Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
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No 96 - August 11, 2004
The Cuban Cigar World

There's a whole world of cigars in Cuba - and those currently on special can introduce you to some parts of this world you may not have tried before.

These special-price cigars are available until the end of September (while stocks last) and I thought it might be appropriate and helpful to make a few comments on them.
Firstly - the discounts are generous, and secondly, there is something there for everyone. This is the ideal opportunity to test-smoke a new brand or cigar size. Who knows - you may find something that really suits you in this new world - I found a few gems that I hadn't really appreciated before.

Robusto - the size of the moment
Rey del Mundo Choix Supreme
(Ring 48 x 127mm) - I met this one in Switzerland some years ago and really enjoy it. Good draw, burns slow and even. Suitable for daytime as well as evening.
Saint Luis Rey Regios (Ring 48 x 127mm) - Excellent Robusto, one of a small range of full-bodied cigars created in the 1940's for the British market. A great favourite of an old schoolmate of mine - a real cigar connoisseur.

Corona Extra - an under-rated size - almost a short Churchill.
Bolivar Corona Extra
(Ring 44 x 143mm) Full bodied and satisfying - always highly rated in Cigar Aficionado tastings.
Rafael Gonzales Corona Extra (Ring 46 x 143mm) - Strong following among connoisseurs! Manufactured from a secret blend of Vuelta Abajo tobaccos selected by the Marquez Rafael Gonzalez (Grandee of Spain) - brand now discontinued.

Petit Corona - that great "in between" smoke.
Bolivar Petit Corona
(Ring 42 x 129mm) Exceptionally well received at one of our cigar dinners - plenty of spicy aromas. Same size in aluminium tubes - Bolivar Tubos No.2
Diplomaticos No.4 (Ring 42 x 129mm) From the same hands as Montecristo, made for the French market. Slightly lighter - ideal for those who find many Cuban cigars too heavy.
Ramon Allones Petit Corona - (Ring 42 x 129mm) Back in 1839, Ramon Allones was the first person
to put coloured labels on the boxes. His cigars have a pronounced Cuban flavour.
Rafael Gonzales Petit Corona (Ring 42 x 129mm) - A slightly lighter smoke. The brand has been discontinued - this may be your last chance to try them.
Romeo y Julieta Petit Corona (Ring 42 x 129mm) - Another success at a cigar dinner - a little lighter than the Bolivar.

Half Corona - the perfect 25-35 minute smoke.
Diplomaticos No.5
(Ring 40 x 102mm) The classic half corona size. A well constructed, slightly lighter cigar. Smoke after lunch, or even in the morning with coffee.
Sancho Panza Bachilleres (116mm x Ring 40) A slightly longer handmade half corona with the unmistakeable Cuban taste. Very favourable comments from those who tried our most recent Half Corona Selection (now sold out).
San Cristobal El Principe (Ring 42 x 110mm) Thicker than most half coronas. Launched with much fanfare in February 1998, it was hailed as the best of the new Cuban brands. Made in the La Corona factory the cigars are full bodied and very aromatic. (Also well received in the Half Corona Selection.)

A "de luxe" Packing, a "de luxe" cigar, but a very reasonable price (even better on special).
Romeo y Julieta Cedros de luxe No.1
(Ring 42 x 165mm) - The corona-sized cigar has a subtle blend of flavours and each is individually wrapped in cedar - ideal for lighting these premium cigars.

The 'Especial' - a size once considered to be the epitome in cigar smoking, and the size originally smoked by Fidel Castro - it can only be made only by the finest rollers.
Cohiba Coronas Especiales
(Ring 38 x 152mm) - Theo Rudman says "smooth, mellow, easy-burning, .. elegant style appreciated by beginner and aficionado".
Montecristo Especial (Ring 38 x 192mm) and Especial No.2 (Ring 38 x 152mm) with their "curly heads" are fine example of the genre - slightly milder than the Cohiba.
If you prefer a smaller volume of "smoke per draw" such a thinner cigar should suit you, but smoke it slowly - a long thin cigar should actually take more time to smoke than a short thick one

Talking of the finest - consider the Cohiba Siglo V (Ring 43 x 170mm) Corona Grande.

And for the largest - the Cuaba Salomone Perfecto (Ring 56 x 184mm). Those who attended our June 2004 cigar dinner will testify to the excellence of this extraordinary cigar.

