And now as a supplement to Sykes' last post regarding our time at the Vegas show, here's a spiffy video for your enjoyment. Cheers!
Ted, Susan, Bill and I returned from Las Vegas this weekend, after eight days of whirlwind inspection, sampling and buying of much of what the pipe, tobacco and cigar world has to offer. An exhaustive narrative of the show would be both extremely long and pretty boring, so I wanted to hit some highlights:
The Dunhill Room: 8am, Sunday morning: This deserves highlight status every year, but this is such an amazing experience that it deserves particular comment every year. Thousands of pipes were laid out for us to select from. We picked out about 150 and wittled it down to 132 before adding a bunch more and wittling down again. It took four people two hours to select and inspect the pipes; fortunately, that early in the morning on a Sunday, no one else was really all that interested in picking pipes, so we more or less had the entire room to ourselves.
Monday Morning 10:30am to 1:00pm: I don't know exactly how many pipes we collectively selected in three and a half hours, but the rush was on. We pick pipes first thing when the show opens: the pipes cease to be available, but the pipe tobacco and cigars don't change between Monday and Thursday, so pipes are our priority at the start. I hit the Tsuge booth first and picked out a mess of great Ikebanas, thence to the Savinelli booth where I picked out some great Autographs and ordered a crazy number of awesome pipes at a great price. Susan went straight for Stanwells and Winslows. Ted picked out Ser Jacopos and then L'Anatras. Susan and I met at Ashton to pick out upper end Petersons (we can pick things like the Spigots and Supremes at the show). Then I did a bunch of things that will, for now, remain a secret. They'll be hitting the site before long, though! All in all, well, if I had to guess, I'd say we ordered somewhere north of 2,000 pipes in three and a half hours. That's about a pipe every four seconds. It also sounds like less when you consider that's only about 6 weeks supply of pipes for Smokingpipes.com...
The Ashton Dinner, seated next to Tom Palmer and Michael Walters: Tom Palmer is the owner of Peterson of Dublin, that great pipe making establishment that has been in business since the 1860s. Seeing Tom is always a tremendous pleasure. I think very highly of both him and the pipes that he produces and discussing the finer points of pipe manufacturing with Tom is always an education. Michael Walters is the National Sales Manager for Ashton Distributors, which is most famous for the Ashton cigar, but also imports Peterson pipes into the US. Michael's perspective is a little different from Tom's, but thoughtful and quick-witted as he is, it's always a pleasure spending time with him also.
Dinner with Brian Levine and Dan More of Brigham Pipes: The four of us had dinner with our wayward ex-General Manager and his new boss at the Paris Hotel and Casino on the strip. Dinner was excellent, but the conversation, ranging from manufacturing and marketing in the pipe world to the broader matter of the recent increase in new pipe smokers, was superb. This was the first time I met Dan More and I couldn't be more impressed with him and his operation. As the evening wore on, some of his folks met us for drinks and silly pipe marketing ideas and wildly stereotypical jokes about both Canadians and Americans abounded. Much fun was had by all. Perhaps most importantly, these guys think really deeply about how to reach younger pipe smokers and potential pipe smokers. That sort of thinking is surprisingly rare and it was really refreshing to hear.
And much, much more. There are some amazing new blends coming, but I don't want to spoil that particular fun when they arrive. It was a hugely successful show for us and we had an absolute blast at the same time.
The other day, Brian asked me about this video interview. He remembered having done it, but we'd never put it up. It sort of got lost in the mass of footage we took at the show in New Orleans in early August. We're glad to finally get it up on the blog. It's a little difficult to hear the first few seconds, but it clears up after that. Generally, the sound required serious fiddling which, for some reason that I'm sure some serious sound guy might be able to explain, worked much better with Glen's voice than Brian's. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!
Also, I've been really impressed by the Kristoff Ligero line especially, though I find that a hearty meal preceding smoking helps tremendously...
Alright, I confess, I'd sort of forgotten that we still had some great footage from the IPCPR show in New Orleans in August. We took a lot of video at the show and with fully three of us behind the camera at various times, I sort of lost track of what all we had. The upside is that trolling through the raw footage is sort of like a treasure trove, as I eliminate video of me tripping over my own words, or Alyson and Susan not realizing that the camera is rolling and continuing their discussion on how silly the boys get when presented with all of the smokable goodies at the show (which, I might add, took place while they themselves were enjoying Kristoff coronas, so I think they have little room to stand on when mocking Brian and me).
Anyway, there's still lots of good stuff left, not least of which is this great interview with our friend Pete Johnson. When Pete launched Tatuaje, we were early, enthusiastic fans of the luscious Tatuaje Brown Label, rolled in Miami. Since then (perhaps a little more than five years ago), Tatuaje has continued to occupy a hallowed place in our humidor and continues to be a disproportionately popular brand both in the store and on Smokingpipes.com.
