The Story of Dunhill Pipes

The story of Dunhill is packed with both recorded history and myth. Here, we review the former.

It all began in the early 1900s, when Alfred Dunhill, a business man interested in the oncoming automobile market, began inventing all sorts of car-related accessories 

One of these was the “windshield pipe,” which was meant to make smoking while driving easier. In 1906, Dunhill opened a tobacco shop, the first of its kind, on Duke St. Costumers were interested in the unique, customized blends. They’d flock in to create their own recipes.

Dunhill knew he had tapped into something powerful—the customer’s individual needs—but he wanted better pipes. French imports weren’t cutting it. He needed more variety.

Come 1910, and Dunhill had his own factory. It produced quality, expertly crafted briar: the Dunhill pipe. This pipe, unlike others, was made last a lifetime—and at a fair price, no kidding. It made use of aluminum inner tubing to keep innards clean, and it was replaceable. In 1915, after customers had complained of confusion concerning the mouthpiece insertion, the famous white spot was introduced on the upper side of the pipe’s stem.

Quick, swift, practical solutions like these would become Dunhill’s trademark quality.

So would the white spots themselves, eventually. After some more revolutionary inventions—including the shell pipe, a now-staple of pipe aesthetics—Dunhill found another way to ensure quality: immersing briarwoods bowls in olive oil. After soaking for several weeks, most of the impurities would be flushed out of the wood. This made for faster curing and more durable briar.

In 1921, Dunhill would open, and apply his methods to, several international stores in New York City. The 20s and 30s were successful years, with over a quarter million pipes sold per year. During some of the most pressing political times, Dunhill supplied cigars to the elite clientele, including George VI and Winston Churchill. Dunhill’s company expanded fast and even weathered the economic crisis that came with WWII, though this era would ultimately transform its direction forever.

Demands changed in the 1950s, and Dunhill leaned more toward aesthetics in particular: smooth finishes, deep stains. These qualities become more distinct and easily identifiable in look, color, and grain. Several styles were added: Cumberland, Dress, Chestnut, Amber Root, County Russet, Red Bark—all staples of modern smoking equipment.

Dunhill is and has always been creative in these designs and finishes, though its consistent quality remains its best its principal attribute

Currently, the Dunhill factory employs only 15 full-time craftsmen with a cumulative work experience of over 250 years. Dunhill employees truly believe age is truly just a number, and that a pipe should smoke well from the first bowl to the last. It works, which is why so many Dunhill pipes are now prized collector items, some of which are the most famous on earth. The name Dunhill is synonymous with sophistication, refinement, and innovation.

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