We have pipes dedicated to work, chores, errands, and travel, and then we have pipes specially reserved for those quiet evenings at home. While tastes may vary, especially around here, Churchwardens are what make up the latter group for me. In fact, my very first pipe was a Churchwarden: a no-named, extra-long Dublin (not even made from briar) with a very, very long shank extension taking the place of the more typical elongated stem.
It wasn't a great smoker, didn't have a whole lot of chamber, and was heavy as all get out, but there was just something romantic about smoking a bowl full of spicy orientals out of it late at night. You could feel the warmth in your hand, while the smoke remained surprisingly cool. It had a way of turning back the clock to a time long forgotten, of setting the mood for a bit of contemplation or a simple day's reflection. And of course, it also made a damn fine companion to a good book. I can fondly remember sitting beneath an old poplar tree during my last few years of college, reading this or that, and smoking that very pipe.
While my rotation has of course expanded over the years, picking up an interesting piece here and there, I've tried to keep a balance between my home and work pipes. As the days shorten and the cold winter's chill sets in though, I think it might be time for another Churchwarden. Here's a look at some of the ones I'm considering:
Probably Savinelli's most intriguing Churchwarden configuration, this series was originally dubbed "Gandolfo," as a tribute to the characters of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy. It offers a variety of the marque's classic shapes in slightly handier churchwarden proportions, either a smooth or rusticated finish, and topped with an earthy oak ferrule.
Whether in the warm blonde stains of the Pisa series, or just dressed in a minimalist black rustication, Savinelli's standard Churchwarden line offers quite a variety. From plump Apples to more classic Belge-like Billiards, there's a wide array of classic shapes, rendered in full-blown Churchwarden proportions.
Churchwardens are just what I enjoy when reading or just simply reflecting on the deeds of the day, but sometimes a little more versatility is what's needed. Savinelli's Tandem line offers just the thing in those cases, presenting scaled-down versions of their classic shapes with not one, but two stem configurations: one for those quiet evenings at home, and another for a more portable smoker. Decisions, decisions!
Peterson shapes, by design, tend to be rather robust and meaty, especially around the shank and transition. Their standard Churchwarden line, however, presents a whole series of briars with a far more elegant touch. Finishes range from an earthy, dimpled rustication to the vibrant flash of their signature emerald stains. The Prince variant, in my opinion, is particularly striking.
While a good bit smaller than some of the other configurations on this list, Butz-Choquin's Petite line offers a light little Churchwarden perfect for a quick smoke or a bit of slow-burning folded flake. It's not quite as lengthy as, say, Peterson or Savinelli's standard interpretation, but it does make for an elegant piece that breaks down easily for transport.
Big Ben Elegant
Aptly named, these Danish briars really are quite the elegant numbers. Long, slender, and lithe, they're exactly what I'm looking for in a reading pipe: plenty of length to prevent smoke from getting in the eyes, yet with still a surprising amount of substance in hand. The fact that they're all smooth finished is just an added plus.
To my eye, at least, the Star series from Chacom probably offers the closest match to the clay tavern pipes of old, especially in their Cutty and Belge shaped variants. I will admit, however, I do particularly like the look of the Rhodesian "505" shape in this long-stemmed configuration, as it seems like a perfect balance of firmness and sinuous grace.
Vauen's Churchwarden line, much like the Savinelli Tandem, offers a bit of versatility with not one but two stems of varying length. They also happen to come 9mm filter-ready, if you happen to prefer a filtered smoke. They aren't quite as common as some of the aforementioned examples, but the shape range is rather appealing, offering long-stemmed variants of shapes we don't often think of as being Churchwardens.
The choices are seemingly endless. So while I mull over which one I like the most, it would be great to hear your opinion. Have a favorite Churchwarden of your own? Feel free to share in the comment section below!
I will have to say that I'm partial to the Savinelli Tandem line of CWs. Great pipe to sit on the couch with and listen to some tunes. Another option is to get a Walker Briar Works church warden stem and fit it onto a cob. Thanks for yet another great write up.
I have a ton of churchwardens, and while I love them all for a smoke at home, the ones I use the most are the convertibles. That's probably because I travel a lot and the two pipes for the space of one appeals to me. Of your selection, I am partial to the Savinelli Tandem line. Of the two convertibles on your list I think they accomplish the short look the best. However, I don't think you'll lose with any of these. They are all beautiful! Happy puffing!
I have a Jody DAVIS church warden. OUTSTANDING!!! smoker. Evenings when the ocean is calm and winds a gentle breeze is when I smoke the JODY. Sand blasted with a plateua surrounding the rim , accent with mammoth ivory. Whats a good orriental Andy?
I have several Churchwarden pipes, but the one I like the best is a Johs smooth freehand that I purchased from smokingpipes.com a while back. Since it is a freehand, it has that "old world" carve it yourself character to it, and it smokes like a dream. Nice size chamber for my aromatics like W.O. Larsen "Signature", "Old Fashioned", "1864" and "2013 Special Edition". Looking forward to smoking the W.O. Larsen "2014 Special Edition" in it, which is on its way from smokingpipes.com as we speak :)
Oops, correction.......W.O. Larsen "2015 Special Edition". I didn't get the "2014", the description didn't appeal to me.
Mr. Motoyoshi and Frank Thomas, thanks for the replies. I really appreciate your opinion! I'm quite fond of the Tandems as well. The versatility's nice, and they really do work well in either configuration. I really like the old-school look of the Chacoms too though. Ah tough decision!
