Late last fall Peterson rebooted the 406 Large Prince after an absence of twenty years, and just recently they’ve launched two new lines: the Aran Rusticated and the Rosslare Rusticated. Both are cause for excitement among Kappnists (aka Pete Freeks) and I hope will be of interest to fans of rusticated pipes as well.
Like John P. Seiler and William D. Kotyk in their classic article for The Pipe Collector (Seiler_rough), I find comfort and a kind of heightened awareness when smoking rough pipes, pipes that talk to my thumb, index and middle finger. To shift analogies, it’s sometimes the difference between driving an automatic and a stick: with a good rusticated pipe you just feel more in control, more aware of the contours and nuances of the road.
The New Aran Rusticated 606
The history of Peterson’s use of rustication is, like so much else about the brand, long and varied and has gone almost totally under the radar of the hobby community. But let me start at the end with these two new lines and work my way back.
1. The New Aran Rusticated and Rosslare Rusticated Lines
In-house rustication of a classic 999
Joshua Burgess, managing director at Peterson, recently told me:
Shortly after Laudisi took over management of the factory, we identified rustication as an area where we could make swift improvements in the pipes. We weren’t trying to do anything new. Instead, we wanted to restore the old Peterson tradition of making pipes with a craggy rustication rather than the overly uniform and shallow texture that had become more typical in recent years. There was a strong institutional memory and fondness for the old rustication among the craftsmen here, so we had a solid consensus around what we were trying to achieve. We’re all pretty happy with the results.
Rusticating pipes, as many know, is a time-consuming process. We have two gents in production who are particularly skilled at it: John Sinclair, who is a relatively new hire for us here, and Simon Ellard, whose primary responsibility is actually working with [silversmith] Jason Hinch in mounting.
In addition to being time consuming, rustication is also physically demanding, so John and Simon tend to trade off on that station just to keep their hands rested. In addition to those two guys, Joe Kenny, our Pipe Manager and Senior Craftsman, also helps out with rusticating.
So let’s take a look at the new lines, beginning with the Aran Rusticated. The Aran line goes back over 50 years, being issued originally as a rusticated line in 1965, reissued as a rustic in 1975 in some fascinating XL exclusive-to-line shapes, falling out of the catalog and then in the late 90s returning in the current smooth style, first with no band, then (at Mario Lubinksi’s suggestion) in 2010 with a nickel band, and now available either way.
The Aran Rusticated features an espresso-over-caramel stain (about which more in a moment), soft hand rustication, the large Peterson script over ARAN hand stamp, hand-stamped shape number, a vulcanite fishtail mouthpiece with gold hot foil P.
The air hole and mortise of the two Aran Rusticated pipes I’ve looked at are completely free of stain, and there’s a new bowl coating being employed which looks very promising, with glossy finish and very light tacky feel. The line uses the original large ARAN hand stamp seen below.
The 268 passed the pipe-cleaner test, the 999 did not, with drilling in the mortise just a tiny bit high. There is also, as everyone should expect in a pipe that retails for $76, a small peel of “tear away,” a wood flake caused by drill bit chatter when the draft hole was bored at the factory. This is easily removed with the swipe of a pipe cleaner or wire shank brush. For those who don’t know how factory pipes are made, these are common features of entry-grade pipes. When bowls arrive at a factory, they’re already turned and have a tiny pre-drilled guide hole from the briar-cutter which serves as a channel for the airway boring in factory.
At about $76, the Aran Rusticated is a lovely entry-grade line, or what I call a gateway line, meaning that it’s a welcome mat for pipe smokers new to the hobby as well as providing an opportunity to acquire some great smokers (and lookers) for those who can’t or don’t want to invest a lot in their pipes.
Now back to that stain. I hope you’ve taken a few minutes since April Fool’s Day to watch Adam Davidson (Smokingpipes) and Jeremy Reeves (Cornell & Diehl) hilarious Farm to Bench about Adam’s unexpected crop, because this will make perfect sense in that context. It was all I could do to restrain friend Charles Mundungus, here on a visit, from hopping a flight to Adam’s farm.
I say this because the Aran Rusticated sports one of the neatest natural “camo” looks I’ve ever seen on a pipe. These pipes look like someone just turned them up out in his garden or found them tucked a snag on the trail of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The effect to the naked eye—which I did my best to reproduce here—is outstandingly natural, unlike most anything I’ve seen Peterson (or other companies) do before. They’re the kind of pipes you want in your pack for a day hike on the Giant’s Causeway, in your tackle box for the first smoke at dawn on the lake or just in the pocket of your old jacket, because you never know when you’ll need one.
