94. The 2018 Natural Outdoor Series & A Look Back at Peterson’s Pocket Pipes

Natural Outdoor Series 2018One unannounced new line for 2018 is the Natural Outdoor Series, a serious upgrade of the Outdoor Series released around 2011. The line features Peterson’s natural finish high-grade bowls, many with flame-grain, a wide double-beaded sterling band, hand-stamping on the briar with the fork-tail P logo and a vulcanite mouthpiece. While sharing photos of the new line (which is in limited release at a few e-tailers here and across the pond), I thought readers might also be interested in a little of the history behind them.

1906 Pal AB System1906: “Pal” AB System

2018 Natural Outdoor, Calabash: Peterson’s Smallest Current Production Pipe

As the world’s longest continuously operating maker of briar pipes, it perhaps comes as no surprise that Peterson has had a long interest in pocket pipes. While there are none found in the 1896 catalog, leafing through the 1906 catalog there are over a dozen shapes that today we’d classify as nose-warmers: oval bowls (sometimes known as “opera pipes”), extra small Patent Systems, straight Systems, bulldogs, and named pipes like the “Pat,” “Jap,” and “R.I.C.” *

Sports Line 19831947: “SPORTS” Line (1983 catalog)

Production of small shapes doubtless continued after the Patent era through the Irish Free State and into the Eire era, but the next concrete evidence we have comes with the “SPORTS” line of pipes released in the late 1940s—the quotation marks and all-capital letters being part of the original line’s name. The Identification Guide chapter of The Peterson Pipe identifies 11 shapes that were made through the years in this line—all of them from full-sized bowls, but not all usually in production at any one time.

One of my only attempts to be a pipe collector (rather than “companioner”) was to gather all eleven “SPORTS,” which I did. My problem then (and now) was that all but the 1947 Shape 5 bulldog had tiny P-Lip mouthpieces that I couldn’t clinch. How someone managed to do so on a golf course or astride his polo horse I have no idea. Maybe there was an optional headset attachment. The line continued in small numbers, on and off, through the end of the twentieth century, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Peterson still makes them on demand.

Outdoor Series 2011 1242011: Outdoor (Shape 124)

In 2011, the company unfurled an updated version of the pocket pipe, utilizing some fantastic shapes from their catalog: the under-utilized and seldom seen 124 canted dublin (as Irish a shape as you’ll ever see), the danish-bent dublin D6, a bent billiard 65 with marvelous upswept mouthpiece, and a very Barry Fitzgeraldesque apple, the 86. These resurface from time to time and are currently available (for example) at Smokingpipes.

2014: Outdoor Sportsman

In 2014, Peterson launched their first-ever line of army-mount pocket pipes with the Outdoor Sportsman line. I say that because the 1906 army-mount pockets were all “Extra Small” P.P.P.s—Peterson Patent Pipes, while the other pockets were navy-mounts. I tried smoking an 01 Outdoor Sportsman for a while, and it wasn’t the smoke that was the problem, but simply how close the bowl was to my face. How close is too close varies according to pipeman, I’m sure, but while I companion some of these little pipes, I felt like I was singeing my eyebrows every time I stuck flame to bowl.

 2014: Fisherman, Shape B47

2014: Hunter, Shape 68

Almost simultaneous with the Outdoor Sportsman release came a few short-stemmed limited run pocket pipes through Mario Lubinski, Peteson’s Italian distributor and long-time collaborator. The Hunter army mount and banded Fisherman come to mind, although there were a few other shapes as well, if memory serves.

 

2018: Natural Outdoor Series, D6

And that brings us to the new 2018 Natural Outdoor line. Killer looks, right? They’ve taken the concept to new heights, giving it top-drawer treatment.

I really like the super-extra-long band on the Tankard:

Tankard

Writes Conor Palmer, Commercial Director at Peterson: “The little natural pipes weren’t featured in the catalogue primarily because we don’t have available bowls in sufficient quality to promote them actively. We have called them the ‘Natural Outdoor Series’ and essentially it is made up of 6 shapes – The 124, Calabash, D6, Tankard, 86 and 15. The band is ever so slightly longer than what we usually use, and with a natural finish on the high-quality briar I think they make a nice addition.”

