103. The 2018 Christmas Pipe

The Christmas commemorative series began in 2009, marking this season’s as the 10th pipe, and it’s brilliantly understated, for all those who want a lovely entry-grade army mount that can pass under the seasonal radar while still evoking a Stille Nacht kind of  feeling with its dark ruby stain and copper ferrule.

Did I say copper? A first in Peterson history, this. But to be more precise, Conor Palmer wrote me that “They are not full copper bands but rather nickel bands that are copper-plated – Some say that copper can heat up very quickly so we wanted to avoid anyone burning their fingers. More obviously though, it’s next to impossible for us to shape copper as it’s a much stronger / tougher than silver or nickel.”

Anyone with a copper tea kettle will know that the charm of copper is its unique patina. You can see in the Smokingpipes and TobbacoPipes.com stock photos what the cap looks like polished up, but just give it a few weeks or months and it’ll turn. You can already see the incredible blues and greens in this 87apple:

A little over a year ago, Conor and I were talking about lost Peterson traditions and I mentioned how much Pete Geeks enthuse over the old nickel-marks, sometimes called “faux-marks” which are found on all nickel-mount Petes from 1896 until about 1963. He was excited to hear about them, and now for the first time in about 55 years, you can acquire a new Pete with these same marks:

I talk quite a bit about their history in the Peterson book, so I can’t say anything much about them here aside from the obvious—the shamrock, wolf hound and round tower are all important Irish symbols. It won’t take you many keystrokes on “the Google” (as my friend Clyde Logan calls it) to find out more. “The stamping on the Christmas is fantastic alright,” writes Conor, “and it’s good to be back using the traditional stamps.” Does this mean we’ll be seeing a return of the nickel marks to all Petes with nickel bands and ferrules? We can hope, right?

I like the copper hot foil P in the acrylic fish tail mouthpiece—that’s the first time the color has been used in Peterson stamping, I think. The pipes are laser-stamped, as has become the custom in this price range:

Also, be cognizant of the fact that at least two of the shapes (the 05 and the 87) have semi-flattened smooth bottoms. This is a practice Peterson has used in the past and it yields a slightly different profile.

The 2018 Pipe Collection PDF, seen below, lists a dozen shapes—somewhat of a tradition where Peterson lines are concerned, and in their first release at Smokingpipes the 87 and the 606 are MIA–maybe they got lost as they crossed the pond? For those last two days (er, pipes) of Christmas, go to TobaccoPipes.com:

I managed to snag the straight apple 87 (shown above) for review, but I haven’t sighted the 606 straight pot yet. Here’s one more non-glam photo, just to give you another non-commercial view:

Stock photos courtesy Smokingpipes.com
Thanks to Conor Palmer





A subversive message from CELF: *
Santa Smokes a Pipe



Lessons from A Patent-Era House Pipe




*The Christmas Elf Liberation Front


102. The Burren: Peterson’s New Sandblast Natural Virgin Line

I’ve been anxious to see the new 2018 Burren line—an unfinished or “natural virgin” sandblast army-mount at the entry-grade level.  Followers of the blog will remember that in the 2018 Peterson catalog, the Burren line was originally named “Summertime,” but as the Burren area of County Clare was a favorite haunt of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, who often took long walking holidays there together, I think I can cope with the change.

Karst landscape typical of the Burren in the southwest of Ireland

My co-author Gary Malmberg, being more knowledgeable than I about the history of pipes, told me that, off-hand, he could think of at least three distinguished forebears in the sandblast virgin style of finishing: the Dunhill Tanshell sandblast of the early 1950s, the Savinelli rusticated Capri Root Briar of the 1960s, and of course the Castello rusticated Natural Vergin line, also beginning in the 1960s. But the Burren’s immediate inspiration was Peterson’s small-batch Sansone Rogha, an annual release of about a dozen pipes hand-selected by Mario Lubinski.

Sansone Rogha X220 System (2017)

 “The Burren and the Rogha are indeed very similar,” Conor Palmer told me, “and there is not a massive difference to be honest. We really like the natural, ‘unprocessed’ look and feel of the Rogha pipes that were for the Italian market previously. We simply wanted to offer it to the wider market and so decided to incorporate it into the 2018 series with a few small tweaks. The Burren doesn’t take any finishing while the Rogha were buffed with a white soap buff to give them a slightly glossier finish.  The Rogha pipes have a black saddle acrylic P-Lip mouthpiece while the Burren have acrylic mocha- colored fishtail mouthpieces.”

