160. The NAP Mouthpiece Roundtable, Part 1: First Impressions
“It’s like there’s nothing between me & the tobacco.”
—Shane Ireland, on the NAP Reproduction Mouthpiece
Early Saturday evening, November 2nd, just after the West Coast Pipe Show closed for the day at the Palace Station hotel and casino, several members of the NAP reproduction vetting group met in the old buffet room to talk about their experiences with Charles Peterson’s NAP Patent System pipe.
L to R: Andy Camire, Todd Becker, Shane Ireland and Rick Newcombe
The group included Silver Gray and Brad Pohlmann, the artisans responsible for re-creating the NAP mouthpiece; “Apostle of Pipes” Rick Newcombe, author of In Search of Pipe Dreams (2006) and Still Searching for Pipe Dreams (2013); Todd Becker, dba Deadmanspipes and fellow Pete Freek; Andy Camire, long-time member of the Sherlock Holmes Pipe Club of Boston; and James Foster, aka “Pylorns” on the web, writer for PipesMagazine.com and founder of the Texas Pipe Show. Shane Ireland, Director of Smokingpipes.com, received his own commissioned NAP at the show and also joined us, as well as several guests who just wanted to hear what the NAP is all about.
The conversation naturally fell into two parts—the vetting group’s experiences smoking the NAP, followed by an extensive Q&A with Silver Gray and Brad Pohlmann about the engineering of the stems.
First Impressions: Smoking the NAP Patent
Silver: This was my first time smoking a Peterson, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get Brad’s and mine done in time for the show. But I made time to do it. And my experience is that with the Peterson as a brand new pipe, I put a half bowl in it and smoked it right to the bottom. And then I ran another bowl through it, and t smoked right to the bottom. And I’m not a right-to-the-bottom kind of girl. I usually dump out the last third because I don’t like the taste of it because it gets strong at that point. But I was able to smoke it down no issue whatsoever. I am sold on this button because I think it made all the difference for me.
Brad: I have a Peterson 314 stummel my mother bought at a garage sale years ago, without a mouthpiece years ago. And I had a cheap, acrylic mouth piece made for it. As you can see, I’ve replaced it with the NAP mouthpiece. And I just finished two bowls back-to-back during the show today, and this pipe has never smoked better. I find that the NAP mouthpiece invites you to sip the smoke far more [than a traditional mouthpiece]. And because you can’t put a pipe cleaner down through it while you’re smoking it, the NAP forces you to take full advantage of the inherent design of the pipe as far as taking advantage of the military mount and absorbing the excess moisture if that happens during the smoke.
My first impressions are of the way the mouth fills with smoke: it’s evenly distributed across the mouth. And the tactile feel over the tongue with the ridges [on the clamshell button] is unique.
Rick: I like Peterson pipes, and I love the P-Lip as a change of pace. I have probably smoked one Peterson every week for more than 40 years. When I smoked the NAP mouthpiece, it was just a different experience.
On the positive side, I like the feel of it. You know, I put my tongue in it. It felt good. I seem to get more nicotine, more juice, from using the NAP mouthpiece. I find my lip somehow becomes a little “crinkly” or something—it’s dryer from the smoke going in there. But I really like it, and I’m glad to do it as an experiment. It’s fun.
Shane: One of the first nice pipes that I bought was actually a System Rustic, about 12 years ago. and I smoked it for awhile, and I don’t think I really understood the System and how to use it, being a less skilled pipe smoker in general back then. It’s something that I didn’t end up keeping, which I now regret. It’s only been in the recent past that I’ve revisited the System.
I had my NAP reproductions made for the the two System pipes that I’ve been smoking with a regular P-Lip for the past two years. I had found that the P-Lip was a really, really good way to test a fresh tobacco, like a fresh Virginia. It rounded out the smooth edges, and I was able to actually get an idea of the flavor and get a cool smoke and all that kind of stuff.
I’ve put maybe four bowls through one of the pipes that I had modified to have the NAP lip, and initially, I was struggling a little bit because I felt like I was maybe puffing a little bit too fast. It’s so open feeling. I mean, it feels somehow more open than even a cob stem. And it took a little getting used to, but I feel like it’s something a lot of us might have said was [just] a novelty from back in the day, but really it’s actually sort of ingenious. And I’m getting a lot of flavor, definitely a cool smoke.
But most notably I think is the lack of resistance. After the first couple of bowls, I think I said to Brad that it felt like there was nothing between my lips and the bowl, and there’s zero resistance. I think it feels good also: it’s an ergonomic sort of a mouthpiece. But for me the mouthpiece’s most notable feature is how wide open it is, how effortless.
You draw very little to produce a big volume of smoke. And at that point you end up smoking slower, and I think generally speaking, the slower you smoke and the cooler you smoke [and] the more flavor you’re going to get from your tobacco. It’ll be interesting over the coming months to see what kind of results I get as I get better at smoking it.
But my first impressions are that it seems even more open than a pipe where the airway is four millimeters the whole way through. It feels like a straight injection onto your palate.
