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


10. The Father’s Day 2014 Pipes


Gifting or being gifted a pipe is an interesting subject, one that comes to mind with the fairly recent release of the Peterson Father’s Day 2014 pipes. My nephew, still an undergraduate, sent me an almost-new Peterson 05 Ebony Calabash a few months back, saying that he’d never smoke it again. A former girlfriend had given it to him and it didn’t seem right, somehow, to smoke it in the presence of his current flame. So he wanted to donate it to me to be used in the cause of the Peterson book, as we’re always buying new and estate pipes and Peterson ephemera.

My wife, like the spouses and significant others of so many long-time pipemen, is very reluctant these days to give me a pipe unless I pick it out myself. I suppose most of us have similar stories to tell, but in a way it’s a shame, because if it can be properly managed, there’s nothing quite so nice either for the giver or the receiver.


606 Saddle, Obverse

On Father’s Day last month I sent my Dad (now in his 80s) an Amazon gift card, that all-pupose palliative for gift-givers who are a little uncertain what might be received with genuine enthusiasm. He’s become a great reader over the past twenty years, so I knew it would come in useful. When he and my Mom came for a visit a few weeks later, he asked if he could borrow a pipe, as he’d not brought his.


606 Saddle, Reverse

As we were looking at my pipes, I told him I was surprised he’d started smoking again. He’d stopped because of some sinus problems a few years ago, but mostly because his doctor—like mine—made such a huge deal about it. (I won’t get on my soapbox here about how there’s next to no negative medical evidence concerning moderate pipe-smoking [1-2 bowls a day] without inhaling.) So my Dad’s got this new thing—“The Six Match Rule,” he calls it. He can smoke his pipe until he’s used up six matches, then he stops for the day.

Anyway, as he was picking out a pipe, I thought of the recent Father’s Day pipes Conor Palmer at Peterson had sent to review here on the blog, and decided I’d make a late Father’s Day gift of one of them. It took him awhile to decide, which made it even more fun for me.

You may have noticed this year’s Father’s Day pipes were slow getting to the U.S., not even appearing until just at Father’s Day on June 15th. There was a bit of a mix-up with the distributor, apparently, which slowed things down, but you can find them now at most of the U.S. e-tailers.

The bowls are graded “Plain,” which is Peterson’s bread-and-butter, middle-of-the-road grade from which Standard Systems and Arans, among other lines, are culled. You can expect some tiny fills—I couldn’t actually find any on the 606 pictured here, although I’m sure there are some. There will probably also be a root mark or two, which Peterson these days likes to leave in rather than try to sand out or fill. Again, these are tiny, and you’ll need a jeweler’s loop to see them. Hand-stamping this year—probably the last before the laser imprinting goes system-wide. And, a step up from the Aran line, notice the great retro-forked-tail P stamp they used. A nice touch.


The Father’s Day 2014 stain is close, but not identical, to the Aran. The current Aran line is a semi-matt finish, while the FD has been polished (not lacquered). The FD is also just a tiny shade brighter and more orange, at least comparing these three FDs with my Arans, which are a little more on the brown spectrum. As usual with Peterson, there is no real pre-carbon coating, only the thin decorative black finish inside the bowl.

The stems are F/T ebonite, with a hot-foil silver “P” stamped into them (although, curiously, the XL02 photographed here has no stamp). They’ve got that same great chamfering at the tenon and deep V-slot at the button that you know from the Aran line so you can expect an easy, open draw.

The real trick in getting a great Father’s Day 2014 pipe is to be able to look at both sides of the bowl’s grain. Sometimes you can find a real wowzer.

So far I’ve only seen them available in three shapes: 606 straight pot, the XL02 apple and the X220 billiard, all great choices. The 606 and XL02 can be found with both saddle and tapered bits if you dig around a bit.


XL02 Saddle in Father’s Day 2014 Dress

I thought my dad would go for the XL02, which is one of Peterson’s top-sellers, but he ended up choosing what he thought was the smallest of the three—the X220 (pictured at the top)—he said he liked smaller bowls now to go with the Six Match Rule.

So I didn’t tell him that while the X220 may look small, it’s an optical illusion created by the thick shank and this year’s extra-wide nickel band. If it had a tapered instead of saddle bit, it would’ve looked right at home in the 1905 catalog. And in fact, the X220 shape does come out of the earliest catalogs. Its cross-reference shapes are the Standard System 312 / DeLuxe 11S, meaning that it dates back to the original Charles Peterson shapes. And it’s got an average chamber capacity of 18.8mm x 21.4mm (0.74 in x 1.63 in), which has become my favorite (the 309’s got approximately the same average measurement), and is (at least for me) the perfect Virginia chamber as well as doing good service with English, Balkans and cross-overs.

He and my Mom stayed for a few days, and the following day I overhead him from the other room talking to my Mom about the pipe. One of the things he thought was really great about it was that it said Father’s Day 2014.


Like I said at the beginning, it’s difficult to gift a pipe and sometimes even more difficult to be gifted one. But when the magic works, there’s nothing quite like it.

Price: Between $102 – 119.


606 Saddle–I love the 606’s thick walls