85. The New Trom Dubh Collection: A Heavy Metal Quartet

Along with other new lines and collections that will soon be available, Peterson has just announced a mid-grade set, the Trom Dubh (which in Irish means “chubby black”). Where to begin?

The first connection between the shapes, as the name indicates, is in the “chubby,” but it’s really a heavy, and by that I don’t mean grams or ounces. It’s a visual heavy, a roundness in the hand, a muscular, massive sense of proportion, like the basalt columns from Giant’s Causeway Peterson chose for the digital strut card pictured above.

Irish shapes have always been heavy-metal rebels when set against their English counterparts, analogous in the world of rock music to bands like Meshuggah, who not only play six and seven-string basses, but down-tune for a giant effect.

The heavy metal analogy works in the second part of the name as well—the dubh, a black-on-black, with just that touch of silver in the hot foil P on the mouthpiece. The retro P-Lip, now in acrylic, just makes them that much tougher.

Taken as a whole, the Trom Dubh collection represents a great juxtaposition of historic shapes and the new design aesthetic we’ve seen in the recent past. I’d probably nickname it the “P-Lip Fat Classics.”

As for the shapes:

THE B.C. is the oldest bowl shape of the quartet still in production, and is a favorite among estate collectors, where it is found as the 9BC, the BC designation indicating a tapered (B) short (C) stem. It originated in the 1896 catalog as shape 9, and most Kappnists* have at least one of these in their rotation in its various permutations—the XL90 Classic Range or 307 Standard or 9S DeLuxe System being the most commonly seen these days. The 9BC came to prominence in the US in the 1950s and seems to have been a special favorite of Rogers Imports Ltd., as most of them are found in the old Rogers Imports Shamrock line.

THE BULL is the gem of the collection, being the original John Bull or 999 shape, a bullmoose which was first cut in the late 1930s or early 1940s. It was in production until the late 1970s, when it was phased out by what was originally called the 998, today’s 999, the little slipper rhodesian that is one of Peterson’s top sellers. Like the B.C., it’s an especial favorite among collectors, and given the popularity of the larger Savinelli 320 author shape (the difference between a bullmoose and an author being that bead around the crown), chances are it will be a solid hit for Peterson.

THE BALL is a shape that was introduced with several other now-classic shapes in the late 1970s as the 02 DeLuxe System, 302 System, or (as it is here) the slightly-larger XL02 in the Classic Range. With the tapered P-Lip, it is solid in the hand and has always looked to me like the “P” in the Peterson logo brought to life in a pipe. Part of the freshness of this shape is that it hasn’t been seen much in this configuration. In fact, I’ve only ever seen it as part of the Emerald line back several years ago, and in the Sterling Silver Italian-release.

THE BILLIARD is another shape introduced in the late 1970s (the 107) without much ado, but is a veritable billiard on steroids, and Peterson’s definitive statement on the subject. ‘Nuff said, as they used to say in the Marvel Bullpen.

If you’ve been watching, Peterson is slowly tooling over to acrylic P-Lips. The choice to use the P-Lip in the Trom Dubh collection is probably risky, given the smoking public’s lack of understanding of how these perform. But it certainly accentuates the “fat” character of the collection, and will deliver superior taste and less moisture over a fishtail mouthpiece every time.

I know I’ve caviled against acrylic stems in the past, but I’ve been smoking not only the 2018 POY, but a 312 acrylic P-Lip for a while now, and my reservations have mostly vanished. I don’t know whether the acrylic has gotten softer, the button a little thinner, or I’ve just gotten used to it, but I do like not having to stress over whether the stem is becoming oxidized.

The combination of gloss black bowl with anodized black aluminum band is the kind of move we’ve come to expect from the new wave of Peterson pipes. I don’t think I’ve seen this kind of band on a pipe from anyone else, and I’m anxious to see one in real life. I’m told the idea for the set came from Fionn mac Cumhaill, one of the Sallynoggin artisans who hails from Northern Ireland.