“Each pipe receives a light brush and polish” the copy reads in the 2018 cataalog, and at first glance the B10 I have in front of me (pictured at top) doesn’t appear all that much different than the Rogha, aside from the fact that the latter did indeed seem a bit cleaner or whiter.

Having logged almost two dozen smokes in the Rogha and one in the Burren, I’m inclined to say there are two chief differences, one in the smoking experience of the P-Lip System vs. the army-mount fishtail, and one in the aesthetic experience of the bowls.

If you’ve mastered the typical air-turbulence problems of a Peterson army-mount, you’re home free. This type of pipe smokes hotter for me than either a traditional tenon-mortise (better) or well-made System (best), but I’ve learned that a slower cadence and a sipping style (rather than my standard chuffing routine) overcomes such difficulties, at least when I shy away from virginias and va/pers.

The aesthetic difference lie in the Rogha’s sterling mount, the fact that it is hand-stamped rather than laser-engraved, executed as a System pipe, and is comprised of hand-selected bowls. Joe Kenny, factory manager at Peterson, told me the two lines are of the same bowl grade and finish. But it’s obvious that Mario Lubinski went through baskets of these bowls to find 12 flawless ones. Much the same process happens with the selection of bowls for the Premier and De Luxe System sandblasts, by the way.

When I say “flaw” in reference to the Burren, I’m not talking about engineering or quality control, but the accident of wood–perceived visual imperfections caused by dirt, sand or other debris during the growth of the briar. It’s part of what keeps the price affordable for most of us. You can see in this photo of my B10 what I’m talking about, the little dark nick just across from the shank on the bowl:

As I say, this isn’t an issue, just an observation of the differences one can expect between spending $117 for the Burren and $205 for the Rogha. (And one downside to the Rogha is that only a dozen or so have been made in each of the three years of production, so they’re just a bit difficult to source!)

So how about the Burren’s smoking qualities? For me, so far it’s been identical to the Rogha’s, taking into account the chamber differences and mouthpiece configurations. To the point, while I was careful breaking in the Rogha, it’s been hands-down the best-tasting Peterson break-in I’ve ever had. All I can surmise is that natural, unfinished chamber walls provide a much better initial taste experience than ones with a pre-carb or charcoal-colored vegetable coating.

The Burren’s engineering is typical for this grade of Peterson. The nickel cap bears the traditional K&P over Peterson maker’s mark and can benefit by a bit of buffing with white compound on the wheel to bring it up if the smoker so desires.

The mocha-and-cream acrylic swirl mouthpiece is the same rod used on the Derry Rustic a few years back, although lacking the hot foil silver P of that line.

As with the Rogha, I predict it will be a lot of fun to watch the bowl darken. Definitely recommended for anyone with an interest in a natural virgin Peterson army mount experience.  Here’s my X220 System Rogha after 20 bowls, to give you an idea of what you might expect in fairly short order:

Peterson’s done a great job in selecting shapes for the line, with something to please everyone: the 03 bent apple, 87 bent apple, 106 billiard, 230 small bent billiard, 408 quarter-bent apple, 999 rhodesian, B10 rhodesian hybrid, D18 tankard / setter, 105 straight billiard, X220 bent billiard and XL90 large bent billiard.


Thanks to Conor Palmer and Joe Kenny at Peterson,
to Sansone Smoke Shope (Rogha portrait),
to Smokingpipes (for stock photos),
and to Chas. Mundungus (other photos)


TIN TALK #5: A Tool for Wisdom



97. The New Kerry Line

When I attended my first Chicagoland show a few years ago, I had the good fortune to sit next to a gentleman who loved Peterson pipes, and as we began to talk about them and he shared his favorite shapes and lines, it quickly became apparent that he represented what is probably the vast majority of pipemen in the hobby today: guys who don’t buy artisan pipes, guys who don’t pay $200, or even $150 for a pipe, or at least not often. It was kind of disappointing to me that the show didn’t have much to offer us in the way of Petersons (estate or new), as the old swap ‘n’ sell days of estate pipes had mostly been displaced. But he didn’t mind. Like me, he was just glad to be there and be enjoying the company of pipe-minded folk. But he did get me to thinking just how important it is to have good pipes available at prices we can all afford.

The Kerry 338 and X105

The entry-level Kerry line just now appearing at various places on the internet is the latest installment of Peterson’s long-standing commitment to the Everyman pipe-smoker, a commitment that goes back the company’s earliest days. As we discuss in the book, Peterson has never split up its lines as distinct high, mid-, and entry-level marques, and sometimes pipemen don’t know that Peterson does indeed make pipes at every level.

