Ok, I didn't want to post anything about what happened until I talked with Mark. So, he called last night, so here it goes.
My first smoke, and as I had posted above, I tasted oak and peat all the way down. My wife was complaining about something smelling like it was on fire, and she is very aware of what tobacco smells like. I had set the finished pipe down, and maybe I should have dumped the bowl. But, the pipe kept smoldering. 15 minutes later, and the finished pipe was smoking more than what tobacco ought. I picked the pipe up, and it burned my fingers. But, despite what Briar Lee says, it was not 1000 degrees.
But, when it finally cooled down, I noticed that it had a hole burned clean through both sides.
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I sent Mark these pics in an email, and asked him if when he had asked me to send it back to him before smoking, if maybe he was going to put a bowl coating on it... and, maybe I had done this by being in too much of a hurry to smoke it. I didn't ask for a replacement. I'm just not that kind of guy. I figured that my first burn out in over a decade of smoking hundreds of different pipes was pretty good odds, and I was bound to get one.
He called me as soon as he read the email, and told me that a bowl coating would not have prevented a burn out and that he wasn't the biggest fan of bowl coatings, same as me. Super nice guy. He went on to say that he has had reports of 2 to thee of every 10 of his mortas burning out (compared to 1 in a thousand briars burning out). He was not pleased with this. They do make super sexy pipes, but what good is that if he is having to remake all of these pipes again... and then there is that oak taste. I'm afraid that reports of morta being neutral in taste is being made either by guys who can't taste worth a shit, or there is a super small portion of mortas that do not have a flavor. But, after being on here for years with a majority of people saying that they can't taste hay, citrus notes, or even the aroma of warmed briar in their pipes, that most people just can't taste things.
Anyways, he asked me to remove the band and send it to him so that he can make me a new one. I assured him that I did not expect to have him replace the pipe. But, he is such a nice guy that me refusing was making me feel like the bad guy. So... we will see. I will send him the band. Besides, making a pipe to fit a band is like cutting a stone to fit a setting. It is working backwards and takes a lot more skill. And, I am sure that Mark will impress me.
If he sends me another morta, I will give it another chance. But, in summation, I am not so sure that I would recommend morta except to the very slowest and most careful of smokers, and those who are just curious about the exotic. As far as recommending one to someone looking for an every day smoker... oh hell no. IMO, these should just be exotic special occasion pipes, even if the special occasion is just popping open a new McClellands tin.
So, what do you think, if I get another morta, should I smoke it, or just let it be a display piece?