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No 134 - February 9, 2006
Those were the days

when you could fill up your pipe at any time and smoke it over an hour or two, almost anywhere you felt inclined.

You would probably even draw a few pleasant, favourable comments about the aroma from family, friends, colleagues or passers by.
The pace of life was slow and easy – you had time to write letters, listen to long playing records and read thick books.  With your favourite pipe at hand, ready to pick up at will.
A common image of creativity included the muse pouring over his work with his soulmate nearby – a source of comfort, inspiration and delight.

But times and lifestyles have changed.
Today it is emails, SMS’s, CDs in the car, and thinner books.
And nowhere to smoke.

But all these changes need not deprive you totally of the enjoyment of your favourite blend.
The idea of a “smoke break” has developed - time out to relax and recharge.
And to-day a “10 minute pipe” is a must for any pipe smoker.

The concept of the “ten minute pipe” is not new, but originally it was thought of as something strictly for the ladies or the faint hearted. The shapes and styles then were mostly elegant but dainty.
Now the scope has extended considerably, and the styles range from “slender and elegant” to
short and chunky”.

The good news is that we recently secured a parcel of Italian-made briar pipes labelled “Shorty” at an extremely good price. 5 shapes – 2 finishes only R130.00.

The even better news –
for the period 16 February to 1 March, 2006
we will offer these to you at less 25%.

Add one to your collection – it will come in handy more often than you think.

Colin Wesley
February 9 to February 22, 2006

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No 135 - February 23, 2006
Romeo Romeo Romeo
aaah – you fellows are all the same!

Could this be the lament of a modern day Juliet comparing suitors, or could this be your thoughts about Romeo y Julieta cigars?
Possibly your thoughts on all Cuban cigars – they all taste the same?
Why not – since all Cuban cigars are made from tobaccos grown only in Cuba?

Well, from what I have read in various publications (mainly Rick Hacker’s The Ultimate Cigar Book and the late Theo Rudman’s Complete Pocket Guide), although there are only three basic types of leaves on any given tobacco plant, it is what happens to these leaves while they are still growing and after they have been harvested that offers the possibilities to create the wide array of blends that exist.
The three types are (from the bottom up):
Volado – the mildest in taste
Seco – from the middle and largest part of the plant, with a medium flavour
Ligero – the top of the plant with the strongest taste.

The exact composition of the leaves in these sections can be varied by how long they are left on the plant. Removing the lower leaves as soon as they mature will allow more nutrients to pass on to the upper sections adding more strength to their flavour.
Then there are the variations in the fermenting and maturing periods.
Mind boggling!
But it does make you realise what skills and insight a master blender has to have to create consistency in a blend with maybe minor tweaks for the different sizes in that brand.
He has to have a vast knowledge of all aspects of the tobacco plant and to recognise its potential.
He must be able to see the future.
He must also fully understand the part each leaf plays in the creation of his blend.
Accumulating all this knowledge and insight takes time – quite often it is passed down from one generation to the next in the same family. But still master blenders usually fall into the “mature” age bracket.

So we have the great brands: Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagas, Romeo y Julieta, H.Upmann and others.
Each has its own “brand” taste – with variations for different sizes.

For the period March 2 to March 15 we offer you three Romeo y Julieta cigars.
Enjoy the subtle differences between them – the art of the blender.
To keep the comparisons equal we’ve chosen three that are each wrapped in a cedar sleeve.
Cedros de Luxe No.1 (165mm x Ring 42) • Coronitas en Cedro (129mm x Ring 40)
Romeo No.3 (Al.tube) (117mm x Ring 40)
Only R196.50

Colin Wesley
February 23 to March 8, 2006

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No 136 - March 9, 2006
Buying Pipes
- you & me

I have been buying and selling pipes for more than 40 years now.

Starting with the classic “English” shapes: Billiards, Bents, Lovats, Liverpools, Bulldogs, Canadians, Bent Rhodesians, etc. that were the backbone of the pipe business.
Then came the excitement of the “Danish” shapes – some of which have lasted over time, some of which were quite outlandish and didn’t smoke very well.
Lorenzo, from Italy, was not far behind with his vast range of shapes and sizes: variations on the classics.
Savinelli (Italy) stayed closer to the classics, with more subtle variations and amazing consistency.
To the pipe buyer, it all became quite confusing and I made mistakes.

But then my thinking changed: instead of flooding the shop with strange shapes, I decided to watch more carefully how my customers bought their pipes in my shops.
Once he had decided between straight and bent, filter and non-filter, approximate price range, it all boiled down to three things to the customer:
Eye appeal
Hand appeal
Expected mouth appeal - 
summed up as shape and size.
Confronted with a drawer full of pipes, assorted shapes and sizes, my customer would take a good look, pause a little, and then pick up a pipe. He’d assess its feel, and imagine how it would feel in his mouth.
He might try several different pipes, even looking in other drawers, but in the end if the final factor, the price, was close enough – it was amazing how often that first pipe was the pipe for him.
No matter how much I could have enthused about some of the other pipes he was unlikely to be swayed.

