It’s not a secret here that I’m a fan of corncob pipes. Yes, I dearly love my briars, but over the years I’ve come to truly appreciate the simplicity of a well-worn corncob pipe. Cobs can take just about anything you throw at them and make the blend sing. In fact, I’m of the belief that the Missouri Meerschaum Country Gentleman might be the perfect pipe in terms of size and bowl.
But if I had one minor, and I mean minor, gripe about corncob pipes, it’s the plastic stem that comes with the standard cobs. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the look of the amber stems and think it fits perfectly with the overall look. However, there’s no denying that the plastic stems aren’t built to last. Over time, the stems loosen in the shank, and if you’re very unlucky, the mouthpiece will crack. I don’t consider myself a hard clencher with my pipes, but even I’ve cracked a plastic cob stem in my time.
Now, Missouri Meerschaum has a few cobs that come with an acrylic stem, which is a nice change of pace. These include their Charles Towne, Carolina Gent, and Emerald cobs, all of which are excellent additions to any pipe smoker’s collections. However, for their classic lines, you’re stuck with those regular plastic stems.
While no one has ever made one of those TV infomercials about corncob pipes, much less pipes, but if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d imagine it would look something like this…
Announcer: Are your corncob pipe stems giving you trouble?
Tired of loose plastic stems causing your cob to drop out of your mouth while smoking it?
Have you cracked the mouthpiece for your pipe stem while clenching your cob like normal?
Do you hear your cob stems plotting against you behind your back?
Has a plastic cob stem ever tried to kill you by lodging itself into your throat?
Me: [Gagging as I spit the cob stem out of my mouth] That’s it, I’m switching to briar pipes for good.
Announcer: Don’t throw your cobs away! Instead give your cobs the stems they deserve and try Walker Briar Works Forever Stems!
[A Walker Forever stem appears in my hand]
Me: Wow, thanks Walker Briar Works!
Announcer: That’s right! Now you too can have a high quality vulcanite or Lucite stem for all your favorite corncob pipes. Walker Briar Works has you covered, with a variety of vulcanite and Lucite stems in an assortment of colors for your filtered and non-filtered cobs. So what are you waiting for? Get on their website and order one today!*
Ever since I plunged into the world of corncob pipes, I’ve heard from other cob fans about forever stems. After owning a Charles Towne cob and falling in love with its forever stem, I couldn’t look at my regular plastic stems the same way again. Certainly, the plastic stems get the job done, but it was time for an upgrade.
Last year, I did some searching on the internet and discovered Walker Briar Works. Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and headed by Dave Wolff, Walker Briar Works has made a nice business out of creating forever stems for Missouri Meerschaum corncob pipes. Dave makes quality forever stems that will last long after your corncob pipe has burned out.
Walker Briar Works has an incredible selection of forever stems for both filtered and non-filtered cobs. All you need to do is pick whichever cob in your collection you want to pair with a forever stem, and shop in the appropriate category. If your cob is filtered, be warned that the forever stem does not have a place to fit a filter, as the base of the stem was enlarged to fit inside the bigger shank, so there isn’t a gap for the filter to fit inside. This is fine by me, as I don’t use filters, but I know some folks out there use and appreciate them. If you’re one of those people, pick one of the non-filtered cobs in your collection instead.
Without a doubt, Walker Briar Works forever stems’ biggest advantage is the sheer variety of stems available for purchase. Not only do you get to choose between a Lucite or vulcanite stem, but also the size and color of the stem. You heard me right, you have more than two colors to pick from! If you want to stick with a classic black stem and keep it simple, Walker Briar Works has you covered. Want to branch out and have a colorful stem to add some flair to your cob? Walker Briar Works has plenty of colors that would make Joseph’s coat of many colors blush. There’s even ones similar to the amber colored forever stem to give your cob that classic look but made of sturdier material.
Likewise, Walker Briar Works also has different lengths for their stems, allowing you to customize the length of your cob. Want to make your Country Gentleman closer to a nose warmer? There’s a black nose warmer forever stem with your name on it. Want to turn that Spool cob into a mini-churchwarden? You have plenty of options to pick from, and in a wide selection of colors, too. I highly recommend visiting Walker Briar Work’s page just to see all the options at your fingertips.
Now, due to the quality of Walker Briar Works’ forever stems’, don’t expect to pay the same price as you would for a replacement stem from Missouri Meerschaum. These stems are a bit of an investment, as they cost more than most of the cobs on Missouri Meerschaum’s site, on average between $21-$27. Don’t let that dissuade you, though, as these stems are so well made that they’ll easily outlast the cob’s they’re paired with. You can even switch the stem around between your cobs, as long as you have the appropriate cob shank size for each stem.
On the bright side, shipping for all stems is a flat $3 in the United States. Even if you buy multiple stems, you’re still only going to pay only $3 for the whole shebang. You can’t beat that price anywhere for a pipe related item from what I’ve seen. Now, price is one thing, but how is the service? Walker Briar Works earns top marks in this regard, too. I ordered my stems around the New Years holiday, and on a Saturday night. Dave shipped my stems on the following Monday, and I had my package waiting for me on Thursday, and that’s with New Years Day interrupting the postal service. Dave also sent me an email on Sunday, letting me know he was going to get my package out as soon as he could. How many pipe retailers out there pay this close of attention to customer service?
Now the important question— how are the stems, and are they worth the price? I ordered the ‘Royal’ Lucite Fire Swirl stem and the 3 ½ inch ‘Spear’ Lucite Black Rose stem for two of my Country Gentleman cobs. As soon as I got the package, I put the new stems on my cobs. While some cobs might take a bit to adjust with the new stems, mine had a nice, snug fit inside the shank of both cobs and stayed in place without any issues.
What impressed me with these stems is the length they added to my cobs. I tend to prefer longer pipes, and with the added length of the stems, the two Country Gentleman cobs rivaled the size of my Bing cob, which is the longest non-Churchwarden cob in my collection. You can find a smaller version of the Spear stem if you wish, but I’m very pleased with now mine turned out.
The quality of the stems is easily on par with Missouri Meerschaum’s acrylic stems, and their look takes my cobs to the next level. The Lucite stems clench like a dream, and I have no issues having them hang from my jaw as I type on my laptop. It does take a few minutes to adjust from the chewy grip you get with a plastic stem, but after that it becomes second nature.
What the Walker Briar Works forever stems accomplishes is truly remarkable. They combine the best of both worlds with briar and corncob pipes into one unique package. You get the fantastic smoking quality of a corncob pipe with the added security of a dependable stem rivaling a briar pipe. These stems are absolutely worth every penny you invest in them, and they’ll last as long as you smoke a corncob pipe. Give Walker Briar Works forever stems a chance, and you’ll walk away a happy customer.
Until next time, happy puffing friends,
*No Corncob pipes were harmed in the making of this infomercial. Corncob pipes are not actively trying to kill you. If you hear your corncob pipe plotting against you, it is advised you seek professional help before smoking one again.
The documentary film genre is a fascinating window into our world, focusing on a specific aspect of mankind to tell a non-fiction story to a wider audience. Documentaries can range from delving into the dusty corridors of history, shining a light into the plight of the oppressed, or painting a picture of a person, place, or hobby. No matter the topic, the documentary tells a story about reality, rather than some fantastical world or a fictional drama. For a documentary to be successful, it must tell an interesting story that captivates an audience or springs them into action.
For the past few years, pipe smokers have been waiting for their chance to watch a documentary all about their favorite hobby, called Father the Flame. While some pipe smokers grumbled about the lengthy wait they had to endure to finally watch the movie, it’s not unusual for a small passion project to take its time before being ready. Films aren’t made overnight, and given the amount of people featured in the documentary, as well as the various locations filmed all around the world; it’s understandable that Father the Flame needed time in the oven.
Now that the film is out, Father the Flame has received a somewhat mixed reaction from the wider pipe community. While I can’t speak for everyone, I think part of the reaction comes from the expectations of what a pipe documentary should be. After all, the rest of the non-smoking world views anything that has to do with smoking in a negative light. With all the criticism we face, we finally have a film that highlights what makes our hobby the tight knit community that it is. We want a film that we can show to our non-smoking friends and say, “This is why I smoke a pipe.”
