Rattray’s Pipes History (#1 Past & Innovative Future)
Rattray’s historical past begins in the year 1880, when Charles Rattray was born. Charles was a proud man of Scotland. He spent his early years studying the art of fine tobacco blending in Dundee, Scotland.
Rattray’s begins in Perth
Charles took a leap of faith at the vulnerable age of 23 that forever changed his life and the lives of pipe smokers all over the world. He purchased a bedraggled tobacco shop in ancient Perth,Scotland. He renamed it The House of Rattray. Perth was the original home of the Rattray clan in the 11th century. It was a perfect match. In just a few short years, The House of Rattray became one of the premier tobacco shops in all of the British Isles.
Charles’ hungry work ethic motivated him to begin blending his own pipe tobacco recipes. Eventually the tobacco shop became a tobacco blending workshop for his world- renown tobacco blends.
The English pipe makers come aboard
In order to expand the Rattray’s company, Charles decided to add pipe making to the company’s repertoire. However, The House of Rattray was no wood shop. To keep his dream alive, Charles enlisted the help of several English pipe carvers. Charles would design the pipes and his hired carvers made them.
Rattray’s pipes blasted on the scene with almost immediate popularity. Soon, Rattray’s pipes were mail-ordered from overseas.
Preserving a legend
Unfortunately, as time moved on, the Rattray’s company in Perth faded from prominence. In an effort to save one of the premier European pipe and tobacco companies, the German company, Kohlhase & Kopp, acquired the Rattray’s name and it’s traditions.
Rattray’s pipes are made from different companies around Europe, including Chacom and Butz-Choquin. This practice is in keeping the Charles’ spirit of collaborative within European pipe design.
Rattray’s rare meerschaum pipes are carved by factories in Italy.
Rattray’s pipe tobaccos are blended by Kohlhase & Kopp in Germany.
This diversified system of pipe carving makes Rattray’s pipes like no other. Each model has a different flare to it. This means the variety offered by Rattray’s is much wider than most other companies.
The dream of Charles Rattray lives on through the modern, community-oriented version of Rattray’s we know today.
Rattray’s Pipes in the 21st Century
Even though the history of the Rattray’s pipe and tobacco company is fascinating, what the company is doing now is even more impressive.
Each and every Rattray’s product tells a story.
Notable Rattray’s Pipe Shapes and Styles
Rattray’s tobacco pipes are all inspired by a Scottish tradition, landmark, family, or feature close to the heart of the Rattray family. For example, the Mr. Charles collection was inspired by Charles Rattray himself.
The Stone of Scone
The Stone of Scone is an ancient rock coronation table made from an oblong block of red sandstone. The purpose of this “stone of destiny” was to coronate the royal family of Scotland during the changing of the guard.
When Edward I took power over Scotland in 1296, the Stone of Scone was removed and taken to London. In 1950 the stone was returned to Scotland by four native students. Unfortunately, the stone broke in two on the journey back. The stone has now been permanently stored in Edinburgh Castle in Scotland where it is still periodically used for ceremonies of Scotland and England.
The Stone of Scone tobacco pipes have been finished with a marble color and high gloss finish that actually mimics the worn color of the stone. This is no doubt one of pipes that Rattray’s is proud to call their own.
One of Rattray’s most memorable and best inspired tobacco pipes is the Kelpy. These pipes feature a rustic and dark grey stain.
The line was inspired by a ghostly water horse who promised travelers safe passage from one side of a river to another. However, when the passenger mounted the horse, it proceeded to take them under the water, drown them, and make them the main course for a morbid banquet. Hope remained only if the traveler could tame the water spirit. This feat would earn him safe travels from the Kelpy for life.
The Rattray’s Army Mounts
Fantastic inspiration aside, Rattray’s has attributes they are known for. Rattray’s army mount stem is a favorite of pipe smokers around the world.
Not all Rattray’s pipes come with an army-style stem. The ones that do have been made with a vintage machine, following the process set-up by pipe carvers nearly a century ago. For those looking for an original style army stem, there is no other company that produces the classical style stem like Rattray’s.
