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06 January 2014

To Each His Own
 Newsletter Introduction for Monday, January 06, 2014

       -Posted by eric-

The second car I owned was a 1967 Chrysler Newport. Though Chrysler was very much a luxury marque back then (no minivans, and their cars came in one size: full-size), the luxurious features on mine began and ended with a vinyl top. It was a four-door, translating it into a collector value of, roughly estimated, zilch. And I loved it. I drove that thing, sans AC, sans disc brakes, sans powerbrakes, rolling perilously through corners, and powered by 383 breathing through a two-barrel carburetor (and doing so much more efficiently after the bird's nest that was there when I bought the car was removed, I'll have you know) for just shy of ten years. It was eighteen feet and four inches of beige and black, fast off the line, improbable in the corners, impossible to stop on a dime, and worth less than its weight in steel at auction... and I still look back at it with fondness. It was nothing special, except to me, and to those friends reckless enough with their mortal flesh to ride in it as passengers.

My first car, for the record, was 1969 Camaro, a car worth a small fortune to collectors now. It was fast and loud and shiny blue, every idiot teenager's dream -- and I didn't shed a tear to see it go. It just wasn't for me, it made too many police officers look in my direction, and the ride let you know the exact depth and shape of every ill-advised repair (or disrepair) to New Jersey's countless roadways, highways, broadways, streets and alleys. God bless whoever it was that took it off my hands: better him than me.

And here, now, many years later, I find myself recognizing much the same attitude amongst my fellows in the world of pipes. The pipes they won't part with aren't necessarily their priciest, the pipes they most regret parting with weren't necessarily the rarest finds, and the pipes I most frequently see them sticking in their mouths aren't necessarily the most finely grained or beautifully finished. I'm not doing things much differently, either: two out of the three pipes you'll see me smoking ninety-nine times out of a hundred were rescues from the "pipe science box", an old 1970s Dunhill of a shape no longer in production, and an S.T. Dupont Canadian someone over-bored the draft-hole on.

This is fine; this is good -- a man should know what he wants out of life, pipes included. If collecting briars that push the boundary between smoking instrument and work of art is your thing, good. I'm glad someone is doing it, just like I'm glad there are people out there preserving, and occasionally showing off, Duesenbergs, Delages, and Ferraris that are now worth more than many a house. (Especially when they show them off; it gives the rest of us a chance to see with our own eyes something we may only recognize from photographs, and may never get to behold in person again.) Likewise, if your favorite briar in all the world is a rusticated Peterson System pipe that you've spent twenty years dropping, dinging, sitting on, and perhaps occasionally setting a-fire, handed down to you from a great-uncle so-and-so who did the same to it before you, this, too, is good. It's your pipe, it's your smoke, and you're the one who has to enjoy it. Peterson should pay you to be in advertisements; there is, after all, no crucible of destructive testing quite like time spent in the real world. (This, of course, brings us back to precisely why the prudent collector of irreplaceable creations does their best to keep what they collect out of it, excepting special occasions.)

Over on the 'brand-spanking-new' side of today's update, we have fresh briars from Jeff Gracik of J. Alan Pipes and Rad Davis of, (well), 'Rad Davis Pipes', with three and four offerings, respectively. Dunhill and Ashton go head-to-head with nine Brit beauties each; the former entering with Shells, Countys, Ruby Barks, Dress and Amber Roots, and the latter countering with sizes which range from two 'XX', all the way to three 'ELX', and most every finish the firm offers. Italy, as usual, creates a commanding numerical presence, with pipes from Savinelli, Luciano and Il Duca, and we have solid selections from Peterson, Vaun, Nording, Tsuge, Big Ben and AKB Meerschaum as well.

Sliding over to the 'gently pre-owned', we have a total of 36 estates, divided evenly between Italian, Danish and English offerings. The English and Italian estates, pound for pound, are some of the finest groups we have put up in a good while, and the Danes, with an unsmoked Former, Viggo Nielsen and Kai Nielsen, aren't looking shabby themselves.

Be sure to check out the new offerings from Cornell & Diehl; two new bulk tobaccos as well as three fresh tins are making their debut. We also have five new sticks on the site from the San Cristobal Revalation line, all of which boast Equadorian Sumatra wrappers from the same source as the Ashton Sun Grown... YUMMY.

Eric Squires: Copywriter

 Eric Squires: Copywriter

Posted by eric at 12:55 PM | Link | 0 comments

02 January 2014

New Years: It's About Time
 Newsletter Introduction for Thursday, January 02, 2014

       -Posted by R. 'Bear' Graves-

Good evening folks, may I join you in a smoke? I hope that your New Year’s Eve/Day was everything that you had hoped for. As has been my habit for the past couple of years, I spent my new year’s eve posing as a valet. I know what you are thinking, and you can stop right there. I am an excellentvalet; honest, polite, responsive and I treat every patron’s vehicle as if it were my own. Granted, I ride a Harley, so that treatment involves finding something to serve as a right-side ramp, sufficient velocity, and really (really) good tires. Being a “Hog-Driver”, I try for the convertibles, but if I get the keys to a hard top... I will return a convertible.

Whether the edible confetti used 40 hours ago in London, or the 40,000 explosives detonated in the midnight skies of Mumbai, New Year’s Eve festivities have always held a cool fascination for me. While the ability to mark time has been indisputably critical to society, not to mention the survival of civilization (picture a Visigoth, standing with his tribal leader in the middle of an ice-covered field) "Beats me, boss. This grain seemed to be doing just fine four months ago", in the strictest sense, recognizing the advent of a New Year with a celebration isn’t necessary for anyone... and yet we do.

So why do we do it? Why choose an arbitrary point on a timeline for a celebration? Moreover, why is this custom so universal that it bridges all continents, cultures, religions and has done so for countless centuries? While the exact timing of this gateway (and the manners of observation) is as differing as the peoples who participate...we participate. My speculation is that these activities serve a couple basic human needs. First, as individuals; an excellent New Year's observation can be all the things that a great birthday should be, but (if one is neither a child nor a celebrity/supermodel) usually isn't. A birthday should be a time of celebration, a grateful acknowledgment of yet another year life. Instead, it usually winds up being “your day in the barrel”, with bad jokes from friends, and even worse “wit” lurking within every birthday card... Don’t forget the double bogie if the last digit of your age just clicked to a zero. Birthdays stink, but a great NYE, however you might define it, can offer a kind of ‘proper’ birthday... a birthday celebration for you and a billion of your closest friends.

