It Was the "Sap"

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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
Sap is not a precise word.

But it’s the best word I know to use.

Legend holds that a visiting nobleman to Italy broke his meerschaum and while it was being repaired a craftsman fashioned him a briar pipe made of a Heather burl.

He said wow, this is a good pipe.

And thereby man’s love affair with briar pipes was born.

But what’s the best briar?

The best briar is pretty. It has fancy grain.

It’s also fireproof and tastes good.

The sap inside the burls of the heather shrubs that grow around the Mediterranean tastes the best.

And the worse soil those burls grew, the slower they grew and the tighter the grain, and the more of that good tasting sap there was.

The pipe makers figured all this out a long, long time ago.

IMG_6426.jpeg

There was some really poor soil in very severe weather conditions in Greece and Albania that KB&B took all the really ancient burls from in the thirties. Those are pretty as pretty gets, and they are divine smokers.

But the prize briar came from the Atlas mountain range in North Africa in Algeria. Some of it was over 400 years old. Some tiny portion of that was also pretty.

All those truly ancient Algerian briar burls are gone, gone even before the 1954 revolution. We smoke second best today.

The sap (or whatever the goodie is inside 400+ year old Algerian briar) is incredibly good tasting.

Once you get one you’ll know.

IMG_6466.jpeg
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri

A good comparison.

Mulberry has sap, too.

Note the capillaries that carry water and nutrients to the plant are close together in that piece of mullberry.

But the growth rings are about ten to the inch, and look in the middle where it had a tough year.

This isn’t the best piece of Algerian briar I own, but the growth rings are about a hundred to the inch. Every year was a very tough year on the slopes of the Atlas Mountains.

IMG_6467.jpeg

If you like the sap taste from Algerian briar it has lots of it.

And it’s much more fire resistant.

But a cob grows in a few months, and cobs make wonderful, sweet smoking pipes.

Which sap do you like best?
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
It's many years of the meerschaum trees growing that gets the sap lol

Meerschaum has silicates inside.

The flavor is said to be of the ocean.

 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
In the postwar boom after WW2 all the big pipe makers matched Lee with a $25 regular production cataloged pipe.

For his $25 the customer could pick a shape, and get more polishing and better finish, prettier grain, but mostly he got the tightest, oldest burls full of good tasting sap the makers had.

IMG_6469.jpeg

That five star Lee is mellow, and sweet, and cool smoking like all Lees are, except to a greater degree.
 

huntertrw

Lifer
Jul 23, 2014
5,274
5,519
The Lower Forty of Hill Country
If I recall correctly, certain pipe-manufacturers boiled their briar to remove as much sap as possible so as to make the resultant pipes lighter and their tobacco-charges taste better. Alfred Dunhill, on the other hand, used copper-covered heating elements that fit inside of the bowls of his Shell Briars to accomplish the same purposes.
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
If I recall correctly, certain pipe-manufacturers boiled their briar to remove as much sap as possible so as to make the resultant pipes lighter and their tobacco-charges taste better. Alfred Dunhill, on the other hand, used copper-covered heating elements that fit inside of the bowls of his Shell Briars to accomplish the same purposes.

To some extent all briar sellers boil or soak or otherwise cure the raw, wet briar to remove tannins.

Tannins are bad sap.

But for example, red cedar is blatantly aromatic. Heather burl briar is much less so, but there’s still “good sap” in the briar so long as the pipe hasn’t been smoked to death and saturated with tars.

My latest Algerian briar pipe drives some kind of sap out of the brair where it’s trapped by the wax I’ve added. Each smoke makes it a little redder and darker.

IMG_6470.jpeg

The amount of “good sap” in a piece of briar depends on how many lines of what was bark grew on the burl, the tighter the tastier.
 

LeafErikson

Lifer
Dec 7, 2021
1,929
16,521
Oregon
Legend holds that a visiting nobleman to Italy broke his meerschaum and while it was being repaired a craftsman fashioned him a briar pipe made of a Heather burl.

He said wow, this is a good pipe.
I’m disappointed in you, Briar Lee, for you forgot to tell the good people of the forum the end of your story.

Upon receiving his meerschaum back from repairs and lighting the pipe, he breathed a sigh of relief and chucked his briar pipe into the nearest receptacle. puffy
 

lraisch

Part of the Furniture Now
Jul 4, 2011
625
1,221
Granite Falls, Washington state
Sap is not a precise word.

But it’s the best word I know to use.

Legend holds that a visiting nobleman to Italy broke his meerschaum and while it was being repaired a craftsman fashioned him a briar pipe made of a Heather burl.

He said wow, this is a good pipe.

And thereby man’s love affair with briar pipes was born.

But what’s the best briar?

The best briar is pretty. It has fancy grain.

It’s also fireproof and tastes good.

The sap inside the burls of the heather shrubs that grow around the Mediterranean tastes the best.

And the worse soil those burls grew, the slower they grew and the tighter the grain, and the more of that good tasting sap there was.

The pipe makers figured all this out a long, long time ago.

View attachment 276642

There was some really poor soil in very severe weather conditions in Greece and Albania that KB&B took all the really ancient burls from in the thirties. Those are pretty as pretty gets, and they are divine smokers.

