Last Saturday, we talked about how successive generations of my dad’s family have held Boswell pipes in high regard. I think every pipe-smoker should have a Boswell in their stable, and I think everyone probably would if it weren’t two unfortunate factors- availability and price. Both make picking up a new Boswell a difficult proposition, so I got to thinking about other American brands. Last week, I found an inexpensive American pipe that I like- a rusticated, straight apple of the Burner series by Scott’s Pipes. It was listed as an unsmoked estate on SmokingPipes and I picked it up for $38. Tax and shipping added another $12, which was kind of salty, but whatever.
Perhaps it’s the cabalistic nature of this arcane hobby that’s led to some consolidation in the American pipe-manufacturing industry: The S.M. Frank Company makes the old Kaywoodie, Medico, and Yello-Bole brands, while the venerable Missouri Meerschaum company recently snapped up their competitor Old Dominion. Along with Dr. Grabow’s terrible pipes, all those pipes can be had for a song, though it’ll be on you to find a distributor. Closer to the Boswell range of prices is BriarWorks, which makes high-quality factory pipes that are finished by hand in their Nashville factory. They recently nabbed the Moonshine brand of pipes that are even further upscale.
I don’t mind sending my money to a conglomerate in an even trade if their wares are decent, but thankfully, guys like J.M. and Dan Boswell retain their pipe-making independence right here in the good old U-S-of-A. Another guy of the Boswells’ ilk is Scott Klein: A Nashville transplant by way of Elk Grove, Illinois, Klein became an apprentice to the Moscow-born pipe master Alex Florov and studied under him for five years before starting his own company, Scott’s Pipes. Although the astronomical price of a Florov means that I’ll never own one of his pipes, I’ll probably also never own a legitimate Scott’s Pipes pipe either, since they sell for around $1,200.
Clearly Scott Klein knows what he’s doing.
Despite his pedigree, Scott Klein should be celebrated by giving his brand the delightfully unpretentious name of Scott’s Pipes. Klein should also get some applause by offering his Burner series, to which my rusticated apple belongs. Pipes in this range are made from stummel-and-stem combos sourced from Italy and France that, after sitting for many years, are said to be “perfectly seasoned to be good smokers” according to the Scott’s website. So the pipe I got is one of Scott’s Pipes, but not really, if that makes sense. I mean, it did only cost $38.
The Scott’s Pipes website says that each of the Burners were finished by his small team in Nashville in order to fit a niche of being well-made, but “cheap enough that you won’t be devastated by a loss.” It sounded great to me, since I was certainly shattered when I lost the Boswell my dad gave me for my nineteenth birthday.
USPS delivered the Burner last Wednesday. After I sawed open the box with the key to my car, I immediately identified the pipe’s lineage from what I think was either the Chacom factory in France or Savinelli’s facilities in Italy as this pipe demonstrates the same demure proportions as some of the Ropps and Rossis of this household. The sandblast seems pretty shallow to me, and I think that means that the briar was of decent quality albeit with some minor cosmetic flaws that the sandblast eliminated. It’s not much of a stretch to assume that this partially-finished stummel got thrown into a corner where it was forgotten about for a period of time until Scott Klein bought it.
That backstory makes the Scott’s Burner most similar to my Ropp Vintage Zulu, which too was crafted from an old, forgotten stummel found at Chacom, as are all contemporary Ropp pies. In terms of what I paid for the Scott’s Burner, a comparison to a Boswell would be unfair. But I’m more than happy to compare it to a couple of my other budget smokers, including that Ropp, my $48 Rossi Piccolo, my $46 Nørding Compass, and, yes, that Dr. Grabow Grand Duke.
By the way, there’s no comparison to the Dr. Grabow; the Burner crushes it in every way. Comparison over; we’ll return to the others in a little bit.
The Burner is tiny: it measures .531 inches long with a 1.45 inch tall bowl. Inside is a 1.21 inch deep chamber with a diameter of .69 inches. The pipe weighs .77 ounces. It’s definitely geared towards a quick smoke, and it was made in 2019 as evidenced from the flaming B logo above that year imprinted into its heel.
