A Few Favorite Castellos
Pictured here are some of my favorite Castellos. Long ago, I had a couple of mixed experiences with Castello pipes, but I now admit to being an avid fan. Of all the older pipe factories, Castello is the only one I can think of whose quality has actually improved over the years; today's Castello is even better than those of ten years ago! Isn't it nice to be able to say that about something? Today, Castello has become one of my favorite pipe marques, and the brand is represented in my collection in greater numbers than any other besides older GBDs, and I smoke every one of them happily.
Castello pipes often tend to start out life a little “bright” in their smoking qualities, accentuating the sweetness of a blend, and only mellow out after quite a few bowls have been gently puffed. Once well seasoned, though, they reward the smoker with a wonderful flavor. Many of mine are older examples, and it's interesting to see some of the changes in design and finish. The earlier Sea Rocks and Old Sea Rocks were characterized by a remarkably deep and craggy, though notably soft rustication that has largely given way to today's sharper, but more refined version. While I enjoy both, the earlier form has a distinct appeal to both eye and hand.
Castello pipes are made in Cantu, Italy, from Ligurian and sometimes Grecian briar. They are one of the most well known and classic of the Italian brands, second only to Savinelli in popularity. For more on this wonderful marque, see www.castello.net.
At the uppper left is a wonderful Sea Rock G, shape #34, a classic shape, and one of Carlo Scotti's favorites, with smooth wavy top. Just below it is an Old Sea Rock KK short Canadian, #33, stamped “Hand Made” and dated to 1969-1970 (grazie molto, Luca!). The Greatline on the lower right is somewhat unusual for its demure stature.
A detail shot of the "severe" Collection graded bulldog. The dramatic angle leaves very little wood near the front-bottom of the bowl, so caution is necessary, but it's such an interesting example, it's worth the little extra care when smoking.
Here's a #32 stamped “Antiquari,”. These were Sea Rock carved pipes, with the brown fumé top, created especially for Wally Frank, who began importing Castello pipes into the US in 1967. The “Antiquari” stamping (not “Old Antiquari,” the designation for sandblast pipes) created some confusion, and was discontinued shortly after it was introduced. This example is a beauty, and a wonderful smoker.
Two pipes from Luca, my dear friend and partner in Pease/DiPiazza Designs. These very two pipes invoked the madness for me of collecting these shapes. Top is a shape #55, the classic Castello pot, in Sea Rock with the always fascinating π option. Note the difference in the rustication between this later pipe, and the #32 pictured above. Below it, a lovely #10, the “Brucianaso”, or nose-burner, in a Castello grade. This little 4.5“ beauty is a wonderful travelling companion. Read my article about how I've come to love this shape.
Quatro Brucianaso! Since the last photo was taken, I've acquired three more ”Nose Warmer“ pipes - one stunning example in Sea Rock with a fume top, a beautifully detailed sandblast in Old Antiquari, and one in the very rare and lovely Perla Nera (Black Pearl) finish. Here are all four together in one place. I love this shape!
Here's the latest example of the #10 shape, a lovely Collection grade K, partially rusticated, with a wonderful spiral shank and an unusual ”dished“ top, rather than the more typical flat one.
The most recent two #10. The Sea Rock has an interesting treatment to the briar application on the stem that I really like. Below it is a wonderful red Trademark acquired in Richmond, 2005. Many thanks to Marco Parascenzo and Marty Pulvers for their assistance in getting this pipe to me, completing my seven day set. There are still at least three more grades. Maybe a ten day set is in order? An Occhio de Pernice, an Epoca, and a natural Sea Rock would be nice. And, maybe a Fiammata? Wait. That's eleven...
Here is one of my Chicago 2006 finds. In actuallity, the pipe found me, not the other way round. Marco was kind enough to select it during his last visit to the factory prior to the show, and bring it to me. What a surprise! If not for the slightly bent stem, it would just be a fantastic example of the #10 shape. It's got it all - the chubby shank, the voluptuous bowl. But, that stem really makes it a stunner. How could I resist?
A really nice Castello Castello 4k crossgrain is shown with its little French cousin, a Jeantet President that was sent to me by my dear friend ”The Evil One.“ I think of it as sort of a #7.5; its proportions are almost precisely 75% of the #10. While it's not a Castello, I think it deserves a place on this page as another little ”br˚leur de nez“ in the collection...
Two additional examples of shape #55, Castello's classic pot. Since acquiring the Sea Rock π, I've developed quite a fascination with the shape. Shown here are a modern Collection Fiammata with original gold band and exquisite grain, and a recently produced fumé top Sea Rock. I've seen more than a few Fiammatas in my life, and this one is among the best. The wood is so beautifully grained, and the colour so lovely, I'm having a hard time making sure it gets smoked! Every time I take it out, I end up looking at it for what seems to be an eternity, admiring the wood, and not wanting to mess it up. This is completely out of character for me, a guy who believes pipes are meant to be smoked, that it is their destiny. Alas.
The upper-left Sea Rock and the lower-left Old Antiquari are much older examples of the shape. The middle Sea Rock and the Castello 4K to the right are somewhat more recent, showing the gradual change from the more rounded style to the current more angluar version.
This is one of the most interesting examples of the 55 shape I've come across. It's a Sea Rock 3K, with shape number 355. If it was a more recent piece, I suspect it would have been given the ”π“ designation. While the meaning of a ”2“ as the first digit of a three digit shape number is fairly well defined as a significant deviation from a standard shape, I've not been able to find anything in writing about the ”3“, and have only seen a couple examples. The carving of this pipe is fascinating, suggesting the crenellated battlements of an ancient castle. A wonderfully unique piece.
