During the period from 1968 to 1979, Castello founder Carlo Scotti had produced a number of special pipes, called the "Aristocratica", that he gave only to close friends. Each of these briars bore a darkened rim, and were individually recorded in a special book, as well as signed by both Carlo and the recipient. Castello has now brought the the Aristocratica back, but with one important change: You no longer have to be a personal friend of the head honcho to get one. I've seen quite a few pipes before with "fumed" rims, as they're sometimes called - it's a look particular to the Italian school, if not terribly common these days. I have to say, though, that Castello, rather unsurprisingly, does a finer job of it than any other, lending the rim and upper bowl a rich, smoky look while still preserving the contrast of the main finish all the way up to the top. This is particularly noteworthy given that, as expected, this special-series briar sports a considerable amount of flame grain.
- Eric N. Squires