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A Look Back on the 2024 Chicago Pipe Show

A Look Back on the 2024 Chicago Pipe Show

Posted by Greg Rosenberg on 16th Apr 2024

The Chicagoland Pipe Show is a beloved event for the industry and hobby. From informative and fascinating seminars to friendly competitions, conversation over a smoke with friends old and new, and the opportunity to peruse an extensive array of pipes, tobaccos, accessories and more, straight from the retailers, carvers, restorers, blenders—nothing stokes the culture of this pastime quite like a pipe show, and Chicagoland is perhaps the most illustrious. Organized by the Chicago Pipe Collectors Club (CPCC), it’s been a staple of the hobby for decades.


My first indication that this would be a great show came Thursday morning. Every morning before leaving the house, I command my dog Bishop to sit and stay at one end of the room, and from the doorway at the other end, I toss him a treat. This is the "good day test"—if he catches it, it's a good omen for the day to come. I figured I could broaden the scope to the entirety of my trip. And wouldn't you know it, in a spectacular show of athleticism, Bishop leapt high, making up for a less than accurate pitch (three cups of coffee will do that). 

So, at 5 am, I was off to the Richmond airport, feeling like a good time was already assured.

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 smoking tent

After getting settled in at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, I made my way to the smoking tent which had just opened that morning. The tobacco table was already full of tins and jars offering a diverse selection of pipe tobaccos, acquired and generously shared by the CPCC, and added too by the kind pipe smokers attending. 

It's a wonderful chance to try something new, whether a rare or bygone mixture, or maybe just one you've been curious about. I went for some Dunhill Aperitif, one of those classic blends that wasn't revived in the switch to  Peterson, and which I hadn't had the opportunity to smoke. 

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 Community Table

Striking up a conversation with a friendly Chicagoan at the tobacco spread, we settled at one of the many tables about the smoking tent, and it wasn't long before we had a group of friendly new faces, smoking and getting acquainted. I'd only landed a few hours ago, but it was feeling like a pipe show.

Cigar Rolling Workshop

The first event I attended was the Cigar Rolling Workshop, which took place in the smoking tent Thursday evening. Here, two professional cigar rollers gave a demonstration on the rolling process, before giving the attendees the opportunity to try their hand at rolling a cigar. 

Viewers were dazzled by the ease with which Oscar Manuel Arias bunched filler which was then wrapped in binder, pressed, and then wrapped into pristine cigars. All the while, Ismael Rodriguez Olivan offered erudite insight, thoughtfully answering questions from the fascinated, inquisitive observers.

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 Cigar Rolling Seminar

Arias has experience rolling for some of the most celebrated operations in modern premium cigars— La AuroraArturo FuenteDavidoff—and is now the manager of the Rodriguez Olivan Cigars Factory. 

Pipe Cleaning and Restoration Seminar

That evening, I also attended the Pipe Cleaning and Restoration Seminar, hosted by Jamie Connelly, the owner of Stem and Briar LLC. 

As a hobbyist who enjoys restoring pipes in my spare time, I was especially interested in seeing an expert at work. I had no doubt my armchair experience with the trade was far from the professionals', but thinking about the time I spend on one step of restoration, I was skeptical how much could really be covered in the allotted hour. The answer was plenty. 

I’m sure Connelly could have gone on for ages addressing all manner of niche issues he’s come across in his work, but he put on a fantastic seminar that hit on many of the fundamentals of regular maintenance and restoration and did so with humor and much engagement with his audience. 

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 Pipe Cleaning and Restoration Seminar

Some of the subjects Connelly got into were cleaning materials, removal of a broken tenon from a shank, filling impressions and holes in a stem, and removing oxidation. But most interesting to me was his demonstration of retorting as a means of thoroughly excavating the built up gunk in the stummel.

Even the subjects I was a bit more versed in, he had wisdom and tricks of which I was totally unaware. I’m very glad I got the opportunity to thank him for such a great seminar in the smoking tent later in the weekend—it was one of the highlights of the show for me.


Blending Seminar

Friday started with a morning seminar on tobacco blending. Such events are common to pipe shows, but the hosts brought something special to this one. 

Adam Floyd of the Get Piped podcast kicked things off. Floyd had recently worked with Sutliff to produce a micro-batch blend that is only available at pipe shows this year, Flannel Coffee. 

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 Tobacco Blending Seminar - Adam Floyd of Get Piped

Though Floyd doesn't fancy himself a master blender, he is an engaging speaker, and talked the attendees through the trial-and-error of tasting and reconfiguring the recipe with a few pipe smokers and a selection of component leaf, slowly honing in on the profile wading about his mind's palate. I was among those sampling and offering input when he began blending Flannel Coffee, and it was intriguing to hear his impression of that process, now on the other side of it with a finished mixture. 

