Friday, May 28th, 2021 will see the retail launch of the new Deluxe Classics range, an exciting development in Kapp & Peterson’s commitment to its history and the production of fine non-System pipes that stretches back to the company’s beginnings in 1893. I got to speak with Josh Burgess, managing director at K&P, who was positively effervescent:
“I’m really excited about these pipes. As much as I love Deluxe System pipes, my first Pete was a Deluxe Classics 03 from 2001. So since coming on board at Peterson, I’ve been conscious of their absence.
“But this is a revival with a new twist—offering Terracotta and PSB finishes in addition to Natural. I hope Peterson smokers and collectors will also appreciate the chance to get Classics mounted configurations of their favorite shapes. Finally, one of the things we wanted to do here was echo the aesthetic of recent Pipes of the Year. We’ve enjoyed making pipes with wide silver bands, in reserved, but well-done finishes, with P-Lip vulcanite stems. I think those sorts of pipes are most reflective of what I like best about Peterson’s design.”
The Terracotta, incidentally, is that reddish stain seen on the X105 above. It is used on the higher (and original) tier of the Sherlock Holmes pipes and also seen on the higher House Pipe and Pub Pipe lines. Depending on the grain, this finish can sometimes be quite breath-taking—so be sure to enlarge photos of shapes you’re particularly interested in when you’re out browsing.
As you can see, the Natural finish may feature an unfinished chamber, which I know will be fantastic news to most Pete Geeks.* I say “may” because Josh tells me “not all of them have raw chambers. But we are moving toward that, not just on Deluxe Classics, but on all Natural pipes.” Welcome news. Nothing tastes quite as good, in my opinion, when breaking in a new pipe.
In addition to the high-grade finishes, many of the new Deluxe Classics will feature a very wide sterling band—17mm, it looks like—stamped Peterson in script over DUBLIN. The samples I’ve seen have all been hallmarked “J” for 2020 for this initial release, indicating the series has been in planning since last year. If you look at the gallery at the end of this post, you can get an idea of just how beautiful this is going to be.
“On the silver,” says Josh, “the goal was to have the widest band that the shape would accommodate. That means that there isn’t a standard size across the entire series as you might find on say, the Sherlock Holmes or Cara. The band width that works on a 107 would look rather silly on a 701.” The bowl stamps will continue to be placed on the bottom of the shank.
Another welcome feature is the is P-Lip vulcanite stem with impressed aluminum P. Josh writes, “everything will be vulcanite P-Lip except for 264 and 268, which will be vulcanite Fishtail, as the P-Lip stem is no longer manufactured.” It may be that the 53 lovat will also only be available in fishtail—which (again my own opinion) seems to fit its blocky aesthetic best—although I’d be delighted to find a P-Lip in Terracotta. Some shapes seem to have the “soft” upper wall at the button front, like the 120 seen above, while others have the sharply vertical, classic wall like the X105 below. If you want to do much clenching, you might try to spot the classic design. If you plan to cradle the pipe as you smoke, as we all do our artisanal pipes, no worries.
The X105 Deluxe Classics in Terracotta
As befitting the Deluxe line, the pipes are housed in the great high-grade box inside the suede leather Peterson-branded green sock. Way cool.
As for the shapes we can expect to see, Josh writes, “Most of the Classics range shapes will appear in the series, but for now, it’s limited to non-system shapes, since there is already a lot of demand for higher grades in those shapes as Deluxe Systems. So for the present, available System Shapes will become Deluxe Systems and non-System Classics Range shapes will become Deluxe Classics.”
A Brief History of the Deluxe Line
The three Patent-Lip, non-System shapes from the first catalog
While we naturally give pride of place to Charles Peterson’s System pipe, it’s a fact that he made a place for traditionally-engineered pipes in from the very first catalog in 1896. It’s also a fact that the company had introduced non-P-Lip buttons by the late 1910s, sometimes in a rather grudging way (and I don’t blame them, since the P-Lip graduated bore elevates any common pipe to the realm of the supernal).
The Deluxe Classics line can trace its lineage back in the ephemera to the “Chip of the Old Block” poster the Dublin advertising company McConnell created in 1916, not long after the Easter Rising. The poster gave almost-equal attention to System and Classics ranges (the System is after all the first we scan as readers) and is the earliest evidence we’ve found so far concerning the Deluxe line.
