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28 April 2011

Of the Possibility of Tornadoes and the Certainty of Pipes
 Newsletter Introduction for April 28, 2011

       -Posted by eric-

It is, apparently, tornado season here in South Carolina. I hadn't previously been informed that such a thing existed in this state, but I suppose it makes for a fine garnish to our better-known hurricane season. If you aren't reading this today, know that it is only because we were devoured by inclement weather; sorry old boy, it couldn't be helped. If you are reading this, don't ask me how you were supposed to have read that previous sentence under its qualifying conditions. That couldn't be helped, either.

But, on to more relevant matters - namely, pipes. When we first introduced Vauen briars, we were surprised at just how well they took off. Ditto the rather classical and more recent Brighams. Our tentativeness was understandable, as both are filtered (albeit filtered very differently), and filtered pipes have always been dubbed a "European thing" by most. In introducing Sebastien Beo's classic French briars, however, we have been absolutely not surprised in the least to watch them vanish from our website with an impressive rapidity. Adam, a serious stickler for quality, said they would. Sykes said they would. I didn't say anything, honestly, because if I haven't got anything caddish to say, I typically don't say anything at all. If there's but one thing Sebastien's excellent briars lack, I suppose, its grounds upon which to drum up scandal. Rest assured we'll have more of them for you come Monday.

For today, however, we have a broad selection indeed: Stanwell, Peterson, Savinelli, and Brebbia, meerschaums from IMP, a choice number from Ardor, Ser Jacopo, Claudio Cavicchi, and Il Duca, and to top off our briars, high-grades from both Heding and Benni. Of course, let us not also forget our estates - a full seventy-five, in fact.

Eric Squires: Copywriter

Posted by eric at 4:33 PM | Link | 0 comments

25 April 2011

Franco-Danish Coolness
 Newsletter introduction for Monday, April 25th, 2011

       -Posted by sykes-

I haven't written an introduction to the newsletter in some time. Ted, Eric and Adam have had that responsibility of late. But this week, with the introduction of the Sébastien Beo pipes, I wanted to grab the proverbial reins. A project Sébastien and I began working on together almost a year ago has now finally begun to come to fruition. We wanted to create exceptionally engineered, classically shaped French pipes. Well, specifically, I wanted him to create them and he was also excited about the project. No one, I promise, would want a pipe that I personally engineered...

We're super excited about these. Adam was just floored when he QC'ed them, far surpassing the expectations that I established by my cursory description before he looked at them. Fit, finish and quality are excellent. The engineering, modeled on Danish handmade pipes, is exceptional. The shapes, in their St. Claude style way, are delightful. And, importantly, ranging in price from $75 to $85, they're reasonably priced to boot.

Sébastien and I worked through the details together, beginning at the Chicago Pipe Show, and then when we went to visit him in St. Claude last June. Following those discussions, I was cautiously optimistic. Having now seen the first twelve dozen pipes, I'm ecstatic. Sébastien has done a marvelous job.

Joining the new Sébastien Beo pipes, you'll find other great selections from Peterson, Savinelli, Luciano and Dunhill. It's also an exciting day for tobacco releases, with new tinned blends from Cornell & Diehl and Daughters & Ryan, plus thirteen new Cornell & Diehl bulks, including a whole mess of blending components for the home blenders out there. Check it all out!

Sykes Wilford: Founder & President

Posted by sykes at 4:22 PM | Link | 2 comments

Exploring New Blends
 Sneak Peek: Mac Baren's HH Highland Blend

       -Posted by ted-

If you’ve recently purchased some pipe tobacco from us, chances are you’ve received a complimentary sample of Mac Baren’s Highland Blend, their latest addition to the HH series.

From the pouch you’ll find pieces of medium-brown, broken flake tobacco, interspersed with a few bright ribbons split from the flake, and a small portion of dark leaf. Mac Baren cites the recipe as ready-rubbed burley, matured Virginia, latakia, and their signature Cavendish. From what I understand the whole thing is cased (or topped) with 30-year old Glenfarclas, a single-malt whiskey from the Highlands of Scotland. Hence the name.

Up front and right away, Highland Blend is smooth, sweet with Virginia and lightly seasoned with the spice of Syrian latakia. The blend develops rather quickly into something extraordinary and complex, savory of spring grasslands, bitter of peat, and with a whisper of whiskey musk. The blend is light on the mouth and incredibly balanced. Highland Blend would indeed pair excellently with a quality single-malt Scotch. It’s certainly very different and definitely special.

Highland Blend will be released officially at this year’s CPCC show and will be available in tins shortly thereafter. In the meantime, we still have samples available. You should get in on this early. Highland is just too good not to try right this very minute.

