Since the summer of 2011, I’ve been anxiously waiting to make the trek to St. Charles, IL for the Chicago Pipe Show. My dreams of tables filled with beautiful pipes and vintage tobaccos was shattered when my good friend informed me of his wedding date, May 5, 2012. I couldn’t believe it! Our trip to Mecca, THE Chicago Pipe Show, had been whisked away by his charming bride-to-be. Happy anniversary Dan & Jennifer, I still love you guys. I have had plenty of time to contemplate exactly what to expect at the show and this year it would finally be realized, my first Chicago Pipe Show. It was at the 2012 NASPC Swap/Sell Pipe Show in Columbus, OH where I met Frank Burla from the Chicagoland Pipe Collectors Club. After chatting about our time in the military and aviation, the conversation came to the 2013 Chicagoland International Pipe and Tobacciana Show and the two-day Pipe Making Seminar. Here’s my report.
Pipe Making Seminar
The Pipe Making Seminar was held from 9am to 5pm on May 1st and 2nd at the Pheasant Run Resort Mega Center Annex. Participants had the opportunity to create a pipe with guidance from expert pipe makers. The show officer in charge was Rex Poggenpohl, with moderator Brian Ruthenberg, and instructors: Mike Butera, Rad Davis, Lee von Erck, Alex Florov, and Andy Petersen of Quad City Pipes. There were also appearances by Teddy Knudsen, Kent Rasmussen, and Romeo Domenico of Mimmo Briar on Thursday.
Over the course of two days, we massaged pre-drilled briar blocks with molded stems into our very own finished pipes. Each pipe was truly one-of-a-kind, having the influences of so many masters of the trade who donated their time, resources, and knowledge to make this seminar an experience we will never forget. After the seminar had ended and we were admiring our new creations, Lee von Erck reminded us of the important last step, "Stuff it and puff it!"
After the completion of the seminar, it was a wonderful feeling knowing that the show was just getting started. Friday morning kicked off with the Smoke and Swap pre-show inside the smoking tent. Every table at the pre-show was packed and it was bustling all day. The pre-show seemed even larger than the Columbus show last August! The tent remained busy until event coordinators had to ask vendors to pack up so they could prepare for the evening events. It was hard to believe this was just the tip of the iceberg.
The Friday evening Welcome Buffet Dinner held in the St. Charles Ballroom was a complementary meal sponsored by Sutliff Tobacco Company and the CPCC. This delicious seven-course dinner not only had a dessert selection that would satisfy any sweet tooth, but each guest also received a tin of Sutliff Private Stock tobacco.
Kevin Godbee & Brian Levine PipesMagazine.com Presentation
After dinner, we headed to the smoking tent to have a bowl and listen to the presentation by Kevin Godbee and Brian Levine. Having listened to the Pipes Magazine Radio Show from its inception, it was very interesting to hear the history behind the show and how the format was developed. I think Mr. Subliminal’s review on Middleton’s Cherry Blend couldn’t have been more accurate. Link
We spent the rest of our evening smoking and chatting with Russ Cook, Wayne Teipen, Andrew Staples, and several other new friends at our table. You may want to avoid looking at your watch in the smoking tent, as it will be the wee hours of the morning before you know it.
Entering the show
Upon entering the Pheasant Run Mega Center Saturday, I couldn’t believe my eyes. We had been forewarned of the sensory overload that would be inevitable. I would definitely heed Brian Levine’s advice in episode 27 of the Pipes Magazine Radio Show. By making some simple preparations in advance, you can avoid stumbling around like an extra on The Walking Dead. It would be impossible to cover the show in its entirety within this article. Instead, I will cover of a small portion of the 200-plus exhibitors in attendance.
The educational displays near the entrance are the first indication of the stature of this show. George Amron was kind enough to display over 150 of his bamboo stem pipes. His collection included pipes from a number of makers, such as Chonowitsch, Gracik, Todd Johnson, Tokutomi, and Tsuge. Dave Peterson’s Castello collection featured many pipes with their unique Epoca and Sea Rock finishes, while Mark Berman’s collection of Perry White and other American pipes was equally impressive. The following CPCC members also kindly displayed portions of their collections: Paul Bender, Michael W. Reschke, Judd Perlson, Lee Murphy, and Pat Velkavrh.
Some of the financial support for the show comes from the donation and sale of items in the silent auction. From 11am until 3:30pm on Saturday, attendees placed bids on items by simply writing their name and bid on the appropriate bid sheet. When auction manager Mike Gaffney blew his whistle, bidding was over and the highest bidder won their respective items. Donations ranged from cigars, pipes and tobaccos to artwork, clothing and even pipe smoking gnomes. Donor and buyer participation is open to everyone and is highly encouraged! PipesMagazine.com Forums member, Undecagon (Anthony) won the G.L. Pease donation for the second year in a row.
Cornell & Diehl
As we approached the Cornell and Diehl display, the aroma coming from the massive selection of open tins was incredible. All of the staff were extremely friendly and generously offered up samples. I had the pleasure of speaking briefly with Chris Tarler, CEO of Cornell and Diehl. We were excited to hear about the introduction of the second blend in their "Working Man" series. "Lunchtime Blues" is a blend of red Virginia, bright Virginia, lots of Burley, and a little bit of Turkish. The first blend, "Morning Drive Time", is a light English / Burley blend with red and bright Virginias, and a little bit of Perique which was introduced in February at the St. Louis show. The third blend in the series, "Five O’ Clock Shadow", is scheduled to be released in October. According to Tarler, Cornell and Diehl manufactures close to 300 blends including G.L. Pease and Captain Earle’s.