Societally, while many of the Western culture's pre-new year rituals have gone the way of the snail-darter (settle all debts, make amends to those who have been slighted, and thank those who have stood by them) "out with the old, and in with the new" offers an annual opportunity for an emotional audit, a time to reflect on the past, cast our collective eyes to the future, and maybe (just maybe) create and stick to positive resolutions.

While practicality (and the lack of 20 billion frequent flier miles) made it a mite hard for all of the staff to personally clink glasses with you on New Year’s Eve, it's very important to all of us to express our thanks for your patronage, your friendship, and (occasionally) even your patience. We are grateful to have you as a customer, and look forward to an even closer relationship in 2014.


I'm feeling somewhat optimistic about 2014. The best way to accomplish new goals, I feel, is to be realistic - find out what's really important to you and break down those larger goals into smaller actions. Is saving money important to you? Nah, couldn't be... If it is, then your friends at -- your hassle free, one-stop shop for everything pipes, tobacco and cigars -- is starting the new year with a 20% discount on purchases of 5 tins of Dunhill Flake until the end of January. That's encouraging. And to make matters better, today we're rolling out another great deal to start your new year off right: 10% off Lane Bulk, as well. We're also extending our special on Dunhill's Five Choice Blends package.

We also have some great prices on the best artisan pipes around, so you can turn your resolution list into a wish list, and not feel bad about it. Starting at the top, scribble in the name Peter Heeschen, because he's presented us with a near "carton" of Egg shapes, (A) and (B) grades, and one very appealing sandblasted bent Egg with bamboo, graded ‘S' (for stupendous, stunning, superb, spectacular, sup... you get the idea). Contemporary American pipe carver Nathan Armentrout also has six great pipes in store, several staunchly Danish-inspired renditions to be specific; no Eggs to be found here, the artisan however does offer a statuesque smooth Billiard (nearly seven inches long, and a bit under two full inches in height) with a similarly soft Danish style.

Savinelli (36) is unleashing a congregation of ‘Alligator' pipes, 12 in all: a colorful lot in sapphire blue, myrtle green and warm burnt sienna. Peterson (36) too, shows their true colors, and textures, with the Calabash smooth ‘Reds', ‘Green Spigots' and never failing ‘Donegal Rocky' series. Neerup (12) has stains just as vibrant, though the namesake P. Jepessen piece joining in goes for a simple black sandblast, albeit also a wild freehand shape. No ‘Signature' series in Nording's batch (12) to be found, but plenty of pieces he personally dubbed "royalty" in his ‘Royal Flush' series. Ardor (3) finishes the year up in a BIG way, with their Christmas 2013 bent Bulldog, as does Brebbia (6) with their ‘Fat Bob Sabbiata' Author, Ser Jacopo with a sandblasted Billiard 4x Maxima, and L'Anatra with a very stout ‘Scottanaso' nosewarmer. Rattray's (3) has a chubb, little nosewarmer of their own, aptly named the ‘Butcher's Boy', that's not to be missed. After a long night of extreme partying, Brigham's got ‘The Boardroom' to return back to work with, or try Rossi (6), always dressed for success with any one of their darkly handsome finishes. Finally, pop open our estates section and start the treasure hunt with a wonderful straight saddle-Billiard from Peter Hedegaard found in the Danish, a superbly grained Billiard from the Castello Collection (KKK) in the Italian, and both a Michael Parks bent Billiard with Mammoth Ivory (unsmoked!) and a gorgeously sinuous Dirk Claessen sandblasted bent Billiard in miscellaneous.

Bear Graves: Media & Content Specialist

 Bear Graves: Media & Content Specialist

Posted by R. 'Bear' Graves at 1:16 PM | Link | 0 comments

18 November 2013

Fate and Volition
 Newsletter Introduction for Monday, November 18, 2013

       -Posted by sethellison-

Many times, the terms fate and destiny are sloppily strewn about in casual conversation. So interchangeably misused and peppered with New Age concepts, they can barely be discernible, as vague as terms like 'guardian force' or 'healing essence'; and though the pipe making wunderkind duo John Klose and Jared Coles (otherwise known as J&J) cite "fate", in the introduction of their home website, as the key reason for their emergence into prominence, I believe the boys deserve more credit. It was ultimately their own choices and efforts, along with help from some American pipemaking greats, which led them to their present success.

I can, however, understand why John and Jared consider their meeting somehow a little too coincidental, like it was written in the stars: both worked and became fast friends at the same Christian camp near Yosemite, both had an acute fondness for pipe smoking, both also had a mutual rebellious streak for the camp's nonsmoking policies, and both possessed first names with the same initials that combined would later become the ultra-cool, ultra-catchy, instantly memorable "J&J". In 2009, after a series of conversations and deep introspection, they purchased two pipe kits, and with the help of San Diego pipe-maker Jeff Gracik, John and Jared began crafting their first pipes, which they debuted at the 2011 West Coast Pipe Show in Las Vegas. And the rest you could say is history.

To watch a video with few words directly from John and Jared, click the image above.

For me, however, it's difficult to give credit to "fate" when the boys at J&J come so well equipped with some of the finest materials available to pipe making: Mediterranean briar, German ebonite (the "clear favorite for stem material"), beautiful manzanita, and various other ornamental materials frequently make an appearance. In fact, all the briar they use is 'well-aged and dry as a bone'; the two even go so far as to create test pipes from each of the briar sources to ensure quality taste and smoke-ability. Materials aside, it would be impossible to overlook the guidance and influence of American Master Jeff Gracik, who has handed down a wellspring of invaluable techniques, including ones Jeff himself received from older masters like his own mentor, Todd Johnson. Jared, in particular, has expressed his adoration for both master artisans, saying "[Jeff] is, in my opinion, along with Todd Johnson, the definition of the American aesthetic. "

Jeff must've seen something special in the boys too, teaching them deeply of his craft and allowing them to spend a considerable amount of time in his shop. Eventually they took up the challenge themselves, approaching pipemaking with the same notion Jeff has long used; approach with no fixed preconception at all. Rather, Gracik has instilled in them a trust of the briar, allowing their mood to mysteriously amalgamate with the whims of the grain to create something "within the moment", taking cues from "nature's lovely surprises", because as Jared has expressed "any plans [a crafter has] for a pipe have to constantly be changed and rearranged, so a pipe (or any act of creation) can be thought of as a series of fixed mistakes..." The end result is beautifully natural, the same exact shape never to turning up twice, like a briar snowflake of sorts.

