Many of you are quite familiar with the pipeman-afflicting disorders "PAD "and "TAD" (Pipe Aquisition Disorder and Tobacco Aquisition Disorder, respectively). We, of course, are enthusiastic enablers of these conditions, as both keep us in business, which, of course, in turn helps keep those of us here at SPC who also happen to be afflicted by PAD and TAD in fresh pipes and blends, too. We enable you, you enable us. It's a pretty awesome, mutually beneficial cycle, quite frankly. We certainly feel so.
You may be surprised to learn that there is another disorder I have been observing as of late, this one a bit more insidious. I realized recently that every time I see one of my co-workers puffing away, without fail, I begin to covet his smoking apparatus. I want one just like it. It may be I already have one kinda like it. Doesn't matter though; not the same finish, or his is cross-grained and mine is flame-laden. Whatever the trivial variation may be, a little voice from somewhere deep in my brainstem gently whispers, "I WANT THAT PIPE."
To fit neatly into the previously established acronym paradigm, I'm naming this malady PED, short for Pipe Envy Disorder. There is no real cure short of becoming a hermit, but PED can be managed with a little self-restraint and the realization that what's in your hand is probably also the object of someone else's yearning gaze as well.
If you truly desire to be on the receiving end of copious cases of PED, and who among us doesn't want to be that guy, I have just the pipe for you. Today's update features a very beautiful bent Dublin by Hans "Former" Nielsen. Straight grained, with a birdseye-wreathed rim reminiscent of a Van Gogh night sky, all under a deep chestnut stain, its allure is sure to prove devastatingly contagious.
Also available, we have new pipes from Tsuge, Dunhill, Luciano, Chacom, Johs, Brigham, Savinelli and Peterson; twenty-four total English and Italian estate pipes; and new bulk tobacco blends from Altadis and Planta.
John Sutherland: Marketing Mngr and Sr. Photographer
After smoking a handful of straight Virginia blends almost exclusively since November of last year, my taste buds were finally ready for a change around the end of March. I was hoping this would happen, as the notion of getting locked into a certain style of pipe tobacco for the rest of my smoking days, or even a specific blend, terrifies me. Exploring new tobaccos is a passion of mine, but it’s a balancing act. Often one has to buckle down on a fixed blender or a particular tin for some indeterminate period of time to really understand it, which means that diverse exploration of other tobaccos will come to halt in the face of the profound, seemingly fathomless contemplation of one or two blends.
But I digress. Lately I’ve been smoking G. L. Pease’s Charing Cross. Inspired by a thread on a forum likening it to the old Balkan Sobranie above anything else currently on market (whether this is true or not I’ll leave to you) I picked up my first tin of this a couple of weeks ago and have been enjoying it singularly and greatly. I’m a big fan of a handful of Pease’s blends, particularly Maltese Falcon, and recently his new Sextant, and those mixtures featuring a healthy dose of potent Latakia. Charing Cross is smoky, sweet, savory, and certainly rich in flavor, although exceptionally balanced and not at all cloying, even in a larger pipe, like my S. Wilford Ardor bent Rhodesian (it’s a huge pipe for me with what I think is an enormous tobacco chamber). For the most part I’ve been smoking this stuff in a couple Sebastien Beo pipes (a bent Rhodesian and a squat, paneled Rhodesian) and a couple older Dunhill billiards.
If you’ve just begun exploring the world of G. L. Pease pipe tobacco, I’ll mention that it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the excitement of his new releases in favor of getting familiar with some of his tried and true recipes like Haddo’s Delight, Caravan, Blackpoint, or Charing Cross (to name just a few). But there’s some really awesome stuff in his line that just doesn’t get talked about the way it once did and that’s too bad. Seriously, do yourself a favor and pick up a tin from something in his Original Mixtures or Classic Collection series. You’ll be glad you did.
I have something of a confession to make. I am kind of a pipe smoking disaster. I was visiting a friend recently and as we spent the afternoon hanging out, I watched him diligently clean each pipe he smoked. Every smoke was in a different pipe. He rotated, cleaned, and babied his pipes. While I greatly admire this, I find myself utterly incapable of that sort of diligent care of, well, anything. My office desks, at work and at home, each have piles of pipes on them, in ashtrays and, occasionally, actually on pipe racks. Some of the pipes contain, gasp, dottle from previous smokes that I haven't yet cleaned out. I regularly run out of pipe cleaners, forgetting to buy more until my pipes are so grungy that cleaners become absolutely imperative. Once every great while, I sit down and clean twenty or thirty pipes at a throw because I've just let them get too nasty. I am a bad pipe smoker. I recognize it. I don't embrace it. I constantly declare that I'll change. That I'll stop leaving random pipes all over the house with tobacco still in the bowls, that I'll carefully and diligently wipe out the chambers and run pipe cleaners through the shanks after each smoke, that I'll actually practice what I preach. I also waste a lot of tobacco because I'll put down a half-smoked pipe and absent mindedly pack another. If I were eight, and if eight year olds smoked pipes, my mother would have taken away my pipes because I wasn't properly caring for my things.
