Hilson - Since 1846
The Natural home
of Hilson ...
The Dutch have the
reputation of being astute and inventive, with a strong feeling for tradition
and yet, at the same time, a modern approach to life. They are critical towards
others but also set high standards for themselves. Whilst aspiring to quality
and perfection without concessions, the Dutch are known as individualists: men
and women with a will of their own, who pursue their own tastes with quiet
A small province of the
southern Netherlands and northern Belgium is home to the Limburgers,
connoisseurs who not only appreciate the good things in life but also know how
to create them. In a region where flamboyance and a philosophical outlook on
life go hand-in-hand, the pipe smoker recognises instinctively that Roermond,
situated at its centre, is the natural home of Hilson.
In 1846 a German named
Jean Knödgen started the production of clay pipes in Belgium. At the end of the
19th century Jean Hillen (married into the Knödgen family) took over the company
and developed the idea of also producing briar wooden tobacco pipes in his
factory. He had some suppliers from the French Jura district turn some bowls
which he then finished himself. Some time later he took up the complete
production process of briar wooden tobacco pipes so he did not have to depend on
Jean Hillen had 2 sons:
Jos Hillen who was responsible for sales and Albert Hillen who was responsible
for the production of pipes. Albert was also an interpreter in the English army
during WWII and he succeeded in establishing many international contacts. Thus
they were soon able to export the first pipes manufactured in Belgium to
countries all over the world with the brand name HILSON (Hillen and sons).
In 1980 the Hillen Pipe
factory from the Belgium-Limburg town of Bree was purchased by the Royal Dutch
Pipe Factory where the production of Hilson pipes was continued, carefully
observing the traditional craftsmanship.
of pipes, a noble craft …
at the Royal Dutch Pipe
factory we prefer to speak of a workshop rather than a factory. And rightly so,
because in spite of the sweeping technological developments which have occurred
in other fields, the manufacturing of tobacco pipes remains a highly-skilled
craft. A coincidence perhaps, but a pipe maker resembles the pipe smoker in many
ways. He possesses a considerable degree of individualism, patience and an eye
for detail. Like the sculptor or diamond-cutter, the pipe maker in his mind has
a vision of the final form and texture of the pipe throughout each stage of the
A pipe maker uses his
finely tuned sense of equilibrium and proportion to find the pipe's ideal
balance, which has a decisive influence on whether the pipe will feel
comfortable in the mouth.
Making a pipe requires a very special affinity for the medium, and
experience in working with the unruly and capricious material from which
superior tobacco pipes are made: the root of the Erica Arborea, or briar wood.
This briar wood, noble and beautifully grained, forces its way through the rocky
soil of the area around the Mediterranean and adds 50 years of growth to the
value of the pipe Faults and imperfections are revealed as the wood is crafted.
The pipe maker can never predict with certainty that the block of wood will
actually be transformed into the pipe he visualises or the high quality pipe
with which the Royal Dutch Pipe Factory has built its reputation. It might even
end up as a piece of firewood, for not without reason do the old pipe makers say
"Top quality is found, not crafted"
And indeed, tobacco pipes
are crafted, not manufactured. They are crafted by experts, who have learnt
their noble skills through many years of practice.
A speciality of Hilson is
the addition of a meerschaum insert into the first-quality briar root tobacco
pipes. Meerschaum is a fossil which is extracted in Turkey. The material is very
light, porous and it absorbs fluid. It also adds a sweet taste to the tobacco
and because of the double sides a cooler smoke is realised.
The synthesis of
tradition and technology….
the distinguished tradition of crafting pipes, the Royal Dutch Pipe factory has
succeeded in developing a modern factory with a sophisticated and efficient
creates the ideal dry climate to bring out the best in the 50 year-old blocks
(ébauchons). The ébauchons are sorted electronically and the finishing,
polishing and sandblasting processes are carried out with modern machinery. In a
laboratory equipped with advanced measuring and testing instruments, new stains
and varnishes are developed and tested with due respect to environmental
Pipe smokers are
individualists. The Royal Dutch Pipe Factory does justice to their individualism
with a collection of pipes that allows pipe smokers to express themselves …
because a Hilson also reflects a lifestyle.
Copyright © 2007 by TECON GmbH
with friendly support of Royal Dutch Pipefactory - Elbert Gubbels & Zonen BV