And the smallest - Montecristo Mini (Mini cigarillo) Machine made using all Cuban leaf. Smooth light Cuban taste with an unusually easy draw for such a small cigar. Also very suitable for ladies.

To take 'en route' - Montecristo Tubos (Ring 42 x 155mm) Unfailing Montecristo quality and flavour - the "corona" cigar is perfectly round in its aluminium tube.

Economical - Juan Lopes Panatela Superba (Ring 34 x 125mm) - this panatela offers a light, fairly short smoke.

Now for the real budget - did you try Guantanamera when we featured them earlier this year?
They are machine-made with short filler which comes from the Vuelta Arriba region, better known for supplying tobacco for European cigars. The wrapper is in general finer than that on some of the older machine-made cigars - no lumps and bruises or thick veins - and the taste is deliciously, spicy Cuban.
Compay - (Ring 40 x 123mm) Slim corona
Decimos - (Ring 38 x 134mm) Panatella

Stocks are limited, and we don't present all of them on our shelves. Requests will be handled on a "first-come-first-attended to" basis.
Give this offer serious thought, but don't delay too long.

Colin Wesley
August 11 to August 25, 2004

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.

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No 97 - August 26, 2004
Is longer, cooler, drier, better?

The world of pipes is filled with history, myths, stories and fascinating facts which raise many questions. And because so many of these questions require replies which are very subjective, they can never have hard, ironclad answers.

Questions such as:
What is the best material from which to make pipes?
Which country produces the best briar?
How old should briar be, before it can be used to make a pipe?
How thick should the wood of the bowl be?
Which is better a straight pipe or a bent?

The questions are endless and all have validity, but they elicit different answers from different people. Some of these answers can be found in our website Library under "Manufacture of Briar Pipes" or "The Complete Pipesmoker" or in our "Across the Counter" articles for pipe smokers (43 to date).
Rick Hacker's "Pipesmoking - a 21st Century Guide" is a comprehensive and easy-reading book for those who'd like to delve more deeply.

A question I was recently asked again was: "what difference does the length of the shank make to a straight pipe".
The theory is that if the briar has been well cured it will be hard, dry and porous - and the longer the shank, the more opportunity there is for the pipe to extract moisture from the smoke, and the more time to cool the smoke before it leaves the pipe.
No need for extra "filters" or "mopper-ups" (as we call them).
This theory is so well-accepted that, because of the shortage (scarcity) of briar blocks available to make these long-shank pipes (usually oval shank "Canadians"), extra pieces of briar may be spliced on to extend the shank. (The Savinelli Long John is an example of this practice.)

Well, earlier this year in the Lorenzo warehouse we found a small parcel of "Grand Canadian" pipes in Cabernet quality. Each pipe made from a single briar block!
The grain is interesting with a good proportion of hard to soft wood and a few insignificant surface imperfections. The finish is matt autumn-brown.
The real interest is in the shape itself - an elegant long-wooded pipe at an affordable price of R399.50.

For the period 2 September to 15 September 2004 we will be offering at a discount of 25% the
"Grand Canadian" from Lorenzo.
Stocks are limited!

Test out the theory for yourself - your comments would be appreciated.

Colin Wesley
August 26 to September 8, 2004

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.

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No 98 - September 9, 2004
Top Marques

You think you've tried them all - but have you?
In line with the current policy of Habanos, new brands, and new sizes in the great brands are popping up regularly.

Two names that have been spoken with great reverence in the Cuban context are Cohiba and Trinidad. These were the Marques (brands) specially rolled for Fidel Castro, for his personal use and for diplomatic gifts.
The well-regarded El Laguito factory, employing only women rollers, was chosen to manufacture these exclusive cigars, first Cohiba in 1968 and then Trinidad (1980).
Cohiba cigars were only released to the commercial world in 1982, and Trinidad in 1998.
Ironically both marques first appeared as long, slim cigars (panatellas): Cohiba as Lanceros (Ring 38 x 192mm) and Corona Especiales (Ring 38 x 152mm); Trinidad as Fundadores (Ring 40 x 192mm).
Fine as they are, none of them is easy to smoke, and these shapes are less favoured to-day.

In 1992 (5 centuries after Columbus's epic voyage) Cohiba created the Linea 1492 range of sizes named "Siglo" - the Spanish word for "Century":
Siglo I - Half Corona - Ring 40 x 102mm
Siglo II - Petit Corona - Ring 42 x 129mm
Siglo III - Royal Corona - Ring 42 x 155mm
Siglo IV - Corona Extra - Ring 46 x 143mm
Siglo V - Corona Grande - Ring 43 x 170mm
and later (in the next century)
Siglo VI - Short Double Corona - Ring 52 x 150mm
This range, together with the more recently released, great Cohiba Robusto (Ring 50 x 124mm),
has been highly successful, winning world acclaim.