Posted by ted at 4:00 PM | Link | 2 comments

Sébastien Beo Pipes
 Awesome French Pipes

       -Posted by sykes-

Last year, on our trip to visit pipe makers in France, Italy and Germany, Alyson and I made an important stop in St. Claude to visit Sébastien Beau, owner of Genod pipes. This was a follow up visit from a discussion we'd had in Chicago. I was interested in introducing Danish style engineering to a line of classically French pipes. Sort of a French on the outside, Danish on the inside approach (with apologies to my one Franco-Danish friend to whom this description could also apply). Sébastien had piqued my curiosity with the way he was talking about pipes and his thoughts on the factory that he had just purchased from the previous owner who he had worked with for a few years. Sébastien was younger, receptive to new ideas and we just generally got along rather well.

Just as important, I wanted to be able to offer the pipes for reasonable prices, less than Stanwells, perhaps in the same neighborhood of Peterson's less expensive pipes. At first, Sébastien thought I was asking for the moon. While we were in St. Claude, we started fiddling through the details. At first it still seemed like a challenge, but as we worked our way through it, it seemed increasingly possible. Well, that was almost a year ago.

After occasional correspondence since, Sébastien wrote me, almost out of the blue, to tell me that the first 144 pipes were almost ready.I was tentatively excited. It wasn't until they arrived that I knew that this little project had succeeded. Adam, who is one really hard guy to please, was floored by the quality of the internal construction: 4mm draft holes, chamfered tenons, fluted buttons, transitions handled as they should be. These are the sorts of things that excite Adam. And Adam was excited.

Yet they look like cool old French pipes. Generally on the smaller side (perhaps Dunhill groups 3-4), they're offered (at present) in twelve shapes, all cool older Genod shapes. Presented in three finishes, a sandblast, a contrast brown and a light orange, the whole package is quite fetching.

Sébastien decided on a shortening of his last name for the pipes, yielding "Sébastien Beo" as the brand, differentiating them from the conventionally engineered Genod pipes. I've smoked one of them three times now (they've only been here for four days) and I'm tremendously impressed. The pipe smokes like a charm.

Posted by sykes at 12:59 PM | Link | 1 comment

21 April 2011

Spring Break
 Newsletter Introduction for April 21, 2011

       -Posted by eric-

Spring break must be here - I can tell by the (surely only) modestly inebriated young ladies yelling at my car last weekend, not to mention the sudden increase in mumbling young men on the main thoroughfares at around 2:00 AM asking if I know of a restaurant that's open after 2:00 AM. The Day-Glo orange Lotus Exige I witnessed being piloted by a young man in a tank top and revving its engine to several thousand RPMs as it backed into a parking space, is likewise a sure sign indeed. As much as I do appreciate half of my home state of New Jersey (along with various New Yorkers, Canadians, Delawareans, and so on) coming down to Myrtle Beach for a visit several months of every year, it does at times get a bit trying - particularly now that I've moved into an apartment only a block or so away from the beach itself.

Still, even as tourist season begins to blossom once more into a bouquet of folding chairs, beach towels, giant umbrellas, shouting children, remarkably loud automotive entertainment systems, seasonal hedonists, and so forth, a man with sufficient patience, and properly night-owlish tendencies, can still find solace. Which is why I found myself sitting on the beach last weekend, at some unheard of hour in the deep, dark AM limbo, smoking a pipe and watching the amber-hued lightning of a distant storm dancing through clouds far over the ocean. It only goes to show that, if you're willing to look hard enough, you can find a quiet moment to be left the hell alone and allow your frontal lobe to put its proverbial feet up just about anywhere.

In order that you are well-prepared when the opportunity arises, today we present quite an extensive update. There are high-grades from both Peter Heeschen and Hiroyuki Tokutomi , fresh pipes from Peterson, Neerup, and Stanwell, an impressive selection of Winslow, Ashton, Randy Wiley, and L'Anatra briars, plus two-dozen meerschaums from IMP. There are a full ninety-two estate pipes for your perusal. Last, but certainly not least, there is the cornucopia of thirty-odd blends being newly introduced to from Hearth & Home.

