James Foster Why would I have expected to have very little new pipe news this year? In a totally unexpected fashion my 2 and a half days on the IPCPR […]Read more
Adam J. Smith At the next gathering of pipe-smokers you attend, pause for a moment and look around the room. Chances are, at least one person is smoking a blend […]Read more
Kevin Godbee You may remember earlier this year when we reported on the Stokkebye, Lane, STG Shake-Up, which left Erik Stokkebye out of the business he had been in his […]Read more
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- March 21, 2023 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!
- March 14, 2023 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!
- March 10, 2023 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 […]
- March 7, 2023 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 547
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 547! Our featured interview tonight is with Dan Croxall. This is the third in our series of interviews with “Journeymen Pipe Smokers” – guys that have been smoking pipes between five and 10 years. Dan is a professor at his alma mater, the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. Prior to returning to academia, Dan practiced law at the world’s largest law firm (DLA Piper LLP) as a complex civil litigator and white-collar criminal defense attorney. He then opened the world’s smallest law firm (Croxall Law) in 2013 to focus his practice on representing California Craft breweries and related parties. At the top of the show, Brian will have a trip report on his visit to Jackson, MS to The Country Squire for the party and last recording of the Country Squire Radio Podcast. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- March 6, 2023 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, […]
- March 2, 2023 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.”