Charatan

Today, I will talk about a brand that set new standards for the market many times and is now re-emerging from the shadow: Charatan.

The story begins in London (1863), more precisely in Masell Street, where Frederick Charatan, a Russian immigrant, opened his shop in which he sold his own Meerschaum pipes. The business quickly bloomed, and the artisan relocated to a more extensive facility in Prescot Street. Around the same time Charatan changed location, the news about the discovery of briar’s quality started to spread. The crafter quickly embraced the new material and started to carve briar pipes. Charatan is known to be the first brand to have pipes completely handmade, mouthpiece included. “Charatan‘s Make,” a new term, was coined to distinguish the brand’s creation from the rest. “The rest” were pipes that were assembled from already made mouthpieces and pre-drilled bowls.

Charatan rapidly became the standard to match. Dunhill (if you remember in my previous post) based his entire brand on high-quality products and wanted to have Charatan‘s creations in his shop. For 2 years, Dunhill paid high prices just to sell the best of Charatan‘s products. As we know, Dunhill was a brilliant businessman and lured away Joel Sasieni ( one of Charatan‘s best carvers) and opened his own workshop in Duke Street.
The business kept growing, and in 1910 Reuben Charatan succeeded his father. In the early 50s, Herman G.Lane tried to expand his business in Great Britain and approached Charatan. He became the sole distributor in the US in 1955 and pushed Charatan popularity to new heights. A new milestone was reached by Charatan in 1960; they were the first to sell pipes over $100. Sadly 2 years later, Reuben Charatan passed away, and his widow sold the company to Lane.
The end of the 70s marks the end of Charatan‘s success; the brand’s fame and renewed quality declined when in 1978, the company was sold to Dunhill, and in 1982 Prescot street factory was closed.


The brand’s success was long gone and Dunhill decided to sell the brand to James B. Russuel Inc. in 1988. The pipes were now made in Saint-Claude, allegedly by Butz-Choquin. Even though the new Charatan was good, their pipes were mere copies of what they used to be. Sadly, the market did not welcome the recent Charatan reiteration, and the business failed.
In 2002 J.B. Russel went out of business, and Dunhill re-acquired Charatan. Colin Fromm was appointed to produce pipes now to re-establish the old glory.
Tor acquired the right from Dunhill to produce tobacco products under the Charatan label and reintroduced the timeless pipe tobacco line once made by Dunhill to the market.
Charatan’s pipes are once again beautifully crafted, with classic shapes and refined finishes. If you are looking for an elegant and reliable companion to accompany you on your next adventure this winter, you might want to check our online selection. It will not disappoint you.
While you are there, also check the Charatan’s pipe tobacco line.

Alla prossima volta!

Chris.

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

Falcon pipes: inspired by the cloud and engineered to perfection

Kenly Bugg was an Indiana-based engineer who few might remember today. We do because in 1936, inspired by the clouds above him, he invented a pipe – the Falcon – that would revolutionise the industry. His design featured an aluminium body that was both light and also offering high-quality heat dispersion. The bowl he consequently crafted out of briar wood and then docked onto the aluminium body created a chamber called the “Humidome”. Smoke reaching this chamber cools down and creates droplets of humidity that sit at the bottom. Unscrew the bowl while smoking and you have the clean, dry smoke for which Falcon Pipes are renowned.

From prototype to production, the first Falcon came to the market in 1940. At the same time, the Second World War was unfolding, which meant heavy restrictions on the manufacturing of non-essentials products. The relatively small number of Falcon products made, as a result, were sold solely through American Armed Forces “Service” outlets.
With peace, the wider world was able to access the Falcon range thanks to George Hunt, whose Diversey Machine Works, took over the name. Sales of Falcon pipes steadily increased thanks to Hunt’s efforts at managing the signature designs. By 1954, sales in America of Falcon products topped six million and two years later, after a long legal battle, the patent rights passed to Hunt.
The year before this, in 1955, Falcon pipes finally arrived in the UK. David Morris, chairman and managing director at A. Lewis LDT, caught sight of a Falcon pipe during a football match at Wembley and organised a test run in the UK, which was a great success and cleared the way for domestic production.
At first, licensing problems limited the sales of Falcon pipes in Britain. In 1962, Morris purchased the world distribution rights (excluding North America) and a Falcon factory in Shepherd’s Bush was soon producing 10,000 pipes a week. A year later, production moved to Brentford, to accommodate the high demand, and by the end of the decade this was servicing global appetite for Falcon pipes, including North America, the rights for which Morris finally secured.
A final innovation in 1977 allowed Falcon users to detach their mouthpieces and insert a filter. The Alco Universal Filter Pipe arrived two years later. This was a pipe designed for the first-time pipe smokers, featuring a new mouthpiece with a grooved bite. Falcon pipes are interesting to own, especially if your tobacco of choice is aromatic. They are slim, light and highly customisable. Once you have a frame, you can change the bowl, depending on the occasion. I’ve seen briar bowls lined with meerschaum, or 100%-meerschaum bowls for an extra-dry smoke. I personally own a couple of Falcon International pipes, which never disappoint and are a statement pieces that will always be noticed. Head over to our selection, and you will see for yourself.
Enjoy choosing a new pipe, whether your first or adding to a collection.

