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I have received a great deal of correspondence over the past several months. It has been on a variety of subjects touched upon in Pipefuls and elsewhere in P&T, but I will try to put it into a cogent order.

I heard back from Stan Nigro regarding Dan Mendelow’s comments on re-engineering pipes: “I enjoyed reading Mr. Mendelow’s comments, especially his retelling of what he learned from Castello in regards to their bias for longevity over breathability. I’ve always known that many of the modifications I’ve made could compromise the strength and durability of things like the tenon and button. It’s never been a problem because I always try my best to smoke my pipes with great care. Even the inexpensive ones. But I still believe that those compromises are worth it. Frankly, I’ve become more careful, less automatic and aggressive with my choices to modify my pipes. I’ll call it maturity and experience, which is a good thing.”

Mr. Nigro is quite a craftsman as a jeweler, an artist if I may say. And his perfectionism finds traction with his pipe reworking. He has reached that point where experienced skill meets art. I can only commend his work augmenting pipes with precious metalwork.

I also received an email from Alfred Serf on cake building, a discussion started by Rob Denholtz: “I’ve enjoyed your contributions to Pipes and tobaccos for many years now. I have recently completed a 40-year association, off-and-on, full- and part-time, with Tinder Box smoke shops. I read with interest your article in the Winter 2016
issue, especially the section about cake formation. One of the first techniques I was told when I started at Tinder Box was to shake an ash coating onto the sides of a new pipe bowl to aid cake formation. The theory was that the grains of ash would function as an anchor for the cake as it condensed from the smoke, similarly to snowflakes condensing on dust particles in the atmosphere. I experimented with several pipes over the years but found no appreciable advantage using that technique. Basically, the gooier the blend I smoked, the quicker the cake developed. Has a study of the chemical process of cake formation ever been done? I’ve often wondered about that but have never seen any information about it. If you know of any source, and if you have time, can you direct me to it?”

To my knowledge, there has been no scientific work on cake formation. Many pipemakers have their own secret sauce that they use to douse the newly bored bowl to facilitate cake building. I prefer bare briar, frankly. And many people I know have their own coatings and processes, like honey and egg whites and powdered carbon. There were some mass-market pipe manufacturers in the old days (maybe now for all I know) who advertised pre-broken-in pipes, which were put on a smoking machine. I prefer to do that myself with something neutral, as I am of the opinion that breaking in has to do with tar being absorbed into the briar. There are really no shortcuts.

Rob Denholtz himself responded to my story of obsessive collecting of Jobey Strombolis: “I enjoyed reading of your experience with the Jobey Strombolis but did not have as much fun as you had pursuing this company’s pipes. About a year ago, on eBay, I found and won a Jobey Shellmoor … a classically designed, well-cut … billiard with a nice, craggy blast that reminded me of an early ’60s Dunhill Shell. A lovely pipe. It smoked wonderfully well with English and Virginias alike. So, I thought to myself: ‘Rob, it might be interesting to collect these. They’re readily available and very inexpensive.’ Big mistake. I bought three others, in different shapes, then smoked and immediately got rid of all three. They were hot and horrid smokers. I have aborted all thoughts of this subcollection. However, I have kept and continue to enjoy that excellent billiard.”

I received a letter from Mr. Ed Hopfmann, who was discussing his 12-year journey through various high-end blends. He was inquiring about the nature and qualities of the Rattray’s blends. This is really not the forum for a personal response, and I would refer him to www.tobaccoreviews.com to look at a variety of opinions, some accurate and some goofy, but mainly with useful insights on personal tastes. I have found with reviews of any sort that if I know how the opinions of a particular reviewer align with my own, then their reviews are useful to me. There was a movie reviewer in a local newspaper who had exactly the opposite opinions from mine, so I went to everything he panned and took a pass on things he raved about. I will say it seems to me the current production of Rattray’s classic blends is the best it has been in a while.

I also heard again from Tom Cody, who writes: “I have read every issue of Pipes and tobaccos magazine, some more than once. The Winter 2016 edition was the best yet, good writing combined with excellent information. The article about Russ Ouellette was of particular interest. His journey shows that persistence and preparation, combined with a labor of love, still count for something in America. I had the opportunity to shake Mr. Ouellette’s hand during the New Orleans Pipe Show in October. … On another subject, I enjoyed your comments about John Cotton’s Smyrna. A few weeks after the show, Mr. Cole gave me samples of the five new Standard Tobacco Company products, including the Smyrna. All of the samples were of the highest quality. I’ll be interested to know what your readers think about these tobaccos.”

Read the rest of the column by subscribing to Pipes and tobaccos magazine or the online digital edition.

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Category: Pipefuls, Summer 2016

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