Laudisi Enterprises celebrates the fifth anniversary of its stewardship of Kapp & Peterson this week. I don’t know if there will be cake and party hats, but I thought we might fill & light a fresh Pete, pour another cup of coffee & pause this morning to do our own celebration of Peterson’s accomplishments. In the spirit of The Pickwick Papers, one of my all-time favorite Charles Dickens books, I feel it positively obligatory to stand on my chair and offer, as the Pickwickians so love to do, cheers and three huzzahs—
Cheers! Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!
As always occurs in Peterson’s times of “sea change,” there has been new vision, new passion and renewed commitment. All are evident from top to bottom and side to side in the climate and production of the company and the direction it’s taken since the summer of 2018. In my role as amateur historian, I don’t pretend to understand the difficulties that have accompanied the transition, yet what I’ve witnessed is that Laudisi began very much in the “build the plane while flying” mindset popularized in a video you may remember from 2007:
This is not to downplay the achievements of the Dublin Era (1991-2018) under Tom Palmer, which I enjoy on a weekly basis in the incredible pipes I steward from that time. Even so, as I look back on the previous five years the facts speak over and again to how Peterson has pushed envelope in its commitment to excellence in its month-by-month innovations.
So let’s take a look at thirty highlights that demonstrate just how much ground has been covered and what changes have been made effected in maintaining, refining and extending spirit of Charles Peterson’s original vision, contextualized in today’s marketplace and hobby.
One caveat before we begin, however. The dates given below have to do not so much with the precise release date of a line or date of an event (like the return of in-house sandblasting), but when the line or event became public knowledge. And if I left out something important—and I probably did!—don’t hesitate to mention it in the comments so I can make a revision.
2018 July 19: Laudisi Enterprises acquires Kapp & Peterson (Post #99)
It’s always been “a thing” to recall where you were when some epochal event occurred. For me one of the most significant came when Tom Palmer, then-CEO at Peterson, called me on my cell phone. I had just finished mowing the lawn and thought I was hallucinating from the heat. I recognized his voice but couldn’t figure out why he’d be calling me. It was simply to say that the following day K&P would announce it had been sold to Laudisi Enterprises and how happy he was that it was going to Laudisi, who, he said, understood pipes and the business better than anyone.
How Laudisi acquired the company–in case you’ve forgotten or no one told you—was really a matter of serendipity. Their team was in Dublin in January of 2018 (or thereabouts) looking for office space to launch the new Smokingpipes.eu. Of course they got in touch with Palmer or he with them for drinks or whatever, and one thing led to another and he said he was getting ready to retire and would Laudisi, by any chance, want to buy the company? The way Sykes told this story made it clear this was a wholly unexpected, take-your-breath-away sort of thing.
By the time Sykes announced the news he already had a vision of where K&P ought to be headed. It’s fun to read it now, in hindsight, as we turn to look at what the next five years would actually bring:
[W]hile my skills as an oracle are somewhat rusty, there will likely be two sorts of changes to Peterson in the future. The first sort are the obvious ones: we’ll help with technology, marketing, business processes and the like. The other is likely an increased bias toward Peterson traditionalism. Mining Peterson’s rich history for new products is the sort of thing we’ve encouraged in the past and something I think we’ll get excited about in the future. But, of course, these sorts of decisions will continue to happen on the ground in Sallynoggin, with input from us, much as they have in the past.
I approach the Peterson brand with reverence and with gratitude to those who have served it for the past century and a half, from Charles Peterson to Tom and Conor Palmer. Peterson, as an institution, is greater than any individual. What makes the company special is that the manufacturing is deeply rooted in a particular place, as part of a particular tradition of craftsmanship, with a particular institutional ethos. Today we here at Laudisi embrace and celebrate that legacy, and we turn a hopeful eye toward what lies ahead.
2019 February: Saint Patrick’s Day System (Post #120)
This was an edgy move, at least to me: putting the System out as an SPD, something which has never been done and which shows just how important the System’s place is to Laudisi. Tom Palmer was always very respectful about the System in K&P’s portfolio, but it always seemed to me that this was more by way of it being a monument than a flagship viable for the marketplace. It’s the kind of move that seems fresh, new, innovative. And it was!
