The Caminetto Story: Ascorti, Radice and their more business-like partner…

When passion guides your hands, you are bound to create something incredible. Such is the story of Caminetto/Ascorti.

If you have followed these posts of late, you will know already that Italy is one of the most famous countries for pipe making. This is further proof. Get ready; we are going back to the Sixties.

Just before the decade began, Giuseppe Ascorti started his path to pipe-maker supreme in 1959 when he joined Castello. At the time, Carlo Scotti was the owner. Perseverance and talent immediately meant Ascorti stood out as an impressive, prospective pipe maker. A year later, Giuseppe’s wife acquired the family-owned business, which allowed him to invest in his own workshop.

Ascorti then met Luigi Radice while working at Castello and they decided to open a business together. It was now 1968. In the early days, one of the first to support “Ascorti & Radice” was Gianni Davoli, owner of a tobacco shop in Milan. Davoli understood the value of the duo’s pipes and decided to send some samples to his connections in the United States. The pipes were a success, and Davoli asked to be the sole international distributor. And so Caminetto was born.

Incidentally, you might wonder about the origins of the name. As always, there is a  mythical story behind it. According to legend, Ascorti, Radice and Davoli were sitting by the fireplace one evening and enjoying their pipes and some wine. During this quality time, Davoli had the idea of associating the pipes with the fireplace’s chimney, the word for which in Italian is “caminetto”.

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(Indeed, there is more to the name than just where the founders rested up. Davoli made a more profound connection. In Italian, the bottom part of the pipe bowl is called “Fornello” or “Focolare”. A “Focolare” is, like caminetto, also a word that Italians use to describe the fireplace. Perhaps Davoli made that connection or maybe he simply compared the bowl of the pipe to a chimney. Whatever the truth, the trio became famous and called themselves “I Tre Camini”, which means “the three chimneys”. The company’s logo is a moustache, and legend maintains that this is a homage to the company founders, as Ascorti and Radice sported a large moustache. In time, naturally enough with the competitive natures involved as you will read ahead, Davoli followed suit).

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To promote the company, Davoli started focussing on his strengths: namely marketing. Castello pipes were extremely popular at that time, but they were difficult to find and expensive because of the production scale. Davoli started to promote Caminetto pipes as an alternative to Castello pipes, offering the same quality and care, and attention to detail, but at around half the price. The primary seller in America was The Tinder Box International (TTBI), which was highly successful at distributing and promoting the Caminetto pipes, which would ultimately become the Ascorti. (They remain listed on the Tinder Box website). Thanks to the excellent work of Ascorti and Radice, and the collaboration between Davoli and TTBI, Caminetto became hugely popular, worldwide.

At the same time as this welcome success, popularity brought high demand. The artisans soon reached what to them were the absolute production limits. The whole family got involved, and, from almost childhood, Roberto Ascorti (the current owner) started to help in the workshop. To maintain the company at the top, Davoli invested a large sum of money in machinery (and on the back of this became a co-owner). In 1973,  Davoli became the major shareholder of the company, and continued success saw demand grow from 3,000 pipes a year to 7,000 with Davoli celebrated as the “Master pipe maker, designer and sole creator of the Caminetto”.

Ultimately, the seventies proved a peak for Caminetto. The increase in production forced the brand to move toward a streamlined manufacturing process, which meant that Radice had to give up his artistic approach to pipe making. As can happen, the increase in output threatened quality standards, and Radice was concerned about this. Ascorti shared his concern, not least as they had based their whole lives on producing high-quality art pieces. Undeterred, Davoli allegedly insisted on focusing on the production volumes.

The end was nigh. After attending art school and his military service, Roberto Ascorti wanted to start his own pipe-making path and his father, Giuseppe, wanted him to join the company. Davoli apparently fought against it because with Roberto in the company he feared losing his grip amid a new Ascorti alliance. By 1979, the rift was irreparable when foreseen quality issues arose in America. Moreover, Castello threatened legal action on the grounds of copyright infringements.

For the artisans, it was the breaking point. Radice was a mere employee in the company, and Ascorti had little power, with Davoli maintaining complete control over Caminetto. The founders departed and, with “I tre Camini” disbanded at the end of the year, Radice was without prospects and Ascorti had a workshop but no company.

We have a happy ending of sorts. Loyalty and good manners paid off in the end as the crew that Ascorti trained through the years followed him to join a new establishment. Giuseppe and Roberto Ascorti founded their own company, “Ascorti.” At the same time, Radice managed to establish himself in 1980 as an independent pipe maker. In the following years, he prospered, and to this day, his pipes can be found worldwide and praised for the quality and care for details.