Floyd's telling of developing the blend really captured the fun yet nettlesome process, and I think excellently framed the unique delight of hobbyist blending.

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 Blending Seminar Per Jensen

Then, the podium was handed to Per Jensen. Behind many modern classic tobacco blends from the  Mac Baren catalogue as well as two Sutliff Signature Series, Jensen is one of the most respected blenders in the field, and this seminar was an apt time to introduce his new Blenders Collection.

Jensen spoke on each of the five component mixtures and how they might be used in the context of a blend. Bags of each were around the tables, as well as scales and bowls for the attendees to create their own mixtures. 

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 Blending Seminar

Sutliff Tobacco President Jeremy McKenna also brought bags of Latakia and Perique to use as condiments for those who wanted some smoke or spice. He also supplied bags of some Sutliff Aromatics for those looking to add flavoring to the mix.

Battle of the Briar

Later that evening we attended the Battle of the Briar. This competition was introduced at last year's show. Pitched by the esteemed pipe maker Jeff Gracik of J. Alan Pipes, it takes the ever popular competition show into the world of pipes; think of the bake-offs or Forged in Steel concept, but the contestants are pipe makers. 

The artisans are given one hour to turn a pipe kit into a tobacco pipe. With emceeing from Gracik and the Pipe Stud himself, Steve Fallon, it was an exciting contest to witness. Each of the contestants went all out, spiting the limits of the clock with their bold choices in shaping and finishing.

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 Battle of the Briar
Left to Right: Dirk Heinemann, Pete Prevost, David Huber

This year's results:

  1. Dirk Heinemann
  2. Squat Tomato with a teardrop shank with plateau on the end of the shank - first to finish
  3. David Huber
    Straight grain Fugu Blowfish with a contrast stain - the first to stain a pipe in a Battle of the Briar competition - third to finish
  4. Pete Prevost
    Lovat with a slight bend - a traditional shape that was a daring choice to take on without a lathe - second to finish

A competition is a competition, but it almost seems wrong to try to rank three absolutely remarkable displays of sheer artistry and craftsmanship. The judges were certainly feeling that pressure as they watched these pipes take shape. 

But this year also came with some heart-thumping drama. Huber was initially the first to finish, but in the excitement of crossing that finish line, he forgot to wipe that elbow grease that was no doubt an asset in shaping his pipe, and placed it on the table signifying its completion with a bit too much force. From across the room, I saw that little black stem fly across the table and the first thing I the same question ran through my head as I'm sure most everyone else's—was it just dislodged? Or did it break?

"David Huber finished his pipe at three minutes and twenty three seconds..." Gracik began to confirm, "and his mouthpiece broke when he put it on the table."

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 Battle of the Briar

Now with two and a half minutes remaining, having considered attempting a stem repair, Huber went to work finishing a new stem! A big task with such little time, especially considering the stems were acrylic in this competition, and Huber needed a slight bend in his. As Gracik explained, "when you overheat vulcanite, you can sand out the problems, when you overheat acryilic, it melts, it drips."

The energy was high as the room counted down to zero with Huber finishing with seconds to spare. However, as he was nearly finished, Gracik and Jared Cole (last year's second place) were trying to pull the broken tenon from the mortise. One holding the stummel, the other a tool gripping the tenon, the men yanked one, two, three times with no tenon removed. It was only on the fourth attempt that it budged—if it hadn't dislodged on that fourth pull, it seems almost certain Huber would have been standing there, stem in hand, stummel finished, watching the timer hit 0. Luckily, that wasn't the case, and right at the buzzer, Huber ever so gently set his pipe down, and the tension in the room converted to cheers and applause, and one Steve Fallon literally flatback on the floor.

It was really something, I recommend watching the whole event, but if nothing else, you've gotta see  the final nail biting minute. 



With all the excitement of the first two days, it was hard to believe waking up Saturday morning that we hadn’t even started the exhibition yet.

The pipe show exhibition is a surreal event—many folks these days don't even have a genuine local tobacconist where they can find a selection of pipes, tobaccos, and all things related in person, let alone a hall of this size full of such treasures. Here, there are tables of beautiful pipes—factory, artisan, estates; there are tins of tobacco including bygone and  aged mixtures, special editions, and blends being introduced; leather works; briar blocks and sellers of tooling for carving and restoration. And of course, the personal touch of being face to face with someone passionate about these things. In fact, it’s often the very person responsible for mixing that blend, carving that pipe, or bringing that estate back to life.

