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Old briar

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Timbo

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What is it about old briar pipes that they smoke so well?

I’ve a few older pipes circa 1920’s to 1940’s and they really outshine all my others in how they smoke. Great flavour and they never gurgle, my made in Eire stamped Peterson smokes dry as, even with moist tobacco that’d make other pipes sound like a drainpipe.

Is it the age of it, ie really well cured or was the briar really that much better quality back then?

Thoughts.

Thanks

Tim
 

Puffy

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I've heard that in days of old briar came from older trees than now, and that extra age made the briar better..I have no idea if this story is really true..With it and 6 bucks though you can get a fancy coffee as Starbucks.
 

ontariopiper

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Lots of folks say the same thing about older pipes. It's one of the main attractions of estate pipes for me - already broken in, made from older briar from burls harvested later in the briar plant's life, and aged longer before carving.
 

Timbo

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Glad it’s not just me then and the more mature briar plants sounds like a good as explanation as any to me thanks gents.

Cheers

Tim
 

Sasquatch

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Briar plants have always been harvested at a certain level of maturity - too young, they are small, and won't yield enough pipes. Too old, they will be cracked, full of insects, etc. So that window is 30 years at a minimum, often 50 years, to .... I dunno 100 year old tree?

In any case, the industry hasn't changed much in 100 years here. Briar is harvested, cut, boiled, dried, and made into pipes. The actual preferred cut, the outside of the burl, has more grain and more linear grain than the inside of the burl, which is usually cut into pipe-ish pieces called ebauchones. Most factory pipes from the days or yore are this interior "heartwood" rather than the exterior "sapwood" of the plateau (outside) cut.

I've had lots of old pipes, and most were really good. But for the most part, they had really great stems - Sasieni and Barling have exceptionally smooth interior work, and they smoke great.

And to me that's kind of the thing. I could wreck a great piece of wood with a crappy stem or crappy internal mechanical setup.

The old briar is nice, but a properly made pipe with a piece of wood that's been on a shelf for, say, 3 years... will honestly smoke just as well in my experience. I do find a little magic in the older wood in my shop, I have pieces that have been sitting 20 years, and they smoke great, so maybe there is some process of petrifaction or oxidation that is somehow helpful, but I can't really say what it is, nor can I actually articulate anything sensible about what's "better" about the smoking of those pipes...
 
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