Pipe Review: The Merchant Service Pipe
By Kevin Catanzaro,
As many of you know I am a sucker for a good traditional English pipe design. The size, lines, weight and proportions just “work” for me. Albeit, Dunhill is my quintessential brand but there are other brands I own and are in my regular rotation. That being said, I was very excited about the announcement of the re-birth of the “Merchant Service Pipe” brought to our attention by Andy Camire via the Facebook Page. The pipe design and original manufacturer is said to be Bing Crosby’s favorite. I recall all the old photos I have seen of him with that icon long shanked billiard. I had to have it! Ordering was easy and I received my package in 2 days. Upon first examination I noticed the only nomenclature on the pipe is Merchant Service. No other stampings as to who it was made by, where it was made or country of origin for the briar itself. I found it odd but, not alarming. On closer examination I observed the close relation to the blast, stain, and stem material to the new Kaywoodie pipes and assume they are probably coming out of that factory or there is some sort of partnership. Just my assumption, I could be wrong but I have only been wrong twice in my life… marriage 1 and marriage 2. The pipe was delivered in a nice box with burlap sock and was shipped with the stem detached. This pipe is a whopping 7 ¾ inches assembled. The briar itself and the blast in my opinion is a 10/10. The chamfered rim is a bonus. The ferrule is a nice feature especially with the delicate pencil shank but a touch crude and unrefined. The stem claims to be ebonite butI found it more plastic like to the tooth rather than hard rubber. The bowl is huge, think of a large group 5 or 6 in size. Since it was a new pipe, I filled it ¼ to a ½ full of a good aromatic house blend I purchase from my local B&M. I wanted the higher sugar content and was not so concerned with the tobacco taste as I was with testing the insulating factor of the bowl knowing aromatics burn a bit hotter. The pipe past the test hands down. It smoked cool and dry and did not heat up after 3 consecutive bowls. I primarily work from home and I am usually at my desk for 10 to 12 hours a day. Most of the time I have a briar clenched in between my teeth very comfortably and natural. Almost like I was born with it. I work that way, I answer the phone that way and sometimes have full conversations with pipe in mouth. I had a problem with this pipe because of its weight length proportions. The bowl is large and heavy and the shank being so long I was getting a fulcrum effect where I could not clench in a comfortable position. Holding the pipe was no help either as its length makes it cumbersome. I even dove into a bunch of old Bing photos and gather the original was a bit shorter and the bowl a bit smaller to balance the pipe. Maybe this re-design may have needed a fishtail bit to achieve a more solid foundation. The pipe is a dream and will be reserved for chair smoking. This Merchant Service Pipe is a solid 7/10 in my opinion.
If you'd like to hear more about the guys behind the Merchant Service Pipe, check out this edition of the Pipes Magazine Radio Show