In front of me, I have five glass pipes from GRAV and an open laptop. Each new pipe is different in its own way, and I’m about to test them all. My first thought is that I’m about to do some serious work. Work? Yes, this is my job.
I need to know how each of these GRAV pipes functions, feels, and more importantly, how I feel when I use them. And I need to have a thousand words written about this experience in forty-eight hours or less preferably. Because of you, dear reader, I do this.
You need to know what ripping this piece is going to be like as best you can without actually getting to use it first so you can make an informed purchase. It's a strange situation to be in, some would call it lucky, others would call it ridiculous, but this is the world we live in.
They are calling it the Ultimate Hand Pipe Family, which seems bold, but that is how GRAV tends to be. They didn’t get to be one of the most recognized names in the glass game for thinking inside the box and playing it safe.
I pick up the first pipe, the most ordinary looking one called the Poker Sherlock. I inspect it a little before I hold it up to my mouth and flick my lighter up to ignite the beautiful green herbs packed into the mid-size bowl. The inhale is savory, ritualistic, and pleasing. I think to myself, how was this any different than another time I've smoked from a pipe?
The Poker Sherlock looks altogether different than most I've used from them. That apparently is the point. The that is influenced by the classic wooden pipes of old boat captains and noir detectives. It resembles a corn cob pipe a little bit. But the all-glass shape is more substantial than its wood counterpart would be.
The carb releases as normal, and I get a rush of not too hot smoke that has been stored up in the moderately sized chamber. The Poker looks different enough to give me a sense that this session is unique, but functions the same as a typical spoon, so I am not thrown off for any reason. Overall it's a delightful experience after three or four drags the bowl is cashed. I tap it out and sit happily with the buzz I've achieved. But I'm not done.
I put on a playlist, mostly chillwave stuff. I pick up the next pipe. This thing is ridiculous. But maybe in a good way? The Mini Mariner is a baby pipe, a spoon for ants, a tiny little taster for lightweights, or perhaps someone with zero tolerance but a lot of style. And you know what? That's okay. Some people would love a tiny pipe just to load up one small bowl. It's important to stress that what you see is what you get with this pipe. A three-inch pipe with a small bowl that fits comfortably in a pocket. Nothing more. The Mini Mariner is just what some people are looking for.
By now I'm kind of stoned. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm starting to get distracted. I fiddle around with my playlist for about half an hour looking for songs that evoke the early days of smoking. Kid Cudi, Portishead, Wax Tailor. I think about who would be into these pipes and wonder what the other three have in store for me. Time to move on to the GRAV Gandalf.
I will be the first to admit that I love a nice, long Gandalf. They are elegant and wizardly pipes as they should be. The GRAV Gandalf makes an attempt at being a little more practical in its length than most typical foot long wooden versions. It's a couple of inches shy of a foot, and the whole pipe seems to be produced from an original perfect sphere. The bowl has been made just the right size, and the narrow mouthpiece condenses all the flavor to a sharp point. A solid winner.
After successfully not catching my beard on fire thanks to the distance granted by the Gandalf, I move on to the silliest pipe in the collection. The Rocker is an enigma. Most new pipe designs are addressing a need not yet filled or are an homage to a classic form like Sherlocks. But the Rocker Steamroller, well, it's a breed apart.
It's a steamroller, and I consider that strongly before I hit it. To be honest, I don't get steamrollers. Why is that someone's preferred method? It's not filtered, not cooled, not percolated; it's just pure unadulterated smoke. The open chamber of a steamroller lets that smoke expand a little, so it doesn't become stale before you let go of the carb and blast yourself with a strong, hot hit. Sound like fun?
But I have to remember; I'm not doing this for me. I'm doing this for you. If it were up to me, I'd be loading five bowls in my Bubbler. But this is a review of The Ultimate Hand Pipe Family, let's go to the moon! The Rocker's bowl is not too intimidating, and I load it gingerly.
Once I get it loaded, I can't resist knocking it about on the table to see how it functions. It rocks for sure, it spins and tumbles, but it will not fall over or roll away. I take a long rip with the carb covered and fill the chamber till the clear green glass turns a smokey moss color, then I let the carb go and feel the rush. Bravo weird little steamroller, you've done your job.
Time to take a break. I finish my snacks and wander around my apartment with a funny grin on my face looking for something to entertain myself. I settle on an old Dungeons and Dragons monster manual, from back when the Stranger Things kids were playing D&D. I peruse the funny illustrations and read a few entries letting my imagination run off. Then it dawns on me, I've got two more pipes to smoke.
The Bell Chillum. Well, they aren't lying. It looks just like a little service bell that you might ring for your butler to come over and light your joint for you. In this case, it's self-service. It feels interesting in my hands and looks unfamiliar enough to be new, although, I instantly understand it as a chillum.
There are two sizes, and I load the smaller one thinking that the bowl on the large bell isn't quite as big as it should be given the large body. The small Bell Chillum hits just as I expected it would. I cash the bowl quickly in one long rip and then tap it out. I set it back on the table upright, and it goes back to being the unassuming glass bell it was.
I see the Tankard Sherlock across the table. The lake green color of the body evokes images of foggy lakes and peering into the forest from the warm refuge of a log cabin. But just like that cabin in the woods, there is something sinister about this piece. I lift it in my hands and am struck by the apparent weight of the pipe. The bowl is massive. I grind up fat nug, and it is swallowed by the blue-green bowl's conical void. I pack more. I load it until the bud is sitting level with the rim of the full-fisted pipe and I fire it up.
Before I know it I've instinctively released the carb, and I immediately regret what I’ve done. The rip is cumbersome, a million degrees, and there is nothing I can do but deal with it. The trigger has been pulled on this beautiful glass shotgun loaded with solid indicia buckshot aimed at my unknowing bystander of a chest. I am gone. A coughing fit comes at once and my eyes well up with happy tears. Note to self, don't pull the carb.
I sit for a moment with the GRAV Tankard Sherlock in my hand and gaze off at nothing in particular. And I just sit there. I clutch it, and it fits perfectly in my hand as it was made to do. I don't feel like I should put it down ever at this moment, it's part of me, it's what brought me here. Then once I regain my footing some I light it up again, this time keeping my thumb over the carb and pulling lightly and for a long time.
This is how to use the Tankard. Long slow pulls that swirl around and gather flavor in the large chamber and concentrate in the classic pinched mouthpiece. The bowl will take you a while to get through this way; you can't rush meditation though. Thoughtfully sit somewhere and mull things over. The Tankard will get you there.
At this point, I've slipped into a full recreational high. I jot down my notes on the whole endeavor with the intent of writing this review when I'm less in the clouds. One thing I know for sure, each of these new GRAV hand pipes is genuinely different from anything they've made before, and I'm happily impressed with that.