The Great Northeast Pipe Show
Albany, New York
November 6th, 2005

By Horace Harker

 

Photo by Bob BorlandOn Sunday, Nov 6th Tim, Dock, Steve, Kenny and I headed out to Albany, NY to attend the First Annual Greater Northeast Pipe Show which was sponsored by the Habana Premium Pipe Shoppe (HBPS) a.k.a. pipesandcigars.com. Although our trip planning was erratic and sometimes confusing we all did finally make it up there to enjoy a great show.

Since Dock had decided go up on Saturday and spend the night, our plan was to meet at the shop before the show to do some browsing and pre-show tobacco sampling. I met Tim at our usual rendezvous location on Rt 128 near the Mass Pike and in a mere two and a half hours we turning into Habana Premium's parking lot. I couldn't believe how quickly we got up there. I expected to see Dock already at the store when we got there but I don't think any of us realize we'd get up there as fast as we did. He walked through the door about 10 minutes into our bowl of Russ Oulette's Sunjammer blend (which is supposed to somewhat mimic Dunhill's 965.... the "real one"). We both were enjoying the blend and Tim remarked that it did reminded him of 965.

Scotty, the owner of HBPS came into the store with that unmistakable grin of someone who loves their job, in fact, he was so full of energy I was thinking of asking him for a bowl of whatever he was smokin'. In all seriousness, if I ever knew anyone who was, without a doubt "high on life", it would have to be Scotty Bendett. Just being in his presence may very well result in a contact high and one that both Serad and Gage would have to agree is "Highly Recommended".
Scotty pulled out a pipe, laid it on the counter and preceded to tell us that it was made by American Pipemaker Jim DePrey and was pictured in one of Richard Carleton Hacker's books. It is rumored to be worth in the vicinity of $1200 and for obvious reasons will never find it's way into one of my racks.

Although it was early, Scotty said we could head over the the show and get a sneak peak of the goods, "But make sure your pipes are put away until you get inside the room", he warned us. I still can't believe we were able to smoke at a pipe show in New York. Maybe there's hope for us yet........ Nah!
We entered the show room to find tables in different stages of readiness. I took a quick tour around the room and was pretty happy with what I saw in both quantity and price. Dock would have liked to have seen a few more estate pipes but had to settle for just one table with 50-100 estate pipes for sale.
Peterson pipes seemed to dominated one side of the room. I recognized Victor Vitale, the Peterson Rep from when he paid our club a visit back in April of 2004 and we talked for a few minutes. Although I'm not a huge Peterson fan, I did see one pipe that was particularly nice, it was the 2005 Peterson Pipe of the Year, a straight stemmed silver spigot with Celtic engravings on both sides of the spigot fittings.

The celebrity of the day was Eric Nording, just in from Denmark and sporting a table full of Danish beauties, a number of which had a unique yellow and black banded stem, much like a tiger's tale but reminded me of the hat worn by Dr. Zeuss' "The Cat in the Hat". I found myself looking at them strangely at first but over time became more and more intrigued with this new look. I hope to make one a future edition to my collection. Read about Eric.

One of the big attractions of the show was the Mastro Beraldi table. Beraldi is a pipe carver from Italy seemingly unknown to everyone in the room (that I talked to or overheard) but the workmanship, design and finish on most of these pipes was top notch. What made them even more irresistible was their price tag. Scotty recently picked up a shipment of these pipes and opted to keep the prices low for the show. All but 2 or 3 were priced below $100 and many came with a second stem or matching tamper. I walked by this table about 20 times before finally giving in and laying my money down. Normally, I would put this pipe on the rack with the rest of my unsmoked pipes making it wait its turn like the others, but my curiosity to see how it smokes has gotten the better of me and I smoked it within the week. It seemed to smoke very nicely, stayed dry and didn't get harsh until the bottom third. The only problem I had with it was that I couldn't pass a pipe cleaner through the smoke hole at the bit end of the stem, a problem I could have avoided by doing the pipe cleaner test before I purchased it. But it didn't seem to effect its smoking qualities and is something I can remedy fairly easily. Overall I'd have to say I'm pretty happy with my purchase.