Here is an old Castello Collection graded 55, with no ”K“ designations and a plateau top. The entire pipe shows lovely grain, and a small sand pit in the front only adds character. Behind is an old Sea Rock shape 17 with one of those wonderfully funky yellow/amber pearlescent stems. The 17 is like a chubby 15, and is quite a rare shape, as far as I can tell.
Here's an arty top view of a Sea Rock 55 with a fascinating diamond panel treatment. One of the interesting things about Castellos in general, and the 55 in particular, is the variation that can exist within the constraints of a ”standard“ shape.
Years ago, I had a Sea Rock 54 with a saddle stem. Foolishly, I traded the pipe away just after I'd managed to get it broken in. Since then, I've been searching for a suitable replacement. There was something really special about the cut of that pipe, and so far I've been unsuccessful in finding another like it. The 54 in the foreground comes close. It's an interesting Trademark 2k, with a sandblast finish from the days when Castello played about with the definitions of some of the finishes. In the background is an Old Antiquari shape 56. Love them bulldoggies...
My latest #55s. It's no secret, I love this shape, and collecting them has provided me with a great opportunity to explore the variations that can come from a ”standard“ shape when produced by hand. The upper left pipe is a Trademark grade, with a wonderful paneled, or four-square bowl. It's the only one I've seen to date. The pipe sports tremendous grain. To the right is a Sea Rock that is the most graceful example of the shape I've ever seen. It's got a lovely, thin shank, slightly longer than usual, and a stem that is almost delicate. In the foreground, a recently produced Old Antiquari ”La Catene,“ with the lovely silver chain band that this series is adorned with. The blast is exquisite.
Three fairly recent acquisitions that have escaped being photographed until now. Top, an Old Antiquari SC, shape 23-P. Center, a Sea Rock 4K 33 with one of the shortest stems I've seen on this shape. Bottom, an interesting Collection 2K Great Line in a shape I've never seen.
The long and the short of it, or the normal and the tiny. Shown is a Collection shape 55, with a lovely spiral carve, and behind it, one of the very rare, and very small le Castellines. I believe only forty of these pipes were made in various shapes. This is possibly the only one in shape 55. The Collection is not a large pipe; the little one is really that small! It's just shy of 3” in length. Now, that's a short smoke.
The elusive shape #11 is similarly sized to the #10. Shown is an example in Sea Rock, with a #10 Natural Vergin for comparison. Note the recent stem variant on the #10. I quite like it.
A rare Castello shape #39 ”Oliphant.“ This shape was originally explored by Carlo Scotti in about 1968, but abandoned before it was produced. In 2004, 23 examples of the shape were produced in several finishes. This Old Antiquari is a size G, with beautiful line and proportion, a stunning sandblast, and a unique, craggy plateau top. I'm thrilled to add it to my collection!
This amazing Occhio de Pernice was obtained from my good friend Mike Glukler at Briar Blues. Though only graded at 2K, it's one of the most stunning examples of birdseye I've every seen. AND, it's an amazing smoker. Click on the photo for a larger image. Use the ”back“ button to return here.
A lovely, large Old Antiquari army mount apple. I wrote about this pipe in the Briar & Leaf Chronicles, in an article entitled, Nothing Special. The title is quite tongue-in-cheek. It's a fantastic pipe!
I recently got this beautiful Collection 4k from Briar Blues. It's a billiard, but also presents some apple and pot influences. The shape is so elegant, so lovely, and the grain is magnificent. Truly a prized addition to the collection.
This thing is huge, and absolutely stunning. The bowl is nearly 2.75” tall, with superb grain and exquisite execution. I've wanted a Greatline in this shape for a long time, and kept searching of just the right one. I think I found it. It's definitely a sit down and read pipe, not one for casual smoking.
I really was going to stop with the #10s when I got ten of them, but they're just so darned cute, I can't help myself. This one, an Old Antiquari in the natural finish, sports an amazingly fine blast. I'd seen the pipe at Neat Pipes, but was too slow on the draw to get it. Lucky for me, the guy who bought it subsequently sent it up to Briar Blues, and I was able to add it to my collection. It's the twelfth. Could a fourteen day set all that far off?
I really love apples, and this one is a classic. A Trademark, about ODA sized, and sporting a beautiful swirly mouthpiece in wonderful harmony with the bowl.
A Collection 4K stack billiard with briar application on the stem.
A Sea Rock Pi in shape #55. Quite an interesting variation.
A Trademark with an interesting finish. Lovely burgudy swirl mouthpiece.
I've been wanting a Castello prince for a long time, but most examples just aren't very prince-like. This Sea Rock is an exception. The cut is wonderful.
A friend of mine alerted me to the presence on ebay of this exceptional piece. It's a Sea Rock shape #255, meaning a variation on the #55 shape. I love the futuristic, Jetsons style space-age look.
It took a long time to find a great #55 army mount with a silver floc, but it was worth the wait. This Collection 4k is a little taller than the typical shape, making it a little more billiardesque, less pot-like, so it's not only a nice example, it's a wonderful "variant," and it's an absolute gem of a smoker.
Another wonderful 55, this one with a significantly longer and more delicate shank than most. Unlike the more typical 55, this one can almost be considered graceful, and shows more of the prince-like origins of the shape.
A large, silver mounted apple. It's another of those pipes that I just "had to have" when I first saw it, and a little horse-trading made it happen.