If you're new to the world of pipe smoking, or are looking to jump in but aren't sure where to start, the sheer volume of options open to you can be a little intimidating. Between size, shape, chamber dimensions, finish, not to mention your own style, there are a lot of factors to consider when picking a pipe that's right for you. Luckily, we have plenty of affordable offerings from which to choose your new companion.
1) Savinelli One Starter Kit: $76-$92
Available in either a rusticated or smooth finish, the One is a comprehensive starter kit for would-be pipe smokers. Included within are pipe cleaners, a pipe tool, and a pack of 6mm balsa wood filters, all within a neat, durable zipper pouch for compact accessibility. With a choice of three classic shapes (Zulu, Billiard, and bent Billiard), if you're looking to take your pipe smoking to the next level, or maybe you're shopping for someone who's thinking seriously about getting into the hobby, it's hard to beat this fantastic offering.
If you, like many pipe smokers before you, have had some trouble with the dreaded 'tongue bite', Canadian marque Brigham invented a means of combatting this in 1938: the rock maple insert. This 3-inch-long wooden insert has a hole in the center, meaning it will still pass a pipe cleaner, and is designed to absorb moisture and tongue bite-causing impurities in the smoke, leaving only pure tobacco flavor. I chose this shapely bent Apple for the high-gloss, ruby stain of the Heritage line, evocative of the classic red finish applied to pipes of old.
Maybe you have a few pieces from larger marques in your rotation, and want to take the next step into handmade, artisanal offerings. Using long-seasoned plateau briar, the Luciano workshop creates fresh, modern designs, all made by hand. One of Luciano's lighter shapes, this Prince looks all the more regal and elegant rendered in diminutive proportions. A compact Prince bowl sits atop a shank that is a bit sturdier than that of the English standard, but still with that familiar down-turned stem. The compact size should make this an ideal choice for a coffee shop companion.
For a remarkably well-priced handmade pipe of the Danish variety, it's quite difficult to beat the work of Mogens 'Johs' Johansen. This Danish Egg sports a Stack-like depth of chamber, and a sinuous, easy feel in hand. If you enjoy smoking shag or ribbon-cut Virginias, perhaps from a faithful, narrow-chambered cob, the chamber dimensions on this fellow should be a pleasant transition into the world of briar.
If you've tried acrylic or vulcanite stems, and would like to try a different type of bit, or perhaps something with a 'bit' more organic character, you should try one made of genuine horn.
These briars were uncovered by our own Sykes Wilford during a trip to the old Chapuis-Comoy factory in France, where they likely sat untouched for decades. Sporting a classic French lightweight design and transition, all are available in smooth or sandblasted finish, and are all paired with genuine horn stems. I personally find the horn stem to be more comfortable than vulcanite or acrylic, and the variation in color is more unique than what can be artificially produced. I am also quite fond of my "32S" Vintage Sandblasted Dublin.
If you like compact pipes, but are looking for something a little more suited to your desk while still maintaining a lightweight shape and feel, the '311 KS' is an excellent choice. This handsome Poker is the most recent addition to Savinelli's standard shape chart and the first shape added in over a decade. It sports a sleek, active style, with a canted base, a neatly beveled rim, and an angled transition and shank. It is available in a variety of styles and finishes.
Maybe you want to try out a jaw-hanger — one of a classic design, which still maintains a shapely sleekness. Well, it's no secret that I am quite fond of Apple and Author shapes. It's a sentiment I share with many at Smokingpipes.com, though we all have our own personal tastes. As far as Petersons go, the "XL02" is more characteristic of the Irish firm's bold aesthetic, while the "03" is something of a diminutive brother, offering an alternative to the former's stout proportions, only scaled down slightly.
Both of these shapes are available in a variety of styles and finishes, though the long-running Aran line, with smooth walnut finishes and nickel accent bands, provides smart options without breaking the bank.
If you've tried English and Italian briars, and are searching for something a little different, try taking a look at Danish freehand shapes. Erik Nording offers a few Horn renditions within his Royal Flush series, which would make a lovely, well-priced introduction to the Danish school of shaping. These fellows feature a seemingly simple design, with domed rims and a Danish-style Horn profile, yet with a pleasing contrast of texture and color.
If your cob looks out of place at the pub, or you want to try a classically-shaped briar with a smaller bowl for quick smokes, you may want to check out Sebastien Beo.
Presenting a lineup of classic French shapes with characteristically small bowls, all of these briars are made in the old St. Claude factory — and all sans any fills, and all made the traditional way (only stain and wax, with no pre-carb treatment). These pieces are a seriously amazing value for the quality of the end product.
Perhaps you've tried French, English, Italian, and Danish briars, or you just want a classically shaped pipe with a modern sensibility and superior engineering. I suggest taking a look at The BriarWorks Classic series. This bent Billiard is especially nice, and to find such an excellent rendition of a classic shape, with a touch of modern sleekness to boot, for such a great price - that's even nicer.
Maybe you have tried all manner of renditions, from brands English and French, Italian and Danish, or you've specifically enjoyed the pure-smoking qualities of Brigham's rock maple insert or Savinelli's 6mm balsa wood filters; try taking a look at German marque Vauen's 9mm-drilled offerings, designed to fit a 9mm charcoal filter.
Today, many makers around the globe still specially produce series of pipes that will take a 9mm charcoal filter, just for the German market, and it's all, in part, thanks to Vauen. All offerings in their lineup are deftly shaped, but I found this sandblasted Rhodesian with a touch of Danish shaping cues to be a clever fusion of classic and modern style.
Tagged in: At Smokingpipes BriarWorks Brigham Johs Luciano Nording Peterson Pipe Basics Ropp Savinelli Sebastian Beo Tips Vauen