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The grand old man
of the pipe business

Rudiger Lutz Will is one of the pipe industry greats, thanks not only to his actual physical height, well over 6 ft, but also because his experience, the impulses he has provided for the pipe and tobacco market and, last but not least, his own pipes and tobaccos have made him one of the most famous personalities in the business.

R L. Will joined the pipe business in autumn 1988, having bought Reiner Klein's designer business, and along with it the "Reiner" trademark, the know-how and all the workshop equipment in the German town of Bunde. To begin with, he manufactured his pipes himself, but six months later was joined by Klein, who took over responsibility for most of the business's pipes. Will himself handled the design and the marketing of the "Reiner pipe art design" pipes.

The design concept for the- pipes was amazingly simple: to modify classical shapes according to the grain of the wood, to use excellent wood qualities and to give the pipes a little extra by means of a variety of finishes. The Reiner models stood out for their particularly attractive grain, rapidly making the trademark famous not only in Germany, but also in Austria, Switzerland, Holland and overseas.

The collaboration with Reiner Klein lasted for over 10 years, and then the successful duo went their separate ways. Since then, R.L. Will has produced the unique pipes in the series himself, with only a few work stages such as the mouthpiece and the finish being handled by a partner.

In 1998, he launched a new pipe series under the name "Reiner Design". The top-quality series pipes are available in five different models (egg-shape, half bent, straight, diplomat and bulldog) and three different surfaces (fight-brown, reddish-brown and black Chinese varnish), hence 15 different versions in all. All the models are made of plateau briar, mostly of Calabrian origin, while the mouthpieces are made of black acrylic. An unusual feature is the transition from the stem to the mouthpiece; an 8 mm wide silver ring (engraved with an "R") together with a 2 mm thick silver plate create an unmistakable appearance. All the models in this series are designed for 9 mm filters.

In future, Will intends to devote more time to his handmade "pipe art design" pipes. Several hundreds of top quality ebauchons are still waiting in the cellar to be shaped and decorated with boxwood or silver. The qualities of the pipes are stated in letters (in increasing quality): E, D, C, B, AS and S, which is also an indication of the price category.

In recent years, a number of European pipe makers have launched pipe tobaccos under their own brand names. These pipe tobaccos benefit from the pipe manufacturer's good reputation, while at the same time they act as an advertisement for the pipes themselves.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Will also developed a range of pipe tobaccos under the brand name "Reiner". However, unlike his colleagues, he himself played a major role in the development of the various tobaccos. Will explains that the development of a new tobacco is a very lengthy process: "Mixing tobaccos brings different aromas and flavours together. It takes a few weeks before you can determine whether the aromas have married or whether they are totally incompatible. In addition, the natural ingredients of the raw tobacco have very different effects on the flavouring. This requires plenty of time, patience and experimentation before the pipe tobacco is just as you want it."

Naturally, his extensive subject knowledge and experience proved extremely beneficial in the development of his tobaccos. Will was the son of the co-owner of a tobacco and cigar factory and, as he puts it, "the unmistakable fragrances of tobacco were burnt into my young brain." After a thorough specialist training in all fields of raw tobacco treatment and the production of pipe tobacco and cigars, he joined his father's company, where his responsibilities included new developments and the launch of the Borkum Riff brand family.

Will himself was pleasantly surprised by the success of his pipe tobaccos, and was encouraged to launch a second series under the name "Solani", which now comprises six tobaccos. The pipe tobaccos delight the palates of pipe smokers not only in Germany, but also in Austria, Switzerland, Holland, the USA, Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other countries.

Although already 65 years old, Will is not one to sit back and relax. He is always looking for something new and always willing to pass on his knowledge. "The pipe is my passion," he says, "and what can be better than making your passion into your business." And we leave him in the hope that his passion will keep him in business for many years to come!

(Source: European Cigar Cult Journal - Autumn Edition 2004)