As many of you may agree, a New York pipe show isn't complete without the Rolando Negoita table. Roland had somewhere in the vicinity of 20 pipes with him including many showcasing his distinct style of "nature's gifts recreated into smoking art". One particularly beautiful pipe was his nautical shell design which I hadn't seen before. It almost looked as though he had plucked it from the ocean, stained it and affixed a stem. I think I saw.....no, I'm sure I saw Steve Gutz drooling over this one numerous times throughout the day. I asked Rolando his thoughts about the production of his winning pipe design from the P&T Contest that has been recently released by Butz Choquin. He said he's only seen one of them so far but seemed very happy with the presentation that was included with the pipe. Rolando also generously donated one of his pipes to be raffled off along with the other raffle items which included an Ardor 2003 Christmas Pipe, a Peterson Silver Spigot, a leather pipe case, three University Pipes and a sleeve of pipe cleaners. Rob Garborino from the Hudson Valley Pipe Club won the Ardor and Dock Perry won one of the University Pipes. Unfortunately, I didn't get the names of the other winners.

Other contenders in the pipe arena were our own Kenny Kasparian (picture with Rolando above) with his table full of many beautiful Ardor, Rinaldo and Kai Neilsen pipes; Alan Schwartz of XYZ Direct, Ltd. who had a number of fine leather pipe cases, Neerup and Mastro DePaja pipes and Wessex tobaccos for sampling and purchase. Other pipes available at the show included pipes by Comoy, Don Carlos, Sasini and GBD.

Another highlight of the show was the forty minute talk on blending tobacco which was given by Russ Oulette. Russ first started smoking a pipe when he was 18 yrs old. After many years of only being able to sneak an occasional whiff from his father's tobacco tins, he was now able to enjoy the tobacco the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Russ' father was fond of blends made with deer tongue, a condimental leaf that has stayed popular with Russ to this day. He worked in different pipe shops where he gained much of his knowledge of tobacco blending and turned it into an art. His profession changed over the years but he always kept up with his tobacco blending because he loved experimenting with new mixtures. In the past few years Russ met up with Scotty Bendett who soon began hounding him to come onboard and blend tobaccos for the Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe. After a year and a half of saying no to Scotty's relentless hounding, he finally gave in and has not regretted it in the least, in fact he's now sorry he didn't agree sooner. Russ covered all the aspects that go into creating a new blend, from the many different ways that blending tobacco is processed, to which tobaccos compliment others and why, to what types of tobacco can be found in each of the main tobacco blend categories. He explained the differences between casing vs. top dressing and cleared up the common misconception that Cavendish is not a type of tobacco but rather a way of processing tobacco. Although the room didn't give Russ the attention and quiet he deserved, he did have a very captive audience, eager to learn the secrets of his successful blending techniques. And even though no real "secrets" were divulged, the information Russ provided was extremely interesting and informative.
As a compliment to Russ' talk he had a table full of his blends for all to sample, a list describing the contents of each blend and a supply of plastic sample bags so we could try them at our leisure. I took samples of almost all of his blends and had I been stopped by the police on the way home I would most assuredly have been locked up as a suspected drug dealer. Thanks Russ for sharing your knowledge and tobacco with us, I look forward to my sojourn through the Home and Hearth blends.

So the clock was approaching 4pm and the last item raffled off. Scotty decided to end the show early and adjourn to the smoking room at the Shoppe to continue the festivities. Tim and I decided to head back to Mass. while Dock, Steve and Kenny hung around for a few more hours.

On behalf of the Sherlock Holmes Pipe Club I'd like to thank Scotty, his staff and all the members of the Habana Premium Pipe Club for their warm hospitality and for making this an outstanding event. We're already looking forward to next year.

[See more photos from the show]

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