It looks like there will also be some higher-grade sterling band sets, both in the Trom Dearg (red) finish and in the Trom Natural. I’d expect to see the Natural sets out of Italy first, but maybe a few from Smokingpipes.com as well. These feature the inlaid aluminum P in the mouthpiece.

I know everyone will be wanting THE BULL, and if past Peterson releases are any indication, we can probably expect this shape to appear solo before too long.

The presentation box will feature a black and white photo of the famous basalt columns from Giant’s Causeway. Collectors can expect to pay about $460 in the US. The sterling band Trom Dearg and the Trom Natural will go for about $600 and $800, respectively.

 

*Kappnist—one who studies or admires Kapp (& Peterson) pipes; a Pete Nute or “Pete Freek” with an eye for the history of the marque.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lá na nAmadán
Happy April Fool’s Day!

Photo courtesy Charles Mundungus

 

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84. A Visual History of the St. Patrick’s Day Pipes, 1998–2018.

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you! This marks the 20th anniversary of the St. Patrick’s Day commemorative pipes for Peterson, and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than by offering a visual history of the series.

 

History and Series Characteristics

Tom Palmer’s idea for an annual pipe took flight in 1997, when Peterson released its first Limited Edition / Pipe of the Year. The following year the company decided to add two annual commemoratives, a St. Patrick’s Day and a 4th of July. While the 4th of July pipe has long been gone, the SPD has given Kappnists (or Pete Nuts) many great pipes over the years, with none perhaps quite as marvelous as this year’s 20th anniversary 2018 and the original 1998.

The price-point of the series is at the solid entry-grade of the Classic Range, roughly equivalent to the Aran line in most years (with some exceptions). Another distinguishing feature of the series is that in many years a shape (or even two or three) from a special collection or high-grade series—think the Antique Collection for the former and the Sherlock Holmes for the latter—is often featured. Every Peterson high-grade issue has bowls that aren’t of sufficient quality to make the cut but must be used, and often these feature some fantastic grain. For most of the more recent years, the series has offered 12 shapes.

 

We know the series began in 1998 because Brad Weinfeld of SAG Imports was working for Hollco-Rohr, Peterson’s US distributor at the time, and during the course of our research on the Peterson book he took the trouble to send us the final sales catalog of that company, dated July 15, 1998. If you click on the image, you can see the SPD and 4th of July annual commemoratives described as “NEW,” as well as their wholesale and retail prices.

 

1998

The series began auspiciously enough, with a brass and acrylic sandwich band of the Irish colors and P-Lip. For this and most of the years, I don’t know which shapes were released, although they were for the most part taken from Classic Range shapes.

Two of the three images of purported 1998 SPDs I have show a light, matt finish. Seen above is the unique bent shape from the 1997 Racing Green / Claret limited editions. I can’t give you the shape number, because there wasn’t one stamped on the only Racing Green I have handled.

I also have a photo of a 107 SPD, probably with its original box and sleeve, with a stain that matches the RG:

As you can see from the two representatives, the 1998 SPD was released with a P-Lip. The mouthpieces featured the white impressed P standard at the time.

 

1999

Dustin Anderson and I both have XL20 SPDs (seen above) with a dark gloss finish and the tricolor acrylic and brass band. We both have assumed (at least until now) that these were first-issue SPDs for 1998. However, I have been able to find no trace of a documented SPD for 1999, nor indeed any pictures at all for this year. I’ve asked Peterson and searched all the usual places but come up empty-handed.

I have two hypotheses: perhaps the dark-stain XL20 Dustin and I companion are actually a 1999, rather than 1998 issue. This would explain the disparity of stain between this pipe and the two examples of the 1998 seen above, and also accommodate my theory that most years of the SPD feature a single trickle-down special shape. Why would the dark XL20 and the light Racing Green special shapes be released the same year? What counters this idea is the long-standing belief circulated by Pete Nuts that only the 1998 featured the acrylic tricolor band.

