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Castello's Unique Briar

SonoranHotDog

Pass the Jalapeños
Patron
#1
The wood used in Castello pipes is unlike any other I've encountered. It has a distinctive 'flavor' profile, which I would characterize as Cedar-like. In fact, the first Castello that came home had such a distinctive smell and taste that I suspected it had been stored in a display case with incense. Then, after getting a couple more -- from different sources -- it was clear the smell/taste was a characteristic of the brand.

So, the question growing from this observation is, "why?" Why do these pipes have such a unique and distinctive 'taste' to the wood? Is the source of their briar different from all other manufacturers? Does something about their curing process impart this peculiarity? Does the way they control dust in their factory impart this flavor? Do they intentionally infuse their pipes with some kind of essence to give them this trait? Has anyone been to their shop, and does the whole place smell like this? In short, how do they do that?

Thanks.
 

Spillproof

Mostly Harmless
Staff member
Sales
#2
The quick answer is: No, to all of your questions.

Castello uses particularly well aged briar but they absolutely do not add flavor. I have a few Castellos and have other pipes made from every imaginable briar source; I personally have never noted any cedar-like flavor.

@Sasquatch is a Castello devotee. His comments will be more helpful than mine.
 
Last edited:

jpberg

The Worst Thing about the Internet
Staff member
Sales
#5
Another “no cedar” here too. I’ve only had a handful of them, but don’t recall ever tasting that from any of them.

@jpberg used to have a million of them. You ever notice this, Jon?
Can’t say that I noticed anything like that.
I did, however, have one that didn’t have a soul, so I sent it to California where it would be in like company.
 

Sasquatch

Wizzard
Staff member
#6
Let's talk about briar first, Castellos second.

Briar burls get dug up, shipped, flipped, flopped, sprayed, sorted, cut, boiled, dried etc. Mills like Mimmo (romeo briar) buy truckloads from all over the mediterranean, and process it - the result is an astonishingly uniform product, I could never pick up a piece of Mimmo's wood and say "Ahh, this one here grew on the southern slop of such-and-such a peninsula". Other mills use more "local" supply, Calabria pipe, Jaume Hom when he was running... All the wood I have from Calabriar basically looks identical. Buying wood from Jaume, you'd think some of it was walnut for the color variation in any batch of briar, it was freaky. I don't know if that's a process thing or a geography thing - I suspect process, given the uniformity of other spanish briar I have had (from Bruken).

Briar is all very, very similar. I think I could tell you the outliers in a carving/working way (some feel a little waxy, or smell a little different when being cut), and I think some of them I could tell you about the briar if I smoked a new/raw pipe made from it. But only some - the vast majority are very, very similar in how they taste, most especially in how they taste when you burn them.

Algerian briar and Spanish briar both, to my taste, have a little "spice" - I would say that algerian has a little hint of almost a cinnamon-ish background, and I think Jaume's briar had the most cedar-ish taste I've come across. I don't think this is a good thing, I think some of his blocks were pretty poorly boiled, and there was pinky-juice sometimes when you drilled them - this is part of the resin that we are trying to boil out in the curing process. Now, Jaume's briar smoked great once you broke it in, a few smokes in, the stuff was wonderful - jpberg has lots of this wood and truth be told, Spillproof's last pipe he got from me, a "fake" dunhill shell billiard, was the very last production piece of JH briar I have, and..... Dave didn't die. Nor in fact did he mention anything about cedar-y notes - it's just briar (and had been sitting on my shelf for years).

And I think that's where I want to take this conversation - I think the longer briar sits, the less different, mill to mill and region to region, it gets. It all turns brown, it all hardens off, sort of oxydizes and petrifies. And I find that this makes the flavor and the burning and everything a hell of a lot less different. There are still recognizeable differences of hardness and feel and just how they finish.. but man, I don't ever worry about whether this or that piece is 5 year old Tuscan or 6 year old Corsican... I mean, it's.. all the same.


Let's talk about Castello. Good pipes, smoke good, I like 'em. Just briar and a good airway, pretty easy formula. Castello bought from a few different mills, did a lot of business with the Romeo family up till a few years ago - won't get into it here but they are buying other wood now. But they buy lots of wood and just sit on it. That's why castellos are this sort of uniform mahogany-ish color, the briar is something like 10 years old when they cut it - this color here (and I know it's EXACTLY this color here because this is 10 year old Romeo briar) IMG_0222.JPG


Compare with the "bright white" in this pipe: IMG_0180.JPG This is Tuscan stuff, different mill, but it's just way way whiter off the bat, and it will drift to that mahogany color given more time.



