Category Archives: Pipe Reviews

Meerschaum Matters

meerschaum jumble

If you’ve ever seen a torcedor roll a cigar, you will certainly appreciate the exacting artistry of Ismail Celebi (pronounced Selabe, accent on the first syllable).  This young man from Turkey was at the pipe show in St. Charles, Illinois all weekend carving some of the most intricate heads, shapes, and abstract forms in meerschaum that you just had to witness to appreciate his skill level.ish carvving

Ismail,  who has been carving for most of his life, would take a block of the meerschaum, the mineral, hydrous magnesium silicate, often called sepiolite, which occurs in white, claylike masses, and turn it into an heirloom that will, if taken care of properly, last for generations.

“The first recorded use of meerschaum for making pipes was around 1723 and quickly became prized as the perfect material for providing a cool, dry, flavorful smoke. (It is) the porous nature of meerschaum (that) draws moisture and tobacco tar into the stone.  Meerschaum became a premium substitute for the clay pipes of the day and remains prized to this day, though since the mid-1800s briar pipes have become the most common pipes for smoking.” (Wiki)

nude

As pictures speak a thousand words, it was more than fascinating to watch Ismail take what looks like a chunk of chalk, and turn it into a masterpiece.   And he can accomplish this in just a few hours.  Of course, more intricate shapes, portraits, and figures will take much longer, but as he deftly works with just three tools and forms the likes of a pirate, a rose, a golf ball, lace, and even a few risqué figurines to spice up anyone’s collection, you still are amazed as to how he does it.

Briefly, the mineral is soaked in water until saturated, and then taken out of the water and is ready to carve.  There are no dots to follow, or fine pencil lines drawn on the block.  The shapes and forms he carves are embedded in his head and then channeled into his hands as he studies the raw shape in front of him and decides what would be the best for a particular piece.

portraitThen after the final piece is where Ismail wants it to be, he will dry it. In Turkey, it takes about an hour in the sun.  Then he goes over it with fine sandpaper and the final touch is beeswax which is applied when fully dried and polished to a mirror-like finish.  This glossy look is not affected when the pipe is smoked.

This is not going to be a tutorial on the art of carving meerschaum, but if you have the chance to see a collection of meerschaum pipes, take the time to appreciate the work that goes into one of these pipes and perhaps you will look upon the glistening white pipe as one would a well-made cigar – with awe, respect and inspiration.

 

Advertisements

The 2016 Pipe Show!

pipe1Every year at this time I attend the pipe show in St. Charles.  I carry a variety of pipes both briar and meerschaum along with the cigars.  Pipes, believe it or not, are going through a renaissance albeit it a quiet one.

I’m not at all sure what the next three posts will be.  I know my audience is mainly interested in cigars so for today, take a look at these beauties and I can only imagine what is waiting for me at the show.

meerschaum

2016 Pipe & Tobacciana Show

THE CHICAGOLAND INTERNATIONAL PIPE & TOBACCIANA SHOW

SHOW DATES: APRIL 30 & MAY 1, 2016

SHOW TIME: SATURDAY, 10AM TILL 5PM

SHOW TIME: SUNDAY, 9AM TILL 5PM

ADMISSION: $15.00 (FOR ONE OR BOTH DAYS)

LOCATION: THE MEGA CENTER, PHEASANT RUN RESORT, 4051 EAST MAIN STREET, ST. CHARLES, ILLINOIS 60174.  FOR ROOM RESERVATIONS, CALL 630-584-6300 OR 800-999-3319.  MENTION THE SHOW FOR SPECIAL RATES.

THERE WILL BE TOBACCIANA SEMINARS ON FRIDAY EVENING.  DON*T FORGET OUR FREE FRIDAY EVENING CPCC WELCOME DINNER.

THERE WILL BE A CPCC, FRIDAY APRIL 29TH, *SWAP AND SMOKE* (BUY/SELL/TRADE EVENT) THAT WILL START AT 9AM AND RUN UNTIL 4PM.   WE WILL ALSO HAVE A *POST- SHOW* MONDAY, MAY 2ND, 8AM TO 12PM, AS A LAST CHANCE TO BUY/SELL BEFORE GOING HOME

WE HAVE 300 + SHOW EXHIBITOR TABLES AVAILABLE FOR OUR SHOW.  ONCE THE EXHIBITOR TABLES ARE SOLD OUT, WE WILL START A WAITING LIST FOR THOSE STILL WANTING EXHIBITOR TABLES.  THE COST OF AN EXHIBIT TABLE IS $140.00.  OUR SATURDAY EVENING CPCC DINNER WILL COST $70.00 PER TICKET.  ATTENDEES WILL GET *TOBACCIANA* GOODY BAGS.

THERE WILL BE A 6000 SQUARE TENT FOR SMOKING, WITH FOOD AND DRINK AVAILABLE, FROM 1PM WEDNESDAY OF THE SHOW WEEK TO EARLY MONDAY MORNING, NEXT TO THE MEGA CENTER.

