The wife and I got out of town this weekend, or actually more accurate, we got out of the state, traveling down to Warner Robins, Georgia.
While part of this trip had something to do with getting out of Irene’s way, we really decided to drive over to Georgia because we were overdue for some quality time away from home. While I get to do my fair share of traveling for the sake of pipe shows and such, Shelly has been home bound over the last year, working with old folks, washing dishes, cooking meals, doing laundry, and cleaning the bathroom; you know, pretty much the stuff any young woman loves to do more than anything else in the whole wide world. But everybody needs a break. So we bailed out of South Carolina last Friday, just in time for the weather to turn ugly. Good for us.
Believe it or not, when traveling, the single issue I struggle with most is picking out the handful of pipes that will accompany me on the trip. The longer I’m away, the more pipes I have to bring, and the more difficult this choice becomes. The process is painfully emotional, occasionally maddening and usually haunts me for the duration of any adventure. There’s no need to worry about me, though, my therapist and I are currently sorting this out. Pipe Acquisition Disorder, meet Pipe Separation Anxiety. But I digress.
Ordinarily I like to come up with a theme for the pipes I pack. The theme facilitates the decision making process - it's sort of like making a mixed tape (iPod playlist, depending on your generation). This last weekend’s motif? Dunhill estates. I brought along four of my favorite old patent-era Dunhills; two sandblasts and two smooths (symmetry is key). My old Dunhills are some of the best smokers to be found among my modest collection, and it gives me a strange sense of satisfaction to know that when smoking some of these old guys I’m also enjoying my own little slice of history. In their own way, they each make me feel like a steward of the past, and for a lot of pipe smokers and collectors this is itself a huge component of the hobby. Old pipes connect us to something, a time, an era, that’s been and gone, lost forever, though the fashion world and pop culture may still occasionally attempt to create pale imitations of it for a season or two. And of course, Dunhill pipes just happen to be exceptionally refined objects in and of themselves. Everyone should own an old Dunhill or two.
And that's all the more reason why we’re kicking off a huge sale this evening. We’re knocking an additional 25% off all the Dunhill estates we’ve already got up on the website, and, for good measure, we’re adding an extra 30 pieces today. No longer can anyone say that Dunhill estates are too expensive. At least, that’s what I plan on telling Shelly when I come home this evening with another handful of history.
As well, be sure to check out the rest of our fantastic update, which includes new pipes from Castello, Radice, Peterson, Savinelli, and Vauen. Yeah, it’s a biggie.
When you work in the pipe business and you spend as much time on the internet as we do here, you come across some interesting pipe and cigar things on the web while doing “work related” research. While we have found that pipes and cigars make everyone we come in contact with happy, we do worry about those non-smokers in your life. Why should they be deprived of such joy?
Well, we have gathered up a few of these “goodies” in our accessories section under Fun Gifts. How about a nice licorice pipe for your sweetie? A cat-nip pipe or cigar for your furry feline? Or a squeeky "Ruffio Y Julieta" plush cigar for your canine pal? Spread the joy!
It was with considerable bemusement that I turned to Adam the other day, and asked, "Is the building shaking?" Adam responded in the natural manner, which was to go silent and hold still, for as we all know, one's ability to judge the motions of the earth are greatly improved by holding off on speaking or moving. "I..." Adam began, before being interrupted by Lisa, shouting from her office across the hall, and essentially echoing my own query, albeit in a rather different tone, and a much higher octave. As we now all of course know, it was, indeed, shaking. In point of fact, so was much of the Easy Coast, as we experienced one of our rare tremors actually significant enough to be perceived without need of a seismograph.