2019 April: New Bowl Coating Debut (Post #128)
One of the biggest snarks made by non-Pete Geek, dating all the way back to the 1980s, concerns the foul taste dip-staining used to leave in the chambers of their pipes. Back in the day, no one thought too much about it, although I myself suffered from it in a little $12.50 full-bent 82s. While K&P quit dip staining their pipes back around 2000, turning to a food-grade vegetable “paint,” you might think the anti-Pete crowd would have noticed. But on many forums up until 2015 or so I was still reading the same cant. Next time someone brings this up, do correct their misconception.
Well, less than a year after Laudisi undertook the direction of the company, a new genuine bowl coating appeared—one with a very simple, very tasty recipe: Arabic gum powder (which bakers use) and food-grade charcoal powder (which some people use to clean their teeth). They shared the recipe with the Pete Geeks here on the blog (see Post #223) and while it took me a few attempts to perfect my own application, the stuff is fantastic. I know several PGs who use it now on their estate pipes. Ghosted pipes especially benefit, as it seems to routinely filter out the unpleasant ghost while the pipe is “learning” the sapidity (flavor) of the tobacco blends of its new steward.
2019 April: Supreme Grade Relaunch (Post #286)
Ten months into the Laudisi Era comes the relaunch of the Supreme grade. Just speaking for myself, I think every Pete Geek ought to have at least one Supreme in the rotation. They are so incredibly rare that to sight and acquire one is nearly impossible. Sykes discusses the actual percentages of current production in Post #286, but in a nutshell these are almost nothing in the scheme of production.
To put the Supreme line in historical context, unlike most other pipe makers K&P has always striven under its own name to offer pipes from what today would be Irish Seconds at one end to gold and sterling-mount Supremes at the other, or what originally went from the 5-in-a-Circle (that’s a lot of fills) to rose gold mounts in exotic leather companion cases. This egalitarian sensibility comes straight from Charles Peterson, by the way. He believed in social equality and equal rights and opportunities and understood that pipemen come in every shape and size and have budgets that reflect their economic situations. He endorsed, as Andy Wike so brilliantly termed it, the “aspirational tiers” model whereby as one’s economic situation improved or interest in the hobby deepened, there would be a pipe to accommodate it. He also understood that in practical terms, if his company bought a sack of 500 stummels, the organic nature of briar being what it is, what can be made from those 500 stummels will always follow a kind of bell curve.
2019 May: POY 2019 / Chubby Rhodesian, aka “John Bull” (Post #131)
Less than a year after Laudisi acquired the company, their first POY delivered on Sykes’s promise of “traditionalism” with an homage to the John Bull (chubby rhodesian) 999 that so many old Pete Geeks have sought out and loved for so many years. What you may not know is that neither K&P nor Dunhill have subterranean archives with original stummels dating back to Ye Olden Times. So Peterson did the best they could, using an almost never-seen stummel from the 500 group, the 525, which looks like a slightly larger version of the 999c (the one in the present catalog). To it they added an incredibly long sterling band. While I didn’t personally care for the band on this shape, it made a second point: the Peterson pipe’s identity as one bearing a precious metal mount (begun in the late 1970s with the arrival of the Spigot) was going to continue and develop. Once upon a time pipemen knew a Peterson by its P-Lip. These days they’re more likely to say, “Wow! Lookit that sterling—must be a Peterson!”
2019 July: System Pub Pipe Debut (Post #138)
A year into the new era, Peterson debuts their first addition to the System line since the Darwin / B42 of a decade before. The Pub Pipe takes the 2015 Founder’s Edition and adds a saddle acrylic bit, tenon extension and reservoir to reinstate the oom paul shape into the System lineup.