A second possibility is that there simply was no SPD for 1999, but that also seems rather unlikely given the series otherwise uninterrupted history.

 

2000

The Rare A3 from the Original Antique Collection

In 2000, the SPD series settled into its most familiar guise: some variant of brown-hued smooth bowl and a nickel band with Peterson’s over a shamrock over March 17 and the year. The 2000 SPDs also featured the beloved P-Lip vulcanite mouthpiece. Shown here is what must have been the collector’s piece, the A3 shape from the first Antique Reproduction series.

A Typical SPD Stamped Nickel Band

 

2001

Dustin’s 2001 SPD 408

In 2001, the SPD lost its P-Lip, never to return. Peterson seems to have changed directions at about this time, giving in to market pressure on the one hand and (perhaps) a lack of interest in promoting the P-Lip on the other. I say this based on my own hunches from research during the course of the book, and while a company must remain viable to survive in the marketplace, from a historical point of view at least, it was unfortunate.

An XL20 from the 2001 SPD

The collector’s piece for 2001 (again I hypothesize based on the assumption that there would be only one special shape for the year) was again the Return of Sherlock Holmes Rathbone.

 

2002

I would guess that the fabulous B7, pictured here, was 2002’s collector’s shape.

 

2003

An SPD 2003 X220

 

2004

An SPD 2004 X105

 

2005

An SPD 2005 03

 

 

2006

An SPD 2006 68

An unusual entry for the series from the Classic Range, the 68 brandy—this is a real handful of a pipe, absolutely magnificent to hold. More on the shape soon!

 

2007

The classy, English-style 80s bent bulldog: perfect for your favorite Latakia bomb!

 

The B10 appeared around 2002–2003 and may have been the collector’s piece for 2007.

 

 

2008

An SPD 2008 01

2008 was the first year of Peterson’s green SPD releases. I’ve included two illustrations to give you some idea of what you can expect. Craftsmen at the factory have told me they had a hell of a time in the beginning figuring out how to do a really good green.

An SPD 2008 05

 

 

2009

Here’s the undoubted collector’s piece from 2009: the oversized 502, from the short-lived 500 shape group. See what I mean about the spectacular grain sometimes found in the SPDs? Simply amazing.

 

2010

Here’s a bulldog, Irish-style! The now deleted B2, for all fans of heavy (in looks, not weight). This might well have been the collector’s shape for 2010. . .

 

. . . except that there’s also a fabulous B30! Maybe the exception proves the rule?

 

2011

The collector’s piece for 2011: a B40. . .

 

. . . or was it this D9 from the deleted D (Danish) shapes?

 

2012

The mighty 107 makes another appearance in the SPD series.

 

2013

As you can see from the 2013 electronic strut card, there were actually three special shapes released in the 2013 SPD (the B35, B58 and B60), one of the most remarkable in the series’ 20-year history, not merely in the shape selection, but also in the smoky-matt finish.

The amazing B58, the “rocking setter” from the Iceberg Collection, was widely admired among Kappnists at the time.

 

I don’t know when Peterson began putting sleeves on the SPD series, but this is the earliest I’ve sourced, from 2013.

 

2014

You can read all about the 2014 SPDs here.

 

2015

The second SPD green release came in 2015.

The 2015 box curiously omits the year of release!

 

 

2016

The D19 (formerly LT or Large Tank) from the Mark Twain Collection was the collector’s shape for 2016.

The 2016 SPD on display at the 2015 IPCPR Show. Ten shapes? Surely not.

Flattened sleeve for the 2016 SPD

 

 

2017

Electronic Strut Card for the 2017 SPD

The B56, originally the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Sylvius, was the prize catch for 2017, signaling (in this case) the impending deletion of the Adventures of SH from the catalog.

 

2018

At the IPCPR show last summer, Tom Palmer said the 2018 SPD was intended to represent the Irish flag—the green (bowl), sterling band (white) and orange (mouthpiece). What better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the pipe? It’s certainly the highest-end since the first issue.