I'm dedicated to reforming my delinquent pipe smoking behavior. I'll start caring for my pipes properly. I will stop smoking half a bowl and forget about that pipe. I'll remember to carry pipe cleaners with me. And a pipe tool. I'll be good to my pipes. Pipes smoke better when you care for them properly. They look prettier when they're all shiny and the silverwork hasn't turned completely black. I'm sure I'd derive some extraordinary sense of satisfaction from the fact that all of them were in order, cleaned, squared away and ready to go.
Of course, that would require a level of organization that I haven't yet managed in pretty much any area of my life. It's looking increasingly unlikely, as I get older, that I'll ever actually grow up sufficiently to do things like this. I love smoking my pipes. I really do. And whatever you do, don't do what I do. My understanding is that caring for pipes properly is a far more rewarding experience. And, of course, if you care for a pipe at even a minimal level, it will last, well, if not forever, than close enough to forever for none of us to ever notice the difference.
And that's part of the fun of pipes. These are permanent objects. If you smoke a cigar, you're left with a stump and, perhaps, a pretty paper band. If you smoke a pipe, you can return to that old friend over and over. Our old friends deserve our care. I recognize this and strive to improve my nasty pipe smoking habits.
And with that, I encourage you to check out today's update, replete with lifelong friends to be, with pipe makers ranging from Peter Heeschen and Rad Davis to Peterson and Savinelli, there's something here for every pipe smoker, the diligent, and the not so diligent, alike.
Lastly, you probably noticed that with this newsletter we’ve introduced Facebook and Twitter buttons along the top and bottom of the page. Feel free to “like” and/or “follow” us, if you haven’t already, to stay up to date with promotions, specials, events, and anecdotes pertaining to Smokingpipes.com.
I was on the phone earlier this evening with my good friend Jeff Gracik, maker of the extraordinary J. Alan brand of pipes. We hadn't talked in a few weeks, so we spent most of the conversation catching up, talking about pipes generally, his pipes in particular, our wives and families, mutual friends and the upcoming Chicago Pipe Show. Amid this wide-ranging discussion, we touched (somehow, I forget how) upon Sébastien Beaud and the brand of pipes that he makes for Smokingpipes.com, Sébastien Beo. Not long after this, my wife reminded me that we had planned to go out to grab a bite to eat, so she and I headed out, but I mentally kept coming back to Sébastien Beo pipes. This line of thinking suggested itself as a post about a pipe brand that I think are particularly good value for money that doesn't get as much attention as I think it should.
I have a Sébastien Beo pipe very similar to the one depicted to the right. I have different pipes for different places and purposes. I've told lots of people that I'm not a great pipe smoker. I don't do all the stuff that pipe smokers are supposed to do: give pipes plenty of rest, rotate them etc. My Beo pipe lives in my laptop bag and has for some time, so it gets smoked pretty much whenever I'm traveling (which lately has been on a near weekly basis). And usually, since, as I said, I'm not a very good pipe smoker, I forget to pack other pipes and it gets smoked four times in a row across two days and then doesn't get smoked again for a few days. Repeat. It's a trooper. It smokes beautifully every time in spite of less than ideal maintenance. And I love it for it. And, as the most expensive finish in the Beo line, it runs all of $85.
It smokes great because it is a superbly engineered pipe. When I first approached Sébastien about making a line of pipes for Smokingpipes.com, I wanted to create something that had that classic French look, but sported the little engineering touches that make high grade, hand made pipes smoke so well, and could be offered for a price that meant that I could keep it in my laptop bag as my emergency travel pipe. Essentially, I wanted a highly utilitarian pipe that smoked like a champ. Sébastien delivered.
But what actually prompted me to write this little missive is that while they've developed a dedicated little following so far, the Beo brand isn't getting nearly as much attention as I think it rightly deserves. Of course, that's just the nature of a new brand. It takes time for folks to discover it. Which is exactly what I think you should do.
And while I'm thinking about it, I better go clean the little guy to get him ready for the next round of semi-abuse when I head out of town again next week...the great thing about great pipes is that if you take care of them just a little bit, they really return the favor.
A brand new pipe should not burn-out during its maiden smoke. That’s not to say it can’t happen, or won’t happen to us, the unsuspecting pipe smoker, from time to time, but I think we can all agree it’s certainly not supposed to happen. An early burn-out can occur, however very, very rarely, for a concise variety of reasons, chief among which is a hidden, natural defect in the briar (like a large sand pit) between the inside wall of the tobacco chamber and outermost wall of the bowl (often unseen just beneath the surfaces of both) that becomes problematic, to say the least, when christened by heat. Problematic meaning that the flaw causes the wood around it to structurally disintegrate and collapse upon itself, leaving a portion of the tobacco chamber looking like it suffered an avalanche of miniature proportions. And if you keep smoking this pipe, chances are, you’re going to put a hole right through it.