In reality, Father the Flame isn’t exactly about pipe smoking. Oh, there’s plenty of pipe smoking in it, and it’s certainly celebrated; but instead of taking center stage, pipe smoking is more of a supporting role. If you go into this film thinking you’re going to learn about the history and ins and outs of the pipe smoking hobby, you’ll leave the film disappointed. There’s hardly a peep about pipe tobacco, and very little focus on your average pipe smoker.
Instead, for bettor or worse, Father the Flame focuses on the pipe maker, and more specifically the high-end artisan pipe maker. The documentary tells the story of multiple pipe carvers, mainly through the eyes of our POV character, Michigan pipe maker Lee von Erck. Other pipe carvers are also highlighted, such as Italian pipe carver Romero ‘Mimmo’ Domenico and his family, stone pipe carver Travis Erickson, and the legendary Ivarsson Danish pipe carving clan. While we have glimpses of the pipe community through pipe shows, ultimately this is Lee Erck’s story.
While this might come as a disappointment for those like me have very little to do with the artisan world, I understand why the filmmakers behind Father the Flame pursued this route. Instead of telling a broader story about our community that might struggle to connect with a wider audience, by zeroing in on Lee Erck and the artisan world, the filmmakers can tell a tight and succinct story about the craftsmanship and beauty behind a skillfully carved pipe. The non-smoking members of the wider world might sneer their noses at the many clouds of pipe smoke seen in the film, but their eyes will grow wide at the stunning close up images of a birds eye grain in a smooth briar, or the architectural wonders discovered in the grooves and nooks and crannies of a well-carved pipe. If there’s one lesson Father the Flame tells well to a broad audience, it’s that pipe carvers deserve the same respect given to a painter or sculptor.
Father the Flame tells a global story about pipes, travelling across continents to show the wide appeal and passion of pipe and pipe making. While the film mainly takes place in the United States, the filmmakers jump all around the globe, spending time in Italy, France, Japan, and Denmark. While plenty of time is spent in sawdust covered workshops, the camera ventures out into the wider world, searching for briar wood in the hills of Italy, walking through the quiet villages of Denmark and France, and experiencing the shrines in Tokyo. No matter what the setting is, though, you can be sure to see a pipe somewhere in the background.
A documentary is only as good as the people featured in the film, and thankfully Father the Flame delivers in this area in spades. Lee von Erck acts as the focus of the documentary, as we follow him from his workshop to his travels around the world. We’re given a peek behind the curtain into von Erck’s solitary life as he acts as our personal guide, explaining his carving philosophies as he works on his latest briar. Von Erck has years of carving under his belt, and yet he speaks to the audience as he would a friend, detailing everything in down to earth terms. Von Erck might as well be your next-door neighbor, welcoming us to his world as he reveals his remarkable talents. There’s humility to von Erck’s demeanor, candidly expressing his joy for his work, and yet revealing the hidden sadness of his isolated life when at home.
We’re also introduced through von Erck to the Domenico family. The Domenico’s are a pipe making family, started by elderly late patriarch Pippo and passed down to his son Mimmo and his wife Karin. Mimmo takes his role seriously as a legacy pipe maker, and has a youthful energy in producing his work. Mimmo has many hats to wear at home, balancing life as a pipe maker, father, and husband, all the while caring for his father. Mimmo isn’t alone, as his wife Karin has a knack for pipe making as well. It’s rare to see a husband and wife team of pipe carvers, but Mimmo and Karin are two of a kind, and it’s sweet watching the two interact in their workshop. While Pippo has long retired from pipe making, he’s content to sit in Mimmo’s backyard, smoking his pipe while watching the new generation continue the work he built years prior. Sadly, Pippo passed away before filming ended, but the film and Mimmo have a chance to give tribute to the late Italian pipe carver.
The Ivarsson family is disconnected from the main Von Erck/Domenico storyline, but the Danish pipe makers fit perfectly within Father the Flame’s overall message. The Ivarsson family are giants in the pipe carving world, starting with late Ivarrson patriarch Sixten. Sixten Ivarrson was an extremely influential pipe maker, having taken many a young pipe carver under his tutelage. While Sixten passed away back in 2001, Father the Flame splices in family videos of the pipe maker, allowing him to appear in the film and giving us a chance to get to know the late pipe maker on a personal level.
Though Sixten is no longer with us, his style and influence lives on through his son Lars, and granddaughter Nanna. Much of the time devoted to the Ivarsson’s is spent with Lars and Nanna reminiscing about Sixten and the profound effect he had on their lives and their eventual involvement in pipe making. Tragically, Lars passed away in 2018 before the film released, so to have these intimate moments with the late pipe carver are all the more special.
The film also spends some time in Pipestone, Minnesota with stone pipe carver Travis Erickson. Travis’s sections are much shorter compared to the rest of the subjects in the documentary, and if I’m being honest, it’s probably the weakest portion of the film. This isn’t Travis’s fault, and his section does go into the more spiritual aspects of pipe smoking with tobacco’s Native American roots. If the film was a bit longer and devoted more time to pipe smoking, it would probably tie everything together a bit more. It’s unfortunate, as there are some interesting bits here, but if it was cut from the film it wouldn’t ruin the overall narrative.
If there’s a central message found throughout Father the Flame, it’s the importance and value of legacy and passing down knowledge from the older stalwarts to the younger generation. Both themes are vital to our hobby, as seen in the proliferation of the youtube pipe community and pipe blogs in teaching the ways of pipe smoking. The pipe carvers of the old generation of Pippo and Sixten Ivarsson paved the way, learning the ins and outs of carving a briar and passing their knowledge down to their children. Yet what use is it to teach others these lessons if they’re not ready and eager to learn? Mimmo, Lars Ivarsson, and Nanna Ivarsson take the foundation of what they’ve learned from their parents and have innovated their craft. Will Mimmo’s and Nanna’s children pick up the torch for their families? Only time will tell, but if they do, they’ll have some of the best teachers to show them the way.
Legacy and family go hand in hand in Father the Flame, as seen in Mimmo’s, the Ivarsson’s, and Travis Erickson’s stories. With Lee von Erck, though, the story becomes a bit more complicated and more melancholy. Von Erck never had children, and now as he enters into his later years, he expresses regret that he never had the chance to bring up a family of his own. We see him interact with Mimmo’s family, sitting back with the whole Domenico family and enjoying their company. For von Erck, it’s a window into a different world, and one that he doesn’t have. As he watches Mimmo care for Pippo, von Erck wonders sadly what will happen to him when he reaches Pippo’s age.
Instead of looking forward, von Erck’s family story looks backwards at his relationship with his late father. Father the Flame begins with von Erck recounting the story of his father buying his first pipe at a tobacconist, and learning how to smoke it with the shop owner. It’s a wonderful story, and it hooked me right away into watching the documentary. Though von Erck’s father didn’t teach him how to carve pipes, he instead instilled a love of pipes that brought Lee to his present occupation as a talented pipe carver.
Where Father the Flame burns brightest is through the personal stories shared by Von Erck, Mimmo, the Ivarssons, and the many other pipe carvers and smokers seen throughout the film. These stories highlight why pipes are more than a fancy tool to indulge in tobacco. For many, the pipe connects people to a beloved family member, and that earthy aroma brings that person back, even for the briefest of moments. Father the Flame showcases only a few of these stories, but there’s no denying the power behind those tales.
Should you go out of your way and watch Father the Flame? In my opinion, I think you should. On it’s own, Father the Flame is a competent documentary on a niche subject that’s misunderstood by the general populace. Father the Flame highlights the best of our hobby, and shows why pipes mean so much to the people that smoke and collect them. The gorgeous cinematography shows off some beautiful briar pipes and blends them with imagery of galaxies and art in such a way that celebrates the artistic endeavors of pipe making. Father the Flame gives a face to pipe makers, making them more than just a name or brand, and fleshes them out into real and sympathetic people.
The only downside to Father the Flame is that it doesn’t do enough with the pipe smoking side of the hobby. Day after day, I read stories from my fellow pipe smokers about how they got into pipe smoking, and they speak so much about the influence of loved ones or friends, or about specific, life changing moments in time that are worth sharing. Father the Flame could’ve spent more time with people like Richard Newcombe or Sykes Wilford, or with the Chicago Pipe Show attendees. I won’t fault Father the Flame for focusing solely on pipe makers, but I would’ve appreciated more input from the average joe pipe smoker.
