zooming in, you can see the butane nozzle is angled out to the left from the spark wheel. The top flint section slides back on a spring load, but I warn you the tiny mechanism on the side is a bit of a pain to release the catch holding it back. But this feature is unique in that you can visually always see how much of the flint is left for when you have to replace it. That’s right, there’s no need to unscrew something; just slide the bar back, it locks into place, and then drop the new flint in. You need to put your fingernail between the thumbslide and the tiny metal catch, and the thumbslide will slide back into place. If you don’t do this, the top will not close. You can also see in this picture where the flame hits the metal area, which can be wiped away, but it’s due to the shorter nozzle. The lighter features a long “ignition” wheel, which is great for guys with big thumbs. It rotates quite easily and sparks well. I find that the lighter is taller than many other lighters and a bit slimmer at 2.76 in. / 70.21 mm in height and 0.39 in. / 10.07 mm in width. It weighs about 2.6 oz or 73ish grams. On the front-facing side it has the Rattray’s logo on the bottom right corner. It produces a nice soft flame that works like a champ to light your favorite tobacco. The internal tank is a plastic tank, but this is very common in many new lighters manufactured today. Before Rattrays introduces a new lighter, they actually send it (the prototype) to the repair shop that they use for all warranty services to review the lighter and make sure that it’s of high quality. Oliver tells me the return/repair rate for all of their lighters is low, and that is also because they concentrate on flint-style lighters as they are considerably more reliable than the electro-jet flames. The official repair center for these lighters is located here. Vintage Styling Now let’s talk about inspiration because the first thing one of my pipe club members said when I showed him the lighter was, “Wow, that looks like a Dupont.” As mentioned earlier, it’s the same manufacturer that makes one of the lines for Dupont as well as Pierre Cardin, so you can assume some shared styling. Borrowing ideas for lighters is nothing new; the “Old Boy” was originally a Dunhill lighter style. But when thinking about styling, we also look at the name – Dupont has a lighter named “Le Grand.” The Le Grand features both a soft flame and a torch flame for use with pipes and cigars. Now, price-wise, an ST Dupont lighter will set you back $1,500 and is geared squarely toward the luxury gentlemen’s market. That said, S.T. Dupont lighters have been around since the 1940s and are as much of a jewelry piece as it is lighter. When flipping the cap of most of the Dupont lighters, you get this resonating “ping” sound that is synonymous with them, and unfortunately, the Rattray’s Grand does not emit that type of sound. Kirby Allison did a great review of many of the ST Dupont lighters here, and its quite possible you will see a review from me at some point covering the best Dupont lighters for pipes and including some buying tips on the used and new market. In Summary There are some pros and cons to […]
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 575. We have a special show tonight to celebrate the start of our 12th year. In lieu of an interview, Brian will be joined by another popular pipe podcast host – Jon David Cole. JD is the Owner/Tobacconist at The Country Squire in Jackson, MS, and he is the former co-host of the now discontinued podcast, Country Squire Radio. Country Squire Radio ran for 10-years and is still one of the most popular pipe-niche podcasts. Having these two pipe and tobacco brainiacs bouncing off of each other for over 45-minutes will be a blast. We will be preempting our usual first segment to start right off with JD. We will have the usual music, mailbag and rant at the end of the show.
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 574! Our featured interview tonight is with Michael DiCuccio. Michael is the President of TinBids.com, “The Pipe Collector’s Auction Site” where you can buy and sell vintage and rare tobacco tins, tobaccos, pipes and accessories. He has been collecting for over 30-years, and has a personal pipe collection of over 1,100 pipes. Michael also has his own IT company and is a self-proclaimed “computer geek”. At the top of the show we’ll get caught up on a backlog of emails and messages from our listeners with some great questions and comments. We will still have our regular mailbag segment at the end of the show as well.
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 573! Our featured interview tonight is with J.B. “Brandon” Frady. Brandon is a new pipe maker making the Ash Cooper line of pipes which just launched earlier this year. His pipes are freehand and artistic shapes and designs. He is also a freelance writer for any type of project, but has been published for music reviews, concert reviews, and a single anomalous video game review, and other writings in a couple dozen professional publications. His full time job is with State Farm Insurance. At the top of the show we will have an Ask the Tobacco Blender segment with Jeremy Reeves. Jeremy is the Head Blender at Cornell & Diehl, which is one of the most popular boutique pipe tobacco companies in the USA.