Since 1882, when Erik Peter Stokkebye first opened a tobacco factory and shop in Odense, Denmark, the Stokkebye family has enjoyed a long association with all things pipes and tobaccos. Representing the third generation of Stokkebyes in the tobacco business, Erik Peter’s grandson, Peter, learned the art of blending tobaccos into pipe, roll-your-own (RYO) and cigarette blends while working for companies such as Universal Leaf and L’Orange. In the 1970s, Peter founded his own eponymous tobacco factory and created some of the world’s best-loved RYO and pipe tobacco blends—such as Amsterdam Shag, Turkish Export, PS-24 Nougat and PS-17 English Luxury. These blends were made famous due to the high-quality tobaccos Peter bought from around the globe.
As the fourth generation of his family to earn a living in the tobacco trade, Erik Michael Stokkebye moved to the United States to oversee his family’s distribution network in one of the company’s most important markets. In 2012, to commemorate his family’s long history in tobacco, Erik Michael made plans to launch a series of special pipe tobaccos for the American market. Each of the blends would be named to honor historic milestones in Stokkebye tobacco history—1855, for the year his great-grandfather Erik Peter was born; 1882 Founders Blend, for the year Erik Peter established the family’s first tobacco shop; 1897 for the birth year of Erik Paul; 1931 Flake for the year of Peter’s birth; and 1957 for Erik Michael’s own birth. Since its release in 2013, the Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation pipe tobacco series has grown to include two more blends—1966, honoring the birth of Erik Michael’s brother, Lars Christian; and 1982, commemorating the company’s 100th anniversary.
While developing the blends for Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation pipe tobaccos, Erik Michael dreamed of releasing a series of pipes that would also honor his family. Years before, his father had commissioned pipemakers to create a limited series of pipes, so adding a series of pipes to the Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation product line would be a perfect complement to the tobaccos while at the same time honoring yet another family tradition, he reasoned. While Erik Michael had made connections with a number of tobacco growers and blenders through the years, he had few contacts with pipemakers. One of those pipemaking friends, Erik Nording, suggested that Danish pipemaker Peder Jeppesen, the maker of Neerup pipes, would be perfect for the project. It would take a chance meeting between Erik Michael and Jeppesen at an Alabama tobacco shop to confirm Nording’s recommendation.
Two Countrymen Meet a World Away
One of the top pipe sellers in the United States, Skip Elliott, hosts a series of trunk shows at his store, The Briary, in Homewood, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham, each year. Pipe and pipe tobacco dealers from around the world treasure an invitation to show their wares at a The Briary trunk show, and in 2012, Elliott invited both Erik Michael and Jeppesen to the same trunk show.
A pipemaker for close to 40 years, Jeppesen had begun making pipes for Karl Erik Otterndahl in 1977. He then worked for Erik Nording and learned all of the necessary steps to make pipes. When the Georg Jensen pipe factory closed in 2001, Jeppesen bought some of its machinery and set up his own pipemaking studio in his home near Roskilde, one of Denmark’s oldest cities. Designing pipe shapes that are then replicated on a fraising machine, Jeppesen created the Neerup pipe brand, named for his grandmother. Using only the finest briar from Sicily and premade acrylic, Cumberland and amber stems from an Italian manufacturer, Jeppesen’s Neerup pipes quickly gained a following for their high-quality construction and consumer-friendly prices—two qualities that Erik Michael desired for his 4th Generation pipes. During the trunk show at The Briary, the two Danes began talking about working together.
For about nine months, the two Danes discussed design ideas, finishes, adornments and price points. By the 2013 International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) trade show and convention, they had agreed on the first four shapes for 4th Generation pipes. Since then, the line has grown to include a total of seven shapes. Each shape is available in three finishes—Dark Porter, which is a sandblast finish; Burnt Sienna, a smooth pipe with an orange and black contrast finish; and Vintage Natural, a smooth pipe with a clear finish to highlight the pipe’s grain. Most Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation pipes are retail priced from $180 to $240, and each pipe features a bronze band for adornment.
The Collaboration Deepens
Erik Michael has also commissioned high-end artisan pipemakers to craft a limited-edition Pipe of the Year each year since 2013. Some of the noted craftsmen to carve a 4th Generation Pipe of the Year include Danish master artisans Tom Eltang and Manduela, and the Japanese pipemaking firm Tsuge. Pipe of the Year pipes generally retail for between $400 to $500 due to the extra handwork the more complicated designs require. For 2019, Erik Michael has selected Jeppesen to create the 50-pipe limited-edition installment, which will debut in July at the 2019 IPCPR show. The 2019 Pipe of the Year will present a special shape that has historic significance for Erik Michael and will also feature a unique silver band that Jeppesen designed and commissioned Danish silversmiths to make. Both men are excited about the next Pipe of the Year installment and for the future Erik Stokkebye 4th Generation pipes in general.
“The pipes have generally been sold in the better pipe shops in the U.S., and they have been very well-received,” Erik Michael explains. “I’m really excited about next year because the Pipe of the Year will be designed by Peder following a design for one of my father’s pipes that I found in a box this past year. It was a beautiful shape, and it will inspire our 2019 Pipe of the Year. We are doing a special band for it as well, and it will be a little more supple than other 4th Generation shapes.”
“The 4th Generation line will continue to be fresh and interesting for our customers,” Jeppesen adds. “I think the future is very bright for 4th Generation pipes.”
This story first appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.
– By Stephen A. Ross, senior editor of Tobacco Business Magazine.