Regardless of my minor issues with Father the Flame, I do think it’s required viewing for the pipe world at large. If anything, how often do you get a documentary about something you’re passionate about? For that, I tip my hat in appreciation to the filmmakers behind Father the Flame, and commend them for a job well done.
I rate Father the Flame: five pipes out of a seven-day pipe set.
All right, maggots, listen up an’ light yer pipes. It appears that my last address to the Woodlander Regiment caught a bit of controversy, due to my unorthodox methods of pipe warfare. Well, I’m back from Nome, Alaska, an’ jus’ in time for the holidays. It’s a shame, as I was gettin’ a squad of reindeer recruits together for an all out assault on the abominable snowmen causin’ trouble up there. Those good fer nuthin’ furballs were lucky our country decided to call me back, otherwise our troops woulda been feastin’ on abominable burgers fer Christmas chow.
Anyhow, with the holidays fast approachin’, I thought it was important to share with y’all a handy dandy primer on what to buy fer yerselves for Christmas. With all the options ya have online with pipes, baccy, stands, cleaners, an’ whatnot, it’s enough ta make yer head spin. Well, don’t ya worry, ol’ Sarge MacBadger’s here to set ya straight towards a holiday worth celebratin’.
So when that fat man thinks he’s sneakin’ into yer home an’ ya take ‘im prisoner, you can give ‘im this list an’ negotiate his release. Believe me, it works. Now when ol’ Saint Nick pays me a visit, he comes with the white flag wavin’ an’ an open sack.
Anyhow, let’s get on with the list. First things first, let’s take a look at pipes.
Here we go, let’s get started with the king of cobs. This is the cob that makes Missouri Meerschaum’s General cob look like one o’ those pathetic nosewarmers. There’s only one cob out there worthy to call itself after the great general, an’ it happens to be the one the man smoked. Most likely, it’s cause you can use it as a weapon to defend yerself in a pinch should ya encounter the enemy while out havin’ a pipe. Some might balk at smokin’ this massive cob, but yer not a true pipe smoker if yer not willin’ to walk around in public smokin’ one. Remember, a pipe smoker should distinguish themselves from the crowd, an’ the MacArthur’ll do jus’ that.
I happen to prefer the rugged style of the, ahem, ‘neked’ variation, but you can find smooth ones if that’s more yer preference. I suppose ya like wearin’ deodorant, too. Natural’s the only way to go, soldier, both in cobs and body odor.
Lookin’ to build up a collection of cobs without breakin’ yer paycheck? Then give this set of cob seconds a glance. Yer gonna get a buncha cobs at a discount price compared to buyin’ ‘em individually. Sure, all these cobs failed their inspections to be sold on their own, but they’re still worthy of smokin’, despite a minor defect or two.
Of course, ya don’t know exactly what’ll end up bein’ sent to ya, but that’s part of the fun of orderin’ a mystery bag. An’ if yer into that cob moddin’ hobby, this is the perfect way to get a buncha cobs to hack an’ shape as ya please. I find it similar to gettin’ a squad of new recruits. They’re not all there in the head, but once ya break ‘em in, they’ll fall in line. Good luck findin’ these fer sale, though, as these sets are in high demand.
I might be more of a cob fan, but even this badger knows the Irish can make a good pipe. Peterson of Dublin are experts in makin’ briar pipes in traditional shapes that every pipe smoker should own. However, their Christmas pipes are a cut above the rest, even among their top class briars. With a rugged bowl and antique brass ring on the shank, smokin’ one of these pipes on watch’ll make ya the envy of all yer squadmates. But ya better act fast if ya want one, as once they’re gone, they’re gone fer good.
Now we’re movin’ to the top tier of pipes with BriarWorks Calabash pipes. Like the MacArthur, every pipe smoker should have a good calabash in their arsenal. These might not be marchin’ pipes, but a calabash is a high caliber pipe all on its own. There ain’t nothin’ like sittin’ by the campfire an’ puffin’ on a calabash while givin’ yer tired paws a rest. Also, there’s jus’ somethin’ ‘bout a calabash that gives others the impression that ya got smarts up in yer noggin. It ain’t no coincidence that ol’ Sherlock is often depicted with one. Ya see a guy smokin’ a calabash, an ya jus’ wanna hire ‘im fer solvin’ the mystery of where yer missin’ socks go in the dryer. Not that I wash mine or anythin’, so don’t ya go spreadin’ that rumor ‘round here.
What makes BriarWorks calabash pipes worthy of yer money is their magnetic bowls. If ya don’t know, calabash pipes have removable bowls fer ease of cleanin’ both the bowl an’ the gourd chamber. With that magnetic system in place, ya don’t have ta worry ‘bout that bowl suddenly poppin’ off while yer duckin’ fer cover.
Talk about gettin’ a bang fer yer buck, Grand Croupier’s Boneyard is the thrifty English smoker’s dream, lads. If ya haven’t been payin’ attention, Grand Croupier is one o’ Cornell an’ Diehl’s labels. All their blends are the leftovers from C&D’s normal lines that didn’t make it into a tin. C&D already makes great tobacco, so ya know yer gettin’ high quality baccy, even if it’s the stuff they didn’t use. This ain’t yer Auntie Betsy’s leftover headcheese casserole, it’s prime tobacco.
Boneyard comes from the leftovers of C&D’s English blends, so each bag’ll have a different consistency of blending components. One bag’ll have more Latakia to it, while another might be more Oriental heavy. To quote a famous soldier, “Life’s like a box of unmarked pipe tobacco, ya never know what yer gonna get!” Me? I live dangerously already, so surprises bother me none. A good soldier’s resourceful, so ya should jump on Boneyard and add it to yer arsenal.
Now, how can ya pass on a blend with a name like Fusilier’s Ration? Hearth & Home’s Marquee blends are well-respected blends among pipe smokers, an’ Fusilier’s Ration ain’t no exception. Based on the legendary Bengal Slices blend, Fusilier’s Ration is a thick, dark cake of baccy that’ll stain yer fingertips black. If ya think that ain’t a sign of a high quality blend, then maybe this hobby ain’t right for ya. Go make one of those artisan soaps or somethin’, I don’t know.
Rich with Latakia, Fusilier’s Ration is a tasty and smoky English blend, perfect for an after dinner pipe. The baccy generates a fair amount of smoke, too, great for givin’ yerself some extra cover on the battlefield. The only downside is that all yer squadmates’ll be buggin’ ya for some to smoke in their pipes. Tell ‘em to get their own, an’ enjoy yer well deserved ration, soldier.
That’s right, THE Prince Albert. Ya know, the one yer grandpappy smoked. In my always right opinion, ever young strappin’ pipe smoker should be assigned to startin’ out on the classics, an’ ya can’t get more classic than the Prince. This champion of codger blends combines the strength and flavor of a burley blend with the sweet aroma of an aromatic. Puff this blend in yer cob while on leave an’ yer gonna have a trail of civilians followin’ after ya, singin’ yer praises. The only problem is ya open yerself up for punk prank callers, thinkin’ they’re mighty clever. The last kid that tried pullin’ that on me still won’t leave his house after I gave ‘im a friendly talkin’ to. Regardless, let the Prince out, an’ let ‘im out often.
Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation Brown Tobacco Pouch Messenger Bag $135
While a pipe smoker’s main essentials are pipes and tobacco, ya need somethin’ to store ‘em in when yer travellin’. My kit and pouches are full of pipes an’ tobacco, but when I’m out on leave, I need a reliable bag to store all the stuff I plan on smokin’. While any bag’ll do, the good folks over at Erik Stokkebye have ya covered with a stylish messenger bag that ya won’t feel ashamed carryin’ ‘round.
Now, most bags out there aren’t made with the pipe smoker in mind, so ya have to be creative in storin’ yer pipes. It can be a pain in the neck tryin’ to keep yer pipes secure so they don’t go knockin’ into each other. The Erik Stokkebye bag has been made from the ground up for pipe smokers, with pouches for two pipes, two tins, space for extra stuff ya want to bring, an’ a section for one of those new fangled tablets all the trendy folks like to carry with ‘em. There’s enough room here to keep ya prepared fer a day trip, or longer dependin’ on how much ya smoke. Personally, I could do for a larger bag, but fer most of ya lightweights; this should suffice.