As an entry-level line, however, I’d have to say Peterson has upped their game in comparison with the entry-level lines of the past twenty years. The tri-part brass and nickel band perfectly complements the gold-cream swirl acrylic mouthpiece and its silver hot-foil P. The dark chestnut stain is also a knockout.

The Molly Malone Cockles and Mussels Collection (2011)

The nearest thing in the back catalog to the Kerry line, and perhaps a bit of its inspiration, comes in the 2011 Molly Malone collection, which featured a sterling band and faux-horn acrylic mouthpiece.

The dozen shapes have been judiciously chosen (as you can see below), with a great lineup of solid-smokers in all sizes, both straight and bent. The XL16 shape (seen at the top) is the collector’s piece in the Kerry dozen, and old hands will remember it as the 6th release in the original Sherlock Holmes series as “The Professor” (Moriarity), originally released about 1990. It has been in continuous production ever since, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it except in the Kinsale series, aside from a few released as army-mounts for the Smokingpipes Arklow line.

Smoke in peace!




95. The 2018 Evening (Army) Collection

The first of the 2018 Evening Collection army mounts should be appearing over the horizon almost any day now, and I thought you’d enjoy a closer, non-commerical look and perhaps a bit of background on the line.

A P-Lip Army Mount from the 1906 Catalog

I’ll assume if you’ve been reading this blog or smoking Petes for most any length of time, then you know Peterson and army mounts have been together almost since the beginning. The Identification Guide in our Peterson book (forthcoming! I promise!) lists over a dozen named army-mount lines dating back to late 1940s. In 2016 a great renaissance of the style began at Peterson, and since then we’ve seen some really beautiful, fresh lines: the Orange Army (2016), Christmas Pipe / “Elf Army 1” (2016), Summertime “Blue & Orange” (2016), Derry Rustic “Killer Bs” (2016), Short Classics (2016), Christmas Pipe / “Elf Army 2” (2017), and will soon see the Summertime “Natural Blast” (2018) and the Christmas Pipe / “Elf Army 3” (2018).

“Army” is the new “System.” And maybe at some point Peterson will further its experiments in the acrylic P-Lips and offer an Army P-Lip–something we haven’t seen in the catalog since the vulcanite 1898-1998 P-Lip Commemorative and the first Antique Reproduction quartet of 1996 (the latter of which featured two System reproductions and two P-Lip Army reproductions)–over twenty years ago, now.

The Evening Collection is a step above all its recent army-mount siblings, a mid-to-upper grade sterling-mount line with a beautiful matte black finish dress bowl, a marbled greyish-white acrylic fishtail mouthpiece (slightly shortened), and the aluminum P, pressed quite dramatically on the top of the button. If the sterling and the aluminum P weren’t enough to guide collectors, please note the hand-stamped logo on the obverse, and hand-stamped shape number on the reverse. After getting used to the laser-engraving system, it looks like Peterson is reverting to hand-stamping on its mid-to-upper grades.

There’s six shapes in the collection, as you can see: a medium and a large bulldog (the 150 and the XL21), the small billiard used for straight Systems (the 31), the classic small 03 bent apple, the B11 brandy “setter,” and the large XL11. It’s going to be available in 9mm or standard, so I’d guess we’ll see it debut in Germany and Europe before reaching US shores.

I like the way the sterling work on the ferrules has settled down to the Peterson script over DUBLIN on the top of the band and the hallmarks large and precisely centered on the bottom. These are the first 2018 hallmarks I’ve seen, and I like the crisp articulation.

I also like some of the classic shapes Peterson has chosen—the B11 is an old friend and does virginia and va/per proud. The XL11 looks fantastic in its foreshortened stem treatment. And the 03 and its big brother the 02 are about as iconic as you can get in a Pete.

My Dad has always been a fan of black dress pipes and companioned a 301 black System for years before dropping it (hot) on the garage floor. It cracked, but never enough to be a bother for him. I was about to say I’ve never companioned a black pipe, but that’s not true, as my first non-basket pipe was a Jobey Stromboli, which still occupies a place of honor in my rack.

For me, the fishtail Army smoking experience is considerably different from either the System or the Navy (traditional tenon and mortise), but I’ve come to it after 40 years of System and Navy pipes and am not the best guide to how to get the most out of these pipes. P-Lip Armies, yes. But the fishtail are another kettle: I’ve got a trio at present that I’m becoming friends with—a Derry Rustic XL339, an Arklow XL339, and an IRISH MADE 68—and so far, they’ve responded best to cooler-temperature tobaccos than the hotter, sweeter virginias. If there are any stout Army fans reading this, give us a shout out and pass on any wisdom about the smoking and care of these beautiful pipes.


Deataigh i Síocháin!