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

 

63. The New Valentia Line

The 2017 Valentia line takes its name from beautiful Valentia Island just off the southwest coast of Ireland, historically famous as the site of the first permanent communication link between Europe and North America with the completion of the Transatlantic telegraph cables in 1866. Like other stops on the Ring of Kerry tourist route, it’s a must-see, and I’m really hoping to spend some time there on my next Peterson pilgrimage.

The six shapes comprising the new Valentia line all continue Peterson’s commitment to an idea that began back about 1945 with the Specialty quartet of pipes known as the Tankard & Barrel, Calabash & Belgique seen below.  The Italians have always liked to call small pipes like these “Lady Pipes,” and I can see how Jackie Onassis could have tucked one of these away in her purse when out and about with JFK.*

Don’t let the name put you off. I can see why the Calabash and Belgique got the nick-name, but the Tankard and Barrel, while small, are as quintessentially Irish as a shape can be. Talk about gender and pipe shapes can be useful to illustrate an aesthetic or design principle in a particular shape or line of pipes or even marque (for example, “the Peterson house style is predominantly masculine, while classic English shapes are feminine”), but is worse than worthless if attached to the gender self-identification of the pipe-smoker. This may be why 2016’s expansion of the idea began with the decidedly masculine look of the sterling army-mount Short Classics.

The Valentia pipes are probably the finest green-stain pipes Peterson has produced. The earliest documented example of a green Pete came back with the 200-piece Limited Edition Racing Green duo in the 1990s, and has been more or less a staple in the catalog ever since, appearing in the long-standing Racing Green line as well as several of the St. Patrick’s Day commemorative years.

Five of the six shapes chosen for the Valentia appeared in the Short Classics line last year (of course, in army-mount dress), the shape 65 billiard being the new one.

Once again, there’s quite a bit of variation in the acrylic stems, as you can see. Sometimes this can be quite dramatic. The wide flare promises a good clinching experiences, as, of course, does the extremely light weight of these pieces. I also like the slightly wider-than-usual sterling bands.

The button is an interesting shape, not one that I’ve encountered before on a Pete, so I thought I’d give you a look at it as well.

I’ve long been intrigued with small-bowled pipes, but my current lifestyle rarely offers me the opportunity. Fellow pipemen tell me they’re wonderful for short smokes or for flake tobaccos, but I’m an after-work smoker, so I’m usually looking for a bowl that will give me 2 hours or so of Pete Heaven.

 

Pictured at top: the Calabash

 

Pax in fumare!

A next-gen System on the horizon?
Stay tuned. . .

 

*Jackie O. a pipe-smoker? See “A Woman’s Handbag,” http://www.alpascia.com/moments/d/A-womans-handbag-i23001.html#

62. The New Waterford Line

Get out your cufflinks and order the boutonnière: the new Waterford line is arriving any time now. It’s something elegant, European, and a bit edgy, if still firmly based in the aesthetic of Peterson’s house style. It’s high-end, as discretely indicated by the aluminum P embedded in the Cumberland acrylic stems. The high-grade bowls, attention to stem-work detail, and striking chestnut contrast stain all tell us we’re out for an evening of class and culture.

338

Although the uninformed might not think so (from comments overheard at pipe shows and read on various forums), Peterson has always been a presence in the high-end market. In The Peterson Pipe, we devote considerable space to understanding the way the company grades its pipes and how you can tell, apart from price, that what you’re looking at is top-drawer and French cuffs.

03

The Waterford could well have taken its inspiration from the renowned lead crystal stemware of Ireland’s southeastern seaport city. You can see it in the elongated proportions of every shape chosen from the catalog. In smaller shapes like the 01, 338, 106, and 03 this is particularly noticeable, as the masculine shanks Peterson is renowned for stretch out in stems past 5 ½ to sometimes 6 inches. Part of the effect is also achieved by a new generation of slimmer, wider acrylic mouthpieces that narrow to 4.75 – 4.85 mm.

XL13

The long-legged look is further enhanced from choosing not to mount the line in sterling. The actual lengthening of the Waterford mouthpiece in most cases may only be .20mm, but lacking the visual “break” of the sterling band, the pipes uniformly look at least 13.00 mm (1/2 an inch) longer than they really are.

