Good evening folks, may I join you in a smoke? As I have alluded in the past, my duties at Smokingpipes.com have changed a bit (OK, make that considerably since I have returned). Prior to my departure, I was perfectly happy being a write-rat that was kept in a padded cell, received food, meds and a daily tobacco allotment through Hannibal Lecter-style sliding tray, and (if I behaved) was allowed bi-weekly excursions (with manacles, an orange jump-suit and an attending guard, of course). While the previously mentioned conditions of employment remain in place, in addition to the odd writing task, I am now a ‘Media & Content Specialist’. Yeah…. not exactly sure what that is either, but (apparently) 'Media' means that coding is involved. I’ll grant you that HTML is ‘the T-Ball of code languages’ but aside from knowing how to emphasize a point or create a new paragraph, I entered quite clueless.
Kat (I think she lost the toss) was appointed to teach me how to scroll a few hundred lines of code, immediately see where an issue was, and correct it (insert maniacal cackle here). Viewing the newsletter for the first time in pure HTML was a revelation but, sadly, not the Neo/Matrix variety. Rather than perceiving the true nature of the universe, learning how to bend a spoon with my mind, or even managing to light/tamp my pipe through sheer will alone, I coughed up a fur ball; an event which Kat still hasn’t fully recovered from. I was in over my head, but instead of being an adult and just admitting it, I started inventing excuses and creating diversions; “Adam ate my glasses” didn’t fly, neither did demonstrating that I could (indeed) squirt a combination of coffee and pipe smoke out of my tear ducts. I think the breaking point for Kat was when I said, “It’s a well-documented fact that I have severe spatial relationship issues” “Bear, your screen is two-dimensional” (“Curses! Hoisted by my own petard!”).
The first day I created the newsletter on my own basically consisted of ‘borrowing’ Ted’s pipes, liberating tobacco from Eric’s desk and whining (loudly,from across the room), “Johnnnn… I think I broke it again….” . The oddest thing; after making a dog’s breakfast of three publications, I was taken off of newsletter/social media input.
One of the first things that was imparted to me when I joined the Army was; “Screw something up with enough consistency and they’ll quit asking you do it.” There’s a lot of wisdom in the old Army maxims.
"Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from none, but self, expect applause."
Consider, for a moment, the staunchly held notions of what constituted ‘proper conduct’ for those who held a commission in Queen Victoria’s ground forces. Now consider an officer whose regard for his superiors ranged from mild amusement to undisguised contempt. A man who, rather than ‘standing with his own’, ‘went native’ at every possible opportunity, spending his time with indigenous people, becoming so immersed in their language and culture that he was often conferred honors which previously would never be considered for a Westerner, much less a member of the occupational force. It was even said that the scoundrel had converted to Islam (as if being half-Irish wasn’t enough of a barrier to his acceptance). How could such a seemingly contemptible renegade eventually become a Knight Commander of (the) Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George? The answer is, he couldn’t, unless he was Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton.
Referred by contemporary scholars as both ‘The 007 of the 19th century’ as well as ‘…a James Bond’s James Bond’, Burton’s Wiki-listed occupations include “geographer, explorer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat”. The inventory of his lifetime accomplishments would be a bit much for this type of blog (we have to have room for the pipes, eh what?), but some of the highlights include: saber fencing champion, mastery of at least 23 separate languages + eight different dialects of Arabic, and was the first non-indigenous person to be honored with the Janeu (Brahmanical thread). Not only was Burton the first European permitted to enter the (then) ‘forbidden’ City of Harar, he was asked to do the honors of reciting the bow to prayer, as well as read the 18th chapter of the Koran to the faithful. Disguised as a Dervish, Burton made a hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca and, along with his partner John Speke, was one of the first Euros to set eyes upon Lake Tanganyika.
The above accomplishments were in his rear-view mirror by the age of 36… and he had 33 more years of achievements ahead of him.