Now I ain’t one fer worryin’ about keepin’ my pipes clean, but even I like to keep a few pipe cleaners around for clearin’ up the occasional gurgle in my stem. B.J. Long is my personal choice for pipe cleaners, an’ they get the job done. Sure, pipe cleaners ain’t the most excitin’ thing to get under yer Christmas tree, but they’re never a bad thing to have with ya. You can also get the tapered and bristled versions, dependin’ on the job ya need ‘em fer.
The nice thing about pipe cleaners is ya can use ‘em for more than jus’ for yer pipe. As I said, a pipe smoker should be resourceful, and I’ve used mine durin’ some close calls out on duty. You’d be surprised at how much damage one can do with a pack of bristled pipe cleaners when ya put yer mind to it.
ThrowFlame.Com’s XL18 Flamethrower $3,199
Now yer playin’ with power! This sucker will get yer pipe lit no problem while ya incinerate the obstacles ol’ mother nature likes to throw at ya. The XL18 delivers incredible downrange power with a generous 110 foot range. Not to mention that you can hook up some napalm to this beast an’ really go to town. I’ve had squadmates in the past tell me it’s a bit overkill to light my pipe with it, but sometimes ya need more than a zippo to get the job done. Believe me, there ain’t no tobacco too damp that won’t light when ya use this beauty. It brings a tear to this hardened badger’s eye every time I use it.
The Ultimate Pipe Book by Richard Carleton Hacker (Used Prices Vary)
It might come to some as a surprise, but I do enjoy readin’ a good book when I have some down time; an’ what better way to unwind than readin’ the definitive book on pipe smokin’? Richard Carlton Hacker knows his briars and baccy, an’ he dumps all of his knowledge for all o’ us novices in the appropriately titled The Ultimate Pipe Book. While it’s been years since the book went out of print, you can still find a lot of useful information that you can use today.
The Ultimate Pipe Book covers a wide range of topics about pipe smokin’, an’ is the kind of book you can read a bit here an’ there without feelin’ like ya have to finish it in one go. The book’s topics range from the history of pipe smokin’, to how to pick the right pipe an’ tobacco, an’ how to properly collect pipes. There’s even a chapter dedicated to the lady pipe smokers out there, if ya can believe it. My personal favorite chapters focus on pipe smokers in real life an’ in fiction.
Unfortunately, as I alluded to before, the book is long out of print. However, it’s easy to find a used copy fer sale on yer favorite book buyin’ websites. If used books aren’t yer thing, there’s also Pipesmoking: A 21st Century Guide, which ya can buy new. While I don’t own the 21st Century Guide (yet), there’s enough new content in there to justify ownin’ both, as it has a lengthy pipe tobacco review section among other things. Buy both if ya want to have a solid pipe library.
Salamandastron by Brian Jacques, art by Gary Chalk $8.72
While my list is all about pipes, I couldn’t help m’self from addin’ a favorite book of mine. The late great Brian Jacques spent over twenty years writin’ the finest adventure series in all of literature, pennin’ over twenty books chronicling the events of Redwall Abbey, the fortress of Salamandastron, an’ the land of Mossflower country. In this book series, you’ll read about the heroic adventures of brave mice, fierce badgers, bold otters, humorous hares, an’ all sorts of memorable beasts an’ nasty villains that’ll stick with ya fer years to come. This ain’t jus’ fer kids, but readers of all ages, so don’t ya go scoffin’ at it.
While I’d recommend any of the books, my personal favorite has ta be Salamandastron. Salamandastron ain’t yer normal adventurin’ fantasy book— it’s an all out war, an’ the stakes ain’t never been higher in the series. The evil Ferahgo the Assassin an’ his Corpsemakers have laid siege on the fortress of Salamandastron, an’ it’s up to the fearless Badgerlord Urthstripe the Strong an’ his perilous band of hares in the Long Patrol to fend ‘em off. Redwall Abbey doesn’t have it easy either, as an outbreak of dryditch fever threatens to wipe out the peaceful creatures of the Abbey from within unless a cure can be found. Not only that, but the legendary Sword of Martin the Warrior has been stolen from the Abbey an’ must be returned to its rightful place. Bloody battles are fought, characters are killed, an’ heroes rise to the occasion. Add in legendary fantasy illustrator Gary Chalk’s whimsical art, an’ ya have a page turner that’ll keep ya readin’ well past lights out. There’s even an excellent audiobook version, if that’s more yer style.
Briar Report TV Coffee Mug $20 (with shipping included)
Ya might be surprised to learn ya can’t live on pipe smokin’ alone. I know, I couldn’t believe it when our troop’s medic told me that durin’ my boot camp days after passin’ out from dehydration. Turns out ya need to drink, too, an’ what better drink is there than coffee? Nowadays, I can’t start my day without a freshly brewed mug of Death Wish coffee. There’s only one mug that I reach for in the mornin’, an’ that’s my 16oz Briar Report TV mug. Now, I ain’t never stepped a paw in a bistro before, but if they have mugs like this, then I might have ta remedy that, stat. This glossy finished mug holds all the coffee I need in the mornin’, which is enough ta jumpstart my groggy noggin’ fer mornin’ inspection.
Not only are ya gettin’ the finest pipe related coffee mug ya can buy, but yer puttin’ yer money towards supportin’ the best pipe site on the web. Phil an’ the Briar Report team work tirelessly in informin’ all pipe smokers about what’s goin’ on in our favorite hobby, an’ they deserve our support in any way we can help ‘em. Plus, ya get a great mug ta go along with it. So pick up a mug or five, an’ enjoy the blessed black nectar.
That ‘bout sums up my personal picks ya should be keepin’ yer eyes on this holiday season. Pipe smokers have their own preferences fer what they like, but there should be somethin’ here that everyone should enjoy.
Now ta put gifts aside fer a moment, I wanna take a moment ta speak directly to all of you maggots out there. While Christmas is a special time of the year, I know it ain’t everyone’s cup o’ joe. Certainly, I’ve spent many a Christmas away from loved ones alone on the battlefield. Maybe ya’ve lost loved ones durin’ the holidays, or ya had a bad experience that’s tainted the cheerful season.
Regardless of how ya feel ‘bout it, I want all of ya numbskulls out there to know that deep down inside, I appreciate every one of ya. It ain’t all ‘bout gettin’ gifts or eatin’ a fancy meal, it’s the people in yer life that matters. So even if the holidays make ya feel like yer in a foxhole all alone, remember that there’s someone out there that cares ‘bout ya.
Pa-tooie, that’s ‘nuff of that disgustin’ sent-e-mental stuff. Now go out there, have a pipe on the big day, an’ show that red house intruder who’s boss! ‘Till then, I have some business to take care of with this pipsqueak that keeps showin’ up on my shelf. I’ve got a whole list of holiday ‘activities’ to make that runt spill his beans. Let’s jus’ say those bristled pipe cleaners are gonna come in handy.
Now what are ya waitin’ fer? DIS-MISSED!
Here at TheBadgerPiper blog, I want to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 2019 has been an incredible year, and I couldn’t have done it without all of you reading my site.
When I started this little project, I figured it would be a fun way to talk about my favorite hobby that maybe a few people would read. I was honestly worried that I’d quickly run out of things to talk about, but the more I spent on it, the more I had to say. It wasn’t until late this year that I realized I needed to revamp my blog and organize it for newer readers. Hey, I’m a writer, not a design guy! Now, though, I’m happy with where the blog is at, but I’m not done with it yet! I already have multiple articles started for the new year, as well as some other pipe related projects I’m starting.
So for this Christmas season, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, full of joy and plenty of pipe smoke. I’ll see all of you in 2020!
I don’t have it written down anywhere yet, but in my head I have a bucket list of places I’d like to visit that are pipe related in some way, be it a tobacco shop or a place I associate with pipes. One of these days I’ll get around to writing it down, and maybe even make an entry about it, but for now, know that one does exist up in my noggin. I’ve managed to scratch a few places off that list, like Peterson’s of Dublin and Uhle’s up in Milwaukee. After my trip back to Peterson’s, I didn’t think I’d actually have the opportunity to scratch another location off my list this year, but sometimes fate throws me a bone.