Applying these findings to my pipe buying, I make far fewer mistakes, and I like to feel that I can now see an appealing shape when it is in the offing.

The large bent Titano in the spot carved finish sitting in the Lorenzo storeroom this year is just such a shape, and is my latest bet on a bargain.
For the eye – the proportions are perfect
In the hand (and pretty certainly in the mouth) – the feel and balance are excellent
And I have no doubt about the smoking quality.
What’s more it retails for only R450.00 – a non-etched finish would be more than twice the price.

We have 12 in stock just like the one pictured – variations are in grain and etching patterns only.
This is a great pipe for a long cool smoke: a day of a 5 day test match maybe, but not a 20:20 game – you don’t want to bite through the mouthpiece.

Because I enjoy finding something really special for our fortnightly features,
I thought the Lorenzo Titano would be a good one to offer at
less 25% for the fortnight 16 March to 29 March 2006.

I can’t see them lasting for the full period.
If you like the look of the Titano you’ll be happy with the other criteria - buy it now.

Colin Wesley
March 9 to March 22, 2006

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No 137 - March 23, 2006
Cuban Confusion

Not quite chaos – but certainly confusion has reigned in the South African Cuban cigar market over the last few months.

It all started in late October 2005 when the two South African importers of Cuban cigars were informed by their Swiss link that from the end of November, the “link” between Habanos and South Africa would be broken. No more Cuban cigars – at least through that link!

This really flamed the fuss.
We retailers needed stock for the Christmas trade – but where would we find it?
Christmas and New Year without any Cuban cigars just wouldn’t be the same.
And what about the Graduation celebrations?
And the new fathers?
Rumours abounded and all and sundry were scouring the Internet to avoid a catastrophe.
Fortunately for us all, some cigars became available to the trade early in December, and we all heaved a sigh of relief.

But what of the future?

Well this has been partly settled in the short term, as one company has been appointed by Habanos (the marketing arm of Cuba tobacco) to be the sole importer for the next 6 months of cigars direct from Cuba.
At that time Habanos will make a longer term decision for their distributor.

The first shipment under these new conditions has just arrived and, just as expected, most of the prices look better. The cigars are being costed and prices averaged with existing stock, and the new lists should be available – possibly by next week.
As always, I shall be looking for some “best bargains” for the next cigar special.
And for some great cigars for the postponed cigar dinner – now planned for a date in May/June.

Consolation Prize – Silver Match “Richmond”
In the mean time we have a brand new, slimmer Turbo cigar lighter to offer you
at the very special price of R175.00 (normal price R220.00)
This offer runs from 30 March to April 12, 2006 (if stocks last).

Keep watching the site – as soon as the new cigar lists are available
you’ll find the link under “NEW”

Colin Wesley
March 23 to April 5, 2006

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No 138 - April 6, 2006
The Gold Band that sells

Gold and fancy band pipes don’t sell in South Africa!

It’s common knowledge in the trade that the only gold bands that sell in South Africa
are wedding bands.
That’s what we’ve been telling our suppliers for years.
They keep offering fancy banded pipes – and we keep turning them down.

Yet some years ago (mid-2000) we received some Gold Band pipes from Lorenzo. The brand was “Angera” and I’m still not sure if we were talked into them after the strong coffee (that stuff is lethal), or whether they arrived uninvited.
We were sure we’d be stuck with them for years, but next thing we looked and they were finished.

The next year when visiting Lorenzo we were offered some more.
After some hesitation we bought them again.
This time we were a little more confident, and we even offered them on one of our fortnightly pipe “specials”.
Lo and behold, again they sold out.
And comments from customers indicated that the pipes smoked well; and in addition to looking striking, the gold band strengthened the shank – preventing the splitting that is a danger with a 9mm filter pipe (especially if it is smoked without a filter or adapter).

At this stage we’re feeling really brave.
Maybe gold banded pipes don’t normally sell in South Africa, but these obviously have something.
Maybe we should make this a standard line.
But no! 
From 2002 to 2005 there wasn’t a sign of an Angera pipe from Lorenzo.

January 2006 – we struck gold again.
As with the Titano, in the Lorenzo stock room we spotted a box of Angera pipes. We asked, and were told that the pipes had surface imperfections – they were stamped “Angera Seconda”.
On examination we thought that in some cases the grading was a little harsh – but that’s Lorenzo for you, very strict quality controls. Typical of the faults is a deepish scratch on the surface – these are true “rejects”.
The asking price convinced us that they were indeed a genuine bargain – and here they are.
You don’t have to be wedded to your pipe to receive a 3-ring gold band -
Angera Seconda – 4 gold-banded shapes in 2 finishes – R225.00

From April 13 to April 26 we’ll be offering these at less 25%
Angera Seconda at only R168.75 – unbelievable!

