Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"

No 103 - November 25, 2004
Is your Pipe too hot?

We are now well and truly into summer and will soon be experiencing more and more of those blistering hot days on the Highveld that culminate in a good thunder-and-lightning storm in the late afternoon or early evening - and we all know what damage lightning can do when it strikes a tree.
Well, if you are smoking your pipe too hot, it won't be struck by lightning, but it could still burn out and be ruined.

How not to burn it!
The following is the transcript of a pamphlet the late Achille Savinelli had produced many years ago as a guide on how not to burn a pipe.

Dear Sir,
A major problem among pipe smokers seems to be how to avoid burning your pipe, and the most widely accepted solution is to take slow puffs and to slow down even further if the pipe gets too hot.
But how can the pipe smoker - a novice perhaps - recognize when his pipe is too hot?
The bowl of a lit pipe is always hot, and to establish exactly what temperature 'too hot' without appropriate instruments is somewhat difficult. I resolved the problem in the following way:
The idea suggested itself to me from a visit I made to a mechanic to whom I had taken a car the transmission box of which tended to get 'too hot'.
"Look", he said, "all you have to do is put your hand on it and count slowly to six. If you can do this, then it is not 'too hot', but if you have to remove your hand, it means that something is wrong and you should stop the motor at once."

The suggestion worked well and I thought of applying it to my pipes. I suggested it to a friend who had burnt several pipes by too fierce drawing. He belongs moreover to that category of pipe smokers which some called "smokers with armor-plated tongues"' meaning that what burns first is not the tongue, but the briar.
So here now is the mechanic's system as applied to the pipe. When a pipe is being broken in, clasp it firmly with your hand from time to time and count slowly up to six. If you can do this, then carry on smoking in peace. If not, then stop until the pipe cools down sufficiently for you to continue.
This is not a long operation. Five to ten seconds usually suffice, and you won't even have to relight your pipe. And even if the pipe does go out, there is no harm done. Light it again. I would claim that many pipe burns are caused by smokers who, afraid that their pipe might go out, draw too often and too hard. It is better to use a few more matches or a little more gas than to burn your pipe.
Haven't you noticed that old smokers in general are those who let their pipes go out more frequently?
The more softly you smoke, the fresher - and you derive a greater satisfaction from it.
If you adopt "the mechanic's system", I can assure you that you will never again burn a pipe.
Achille Savinelli

Sound advice from a master pipeman!

Colin Wesley
November 25 to December 8, 2004

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

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Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
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No 104 - December 9, 2004
Surprise Year-end cigars

What a way to end 2004 or start 2005!

Some months ago we were given notice that the long-awaited robusto - Montecristo "Edmundo" was about to arrive. Well it has, and it is everything we expected - beautifully made and glowing with good health. This is what the distributor has to say:

Its exquisite tobacco blend has been prepared exclusively with selected leaves from Vegas Finas de Primera in the region of Vuelta Abajo in Cuba.
The aroma of this cigar, perfectly balanced with its characteristic medium to full flavour will arise even greater enthusiasm among the faithful smokers of Montecristo brand.
With its traditional and successful blend the cigar is now designed in a heavy ring gauge (52 ring gauge) and a suitable length for today's rushes (135mm)

There is some poetic license with the term "Robusto" (normally 129mm, Ring 50) but all at the annual club dinner agreed that it is a royal smoke.

Price: R394.50 / sleeve of 3; R156.00 single in glass tube.

The second cigar of which we had notice is the short, thick Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto. It has arrived and should be in the shops from Tuesday, 14 December.
I haven't smoked, or even seen it, but with the experience the rollers at Hoyo de Monterrey have had rolling Epicure No.2 and the fantastic Double Coronas, one can only assume that the technical quality will be there. At 102mm x Ring 50 it is the same thickness as the Epicure 2, but 22mm shorter.
Leaves used in the blend come from the Hoyo de Monterrey plantation which is located on the fertile banks of San Juan y Martinez River, right in the heart of the Vuelta Abajo region.
As with all other Hoyo de Monterrey cigars, it offers sweet and aromatic flavours with floral ambiance and no excess of light (lager) tobacco in blend.

This blend makes it an attractive choice for those who seek a delicate yet aromatic Habano that is lighter to the taste but with great elegance and complexity. If the wrapper quality is as good as that on the current Epicure Nos 1 & 2, the Petit Robusto will gladden the eye and be a joy to smoke.

Price: R1710.00 / box of 25; R84.00 single in glass tube.