Franklin, that sounds like a great pipe! The specific blend I was referring to was Balkan Sasieni, a Balkan style mixture that's fully of peppery oriental goodness. It's not everyone's cup of tea, and it's a bit mild for my tastes nowadays, but I do still enjoy it every now and then (in a churchwarden, of course -- which I think helps the blend, as it tends to smoke hot for me). Aside from that, for Oriental forward English/Balkan blends I'd recommend Dunhill's London Mixture, Durbar, and C&D's Mountain Camp. For a good Oriental blend sans Latakia, Oriental Silk is a company favorite. Hope that helps!
Ambush, I had forgotten about Johs' churchwardens! Those are very nice as well, though I think I'm partial to the bent Egg variant. Ah, thanks for making this decision even harder! haha
Andrew, I have to admit, I have had my eye on the Chacom Star line as well!
The only thing close to a CW I own is a rattrays butchers boy. Which I guess is a mini-CW by most standards. Also, it is convertible into a nosewarmer. It does have a nice meaty bowl on it that has a very solid "hand feel" to it. I like the CW stem at night, and the nosewarmer stem during the day.
Andrew...Glad to help :) Maybe you need a Danish Churchwarden for Danish Tobacco, Irish Churchwarden for Irish tobacco....etc. etc. :) Hmm, maybe I have a problem.
Lots of comments for this one. People love their churchwarden. I have an IMP dublin meer churchwarden. It yields such a great smoke. So clean and cool. I've always wanted a savinelli churchwarden. There seem to be more contemplative moments in the winter. It's when I get my churchwarden out.
J Everett, the Butcher's Boys are cool. I don't typically think of such a stoutly proportioned stummel when I think of CWs, but I could definitely see how that would work in the long-stemmed configuration. The fact that it can easily double as a hands-free nosewarmer's a nice touch too. Great suggestion!
Ambush, at this rate I'm either never going to make a decision, or just buy them all haha. I think my PAD is pulling me towards the latter...
Thanks for commenting John, I bet that meer does smoke well! I find myself smoking my churchwardens more in the winter too. I think you're right though. Winter often forces us inside, cutting down on distractions and allowing for moments of quiet contemplation. Churchwardens just seem to fit the bill for such occasions. Well said.
Gentleman, help me! I've had the worst luck with Churchwardens. Matter of fact - I've sold off all I owned. I've yet to get one that smoked good. Of my 250 pipes, I've only had a handful that didn't smoke good - many great. But, each and every Churchwarden I have had were just awful. I love them, they have a certain feel to them that is enchanting. It doesn't help that the very first book I read to completion was Tolkiens trilogy. That only makes me want one all the more! So - shoot me out some good options. I like the look of the Savinelli "broomhilda's" though I don't care for the name at all! I've given a lot of thought to the "Star" line, but I've had some tell me that they've had iffy results with Chacom. I wish I could just find an old pre-70 Dunhill churchwarden - and perchance one day I will. But until then... I'd love a recommendation - I might buy myself an early Christmas present.
I love my Vauen churchwarden. It's not in my regular rotation, but saved for special occasions and LOTR marathons. Although it came with two interchangeable stems, I've long since lost the short one. Your article perfectly describes how I feel when smoking my churchwarden, and with the cold weather arriving, maybe longing for another one myself. Great writing!
Tim, I have a bunch of churchwardens in my collection, most good smokers and some great smokers. Here's a couple tips in hopes of helping -- I've found any Vauen convertible to be good, and see Frank's post above for an extra reason to like those. Also, Savinelli CWs have all been good to me, too. My very favorite CW (and best for the money in my opinion) is the Brebbia Lectura series -- and they look great too -- HINT: There's a good Brebbia MPB Lectura available now from Smokingpipes, item number 004-006-11054, but don't tell anyone or they may get it before you do! Best of luck to you -- let us know how your search for a satisfying CW goes!
Just two. One I made a long time ago and a Vauen 3127. It is my go-to on the porch late at night with a bourbon rocks. It burns nice and long and on a cool Spring night , brings me great peace.
I have a new one piece clay churchwarden pipe wich I am willing to brake in, but I wonder how to clean it afterwards. Haven´t met pipe cleaners that long and, moreover, it is relatively hard to blow, even empty. Is it, at the first, reasonable to smoke or should it stay for the look?
Thanks everyone for sharing and commenting. You're suggestions and opinions really helped me decide I think. I went with the Savinelli Tandem. The chamber's a little small, but for a pinch of shag-cut or a little folded flake, it works wonders. Again, thanks everyone. Alejandro, that sounds like a sweet pipe! I almost bought a clay churchwarden a few years back, but someone snagged it before I could get my hands on it. As far as cleaning goes though, we do sell longer-than-average pipe cleaners that might work. We also have really long bulk coils that you can cut to the desired length. Hope that helps!
Jim, Thanks for your opinions and Andrew, as always thanks for starting these interesting discussions. Great forum. Funny that I've ever bought a Savinelli CW, though I have numerous Savinelli's and knock on briar wood - have never had a bad smoker from the label. I've never owned a Brebbia, though I do remember looking at them on the Monday and Thursday updates and liking their look. Perhaps I should buy two, a Lectura and a Savinelli. I kept hoping that I could find an English made CW, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. Alejandro, I smoked a clay once... just once. It wasn't very good. I was expecting a meerschaum quality and that's not what I found. It was hot and had, what is best described as a "dirt" flavor. I'm not sure if the clay itself was smoldering and imparting flavor or not. They're cool looking pipes and my old cutty shaped one sits on the rack just for looks. But as far as smoking, I don't think I'll try a clay again.