I was talking with a fellow last week who is new to the art of pipe smoking. He has as of yet, perhaps, as few as two pipes to his name, and he did a fair bit of homework, primarily by way of mining the contents of the pipe smoking forums, before he’d actually even taken his first puff. Here I’ll mention that I think some of the minutia and much of the micro-minutia regarding the “intricacies” of pipe smoking, pipe cleaning, tobacco storage, et cetera, tend to be more in the nature of personal ritual than strictly effective, but I think it’s probably a good idea to get some education out of the way when jumping into a new hobby - and these habits of ritual rarely do more harm than good, and certainly far less harm than sheer neglect would. Nevertheless, after all his study, there came at last the moment to light up his freshly-got pipe for the first time; however he was so concerned with proper packing technique, lighting procedure, cool-burning smoking tactics, and the well-being of his pipe that he found little, if any, enjoyment from the actual doing of it. And by sheer, confounding coincidence, his pipe burned-out during his, and its, very first smoke.
Needless to say, this fresh initiate to pipedom was pretty confused and upset. He had done everything right, by the book, on the nose, to the letter. And yet, his pipe chose to destroy itself right before his eyes. He tried smoking his other pipe, but was so wound up about preventing a second burn-out, that he found the smoking experience even less enjoyable than he did the first. I expressed to him both the sentiments you read in the first paragraph of this introduction, as well as my condolences - and also the facts. The fact is you ought to be able to pick up a new pipe and smoke it three or four times in twelve hours without worrying about damaging it. You ought to be able to keep this up for a few days before the pipe really starts to taste bad, or needs rest. I wouldn’t suggest keeping this pace up indefinitely by any means, but some of the very best pipes I’ve got I’ve been able to put through the ringer like heavy-weight champs right out of the box. A well-made pipe free of unavoidably and accidentally hidden defect should easily live up to some early, limited abuse. Moreover, and to the heart of it all, one needn’t have to be so careful smoking a new pipe that it’s not an enjoyable, relaxing occasion. Unless the pipe is born as doomed and fatally flawed as a classical Greek hero, you really have to want to break a pipe, or just get really sloppily careless with the thing, to hurt it - briar is hardy stuff, by its very nature. For those of you new to the pipe, just know that the odds of one burning-out on you during its inaugural smoke are slim-to-none.
And now for this evening’s selection of carefully selected and inspected briars. You’ll find new work from Lasse Skovgaard in the mix, as well as fresh pipes from Tsuge, Radice, Sebastien Beo, Savinelli, Peterson, and Vauen, in addition to meerschaum pipes from Storient, and two dozen estate pipes. Of course, be sure to check out the Partagas cigars we’re updating to the site. New pipe bags and tobacco pouches from Savinelli find their way to the accessories section this evening as well. Last but not least, we’re continuing our Dunhill tobacco sale: buy four tins and get the fifth free. What a deal!
Believed to have lived from roughly 390 to 459 AD, Saint Simeon the Stylite could be described as, to put it mildly, a rather colorful introvert. Seeking to escape material distractions and worldly temptations, he first sought shelter by concealing himself within in his own hut for a year and a half, then later by climbing to a rocky height of several yards diameter. By that time, however, he had already attained a reputation as a holy man (and, no doubt, as quite a curiosity as well), and soon discovered that even this elevated patch of land left more than enough room for crowds to gather and, well, crowd him - and his attempts at contemplation alike.
Thus did follow his most famous act, that of living atop a series of pillars for thirty-seven years - a feat which resulted in, amongst other things, this son of a Syrian shepherd holding the World Record for holding the longest-standing world record. While this naturally attracted even larger crowds, they could hardly impose themselves, and even as the crowds grew, well-wishers built for him increasingly loftier perches. (The original column Simeon ascended had been but part of an old ruin - its base still stands in the courtyard of the remains of the late 5th century church built in his honor.)
Though he possessed of the earth but a tiny patch of stone little more than a single yard across, Simeon Stylites attained a great view of everything else - land and firmament alike - as well his own time and thought; while he never completely withdrew from the world, writing letters and speaking to those who gathered on the ground below each afternoon, he did so on his own schedule, being otherwise left to his own contemplation.
Now fast-forward roughly fifteen-hundred years, to 1965. This was the year that Mexican filmmaker Luis Buñuel released his own modern reinterpretation of the Syrian saint's tale, Simon of the Desert. Despite featuring some quite well-known names from Mexican cinema at the time, such as Claudio Brook as Simon, and the beautiful Silvia Pinal as the Devil who repeatedly tries to tempt him back down to earth, the story is compressed to a running time of well under an hour. And the final scene, which follows after Silvia's Devil at last resorts to climbing the pillar herself, throws the audience a complete left hook - Simon and the Devil vanishing from their confrontation in the 5th century desert, only to reappear right in the middle of a 1960s dance club at full, hedonistic froth.
