73. An Amber Spigot Gallery Walk at the Black Swan Shoppe

There are folks who are passionate about pipes, those who are passionate about selling pipes, and those who are passionate about Peterson pipes. But how many people do you know that comfortably fit in all three circles? Few, I’d think, especially of that final category. But Kris Parry at the Black Swan Shoppe is one of the few. You may remember him from an earlier blog I did on Peterson’s rarest line, the Plato.*

Kris and I were emailing a few weeks ago about some Peterson pipes (of course), and he mentioned that at the recent UK trade show Peterson was offering what is probably the last installment of the real amber spigots. Kris told me, “the UK got 50 and retailers were falling over themselves to snap some up. The show opened at 9:00am and they were all gone by 10am. I was the first on the stand and managed to select the 10 best pieces. I then gave other eager retailers a chance to grab some (we are all friends in the trade) and took what was left at 10am.”

When he offered to let me see what Black Swan had received a few days ago, my eyes popped. It’s not just the amber spigots, nor the incredible “A” bowls with their breath-taking birdseye or flame grain, but the combination that is so pleasing. And to see all these pipes together was so remarkable that I thought I’d pass along that experience to you with a minimum of commentary.

Before beginning your tour, I would like to point out a few things about the mouthpieces. Notice as you go along that there are three distinct types of mouthpiece: a round-end with the draft hole in the middle, a flattened button which isn’t quite a fishtail, and a P-Lip. While the 50 kilos or so of amber mouthpieces were inventoried in the late 1930s, the three styles of mouthpieces tell us a little bit more. The orifice or round-end style predates P-Lip production and was abandoned during the 1890s, meaning these mouthpieces were fashioned no later than that decade. The almost-fishtail stems could date anywhere from the late 1890s to the time of inventory. The P-Lips, of course, date no earlier to the time of the 3rd patent in 1898.

We know Charles Peterson and his young hand Jimmy Malone both worked amber, so there is the very real possibility that either CP or Malone actually crafted some of these stems. In the photo session Thomas Mason (the famous Irish photographer) did for the 1906 catalog, CP and Henry Kapp chose the amber and meerschaum work station not only for its prestige value, I think, but because Charles was justifiably proud of his skill as a craftsman. He always chose to wear his workman’s smock in any indoor photograph, while the other execs wore suits (that photo, of course, is in the forthcoming book).

 

 

B10 P-Lip (1 of 2)

 

 

999 P-Lip w/bone tenon extension

 

 

124 P-Lip

 

X220 Flame P-Lip (2of 3), bone tenon (11S DeLuxe or 312 System),
with bone tenon extension (a System)

 

120 (1 of 5) with either orifice or early flat button

 

X220 Flame P-Lip (1 of 3), bone tenon (11S DeLuxe or 312 System),
with bone tenon extension (a System)

 

106 P-Lip

 

120 (2 of 5) P-Lip Flame

 

230 P-Lip (a small billiard, same as 12 1/2 De Luxe or 317 System),
with bone tenon extension

 

15 P-Lip

 

120 (3 of 5) orifice button: probably the earliest-made amber in the gallery

 


X220 Flame P-Lip (3of 3), bone tenon (11S DeLuxe or 312 System),
with bone tenon extension (a System)

 

120 Flame (4 of 5), P-Lip

 

 

408 P-Lip

 

B10 (2 of 2)

 

120 Flame (5 of 5) with flat button

 

This release of the amber spigots comes with a second mouthpiece, black acrylic fishtail. The first release in the U.S. came with no extra stem, while the Lubinski / Italian releases have routinely featured an extra acrylic fishtail spigot mouthpiece. As expensive as the extra spigot mouthpiece makes the pipe, I think I would’ve preferred that if I was going to invest in one of these beauties. I wouldn’t let that stop me, of course, if I wanted one, as Peterson is willing to make an extra spigot mouthpiece for a very reasonable price. Kris said with this release there’s a new padded, hinged box:

I know some folk have been a bit hesitant because of the hoop-lah over the fragility of the amber. There are still lots of vintage Petes in circulation with amber bits, some with quite a bit of dental chatter, and of course as a semi-precious “stone,” amber is brittle. But it’s not more brittle now than it was when Peterson craftsmen originally formed it, and there’s loads of advice on how to take care of it and bring back its luster if it gets a little sun (a drop of olive oil and a silver polishing cloth). But if you decide to invest, I hope you’ll take my old friend “Trucker” Chuck Wright’s advice: “it’s just a piece of wood unless you smoke it. Then it becomes a pipe.” Fumare in pace!

