Monday, September 30th, 2019 – Dublin, Ireland
I stepped outside the lobby of my hotel and pulled the protective hood of my raincoat over my wool flat cap. Rainclouds covered the city of Dublin like a dark grey blanket, unleashing a constant barrage of rain on the waterlogged city. While Ireland’s known for its rain, even the normally chipper Dubliners had grown tired of the constant downpour. Still, despite the rain and massive puddles, the citizens of Dublin braved the weather, dressed in their own raincoats and holding their umbrellas above their heads.
I stepped onto the sidewalk and began my short trek alongside Trinity College, avoiding the puddles and pedestrians as I checked my phone to make sure I was headed in the right direction. While I knew where I was going, being a bit navigationally challenged, I find it reassuring to check to make sure I’m headed in the right direction. Considering I had been anticipating this visit for months, the last thing I wanted to do was get lost on the way to Peterson’s of Dublin.
I had been in Ireland for over a week, having travelled to the Emerald Isle with my wife and Mother-in-law for a family vacation. This was the third time my wife and I had been to Ireland, but this was the first for my Mother-in-law. While my Mother-in-law has travelled to many different places around the world, it was always a dream of hers to visit Ireland and see her family’s homeland. My wife and I brought her along as a way to thank her for giving my wife the chance to travel overseas while growing up. Now some might find travelling with their mother-in-law a punishment worse than death, but I actually get along quite well with mine, so it didn’t bother me. The only caveat for me is that she’s very anti-tobacco, so that meant no pipe smoking while on the trip. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a disappointment, but a trip to Ireland is worth a brief break from the briar. However, once we were in Dublin, I worked it out so I could stop at Peterson’s while my wife and mother-in-law were busy elsewhere.
For the past week, we explored the scarred remnants of bitter conflict in Belfast, the magnificent crags of Donegal, the glorious seaside port of Galway, and the ancient streets of Kilkenny. We only had one day in rainy Dublin before it was time for us to head back to the states, but all I needed was a good hour at Peterson’s to accomplish my mission.
Now, I’ve been to Peterson’s before, having stopped in during both of my previous trips to Dublin, but no matter how many times I get to go, it still fills me with a giddy excitement with every visit. Peterson pipes hold a special place in my heart, as my very first pipe was a Peterson Aran 408 Author. Since then, I’ve collected a number of Petersons, all different shapes, and they outnumber any other brand in my collection. So when I go to Peterson’s, I feel like a pipe pilgrim reaching my long desired destination.
By the time I reached Peterson’s, I took only a moment to snap a quick picture before venturing inside so I could get out of the ever-present rain. The shop itself is sandwiched in a long row of buildings, standing right across the street from Trinity College. I can’t think of a better location for “The Thinking Man’s Pipe” than being across from a legendary establishment of learning like Trinity.
It’s funny, for a shop as lauded as Peterson’s; it’s actually quite small in person. However, if your business is located centrally in an old city like Dublin, you deal with the hand you’re dealt, so expansion is kind of difficult. Still, the pipe section of Peterson’s puts most tobacconists to shame, so they work with what they have.
The first floor of the shop holds all of their available pipes in a glass case on the wall, with a display case containing a selection of non-Peterson pipes. There are also various knickknacks for sale, such as flasks, knives, and watches, which might interest pipe smokers looking for souvenirs. Besides the first floor, there’s a basement that holds their cigar selection, though I’ve yet to see it as I’m not a cigar smoker. Besides, if you’re a pipe smoker, the pipes are what you’re there for. There’s also an upper floor that’s off limits, which I imagine holds some of their extra stock. There’s a life sized Sherlock Holmes guarding the stairs, keeping an eye on travelling Americans that might venture up there out of curiosity. As much as I’d like to take a peek up there, I’d rather not to be banned from the store. The last thing I’d need is for my picture to be plastered on the back of the counter with the phrase “Do not serve this American.”
If I’m being honest, I’d have to admit their pipe tobacco selection is a bit lacking. One would think you would find their entire line of tobaccos in the shop, but that’s not the case. There’s a small selection of Peterson tobacco pouches behind their counter, as well as some C&D blends and a number of European only brands— such as Condor, Clan, and Mick McQuaid. In previous visits, they had a larger selection of tobaccos, but it’s been paired down to only the essentials. I’m not sure why their in-shop inventory is so sparse, but if I had to wager a guess, I’d put my money on regulations. But what do I know? I’m just some Yankee tourist.
