Burns the Nose

28th October, 2005: Posted by glpease in Pipes


In the years I’ve been accumulating pipes seriously, my “collection” has undergone many metamorphoses. Even now, it’s more of a collection of collections, than one cohesive entity. I’m not sure it’s every going to have a specific concentration, or even begin to converge upon one, but only time will tell.

In the early days, I was, and still am, fascinated by the bent bulldog and its variants. I set out to acquire a significant collection of the shape, representing as many makers, important and less so, as possible, in as many sizes and variations as I find. The early part of this phase of my collecting was fairly easy. The shape has always been popular among pipe smokers, and makers have responded by making them in respectable numbers. But, the collection began to plateau at a certain point. There were still important pieces to add, but as I already had the easy ones to get, and was finding myself drifting into the thin air of the esoteric, increasing the collection became something that was either going to require a great deal of time, or a great deal of cash - money can almost always be exchanged for time. Finding myself with a shortage of both commodities, I decided to try a different tack.

So, I began to pursue another shape that I’d always been drawn to - the oft maligned prince. There’s something about a beautifully cut prince that speaks to me. It’s an elegant shape, a refined shape. The bowl capacity is similar to bent bulldogs of equal stature, and the long, graceful stem makes the prince the perfect “pointing pipe.” Too, being a tall, lean fellow, the shape just seemed to fit me. Off I went.

For some reason, the prince apparently isn’t a highly desired shape for collectors. I found it easy to aggregate a large number of very nice pieces relatively quickly, often for bargain prices or easy trades. I had found my niche, or so I thought. As the size of the collection began to reach three digits, I became fickle. My attention wandered. Other shapes were calling to me, and I never did quite get over my love of bent bulldogs anyway.

I decided to try collecting a brand. I chose Dunhill, as they were popular and it was always easy to find someone willing to trade one for something else. But, that popularity cut both ways. It didn’t take long, as my friend Ziggy often reminds me, before I was saying, “Dunhills are okay, but they’re sort of boring…” And, it was Ziggy who first sparked my interest in GBDs. I have a feeling he did this because he didn’t think Dunhills were boring, and he had his eye one or two of mine. We made a trade. I got four beautiful Virgins, each sporting silver bands and clear Perspex stems, and he left the table with a couple of my “boring” Dunnies. We were both happy guys, and my appreciation with the GBD pipe has persisted to this day, as evidenced by the photos of part of my collection of the marque.

There have been other phases, some minor, some almost crippling. There was a time when I wanted an LB shape pipe from as many makers as possible. After a short while, I had several examples, each so similar to its cell mates as to make it nearly impossible to determine, without looking, which pipe was made by which maker. But, I found the end of that road fairly quickly, so I lost interest. (See a pattern here?)

Too, there was my increasing fascination with fancy pipes of Scandinavian origin. Then, the period when I would only collect pipes handmade by someone I personally had a connection with. On it went. The collection never seemed to find a single focus, and remained a collection of collections. But, I was enjoying every moment of it, so the fact that I didn’t have that one, single, focused group of pipes never bothered me much.

One day, while scanning Luca di Piazza’s wonderful site, Neat Pipes, I spotted a beautiful Castello billiard. The grain was gorgeous, and it was wonderfully robust. It looked to be the very paragon of chubby billiards. I went back to that page repeatedly for about a month, and was surprised every time to find that gorgeous pipe still there. Finally, I succumbed. I had to have it.

When the pipe arrived, I was surprised by its diminutive stature. I suppose I should have paid some attention to the dimensions shown on Luca’s page, but the shape had already taken hold of me, and I couldn’t shake it loose, so it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Here was a chunky little billiard, about 4.5-inches long, and just so damn cute. I wrote to Luca, and we discussed the shape a little. It turns out, this shape, the #10, is referred to as “Brucianaso,” or “Burns the nose.” It’s one of the classic early Castello shapes, and has maintained some popularity in Europe, but is rarely found in the US market.

That was all I needed to hear. Finally, something to collect. I began the search, finally locating a beautiful Sea Rock with a fumé top, an Old Antiquari, and a fantastic, and rare Perla Nera. Another Sea Rock - in the more common black finish, but sporting an unusual rusticated briar application on the stem - was found on Ebay, and acquired for a good price. Of course, when you have five of one shape, you might as well have a seven day set, right?

Some months later, I ran into the next one, a beautiful Collection grade with a rusticated spiral shank, and brought it home to be with its mates, bringing the total to six. Almost there. But, the seventh would prove somewhat elusive. Finally, in a fit of desperation, I dropped Marco a line. Marco is my “Italian Connection.” He’s the man when it comes to Castello, as he is responsible for the pipes that come into the US. I asked if it would be possible to find a Brucianaso in the red Trademark finish. After some months, he was successful in getting one for me, and brought it to the CORPS show in Richmond for me. My good friend Marty Pulvers, an official Castello dealer in the US, handled the transaction, only asking for part of my right arm in the process. My seven day set was complete.