As the camera pans across the dance floor, we're shown a wild landscape of thrashing bodies ruled over by the frenetic tunes of (real-life musical act) Les Sinners... the focus eventually setting upon Claudio's Simon, in modern garb, sitting stoically at a small table with Silvia's Devil, a bottle of beer, and - his pipe. Even the Devil herself shakes to the beat as she sits beside Simon, so that he alone remains reposed, unswayed, untempted, and unstirred:
We have a few exciting points to cover tonight, including both a great tobacco promotion and the introduction of two new pipe brands!
Dunhill tobaccos have been a popular presence in the cellars and pipes alike of smokers for decades, and there has always been a demand for their blends. Until the end of April, you can mix and match any four Dunhill tins, and choose a fifth tin of any Dunhill blend in stock for free! Whether you fancy a bowl of Deluxe Navy Rolls, Early Morning Pipe, 965, or any of the other six blends available, simply add them to your cart and you'll see a link to add the free tin of your choice!
And as mentioned, two pipe brands new to Smokingpipes are hitting the site for the first time tonight, which is always exciting. Viktor Yashtylov has been making waves in collector circles all over the world, and now you'll find his briars making waves with us, too. (And some of you may recall his intricately-cast brass tampers having previously done much the same on our site.) A pipe maker from Russia, he began making pipes in 2000 and is known for his sandblasting technique, finishing process, and for making pipes that are often very small, yet still elegant. We are putting up three of his creations tonight, which include a very small smooth sitter, a sandblasted classic with silver, and a smooth contrasted piece. We are also happy to announce that we've acquired a limited number of Storient meerschaum pipes in from Turkey. Many of them are of classic shapes, yet intricately carved with various motifs, while others display more modern, Freehand designs. Furthermore, while some of these pipes are of the more widely-known, light-weight quality of meerschaum, others are quite heavy by comparison, being made of denser material which some smokers believe results in a more even coloring process.
This past weekend, John, Sykes, and I attended the TAPS show in Raleigh, NC. Although Smokingpipes.com has been appearing regularly at this show for years, this was only my second time at the convention, and the first time for Sykes in almost ten years. And John? This was his very first pipe show. We were all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. But I don’t think anybody noticed.
I’ll mention that I also dragged my wife along. It was her first pipe show as well. We’d decided that it was past due she see for herself what all the fuss is about regarding these expos of old pipes and tobaccos, and because the guys in TAPS are so friendly and do such a great job of making vendors, collectors, smokers, and tourists alike feel very welcome and invited, I figured this would be the one to bring her to. Also, it’s an easy show for Smokingpipes.com to do. The TAPS show is one of the very few we can drive to, and of the relatively short, three hour drive, two thirds of it is a tour of pristine, beautiful country on a two lane highway, specked along the way with small villages and barn houses. This makes for a very pleasant drive, especially when you don’t rush it.
If you’ve never made it to the TAPS show, you’re missing out. Although small (I prefer to think cozy), its proximity to NCU means that it brings out a very diverse crowd of people, particularly across age and gender. It’s really cool to meet a lot of young guys who are just getting into the hobby; they’re green passion and eagerness to absorb new ideas is refreshing. And it’s endlessly pleasing to see so many girls out and about puffing away on Peterson pipes. We also managed to acquire a few dozen really neat estate pipes, meet a handful of customers in person for the first time, and catch up with guys like Steve Monjure, Bill Dougherty, Morty Berkowitz, and Jim Carrino, and many more. So yeah, all in all, it was a very good show. My wife might even want to do it again… one day.
So, if you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that last week a few of us piled into a car and made a field trip to visit the good folks Cornell & Diehl. I’ve continuously heard rumors about just how nice Craig and Patty Tarlar are, and this is indeed true on a massive scale. Upon our arrival, Patty greated us with glowing enthusiasm along with pizza and hot coffee (two sugars, please).
The pizza had little chance to settle when Chris Tarlar pulled Ted and I away from the table for a tour of the works. I hope that doesn’t sound reluctant-- I love pizza, LOOOVE IT-- but I‘m getting fat, and it’s not everyday one gets a guided tour behind the scenes of a major pipe tobacco manufacturer.
First thing, Chris lifts one corner of a tarp laying on the concrete floor to reveal big, beautiful leaves of red, gold, and black. Visions not unlike Scrooge McDuck back-stroking through his money pile filled my head, except replace McDuck with my image and his coin with said big-o pile of tobacco leaves.
The tour continued upstairs to a floor covered in drying racks, which were, again, filled with large tobacco leaf, and then returned downstairs where we were shown the blending station, machines that press, and machines that cut, and ovens that cure.
The tour concluded and it was back to business and pizza, but this is not where the fun ended. Dear reader, I wish you could have seen Ted’s face light up when the Tarlars graciously offered him a bunk and a lesson in blending! This will be redeemed at a later date, and you can of course expect a full report. Told you they were impossibly nice.
John Sutherland: Marketing Mngr and Sr. Photographer
We've been teasing you with news that the Smokingpipes crew made a trip up to scenic Morganton, NC to visit the folks over at Cornell & Diehl last week. That's not exactly what this newsletter is about, however; but you can expect a full report on the actual event soon (I promise). This story is instead about a little road trip game we invented during the long ride.