Trinidad usurped Cohiba as the "Fidel" and Diplomatic gift cigar in 1980, and was then launched commercially in 1998 - but still in only one size, the Fundadores.
This year, 2004, we see the arrival of 2 far more popular sizes in Trinidad:
Trinidad Reyes
- a superb Half Corona - Ring 40 x 110mm
Trinidad Robusto Extra - a majestic long Robusto - Ring 50 x 155mm
Both cigars, but especially the Reyes, have received rapturous reviews from those fortunate to have tasted them - I include myself!

The Cohiba Siglo I and Trinidad Reyes are included in our next Half Corona Selection (previous selection sold out).
The third Half Corona will be Diplomaticos No.5 - Ring 40 x 102mm.
The Diplomatico marque was created in 1966 for the French market - a well constructed, slightly lighter cigar from the same factory as Montecristo, and offering good value. It is suitable as an after lunch smoke, or even in the mid-morning with coffee.

From 16 September to 29 September, 2004 we offer you a really good opportunity to compare the two top Marques with the standard, fully handmade Diplomaticos brand - and at a really special price.
R190.00 for the pack of 3 cigars in glass tubes.
There are only 50 of these selections available.

Colin Wesley
September 9 to September 22, 2004

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.

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No 99 - September 23, 2004
The Constant Clay

For over 500 years pipe smokers have been enjoying the smoking and aesthetic qualities
of clay pipes.

First introduced in England in the 1500's, clay was used because it was inexpensive, porous and fire-resistant. For the next 250 years, clay was unchallenged as the best material from which to make smoking pipes. The only weakness was that the pipes were brittle and easily broken. Historians have found from contemporary accounts that going through three or four pipes a week was not uncommon.
But this just created opportunities for more pipe makers to enter the market. The demand in England was enormous. In 1868 an enterprising manufacturer introduced steam power to his factory, and produced 1½ million clays the following year.

As pipe smoking spread from England to Europe, so European clay pipe makers evolved, and to-day Zenith (founded in 1749) is still operating in Gouda, Holland, making the same pipes plus newer models. According to Rick Hacker - at the time of writing the 2nd edition of "The Ultimate Pipe Book" in 1989, millions of clay pipes were still being sold each year.

Some trivia:
** The little "spur" under the bowl was originally designed as a resting point for the bowl on the arm of the chair or table - the stems were pretty long!! Now the spur offers a relatively cool place to hold the bowl.
** Over the years, the size of the bowls varied - according to the price of tobacco at that time.
** The wealthier man could take his own clay to the tavern or taphouse, but those who could not afford a pipe would smoke from the communal clay - each smoker breaking off the last inch of the stem so he'd have a "clean" piece to put in his mouth, until there was nothing left.

Due to the high percentage of breakages in transit, we stopped importing our clays some years ago. From one of our last clays, we had a mould made and our clays are now made in South Africa to the authentic English design.
They are still fragile, but if you are unfortunate enough to break the stem you can simply file the end smooth, lacquer and wax the "mouthpiece" (to stop it sticking to your lips), and continue to smoke it.
And with careful, individual packing it is possible to send these long clay churchwarden pipes anywhere in the world. We recently sent 2 to Canada though the International Postal Service, and they arrived on time and intact.
The Canadian customer had an interesting question "Could she glaze the pipe, maybe with some design painted on?" The answer is yes - provided the holes at both ends (bowl and stem) are securely sealed to prevent the glaze blocking the pipe.

The advantages of clay are constant -
It's elegant - aesthetically pleasing;
It's porous - giving a dry smoke;
It's a cool smoke - plenty of opportunity for the smoke to cool down through the long stem;
It won't burn through - (but don't drop it on a tiled floor);
It doesn't affect the taste of the tobacco - you may not recognise your favourite blend.

Are you ready to take a step back in history, and try a clay?

From 30 September to 13 October 2004
you can invest (in a minor way) in your own clay churchwarden pipe for only R50.00

Relax and enjoy it.

Colin Wesley
September 23 to October 6, 2004

PS It's approaching that time of the year - maybe now's the time to buy a clay pipe and
put it away for a Christmas present.