With Peterson’s scratched off my list for the past few years, the number one spot has been taken up by Washington, Missouri, the home base for the Missouri Meerschaum factory. It should come as no surprise to anyone that reads this blog or follows my Instagram that I’m a corncob pipe fanatic. More often than not, you’ll see a picture of me enjoying one of my trusty cobs. Heck, I’m even a proud, patch-carrying member of Cob Nation #cobstrong.
For the longest time, I’ve wanted to check out the place where my favorite corn based pipes are carved, but I feared I’d never have the chance. Even though I live only one state away from Missouri, it’s a five-hour trip just to get there. It’s close enough that a trip is possible; yet far enough that convincing my wife to take the trip would be a fool’s errand. While the odds were stacked against me, I never gave up hope that once day I’d find an excuse to make my dream come true.
I never gave up that hope because Missouri and I go back, way back. For me, it’s a second home, as I spent five years of my life living in the Ozarks while at college. I met my wife in Missouri, and made my best friends there. However, all of this was before I smoked a pipe. See, smoking was forbidden at my seminary, so even owning a pipe would have been out of the question. In the five years I lived in the state, I never once even considered owning a corncob pipe. Yet cobs are everywhere in Missouri, from gas station shelves to hanging from the jaws of the hillbillies seen on highway billboards. I promised myself if I ever had the chance to go back to Missouri, I’d smoke a cob and make up for lost time. Thankfully, I finally had that chance this past November.
A college friend of mine announced that she was getting married, and asked my wife to be her maid of honor. My wife immediately accepted, and we learned the wedding would take place in Kansas City, Missouri. Finally, I had the chance I was looking for, so now all I had to do was convince my wife to make a small, minor detour.
I made my case to my wife about a month ago, asking if it was possible for us to stop in Washington during the drive. She wasn’t opposed to the idea until we checked Google maps for a possible route. Unfortunately, Washington was a bit out of the way from the fastest route, and the stop would add about three hours to our drive. My wife didn’t think that it was wise to make the stop, so for the moment it looked like my dream would have to remain just that. Being so close and yet so far, I half contemplated taking part of a day to make the trip while she worked on wedding stuff, but even that seemed unlikely.
Then, a few days before the trip, my wife surprised me with some good news. Apparently she had a change of heart, as she booked a hotel about a half hour away from Washington for the drive down to Kansas City. She would stay at the hotel for the morning and get some work done while I went off on my merry way to Washington. I thanked her, and promised I’d handle most of the driving for the trip, which I think is a fair trade.
A few days later, we drove down from Chicago to the outskirts of St. Louis to spend the night, listening to music from our college years out of nostalgia. Along the way, my wife asked me what part excited me the most about my upcoming trip to Missouri Meerschaum. There was only one answer, “Everything,” I said with a smirk. My wife laughed and said, “I should’ve known.” I gave her my real answer after that. Honestly, I was excited about finally seeing this mythical place with my own eyes. This place wasn’t just where my favorite corncobs were made, but it’s also a place of historical importance. Corncobs are total classic Americana, and I couldn’t wait to get the full experience.
The next morning, I felt right back at home during my solo drive to Washington. The winding and hilly back roads brought me back to my college days when my friends and I would escape from the city limits of Springfield after classes. This route snaked through small country towns, abandoned farm buildings, and rusted out vehicles decaying alongside the road. In some ways, it’s sad to see these languishing parts of America’s heartland, but at the same time, it reminds me of happy times travelling around as a young adult. Had I not been under a time crunch, I would’ve loved to just aimlessly drive and soak in all Missouri had to offer.
After travelling these old roads for roughly forty minutes, I crossed a long bridge that led into the first real city that I had encountered since leaving St. Louis. Washington, Missouri gives a wonderful first impression, as it’s quite a nice small town. It’s big enough to make a day visit, but doesn’t suffer from the congestion of a larger city like Kansas City, St. Louis, or even Springfield. There are plenty of restaurants and small shops for a visitor to walk around and explore, perfect for a spouse that would die from boredom following their pipe smoking significant other around.
The Missouri Meerschaum factory sits at the edge of downtown Washington, across from the great Missouri River. Between the factory and the river is the old Missouri Union Train Station, which has now been repurposed into multiple little shops. The current working station is only a stones throw away, but I couldn’t help but look around the retired station and admire the place while snapping a few pictures. The adventurer in me wanted to hop up on the old platform and wander about, but I didn’t exactly feel like chatting with the local law enforcement officers and be escorted out of town. What can I say? I’m not much of a rule breaker, which is probably why I’m not an urban explorer.
I took a walk around the Missouri Meerschaum factory building for a few moments, taking a good look at the place and getting a feel for my surroundings. Even from standing outside the place, I could smell the varnish used to seal the corncob pipes once they’ve been made, and I could hear the machines hard at work cranking out pipes to put out for the market. An official city plaque had been placed at the corner of the building, explaining the historical significance of the factory. Even though we live in a society that despises our hobby, it’s nice to see Washington honor the Missouri Meerschaum factory in this fashion.
I walked around the corner and made my way up to the factory’s retail store and museum. Stepping inside the shop honestly feels like turning the clock back in time to a different era, when pipes were commonplace and a respected business. According to Missouri Meerschaum’s site, their building dates back to the 1880’s, and that’s easily apparent within moments of being in the place. There’s not much in the room that’s all that modern, other than the register and TV. The old hardwood floor creaks with every step you make, which just sets the mood for the place like a saloon in a western. In the middle of the room sat three wooden rocking chairs, and it took every ounce of willpower not to sit in one and break out a cob and tin and have a smoke. Sadly, smoking isn’t allowed in the shop, otherwise I could see myself staying there for a long time, happily puffing away without a care in the world.
The retail store and museum is in an “L” shaped room, with the retail shop in the front section, and the museum taking up the back portion. The entire space is filled with items from the factory’s past, celebrating all things corn and corncob pipe. There’s even a large wooden corncob with “Welcome” carved into the piece, which I absolutely love, though some might find it corny *Insert Rimshot.
Immediately to my left sat a wall of corncob pipes, all styles and shapes represented for sale. As a corncob fanatic, I was in heaven. I’ve been to Missouri Meerschaum’s table at the Chicago Pipe Show, and while they always bring plenty of their stock, even that can’t hold a corn kernel to their inventory at the retail shop. The shop also boasts an impressive selection of pipe tobacco tins and jars. I expected to find Missouri Meerschaum’s pipe tobacco line to be there, but that’s just a small sample of their selection. Companies like Cornell & Diehl, MacBaren, G.L. Pease, Lane, Sutliff, Seattle Pipe Club, and others all sat on rows of shelves, with sample tins available for sniffing for every blend. A cabinet next to the shelves held multiple tobacco jars of bulk tobacco, giving the shopper a multitude of choices to mull over while they shopped.
Before I had much of a chance to look around, an employee stepped out from the office in the back and welcomed me to the shop. He asked me if he could be of assistance, but hey, I’m TheBadgerPiper, I’m what you call an expert. I have to give props to the guy, though, as he gave me space to shop around without hovering, and only pointed out merchandise around the shop when he thought it would be of interest. We even had a nice conversation about our favorite pipe tobacco tins. I welcomed the interruption to chat about good tobacco, considering how rare it is to find other pipe smokers.
Once the employee left me to my own devices, I immediately descended upon the corncob pipes. I felt like a kid in a candy store with all the choices in front of me and eagerly searched through the shelves for the right cobs. As much as I appreciate Missouri Meerschaum’s online store, there’s nothing like having the pipes in front of you instead of a picture and written out dimension measurements. You can pick up any cob you want, give it a thorough glance over, and decide if it’s up to snuff.
I told myself not to go wild in buying cobs, but when you have the entire line at your fingertips, restraint is the last thing on your mind. One of my goals is to one day collect one of every style of cob available and review them all for this blog, but now was not the time to make that happen. After all, I had to go back to my wife at the hotel, and the last thing I wanted to do was explain why I spent that much money on corncob pipes. I didn’t like the idea of spending a night or two sleeping on a hotel room floor.
Before the trip, I made a mental list of the cobs I was the most interested in purchasing. At the very top of that list was the Corndog, a bulldog style corncob specially made in honor of Missouri Meerschaum’s 150th year of operation. The corndog used to be part of Missouri Meerschaum’s standard line, but the shape had long been out of production. Missouri Meerschaum only made a certain amount of these 150th Anniversary corndogs, so if you missed it, you’re out of luck. Previously, I had the chance to buy one at the Chicago Pipe Show, but passed on it in favor of other pipes. With the cob no longer listed on their site, I knew if I didn’t find one at the retail shop, then I was out of luck for good. Thankfully, fate smiled upon me that day, as the shop had two corndogs left for purchase, perhaps the very last two corndogs in the wild. I snatched one for myself and left the last one for the next lucky individual hoping to buy one.