Given the all-day-and-late-into-the-night nature of the journey, the subject of distracting car games of course came up, amidst all the other topics ranging from business discussion to deep introspection. We are all pipe-people, though, and the classics "I Spy" and "Punch Buggy" simply would not do. Our game was born when Ted suggested a theme for a imaginary new line of our Low Country tinned tobaccos, which led to round after round of potential titles bouncing around Sykes's little Jetta, and eventually spilling over into our dinner at Ruby Tuesdays as well. What a hoot it was! Some of our imaginings were good, some were bad (some intentionally so), some (er, mine) were absurd, and who knows - some might one day fill your bowl.
A few suggestions to get you going: It can be helpful to pick a theme, as we did, as a guide, such as nautical or late 19th century mustache stylings of cantankerous men, especially if the road trip is on the longer side, as you'll eventually find yourself piecing together an entire line of themed-titled tobaccos.
Or, if you prefer, you can just freestyle. This tends to work best when you simply string together as many words and syllables as you can, such as Sir Stodgington's Surly Hedonist Burley Admixture or Billiam Bisquit's Moonbase Thunder-Plug.
Good news, Friends! We know just how much you love Dunhill's tinned tobaccos, and it is to what I can assume will be great applause we have decided to offer you this:
Please, please, ladies and gents, keep your seats for just a minute longer while I explain to you that you can mix and match any four Dunhill tins and choose any particular Dunhill blend to be you're fifth! I know, right? Now's the time to try that one flavor you've never been too sure about, or maybe your feeling the urge to squirrel away some My Mixture. The choice is yours, and you have 'til the end of April, when this spectacular promotion expires.
John Sutherland: Marketing Mngr and Sr. Photographer
As previously mentioned, amongst the thousand-and-one other things packed into the Smokingpipes staff calendar at this date, is that Ted, Sykes, Susan, and John will be spending some time up at Cornell & Diehl. Ted is particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn more about the process of preparing and blending tobaccos from the basics - indeed, this very morning he was here in the pipe library with Adam and I, discussing both those steps and elements of the process he wanted to see firsthand, and naturally enough, this inevitably led the conversation towards the potential feasibility of a series of increasingly whimsical concoctions.
The economic soundness of charring the outside of grass-fed beef steaks, then scraping them to produce a fine powder from which to create a flavor essence, we decided, was tenuous at best. Steeping a proper latakia blend in a particularly smoky whisky was a little more manageable from a financial perspective, we concluded, but we also suspected it was liable to lend itself a little too readily to inducing a "one for the blend, and one for the blender" habit, resulting in a marked degradation in the quality of the final product over the course of time.
As you can see, we've put a lot of thought into this. Hopefully when Ted returns from C&D we'll find ourselves enriched with a better sense of discretion regarding what is and is not a potentially catastrophic prospect. As the public service announcements that used to follow the old GI Joe cartoons always taught us, "Learning is half the battle." And whether you're pondering taking a little swim in the midst of a lightning storm, or considering marketing a Stilton-infused English, that lesson would appear to possess a certain intrinsic merit.
But that is the future. For today, however, we have for you a smashing update: briars by Stanwell, Peterson, Savinelli, and Brebbia; affordable freehands from Erik Nording; fresh, pale meerschaums from IMP; artisanal pieces from Tsuge, Ardor, Lindner, and Il Duca - and of course a thorough selection of estates.
Two weeks from Monday, I'll be headed up to St. Charles, IL for the Chicagoland International Pipe & Tobacciana Show. This will be my eleventh consecutive year of attendance. The show itself is the fifth and sixth of May, but festivities extend the full week before the show now. Joining me on Tuesday, Susan, Ted, John, Chris, Ryota and Tony will be arriving. Pre-Chicago excitement has reached a fever-pitch here at Smokingpipes.com, as we put all of the last minute pieces together to ensure that the biggest event in our calendar (indeed, in the pipe world's calendar) goes smoothly and successfully. I'm absurdly excited. I've done this for a long time and, while you would think it'd get old after awhile, it never does. I think I enjoy each year more than the last.
Susan Salinas, Smokingpipes.com's tireless show coordinator (along with a handful of other hats Susan wears in her general role of organizer of things) has been peppering me with questions, cajoling me to get things done and generally fiddling with all the details. This is good. The last time I did this, it was much more of a mess. And I have yet to remember to pack pipe cleaners for any Chicago show I've ever attended. You really don't want to trust a guy that can't remember to pack pipe cleaners for a pipe show with flights, hotel rooms, dinner reservations and scheduling for seven people at a trade show.
For John and Chris, this'll be their first Chicago. For Ryota, it'll be his first as an employee of Smokingpipes.com. With that in mind, I've created a short list of important things to know about Chicago for the uninitiated among us:
Nothing else is quite like the Chicago show. The show is a veritable who's-who of the world's top pipe makers, dealers and collectors. You can learn more about pipes in an evening listening to a room full of semi-sober folks in Chicago than you can in a month anywhere else.