Eric Squires: Copywriter

Posted by eric at 5:04 PM | Link | 1 comment

20 April 2011

Famous Pipe Smokers: Greta Garbo
 The Swedish Sphinx

       -Posted by eric-

"I have been smoking since I was a small boy," Greta Garbo was known to quip. It was a rather unusual statement coming from a Hollywood starlet, yet it was also a sentiment very true to her nature. She was indeed a prolific smoker; cigarettes, cigars, and, yes, even pipes too. And she was as well what could only be described as "enigmatically contrary". The silver screen beauty often dressed in clothes which, in her day, were considered "mannish", and making such pronouncements as, "I am a lonely man circling the earth." was one of the intensely private vixen's preferred ways of breaking silent moments in conversation. As one of her biographers, Bary Paris put it, "Garbo liked to confuse people..." Even late in her life, this playful turn of secretiveness would keep her amused. In the 1980s a visiting friend of Garbo's, while she was out of the room fixing them drinks, dropped one of the peanuts he had been snacking on, and in bending down to pick it up discovered what he described as a "whole little community" of miniature "troll dolls" arranged beneath her couch - which is to say, right beneath the noses (and posteriors) of her every visitor. Thereafter he would take to peeking at them whenever he was over and she happened to leave the room, always finding them rearranged.

Greta was notable not only for her heady and intriguing combination of coy eccentricity and breathtaking, haunting beauty, but also for being one of the few big names who proved themselves able to transcend from the Silent Era into Hollywood's Golden Age of "talkies" - a transition which ended many of even the most prominent acting careers. The talent and character which enabled her to survive this great upheaval of the medium, and likewise the roots of her complex, curious quirks of personality, likely traced themselves back to her formative days, growing up in the Sodermalm slum district of Stockholm as the daughter of an unskilled laborer. It was a place she described in no fond terms: "It was eternally gray — those long winter's nights. My father would be sitting in a corner, scribbling figures on a newspaper. On the other side of the room my mother is repairing ragged old clothes, sighing. We children would be talking in very low voices, or just sitting silently. We are filled with anxiety, as if there is danger in the air. Such evenings are unforgettable for a sensitive girl. Where we lived, all the houses and apartments looked alike, their ugliness matched by everything surrounding us."

Such environs are as liable to break as to make a human being's spirit, but for young Greta her dull and oppressive surroundings gave birth to an escapist imagination. (And what was that penchant for unusual statements which she would later become known for, but a manner of escaping the status quo of the mundane norms of commonly accepted social interaction?) The young Greta was known as a shy, quiet girl, who hated school and who played little: "I did most of my playing by thinking. I played a little with my brother and sister, pretending we were in shows. Like other children. But usually I did my own pretending." Her "own pretending" found its outlet in a love for theater, a love she developed at an early age; a love that would see a girl born into nothing emerge as one of the most famous women in the world, and which was itself born of the same elusive imagination which kept her amused long after she retired to a life of privacy and discrete playfulness. It was a love of imagination, one the girl known as the Swedish Sphinx kept carefully guarded.

Posted by eric at 4:47 PM | Link | 4 comments

19 April 2011

My Slightly Cracked Stanwell
 From Junk to Treasure

       -Posted by sykes-

A few months ago, we randomly ended up with a huge batch of Stanwells. Out of roughly two hundred pipes total, perhaps three or four had small problems, and so they were correctly rejected by our QC expert, Adam Davidson. If the problems are really minor and cosmetic and we can't return the pipe to the factory, we'll sell these as estates, drop the price and note the problem (slightly uneven stain, for example). If they have more serious problems and we can't return them (which is very rare), we might simply smoke it, give it to a new employee, or just pitch it.

And that's how I ended up with a pretty spiffy sandblasted, silver-banded Stanwell, though one unfortunately also sporting a pretty horrid stress fracture on one side of the bowl. It was a hairline crack, so I can kind of see the guys at Stanwell missing it, but the position and our suspicion that it went pretty deep meant that we weren't going to sell it.

People seem to think that by virtue of my years in the pipe industry and my connections that I must have a massive pipe collection. While it's of extremely good quality, with top notch pipes from Japan, Denmark, Italy and the United States (especially Japan and Denmark), it's not terribly large in the grand scheme of pipe collections, amounting to perhaps forty pipes at most.

It's not like I particularly needed a broken pipe, but I really liked the shape and finish and I'm a big Stanwell advocate, so I decided to go ahead and give this one a try. And I've smoked it maybe twenty times since. Though the stress fracture will in all likelihood eventually cause it to have to go to pipe heaven, it's holding up fine for now. And I'm delighted with it. I find myself reaching for it at work more than other pipes that would have sold for twenty times what this would have, even had it been without the crack. It smokes beautifully, the acrylic stem is surprisingly comfortable and the shape is lovely.

So, what's the point of this little missive? I'm not entirely sure. I'm a huge devotee of high grade handmade pipes. Obviously. I've been a high grade pipe evangelist for many years. I've written hundreds of thousands of words and chatted and thought about high end pipes for untold hours over the course of the past decade. But I love this little, inexpensive (particularly so given its problems) Stanwell. Stanwell makes awesome pipes and I'm consistently impressed. It also goes to show that there are truly enjoyable pipes to be had at a very wide range of prices.