Besides the corndog, I picked up three other cobs— a Cobbit Shire pipe, a bent Emerald pipe, and the Briar Patch Forum Bing. While I’m not the biggest fan of churchwarden pipes, Dave from the Maple City Pipe Cast network told me the Cobbit Shire is his all-time favorite pipe. With that kind of praise, I had to give it a try. Plus, who doesn’t want a LOTR style cob? The Emerald was another cob I almost purchased at the Chicago Pipe Show. The bent version reminds me of a larger Charles Towne cob, not just from the acrylic stem, but in size as well. As for the Bing, it’s a style that’s unusual for a cob, and a briar Bing is near the top of my list of pipes I’d like to own.
The retail shop also has gift sets of cobs you can buy, with two matching themed cobs in a bent and straight shape. They’re neat gifts to buy for the cob fan in your life, but I didn’t need one myself. I will say, the Let Freedom Ring set looks sharp, and I had to think about it for a moment. It comes with a straight 5th Avenue and a bent Rob Roy cob in a dark yellow stain and rugged finish. If you’re looking for a set to purchase, I’d suggest giving this one a chance.
With my cobs selected, it was time to check the pipe tobacco. This turned out to be a much more difficult task than I expected. When I made the trip, I figured I’d pick up one of the Missouri Meerschaum branded pipe tobacco pouches and call it a day. My plans quickly fell by the wayside as I discovered the sheer quantity of tobacco tins available for purchase. By buying a few tins at the retail store, I could pick up a few new blends I was interested in without having to deal with the postal service.
Here’s a little secret for all you blog readers, since I like you all— the retail shop has some hard to find tobacco that you can’t find on the usual sites. While scouring through their stock, I found tins for C&D’s The Haunting, as well as some of their small batch artisan blends like Sun Bear. The pipe websites like to post these new blends while I’m at work, so by the time I hear about them; they’re usually sold out. It’s not just C&D, either. They had MacBaren Old Dark Fired Plug in stock, too, and that sold out just as fast.
Because the retail store had open tins for all their stock, I took the opportunity to go up to all the tins I haven’t tried, popped the tin open, and took a sniff. Even if I couldn’t buy every tin I was interested in, I could at least smell them and make a note to buy them later. Maybe one day science will create a computer that offers the option for smell-o-vision, but until then, this was my only chance to sample all these blends.
In the end, I decided not to buy any of their small batch tobacco. Instead, I picked up two C&D blends—their Christmas blend of Corn Cob Pipe and a Button Nose, and Redburn. Corn Cob and a Button Nose has been on my “to try” list for some time, so I wasn’t going to let it pass me by this time, especially with it in front of me. I also went with Redburn, as it reminded me of both Blockade Runner and Black Frigate, two Navy blends that are mainstays in my weekly blends. I might’ve passed on Redburn while ordering online, but thanks to being able to smell a sample of it; I knew it was a winner. Just goes to show you that while online ordering is great, there are advantages to going to an actual tobacconist to see what they have. Otherwise, I might’ve missed out on a great blend.
The retail shop has more than just cobs and tobacco for sale. In addition to normal pipe shop items like pipe tools, rubber bits, and wind caps, there’s a wide variety of Missouri Meerschaum themed merchandise available. You can show the world your cob pride with coffee mugs, shot glasses, duck callers, patches, t-shirts, hoodies, bandanas, baseball hats, posters, and postcards. I was highly impressed with the ceramic coffee mugs, as they put most of the coffee mugs I own at home to shame. I had a hard time putting it back, but cobs were my priority. You can find all of these items on their web store, though, and would make for a great stocking stuffer, along with a cob of course. I did end up adding in a postcard and poster, as both were a buck each, and make for great souvenirs for the pipe corner in my basement.
After purchasing cobs and tobacco at the counter, it was time to move into the museum portion of the shop. The museum isn’t all that big, but there’s enough cool memorabilia to justify a visit. Before I began, there was a guestbook sitting by one of the display cabinets, surrounded by leaflets for pipe clubs and local areas of interest. The guestbook had signatures of visitors from all around the world, and I enjoyed reading all the places people hailed from that stopped by the shop. Of course, I had to make my mark and sign the guestbook, providing proof that I made my visit. If you stop at the store, you’ll find my signature in there somewhere.
The museum consisted of a few different display cabinets spread out in the larger part of the back of the room. Every shelf had at least two or three antique cobs sitting around, many of them being shapes that were out of production. The cabinets by the guest book detailed the history of the Missouri Meerschaum factory, and corncob pipes in general. The top shelf told the story of Henry Tibbe and how he carved his first corncob pipe in the 1800’s. From one simple pipe, Tibbe built an empire that’s still going strong today. The shelf had a lot of information and photos showing the progression of the company, including how they were responsible for bringing electricity to Washington, MO. As someone that only knew a fraction of Tibbe’s story, I found it fascinating how important the factory and Tibbe family was in the history of Washington.
The shelf below had letters from important people who wrote to the Missouri Meerschaum Company. Most of the letters came from politicians, who thanked the company for sending them a package of corncob pipes. One politician in particular wrote to thank them, saying that while he didn’t smoke a pipe, another gentleman in his office was making good use of the cobs. Overall, none of the letters were earthshattering, but I found it interesting.
The centerpiece letter came from General Douglas MacArthur himself, thanking the company for sending him one of the famous cobs that now bears his name. Considering that General MacArthur is one of the most iconic corncob pipe smokers in history, it only makes sense that the company would devote part of their museum to the famous General. Next to the General’s letter proudly sat a 5-Star General cob, a shape that’s still in production today. One interesting factoid I learned at the museum involved one of MacArthur’s peculiar quirks that he’d do with each of his cobs. Whenever General MacArthur broke in a new 5-Star cob, he would take his lighter and burn a ring in the middle of the shank of his cob. All MacArthur cobs in production today come with that ring pre-burnt into the shank in honor of the General’s unique habit.
The middle section of the museum focused on corncob pipes in popular culture. There were comic books featuring Popeye and Frosty the Snowman, the two biggest corncob pipe smokers in fiction today. Everyone’s favorite cob smoking sailor man even had a wooden statue of himself on one of the shelves, with a little cob sticking out of his mouth. MacArthur and Mark Twain also had small sections devoted to them here, as both are well known for their love of cobs. Besides some old advertisements for the Missouri Meerschaum Company, they also displayed some older shapes devoted to specific people, such as the Ty Cobb cob, as well as a cob in honor of Popeye’s hometown of Chester, Illinois. Seeing these old cobs in person was a real treat, and makes me wish the Missouri Meerschaum Company would consider doing some small runs of these forgotten shapes. With the success of the corndog, one can hope that Missouri Meerschaum will surprise their fans with another old shape making a comeback. I, for one, would be at the front of the line for one of those Ty Cobb pipes.
The last cabinet section was devoted to the history of the tobacco pipe. A row of pipes was laid out, with an information card describing each pipe and their place in history. The pipes started with stone pipes, moving onto clays, and briars, and everything in-between. The display was a nice primer for visitors who might not be as familiar with the history of pipes, as well as many examples of each kind of pipe.
Perhaps the coolest part of the whole museum had to be the memorabilia and historical items scattered throughout the room. At the top of the room above the first display cabinet sat two dusty old art pieces, two boards covered from top to bottom in corncob pipes, each with their own unique pattern. To a normal passer-by, these two dusty displays might not seem worthy of any real significance, perhaps a curiosity at best. However, these aren’t just for some art project to decorate the museum. The Missouri Meerschaum Company created these displays all the way back for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, and are over 115 years old. It’s amazing that these two historically significant art pieces have are still hanging up in the museum and weren’t lost to time.
