There's rarely a day goes by at the Smokingpipes.com offices without what we shall call, developments. Just today, for example, I discovered why, several weeks ago, I overheard Sykes discussing the purchase of a flock of goats. While I'm not at liberty to explain the solution to this mystery, I assure you it involves absolutely nothing which would prove embarrassing to my employer in any way. Other, unclassified developments within the past couple days have included Pamela and Susan taking offense at witty observations (I've actually noticed that this seems to be quite a frequently reoccurring development, at least whenever I've been personally present to observe), Adam attempting to strike a deal with a Chinese bamboo merchant who could put the wiliest and boldest of used car salesmen to shame, Adam running out of the room to escape the avant-garde musical stylings of one of my oldest and dearest friends, and our entire inventory of rarer and pricier briars being relocated not once, but twice. (Firstly, into Sykes's office for better tracking and security, and then, secondly, to near Adam and I when Sykes realized that, while his door is always open to his employees, he didn't want his door to actually have to be always open to his employees.)
What developments will await us next week? Who can possibly know? But we are quite knowledgeable regarding what awaits our loyal customers in today's update: briars from Stanwell, Peterson, and Savinelli; individual artisanal renditions from Poul Winslow, Randy Wiley, L'Anatra, and master pipemaker Claudio Cavicchi; exquisite specimens from Becker, Eltang, and Former; and last but not least, a full sixty-count update to our already copious estate pipe department.
I had a cold over the weekend and this meant that my workshop wasn't going to see any action until I got better. My wife and I loaded up the HHR with beach chairs, a cooler, and a couple towels to spend part of Saturday at the Myrtle Beach state park, which is right on the ocean. A stuffy head would benefit from the salty air and sun, we thought, and it sure felt nice to watch a choppy ocean, even though the beach and park was rather packed with family picnics - big ones - like 400 people all wearing the same t-shirt. We met with friends for dinner at a delicious Thai place, and everyone enjoyed the meal. My spicy curry was delicious and helped clear me up a bit, but the effects weren't long-lasting. Drinking copious amounts of Yogi-brand herbal teas and downing Theraflu as Doc Holiday would rot-gut in Tombstone, I began to come around.
Sunday didn't prove to be much better, but there was a slight improvement. After taking my wife to work and stopping by the pharmacy for behind-the-counter Pseudoephedrine, I figured that I may as well get used to staying inside another day to get better. To hell with excessive napping. Pan-frying pork steaks and watching Spaghetti Westerns seems like the perfect thing to do. "Red blood, yellow gold" (Nando Cicero, 1967) was one of a dozen such movies on my dvd of good [bad] movies. The grainy quality of these films with catchy guitar music are more entertaining to watch (I think) than all of the modern excessive-computer-graphic, 3-D movies of today. There were no aliens flying into the screen, nor over the top visual effects. Watching a low-budget movie like this almost seems like someone had a movie camera back in the old west. It’s entertaining, I think. Aside from fanning cap and ball revolvers at a man on a horse running on top of a mountain (and hitting him), the entertaining feats of a stick of dynamite, hidden in a bible, thrown by a pyromaniac preacher, taking down a dozen soldiers, and socks full of gun powder exploding when shot at made this film so bad it was good. Before I knew it, I was feeling better.
Sykes, Ted, Susan, and Bill are back from the IPCPR, so we will be filling future updates with all sorts of pipes, tobacco, cigars, and accessory goodies. For now, check out the vast array of P.S. Studio gems, plus Radice, Johs, Brigham, Savinelli, Peterson, and Vauen.
Ted, Susan, Bill and I returned from Las Vegas this weekend, after eight days of whirlwind inspection, sampling and buying of much of what the pipe, tobacco and cigar world has to offer. An exhaustive narrative of the show would be both extremely long and pretty boring, so I wanted to hit some highlights:
The Dunhill Room: 8am, Sunday morning: This deserves highlight status every year, but this is such an amazing experience that it deserves particular comment every year. Thousands of pipes were laid out for us to select from. We picked out about 150 and wittled it down to 132 before adding a bunch more and wittling down again. It took four people two hours to select and inspect the pipes; fortunately, that early in the morning on a Sunday, no one else was really all that interested in picking pipes, so we more or less had the entire room to ourselves.