In smoking a new Castello, something I've done many times, I've never noticed anything I'd call cedary as opposed to any other briar - I tend to think new briar has a slightly corkish taste. I had one I thought was .. a little earthy. And one that I thought tasted like Lakeland sauce - and I'm still not convinced it hadn't picked something up at the Lanzola shop - I'll never know for sure.

However, burning briar does have a VERY sharp taste, a little cedary even. This tends to occur in new pipes (raw briar) right at the top of the draft hole - that is amongst the hottest places for the burn, and there's this thin little peninsula of briar hanging there - it's probably impossible not to burn it off. So I can't help but think that this is what you are tasting, @SonoranHotDog in that first bowl or two. And I think you'd get that same flavor from a Punto Oro, or a BST, or a Radice (Can't think of too many pipe brands that come with exposed wood).

If the pipes you are buying smell a little cedarish, I can only think that there's a little briar dust or soemthing in there. I dunno, but I've never found a new Castello to be recognizeable by smell (in the way a Gibson guitar is).

I do sorta kinda wonder if Castello don't sauce the pipes with something - I have noticed a tiny bit of staining in some chambers - but I don't know what it would be. I went as far as to lick the last one I bought, thinking it might taste like sugar or shellac or something.... it didn't, disappointingly, it tasted just like Italian briar, and nothing else. Bitter cork.

So that's maybe more of an exploratory oration than an answer, if so, I apologize. Worth what you paid at any rate.
 

daveinlax

Well-known member
#7
I don't have a great palette and I've never tasted cedar or anything other than tobacco but I've had a couple that smelled like Cedar but I thought it was from the wood presentation boxes. You might be tasting orange shellac that's been rumored to give that great taste and what they might coat some of the bowls with. Some bowls look dry and uncoated, some look semi coated like it's soaked in unevenly and some look shiny. I've asked and all I get is a shy smile and a shrug. That's one of the things I want to sluth if I ever get to Cantu.:geek:
 

Sasquatch

Wizzard
Staff member
#9
I don't have a great palette and I've never tasted cedar or anything other than tobacco but I've had a couple that smelled like Cedar but I thought it was from the wood presentation boxes. You might be tasting orange shellac that's been rumored to give that great taste and what they might coat some of the bowls with. Some bowls look dry and uncoated, some look semi coated like it's soaked in unevenly and some look shiny. I've asked and all I get is a shy smile and a shrug. That's one of the things I want to sluth if I ever get to Cantu.:geek:
Don't want to start horrible rumors, but my suspicion is also that they simply run some shellac in there and then maybe give it a quick scrub with like, 600 grit. Whatever it is, it ain't much of anything.
 

Tnfan

Well-known member
Patron
#12
Let's talk about briar first, Castellos second.

Briar burls get dug up, shipped, flipped, flopped, sprayed, sorted, cut, boiled, dried etc. Mills like Mimmo (romeo briar) buy truckloads from all over the mediterranean, and process it - the result is an astonishingly uniform product, I could never pick up a piece of Mimmo's wood and say "Ahh, this one here grew on the southern slop of such-and-such a peninsula". Other mills use more "local" supply, Calabria pipe, Jaume Hom when he was running... All the wood I have from Calabriar basically looks identical. Buying wood from Jaume, you'd think some of it was walnut for the color variation in any batch of briar, it was freaky. I don't know if that's a process thing or a geography thing - I suspect process, given the uniformity of other spanish briar I have had (from Bruken).

Briar is all very, very similar. I think I could tell you the outliers in a carving/working way (some feel a little waxy, or smell a little different when being cut), and I think some of them I could tell you about the briar if I smoked a new/raw pipe made from it. But only some - the vast majority are very, very similar in how they taste, most especially in how they taste when you burn them.

Algerian briar and Spanish briar both, to my taste, have a little "spice" - I would say that algerian has a little hint of almost a cinnamon-ish background, and I think Jaume's briar had the most cedar-ish taste I've come across. I don't think this is a good thing, I think some of his blocks were pretty poorly boiled, and there was pinky-juice sometimes when you drilled them - this is part of the resin that we are trying to boil out in the curing process. Now, Jaume's briar smoked great once you broke it in, a few smokes in, the stuff was wonderful - jpberg has lots of this wood and truth be told, Spillproof's last pipe he got from me, a "fake" dunhill shell billiard, was the very last production piece of JH briar I have, and..... Dave didn't die. Nor in fact did he mention anything about cedar-y notes - it's just briar (and had been sitting on my shelf for years).