But the prize briar came from the Atlas mountain range in North Africa in Algeria. Some of it was over 400 years old. Some tiny portion of that was also pretty.

All those truly ancient Algerian briar burls are gone, gone even before the 1954 revolution. We smoke second best today.

The sap (or whatever the goodie is inside 400+ year old Algerian briar) is incredibly good tasting.

Once you get one you’ll know.

View attachment 276653
Allow me to quote from an authority, Carl Weber from "Weber's Book of Pipes".

"Briar is wood and, like all wood when freshly cut contains moisture in the form of sap." "If the sap were allowed to remain in the briar, it would melt when subjected to heat, and it would soon be forced to the surface of the bowl where it would appear as a sticky mess. Some of the sap would also be consumed along with the tobacco inside the bowl, and the smoker would experience a bitter, unpleasant taste. The removal of the natural sap also allows the wood to "breathe"."

My understanding is that some pipe makers have their own curing techniques once the briar has been boiled and these include special drying rooms, oil curing, etc.


Personally, I don't think I want sap in my briar pipes.
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
<< Snipped bits out >>.
Would you please post a photo that clearly shows the growth rings on that pipe?

Let me have a pass on the Victors, because it was so polished.

It’s just impossible for me to show the lines well on a cell phone.

IMG_6478.jpeg

That briar was much lighter colored, yesterday.

IMG_6476.jpegIMG_6475.jpeg
IMG_6479.jpeg

To see the lines, hold the pipe to a light and rotate until you spot them.

I have some Marxmans with denser briar (more lines per inch) that may photograph.
 

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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
Allow me to quote from an authority, Carl Weber from "Weber's Book of Pipes".

"Briar is wood and, like all wood when freshly cut contains moisture in the form of sap." "If the sap were allowed to remain in the briar, it would melt when subjected to heat, and it would soon be forced to the surface of the bowl where it would appear as a sticky mess. Some of the sap would also be consumed along with the tobacco inside the bowl, and the smoker would experience a bitter, unpleasant taste. The removal of the natural sap also allows the wood to "breathe"."

My understanding is that some pipe makers have their own curing techniques once the briar has been boiled and these include special drying rooms, oil curing, etc.


Personally, I don't think I want sap in my briar pipes.

Sap is the best word I can grasp.

There are solids and air in the wood, plus oils,,,saps,,,whatever runs out when I smoke the pipe and stains wax red.

IMG_6465.jpeg


If that were a white oak barrel, holding clear corn liquor, over the course of a few years it would color the booze about that color.

There are good saps, and bad saps.

Let’s hope the bitter ones are coloring the pipe and the cinnamon spicey ones are flavoring the smoke.
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
Here’s some lines on the bottom of the Victors.

As Algerian briar goes these are not a razor blade apart, but still very dense.

The lines cross the flames, which were capillaries.

Most (not all) Algerian briar I’ve seen was cross cut. It was the very devil to work with, and using cross cut pieces likely reduced waste, somehow.


IMG_6480.jpeg

This Victors doesn’t get hot to hold.

It also is a very rapid caker, so much I take the carbon out with a twisted paper towel every smoke or the cake builds up.

To savor ancient briar I want just a film of oily carbon on the inside of the bowl from draft hole to the rim.
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
Thanks for your efforts. I have a devil of a time trying to distinguish growth rings.
So do I and until recently didn’t notice them at all.

In 1938 there were over 30 million new pipes made and sold in the USA, a third of them by KB&B.

All sources claim an enormous amount of briar is waste.

When you read Kaywoodie literature of thd period they show 40, 60, 100 and 250 year old burls.

And the 250 year old burls were not the oldest. There were burls over 400 years old.

Naturally they used the easiest to harvest briar, and showed photos of men in the fields of Algeria with a French overseer in a beret, and said they went over the same fields every twelve years.

Pipe making hasn’t changed much but they had a market for pipes, an almost unimaginable 100 times greater then than today.

When there were 400 year old Algerian burls (determined by the growth rings) only a small portion was top grade.

IMG_6426.jpeg

Higher dollar pipes might have been made of Algerian but they seldom said so.

Imagine buying a new fancy grained smooth Castello and it turns oxblood reddish brown in a couple of days?

IMG_6338.jpeg
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
4,836
13,904
Humansville Missouri
OK. Who's paying you to represent Algerian briars? It's got to be some incentive. I mean, I would do it for Chinese food if Peterson came after me.

Relentless search for the best.

IMG_6482.jpeg

The lines are barely visible, but they are about three or four times closer on my ten dollar LHS silver band second than my Victors.

The LHS isn’t three or four times a better smoker. It’s a noticeably better smoker, though. Enough to sell another $25 pipe to a customer instead of a $10 pipe.

And the coloring of the tighter grained briar is just stupidly quicker, and redder.


There was lot of reddish “sap” in Algerian briar.

It was a problem for the makers of the very highest dollar pipes.
 
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Hillcrest

Lifer
Dec 3, 2021
2,731
13,096
Bagshot Row, Hobbiton
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