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.
I received the go-ahead this weekend to post the The Peterson Pipe book preview video we presented at the Chicagoland pipe show a few weeks ago, and here it is:
If you want to show it at a pipe club meeting, have the president of your club get in touch with me about the possibility of a higher-resolution image.
Our publisher also updated the home page at Briar Books Press with the following information about the book’s publication:
For the past eight-odd years Mark Irwin and Gary Malmberg have been chipping away on a manuscript for a book, that when it’s published, will be known as The Peterson Pipe, the Story of Kapp & Peterson. So how far along is the effort? is a question I field regularly from the many “Pete Nuts” in Pipedom. Very far along. In fact, as the book-building process goes, excitingly near the finish line. We can’t smell printer’s ink or feel the smoothness of the text, but using a baseball analogy, the entire work is rounding third base. Editing is somewhere around 90 percent complete. Layout of the fifteen chapters and two appendixes–some 350 pages, gorgeously crafted by Marie Irwin, is completed. What’s left to do? A third and final global edit, a dust-jacket design, and then it’s off to a professional indexer. I hasten to add that owner and CEO of Peterson, Tom Palmer, has written a very heartfelt foreword to introduce the work. And no stranger to the American pipe collector, pipeman and author of several pipe books, Rick Newcombe has penned a prelude that truly portrays why Peterson is such a fine smoking instrument and collectible still after some 150 years of continuous production. An official release and book signing at Chicagoland 2019 is not out of the realm of possibilities. $TBA
And now you know as much as I do. Okay, back to work. . . .
We had more fun than the law probably allows making our presentation, “What (Most) Pipemen Don’t Know About Peterson” at the 2018 Chicagoland Tobacciana & Pipe Show last weekend. It grew out of thoughts on Peterson’s long brand history after we had written the book, a kind of spontaneous synthesis of everything we’d learned over the course of our research and writing, and at some point I want to make it available to readers.
Our presentation went well, although it was late (9pm) and out at what some were calling “the Secret Smoking Room”—a large upstairs bedroom in what was, once upon a time, the residence of the owner of Pheasant Run Resort. Marie wisely printed out “bread crumbs,” posting directional signs through the maze of corridors.
The resort is the kind of “sacred space” I always find fascinating: it opened in 1965 and was absolutely world-class. Not many changes have actually been made in the resort’s 53-year history, which means it feels like you’ve just stepped into a time machine. If you’ve traveled Route 66, you’ll know the kind of almost other-worldly déjà vu sense of space and space I’m talking about.
Here’s a few photos from the display cases Gary Malmberg, Marie and I put together in the main exhibition hall. You can also see the cases in the first few minutes of a video report on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wkO1klB8SA .
Most of the collection, of course, was Gary’s, and many of the pieces appear in the book. But Gary wanted the display to cover every decade, or at least, every era, of production in Peterson’s long history, and that’s what we did.
Putting up the display cases before the show began on Saturday wasn’t bad, but when we took it down at the end of the show we were swamped with well-wishers and Peterson enthusiasts. Two or three Pete Nuts pulled out their pipes and wanted to know if we could tell them anything about them, and it was a joy to share what we’ve (mostly) had to keep bottled up in the book.
This was my 3rd Chicago show, and like the previous ones it has established itself as one of the high-points in my life as pipeman. When you live your smoking life almost totally in isolation, getting to meet and talk with (and even sometimes buy pipes from) incredible people like Silver Gray, David Iafisco, Sykes Wilford, Ian Walker of Northern Briars, and Pete Prevost and the folks at Briar Works is a bit mind-bending. And being around so many fellow pipers is like being on a long tour of duty to a foreign land where the natives don’t speak your language or understand your culture and then finally, suddenly, coming home.
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.”
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.”
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:
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.
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