The history of the Zenith factory starts in 1749 when Pieter van der Want becomes master pipe maker of the Gouda pipemakers' guild. He is the first of eight generations of pipe makers in succession from father to son. From the 1950's the Zenith company is the oldest pipe factory in the world, the firm Chacom in Saint-Claude, founded 1780, is the second oldest.
After having produced clay tobacco pipes for a period of over 150 years, the Gouda factory modernizes its techniques. Pipes were no longer pressed from stiff pipe clay in metal moulds but are shaped in plaster moulds with liquid clay, the so-called slib cast technique. The backed products are covered with a transparent glaze that gives them a smooth, shiny and delicate look. The glaze also makes them less breakable.
Due to the porosity of the ceramic, the slib casted pipes absorb all the moist which attributes Zenith pipes the quality of a cool and dry smoke. In the 1920's the product is perfectioned when the so-called "hollow bowl system" is introduced. Between the outside glazed pipe and the inner bowl an open space is created in which the smoke can circulate, where it cools down and the humidity of the smoke is absorbed by the pottery sherd. This invention makes the Zenith pipe to the ultimo dry smoker. Above that, ceramic is the best material to keep the aroma alive, without adding a taste of the pipe itself.
Zenith pipes are produced in a variety of designs and finishes. The ordinary pipe is single walled being mounted with a metal ferrule and a black vulcanite mouthpiece. From the moment of its introduction, circa 1900, millions were sold. After a period of smoking a picture appears on the pipe, that becomes visible when the pipe itself turns brown by the tobacco moist. These so-called mystery pipes were highly fashionable in the 1920's but are still available with more recent images.
The best known series are the "Old Mokum" pipes. The shapes were designed from the 1970's onwards by designers like Niels Keus and Dirk van der Want. Credit is that the designs are fully new and different to the common briar pipe. Pipes of the Old Mokum series are mounted with a black rubber plug that holds the vulcanite mouthpiece. The shape named Amsterdam is the larges and gives the best cooling. The smaller version is called Manhattan, having an almost time less look, modern for eternity. Especially younger smokers favour this shape. More traditional are the calabash and a heeled shape known as London.
More luxurious are the shapes from the series "Black Magic", named after foreign towns like Karachi and Bombay. They are characterized by an own design line having a bulbous bowl and a sportive stem shape. Standard production colour is black, but white and blue varieties are available as well. Next to the round version the series are produced in an octagonal version named facet. Their shape is more subtle, the price however is a bit higher.
The "Gouda classic" is the line more like the traditional briar pipes or the meerschaum pipes. Straight and bent versions are in production with the standard billiard bowl, the Dublin and a bent London. These pipes are mounted with a gilt metal band that underlines their exclusive finish.
The Amsterdam Pipe Shop selection
Amsterdam Pipe Shop is the only shop in Holland that supplies the complete assortment of Zenith. Prices go from 30 to 95 Euro for the standard shapes. Compared to briar pipes these prices are very reasonable while the Zenith pipe offers a unique smoke experience because in no other pipe the taste of the tobacco is so pure as in ceramic. The cooling system is a guarantee for a dry, cool and tasteful smoke. Starting to smoke a Zenith pipe is simple as can be, since the long and annoying period of breaking in a new pipe can be skipped.
Next to the standard white versions Amsterdam Pipe Shop also carries the coloured Zenith pipes. Among them the shapes like Bombay, Karachi, also the Duke, a comfortable bent reading pipe. Above that, also a series of Delft blue versions are available, especially popular among American smokers.