Unmounted pipes are not, of course, something new for Peterson, who have issued top-of-the-line unmounted pipes since these first became fashionable in the late 1920s and early 30s. But the look hasn’t been seen much since the company returned to its tradition of mounted pipes, a process that began in the early 1990s and has come to dominate the catalog in the past 20 years.

05 and XL90

X220

In the bent shapes – the XL90, X220, and 05 – the lengthened effect is achieved by a severe saddle stem that was very popular back in the 1980s in Danish factory lines like the Bari. For those who must have a “clincher,” the wide and thin combination should prove ideal.

XL22

The strongly masculine look of the line is reinforced by the decision to include several shapes from the XL end of the catalog: the XL13, XL22, XL25, and 502. This last shape deserves special mention. Essentially an XL version of the perennial 87, the 502 hasn’t been seen in the catalog since its original issue back in the early 1980s (see https://petersonpipenotes.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/the-peterson-500-shapes-and-new-old-stock/ for more information).

Another interesting feature is the decision to incorporate strong variations in the cumberland acrylic stock. I wanted to show you this, because most online retailers probably won’t give an overhead shot of the pipes, and this is a crucial feature of the line. If you can get past my finger-print smudges, you can see that there appears to be two different rod stocks in use, one light with dark swirls and one dark with light. On some of the pipes I looked at, the rod is a very deep chocolate requiring bright light to discern the cumberland striations.

502 (top) and 106 (bottom)

Whether we’ll see very many of these is anyone’s guess. The 2016 Dublin & London line, an even higher grade, seems very scarce, but maybe the Waterford will be more readily available.

For now, if you’re looking to be a bit counter-cultural here in the States, I can’t think of a better way than to add some class to your Peterson rotation with a Waterford. Maybe it will inspire you to wear a tie to work tomorrow and recall the glory days of men’s fashion.

XL25

 

(Thinking Man cufflinks sold separately)

 

Photographs by Chas. Mundungus

01 shown at top


Rath Dé ort!

 

 

61. The 2017 Peterson Pipe of the Year

Here it is, at last — the 21st annual Peterson Pipe of the Year! Formerly known as the “Limited Edition,” and extending back 1997, if I’m counting right, this is the 22nd pipe to be released in this series (since Y2000 was a pair).

Just a little background to give some context to this year’s pipe: Peterson “shifted gears” back in 2014, as some of you know, so this is the 4th new-generation POTY.

The 2014 POTY was the first to be available only with an acrylic stem, and to bring a slightly different aesthetic than the 1997 – 2013 pipes. 2014 was also the last year the POTY was offered in a numbered series of 1000.

2015 was Peterson’s celebration year, so a bit of a time-out for the POTY, being the year of the Founder’s Edition and a return to the grander visions of earlier POTYs. It was made available in vulcanite P-Lip and fishtail acrylic, with a beautiful gift box and in an edition of 1865 pieces, to celebrate the earliest documented date of Kapp & Peterson. The large number has had the side-benefit of the pipe still being issued in small numbers – in fact, I just recently found my own smooth P-Lip after a long search.

2016 was the first year the line was reduced to 500 pieces, making it scarcer – which is sort of the idea behind a POTY, isn’t it? More importantly, it was the first time the POTY was issued in a non-XL size and without a gift box. But I’m not complaining, as it’s among the most original of all the POTY shapes, and a personal favorite in my rotation.

So here we are at 2017, and as the catalog says, the canted-egg shape takes its inspiration from one of the company’s earliest shapes, the “Large Jap” found in the 1906 catalog. One advantage of the 1906 catalog is that shapes were reproduced full size, which means you can lay the actual pipe on top of the illustration, as I’ve done in the photo below. The 2017 bowl shape and size is an exact reproduction of the original.  (And, if anyone’s asking, the variants of the “Devil Anse” shape so popular a short time ago are very close in size and shape to Peterson’s original.)