Referred to by his peers as ‘Ruffian Dick”, due to his “demonic ferocity as a fighter and because he had fought in single combat more enemies than perhaps any other man of his time.”, Burton’s world perspective of being an outsider looking in, and not particularly caring for the view (nor the opinions of those within it), was well established by the age of nineteen. He was nearly expelled in his first year at Trinity College for challenging another student to a duel because the latter mocked his mustache. He then completely kicked his collegiate career into a top hat by not only attending a student-banned event, but later telling the Oxford authorities that he had attended, and (further) challenged their stance on attendance. Rather than being penalized with the same temporary suspension that some of the other offenders (most of whom were scions of the upper-crust) received, Burton was expelled. True to his nature, as a final gesture of defiance towards an institute and mindset that he had come to despise, Burton took his horse and carriage on a long and circuitous route out of Oxford… trampling a myriad of flower beds on the way.
Analyzing his situation as being "fit for nothing but to be shot at for six pence a day", RFB joined the East India Company, was posted to the 18th Bombay Native Infantry and found himself serving under General Napier; a circumstance that would prove to be pivotal in transforming something of a loose cannon into a nearly unclasped cannon, but one with purpose.
Working in India, Burton was in his true element; his near supernatural affinity for language led to his becoming proficient in Sindhi, Gujarati, Persian (Farsi), Hindustani, Marathi and Arabic, and his immersion in/understanding of the local culture was so profound that he was honored with the previously mentioned Brahmanical thread. He soon thereafter joined the Sindh survey and started to learn the equipment and sciences that would become crucial to his future success and an explorer and cartographer. While his initial mission was to map and level some of the canals in the Indus Valley, his ability to speak the local dialect without accent combined with his newfound penchant for wearing disguises (masquerading under the name of ‘Mirza Abdullah’, he often tricked the locals and even fellow officers into not recognizing him), caught the attention of General Napier who, in turn, felt Burton’s talents were better suited to other tasks. Finally sanctioned to conduct the most sweeping, comprehensive investigation of the region yet attempted, Burton’s intelligence on matters that ranged from geography/topography, to the smallest items used in religious rituals, made their way up to the Bombay government, which subsequently published two intelligence reports based on his notes.
Burton took sick leave in 1849, and returned for a couple of years to Europe. It was during this period that he wrote his first book, a guide to the Goa region, continued to hone his fencing skills in Boulogne, and met his future wife; a young woman from a highly respected Catholic family named Isabel Arundell. Well before he left India, however, Captain Burton was already toying with the unthinkable; making a hajj to Mecca. An adherent of Islam or not, the discovery of his true origins would result in death, and not likely a quick or painless one. By 1852 the idea had grown from a notion to a full blown obsession.
On a covert expedition, such as Burton was planning, the phrase “leave nothing to chance” was as ludicrous as it was impossible. The best RFB could work toward was minimizing the chance of maximum regret. Being discovered as an Englishman was far from his only worry; while all of Islam might worship the one Abrahamic god, that commonality vaporized when one rival sect or clan decided to dry-gulch another. To this end, he constantly practiced on-the-fly switches of dialects and accents, studied the minutest details of a daunting number of sub-sects, and created a core set of clothing with enough subtly differing elements that he could transform his appearance to match a new character. Perhaps one of the best examples of Burton’s fervor in preparation would be his submitting to circumcision (khitan).
From the start, RBF was a diarist for whom no detail was too small to be noted, and these diaries would eventually serve as the basis for 40 publications. Burton’s works are compelling and fascinating reads. The three volumes of “Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al Madinah and Meccah” is one of this author’s personal favorites. Within this work, a reader can find perhaps the best description of the Arabic “”Kaif” ever penned:
“In the East, man requires but rest and shade: upon the banks of a bubbling stream, or under the cool shelter of a perfumed tree, he is perfectly happy, smoking a pipe, or sipping a cup of coffee, or drinking a glass of sherbet, but, above all things, deranging body and mind as little as possible. The trouble of conversations, the displeasures of memory, and the vanity of thought being the most unpleasant interruptions to his Kaif"
As a pipe enthusiast, treats like the following passages abound in “Personal Narrative”:
“There are four types of tobacco smoked in Egypt. The first and best is the well known Latakia, also called "Jabali". Either from a small seaport town, about 3 hours south of Latakia or, more probably, because grown on the hills near the ancient Ladocia. Pure, it is known by its blackish colour, fine shredding, absence of stalk, and an indescribable odour, to me resembling that of creosote; the leaf too is small, so that when made into cigars, it must be covered over with a slip of the yellow Turkish tobacco, called "Bafra"...