Jared also admits to taking advantage of his new found status by seeking out chances to share ideas with other established pipe makers, building what he calls "...enough skills to improve on", suggesting that he knows there's always room to grow. Their willingness to learn is inspiring. While their meeting may have been a matter of fortune smiling, it's clear the strategy of J&J has little to do with chance and circumstance, and has everything to do with doing what's right, the right way, and learning from the right people. Though it may be an effort on their part to remain modest, the success they’ve earned through forethought and effort deserves more than writing off as a lucky turn of "fate".

Much like a child, when presented with two equally attractive options, when offered a choice between quality and quantity, most smart folks will answer "Both!" (and who are we to disagree?). To that end, this update finds your favorite source for fine pipes & tobacco placing no fewer than 224 'fresh' briars on the site, as well new tobacco (Solani "Festival" and a handy 1.5 oz size from Edward G. Robinson), eight lighters from IM Corona and a new pipe stand from Neal Yarm.

If you happened to miss Seth's fine introduction ("No tobacco for you, one year!"), the dynamic duo of American carving, John and Jared of J&J Briars, have six beauties for you tonight (check out the smooth Blowfish with Manzanita and the sandblasted onyx apple, you can thank me later), and Russian master Vladimir Grechukhin has honored us with five absolute stunners. With the Grechukhins, this write-rat can't point you at a favorite; I'd sell a kidney for any one of them. Radice and Castello are in the house, with nine pipes each, and Savinelli 'represents' with a total of 36 new beauties. There's Stanwell, Vauen and Butz-Choquin (oh my!), with a dozen each, as well as Tsuge, Chacom, Nording and Peterson with an ascending attendance of 6, 9, 24 and 36 briars, respectively.

Have we put on a great spread for Estate lovers? (channeling 'Paulie Walnuts' from "The Sopranos") 'Yo! Dis is, fuggetaboutit!' How about 48 fresh estates, spread equally across the American, Italian, French and German sections? Grab your favorite beverage, and let your 'fingers do the walking'. Get ready for a delightful journey.

Posted by sethellison at 4:58 PM | Link | 0 comments

14 November 2013

The Pipe with the Mustache
 Newsletter Introduction for Thursday, November 14, 2013

       -Posted by eric-

Caminetto. For many of us, when we hear that name we picture a bold-heeled, heavily rusticated and moustachioed oddball from the 1970s, often sporting a colorful stem. Pipes, as it were, that seem a little out of place now that the craze for gold chains and avocado-and-plaid leisure suits has passed. And yet at the same time, the classic "Ascorti-Radice" era Caminettos are still quick to sell on the estate market, their reputation as great smokers still well-known even thirty-odd years later.

Well, they're back, and there've been some changes, Roberto and Tommy Ascorti having done a thorough revamping of the marque their late father/grandfather (respectively) Giuseppe helped found. I know because I've seen them. First up, there's the engineering. In this case we're not so much talking a change as we are a return, as in a return to the kind of drilling and engineering that made Caminetto so famous in the first place, and the reason why you'll still see old estates distinguished as "Ascorti-Radice era".

Then there's the aesthetics, the details of shaping and finish, grain and stem material. While the look of the old classic-era Caminettos might be comparable to, say, a young John Travolta wearing Frank Zappa's moustache, what has freshly arrived to us from the Ascortis is more like a Sophia Loren in a full-length red evening gown... wearing a costume moustache. The new Caminettos are beautiful, you see, more refined and with a style that isn't likely to ever go out of style, but they haven't lost any sense of humor along the way, apparently, judging by the presence of the bushy old Caminetto moustache logo still being displayed proudly on the stems. Good for them, I say! In my book a beautiful woman with a sense of humor beats one without, hands down. I don't see why it should be any different when it comes to beautiful pipes. In both of these cases, it's the ones which combine refinement with humor that age the most gracefully.

Today's selection of fresh pipes comes from a radically diverse mix of masters, from every nationality, from every school, in every shape, color, and finish conceivable -- so there's something in this update for every discriminating style and taste: and if there isn't, you're just being picky.

First we stop in to meet up with Danish pipe maker Tonni Nielsen, who offers up the epitome of Danish modern in six highly nuanced pieces: some liquidly gestural in form, some utilizing the natural spherical qualities of the briar, some more classical, and some that defy categorization -- all of them, however, bearing some of the finest grain made from the best Corsican and Grecian briar (with marvelous accents that have become Nielsen's hallmark). The wildly artistic Poul Winslow presents us with six pipes, half of which are of a more traditional persuasion, the other half not so much - one shape branded an "Eggplant": a complete crossbreed, but so natural in its hybridization, it's destined to join the canon of classical shapes. Erik Nording clocks in with a total of 48 very "free" Freehands and a couple that are a bit tamer; and though Randy Wiley is from the States with a readily identifiable American style, his six sinuously flowing designs, it could be said, draw from the Danish Freehand tradition.

Next it's off to Japan, where all of our imports were made by pipe maker Yuki Tokutomi, daughter of master carver Hiroyuki Tokutomi, who brings us four very classically refined shapes, all very characteristic of the carver -- with the small, light as air aesthetics we've come to expect and appreciate. A few Pot shapes certainly display a more masculine approach though, sporting short, husky bowls, but still very graceful. The sandblasted Apple, however, seems to be a personal test of her skills to balance asymmetry, drawing from her native tradition: the organic bowl, a distinctive contrast to the nimble shank, but still profoundly natural in appearance.