Of course, this momentary tectonic hiccup could only hold our attention for so long before we returned to talk of the more traditional East Coast pastime of how we intend to welcome the arrival of the season's latest hurricane. Her name is Irene, and reactions to news of her have thus far been mixed; Adam thinks she won't even show up, Susan, a native of the Carolinas, displays indifference for what she describes as "just wind and rain". Fool that I am for anything sufficiently tempestuous and female, my own reaction has been a desire to pursue her. Initially this meant planning on driving down to Charleston, when that fair city was projected to be her landfall. Once her itinerary was shifted north, to arrive directly in Myrtle Beach itself, I began to consider the possibility that, much like the dog that finally catches the car he has been chasing for so many miles; I may have sunk my teeth into more than I could chew. Mainly this was on account of my apartment building being a stone's throw from the beach, with nice, big windows which have all the structural integrity of starched wrapping tissue. Fortunately, however, as she shifts her path once again, farther north, I've proceeded to immediately toss aside my misgivings, and give chase once more. As you might expect, Adam has voiced wonder at what, exactly, is wrong with me. "You only live once," I told him. "I merely embrace life... which by necessity demands embracing the possibility of death." Of course, it may also be possible that I am merely a grand fool for anything fickle of mind, dangerous of nature, and of female persuasion. No doubt Pam and Susan will agree with at least half of that sentence.
But do you know what is not grandly foolish at all? Enjoying a good pipe and a proper blend - regardless of what various and sundry scolds, ninnies, and would-be nannies would have us believe (under the penalty of law, by their preference, and only for our own good, of course). In that spirit, today we present you with briars from Stanwell, Peterson, and Savinelli; artisinal numbers from L'Anatra, Randy Wiley, Poul Winslow, Claudio Cavicchi, and, introduced to Smokingpipes for the first time, Ascorti. Finally, topping it all off, we have several exquisite designs by Rad Davis, Tsuge, and Alex Florov. Plus, with Sykes gone, Alyson has apparently had no one to stop her from making her own special contribution under "Fun Gifts".
I took my wife to work this morning because the weather showed a chance of a thunderstorm this afternoon, and I don't want to worry about her out and about in such weather. Once I got here (work), there was some buzz going around the office about the likely possibility of a Tropical Storm Hurricane Irene. This isn't good news for a Monday morning. I can deal with rain, but a lot of rain means my workshop can look like a wet laundry room in a fraternity house basement. Realizing the likelihood of having to batten down the hatches here at the offices without our fearless leader Sykes (who is currently hanging out with pipe makers and tobacco people in Denmark), the time to take preventative action is now.
Everyone else here can take care of their own offices and all of the important blinking-computer stuff buzzing within, but Sykes would [hopefully] appreciate some of us chipping in to hurricane-proof his office. The first thing we did was to open his door and immediately unplug all of his electronic devices. Computer, phone, fan - everything. There is no time to properly shut stuff down, so yanking cords from the sockets saves valuable seconds. The next thing we did was to bubble wrap his four monitors and screw his chair to the floor in case things get nasty. His bookshelf was toppled over so each volume is safely on the floor and a sheet of plywood was screwed down and covered with cinder blocks to prevent anything from moving. We put plywood over the windows and continued our efforts by filling the entire office with packing peanuts (which we found easier to do with the door closed, and a hole cut in the ceiling which we filled from above). We sincerely hope the developing storm loses power in the next few days, as it is currently heading toward Charleston, SC. Our building is incredibly sturdy brick with Hurricane-rated windows, but we sure don't want anything to happen to put it to the test. Rest assured, Sykes, we are looking out for you.
In the interim, we've put together a healthy update of pipes, cigars, tobacco, and accessories. McBaren 7 Seas tobacco, pipe stands, Lampe Berger items, two cigars brands, and an impressive array of pipes from Europe.
"The clothes make the man," we have all so often been told. Utter nonsense, I say, as someone who has both worn tuxedos and been reduced to (borderline) rags, at one point or another. The truth, indeed, is the reverse: That how a man dresses is a reflection of who he is, or, at least, wishes people to perceive his person as. The clothes are but inanimate objects, and it is men (and women) who make them, and who ultimately make themselves as well. At one time or another most of us have probably known well-heeled slobs, sharp and fashionable frauds, and impoverished fellows who kept their boots shined and polished, even when the soles were cracked through-and-through with years of wear and tear. Many of us have also likely witnessed the first's haplessness with women, the complete absurdity and underlying desperation of the second's entire existence, and the third's eventual transcendence from his circumstances.