And Davoli? Not only did he lose the main backbone of the company he also lost the workshop from a fire which reduced the building to ashes. With no artisans, no workshop, and no designs, as well as quality issues, the golden era of Caminetto came to an end, consumed by the flames.

The Ascorti family kept working on their new venture. This included reviving the Caminetto name in 1986. In all, new pipes with improved design but with the same care for details and standards of quality on which his father always insisted.

To this day, Ascorti still follows the founders’ principles; in short, fine briar, incredible detail, and astonishing designs. With a Caminetto/Ascorti pipe, it doesn’t matter where you are in your pipe smoking life. You will immediately appreciate them and enjoy beautiful smokes. Keep an eye on our catalogue because you might join the small group of lucky collectors to own a pipe that is not only a beautifully crafted art piece but also a statement of talent and perseverance.

As the Italians say, and I have also said of late, la prosima volta. Meaning, until next time.

Christian

Lorenzetti, a look at Italy’s pipe heritage.

Consider the family history of Lorenzetti and you will also glimpse Italy at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The founding father of this historic name, Otello Lorenzetti, was born in 1911 in Castelnuovo, Recanati. He was not only an entrepreneur but also a creative man with many passions.

Like many other natives, he was from a big family. In his case, he was the fifth child. The family-owned a tavern where he started to work from the age of seven. He would go to nearby St. Agostino and purchase fizzy drinks to resell at the bar.

His story is not uncommon for Italians of the same generation. He could not finish his studies and had to start working when he was a child.  He did at least have the chance to develop his passion for singing and attended the School of Singing “Cantorum” at 12. He maintained this love of music for the rest of his life.

Lorenzetti’s first formal job was at a pipe manufacture in Recanati. Here he began to develop the notion of establishing his own pipe company. At 18, this dream went on hold as there was compulsory military service in Cividale for those of his age, with Lorenzetti leaving Italy for service in Africa. He returned in 1937.

That year, he founded his pipe company called “Otello Lorenzetti“. He was able to produce around 20 to 30 pipes a day, a remarkable number considering the only tools he had were rented from local craftsmen. Like many businesses in their early stages, Lorenzetti was both the founder and maker, as well as chief salesperson. He would spend mornings on his bicycle going shop by shop in the surrounding cities to sell his pipes and then back to work in the afternoon. In the evening and late into the night he would make his new set of pipes. It was a lot of work, but he was fuelled by his passion and love for the craft. So, if you like, a labour of love.

The year of 1940 was, like three years earlier, a key 12 months for Otello. Foremost, he married Marinella, who was not only the love of his life but an important business collaborator. He luckily escaped harm in the Second  World War in which he served from 1940.

After the war, in 1947  Otello built pipe-making machines with a view to expanding production and range. He also bought a “Vespa” (could anything be more Italian?). Thanks to his new acquisition, he managed  to grow the business further with some direct marketing on wheels, horsepowered

International acclaim followed in the Sixties and Seventies. Lorenzetti pipes during these decades mark the years in which the brand became international, proving popular across Europe, America, and Africa.  At this point, the whole family became involved in the business. By the Eighties, Lorenzetti had become a well-known brand, cherished by many, and the founding father’s creations were part of many famous pipe collections, including that of Sandro Pertini, who served as president of Italy.

Since this golden age, Lorenzetti has become a brand of the most selectively minded that offers high-quality pipes with impeccable designs. If you want a chance to own a part of Italy’s history, check out our selection on the Cgars website, and you will surely find a new companion and loyal amino.

Until next time, or as the Italians say, la prosima volta.

Christian

Ardbeg 19 Traigh Bhan Batch 3

 

I am so happy to have received our shipment of this limited-release Ardbeg. A bottling born during what was a global lockdown, this is definitely one for the history books. Leave it to Ardbeg to create something so delicious in the midst of such an uncertain time.

 

The third batch of this extremely rare 19-year-old is inspired by the “Singing Sands” of Islay, Traigh Bhan beach. When the wind blows there, the sand is whipped around creating a sound that is almost like voices.

Ardbeg 19 Years Old Traigh Bhan Batch 3 - 46.2% 70cl

To make the whisky, casks – American oak and Oloroso sherry – taken from the deep, dark corners of Ardbeg’s warehouse are brought into the light of day. Then the whisky is matured in these casks which creates a wonderful balance. Changes are subtle from batch to batch. Overall, in this incarnation, you will be getting, on the whole, a spicier dram (which certainly suits me!).

