391. SPECIAL BULLETIN: The Shannon Air System Descends Tomorrow

REVISED 3/31/04 9:15 AM

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The Pete Geek Meet at the Chicago Pipe Show, 4:15-6:15 pm

 in the Sky Harbor AB room after the Saturday show.

PETE GEEK MEET @ THE CHICAGO PIPE SHOW.  We’ll be doing a swap & sell of pipes, tobaccos & ephemera, a show & tell of rare Petes and a discussion of how to expand interest in Peterson pipes across the global pipe community. For more information, email petegeek1896@gmail.com.  Please join us!



Per Alex Willard: “The Shannon Air System will be available around 12:00am EST tomorrow. We’re trying to avert the massive system crash special Peterson drops sometimes cause by shifting the release to a time with less traffic.”The 110 Shannon Air System features a triangular shank
hearkening back to those seen on Lorenzo’s Elba pipes in the 1970s and 80s.

Right after Christmas Peterson kindly sent me samples of “The Shannon Air System,” the first new System since Charles Petersen’s original Patent in 1865. As these drop tomorrow way early here in the US and Tuesday in Europe, I wanted everyone to be on the look out, as the first batch will be fairly small—about 300 pieces, I’m told. The first wave will feature shapes based on the 110, the XS120, the XSB42, the XSB10, the XS21 (Hudson) and the XS605, mostly in Terracotta and sandblast. A few PSBs and two Supreme blasts will also be available. One hundred only will be serialized with the stamp “LARRIGAN 100 – x /100″ to commemorate Paddy Larrigan’s 100th birthday (as explained below).



 The Shannon Air derives its name in part from the pipes specially stamped “FOR SHANNON AIRPORT” sold between 1947 and 1983 at the Shannon Airport.  The airport opened in 1945, which inaugurated the world’s first Customs Free Zone and Duty Free shops in 1947. Peterson began selling their pipes at the airport, which had to include the shank stamp to be eligible for duty free purchase. The pipes so stamped seem to have been from every line and grade (mine’s a 308 Premier), and at least for me are a great piece of Peterson history.  (If you’ve ever seen a Peterson B.P.L., this line consisted of Pete bowls finished by a K&P partner in a small workshop almost next door to the James Fox shop in Dublin and only sold at the Shannon Airport.)

A 312 System with the “FOR SHANNON AIRPORT” stamp


An Early Republic era 31 straight System: dry, dry, dry!

 The new System is based on on two ideas, the first being the straight System that goes back to the Patent era and featured an extended tenons and wide-bore shanks. The last vestige of the Straight System was the small shape 31, which finally  disappeared from the catalog about 5 years ago after a long and lingering death.  Many of us have seen and perhaps even companioned versions of the straight System, often without the extended condenser.

Tom Lomprey’s 1911 Patent Era Calabash

A second important inspiration behind the Shannon Air is the traditional meerschaum-bowl gourd calabash. If you have a copy of Gary Schrier’s History of Calabash Pipes, Second Edition you’ll understand the historical precedent here, one similar to the original Patent System: utilize an air chamber between the smoker and the tobacco to cool the smoke to allow smoke and moisture to expand and cool inside the chamber prior to its arrival through the button. The hotter the smoke, the more flavor is lost. It’s not the volume of the chamber that matters nearly so much as the existence of the chamber itself.

Peterson outsourced their gourd meerschaums, as they did their morta bog oaks and clays, but then made their own “Captain Warren” type briar calabashes, not only in the Patent era, but later on in Paddy Larrigan’s extraordinary output of one-offs, as seen below.

A Paddy Larrigan Briar Calabash (HM 1996)

 I companioned the 1996 Paddy Larrigan briar calabash seen above for a number of years. He has always called them “basket pipes,” but the concept is identical to the gourd calabash, as they feature a briar cup or basket that fits down into the lower part of the bowl either by threads (his earlier ones) or cork gaskets (his later examples). Several of these reside at the Peterson Archive, and I hope at some point Austin Quinlan or Giacomo Penzo will restore them. In the meantime they can be seen in the big Peterson book.


