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To all of us at SHPC, the Kaywoodie Holiday party and Northeast Regional Slow Smoke Contest is the highlight of our year and this year’s event was no exception. Things got a little bigger this year and Bill had to do some expanding to accommodate everyone. Every year is like a mini pipe show but this year even more so. Along with the regularly attending pipe makers and sellers, like Kaywoodie (of course), Paul Bonacquisti, Andy Camarie, Tim Hynick, Joe Skoda, Bob Kiess and Rolando Negoita we were also very pleased to find in attendance, Steve Monjure from Monjure International and Harold Suretsky and Bob Herbert. There were so many pipe sellers this year that Bill had to give them their own room which, along with moving the food table to a new location, helped to decrease the congestion of main function room.
I was up early, showered and on my way to meet Tim at our usual meet up spot at the Mobile station on Rt. 128. Four of us were supposed to be riding up together but Rick and Mark both got sick and could not make it. Neil and Pete were also driving up separately as were Eric and Merrick and Bob and Derek. Periodically we’d check in with each other by phone to check our locations since we had all planned to meet at the I 84 Diner for lunch and surprisingly, we all made it there within fifteen minutes of each other. After lunch it was just a short 30 minute drive to Kaywoodie. Once inside we found a seat, said our hellos and then went into the back room to get Tim’s pipes set up.
Monjure was already there with a nice selection of Rinaldo, Brebbia and
Ardor pipes, just to name a few. We set Tim up next to Rolando Negoita
who was already set up and had on display the prototype to his new Conducta
line of pipes which was created with the gourd calabash in mind by having
two chambers, a tobacco chamber along with a cooling chamber which is
said will produce a cooler smoke and act as a filter of sorts to reduce
the amount of chemicals that come through in the smoke. The cooling chamber
collects some of the residue from the smoke and can be easily cleaned
out with a paper towel. There are currently a couple of these available
site if you’re interested.
the main function area, Paul Bonacquisti and Andy Camire were set up in
their usual spot, in the corner right in front of the cabinet where all
the Scotch is kept. Both had a nice selection of new and estate pipes
for sale. Also in their usual spot in one of the rooms off the main area,
there was a nice selection of Kaywoodie pipes available as well.
Everyone looked like they were having a great time and it was easy to understand why. You've heard the Christmas song "Toyland" well this here was called "Pipeland" and as the song goes.... "once you dwell within it you are ever happy there," definitely holds true in this situation. We all made the rounds numerous times and each time finding a pipe we missed the last time 'round. But soon the smells of sausages, peppers, olive oil and lasagna filled there air and the food line began to queue up quickly followed by that unmistaken sound of silence that comes when people forget all else except for the plate of the food in front of them. Not even the clinking of silverware was heard (mostly because it was all plastic).
The day was waning quickly and we still had a long drive before us but not before partaking in the main event of the day. With bellies full we cleared our tables to make just enough room in front of us for the 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper, a brand new Kaywoodie contest pipe, a wooden tamper, a matchbox with two matches and 3 grams of Fireside tobacco provided by Park Lane Tobacconist that were about to be handed out to all contestants. This was the biggest contest group we'd seen at this event and getting everyone supplied with all their contest items took some time but at last we were ready to begin.
Before the contest got underway Bob Kiess of Dr. Bob Pipes told the group of his recent conversation with Louise Jones. As many of you are aware, Louise's husband Jay Jones, an icon at many pipe shows, passed away unexpectedly in November. They were scheduled to attend this event before this unfortunate tragedy took place. Apparently Louise is holding up well and thanks everyone for their thoughts and prayers. She also intends to keep the business going and continue to attend pipe shows. We were all happy to hear she is doing ok and thank Bob for the update.
So now the time has come. All contest supplies have been distributed, the rules have been made clear and the signal has been given to fill your pipes. This year's contest pipe was a rusticated saddle bit bulldog that accepted the 3 grams of tobacco with little if any room left for an additional strand of tobacco. I had a chance to sample some of the contest blend prior to the contest so I thought I had a clear advantage over the others. Well at least I was sure I knew the tobacco was enjoyable. By now our 5 minutes were up and it was time to light up. Vernon Vig gave the order to light our pipes and the challenge was underway. Puff after puff the room began to fill with smoke (my personal favorite part of the contest aside from winning of course, but I've yet to experience that).
