My love affair with Peterson pipes goes back to the late eighties. The local tobacconist I frequented sold a few good pipes and a lot more lower quality unbranded or basket pipes. My modest collection fitted the latter bracket so I would enviously eye the Peterson range which unfortunately were out of my teenage budget.
I recall the pipe I longed for was clipped to a wooden board or more precisely a screen covered in holes, and had a £60 price tag hanging from its bent stem – bear in mind my most expensive pipe at the time cost around £14 (an Italian made Meerschaum lined Prince), so this was a lot of money back then. It was a rustic briar, similar to a System 314 in appearance. Very remiss of me, but I never knew the exact model number, just that I liked the shape!
Anyway, I never got it, but I swore that, one day, I would aquire a Peterson of Dublin pipe.
It funny how things turn out, because even after I gave up smoking a pipe, and a decade or two had passed, I would recount this tale, tinged with regret.
Returning to the present. Having returned to the pipe smoking hobby last December with the purchase of a gorgeous Savinelli Tortuga 305, I felt the need for another pipe. The time had come. My next pipe should and would be a Peterson.
My requirements were quite specific. It needed to be a sitter – a pipe that will rest on its base with no need for a pop-up stand, continual hand support or clenching – it also needed to be a Peterson System/P-Lip pipe (more on that later).
Anyone familiar with the Peterson range will know that there are two models that readily fit the bill: the 304 and 306, the 306 being the larger of the two. These are available in smooth and rustic finishes (both Standard System). Further research led me to the Deluxe System range. Both models are available from the current Peterson catalogue, though their renamed 20FB (304 shape) and 11FB (306 shape) respectively.
I had heard a lot of good things about Petersons Deluxe pipes. For starters their finished with a hallmarked sterling silver mount instead of nickel and the smooth briar is flawless, no pits or fills, in fact their verging on perfection. When it comes to the System pipe series these are as good as it gets.
As mentioned in a previous review I despise bowl fills so when choosing a smooth pipe it has to be from the upmarket range or it will have blemishes of one sort or another. The cost goes up quite considerably so that has to be weighed up.
I chose the 11FB over the 20FB because its got a larger smoking chamber and while for most circumstances a medium size pipe is more than adequate for a 45 minute smoke I really fancied something that could burn for an hour plus should I wish. Of course a big pipe works both ways – fill it half way for a quicker smoke – versatility – that was key.
The hard part was going to be securing one of these pipes. Peterson produces a lot of pipes and demand has soared over recent years. So much so, that sourcing quality briar, particularly for their high end pipes, has become way more difficult. That maybe why certain models never seem to be in stock.
I would try all the same…
Google delivered some promising leads, but ultimately nothing fruitful. I was told I could order one – but it could take 7 months to arrive! Not giving up, but feeling rather despondent, I stumbled across Brucciani (Carlisle) Ltd. This family run tobacconist has over 100 years experience in the industry and amongst their wares was a selection of Peterson Deluxe pipes. I quickly scrolled down the page. There it was. The elusive 11FB!
With credit card in sweaty palm I ordered it, trusting and hoping it was actually in stock. Minutes turned into hours and I couldn’t take it any longer. Like the impatient middle aged schoolboy I am, I emailed a tentative message “Could you let me if the 11FB is in stock please?”. Within, what seemed like seconds, Chris Corrieri, (Proprietor, Brucciani Ltd) replied, reassuring me they had one in stock at their new Cuban cigar shop in Newcastle and that it would be posted out that very day. Overjoyed at this news I could finally relax safe in the knowledge that my quest was over.
As promised the pipe arrived the next day, less than 24 hours after ordering. I must say Chris was extremely attentive to my requests and I cannot recommend Brucciani highly enough. Truly great customer service, kept in the loop all the way up to despatch.
Please do check out their websites. I’m not affiliated in anyway with Brucciani, but want to share my positive experience. If you are in the Newcastle area pop into the new cigar shop – they even have a sampling lounge!
