Richmond C.O.R.P.S. Pipe Show Revisited
By Andy Camire
Steve Smith, former Secy. of SHPC and current employee of LJ Peretti Co. joined me in Richmond, Virginia for the annual CORPS show for another spectacular time of pipe and tobacco nirvana.
The show begins officially on Friday evening with a wonderful buffet which is gratis to all attendees and persons displaying at the show. Complimentary tobacco samples from Altadis are given to each person and a great time is had by all. By estimate the banquet hall was filled and there were at least 300 people attending the event and every face present expressed happiness for the occasion.
This year was a special event honoring Wm. Ashton Taylor of Ashton Pipe fame celebrating 25 years of Ashton Pipes and Ian Walker of Northern Briars celebrating 50 years in the pipemaking trade. It was a grand celebration for sure with each celebrant giving a short speech about their business adventures topped off with a superb cake in their honor for everyone to enjoy.
As usual after the buffet many hotel rooms are open late into the night to show/trade/sell pipes and to visit with missed friends, and many visitors took advantage of the early business transactions and to socialize until wee hours of the morning.
There was also a Charatan Focus Group which takes place twice a year, once here in Richmond and again in Chicago. Any person interested in the finest of straight grain pipes is invited to attend where much information regarding the Charatan Pipe is discussed and many examples displayed for examination and historical information. Awards are given for the best in their respective grading. I happened to be fortunate and awarded for displaying the Best “After Hours" Charatan. During the meeting the President's gavel was passed from current President Paul Bender to Tad Gage who will take the helm in our quest to commemorate the Charatan Pipe. The array of Charatan's at this event is nothing short of spectacular with some of the most expensive and highly grained pipes ever produced in the world. During the late 1960's Charatan held the spotlight for a single pipe which was valued at $10,000.00!!!! Compare that in today's dollars and it would be an incredible sum.
During the late afternoon each day we have a meeting of the ISMSS. (International Single Malt Scotch Society) founded by Bob Swanson (Perry White Pipes) and Dennis Congos, both known internationally for their Charatan Collections and their fondness for the fine Malt libation. A prerequisite for attending the ISMSS is that each attendee only be allowed entry if they bring along a fine bottle Single Malt to share. What a great opportunity to sample some of the finest examples of this delicious whisky. And you can only imagine how we all discuss many of the hot topics of the day (pipe wisdom) and solve most of the world’s problems. This is definitely one of the days’ most important and informative meetings :-)
Saturday morning the show opens to the public at 9 a.m. and the lines out the door awaiting entry are long. The hall is just spectacular with tables overflowing with every imaginable pipe, tobacco, and related material. This year as always, the show is filled with enthusiastic patrons and vendors AND WE CAN SMOKE in the hall without any problems to enjoy the vast array of blends available to sample. Hundreds of them. And if you can't find what suits your fancy here at the show it doesn't exist. From the current line of fine English and American tobaccos to the vintage, aged, and highly sought after tins of yesteryear.
My estimate was that all 70+ tables were sold and just about anything that your tobacco or pipe appetite desires could be found here. Lucky for moi I acquired two estate Charatan Pipes to add to my collection and two new Kaywoodie POY (pipe of the year) Poker shaped pipes for 2008 which are IMHO the best buy in pipes on the planet. These Handmade Pipes are nothing short of extraordinary and smoke like a dream. I can't praise Bill Feuerbach and the S.M. Frank Co. enough for producing such a super smoking pipe, and the history of this company is amazing dating back over a hundred fifty years.
Steve Smith, a.k.a. Mr. Sasieni displayed his wonderful collection of Sasieni Pipes which was just amazing to see after being absent for so many years. Interested folks stopped by to view and acquire some of Steve's knowledge concerning this historical make of pipe. And Steve was also quite overjoyed to add a few more pieces to his vast collection at this show especially a Four Dot King Sized Billiard that was in spectacular condition.
Saturday evening after the show a group of us including yours truly, Steve Smith, Bob Swanson, Paul Bender, Peter Heeschen, Dr. Bob Keiss, and our Florida friends Pete Prygelski, Larry Lampner, and pipemaker Rob Cipolla all visited Crab Louie's for dinner. Seafood at it's finest and a superb time was had by all, an annual event that we all look forward to enjoying. Then back to the hotel for more camaraderie, and socializing late into the night.
We all converged on Bob Swanson's hotel room and were joined by Wm. Ashton Taylor and Ian Walker and his wife along with many other revelers to toast the anniversaries of Taylor and Walker with a fine bottle of Single Vineyard Vintage Port. Quite an occasion that I'll never forget, enjoying such great company and celebrating with the pipe worlds finest folks. After a very short discussion about U.S.A. and British politics, Bill Taylor was quick to start telling some of his hilarious quips along with Ian Walker that kept us laughing for hours.
Sunday brought more of the same wonderful times to enjoy. I can never get enough of the pipe scene and Richmond in particular holds something special for me. It was the first big pipe event that I ever attended over 20 years ago and to this day is still my favorite show of the year. The hospitality is unequalled, the people most courteous, friendly and accommodating. The show is large but not overwhelming and the welcoming we receive each and every year from the CORPS and Linwood Hines is incredible. My heartfelt thanks go to Linwood Hines for all he has done for the Pipe Community in bringing us all together for all these years. A more amicable and dedicated Pipe Professional you will never meet.
Steve and I are already looking forward to the coming year when we can again enjoy the best times a pipe person can experience and only wish that more of our SHPC members will join us in celebration of the pipe.
Best to All,
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