2019 November: In-House Sandblasting Returns (Post #159)
The history of briar sandblasting is something I very much wish someone at SPC would undertake. In fact, I just sent an email to Chuck Stanion to put in a request! Yang Forcióri’s excellent article on the Dunhill Shell Briar at Pipedia is an excellent place to begin, however, to discover what K&P does with their own blasting. A deep, irregular blast which preserves the shape of the pipe was Alfred Dunhill’s goal, says Forcióri, as it is Peterson’s. Neither company succeeds perfectly, briar and blasting being what they are, but Oh! how incredible when something turns out like this B42 Supreme:
I’m addicted to blasts, I confess. I do love a smooth Natural, but the older I get (the worse my eyes get?) the more I’m drawn to blasts and rusticated pipes. Gnarly pipes for gnarly old guys—that’s my motto!
2020 February: The SPC 20th Anniversary Small-Batch Blasts (Post #174)
The SPC 20th Anniversary Spigots were the showcase for the deep, irregular blast Peterson set out to achieve. I know this was an exciting and tense project as Peterson put their new skills—and Jonathan Field (who did quite a bit of the blasting)—to the test!
2020 March: Giacomo Penzo, Peterson’s Pipe Specialist (Post #199)
Until the mid-1990s, when Paddy Larrigan retired, K&P always had two or three deeply skilled craftsmen—like Larrigan himself—who could do everything from repairs to hand-cutting a bowl and stem to creating new shapes for the company’s portfolio. After he retired, there were of course still very skilled craftsmen like Tony Whelan, Sr. and Tony Whelan, Jr., Joe Kenny and David Blake. But the writing was on the wall here, and now all but Kenny have retired. So finding a young, extremely talented artisan who could be a permanent part of the collaborative team—one who still makes his own pipes—was the perfect solution. Giacomo has a deep love for the Peterson aesthetic and for Peterson history while preserving his own distinct identity. This gives the company, I think, a unique insider/outsider perspective as well as someone they can rely on—as they would in subsequent months—to execute replicas of the great Petes of the past.
2020 March: Heritage Finish Debuts (Post #177)
As I said earlier, if you don’t understand or appreciate the “aspirational tiers” of K&P’s philosophy, you won’t understand the Heritage finish. US pipemen don’t understand why Europeans, particularly those in the UK, love this finish, which displays almost no grain. The inspiration for it goes back to the deep stains used from the Patent era on into the 1970s and for the life of me I think it’s ironic that so many complain about it when they never raise an eyebrow that, pipe for pipe, K&P has always been willing to show more grain than any other pipe maker. Don’t believe me? Go to SPC’s website and scroll through any other pipe maker, including artisans. There’s just not much grain on display.
I think the “grain problem” arose from the fact that as a rule K&P did have access to well-grained bowls from the 1950s to the 1980s and used a few fills, if necessary, to get that grain out in mid-range pipes like the Standard System.
There’s another problem, however, that many pipemen still don’t understand. Grain has very little to do with briar quality and smoking quality. It’s about aesthetics. K&P grades their bowls according to the ways the bowls will be “made up.” Q: What do you think bowl with no fills and no grain will be used for? How is it graded? A: The answer will surprise you if you haven’t carefully read the Peterson book. A bald, perfect bowl is is used for creating ebony pipes, which require multiple coats of paint and will not tolerate any fills in the process.
[2020 March 27: COVID Lockdown begins in the Republic of Ireland]
So look at all the company accomplished during the COVID lockdown. . .
2020 April: System Deluxe Debut in Dark and Sandblast Finishes (Post #182)
You know, until April of 2020 you just couldn’t find a sandblast Deluxe. Much rarer than Supremes. In fact, I’ve only seen one. All that changed with the debut of the sandblast Deluxe. The Deluxe dark is not the Heritage finish, as you can see in the 11s above. I’ve seen a few in this finish that are fairly dark, but there’s always grain and usually the stain is considerably lighter—the same stain-over-grain as seen in the recent 9B Revival. My very first Deluxe 11s from 1979 is, in fact, approximately the same hue.
2020 July: Irish Seconds Relaunched through SPE (Post #192)
Two current Irish Seconds
So you remember the “aspirational tiers” model? Laudisi decided to reintroduce the release of seconds, which has been part of the company’s history since the beginning. They did throw away the idea of the REJECT—which I applaud—but which you could still buy at hardware stores in Ireland as late as 2011 (and probably a few years after that).