Neil Morris, who has become the official SHPC club photographer of late, did not participate in the competition and instead took some video of the event. I hope to put a video clip together for the February gazette but as of now I have not had the time. Neil Morris has also done quite a good job of putting together a number of excellent tobacco blends all of which are named after items or places found in the Sherlock Holmes stories. Many of his blends have already received some excellent reviews. These blend are not yet in production but one of these days they will be and will be a guaranteed hit. So keep a look out for Warm Briar Tobaccos at your favorite online tobacconist because they WILL be there..... eventually.
Ok, enough of the advertisement and back to the contest. But since we're on the topic of tobacco... we're just a few minutes into the contest and this Fireside blend sure doesn't taste the same as the bowl I had earlier. My tongue is on FIRE! Possibly due to the fact that this contest pipe is not broken in yet. Finally, 10 minutes in and I can take a well earned drink. 11 minutes and 29 seconds pass and the first person goes out. Wow! That was quick. Shortly after, another, then another. I'm starting to get a little worried... why is everybody going out so quickly? Then Tim, sitting right next to me goes out. Damn! I'm trying something a little different this year, I'm stoking the tobacco a bit more often. Possibly the reason why my tongue is on fire. About ten more minutes pass by, I'm puffing along without a care.... then I must have blinked wrong or something because I puffed and nothing happened. What the hell's going on here, I was blowing tons of smoke a second ago? Puff, puff, tamp, tamp, puff, tamp, puff, tamp. Damn! Nothing. I raise my had and sadly say.... "I'm out."
Left and right people were dropping like flies. I don't remember seeing them go quite this quick before. But then, around the thirty minute mark things seemed to slow down some and the contest was back on in earnest. None of us from SHPC were ever real contenders in this one but a few of us had a good showing. Derek had the best time for our group finishing at 30:43. But he's been laid up recouping from an operation so he's done nothing but smoke for the past month. I'm not sure but somehow I think that could be considered cheating :-).
This was also the first year I didn't finish the contest tobacco after I was out, my tongue just couldn't take it this year. But I knew it had nothing to do with the tobacco and I purchased a few ounces to bring home with me and am already down to the last few bowls. Come to think of it, I think I'll take a break from this and grab a bow of Fireside right now. Be right back.............. Now that's more like it. For a short review of the new tobaccos I tried today, see the main newsletter page for Jan 2012.
We're getting close to an hour and only a few contestants left. Pretty soon it's down to Rob Garbarino from Hudson Valley and Mike "Doc" Garr from the Pocono Club. Rob has won this contest before but so has Doc but Doc seems to have really figured this thing out lately. He won the 2011 U.S. National Slow Smoking Championships and placed 69th out of over 325 at the World Cup Pipe Smoking Contest held in Eindhoven, NL this year. More minutes passed until that final wisp of smoke slowly floated from the contenders bowl and we had a new winner for 2012.
Sadly, the contest prizes were not quite what that have been in the past. There was some club clothing, some tobacco, and a pen set to name some of the more attractive prizes but this year's most sought after prize was provided by the Sherlock Holmes Pipe Club of Boston. SHPC donated one of their 2011 club pipes by Mastro Beraldi which was quickly claimed by this year's winner. Although there was only a picture of the pipe available at the contest because the pipes had not arrived from Italy in time, they have since been received and the winner is now in possession of his pipe and says it's a great smoke..
Those of us from SHPC did not stick around to claim a prize or for the
awards ceremony since we had a long drive ahead of us so we packed up
our belongings, said our goodbyes and headed back to Boston.
Oh wait...... I guess I never actually told you who this years winner was did I? You'll just have to view the winners list to find out.
I'd like to thank Bob and Neil for taking photos and video throughout the day.
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