Posted by sykes at 10:55 AM | Link | 1 comment

Llama Glama

       -Posted by sid-

Although there are a great variety of pipes to be found throughout every section of our website I find that the estate department has the most abundant collection of inimitable pieces at (from an artistic point of view - of course). For example, here is a sculpture of an animal. Initially I thought it was a llama or a doe of the deer species. Turns out I was correct - it is a llama head meerschaum! Updated to the website on Thursday, the pipe was sold Friday morning.

Adam said, “For those who already have everything, throw a llama head meerschaum on their plate." Someone now has a full plate!

I am sure there will be other unique pipes in future updates. In the meantime enjoy the "Llama Head".

Posted by sid at 10:40 AM | Link | 1 comment

18 April 2011

Cornell & Diehl Visit
 Spending An Afternoon With the Folks At C&D

       -Posted by ted-

Last Thursday Sykes, Susan and I drove up to visit the Cornell & Diehl operation in Morganton, North Carolina. I’m told that this is something we do every year. We make a ten hour round-trip by car in one day to spend only a few hours with Craig and Patty Tarler, their son Chris, Keith Toney and company. It’s a long time to spend cooped up in a car for such a short visit, but I’m really excited that this year I had the opportunity to check out their very awesome facility. And besides, the drive was a beautiful tour of North Carolina. The folks at C&D (who are all very warm, welcoming people) even had lunch waiting for us: barbeque, slaw, hush puppies and cookies. Good stuff.

Having remembered to bring my camera, I managed to shoot some pictures while Craig showed me around the factory. It was pretty outstanding.

Posted by ted at 10:45 AM | Link | 5 comments

14 April 2011

Of Fair Weather and Feral Cats
 Newsletter Introduction for April 14, 2011

       -Posted by eric-

In warm and sunny weather, some of us here at Smokingpipes take to eating lunch on the small balcony which projects from the back of our offices, the door to which is a mere few feet from my desk. A further subset, namely women, simultaneously take to attempting to form bonds with the various half-feral mongrel felines which inhabit the general area. If you were thinking that where this is leading to is a feral cat scrambling, bat-out-of-hell style at me down the back stairs, congratulations; you are correct. I saw it coming myself, of course, as I returned from fetching my own lunch to see Susan and Pam sitting up on the balcony, with Susan exclaiming something along the lines of, "And now Eric is going to ruin it!", as I approached the back stairs. What could I possibly be ruining this week? I knew they weren't throwing me a surprise birthday party up there, certainly not at this time of the year.

Sure enough, I had just barely made it halfway up the second turn when a grey blur came clawing its way at me from above, only to stop suddenly with its yellow eyes wide. We paused there, watching each other, for a few brief moments before the little vagabond rushed passed me, having apparently decided that I was marginally less dangerous to the continuation of its free-wheeling lifestyle than a leap off the side of the stairs and onto the asphalt from one story up. As I myself reached the balcony, Susan (holding a small piece of meat) and Pamella began with their admonishments. Faced with their irrational laying of guilt upon me for the simple act of walking up a flight of stairs to enter a building, the most conciliatory statement I could devise was, "I am sorry that I stopped you from throwing sausage at a cat, Susan."

I've often seen comments by our customers regarding what a grand time it must be, to enjoy a (very) smoke-friendly environment, getting to try out just about any blend freely, and so forth. To those of you who envy us, consider this a warning regarding the darker side of whiling away one's days at Smokingpipes: You will be charged at by feral animals, and then women will scold you for it. I hear a lot of men throughout history (and pre-history, for that matter) have had this problem.

What so very few of them have had, however, is so very many pipes: Today we present a plentiful assortment of Stanwells, Savinellis, Brebbias, and Petersons, in addition to a fine selection from Ser Jacopo, Ardor, and Claudio Cavicchi. Last but not least come several premier briars from Benni Jorgensen of Denmark, and America's own Brad Pohlmann in addition to a whopping 92 gently used and carefully cleaned estate pipes.

Eric Squires: Copywriter

Posted by eric at 4:17 PM | Link | 1 comment

13 April 2011

Peter Heeschen Visits the USA...
 ... And Is Treated To Good Ol' Southern Hospitality

       -Posted by ted-

Peter Heeschen is a lovely man. Charming, humorous, and flush with anecdotes; here at he is often ceremonially referred to simply as ‘Uncle Peter’.

Not too long ago I had the pleasure of keeping Peter Heeschen company while he was visiting in the US. We ate out at a handful of the area's countless restaurants, toured the extensive Vereen Gardens, and made a trip to the historical city of Charleston. We even made the opportunity to hang out at Starbucks.