And I think that's where I want to take this conversation - I think the longer briar sits, the less different, mill to mill and region to region, it gets. It all turns brown, it all hardens off, sort of oxydizes and petrifies. And I find that this makes the flavor and the burning and everything a hell of a lot less different. There are still recognizeable differences of hardness and feel and just how they finish.. but man, I don't ever worry about whether this or that piece is 5 year old Tuscan or 6 year old Corsican... I mean, it's.. all the same.


Let's talk about Castello. Good pipes, smoke good, I like 'em. Just briar and a good airway, pretty easy formula. Castello bought from a few different mills, did a lot of business with the Romeo family up till a few years ago - won't get into it here but they are buying other wood now. But they buy lots of wood and just sit on it. That's why castellos are this sort of uniform mahogany-ish color, the briar is something like 10 years old when they cut it - this color here (and I know it's EXACTLY this color here because this is 10 year old Romeo briar) View attachment 27816


Compare with the "bright white" in this pipe: View attachment 27818 This is Tuscan stuff, different mill, but it's just way way whiter off the bat, and it will drift to that mahogany color given more time.



In smoking a new Castello, something I've done many times, I've never noticed anything I'd call cedary as opposed to any other briar - I tend to think new briar has a slightly corkish taste. I had one I thought was .. a little earthy. And one that I thought tasted like Lakeland sauce - and I'm still not convinced it hadn't picked something up at the Lanzola shop - I'll never know for sure.

However, burning briar does have a VERY sharp taste, a little cedary even. This tends to occur in new pipes (raw briar) right at the top of the draft hole - that is amongst the hottest places for the burn, and there's this thin little peninsula of briar hanging there - it's probably impossible not to burn it off. So I can't help but think that this is what you are tasting, @SonoranHotDog in that first bowl or two. And I think you'd get that same flavor from a Punto Oro, or a BST, or a Radice (Can't think of too many pipe brands that come with exposed wood).

If the pipes you are buying smell a little cedarish, I can only think that there's a little briar dust or soemthing in there. I dunno, but I've never found a new Castello to be recognizeable by smell (in the way a Gibson guitar is).

I do sorta kinda wonder if Castello don't sauce the pipes with something - I have noticed a tiny bit of staining in some chambers - but I don't know what it would be. I went as far as to lick the last one I bought, thinking it might taste like sugar or shellac or something.... it didn't, disappointingly, it tasted just like Italian briar, and nothing else. Bitter cork.

So that's maybe more of an exploratory oration than an answer, if so, I apologize. Worth what you paid at any rate.
Thanks for the great educational information! (y)
 

DrumsAndBeer

Well-known member
#14
Never noticed anything particular about the Castellos I own and I smoke them quite regularly. To me they are just well made, well drilled pipes with great lines and overall aesthetics. I also appreciate the more open draw on the Castello pipes I own.

Honestly I have admit that I don’t think I have ever tasted briar, in the sense that I could never pick out the flavor of briar within the flavor of the tobaccos I smoke. Meerschaum and cob however, I can definitely taste those materials. Cob comes through as sweet and papery, Meerachaum until it’s well broken in has a subtle briny quality to it. Briar, I couldn’t say..
 

BSTpipes

That'll do, Pig.
Sales
#15
Never noticed anything particular about the Castellos I own and I smoke them quite regularly. To me they are just well made, well drilled pipes with great lines and overall aesthetics. I also appreciate the more open draw on the Castello pipes I own.

Honestly I have admit that I don’t think I have ever tasted briar, in the sense that I could never pick out the flavor of briar within the flavor of the tobaccos I smoke. Meerschaum and cob however, I can definitely taste those materials. Cob comes through as sweet and papery, Meerachaum until it’s well broken in has a subtle briny quality to it. Briar, I couldn’t say..
Try smoking faster! :giggle:
 

Calvinandpipe

Well-known member
Patron
#17
I do sorta kinda wonder if Castello don't sauce the pipes with something - I have noticed a tiny bit of staining in some chambers - but I don't know what it would be. I went as far as to lick the last one I bought, thinking it might taste like sugar or shellac or something.... it didn't, disappointingly, it tasted just like Italian briar, and nothing else. Bitter cork.
That's creepy. I'm gonna have to figure out a way to sanitize the next BST I buy.:puffy:
 

MakDragon

Former PSF Wizard
Sales
Patron
#18
Let's talk about briar first, Castellos second.

