Classic Comoy Tradition
9th November, 2000
Considered today is a lovely Comoy's Tradition, shape 256. This is an "Author" shape, about group 4 in size, with a nice heavy shank and a perfectly tapered, perfectly bent stem.
The wood on this pipe is nothing special. It's cross-cut, way off center, with some swirly areas on the bottom of the bowl. The deep red stain does a good job of hiding the wood's less than perfect grain, and provides for an overall very attractive package. But the cut of this pipe is exceptional! In fact, the shape is so perfectly executed that the grain is easy to overlook. As I've said before, this is one of the things I've always liked about Comoy's pipes. Their traditional shapes are often just perfection in balance, beauty, form and line, and this one is no exception. Some makers exaggerate this shape, over-bending the stem, making the shank *too* fat, the bowl *too* round, the stem too long. The shape should be rubinesque, not fat. The curves are important, not just the meat!
This one is a perfect example. I've had Sasieni Ashfords, Dunhill CKs, and others, yet none have been as perfectly cut as this little Comoy's Tradition that cost me the grand total of $45.
I really like this pipe. A lot. I recall the day it arrived, its voluptuous beauty wrapped in plain brown paper and bubble-pack. I was a little nervous about opening the package. I'd seen a photo (more than you usually get with a blind date), and the price was good, but my expectations were possibly way too high.
What I found in the package was certainly not pristine, but certainly not haggard. It had been smoked quite a bit, and needed a good reaming, a good cleaning. The shank was a little gummed up, and the pipe hadn't seen a coat of wax, probably, since it was new. The stem was oxidized. In short, the pipe needed a little restoration before it would be ready to smoke.
But, that shape! Beautiful! After an hour of cleaning, reaming, buffing, waxing, the pipe was ready for its first smoke. Since the previous owner had smoked Latakia blends in it, it made sense not to break with "Tradition." I loaded it up with Samarra, and enjoyed a wonderful first smoke in my new pipe.
It seemed only fitting that I'd smoke the same tobacco for this review. Why did I choose this particular pipes, out of all the Comoys in my collection, for the review? Because this pipe isn't anything out of the ordinary. It's not a highly prized, unusual or rare shape. It's not an ultra-rare Specimen Straight Grain. It's not very old. It hasn't been pampered and lovingly cared for throughout its life. It's just an old Comoy Tradition, representative of the breed. It's typical, and I wanted the review to present fairly what these pipes are, not just what they can be. Old Comoy Traditions are not difficult to find, and are not terribly expensive. Almost anyone can get one if they peruse the many estate pipe mailers and sites. Enough said.
The fit and finish on this pipe is quite good, bordering on excellent. The draught hole doesn't perfectly line up with the tenon's airway, but I've rarely met a rhodesian or an author that was drilled perfectly, so this doesn't come as a surprise. It *can* be done right, but rarely is. Because of this misalignment and the commensurately necessary gap between the mortise and the floor of the mortise, some condensation is inevitable. It's prudent to keep a pipe cleaner handy, but I wouldn't go so far as to call the pipe a gurgler.
The hand-cut stem is quite comfortable, with a good taper, a fairly wide bit, and a nicely flared exit passage that allows the smoke to fan out and spread its flavor over the surface of the tongue. The pipe is light, and thanks to the bend and the comfortable stem, it's easily held in the teeth as I write this. Could this be where the shape got its name?
While some pipes seem to emphasize certain aspects of a tobacco, such as the brighter notes (many Italian pipes), or the sweetness (some Danish pipes), or the deeper, earthy flavors (famous English makers...), this pipe is quite neutral. The sweetness of the Virginias in the blend are foiled and balanced wonderfully by the nutty flavors of the orientals, and the leathery smokiness of the Latakia. It's a comfortable smoke - not intense, not "in your face", but laid back without being restrained. Very nice. Very, very nice.
And, yes, comfortable was a good description. There's nothing calling out for my attention, nothing to force me to pay attention to the pipe, to the tobacco. Just puff, enjoy, tamp occasionally, re-light.
It's over too soon. There is no warning, no abrupt change to announce that I'm nearing the end. It's just over. It's a little sad, like the last sip of a nice glass of wine. Not a great wine, which can cause too much fuss to be made over it, and, though you regret it being gone, you can relax about it when it is. Not a bottle of plonk that you tolerate in deference to the guest who brought it, and are relieved when it's finally over. This pipe is like a delightful every day table wine that you will just enjoy again and again. It never dazzles, but it never disappoints. Comfortable.
It's a good pipe.
And, as the smoke comes to an end, so does this review...
Design/Artistry A+ - As I mentioned, to my eye, it would be impossible to make a better example of what an Author should be. This pipe's cut is perfect. Period.
Fit/Finish A - It's an old pipe, but the stem fits perfectly, the top is nicely chamfered, and the stampings are done well. There's a lovely patina on the pipe that can only be achieved from years of smoking and handling, but the pipe *must* have been well finished to start with. I'm sure some darkening has occurred over the years, as well, but the color is really beautifully done.
Engineering B- - I've come to expect draught holes to line up with the stem of the pipe properly, and grade down any pipe in which this doesn't occur. I know it's hard to do, but I also know it CAN be done, and it SHOULD be done. I make allowances for this pipe, being old, being relatively inexpensive, and being a tough shape to do well, but I've experienced it in a lot of Comoy's bents. Still, the drilling of the tobacco chamber is good, and the draught hole enters at that end perfectly centered and right at the bottom. I suppose this is a trade-off, and I'm glad they went this way with the pipe, rather than drilling high in order to accommodate proper alignment with the stem.
Smoking Qualities A+ - Most of the Comoy's Traditions, Grand Slams, London Prides and Sandblasts I've had have been wonderful smokers, and this is no exception. For some reason, I've never had a Blue Riband that I liked, though. From the smoker's perspective, this should be taken as good news. The affordable pipes perform better than, in my experience, than the exotic and difficult to obtain.
Value A+ - What more can be said? Older Traditions can be found for $50-75 pretty easily, and they smoke quite nicely.
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