Sleep is for sissies. Well, and for me. I've learned that I need to try to pace myself in Chicago, but I've not yet figured out how to pace myself in Chicago. If you can snatch five hours between 3am and 8am, you're ahead of the curve. Espresso is an important component in this. Don't worry, if you consume enough, the post caffeine crash doesn't happen until you get home.
On a more concerned note, it's important to remember that pipe tobacco is not a food group. Eating is essential to continued existence. It may seem that the rules differ at the Chicago show, but man cannot live by tobacco and espresso alone.
For us, Chicago is a ton of work and really long days. But it's also a ton of fun. So, yes, being on the Smokingpipes.com Chicago team can be grueling, but if you're not having a blast, you're definitely doing something wrong!
Trying to get into Chicago shape by not sleeping, smoking incessantly and drinking too much scotch for the weeks before the show doesn't actually work. It may seem counterintuitive, but I suspect a regular heavy exercise regime, clean living and a sequence of nine-hour nights sleep before the show is optimal. Of course, I've never actually managed to test this hypothesis, but I do know what I do for the week before the show doesn't seem to help.
And, Chicago veterans among you, please add to my list. Chris, John and Ryota need all the pre-Chicago advice they can get. And if you've never made it to the Chicago show, go book flights now. You won't regret it!
Like most creative types, I fancy myself a problem solver, and when one discards an object deeming it no longer of worth, I say “Nay, good Sir or Madam, you just haven’t thought up a good way to recontextualize it.”
My desk, as I type, is covered, and I mean filled to maximum capacity, with discarded pipes that didn't make the cut that we’ve received with estate batches from good folks just like you, dear reader. They are set aside serving no other purpose but sentimentality, and occasional employee pilfering.
And so begins our dusty journey together finding new uses for old, chewed-up, burnt-out pipes. We may not actually reach one-hundred and one (this sounds much more intimidating all spelled out), but I bet once we put our heads together we’ll come up with all sorts of new and inventive ways to repurpose that which I know most of you will never throw out anyway.
I’ll start (this was, my idea, after all) with what has to be one of the world’s tiniest planters:
What do you think? The pipe (and yes, Magritte, this still be a pipe) continues to carry with it all its “pipe-ness” and the cultural baggage there within-- nostalgia, masculinity, etc. minus the smoking part-- even juxtaposed with feminine beauty of the colorful little wildflower I picked behind my office.
And now that you’re stimulated, it’s your turn, dear Sir or Madam. What ideas have you? Tell us in the comments, or better yet send us some pics to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on our Facebook page. Please, do not be afraid to think outside the box (one-hundred and one is a lot).
John Sutherland: Marketing Mngr and Sr. Photographer
Boy have we got a really nice update for you here, folks. We’ve got lovely fresh pipes from Tsuge and Peter Heeschen alike, as well as fresh work from the venerable Dunhill, Savinelli, Peterson, Vauen, and (last but not least) Sebastien Beo. This evening we’ve also got two dozen recently restored estate pipes available, in addition to new cigars from Cabaiguan and Carlos Torano.
And in other news, here’s where you’ll find us over the next month or so.
This week, Sykes, Susan, John, and I will spend a day on a pilgrimage to Cornell & Diehl in North Carolina. Because this will be John’s first visit to the operation we’ll get a tour of the whole works, which pleases me a great deal, as this will still be only my second time at C&D. Between the two of us, I’m expecting that we’ll bring home a ton of pictures to share on the Smokingpipes blog and Facebook. The Tarlers are really very wonderful people and it’ll be nice to chat with them again. Maybe we’ll pick up some new blends to carry on the site. We’ll see.
Then, this Saturday you can find us at the TAPS show in Raleigh, NC. Last year Susan and I found this show to be particularly exciting on account of the wildly diverse group of attendees. There were lots of different people of different backgrounds; there were a bunch of young people to be found, and even an inordinately substantial population of pipe smokers of the fairer sex was present. This year Sykes, John, and I will be driving up to attend, and I’m even bringing my wife, Shelly. It will be her first pipe show.
And of course, the Chicago pipe show itself is now only but a few weeks away. It’s a beast of a show to put together, and requires a pretty large team, but it’s a tremendous amount of fun, and furthermore we get a lot of really awesome things accomplished while we’re there. Meanwhile, back home in Little River, the guys in our brick and mortar shop, Low Country Pipe & Cigar, will be gearing up for the Blue Crab Festival, an annual event held in Little River, SC; an occasion we've kept a booth at for five or six years straight. Following the Chicago show in May, will be the Kansas City show in June. I’m told that it’s being held in a new venue this year; we can't wait to see the new set-up.
Yes, there’s a lot going on right now. It’s our busiest time of the year and it seems to go by in a blur. If you plan on attending any of these events, please be sure to stop by and say, "Hi!". We’d love to meet you.
As many of you may have already noticed, we’ve got a new, double-sided Smokingpipes.com poster circulating in the spring edition of Pipes and Tobacco Magazine. Thanks in part to popular demand, we’ll start offering the posters on the site with this coming Monday’s update.