Caminetto whisks us off to Italy, where the immensely talented carving duo of Roberto and Tommy Ascorti have cooked up a selection of 18 pipes; many of which present the generosity of briar associated with the iconic marque, as well as a few briars that weigh in at roughly Groups '4-5'. The choices here are endless, almost every classical shape making its way onto the menu, including a more festive dish: the long-awaited Limited Edition Christmas pipes, made especially for, and (of course!) bearing the iconic moustache marquee. Tonino from Jacono serves up six savory pieces varying from the more subtlety gestural, like the Rook bent Dublin and Rook bent Apple, to very direct, straight framed renditions of the classical shapes, seen in the Knight Billiard (E) and the Pawn Dublin. Completing our excursion across "The Boot" is Rossi with nine darkly handsome, stylishly elegant designs, L'Antra also with nine pipes, though more strongly gestural, as with Brebbia's 12, and Savinelli's many beloved classic series.

As always, if you want to see the best of what the Emerald Isle has to offer, check out the new pipes from Peterson, the purchase of which qualifies you for a free 50g tin of any Peterson brand tobacco.

Eric Squires: Copywriter

 Eric Squires: Copywriter

Posted by eric at 2:55 PM | Link | 0 comments

07 November 2013

Meet Mr. Herbaugh
 Newsletter Introduction for Thursday, November 7, 2013

       -Posted by R. 'Bear' Graves-

"Clem paused a tick and said [I don't know Zeke, he looks pretty mean, ya might want to pet him first]" (notices you, swings his chair in your direction and smiles) Good afternoon/evening, may I join you in a smoke? While usually the most sardonic guy in the room, there are times when I wish that simple, positive declarations would be taken at their face value, not auto-interpreted through jade colored glasses. An example? "Wow, terrific..., I'm really excited to be part of this plan." When presented in absence of visual or audio clues (ok, read: print), 99% of us assign a tone that positively drips with sarcasm. When I say "I'm one lucky stiff and have one of the best jobs in the building", I mean just that. While my specific duties as a web and content specialist are a bit (pauses, runs 'vague' through the thesaurus) 'nebulous', I get to handle some of the more interesting descriptions, quick-check and fine tune the accuracy of information that we present to you and even get to play a bit with Facebook (think 'coach/utility infielder'). Because increased familiarity leads to increased knowledge, Sykes usually goes out of his way to make sure that I get to spend some time with visiting customers, as well as important folks who call on us from time to time. My favorite part of the job springs from the above goal of familiarization; I'm the lucky one who gets to chat, often at great length, with carvers who are new to our site. Over the past few weeks, I have had a great deal of fun talking with the artisan who is making his SPC debut tonight, Abe Herbaugh, and to say that it was a genuine pleasure would be almost damning with faint praise.

The minimal nuts and bolts of Abe Herbaugh, both the man and his art, can be found on his page. What can't be conveyed in 320 words (or less) is the spirit of the man, much less how the sum of his vocational and avocational experiences benefit his present art and, by extension, what you as a pipe collector can expect in the future. When Abe came to the craft in 2009, he already possessed more woodworking and machining experience than many carvers with a half-decade jump on him, as well as the crazy-good eye for detail required by his main vocation. Right from the word 'jump', he felt pulled to the 'reboot' style and inventiveness of the American school (even his first premium marque pipe was a Rad Davis) and, in a very short amount of time, he was not only creating imminently marketable briars which bore the school's aesthetic, but starting to show a talent for pushing the edge of recently established proportionalities.

One commonality that you have probably observed in all of the great carvers (and one that seems to run in the blood of all who excel), is the ability to take a goal, and visualize the rewards of achieving it to such an extent that the objective is already mentally reached... all one needs is the unwavering determination to physically carry out the steps to complete an already 'completed' journey. Abe Herbaugh is a long distance hiker of considerable note; in 2010 he hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, and a few days after the 2013 CPCC show, he began the 2400 mile trek that is the Pacific Crest Trail. A bit more than half way through, Herbaugh developed pain in his knee, severe enough for him to take a day off and consult a doctor. The doc pronounced his affliction as 'acute bursitis', and ordered Abe to lay off any hiking for a minimum of two weeks. Abe didn't have two weeks, and so he kept hiking for days, each day more agonizing than the preceding one. After four days, the pain and swelling had all but immobilized him, and he had to throw in the towel... but not without a solemn vow to return and conquer. I'd say that Abe owns that 'winner's commonality' in spades, wouldn't you?

While Abe's present work definitely has 'game', as well as representing a great value, in my opinion, he also boasts the necessary talents, outlook and mindset to eventually take a rightful place amongst the American greats. And now, without further ado, takes pleasure in welcoming Abe Herbaugh to our house, and looks forward to your appraisal.

Pipes by Abe Herbaugh, Photography by

For all of you Castello fans out there, and we know you are legion, pay close attention to this update. Today, we are presenting you with 18 fresh, top-notch pieces from this most iconic of Italian marques. This batch bears a cornucopia of shapes to suit any taste or style: some great, some small, some as smooth and flawless as glass, others bearing that famous 'Sea Rock' rustication you've come to know and love - all exquisitely crafted in the Italian school, meaning bold definition combined with effortless flare.

Also, Rattray makes an appearance with three varied designs. From the small, compact Chubby Jackey Terracotta to the robust, subtly paneled Highland, right down to the Vintage Army '27', a beautifully utilitarian featherweight. Veering strongly toward the Pesaro school, Ser Jacopo gives us six flowing designs, some with a smoothness and fluidity in gesture that rivals a Picasso drawing - an artist, I might add, from whom Ser Jacopo has sought inspiration many a time. In accordance, Japanese pipe maker Tsuge conjures up 12 pieces, many of which draw from another modern aesthetic; namely the rich, bold geometric shapes of the Art Deco movement.

Neerup returns as brightly stained and as free formed as ever with nine pieces, Nording makes a strong appearance, bringing in a large sum of 24, while Brigham stands in strong contrast with 12 darkly stained, richly earthy smokers. Per usual, an impressive portion of our update can be found in a whopping 96 classic designs from both Savinelli and Peterson, and 72 varied estates.