86 Apple

15 Billiard

As with Peterson’s other Natural releases, you may see a few tiny black spots on some pipes, which Peterson takes pride not to hide. These are root marks, not flaws. What you see is what you get—a rare high-grade piece of ebauchon briar with no camouflage.

 

Moonshine Dublin (top) & Peterson Natural Outdoor 124 (bottom)

Aside from the slightly-larger Peterson Antique Collection “Pat” shapes, I turn to Moonshine pocket pipes for short morning smokes when I get the opportunity, and I thought they might make a good comparison point with the Natural Outdoor Series.

Moonshine is the only company whose primary mission is making pocket pipes. For many smokers, I suspect they’ve become the standard.  They are part of BriarWorks International, a tiny outfit of something like six to eight folks, headed up by artisan-maker Pete Prevost. I’d call them a “hybrid-artisan” pipe company for lack of a better term, because even though their craftsmen and women have designated tasks rather than making each pipe from start to finish, the briar, finishing, stain work, stem work, shapes and low prices continually elicit gasps of wonder from me. **

Like Peterson, Moonshine uses more-or-less standard-size chambers (the Peterson Calabash being the exception). As you can see, both company’s pipes just cross the four-inch mark, which seems to be the standard.

Moonshine Devil Anse & Peterson Natural Outdoor 86

Moonshine pipes have a slightly more fan-shaped fishtail mouthpiece, which I thought would make them more comfortable than the Petes, but between my teeth (and I know this varies from mouth to mouth), the Petes easily found a secure hold. It’s a plus, probably, that Peterson went with a vulcanite mouthpiece here, since it’s softer than acrylic and hence easier to get a grip on it, although the slotting isn’t up to the Moonshine standard.

 

2018: Ebony Outdoor Series, Shape A1

There have also been a few 2018 Ebony Outdoor releases, also with sterling mount in a very classy matte black finish and the hand-stamped forked-tail P logo and vulcanite mouthpieces. Seen above is the little A1 bulldog.

Tankard

Shape 86

So if you’re wanting a traveling companion to slip into your coat, something for a short smoke over the morning cuppa, or a meditation break, these might just be the ticket.

 

Photos courtesy Chas. Mundungus
and
Smokingpipes.com

 

 

*Back in 2014, I talked about the army-mount Sportsman line of Peterson pocket pipes then appearing (https://petersonpipenotes.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/the-new-sportsman-line/), which you may want to take a look at if you’re interested in how nose warmers smoke, and why the short mouthpiece doesn’t make for a hotter smoking experience.

**The BriarWorks C111 bullmoose is to my eyes a virtual reproduction of the old Peterson 999 John Bull, and when I saw it at the Chicagoland show in May, I couldn’t resist:

I also like BriarWorks’s wire rustic finish. Probably just a coincidence, but Peterson used a similar rustication technique back in the late 1970s for a special army-mount release:

Moonshine Wire Rustic Pot Still

Iwan Ries Catalog 1978: Peterson Black Brush Rustic Army Mount (left)

 

 

 

 

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92. Rogha Addendum

Just a brief follow-up on the Sansone Rogha pipes. The top photo shows the tamper Gianluca issued for this year’s batch, very nice with its own draw-string bag.

I was a little curious to see if the X220s were, indeed, drilled with a reservoir. They are, as you can see. If you know Peterson’s shape charts, you’ll know this is a bit strange, as this is a System shape 312 (an 11 bowl, or 11S in current De Luxe System).

The pipes are hallmarked “G” for 2017, which is spot-on. As you may have read in earlier blogs, for the first time in Peterson’s history pipes are now sometimes issued with hallmarks dating to the previous year—this in an effort to get pipes out in a timely manner, but liable to cause a bit of dating confusion.