Satisfying Rattray’s Pipe Tobacco
Now let us return to what made Rattray’s famous in the first place: pipe tobacco.
Old Gowrieis one of Rattray’s best-selling and most beloved pipe tobaccos. This blend was inspired by a geographical area in Scotland that was home to the old Perthshire.
Old Gowrie is a European style tin that holds 1.76 ounces of Virginia and Perique tobacco. Of all their tobacco blends, this may be Rattray’s most savory and exciting mixture. The deep flavors that this specific Va/Per mixture has been able to highlight is completely unique and sets the standard for other similar blends.
Black Malloryis a second pillar blend for Rattray’s. As an English tobacco, Black Mallory has a following with serious smokers who love deep rich flavors. If you are interested in getting a feel for what Rattray’s tobacco is all about, tasting Black Mallory is an imperative.
One last defining mixture from Rattray’s, a blend that any curious smoker should sample, is Red Rapparee. This non-aromatic tobacco was inspired by a Rapparee, which was a British Ilse’s soldier during the 17th century. This tobacco combines a Cavendish leaf with Virginia and Orientals to give the blend its unique flavor and texture.
Rattray’s has accessories too.
Every discerning tobacco pipe smoker enjoys coordinating accessories for his favorite pipes. With that in mind, Rattray’s offers an array of stylish pipe pouches, tampers and racks for your displaying your collection.
Rattray’s most well known accessory is the Caber. This is a two part pipe tool available in either a Thin (a skinny pipe tamper) or a Fat (a thicker version) model. The tops of these tools disconnect from the bottom, which exposes a pick used to loosen the tobacco or clear the airway. To keep them clean and pristine, Caber tools have chrome plating, which makes them easy to clean.
For the tobacco, Rattray’s offers different styles of tobacco pouches, each made from soft black leather. In fact, most Rattray’s pouches hold one or more pipes in combination with the tobacco, making it the perfect way to transport your gear from one smoking spot to the other.
The Future of Rattray’s
Rattray’s has set the standard for tobacco and pipes for over a century. Today they produce more pipes, tobacco, and accessories then Charles would have thought possible.
So this all begs the question, “What comes next for Rattray’s?”
We cannot forecast the future. But, what we can do is take everything we learned from Rattray’s up to this point and make a fairly safe bet that the future is bright for this historically significant brand.
In the past, The vast majority of Rattray’s pipe series were only available in Europe. Most shops and online stores in the United States and Canada didn’t carry Rattray’s products, and the ones who did only had a small collection. Thanks to an ambitious new endeavor, Rattray’s is poised to take a prominent spot among the favorite brands of pipe smokers in the Western Hemisphere.
It seems that Rattray’s has also recently bumped up the quality of their tobacco pipes. Through the process of transferring to Kohlhase & Kopp, the brand has a much more efficient manufacturing method. The resulting pipes are a pleasure to smoke. A Rattray’s pipe today will smoke much better than its equivalent from a few decades ago. The brand is growing, in new and exciting ways we haven’t seen the like of in over 100 years. It’s an exciting time to be a Rattray’s fan.
We see thousands of pipes on a regular basis and, based on this experience, we can tell that the quality, craftsmanship, and inspiration of Rattray’s is exceptional. We love collecting Rattray’s pipes. We’ve enjoyed smoking many of their tobacco blends, and their accessories for your pipe are second to none. That is why, we are excited to bring this extensive collection to you.
It’s been a few years since we added such a large line all at once. We hope you enjoy it and can’t wait for your feedback.
Chris Hopkins is our resident tobacco expert and pipe aficionado. As a writer, Chris spends most of his time nestled behind a computer screen. Chris began his pipe smoking career when a friend encouraged him to invest in a cheap estate piece. In no time, he was running his own tobacco critique blog (Confessions of a Pipe Smoker) and began working for us. Chris writes from his home in Winston Salem, NC. In addition to pipe smoking, Chris' hobbies are movie watching, debating dogmatics, dog watching, and playing chess.
Tell us, what is your favorite Rattray’s pipe or tobacco and why?