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.

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No 100 - October 7, 2004
With Dinner in mind

Let's look at this from the Chef's point of view.

We'll assume that he first decides on the main course, and then works up to it through the aperitif and the first course, increasing the intensity of the tastes from mild to medium, and then offering the full-flavoured main course just when the palate is ready for it. He includes a variety of foods so that all the taste buds are stimulated.
If he gets it right you have a great meal and a memorable experience.

It is this formula that we have used to assemble the cigars for our next Cigar Dinner - October 21.

We begin with
Clubmaster Elegantes - Brazil Leaf. The well-matured Maduro leaf adds a faintly sweet, rich taste - mouthwatering but not overwhelming. It is an elegant senorita: Length 109 mm, Diameter 10.7mm (Ring 28), and being short filler the draw is easy - about a 15 minute smoke.

We follow this with a
Davidoff Millennium Petit Corona ("Small Crown"). The traditional Davidoff cigar is a blend of subtle, smooth but light tobaccos, so the Millennium Blend, made from a selection of stronger tobaccos gives a new meaning to the Davidoff Experience. The ideal correlation between length and ringsize (129mm x Ring 42) delivers a fulsome flavour with a comfortable draw for the 30 minute duration of the smoke.

And finally the cigar with which we started the formula
Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2 - 5 stars in everybody's book. Certainly the best-known Robusto (124mm x Ring 50) in South Africa, this cigar has a wonderful balance between strength and flavour which continues to develop throughout the smoke. Give it 45 to 60 minutes.

A 3-pack of these cigars will serve as our next cigar feature - available from October 21
The normal price of the 3 cigars singly is R299.00 -
Featured price just R225.00

For only another R100 - many joined us at the Cigar Dinner on October 21 enjoying the food, the wine, the cigars and the ambience of relaxation in the company of other aficionados.

Colin Wesley
October 7 to October 20, 2004

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.

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No 101 - October 28, 2004
Dry Smoking

System or Disposable filters?

We recently received an email enquiry about a Falcon system pipe. The illustrations on the leaflet we wanted to scan were too small to show the shapes clearly, so we delved back into our old newsletters from the 70's to find larger pictures of the bowl shapes. The pictures in the newsletter included the retail prices at the time, and we couldn't help but smile. A Falcon pipe (frame and bowl) which retailed for R4.20 in 1970 is to-day R638.00
And then in the shop a lady was looking for a Keyser pipe for her husband. We had stock but the price was over R800 (and in 1970 we'd noted it was R4.95).
These are price increases of over 150 times - we wondered how come.
In 1984 the British pound cost R2.17 and now it's around R12.00 - so it's not just the exchange rate.
In the 1970's I used to pay R4.50 for a Taxi to the Airport and now it's R250.00 - so it's not just the fuel (although that's bad enough).
It must be a combination of factors, including wages both here and in the UK - but I can't think of any other products for which the prices have increased so much. Can you? (Comments welcome.)

But enough of the past - more to the point is why people were and are asking for system pipes.
And the answer is that they are looking for a dry smoke.

The pipe is a natural filter and moisture will condense from the smoke and deposit in the shank and mouthpiece. Many smokers, especially new smokers, secrete excessive saliva or use the very popular "Aromatic" tobaccos which, due to the flavouring oils, have more moisture in the smoke than the older natural blends. This can lead to a messy pipe and the unpleasant smoke known as a "wet smoke".

In the 70's and 80's if you wanted a cool, dry smoke you had to buy a branded pipe with a patented moisture trap - for which you paid a premium. "Filter pipes" were available, but used paper filters and were almost invariably of the cheaper kind - not very nice to smoke.
Then came the development of the "Teflon" peg for the mouthpiece - which meant that any pipe could house a filter without having to have an oversized shank. This opened up a wide price range of pipes able to offer this cool, dry smoke. But the cost of raw materials, and the operating costs in Western Europe, are major problem areas for to-day's pipe manufacturers.
And this is where, as we've said before, Lorenzo has the edge. Their pipes from Albania continue to improve every year, as can be seen in our latest arrivals (ordered just one year ago).
These are good working pipes. Pipes you can take into the bush, go fishing with, smoke on the golf course or in your garden. They are ideal for the novice - well-cured, but won't break the wallet.
You can expect very good value for money.

And even better value for money from November 4 to November 17, because we're offering a 25% discount on 9mm filter pipes from the House of Lorenzo Value range of pipes - Two Tone, Walnut or Spot Carved.