The acrylic black fishtail mouthpiece

You can view available Amber Spigots from the Black Swan at
https://www.thebackyshop.co.uk/categories/peterson-briar-pipes-peterson-antique-amber-pipes

Photos courtesy Kris Parry, Black Swan Shoppe,
https://www.thebackyshop.co.uk/

 

 

If you’re ever in Scarborough, be sure to drop by and introduce yourself to Kris Parry at the Black Swan Shoppe. If you click on the photo below, you can see a card of Peterson pipes in the upper right side of the window display.

* See https://petersonpipenotes.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/60-peterson-2017-product-catalog-a-well-kept-secret/.  Kris has several of the latest gen Platos in stock, as you can see. It looks like some have the new acrylic P-Lips, some still have the vulcanite P-Lips. “Worth a peek,” as the old duffer says.

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

64. The Next-Gen System?

One of the goals of The Peterson Pipe Book is to delve deeply into the System, Charles Peterson’s flagship line, and recover an understanding of why it is in fact one of the world’s great smoking instruments, deserving of the pipeman’s respect and a prominent place in his rotation. But while the layout & design artist and I are at work this spring and summer getting the book finalized for the publisher, I’ve become aware of a new and interesting development in the System that I want to share. First, some background:

Peterson’s System pipes, as most Peterson smokers (if few others) know, are by definition “system” pipes if they adhere to Charles Peterson’s two patent design principles:

  1. a System reservoir;
  2. a graduated-bore P-Lip stem.

If a pipe lacks either, then it is quite simply not a System pipe, whether considered from the perspective of history, engineering, marketing, or the smoking experience itself.

To the two patents mentioned above, Peterson has traditionally (but not always, as we discuss in the book) added a third, strengthening element, although it’s not in the patent: either a domed army-mount on the Standard and Premier Systems, or a ferrule with Space-Fitting Stem on the De Luxe.

As lovers of estate Petes have noticed time and again, the nickel or sterling mount makes the System (like its cousin the Peterson Army) the toughest pipe on the market, impervious to shank cracks, weather, and too loose or tight tenons. About the only thing that could make it tougher would be a spigot mount.

Never in Peterson’s history, until recently, has there been a genuine spigot System. One was advertised in a Hollco-Rohr distributor catalog c. 1987, but as you can see from the photograph below (which I’ve digitally enhanced to show the mouthpieces more clearly), it actually featured a traditional fishtail spigot mouthpiece and thus violated Charles Peterson’s second design principle. And a fishtail mouthpiece with a reservoir will not smoke like a System pipe. Trust me, I’ve tried it. You get a lot of hot, wet smoke. There’s a reason it’s called a “System”—it needs both parts to function correctly.

The c. 1987 “Spigot” System had a fishtail!

In 2016, for the IPCPR show, Peterson produced a handful of Premier Spigots. “We used Premier-grade bowls and stuck a spigot mouthpiece on them,” Conor Palmer at Peterson recently told me. “We only produced them as a one-off,” he said, “part of some IPCPR picking stock that we created for last year’s show.” As you can see, they all feature the new Hinch flat-nose mount.

XL315 Premier System Spigot

When Laudisi (aka Smokingpipes.com) visited the factory in March, they acquired the remaining pieces and quietly put them up on their Smokingpipes.com site. I have no idea how many, nor what shapes were made, but I did pick up a few photographs and had Laudisi send me a 312 to give it a go.  Because of a quirk in the factory computer program, the boxes were incorrectly labeled “Standard System Premium Spigot,” but the bowls, as Pete freeks quickly noticed and Conor Palmer confirmed, are indeed Premier grade.

A Classic Vulcanite 1979 P-Lip (left) and the 2015 Acrylic P-Lip (right)

The other piece in the next-gen System is a new acrylic P-Lip. As you can see from the comparison photographs, the button has a slightly different shape, but like the best of the vulcanite P-Lips, it has a well-developed upper and lower wall with a wide, flat shelf, elements crucial for comfort and clenching.

