Good evening folks, may I join you in a smoke? About six months back, I was looking at a photo of me taken about a dozen years prior and wistfully reflected that my former 54' chest and 30' waist had all but reversed (ok, not quite, but you get the idea). What were once rock hard pecs were now certifiable 'moobs', and the closest thing I possessed to a six-pack resided in my fridge. Not being delusional (well, not completely), I knew that a better diet, and an exercise program that didn't solely consist of '37 gram briar curls', could reverse a good deal of this decline. Having said, rather than introducing healthy new habits, I found myself taking a bit of perverse comfort in noting that a good deal of the South Carolina populace wasn't all that far behind me, started wearing all-black clothing (great, a 55 year old 'Goth') and, following the sage advice of the late Rodney Dangerfield; "If you want to look thinner, hang out with fat... ", renewed my vow to only smoke huge pipes, such as Ardor Giants and Ashton Magnums in public. Then I rejoined Smokingpipes.com and my well-seasoned sense of complacency began to crack at the foundation...
Back in 'the good ol' days' at SPC, with the exception of Sykes who was already starting to lose weight faster than the protagonist of Stephen King's "Thinner", I was just another member of the 'male chub club'. Today, (insert maniacal cackle), pretty much every guy in the place can boast either a body fat that could convince most male models to throw in the towel, well developed muscles, or (worse) a combination of both (nobody likes a curve buster, Brandon!). The final straw for me took place when I looked at the pictures from the SPC pipe club meeting; "Hey, there's John! Adam, Jonathan, Ted, Chris... but who's the oinker in the red t-shirt? Ohdeargodthatsme!!!"
Please don't get me wrong, I'm not slagging anyone who is heavy and happy, and my motivation isn't strictly a vanity issue (four heart operations might be nature's way of telling me to lay off lard & crackers for a while). Having fit co-workers is an inspiration, I can now set firm goals/timetables for my personal physical development. Within a month I will be able to climb to the top of my 6' Craftsman ladder. I will enter and complete a 50 meter 'fun run' (I think a local pre-school sponsors one). I will also rededicate myself to observing a healthy diet... just as soon as my OX-Fam relief-sized boxes of Fritos, pretzels, and Snickers bars run out. After all, they are paid for and why waste money? Now if you will please excuse me, a new life of vigor and vitality is calling. Time to do my 157 gram curls with my 'Ardor barbell' (feel the burn, YEAH BABY!).
Here at Smokingpipes, we have big updates, and then we have really big updates. And tonight's presentation (with a total of 236 fresh offerings) definitely qualifies as the latter (that made no sense whatsoever... maybe they won't notice). Last night the spotlights fell on the Luciano and Radice lines. Luciano just unveiled four breathtakingly innovative new series, all of which feature top-tier Mediterranean plateau briar which was hand selected and seasoned by Luca di Piazza himself, as well as elegantly elongated shapes, beautiful bamboo work and a shaping aesthetic which was heretofore unknown (en masse) from Italy. These beauties come with handsome zip-up bags, posh sleeves and the information about your specific pipe inscribed on a parchment. At prices that start at a pretty modest base-line, these Lucianos can't miss. Radice just unveiled their 2013 Christmas pipes with matching tampers. In addition, for a limited time, you will receive a very gnarly tamper with each Radice pipe that you purchase. Does that mean if you purchase their Christmas pipe you will get two tampers? Yes indeed.
Tonight we headline with nine superb pipes from the legendary Tom Eltang and, while all are tempting, you really must see the one of the most impressive Horns that you are likely to encounter in your lifetime. Michal Novak, Rattray's, Ser Jacopo, Mastro de Paja and Ardor are up tonight, and the latter includes a Urano Giant Apple of Herculean proportions. Neerup, Nording, Brigham, Savinelli and Peterson also came on board in a big way, and the Irish lads even include the highly popular 'Darwin' series. Toss in (well, not literally) seventy-two fresh estates and this is one massive update. We hope you will enjoy!
This week saw our annual company Thanksgiving. Tradition dictates that Adam cook the turkey, but this year he upped the ante, delivering not one but two birds... and a ham. The rest of us pitched in with assorted side-dishes and desserts, while productivity ground to a screeching halt (and remained below par for the rest of the work day).