...Except in the highest houses, unadulterated Latakia is not to be found in Cairo. Yet, mixed as it is, no other leaf exceeds it in flavour and fragrance. The best Jabali in Cairo costs about seven piastres the pound; after which a small sum must be paid to the Farram, or chopper who prepares it for me"
Shortly after his (relatively) unscarred return from Mecca and Al Medina, and now the proud recipient of the green turban that only the men who have made the hajj were permitted to wear, Captain Burton met Lt. John Hanning Speke; the man who would accompany Burton on the greatest and most dangerous adventure of either man’s career.
It's been a few weeks since Sykes and Dennis went to the Inter-tabac International Trade Fair for Tobacco Products in Dortmund, but it sometimes takes a while for the results of such trips to reach the website; whether it be pipes for you to purchase, or photos for you to view in a blog post. Well, most of the pipes have made it on the site already, but the photos have yet to be seen until now. Most of us may not have been able to go to Germany with them, but we're lucky enough that Dennis took many nice pictures of some of the places and people they saw while they were there. Since another crew has already been sent to the Richmond Pipe Show, there's been no time to annotate them, but as usual, the photos speak for themselves. Enjoy!
Not too long ago Sykes visited our friends at Cornell & Diehl in Morganton, NC. Today, he is in Asakusa for the Tokyo pipe show. As should go without saying, he hasn't had much time in between the two trips for writing about his experience. He did, however, take a moment to send me these photos of his tour. He noted that the flake you can see being made is the G.L. Pease tobacco, "Quiet Nights," a blend of rich, ripe red virginias, fine orientals, smokey Cyprus Latakia, and a pinch of Acadian perique. In addition, we can learn from these photos that it is pressed and cut rather wet so that it has the right consistency for those processes, but then it needs to air-dry for a few hours before tinning. But let's just allow the pictures to illustrate this for themselves. As always, it's great to see how much this tobacco goes through to make it to our humble briars.
Good evening folks, may I join you in a smoke? Perchance would any of you have a pipe that I could borrow? Perhaps a bit of tobacco? Oh, a match, tamper and a punch in the solar plexus to get me started, would also be greatly appreciated. I am swimming in briars and their accouterments, understand; it's simply a matter of finding them within the four-dozen-plus 55 gallon bags and over 70 boxes that have followed me from Columbia to Little River.
Mathematicians maintain that most everything in life boils down to simple numbers, and trying to stuff the contents of an overly crowded 1200sq home, complete with a stuffed-to-the-rafters garage, into an 1150sq condo with no covered parking... well that's one dog that just won't hunt. But, with a keen eye for the necessary/superfluous (as well as a reluctant acknowledgment that you'll never fit into those 30''-waist jeans again), a satisfactory move can become all but a given. A great pre-load/load basically boils down to a process of triage, packing and gently arranging in the truck to maximize allotted space.
Triage: Triage is a simple evaluation of future utility of a given item and, if it passes as useful, just asking: How much of it travels with you? As an example of the latter, when my roommate went to the store she could never remember if we needed soap. Therefore every shopping trip resulted in a growing soap collection. At the time I left, we had over 120 bars of Lever 2000. Given my upcoming space constraints, how many bars would I elect to move? Yeah, all of them (after all, cleanliness is next to godliness). My Alienware computer, three monitors, my sixty inch flat screen, my beloved espresso machine and my pipes/tobacco were a given; but my crystal sorbet service for 12? What if I become the entertaining 'King of my condos'? Chicks dig sorbet, and without that service I'd be screwed! (Hey, it could happen.) Can't leave my baseball card collection (too much sentimental value), ditto with my fuzzy, pink handcuffs. When all was said and done, The only things that stayed in Columbia were a piece of barware that said 'My friend visited an island communist dictatorship, and all he brought me was this stupid mojito jug', and an 800lb, six-grill barbeque (hey, I wasn't going to lift the damned thing).
