360. Announcing the PPN Pipe of the Year: The XL5BC of Sherlock Holmes

Whew! I know it’s seemed like a long wait this year, but it’s almost over. The PPN 2023 Pipe of the Year should be ready to ship out in about a month. I just got a photo that says it all from Craig Hairrell, CPG, who’s been in Dublin and at the factory earning his Pilgrim Merit Badge:

Craig tells me these pipes have received their first stain but are waiting their final treatment and assembly.

If you already signed up on the Google form in June for a pipe, you’re all set.

If you signed up in June but don’t want a pipe any longer OR want to reduce your original order from 2 pipes to 1, you would really help others who do want a pipe by clicking on this form: CHANGE MY ORDER  FORM.

If you’re not already on the waiting list form and want a pipe, sign up here: PUT ME ON THE WAITING LIST FORM. I’ve shown the photo of the XL5BC to a couple of folks who’ve already said “not interested,” so getting in the queue now is a good idea.  Last year there were several who elected not to buy a pipe when they dropped, so don’t give up if you’re late to the party. Now, about that pipe:—



Appeal Factor in a Nutshell

  • First use of the “BC” or short-tapered wear-gap stem on a System in about 100 years (seriously)
  • First time the “XL5BC” stamp has been used
  • First time the Deluxe Sandblast System has appeared with this stain and finish
  • 130 serially numbered and stamped pipes
  • The Sherlock Holmes Connection


From Josh at Peterson: “On the US side, the MSRP will be $220. Regular discounts at Smokingpipes apply, so the actual price will be $176. On the EU side, the price is €190 (Irish VAT inclusive or varying a bit based on the customer’s local VAT rate). As you’ll see, this is the same price as a DeLuxe System Sandblasted.”

Check Out

As we did last year, those who are signed up for a pipe will receive a log-in code from PPN for SPC, SPE, SPC 9mm or SPE 9mm when the order is ready for purchase. Like last year, there will only be one generic photo. That’s just the only way to make a small project like this work and keep our price down. If you follow the weekly email updates from SPC and SPE, you know the sandblasting at K&P just keeps getting better, so I don’t think anyone should be disappointed. If they are, my advice is to hold on to the pipe for a year and double your money (that happened in eBay just recently).

Average Measurements and Other Details

Length: 5.50 in./140 mm.
Weight: 2.05 oz./59 gr.
Bowl Height: 2.25 in./57.15 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.69 in./42.93 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.83 in./21.08 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.57 in./39.88 mm.
Stem: P-Lip Tapered BC Vulcanite
Filter: Optional (as ordered)
Shape: Calabash XL5BC
Finish: Standard Sandblast, matt earthy two-tone
Stamps:  XL5BC
Peterson’s of Dublin
Made in Ireland in ellipse
Numbering: x / 130

The POY will include all the usual goodies for a DeLuxe System, including the silver polishing cloth, suede pipe sock and recent “Chat” brochure. It also includes a special PPN “Chat with the Smoker” created just for this year’s pipe.  The brochure features artwork by my friend Larry Gosser which he created for the big Peterson book. His amazing Of Pipes & Men is still available from Smokingpipes and I heartily recommend it (not least for the witty biographies which accompany his incredible illustrations). You can also get original artwork from him through his eBay shop. If you like his work, consider supporting Larry. As an independent artist, he’s unique in the pipe world. Original artwork can be commissioned as well. You can contact him at ldgosser@comcast.net or through his eBay shop.


Like many another Peterson fan who is simultaneously a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, I’ve long been interested in the connections between the two. For the PPN 2023 Pipe of the Year, I thought I’d see if there was in fact any way to determine if the Great Detective really smoked a Peterson Patent System and not just his film representative Basil Rathbone (discounting Jeremy Brett’s use of the 124 K&P churchwarden).

It is not perhaps as well known as it ought to be that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was the agent for John Watson’s recounting of Holmes’s cases, had a deep connection to County Waterford, Ireland: his mother Mary Foley was from Lismore. He would write in Memories and Adventures that he was “an Irishman by extraction” (p. 2).