In the back corner of the room sat what I like to call the Corncob Throne. The throne consisted of a wooden chair, with tons of corncob pipes with amber stems sticking out on top of the back. The chair reminded me of the Iron Throne, seen in HBO’s The Game of Thrones, but with a focus on pipes rather than swords. I imagine any pipe smoker out there would love to have a chair like this in their smoking spot. I mean, come on, it’s a chair decorated with corncob pipes! Despite being a huge corncob pipe fan, I didn’t myself worthy of having such an honor. I’ve seen enough Indiana Jones films to know what happens when you presume you deserve something. Knowing my luck, I’d probably dissolve into pipe ash and corn kernels. This is a seat worthy for someone like Aristocob, not some simple blogger such as myself.
Once I finished up at the museum, it was time to wrap up my visit. So after one more look around the place, I stepped outside and headed out to my car. However, I wasn’t quite ready to head back to my hotel room, and I wanted to look around Washington a bit more. So I loaded up my 150th Anniversary Corndog cob with a codger blend— Lane’s Ready Rubbed, fired up the bowl with my pipe lighter, and took a stroll down the sloping Missouri streets surrounding the factory.
I took in the scenery while puffing my new cob and thought how fortunate the Missouri Meerschaum Factory was to be located in such a wonderful small town. Sitting on the banks of the mighty Missouri river, built atop the soil of America’s heartland, the very DNA of the Missouri Meerschaum factory is as Americana as they come. It’s true that Washington doesn’t have the same draw as St. Louis or Kansas City, but it provides more of a picturesque and idyllic setting to spend a day away from the madness of the crowds.
As the tobacco burned low in my cob, and I leaned next to that old, out-of-commission train station, I found it hard to leave this quaint, yet welcoming city. While my visit had unfortunately come to an end, I dearly hoped that one day I could return and make another visit to the Missouri Meerschaum factory. And if you ever find yourself driving through the “Show Me” state and have some spare time, I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than in Washington, MO.
Until next time, you’ll find me here, breaking in my new cobs. Happy puffing, my friends,
*On a side note, if you do go to the Missouri Meerschaum factory, I highly suggest you use the bathroom beforehand, or save it until after. The retail store and museum doesn’t have a bathroom available for customers, so you’ll have to walk two blocks away to the public market. Kinda annoying, but at least there’s a public restroom close by. Be warned.
This is an old review I wrote of Ennerdale Flake for tobaccoreviews.com, back from July of 2015. Since I never posted it to the blog, I decided to bring it over here and keep all my reviews in one convenient spot.
Ennerdale Flake holds a special place in my heart. Before Ennerdale, I never had the desire to write a review for pipe tobacco. However, after smoking one bowl of Ennerdale Flake, I enjoyed the blend so much that I had to tell others about the wonders of Lakeland tobacco.
Even four years later, I still feel just as firm in my opinion on Ennerdale as when I wrote this review. In fact, if I could choose one tobacco to never run out of, I’d choose Ennerdale in a heartbeat, and it’s not because it’s so difficult to find in stock. The floral aroma and sweet flavor of this flake continues to satisfy me with every smoke, and I pack my pipe with it every time I want to treat myself.
Having been a fan of PipesandCigar’s Lakeland Brickle, I decided to pick up a new blend that had a healthy dose of Lakeland topping. I have a limited supply of Lakeland Brickle, and so far, I don’t see it being reproduced, so a replacement is needed. Hearing positive recommendations about Ennerdale, I decided to purchase a few ounces of it on a whim on IPSD 2015.
Since Lakeland blends have a notorious reputation on ghosting a pipe, I picked out a cob, rubbed the flake out, and wandered out to my writing hole to try out the blend while working on my novel. The blend itself was quite easy to light and get going, so it didn’t require much drying time at all. I was able to pack my pipe and take it out right away for a test run.
Upon lighting up, I could clearly taste the Lakeland topping. If you don’t like the perfume taste and scent of Lakeland blends, then you probably won’t like this at all. Me though, I quite enjoyed it. I settled into a steady rhythm of contently puffing away on my cob while enjoying the blend. The flavor remained strong through the entire bowl until the tobacco burned to a fine white ash. I was sad when the bowl ended, which is always a sign of a quality blend in my book.
Leaving my writing hole to go in the house for a few minutes, I returned back outside and took in a whiff of the evening air. Even from my stairs I could distinctly smell the room note of Ennerdale from a considerable distance from my writing hole. It reminded me of those perfumes in cartoons that would turn into a wispy hand and lead a character back to the source by the nose. Likewise, Ennerdale had me under its spell, and off to Ebay I marched to purchase a pipe I could singularly devote to it, as well as a few more ounces on my next online order from PipesandCigars.com.
So now I know the wondrous flake that is Ennerdale, and its become an entrenched blend in my weekly rotation. While I will continue seeking out similar Lakeland blends, Ennerdale undoubtedly will be a hard act to follow.
Pipe Used: Corn Cob/Jobey Billiard
Age When Smoked: A few months
Purchased From: pipesandcigars.com
Similar Blends: G&H Glengarry Flake; Kendal Plug.
My Verdict: four out of four stars
Have you tried a Lakeland blend? I know they tend to be divisive blends. For me, I can’t get enough of them! Leave a comment and let me know what you think of them.
When I first smoked a pipe, I started out
with aromatic blends. Yet, like many pipe smokers out there, I gradually moved
onto English blends, then VaPers, Burley, and so on. Over time, my aromatic
blends collected dust in my cellar, and I soon gifted my unused aromatics to
newer pipe smokers who would appreciate the blends more than I did. I certainly
don’t sneer my nose up at aromatics like some out there, but my tastes
naturally changed to more complex blends.
Still, I have a fondness for a good aromatic.
After all, most of us probably gained an interest in pipe smoking from smelling
a codger blend, so I’m always on the lookout for a pleasing aromatic that I can
still enjoy. In my opinion, the best pipe tobacco blends on the market combine
a pleasing aroma without sacrificing a good tobacco flavor.
I recently picked up a tin of Sutliff’s Eastfarthing, after hearing some of my online pipe buddies rave about the blend. I decided to give the blend a try, though I didn’t pay much attention to what kind of blend it was until it arrived. I wanted to go into Eastfarthing blind and make up my mind on my own. If I had known it was considered an aromatic, I might not have picked it up.
After Eastfarthing arrived, I read the
description printed on the label, which read, “Mature red Virginias, stoved
burley & aged Latakia with a hint of sweetness.” Red Virginias? Good.
Stoved burley? Excellent, I love burley. Aged Latakia? So it’s an English
blend. I’m game. A hint of sweetness? Well, I do have a sweet tooth; so don’t
mind if I do.
I popped the tin and went ahead and gave the
tobacco a sniff. I could smell the wondrous aroma of vanilla, my favorite kind
of aromatic. I knew at least the room note of Eastfarthing would be a winner,
if nothing else. However, the tobacco in the tin was quite damp, so I put some
out to dry overnight to smoke the next day. If you end up trying Eastfarthing
for yourself, I highly recommend letting it dry, or you’re going to have a
rough time getting the tobacco lit.
The next day, I loaded up my large Peterson
XL14 with the dried Eastfarthing and headed out to my garage to smoke. The
tobacco still had a tiny bit of moisture to it, even after being out for 24
hours, but leaving it out made it suitable for smoking. Your drying time my vary
depending on your preferred method.
The tobacco lit easily in my pipe, and I sat
back and puffed away, paying close attention to how the blend smoked. It didn’t
take long for Eastfarthing to convert me into a fan. I could taste the aged
Latakia in the smoke, solidifying it as an English blend to my palate. Yet like
the description says, there was also a definite sweetness in the mix, making it
more of a dessert English blend.
Now, as most pipe smokers quickly learn as
they take up the pipe, usually the smoker is immune to the room note of the
pipe as they puff. However, as I smoked Eastfarthing, my nostrils detected a
distinctive change in the air. I removed my pipe from my mouth and took a long
sniff to smell what it was.
Ah, there it is, I thought
to myself with a smile as I resumed puffing away. There’s that classic pipe smell I’ve missed.
Folks, Eastfarthing smells exactly as a pipe
tobacco should—rich, deep, and earthy. It reminded me of all the times I walked
by a pipe smoker in the past before I took up the pipe. As soon as I’d smell
that warm aroma, I’d stop in my tracks and look for the source. Sure enough,
I’d find a pipe smoker, puffing away without a care in the world. Despite
having Latakia in the blend, it doesn’t have that campfire smell that some find
off-putting, but you will taste it.