The sterling mounts are laser-engraved, which I don’t much care for, but I can see that having a hand-stamp made for every special issue might be cost-prohibitive when you have a laser-engraver there on the shop floor.

They are hand-stamped with the classic fork-tail P, a classic move. And most importantly, they’ve got that fabulous acrylic P-Lip mouthpiece, so no worries there either for comfort in clinching or for a cool System smoke.

It would appear that all the Roghas are now sold, but if you missed out, there’s a bit of good news.  Peterson has decided to offer something like the natural virgin-style bowl in this year’s Summertime line, as you may have seen in the 2018 catalog. I say “something like,” because the Roghas, according to Peterson’s Italian distributor and long-time collaborator Mario Lubinski, comprised a mere 12 bowls out of more than 3,000 Mario examined in making the selection! “Choice” (Rogha) indeed.  To meet the “choice” criteria, the bowls had to be clean, spot-free and have gorgeous grain.

So I made inquiries with Conor Palmer, commercial director at Peterson, and he replied: “We really like the natural, ‘unprocessed’ look and feel of the Rohga 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.” I’m thinking we can probably expect a few visible cracks and rough marks on the Summertime pipes, just due to the very nature of the sandblasted bowls stock. And of course, the Summertime is an army-mount, than being fully-functioning System pipes, and so requires a different smoking style. But I’m having so much fun with my Rogha, that I think I might just be up to it.

I’ve smoked nine bowls so far in my X220, and must say it’s the sweetest Pete I’ve ever smoked, in part due to the bare chamber. Mario Lubinski told me it would be, and he’s spot-on.

I detest breaking in a new pipe, and confess sometimes a pipe will sit in the rack for months before I gather courage to get started on it. I didn’t risk high-sugar Virginias for the first few bowls, and was careful not to overheat the bowl and to keep watch for that dreaded burnt-wood taste, but all is well and it looks like the pipe is off to a running start. It’s also fun watching the outer bowl darken with each smoke. I’ve already got my scouts out looking for a Summertime B10 with its fabulous V-shaped chamber.

Mario indicated there will be a 2018 Rogha (out next year about this time), but if you’re not inclined to wait, you might want to try out one of the Summertime 2018 pipes, which should debut here in the US anytime now. And if you’ve a mind for the 9mm version, it can be obtained now at the James Fox Pipe Divan:

Photo courtesy James Fox
Thanks also to Mario Lubinski and Conor Palmer

 

 

 

91. The 2018 Peterson New Lines

2018 Pipe Catalogue_Low Res

Here it is, long overdue (from me, not from Peterson)—a PDF of the 2018 Peterson Pipe Collection for your perusal and enjoyment! Download it, share it. I won’t spoil any of it, but look carefully, as there’s some great new lines coming. You can expect a close look at all the highlights shortly.

88. Peterson’s Rogha: A Small Batch Release of Natural Virgin Briars

A few weeks ago, Gianluca at the Sansone Smoking Store in Rome contacted me and asked if I’d like to see some photos of Sansone’s Peterson Rogha pipes from 2016, made especially for his shop, as he was preparing to put up a new 2017 small batch on his website. I said yes, of course, even though I had no idea what a Peterson “Rogha” was.  The photographs arrived the next day, and as you can see, they’re natural virgin briars. The photos were so gorgeous that when our book designer saw them, she immediately asked if we could use one for the book (Gianluca said yes, by the way).

Natural Virgin briars aren’t something many pipemen here in the US know much about—what they are, why they’re special, or how they smoke. But ask an Italian smoker, or an aficionado of Castello or Radice, and you’ll get a warm and enthusiastic response. When Peterson releases a small batch of these, it’s something to talk about.

The first question incognoscenti (rookies) of this type of briar (like myself) may ask is simply, where did the idea of a natural briar come from? Gianluca says the commonly-circulated story in Italy is that pipe-smokers in the Castello workshop were the first to discover the smoking properties and beauty of the natural briar, which Castello has released as Natural Vergin or Natural Virgin. “It’s a really sweet smoke,” he says, “because the briar is very porous and untreated with any kind of lacquer, stain or polish, allowing them to season like meerschaums.”

