This weekend, I finally had a chance to smoke my new Boswell partially-rusticated bent brandy that I bought about a week and a half ago. I also got the chance to smoke the Johs sandblasted bent brandy I got four months ago but had forgotten about. I’ll admit that I haven’t yet purchased one of Savinelli’s Tortuga pipes with the line’s tortoise-shell stems and matching acrylic hats, though. Nope! The Tortuga referenced in the headline is my own Tortuga, Sheldon.
Well, my own foster tortoise: Sheldon is a Russian tortoise I’ve had over here while his real parent, my friend Crystal, renovates a house she’s moving into. Didn’t know tortoises and turtles are different? Well, go ahead and recognize it fast, and DON’T TELL CRYSTAL. Spare yourself that wrath! They’re indeed different, and she got him twelve years ago as a rescue tortoise, which wasn’t something I knew existed. But regardless of his provenance, he’s a pretty chill little reptile, aside from all the hissing. Even after three or four months, he still doesn’t trust me to slowly pick him up.
Sheldon loves spring mix from Kroger and wants for nothing in his luxurious, six-foot long terrarium of tempered glass. All the same, one of my favorite things to do is take him outside to explore the front yard while I chaperone and smoke. It’d been a while since Sheldon went on a field trip, so I brought the Johs and the Boswell out to the front porch, along with a tin of Cornell & Diehl’s Dreams of Kadath for the former and a tin of C&D’s Low Country: Edisto for the latter.
I set Sheldon in the yard and he made a beeline towards a shrub while I filled the Johs. Dreams of Kadath is a plug mixture of just about every type of tobacco there is- Black Cavendish, Burley, Kentucky, Oriental, Perique, and Virginia. Kadath is pretty wet, and I didn’t heed my own advice of letting it dry out a little before I packed my pipe so lighting it was a bit of a struggle. We were good after a while, though, putting the Johs through its first smoke, and digging a hole underneath a bush. You guess which of us did what.
The Johs -a sandblasted bent Brady- is a nice-looking pipe. Both it and the Boswell are, actually: part of the reason I smoked them back-to-back was due to how similar they are not only in terms of appearance, but also with regards to their manufacturing process: Both pipes have bowls that are canted backwards and feature dark stains. Neither is smooth except for a accent band of contrasting briar, and both pipes feature saddle bit stems. Also, both were made by hand- Mogens Johansen makes around a thousand pipes a year in Denmark, while J.M. and his son Dan Boswell crank out around six times that many in Pennsylvania.
The Johs has a tall bowl, a sloping heel, and a cant that gives it that 1940s-era ocean liner funnel look I really enjoy. It measures 5.16 inches long, with a bowl height of 1.77 inches and a chamber that’s 1.57 inches deep. The chamber diameter is .82 inches, giving this one .81 cubic inches of tobacco capacity. By means of comparison, the chamber volume of my widely-flared Johs bent Dublin is .68 cubic inches, while my other sandblasted bent brandy Johs has nearly the same capacity as this new guy.
Johs is able to sell so many pipes because Johansen works like a maniac; that’s why most of his pipes feature spot-rustication or sandblasts to cover up flaws in the briar. It’s been my experience that, while the fit and finish of his pipes is far above the average Single-A team, some minor cosmetic flaws come into play that prevent them from finding a home in the majors. This bent brandy, for example, has some stain issues at the shank transition, the mortise isn’t completely centered, and the bowl isn’t drilled completely smoothly. Neither bother me, but they’re worth mentioning. For what it’s worth, you’ll find the same issues -but probably worse- in a Peterson or Savinelli at this price point.
I have two other Johs pipes, one very similar to this along with a widely-splayed bent Dublin. I noticed that this new one smokes noticeably warmer in the hand than either of its older siblings, but that’s because its walls are much thinner than theirs. At no point was the heat excessive or an issue. I actually like it when a pipe is warm.
I smoked the Kadath down to the ash and it was fine. Dreams of Kadath is a pretty intense-tasting tobacco! Over the course of the smoke, what I perceived to be the berry and fig notes of the topping gradually integrated into the grassy, smoky, woody, and nutty flavors of the rest of the tobacco.