I should be satisfied, right? I set out to accomplish something, and I did. But, the thrill of the chase is still strong, and I know there are more nose-burners to find. Besides, it seems so much more poetic to have a ten-day set of #10s, so the quest continues. I’ve got it in mind to find a black Sea Rock with a smooth top, and that swirly read metacrilato stem with the famed castello jewel set into it. And, I certainly need an Occhio de Pernice - perhaps one with a white stem sporting the rare black dot. Marco’s told me an Epoca is almost impossible, but I can dream. Then, there’s the chance of finding a Fiammata. Or, perhaps…

In the meanwhile, I’ve managed to get other pipes that almost fit the profile of the #10, bearing similar proportions, though most of them are slightly enlarged versions. I’ve got a Roush natural sandblast that looks like the #10’s big brother, and a Mastro de Paja - mama sized (5-inches long) if the #10 is baby-Brucianaso and the Roush is papa-Brucianaso. Then, there’s a diminutive pot/billiard by Will Purdy that seems to fit. Just this week, I found a pipe on Ebay that will join this cadre quite well, and I’ve been thinking about having a couple made by pipe-makers that I like. I can easily imagine a Bonfiglioli version. Too, there was that Ser Jacopo Garnet that was like giant-Brucianaso. I sold it to a friend of mine a few years ago. I wonder if he still has it…

Even though this tiny and not-too-ambitious “collection” started out with some purity of purpose - Castellos #10s (see a few photos on this page) - it didn’t take long for me to sully the waters, for the group to drift, as usual, into other realms, however similar those realms may be. This says something either about my perennial lack of focus, or my undying love of pipes, or, more likely, a bit of both. Of course, during all this, I’ve continued to seek fascinating GBDs, have added Roush #999 and #1111 (that’s another story) to the stable, have executed some interesting trades, rekindled some interest in specific Dunhills, have looked longingly at certain Scandinavian pipes, and other sundry pipe-related folly. Lack of focus.

I’m doomed. I know, one day, the little Brucianaso collection will reach its peak, and I’ll have to seek new quarry elsewhere. In the meanwhile, however, these pipes are a delight. They’re light, stout and sturdy, friendly, and they smoke beautifully, with a “cuteness” factor unlike any other pipe shape I’ve collected. (I know, I know. Cuteness should not be the basis for collecting pipes, but I’ve got a three year old, and I see the world through his eyes once in a while. He thinks they’re cute, so I do too.) But, I also know that whatever state the Brucianaso-like collection ultimately reaches, my ten-days [now twelve -glp] worth of Castellos will be a permanent part of my pipe “bunch.” (What do you call a collection that’s seemingly unfocused, but still infused with enthusiasm? Maybe it’s a collection after all.)

The bottom line, it seems, is that I collect pipes that I like, and it doesn’t seem to matter all that much if the group has any particular emphasis, other than the fact that the pipes it contains provide me with pleasure. They are a joy to look at, to hold, and to smoke. And, of course, when that really special piece comes my way, the bragging rights are fun, too. Right now, I’ll concentrate on those final three nose burners, and let the other chips fall where they may, though I can’t help but wonder what will be next.

I love this hobby.


May, 2009: When I wrote this article in 2005, nose-warmers were rather uncommon, and not particularly popular amongst most pipe smokers. Many wrote to me that they couldn’t understand my fascination with such a ridiculous style. “How can you smoke something so, you know, short?” I admit, that it is a bit silly, according to the conventional wisdom of matching pipes to body types, for a long, spindly fellow to puff contentedly on such a Lilliputian pipe, but, I like ‘em! In the end, that’s the only thing that matters. In the years since, however, nose-warmers of all sorts have appeared, many from well-known pipe artists, and, my even contacts at Castello have told me that the little #10, once infrequently produced and quite scarce, has gained an unprecedented popularity. Others have even written about their new appreciation for nose-warmers on blogs, forums, newsgroups. I’m left to wonder: Was this article, and my enthusiasm of the shape responsible for the establishment (or, perhaps more accurately, revival - it’s an old style, likely once much more popular, cf. Dunhill’s and Peterson’s sport pipes) of a new trend, or were my remarks simply an act of unwitting prescience, a barometer of the cyclical nature of preferences? Whatever the circumstances behind the rise of this once recherché shape, I’m thrilled to see that more of them are finding their way into the hands of many smokers who can appreciate their diminutive charms. Cheers! -glp