Tom Palmer, Managing Director of Peterson of Dublin, took a few minutes at the IPCPR show in New Orleans last week to talk with Alyson about all of the new stuff Peterson is doing this year, including the Pipe of the Year, the Christmas Pipe, the Writer's collection, and an assortment of new tobaccos.
George Rico of Gran Habano sat down with Brian for a few minutes at the show to talk about the new Gran Habano Azteca line.
The new Stanwell Hans Christian Andersen VII shape is a little special. For the first time, Stanwell is trying to tie it all together a little bit, presenting the first 3,000 pipes in a presentation box, complete with a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. The shape was designed by Poul Winslow with the particular fairytale in mind. Anyway, I'll let Soren Lundh Aagaard, Managing Director of Stanwell, do the talking...
We snagged Rocky for a quick interview on the IPCPR show floor in New Orleans last week. He was super-busy, but kind enough to take a couple of minutes with us to talk about his new cigars, especially the Fifteenth Anniversary cigar. He also touches on the new Cargo line.
While we were at the IPCPR show in New Orleans, we made a quick stop to chat with our good friends Chris Tarler and Keith Toney from Cornell & Diehl (Craig and Patty Tarler weren't at the show, unfortunately). Amidst the general chatting, we thought it'd be fun to get one of them to do a couple minutes on video about new blends. Chris took a minute to talk through stuff with us. Enjoy!
Stepping back to a couple of weeks ago for a moment, when Kevin Godbee and I were in Denmark in late July, we established, finally and definitively, that Dunhill tobaccos would be coming back to the United States in September or October, first through conversations with Orlik and then, finally, getting confirmation from British- American Tobacco. The first day of the show, Tuesday, while we were at the Ashton booths, talking about Petersons with Tom Palmer (Managing Director of Peterson), Michael Walters (Sales Manager for Ashton), and Evan Carpenter (our regional sales representative), it became clear that we better get an order together for CAO for the Dunhill tobaccos. Susan and Brian dashed over there, while Alyson and I continued to work on Petersons. They placed an order for many thousands of tins of Dunhill tobacco for late September delivery (which might be a slightly optimistic ETA, so we're actually figuring on early October). The really important thing was to secure the Dunhill in appropriate quantities. Even in these truly massive amounts, we are a little concerned with stock problems in the autumn given all of the folks out there waiting for it to become available again. We'd return to both Ashton and CAO later in the show to conduct cigar and accessory business, but getting the pipes taken care of with Peterson and the tobacco taken care of with CAO took priority over all else late Tuesday morning.
Having wrapped up all of the pipe buying, we moved into a more normal pace for the rest of the show. After a quick lunch, we had a meeting with General Cigar to talk about their new products, including some really interesting new cigars from La Gloria Cubana, including the new Serie-N cigars, plus the new Artesanos Obilisks. While Susan and Brian actually conducted the business-y bits, Alyson and I set about interviewing Yuri Guillen, factory manager for La Gloria Cubana about all the new stuff. General also had a cigar roller based in Miami up for the show, so that was fun to watch too (and we have video of all of this we'll work on getting up over the next few weeks).After that, the chronology of it all starts to get a bit blurry. Brian and Susan had a meeting with Oliva Cigars, of which I caught the tail end, while I did some quick following up with pipe folks that we'd already been to see, and tobacco folks to set things up for later in the show. As the day wore on, we visited the Villiger-Stokkebye booths, both because we needed to give them an order and also because they were in charge of feeding us Tuesday night. We spent some time talking with Kevin and Gary from Villiger-Stokkebye, plus Brian and I touched base on a couple of projects with Erik Stokkebye and the representative from Scandinavian Tobacco (Orlik's parent company) who was present for the show. Susan set to work structuring our ordering for the next couple of months with Gary, Villiger-Stokkebye's all round logistics guy, which requires a fair bit of planning: a whole lot of tobacco travels from Charlotte, NC to Little River, SC every week. After that, Erik, Brian and I attended a short trade organization / legislative meeting that started right after the show, while Susan and Alyson went immediately to Altadis' cocktail party. Altadis puts on quite a party and had we not been anticipating a serious dinner with the Stokkebye folks later that evening, we could have spent all evening there. We did get a chance to talk to a couple of senior people about the tobacco regulatory environment, which was good for keeping us in the loop.
Speaking of which, a major topic of conversation at the show was the TTB's definitions of pipe tobacco and according regulations. It's terribly esoteric and convoluted, but the short and long of it is that, after extended conversations with Mike McNiel from McClelland and Paul Creasy and others from Altadis, we're actually feeling better about the situation than we have in recent months. The TTB and ATF seem to be handling this fairly transparently and fairly, at least by governmental regulatory body standards. Much remains to be seen, which may take years to be established, but it seems like everything will generally remain as is in the mid-term.