Lastly, as Sykes mentioned in yesterday's newsletter, our Specials section is currently flush with pipes of all manner and make. We've also introduced a new feature to the site allowing you to chat with our Customer Service team should you be shy, should your jaws be clenched too tightly to the stem of a Giant-scale pipe, or should you be a modern man who prefers textual communicae.

Bear Graves: Media & Content Specialist

 Bear Graves: Media & Content Specialist

Posted by R. 'Bear' Graves at 2:49 PM | Link | 0 comments

04 November 2013

Paychecks are for Pipes
 Newsletter Introduction for Monday, November 4, 2013

       -Posted by R. 'Bear' Graves-

"Nope, not gonna do it. Might as well put that finger away, Mark... not gonna pull it." (notices subscribers, smiles in an overly broad manner) Good evening folks, may I join you in a smoke? Over the past few years the privations of having sold 97% of my personal pipe collection have taken their toll, but the sense of deprivation has been especially acute working in an environment that's (pretty much) universally populated with pipe nuts. Well, "’tis better to light a candle than curse the dark" and, with the arrival of my third paycheck, I set my sights on rebuilding my collection. Okay, short term, 'rebuilding' might be a tad ambitious, but owning enough briars to allow every soldier to rest at least four days between smokes is attainable, if I can keep the outlay to one smart purchase per check, starting with this one.

Estates are always a logical choice, but the ones that really speak to me (not literally, Thorazine has helped a ton with that) also seem to appeal to many others. Then it hit me: "Duca Carlo". Ducas were a tremendous value, sold like proverbial hotcakes, and had a great, dark style. Then I found out something most of you are already aware of; Savinelli has discontinued the Duca Carlo line. Just before a primordial wail of anguish could escape my lips, Seth held up a pipe and suggested, "Check out Rossi!" Eric nodded, and held up one that was currently burning one of his continuously on-going tobacco experiments. Rossi? After digging a bit, it turns out that a great deal of the Duca spirit continues in the Rossi, heck even the Duca Rubino lives on in the Rossi Rubino. It's also the opinion, of more than a few here, that the Rossi briar is slightly better than the late Duca Carlos. Well, I love their t-shirts (having nicked a couple when everyone's back was turned), and while a good-looking t-shirt does not a great product make (anyone own an ABBA t-shirt?!), what I had seen on our site, combined with two recommendations in five seconds, convinced me to hit the Rossi page harder than an early 90's Mike Tyson.

Factoring budget, and the required practicality associated with a work pipe (either at least half bent to hold in the jaw, a straight/quarter bent with a weight less than 40 grams {for the same reason} or a sitter), I narrowed it down to either the Rossi Salerno '8310', the Messina '8616', or the Salerno '8315'. (Vulcanite stem and less than 37 grams!) All have very nice balance, as well as sound drilling and draft hole placement. Come to think of it, October was one of the months where our pay cycled three times. Do you think that buying two would be pushing it? Nope, me neither

Pipe by Tom Eltang, Photography by

Neal Yarm "Exotics" pipe stands are simply perfect for that avid pipe smoker in your family who's accumulated quite a collection over the years, with a few standout pieces they're just hankering to show off. Composed of a variance of exotic hardwoods, spalted woods, and burl woods, they will probably want to display these beautifully handcrafted, stylish pieces just as much as the pipes themselves.

Tom Eltang. ehem Tom Eltang. Today's update features a total of 10, with quite a helping of tall Pokers, sporting Tom's famous stacked ring rustication and his equally notable smooth editions, bathed in 360 degrees of distinctly lovely crossgrain and birdseye. On a side note, one piece that must be mentioned is the Smooth 'Arne Jacobsen' sitter, a pipe that almost sent Bear into cardiac arrest, as well the rest of us when he opened the box and let out a giddy, banshee-like scream of satisfaction. This week's Rinaldo selection would also look particularly handsome hanging from a rack, or just as good hanging from your jaw, as brothers Elo and Guido present us with a trinity of divinely sculpted pieces, including the darkly finished, sterling silver plated Egea Collection Billiard.

Radice makes a strong appearance with 12 pipes, beginning the list with pieces that truly exude the rich, natural vibrancy of autumn, and then finish with three of their last "generation" Xmas 2013 Apples. Rossi is making a substantial appearance tonight, with a total of 24 pipes in this week's update. Also ‘fresh’ to the site are 12 classic Stanwells, 8 dapper Butz-Choquins, 12 masculine Vauens, as well as Peterson and Savinelli, with three dozen pipes per brand. As a final note of great interest (at least to us), beginning at noon tomorrow, EST, you will be able to chat online with a customer service specialist. Fear not, no 'pop-ups', just a friendly button on the bottom right of the page.

Bear Graves: Media & Content Specialist

 Bear Graves: Media & Content Specialist

Posted by R. 'Bear' Graves at 1:50 PM | Link | 1 comment

31 October 2013

 Newsletter Introduction for Thursday, October 31, 2013

       -Posted by eric-

enjoying my pipeLast Saturday morning I left town, high-tailing it off to Appalachia for what was, for the first time in what seems like forever, a full 72-or-so hours without typing on a keyboard, reading off a monitor, or being asked to look over and edit one thing or another. It wasn’t spent without pipes of course – I brought along an old S.T. Dupont and an even older Dunhill for company, and had plenty of time to enjoy both without having to do two or three other things simultaneously. I ate very large amounts of various officially government-unapproved foods, three times daily when possible, and, amongst other things, visited the old family farm, or, as I call it, Squiresland, for the first time since I was still counting birthdays in single digits. Rumors that my great-grandmother’s house (or more accurately, the house in which she was the last full-time resident) had fallen into dilapidation were fortunately proven to be much exaggerated. At some point before he died, my granddad had apparently even talked her into letting him install running water and electricity – neither of which had been present the last time I was there.