The first documented appearance in a K&P catalog: 1937
A small brochure from the 1920s only lists “First Grade” and “Second Grade” Classics range pipes. It isn’t until the 1937 catalog that we find a formal introduction to the Deluxe line. At that time and for at least twenty years following, the Deluxe Classics line would feature a hand-cut vulcanite P-Lip with a bone tenon extension on all shapes. This required some extra work in the shank and mortise, as you might imagine. I have seen these pipes but never acquired one on the estate market with the extension intact, so I can’t say with certainty how it affects the smoking qualities. I do smoke both straight and bent Classics range pipes with P-Lips and tenon extensions and can say that, at least for me, they’re quite dry and never require a pipe cleaner while smoking.
The 1940 catalog states that the Deluxe line “can be supplied with either Peterson Lip or wide bore mouthpiece, according to taste,” indicating that there was enough resistance by pipemen to the P-Lip—or desire on the part of K&P to be competitive in the marketplace—that it was necessary to provide a traditional button (and presumably bore).
A shape 150 bulldog from the 1953 Rogers imports catalog
By 1953 the familiar inlaid aluminum P had appeared on the Deluxe line. Whether these pipes featured hand-cut stems I can’t say. I do know they still featured the bone tenon extension and wider mortise effectively making them “sub-Systems” in the way they operated.
From the 1975 catalog
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has been a standing motto (at least, unconsciously) at K&P for much of its history. From 1953 through 1975 the only thing that changed were a few shapes in the catalog. Saddles had become huge by the mid-1960s and remained so through the 1970s. Small pipes—by our standards—were still quite popular. Tapered stems, like that seen on the 150 bulldog and the Deluxe Systems, had virtually disappeared on all but a very few shapes. And of course, the Deluxe Classics was still unmounted, as it had been from the beginning.
detail from the 1978-79 Peterson-Glass catalog
The Deluxe began to fade when the company assumed yet another set of owners in the late 1970s. For whatever reason, the impressed aluminum P disappeared and was replaced with a painted gold P logo pressed into the stem. This marked the beginning of the end of the Deluxe as a true high-grade line for the company, as can be verified by the 1981 Mark Twain brochure:
It’s easy to see what happened. The advent of the spigot and introduction of gold-mounted pipes in 1979 followed by the Mark Twain in 1981 spear-headed a new emphasis on precious metal mounts so that the unmounted Deluxe just wasn’t very Deluxe anymore. And so by the 1983 catalog, it had disappeared altogether from the Classics Range lineup. (Notice the Sterling Silver in the Classics line from the MT 1981 brochure above, waiting in the wings as it were to metamorphose into the Deluxe Silver Mounted.)
When Tom Palmer bought the company, the trend toward precious-metal mounts for high-grades only grew as K&P added the silver cap pipe, seen for the first time in the 1992 Hand Made brochure:
from the 1992 Hand Made brochure (and do notice the Thinking Man in his sporty toupee)
The red-stained Sterling Silver line would give place in 1997 to the “Deluxe Silver Mounted,” featuring the old K & P maker’s marks in shields on the band. This version of the Deluxe line ran through the last comprehensive catalog of the Dublin era in 2010. It was described in all four of the Dublin-era catalogs as a “golden stain smooth polished finish with hallmarked, Peterson lip or fishtail mouthpiece.” As the photo of the 999 hallmarked 1999 from SPC shows, it was stamped DELUXE:
A 999 Deluxe Silver Mounted, hallmarked for 1999
And that’s about it. Those who have little interest in Petes may find all this a matter of semantics. But for the Pete Geek, it matters. Incidentally, the retail in the US for the Deluxe Classics Natural is $330; for the Terracotta and the PSB, $240. Good luck & good hunting, all!
Many thanks to Josh Burgess at K&P,
to Andy Wike at Laudisi,
and to Smokingpipes.com
for their support.
Deluxe Classics photography samples & stock photos below courtesy Laudisi Enterprises.
*If you’re stressed by the naked bowl, you can always mix up a replica of K&P’s great bowl coating. Directions are found here.