Monday Morning 10:30am to 1:00pm: I don't know exactly how many pipes we collectively selected in three and a half hours, but the rush was on. We pick pipes first thing when the show opens: the pipes cease to be available, but the pipe tobacco and cigars don't change between Monday and Thursday, so pipes are our priority at the start. I hit the Tsuge booth first and picked out a mess of great Ikebanas, thence to the Savinelli booth where I picked out some great Autographs and ordered a crazy number of awesome pipes at a great price. Susan went straight for Stanwells and Winslows. Ted picked out Ser Jacopos and then L'Anatras. Susan and I met at Ashton to pick out upper end Petersons (we can pick things like the Spigots and Supremes at the show). Then I did a bunch of things that will, for now, remain a secret. They'll be hitting the site before long, though! All in all, well, if I had to guess, I'd say we ordered somewhere north of 2,000 pipes in three and a half hours. That's about a pipe every four seconds. It also sounds like less when you consider that's only about 6 weeks supply of pipes for Smokingpipes.com...
The Ashton Dinner, seated next to Tom Palmer and Michael Walters: Tom Palmer is the owner of Peterson of Dublin, that great pipe making establishment that has been in business since the 1860s. Seeing Tom is always a tremendous pleasure. I think very highly of both him and the pipes that he produces and discussing the finer points of pipe manufacturing with Tom is always an education. Michael Walters is the National Sales Manager for Ashton Distributors, which is most famous for the Ashton cigar, but also imports Peterson pipes into the US. Michael's perspective is a little different from Tom's, but thoughtful and quick-witted as he is, it's always a pleasure spending time with him also.
Dinner with Brian Levine and Dan More of Brigham Pipes: The four of us had dinner with our wayward ex-General Manager and his new boss at the Paris Hotel and Casino on the strip. Dinner was excellent, but the conversation, ranging from manufacturing and marketing in the pipe world to the broader matter of the recent increase in new pipe smokers, was superb. This was the first time I met Dan More and I couldn't be more impressed with him and his operation. As the evening wore on, some of his folks met us for drinks and silly pipe marketing ideas and wildly stereotypical jokes about both Canadians and Americans abounded. Much fun was had by all. Perhaps most importantly, these guys think really deeply about how to reach younger pipe smokers and potential pipe smokers. That sort of thinking is surprisingly rare and it was really refreshing to hear.
And much, much more. There are some amazing new blends coming, but I don't want to spoil that particular fun when they arrive. It was a hugely successful show for us and we had an absolute blast at the same time.
The Myrtle Beach area was full of song last night; specifically, the song of power lines humming and crackling with unusual, and rather ominous volume. It is not known to me whether this was a result of just the right combination of heat and humidity itself (namely, a great deal of both), or a secondary effect, caused by everyone cranking their AC and climate control units on full blast. Accompanying this strange music were a cavalcade of rushing ambulances and, for some reason I am unaware of, a fireworks show. (That latter of which I got to witness while sitting in traffic on the main drag - which I must say is a lot better than just staring at the car in front of you. To this end, I would recommend to anyone pressuring their local city council into establishing a "Gridlock Pyrotechnics Response Team" - better to spend our tax money on entertaining explosions than on blue-ribbon councils to establish the parameters for selecting a focus group to assess the public's opinions regarding the under-representation of the tufted titmouse in modern popular media.)