The third cigar which has popped up to enrich the festive season is the Partagas Serie D No.1 Limited Edition (168mm x Ring 48). The careful selection of a two-year aged wrapper from the upper level of the plant grants it a darker colour. These leaves are entrusted to the best hands in Cuba, to produce a cigar that will be smoked and remembered.
Unseen and unsmoked, I draw on my memories of the superb Limited Editions of recent years - the cigars offered a full bodied, full flavoured smoke (for this size a great 90 minutes) which, due to "Limited" production may not be able to be repeated.

Price: R3762.00 / box of 25; R178.00 single in glass tube

If the choice is difficult, try one of each, and then invest - but don't delay, stocks are limited.

Colin Wesley
December 9 to December 30, 2004

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

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No 105 - December 30, 2004
The Allure of Meerschaum

During the week before Christmas I was in my shop listening to a gentleman explaining to his next generation some of the mystique of meerschaumand his desire to own a meerschaum pipe - probably prompted by the question:
"What would you really like for Christmas?"

He summed up the situation by explaining that a meerschaum pipe is expensive, and if the present were to materialise it should be a collective gift from all concerned. They left the shop smiling and chattering away.

But it made me think: "What is the fascination of meerschaum for pipe smokers?"

The mere word "meerschaum", literal translation "sea-foam" (which it isn't) has a ring of romance to it which the words "magnesium silicate" (which it is) don't have. Added to this romantic image is the fact that most meerschaum pipes originate in Turkey, a country with a history of mystery and intrigue - the romance intensifies.
Romance may be good for an industry, but it won't last if the product does not deliver the goods - in this case a cool, dry smoke with a clean taste. Meerschaum does.
If you add to this the lightness of the pipe and its extra long life, the allure of meerschaum becomes obvious - meerschaum gives a great smoke!

But, as the man said, a block meerschaum pipe is relatively expensive.
However, there is an alternative - a possible introduction to the experience of meerschaum through a meerschaum-lined pipe.
Much smaller pieces of the mined and processed meerschaum can be turned into plain bowls and inserted into a briar housing. This obviously needs to be done very carefully, and not many pipe manufacturers will tackle the tricky task and offer such pipes. Lorenzo does - at only R350.00!
Here you have all the smoking benefits of meerschaum - at a more affordable price.

  And from January 6 to January 19, 2005
you can buy one of these pipes at R350.00 less 25%.
Now that's a good way to start 2005.

After a few smokes the meerschaum lining will darken and be less obvious - almost indistinguishable from the carbon layer of your other pipes. So remember which of your pipes has the meerschaum lining, because you don't want to inadvertently scrape away the meerschaum in a cleaning session. Use a blunt and blunt-tipped tool for safety - no reaming necessary.

Colin Wesley
December 30, 2004 to January 13, 2005

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

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Fortnightly Articles
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No 106 - January 13, 2005
Oh dear - I did it

A customer pointed out my (deliberate?) error in describing the Weekend Selection.
Did you spot it?

'Weekend Selection
An amazing thing about a holiday weekend is that you hardly ever have 1 to 2 hours to yourself (except maybe watching sport on Saturday or Sunday afternoon). Quite often it's a brief 10 to 15 minutes between lunch and a nap; or the nap and game drive; or before lunch or dinner out. So this pack includes 5 mini Cubans as well as a hearty Saint Luis Rey and noble Torpedo from San Cristobal.'

The article "When is a Torpedo NOT a Torpedo" refers.

Talking of Selections we were almost sold out before Christmas so we topped up, and that means we still have some available.
Cigar smokers, especially new recruits to the brotherhood (sisterhood?), need or like to experience a variety of cigars - different lengths, ringsizes , strengths and tastes (flavours). (See next month's article on taste.)
This is where our carefully assembled selections can help. Each package comes with a leaflet describing the cigars - and better still, the prices are good. Visit your nearest Wesley's, or click on "Selections" and see the choice and the prices; buy what appeals to you.
You can become familiar with cigars such as Sancho Panza Bacchilleres, Ramon Allones Petit Corona, Clubmaster Elegantes (Maduro Brazil) and Quai d'Orsay.
Did you think that all Romeo y Julieta cigars were the same? Try the Romeo y Julieta selection.
Experimentation can be fun and rewarding, and our selections make it easy - give it a try.

Preparing for our January 31 stocktaking, we found something else that is still available: .. . . . . . . . .
Seven back issues of Cigar Aficionado - in good condition.
They may be old, but they continue to offer enjoyable reading
- the material does not have a "best by" date.

