Like folks in general, pipe makers come in a fascinating variety of talents and personalities. There are aloof artisans of the first rank. We have the wonderfully genial, but far less talented maker that you purchased from at a show (‘Yeah, it’s a door stop, but he’s such a great guy and he did spend a lot of time with me’), and a myriad combination of those two sliding scales in between. Wickedly humorous, gregarious, and self-effacing to a fault, Paul Bonacquisti falls into that all-too-rare camp of a guy that you would want to hang out with, even if he didn’t hold a position as one of America’s premiere pipe masters for over 20 years. But the fact that he does sure doesn’t hurt.
As one of the principals of the famous Park-Lane Tobacconist shop, Paul has the daily pleasure of guiding collectors to their selection, as well as creating some of the most tempting custom tobacco blends that you are likely to run a match over. Still, Paul’s raison d'être is the creation of superlative smoking instruments, and that reason is admirably met with each and every pipe that leaves his bench.
Mr. Bonacquisti’s annual production, contrary to some sources which quote upwards to 200, is usually less than 100 per year. His briar stock is top tier Mediterranean which, following a noble Italian convention, has been aged a minimum of half a decade. While Paul boasts a myriad of shapes tucked within his repertoire, he favors the forms found in the traditional English and Italian schools. Whether the flavor of a Bonacquisti takes your mind to London, Cantu, or even Copenhagen, the briar will exude an unabashed anima of masculinity as well as a fine generosity of size.
I have seen smooth Bonacquisti briars that might give some Collection Fiammatas reason to run for cover, but the lion’s share of the Bonacquisti legend rightfully belongs to his stunning sandblasts. How good are Paul’s blasts? The redoubtable Fred Hanna recently declared America’s top artisan’s as the finest sandblasters in the world, and went on to mention Paul’s work as an example. It’s been said that to bring out the best in a deep, craggy blast, one has to ‘torture’ the wood. If this is indeed the case, I’d have to nominate Paul for the Torquemada award. All of Bonacquisti’s sandblasted pipes undergo a three stage blasting process, with each separate stage running roughly two hours. Six to eight hours, depending on the size, might seem excessive, but the only excess apparent in Paul’s finished briars lies in their astonishing beauty.Bear Graves
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