On the Tobacco Pipes table, we had an assortment of estate pipes and special edition tins from Sutliff’s Cringle Flake and Barrel Aged series. Our real hit was a case of the polarizing Captain Black Grape. Yes, somehow we came into this discontinued blend that is missed by many and the butt of a joke to probably many more. table - Captain Black Grape

On the Sutliff table we had several cigar boxes, including the  Plum Pudding cigars, which recently enjoyed a successful launch. We also had some cans of special releases from early in the year, Black Shillelagh and Maple Shadows, as well as the two micro-batch pipe show exclusives, Fróstika 1800 and Flannel Coffee, made for the Greywoodie Show and the Get Piped Podcast, respectively. We were also accompanied by Per Jensen with his Blenders Collection available individually by the blend or in pre-made sample packs, the latter selling out Saturday. table

And who could be back to back with us but Shannon and Brett Hoch of Missouri Meerschaum? The eminent corn cob pipe purveyors are always a pleasure to spend time with at these shows. 

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 Missouri Meerschaum Table

There were many other fantastic displays of all kinds, and I had a wonderful time wandering the showroom and seeing all the incredible pipes and tobaccos and more. 

My first purchase was from my good friend Nate Davis, known for his Greywoodie pipes and the podcast of the same name. He announced this weekend that he had bought Kaywoodie from Bill Feuerbach, whom Nate has studied under for many years. I was very excited to purchase a stunning Kaywoodie Super Grain Billiard from his first batch as the Kaywoodie man.

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 - Nate Davis with Kaywoodie

Personal purchases aside, we went home with a lot of great pipes we’re excited to get on the site, including some from makers we’ve yet to carry. So keep an eye out!

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 vendors - Bruno Nuttens, Altinay, Chacom, Uncanny Materials
Left to right top to bottom: Bruno NuttensAltinayChacom - Uncanny Materials

Slow Smoke

After the exhibition closed for the day, we had the USPCA USA National Slow Smoke Championship, where Les Young took home the gold for the second year in a row. 

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 - Les Young, Slow Smoke Champion

With a special Morgan Bones with a new finish and an L.J. Peretti blend of Virginia and Burley specially made for the event, Young set down his pipe, still smoldering, after an hour and one minute—one minute after the runner up went out. Young's time last year was just shy of one hour seven minutes. 

Doctor of Pipes dinner

The last event of the jam packed day was the Doctor of Pipes dinner, where the latest Doctor and Master of Pipes were honored. 

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 - Doctor and Master of Pipes Dinner

From the CCPC’s site:

“Let’s all extend hearty congratulations to this year’s Doctor of Pipe and Master of Pipes honorees — Marco Parascenzo of Castello, Regis McCafferty (a founder of NASPC), Steve Norse of Vermont Freehand (who is sponsoring our Pipe Carving Workshops!), and Jay Furman of the Pipe and Tamper podcast. Although these awards are bestowed by the Chicagoland Pipe Collectors Club, the honorees are selected by the existing Doctors and Masters of Pipes, with no influence from CPCC.”

GH Zhang tobacco pipe

The festivities end in a raffle, where I was lucky enough to win a beautiful GH Zhang pipe.


After a nice breakfast with Per Jensen and Brian Levine (Pipes Magazine Radio Show), I was off to the second day of the exhibition. Sunday's exhibition is all about going back to those on the fence purchases, and for vendors, maybe cutting some deals to go home a little bit lighter. 

As things were winding down, I got myself one more pipe to take home, but this one was a gift. Per Jensen had brought some of his Georg Jensen pipes from his time on the briar side of the industry, and prompted me to choose one. 

Georg Jensen pipes

He generously parted with this beautiful bent Egg (top right pictured above), a prototype from the Sunrise line. I think it's absolutely gorgeous, which just adds to the sentimental value the pipe instantly took on for the kind offering it was. 

If you read the Tobacco Files column I write, you may know that I've made a tradition of getting a Georg Jensen pipe for each new series—a Granat bent Egg for Birds of a Feather and  De Luxe bent Dublin for Pipe Force. Looks like this will be the Blenders Collection Jensen pipe!

Fast Smoke

Also presented by United Pipe Clubs of America, we had the Fast Smoke, a bit more chaotic of an event than its slow counterpart. 

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 Fast Smoke

The contestants were given three grams of a special Malört flavored tobacco, a delicacy concocted just for this noble contest, and had to finish their pipe, nothing but ash remaining, faster than any of their competitors. We had another defending champ take this one home, Clarence VanCamp, finishing in just over four minutes.

Chicago Pipe Show 2024 Fast Smoke Champ

All I can say, they are all champs to subject themselves to such a challenge, and I'm glad for them that this was hosted on the last day of the show this year!

Until next year...

This account of the 2024 Chicagoland Pipe Show scratches the surface, but each day had even more than I could attend, and some of the best moments are really just in the conversations and camaraderie. Everything about the pipe show enriches the social core of this hobby, and in many ways, that's what we're here for. The CPCC put on a fantastic show, made all the more special by each vendor, attendee, and presenter. I'm already looking forward to next year.