by Glen Whelan
Three generations of Whelans: Tony, Glen, and Sophie (Glen’s niece), all working at K&P on the same day!
Glen Whelan is K&P’s Sales Director and arguably the company’s most valuable Erin go Bragh asset. He agreed some time back to annotate one of his favorite small batch projects, the PSOI or Pipe Smokers of Ireland Pipe of the Year. PSOI, for those of you who haven’t joined yet, is a Facebook group that Keirren Townsend brought into being at the beginning of 2014 and now has over 2,000 members. From the very beginning, Glen wanted to offer the group something special—a pipe of the year—which he has either designed or collaborated on with the group every year since the group’s beginning. With the 2021 pipe just appearing, this seemed to be a good time to offer a visual history of this wonderful small batch.
2014 – This was the first edition of the pipe, and it is the rarest of them, with only 15 pipes produced for the group. It was the same bowl used for the Iceberg Collection Port shape [B57] and featured a Celtic scroll silver band, Cumberland acrylic stem with a rich dark brown stained bowl.
2015 – The group was really growing at this stage and we wanted to acknowledge the Irish roots of the group and what better way to do that? A green pipe! The PSOI founder, Keirren Townsend, decided upon the Strand shape [XL25] for the 2015 release and it was also accented by a Celtic silver band which we engraved with PSOI 2015. I think we produced75 pieces.
2015 – (Christmas Edition) – As the popularity of the group continued to increase, coupled with the fact a lot of guys had missed out on the order deadline for the 2015 pipe, we decided to offer a Christmas edition. This was limited to 30 pipes and featured a tan sandblasted 606, Royal Irish silver mounting and a Cumberland stem. The silver band also featured an engraved Christmas Tree. This was my favourite pipe we’ve done for the PSOI and to this day I still regret not getting one!
2016 – The 2016 pipe was the most popular release of them all as it had a greater significance to the founder, Keir. 2016 was the 100th anniversary of Ireland’s independence and Keir wanted to acknowledge that with the group pipe. With that in mind we opted to try to replicate the Irish Tricolour within the pipe. We chose a green Cumberland stem [for the Sherlock Holmes Squire / XL15 bulldog shape], the silver to represent the white and the linseed oiled bowl to represent the gold/orange of the flag. We also limited this to 100 pipes (100 years) but to be honest we could have sold 300 this year!
2017 – For the 2017, we decided to go to traditional Peterson. The guys had been yearning for a System group pipe for some time, so we chose to do a natural blasted 307 Premier System. I believe these were limited to 65 pieces.
Late 2017 (Logo Pipe) – Keir wanted something with the group logo engraved onto the bowl. This was to coincide with a factory visit by some members of the group, where the first pipe off the production run was presented to Keir. With the intricacy of the logo we had to use an XL11 bowl [the Original SH shape] as it was just about the right shape to have the logo laser engraved without it getting skewed. We chose a Premier System brown colour for this year’s pipe and it was offered in Fishtail or P-Lip stems and fitted with a sterling silver band.
2018 – This year saw us go for the Founder’s Edition bowl. As you will probably notice, Cumberland is a firm preference with the group, and this year was no different. We coupled the Cumberland with what is now known as our Heritage stain. We used a double brass ring as the mount choice for this year and it really had a lot of appeal with those in the group who were after a large pipe with great balance. Of course the Irish guys said it was the most expensive pipe to smoke as it took about €10 worth of tobacco each smoke!
2019 – When we looked back at the pipes we had already produced, we noticed an omission. We had not yet done a spigot! This particular year we decided to do the Mark Twain Tankard [D19, sometimes stamped as “Large Tank] in black rustic with a pristine white stem. The pipe was a roaring success. I’m not much of a poker fan myself, but I found this pipe to be quite charming, especially with the striking contrast of the black bowl and white stem. Very Guinness like!
2020 – For 2020 we kept on the spigot theme and decided to showcase our new artisan sandblasting technique. We offered the group an XL13 (Baker Street) Spigot. We went for a brown stain which highlighted the grain and (you guessed it) a Cumberland stem! This pipe was a huge success and was a great advertisement for our new sandblasting techniques. Each and every pipe produced had such distinctive blasting, it was a great project to be part of.
2021 – MARK: For 2021, Glen and the PSOI Facebook group chose the POY 2017 “Jap” homage, one of my all-time favorite shapes, which was modeled closely after an original set of pipes owned by the late Chuck Wright and now in the Peterson factory archive. Note the unusual configuration of the mounts here. Usually the “F” (flat or facing mount) is accompanied by a tapered spigot. Here, Glen and the PSOI have chosen to use the beaded spigot, otherwise used only on the domed ferrule. It really pops!
The 2021 PSOI’s in production
Many thanks to Glen Whelan at K&P,
to Bob Cucarro., C.P.G., members of the PSOI Facebook Group
and Smokingpipes.com for their generous help and the use of their photos.
If you haven’t yet done so,
check out Glen’s “Grand Inquisitor” role
at the Mystery Tobacco Review back in April
where he confounds the experts.