On our ride to Charleston we made a pit stop for gas. As I exited the convenience store, having pre-paid for fuel, I found Adam and Peter at a boiled peanut stand. The idea of a boiled peanut is a strange enough concept for a guy native to California (I’d never heard of such a thing until I moved to the South). But I think Peter was positively dumbfounded - even something we Americans as a whole consider utterly mundane, peanut butter (at least as we know it), is difficult to find in Denmark. He must have been, because Adam captured the moment with a photograph.

Peter Heeschen enjoys his very first Southern-style boiled peanut.

So, what did Uncle Peter have to say about boiled peanuts?

“They are quite different, but also, they are quite good.”

To all you Danish pipe makers, come on down to the South and we’ll treat you to lobster bisque, grilled garlic and chili shrimp, and some boiled peanuts. That’s how we do things here.

Posted by ted at 3:30 PM | Link | 3 comments

11 April 2011

Only A Month Away...

       -Posted by adam-

It's April 11th and I'm sure this month is going to go by very fast because it always does. On May 11th I will be on a plane heading to Indiana to visit with my parents and to celebrate my 30th birthday, then heading up to the Chicago pipe show on May 12th. It seems like such a long time away but this month always goes by in the blink of an eye.

The trip is always an exciting one. John Crosby and I enjoy driving up to the show together on Thursday to meet up with friends and customers, make our rounds, and sell a few pre-show pipes. Pretty much every pipe maker I know look towards April as their busiest month of the year. While the calendar begins in January, pipe carvers tend to mentally mark Chicago-to-Chicago years. We all want to show up with a spread of good work, new designs, and popular classics. This is the time when everyone tends to work after they get home, a bit longer during the day (sometimes well into the morning), and is optimistically thinking "I still have plenty of time". The Chicago pipe show is the biggest in the world. In the weeks to come, parcels will begin flowing into our building from many high-grade makers in preparation for packing up to take to Chicago. Not only will we be meeting up with our carver friends again, prospecting new ones, and buying pipes to share with all of you when we get back, it's a perfect blend of business and pleasure.

For the carvers, it's time to be on our toes with our business hats on with new customers and old friends. At the same time, it will be the first weekend we will be able to relax in months, which makes it even more enjoyable. It really is a joy for everyone involved. In the meantime, though, there is plenty to do.

We have some Augusto Reyes cigars tonight, which is our first cigar update in a good while. And for the pipe enthusiasts, we have pieces from Brigham, Dunhill, Luciano, Savinelli, Peterson, and Vauen.

Adam Davidson: Quality Control & Pipe Inspector

Posted by adam at 5:43 PM | Link | 3 comments

08 April 2011

Aged Haddo's Delight

       -Posted by ted-

In the first place, I’m not a huge fan of Haddo’s Delight. This is probably because I’m not terribly crazy about Perique. I find the blend a little harsh on my throat and have some trouble spotting the nuances so many others tend to describe. But because I love pipe tobacco, and will smoke just about anything at least a few times, I gladly agreed to smoke a bowl of eight-year old Haddo’s from Sykes’ personal stash when he offered it.

As far as I’m concerned, something truly magical has happened to the contents of this tin as it sat marinating in Sykes’ cellar all these years. This much was evident at first puff. Whereas previously I found the Virginia leaf and Perique component rather disparate, here they taste delicately wedded to a unique, peppery sweet flavor. Previously, I found the vinegar notes from the fermented leaf distracting, but here it was cooled, and pleasant. I might even buy a few tins to open in a decade!

Here’s what Eric had to say on this aged tin:

After very conveniently leaving the bit of Haddo's Delight Sykes handed me in a not-quite-zip-locked Ziploc bag overnight, this G.L. Pease mixture was at just about the perfect point, dry-but-not-too-dry, to stuff it into a fresh pipe and light up. While the blend in its natural, non-combusting state may indeed have an aroma of cocoa and dried fruit, from the first puff the smoke hit me with an easy, pleasant, but very definite nutty/raisin flavor. Sweetness was detectably at work here as well, but only as a component of the flavor as a whole - much the same way you know there's sugar in dark chocolate, though it is by no means central to the flavor, nor obvious in any independent way. Given this is a blend advertised as heavy on Virginias, I had expected at least a little tongue-bite might be expected, but the Perique seemed to do its job just fine, adding a bit of spiciness while simultaneously keeping the Virginias civil. As I made my way through the bowl, the nutty/woody elements seemed more dominate, though the fruit/raisin notes did stay around, making things interesting by generally milling about and catching my attention now and then as it apparently suited them. A full exhale tended to reveal their presence more in the "aftertaste", as did likewise exhaling through the nose. In reaching the last third of the bowl, fruit/nut/raisin flavors became a touch richer, and an extra hint of sweetness made itself known as well - the Perique's spiciness appeared happy to stay where it was, however, making the rest of the flavors all the more easily enjoyable.