After moving my hood back and shaking off the rain, I greeting the two friendly employees behind the counter and went straight for the pipe case. I had about an hour to spend in the shop before I needed to meet my wife and mother-in-law at Trinity College for the Book of Kells exhibit, so time was of the essence.
During my last two visits, I was able to pick up two pipes each, as buying Peterson pipes in Ireland is a bit cheaper than buying online in America. I had planned on doing the same for this visit; however, after glancing at a few prices on the pipes, I discovered that their pipes had gone up in price since 2015. I soon changed my tactic from buying two cheaper pipes to buying one nicer Peterson. Initially, this was a bit of a letdown, but looking back, I think it was a blessing in disguise. I’m not lacking in pipes, and this freed me into looking at more expensive pipes I normally avoid.
An hour seems like a long time to look for a pipe, but when you’re dealing with over one hundred pipes in multiple cases with sliding walls, it can be a bit of a sensory overload. Normally, when I’m searching for something, I tend to go in a logical order of moving from left to right, going up and down each row of pipes. I immediately ran into an obstacle to my system, as there was another American looking at the pipe case where I’d normally start. I had to break my system and work backwards, even if it disrupted my regular flow.
The pipes themselves were grouped together by their brands, moving from left to right from affordable to expensive. This made it a bit easier to find what type of pipe you wanted, as the Aran’s were with Arans’, Rocky’s with Rocky’s, and so on. Occasionally, I’d find a single pipe by itself, as it was the last style left, such as the St. Patrick’s Day pipe I came across during my searching. Overall, though, everything was orderly and clearly defined for my logical brain.
Peterson’s had a pretty decent selection to choose from, with most of their brands represented. Their pipe stock did feel a tiny bit picked over, but there were still plenty of pipes to choose from. While I was disappointed that they didn’t have any 2019 Christmas pipes in stock, there were a good amount of 2018 Christmas pipes to make up for it. Their normal brands had plenty of shapes represented, but once you got into their more obscure lines like their Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde pipes, you were stuck picking from the few shapes available.
What wasn’t as clearly defined, and my one brief criticism I have, was figuring out the prices for the pipes. Their cases had some general prices listed, but some areas didn’t have tags available. This potentially wasn’t a problem, as the pipes did have tags stuffed in the bowls of their pipes, but about half of the pipes didn’t have a price listed, only a barcode. I can’t interpret a barcode, so I was out of luck. I wasn’t about to ask the clerks to price check every pipe, so I’d have to find out the price of my pipe once I picked it out.
After about forty minutes of searching through each pipe that caught my eye, picking them up and giving them a look over, I finally narrowed my selection between a charming Rosslare 68 and one of the Sherlock Holmes pipes that were available. Now, Peterson’s Sherlock pipes exude that classy Peterson look, but go a step further with their heftier size. If you’re buying a pipe from Peterson’s and have the budget, what better pipe to bring home as a memento from a trip to Ireland than a Sherlock? I mean there’s even a statue of the man in the store, so why not go for one?
Ultimately, the look of the pipe became the deciding factor for my purchase. The Sherlock pipes had style to them; no doubt about it, but the finish for each pipe resembled the average Aran or Rocky pipe. I love both styles, but I already own plenty of Peterson’s with those particular finishes. The Rosslare pipes, however, caught my eye the moment I saw them— with the glossy yet rusticated briar, silver band, and golden stem.
I’ll admit I almost walked away with a Sherlock Professor pipe. It had the same bent billiard shape as a 68, but larger for longer smokes. I had to pose myself a question— which of the two pipes would I look back and regret not buying once I got back from my trip? As cool as the Professor pipe was, I knew as soon as I got home I’d be thinking about that Rosslare finish, and make that my next purchase. Could I say the same about the Professor? The decision was clear as day, and I put the Professor back in the case and took the Rosslare 68 to the attendant at the counter.
