Pipe smoking in Ireland has a long and fabled history. Long before Peterson of Dublin, arguably the most famous Irish pipe brand, invented its P-lip system, men and women throughout the Irish countryside were puffing on Irish clay pipes.
Clay pipes were the choice material for Irish pipe smokers until the mid-1800s, when Peterson Partners, Friedrich and Heinrich Kapp, popularized the more traditional briar pipe.
Interestingly, briar is not native to Ireland. In fact, Ireland's climate is not ideal for producing briar. It was not until the Peterson partners started importing briar that briar pipes began to catch on.
Thus, before Peterson, just about all Irish pipe smokers used clay pipes. These pipes are very inexpensive and easily made. Everyone from farmers to nobleman used a clay pipe.
Strange as it may seem, clay pipes were almost always found at wakes and funerals. In fact, when a person died, friends and family would always buy a gallon of whiskey, porter, tobacco, and clay pipes.
Another interesting fact is that Irish pipe smokers enjoyed dipping the shank of their clay pipes into Guinness or Whisky. This gave the clay mouthpiece a nice flavor.
Clay pipes are no longer very prominent anywhere, including Ireland. While briar is king, there is something special about picking up a clay pipe. It sends the smoker back in time and is something that every pipe smoker should try at least once.
Personally, I have added a few clay pipes to my collection, and while I would not want to smoke my clays every day, they do have a nice place in my monthly rotation.
Clay pipes are different from other materials in a variety of ways. First, clay pipe keeps the tobacco burning dry. They also seem to resist ghosting better than briars, which makes them great for tasting new or "strong" tobaccos.
Like all things, there are some downsides. Clay pipes become very hot to the touch when smoked. They are also much more fragile than briar pipes and can easily break. Also, many people don't like the feeling of having a clay stem in their mouth. Of course, it is nearly impossible and not recommended to try to clinch a clay stem in your teeth.
While clay pipes are not too common today, they certainly have their place in history, especially in Ireland. So, if you ever find yourself feeling a bit nostalgic, pick up a clay pipe and give it a try. You might just find yourself transported to the Irish countryside in a field of clovers.
It seems only fitting that since we are discussing pipes in Ireland that we should mention a bit about the history of Peterson Pipes of Dublin. Since 1865, Peterson has been crafting amazing pipes, tobaccos and pipe accessories. For more information about the history of Peterson of Dublin, check out the Peterson website.
You can also check out this video about Peterson (which can also be found on the Peterson website)