The pipe comes in a standard green box, safely nestled in a “deluxe” green nylon sock with gold lettering and matching drawstring, underneath a Peterson Guarantee card (90 days against manufacturing faults).
I carefully removed the 11FB from the bag. Wow! You cannot be anything but impressed by the 11FB. A real mans pipe with some lovely birdseye grain! Don’t be mislead by the photographs, this is quite a hefty pipe in size if not weight. The bowl is like a small beer barrel or tankard in form.
The flat bottom (hence the “FB” designation) breaks up the curves in a distracting, but practical way. Lets face it the flat bottom design is no beauty, but it serves a purpose. Hand holders generally are prettier, but I’m not a teeth clencher, so hands free between puffs makes a lot of sense to me when working at the computer.
The current Deluxe System range is finished in what Peterson call “natural”, a light orange, golden honey colour. A long time ago Peterson used a Walnut stain on this series and some smokers prefer that richness. Personally I like the natural. Its not overtly garish and its about as close to a natural briar tone (albeit stained to highlight the grain) found on any Peterson these days.
The smoking chamber is huge (4cm deep x 2cm diameter) and as the bore isn’t tapered it takes a fair amount of tobacco to fill to the rim (volume 12.5 cubic cm). The pipe stands approximately 10cm high (and 17cm in overall length). The shape is what I call a 3/4 Oom Paul, nearly but not quite!
The draft hole is about as low as it will go with this style of pipe as the Peterson System requires a highly angled bore to the bowl base – it simply isn’t possible to drill at a less acute angle. The draft hole position shouldn’t cause too many issues during smoking though it may be a little harder to develop a heel cake initially. The chamber is not pre carbonised or coated with anything special to aid cake development, though there was excess stain in the draft hole and chamber. The chamber walls being exceptionally smooth, almost polished, to the touch. Again this may make breaking in a bit longer than usual. It could be sanded or roughed up a bit, but I’ll just smoke through it.
Popping the pipe on the scales it weighs 73g with the mouthpiece attached.
If you are new to Peterson pipes you may not know much about their “System” range. This was first patented in 1894 and its remarkable in its simplicity and efficiency. As the draft hole doesn’t lead directly to the mouthpiece like in a typical pipe design, moisture is deposited into a small reservoir rather than being sucked up the mouthpiece.
Technically speaking Peterson state that the graduated bore in the mouthpiece makes the suction applied by the smoker 15 times weaker by the time it reaches the tobacco chamber, resulting in moisture flowing into the reservoir and not the smokers mouth.
The mouthpiece is made from superior quality vulcanite, a hard rubber (or ebonite as its called these days) and is a saddle style full bent. Standard System mouthpieces have a slight extension to the vulcanite mouthpiece, whereas the Deluxe models have a screw in metal (aluminium) condenser. Unlike “stingers” used in some conventional pipe designs the Peterson condenser should not be removed as its vital to the System’s effectiveness (it needs to protrude into the reservoir opening, but obviously not in it!).
The tenon “pressure fits” into the shank mortise and can be removed during smoking to mop up reservoir moisture or to run a pipe cleaner through the stem or draft hole should that be required.
In addition, the P-Lip “bit” enhances the System by directing smoke upwards to the roof of the mouth rather than directly onto the tongue tip. This eliminates “bite” and bitterness and adds to a very cool dry smoking experience. The contoured bit is comfortable in use, but may take some getting used to if a long time fishtail user.
Dating your Deluxe pipe is made easy, thanks to Peterson’s hallmarking.
All Peterson Silver Mounted Pipes carry three distinctive marks :
- The Symbol Hibernia denoting the country of origin (Ireland)
- .925 the European standard mark denoting the purity of the silver used
- The Date Letter Code for the year in which the silver was hallmarked and the pipe made
As can be seen in the photograph above, (and referring to Peterson’s Hallmarking Guide), my 11FB was made in 2005 (denoted by the date letter U).