Posted by ted at 4:00 PM | Link | 1 comment

07 April 2011

Strange Days
 Newsletter Introduction for April 7, 2011

       -Posted by eric-

This past weekend was a rather eventful one, beginning with blowing out a tire at high speed, and, in attempting to change it while avoiding having my posterior knocked off by care-free, obliviously fast traffic, managing to put the spare on backwards the first time around - thus unwittingly clamping the brake down nice and firmly with the rim. Before the weekend was through, this line of events led inexorably towards falling prey to a young woman who was very insistent that I drink whiskey until I was of a mind to tell her what I "really thought" about her, certain pieces of first-century Indian art, my neighbors, various musical acts, and no doubt a laundry list of other things regarding which I for whatever reason have maintained no recollection.

Then I came back to work again on Monday, and that's when things got really interesting. Despite's usual "no pets" rule regarding our upstairs offices, one of the first things I was confronted with was a large, fluffy white rabbit named "Beast"- who as it turned out, has an attitude problem. This was according even to Susan, mind you, who brought the adorable little jerk in. (I preferred it last week when Ted brought Peter Heeschen in - Peter Heeschen, rest assured, does not have any attitude problem.) Though strange behavior is par for the course around here, things like the unexpected appearance of obstreperous white rabbits do still tend to catch our attention. Likewise, the shouts of "Good Lord! We can't sell this!", from Adam, when he discovered a meerschaum estate pipe whose reliefs would make the carvings on many a Hindu temple blush, turned a few heads too.

No - we won't sell it to you; We're all adults here, so we'll likely be keeping that one for ourselves hiding it away in the same drawer where we stash keep those very colorful Danish newspaper ads we often receive wrapped around certain colorful Danish pipes. (Sykes's office, for the record.) What we will be selling you, however, is quite a bevy of beauties in its own right. If you like them Italian, we've got classic Savinellis, shapely L'Anatras, and exquisite Beckers. For something wild, untamed, and American, there are Wileys. If you have a taste for the more coy and traditional, there are Petersons and Ashtons. Last but by no means least, for the superbly smooth and supple, there's no beating the lines of the Danish - in which case we have Stanwell, Neerup, Winslow, and Nielsen.

Posted by eric at 4:32 PM | Link | 0 comments

Mystery Tobacco
 Round 3

       -Posted by ted-

Welcome to another round of 'Mystery Tobacco' where the winning prize is simply bragging rights. Let's see how Eric, Sykes and I did this week with Susan's mysteriously labeled little baggy.

Eric's Notes:

Susan picked us a fairly simple looking number - an ultra-fine shag of what appears to be darker Virginias, and/or possibly burley as well. One thing for certain is that the darker leaf is the dominant element, with only a small fraction of the blend being of a lighter, golden Virginia. As you might expect, it packed easily, and lit up with no effort at all. From first puff the very subtle sweetness of the Virginia leaf kept well beneath the main body of the blend, which was what I could only describe as a rustic "woodiness". My attempt to cheat by asking Pam to describe the room note was a wash - she said there wasn't one at all. It may be I packed too lightly, easy to do given the readily-deceptive springiness of a shag cut (which can make a bowl feel more densely tamped than it actually is), but this blend smoked fast if I wasn't careful. With a slow, easy draw, it was enjoyable and civil enough, but too much puffing quickly brought out a noticeable bite - it may have been something in the blend, or from a build-up of heat as the leaf rapidly combusted. Towards the end of the smoke, that low-profile sweet note and the main, woody element seemed to coalesce, creating a unified flavor which I found more pleasurable than the earlier two-piece arrangement, while at the same time a nice, mellow nicotine buzz came rolling up to say hello. Possibly it was a little too nice, as I began replacing my "i"s with "o"s as I typed up the final lines of this review.

Sykes' Notes:

From look and feel alone, it's immediately clear that this is an unscented blend from Gawith, Hoggarth & Co. My first thought was Dark Birdseye, but closer inspection and the first puff put that guess to rest pretty quickly. The cut is fairly fine, as GH&Co's ribbon cuts tend to be; they're thicker than cigarette tobacco by quite a bit, but thinner than most pipe tobacco cuts. The medium slightly mottled brown color is attractive, but does little to suggest what to expect. From look alone, I'm having trouble pinning down the contents. I'd guess lots of dark fired burleys, but we shall see...