Rather than toss them out, we'll be giving them away until February 2.
Select one, and it's yours - FREE - including postage!
Extras at R20 (plus R5.00 postage).

Offer of free/low postage only valid within South Africa. Enquire about postage outside South Africa.

You can see the Issues available, together with the highlights from the Index in each case, on the Books page, from Friday 14 January. The stock is all in the storeroom, so place your order with your nearest Wesley's or email us and we'll get it to you as soon as possible.

Colin Wesley
January 13 to January 26, 2005

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

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Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
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No 107 - January 27, 2005
Internet Interaction

It's not all impersonal - a recent order from the USA in which the shipping cost was morethan the price of the item led to some entertaining correspondence.

On 27 December, Marilynn ordered a leather tobacco pouch which sold for R131.52 excluding VAT. However the postage was R168.00, so I replied suggesting the Registered Small Air Packet service instead of Insured Parcel post (which has a minimum charge). There would be no compensation payable if the parcel went astray, but it would save US$17, and the service had proved very reliable in the past.
The correspondence continued:

30 December
Thank you for clearing this up. If the order is about $38, including shipping, then I would like to re-order. Do I need to submit the credit card info again or can you use the information you already have? Let me know.

December 31
Hello Marilynn - glad that's sorted out.
We don't have your full credit card details - this is to protect you from possible fraud. We are only given the first four and last four digits to identify the type of card. So you would have to order again - or if you prefer, send me the missing digits, plus the expiry date and 3 validation digits on the back of the card.
I have the black smooth nappa leather pouch reserved for you, so it will be shipped as soon as you order.
Sincerely, Colin Wesley

31 December
After all this, I do not remember which card I used, but I believe it was my Discover, details follow.
(I could have grown my own cow and sewed the pouch by now).
Thank you again for all your help. Marilynn

2 January
Hello Marilynn
You're not going to believe this - I don't think it was the Discover card you used. On your original order it says "Master Card" and the digits don't match.
I feel the same way about this pouch - you could almost have made one yourself.
It's just as well that it wasn't the kudu pouch that you ordered - kudus are much more difficult to grow.
However - let's have another go with the Mastercard (or the remaining digits of the Discover card), and you should receive your pouch before we're too far into 2005.
Then I can say "Happy New Year".

2 January
I can believe anything. Let's run with the Discover. (Missing digits supplied)
Thank you for your sense of humor and I wish you a Happy New Year as well. Marilynn

3 January
The credit card service provider informs me that we can't use the Discover for Mail Order purchases. I'm beginning to feel that this sale is jinxed - but I'm determined not to let technology get the better of me.
Regards, Colin

5 January
Jinxed is not the word I would use - I am convinced demonic possession is somehow involved. I order a lot of mail order and always use the Discover card as I get a percentage back. However, here are the Master Card details.
If this does not work, I will sacrifice the young cow I am now raising and we will start over with a Visa, which I don't believe is involved in the conspiracy (yet). I am determined to complete this if I don't die of old age first.
Carry on!

5 January
Oh dear Marilynn - it's just as well you've a sense of humour - it is going to be very strained now.
The details you've just given me don't fit in with the digits on the original card you used. Please can you now send the first and last 4 sets of digits of this new card and it MUST work!
In the mean time I am going to post the pouch in the interests of preserving the life of the young cow.
Regards - Gillian (this time) and Colin as well.

6 January
I am glad Colin has brought in reinforcements - as for me, I am relying on a large bottle of brandy. As I said, I thought this MasterCard was a debit card, but give it a shot.
There is always more brandy.

6 January
I hope you haven't finished the brandy.
The Master Card you gave me is evidently "restricted". Can you provide details of the one which worked on the original Internet order? Or shall we have a go at the VISA?
The pouch left this morning, and I would expect it to take 12 to 18 days to reach you (although some of the parcels last year were quicker).
Regards, Gillian

7 January
Actually, I am holding up quite well. The cow, however, is beginning to feel threatened and started to nip at the brandy. After explaining what a good marinade and sauce brandy made for beef, she decided it was not to her taste.
Anyway, here are the details of the original Master. Again, thank you for all your help and patience.
Do let me know if this "flys" as they say. Marilynn

7 January
We've done it!!
The cow can breathe a sigh of relief.
The pouch should be with you soon, and we will have the payment.
Regards to the cow, and thanks for everything.
Colin & Gillian Wesley

To compensate for the trouble we gave Marilynn a 25% discount.

The pouch in question is the combination model 71-PCombL (R149.95). This fine black nappa leather companion pouch, with its "zip-seal" rubberised lining, offers an elegant and very practical way to preserve your tobacco when out and about, and to carry the accompanying pipe and equipment.