All that having been said, I doubt it was anything compared to what Sykes, Ted, Bill, and Susan are experiencing in Las Vegas, that sweltering desert metropolis so many have compared to the rebirth of a certain ancient pair of notoriously, you might even say, biblically, hedonistic city-states. Granted, Sykes & company are attending a show for pipe and tobacco aficionados, who do tend to be a rather more refined, traditional lot. They should be safe, no doubt, or... no. Who are we kidding - It's Vegas. No matter how much they may try to maintain decorum, they will be at the mercy of maniacs.
But on with the update: Today we have for you - a plethora of briars from Stanwell, Savinelli, Peterson, and Brebbia; meerschaums from IMP; artisanal pipes from Kevin Arthur, Ser Jacopo, and Ardor; high-grades from Tsuge, Lasse, Knudsen, and Nielsen; last but not least, a good five-dozen-plus estate pipes, ranging from the artful to the utilitarian, the everyday to the antique.
We're moving some offices around here in the main building this week. I was under the impression that this was going to happen last week - and some of it did - but was really hoping my desk would be moved and all ready for me this morning. Nope. Alyson moved into another building across the street to be with the new photo guys, and Lisa moved from her closet office into the main area where Alyson was. There is a big whoppin' desk in her old office now - looking sad - but I want it. Eric has been by the back door for a couple years and is tired of people walking in (second floor back door) and asking if this was a [ahem] Gentleman's club. Okay - this happened just once, but it was two weeks ago. Sure, this building was a shady sort of business twenty years ago, but what kind of gentlemanly camaraderie was the scruffy fellow expecting at 2:30 - on a Thursday? Eric is moving into my office and our first task was to figure out how to get Lisa's old desk in the place of mine.
In college, I studied Industrial Design, but lived in a Fraternity house and so also learned 'Frat Engineering'. The movie Animal House is rather accurate to where I lived for three years. I had a small bedroom complete with a bunk bed, couch, bar, and fridge. On more than one occasion we needed to move things around and, as it turns out, Eric uses much the same techniques as I learned in college. Going to the gas station across the street to buy two Red Bull beverages, we ended up buying a six-pack of Miller High Life (same price). Sometime after our 24th-ounce, but before our 30th, we realized the desk just wasn't going to fit through the door. Being of solid construction and assembled by a man with a pound of nails and a hammer fetish, we needed to revert to fraternity-engineering: Sawzall. Cutting the door frame on one side through the wall (by about a foot) proved really easy. One door down; three to go. We slid the desk in the place of my old one and in celebration finished our last few ounces of the "champagne of beers". After discussing how the door to our own office was also of rather inconvenient dimensions, we closed it, screwed hinges on the other side, and used the Sawzall to cut a vertical line down the middle. Saloon doors now grace our describing palace and pipe library.
Eric and I aren't sure what Sykes will think about this (can you tell that he's out of the building for a week?). We're also not sure about what we did to his couch, either: To make our office more fraternally-designed, we stole appropriated one of the leather couches from Sykes's office. Which would not fit through the door, either. Eric quartered it like an elk and brought it in here piece by piece. After duct taping it back together, we couldn't properly fit it anywhere. The Sawzall came in handy, again, and divided it in half much like King Solomon once suggested, resulting in a pair of stylishly tilted, avant-garde chairs. Who says we can't think outside the box?
Even with all of this rearranging going on, we managed to put together a nice update for you. Six different brands of pipes totaling just over a hundred pieces are ready for your perusal.
On Saturday, at some ungodly hour that distinctly precedes dawn, Susan, Ted, Bill and I leave for the airport to head out to Las Vegas for this year's IPCPR show. This'll be my eleventh year of RTDA/IPCPR goodness. We'll spend Sunday before the show and Monday morning of the show working on pipe stuff, but then we'll break into groups to work on pipe tobacco, cigars and accessories.
IPCPR is very much a cigar focused event. In our little pipe-filled bubble here at Smokingpipes.com, it's easy to forget that the cigar industry is many dozens of times larger than the pipe industry. IPCPR is a pretty clear reminder of that. It also means that I know far less about the product than I'm accustomed to knowing. Frankly, aside from having a handful of cigars that I like, I really think my cigar knowledge is pretty lacking. Fortunately, the guys in the store and Bill the store manager know a lot more about cigars than I do so we have expertise at the show, but it still means that I feel a bit like a fish out of water there.