Larrigan’s sketch for a “rear basket” System

So fast-forward to just a few years before Larrigan’s retirement, when the sketch for a “Rear Basket pipe” (seen above) was apparently drawn. It is this sketch that the company used as inspiration for the new Shannon Air System. “It seemed like the thing to do when we realized this was going to be Paddy’s 100th year,” said one spokesperson. “We were just thinking of Paddy’s basket pipes, and kicking around what we might do. But those are obviously artisan in intent and execution. But this “rear basket” design– why not see what we can do with it?  As it turned out, in talking with our factory manager and pipe specialists, this was something we could achieve, something we feel will really add to Peterson’s portfolio.”

An XS120 Dublin PSB Shannon Air System

It didn’t hurt that several artisan makers, and even pipe makers like Ser Jacopo and Missouri Meerschaum, have made pipes on similar lines.

A Revyagin “Fortune Cookie” calabash

Like many fashions in the pipe world, the idea for this kind of “rear-basket” (Larrigan’s term) calabash was all the rage for a years, but has now mostly faded, leaving ample room and opportunity for K&P’s new release. It was first made by Russian artisan Michail Revyagin (2010).  Some of Michael Revyagin’s calabash shapes quite literally copy Lagenaria siceraria, the bottle gourd, while others resembled inflated fortune cookies (and that’s not a slam—they’re awesome).

Rolando Negoita’s Conducta came out in 2011, at about the same time as Danish friend Tom Eltang’s Tubos (2011). Both artisans continue to make these great pipes, although Eltang’s is seen much more frequently.

Andrew Harris’s Reverse Calabash appeared in 2012, followed by Radice’s Aero Billiard (2013) and AlPascia’s Curvy (2015).  Other makers have also entered the field, including Missouri Meerschaum, Il Duca, Chacom, Daniel Mustran, Talamona and others. While each maker has a unique name for their design, they all work on the same principle used for the Shannon Air System.

A Rolando Negoita “Conducta”

Rolando Negoita explains that this type of pipe “is a variation on the principle of the gourd calabash. I have engineered these pipes so that the smoke from the tobacco chamber will pass through a cooling chamber in the shank before being delivered to the stem. In addition to cooling, this chamber will act to decant and filter the smoke as well.”

A Ser Jacopo Insanus, clearly inspired by the Andrew Harris design

 Andrew Harris amplified Negoita’s idea, creating a second chamber as big or bigger than the tobacco chamber, which he said in Pipes and tobaccos was “the key.” For him, the size of the chamber needs to approximate the size of a gourd calabash chamber—“a quarter cup of rice is pretty close to the average amount of air space” in a gourd calabash.*  This results in a bulbous briar, certainly more of a hand-held pipe. Unfortunately for the pipe community, it didn’t prove popular enough for him to continue, and as far as I know Harris no longer makes pipes. I really regret not getting one from him at his last appearance at the Chicago Pipe Show back in 2012. Interestingly enough, Ser Jacopo has begun using his design—sparingly—in their Insanus line.

A Tom Eltang “Tubos” and for my money, one of his most beautiful compositions

 Eltang borrowed from shape evolved into a calabash, in collaboration with Negoita, its industrial styling evoking quite a bit of discussion in the hobby and (in my opinion) being the idea behind Peterson’s 2016 POY.


The Missouri Meerschaum Reverse Calabash from 2015

I’ve been a MM fan since driving Route 66 and seeing the factory, and I wish they’d put these into regular production!


A current Radice “Aero Billiard”

  The Radice family, working out the same principle, cross-bred their Aero Billiard with the Italian love for nosewarmer “Chubby” shapes, first releasing their version through Luca di Piazza’s NeatPipes. They continue to make these, although not with as much frequency as they once did.



A Moriarity Shannon Air System is the most whimsical of the Shannon Air designs,
one that shows the definite sensibility of Giacomo Penzo, K&P’s pipe specialist.

