I am curious what others here think of the mid-grade British Pipes. For those who don't want a cheap basket pipe, but Ashton and Dunhill is too expensive, where do the others stand? I do generally see good things about GBD, Parker, Hardcastle, Comoys, etc. I love my Ben Wade and Hardcastle (both recent production), and I've long loved my Petersons (Irish, but I consider them similar in style and quality to the mid-line British pipes). I don't really know where many of these stand in comparison to each other, or to Peterson (though most are a little less money than a comparable Pete, and of course the Pete is not a British pipe).
My biggest questions concern the Parker and Hardcastle. Both are Dunhill "seconds". Where do they stand in quality in comparison to each other? I'm looking at recent production, not older estate pipes. Also, what exactly does Dunhill mean by "seconds"? Are Dunhill seconds (Hardcastle and Parker) simply second quality, or did they start life as Dunhills but then there was a mistake or a blemish somewhere during the process and they became "seconds"? If they start life as Dunhills, what gets one pipe labelled Hardcastle and another pipe labelled Parker? Most importantly, given two which are similarly priced, and they are online so you can't examine the individual example, would you buy a Parker or a Hardcastle?
My newer production Ben Wade is one of my favorite pipes, a great smoker, and I'd put it up there with most of my Petersons (I've got some that are pretty high end Petes). My Hardcastle is close, but just a tad behind the Ben Wade (it is just as good a smoker, but there is something about that Ben Wade DeLuxe that I just love). I don't have any of the others, but I have been eyeing Dunhills and Ashtons lately, and even as estate pipes, they are just a bit over what I feel comfortable spending right now. I've been considering another Peterson or Savinelli (my go to mid-range pipes), but I have quite a few of each and would like something a little different. The lesser British pipes are still good pipes. So, I'm thinking about buying a couple of the cheaper Brit pipes, and I'm trying to decide which to buy next.