It's officially holiday season! Christmas blends and Christmas pipes are rolling in, and the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas is now on perpetual repeat in my noggin. Going up on the site today, in fact, we have new 2012 Christmas pipes fitting neatly alongside Peterson's just-released Holiday Season Tobacco 2012 - this year a mix of Virginias of differing shades and cuts along with no less than three kinds of black cavendish. I confess that I'll be picking up a tin of this today myself.
If you might find an English-style tobacco blend more enticing, with this update we're also releasing the much anticipated Hyde Park, again from Peterson. This one's again a blend of Virginias, but also Burleys and Indian tobacco flavored with rum and maple sugars, and a just a hint of latakia. Given that Movemeber (the official Mustache Awareness Month) is merely days away as well, this here would be a good pick for a 'Stache-Note evaluation.
Continuing today's Peterson theme, we have a new Peterson Old Boy-style pipe lighter in a formal dress-black body and chrome fixtures. Quite stunning, and suitable for any black tie holiday parties to which you may find yourself in attendance this year, or even just for relaxing in your easiest chair.
Last, but certainly not least, we're nearing the end of our hugely successful Dunhill sale, so if you've been procrastinating, you've exactly sixty hours as of this publication to take advantage of discounted Dunhill pipes, twenty percent off Dunhill bulk blends, and twenty percent off Dunhill tinned tobacco and cigars when you buy five of the same product.
John Sutherland: Marketing Mngr and Sr. Photographer
Since we are in the pipe business, I thought I would dabble on the topic of pipe finishes and the decisions that an artisan makes during the various processes. As one of the go-to pipe guys here at Smokingpipes, and having handled tens-of-thousands of pipes (new and estate), plus making my own pieces, a lot of people ask me about particular finishes, mainly smooth or blasted. How does a pipe maker begin a pipe? How does he choose the block to be a smooth? While there are many different aspects to these choices, they differ from the vast majority of factory pipes which often hold a template next to a block to see if it will fit, put in in a machine of sorts, and turn the piece. If it's a smooth - great! Blast? Also cool! Pipe artisans that I talk with often take the same approach, with varying degrees of superstition, and copious amounts of luck when it comes to grain.
Firstly; most artisans I know first think of a shape they want to make before sorting through dozens of blocks to find a particular size or grain orientation. By sanding the block's sides or wetting it with water, we can see what the grain looks like on the outside and how it might appear to shift on the front. After this, most of us draw an idea on the block and either use a band saw to rough out the profile, or simply start chewing it away on a coarse sanding disk at high speeds. Most times, we will slightly dampen the block during the shaping process to see what the grain is doing, and shift or change the shape to complement it (this is only done with the "shape first, drill second" technique, mind you). When we start to see something really nice happening, it might be time to drill the mortise, airway, and tobacco chamber before tweaking the shape around these features. Everyone I know who makes pipes is optimistic - at least while they are making pipes. Getting hopes up for a killer smooth is risky, so hoping for a nice blast is safe. Even so, there are a number of times when we think to ourselves "Oh, Momma....please don't let there be any pits!". Because every piece of briar has pits somewhere, we are really happy when we've avoided them. Sometimes a small sandpit will show itself during final sanding. Will more sanding make it go away? Who knows? Decision time (again). If the shape is perfect, the pipe might just be blasted (after all, shape always wins over grain). If there are no flaws, would this pipe look better as a smooth or a blast? Sometimes growth rings arm-wrestle with the grain and a decision must be made which one to choose. It's been said before - and quite true - that finish is often a choice. Blasted pipes don't necessarily have flaws, but are sometimes simply the finish which looks best for a particular shape or grain pattern. We've all had shapes with no pits, but the grain just wasn't good enough to justify the price of a smooth. Contrast-stained pipes (smooth or blast) are also more time-consuming, but show off the grain really well by making the briar look more vibrant.
Seeing the end product, some of us probably wonder what choices were made during the process of making the pipe. In the end, every pipe is different and lovely in its own way. What is your preferred finish? Given the update tonight, you will hopefully find something that catches your eye. New pipes from Ardor, Tsuge, Askwith, Adam Davidson (that's me), Il Duca and Peter Heeschen all came from the hands of artisans. When you receive the pipe, take a moment to think about how it was made. When you are really excited about the grain and finish, you can understand how happy the maker was seeing it blossom - and knowing that someone else will enjoy it, too!
Rather than spending Saturday in front of the television watching college football, or behind a book (of which there are many I'm in the process of reading), I spent it here at Smokingpipes.com. I can hardly complain; who wouldn't want to allocate a half weekend around gorgeous briar and in the company of pipe people? However, because of my altered routine, I unfortunatly left behind in my office the pipes I've been smoking regularly as well as a few tins of tobacco I've been enjoying over the last few weeks. And unfortunately I didn't realize this until very late Saturday night.
