Some months ago I found myself leaning with my elbow against the van of childhood friend's band, when the lead singer of another act that had played that night referred to me, in the course of his conversation with my old friend, as "this stately mother[expletive]". I was flattered. I've been called many things by many people; bold, insufferable, hilarious, shameless, tenacious, stubborn as an old mule, well-read, misguided, refined, snobbish, short, and, oddly enough, tall (I can only assume that is a matter of personal perspective), as well as both precisely eloquent, and utterly, intentionally confusing - but this was the first time I could recall ever being on the receiving end of the word "stately". My jacket, perhaps, played a part in this. It's a rather anachronistic double-breasted number that might mislead some into suspecting that I'd acquired it by counting coup on some 19th-century military officer. The rather full beard-and-moustache combination inhabiting my face these days may have worked in my favor. But facial hair and jacket alone I believe would more likely just create the impression of a mild (at best) eccentric. The bent Billiard that happened to be clenched between my teeth, I would argue, made all the difference. Pipes are, as a rule, rather disarming, and especially in their more classical forms. This is an effect that has often been touched upon by others in the course of writing about pipes and pipe-culture, so I know I'm not alone in holding this theory. Completely, utterly wrong I may be (see: misguided), but at least on this matter I'm in good company.
Try this experiment: Picture a man of middle years, chomping on a cigar with a rifle over his shoulder. Odds are, what you've imagined is a character along the lines of the archetypical "grizzled sergeant" of old war movies, or perhaps some intentionally overblown 1980's action-flick character. Now try picturing another middle-aged fellow, again with a rifle over his shoulder, but this time with a pipe clenched in his teeth. I'd wager the image you have in your mind now is another altogether different: One of your own grandfathers, perhaps, going off to hunt with an old dog trotting at his heel, or maybe some antiquarian gentleman on safari.
Of course, more importantly pipes are simply a joy to smoke -- that is, after all, why we smoke them. If we just wanted to impress others, there are much less involved ways of doing it; ones that don't involve all the ritual, commitment, and care that enjoying and properly maintaining even a modest rotation entails. It has suddenly occurred to me that this, in itself, might in fact play a part in creating the cultural context from which springs such complementary associations as "pipe=stately [expletive]".
But that's enough wool-gathering for now: On with the pipes. Today we have at hand some drop dead gorgeous pieces from one Maigurs Knets, followed up by all manner of Italian flare and flourish in the form of artisanal pipes from Ardor, Ser Jacopo, and Mastro de Paja. Joining in are, of course, plenty of briars by Peterson, Savinelli, Nording, Brebbia, and Neerup, as well as a wide variety of estate pipes from parts near and afar alike.