67. Sneak Peek: The 2017 Christmas Pipes

I know Christmas is still eons away, but it’s not every day one gets the chance to visit the Peterson branch of Santa’s Workshop and see what the Sallynoggin elves are up to, much less take photographs and bring back a report. So turn down the air-conditioning (if you’re here in the hottest part of the U.S.), don your Aran sweater, put on your favorite Christmas music, and take a look.

XL02

I didn’t think we’d see another Elf Army, but I am happily proved wrong. This year’s lineup, as you know from earlier blogs, features the full “12 Pipes of Christmas”—for 2017, shapes 01, 03, 05, 69, 87, 106, 408, 999, X220, XL02, XL11, and XL90. Eleven are from the Classic Range shape chart, but the twelfth, the XL11, is the “Original” Sherlock Holmes shape designed by Paddy Larrigan back in the 1980s. That’s two straights and ten bents, as usual in a variety of chamber dimensions to suit almost anyone’s tobacco preferences.

XL11 (Larrigan’s Original Sherlock Holmes shape)

Shapes 03, 999, 69

The “Elf Army 2” (ask for it by name!) features a nickel mount with a laser-engraved bow on the top of the ferrule and the classic K&P over PETERSON nickel stamp on the bottom.

The laser-stamping of the bowl gives full documentation, as you can see, of the line, the year, and the shape number. Bravo.  The stain is a deep brown over red contrast, producing a suitably seasonal ember-glow effect. The blast on the ones I examined is also quite nice, as Peterson continues to improve in that department.

69

Sometimes the blast will be quite striking, and on the whole, it’s even craggier than some of the current spigot lines, which suits me just fine. I don’t mind saying again just how soothing a good sandblast can feel, rolled between thumb and fingers after a long day.

The acrylic fishtail mouthpiece is widely slotted, featuring a silver hot foil-stamped P.

As you can see from the detail photos, the acrylic rod isn’t white, but a lovely striation of creams, mostly straight but varying just a bit from stem to stem. It will be difficult to see these photographed against white, like most e-tailers do, so I thought I’d set it them against black to give you a little better look.

I’ve been trying to learn how best to smoke a Peterson fishtail army-mount, because it doesn’t behave for me like a System, a P-Lip, a spigot, or a fishtail “Navy-mount.” When I try to use my usual smoking style (long drafts), I find it smokes too hot and is less flavorful than other Peterson mounting styles. Recently, however, I’ve learned that short draws seem to make all the difference, bringing back the flavor and dissipating the heat. If you smoke an acrylic-stem army-mount, please chime in and let everyone know how it works best for you.

01

408

03

05

I can’t remember when the 2016 Christmas pipes arrived here in the States, but I think it may have been as early as August. Until then, a thought from forgotten essayist Hamilton Wright Mabie: “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

999

 

Photographs: Chas. Mundungus

Next: Can it be? The Last of the B Shapes Catalog!

 

66. The Newgrange Line

The Newgrange Spigots will be arriving on our shores in the next few months, and like so much of the great work out of Sallynoggin, you’ve really got to hold one in your hands to appreciate what the Peterson artisans have done.

This was forcefully driven home to me on my first Peterson pilgrimage in 2009, when John Dromgoole at the old Grafton Street store asked if I would be interested in one of the new LEs, just then in the shop. I’d seen photos of it on the internet, but only from the side, so to me it just looked like another quarter-bent billiard. But when I held it in my hands and turned it over, the magic revealed itself. It had a wonderfully pinched stem that couldn’t be seen from its sideview.

The LE 2009: Case in Point

So it is that I wanted to present the Newgrange pipes from angles and with lighting that would allow you to appreciate the careful flow of the brown-and-black gloss accent rims to the matching acrylic mouthpieces and the force of the “Facing”-mount spigots.

X220 Newgrange

The flat-top mount used, called a “Facing” mount in the 1906 catalog, originally appeared on System pipes, Patent-Lip pipes, and spigots, and when Peterson re-introduced its spigot line in the late 1970s, they brought it back in very limited numbers, but usually with a smooth tenon spigot instead of the beaded one (used on the Newgrange), which I much prefer. It’s not a mount you see very often on a Peterson, which may be why I like it so much.