Here's the quandary; there I was, staring down a trunk full of aging tobacco, a bookshelf and desk cluttered with a dozen or so opened and half-smoked tins of tobacco, and a pipe rack or two (or three) teaming with rested briar begging to be filled and lit. But I didn't want any of it. I craved for the pipes and tins I'd left at work. After all, that's what I've been smoking.
The beauty of this first-world predicament is that it forced me out of what's started to become, unbeknownst to me, a chronic norm; that is straight Virginia in a straight (or quarter bent), classically shaped pipe. Yet, after a little creative thinking, a bit of squirming, and a mild fit, by the end of the night, and after a proper measure of whiskey, I found myself surprised and delighted behind an old friend of a wildly shaped Ardor filled with a rather exotic Oriental blend I'd been meaning to taste-test. It was quite good. And the experience was quite enjoyable as well. Now I'm out of a rut that I didn't even know I was in. I suppose I should work the odd Saturday more often.
Should you, upon examination, also find your routine stagnant, tonight we've got the solution. In addition to another three-dozen estate pipes, you'll find new works from Kent Rasmussen, Paolo Becker, Radice, Castello, Savinelli, Dunhill, Butz-Choquin, Peterson, Tsuge, and Vauen to add more spark to your rotation. Also for you cigar guys, be sure to check out Aging Room cigars; the M356 Presto is particularly outstanding.
Tom Eltang. Ahem. TOM ELTANG. Now that I've got your undivided attention, I'll let you in on a little secret. We’ve got new pipes by Tom Eltang.
Yes, after a trip to Denmark, and a twenty mile hike uphill (both ways!) in the snow to Tom's workshop, we're incredibly pleased to be able to offer fresh work from the immensely popular and uncommonly distinguished Danish carver. And let me tell you, once you get a look at the pipes, you’re sure to agree that any kind of wait will have been worth it. Now, I know we ordinarily reserve this sacred space for grandiloquent tautologies that serve to amuse the pipe brethren (and how!), but this is important stuff that needs announcing, am I right?
And lest I forget to mention it, there's only a few weeks left in the month, which means you've only got so much time left to take advantage of our stellar Dunhill promotion. Looking at a new Dunhill pipe? They're all discounted twenty-percent. Dunhill bulk tobacco is also twenty-percent off until the end of October. If you’re itching to stock up on tinned tobacco, we'll knock twenty-percent off of the purchase of five of the same blend. The same goes for Dunhill cigars. Holy smokes, you say? You’re darn tootin'.
All that in addition to the one-hundred and ninety-nine pipes we're adding to the Smokingpipes.com website this afternoon. As mentioned, there are new pipes from Tom Eltang, but you'll also find new work from carvers like Gabriele dal Fiume, Randy Wiley, and Claudio Cavicchi, alongside pipes from L'Anatra, Savinelli, Winslow, Nording, Stanwell, Peterson, and last, but certainly not least, Dunhill.
I've been thinking a lot recently about how little the pipe has changed over the course of time. Sure, the shapes coming from artisan pipemakers these days are pretty mind-blowing, and of course, there are innovations like Peterson's iconic System Pipes, pipes with filters, pipes with stingers, but the core technology remains the same; there's a chamber for tobacco and a shaft through which to pull smoke.
This may sound like a bad thing when placed within the context of our internet enabled society, where perpetual progressive technological upgrades are by now culturally ingrained (not that this is a bad thing either, seeing as you can check our bi-weekly updates on your smart phone while at work, which some of you are probably doing right now), but this is part the pipe's appeal, I think. That pipe your grandfather smoked is in essence the same as the pipe you might pick up new today, lending a certain "design memory" that spans and connects generations. What else is there in our lives today about which we can say the same?
I've always found it interesting that sharks, so they say, essentially stopped evolving millions of years ago when a point was reached where major improvements were no longer necessary; as a predatory machine of the ocean its basic design has long been perfected. You have specialized outliers like the hammerhead, or species that scour through sand for food, but most have varied largely in trade-offs between size, speed, and power to fill their environmental niche. Maybe the same can be said of the tobacco pipe.
Speaking of, we have a bevy of pipes going up on the site today from Lasse Skovgaard, Michal Novak, Tsuge, Ashton, Luciano, Johs, Brigham, Savinelli, and Peterson, along with estates from Denmark, England, and Italy. Alongside these perfectly formed specimens we're today featuring the Blitz Clean System pipe-cleaning solution, the Pipa corncob pipe and tobacco combo, and the introduction of the new Swag Domincan puro cigars.