But what of a man's choice in pipes? No doubt these bits of briar, or morta, or meerschaum follow suit. There will always be those who collect the works of rarified pipemakers, because of their love for the art and the craftmanship which goes into their creation - and there will always be those who snatch them up only in the hope of impressing others. Adam can typically be seen smoking some light, unassuming English-classical number, which share a small stand with a number of clays - little surprise for a lover of colonial history. Ted, who holds a degree in poetry and who has been through more beards than I can count since he began working here, holds in a place of pride a couple of well-preserved 19th-century reed-stemmed pipes which were discovered hidden away in an attic, passing generations in obscurity. And who can look at a briar from the Pesaro school, without picturing their eventual owners as gregarious extroverts, or a Dunhill Shell Briar without thoughts of tweed-clad academics gathering over chess boards? Such pipes as these did not create the associations I have mentioned - it's the people who've favored them that did that.
Fortunately, no matter who you are we're liable to have your match today, as we present one very broad selection indeed: Kent, Former, and Heeschen; Ardor, Il Duca, and Askwith; meerschaums from IMP; Neerups, Stanwells, Brebbias, Savinellis, Petersons, and, new to Smokingpipes.com, the freehands of Eric Nording - and, as always, a fine selection of estates as well.
Over the weekend, my wife and I flew to New York City to visit a good friend and customer. Traveling there Saturday morning and returning Sunday evening meant we couldn't get a lot accomplished, but the idea was to relax, have fun, see some interesting places and, of course, gain a few pounds from delicious food. Since my wife is from Russia, hitting the Brighton Beach in Brooklyn was on the top of the to-do list. One year ago, we were in Russia for a few weeks and I fell in love with the food. I even got in trouble filming smoked fish and other foods in St. Petersburg (I guess it was a little suspicious). We were told by our friend not to expect too much, but when we eventually found a parking spot and meandered our way to a Russian grocery store, we were very excited. Truthfully, I thought I was in Russia. Hitting a few other food places for Russian-style meats to grill out, Russian salads and drinks fully prepared us to enjoy a beautifully sunny day in the lower 80s. At his home with his lovely family, we grilled meats, snacked on fish, enjoyed wine and spirits, and smoked our pipes like it was a pipe show. The man has more tins of vintage tobaccos than I have hairs on my head and I enjoyed more than my fair share of decade-old Orlik Golden Sliced and Dunhill tobaccos.
The following day was overcast and raining, but we headed to a well-chosen Chinese restaurant to meet with another customer and indulge in fantastic, authentic food that I've never experienced before. Driving around the city on our way to shopping in Manhattan made me want to close my eyes many times, and helped me understand why New Yorkers tend to use four-letter words so much. After a quick shopping trip with the girls, we headed to the famous Barclay-Rex pipe and cigar store that has been in the city since 1910. Whenever I can visit another fine tobacco establishment, I will. The gentleman working was very thoughtful, kind, and enjoyed discussing pipes and tobaccos as much as I do. I was surprised that we were able to smoke our Padron 1964 40th Anniversary cigars in the store with so many smoking bans around, but am very happy that such an event could still happen in the city. All in all, the weekend getaway was a great food and tobacco experience. What more could one ask for?
Today we are sharing pipes from Castello, Dunhill, Vauen, Savinelli, Peterson, and Sebastien Beo. You will also find cigars from Brick House and San Cristobal, as well as cigar cutters, a Castello pipe bag and new tobacco from Vauen.
If you can recall my introduction a few weeks ago, you may remember the shenanigans Eric and I got into when he moved into my office. I always liked to boast that I had the largest office in the building, and still do. Eric just happens to be sitting in here too. I'm somewhat like that crazy guy from the movie Braveheart that refers to Ireland as "his" island. "It's MY island," he said. "It's MY office," I say. I would not compare my observations of our resident Amish-Johnny Cash-meets-Turkish-from-"Snatch"-doppelganger to Jane Goodall studying chimpanzees, but it may be more similar that you would believe. He does a fantastic job writing descriptions; the best here, I think, so studying his habits might help the rest of us writers. I also believe Eric should do commercials for beef because, from what I've observed, he eats nothing else. Each day he goes into the kitchen and cooks a slab of seasoned, well-tenderized beef in a cast iron skillet for lunch. I asked him if he does this at home "Not always. Sometimes I eat sushi". Interesting. I am beginning to understand more about this quiet creature. One could not simply look at Eric and know what the weather was like. Every day he wears black pants, a V-neck T or button-up shirt, a black jacket, and boots. This man believes seasons, and dressing for them, is for the weak.