Long-time readers of the blog will know I’m something of a Luddite, and an acrylic stem is something I have learned to tolerate rather than admire, although that may be changing. My chompers are as far away from movie-star glam as can be, with pointy dog teeth that always leave a mark. Acrylic is more slippery than vulcanite, but I found after the first smoke that my clenching style adjusted without any problems.

The 2015 Acrylic (top) and 1979 Vulcanite (bottom) mouthpieces:
gorgeous articulation of the walls and clenching shelves!

The acrylic P-Lip not only follows Charles Peterson’s design principles, but even improves on it. The air hole is graduated, as per patent specs, from 1.5mm at the button to 5mm at the base.  The first improvement, seen in the photo above, is in the better articulation of the button walls and clenching shelves. This has been a problem with the Standard and Premier mouthpieces of the past several years and comes as a great return to form.

A second  improvement is in the air hole at the button. It is upturned, as per patent specs, but unlike its vulcanite predecessors it is chamfered, as you may just be able to see from the detail photographs.  This means a better airflow as well as a little greater ease when inserting a pipe cleaner.

5mm Opening, Per Patent Specs

There is no screw-in tenon extension, normally part of the Premier and De Luxe treatment, for two reasons: first, because Peterson hasn’t found a partner who can chase the threads into the acrylic; and second, the company is in the process of finding a new manufacturer for the extensions.

Profile of the New Acrylic Spigot on a 312

An acrylic mount will, of course, be another feather in the System’s cap: stronger and so much easier to maintain than vulcanite. Whatever will the old-time System-user do with all that time freed-up from cleaning and buffing oxidized stems?

303 Premier System Spigot

So how does the System Spigot smoke? Or to use “precision of language,” as Jonas from The Giver might ask, “does it smoke like well-functioning System?” The answer (drum roll, please) is . . . an unequivocal full-on Yes.  The 312 I’m smoking is as cool and dry as the finest Systems in my rotation—at least, after a dozen or so smokes. For me, that’s saying a lot, as I don’t believe there is a pipe that smokers better, all things considered, than a well-made System. I have several fishtail Petes that are absolutely first-rate smokers, but the fact remains that nothing (to my taste) smokes as comfortably between the teeth, as cool and dry, or as flavorful as a graduated P-Lip mouthpiece in conjunction with a System reservoir.

312 Premier System Spigot

There is one final peculiarity to ponder with the System Spigot. I have other 312 Systems in my rotation, but unlike them, the Spigot System smokes my Virginia flakes to absolute ash. It also requires fewer relights. I can only hypothesize that this has to do with the Spigot mount. The metal-on-metal of the tenon-shank connection transfers heat more uniformly than vulcanite-on-briar or acrylic-on-briar, creating a tighter seal when smoking. The tighter seal results in a better airflow.

304 Premier System Spigot

Tom Palmer said he doesn’t know when the company will go ahead with the next-gen System, but here’s hoping it’s soon. Can you imagine some of the multi-color acrylic rod used on new product lines applied to the System?

Tom also said that if the right grade of bowl materializes, there are several shapes that could be used. These include not only traditional System shapes (including the B42 / Darwin), but shapes like the B10 and B11. Even more intriguing was his inclusion of several straight shapes – the 107, X105, and 150 among them. Straight Systems smoke like the Sahara – almost too dry for me. But that’s another story.  In the meantime, it looks like the toughest pipe on the planet  may just get tougher.

307 Premier System Spigot

 

 

Fumare in Pace!

Photographs courtesy Smokingpipes.com
Additional 312 Premier System Spigot Photographs
by C. Mundungus

 

58. Peterson New Lines for 2017: First Look

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Aside from a pilgrimage up Croag Patrick in County Mayo, followed by a pint of craft beer at the Porterhouse Brewing Co. in Dublin’s Temple Bar (as long as we’re pretending), I believe one of the best ways to celebrate is raise our Petes in humble thanks for all the Irish have given us, including good pipes to smoke.

To give you even more cause for celebration, here’s a first look at the 2017 new product lines from Peterson. I only have official photos at this point, but I’ll follow up with more information in a few weeks. For now, enjoy.