One side features no fewer than 70 of the coolest pipes we've showcased in our twelve years in business. We’ve fashioned it a guessing-game of sorts, withholding the names of the makers from the poster instead of a cheat sheet (that can be found at www.smokingpipes.com/poster2012).
The other side of the poster boasts the Art Nouveau stylings of California based artist Jonathan Radin. Jonathan approached me last year with the completed watercolor print of a woman (à la Alfons Mucha) smoking an Adam Davidson pipe under a Smokingpipes banner, so this year when Sykes, John Sutherland (head of our Creative team), and I were discussing what the other side of our poster would look like, that we should use Jonathan’s art became clear pretty quickly.
You can see more of Jonathan’s work at RadinART.com
A few weeks ago, we sent out a survey about your experience at Smokingpipes.com. We had almost 2,200 responses--an impressive 15% response rate (thanks guys!)--filled with detailed suggestions, comments and ideas, ranging from the sublime to the absurd (in response to one comment, no, I won't be wearing a tutu at the Chicago Show; no one wants to see that). It takes a bit of time to tabulate all of that, but the organized results landed on my desk yesterday morning. I want to write a lengthier blog post addressing some of the ideas in more detail, but I wanted to cover some highlights briefly.
One of the things that's awesome about reading through all of this is that it feels like constructive (or, in the case of tutu guy, not so constructive) suggestions from friends, rather than impersonal responses from strangers. 97.5% were either somewhat or very satisfied with Smokingpipes.com, with most of the balance being neutral. Other questions in the same vein (how likely are you to recommend us? etc), received similar response scores. So, it's encouraging to hear that, in general, we're doing a good job. Still, we could always be doing a better job, couldn't we? And, that's where all your comments come into play. Here are a handful of the most often mentioned suggestions and quick responses on those:
1) Website performance on update days: Seriously, we've thought we had this fixed so many times that for awhile there folks around here just rolled their eyes when I said I thought it'd be better. After three updates with no performance problems, I think we actually have this one nailed now. We're also working on a longer term project to add servers to our cluster to try to get in front of it before it becomes a problem again.
2) Problems with login/cart/checkout related problems: I think we have these down to almost no problems, but we're still working on it. We're in the process or reworking the cart code to better tie all this up. On this, we've fixed some stuff, we're working on fixing other stuff, and we have plans to make further improvements over the next few weeks. We hear ya on this. We're on it.
3) Shipping prices/options/service: Higher fuel prices have made shipping charges more painful across the board. We tried to address this with a pilot program we ran with UPS Surepost last year. No one liked that (not us, not you; I think my aunt Carol even called to complain and we hadn't even shipped her anything). We're working on expanding options and coming up with cheaper ways to do this without sacrificing quality of service. We should have bits and pieces in place in the next few weeks.
4) Photographs, quantity thereof and related things: We have cool plans in the works. We'll keep you posted.
I mostly just want to thank you for participating in the survey, though. Your help is ever so much appreciated. We want to make sure that Smokingpipes.com continues to be the market leader for premium pipes and pipe tobacco in the United States, and getting your ideas and acting on them is about the best way for us to do that. Thanks!
And, of course, those of you who asked for more pipes, well, we're working on that too. Starting with a good sized update today which includes pipes from Lasse Skovgaard, Rad Davis, Ashton, Randy Wiley, Claudio Cavicchi, and much more. Check 'em out!
When Sergio Leone originally cast Clint Eastwood in his first spaghetti Western, he felt that Eastwood's until-then fresh-faced, clean-cut image needed considerable roughing-up, to lend his character a tougher, more ruthless sense of virility than anything he had previously played. Thus came the broad poncho, the rugged beard, and, perhaps most iconic, the dark cheroot almost constantly clenched between his teeth. The irony of this image, now so ingrained, was that Eastwood didn't smoke, had never smoked, and by the second film in Leone's famed trilogy, For a Few Dollars More, he was trying to convince Leone (in vain) that the anti-hero lead need not necessarily be trailing smoke throughout almost every scene.
But for another actor who gained a big break from Leone's eerie, enigmatic, and savage tales portrayed across the Spartan landscapes of the Western frontier, there was no need for aesthetic reinvention. Nor, for that matter, any trouble getting him to smoke. Lee Van Cleef is quoted as having once observed of his life that, "Being born with a pair of beady eyes was the best thing that ever happened to me." Some irony does come into play there, however, as what cinched Leone's decision to pair him up as a mysterious, vengeance-seeking co-anti-hero with Eastwood in For Few Dollars More, was not simply his fiercely aquiline countenance, but, as he put it, the total package: "I saw him some way away, and, was struck by his silhouette, his extraordinary attractiveness: he was perfect for my character."
Though Van Cleef had previously done quite a lot of acting, both on screen and on stage, and had become notable indeed for his unique look, when Leone met him he was in the midst of a lengthy forced hiatus. He had been working as a freelance painter, with only the occasional small role, following a car accident which had destroyed one of his kneecaps. Though the doctors had told him he would never ride a horse again, he was doing precisely that within six months... and yet nonetheless the future of his acting career seemed to have become extremely tenuous. Once given another chance at a significant role, however, he nailed it.