It has been nice talking with Eric daily, though. Prior to his moving into my office, every question he was confronted with received an answer that could fit inside a fortune cookie. Brief and to the point. The ability to bounce description ideas back and forth has proven great, and we each find quality aspects to focus on with each pipe. So many people come in here looking for pipes, unpacking pipes, or generally having a question, and in that regard Eric has done a splendid job being a bouncer/interrogator. "What are you doing here? Who told you, you could come in? Susan...leave at once". Many of us have found out that he does indeed have a humorous side because of all of this, and some employees find it irresistible not to poke him with a stick just to get a reaction. While him and I used to independently listen to bizarre music for our own amusement (and some eye-rolling from others), our office is rarely playing anything at all. Once I had to walk out because he was listening to some sort of dark, feedback, [horrible] music his friend made. I countered this (accidentally) with a really bad CD that sounded like a one-armed bagpiper falling down the stairs. Perhaps one of these days I may even find out what the "N" stands for in Eric N. Squires, but currently I should just continue quiet observations as not to disturb him too much. So far, this has been a lot of fun, and strangely educational. (Did you know that the color magenta, so often today used on the exteriors of gentlemen's clubs, was named after a bloody 19th century battlefield near Milan?)
This evening has some especially nice offerings for fans of the pipe. J.Alan, Larryson, Grechukhin, and Becker have wonderful offerings in limited numbers, and the variety continues with other artisans and companies from around the globe.
Back in June, Alyson and I visited Sébastien Beaud, owner of Genod and maker of the Sébastien Beo pipes. We took lots of great video that day and I conducted an interview with Sébastien about Genod, St. Claude, and, of course, the new Sébastien Beo line. Enjoy!
Establishing the estate 'grade' is something of a challenge. It's a somewhat subjective process and there are dozens of possible factors involved. We get questions about it a lot, so in addition to his recent blog series, Adam, with the help of Ted and Pam organized some of his thoughts, and we rolled it into an estate grading guide of sorts.
Additionally, this would be a great place for us to field questions on the subject. Please do post comments questions in response to this post!
My wife often takes me places I don’t want to go. It seems that most of the time these places specialize in the selling of women’s shoes, women's pottery, or women's means of turning a bathroom into a comprehensive aesthetic presentation. I don’t know why I let her talk me into being an escort for these kinds of adventures. I’m not even sure why she would want me to follow her along in the first place. I don’t care about women’s shoes, or clothes, or makeup. But she insists, I relent, and then I end up at these department stores for hours and hours. I do end up carrying the majority of her shopping bags, so maybe that has something to do with it.
This weekend I was dragged along to "Sephora" so that my wife might purchase "foundation by Nars". I hope this means something to you because I was pretty confused when all this was explained to me. However, it was pretty clear that I was about to embark on a lady-shopping trek. I’m now skilled at recognizing when this is about to happen to me. She starts talking in a secret language; I can pick out words like skin and moisturizer, cream, shoes, purse, skirt, and a handful of others, but the majority of the code is indecipherable by the male gender. When she speaks in the secret language her eyes get real wide, her voice goes up an octave and she talks alarmingly fast. It might be because she’s naturally excited, or this is some strange Orwellian conditioning (Two Minutes Compulsion) caused by reading Vogue magazine, but I wouldn’t know. What I do know is it’s time to pack up some tobacco and a pipe. We’re about to go shopping.
Shopping with my wife looks like this: I do a quick lap around the store to establish that I have indeed fulfilled my husbandly duty of being there, report my intentions to wait outside, and then smoke my pipe. She knows a pipe will take me a while to get through, so she takes her time shopping. In this way we both win. I think I’m clever for having come up with this scheme. And honestly, I don’t mind being the bag boy to my spouse’s pampering-expeditions as long as I find a place to enjoy a nice pipe. And she knows it. And wouldn’t you guess? She’s the biggest supporter of my hobby.
