New Royal Collection Blends from J.B. Russell
James B. Russell has released The Royal Collection, four new British-style pipe tobacco blends.

Diplomat, a Premium Virginia in ribbon form for easy packing, is a fruity, tangy mixture described as "mildly cool" and "lightly sweet." Monarch is a traditional English Mixture of rich, smoky Latakia and fragrant Green and Turkish Orientals. Aristocrat is a mild, "elegant" all-Virginia blend. Finally, Ambassador is a mild blend of Virginia, Turkish, and Black Cavendish, described as "soft-to-the-tongue."

All tobaccos are packed in 50 gram resealable cans, with a suggested retail $9.50.

James B. Russell, Inc., Upper Saddle River, N.J., Tel: (800) 221-7738, Fax: (201) 934-6370, Web: www.jamesbrussell.com.

Cork-Covered Briars from Italy's Tom Spanu
Tommaso Spanu, a native of Sardinia who learned the art of pipe making under Alberto Paronelli, has been crafting pipes by hand for over 20 years in the traditional methods, but infused with his own innovative designs. Among the most unique of his creations are his cork-covered briars.

Crafted from Sardinian briar wood and coated with Sardinian oak cork, these pipes have an antiquated, rustic appearance. Cork is an ideal insulator against heat, and cork pipes are known to smoke cool - regardless of bowl size.

Exposed portions of briar - the narrow head of the bowl and a small portion of the shaft - have a finely polished finish. Acryl mouthpieces range in color from shades of amber to green and are hand cut for 9mm filters or accept an adapter for filterless use. The inside diameter of the pipe bowls measure about 20mm and accept a pipe cleaner.

Since each pipe is carved by hand, shapes vary widely, but can be generally described as freeform variations of billiards, pots, chimneys, and stacks.

Joe Giradina Imports is offering the pipes in matching, custom-fitted cork cases for a truly unique presentation.

Joe Giradina Imports, 2004 Madison Ave., Edwardsville, IL 62025, Tel: (618) 656-0892.

Brenden's Briar Wood Smoking BBQ Chips
Just what do pipe makers do with all the bits and scraps of fine imported briar rendered obsolete after rough cutting pipe shapes from solid blocks? For Ohio pipe maker Tim West, the family secret has been a Mediterranean version of mesquite cooking: Add them to the barbecue for an irresistible smoke flavor.

Now, West's son Brenden is cleaning up the workshop by offering conveniently packaged 8 oz. bags of smoking chips. The briar, which comes from the root system of the White Heath tree found in wastelands around the Mediterranean Sea, has been boiled to reduce acids and saps, dried, and aged for two years.

Chips can be used either dry (faster burning) or wet according to preference, in gas or charcoal grills. West recommends placing chips in a clean tuna can to keep ashes and debris tidy.

West says he generates about 200 lbs. of bandsaw scraps a year, not including currently stockpiles, so supplies are relatively limited. Suggested retail, $6.95.

Brenden West, 1588 Grayling Court, Columbus, Ohio 43235, Tel: (614) 761-3465.

SMOKESHOP - February/March, 2002