I'm particularly proud of my contribution: a cranberry-horseradish cream. This type of thing is very much out of my culinary wheelhouse, but I decided to take a gamble because it sounded interesting, and becase I love horseradish-flavored anything. The recipe:
Dump a twelve ouce bag of fresh cranberries into a saucepan, and remove about half a cup to use later. Also add a cup of sugar, a little orange or lemon zest, and two tablespoons of water. Cook over low heat until the sugar melts and the cranberries begin to soften, around ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Crank the heat up to medium, adding the remaining cranberries about half-way through, and cook until the cranberries explode, about ten minutes. Remove the pot from heat, and fold in one-third cup of sourcream and one to two (or maybe three) tablespoons of horseradish. Lick the spoon clean, and serve the cream chilled as a dipping sauce for your turkey, ham, fingers, etc.
As usual, I was running around poking my camera in folks faces:
John Sutherland: Marketing Mngr and Sr. Photographer
Yes, that says what you think it says. It's the dessert menu from dinner three days ago. It literally reads "Chocolate fondant cigar 'cru Acarigua' with sweet Scandinavian style pipe tobacco ice cream". I didn't even read the rest of the menu. I had to have it. Alyson and I split it; it was fantastic, but the ice cream wasn't quite as pipe-tobacco-y as I would haved hoped. Still, for an evening after a day visiting the Castello factory, it was the perfect conclusion to the perfect pipe day!
In the past three days, we've visited Castello, Radice, and Sébastien Beaud, owner of the Genod pipe factory and maker of the Sébastien Beo line of pipes available on Smokingpipes.com. We promise to blog about those visits over the next few days.
Peter Heeschen is a lovely man. Charming, humorous, and flush with anecdotes; here at Smokingpipes.com he is often ceremonially referred to simply as ‘Uncle Peter’.
Not too long ago I had the pleasure of keeping Peter Heeschen company while he was visiting in the US. We ate out at a handful of the area's countless restaurants, toured the extensive Vereen Gardens, and made a trip to the historical city of Charleston. We even made the opportunity to hang out at Starbucks.
On our ride to Charleston we made a pit stop for gas. As I exited the convenience store, having pre-paid for fuel, I found Adam and Peter at a boiled peanut stand. The idea of a boiled peanut is a strange enough concept for a guy native to California (I’d never heard of such a thing until I moved to the South). But I think Peter was positively dumbfounded - even something we Americans as a whole consider utterly mundane, peanut butter (at least as we know it), is difficult to find in Denmark. He must have been, because Adam captured the moment with a photograph.
Peter Heeschen enjoys his very first Southern-style boiled peanut.
So, what did Uncle Peter have to say about boiled peanuts?
“They are quite different, but also, they are quite good.”
To all you Danish pipe makers, come on down to the South and we’ll treat you to lobster bisque, grilled garlic and chili shrimp, and some boiled peanuts. That’s how we do things here.
I've been back from Japan for a couple of days now, starting to recover from jetlag and starting to look through the vast number of photos and perhaps two hours of video I took while I was there. These are all photos from my first day in Japan. Kei Gotoh and Takeo Arita picked me up at my hotel in the morning and we visited (I had no idea this was planned) a small museum of work by the celebrated painter Gyokudo Kawai, known for his naturalistic melding of traditional Japanese artistic themes with western modernist influences. After the museum visit, we had lunch with Sab Tsuge, who was wearing (I think) a hakama and smoking (and this I know) a kiseru, the traditional metal pipe that was used to smoke tobacco in Japan starting in the late sixteenth century.
Extremely fine tobacco--much finer than cigarette tobacco-- is used with the kiseru. According to Tsuge, the kiseru is making something of a comeback, in part because of recent tax increases on tobacco. That's actually rather ironic because that exactly was the genesis for the kiseru: heavy taxes were levied on tobacco during the Tokugawa shogunate, so the pipes shrank accordingly.
We enjoyed a wonderful, traditional lunch together in a beautiful tatami private dining room overlooking the river. I shan't try to detail the food; I don't know what much of it was, though it was all good. Following that, we had coffee outside and Gotoh, Arita and I headed back to Gotoh's workshop to chat, take pictures and videos, and actually conduct three minutes of honest-to-goodness business. Perhaps the best thing about my job is that the actual transacting of business is done in about three minutes and the rest of the time is spent on the concordant rituals, which largely consist of eating and talking about pipes.
Kei Gotoh took the third and the twelfth photos in this series. Since those are definitely the best, kudos go to him.
Here we are, on the eve of the Richmond CORPS show, hosting a small get together of friends, family, and special guests. We've had a wholesome supper of 'Southern' food and for dessert Jeff made peach cobbler. Excitement is in the air. We're passing the time telling stories and talking about pipes. Tokutomi has even dusted off his guitar for the occasion.
Tokutomi warms up his guitar in the bulk tobacco room.
Brian plays with his strange, pipe smoking brown bear.