301 Newgrange

On the pieces I examined, the Peterson stamping on the sterling mount was uniformly aligned on the top of the shank. The hallmarking was centered on the bottom, as you can see if you click on the picture below. The acrylic at the airhold of the spigot tenon is chamfered and clean, and should provide a smooth airflow. I want to mention this, because the standard Peterson acrylic fishtail army-mounts are not chamfered, and I suspect this is one reason they smoke hotter. Of course, a P-Lip would make airflow even better, but I suspect I’m voicing a minority opinion here!

The line takes its name, as students of megalithic structures know, from the incredible passage tomb in the Boyne Valley which archeologists believe dates to about 3,200 BCE. When we toured the tomb — and visitors go in single file — someone behind us (not me, thankfully!) got claustrophobic and everyone behind him had to do a backwards shuffle.

408 Newgrange

According to Conor Palmer at Peterson, as the Newgrange is phased in, last year’s Roundstone Spigot line will be phased out. The Roundstone is a particularly beautiful line with its Hinch mount, dark brown blast finish and tan-and-pearl faux-tortoise shell acrylic stem. Most of the shapes are still available, “while supplies last,” as the saying goes! Like the Roundstone, the Newgrange will probably retail at about $180 or so.

302 Newgrange

XL11 Newgrange

68 Newgrange

 

LE 2009 photos courtesy Smokingpipes.com

Fumare in pax!

 

 

65. The Wicklow Line: What’s in a Name?

One of the things I’m most pleased with in The Peterson Pipe book is the encyclopedia, the first of three appendices at the end of the book.Gary Malmberg (my co-author) and I probably spent more time on this single chapter than any other part of the book, because his documentation of hallmarked pipes and my documentation of every line, series, and collection found in the catalog ephemera laid the foundation for everything else in the book.

Fairly early on I made an interesting discovery concerning Peterson’s line names, something you may already know. A single name can sometimes be used to describe four or five different lines of pipes, usually spread over several decades, but once in a while used concurrently.  When a name is used simultaneously for two separate lines (for example, Shamrock or Rock of Cashel), I found one line being produced for the U.S. market and the other being made for a market elsewhere on the globe.

Shape 87 apple (Novelli)

Having access to the encyclopedia will help a collector pinpoint a range of years an un-hallmarked pipe he’s holding (or thinking of buying) was made. The original Aran line, for example, consisted of six oversized rusticated shapes stained coal-black, and was available in Classic Range shapes from roughly 1965 – 1975, when a second Aran line, this time in just six XL shapes, stained dark red, was released. The name has been used twice more since then, and even today causes consternation among collectors because it describes both an unmounted line and a mounted one.

Shape D19 Wicklow (Novelli)

The Wicklow is a relevant illustration of Peterson’s use of line names, because just now Novelli has replenished their Peterson stock, and as usual has some of the most handsome examples you’ll find anywhere.

The Wicklow name was first given to an exclusive Iwan Reis line back in 1969. The line was unusual for Peterson in that it featured not only two otherwise unknown shapes – the “Bell Poker” and the “Calabash, Special Shape” (pictured below), but also because it featured a twin bore mouthpiece, as you can see in the photo of the calabash. IRC continued to advertise the line in their 1970 catalog, but then the name disappeared. Its $35 price tag (the same IRC customers paid for a De Luxe System) meant it was, indeed, something beyond the usual.

In 1987, Peterson resurrected the line name, this time for U.S. distribution, in a smooth range of Classic Line shapes with a rusticated patch, P-Lip and nickel band. The partial rustication, dark stain, and nickel mount would place it in quality probably just below the current Aran line.

The c. 1987 Wicklow line

The line name resurfaced for a third time in 1993, when Mario Lubinski took it up (along with a few other discarded IRC line names).* Mario again worked his magic, obtaining only the most striking pieces of briar for the Italian Wicklows. The line’s use of a sterling band is typical for Mario, but what’s unusual from an Italian perspective is that it features a vulcanite, usually P-Lip, stem. I can’t be sure, but I have a hunch it’s Lubinski’s only vulcanite-mouthpiece line.