But like you, I do my shopping, pipe and tobacco shopping, on-line. So without further ado, here’s our Monday evening update.
You’ll find new pipes from the likes of Savinelli, Radice, and Luciano, as well as Johs, Brigham, Peterson and Vauen. Additionally, we’re introducing the new Zino Platinum Z-Class cigar (recently a personal favorite of mine). Enjoy!
Historically, the summer is our slow time of year. We're not as seasonal around Christmas as many retailers, but the summer months are definitely a little quieter around here than the rest of the year. It's the time of year we tend to take vacations. It's also the time of year that we're prepping for the busier periods of the year. Ironically, that means that I'm actually busier while the company as a whole is a little quieter. We got home from Vegas about a week ago, after a very successful week of frantic pipe purchasing (along with tons of tobacco, and some cigars). Pipes are beginning to arrive now, coming in vast boxes of hundreds of pipes each, landing in Adam's pipe quality control area to be carefully inspected by Adam, Bill and others, all under Adam's careful aegis.
And I'm off to Denmark in another couple of weeks, to see yet more folks and buy yet more pipes. They're very different experiences, though. In Denmark, I'm handling a handful of very expensive pipes. At the IPCPR show, it's more about high quality factory pipes: Peterson, Stanwell, Savinelli and others that make up the bulk of the pipes that we sell. Of course, whether it's $50 or $5,000, it's subject to similar quality control processes and is listed individually, but as you might imagine, we see a whole lot more pipes from Peterson than we do from, well, all of the one-man artisanal pipe makers we work with combined a few times over.
Speaking of Peterson, I'm really excited by what they're up to this year, with the new Molly Malone series and the new Sherlock Holmes shapes. From a company that's almost 150 years old, they do a remarkable job of simultaneously being true to their roots and exploring new ideas. It's a tough balancing act, of sorts, but Tom Palmer et al seem remarkably good at it. Speaking of the Molly Malone series, Peterson has also done a good job of holding reasonable prices on these new series: the two pipe rusticated Molly Malone series sells for less than $250 at Smokingpipes.com. I think that's a pretty awesome deal for these pipes.
I've had Peterson on the brain lately for a variety of reasons, but in today's update, Peterson is just a component of a large, variegated selection of fine briars. You'll find new pipes from Ardor and Askwith, Peter Heeschen and Benni Jorgensen, Savinelli and Tsuge, Stanwell and Il Duca. And much, much more.
I have to admit, adjusting to the weather here in the South has been strange. I’m not used to the random thunderstorms, lightning storms, rainstorms, the unusually humid nights, the uncomfortably humid mornings, nor am I used to sweating so much, all the time, day after day after day. In California we had earthquakes; on the East Coast, what you have is weather. But I have to say, it’s not that bad once you get used to it. Shocking.
In fact, I’d go so far to say that an afternoon in the sweltering humidity and blistering heat can be downright enjoyable, provided that a few details are in order.
First off, shade and seating is crucial. Then you need beer. And finally, most importantly, you need smoking tobacco. If you want to enjoy yourself outdoors in this kind of brutal, Southern-style summer weather these are things you need. You can substitute iced tea (sweet tea, properly) for beer, but otherwise the aforementioned outline for a successful day outside when it’s 89 degrees Fahrenheit with a Real Feel of 112 (because the relative humidity is 71 percent) is less a list of suggestions and more a guide for survival as far as I’m concerned. Also, whether you prefer pipe or cigar smoking is totally your prerogative. As much as I’m a pipe guy, a cigar is perfect in this kind of deep-summer weather.
Either way we’ve got you covered. Tonight we’re offering new cigars by Vega Fina (smoked one just yesterday, they’re fantastic) as well as plenty of new pipe tobacco offerings from Planta. And if you’re looking for a new pipe to christen, check out tonight’s all-star lineup: Brigham, Castello, Peterson, Savinelli, Sebastien Beo (a personal favorite around here) and Vauen.
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