Briar burls get dug up, shipped, flipped, flopped, sprayed, sorted, cut, boiled, dried etc. Mills like Mimmo (romeo briar) buy truckloads from all over the mediterranean, and process it - the result is an astonishingly uniform product, I could never pick up a piece of Mimmo's wood and say "Ahh, this one here grew on the southern slop of such-and-such a peninsula". Other mills use more "local" supply, Calabria pipe, Jaume Hom when he was running... All the wood I have from Calabriar basically looks identical. Buying wood from Jaume, you'd think some of it was walnut for the color variation in any batch of briar, it was freaky. I don't know if that's a process thing or a geography thing - I suspect process, given the uniformity of other spanish briar I have had (from Bruken).

Briar is all very, very similar. I think I could tell you the outliers in a carving/working way (some feel a little waxy, or smell a little different when being cut), and I think some of them I could tell you about the briar if I smoked a new/raw pipe made from it. But only some - the vast majority are very, very similar in how they taste, most especially in how they taste when you burn them.

Algerian briar and Spanish briar both, to my taste, have a little "spice" - I would say that algerian has a little hint of almost a cinnamon-ish background, and I think Jaume's briar had the most cedar-ish taste I've come across. I don't think this is a good thing, I think some of his blocks were pretty poorly boiled, and there was pinky-juice sometimes when you drilled them - this is part of the resin that we are trying to boil out in the curing process. Now, Jaume's briar smoked great once you broke it in, a few smokes in, the stuff was wonderful - jpberg has lots of this wood and truth be told, Spillproof's last pipe he got from me, a "fake" dunhill shell billiard, was the very last production piece of JH briar I have, and..... Dave didn't die. Nor in fact did he mention anything about cedar-y notes - it's just briar (and had been sitting on my shelf for years).

And I think that's where I want to take this conversation - I think the longer briar sits, the less different, mill to mill and region to region, it gets. It all turns brown, it all hardens off, sort of oxydizes and petrifies. And I find that this makes the flavor and the burning and everything a hell of a lot less different. There are still recognizeable differences of hardness and feel and just how they finish.. but man, I don't ever worry about whether this or that piece is 5 year old Tuscan or 6 year old Corsican... I mean, it's.. all the same.


Let's talk about Castello. Good pipes, smoke good, I like 'em. Just briar and a good airway, pretty easy formula. Castello bought from a few different mills, did a lot of business with the Romeo family up till a few years ago - won't get into it here but they are buying other wood now. But they buy lots of wood and just sit on it. That's why castellos are this sort of uniform mahogany-ish color, the briar is something like 10 years old when they cut it - this color here (and I know it's EXACTLY this color here because this is 10 year old Romeo briar) View attachment 27816


Compare with the "bright white" in this pipe: View attachment 27818 This is Tuscan stuff, different mill, but it's just way way whiter off the bat, and it will drift to that mahogany color given more time.



In smoking a new Castello, something I've done many times, I've never noticed anything I'd call cedary as opposed to any other briar - I tend to think new briar has a slightly corkish taste. I had one I thought was .. a little earthy. And one that I thought tasted like Lakeland sauce - and I'm still not convinced it hadn't picked something up at the Lanzola shop - I'll never know for sure.

However, burning briar does have a VERY sharp taste, a little cedary even. This tends to occur in new pipes (raw briar) right at the top of the draft hole - that is amongst the hottest places for the burn, and there's this thin little peninsula of briar hanging there - it's probably impossible not to burn it off. So I can't help but think that this is what you are tasting, @SonoranHotDog in that first bowl or two. And I think you'd get that same flavor from a Punto Oro, or a BST, or a Radice (Can't think of too many pipe brands that come with exposed wood).

If the pipes you are buying smell a little cedarish, I can only think that there's a little briar dust or soemthing in there. I dunno, but I've never found a new Castello to be recognizeable by smell (in the way a Gibson guitar is).

I do sorta kinda wonder if Castello don't sauce the pipes with something - I have noticed a tiny bit of staining in some chambers - but I don't know what it would be. I went as far as to lick the last one I bought, thinking it might taste like sugar or shellac or something.... it didn't, disappointingly, it tasted just like Italian briar, and nothing else. Bitter cork.

So that's maybe more of an exploratory oration than an answer, if so, I apologize. Worth what you paid at any rate.
Thanks for posting that! Fascinating read!