This is the closely-grained root burl between the stem and roots
of the White Heath, "Erica Arborea" a large bush that
grows on the mountainous hillsides of Mediterranean countries,
like Greece, France, Italy, and Algeria. Maquis is the French
word for a hillside densely covered in by the White Heath, Underground,
The burl grows underground. It is tough and close grained. The
climate is an intensely hot summer with a showery winter. Good
briar takes a log time to grow. The most commonly suitable root
is 30-80 years old. Younger it is too small and older it may develop
cracks and fissures. The most suitable root may be 60 to 80 years
old, and some of the finest burls have been growing for over 250
briar is cut into "ebauchons" at the sawmills. It is
then boiled at the sawmills to kill all insects and bacteria and
draw out the natural saps and resins. Then it is aged by the pipe
maker, from 2- 7 years, on average. The longer it is aged the
longer the better.
A few years
ago the concern that pipe makers would run out of briar. Today
the concern is that few people want to do the dirty hard work
in the Mediterranean mountains with a mule to gather briar root.
This is one
of the reasons for the resurgence of Algerian briar. It is becoming
more easily available but does need more aging than Greek or Italian
briar. According to Reiner Barbi, most briar today is Greek because
there are almost no Italian briar cutters left.
Briar pipes are created using sanders, lathes and drill presses.
Briar wood is, hard, light in weight and at times may have beautiful
grain. A quality pipe will have no fills or putty. A fine straight
grain briar pipe will command a premium price. An interesting
note is that before the 1970's briar wasn't cut for grain. That
is why older Dunhills, Barlings etc., rarely had good graining.
Only in the 1970's did grain become highly prized.
A white mineral composed of magnesia, silica and water. It is
a German word meaning literally, "sea-foam", because
it floats. The best quality Meerschaum comes from Turkey where
it is mined.
- is very light in weight, it floats in water, lighter than briar,
extremely porous, and cool smoking. Its disadvantage is its fragility
and if dropped it shatters. Meerschaum pipes are made by hand
carving, and finished with a beeswax polish. Meerschaum pipes
delivery what can best be described as a creamy smoke.
pipes are made from compressed meerschaum dust that has been pressed
into a form. Examine a Meerschaum pipe carefully, if you see carving
marks then it is craved block Meerschaum. This is what you want.
Meerschaum comes from Africa. It is normally stained
in shades of brown, black and yellow. African meerschaum is inferior
stuff and should be avoided.
Meerschaum: The American Corncob pipe. It is made from
a length of hollowed-out corncob, often with a wooden stem and
an inexpensive plastic mouthpiece.
smokers buy corncobs by the gross, smoke one until it burns through
or goes sour, then throw it away. The one big advantage these
pipes have is they are extremely cheap.
A South African gourd that is bent when growing to form the pipe
shape. The gourd is the cut from the tree when the desired size
is reached, dried, and then fitted with a cork gasket to receive
a meerschaum bowl.
are probably the coolest, driest smokers there are. They are large,
delicate, and inconvenient to carry around. These pipes should
always be bought with a fitted case.
Pipe: Clay were what was smoked before the discovery
of briar. From the 17th - 19th century long-stemmed "Church
wardens" and "London Straws" were smoked in London
coffee houses,clubs and at home. Short clays were smoked when
on the go. Go being walking, in carriage or boat. Clays pipes
get very hot but deliver a cool smoke. They are cleaned by heating
in a fire. They break very easily but even today are relatively
- Common called a WATER-PIPE or hubble bubble. The hookah is middle
east tradition. In most Middle Eastern and North African coffee
houses you can order a mint tea or coffee and a pipe. The cleaning
of mouthpieces is not common. The tobacco is filtered through
water, that is normally flavored, delivering an extremely cool
smoke. Hookah come with anywhere from 1-6 mouthpieces. Those with
more than one can be enjoyed a few smokers at once.
usually dried whole leaf, crumbled and sometimes mixed with various
flavors. The tobacco is moistened before smoking, its very hot
and dry in the Middle East, then put in the bowl and a hot charcoal
is put on top of the ball of tobacco. Water pipes filter out much
of the taste of tobaccos. To get and taste you need either to
buy special hookah pipe tobacco or the strongest stuff you can
a hookah check to see it doesn't leak, water or air. Often those
sold to tourists are poorly made and will never smoke right.