My burley guess proved correct, I think. It's either straight dark fired Kentucky, or nearly so. The subtle nuttiness of the Kentucky leaf certainly shines through. The nicotine load is pretty good, certainly at the upper end of the range that I find pleasant, without quite kicking my butt. It's a little monochromatic to my taste. There's that nuttiness, a little grassy-ness, but not much else going on that I can discern. For the fan of burley heavy blends, I think this would be a great choice. For me it's a bit too much of a good thing.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure (though not positive) that it's Gawith, Hoggarth & Co.'s Kendal Kentucky.

Ted's Notes:

This is definitely a Gawith & Hoggarth product. There’s a Lakeland aroma and flavor at work here, but not as noticeable as that taste of something like Ennerdale Flake. No, this is a lot more subtle. Not to mention that this is a very fine, shag cut mix (and not a flake). The blend is dark tasting, but smooth. I’d call it burley or Virginia. I’m going out on a limb, but is this Kendal Kentucky?


So, yeah.... The blend, was in fact G&H's Kendal Kentucky. Hey, we're pretty good aren't we? I certainly did a lot better than last time. In all fairness, though, I've smoked a lot of this blend fairly recently!

Posted by ted at 4:15 PM | Link | 1 comment

06 April 2011

Of Earthquakes and Pipe Makers
 Everyone is fine

       -Posted by sykes-

A number of people have kindly written to ask about our friends in Japan since the horrifying earthquake that struck the northeast coast of Honshu on March 11th. All of the pipe makers and their families are fine. Most of them are in and around Tokyo, so while they experienced some shaking and had some stuff jump off of shelves, they weren't terribly affected by the quake.

Hiroyuki Tokutomi lives with his family in Maebashi, in Gunma Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, and was a little closer to the epicenter. They experienced some damage and problems with computers and power and whatnot, but nothing threatening or serious.

Again, thank you all for your kind curiosity. It's always nice to see the way the pipe community responds to such events.

Posted by sykes at 11:40 AM | Link | 1 comment

05 April 2011

When Hundreds of Dollars Depend on Millimeters

       -Posted by ted-

“What’s the difference between a $1000 and $2000 briar pipe?”

This question actually comes up quite a bit. It’s a valid query; we’re talking about objects that are all roughly the same size, made of the same materials, which do only one thing: smoke tobacco. So where’s the $1000 dollar difference?

Today Adam and I ended up with Sykes in his office discussing some of the finer details of eight or nine pipes he had sitting on his desk. They were very expensive pipes.

Our discourse became an examination as we critiqued and quibbled over the minutia of shaping, stem work, and use of accents. At different points in our conversation both Sykes and I had confessed to being extremely nitpicky with several of the pieces.

And that’s when Adam nailed it. “When hundreds of dollars depend on millimeters you should be picky.”

The difference between that $1000 and $2000 pipe are millimeters. When a pipe maker is good enough to affect a better transition from the bowl to the shank simply because he can operate at such a minute scale his work becomes incredibly special. And pricy. When a pipe maker can keep a shape together because his stem maintains the right line through the pipe’s profile he’s piloting microscopic terrain. He’s making an extraordinary pipe. That’s the difference.

Now, this is not one of the pipes we were looking at today. Those pipes have yet to be photographed. Instead, I’ve dug up a photo from our archives a pipe by Hiroyuki Tokutomi that I hope will illustrate Adam’s point.

Posted by ted at 4:40 PM | Link | 0 comments

04 April 2011

Why I Don't Clean the Kitchen
 Newsletter Introduction for April 4,2011

       -Posted by ted-

Last night I got caught up washing some dishes before bed. This turned into an impromptu kitchen sprucing which in turn became an off-the-cuff refrigerator purging. The adventure was a little overdue. Leftovers were tossed out indiscriminately. Expiration dates were examined carefully. An empty ketchup bottle was evicted. A small block of cheese that had not been sealed well enough was thrown in the garbage on principle. Nothing in the fridge was spared the passion of my exorcism. In the aftermath of this expunging there was left on our kitchen counter top more than a few glass jars filled with brine and pickle juice. As I stared blankly at the glass jars, curious as to how exactly I would be disposing of them, my mind turned to my pipes and tobacco, as it so often does, and from this turn an idea suddenly sprouted within my imagination.