Packing: Is it something that couldn't possibly become damaged, even with the estimated 17 times that I would accidentally curb the truck over the next 150 miles? Use 55 gallon yard bags. Is there a slight-to-medium possibility of breakage under the above mentioned conditions? Throw it into a 55 gallon bag anyway. Waterford crystal, or that flimsy container of Plutonium-239 that I bought on a lark when I was in Uzbekistan? Throw gently into a 55 gallon bag.
Loading: I had myself and a two-man crew whom I prepaid for three hours, thus nine man-hours. Talk about shooting sedated ferrets in a burlap bag, right? For the first two hours, damned skippy. Beginning at about t-minus forty-five minutes, however, the gap between that which was loaded and that which had yet to be loaded became apparent even to my (er, let’s say, “ambition-impaired”) helpers, and what had before appeared as controllable chaos quickly accelerated to a panic befitting refugees fleeing the forces of a hostile warlord (picture me grabbing a Lalique vase and yelling 'Go long!!').
Unloading: Unloading and putting things in their proper place, especially without the added stress of having a crew on the clock, can be a halcyon, even meditative activity... unless you made a dog's breakfast of the pack. To borrow a quote from Hamlet's soliloquy "Aye, there's the rub!" Unloading a poor pack is akin to playing with a 100" tall matryoshka (Russian nesting doll) from Satan; every gigantic bundle or box that one peeks into reveals a slightly smaller, equally disorganized and nondescript doppelganger, and so on. I had carefully packed all of my pipes and tampers in a container, swaddled the same with sheets and beach towels, and then placed my precious cargo in a final container inscribed with "Pipes and Tampers!"
So far, roughly 39 of my 50-odd metaphorical matryoshkas have been removed and I have yet to find my pipes. Hindsight being 20/20, using a Sharpie on a black 55 gallon bag probably wasn't such a hot idea...
Well, folks, it isn't Friday. No, your mind isn't playing tricks on you, this is our weekly update blog post, only it's been moved to Tuesday. Since today's post constitutes three updates, rather than the usual two, we have a lot to show you.
Last Monday's update was busy, featuring Chris Askwith, Gian Maria Gamboni, and most recently from Savinelli, the Petite series. These elegant, French-inspired pipes received special attention from Eric, so check out his blog post "The Resurgence" to read more about them.
Newcomer Lomma, also known as Lars Jonsson, returned to Smokingpipes.com Thursday with another batch of unique and striking briar, a few of which are still available. With Lomma's education from both Tom Eltang and Hans "Former" Nielsen, it's no wonder these pipes have been popular, but a few of them managed to stay on the site over the weekend, so be sure to have a look.
The coveted Ikebana series from Tsuge certainly didn't let us down yesterday. Of course, when you consider that they were accompanied by a number of masterful pieces from Ichi Kitahara, we almost managed eye-candy overload. We're sorry. Since these were both updated yesterday, however, a few of them are still available for your browsing pleasure.
As usual, Chris and Katie in our photography department gave us too many photos to choose from for this week's banners. Many more of these sublime shots are posted to our social media pages, where I am always there to chat with you about them. Come join the conversation!
Many of you are probably already bolting off for your long-weekend fun, so I'll try to make this quick. This Labor Day weekend, there are some things you might want to keep in mind: promotions to take advantage of, beautiful pipes to see, that kind of thing. Let's start with Monday. Michael Parks was a big hit on Monday's update, but two of his darkly-stained beauties managed to hang out on our website. Sykes has been making us quite jealous by sending photos from Denmark, such as this behind-the-scenes shot from inside the workshop with Tom Eltang.
Between new-to Smokingpipes brands/pipe carvers and promotions there's a lot to say about this week. The Rossi promotion, with the free shirts, kicked off yesterday and has been a huge hit. We still have shirts though, so keep those orders coming. Great pipe, great value, and great (free) shirt... who can argue with that? In addition, previous promotions still ongoing are as follows: Lane Limited bulk tobacco is still on sale, select boxes of CAO cigars recieve a free cigar cutter, 20% off 5 tins of Escudo/Orlik, and 20% off select Savinelli pipes.