The weeks before and after the Richmond Show are a big deal here in Little River, SC. Right now, we have pipe makers Hiroyuki Tokutomi and Jeff Gracik, plus pipe collector and writer Tom Looker and PipesMagazine.com owner Kevin Godbee visiting. We'll have a bunch more stuff up on the blog as the weekend progresses, plus, I'm sure, videos and whatnot as we have time to edit them. In the meantime, here are some photos...
Tokutomi explains the finer points of a pipe shape to Ted Swearingen.
At times, Adam demonstrates a brilliance that far surpasses my wildest expectations. Recently, he's been making homemade (or, I guess, office made) donuts in our office kitchen. Who, my dear reader, other than Adam, would think that a) bringing a massive cast iron wok to work, and b) frying donuts in it, would be a normal thing to do at ones job. Granted, this is not a work environment devoid of eccentricities, not least of which are my own, but Adam is the current champion of office eccentricity. It's a good eccentricity, however.
Today, I happened to be in the kitchen when he was frying up another batch. Somehow we got talking about making pipe-shaped donuts. I took first crack at this and my pipe-shaped donut looked like, er, not a pipe. Let's just say that it has been safely eaten and will not be photographed. Let's also suggest that, were it presented on broadcast television, the FCC would likely fine me. Adam's, as one might expect from a pipe maker of his caliber, was rather impressive. It even had a chamber, though no draft hole. One of the most talked about aspects of sandblasting among pipe makers is the trade off of shape integrity and sandblast depth. Well, those pipe makers should try shaping in dough and deep frying; that'll seriously screw up your shape's lines...
Having crafted this magnificent shape, Brian walked in and immediately recognized the pipe-donut for what it was: an interpretation of Alex Florov's Callalily. Now, while it is generally common for pipe makers to borrow ideas from each other, it is less common to render each others work in deep-fried biscuit dough.
Of course, this also gives a whole new meaning to "Fresh pipes served daily". Suffice it to say that, our tagline notwithstanding, there will not be a baked (er, fried) goods section on the website, pipe shaped or otherwise...
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...
Claudio was a farmer for most of his adult life. He had also been the world slow-smoking
champion for years, and held the world record for many years (as documented by the Guinness Book of Records). Claudio made his first pipe in 1974 because
he'd already waited more than a year for a Caminetto pipe that he'd ordered. For some years, he made pipes for himself and friends. Some years later, as
he became prominent in European and world slow smoking competitions, he began giving serious consideration to the internal dynamics of pipes, rejecting
the traditional Italian model and creating something that, at the time, was quite new, especially in Italy. He continued this way for some years, slowly
making more pipes and farming less, until he ceased to be a farmer at all (except for some very well tended vegetables) and became a full time pipe
Before we sat down for lunch, we looked over perhaps 100 Cavicchi pipes, selecting about half that have since arrived in Little River. We could quite
easily have selected them all--each was excellent--but we had just received a shipment of 50 pipes at the office, and adding another 100 to that seemed
excessive. So, painful decision followed painful decision as we wittled down the selection to something more manageable. Plus, upon our arrival, he had
already fallen far below what Claudio considered his prudent reserve of pipes, and as Gianfranco joked about what would happen if Cladio ever, gasp, ran
out of pipes, we thought it better to not put such strain on Claudio...
Exploring Claudio's home and garden, it becomes quite apparent that this is quiet man is
exacting in all he does. His vegetable garden is perfectly tended. His yard is verdant, model ships he built as a young man are displayed in his dining
room. Everything about his life is exact and methodical, diligently nurtured. Daniela, Claudio's wife, exhibits many of the same attributes. She works as
a quality control specialist for a food packaging company and the lunch she prepared for all of us was divine, beginning with homemade tagliatelle alla
ragu (bolognese; we are just a few kilometers from Bologna, after all), continuing onto a regional pork dish, the most extraordinary fried
potatoes that I have ever tasted, and finishing with some of the finest cantelope that I have ever experienced. Clearly, Claudio's talents in the
workshop are only exceeded by those of his wife in the kitchen.
Lunch conversation ran from pipes to the regional differences among various
prosciutti and the general reverence with which everyone at the table holds the pig, to Claudio's magnificent vegetable garden (about which
Claudio, in his matter of fact manner, says, "well, I'm a farmer"). Open and hospitable, the opportunity for me to finally get to know Claudio and
Daniela was priceless. The impressions about the man that I gleaned from seeing a few hundred of his pipes were partially confirmed. He is as exacting
and methodical as I had supposed, yet also possessing a gentle kindness, a self-comfort, a quiet modesty, that earned my respect as much for the man as
for his pipes.
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