John Sutherland: Marketing Mngr and Sr. Photographer
This past weekend was the 28th annual CORPS pipe show in historic Richmond, Virginia. Unlike previous shows, the event was held in the very spacious Greater Richmond Convention Center instead of a centralized hotel, but this was necessary due to the anti-tobacco laws creeping through the country in recent years. Because the club has a rich history of pipe shows, finding a venue that would allow everyone to puff while they browsed, bought, and caught up with each other was a priority. Despite the location and the conflict some people have in regards to the West Coast pipe show being held in Las Vegas November 3-4, the show was still a success overall. It was great to see so many familiar faces, customers, collectors, retailers, and artisans alike, making rounds at the show. Pipe shows are always a lot of fun for anyone interested in pipes and tobaccos, and we want to thank the folks for keeping this tradition alive and thriving.
My wife and I were limited in time during the weekend, so we decided to begin the six-hour drive before even the earliest birds were contemplating catching the worm. Whenever the two of us go to pipe shows, we like to mix business with pleasure and adventure, taking in various meals, sights, and different areas of the country. It was previously determined that we would only attend the show on Saturday (though I hear Sunday was even better than Saturday), and used our downtime to venture an hour east to visit historic Colonial Williamsburg, VA. Those of you who have read some of my newsletters and blogs in the past know that the history of the 18th century is something I thoroughly enjoy, so what better chance to see this historic area again then after a pipe show?
We arrived on Saturday evening at the hotel and decided to explore some new places to shop and dine. A bottle of wine and two delicious entrees later, we were not only enjoying a brief vacation, but were pleasantly surprised that cooler, proper autumn weather had decided to roll in. Ignoring the spitting rain the next morning, we enjoyed a day full of sightseeing. The museum, shops, and buildings showcasing various blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, and others seemed perfect for a cool and overcast day. As usual, I'm always happy to see pipes, and did see tavern pipes and small clays in the museum as well as various shops. There were even a few folks dressed up as soldiers puffing around a campfire. Possibly due to all of the campfire smoke and historical atmosphere (not to mention a lot of horse "leavings" on the streets), I never heard anyone complaining about the smoking. While strolling with my clay, fragrant Virginia leaf keeping my soul as warm as the pipe in my hand, I only got a funny look from one family. It was a mother, father, and young daughter. The little girl pointed at me and wondered what I was doing. Deciding to make the best of the moment and area, I kindly told her I was simply a reenactor who hadn't purchased any historical clothing yet. Her parents smiled and my wife and I continued our afternoon stroll.
So, in keeping with the pipe smoking tradition that has taken root in this country since the first tobacco plants were dried and lit by natives, as well as the later trade with European countries, we bring you fresh briars from Brad Pohlmann, Askwith, Ser Jacopo, Kevin Arthur, and quite a few other brands. We hope you can always find the time to relax with a pipe in your chosen surroundings.
Today is Columbus Day, named in honor of the Italian fellow who sailed Westward towards a seemingly endless, empty, and rolling horizon in search of shorter and less dangerous route to the lucrative trade to be had in the Far East. Those who know their history, know it had nothing to do with "proving the earth was round" – that was already considered the model amongst the educated of his time, and mathematical calculations regarding the circumference of the globe had been floating around since the heyday of the ancient Greeks. Indeed, much of the dismissal Christopher Columbus’s proposed venture received went along the lines of "You're going the long way around, you ninny!" Which, as it turned out, he was.
More importantly, there was a considerable obstacle waiting to block his path, in the form of two rather large continents, which, as it just happened, would prove to stretch nearly from pole to pole. Sadly, not having attained the goal he set out with, the old explorer went to his grave believing all his efforts to be a complete wash. (Things didn't go too stunningly for the natives, either - tens of thousands of years of relative cultural and biological isolation from the European, African, and Asian continents may have spared them from Alexander the Great, the Black Death, the Huns and Mongols, and so forth, but it had its consequences as well.) One silver lining, however, was that he just happened to run smack into Cuba along his way, where some of his men discovered the native Tainos engaged in an extremely curious pastime: Rolling a strange leaf, of curious properties, in wrappers of palm or plantain, lighting one end on fire, and then puffing away at the resultant smoke. As absurd as this practice may no doubt have seemed to their eyes, some of them gave it a try (they were sailors, after all), only to discover... that it was fantastic.
And sure enough, within less than a century the practice had caught on like wildfire, while just as surely, various self-styled potentates were scolding happy smokers for engaging in the practice – all for their own good, of course. And so here we are, some several centuries later, still enjoying ourselves as we please. Those potentates themselves are long gone, and so too the power of their dynasties, but today we happily have at hand a vast cornucopia, an ever more refined and improved variety of artisan blends and cigars, which to those first curious sailors would have seemed even more unimaginable than the original practice of those anonymous natives once was.
