Shortages of Briar

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor

.
.

Log in

Search on Site

SmokingPipes.com Updates

Watch for Updates Twice a Week

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor

.

.

Recent Posts

PipesMagazine Approved Sponsor

.

.

oldgeezersmoker

Preferred Member
Oct 7, 2016
1,437
495
At the same time Dunhill was bitching about Algerian briar, Barling made good pipes from it. My understanding of the present situation is very limited, bu I have been led to believe that there was a long drought of any Algerian briar being harvested after independence circa 1960.
 
Reactions: sablebrush52

craig61a

Preferred Member
Apr 29, 2017
566
1,387
One of the marketing ploys in selling Algerian briar was the flavor it has. That was a selling point for Edwards, and they made a point of how much stock that had at a time when the wood was quite rare.

In my opinion, once you’ve smoked a particular pipe a number of times, the flavor imparted by the briar is negligible.

As for wood in general, I’m particular to rock maple. I have several Don Warren rock maple pipes, and it seems to mellow the smoke somewhat. Just my opinion. I don’t have a PhD in materials science...
 

craig61a

Preferred Member
Apr 29, 2017
566
1,387
OTOH, I do do have a number of Edward’s pipes from the 50’s and 60’s, and they are great smokers...
 

7charb

Preferred Member
Sep 13, 2019
696
771
Guerneville, CA
I ran across this interesting article in the NY Times about a shortage of pipes in 1964. I had no idea, of course. There are some interesting things in here, including the price of a new Dunhill at $35. Also noted was a "dwindling supply of 100 year old briar roots." It seems that the problem of a shortage of briar deemed appropriate to fine pipe making is an ongoing theme. I'm not an historian of pipes, but I do find this interesting. I thought the article might be of interest to others here.

I was born in 1964!
 

7charb

Preferred Member
Sep 13, 2019
696
771
Guerneville, CA
Again, there's a huge difference between the pipe MAKER's view of a product, and the pipe SMOKER's view of a product. I hate Algerian briar. It's cut poorly, it's full of big flaws, out of 20 select grade blocks I probably get about 2 smooth pipes and 4 in the garbage. Same money buys me wood out of Italy that I would get 18/20 smooths and maybe 1 in the trash. So I don't want that briar. It loses me money.

Dunhill's take in "About Smoke" is, as I said, candid about his feelings on the wood, he couldn't get nice pipes out of it, so it sat around until it dried and shank and showed some interesting grain, and the sandblast/oil cure was the result. That's not my opinion, that's what Dunhill wrote in the book.

The idea that there's some particular block from some particular hillside that smokes magically better is BS imho. I've bought from everywhere, smoked everything, spent thousands of dollars searching for this answer. And the answer is, the briar is a very, very small portion of how good a pipe smokes (given that lots of excellent pipes are not made from briar at all we should not be surprised). I wanted very badly to have magic briar, to make the best, most reliable smoking pipe on the planet. And to do that, takes skill in making stems. And ..... basically any old briar that isn't junk grade. I have Spanish, Greek and Italian wood in my shop now, I'll happily make anyone a pipe from any of those, or for the truly dedicated, three identical pipes from 3 different sources. And they'll smoke.... about the same.
I am really too new to the pipe to offer much of an argument. I just know I have a few pipes stamped with "Algerian Briar" and I really enjoy them. Most of my pipes are not stamped "Algerian Briar" and I have some favorites in that stash. Therefore, on a personal level I conclude there are some decent pipes made of Algerian Briar.
 
Reactions: sasquatch

oldgeezersmoker

Preferred Member
Oct 7, 2016
1,437
495
One of the marketing ploys in selling Algerian briar was the flavor it has. That was a selling point for Edwards, and they made a point of how much stock that had at a time when the wood was quite rare.
Edawards wa s the franchise for shops that used that name, FGTwas the national distributor to non Edwards B&M accounts. They sold a ton of pipes from the same briar stock under the Benton name and also as private labels for larger shops under a variety of names.

There are a variety of stories about how they came to have this briar, but apparently it was well aged when they got it. The two Edwards franchise owners I knew who went to Tampa regularly for their franchisee meetings both told me, well into the 80’s, that they still had lots of this briar, though by then the larger blocks were scarce and reserved for Wiley freehands, which used to be available only at Edwards stores. They had an avid following in the two areas I lived in that had Edwards franchise shops. I remember in both shops that the owners would stock up on them for the fall, and most would be put on layaway for Christmas in a very short time. For several customers, that would be the one new pipe they bought in a year.
 
Reactions: 7charb

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
10,207
2,146
This is why, to me, Algerian Briar is so precious. And, it is still available on the estate pipe market. Lesser known names made with Algerian briar are had for reasonable prices and there some of the "unsung heroes" out there are worth their weight in gold.
Algerian briar has developed a cachet that it did not have in the late 19th and early 20th century. It was considered fairly second rate due to its softness and tendency to crack, according to Tad Gage. Barling developed a process for using it that allowed them to make some of the best pipes ever made, and they did their own harvesting, seasoning and milling, controlling how the wood was processed from the ground to the sales counter. They developed a metric for what they chose to use and were highly successful with it.
Comoy did the same, did their own harvesting, seasoning and milling, at least in the early 20th century.
After Barling lost its Algerian operations in 1954, following the Algerian War for Independence, they bought wood from anywhere of the quality that fit their needs. It wasn't about where the wood came from, it was about the quality of the wood from wherever it came from.
 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,035
179
How the wood is processed is for sure just as important or maybe more important than the region it's from. Mimmo buys truckloads of burls from all over the med, and his processing yields a very reliable final product - you'd never be able to look at a batch of blocks from that mill and say "Oh this one is from Spain, this one is from the South Coast of Corsica...." it all looks the same. The two mills in Spain (Jaume (now Josefina Masias) and Bruken) and you could probably tell which is which by looking, but not because they are Spanish, but because they are processed slightly differently. The Calabrian wood I have is crazy good quality stuff, but then I pay like hell for it too, so maybe I'm just seeing the best-of and there's piles of junk that I never see.
 
Sep 20, 2019
140
152
All I can say is:
If I smoke it.
And I enjoy it.
It's a good pipe.
To me.
The rest is just an interest in history and artistic design.