Whew, that's a lot to get out. Only, it feels like I'm forgetting something. Ah yes, we've added two new brands to our already vast library of pipes. Neither is new to the pipe business, simply new to Smokingpipes.com. The first name you should be familiar with: Rattray's. The popular tobacconist established his Scotland shop in 1903. Their blends have graced Smokingpipes.com for some time now, but until yesterday, the pipes were sadly abscent. We're glad that's been remedied.
The second newcomer to SPC is Konstantin Shekita of Ukraine. This master of the briar produces only about 200 pipes annually, but upon seeing their detail anyone can see it is a wonder he produces that many. We are quite happy to have these beautiful works of art added to Smokingpipes.com. As always, far more photos are posted to social media than on this blog, so to see more about any of these events, just click through to our pages! Have a great Labor Day weekend, and don't forget to check out Monday's update on your day off.
If a tobacco blender issues teasers regarding the release of a new blend, there's a ripple of excitement in the pipe smoking community. If a well-known pipe tobacco company announces that an entire new line of tobaccos is upon the horizon, the anticipation is positively palpable. When one of the world's premier cigar companies declares their entry to the pipe world in the form of eight distinctly different blends, that's not just huge, it's a cause for celebration. And maybe a bit of head-scratching, too, as premium cigars are a big, big business, while high-quality pipe tobaccos are something of a niche industry. Both do, however, share one point of commonality: The best reputations depend on modern-day expert craftsman with a love for the art of blending, whether the task at hand is preserving a storied smoke of old, or producing something fresh and new.
In the cigar trade, the story of Drew Estate is already legend, etched in the mind of most every serious connoisseur. Founded in Nicaragua by John Drew in 1998, at the height of the cigar boom, their offerings entered the market with a trailblazing approach to the very idea of what a cigar could be, as well as an iconoclastic marketing plan that flew in the face of every Armani-wearing 'celebrity-holding-a-stogie' advertisement.
What most cigar and pipe men aren't aware of, though, is that the President of Drew Estates, Michael Cellucci, is actually a long-time pipe aficionado himself, and has been hard at work for the past 18 months overseeing the creation of eight mixtures for Drew Estate's entry to the world of artisanal pipe tobaccos.
Crafted by Drew Estate's principal blender and tobacco buyer, Nicholas Mellilo, and manufactured in Denmark, these time-honored blends represent a full 180 turn in philosophy from Drew's initial cigar offerings; indeed, the very name of this groundbreaking series is 'Classic'. The reason that Drew Estates elected to launch with traditional blends comes from Michael Cellucci himself. While the early Drew cigars were quite successful and attracted an entirely new demographic to the world of cigars, it wasn't until the release of the more conventional Liga Privada in 2006 that the company gained a foothold in the broader premium cigar market. Drew Estate's strategy this go-around is to establish itself in the world of pipe tobacciana with solid foundations first, proving their understanding and respect for the traditional, and only then build gradually more creative and exotic blends from there.
Named, for the most part, after famous landmarks in the founder's native New York City, and packed in 50g tins, the Classic series consist of eight blends, six of which are aromatic. The non-aromatics are 'Grand Central'; a blend that features "...a dense aroma of lightly toasted burley and light Virginias" and "Meat Pie"; a traditional Medium-body English which happens to be Mellilo's personal favorite. "Toasted Black Cavendish" and "Heirloom Cherry" are pretty much self-descriptive, "Gilded Age Reserve" is a blend of black cavendish and sweet virginia, "Harvest of the Hudson" is a light-to-medium bodied tobacco, laced with just a hint of apple. The notes of chocolate, caramel and vanilla of "Central Park Stroll" "...makes you feel as if you were in a bakery" and "7th Avenue Blonde" promises both a light and pleasing sweet fragrance for the crowd and a stimulating blend of tobaccos ranging from Cavendish to Orientals to golden Virginias for your palate.
