216. The Thinking Man in South Korea: An Interview with Troy Lambrecht
International Peterson *er, pipe* Smoking Day is less than two weeks away! I Thanks to everyone who has submitted their answers and photograph(s) to qualify for their Certified Pete Geek certificate. It’s not too late if you want to be counted among the Pete Elite.* As we ramp up to the IPSD celebration (Saturday, February 20th), I’m very pleased to present fellow Thinking Man Troy Lambrecht, an avid Peterson smoker who lives in South Korea. Among his other talents, he’s a great photographer and has sent a number of beautiful pictures reminding me what a great thing a brick & mortar pipe & tobacco shop can be and how much I wish there was one near me!
What’s the culture of pipe smoking like in South Korea?
As many of us know, people smoking culture has been on a decline in the last century. Korea is no stranger to this, as pipe smoking here is almost non-existent. In a country where cigarettes dominate the market, it is very rare to see another pipe smoker unless you visit the shops and by chance there is another pipe smoker there.
The only pipe smokers I have ever met here in South Korea were through social media means and having a meet-up and it was only one other person. The pipe shops are scattered throughout the country in various cities all under the same company, Pas Tobacco. Along with numerous brands of pipes (Peterson, Savinelli, Chacom, Stanwell) they also sell RYO cigarette tobacco, cigars and smoking accessories. One of the more interesting tidbits of smoking a pipe in South Korea is that most people have never seen one, or seen someone smoking them.
There have been many times where I would be smoking outside my apartment and a passerby would stop and take a look for a few seconds and continue. Pipe smoking here is not frowned upon, as smoking cigarettes (generally for older men) is ingrained in their culture. South Korea is mainly a patriarchal society and it is, however, disfavored to see women smoking in public. You’ll often find that they are crowded down the alleyways of streets and corridors out of plain view.
Too many Silver Caps!!
The Hopkins, the most original shape in the Sherlock Holmes chart.
How did you wind up in South Korea?
I’ve been living here since the Fall of 2014. I came on contract as an ESL Instructor (English as a Second Language) working at a provincial language institute run by the government. I never saw myself teaching English on the other side of the world, as before I was doing carpentry with my father. It has been an eye-opening experience and has allowed me to travel to places I would have never seen myself going to. While here in South Korea, I met my wife in 2015 and we were married in 2019 and we plan on moving back to the United States sometime this year. Other than collecting pipes and tobacco, I am an avid motorcycle rider. I passed my motorcycle test here and have bought two motorcycles in the time I have lived here.
The B10 in the Ashford line.
What’s your “superhero origin story” as a pipe smoker?
In 2009 while attending college, I was working at a retail clothing store in a mall. On my short lunch break, I came across the infamous Tinderbox just a few doors down. I was curious as to what it was, being that I was at the time a cigarette smoker and had been around tobacco for some time. Being a college student, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, so I opted for a no name basket pipe, a bent apple for about $30 and bought 2oz of some really great smelling aromatic tobacco. I didn’t know how to pack, light or even smoke the darn thing and as with many in their journey of pipe smoking, had a sore tongue every time, but I felt regal when I walked around the campus smoking it.
The tight birdseye matched grain on this 2013 natural “Pat” reproduction set says “PETERSON” to me.
That went on for about 6 months and it never was to be touched again until 2016 when an impromptu smoking session with my stepfather on a vacation to my hometown in Michigan set the pistons in motion. Even at that time, I really didn’t know how to smoke a pipe, but I brought my pipe I had purchased in college and we smoked some John Middleton’s Apple pipe tobacco. It was a fun experience and reminded me of college. I mistakenly left my pipe at the house and went back to Korea.
A Rosslare Natural, shape 87
My mother messaged me and said I left my pipe and said she was sending it to me in South Korea. After I received it, I thought it was pretty useless to have a pipe with no tobacco. I researched a few places where I could buy tobacco and ended up buying a tin of Ashtons Gold Rush. I smoked it everyday and left me wanting more. I was hooked. I jumped online and started researching everything I could about pipes. Brand names, different types of tobacco blends, history, the mechanics of a pipe, etc. I came across Peterson by happenstance. I wasn’t particularly looking for a specific brand, but Peterson stood out.