And that evening, we had an amazing culinary and historical experience courtesy of the wonderful folks at Villiger-Stokkebye. And for that story, you'll have to tune in again for the next part of the IPCPR trip overview...
It's been a whirlwind here in New Orleans over the past few days. Providing any sort of logical, or even chronological, order is beyond me at this point. So, in addition to eating our share of beignets and drinking coffee at Café du Monde, though really, Brian ate his share and nine other shares, and listening to Jazz in the Quarter, we've actually done some work. Or, whatever it is we actually do that we pretend is work to the folks back home so that they don't know what a raucously good time we're having while we're away. Seriously, the show has been lot of fun, but we've also covered tremendous ground, literally and figuratively. Here are some highlights from Monday through Wednesday, picking up where we left off after the last IPCPR post, where we'd just finished up picking out tons of particularly pretty Dunhills...
Oh, and also, we'll have a bunch of videos when we get home. Our cunning plan to edit and push videos from the road has hit a technical snag or six, so I think we're surrendering on that particular front until we can use real hardware and software back at the office. We do have some seriously fun stuff, including videos with Soren Lundh Aagaard, Managing Director of Stanwell, Rocky Patel, and many others...
Monday afternoon we picked out a few dozen Castellos at the Castello pre-show event. Usually, we'll pick out months worth of updates of pipes, but we were a little more restrained this year because we'd just bought a ton of awesome Castellos when we were in Italy in late June. Still, we added some great pieces, especially Sea Rocks and Old Antiquaris, which were a little thin on the ground when we were at the factory eight weeks ago. You'll have to wait to see what we have, but there were some sandblasts that had Brian and me swooning...and Susan and Alyson rolling their eyes a little bit at our enthusiasm (though, secretly, they're super-excited too; they just pretend they're not sometimes; simply witness Susan's intent pipe selecting to the right).
That night, we met Kevin Godbee from PipesMagazine.com for dinner at Susan Spicer's restaurant, Bayona. As I might have suggested previously, and while I don't want to turn this blog into a restaurant review page, I have a bit of weakness for the culinary arts. And Susan Spicer is an artist. The food was excellent and the company was even better. We spent a great five hours talking about the growth in pipe smoking among younger men that we've all been noticing and what we could do to help foster that and ease their entry into the hobby.
The first morning of the show is always a mad dash for us. No one needs to particularly hustle to cigar booths: it'll be the same cigars later that afternoon, but for pipes, it's imperative that we get to pick early. I hit Tsuge immediately, while Brian and Alyson went to Savinelli, and Susan went in search of Stanwells. After selecting a dozen Tsuges, I dashed over to pick out two dozen (or thereabouts, counting and speed picking tend not to go together) awesome Paolo Beckers. He's been experimenting with a new wood that has properties very similar to briar, but is lighter and blasts beautifully. We'll have more on that later, though. We all ended up back with the Stanwells, and picked out lots while we were there, including, we think, some pretty interesting stuff.
From there, the entire crew visited the Ashton booths to select Petersons. There are a few really nice new lines that will be available over the coming months, including the new version of the Kapet with a nickel band and a fantastic new Mark Twain shape. Plus, of course, the Peterson Pipe of the Year, of which we've already received the first few, pictured to the right. They also had a particularly good selection of Spigots that we could select from this year, plus we finalized an amazing deal for some very special Petersons that we'll be able to share with you in about two weeks, but for now, I'll have to keep mum-- I promise it'll be huge, though!
Tune back in tomorrow evening for more notes from the show...including our discussions with CAO about Dunhill tobaccos coming back to the US...
Fortunately, the British are a little more welcome here this time than in 1814; rather than muskets, they come bringing pipes, which is far more congenial to the denizens of New Orleans, not to mention those pipe seeking visitors from South Carolina. Every year since Dunhill began working with Music City Marketing as their US importer, they've hosted a private Dunhill selection room before the IPCPR show actually begins. We were in there bright and early at 8am this morning.
I've written 'pipes abound' in more places and contexts than I care to remember. It's one of those little Sykes phrases that elicit gentle mockery in the office at this point. Well, in this particular context, it would have been a woeful understatement of the extraordinary spread of Dunhills we had to choose from. We selected about 130 pieces (we sort of lost count there at the end), but we had so many to pick from that our selection barely left a dent. It is a truly wondrous experience to be able to select, say, three dozen Shell Briars from among four or five hundred. We buy so many pipes (very large percentages of some makers' productions) that those sorts of selection ratios are something we are rarely able to enjoy. It was extraordinary.
I shan't let this particular cat out of the bag, but Dunhill had some very special series that will be available later this fall. I'm super excited about these and, having seen the packaging, but not the final pipe, containing my enthusiasm is almost impossible.
We are momentarily off to look through Castellos, though because we selected so many in June when we were at the factory, we won't be going quite as crazy this afternoon as we did this morning. I'll keep you posted here as things develop!