 

Limited Edition / Pipe of the Year

What could possibly follow the 2016 POY with such great visual contrast, but an homage to Peterson’s original 1906 chubby? I’ve talked about this shape before, but when Peterson made their first reproduction back in the 2005, they used the largest of the original “Jap” shapes. Here they use the medium shape and come closer to the classic forward-canted egg / bell from that catalog. My late friend “Trucker Chuck” Wright, known to many old-time Pete aficionados, had a companion-case set of these originals, one in briar and one in meer, which now sits in Tom Palmer’s office in Sallynoggin.

At first I was hoping for a P-Lip, but looking at that wide bit reminds me of my Italian chubbies from over at Neatpipes – and the wide-grip mouthpieces on those deliver extreme comfort between the teeth. Don’t know if this is a limited edition of 500 pieces again this year, but I’m hoping we might get an upgrade on the LE box. I like the blast on this year’s pipe (at least, the one shown) better than last, and the rustication is a vast improvement over the past few years, although still not up to the soft, deeply craggy  “Pebble Rustic” of the 1990s.

 

 

Clontarf

XL11

Do you remember back when you first took up the pipe? When you didn’t have two dollars to rub together and felt blessed if you had the money to take your girl for a burger and fries? Back when you smoked your Dad’s Kaywoodie (the bulldog with the stinger) and bought your first pipe out of a basket? Those days are as enchanted for me as anything in Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu.  I remember looking through the cases at all the pipes at Ted’s in Tulsa that I couldn’t afford, going from pipe to pipe to pipe. Pete Systems were $33, basket pipes $8. A Jobey Stromboli, my first real pipe, and one I treasure to this day, was $12.50.

XL22

Well, the Clontarf is the kind of pipe that, as a beginning pipeman, I would return to look at again and again, hoping my favorite shapes were still in the case. The visual design just pops—that smooth honey-brown with its striking rim rustication, the bold black PETERSON over CLONTARF logo (better than a Nike swoosh stripe, right?). And I imagine the price-point will be tempting for young and new smokers as well as old hands looking for something that says Peterson in a fresh way.

XL20

The Clontarf takes its name from the coastal burb just north of Dublin, famous for the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, when High King Brian Boru defeated the Vikings of Dublin and their allies, the Irish of Leinster. A dozen shapes have been announced, including the 69, 106, 408, 606, 999, B7, X220, XL11, XL20, XL21, XL22 and XL90.

The technique on the rim rustication looks similar to that used on fully-rusticated army mount Petes back in the 1970s and 80s on their army mounts.  Also looks like an ebonite (hurray!) mouthpiece with gold hot foil P stamping. Killer laser-engraving, the black-on-honey. (Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I believe the fishtail ebonite is a new slightly-redesigned mouthpiece. If you look at the Dublin Edition pipes on the market right now, you can see these are the same used here.)The XL shapes are all from the old Sherlock Holmes releases.  (If you’re new to the Peterson shape game, you can see any of these shapes by googling “Peterson [shape #] pipe smokingpipes.com.” You won’t see a Clontarf yet, but it will give you a visualization of the shape.)

 

Newgrange

X220

The Newgrange sterling spigots feature a the seldom-seen F-mount, using K&P’s old-school “Pete-Speak,” where “F” stands for “facing.”  This might more usefully be translated as “flat,” because that’s what it does – covers the top of the shank at the mortise with a flat rather than domed surface. The beautiful black and maroon swirl acrylic mouthpieces compliment the gloss blast finish and what appears to be either a dark brown or cherry smooth rim. A dozen shapes have been announced, including the 01, 03, 05, 69, 87, 106, 408, 999, X220, XL02, XL11, and XL90. Standouts for me are the X220, which is a chubby version of shape 11 (De Luxe System) / 312 (Standard System), the XL11 (Original Sherlock Holmes) and XL02.

XL02

The line takes its name, as I’m sure you  know, from the amazing megalithic Newgrange passage tomb in the Boyne valley. It’s very narrow inside, and when we toured a few years back, someone got claustrophobic and we all had to do the backstroke to help him get out. The de-stress of a Peterson pipe would have come in handy at that point, right? Newgrange is a World Heritage site and worth a day when you next visit Ireland—and the Knowth tomb is right next to it.

XL11

 

St. Patrick’s Day 2017

B56

You’ve presumably already read about these and bought that wonderful B56 / Sylvius to enjoy it today, right? No?! Well you can read about them here: https://petersonpipenotes.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/sneak-peak-st-patricks-day-pipes-for-2017/ . And there’s still some SPD17s around—but don’t wait too long, as they’ll disappear before summer hits. Like Christmas, the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day is something you learn to cultivate all year long. At least, that what’s my Jedi master taught me.