Colin Wesley
October 28 to November 10, 2004

PS Value 6mm filter pipes are also available from the House of Savinelli
- the Capital range.
If you're looking for dry smoking pipes with eye-catching fancy grains and finishes,
hand-cut mouthpieces, etc. - you can see some really top class pipes in "Prestige Pipes" (selection changes every few months) or from Savinelli (6mm), Stanwell (9mm) and Lorenzo Originals (9mm).

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.

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No 102 - November 11, 2004
Which Cigar to smoke?

A seemingly simple instruction from a CEO to his PA led to an interesting chain of exchanges and has made us think about the holiday season just ahead.

The instruction was "please phone Wesley's and get me the prices of Cuban cigars".
Well - the call came through and the fun began.
We could have referred him to the full list on the website (www.wesleys.co.za/cigars.htm) which can be sorted according to brand, strength, size, price, filler - but to offer better service, we needed to know more about his requirements.
Without wishing to intimidate the PA we asked whether she could give us more information - are the cigars for himself or a gift; did he have a particular brand name in mind, or a size or price; what quantity?
After a short silence the PA said "I'll come back to you".
Being a good PA she did. He wanted a medium size Cuban cigar for himself.
This enabled us to make relevant suggestions - a copy of our fax follows at the end of this article.

But this made us think that there must be many cigar smokers (or gift buyers) out there with the same object in mind - to find some enjoyable cigars for the holiday season.
This is a time to relax, with time available to try new cigars in a tranquil mood.
An ideal time to experiment - but not necessarily with a whole box of 25.
There are several 5-packs available - there will soon be a separate list on (www.wesleys.co.za/cigars.htm).
But how much more fun and how much more profitable to compare different cigars!

So with support from our suppliers we are putting together another range of selections at very good prices to complement the season. Three-packs of same size different brands; same brand different sizes; different brands and sizes. As usual each pack will enclose a single page information sheet on the 3 cigars. The selections will be available from November 18 - while stocks last.

Watch for them and enjoy them!

Colin Wesley
November 11 to November 23, 2004

PS The October Cigar Dinner was most enjoyable. The attendance was a little lower than usual, and this made it easier all round. The cigars were very much appreciated, especially the Clubmaster Elegantes Brazil. Sales subsequent to the dinner bear this out.

You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.

We faxed:
1. If your CEO is looking to experiment and try a variety of cigars for himself, then we have the following 3-pack selections available at present - all Cuban. Each cigar is in a tube (either glass or branded aluminium). Descriptions of the selections follow. Pictures can be seen on www.wesleys.co.za/selections.htm#half.
Corona Selection - R240.00 (Normal price R347.00)Bolivar Tubos No.1 (Aluminium Tube); Romeo y Julieta Cedros de Luxe No.2; Quai D'Orsay Corona - approximately 142mm x Ring 42 (16.67mm diameter)
Petit Corona Selection - R185.00 (Normal Price R267.00) - Diplomaticos No.4; Romeo y Julieta Petit Corona; Bolivar Petit Corona - approximately 129mm x Ring 42 (16.67mm diameter)

2. If he wants boxes (or bundles) of 25 of the size you mentioned - it sounds like a Petit Corona which is length 129mm by diameter 16.67mm (ring size 42), then we can offer the following - each being the best value in its price range. (Prices are per 25)
Cohiba Siglo II R2821.50 - Considered the pride of the Havanas, the Cohiba brand was originally created for the personal use of Fidel Castro. Totally handmade, remarkable flavour for its ring size and very smooth.
Montecristo No.4 R2002.50 - one of the top premium brands from Cuba - the benchmark of Cuban cigars for size and flavour.
Partagas Mille Fleur R1431.50 - Partagas is the second oldest Cuban brand, established 1845. The Mille Fleurs is machine bunched, hand finished. A good, budget Cuban cigar.
Romeo y Julieta Coronitas en Cedro R1210.50 - Romeo y Julieta is probably the best known Havana brand. Coronitas en Cedro is machine bunched, hand finished and individually wrapped in cedar - Good Cuban flavour, excellent value.
Flor de Cano Petit Corona (cedar wrapped) R1026.00 - Small well made range not too robust or full bodied. Machine bunched/hand finished, good spicy taste with an easy draw
Jose L Piedra Petit Cetros R713.50 - Machine bunched and hand finished. Supplied in bundles for economy. Preferably smoked after food.

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