An SPD 2018 X220

 

 

Paddy Larrigan’s 304 barrel-setter, ready for St. Patrick’s Day festivities

Sláinte!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

 

Photos Courtesy
Smokingpipes.com
Peterson of Dublin
Dustin Anderson
Charles Mundungus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

78. First Look: The 2018 Peterson Pipe of the Year

I never thought we’d see the day when the Pipe of the Year was actually on the world market and available, at least with those with eyes to see, before January 1st. But so it is—the 2018 POTY is slowly rolling out, and true to the sea change at Peterson, it’s out on time. Those who’ve been Pete Nuts for years expect the POTY here in the US around the second week of June. This was because, traditionally, the company wanted to have the hallmark stamp bear the year of the pipe’s issue, and getting the Assay Office in Dublin Castle to get the sterling marked meant the pipes wouldn’t get on pods to cross the ocean until May. And that thinking surely helped with dating issues.

What this means for newer Peterson pipes is that the hallmark may actually predate the pipe–something new in the company’s 150+ years history. The POTYs I’ve seen recently all have a G for 2017 and not H for 2018 (and the same can be said for early releases of the St. Patrick’s Day 2018 commemorative). But as the pipe itself is plainly laser-engraved with the date, all this will mean is that companioners will know with a little more accuracy in what part of the issue of 500 pieces their pipe was made.

If you follow the Pipe of the Year, you know there was a change in direction when Conor Palmer became Commercial Director (click here for a visual history of the POTY). His strategy since he began with the company in 2014, he told me, is simple: “we like to try and vary the shapes each year. And this year we decided to settle on a bent shape at the outset.” If you look at the 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 pipes, you’ll see this pendulum swing: from the large straight army-mount in 2014 to the 2015 Oom Paul Founder’s Edition, then the straight fat-pencil tubular modern chimney of 2016 followed by the homage to the short, chubby vintage “Jap from the 1906 catalog in 2017.

As for the design itself, Conor writes, “I personally like diamond or oval shaped shanks, so that was something we were trying to flesh out from the beginning. This one was modeled on a rough sample we pulled out of the archives.”

Archives, indeed. The pipe can now be reasonably be said to be part of an emerging Peterson shape group, but to define it we need to step back and look at its predecessors.

(I)

The first appearance of a shape like this was the “Hansom” from the Return of Sherlock Holmes series (1997), which later appeared as the XL26 in the Kinsale line. I’ve read it described as a “combination acorn, bulldog, and calabash.” I can see all three of these shapes, but I wonder if “stack bent bulldog” isn’t more visually to the point? When I first saw this shape, I was almost repelled by it (“Nope! I’ll skip that one,” I remember saying). But it slowly and inexorably cast its spell on me, perhaps because there is something iconically Victorian about this shape and I have always loved both Dickens and Doyle. I had never seen anything like it. Its conical or v-shaped chamber also makes it a standout in my rotation, making for some of my happiest VaPer and virginia smoking experiences.

Return of Sherlock Holmes Hansom (1997)

Length: 5.64 in./143.18 mm.
Weight: 2.10 oz./59.39 g.
Bowl Height: 2.47 in./62.64 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.87 in./47.62 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.78 in./19.91 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.71 in./43.55 mm.

(II)

In 2012, Peterson released the Iceberg 1912 Collection “Bow,” (B60), which some e-tailers have mistaken for the Hansom. Apparently, they can’t see the round shank of the Bow, which actually makes it (to speak of it again as a hybrid) a “combination acorn, bulldog, and calabash.” “Stack bent rhodesian” is easier to visualize.

Actually the Bow has a different frazing, related to the Hansom but not identical. Look at the difference in the crowns at the rim, for instance: the Hansom has a taller and more steeply inclined cone above the double beads than the Bow. If you take the time to compare the measurements from several examples of each, you’ll also find that the Hansom routinely has a slightly smaller chamber diameter, is heavier in the hand, and most importantly, has an average of 5mm extra depth in its chamber. It’s a reasonable mistake, but at least in my experience, the pipes make for much different smoking experiences.