So it is that today Van Cleef's unique, fiercely aquiline, yet refined features, which made him a natural for portraying villains and steely-eyed heroes with a ruthless streak alike, remain as an inseparable part of our image of the spaghetti Western's heyday.
Lee Van Cleef was a talented actor with an undoubtedly striking look - beady eyes (allegedly heterochromatic, at that) and singular silhouette included. Though he played in many, many roles both before and after his injury-induced hiatus, there is one role, and one scene in particular, which has always been the first to come to my own mind - one which is utterly steeped in portraying a mindset of unflinching boldness and brashness in the face of evil (as personified by noted actor/madman Klaus Kinski), one which makes the most of Van Cleef's simultaneously intimidating and aristocratic features... and which also, as it so happens, involves a man simply, leisurely, enjoying his pipe:
Once again Smokingpipes has received a fresh shipment of a new blend outside our usual bi-weekly update schedule, and once again we've decided there's no point in waiting to make it available to you, our customers. So it is that we introduce with this special update Cornell & Diehl's "Crooked Lane", a solid English arrangement with just a hint of something American for a subtle spice.
Though smooth pipes are extremely popular, and generally command the highest prices, there are quite a few pipemen who prefer other finishes, sometimes because of the less expensive price tag, but also often because of the more stimulating textures. One of the tasks most new employees are saddled with when fresh to our office is sorting through invoices from various pipemakers or manufacturers to make sure we received what we ordered. Often this leads to the new employee scratching his or her head while wondering what the difference is between a sandblast and a rusticated piece. It just so happens that there are two boxes of briar under my desk (which I keep forgetting to take home to add to my stock) which have become very useful visual aids to show Smokingpipes.com employees what pipes are made from and how to recognize the details of briar's texture, and how they are expressed in different finishes.
The potential for a great smooth pipe is often easy to spot in a block, but it's still fun to wipe down a beautifully cut piece of briar just to show off the grain. I confess to likely deriving considerably more delight from this exercise than my coworkers, because I see potential for different shapes within each block. Some of these examples have growth rings that are very easy to see with the naked eye, so I’m able to draw a few shapes on the side of the block and explain how a pipe is cut in such a way to produce a ring grain pattern (which could also potentially be a straight grain if given a smooth finish, though unlike a sandblast, pits must be taken into consideration with the latter). Further, I’ll explain that pipes that have very bizarre grain patterns with no discernible growth ring pattern wouldn't make a nice smooth, nor would it make a nice sandblast. A sandblast, you see, is the skeleton of a pipe. Sure, some companies out there fake a ring-grained blast by carving the bowl with a tool and then lightly blasting over the top of it, which simply creates a desired effect that people like. For the most part, though, a pipe that is not pretty enough to be smooth or blasted will have the surface rusticated by various tools that leave it evenly craggy, taking the place of the briar's natural pattern.
The best sandblasted pipes will show the growth rings as wavy lines going around the bowl in some pattern, with varying degrees of consistency, depth, and density from pipe to pipe. One of the best ways to think about this is imagining that the pipe you are holding is smooth before finishing. Imagine that you have a pot of melted wax, and dip most of the pipe in this wax, and then dip it into cool water to solidify the coating. Imagine that each time you dip the pipe into wax, you stop just short of the previous dip; what you would end up with is rippled lines working their way around the bowl. Each layer leaves a little line that looks like growth rings. If a pipe has any sort of little lines running around the bowl, it's sandblasted. Further, I might add, is that there is a misconception that all sandblasted pipes are flawed pipes. Not true. There are a great number of pipemakers - myself included - that pick up a block and see such stunning growth rings and understand a that this block, as a sandblasted pipe, would be far more beautiful than as a smooth one. Some blocks of briar, cutters and makers say, are just 'begging' to be sandblasted. The texture is quite lovely and a great many of us might even prefer to see some interesting growth patterns of the wood over an even, smooth-polished surface.
In tonight's update, you can see a great number of smooth pipes, but also a huge sum of bowls that are either rusticated or sandblasted. Take a look at some pictures and imagine the wax-dipped visualization, and you may find yourself understanding the difference and technique behind the finishes. Check out fresh pipes from J. Alan, Tsuge, Dunhill, Caminetto, Luciano, Chacom, Johs, Brigham, Savinelli, and Peterson to view, as well as twenty-four estates. For those of you who like a hot beverage sometime during the day, we now have mugs with the Smokingpipes logo!
Hours of Operation:
Our website is always open and you can place an order at any time. Phone/office hours are 9am-7pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) Monday-Friday and 10am-5pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) on Saturdays. Our Little River, SC showroom is open 10am-7pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) Monday-Saturday. We are closed on Sundays.
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WARNING: Smokingpipes.com does not sell tobacco or tobacco related products to anyone under the age of 18, nor do we sell cigarettes.WARNING:Products on this site contain chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.