Squires family farm Suffice to say I returned to the office (eventually) feeling very, very refreshed. This was a good thing, because what I returned to was a lot : loads of pipes, loads of tobaccos, the introduction of GL Pease’s “Gaslight”, and plenty more that’s still waiting in the wings. And as coincidence would have it, one of the biggest things I returned to was the introduction of Tonino Jacono to our website, an old-school Italian artisan who's been doing a good bit of refreshing of his own over the past couple years. He still dedicates his efforts to producing great hand-made pipes at a killer price-to-quality ratio, he still works from a small shop with a minimum of power tools, and he still coats the chambers of his creations with honey sourced from a local Marche beekeeper. But as set in these ways as he may be (and no complaints here about that), he hasn’t blushed from recognizing where there was room for improvement. Listening to suggestions and requests from his customers and collectors, he’s scaled his designs down a bit, concentrating more on designs that are handier, and more elegant in style of line and form than his past work. And to make the most of these changes, he’s also sought out superior sources of briar – in fact, he now acquires his blocks from the same source Claudio Cavicchi uses (which is about as high a praise for a briar-cutter as I can think of), and goes the extra step of aging them for three additional years under his own supervision before they’re even allowed to touch the business-end of his shaping tools.

And the long and short of all this is that we’ve been impressed. Tonino’s goal, as stated, has been to create Italian pipes of a beauty and quality that handily outweighs the prices he has to ask for them to make a living, and he’s done just that - and then some. But then you don’t have to take my word for it; they’re now on-site, ready and waiting for you to see and judge for yourself, and with more to come.

There are so many announcements this week that this update is liable to burst like a greedy trick-or-treater's candy bag; so jam packed with fresh pipes, flavorful tobaccos, and a myriad of great deals, we simply must skip the formalities and jump right into the fresh pipes daily:

In four of Gregor Lobnik's offerings we learn that stripping everything down to its barest form doesn't necessarily mean that minimalism constitutes anti-luxury or the dispassionately cool. The Smooth Paneled Freehand is a fine example: simplified, geometric though playful, the master has introduced subtle elements of warmth into the piece that dazzles the eye and invites the viewer to relate on a particularly intimate level. Polarities shift, however, as the simple sophistication of Lobnik morphs into maker Larrysson's enticing landscape of organic complexity. It's simply amazing how the style of an artisan is so diverse as to portray the startlingly beautiful drama of growing pains within briar as seen in the Tree Bark Cherrywood, but then can be cast in a completely whimsical light with the industrially nautical Smooth Tugboat. Charmingly true to the name, Paul Hubartt affirms his uncanny attention to detail, displaying his quality in every square inch, not only through his meticulously precise technique demonstrated in the stummel, but in the 'anchor' stem.

Tonino Jacono (you know the Bobby Fischer of pipe making) unleashes a veritable round table of Queens, Knights, and Rooks: all full-bodied, beautifully crafted pieces. Winslow, whose pipes are steadily rising in demand, has brought his own legion of muscular "Vikings": six compactly-proportioned, Freehand-esque designs. If you're looking for a pioneer, however, look no further than Ferdinando Rossi's offering complete with nine understated handsome, unmistakably Italian, undeniably affordable pieces. Following in similar footsteps, Brebbia continues to expand the reach of Achille Savinelli by presenting us with more modified Italian classics, robustly proportioned and boasting more than their fair share of flash, (check out the standout Oom Paul!). If your preference is to go straight to the source, we have 48 wonderful Savinelli pipes. For something uniquely Irish try Peterson, coming in with 36 pipes, composed of your favorite series, like Darwin, Dracula 2012, and the ingenious System Standards. For something truly special, search our vast estate selection for some hidden gems, like pieces by American artisan Brad Pohlmann.

As you may or may not already know, G.L. Please's Gaslight debut was such a success that our entire inventory was quickly sold out, but fear not; early next week we should be restocked and ready to deliver that exotically flavorful Latakia mixture that sent tobacco lovers into a frenzy. But if you're looking for some amazingly savory blends at an equally amazing price, Balkan Sasieni is 15% off, while Dunhill tins and A & C Peterson's insanely popular Escudo are 20% off the purchase of five tins. This is the last day those great deals are being offered; call it our Halloween treat to you.

Eric Squires: Copywriter

 Eric Squires: Copywriter

Posted by eric at 3:26 PM | Link | 0 comments

24 October 2013

Getting Out There
 Newsletter Introduction for Thursday, October 24, 2013

       -Posted by ted-

I first had the pleasure of meeting Scott Thile, who was introduced to me by Brian Levine as the ‘man behind’, or something along those lines, two or three years ago at a show in KC, on the Missouri side of the sprawling metropolis, at the Club’s Saturday evening banquet event, where we sat next to one another over our meals. While Scott supped on salmon and I picked at a salad, he and I talked at lengths about a great many things besides his conceiving and then managing, which takes up a considerable amount of his precious free time, in case you didn’t know. We talked about his passion for music that has happily coincided with his career of tuning and repairing pianos. We talked about his extensive touring where he plays Stand Up Bass – sometimes called Double Bass, or as Adam Davidson confusingly calls it ‘Nipple Bass’– in a couple of different jazz bands in a couple of different locales. But perhaps most importantly we discussed his ardor for pipe making.

And therein lies the cause for our meeting. Pipe makers go to pipe shows for a handful of reasons, like to sell pipes for one thing. But pipe makers go to pipe shows to ‘get out there’, to ‘put [themselves] out there’, to be seen and to be heard, and to get acquainted, for the unknowns, or the lesser well-knowns, with those in the pipe world that it’s good to get to know. We at go to pipe shows for much the same reasons: to sell pipes, and to get to know all the different folks that buy and sell pipes. It’s networking, it’s marketing, it’s selling, it’s buying, it’s biz, and we find it fun.

So Scott Thile is a heck of a nice guy. Heck of an interesting guy. Totally loves pipes and the all things adjunct, superjacent, and microcosmic to pipe smoking which can tend to happen I assume after 38 years of pipe smoking. But he’s a heck of a good pipe maker too. Through his work he’s channeling greats like Jeff Gracik, Todd Johnson, and Bruce Weaver, continuing the riff on highly aesthetic Scandinavian functionalism as filtered through the American lens. Scott Thile’s pipes are beautiful, in part because he’s making time to study the best pipes he can get his hands on and with the best carvers out there making pipes. He’s ‘getting out there’. I say you should get to know him and his work because he’s one of those carvers it’s good to get to know. (Bear has an interestingly entertaining or entertainingly interesting blog post on Scott here.) And if you can grab a meal with him at a pipe show you should.

