Nollaig Shona Daoibh!
It’s beginning. While the Christmas season is almost over for many, for others—including myself—it’s just beginning after the long, dark wait of Advent. I won’t pretend I haven’t been listening to my favorite Christmas choral music for a while now, but the quiet and stillness that are so much a part of the season really only begin for me on Christmas Eve, about the time my wife completes her four-day baking marathon. It’s my earnest prayer that you find peace and joy to sustain and support you, your family and loved ones now and in the coming year.
For this year’s PPN Christmas, several amazing Pete Geeks have banded together to us give a three-day celebration, A CHRISTMAS PAGEANT OF PETERSON PATENTS, looking primarily (but not exclusively) at the House Pipe long-stemmed Systems of the Patent era. I’ve had a bit of experience myself with these incredible pipes and can testify that a System endowed with one of these beauties is a smoking experience like no other. But you don’t have to take my word for it, as today Marc Brousseau can tell you his own story with these amazing pipes.
It was about 13 years ago and my wife and I were in the old part of Quebec City. I popped into a tobacconist to buy a few cigars. As I was looking around my eyes fell upon something very intriguing, a pipe and Zippo box set. Looking a little closer I saw Peterson of Dublin, “Cool, a pipe from Ireland,” I thought to myself and proceeded to buy a couple of cigars.
Fast forward about six months and I’m on my balcony having a coffee with my Mum and smoking a cigar. The story of seeing that pipe in Quebec City comes up and she tells me, “I’ll get you a pipe, maybe it’ll get you off cigarettes.” We go to a local tobacconist here in Montreal and I choose the nicest basket pipe they have along with their best selling aromatic, essentially Lane 1Q.
“This is really nice,” I think to myself.
I buy a few inexpensive estate pipes but there is still something in the back my mind that won’t abate.
“Remember that cool pipe from Ireland I saw in Quebec City….?”
My first new pipe ended up being a Donegal Rocky 80s, which to this day is one of my favourite Peterson shapes—it’s a perfect execution of that classic bent bulldog look.
Now, being a natural collector of all kinds of nonsense since I was a kid, the itch to get more Petersons was beginning to mount. Estate pipes!!!—with eBay to the rescue—my first Peterson estate is an amazing older version of a Donegal Rocky 999 with a lovely craggy look.
The beast is unleashed and I dive in headlong, buying estate pipes virtually every week and some new ones possibly once a month.
The first Pre-Republic is purchased and a new sub category of collecting madness is kindled. . . . One after another, amazing little treasures are added to my ever-increasing collection until one day the little treasures stop.
An eBay purchase wound up being a huge surprise. A a magnum-sized surprise. I had won a nondescript auction for a nice looking Pre-Republic sans stem. There were no measurements given in the description nor anything for scale in the photos, so when I received it I was blown away. My first thought: “I need to find some more of these giants.”
I eventually sent the magnum off to Dublin c/o Glen Whelan, everyone’s favourite Irishman, to have a stem fitted for it and bring the old soldier back to service. Glen blew me away when he told me that they had recently found some old stock that would bring this pipe back to glory!
Glory Glory Hallelujah, Glen came through. It’s no secret that Glen’s dedication to the Peterson faithful is top notch and true blue and we’re truly grateful to him for it.
As the years passed, I’ve found my collecting focusing on older Petes, Patent-era meerschaums in particular, and these wonderful briar giants when I can find them. Good fortune has smiled on me as I’ve found a few not only by my own industriousness but by the kindness and generosity of fellow Pete-collectors who have brought them to my attention. It’s worth noting that in our community letting your interests be known and listening and noting the interests of others is worthwhile, as everyone wins when there are more eyes on the prizes and pipes are brought to our attention that we would otherwise have missed.
Truth be told I seldom smoke these huge Petes as I prefer more conventional sizes, but from time to time a special smoke is called for and one of these treasures demands to be appreciated. When it does, the experience is like none other. My usual three pinches of tobacco turns into six then seven then eight, nine and so on. “Holy smokes,” I always think, “buckle up kiddo, you’re in for a ride.”
When bringing flame to the leaf it feels different. There’s a slight delay as you’re drawing air up 18” of stem. It almost feels like when you have a stem that is allowing air to pass through some space or a crack in a bowl that isn’t air tight. It’s not quite as responsive as my usual regular short pipe. But then it happens, the first little sip of deliciously cool tasty tobacco. My usual style of smoking is of the faster-puffing and definitely hotter variety. While not quite a freight train I have a difficult time training myself to sip even though I know the rewards. I tend to puff and puff, enjoying the thick billows of smoke.
These long-stem Petes by engineering have me smoking slower in steady sips. The smoke being so much cooler than what I’m accustomed to that if it weren’t for the sublime flavour reaching my mouth I would’ve thought my pipe had gone out. It’s like looking at the stars—what you’re seeing is light that has travelled light years to reach you so that you’re actually staring into the past. When smoking these pipes you’re actually enjoying the smoke from a few puffs ago as it slowly makes its way up the extended stem and has had ample time to cool.
Earlier this week I went out on my balcony to revisit one of these gems and it was below freezing. This can often create a wet, gurgly disappointing smoke, unless you’re smoking a System! (Mr Charles Peterson, you were a man amongst men and your design has brought countless into the fold of the faithful!) The smoking experience was cool, tasty, perfectly dry and noiseless. Not a gurgle, bubble or drop of bitter tobacco juice, nothing but deliciously cool tobacco smoke. The flavour I received was similar to the unadulterated one found from a meerschaum, although the lack of heat brought the taste to the front in ways I’ve seldom experienced.
My hand is rested on my lap cradling the huge chunk of briar and my neck only ever so slightly dips forward to reach the P-Lip. The slight warmth of the bowl feels lovely in the freezing temperature and I am reminded that life is truly good. I am blessed and glad to be here enjoying this moment.
There is something I find captivating with these century-old chunks of briar and meerschaum and all they have survived and witnessed and the unknown-to-me joys and sorrows through which they have faithfully accompanied their guardians. Sometimes I also find myself wondering about the pipe’s future. Once my time with it is up, who will treasure it and enjoy it next? Whoever it is I hope he finds the joy and enjoyment with it I’ve had.
I wish you the same, as well as a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May all good things come to you.
…and I leave you with another wonderful Christmas card from Ralle Perera, CPG:
COLLECT ALL THREE!
This is the first of the three panels, which when placed side by side will reveal his entire triptych. Right click the image to download yours & come back on Christmas Day for Act II of The Christmas Pageant of Peterson Patents and Boxing Day for Act III’s final installment.