This past Thursday, I went to the dingy, gray tote I keep all my tobacco in, found some of Edward G. Robinson’s pipe mixture, and tamped it into the bowl of the Burner with the butt-end of my Apple Pencil. I was off and smoking after the initial charring light went out and the true light went in. I secured a screw I found on my desk to do the rest of the tamping for the duration of the smoke, which I hope wasn’t important since the trash got picked up yesterday.
The anatomy of a straight pipe means that they don’t typically do well with anyone who wants to clench it in their teeth: if tilted even slightly, a straight shank can cause liquid nicotine condensation to drip down into your throat, which is about the most unpleasant, peppery sensation a human being can endure. I risked it in the name of science, though, and the Burner’s light weight made it a cinch to hold in my mouth. It’d been a while since I’d smoked a pipe with a vulcanite stem since I thought I preferred the rigidity of an acrylic one, but I quickly remembered that the softer vulcanite of the Burner was much more comfortable.
The bowl -which I’d loaded to about 75% capacity- was over after around twelve minutes when I ejected a dottle of unburnt tobacco the size of a blueberry from the base of the pipe. It was a lot of tobacco to leave, but the smoke was over: The draw had become hot and fast, and there was nearly no flavor left to what tobacco remained.
As a smoker of cigarettes, one of my biggest pipe dilemmas is finding the time to smoke one. It takes two seconds to inhale a Lucky Strike, but something like Scott’s Pipes Burner can be chugged through in the time of a typical break from work. I’d caution you from doing that in public, though, unless you’re some Kennedy relative on a yacht smoking a Cutty out in Hyannis Port. My big old Boswells wouldn’t really fit in on the sloop of a scion, but this sleek little smoker would! It’d also fit in the pocket of a pea coat similar to the one I wore when I was a pipe-smoker crossing the bridge from California Avenue to IPFW in Fort Wayne a decade or so ago. I certainly wouldn’t fret if the pipe was lost. Did I mention that I have, repeatedly, over my old Boswell?
For less than $40, this Burner from Scott’s Pipes was at least somewhat made in America, by a legitimately-independent American brand, no less, and it’s leagues above the drug-store, blister-pack type crap you’d get that purports to be of the same provenance.
Back to the comparisons: the Burner smokes comparably to a Nørding Compass, without any of the whistle and burble that seems endemic to that series. I think the quality of the Burner’s briar is better, as both of the rusticated Compasses at my house have noticeable pitting that’s pretty significant. If you’re a fan of a traditional pipe aesthetic or are decidedly against Danish modernism, the Burner would be the one to pick in a head-to-head comparison. The smoke is undoubtedly better.
Just like the Burner, my Rossi Piccolo smokes hot to the taste, but not to the touch since its bowl is larger and the rustication is a little bit deeper. I tend to get some gurgle from it near the end, something I didn’t experience with the Burner, but overall I’d rate the Piccolo and the Burner about even, with any small advantage probably going to the burner given its aged briar. I truly think that makes a difference.
Though the Burner is a better smoker than one of Dr. Grabow’s more expensive pipes and two of Nørding and Rossi’s cheapest, my Ropp Vintage Zulu bests it by a fair margin. In reviewing it for this post, though, I realized that my Ropp actually cost thirty dollars more than what I remembered, although Ropp’s Etudiant line -also made from vintage stummels found at the old Chacom plant- starts at about $45. It’s probably unfair to make a comparison between the Burner and my Ropp, but they share the same story and a similar briar heritage. I found that the Ropp smoked much better, but I’ll have to pick up an Etudiante to try to complete the picture.
The bottom line about Scott’s Pipes Burners is trifold: On one hand, I’ve found an inexpensive brand of American pipes. On the other, my independent Burner rivals the quality of the cheapest pipes the international big boys pump out. On my third hand -which protrudes from my abdomen and is smaller than the other two- I love the heritage of this Burner’s briar and stem, regardless of where it came from in Italy or France.
“While the quality high, the price is low,” Scott’s Pipes says about the Burner series.
“Rest easy knowing you are not tempting fate with your high grade and more expensive works.”
Sounds good to me!
2 thoughts on “Scott’s Pipes Burner series: Budget-level American pipes that don’t suck”
I had no idea that so many are still making pipes in the US.
Me neither! I knew of Moonshine and BriarWorks, but not this whole assortment of artisans aside from Boswell. This pipe was a nice compromise between something inexpensive but something at least worked-over domestically.
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