Pipes by Scott Thile

Thursday means ‘new stuff’ here at New pipes, sometimes by makers new to the site, Scott Thile for instance, will end up on on a day like Thursday. And when we say ‘for instance’ we mean as you read this we’ve just uploaded to our virtual storefront six Scott Thile pipes. Likewise we’ve added five fresh works from Kevin Arthur. So if you’re in the mood for American-made pipe goodness you’ve got a wider selection available here than can be counted on all of your fingers unless your name is Count Tyrone Rugen, and you’re the vizier of Prince Humperdinck, in which case you’ve got bigger problems vis-à-vis you killed Domingo Montoya and by-the-way his son is looking for you.

We’re also happy to host new pipes from Rattrays, Ardor, Ser Jacopo, Mastro de Paja, Brebbia, Savinelli, Neerup, Nording, Brigham, and of course Peterson. Likewise, you’ll find an intercontinental mix of 74 recently restored estate pipes added to the site from Denmark, France, Ireland, Germany, Italy, the US, Russia, Turkey, Norway, South Africa, and Portugal. All over the place, really.

Also new to the site this afternoon: a gorgeous (naturally) leather briefcase by Claudio Albieri. This latest model is presented in two distinct flavors, one of which is hued a soft butternut-acorn and trimmed in chocolate, the other a medium-grade charcoal balanced in burnt chestnut leather accents, and is somewhat less briefcase and a little more pipe bag than the model we introduced in late 2012. While you might not be able to stuff a 15.6 inch Samsung Series 7 Chronos laptop in this Claudio Albieri briefcase, you can certainly get a Chromebook in there, as well as, more importantly, eight pipes, the briefcase coming complete with a matching set of eight leather pipe socks/bags, in addition to a rather handy leather rollup pouch that can be affixed to the front of the briefcase with leather straps. Voila.

Ted Swearingen: Vice President, General Manager Ted Swearingen: Vice President, General Manager

Posted by ted at 2:31 PM | Link | 0 comments

21 October 2013

Mystery, Mahogany, and Meerkats
 Newsletter Introduction for Monday, October 21, 2013

       -Posted by R. 'Bear' Graves-

"So there I was, minding my own business, simply trying to light my briar off a sizzling Harley exhaust pipe, when the Hells Angel in the saddle turned, looked at me and..." (turns, sees subscribers, smiles brightly) Good evening, folks, may I join you in a smoke? There are days when the perks of working for far outweigh the conditions of my employment (ankle bracelet, orange jumpsuit (yada...yada)), and today was such a day.

Sykes walked up to my desk and plunked down a substantial plug of very serious looking tobacco. By serious, I mean this mini-brick was dark, dark enough that the bright striations normally seen in other plugs (created by the lighter leaf within the blend) were replaced by shades that reminded me of feeble remnants of light, desperately attempting to skirt the event horizon of a black hole. I did something of a Little Rascals triple-take (plug-Sykes-plug-Sykes-plug-Sykes) and the latter asked "Have a knife?" (It would have been strange indeed if the former – the plug – had asked me this, but by the look of it I wouldn’t have been surprised. And I would have been afraid to say “No.”) I pulled out my faithful, extra-large Benchmade folder from my rear pocket, used my Red-eye mind-trick; "I will not ask Bear what he is doing with this thing on his person" and handed it to him. Sykes is a pretty strong guy, and I have (literally) shaved with that Benchmade, but my boss had to utilize a fair amount of muscle and technique to slice into this mystery. Once excised, the densely-packed concoction became delightfully malleable in the paw; upon a couple of quick rolls, the tobacco reduced to my perfect size and some more, and sinfully beautiful, lighter leaf (I believe red VA) appeared. Yours truly LOVES Latakia year round, but even more so with the advent of cooler weather, and the siren-song of this blend almost had me looking for a main-mast to restrain myself to. Though still a bit moist, the leaf fired quickly and an amazing fragrance was liberated, so amazing that, for the first time in eons, I found myself blowing plumes, standing back and wafting the smoke back towards my proboscis.

For about the first 30 seconds after the main light, I found myself thinking "Damn, there can be too much Latakia..." not so much from a fragrance standpoint, but there was a slight oily feel on my tongue. A few moments later, however, the other components brightened the body and a remarkably sophisticated harmony, anchored by the basso-profondo of the Latakia appeared. Out of curiosity, I deliberately (and not without plenty of just-one-last-puff hesitation) let my pipe go out, and set it aside for couple of hours. Usually, Latakia isn't one of my favorite re-lights, and I balked a couple of times in the process of re-firing the plug (earning me a couple of slugs in the arm from Adam for "flinchies"), but the DGT proved to be nearly delightful as the initial startup.

Sykes had wandered back into the room, so I waved to get his attention, held up the plug, and arched my brow so high that it would have given Leonard Nimoy cramps. Sykes grinned, and said "G.L. Pease Gaslight". Instantly, all my co-workers within earshot, transformed from a tribe of humans, to a mob of meerkats on alert, their beady little eyes locked like targeting lasers upon the uber-deep mahogany block on my desk. Fearing being trampled, I grabbed my briar, backed into the hallway, and began watching the ensuing mayhem (picture two groups of ruggers trying for possession of a loose ball, except "every man for himself" and you'll be pretty close). This outrageously tasty plug should be available to me, and thus to you, sometime near the beginning of next month, and I heartily recommend it. Just don't have any meerkats nearby

And did I ever tell you that I love my job?

Pipes by J. Alan, photography by

As Monday rolls around again, so too comes the inevitable cornucopia of pipes, pipe tobacco, and any other smoking goodies we happen to have most recently gotten our hands on. Starting this week off, we have artisanal briars by Alex Florov, Jeff Gracik, and Michael Parks alike. As is usual for each of these three North American craftsmen, these latest works prove impressive.

Following up, there's plenty of Italian flare on offer from Castello, Rinaldo, and the Radices, ranging from a fat, bold-heeled bent Pot in jet-black morta, to a big, voluptuous, silver-banded bent Apple, to a firm and smooth, beautifully flame-grained straight Billiard.