 Iceberg 1912 Collection Bow (2012)

Length: 5.50 in./139.70 mm.
Weight: 1.90 oz./53.86 gr.
Bowl Height: 2.35 in./59.69 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.65 in./41.91 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.82 in./20.83 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.68 in./42.67 mm.

(III)

Behind the new POTY, the Bow and the Hansom there is at least one early briar shape to which all three bear a distinct family resemblance: Comoy’s “Quebec” from 1911. If Neil Archer Roan’s A Passion for Pipes blog were still online you could read all about this remarkable piece. As things stand, you can at least take a look at it in an illustration of one of the fourteen reproductions Roan had made for his blog’s 2014 Pipe of the Year.

It lacks the more conically-articulated head of the Bow and Hansom, but its hefty shank and stem look like something that might have (but did not, in fact) come from Kapp & Peterson. Hmm.

Vollmer & Nillson’s Comoy’s “Quebec” (1911 / 2014)

Length: 4.99 in./126.75 mm.
Weight: 1.80 oz./51.03 gr.
Bowl Height: 1.85 in./46.99 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.45 in./36.83 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.76 in./19.30 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.47 in./37.34 mm.

And now Peterson has a third shape, resembling yet not identical to the previous two. “I guess for me,” says Conor, “the oval shank, domed top and tapered chamber all make for what will hopefully be an eye catching and interesting piece.” The almost swan-neck effect of the oval shank is, indeed, one of the loveliest features of the pipe, one that will might be missed by anyone who sees only obverse / reverse profile shots of the pipe. The long neck is also pertinent given 2017’s exquisite Waterford long-necks, another first in the Peterson design aesthetic. As much as I love still photography, it’s certainly worth a minute of your time to look at the Al Pascia video to get the pipe in motion:

“Believe it or not,” said Conor, “the silver work is much trickier for the guys to complete on oval or diamond shanks as it is harder to ‘turn over.’ But we felt it was worth pursuing in the interest of creating a unique shape this year.” Which indeed they have.

I’m looking forward to a first smoke and expect marvelous things from this pipe’s 19mm x 50mm conical, v-shaped chamber. This is not a chamber size you can find from most pipe-makers these days, and more’s the pity. I also appreciate the wide mouthpiece and its 4.57mm thickness, both of which will make it easy to clinch. And either the acrylic is getting softer, or I’m growing used to it.

The pipe comes in one of the new snap-hinge hardshell boxes (pictured at top) we’ve seen on the Amber Spigots—a real upgrade for ephemera lovers and the best box and a great improvement over the XL black box of recent years.

Incidentally, Joe Kenny, factory manager, told me the rustic version (for which I do not have an illustration) will feature the same red over black stain as seen on the sandblast.

Putting the three pipes together like I’ve done here makes it obvious that Peterson has claimed a new shape for its chart. But with oval, diamond, and round shanks, what should it be called? Their double-beaded crown precludes a straight identification with the acorn shape as it has come to be understood within the hobby:

They actually bear a much closer resemblance to the classic acorn street light globe:

But the Hansom, as I said earlier, has always seemed to say something Victorian. I’ve thought about the shape on and off in the years since the pipe became part of my rotation but could never quite put my finger on it. The stars finally lined up one night when I was smoking the pipe and watching Jeremy Brett in one of the BBC / Granada adaptations: it looks like a Victorian gaslight.