I spend plenty of cash on mason jars. Of course, this is in addition to the small fortune I spend annually on the cost of pipe tobacco. There is also an expense tied up in a variety of pipe cleaners, cork knockers, briar cleaning solutions, butane, and matches. Like many, I’m a sucker for accessories: leather pipe bags of diverse dimensions, tobacco pouches, fancy tampers, and an assortment of lighters, stands and racks. Also, I like to pick up a new pipe once in a while, just like any committed pipe smoker. I’m giving myself an ulcer just fathoming what I might have sunk last year into my ‘hobby’ but it’s fun and I enjoy it, so whatever. What’s not fun is ponying up for characterless, empty glass jars that are just going to be hidden away with tobacco I can’t smoke for years from now. Maybe it’s fun for you. But I hate it.

So I’m standing at my kitchen sink, eating the last couple of blue cheese and garlic stuffed olives from an empty sixteen ounce jar filled with brine and sediment and it dawns on me that, whereas I could just throw away this perfectly dependable jar, the container could be put to good use for tobacco storage. And now I’m wondering how many empty jars I’ve disposed recently that could have gone into service for my pipe needs. I’m wondering how many bins and basins, bottles and beakers, pots, jugs and tubs I’ve carelessly abandoned over the years that could have been salvaged for the sake of my precious pipe tobacco. Then I realize that it’s one o’ clock in the morning and I’m soaking empty pickle jars in a sink filled with hot soapy water to pacify some tobacco neurosis, agonizing over every jam jar I ever bought, when I really ought to be in bed, sleeping. No wonder it’s been awhile since I cleaned the kitchen.

We’ve got some fantastic new stuff available with this update. For those of you that share my derangement for flashy pipe paraphernalia check out our new Clocktower Brass Tamper. Also, this evening we refresh the site with new pipes from Castello, Radice and Savinelli, as well as Peterson, Vauen, and Brigham.

Ted Swearingen: Sales Manager

Posted by ted at 4:00 PM | Link | 2 comments

Dunhill Strikes Back

       -Posted by ted-

When we were ‘blessed’ with second coming of Dunhill tobaccos last Thanksgiving most of us were as concerned about whether or not we would see another dry spell as we were elated at the return of this luxurious line of fine tobacco. Obviously, we were right to worry.

And so we blew through our inventory of nearly 5,000 tins of tobacco in a matter of a few days, record time for us at Then it was all gone. So we waited.

Around Christmas we received a smattering of Flake and Standard Mix from our vendor. This is not what we were waiting for.

Today is what we have been waiting for: ‘Nightcap’, ‘Early Morning Pipe’, ‘965’ ‘Royal Yacht’ and ‘London Mixture’ are back. We have a ton.

Let’s see how fast it goes this time.

Posted by ted at 1:45 PM | Link | 3 comments

Celebration in Customer Service
 Kaye Celebrates 1 Year with!

       -Posted by kaye-

Last week, I experienced the privilege of counting pipes for our quarterly inventory. Yes, Adam took the day off while we newer recruits did busy work. But I felt very excited to have been selected to assist in counting pipes. Looking at our pipes each day on-line is one thing, but handling a pipe … holding it in your hands to appreciate the beauty is something else altogether. I am quite often still in awe.

Every day here is a celebration. But this week is special for me because it’s my 1 year anniversary with our company. After 18 months of being unemployed, I was hired to work here in customer service. Although I had years of experience in customer service, I had little-to-no knowledge of pipes, tobacco and smoking accessories. Being a cigarette smoker, I was intrigued by what I saw here. But I had no idea that this would turn into a really fantastic job! Yes, I’m extremely happy to be here!

Over the past year, I have learned many things. I’ve read a few books, attended training classes, sniffed tobacco, rubbed out tobacco, watched others demonstrate the art of smoking tobacco in a pipe and smoked a pipe myself, a few times. Okay, the first time I ate the smoke and felt it in my stomach for about 18 hours. But I am learning. Last week, Ted gave a few of us our very own starter-pipe. And in our Smoking 101 class we packed our bowls, watched Ted demonstrate lighting his pipe and then we all lit up! We tried a straight Virginia tobacco. I was so excited - I was shaking in my boots. Okay, maybe dancing in my boots. After all that I have learned, I now feel ready to try smoking different tobaccos to experience the pleasure of pipe smoking. Wish me well!

In closing I’d like to thank my colleagues for all the training and inspiration they have shared with me. Mark celebrated 2 years with our company in January and Leila is moving beyond 90 days next week. I am surrounded by dedicated people doing a terrific job to provide quality products and service to our customers. We each have our strengths and weaknesses, but we all reach out to go above and beyond in what we do. And our team efforts help us to reach our goal. I’d also like to thank our customers for your continued history with our company. Without you, we would not be here. Thanks for sharing your comments, ideas and knowledge with us. And we look forward to serving your future needs and wishes.

Happy smoking everyone!

Posted by kaye at 10:00 AM | Link | 2 comments



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