THE UNITED PIPE CLUBS OF AMERICA (UPCA) WILL HAVE ITS NATIONAL SMOKING CONTEST (IN THE TENT) AT OUR SHOW, ON SUNDAY, MAY 2ND, AT 1 PM.  CONTACT MIKE “DOC” GARR OR DAVID BULL OF THE UPCA FOR MORE INFORMATION. WWW.UNITEDPIPECLUBS.ORG

THE CHICAGOLAND PIPE COLLECTORS CLUB (CPCC) AND PIPE SHOW HAVE THEIR OWN WEB SITE AT WWW.CHICAGOPIPESHOW.COM OR CALL CRAIG COBINE AT 630-236-6202 OR EMAIL PORSHCIGAR@AOL.COM FOR INFORMATION.

It’s a great change of pace.  Come on and enjoy!

 

 

A Blend is Born.

Pipe sales spike during the winter cigar slowdown.  So when the iron is hot. . .

my pipe

The other night I was invited to participate in The Humidor of Westmont’s first Pipe Show and Blending Contest.  I have to admit I started out the evening smoking a cigar.  But as the guys began to show up and the sweet aroma of various blends began to fill the air, I took out one of my favorite pipes and began to blend (had to. . .) into the crowd.

I brought a variety of French, Greek, and Italian pipes, including free style, full bent, straight, half bent and a multitude of shades and stem colors.  The store was offering a double discount so it was hard for customers to refuse the deals.looking pipes

Along with the pipe show, Dennis Blunt, regional sales manager from The Scandinavian Tobacco Group was invited to hold a blending contest for the guys at the shop.  I had never been involved with this type of contest before and I was intrigued.

So I asked Dennis what the deal was and he told me that the guys have a choice of several tobaccos, some from Lane others from Stokkebye.  On a long table were canisters filled with an eclectic array of tobaccos, but at the time I didn’t know one from the other nor did the soon-to-be-participants.  Each canister had been assigned a letter and the goal was to pick a little bit of that and a smidgen of this and mix what would eventually be judged as the best tobacco blend of the night.  And it’s not just that you win the contest, but your blend will have an official name and be offered at the The Humidor for all to buy.blending

So it didn’t take long for the lounge to fill up and as Michael Buffer would announce, “Let’s get ready for blending!”   It was a rush of hands over hands of anxious guys filling little plastic red jello cups with various amounts of tobacco from canisters labeled A,B,C, and E etc.  The list of the names of the actual tobaccos was tucked away in Mr. Blunts’s folder so no one had access, not even me, of any of the brand names.   And they would not know until the very end when the winner was chosen.

The momentary pandemonium settled into quiet time, the necessary slice of solitude to pack the pipes and test out what may become a famouns blend or a dud.  Muffled conversation filled the room as did the aromas, of rum, cherry, whisky, Latakia, and honey tobaccos.  It was so much different than a cigar event in that the convergence of so many flavors added a dimension that doesn’t exist at a cigar smoker.full hse

And in the meantime, I’m running back and forth to the display of pipes in front as new customers walk in and peruse the selection of my wares.  But all the action was in the back lounge and there was plenty of it despite the genteel manner in which pipe smoking is often perceived.

Eventually the smoking stopped and Dennis called for all the blends to be handed in so he could mark them, and pick two judges to decide on the top three blends.  I was lucky enough to be chosen along with another fellow who obviously had a good nose for the job ahead.

First he opened the bags and he swished the tobacco with his fingers and inhaled a huge gulp of the aroma and then immediately switched to gentler sniffing so his olfactory senses would be pleasantly pleased or dramatically damaged.  Really, there are an infinite number of blends that you can mix so is there really a bad one?  It’s a preference as are the choices of cigars cigar smokers pick.  I discovered a wide variety of differences in smells.  Some were sweet, some sour, others had an acidic tinge to them while there were blends that released alluring aromas that you just couldn’t put down.  But we had to make a decision.  So after having gone back and forth a number of times, we picked the final three.final blends

We gave the three bags to Dennis and he distributed them to the guys who would be the final judges of which blend would be crowned the winner.  There were a few agreements right away and then there were hushed discussions like at a ball game between the pitcher and the coach; you don’t know what each is saying but you do know it isn’t all good.

So Dennis went around the table and collected the bags.  He asked each pipe smoker and it was a unanimous decision – blend number three and it belonged to the guy with the Charles Dickensonian-era moustache – one Allan Boyd.  Part of the winning prize is that his blend will have an official name and be offered at the shop for public consumption.  The name he picked for his tobacco blend was “Friar of the Briar” and for those who just have to know the details it was all Lane tobacco.   It consisted of one part Proper English, half part Latakia, and two parts Champaign.  (So there goes that secret formula.)champion

Included in the prize was for the winner to pick out so many ounces of a blend from the front of the shop for free.  Then the guys were given the go ahead to take however much they wanted of the loose tobacco brought by Dennis with them back home and some fistfuls were enough to last weeks.