Now, if French pipes are your thing, we've got plenty of those as well -- both in the traditional style, courtesy of Sebastien Beo, and with a more modern edge from Chacom and Butz-Choquin. Then, just for good measure, we've also gone and thrown in several dozen fresh pipes from Peterson of Ireland, Savinelli of Italy, and the solidly German Vauen. And of course, there are plenty of pipes to pile into our on-site estates selection as well, ranging from simple smokers to a real beauty of a Rasmussen.

Tobaccos? Cigars? Yes and yes -- new sticks and sample packs arrive from La Aroma de Cuba, Rocky Patel, and Juan Lopez too, plus Cornell & Diehl's "Five O'Clock Shadow" in 2oz. and 8oz. tins. Finally, we've got an array of eight different IM Corona lighters, in the "Accord" and "Infinity" designs.

So, have at it!

Bear Graves: Media & Content Specialist

 Bear Graves: Media & Content Specialist

Posted by R. 'Bear' Graves at 3:09 PM | Link | 0 comments

17 October 2013

Fostering a Passion for Pipes
 Newsletter Introduction for Thursday, October 17, 2013

       -Posted by joshua-

"Do you sell sweetbreads?" I thought mine was a simple question, and yet it prompted a pretty long discussion with the owner of a local butcher shop in my small North Carolina town of Shallotte. The butcher looked me up and down rather skeptically, and inquired in a heavy Brooklyn accent that marked him as a transplant: "What is a sweetbread?" When I replied that a sweetbread was the thymus gland of a calf, his entire demeanor changed. His eyes lit up and a broad smile came across his round face. "Very good, although I rarely get sweetbreads," he confessed. "But the other day, I got somethin' real special." "My supplier," he announced with pride, "had a freshly slaughtered bull and they brought me its bawls." He nudged closer and cupped both hands as if he were gently coddling a great weight as he told me how beautifully pink and warm were these testicular treats. He touched my chest with a chubby finger to drive home each point when he explained how he removed these delicacies from their sack, boiled them, sliced them, and sautéed each slice with garlic and olive oil. I can say with confidence that I have never heard a man speak so passionately or at such great lengths about testicles.

Flash forward to this past weekend, where I found myself leaving the Richmond Pipe show with Sykes. It was my first show and I was a bit tired from a weekend of staying up too late chatting with pipe guys. Fatigue aside, I've never been one for sleeping in the car, so we passed the time with conversations about pipes (naturally), about history, and about whether or not missing that last exit would delay our arrival back home by too much. As we made our way into North Carolina, I decided to ask what I thought was another simple question, "What was like in the early days?" I suspected that Sykes would share an anecdote or two about some key turning points in SPC history: about the move to South Carolina, about when we began carrying high-grade Danish pipes, or about the origins of the bi-weekly update. What I got instead was the history of as told by Fernand Braudel. Sykes didn't quite begin with the soil composition of Nashville Tennessee at the time of SPC's founding, but there weren't too many other details that he left out. An hour and a half or so later, we arrived at Sykes's home where we had met to drive to Richmond; Professor Wilford had managed to cover four years of SPC history. The funny thing is I couldn't believe how much time had passed.

In both of these situations, I had the opportunity -- the privilege really -- to hear people talk about their passions. And the great thing is that this kind of passion is contagious. When I finished my conversation with Randy the Butcher, I was ready to try my hand at preparing a fresh pair of bull testicles. (The lovely and gracious Allie vetoed this idea.) When I finished my conversation with Sykes about his vision for, I was eager to come to work and assist our customers in seeking out the very best pipes and tobacco in the world. It's our sincere hope here at Smokingpipes that we convey and foster this same enthusiasm in the pipe-smoking community.

Pipe by Peter Heeschen, Photography by

We at Smokingpipes are very single-minded in bringing you the most innovative pipe makers from around the world. In this update, one of Italy's foremost cutting-edge artisans, Paolo Becker, shows himself to be quite progressive, expanding on what is texturally achievable. In remarkable pieces like the Dublin with Horn, he achieves a beautifully uniform honey-comb stippling that encircles the entirety of the stummel. What's amazing is how using petrified bog oak not only achieves a beautiful aesthetic but because of its advanced age, alters the molecular make-up of the wood, allowing for unexpected lightness that's a pleasure to grasp. It also worth mentioning that those with more sensitive palettes swear by its ability to smoke with the purity on par with that of meerschaum, only with more earthier notes. Becker has also Strawberry Wood or two, a particularly wild-grained material, as seen in the stunning 'Four Clubs' bent Billiard, casting an undulating variance of woodsy tones.

On the other side of genius, Peter Heeschen's brilliance (pictured above, accompanied by some fine Itlaian leather in the form of a Claudio Albieri stand and Columbus tobacco pouch) is always absorbed in the reinvisioning of the Danish neoclassical, infusing tradition with his unmistakable "Heeschen-ness": alchemical whimsy, backed by wealth of technical fortitude. Eggs, like the bent Egg (B) with Silver, readily shift categorization, like a word that's on the tip of your tongue. Cherrywoods are shaped with such an effortless flow, they feel alive, as if they were stretching and falling into a relaxed complacency. Peter is also no slouch when it comes to stains either, staying cohesive, giving a respectful nod to his forbearers through classic, rich burnt sienna hues, but with a vibrancy and a that's all too modern.

Joining the two masters are L'Anatra, whose pieces are instantly recognizable, if not for their leanings towards the English classics, then by the signature duck head that graces each piece, like the Flying Lady of a Rolls Royce. To sum up this week's update from American pipe maker Randy Wiley I leave it to Mr. Eric Squires: "Sometimes you want crazy new dessert that arrives at the table on fire, sometimes you just want a steak and some potatoes." You'll just have to check it out to understand what he means. Poul Winslow brings us a handful of the beautifully crafted Danish Freehands for which he is known, and surprisingly one very traditional Dublin, the Crown Smooth Dublin '200' to be precise. Rossi gives us something muscular with their Rubinos, Brigham something rugged, and Nording something that's rather hard to describe (but in a good way). And as always, Savinelli and Peterson have something for everyone and so do our massive selection of estates.

Joshua Burgess: Sales Manager

 Joshua Burgess: Sales Manager

Posted by joshua at 1:46 PM | Link | 0 comments



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