One thing leads to another and it wasn’t long before I ordered another pipe from Blakemar Briars. Well, I say another, make that 2! I thought I’d give the very reasonably priced Aristocrat range a go and emailed Mike Billington to see if there was available stock. Mike replied in the affirmative and told me that the current stand-up bent pipes on his website were actually smaller than the sandblast I previously received and would I prefer the larger version as he had a few in stock but not displayed online. I agreed that the larger sized pipe (Peterson 306 size) would suit my needs than the smaller shape (basically the size of a Peterson 304).
A deal was struck and the pipes arrived the next day.
The Aristocrat range is the most affordable (read cheapest) and each pipe is currently priced up at £27 (including postage), which makes the pipe itself about £24 after subtracting first class postage. Pretty remarkable considering the quality.
As can be seen from the photos, the shaping and pipe mechanics are spot on. I ordered both a smooth and a rustic. At this price point I expected fills on the smooth pipe and there are a few, but their expertly disguised by staining and don’t play a negative part in the smoking of, or aesthetics.
Both pipes were carbonized using Mike red hot poker system so minimal break-in was required. I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that this form of carbonization is beneficial to raw briar as the cake seems to build up a lot faster.
The pipe dimensions are roughly the same as the sandblasted version in as much as both measure up at around 9cm tall, 12cm long (135mm if measured diagonally). The billiard shaped bowl is about 48mm high and 30mm in diameter with a smoking chamber of around 10-11 cubic cm. The bowls are a little thicker than the sandblasted pipe as less wood is removed during carving whereas the blasting process reduces the girth somewhat. Of course this is sitter design so resting between sips is hands free.
Both smoke well as the draft hole is positioned correctly. The pipe stamping was a little weak on the base, but the finish on both is very pleasing on the eye and hand and belies the cost. The rustication is similar to a Peterson, deep and sharply defined but with a smooth rim. The smooth finish is silky with no sanding marks. The stain is walnut/brown.
Both pipes are equipped with bent vulcanite stems that are glossy and blemish free. Both accommodate a pipe cleaner, albeit a thin one.
Smoking bents can at times produce moisture in the bend but this is easily remedied by gently blowing down the mouthpiece to return the moisture to the mortise well.
For the almost give away cost these are very good pipes and are in my regular rotation. In real terms I probably paid about the same for a basket pipe 30 odd years ago which says a lot!
Check out Blakemar Briars website or pay them a visit – the showroom stocks more models than the website and an in-shop discount is available too!
Stay tuned I have 4 more Blakemar Briar pipes to review including a custom made cherrywood sandblast with Cumberland stem!