IRISH SECONDS are an different kind of pipe than the old REJECTs. In three tiers, none of them are beyond the reach of most of us and some of them are obviously outliers of standard production—making those pipes all the more interesting. They are only available through SPE, which is kind of cool. What I like the most about them is that both to my eye and to the eyes of several of our own Pete Geeks, these make it possible for to enjoy fantastic sterling-mount Systems and Classic Range pipes that they couldn’t otherwise afford. Let that sink in just a minute, then remember Charles Peterson’s belief in social equality. This is wisdom—at least to me—applied to the marketplace.
The 9BC POY was the first to be executed by Giacomo Penzo. It was, as everything Laudisi and K&P does, a deeply collaborative project, but someone had to actually make a few sample stummels to launch the project. In the event, Giacomo and Co. did something quite interesting. Their 9BC is close to the one we all love from the estate markets. Very close. But it’s actually even closer to Charles Peterson’s original Patent shape 9.
2020 August: PSB Peterson Special Blast (PSB Stamp) Debut (Post #197)
How can you not love pipe stamps? They are so crucial to a pipe’s story and identity. I don’t know if a PSB is something that can be done intentionally or if it’s something that just happens, but I do often give a second glance at any pipe with this stamp that I see. I like the ebony PSBs but think the contrast used on the SH and the PUB even better.
As I consider the PSB / Peterson Special Blast stamp, it seems to me that there may actually be four tiers in blasting. There’s the Standard, the PSB, the Supreme and the Gnarly. I know Peterson only admits to the first three, of course, but with the SPC 20th Anniversary and a few of the Supremes and even PSBs, there’s something fat and irregular and dramatic that occurs every once in a while that looks as gnarly or even gnarlier than the early Dunhill Shells. The gnarlys, in fact, are sometimes not even graded PSB, as a look at the Irish Second 01 Deluxe above reveals!
2021 May: Deluxe Classics Debut (Post #229)
The Deluxe Classics line made its formal appearance in 1916. It’s been presented in a number of ways but never so appealingly, so elegantly and with such Peterson spirit. The ultra-wide sterling band, vulcanite P-Lip and availability of Natural, PSB and Terracotta finishes make it essential in the rotation. I’d love to see this width of band on a Deluxe System some day, thanks to Austin Quinlan at the factory (Austin—thanks, mate). For now, I’m happy to report that the 107 PSB has at last made it into the Deluxe Classic ranks, first one I spotted in Italy and now at both SPC and SPE.
2021 June: The New MADE IN IRELAND Stamp Debut (Post #232)
I was told that the reason for the new MADE IN IRELAND oval stamp was that Laudisi felt like the transition period was officially over and they wanted, in a quiet way, to say so. Not that earlier pipes weren’t the best they could be but that things were now rolling along smoothly and it was time to stop and say “We’ve arrived, mates. Anyone for a Guinness? Jonathan’s buying.”
This is the first new annual commemorative release in the Laudisi era, one with a predecessor (of sorts) in the July 4th pipes issued for a few years during the Dublin era. The idea, which I presume was Josh Burgess’s, is for a small-bowl demi-churchwarden evoking the old long clays typical of the late 18th century to commemorate the long-standing bond between Ireland and all her children in the US, linked by the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence: Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Now in its 3rd year, I’m hoping we’ll see it continue.
2021 September: Halloween System (Post #246)
If memory serves, we owe the inspiration for the Halloween System (like so many other great Pete projects) to Glen Whelan. While I was excited about the SPD System, the Halloween System’s in-house blast and Dracula-style red & black swirl P-Lip stem makes it a pipe I turn to not in the autumn during my annual Uncanny Film Festival, but anytime I want a splash of color and adventure.