Is there a downside to this pipe? I can only think of one: I wish I could get one with a P-Lip. Until then, I’ll have to content myself with the 107 Chubby Billiard fish tail shown below, which I couldn’t resist ordering yesterday.
The price, the soft hand rustication, the comfortable old-style vulcanite mouthpiece and engineering of air hole and chamber all indicate this new line as a great value.
The Rosslare has been one of my favorite Peterson lines since its debut in 2003 when it was known as the Rosslare Royal Irish (with the faux sterling spigot ring). The black sandblasts came a year or two after the high-grade smooths, if memory serves, and made a perfect contrast between stem and bowl (those of you who remember the Jobey Strombolis of the late 1970s will remember an early attempt at this type of thing).
I remember some American pipemen caviling about the Rosslare’s “marmalade” acrylic mouthpieces, not knowing that acrylic was (and is) preferred by Italian smokers, nor that it was intended by Peterson’s creative collaborator Mario Lubinski as an homage to Peterson’s own early manufacturing history of amber mouthpieces.
The Rosslare Rusticated is an upper-grade Peterson line featuring a black, semi-gloss craggy thumb-stopping rustication, double-bead sterling band stamped Peterson in script over DUBLIN. The bowls are hand stamped with the original fork-tail P block-letter stamp used on the first Rosslare: PETERSON’S [larger] over ROSSLARE.
The acrylic rod on both pipes I looked at in person—an XL02 and a 606—have fantastic striations along the sides, giving depth and transparency to the color. Ever the indicator of mid-to-higher grade, the stems feature the embedded aluminum P. These are retailing across the pond for about $135 and should be available here in the US most any day now. It makes me daydream about the same craggy look on a System.
As with all things Peterson (and I’m sure this can be said about other factory-made pipes as well), look before you buy. These are, after all, hand-made products—there’s only two artisans who do the rustication at Peterson, and as Josh Burgess told me, the wood’s hardness will have its say in what can be done. Some bowls can take a deeper rustication than others. And the same goes for acrylic rod—it’s all fairly random within certain perimeters, so be choosy, find one that speaks to you.
2. A Thumbnail Sketch of Peterson Rustication History
A Universal Reference Point: The Castello Sea Rock
Seeing a rusticated pipe in a blog post and holding one between thumb and fingers is obviously a difference between map and territory, so about the best I can do here is give you an opinion as to where the Aran and Rosslare fall in the broad spectrum of Peterson’s rustication history, which stretches at least as far back as the 1930s.
The oldest example I can show you here is an Éire-era 363 System (1938-48). Using “closed eye visuals” (as Charles Mundungus’s Swedish friends in Meshuggah would say), the pipe’s feel is pleasant and hillier than the new Aran. Visually it’s also quite striking because of the way it seems to have been rusticated by hand (and not a drill bit) with a knife. Can you imagine the time and skill that would take? It boggles.
But the first true rusticated Peterson line was the 1945 Donegal Rocky, which deserves a full-length exploration as one of the Great Lines. For now, it’s enough to note that the Donegal Rocky originally had a sterling band, concrete evidence of the company’s pride in its texture, and that was the day-in, day-out, meat-n-potatoes Peterson standard.
The iconic Irish Shapes: dublin and bent dutch, in Donegal Rocky dress
I will say that as the line has come down to us over the years, as a rule of thumb the sterling-mount iterations (almost always with P-Lips back in the day) are to be preferred, if only for the precious metal and standard P-Lip, the rustication itself not being markedly different throughout all its years until the sad “pineapple days” of the latter Dublin Era.
A recent Donegal Pineapple
And I’d better stop right here and say that any company, institution, artist or musician with a long-enough history will experience “brand amnesia” and “brand fatigue” as a matter of course. For Peterson, that came with the machine-etchings some call “pineapple rustication” and which always make me cringe. (“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” as Someone once said.)
And to be fair to the company, they redeemed themselves quite a bit with 2016’s Derry Rustic line. It was fabulous for combining a decent-enough rustication technique (machine-cut?) with a contrast stain, cool acrylic rod and best of all, some fantastic and out-of-the-way killer B shapes and others long-gone from the catalog like the XL339 shown above.
So that’s what all the fuss is about with the new Rosslare Rusticated and Aran Rusticated pipes. Turn the page.
The Aran pictured above in its first release in 1965 looks to be a much finer-textured rustication technique than the classic Donegal Rockys, but this could just be my imagination.
When the line was re-launched in the mid-1970s, it featured a much rockier, knubblier pipe than its predecessor, as befitting several of the special XL shapes utilized in it (seen above in the 30S pot above).
