The 125th Anniversary Commemorative
Premier Barley System
Wednesday, October 18th
The 125th Anniversary Premier Barley System features a sterling ferrule, vulcanite P-Lip and the Barley sandblast finish in an edition of 330 serialized pipes, stamped “1898-2023” in all standard System shapes: 301, 302, 303, 304, 306, 307, 312, 313, 314, 317, B42 and XL315.
This 302 sports my all-time favorite shouldered System bend.
For their penultimate 125th Anniversary celebration of the System, K&P will release a special Premier commemorative System (and yes, I said penultimate) this Wednesday. As a fan of the Premier, I can vouch for the fact that this is a special event for System fans. The Premier has always been the most difficult System to acquire for the Peterson aficionado as K&P has always made far fewer of them than the DeLuxe, and it looks like it will continue to be that way, so to see a Premier in the special Barley—or tanshell finish—well now, that’s my idea of an anniversary celebration pipe!
The generic term tanshell has come to mean any pipe with a light tan sandblast. It derives, as does so much in briar pipe history, from Dunhill, who introduced their Tanshell finish in 1952, per Joe Morris, who kindly wrote to say that “the Dunhill Tanshell finish first appeared in 1952 (I’ve got one). There’s an idea that they were using Shell Algerian briar stock for that first year as a test before switching to the Sardinian briar for 1953 (at least I think that’s right) but it was definitely first produced in 1952.” Pipedia.org has a fine collection of Dunhill Tanshell photos. Here’s one of my favorite examples from Dunhill, a 1953 LC:
1953 Dunhill LC Tanshell – Erik Hesse Collection (Courtesy Pipedia.org)
Pipedia, incidentally, has a number of great photographs of Dunhill Tanshells from Dr. Hesse’s collection and I encourage you not only to visit their Erik Hesse / Tanshell page but support the Pipedia website as well, as web-hosting costs only becomes more expensive the larger a site becomes. I don’t have a set-in-stone answer to give concerning how K&P creates their version of the tanshell finish, but I can give you a few details.
he pre-story of the tanshell at K&P concerns Mario Lubinski’s special Peterson Rogha natural vergin pipes for Sansonne Smoking Store in Rome beginning in 2016. These were extremely limited, as you can read in Post #88. A natural vergin is not a tanshell, although it’s very close. A natural vergin is a finish developed by the Italians. It’s absolutely spotless, clean and unwaxed with a bare chamber and develops a patina from the oils of the smoker’s hands.
After the Rogha line, Peterson introduced the Burren line in 2018, which you can research in Post #102. This was the proletariat version, I suppose we might say, of the Rogha natural vergin. While unfinished and unwaxed, it was comprised of sandblast bowls with root marks, pits and other imperfections as well as a bowl coating. Many sneered at it—and it was a bit of a take-down from the lofty heights of the Rogha—but it was quite successful among the Pete Geeks and sold well. I think it’s safe to say that, thanks to the Burren and the Rogha and the Nassau Street Edition at SPE in 2020 (Post #188), there’s now a regular Supreme Sandblast line.
The tanshell came to K&P unofficially with the release of the “SPECIAL” House Pipe Rusticated Spigot in 2021 (you can catch a glimpse at the end of Post #254). Formally, however, the Barley finish happened shortly thereafter in December of 2021 with the Barley Spigot (see Post #260).
Josh Burgess, Managing Director at K&P, tells me “these are virgin-quality sandblasts” given a light coat of carnauba wax. The reason for the wax—which is also applied to the Supreme Sandblast—is not only to heighten the visual appeal a notch, but more importantly foster the development of a pleasing patina as the pipe is smoked. I can attest to this personally, comparing my experiences with a Rogha, a Supreme sandblast and a Natural Rusticated DeLuxe (this latter also has a light coat of carnauba applied at the factory). The Rogha has a much darker, dirtier look while the Supreme and Natural Rusticated—and hence the Barley—colors more evenly and gradually in shades of brown rather than gray and brown. Whether there is a light wash of stain, both on the K&P and Dunhill tanshells, I couldn’t say, but they’re gorgeous and should only become more so as they’re smoked.
The variation in color to be seen from new one pipe to another (as below) is due to the briar itself and how it takes the carnauba wax. While I wasn’t sent any samples to photograph, I wanted to present one in the SmokingPipes.Com studio-lit Barley Premier System typical of the colors we’ll see in Wednesday’s drop:
302 Barley Premier System (Courtesy SPC)
This photo is much flatter and more tone-neutral than either the ones seen in the banner, the e-strut card and the gallery photos elsewhere in the post. What you’ll see in the natural lighting of outdoors and in your own smoking room will vary from either one of these, but if you find a blast pattern you like, I think you’ll find the pipe even more appealing to the eye when you see it in real life. The spots you see on the lower bowl in the 313 below are caused by root marks, I believe. They’re not fills, and in any case as the bowl develops its patina they will effectively disappear.
I asked Josh if there was any significance to 330 pipes being made: “No reason for the 330. Virgin quality sandblasts are hard to come by, and that’s the number we had, so that’s how many we made.” Rats! I was sure it was in reference to the King Fergus I (330BC), either that or possibly Charles Peterson’s “angel number.”
By the way–if you don’t subscribe to the Sunday morning blog email from Smokingpipes, there should be a video with Josh and Andy discussing the Barley System release on their Daily Blog site.
It may not be too late! The greatest bulldog shape ever to enter the catalog, as I will argue in an upcoming blog post, is that which was finalized as the Sherlock Holmes BAKER STREET / XL13. All seven pipes from the Original Collection were made in slightly smaller versions as the SH JUNIOR for the European market from 1988 to c. 1993. I would hazard a guess that the Baker Street Junior rusticateds turned up in the move from Sallynoggin to Deansgrange and were released—about 60 or so when I saw the email—last Thursday, the 12th.
If you click on the photo above you can readily see the JUNIOR / BAKER STREET stamp. By all means notice the vertically-beaded double ring around the bowl. This beaded bowl ring disappeared many years ago on the Baker Street and it’s one of the things that has always set Peterson’s original SH bulldog above the competition. As I’ve become a huge fan of the Bros. W. rustication, this release was a must for me.
Thanks to Josh Burgess, Andy Wike
So to me, this is really the 305c
* This 305 calabash sports the “new “gourd bend” which can be seen in some, although not all, current 305s. I say new, but actually it debuted sometime after 2018. I never found a good opportunity to take note of it here on the blog until now. What marks it off from the c. 1984 305b is the increased visual space between the shank bend and the back chamber wall and the longer, softer curve of the shank into the bowl, making it look altogether more gourd-like than the earlier calabash. When I first saw it thought it a bit comical, but seen in the Barley System here, I’m thinking if any readers want to step up and order my Christmas present early, then by all means do so–this 305c is just exactly what’s on my wish list–just make sure it doesn’t have one of those oversized chamber widths!
For your poster collection