Until next time.

Christian

Alfred Dunhill Pipes

 

Alfred Dunhill was a great businessman and entrepreneur, constantly reinventing the saddlery company he inherited from his father in 1893 through diversification. He had a keen eye for business and the customer’s needs, and, of course, moved from saddlery into a wide range of fields, not least tobacco and pipes.

The Alfred Dunhill name today remains widely respected thanks to the foundations the founding father established now more than a century ago. The move into tobacco began in 1907. That year, the first Alfred Dunhill tobacco shop opened, on Duke Street in London. This outlet quickly became the epicentre of a booming business that today is known throughout the world. The shop sold hand-blended tobaccos, cigars and Dunhill-made cigarettes, as well as French and English pipes.

Amid many other competing draws, the tobacco business was of great interest to Alfred Dunhill without him claiming any expertise. At the same time, after opening on Duke Street, he quickly realised that there was a gap in the market. Namely high-end, handmade tobacco pipes and bespoke tobacco blends. So an opportunity but also a challenge.

The key to establishing himself as a fresh presence was to achieve a new standard of quality. His first step towards earning a reputation for excellence was to be recognised as a tobacco specialist. He started to create blends for his customers and kept a book called “My Mixtures”. It shows today how Alfred tailored service to his customers’ needs with an offering reputedly of more than 36,000 different tobacco blends. Notable clients listed in order books include Queen Victoria and the writer, JB Priestley.

From tobacco, Alfred Dunhill moved onto pipes. Dissatisfied with the quality that was available on the market, Alfred began making his own pipes in 1910 using the finest briar available. These were priced accordingly and this approach meant customers had the strong sense of the quality and worth to an Alfred Dunhill product, compared to lower-quality pipes with a short shelf-life. With “Dunhill, Duke Street, S.W.” stamped on their sides (ahead of 1930, when a shape chart was introduced that used numbers and letters with each pipe marked to help a customer identify the size and shape), Alfred Dunhill pipes were a contrast to the norm and expected to last a lifetime on the back of innovations such as aluminium tubes. These were inserted into the pipe stem that, ahead of the invention of pipe cleaners,  allowed the user to replace this part of the mechanism when the pipe became blocked.

Alfred Dunhill’s next step was to refine the process of the tobacco blends. In 1912, he focused on creating Dunhill signature tobacco. He started with Royal Yacht, Cuba and Durbar. In the same year, he also introduced the Alfred Dunhill “white spot”. Dunhill‘s customers were experiencing difficulties when re-assembling their straight pipes, so the designs began to feature a white spot on the top of the stem to help them align the parts. This spot, known then among technicians and users as the “tube sign”, is today the symbol of quality it came to represent. (Indeed the white-dot guarantee, introduced in 1921, gave customers twelve months of protection).

During the First World War, Alfred Dunhill became well known for sending special, sealed boxes of tobacco and pipes to men on the front line, with the boxes marked as castor oil so people would not steal them. Also included was a letter in which Alfred suggested sharing with other officers. A consequence of this generosity and support for those in battle was French, Canadian, Belgium and American soldiers became familiar with the Dunhill name and quality produce. By 1921, pipe sales that were 10,000 in 1918 topped 276,000, internationally, bolstered by innovations like the  Shell Briar finish in 1917, which we discussed in a past blog (March 26th this year).

As well as hitting such sales, in 1921 Alfred started to supply tobacco to the then Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, Edward. A Royal warrant followed, which was a pinnacle for Alfred Dunhill who retired at the end of the decade with his brother, Herbert Edward and then the founding father’s son, Alfred Henry, taking the company chair.

As a company, Alfred Dunhill, itself, thrived throughout the 1920s and thereafter with the company growing and expanding, with this and acquisitions having a healthy focus on Tobacco products. At the start of the Seventies, the company concentrated on accessories so that the often-repeated saying “Dunhill pipes, regardless of shape, size, and finish, must always smoke well” still holds true to this day. The Dunhill of the modern era shares with the company of the past a culture where quality and detail are paramount.

This here is a brief introduction to the man behind this ethos and what remains a great company. The anthologies, “The Gentle Art of Smoking” and “The Pipe book” by Alfred Dunhill, contain further details. A fascinating read with Alfred sharing his thoughts on both pipes and tobacco and what we call now the art of slow smoking. As for the pipes, you will recognise the value and the passion in them whether you are a collector or an occasional smoker. Please browse our collection; I’m sure you will find your new lifetime companion.

My very best to you, whether already a pipe devotee or considering such a worthy path.

Until next time,

Christian

PS: I do wish we could still get hold of Alfred Dunhill’’s Durbar tobacco!