There aren’t very many (it was only one box), so if one of the shapes grabs you – grab it before somebody else does. Then take care of it and it will give you much pleasure over many years.
Enjoy your pipe smoking.

Colin Wesley
April 6 to April 19, 2006

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No 139 - April 20, 2006
Cuban 3’, 5’s & 25’s

It was with a certain degree of subdued excitement that we all waited for the arrival of the first consignment of Cuban cigars direct from Cuba.

What would the selection consist of?
What would the quality be like?
Most of all, what would the prices be like?

The answers, in reverse order, are:
Prices are down (you may have checked them when you saw the reminder under “NEW” on the opening web page);
The quality is excellent;
The selection is the best we have had for a very long time, if ever before.

It’s not just the selection of brands and sizes on offer, but the packings – 3’s, 5’s, 10’s, 25’s, a few 50’s and the selections of Robustos and Piramides.

In the past, as all cigar prices started steadily increasing I encouraged you to buy single cigars – in glass tubes if you didn’t have a proper humidor for storage. Buying singles allowed you to keep a balanced selection of shapes and sizes, while still keeping your investment manageable.
If you needed half coronas, buy 5 each of Montecristo No.5 and Cohiba Siglo I, I said.
For Churchills, buy 3 or 4 Romeo y Julieta Churchills, and an odd Cohiba Esplendido for that special occasion.
Now your options are even better – determine the sizes you need and buy them in their smaller packings of 3 or 5 – and you will save more than 10% on the single price. In fact, in all but a few cases, the price per cigar is the same whether you buy a pack of 3 or 5, or a box of 25.
We will still negotiate 3-cigar selections for our “specials”, but don’t wait just for them - you’ll find a great selection on the web page devoted to “Handy Packs”.

And remember the new Robusto and Piramides Selections when you’d like to compare 5 of the best brands from Cuba – almost too good to be true.

To complement all these great threes and fives (offered by brand), we have been able to put together three Petit Coronas that cover three great tastes and qualities from Cuba.

Cohiba Siglo II (129mm x Ring 42) – the flagship of Cuban brands
Ramon Allones Petit Corona (129mm x Ring 42) – a favourite full-bodied cigar
R & J Coronitas en Cedro (129mm x Ring 40) – cedar wrapped, excellent value.

From April 27, while stocks last

Need I say more?

Colin Wesley
April 20 to May 3, 2006

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No 140 - May 4, 2006
Ingenuity and Economics
go hand-in-hand!

In April 2001 I wrote the following on “Filter Pipes”:
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”.
It became desirable to have a “filter” whose function is similar to that of a sponge - to absorb moisture by mopping up excess juices, without spoiling the taste. 
The difficulty was that in order to create in a vulcanite peg a bore wide enough to accommodate such a filter, the peg would have to be very thick to be sufficiently strong, resulting in an overly thick shank.
I’m not sure in which factory this mouthpiece problem was originally solved, but somebody came up with the ingenious idea of using Teflon tubing for an inserted peg capable of holding a 6mm or 9mm filter. 
Teflon is not affected by warmth or moisture, and is extremely strong, so the tubing can be quite thin and is still most unlikely to snap under pressure.
This is a huge bonus for the pipesmoker – even if he doesn’t use the replaceable “mopper-up”.
The days of the broken peg are pretty well a thing of the past.
The “mopper-up” filters may be 6mm or 9mm diameter - made of Balsa wood, or Paper rolls, or capsules containing Meerschaum granules, Charcoal pellets, Crystal pieces - all serving the same purpose, to remove moisture and provide a cool dry smoke.

Economics has also been a concern, and in this connection some manufacturers relocated (in full or in part) to areas with lower manufacturing costs. Lorenzo, for example, moved production of all his “Value” pipes to Albania.
In the case of Savinelli, the finishing processes of their Capitol range were outsourced to cottage industry. Outsourcing only the finishing, still left Savinelli the responsibility of the important processes of curing, drying, turning and drilling the bowls.
To us, the net result of these changes and the strengthening of our currency is that over the last few years Lorenzo prices have remained unchanged, and the Savinelli Capitols (and some other Savinelli ranges) have actually reduced in price.

To celebrate – the price of the Capitol Smooth will be even lower
for the fortnight 11 to 24 May, 2006.

In fact 25% lower.
The well-cured Savinelli Capitol, able to hold the optional 6mm filter
will be only R243.75.

Colin Wesley
May 4 to May 17, 2006

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Filter pipes must be smoked with either the filter or an adaptor (usually supplied
with the pipe).
If this is not done, moisture will condense in the empty space
and seep into the shank causing it to swell.
This will result in a loose mouthpiece which is almost impossible to remedy.

  . . . . .