And speaking of fish out of water, whose bright idea was it to put a major tourist and conventioneer destination in the desert? And then, who decided that the IPCPR show should be in late July? I know I'm in the minority here, but give me the humid heat I know over the dry heat that feels like being in a pizza oven any day. Better yet, I think the IPCPR should hold the show in, say, Anchorage if they really insist on doing it in July. I'm from the South; hot and wet is what we do. As a fellow southerner once observed to me, 'you can't really trust air you can't feel'.
Disagreeable climate aside, I am really excited about the show. We'll get to see friends we rarely see. One night, we're having dinner with Brian Levine, our previous fearless General Manager before he took off to head up Brigham's US operations. I told him it was only ok that he was leaving because it meant that I'd be his customer again, which meant that he had to buy dinner when we got together. He's making good on the promise.
Of course, as always, everything here will run as normal, since just four of us are gone. Hopefully we'll also have some blog posts from the show and some videos to edit and get up on the site when we get back.
Today's update is of particular note too. There's a little Japanese invasion, with four great pipes from Tokutomi and a half dozen pieces from Tsuge. You'll also find pipes from Benni Jorgensen, Claudio Cavicchi, Poul Winslow, Randy Wiley and others. Check 'em out. Oh, and yeah, we released G. L. Pease Lagonda yesterday. You really should give that a try too.
Go figure. Just as soon as I’m back on the Latakia wagon, smoking daily favorite blends like Maltese Falcon and Quite Nights, G. L. Pease introduces another English blend to tempt my taste buds, torment my wallet and tease my cellar. But am I really complaining? No way.
Lagonda, the fourth addition to Pease’s Old World collection of handcrafted pipe tobacco, is a rare treat. Heavy, dark, creamy, smoky, tangy; this mix of Cyprian leaf, red Virginia and Oriental tobaccos is as refined as it is bold and is the perfect complement to a summer evening outdoors.
So dive in. Join the fervor. Because everyone knows how quickly a new blend from G. L. Pease will disappear on its debut.
I smoke in my car. If you know even a little about me, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise. Like most smokers I know, smoking in transit is as natural and enjoyable to me as smoking in the home or (if you live in a state like South Carolina) a favorite restaurant. Considering that I suffer from a slight-to-moderate case of Road Rage, pipe smoking when driving offers me a means to relax in traffic and the opportunity to chuckle at (rather than flip off) those outrageous tourists that know neither their way around Highway 17, nor the location of the controls to their own turn signals.
And yes, as a consequence (and much to my wife’s dismay), the car is a bit of a mess. Pipe cleaners, matches, lighters, and leather pouches half-filled with dry tobacco seem to pop out of every side panel, cup-holder, and dusty compartment the vehicle has to offer. Pair this to the pound or so of ash that’s settled into every likely cranny between the seats, dash, and transmission stick, as well as the general, all-pervasive ghost-fragrance of pipe-smoke past, and you’ve got a cabin with plenty, to put it politely, "character". Do I care? Not so much. I smoke in my car - with the emphasis on "my".
But I have to admit that I was a little ashamed this morning when delivering the automobile to our regular mechanic for a tune-up and an oil change. My wife, and the occasional (and much forewarned) passenger are those that choose to suffer my Philistine behavior knowingly; I suppose it’s not exactly fair to subject total strangers to the walk-in ashtray that is my Volkswagen. At least the thing isn’t also filled with a month’s worth of fast food discards - that inexplicable trash-hoarding behavior we've all gotten a glimpse of at one time or another, walking through the parking lots of grocery stores, shopping malls, and Walmarts. There's no chance of covering up for that with claims of it adding "character" to your lifestyle.