2021 October: Rua Spigot—K&P’s First Contrast Stain (Post #251)
Onward and upward with Giacomo Penzo heading up the creation of K&P’s first true contrast stain. Again this is something unique in the contemporary world of pipes—I haven’t seen anyone else come up with this organic, natural-looking ‘random’ type of stain treatment. I like the fact that it’s a satin finish, that it’s used over a great blast and that it’s used with sterling. The sequel to the original Rua Spigot appeared with the Rua Sherlock System P-Lip Spigot in July of 2022 (see Post #292)
2021 November: POY 2021 / 4AB (Post #256)
How fantastic that the 3rd Laudisi POY is the famous Sherlock Holmes / Basil Rathbone 4AB. I’m sure you’ve read all about it and maybe you even companion one as well. Giacomo Penzo nailed this one spot-on. It’s no mere homage, but as authentic a reproduction as anyone could wish for. Even K&P’s own shape 4 shows some slight variations from the English to the Irish factories. If anything, this one is better than most of the ones in my rotation, which are mostly from the 1960s on. It’s got an ever-so-slightly higher crown, like the ones from the 1930s and 40s.
It was so much fun to discover this shape, thanks to artist Larry Gosser, and then to research it for The Pipes of Basil Rathbone’s SH. Then to be able to help just a tiny bit when K&P were doing their research—just lovely. As there were only 400 of these made, I’m hoping the 4AB may turn up again in the Revival series. In the meantime, check out the book by that Pete Geek guy.
2021 November: Ragaire Line Debut (Post #254)
This is a fascinating design project by Josh Burgess incorporating the type of unadorned shank end of the original Dunmore with the new blasting and what I call the “straw” acrylic fishtail stem. If you’ve read Post #254 you know it’s a more adult version of the Dracula and Jekyll & Hyde, something we’d expect Van Helsing or some other vampire killer to sport down at the crypt.
2021 December: Barley Spigot—Tanshell Sandblast (Post #260)
Old-time pipemen will always brighten up with the word tanshell. As part of the Charles Peterson Collection, this is a finish that we’ll probably only see in very small numbers. But dang, wouldn’t a System look stunning in tanshell blast?
[2022 January/February: COVID Restrictions Eased in the Republic of Ireland]
2022 February: The Rustication Debut of Wojciech Blaszczak (Post #269)
Pipemen are quite vocal when it comes with rustication. In the days of my youth, it was seen as something only for the low-born, tramps and vagabonds—at least in the US. When Italian pipes began to come in to the country in larger numbers, of course, all that changed. How can a pipe that costs a lot of money not be socially acceptable? Of course you and I have always understood how great a good rustic pipe can be. I can’t resist showing you this one, currently available in the Aran line:
While Wojciech Blaszczak is the craftsman responsible for the idea, it has been taught to both his brother & fellow Peterson craftsman and a few others now, I think. Like elsewhere in the current K&P portfolio it offers something absolutely unique in the contemporary world of pipes.
The Charles Peterson stamp is another way to emphasize continuity in the identity and vision of Peterson. It seems that anything we can create or think of is subject to almost immediate decay and change. There are business-speak words for this but there are very few businesses who see the need to prevent it from happening, either in their product (design fatigue) or their mission (brand fatigue). The CP stamp is a way of honoring the spark and preserving that original within the context and means available today.
2022 March: The Iora Spigot (see SPC Daily Blog)
Here’s the Iora, the second contrast stain debut, one I think I like even better than the Rua (the first). Unfortunately I don’t have an Iora in my rotation, so if you’re tired of yours, do pass it along to me. I’m especially longing for one of the small batch of the SH Ioras that appeared through SPE!
2022 June: Move to the New Factory (Post #288)
K&P has had four factories in Dublin, one in London and something that may or may not have been one in Australia (!). The latest, a thoroughly modern facility, is in the Deansgrange neighborhood of County Dublin. The move, like the previous ones in Ireland, was simply a practical necessity. The facility in Sallynoggin was almost brand new in 1971 when the company relocated from St. Stephens Green in Dublin. But after more than fifty years, the wiring of the old building simply couldn’t handle the new machinery Peterson needed—the entire building would have had to be rewired. But wiring and space needs made it sensible to simply find a new location with up-to-date specs and ergonomic possibilities. Do read the post on this and you’ll find how how quickly and easy the Peterson crew made the whole thing look. Makes my back ache just to look at what they did.
