195. Jørgen Jensen: A Danish Collector’s Long Love for Peterson

Jørgen Jensen is a name familiar to you if you’ve read the comments section of this blog for long. I always look for his verdict as soon as I get out of bed the morning a new post appears, and if it’s not there I figure I’ve got a problem. He is pictured above (left) in rapt conversation with Peterson’s master-craftsman Paddy Larrigan (right) at the Sallynoggin factory in the mid-1990s. I’ve heard only bits and pieces of his life as a Peterson smoker and collector but have, at last, convinced him to share a few of his pipes and highlights of his life as a pipe smoker and Peterson aficionado with readers.

Today I have more than 400 unsmoked pipes and 134 of them are Petersons. I’ve lost count of the smoked pipes I have, but I can tell you 102 of them are Petes. I was 14 when I started smoking a pipe back in 1962. Two of my friends had pipes, and I liked their smoke. So I went to my father and got one of his old pipes and some tobacco, and I’ve been smoking ever since—at home, on the street, at work—everywhere. Back then, a 4th or 5th grade BBB was 12.50 kr. For my first pipe, I could only manage to come up with 10.50 kr. Then in 1964 my father gave me an Orlik, my first really good pipe. I still have it. Two years later, in the spring of 1966, I was paid 214 kr. for 88 hours of overtime. I went straight up to the finest tobacconist in town and brought  another great English pipe, a Loewe Newlyn for 80 kr. People just shook their heads—that was too much money for a young man to spend on a single pipe!

A dozen of England’s finest

Of course in those days, everyone thought a good pipe was an English pipe. But by the 1970s, all the great English pipes were disappearing in Denmark. Little by little, Irish pipes began to appear. So I found myself going over to Peterson. Sometimes people ask me why I don’t smoke Danish pipes, which are supposed to be so great. I have a few, but I’ve never really liked them—their lines are too soft, too delicate. They look like they’re made for women.

By the time we got to the 1990s, it was over in Denmark as far as tobacco was concerned for the little man. A 50 gram packet or tin went from 16 to 40 kr. Of course it’s only gotten worse here, our last tobacco hike occurring just this past April. I got a pretty big check not too long ago and spent it all on tobacco, instead of pipes like I’d usually do.

In 1993 the madam (my wife Birgitte) said, “We’re going to Paris.” “No,” I said, “I think we’d better go to Ireland,” thinking about pipes. We ended up in Paris.  Then the next year the madam said, “You said you’d love to go to Ireland, so let’s go.” And that year I really just wanted to stay home! But we went and had such a good time that we went every year after that until 2004.

The 1996 Antique Collection

The next year, Tom Palmer had visited my local tobacconist. And when the tobacconist told Tom I had more Petersons than he had in the shop and I was planning a trip to Ireland, Tom invited to visit the factory.

Paddy Larrigan, who was production manager then, showed us around while we were visiting. But Marian Reid (seen above), who worked in finishing, was marvelous. She was so full of life—it was just infectious. It gave us a good feeling. That’s John Moroney behind her.* The next time we went, we brought her a box of chocolates!

Jørgen and Marian Reid


David Blake, Silversmith


The immortal “Jolly D.,” Tony Dempsey (left), Jørgen (middle) and Paddy Larrigan (right)

As always, madam took the photos. I think I’ve only taken one picture in my life—of her on a bridge in Belfast.

TOP LEFT: the old Grafton Street Peterson shop: in the middle stands Seamus Tighe,
legendary shop manager, next to Brian Treacey, who now works at the Nassau Street shop.
TOP RIGHT: Jørgen is seem clenching his Peterson pipe beneath the “France 3” balloon.

I’ve always been active in our pipe club, Nordisk Tobakskollegium [“Nordic Tobacco College”]. We have a magazine that some Americans know about, Piber & Tobak, which comes out four times a year, the latest, #167, appearing last May. When a member is asked to write an article, he’s expected to do it. I’ve been asked three times and contributed three cover articles.  After our trip to the factory, I wrote “Peterson in Dublin” for the September 1994 issue. Then for the May 1996 issue I reported on “The Discipline of the Slow-Smoking Contest,” And in March 1999, I wrote a piece about the world slow-smoking contest. When we went to Dublin that year, everyone was getting excited about the Tour de France and so many people were on Grafton Street that Seamus Tighe, the manager, thought the crowd might accidentally break one of the windows.

The Peterson article was on the newsstand the day of the world pipe smoking championship, which was being held in a big hotel around the corner. It got such a good response from everyone that afterwards Peterson’s Danish agent said, “Jørgen, go pick out a pipe. You know how much good advertising  costs.” I didn’t take the most expensive one.

A few years later, the chairman of the pipe club in Næstved phoned and said, “Why don’t you come over and give a talk about Peterson?” I said, “Well, I guess I can talk 8-10 minutes.” “Just come,” he said “and bring some of your pipes with you.” So off I went with three dozen pipes. There were 25-30 people, and when I had finished they applauded like crazy. “You talked for forty minutes!” the chairman said.

Beginning in 1996 and for the next several years, I was the treasurer at our slow-smoking contest. Some of those years there were up to 450 participants. It was a lot of work, but also lot of fun with a lot of friendly people, pipes, tobacco and smoke. These days our club meets about 600 meters down the road from me and has a room that will accommodate about 100 pipe smokers.

A few pipes from the rotation

Nowadays I mostly smoke P-Lip Systems. The 11s and 20s are my favorites. I enjoy Virginias and Burleys, but sometimes I smoke a little English as well. Our granddaughter is eight, and last week the madam went to our daughter’s summerhouse by the coast. Our son in law was cooking on the grill and the granddaughter said: “It’s like grandfather is here!”

Many thanks to Jørgen and Birgitte Jensen
Photographs courtesy Birgitte Jensen


* Jørgen remembers her as “Eileen,” but Tony Whelan, Jr., former production manager at Sallynoggin, identifies the sprightly redhead as Marian Reid.


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