Eulogy of the small pipe

– why a small pipe can be a great pipe –

small pipe

Small pipe


In the last decades smokers have witnessed a trend (fashion?) that was believed to be unstoppable: dimensions and weight escalation of many pipe models, especially the hand-crafted ones.

This seems to us something that contrasts with the needs of space and time that today’s life grants: unless we buy a right handbag we can’t always carry 60-80 grams or more of wood. And then, what is a bowl that can be filled with three, four or five grams of tobacco for? It theoretically would last hours and hours and tire even a champion.

It is a trend – like many – that we got from the Americans.

There, where everything expresses itself on a large scale, from cars to skyscrapers, from distances to people’s sizes and wallets, even the pipe conforms.

But if we look at the heart of Old Europe (The Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Scandinavia, France, Germany, Austria and specially the homeland of the well-informed smokers of traditional pipes, England) the small pipe has always had the greatest favor and is considered stylish, sophisticated and classy. If its brand is renowned the pipe becomes a bijou, a miniature, a little jewel. Obviously the important elements must be: the model, the quality, the finish, the mouthpiece and the band made of precious or wrought metal.

Another factor that leads to choosing small pipes is the price of tobaccos, influenced by two things: quality and taxation. If we take into consideration some blends available today, that are deemed to be “whole” because they were studied to balance all the specific characteristics of the components, here you have to agree that with a few grams you have great satisfaction.

How’s the situation in Italy? Are pipes smokers’ tastes changing? Can we say that “small is beautiful”? Or “small but good”?

Yes, as it seems. There’s no need to make use of expert analysis or market surveys: one need only to look around. In the shops, on the streets, in the mouths of people (not to stress teeth and mandibles) small pipes dominate. At least in the active, daytime life, made of continual transfers, stressful moments, extended commitments, responsibilities, concentration, spaced out by short breaks or alternated to hectic entertainments, smokes keep decreasing – in granted places and permitted times – naturally in containers that are adequate to the weight and size.

Of course large, admirable pipes and unique examples of striking quality will continue to exist: they will still be bought and added to our collections, but set aside to be smoked on special occasions, when adequate time’s on our hands, at the Club or on holidays.

To those who ask us what criterion to follow when choosing light or small pipes, we say there are mainly two:

a) short or “compact” pipes: nosewarmers, curved, small Hungarian pipes, Lollo, foldable pipes. Among these are models with regular-sized bowls.

b) slender pipes, with a short or thin bowl, a fine, thin shank which is always elegant: small Dublin’s, woodstocks, billiards, pots, facets and opal layered pipes, apples, Prince of Wales, genovesine. All pipes weighing under 30/40 grams are called featherweight, but there are also some excellent pipes of 20 and less grams.

Antonio Paolo Paronelli