 

As the distillery maintains: “In Ardbeg Traigh Bhan Batch 3, faint waves of scented woodsmoke mingle with sea spray and pine resin. Decidedly more spicy than previous batches, wisps of aniseed toffee and cayenne pepper follow on the breeze, while citrus laps over notes of fresh lilies. With a splash of water, waxy notes and charcoal flow into droplets of classic Sherry and linseed oil. A rush of rich, sappy textures is followed moments later by classic, sweet smokiness. Tarry rope and treacle toffee plunge the palate into the second wave of soot and aniseed twists. Smoke bobs on the horizon, while smoked brown sugar, walnuts, and spices gently dissolve away. A long, unhurried finish carries bitter almonds and clove in its wake, before slowly drifting away.”

 

The great whisky sage, Dr. Bill Lumsden, adds: “Batch 3 is an extraordinary dram. Different from its predecessor in far more than just taste, this 19-year-old is a first for Ardbeg and a collector’s dream.”

 

For all the fancy packaging that can accompany an Ardbeg release, you can rest assured that the liquid accompanying the pretty wrapping is top-notch. Like almost every limited edition from Ardbeg, the collectors are sure to snap up quickly what is available. So grab this, and other fantastic Ardbeg releases, on our site. You’ll be able to find some rare options if you look now.

Elijah

Bulleit Bourbon Cocktail and Recipe

 

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Pomegranate Molasses & The Shade Maker

We thought we would do something a little different with this week’s cocktail. So, what’s better than just a great cocktail? Answer; an equally delicious meal to accompany that cocktail! The recipe I have for you here comes from the fine folks at Bulleit Bourbon, and it seems that they also have great chefs on hand! I made this the other night and it was so delicious. For me, the chicken caught my eye. Moreover, you don’t need to follow the recipe, line for line.

First the cocktail.

The Shade Maker

 

Ingredients:

 

  • Bulleit Bourbon (one part)
  • Unsweetened coconut milk (one part)
  • Pineapple juice (one part)
  • Simple syrup (a half-part)
  • Fresh lemon juice (a three-quarter part)
  • Ice (12-14 ounces/340-400 grams)

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and then blend at a high setting.

Now for that meal.

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Pomegranate Molasses

Ingredients:

  • Four chicken thighs
  • Four tablespoons of Cajun spice mix
  • A pomegranate (or just the seeds if easiest)
  • Two tablespoons of olive oil
  • Fresh green beans
  • A half-cup of hazelnuts (for toasting)
  • A quarter-cup of molasses
  • Water (one eighth of a cup)
  • Salt (a teaspoon)
  • Garlic (a half teaspoon, chopped)

Instructions:

  • If needs be, remove the pomegranate seeds.
  • Preheat the grill.
  • Season both sides of the chicken thighs with Cajun spice mix.
  • Grill the thighs for five to seven minutes on one side on a medium-high heat, then turn the chicken and cook for a further four to five minutes.
  • Add hazelnuts to a non-oiled pan, then toast for two to three minutes while the chicken thighs are cooking.
  • Add molasses, water, and half of the pomegranate seeds to the saucepan with the roasting hazelnuts. Bring to a boil and reduce by half, which should take about five minutes.
  • Remove the toasted hazelnuts from the pan and break them up. (NB: A tip from Brian Jupiter also known as “Chef Jup”: use the widest part of your knife to push down on half a dozen nuts at a time using the bottom of your palm).
  • Remove the chicken thighs from the grill when cooked through, then set aside to rest.
  • Add green beans to the pan used for hazelnuts, and sauté them with ga Then add the remaining pomegranate seeds and toasted hazelnuts, cooking everything for five to six minutes.
  • To plate up, place the green beans down first, with the chicken thighs next, on top. To complete, drizzle with pomegranate molasses.

 

Yamazaki 18

There are quite a few whiskies and different spirits over which people just drool. In my opinion, some are not worth all the hype. Indeed, you could say the same about much of our world today. Moreover, much is subjective. That all said, this 18-year-old whisky from Yamazaki is one that definitely lives up to heightened expectations. It is far from a budget whisky, but ,if you are looking for something for your top shelf, this is an amazing contender.

Yamazaki is Suntory’s flagship single malt, from Japan’s first and oldest malt distillery. Not only does the distillery, located in an idyllic location of south-western Kyoto at the foot of a mountain, contain so much history, the whisky could be a bottled version of Japan’s soul. The natural waters and environment are, together, a whisky-making utopia.

This Yamazaki is both rich and delicate. The balance achieved in this whisky is incredible, with deeply rich fruits and dark chocolate leading you into a long, drawn-out, malty-spice finish.

If you’re looking for a beautifully-crafted treat, this might be one for you. An exciting dram for any occasion.