Holmes, however, came to Kapp & Peterson’s Patented System pipe through a different route. Early this year I wrote my friends Charles Mundungus and Michael Sparks, the protagonists in The X Pipe novel I’m trying to finish, to see what they might dig up from across the pond. Charles, who owns no electronic devices beyond those used for playing his LPs, wrote back as follows:

I would add three things to what Charles and Michael report:

  • First, they didn’t touch on K&P’s London agent Arthur Colton, who did a spectacular job advertising the Patent System in all the city’s papers and many of England’s prominent magazines, as those who have a copy of the 1896 catalog facsimile to hand can attest for themselves.
  • Second, Mundungus didn’t mention that while we know why Paddy Larrigan created the c. 1984 05(b) System calabash—to replace the 05(a) dublin System—we don’t know whether he, Tony Dempsey and Jimmy Nicholson already had in mind the centenary of A Study in Scarlet and an XL version commemorative for 1987. Probably so.
  • Third and most important, just as William Gillette received the idea for using a gourd calabash in his stage portrayal from Holmes himself, so Basil Rathbone received his marching orders via Willaim Gillette when the latter visited Holmes in his rooms at 221B Baker Street.  Holmes was smoking the Peterson 4AB at the time and Gillette asked first about using it, but Holmes said he rarely took it out with him on cases, preferring the XL5BC, 12 ½ SC and 20S Systems as they fit in the Inverness coat and waistcoat more conveniently than the larger 4AB. This is one crucial piece of the Kapp & Peterson – Sherlock Holmes puzzle that has not been recovered until now.

Seen here is my guess of what Holmes’s own XL5BC might have looked like. It seems unlikely that as a one-off shape it will ever surface, but who knows?  Vulcanite rod stem bending always depends on the rod and who’s shaping it, which means that K&P stems and stem bends always vary just a bit over the decades and even by craftsman, making each unique to a particular period and factory culture. That it usually varies only “a bit” is to me remarkable in a company that has just celebrated the 125th anniversary of the P-Lip.

Armed with all this intel, I went to the Chicago Pipe Show in May to talk it over with Sykes Wilford, if I could catch him at a quiet moment at the SPC tables. When I did, he was (as always) quite enthusiastic and about eight weeks later the “AP1” arrived for approval of the design—a mark of his dedication to the project being the fact he did the blasting on the AP1 himself.

The stamping area seen above is not what the POY will receive, but I wanted you to get an idea of the area, as Jonathan Fields, factory production manager, is a perfectionist when it comes to having space for a clean, uncluttered shank stamp area.

The POY stamps will include the MADE IN IRELAND in an ellipse (the Laudisi era stamp), PPN2023 in a line (something new for us), x/130 and XL5BC:—this last being something that really makes the project special for me, as it’s the only use of the “BC” in a shank stamp other than the original 9BC Classic Range shape from the Rogers Imports Ltd. era.

What is certain is that K&P has achieved the “BC” effect I was hoping for. As you can see, not only the measured length but the visual length of the current XL5S and the XL5BC are substantially different. This in part is achieved by the BC stem being shorter. But the shortness is heightened by the “stout” effect of the tapered stem as well. (The blasted XLCAL bowl is also slightly shorter–2mm–due to the blasting.)



The XL5BC 2023 Peterson Pipe Notes POY was designed in May of 2023 at the Chicago Pipe Show by Mark Irwin and Sykes Wilford. Josh Burgess supervised production. The production group was comprised of Glen Whelan, Jonathan Fields and Sykes Wilford.  Jonathan managed production in the factory at Deargrange, Ireland, which commenced the last week of August, 2023.  Virtually every craftsman and craftswoman in the shop had a part in making the pipes. While their names are included in the “Chat” PPN brochure, I want to thank them as a group here as well.

Photo of PPPN2023 pipes at factory
courtesy Craig Hairrell






David Michael, CPG, forwarded this notice concerning a mass which was said for Charles Peterson at Stella Maris Roman Catholic Church, Sullivan’s Island, SC, on September 3rd, appropriately enough on the 125th anniversary of the final System patent. You can read the notice in the middle column at the 9:30 service. While Charles registered himself as a “Free Thinker” in the Irish census, his wife Annie and their children Soldie and Conrad were Catholic.


…and for all who read to the end,
a PG tobacco mat to celebrate the PPN Pipe of the Year:

2023 PPN Pipe of the Year XL5BC Drying Paper

Continue Reading360. Announcing the PPN Pipe of the Year: The XL5BC of Sherlock Holmes