 

Summertime 2017

D18

For the second release in the Summertime line, Peterson goes for a nice blast brown/orange finish with orange swirl acrylic mouthpiece, traditional “navy” mount and silver hot foil P on the stem. It’s a great contrast next to the army-mount blue bowl & yellow stem 2016 Summertime – having them side-by-side in the pipe rack would be fun. The dozen shapes announced include 03, 68, 69, 80S, 150, 230, B10, D18, X105, XL02, XL16, XL90. I can tell you the giant D18 Oom Pauls – the 150th Anniversary Pipe – are going to go fast, so if you want one, you might try to go ahead and reserve it with Ben at Tobaccopipes.com or your favorite shop. The XL16 is another stand-out for me, having originally appeared as the Professor [Moriarty] in the Sherlock Holmes lines. The 80S and 150 also really shine in this dress.

XL16

80S

150

 

 

 

Valentia

Calabash

From what I can see of the Valentia line, it seems to be Peterson’s first higher-grade green-stain line since the Racing Green appeared in the mid-1990s. Both feature sterling bands, but the Valentia appears to be a higher-grade than the Racing Green, indicated not only by the amount of grain showing through but the all-important aluminum-imbedded P in the swirl green acrylic mouthpiece. A worthy successor, I’d say. In Italy, these are called lady-pipes, originating in Peterson’s Belgique and Calabash designs from the mid-1940s. Announced in a half-dozen shapes, slim and elegant, including the 15, 65, 86, Barrel, Belgique and Calabash.

Barrel

The line name comes from Valentia Island off the Iveragh Peninsula at the southwest corner of County Kerry. There’s a bridge at Portmagee that will take you over. When I die, I suspect heaven will look remarkably like County Kerry.

 

Waterford

XL13

The Waterford line is the 2017 high-grade, so don’t expect to see many of them. I can count the 2016 Dublin & Londons I’ve seen on two hands – they’re for serious collectors. The Waterfords, as you can see, feature an amazing smoky orange finish with a dark black and deep orange acrylic swirl mouthpiece and (of course) imbedded aluminum P. This is Peterson’s higher-grade briar, and it shows. The dozen announced shapes are suitably sophisticated: 01, 01, 106, 338 (yea!), 502, 999, X220, XL11, XL13, XL22, XL25, XL90. Where in the world did they get 502 bowls? They must date from the 1980s (you can read up on the 500 shapes here: https://petersonpipenotes.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/the-peterson-500-shapes-and-new-old-stock/ ). Several big pieces here from the Sherlock Holmes series—the XL11, XL13, XL22, XL25.

999

If you’ve never noticed this feature on a Pete before, see how the bowl heads are beveled in around the chamber on these high-grade Petes: I think Dunhill used to call these “easy-loader” rims, didn’t they? Sometimes you see this kind of head on a mid-grade Pete, but it’s certainly part of the high-grade package.

XL25

 

 

Christmas 2017 (Elf Army 2)

408

The Christmas pipe this year, designated the Elf Army 2 here on the blog, is a return of the glorious army-mount. This year’s will be a deep burgundy-over-black blast with engraved-nickel band, pearl-acrylic fishtail stem, and silver hot foil P.   It’s been announced in a dozen shapes: 01, 03, 05, 69, 87, 106, 408, 999, X220, XL02, XL11, and XL90. Eleven are from the Classic Range shape chart, but the XL11 is the “Original” Sherlock Holmes shape designed by Paddy Larrigan.

01

03

As to availability, I can only make a guess based on previous years. We will probably see the POY here in the States by the end of May or early June. The Summertime pipes may be out sometime in April. As to the others, I have heard that in the Sallynoggin shop (“factory” really just isn’t the word) initial batches of new lines are usually done sequentially — meaning we might see a larger-volume line like the Clontarf before the smaller, higher grade releases. It’s often the case that European vendors get their pipes in a bit before those here, so if you’re anxious you might check in to the etailers listed under the Blogroll in a month or so. They’re all excellent, and most will deliver your pipe in the same number of days it would take one in the States.

 

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!

 Pipe photography courtesy Peterson of Dublin