Missouri Meerschaum Company
A new, but very familiar name at the show was The Missouri Meerschaum Company. They have been manufacturing cool-smoking corn cob pipes since 1869 in Washington, Missouri. I had the opportunity to speak with general manager Phil Morgan. He introduced me to some hardwood pipes they began making in response to the heat and drought that severely impacted last year’s corn crop. There are three different designs of the hard maple pipes based on popular corn cob shapes. Although not new, the "Morgan" corn cob nose warmer has been popular and is available in natural or polished finishes. The most exciting news is they are intending to reintroduce the bulldog style shape that was discontinued about 20 years ago. Get ready to add some more cobs to your collection!
Hailing from Milano, Italy it was delightful to meet Luca di Piazza of Neatpipes.com. I remember purchasing my first pipe from Neatpipes.com in 2011. My Pease/di Piazza Clear Junebug #007/100 was my first experience with Luca and it couldn’t have been better. What really took me by surprise was that Christmas to find a handwritten postcard in the mail from Italy wishing me a Merry Christmas! Launched in March, the Radice Chubby Aero Billiard has been selling out nearly as soon as they are listed on the website. Luca had a selection of 30 Aero Billiards, including the first ever Morta Aero Billiard. These reverse calabash pipes provide a cool, dry smoke in a compact package. Also on display from pipe maker Tonino Jacono were two special pipes. One cut from the largest piece of briar and one cut from the best piece of briar he had ever used. Luca also had pipes from artisan makers Alex Florov, Scott Klein, Vladimir Grechukhin, and several others.
SmokingPipes.com had their usual large island of tables with a huge selection of just about every kind of pipe imaginable. There were also several expert staff members to help with any questions. An especially intriguing line of beautiful leather accessories from Claudio Albieri from Italy was on display. This included tobacco pouches, roll-ups, pipe bags, and a stylish and classy leather brief case. It’s the perfect accessory for today’s modern pipe smoker on the go. You can fit your laptop or tablet along with six pipes, and of course everything else you need. The briefcase comes with six leather pipe bags (each fitted with a button to allow it to snap securely into place inside), and loops and pockets for pipe cleaners and accessories.
PipesAndCigars.com is known for announcing new products at the Chicago Pipe Show, and this year was no different. I had a chance to chat with Hearth & Home master blender Russ Ouellette about some of the upcoming blends from PipesAndCigars.com. The reintroduction of Mel Feldman’s "The Smoker" blends from the 1990’s received most of the attention at the show. Along with the 14 original blends, Russ also released the private blend that Mel tinned for his friend and collector Fred Goldring. Two more exciting blends are also in the works for this year. A first for Ouellette, a powerhouse Perique blend which will be primarily Virginia with a healthy dose of Perique and Dark Fired Kentucky. The second is scheduled for release around fall and will be a cousin to "Black House" called "White Knight". “If you know what Black House was supposed to be, then you can probably figure out what White Knight is supposed to be,” Russ says. By the end of the year PipesAndCigars.com will have their bases covered with their take on 3 of the Sobranie’s: Original, 759, and Virginia No. 10. (Pictured below is PipesMagazine.com Publisher, Kevin Godbee, and Mel Feldman, the creator of The Smoker blends that have been re-introduced to the market by P&C.)
Quad City Pipes
In less than 5 years, Andy Petersen of Quad City Pipes has had quite the experience as a relatively new pipe maker. Getting to work with pipe makers such as Michael Parks and Alex Florov, winning a place in the 2010 Kansas City Pipe Making Competition, and now being a mentor to others through the Pipe Making Seminar at the Chicago Pipe Show. Petersen mentioned that he has received so much help and advice throughout his journey, he wanted to give back to the community by volunteering as an instructor. Andy’s talent definitely shines through in his work and attention to the small details. I eagerly await to see what the future brings from the Quad City Pipes workshop.
Joel Shurtleff started selling pipes online through his eBay store in April of 2003. Two-and-a-half years later he made the move to TheBriarPipe.com where he continues to provide a great selection of pipes and accessories. One of the newer carvers being offered on Joel’s site is Klaus Zenz from Austria, a classical cabinet maker who began making pipes a few years ago. Sergey Cherepanov and Gregor Lobnik pipes were also available along with some of the classic names such as Castello, Ardor, Il Duca, and Paolo Becker. To receive updates when new pipes arrive in his inventory, head over to TheBriarPipe.com and sign up for his newsletter.
The 2013 Chicago Pipe Show was the most fun I have had in a very long time. There was so much to do and see, but most important were the new friendships that were formed with some of the greatest people. There really are no other people like our brothers and sisters of the briar. I hope to see you all at the next show and definitely next year in Chicago.
Photo of Kevin Godbee & Brian Levine © 2013 Sally Drees Gottliebson. Used by permission.
All other photos © 2013 Chris Stout and PipesMagazine.com