This Nording handmade churchwarden is the first “new” pipe I’ve ever purchased. As you may be aware from my Dr. Grabow Westbrook, La Strada Volare, GBD New Era 867, and Medico Zulu “F” Stamping posts, I’m addicted to estate pipes.
However, I was in the market for a churchwarden, and this one checked all the boxes I was looking for, and the price ($70) was not bad either, so I picked it up in spite of its newness.
It really is a handsome piece, though the packaging was quite simple. This was also my first pipe to include a pre-carbonized bowl. I suppose all once-used estate pipes arrive slightly carbonized. However, this was the first in my collection to be carbonized at the factory (unless my Dr. Grabow was one of the company’s “pre-smoked” models).
I was worried that the pre-carbonized bowl would imbue my first few smokes with an unpleasant and “artificial” taste, as some online have reported with this type of procedure. More on that later.
Turn this churchwarden over and you’ll find stamped into the bottom of the shank:
“Handmade by Erik Nording”
There are no other markings on the stummel, which is agonizing for someone as curious as I. No model name? No shape number? Even the SmokingPipes.com description is downright spartan. There’s just not a lot to go on here. The gilded “N” on the stem is a nice touch, though not terribly informative.
That said, I’ve read that Nording produces about 300 “handmade” pipes per month and that they:
“…are given more care and more individuality and feature acrylic mouthpieces, though the main difference is the quality of the grain.” 
Strangely, the mouthpiece of this “handmade” churchwarden is vulcanite, so i’m not sure how up to date and/or accurate the above information is. Maybe churchwardens never came with acrylic stems, regardless of their handmade status. Maybe mine is a bit of a mix-and-match from the factory. So far, it’s been impossible for me to tell.
The drilling is perfect and the grain is sublime, with no visible fills in the briar. The mortise and tenon share a tight, but not too snug joining.
Aside from that, we know that this is most likely a recent production pipe, though its exact date of manufacture would be difficult to pin down.
If you’ve read my Medico Zulu “F” Stamping post, you’ll know that I have faith in the power of Samuel Gawith Black XX to break in a pipe. The very bold, straight Virginia strikes me as perfect for cutting through any off-putting flavors, whether real or imagined. I think straight, unflavored Virginia might also be a good break-in because many popular blend types include Virginia tobaccos anyway, so you’re just using a common blending component to lay the “foundation” cake for whatever subsequent Virginia blended material you put through the pipe. I’ve no scientific research supporting this contention, it just feels right.
In any case, the tall, medium-width bowl is easy to pack and its sharp rim edge makes one believe the stummel will resist rim-darkening over the long haul. The egg shape is comfortable to palm, and the freakishly long stem relieves your arms of any burden of holding up the pipe. Lighting is a breeze: you get a birds-eye view (pun intended) of the areas to be lit.
The mighty and meaty Black XX blend is considerably cooled by this long stemmed beast, like going from sizzled beef to steak tartare. Any admonishments of tongue bite are eliminated, making this Nording a forgiving choice for beginners. The cleanness of smoking Black XX from a new pre-carbonized bowl, with this airy wisp of a stem, is remarkable and I start to wonder if the beast has been tamed a bit too much. Still, there’s no hint of a new-pipe “funk,” allaying my previous fears. Deep into the second half, the Nording keeps its cool and one’s tongue remains unbitten.
The egg shape naturally heats up near the rim, where the material is oblique and thin, and stays cooler near the bulge, where the briar is thick and less curved. The very bottom of the stummel (where one’s hand instinctively ends up) keeps pleasantly warm, like wrapping your hand around a small mug of tea.
A thin, early cake begins to form, very rapidly and much to my surprise. My reservations about pre-carbonized bowls have expired.
The innagural bowl consummated, I decide it would be wise to load up the complex and wonderful — but nevertheless biting — W. O. Larsen 1864 Perfect Mixture. Here, there’s more cream on display than in stubbier pipes, and the toothy blend asks less discipline from the smoker before it gnashes. Still, some complexity is lost, at least to my palate, but perhaps that has more to do with the very bold straight Virginia that has left the bowl, but not yet my taste buds.
I rounded out the evening with two more bowls, one of Newminster 403 Superior, and the other of Peterson University Flake. Both smoked wonderfully coolly, but with a corresponding diminished complexity.
Overall, this is a fine choice for just about any kind of smoker. The shape and stem are convenient and user friendly. The cool, dry smoke is fine for beginners and veterans alike. One’s cadence can be slow sipping or big puffing, and the consequences will be minimal. However, if what you really enjoy the most is digging deep into a complex blend and extracting every note and nuance within, this might not be the pipe for you.
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