The Moran, another much-missed Adventures of SH shape, sadly deleted from the catalog.
When I was browsing Peterson, I had envisioned what a pipe smoker’s pipe would look like, and chose a 317 System Standard Smooth (seen in the photo above). I wasn’t aware of the history of Kapp & Peterson at the time, but I was glad that Peterson paved the way for my collection as I feel part of a community and collective group. I now have over 90 pipes with 25 of them carrying the Peterson heritage.
How did you fall under the spell of Kapp & Peterson?
As mentioned before, I didn’t know much about Peterson pipes even when I bought my first one. After I received my 317, I was enamored with the detail and quality of the pipe. I think the Pipe Lord bestowed the System pipe upon me because I never had a bad experience with it. It smoked cool, clean and I felt satisfied every time I lit up. Even with the shape being the smallest of the range it really was the perfect size pipe to start pipe smoking. It made me focus on the fundamentals without burning through copious amounts of tobacco.
The 2017 Pipe of the Year
As time went on, I started collecting more pipes and studying more about Peterson history. I enjoyed reading the detailed descriptions about each new line that came out. There was a reason the colors and name of the pipe were chosen and are significant to the making of the pipe through Irish history, which made me feel a deep connection to the device I was using, albeit being no part Irish myself. In the last year or so, I think Peterson has done some great work with their overhaul of sandblast and rustication finishes, as well as bringing back old styles (such as the 2020 POTY).
The X105 Silver Cap
My favorite shapes are the 317 and the X105, which combined count for over half of my Petersons. I recently purchased my holy grail pipe, an Amber Spigot X105 Sandblast, but have now come to terms that I really want a Supreme Silver or Supreme Gold Mounted Sandblast X105, preferably a P-lip.
What are your “go-to” tobaccos?
My favorites are G.L.Pease Fillmore and Newminster No. 702 Light Burley.
The last time I was in a B&M with this type of selection was… well, I can’t remember when!
What do you see in your crystal ball concerning the future of pipe smoking?
I think we’re seeing some really great transitions happening at this very moment, not just with Peterson, but pipe smoking in general. The culture surrounding pipe smoking has really taken off, especially with the advancement of social media and instant communication. While pipe smoking has over the years been on a decline, I think that we are in the midst of a revolution of pipe smokers. I have never been so welcomed and intrigued with the extent of knowledge and gratitude of people that are within the pipe community. Whether it’s sharing pipe stories, having small pipe club meet-ups or even talking with pipe smokers from around the world, I hope that people can take time to slow down, grab a pipe with their favorite tobacco, and realize that things really aren’t as bad as they seem to be.
The Sylvius, my favorite stack billiard, in smooth and blast, from the glorious Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collection.
Many thanks to Troy Lambrecht
for his time, talent and interview!
*Don’t forget! If you haven’t answered the Thought Experiment from last week’s post to qualify for your Certified Pete Geek certificate, please do so as soon as possible. It’s a little edgy (like most Peterson pipemen I know) and difficult (as it should be), but you’ll be recompensed with an e-certificate download qualifying you to add the post-nominals “C.P.G.” to the end of your name—as in, “Chas. Mundungus, C.P.G.”
Okay, you know I’m shameless when it comes to Pete gear. I saw this single pipe case come up at SPC in Monday’s update and I was through checkout before I realized what I’d done. It looks like it’s about the size of the big green Peterson’s pipe box used on upper-grade pipes. I’m hoping so, anyway, because of late I’ve found myself traveling and can only take the barest necessities. Everything has to fit in my Fjällräven rucksack. So no manly Pipe Bag. Just a pipe (or hopefully, two), lighter, minimum of tobak and cleaners. It just might do the trick. I don’t like those soft roll-ups as I’m always afraid the mouthpiece will get broken or cracked, and the roll-ups tend to be bulky. Not too bad, at $46, or $59 with tax and “Priority (ha! it is to laugh) Mail.”