Nonetheless, and to make long story short, it looks like Yours Truly will still be spending the evening vacuuming out the car. If nothing else, I’ll then be able to "prove" to others that I exaggerated the state of my car for the sake of better "fiction" - at least for a week or so.
In the meantime, we’ve all sorts of treats newly available this evening. Pipes by Savinelli, Radice, PS Studio, Johs, Brigham and Peterson round out our offering of fresh works. Additionally, we’ve three new fragrances available from Lamp Berger. Happy Monday!
Between the recent local conflagrations, nights filled with the sounds of small, recreational explosions, new employees being brought up to speed, and a website assets imbroglio involving some very uncooperative file transfer protocols, the past week has been equal parts sleepless, busy, resolute in its spirit of malfunction, and heady with the rich aromatics of a burning forest (not to mention, rather short on visibility). And yet, that having been said, we adapt and overcome - in fact, Alyson and Tommy are, even as I write this, in the very act of adapting and overcoming the shenanigans of our aforementioned FTP software. Where has it sent our files? Will we ever see them again? By the time you read this, a shocking conclusion will hopefully have been reached. Or, preferably, a not-so-shocking one, which will not further involve fire, nor explosions, nor the more subdued, much quieter dysfunctions typical of computers and network systems.
All that having been said, if you are reading this, then we do have quite an update for you today; a broad assortment of briars from Stanwell, Brebbia, Savinelli, and Peterson; artisanal pipes from the Roveras of Ardor, and Giancarlo Guidi's Ser Jacopo - not to mention nine fresh, and often quite complex designs by the recently-introduced Kevin Arthur; peerless high-grades from Former of Denmark, Matzhold of Austria, and America's own Rad Davis; and last but not least, a selection of five-dozen estate pipes of various, wide-ranging origins.
Today is very warm and as such I’ve dug out from the closest a fan I’ve not seen since July or August of last year. I suppose I can’t complain too loudly of the unbearable heat seeing as how we’re in July now and high temperatures are the national norm. And I expect we’ll all be warmer still. Nevertheless, hot sunny days are far from ideal weather in my reckoning if only because my pipe smoking seems to suffer. There’s something about clasping a sweaty, 180 degree Fahrenheit block of wood enclosing smoldering leaves, on a blistering, broiling, bright summer afternoon that’s less than appealing to me and for many a pipe smoker, methinks.
So I’ve had a few more cigars in the last few weeks than to which I’m accustomed, I’ve tapered down to two or three pipe bowls a day, and I’m smoking English blends, Balkan blends, and anything with generous helpings of Latakia in a mainstay way I haven’t known since this last winter. That’s right; I’m back on the good stuff. What can I say? The Kentucky and Kentucky-burley blends just stopped working for me a few weeks ago. And I’ve got a dozen or so lovely pipes dedicated to the exotic Latakia leaf that haven’t seen any love in months and months.
How long will this last? How long can it last? I’ve never been one to get too hung up on a particular blend or style of pipe tobacco. My tastes change temperamentally. In a few months, after having smoked dozens of old favorite English blends from my cellar and loads of blends new to my palate, I’m sure my rekindled interest in Latakia will wane as the temperature cools, as new fragrances fill the air, and as I become intrepidly curious about some new aromatic cross-over thingy.
In the meantime I’m sitting at home, smoking a bowl of McClelland’s Blue Mountain from a 1964 Dunhill Shell Briar LBS, enjoying a glass of unsweetened ice tea (sorry, my southern compatriots) and considering options for tonight’s Fourth of July festivities. Whatever we decide to do will involve staying cool and a good pipe or two.
Speaking of good pipes, be sure and check out our latest offerings from the likes of Peterson, Savinelli and Brigham, as well as the venerable Dunhill and the very stylish Former-Eltang. And if you’re looking for quality cigars to enjoy during the warm weather take a look at the bundle packs we’ve available from Casa de Ortez. Happy Independence Day!
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