As I checked out, I decided to pick up some pipe tobacco not available in the United States. While Mick McQuaid Plug was high on my UK pipe tobacco wish list, there was only one choice for me—Condor Plug. For years, I’ve read user reviews on tobaccoreviews.org for the classic British blends such as St. Bruno Flake, and Condor Plug was always up there as a tobacco I wished I could try. Now that I had the chance, I wasn’t going to miss my opportunity. I ended up picking up two 50-gram pouches and added them with the pipe.
I must say, I feel for my pipe brethren overseas. As annoying as it is to have large warning labels on our pipe tobacco in the USA, it doesn’t compare to the absolute fear mongering plastered on the European pouches. The pouches are pure black, with the name of the tobacco in plain white text. Instead of tin art, pictures of babies on life support, black lungs, weeping wives, and other guilt tripping images are front and center on the pouches. They gave the impression you’d suddenly keel over the moment you touched the pouch. It’s utter hogwash, and when I open my two pouches of Condor Plug, the original packaging is going straight into the trash where it belongs. I fear it’s a sign of things to come over here in America, if our moralizing politicians have anything to say about it, but at least they can’t control what we do with our tobacco once we have it.
After placing my new Peterson 68 and tobacco in my backpack, it was time for me to step back in the wet drizzly weather and make my way over to Trinity College. While I was sad to leave Peterson’s, I was equally as eager to see my favorite exhibit in the world— the Book of Kells and the Long Library. I couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate my newest purchase than inside an old library with old, dusty books. Of course, I couldn’t leave without giving my regards to the great detective himself as he stood watch over one of the finest pipe shops in the world. It’s just a shame I couldn’t enjoy a pipe with him.
Overall, I had a wonderful time visiting Peterson’s of Dublin, and while I had a few nit picks, they’re only to help improve an already great pipe shop. The two clerks in attendance were cheerful and treated me well, helping every customer that came through their doors. If you happen to visit Ireland, you’d be crazy not to give Peterson’s a visit. I look forward to coming back and visiting their shop the next time I decide to endure another seven-hour flight overseas.
Further thoughts on Ireland
As I’ve said before, I’ve been to Ireland a total of three times now, and I still pine to go back and spend more time in the Emerald Isle. As a history buff, Ireland is chock full of castles, ruins, forgotten cemeteries, and old buildings that you’ll want to spend hours at. Here in America, it’s a big deal when a building is over a hundred years old, whereas in Ireland, that’s quite the norm. I’ll confess that when I’m at an old ruin, I feel like a kid again, climbing over the ancient stones and exploring every nook and cranny for little details some might completely miss.
I’m not much of an outdoors person, but when I’m in Ireland, that completely changes. Some of the most fun I’ve had has been climbing the rocks of the Giants Causeway, hiking up the seaside cliffs for breathtaking views, and taking in the magnificent views of the Ireland highlands. I’d gladly sacrifice a day of lounging around at home to witness the natural splendor of Ireland any time. It’s moments like this where I heartily advocate for an afternoon lunt amongst the scenery.
The people of Ireland are also exceedingly friendly and welcoming. During my time, I had many chats with locals and getting to know them on a personal level. Once they learned of my wife’s heritage, they all wanted to know her family’s story and her connection to Ireland. The people in Belfast were also very open about their history with the Troubles, filling us in on how Northern Ireland has progressed since the fighting ceased. It gave me a new appreciation for what they went through, and how the country has grown since those turbulent times. The Irish are wonderful people, and I hope all of my readers get a chance to have a pint with one over a good chat and pipe.
If I had only one disappointment, it was that I didn’t encounter any pipe smokers out in the wild. I’ve seen pipe smokers in all other countries that I’ve visited, so it’s odd to me that Ireland remains the one exception. Pipe smoking seems so tied to Ireland, as it’s in their artwork and photography. I even found a pipe smoker painted on the side of one of the pubs we visited up near Donnegal. I know they’re there, but I’ve had bad luck in all of my searching. Next time I hope to enjoy my pipe there, so maybe it’ll encourage another pipe smoker to come out of hiding.
Still, I had an absolutely wonderful time in Ireland, and this was the first trip where I wasn’t ready to head back to America by the end of my visit. It’s not easy for me to leave my garage and go travelling, but Ireland certainly left a piece of itself with me that will last a lifetime.
Until next time, happy puffing friends!