Welcome back to another episode of All Pipes Considered. Today, we're taking a closer look at Peterson's 2022 Pipe of the Year, and here to tell us more about this year's edition to the beloved line, I'm joined by a very special guest: Mr. Joshua Burgess, Laudisi's Vice President of Manufacturing and Managing Director of Kapp & Peterson. Tune in as Josh and I discuss Peterson's 2022 Pipe of the Year, diving deeper into the history of the line, the inspiration behind this year's shape, and what separates it from previous editions.
Note: The following transcription has been edited for clarity and brevity.
[Shane Ireland]: Josh, welcome back to All Pipes Considered. It's been a while, but it's certainly great to have you back. Thanks for agreeing to speak with us.
[Josh Burgess]: Thank you. It's nice to be with you.
[SI]: So today, we are talking about the 2022 Peterson Pipe of the Year. Do you want to give us an overview of what you guys came up with this year, Josh?
[JB]: Sure. So every year when we're planning for the Pipe of the Year, we all have our ideas for what we'd like to see, and we discuss them well in advance — so much in fact that people will be campaigning for their favorite. I have my favorite that I campaign or as well, but that sadly still hasn't been produced. But I'm still advocating for it.
[SI]: Maybe next year, maybe next year.
[JB]: Right. So this year's edition was sort of a dark horse choice. We were sitting around talking about what we'd like to do, and someone said, "What about the shape 14," which is known to many Peterson collectors as the Mark Twain shape. So someone put that out there, and at the time, it seemed obvious so we ran with that.
[SI]: Absolutely. And now this is the 14B?
[JB]: That's right. The 14B.
[SI]: So before we dig deeper into the shape, I'm curious: When did Peterson start making an annual edition for Pipe of the Year?
[JB]: The first one was in 1997, and it has continued pretty much unbroken since that time. We also did a Founder's Edition, which celebrated our 150th anniversary.
[SI]: So since 1997, wow. So more recently, I think this is the third year in a row now that we've done something that was historic or sort of a callback, right? Like a historic addition?
[JB]: Right. So since Laudisi has been responsible for Peterson, we've done the John Bull shape, which was our first one in 2019. The next year we did the 9BC, and last year we revived the 4AB. And now we're releasing the 14B.
[SI]: The 14B. Excellent. So is that something that you guys continue to look forward to? Are there going to be a lot of older catalog examples going forward? Do you think there's ever going to be a brand new design again?
[JB]: I think it's possible that there will be a brand new design. What I can say is that we really love the old Peterson aesthetic — that Patent-era feel — so I think even if we were to do a new shape, we would be trying to capture that design language, that tubular and muscular look. So I think it's possible that we will have a new shape. But there's just so much good old stuff. Peterson's really fortunate in that it has this trove of old shapes to look back to.
[SI]: Yeah, absolutely. So when you guys set out to do something like this, how does the process actually work? One you identify an old-school design, or a callback, from one of the older catalogs, what are the next steps? How does the actual work on this begin? Because there have been other Mark Twain pipes in recent years from Peterson, right? If I remember correctly, those appeared in the early '80s and then again as two-pipe sets in the early 2000s.
[JB]: So this year's Pipe of the Year is the most historically accurate recreation of a historic shape that Peterson's ever done. The last catalog appearance of the 14 in its original proportions and shape was in 1947. And by the '50s, the shape was pretty much gone. In terms of the process, there are a couple of things that we typically do to begin reconstructing a shape like this. It obviously helps to have a physical model, but you have to be careful because shapes evolve over time. And so if you were to compare this 2022 Pipe of the Year to the 1981 Mark Twain bowl, you would notice some real differences. There's a lot more visual weight on the Mark Twain bowl near the front. And the bend is a bit different.
[SI]: Right, it's a little more Pot-like, or maybe even Apple-like. There's a little more fullness below the waistline in the 1980s Mark Twain.
[JB]: Yes, yes. You're absolutely right. The original Patent shape, and our recreation of it as the Pipe of the Year, is sort of more Egg-like as it rises to the rim. Getting this shape historically accurate took a lot of work. So we looked at physical samples, but we would also go back and look at our early catalogs, particularly the 1896 catalog, which was when the shape first premiered. And at that stage, Giacomo Penzo took some blocks of briar and he just went to work. He'll usually make two versions to start with. And then he shows them to the group — to Jonathan Fields, to Glen Whelan, and to myself — and we'll nitpick those a bit. And then he goes back and works at it again. For this particular shape, I think we went through that process about five times. So we did four and we thought we had it. We thought we were great. And then we checked the catalogs one more time and found out we needed to tweak the bend of the shank just a bit. So that's sort of the proces:, there's a whole lot of back and forth, with Giacomo spending a lot of time in his workshop and pouring over catalogs.
[SI]: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So for those of you who don't know Giacomo Penzo, he's an Italian artisanal pipe maker who moved to Dublin to work for the Peterson factory in 2019. So he was sort of the lead designer on this particular model. And was he involved with the last few models that we brought back for the Pipe of the Year lin?
[JB]: Absolutely. Giacomo has been involved in all the Laudisi Pipe of the Year editions subsequent to the John Bull. So he was the lead designer on the 9BC. That was when he really cut his teeth on this process. And then on the 4AB, he was the lead designer but also probably our greatest proponent of that shape. He was the one saying, "This is classic Peterson."