With the acorn shape name already taken, maybe “gaslight” works. I doubt  it will inspire an avalanche of imitators like the Devil Anse, acorn, or volcano of past years. But that’s all right. Pete Nuts seem to march to the drum of a different pipe band.* So just between us—although feel free to throw the name around—I think I’ll call it a gaslight, as in, “Oh, that’s a Peterson gaslight shape, isn’t it?”
Pipe of the Year 2018

Length: 5.57 in.  / 143 mm.
Weight: 1.88 oz. / 54 gr,
Bowl Height: 2.28 in. / 58 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.96 in. / 50 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.74 in. / 19 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.64 in. / 42 mm.
Mouthpiece Width: 0.735 in. / 18.68 mm.
Mouthpiece Thickness: 0.18 in. / 4.57 mm.
Mouthpiece: Acrylic

Many Thanks:
Conor Palmer at Peterson
Al Pascia

Bollito Pipes
Smokingpipes.com
Charles Mundungus

*Sorry, just can’t help myself. From Wikipedia: The most common form of pipe band, the Scottish/Irish pipe band, consists of a section of pipers playing the great highland bagpipe, a section of snare drummers (often referred to as ‘side drummers’), several tenor drummers and usually one, though occasionally two, bass drummers. The entire drum section is known collectively as the drum corps. The tenor drummers and bass drummer are referred to collectively as the ‘bass section’ (or in North America as the ‘midsection’). The band follows the direction of the pipe major; when on parade the band may be led by a drum major, who directs the band with a mace. Standard instrumentation for a pipe band involves 6 to 25 pipers, 3 to 10 side drummers, 1 to 6 tenor drummers and 1 bass drummer. Occasionally this instrumentation is augmented to include additional instruments (such as additional percussion instruments or keyboard instruments), but this is typically done only in concert settings.

Pipe bands are a long-standing tradition in other areas with Celtic roots, such as the regions of Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria in Northern Spain and Brittany in Western France, as well as other regions with Celtic influence in other parts of Europe. The tradition is also long-standing in the British Commonwealth of Nations countries and former British colonies such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Pipe bands have also been established in countries with few Scottish or Celtic connections such as Thailand, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina.”

 

75. Sneak Peek: 2018 St. Patrick’s Day Pipes

This just in from my friends at Tobaccopipes.com–a first look at the 2018 St. Patrick’s Day pipes. Paddy’s Day is still a ways off, but in a sense Paddy’s Day is any day a Pete Nut picks up his favorite Peterson, right?

The Dublin Era (1991 – present) has seen a number of annual comemoratives, including the July 4th, Father’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Christmas pipes. The St. Patrick’s Day pipes began in 1998, and each year I’m sure they scratch their heads in Sallynoggin and try to figure out what to do next. This year marks three firsts for the series: the first army-mounts, the first sterling ferrules, and the first amber-color acrylic stems.

If you watched Tom Palmer’s interview posted a few blogs back, he said Peterson liked to think they’d captured the green, white and orange of the Irish flag this year–something the commemorative did in a more modest way with a triple-ring acrylic band for its first issue in 1998.

As far as shapes go, it appears that Peterson is sticking to a dozen tried-and-true established, smaller Classic Range numbers, including several Pete-lover favorites: the 120 dublin, the 999 rhodesian, the 305 calabash, and the fabulous B10 hybrid. The photo of the flat-bottom 304 isn’t particularly illustrative, but it’s one of Paddy Larrigan’s original designs, a wonderful barrel-“setter.”

The pipes can be pre-ordered at Tobaccopipes.com here in the U.S., and should be out early in the new year.

For those who can’t wait, Tabaccheria Guzzi’s eBay store is offering a few right now on eBay. As you can see from the photos, the finish is something a bit new and different from Peterson. At first I thought it was a matt spray, but I’m not sure at this point. I think I can see a bit of grain beneath the green. I also want to call your attention to the inlaid aluminum P —another indication of the high quality of this year’s release. Note, too, Jason Hinch’s sterling “Hinch Mount” on the 03 and X220.  I’m also excited Peterson is continuing the use of the commemorative sleeve. The laser-engraved shamrock on the laser-stamping is also a nice touch!
Illustrations courtesy Toaccopipes.com
and Tabaccheria Guzzi