So it is that today, in honor of this long tradition of enduring contrariness, we're happy to bring you yet another fresh update. This Monday you'll find for your edification a fine, globe-spanning selection of briars including artisanal pieces by J&J, as well as the offerings of Tsuge, Dunhill, Rinaldo, Radice, Peterson, Savinelli, Vauen, Sebastien Beo, and Butz-Choquin. Joining them of course are plenty of estate pipes, as well as some new additions to our accessories department – and finally, and rather fittingly, several excellent sampler packs by Ghurka, Punch, and CAO.
It's probably easy to postulate that, as personnel of Smokingpipes.com, we're simply the architects, adjudicators, and arbiters of the website and its peripheral provinces. And you’d be kind of right, because that's kind of the truth.
But it's not the whole truth. We're also a bunch of pipe smokers. And as pipe smokers, it's important to us that Smokingpipes.com makes sense from a pipeman's (or pipewoman's) point of view, and that it proves equal parts useful, lucid, and enjoyable. That's one of the big reasons we're usually tinkering around with the site. Whether it be dabbling in a way that directly affects your shopping experience or just tweaking a tiny piece of code on the administrative side of the site, it's always our aim to make Smokingpipes.com the best place on the web to find quality pipes at super prices, as well as a destination to discover some of the most breathtaking briar works from some of the most important and influential pipe makers of our time. It's a tall order and a balancing act, and probably a mixed bag of other well-worn clichés, but we're pipe smokers, and futzing over the finer points is what we do best, even if it’s much ado over the perfect way to show off new pretty pipes.
With that said, today we're launching a gallery feature that has been in development for quite some time. In fact, when we last invited you to take part in a customer survey, the idea that we might also present videos of particularly exceptional pipes was among one of the most suggested proposals. So that's what we've decided to do. Steadily we'll be adding to our online catalog notably special pipes that feature a brief "white glove" video, and in this way you might explore more closely every nook and cranny of a special piece before committing to purchase it, or even just savor a particularly beautiful design while familiarizing yourself with the artisan's work. As pipe smokers, as accumulators of pipes, and as guys who like to gaze longingly at pipes on the internet, we think this is an important addition to the services we offer.
Also important is the service that is our bi-weekly update. And so as Joe Hollywood says, let's cut to the chase. This afternoon is a doozy, with fresh work from Alex Florov, Bruce Weaver, Randy Wiley, and Claudio Cavicchi, in addition to new pipes from Ashton, Nording, Stanwell, L'Anatra, Savinelli, and Peterson. Oh, and of course we're adding another six dozen estates to the mix.
Four big pieces of news from the world of Dunhill trump all else in this particular newsletter, so I'll spare you any clever anecdotes of the life of a pipe smoker today, except to simply say that today is a particularly good day to be a pipe smoker. Or, more specifically, a pipe smoker who is fond of Dunhill pipe tobacco.
First of all, we just received our shipment of Dunhill 965 and Early Morning pipe in bulk. That's right, these two blends have finally returned to us in bulk quantities, representing about a 25-30% savings versus their tinned counterparts, if you're buying by the pound. It's an even better deal by the 5lb bag, if you're so inclined. We last had Dunhill blends in bulk back in 2008. Back then, the Dunhill bulks were among the absolute bestsellers at Smokingpipes.com. Moreover, we're able to offer a lower than normal introductory price on our first shipment of Dunhill bulk. We've got a good bit that just arrived, but the promotional price only lasts as long as the first shipment lasts, so don't hesitate on this one. If you're a fan of Dunhill and you like buying bulk tobacco as opposed to tins, as I said, this is a good day to be pipe smoker.
Secondly, for the month of October, the "Dunhill buy 4 tins, get 1 free deal is back"! We've structured it slightly differently this time in the hopes of it making more sense when you're on the site, so it's structured as a 20% discount on five or more tins. Better yet, this means we can offer bigger discounts for even larger quantities: 22.5% off for 10+ and a whopping 25% off for 25+ tins. That makes a 50g tin Dunhill 965 just $6.65. Now is the time to cellar up on your Dunhill goodness. The promotion ends October 31st. Or when we run out and the US importer runs out of Dunhill tinned tobacco. Whichever comes first. I'm guessing the end of October, given the pallets sitting in the warehouse and assurances from the importer, but you just never know...
Thirdly, all box quantities (ten cigars per box) of Dunhill cigars are 20% off for the duration of October instead of the regular 10% off price. If you've been thinking about trying the Dunhill Aged range of cigars, now is the time...
Finally, all new Dunhill pipes are, for the month of October, 20% off of Retail.
October is Dunhill month at Smokingpipes.com this year. Enjoy!
And, of course, you'll still find a vast array of other beautiful briars for you to peruse, ranging from Chacom, Peterson and Savinelli to Peter Heeschen, Tsuge and, you guessed it, Dunhill. Great batches of estate pipes also await your attention, too.
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