Fast-forwarding to the mid-1980s, the Premier System range received a special stylized hand-rustication technique that had a very European, almost Black Forest look to it:
But the high-water mark of Peterson rustication technique came with what factory artisans call the “Pebble Rustic” finish. From p. 215 of the book (plot-spoiler ahead!) I quote:
A deep, craggy rustication technique found on high-grade Peterson pipes in the 1980s and ’90s, the best in Peterson’s history. Found on the Dublin Millennium, P-Lip Commemorative, Handmades, Sherlock Holmes series and Connemara Systems of the period.
Here’s some examples:
Left to right: Connemara System; Baskerville; Dublin Millennium
When I asked then-factory manager Tony Whelan, Sr. about these back in 2009, he told me they were out-sourced to a very talented artisan during that period.
My verdict? I’d have to say that the Aran Rusticated is a lot of fun for all the reasons just enumerated. But the most delightfully rough rustication Peterson has ever produced is, hands down, the new Rosslare Rusticated. It’s positively scratchy, and just when your fingers think they know the bowl, it reveals some new texture and outcropping. (Okay, I can’t help adding that the Pebble Rustic still wins first in class of all rustications Peterson has made in over 150 years, but only because of the combination of its plum contrast stain, visual aesthetic and soothingly deep, thumb-rolling rustication that made it such a high-end product.)
Special thanks to
Josh Burgess and Adam O’Neill at Peterson
Factory photos by Adam O’Neill
Thanks to Smokingpipes.com
for Rosslare Rusticated & Aran Rusticated shots
and to Chas. Mundungus for a closer look
Many thanks, Mark!
As always, Tom, it makes my day to know you enjoyed the piece.
Good morning and thank you. I only have 3 or 4 rustic ones. I got my Brexit pipes from England on Monday. Deluxe 9s &
11s, but after what went on last night there may be more Brexit pipes before the British are out of the EU. Buying from outside gives trouble, now it is easyi
You’re certainly welcome. Many of us here in the US are anxious about the EU as well.
I have to be honest: I don’t like new productions under American leadership. I have the feeling that the brand is starting to lose its appeal due to these low-end products … 🙁
Hi Kinski, I understand your concern, but remember Peterson has always believed in “gateway” or entry-grade pipes, back to 1894, when some of their lowest-end pipes actually had “Grad 4” stamped on them, and some of their Patent-Lips actually had no vulcanite mouthpieces, just wooden tips. I heard from Mario Lubinski that many Italian smokers are not fond of rusticated pipes, but here in the US we’ve really grown fond of craggy sandblasts and deep rustications. Do you remember when Claudio Cavicchi’s wife rusticated pipes? I always wanted one of those, they were superb! And don’t worry, as soon as… Read more »
Hi Mark, Thanks again for an interesting post. I’ve been smoking a Dublin Millennium for years and here are some of the things I like about it: It’s lighter than a smooth finish pipe of the same style, which means I can clench it longer. The rough finish has a much larger surface area that acts like cooling fins, so the pipe stays cooler and cools off faster. It looks neat with the smooth stem, bright silver band, and dark rough bowl. The only thing I really don’t like is the difficulty in getting a pipe cleaner to make the… Read more »
We agree, sir! That Millennium is one of my favorite smokes–always reliable, always cool, always comfortable. I tried a smooth f/t version, just because it looked so great, but it didn’t smoke nearly as well as the P-Lip and so passed it on.
I am waiting for a super contrast sandblast finish like Radice Silk-Cut and the like with Cumberland stems in colors that match the contrast colors of the pipe. Add a double beaded silver band and faux spigot, rim caps, and hinged lid’s. Now we’re getting somewhere;)
I don’t know about the whole enchilada, but in case you didn’t know, Peterson has brought blasting in-house and are, even as I write this, gearing up for their own blasts–the first since I don’t know, the 1950s? The cumberlands will have to wait just a little, although mouthpieces are also on the radar. What shape would you like that in, as long as you’re pre-ordering?
Interesting piece, Mark. Nearly half of my Petes are rusticated. Pineapple rustication-good term. Am glad to see Peterson going away from that. I always avoided pipes with that form of rustication. I like the direction of the new rustication but long for that of the 80’s-90’s you referenced. My only Sherlock Holmes pipe is a rusticated Deerstalker from that era and the rustication is wonderfully deep and craggy.
Thank you, good sir. I think as the two craftsmen gain experience, we’ll see some great things. I’m really enjoying both my AR and my RR–different feels, but knowing they were done in-house by the good folk at Peterson makes a difference to my enjoyment.