There appears to be greater thickness to the 2017 POTY chamber walls as well as a beveled rim – both improvements over the original, to my mind. The 2017 also has a very slightly longer shank. The stems of the two pipes are the same length. The wide saddle bit is quite comfortable, as I knew it would be from smoking Italian chubbies of similar dimensions, making the acrylic a decided plus for me, as I won’t have to keep after it with Obsidian oil to keep it black.

The 1906 original, of course, has a Patent-Lip “B” or tapered stem, something the current market simply won’t accommodate (despite my constant whining). But Pete fans will eventually change all that, as distributors begin hearing from tobacconists that the guys who smoke these pipes want the original graduted bore P-Lip mouthpieces. In the meantime, as you can see in the photo below, Peterson has an excellent deep-slotted, wide-grip comfortable mouthpiece. (This is one of the new-gen mouthpieces I’ve been seeing on all Peterson’s acrylic-stemmed pipes, by the way.)

This year’s pipe is laser-stamped on the bottom, with only the smooth bowls being numbered, as has been Peterson’s practice on all the POTYs (aside from the Founder’s Edition).

The pipe feels good in the hand, but do take notice of the forward-cant of the bowl. It’s not a problem for me, but you should know you won’t be able to see the flame light the tobacco. If you smoke a B35 (the antique Kaffir reproduction) or the 268 Bent Albert (what Pete Freeks call the zulu shape), this won’t be a problem.

The chamber geometry is a steep V or cone, what some called “triangular,” much more so than my Peterson Dublin 120s. I haven’t smoked this pipe enough to tell you how it performs, although that always varies quite a bit from user to user.  I will say that after the 309, my next favorite Pete bowl shape is the 120, as it requires very few relights as compared to a traditional billiard, so that I’m hoping for something similar from the new POTY.

Smooth Measurements
Length: 127 mm. / 5.00 in.
Weight: 48 gr. / 1.70 oz.
Bowl Height: 48.97 mm. / 1.92 in.
Chamber Depth: 41.07 mm. / 1.61 in.
Chamber Diameter: 18.59 mm. / 0.73 in.
Outside Diameter: 39.43 mm. / 1.56 in.
Stem Material: Acrylic
Logo: Embedded Aluminum P
Filter: None
Shape: Canted Egg / “Large Jap” (c. 1906)

Sandblast Measurements
Length: 127 mm. / 5.00 in.
Weight: 47 gr. / 1.65 oz.
Bowl Height: 48.97 mm. / 1.92 in.
Chamber Depth: 41.07 mm. / 1.61 in.
Chamber Diameter: 18.28 mm. / 0.71 in.
Outside Diameter: 38.75 mm. / 1.52 in.
Stem Material: Acrylic
Logo: Embedded Aluminum P
Filter: None
Shape: Canted Egg / “Large Jap” (c. 1906)

Rustic Measurements
Length: 127 mm. / 5.00 in.
Weight: 46 gr. / 1.60 oz.
Bowl Height: 48.61 mm. / 1.91 in.
Chamber Depth: 41.07 mm. / 1.61 in.
Chamber Diameter: 18.43 mm. 0.72 in.
Outside Diameter: 40.23 mm. / 1.58 in.
Stem Material: Acrylic
Logo: Embedded Aluminum P
Filter: None
Shape: Canted Egg / “Large Jap” (c. 1906)

Photographs by Charles Mundungus

Pax in Fumare

 

 

Coda

While you’re waiting for the right 2017 POTY to appear in your mailbox, here’s something else to think about: an 18K gold cap and band rustic 307! Kris told me about it over at Black Swan in Surrey, and I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes. It’s a one-off unlike anything you’re ever likely to see in the world of Peterson pipes.

The 307 is shape 9 from Charles Peterson’s original Charles Peterson Patent designs in the 1896 catalog, in production for over 120 years. Kris is a deep-down lover of all things Peterson, as you know if you read the last blog on the Peterson Plato shape. You can read the story of this pipe’s creation at the link below. At the time of this posting, it is still available, should you decide to add it to your collection. Tell Kris you saw it here!

http://www.thebackyshop.co.uk/products/rare-stunning-custom-peterson-standard-system-rustic-307-18k-gold-mount-and-cap