2022 August: POY 2022 / 14B Mark Twain (Post #296)
We don’t know nearly as much about Mark Twain’s relationship with K&P as I wish we did, but we know a great deal more now than we did in 1981 when the first MT commemorative appeared. You can get some idea of Twain’s various original Petes from Post #238 and a good understanding of the original MT commemorative from the Peterson book. The pipe that was used for the original MT commemorative is one residing in the Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Missouri—the 14B, as it turned out–but was burned down one side, making accurate measurements impossible.
When Giacomo Penzo came to reproduce this, I know he had a copy of the 1906 catalog image, but whether Glen Whelan (that Irish Wizard) conjured up an original Patent 14B I do not know. Glen’s druidic powers—rumored but never confirmed—are not to be lightly dismissed. But however the team came to do it, the 14B, like the 4AB, is something no one is likely to forget who’s seen it in person. It is quite different from the old photos, and while conforming exactly to the 1906 images, to see it in three dimensions gives one a new understanding of how the original Charles Peterson designs were different in many respects from the more aggressive, muscular shapes that were appearing by the Éire era. CP’s shaping was rounder and more sinuous.
2023 January: 25th Anniversary of the St. Patrick’s Day Pipe (Post #326)
This was a very important release for K&P, celebrating one of its longest-running annual commemoratives in an edition more elegant than even the original issue, copying the gorgeous tricolor band but adding the rarely-seen golden P (brass, I think) and issued in several finishes, including some rarities. As I look back, I wish (seeing the photo above), I’d pulled the trigger for a black blast well as the smooth terracotta. Sigh.
2023 April: Deluxe System 9B (Post #341)
The Deluxe Revival 9B, or so it appears to me, utilizes what must be a new batch of the POY 2020 stummels but as a Deluxe System. For anyone who loves the tapered B stem and the sinuous curves of a Patent-era bowl, it’s another great instance of the “New Traditional” direction Sykes promised in 2018. It’s a wonderful System companion to the POY and I’m hoping we’ll see this kind of “revival” again with the POY 4AB sometime in the not-too-distant future, as we have with the Charles Peterson Collection 308 Rustic that appeared not long ago and is the System Premier rendition of the POY 14B.
2023 June: The Short Army (Post #349)
You might shake your head, wondering why the Short Army made this list of highlights. That is, if you hadn’t read my post on the amazing new vulcanite P-Lip stem and how it revolutionizes the smoking qualities of the army mount. It’s not a nose warmer but not a full-sized stem, either. It’s what my students of old would have called “Fun Sized.” And fun it is, too, I can affirm as I’m smoking the 107 Rustic version right now.
I could go on, but if you’ve reached the end of this triple-length post—and I’m sure many didn’t (!)— I hope you’ve seen just how far Laudisi era Peterson has come in what is actually such a short time, and if you think of it, wish all the good folks at Peterson & at Laudisi a Happy Fifth Anniversary this week.
We would not be enjoying the Peterson renaissance we are without the dedication of a collaborative team in the factory and office in South Carolina and County Dublin. For their warmth, kindness and courtesy to me in writing this blog over the past five years, I want to thank
- Sykes Wilford, CEO of Laudisi Enterprises, has at every drop of the hat not only offered hospitality and kindness but given concrete help from the first email I sent in 2012 asking for help on the Peterson book down to working with me in May to create the new PPN commemorative pipe;
- Josh Burgess, Managing Director, who took care from the first to encourage me to use the blog to document the work of K&P not as as a product-endorsement storefront but to be as critical as I see fit—which is sometimes difficult as a self-confessed “fan boy”;
- Glen Whelan, Director of Sales, who is tireless in his efforts to develop and bring the best pipes to Pete Geeks across the globe;
- Andy Wike, Vice President, Marketing at Laudisi, for so graciously providing timely information on new Petes;
- Jonathan Fields, Production Manager, whose enthusiasm, pursuit of excellence and good cheer are on tap at any hour, day or night;
- Adam O’Neill, Marketing & Social Media Specialist and the guy I turn to for help with with any Pete release at Smokingpipes.eu;
- Federica Bruno, always my first resource at K&P;
- And of course all the craftsmen and administration in Deansgrange and South Carolina who keep us well-supplied with new Petes!