Rare shape 261 Belge-Canadian Wicklow (Bollito)

A few years ago, a fourth iteration of the Wicklow line appeared on the market, this time in the U.S. with a sandblast fishtail and nickel band.  Undocumented in the ephemera I have seen, the line serves as an important reminder to collectors that Peterson’s catalog is so deep that anyone who thinks they’ve touched bottom is probably suffering from the bends.

D6 blast Wicklow, nickel band (Smokingpipes)

 

Coda: I would be remiss if I didn’t end by noting that, like nearly all Peterson lines, the Wicklow takes its name from the Irish landscape. If ever you visit Ireland, a day’s leisurely drive from Dublin through the Wicklow Mountains is a day well spent. Even better for the adventurous is the seven-day hike (about 80 miles)  from Marlay Park in southern Dublin through County Wicklow to Clonegal in County Carlow. Many B&B’s will pick up your luggage and have it waiting for you at the end of the day.

St. Kevin’s Way signpost, Co Wicklow,
photo courtesy Chas Mundungus

Pipe photos courtesy Novelli.it, Bollitopipes.it, and Smokingpipes.com

 

* I have this from Tom Palmer’s recent conversation with Mr. Lubinski.

63. The New Valentia Line

The 2017 Valentia line takes its name from beautiful Valentia Island just off the southwest coast of Ireland, historically famous as the site of the first permanent communication link between Europe and North America with the completion of the Transatlantic telegraph cables in 1866. Like other stops on the Ring of Kerry tourist route, it’s a must-see, and I’m really hoping to spend some time there on my next Peterson pilgrimage.

The six shapes comprising the new Valentia line all continue Peterson’s commitment to an idea that began back about 1945 with the Specialty quartet of pipes known as the Tankard & Barrel, Calabash & Belgique seen below.  The Italians have always liked to call small pipes like these “Lady Pipes,” and I can see how Jackie Onassis could have tucked one of these away in her purse when out and about with JFK.*

Don’t let the name put you off. I can see why the Calabash and Belgique got the nick-name, but the Tankard and Barrel, while small, are as quintessentially Irish as a shape can be. Talk about gender and pipe shapes can be useful to illustrate an aesthetic or design principle in a particular shape or line of pipes or even marque (for example, “the Peterson house style is predominantly masculine, while classic English shapes are feminine”), but is worse than worthless if attached to the gender self-identification of the pipe-smoker. This may be why 2016’s expansion of the idea began with the decidedly masculine look of the sterling army-mount Short Classics.

The Valentia pipes are probably the finest green-stain pipes Peterson has produced. The earliest documented example of a green Pete came back with the 200-piece Limited Edition Racing Green duo in the 1990s, and has been more or less a staple in the catalog ever since, appearing in the long-standing Racing Green line as well as several of the St. Patrick’s Day commemorative years.

Five of the six shapes chosen for the Valentia appeared in the Short Classics line last year (of course, in army-mount dress), the shape 65 billiard being the new one.

Once again, there’s quite a bit of variation in the acrylic stems, as you can see. Sometimes this can be quite dramatic. The wide flare promises a good clinching experiences, as, of course, does the extremely light weight of these pieces. I also like the slightly wider-than-usual sterling bands.

The button is an interesting shape, not one that I’ve encountered before on a Pete, so I thought I’d give you a look at it as well.

I’ve long been intrigued with small-bowled pipes, but my current lifestyle rarely offers me the opportunity. Fellow pipemen tell me they’re wonderful for short smokes or for flake tobaccos, but I’m an after-work smoker, so I’m usually looking for a bowl that will give me 2 hours or so of Pete Heaven.

 

Pictured at top: the Calabash

 

Pax in fumare!

A next-gen System on the horizon?
Stay tuned. . .

 

*Jackie O. a pipe-smoker? See “A Woman’s Handbag,” http://www.alpascia.com/moments/d/A-womans-handbag-i23001.html#