2016 05 Rogha (photo by Francesco Castiglione)

In Irish, “Rogha” can mean “choice,” “pick” or “selection,” and all three are apt descriptions of the line. The Rogha, now in its third year, is an extremely limited-edition line made in collaboration with Mario Lubinski (Peterson’s renowned Italian distributor and a passionate advocate of the brand), comprising mostly System but some Classic Range shapes as well.The line came about through Gianluca’s friend and collaborator Giuseppe Balzano, who is passionate about virgin briar and about Peterson, and wanted to see if he couldn’t bring his two loves together. They went to Mario Lubinski with their plan, and he agreed to hand-select bowls for them on his annual trip to Dublin.

Mario writes, “I’ve never been able to find more than 12-18 bowls per visit suitable for this kind of project, they’re so few and so rare.” Gianluca says the bowls have to be very clean, without root marks or spots. They’re rare enough that while there was a Rogha edition in 2014 (19 pipes, actually), there wasn’t one in 2015, because Mario couldn’t find any bowls of the right quality. For 2016, Mario found only 12, and for 2017 another 12. The bowls must be absolutely flawless.

“The Rogha is similar in some respects to the Army Linseed oil finish we’ve done in the past,” says Mario. But the Rogha is totally virgin briar: no stain, no oils. Many Italians believe they’re the best smoking pipes in the world, but you’ll have to be the judge of that for yourself!”

Continues Gianluca: “When we saw the first Rogha pipes Mario brought back in 2014, they took our breath away. It was like looking at the soul of a Peterson pipe laid bare.”

A 2014 Shape 05 Rogha after smoking several bowls

So how does one companion such a pipe? “The natural virgin is a briar that has nothing to hide,” says Gianluca. “It acts like a sponge—the smoker should do nothing to clean the outer surface; just smoke it! This kind of pipe works in principle like a meerschaum; it absorbs impurities from the smoker’s fingers on the outside and tobaccos in the chamber inside and ever so slowly it becomes darker and darker. The smoke is sweet, because all the heavy tar residue is naturally absorbed into the wood like a meerschaum.”

In the right light, a natural virgin can seem to have a slight rose blush, as you would expect from naked wood. Sometimes it looks nearly white, and sometimes a very light blond. So, what does it look like as it ages? To my embarrassment, I can tell you—after a half-dozen or so smokes, the outside just begins to look a bit dirty. I know that because I lucked into a new Larrysson artisan lumberman a few years back, had no idea what it was, and as the outside begin to look, well, smudgy and grimy, I traded it off! Whoa. Bad idea. If I had persisted, as you can see in these pictures of Castello natural virgins, it would eventually have begun to color:

Unsmoked Castello Sea Rock Natural Virgin Pot KK

Moderately Smoked Castello Natural Virgin Pot S55 KK

Heavily Smoked Castello Natural Virgin V KKK

The Rogha 2017 pipes, like the earlier issues, are sterling mounted, with the tough new well-formed acrylic P-Lip mouthpieces (yes!). The blasting, which Gianluca says is done by Peterson’s regular provider, is more intense than we usually see on a Peterson. I’ve included both the color and black and white photos of all 12 pipes to give you an idea of their real color and of the contrast in the blast.

Like most recent Peterson high-grades, the bowls are hand-stamped with the classic forked-tail Peterson’s over Dublin stamp, and the hand-stamped shape number beneath. This year’s batch includes nine X220 / 312 Systems, a 150 bulldog, an 80s and a 999. Each pipe comes with a tamp special to the 2017 release. They’re priced at 220€, or about $270.

Rogha photographs
by Filippo Verova (and Francesco Castiglione*)
for Sansone Smoking Store

 

Many thanks to Gianluca at Sansone Smoking Store
and to Mario Lubinski, Lubinski.it
Castello photos courtesy Smokingpipes.com

 

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