An “Old English” shape 55, a B44 and a 53….or actually the smaller Lovat that I don’t remember the number…or have ever seen in person. Am I getting too greedy with three shapes??. I loved the Gold Supreme shape 53, 1 of 10 that was just on Smokingpipes.com this week. It was shorter in length than either the 53 Silver Cap or the 53 Deluxe I have. I, sadly, was not fast enough to add it to my stable?. I have been looking for a 55 Liverpool for quite awhile along with whatever shape number the smaller Lovat is. Like… Read more »
Hi John, that Gold Supreme 53 was something, wasn’t it? If you look at the Sweet Petes blog post from January, you can find the shape numbers you want in an illustration given to me by Mario Lubinski. Keep looking and you’ll find it, but copy that shape chart to your computer so you have a reference. Peterson was actually making Gold Supremes as recently as 2009 or so, and Supremes as recently as 2013. Some of the little shops listed on the blogroll will often have a few, esp. the Italian ones. But something about adding that little bit… Read more »
Yes, the Gold. When I had the replacement Gold band made for that Mark Twain I almost had them put silver on instead. I think the silver was $50-$80? The Gold was $250. Since it was not going to be the original band, and I do not have any of the original ephemera, it was tough to sink that kind of money into the pipe, but I did?. The great guys at Peterson did go to the extra trouble of finding the original commemorative band stamp and stamped it as such, only the hallmark date gives it away. It’s still… Read more »
I’m glad they could do that for you & it sounds like a lovely pipe you have. I want to get a page up on the blog where Pete Freeks can post pix of their favorites–I’d like o see this one!
Yes indeed Mark. I need the #26 and the #54…..especially the #54?
As a side note, what sets the 80B apart from an 80S?
“B” is for any tapered shank and “S” for saddle. You’ll enjoy the “Pete-Speak” double-page spread in the book with all this Kapp & Pete jargon fully explained!
Yes Stephen, I also have problems with the cleaners. I bent them a little and get it out at the lip end. Over time I have damaged two stems – bore a hole.
Man I love that Paddy Larrigan Hand Made Dublin?
Yes John, yes. I still dream about it at night.
I think I’m bringing it to the Chicago show for the exhibition case again. Paddy’s pipes usually appear once or twice a year. I was fortunate that this one, from a collector in Florida who bought it at the factory, came at the precise moment I needed an illustration for the introduction!
Mark, One of the first pipes I bought was a Peterson Killarney 80S (New). The reason I liked its’ look was that it had a tapered stem and not a saddle. Peterson must have changed their shape stamp rules?
John, what happened was they got careless at the factory in their stamps. Josh at Peterson is aware of it and has taken measures to see that it doesn’t happen again. There has been a problem for 20 years or so in the factory folks having lost touch with the company’s own stamping and what they mean. We labored long and hard in the book hammering in that an S stamp means it has to have a saddle stem. They’ve actually not stamped the B on most shapes since the late 1950s when the tapered Systems disappeared, so that when… Read more »
In the Old English Collection I have a 80B stamped pipe with a taper stem. In the same grade I have two shape 26, one have a saddle stem and one a taper ! Ha ha
As far as Mark Twain’s go, I like Mark Twain’s own original pipe’s shape that is in the museum. The more sleeker more smooth flowing shape of the original looks much better than the remake/homage.
You’ll find that story told in full in the book, John, so I won’t spoil it here!
“More sleeker”?….wow I need to go back to skool?
Mark, The Peterson Pipe Book is an outstanding piece of research and very nicely executed visually. Plus, I must tell you I have been waiting for someone to do”The Pipes of Basil Rathone’s Sherlock Holmes” for years so you have hit the nail on the head twice for me in the same year. I keep freeze framing the films but never can seem to zero in on the brands of pipes except of course the 4AB and the Watson’s Cherrywood. A couple of minor points mentioned in the book. If the Hound of the Baskervilles was true to its era… Read more »
Doug, thanks so much! Yes, I agree, the “Dunhill” in Hounds is historically inaccurate, but then, “costumers” like this never did more than give a nod to historicity. That tobacco jar–if you find examples, let me know for future revisions of the book.
Just a separate note on the new rustication, I am very impressed with Laudisi’s return to more of a “hands on” approach as opposed to that pineapple finish approach, I am old enough to remember those great Donegal Rocky finishes when I worked at the Portland, Oregon Tinderbox in the 1970’s and 80’s. One of my best smoking pipes was a Donegal Rocky in a nice little pot shape ( I think it was a 606) and of course it had the silver banding, a nice value at $18.95 retail. I tried to sell the “pineapple” finish System pipes in… Read more »
$18.95 for a sterling-band Donegal. Those were the days! I don’t think the new rustics (apart from the first-issue of the recent Rosslares) are yet on a par with what was done formerly, but perhaps everyone is still getting a feel for the “new” (to them) process.
[…] first change in operations visible to collectors came in April, 2019, with the re-introduction of in-house rustication in the Rosslare Classic Rusticated and Aran Rusticated lines. This was followed in May with the […]