Although it shouldn't (hopefully) be as much trouble for you to order -
for the period February 3 to February 16, 2005
we'll make you the same offer of 25% off.

Colin Wesley
January 27 to February 9, 2005

20 January 2005

Dear Colin & Gillian:
I told you I would let you know when the package arrived. It did and ran as smoothly as the rest of the transaction. Since it required a signature, the postman rang the bell. However, I was out walking the cow (the beagle, actually, as the cow is quite hopeless at potty training). This of course required a trip to the post office the next day which closed moments before I got there, requiring a second trip. I did retrieve it (as easy as that) and thank you again.

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

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Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"

No 108 - February 10, 2005
The Taste

As I wrote last month, cigar smokers, especially new recruits to the brotherhood (sisterhood?), need or like to experience a variety of cigars - different lengths, ringsizes, strengths and tastes (flavours).

There are many different flavours, and combinations of flavours, in the cigar world, but they can be broadly categorised into three groups:
Cuban, with the related taste of leaf from Cuban seed as grown in Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, etc - a spicy full-bodied flavour found most often in relatively expensive long filler cigars;
Maduro - a dark, smooth, extra-fermented leaf with a naturally slightly sweet flavour which offers beautiful rich cigar. Maduro Brazil cigars rolled in Europe are often in the more affordable range of the price scale;
The former Dutch East Indies, notably Sumatra - lighter and drier and extensively used in short-filler cigars manufactured in Europe in a wide range of blends, qualities and prices.

It's all very well to describe the taste, but it won't mean a thing until you've smoked it. And to compare the different tastes one would need to try the same size and type of cigar in each of the flavours.

Easier said than done until now when we have, relatively new to the South African market, the "COLLECCIÓN DE TUBOS" from VASCO DA GAMA.
Each "Collección" consists of 3 corona size cigars in aluminium tubes - and there are three different packs offering three distinct flavours:
VASCO DA GAMA Fino Corona Brasil (Maduro) - Black tubes in Green box (R164.95 pack of 3)
VASCO DA GAMA Fino Corona Sumatra - Cream tubes in Maize box (R164.95 pack of 3)
VASCO DA GAMA Fino Corona Capa de Cuba - Gold tubes in Burgundy box (R168.95 pack of 3)

These are short filler cigars from the German manufacturer Andre Arnold - excellent quality, 100% pure tobacco and beautifully packed. They provide an ideal opportunity for the cigar smoker to experience the different types of flavour under equal conditions.

Unable to find any written analysis of these cigars, we decided to perform some surgery on them. We amputated a centimetre off each foot and opened it up. We were stunned at the quality of all three wrappers - superfine, almost translucent, even the Maduro Brasil.
The character of each cigar is defined by its wrapper: The Capa de Cuba wrapper is typically greenish brown, theSumatra a glowing light golden brown , and the Maduro Brazil a deep caramel brown.

Rick Hacker says: "In many ways the wrapper is the most important part of the cigar, not just because it provides 30% to 60% of the flavour, but also because it is the embodiment of the cigar's total character".

The natural binder in each case was firm and well-fitted. The average size of the filler pieces was bigger than I expected, and each blend has its own distinctive aroma. When I smoked the rest of the cigar, the different tastes were quite apparent, and the experience most enjoyable.

Each cigar is cedarwood-wrapped, then cellophaned and finally tubed - ensuring absolute freshness.
I think that you'll find that these three cigars really fulfil the Vasco da Gama slogan "Discover a new world", and lead you to 3 different areas of the cigar world.

So that you can easily compare the 3 flavours, we have re-packed the cigars - and for the period February 17 to March 2 offer these packs of 3, each with the three different tubes, at only R115.00

You may like all three tastes - finding them suitable for different occasions. After all, wine drinkers, for example, don't necessarily drink the same wine all the time. If you are attracted to the taste of Cuba or Sumatra, there is a wide range of sizes and prices available - just look at our list.
If your preference is for the Maduro, the range is smaller - but try Handelsgold, Clubmaster, La Paz and Vasco da Gama for short filler cigars, or for long filler cigars El Credito (Dominican), Chaba from Brazil, or the Limited Editions from Cuba.

Enjoy them.

Colin Wesley
February 10 to February 23, 2005

How did you like the cigars?
Let us know per email or fax - the first ten replies will each be rewarded with a FREE cigar from the Vasco da Gama "Collección de Tubos" - please indicate your choice.

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

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