The name Eastfarthing comes from a location
in the Lord of the Rings books, and I think it’s an appropriate title. This is
the type of tobacco I can see hobbits, dwarves, elves, and men all keeping in
their pouches as they travel Middle Earth. I know some pipe smokers say
Eastfarthing reminds them of Frog Morton Cellar. I never had the chance to try
Cellar, but it reminds me of another LOTR style blend that’s sadly
disappeared—Just for Him’s Shortcut to Mushrooms. As much as I liked STM, I’d
wager to say I actually like Eastfarthing a bit more. For me, it’s a bit of a
richer smoke than what I remember of STM.
Eastfarthing is a complex blend, and Sutliff
should be commended for their work. This is a pipe tobacco for absolutely
everyone— both the smoker and those around them. The flavor is full of sweet
English goodness while still retaining that classic pipe smell that reminds
non-smokers of favorite pipe smoking relatives.
So if you’re in the market for a blend that
manages to combine the best of an English blend and an aromatic, I highly
recommend you take a long holiday to Eastfarthing.
Back when I kid in the 90’s, my dad would
drag me out of the house, away from my beloved video games, and go with him on
little excursions against my will. See, my dad is a RC plane enthusiast, and he
spent his evenings back then in the garage or basement working on his latest
project. Despite my father’s best attempts, he never could quite pique my
interested in his favorite pastime. Don’t get me wrong, my dad has a talent for
model planes, and he made some great ones. It just wasn’t for me. As a result
of his hobby, I spent many an afternoon or hot summer Saturday on the flying
field while my dad flew his planes. My sister and I will sometimes reminisce on
how we’d go on adventures in the surrounding fields, climbing trees and
exploring, rather than watching my dad fly. As boring as it was, it gave me
ample time to use my imagination to pass the time.
About once a week, though, my dad would take
me along to the local hobby shop in LaGrange, Illinois. He’d usually spend
about an hour at the shop, chatting with the employees and customers while I
was left to peruse the shop and entertain myself. Unfortunately, at my age,
nothing at the shop really captured my interest. I certainly had my hobbies at
that age, but it was limited to video games, comic books, and super hero action
It’s a shame, because looking back; there
were tons of cool stuff to find at the store. I just wasn’t at the right stage
in life to truly appreciate what was there. Sure, the shop had model plane
stuff, but it also had Dungeons & Dragons modules, military and fantasy
miniatures, war-gaming books, and monster model kits. However, if I came home
with something like a book on D&D, my mother would’ve thrown a fit and
taken me to our pastor for prayer.
There were a ton of other shops and
restaurants in the area by the hobby shop, and I’d look at them as my dad drove
by to find a parking spot. As I paid more attention to the surroundings over
the years, there was one shop that caught my eye, and I can still see it
vaguely, even after all these years. Given the subject material of this blog, I
can assume you already know what kind of shop it was.
The little store was called The Piper of
LaGrange, and what a marvelous looking tobacco shop it was. This wasn’t one of
those discount tobacco places, either, but a classic tobacconist. If memory
serves me right, the shop had a sign with the outline of the Pied Piper playing
his pipe, advertising the shop. On the store window, it listed the items it had
for sale. “The Pied Piper of LaGrange.
Pipes, Tobacco, Cigars, Darts, and Billiards Supplies.” Can you think of a
better store to spend time in? It sold practically everything I’d be interested
in now. Even today, few tobacconists could promote themselves that would get me
to come in quite like The Piper of LaGrange.
Remember, I was a youngster at the time, below smoking age, and I didn’t personally have a pipe smoker in my life to impart any sort of memories with the hobby. Yet despite this, that Pied Piper might as well have been playing his tune for me, because he had me under his spell. I never would’ve admitted my pipe interest to anyone at the time, but I so wanted to sneak out of the hobby shop and make my way to that store. Of course, if I had, I’m sure the storeowner would’ve told me to scram until I was older, but that’s not the point. I had to see what the Piper of LaGrange looked like inside. Unfortunately, my dad smoked cigarettes, so he had no need to step inside The Piper of LaGrange, so the tobacco shop had to remain a mystery to me.
Instead, all I had was my imagination to give
me an idea of what was inside. Based on the other stores in the surrounding
area, I’m sure it was a cozy tobacco shop, with numerous new and estate pipes
resting on the shelves (hopefully not the cursed kind), jars of Lane tobacco
listed as house blends, countless tins of blends gone by, and anything a pipe
smoker would need. I’m sure the shop had regulars that came around to smoke and
chat, with its own little community.
At some point when I decided I’d smoke a pipe
one day, I made a promise to myself that when I was of age and could drive
myself, I’d make the trip to the Piper and finally get that glimpse inside with
my own eyes. If I hadn’t picked up pipe smoking beforehand, I certainly would
have then. I’d wander into the shop and pick out my first pipe, my first
tobacco blend, and learn from someone knowledgeable about the ways of smoking a
pipe. If all went according to plan, I could even become a regular myself and
be known on a first name basis as I picked up my latest tin or pouch.
Sadly, time ever marches on, and as the years
pass, so does the landscape of a city street. One day, around the age of 18, I
went to the hobby shop with my dad and passed by The Piper of LaGrange. The
window store was empty with the exception of a ‘For Sale’ sign, and the glass
art had been wiped clean. The tobacconist had closed up shop for good, and my
chance had slipped through my fingers. It didn’t matter, as I wouldn’t take up
pipe smoking until ten years later, and I never would’ve tried it while living
at home. My dreams were dashed, and the store would forever remain a mystery to
me. A different tobacco shop appeared a few blocks down, but from its
appearance, I could tell it was predominately focused on cigars. Even that shop
is gone now, so that’s also not an option.
Since then, I’ve searched online for any sort
of information on The Piper of LaGrange, but given that the store closed on the
cusp of the internet age, all that remains is an old phone number that I’m sure
leads to nowhere. There’s no discussion about the old shop on pipe pages past,
and I’ve yet to run into a person that’s heard of it. A search on Google images
doesn’t bring up their storefront, so all I have are my memories.
It’s a shame really. While I still ended up
becoming a pipe smoker, that all happened due to my own determination. I didn’t
have a Piper of LaGrange to drive to so I could learn from someone in person
how to smoke a pipe. Instead, my mentors were pipe websites and youtubers.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think there’s something special about
learning how to smoke a pipe with a fellow piper guiding you.
It’s times like this that make me wish I had
a time machine to go back to spend a lazy afternoon at The Piper of LaGrange.
Some might call that a waste of time travel, but at least I wouldn’t be messing
with the timeline, and there’s no risk of running into my past self inside the
shop for a time paradox. Maybe one day one of those internet geniuses will
figure it all out, but until then it’s an opportunity lost.
I lament the loss of The Piper of LaGrange,
because it’s rare to find a tobacco shop that focuses on pipes these days. Most
tobacconists are focused on cigars or—other things, and while there are pipe focused
shops out there, they’re not easy to find. As much as I appreciate online
shops, nothing can take the place of a reliable brick and mortar.
Sometimes I daydream about being a
tobacconist myself, taking up shop in a small town and focusing it on pipes and
pipe tobacco. Unfortunately, with the current climate of everyone being
anti-tobacco, it seems like my hopes will remain just that, pipe dreams.
Still, I think about what kind of shop I’d
like to run, and what I’d put into it. If I had any shop to base it on, it
would have to be like The Piper of LaGrange, or at least the one in my
imagination. I can tell you one thing; it wouldn’t look like the bland, Apple
store wannabe vape shops with neon signs I see in every city. I turn away in
disgust every time I see one of those places.
Instead, I’d keep it classy, with a vintage
feel to the shop. I’d buy antique furniture for customers to sit in and smoke
as they chatted with fellow customers, with old advertisements and classic
tobacco tins on the wall for décor. The walls would have all kinds of pipes for
sale, tobacco tins, as well as house-blended tobacco inside large jars. I’d
have a coffee machine available for customers, and a small library of books for
those looking to escape into a novel. There would be a sound system set up,
with classical music playing to set the atmosphere. I’d even have a dartboard
set up for people to play a few rounds for fun. I think I’d call it The Badger’s
Briar Shop, or something along those lines.
Of course, these
are as I said, pipe dreams, but a guy can dream, can’t he?
next time, I’ll light my pipe in honor of The Piper of LaGrange and bid you all
a good day and happy puffing.