I’ve been smoking my Shannon Air System (the XS120 seen above) three or four times a week since receiving it back in January, enough that I can comfortably offer the following “Flight Manual” for those who are thinking of investing.

The “Rear Basket.”
The Shannon Air System is a chubby, shorter shape with an outsize mortise housing an air cooling chamber which functions like the old gourd-and-meerschaum calabash, but with the essential flavor distinction that has made briar the king of pipes for over a century. The tenon and stem unit is P-Lip, but acrylic to insure a secure fit with the acrylic ring glued inside the mortise.

 The Open Draw.
You will immediately notice the openness of the Shannon Air System’s draw. If you’ve only smoked traditionally drilled pipes or even pipes that have been opened up for an easier draw, be mindful as you smoke of just how easy the draw is in the Shannon Air.  It’s far, far different than the P-Lip bent System. It’s not as bone-gasping dry as a straight System, but closer in moisture level to the traditional bent System.  This is a pipe made for sipping, for slowing down and relaxing, for enjoying every nuance of your favorite tobacco.

The Smoking Experience.
The Shannon Air System’s dual chamber geometry defies the logic of traditional chamber shapes when it comes to the smoking experience and is much closer to Charles Peterson’s Straight System than the Bent System. Many experienced pipeman have found vapers, virginia flakes, english and balkans each respond best to specific chamber sizes, but this is not the case with the Shannon Air. You will find the flavor spectrum of your favorite blend opened up, revealing itself in new ways, rather like listening to a album on a new high-end set of audiophile speakers. You’ll hear “notes” in your tobacco you only suspected before!

Once loaded with your favorite blend, the Shannon Air System will not only deliver a richer smoke, but a much cooler one as well. The open draw encourages sipping, and sipping will encourage you to slow down a little more and relax with your pipe. The draw also requires much fewer relights during your smoke. Like a traditional V-shaped meerschaum-and-gourd calabash, you’ll notice the tobacco smokes completely and evenly all the way to the bottom of the bowl.

The Break-In.
From the first smoke, the design of the Shannon Air System will lead to you believe it’s already been broken in, so different is the experience from the break-in process of a traditional briar. But please, give your Shannon Air the same respect and attention you would in breaking in any other Petersen pipe.

The Care and Cleaning Process.
The Shannon Air System can be smoked several times a day with outstanding results.  Like a straight System, it ghosts really easily—at least, in my experience.  So you may want to devote it to a single type of tobacco.  Even more than other pipes, its optimum performance will depend on your attention to its cleanliness. After each bowl, let the pipe cool, then remove the tenon from the mortise with a slight twist. I recommend applying torque at the juncture between tenon and mortise, rather than applying torque back at the bowl. Blow through the stem onto a tissue, wiping the residue off the back of the stem. Then make a loose twist from the tissue and corkscrew it into the mortise. Run a pipe cleaner through both the stem and the smoke hole between the mortise chamber and the tobacco chamber and the pipe will once again be ready for flight.A Terracotta XSB10 Shannon Air System: one for Sherlock Holmes, perhaps?

With many thanks to Sykes Wilford
for his encouragement of this post,
and of course to K&P and SPC for archival photos.
Special thanks to Tim Lomprey for photographs of his
unbelievable 1911 K&P Calabash

Póg mo Thóin!
…which is to say,


and a joyful Easter to you all.
Christ is risen. Alleleuia!


* “The Second Chamber” [Anthony Harris], Pipes and Tobaccos 16, no. 4 (Winter 2012), 30ff.


Nate Lynn, CPG.



Picture Yourself Here.

 In the 1978 Peterson-Glass catalog, a color version of this mirror was released. The last time I visited the factory, either the original color version or this one was hanging on the wall across from Josh Burgess’s office.  CigarWorld in Germany has about 20 or so of these new/old stock mirrors left.  I haven’t yet traced when this one appeared, but if you click on the link, you can see that the mirror can be wall mounted or stood up on an attached strut.

Point-of-sale materials from the 1978 Peterson-Glass catalog

Continue Reading391. SPECIAL BULLETIN: The Shannon Air System Descends Tomorrow