[SI]: Yeah, for sure. And I know that he's also made, within his own line of pipes which he still continues to produce, a couple of 313-like examples, or his own version of the classic Peterson shape.
[JB]: Yeah. Now he loves this shape too; he said 14B was classic Peterson as well. It's a lot of fun for him. I don't think I ever see Giacomo happier than when he's doing this sort of work.
[SI]: That's fantastic. So let's talk about this year's pipes specifically then. So everything is individually serialized. How many pieces in total were produced?
[JB]: We made 925 pipes, which also corresponds with a purity mark on the silver, so it was a nice coincidence.
[SI]: Nice. So first of all, the 14 was a System pipe originally, right? So these all feature System engineering as well?
[JB]: That's correct.
[SI]: So that means we've got vulcanite P-Lip mouthpieces, System moisture reservoir, and graduated bores, but what about the chimney or tenon extension (what many call condenser)?
[JB]: Yes, there are chimneys on all the pieces, and every pipe is accented with sterling silver. It really showcases the best of the Peterson patent.
[SI]: Absolutely.. So on to the finishes that are available this year: We have the standard Rusticated, the black Sandblasted, as well as the Heritage and Dark Smooth stands. But we also have Terracottas, including a few with silver caps. And there are a handful of PSB grades, too, but we've done something different this year for the PSB grade, right?
[JB]: That's correct. So we have enjoyed doing this Rua contrast stain so much, so we thought, why not do it again for the Pipe of the Year. And it's probably my favorite finish. It turned out so well.
[SI]: Yeah, I think it did turn out really well. There's just something about that shape, the silver, even the wear gap. Speaking of which, this is a different sort of wear gap to the Deluxe System, is it not?
[JB]: It is. So just as shapes evolve over time, aspects of pipe design, like the wear gap, can change over time. And what we've seen over the years is that the wear gap has gotten wider. If you look back at the early catalogs, especially the 1896 issue, you'll see a very small wear gap indeed. So one of the things that we wanted to do here, and this involved changing certain aspects about how we produce these, was just to narrow that wear gap. It gives it a more classic look.
[SI]: Absolutely. I also think it fits really well with the tapered stem. When you see a big chunky saddle stem with the bigger wear gap, it looks nice, but this configuration makes these pipes a little sleeker overall.
[JB]: I think so, too. And I think another interesting thing about this pipe is that it's very old fashioned in a certain respect, but it also feels quite modern. When we first started working with the Rua finish on this pipe, I was a little skeptical. I was nervous about how a modern finish like a contrast sandblast would look on such a classic pipe design but it worked.
[SI]: It does work. And this is the first time that the Rua contrast finish has been featured on a Pipe of the Year, right?
[JB]: That's correct.
[SI]: Yeah, and then of course we have a very limited number of Supremes as well — something like five total worldwide?
[JB]: I think so.
[SI]: Incredible sandblasting on those as well, and again, that's another nod to a modern Peterson innovation, which is the artisanal sandblasting process in the factory that you guys have been doing for the last couple years.
[JB]: I think so, too. And sandblasting one of the Patent-era designs brings some challenges of its own. One of the distinctive features of this Pipe of the Year is the pronounced cheeking around the bowl. If you look back at the Patent pipes you'll notice that, in the transition from shank to bowl, there's always this really nice sort of voluptuous cheeking. Of course, sandblasting can compromise that and can remove too much material. So there's a lot of nuance there in how you blast and also in the shaping of the bowl before it goes into the blaster. So that's always a little tricky, but again I looked at a lot of sandblasts this year, and I think the guys really nailed that.
[SI]: Oh, absolutely. One more thing I'm curious about, just because you can't talk about the 14B without talking about Mark Twain, how did the original Mark Twain come about?
[JB]: So Mark Irwin, author of The Peterson Pipe: The Story of Kapp & Peterson, told me the story actually. I think I'd heard it before, maybe from Chuck Stanion, but I've heard it most recently from Mark. So according to the story, the U.S. importer at the time was on vacation and happened to bring his family to the Mark Twain museum in Hannibal, Missouri. And he recognized that one of Mark Twain's pipes was on display. It was a Peterson System. And, of course, he has to explain to the people at the museum why he's so interested in this pipe and takes a look at it, is impressed with it, and he reaches out to Peterson and says, "Hey, I think you should reissue this." Peterson then sends a couple guys over to take a look at the pipe, and that became probably Peterson's most successful limited edition release at the time, the Mark Twain. So there's an interesting collection there between Mark Twain and Peterson. Twain was an inveterate pipe smoker, and particularly devoted to Peterson, which is nice.
[SI]: And if anybody out there has ever seen pictures of that pipe, as it stands in the museum today, well loved is an understatement. Yeah, there's a fine line between love and abuse in that particular pipe.
[JB]: Right. Use soft flames, people, soft flames.
[SI]:Yeah, soft flames. absolutely. Oh, that's fantastic. So there are 925 2022 Pipe of the Year pipes globally. I'm really excited about this release, and I'm sure I'm not the only one out there. Everybody get ready to access your inner Samuel Clemens and check out the Peterson Pipe of the Year 2022, 14B. Thanks so much.