A Pair of Radice Twin Bores

3rd October, 2001

photo

This review started many months ago when I got one of the Radice Twin Bore prototypes. I was really curious about some of the claims being made for this "revolutionary" mouthpiece design. Could it work? Would it make anyi> difference at all?

The Twin Bore (TB) needs a little explanation. This prototype pipe, and many of the production versions, has a clear lucite stem; the internals are readily observed and described. From the bit end, two airways are drilled, approximately 25mm into the stem, where they join in a "Y" into a single airway that completes the journey to the tenon. I admit to being a little mystified as to how this is done, (think about it for a minute), but it is very well executed. The bit is a little thicker than I prefer, but it's not uncomfortable. (Those who have read previous reviews know that I'm quite partial to very thin stems.)

The concept of the TB is intriguing, but the claims are nothing short of amazing. The Twin Bore mouthpiece, we are told, will reduce the suffering of those individuals who are sensitive the the set of related maladies that get lumped under the title "tongue bite." Whatever the cause, the symptoms are well known - a toasty, tingling, overly-sensitized tongue. No one likes it. Everyone has their way of curing it, but its prevention seems to be a popular goal, with good reason, for manufacturers of pipes and tobaccos alike.

I was skeptical that a mouthpiece design, however revolutionary, could have any influence at all on tongue-tingle. While I can appreciate that proper construction, with careful attention paid to the entire airway of the pipe, can influence the smoking characteristics, often dramatically, I had a hard time accepting these seemingly radical assertions.

So, when the prototype arrived, I, with little ceremony, wasted no time in lighting it up. Armed with a Virginia flake that has a nice flavour, but a rather nasty tendency to tap dance on my tongue like a demented midget in super-heated football cleats, I set about the daunting task of "test smoking" the pipe. My notes from that first experience are not particularly informative, apart from the fact that the pipe smoked well, the flavours of the tobacco were well presented, and I walked away from the encounter relatively unscathed.

But, perhaps this is telling, after all. Relatively unscathed. When my tongue, the sensitive little wimp that it is, (my tongue sometimes seems to have a personality all his own), finds itself scorched to the point where I notice it at all, I make an entry, or, more accurately, a tirade in my notebook. Sometimes, it's the pipe. Sometimes, it's the tobacco. Most often, it's just a less than fortuitous combination of the two that sends me into three alarm frenzy. While this particular tobacco had found it's way into a couple of those ranting entries, this time, I recorded that I was nearly unscathed.

Okay. Maybe it's just a good pipe, and the taming of the flue-cured was completely unrelated to the Twin Bore mouthpiece. I smoked a few other tobaccos in the pipe, and all tasted great, and the pipe exhibited no faults. Another bowl of the offending flake, and my results were the same as the first time. Tasty, and gentle. But, how could I find out if the difference is really in the stem design?

After a brief conversation with the importer, I arranged to buy a second pipe, this one, a pseudo-army mount Billiard complete with BOTH a conventional stem and a Twin Bore produced specifically for this test. Now, I could collect some real information. (The twin bore mouthpiece is indicated by two dots on the stem side-by-side, while the conventional stem has the standard Radice axially arranged dots.)

When the second pipe arrived from Italy, with it's pair of matching stems, I was anxious to do some A-B testing. I could get a good ember going, and change stems to see what, if anything, I noticed.

I fitted the TB stem, loaded the bowl to the top with that incendiary flake, and set it aglow. The flavors of the tobacco came through nicely from first light, and I was impressed with both the lack of woodiness in the smoke, AND the lack of sharpness and bite. Excellent starting point. About half way through, I swapped stems.

I can't say that the pipe, when fitted with the standard stem, became a fire breathing dragon, but there was certainly a difference in the smoking characteristics. The smoke was a little sharper, a little more toward the hot side. There was, indeed, a difference! Surprising! I switched back and forth between the two stems several times, and was always presented with the same result. I didn't want to sacrifice my tongue in an attempt to try to MAKE this thing bite, but I was certainly satisfied that there was a difference, that the TB did work, somehow, to tame the smoke a little.

I performed this experiment several times, and each time, the results were the same. Of course, only a blind study can yield unbiased results, but I figure my skepticism should make up, at least in part, for the potential loss of objectivity in the experimental method. I'm just going to have to say that the TB is a good idea, and seems to do what is claimed of it.

I'll certainly be thinking of the fluid mechanics of this for a while. But, now, it's time to say a few words about the pipes.

In both pipes, the workmanship is excellent. The airway is drilled on center, and right to the bottom of the tobacco chamber. The mortise/tenon fit is good, though the pseudo-army mount has a little more of a plenum between the mortise floor and the end of the tenon than I would like to see. A pipe cleaner easily passes through both pipes. Cleaning the TB is a little tricky, as there are two exit airways to attend. But, passing a cleaner through either airway and right on through to the bowl presented little challenge.

The finish work is wonderful. The rusticated piece, the "Rind" finish, shows a beautiful, delicate surface texture. It's not deep and craggy, like Castellos, but a carefully dimpled surface, like the skin of an orange. Could that be where the name came from? The "Classic" is more interesting. A ring around the top bears some resemblance to the "Drip Wax" type of finish of the "New Dear," but the rest of the pipe is rusticated similarly, but a little more aggressively, to the "Rind" finish. These pipes have a nice feel in the hand.

Both pipes have a nice sheen - not shiny, not matte, and have begun to develop a wonderful patina through smoking. There may be a little shellac mixed with the wax, but not an excessive amount, and the surface looks clean, and gives off no peculiar odors while smoking.

The fit of the stem on the "Rind" is excellent, and the clear acrylic used is of a very high quality, exhibiting wonderful clarity, and an almost jewel like quality. The stem's airway is stained or dyed black, which is a very striking effect, and one which helps to masque the inevitable discolouration that occurs with clear stems after too much smoking with too little cleaning. (Even with my normally meticulous care, some of my Perspex stemmed GBDs have browned, but I've learned to find this attractive.) I like the look, and the mirror like polish really enhances the appearance.

The other pipe's pseudo-army stems also fit very well, though, here, the task is much simpler. The black lucite of these stems is also of very high quality, and both stems are polished to perfection.

Artistically, neither pipe is really exciting to my eye. The lines are pretty well executed, and there's a good balance and flow to the form, but I find them a touch on the clunky side. They're more conservative that the "exotic" Italian shapes, but less "classic" than the standard shapes offered by companies like Savinelli. But, aesthetics are very personal, and there is quite a variety among the catalogue of Radice shapes. One of these may be the perfect pipe for another pair of eyes.

In summary, am I convinced of the Twin Bore's efficacy in stamping out the small fires that can scorch the palate? Not absolutely. But, it certainly does SEEM to make more than just a small difference. In any event, these two are very nice smoking pipes, well made, stylish and reasonably attractive. A good combination, irrespective of any marketing claims.

Report Card:

Design/Artistry B - Well thought out, but a little clunky to my eye.

Fit/Finish A - Everything is right. The drilling is good, the stems are nicely crafted, and the finish is excellent.

Engineering A - There's good attention to detail here. No whistles, no gurgles, and no problems with pipe cleaners.

Smoking Qualities A - Good, solid delivery of flavour, with no hidden surprises.

Value B - I think there are more exciting pipes around for similar dollars, but these are certainly not over priced. You can do a lot worse. Overall, a good, solid pipe at a decent price.