Todd Becker: I agree with a lot of things that the group has been saying. I’m actually, like Mark, traditionally a P-Lip guy, and also a 9mm filter guy, surprising to a lot of people. Maybe it’s because I’m German, but I actually like a little resistance on my jaw. People have encouraged me to smoke pipes with a more open draft. And what I’ve found with this is that it’s incredible—it’s become my new favorite pipe. The mouth feel, like Shane was mentioning, somehow disperses the smoke in a way that I’ve never felt before. There’s no moisture. I’m not in need of a nine millimeter filter.
I was a bit skeptical up front: was it a novelty when it was created? Why did they create it? Why did they discontinue it? I would love to see it put into production. It’s fantastic all around. I went with the AB [tapered stem] style, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s just wide open, no moisture, smooth and enhances the flavor like Shane was saying. Just an absolutely incredible pipe all around.
Andy: I’ve been a fan of the P-Lip for probably 40 years or more. And this is the first time I’ve ever seen such a unique stylized lip on a stem. According to the drawings that we’ve seen, from the way it’s made it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. I feel like it really spreads the smoke out over your palate, and it’s effortless. I can honestly say this pipe basically smokes itself. You nearly have to sip it, and the draw is just incredible.
If I could, I’d put this on many of the pipes that I own presently. It’s just amazing, a wonderful addition to the Peterson line, and hope we can see more of it in the future.
James: I’ve only put about eight bowls through my NAP pipe. The first couple of ones, I was telling Silver earlier, burnt the tip of my tongue. But I was smoking it straight on, where the pipe was straight on.
After talking to Silver, I decided to stop and set aside some time and try again. So I came here to the lounge and I smoked it from the the corner of my mouth [rather than straight on]. For the first time, I could feel the smoke fanning out across my palate, and it was a perfect smoke all the way down. I also felt like the flavor profile changed a little bit [from the P-Lip to the NAP]. Maybe brighter, more smoke?
It was also interesting because I was paying attention to it and not engaged in conversation: it smoked perfect. Giving myself time, sitting down, being a little slower and more methodical made it work like a champ.
Mark: When Gary Malmberg sent me his original IFS NAP to smoke, the experience came as a complete surprise. My first two smokes were amazing, and then—because I’m a recovering ‘chuffer,’ I noticed something like what Rick has already mentioned, some dryness or dehydration on my lips. As a P- Lip user, I have a cadence of long, deep draws. But this kind of mouthpiece doesn’t work that way. As everyone has said, it’s for sipping, like the finest artisan engineered pipes.
The first tobacco I smoked in it was McClelland’s Dark Star, and I couldn’t get to the end of the bowl. I was two and a half hours into it and still smoking. I thought, ‘What’s going on here?’ Normally I smoke a chamber about 20mm x 42mm (the typical 309) in about two hours, but with this, I was only half way through the bowl! Shane, what is the System bowl you’ve got on the NAP stem you’re smoking? Have you noticed this phenomenon?
Shane: It’s a 317. I’m going on two hours with it now, and it’s not done. My second and third bowls ran about an hour and twenty minutes each.
Mark: What do you think accounts for the longer smoking time as compare to the P-Lip?
Shane: I think the reason is that the smoke is fanning out and you’re getting more nicotine absorption and therefore more flavor from every small sip.
And a wide open pipe does the same thing. It forces you to smoke slower because if there’s a lot of flavor and a lot of nicotine, if you’re really puffing on it, you’re going to feel it. You know what I mean?
You learn to pace yourself. I have a bunch of pipes that are about this size, group one, group two. And in most of them, if I’m smoking a Virginia Flake rubbed out completely, I can still smoke about an hour in a pipe that is 17mm x 20 mm. A lot of people kind of are surprised by that. They say, ‘A pipe like that must be a 20 minute smoke for you,’ and I’m like, ‘No, it’s about an hour.’ And it’s because of the lower puffs or beats per minute, however you want to say it.
So if you cut your cadence in half, [then you need] your smoke intake to double. And I think that’s what it is: you’re getting more nicotine than you’re used to in every puff of the NAP. And you’re getting more flavor than you’re used to in every puff, which also has something to do with it.
Mark: That makes complete sense to me. I feel totally satiated about half-way through the bowl. I find myself just putting it down, saying ‘Okay. That’s it. I’m done,’ and I’m the kind of guy who lights his P-Lip System after supper and smokes ’til bedtime, 2 ½ or 3 hours straight. But I can’t do that with the NAP. It’s a much-higher octane experience.
NAP Roundtable: Q&A on Engineering the Mouthpiece
If you’re interested in obtaining a NAP reproduction mouthpiece,
contact Silver Gray at email@example.com
Thanks to everyone who participated in the NAP Project
Roundtable photography by Marie Irwin
Special thanks to Truett Smith, lead copywriter at Smokingpipes.com,
for providing a transcript of the NAP roundtable recording;
additional pipe photography by Chas. Mundungus