It was an evening of firsts, and Sam who owns the shop and Tim his manager were pleased with the turnout and the future of the pipe shows.  The word will get out and the crowds will grow, because pipes are on their way back and the stores that see this trend are jumping on it.

Pip(es). Pip(es). Cheerio!

rustsmoothThe next two weeks are 10 days of non-stop pipe selling for me.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the month of December can be slow for cigars.  So what I did last year was to look for an alternative to sell to keep the commission checks nice and chubby.  I’ll still show cigars, but the ones that the stores buy at the end of the year are the cigars they have already and are filling in holes for the holiday shoppers.  It’s rare for me to introduce a new boutique cigar in December and get it on the shelf.  So selling pipes works out very well for me.

What wasn’t planned is one of the manufacturer’s sales managers for one of the cigars I represent decided to fly in for the first week – I mean the whole week.  His flight arrives Monday and departs Saturday around four in the afternoon.  You’re right, he’s going to get to the airport on time Saturday.

So I told him I’ve got other plans but he insisted on coming in so I told him that he’s just going to have to be around while I take orders for other cigars and sell pipes.  He said it was fine with him – so we’ll see.  Talk is talk, now he’s got to walk the walk.  This ought to be interesting.  I’ll let you know how the week goes as I did when I was in Michigan.  So it is what it is.

I was very fortunate to find a pipe wholesaler who would deal with me on a per order basis.  Most of the pipe sellers I contacted wanted me to buy the pipes and then I could set any price I wanted on them.  But I didn’t want to put out the cash so I searched, and luckily I found this guy who is flexible and trusting (he actually found me), we knew each other when we both represented the same cigar, difference was he also sold pipes, and at that time I had no interest.

jumble of pipes6

Now, he sends me dozens of different pipes and I show them to perspective buyers.  His delivery time to the stores is phenomenal and his accuracy rate for mistakes is practically zero.  So I have high confidence that this is going to be a very profitable two weeks when you mix both pipes and reorders of cigars together.  Next year I plan on offering pipe tobacco and that’ll just be so sweet.  He has access to anything out there.

He sends me all kinds of pipes, French LaCroix, Greek no name, and a good selection of Italian pipes.  Some are smooth, some are rusticated, or roughed up a bit (usually to cover up imperfections in the briar wood).  Some straight, some bent.  But that’s what makes my pipes different.  They are – different.  Same with the stems, I can get plastic, and vulcanite, plain black, white swirled, and amber colors.  I offer all sorts of shades of briar from light wood to polished black ebony.  Some have steel rings between the stem and the shank, some don’t.  It’s the variety that makes this work.

trio

Plus I know pipes, not on the scale that he does, but I was a pipe smoker from way back.  Hell, I remember I was at a fund raiser telethon for Channel 11 here in Chicago many years ago and the station allowed smoking while you were on the phones taking pledges.  I also vividly recall the gal in front of me when she turned all the way around and cooed “I like men who smoke pipes.  They are so sophisticated.”   Hmmm.

My first pipe was purchased at Iwan Ries, the oldest tobacco shop (anywhere?) when it was on the first floor on Wabash Avenue in Chicago.  I’ll admit, I was intimidated when I first walked in, but after talking with the sales clerk I relaxed and bought a Scandinavian pipe of a most unusual shape.  In fact, I liked the shape so much that I went back the next week and bought another just like it so I would be sure to have one if and when the first one wore out.  Which they may after time.

I even recall when I bought and smoked a Missouri Meerschaum which is just a corn cob pipe. They burned fast and had filters but they smoked good and they were so cheap it was no big deal to go out and buy another one when the one you had burned through – and they did.

Currently, I only deal with briar, a hard, heat resistant wood with a neutral aroma which is ideal for tobacco pipes.    Briar is the burlwood of the white heath tree.  The burl grows underground and is indigenous to Corsica, Italy, Spain and Algeria.

king

There are also Meerschaum pipes.  These are made from a soft white clay-like material called hydrated silicate or to simplify – the mineral sepiolite.  The clay is predominately found in Eskisehir in central Turkey.  The pipe provides a dry, cool smoke and the clay turns a dark reddish, rust color when smoked over a long period of time.  It can be carved into almost any shape you can imagine.  I will be carrying them next year.

Selling pipes is a great change of pace and I look forward to it (and I hope my partner for the week does too).  Of course, I sell pipes all year round, but this is crunch time for me.  Pipes and cigars.   Gotta pay that mortgage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humidors and Pipes, too.

EDM humidorvery Independent cigar broker usually diversifies.  We all carry cigars of course. But others carry lighters, humidors  (I rep one of the best by Daniel Marshall), e-cigs, the liquids that go with ’em.  All kinds of stuff.

pipe assortmentMe?  Besides the humidors, I carry tobacco pipes.  Briar.  Greek.  Italian.  Bent and straight, Access to a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and finishes.  I’m looking into pipes made from other woods.  But I found over the years that you gotta change it up.  Next for me is pipe tobacco. What kind, don’t know yet.  But whatever brand it is, it’s going to be a winner.