I’ve been anxious to see the new 2018 Burren line—an unfinished or “natural virgin” sandblast army-mount at the entry-grade level. Followers of the blog will remember that in the 2018 Peterson catalog, the Burren line was originally named “Summertime,” but as the Burren area of County Clare was a favorite haunt of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, who often took long walking holidays there together, I think I can cope with the change.
My co-author Gary Malmberg, being more knowledgeable than I about the history of pipes, told me that, off-hand, he could think of at least three distinguished forebears in the sandblast virgin style of finishing: the Dunhill Tanshell sandblast of the early 1950s, the Savinelli rusticated Capri Root Briar of the 1960s, and of course the Castello rusticated Natural Vergin line, also beginning in the 1960s. But the Burren’s immediate inspiration was Peterson’s small-batch Sansone Rogha, an annual release of about a dozen pipes hand-selected by Mario Lubinski.
“The Burren and the Rogha are indeed very similar,” Conor Palmer told me, “and there is not a massive difference to be honest. We really like the natural, ‘unprocessed’ look and feel of the Rogha pipes that were for the Italian market previously. We simply wanted to offer it to the wider market and so decided to incorporate it into the 2018 series with a few small tweaks. The Burren doesn’t take any finishing while the Rogha were buffed with a white soap buff to give them a slightly glossier finish. The Rogha pipes have a black saddle acrylic P-Lip mouthpiece while the Burren have acrylic mocha- colored fishtail mouthpieces.”
“Each pipe receives a light brush and polish” the copy reads in the 2018 cataalog, and at first glance the B10 I have in front of me (pictured at top) doesn’t appear all that much different than the Rogha, aside from the fact that the latter did indeed seem a bit cleaner or whiter.
Having logged almost two dozen smokes in the Rogha and one in the Burren, I’m inclined to say there are two chief differences, one in the smoking experience of the P-Lip System vs. the army-mount fishtail, and one in the aesthetic experience of the bowls.
If you’ve mastered the typical air-turbulence problems of a Peterson army-mount, you’re home free. This type of pipe smokes hotter for me than either a traditional tenon-mortise (better) or well-made System (best), but I’ve learned that a slower cadence and a sipping style (rather than my standard chuffing routine) overcomes such difficulties, at least when I shy away from virginias and va/pers.
The aesthetic difference lie in the Rogha’s sterling mount, the fact that it is hand-stamped rather than laser-engraved, executed as a System pipe, and is comprised of hand-selected bowls. Joe Kenny, factory manager at Peterson, told me the two lines are of the same bowl grade and finish. But it’s obvious that Mario Lubinski went through baskets of these bowls to find 12 flawless ones. Much the same process happens with the selection of bowls for the Premier and De Luxe System sandblasts, by the way.
When I say “flaw” in reference to the Burren, I’m not talking about engineering or quality control, but the accident of wood–perceived visual imperfections caused by dirt, sand or other debris during the growth of the briar. It’s part of what keeps the price affordable for most of us. You can see in this photo of my B10 what I’m talking about, the little dark nick just across from the shank on the bowl:
As I say, this isn’t an issue, just an observation of the differences one can expect between spending $117 for the Burren and $205 for the Rogha. (And one downside to the Rogha is that only a dozen or so have been made in each of the three years of production, so they’re just a bit difficult to source!)
So how about the Burren’s smoking qualities? For me, so far it’s been identical to the Rogha’s, taking into account the chamber differences and mouthpiece configurations. To the point, while I was careful breaking in the Rogha, it’s been hands-down the best-tasting Peterson break-in I’ve ever had. All I can surmise is that natural, unfinished chamber walls provide a much better initial taste experience than ones with a pre-carb or charcoal-colored vegetable coating.
The Burren’s engineering is typical for this grade of Peterson. The nickel cap bears the traditional K&P over Peterson maker’s mark and can benefit by a bit of buffing with white compound on the wheel to bring it up if the smoker so desires.
As with the Rogha, I predict it will be a lot of fun to watch the bowl darken. Definitely recommended for anyone with an interest in a natural virgin Peterson army mount experience. Here’s my X220 System Rogha after 20 bowls, to give you an idea of what you might expect in fairly short order:
Peterson’s done a great job in selecting shapes for the line, with something to please everyone: the 03 bent apple, 87 bent apple, 106 billiard, 230 small bent billiard, 408 quarter-bent apple, 999 rhodesian, B10 rhodesian hybrid, D18 tankard / setter, 105 straight billiard, X220 bent billiard and XL90 large bent billiard.
Thanks to Conor Palmer and Joe Kenny at Peterson,
to Sansone Smoke Shope (Rogha portrait),
to Smokingpipes (for stock photos),
and to Chas. Mundungus (other photos)