Overall, I like Johs pipes because they’re handmade aside from utilizing a pre-formed stem. They’re also ungodly cheap and punch far above their weight: this one cost only $92.34. That’s a steal for a handmade Danish pipe, especially if you want a companion that is truly unique. Minor fit and finish quibbles aside, I’d have loved it if my first pipe had been a handmade Johs.
After I finished, I picked Sheldon up to relocate him into the greater part of my yard where he promptly ate an ant and began munching on the grass for a late-morning carbo load. I picked up the Boswell and loaded it with Edisto by folding the flakes back onto each other into a plug about the size of the pipe’s .77 cubic inch bowl. I was a little shocked at the pipe’s diminutive size compared to the Johs, especially since Boswell pipes tend to be on the oversized end of the spectrum. It didn’t bother me any.
The Boswell has a squatter bowl than the Johs, without as much of that ocean liner cant to it. Part of this is due to its base- it’s a sitter, a feature I took advantage of when I looked up and couldn’t find Sheldon! I set the pipe down and hurried across the yard where I found that he’d scampered about forty feet down the length of my yard in the span of how long it takes me to light a pipe! The yard bunny that hides under my brother’s truck better think twice before he challenges Shelldude to a race.
The Boswell fired right up and I began to smoke the Edisto fter a charring light and a quick tamp. It’s a tart Virginia blend that’s pretty mild in terms of temperament and nicotine- not anywhere close to how much of a sock to the puss the Dreams of Kadath dishes out. Of the two, I’d prefer the milder Edisto if I were to be smoking all day.
After some hissing on both our parts, I deposited Sheldon back in the grass in front of me. I picked the Boswell up and turned it sideways to read the inscription on its flat base before I finished smoking it. It turns out that this pipe was the first I’d ever encountered made by Dan Boswell, who’s worked side-by-side with his dad J.M. for years. As I finished the remainder of the smoke, I noticed no difference in quality between it and any of J.M.’s. The pipe -produced in 2016 but never used- performed like it’d been broken in years ago, the same as all of J.M.’s pipes. Where the Johs gave a competent smoke, the Boswell provided a professional one. I’d recommend either pipe to someone new, but the Boswell really brought it.
Years ago I reported directly to the Vice President of Marketing for a CPG company stuffed with well-known brands. I tried to interact and pick his brain every chance I got. One day I met with him to brashly ask if I could be project manager for the rollout of a new product. Respectfully, he responded by asking me if I had real experience in the specific facets of the project, or if I merely had exposure to those responsibilities. Oof.
I fucked up and learned my lesson: Out of the pipe sock, the Johs has exposure. The Boswell has experience.
In my case, the difference was probably my education. I was a smart kid with no college degree. With regards to these pipes, the difference is in the price. Even as an estate pipe -albeit unsmoked- the Boswell cost $50 more than the Johs. I’d imagine that it’d have been closer to $165-$180 new. Is the opportunity cost of breaking in a handmade pipe worth that to you? If so, I’d go for the Boswell. None of mine have ever steered me wrong, and despite a thorough examination, none of the flaws I found in the Johs were present in the Boswell.
I’m not trying to steer you away from Johs. They’re great pipes and, overall, both provided me with a great smoke just like Sheldon’s provided me with some reptilian intrigue. After I finished the Boswell, he absolutely kicked and hissed as I loaded him up to take him back upstairs! But I remember doing the same to my parents after days of exploring Discovery Zone or Chuck E. Cheese, so I can’t say I blame him.
Once Crystal’s ready for him back, I think I’ll replace Shelldawg with a tortoise of my own. I’ll have to get one of Savinelli’s Tortugas to celebrate, of course, but in the meantime I’ll have two fantastic smokers. Though this Johs is one of Mogens Johansen’s more pedestrian offerings, it was good and I’d recommend it. The Boswell, though- boy howdy. Those pipes are not to be underestimated!