The first shipment of these ground-breaking blends is imminent and we're as excited as a (place a deleted simile which would result in my firing here ^^). For a real-time alert on the arrival of the new Drew Estate Classic blends, you'll find a notification button on the product page. As with the Capstan/Three Nuns release, we here at Smokingpipes are setting everything up early so that you all can get in on this premier the second our first shipments hit inventory.
This week has seen some beautiful pipes and some broken pipes, a strange combination I know. It's also been busy, so here's a quick recap in case you've missed anything. Monday's update included showstoppers from Michael Lindner and Maigurs Knets, among many others. Our photography team produced a great number of beautiful images for these, for more of them check out our Facebook and Tumblr pages.
Of course, we have so many promotions and special events, they sometimes get muddled together.
~15% off all estates (even Monday's update)-Active four more days
~Coming soon: Tobacco selections from Drew Estate
~20% off select Savinelli pipes
~All Lane Limited bulk tobacco is on sale through August
~FREE cigar cutter with select boxes of CAO cigars
~Now available: McClelland Holiday Spirit
We undertook a pretty significant mission this Tuesday, hints of which were dropped on Instagram, which resulted in over 300 broken estate pipes being hung from the ceiling in the Marketing Department. We created this short video to explain why, show you the process, and the most entertaining part: capture the reactions of our employees who didn't know! Give it a watch.
Dennis also wrote a blog post about his thoughts on the matter yesterday, which delves further into the motivation and meaning of the display.
For Thursday's update, we were blown away by the work of Lasse Skovgaard and Alex Florov. Again, the photos Chris and Katie produced for these pipes are pure art. If you haven't seen them, do yourself a favor and follow a link to one of our social media pages below. We recieved some pretty colorful compliments (of course, beautiful subjects make beautiful photos).
Happy Friday, once again. This has been a fast week for us here at Smokingpipes.com. If your schedule has been anything like ours, you might have missed exciting developments in the pipe world. We know how you feel. That's the reason for today's overview of this seriously busy week. Let's start with the beautiful photo at the top of this post. Pipes by Nate King were updated on Monday, of which only one is left on the site. This batch of pipes included some very traditional shapes, some more organic, and one of King's well-known Steampunk/Gearpunk creations. The distinct style of the latter has started a debate or two, creating a polarized following/opposition in the pipe community. Feel free to join the conversation on our Facebook page, but try to keep it civil folks!
This week our newsletters and blog posts have a very specific topic. As you may remember, Sykes and Alyson went on a trip to St. Claude, France recently; gracing us with many incredible photos of their trip. What you may not know is, they brought home far more than photos. In Sykes' blog Monday, he explained the details behing the introduction of decades-lost pipe shapes from Chacom. The term zombie-pipe has been uttered a few times, but I prefer sleeping beauties. Additionally, Sykes continued the journey in yesterday's blog, explaining the reintroduction of the ROPP brand, and how it came about. Both of these posts are well worth the read, and are paired with even more images.
This week also saw the introduction of Dunhill's Elizabethan Mixture to the American tobacco market and to Smokingpipes.com. Our customers are burning through it like a wildfire, but we've still managed to hold on to some of it. This is one you'll want to try.
Yesterday was pretty packed. To start, we had seven sandblasted stunners from Bruce Weaver to update and show off. Needless to say, the photography team produced some great images with such photogenic models.
In addition to that, Low Country Pipe and Cigar, our brick & mortar hosted a cigar event yesterday evening. We had a great number of people show up, and truly enjoyed meeting with you face-to-face. Speaking of the store, we also finally added Thomas to our staff list. Some of you may have met him already, he has been a part of our team for about a month now, but we are still very happy to have him. For updates from Low Country, Thomas, and the crew be sure to like their Facebook page.
As usual, we love hearing from you. Come join the conversation. Whether it is through comments on this blog, questions to us via social media or email, or simply using us as forum to get in touch with other pipe smokers, the community is the most important part. Happy weekend!
Hours of Operation:
Our website is always open and you can place an order at any time. Phone/office hours are 9am-7pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) Monday-Friday and 10am-5pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) on Saturdays. Our Little River, SC showroom is open 10am-7pm US/Eastern (GMT -5:00) Monday-Saturday. We are closed on Sundays.
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