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No 186 - March 13, 2008
The Robusto

As I told you a few years ago, during my first years in the Johannesburg cigar business (in the 1970’s), there were plenty of Cuban cigars available, but two cigars appeared to be more revered than all the others: the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2 (Ring 50 x 124mm), and the much larger Montecristo No.2 (Ring 52 x 156mm, pyramid).

If you wanted a good cigar you were told by those in the know to buy an “epicurenumbertwo”.
I don’t think that the brand name Hoyo de Monterrey was even considered in this context.
No analytical reasons were given – they were just “the greatest smokes”.
And when Blue Mould seriously struck Cuba, drastically curtailing supplies, there was near panic in the boardrooms, professional offices and homes of their devotees. Nothing else would do.

When we started importing cigars from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua we found that the Epicure No.2 size cigar was often named Rothschild, and before long it was our most popular size cigar: “What have you got in a Rothschild size?”
It became clear to us that this popularity was created purely by the dimensions of the cigar, not necessarily by the blend or taste. The draw is easy; the flavour is full and the length of smoking time comfortable.
But when the Cuban Cohiba 50x124mm cigar was produced, they used the name Robusto - and this is the name that has become the generic for all cigars of approximately these dimensions.

Our thoughts were confirmed during the cigar boom of the 1990’s when, in every brand that offered it, the cigar of these dimensions became the best seller.
In fact in the Premier issue of Cigar Aficionado (Autumn 1992) the “Robusto/Rothschild” size was selected for the first tasting – in a fine article they described the size as the “perfect power lunch smoke”.

So – were “those in the know” right about the Epicure No.2?
What do you think?
Because the only way to judge a cigar is to smoke it
- we offer you a selection of Three Robustos

at the very attractive price of R325.00 (Normal price R435.00)
Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2; Ramon Allones Specially Selected;
Partagas Serie D No.4

But there is something extra special about these three cigars:
I don’t know what it is about boxes of 50 – but the cigars seem to be smoother and may be richer than the equivalent boxes of 25. These Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2 are from boxes of 50, and they haven’t made me change my mind.
In June 2007 James Suckling, writing for Cigar Aficionado “A Good Robusto” commented on the quality of his 2006 Ramon Allones Specially Selected compared with one from 1996 shared with a friend which he found too bitter. This elicited the reply “Hi James, I am now back in Hong Kong and I just smoked a Ramon SS 2006 from cabinet of 50. What a bomb! I think you may be right, these new cigars are really first class! I have smoked a lot of new cigars recently, (D 4s, Epicure 2s, petit Edmundos, regional releases) and I must say I have never enjoyed young smokes more. The quality of the cigars coming out of Cuba in the last year or so is the best I've seen in a long while. Keep it up!” The RASS you will taste is from a 2007 box of 50.
Over recent years the Partagas Serie D No.4 has gradually become the Robusto of choice, eclipsing its peers (unless you want to pay the extra for the Cohiba Robusto).

Colin Wesley
March 13 to March 26, 2008

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No 187 - March 27, 2008
Spit & Polish

Have you looked carefully at the refurbished pipes currently on offer – either in the flesh or in the close-up pictures on the website?

If you have, I’m sure that you’ll agree that they look stunning (warts and all).
If you haven’t, go and see, and then compare them with your pipes.
Couldn’t some of your collection do with a little spit and polish?
I’ll bet they could, especially those with vulcanite mouthpieces which tend to turn greenish grey in colour and develop a bitter taste.
Well, you have two options:
Get them to any Wesley’s – we will send them to our pipe restorer for cleaning. The bowl will be reamed, cleaned and sweetened with “mead”, and the whole pipe polished to restore its dignified appearance – only the dents will remain as a reminder of past mishaps. All will be done in approximately 14 working days at about R100.00 per pipe. You can’t buy a new, or even refurbished, pipe for that price!
(He also offers a repair service if the mouthpiece or bowl is damaged.)
But because these are your own personal pipes which give you great pleasure, if they just need a good clean why not attend to them yourself.
1. Ream the carbon layer to a thickness of about 1.5mm (2c piece) – the T-shaped reamer from Savinelli or the precise, high-tech Senior reamer will do the job comfortably.
2. Use a bristle cleaner dipped in a solvent (eg Savinelli Pipe Clean, or some form of alcohol) to really scrub the inside of the shank and mouthpiece – be careful not to start a hole in the bowl through excessive twisting. (For very bent pipes go easy round the bend in the mouthpiece.) You have finished when the pipe cleaner comes through clean.
3. Remove the oxidation from the mouthpiece with a mild abrasive (eg Savinelli Stem Polish or Jeweller’s Rouge). This might require vigorous and lengthy rubbing (a whole TV programme); a buffing wheel is a big help, but remember to separate bowl and mouthpiece before buffing.
4. Finally polish the outside of the bowl with a wax polish (eg Savinelli Bowl Polish). 
The Denicare Cleaning Set looks after all your needs and includes a polishing cloth for in-between buffing.
(Click here for more detailed instructions)

For the period 3 April to 16 April 2008 we’ll offer you 25% off any of these aids**
** Cleaning - Savinelli Mouthpiece Polish, Pipe Clean, Bowl Polish; Denicare Cleaning Set
** Reamers - Buttner, Savinelli, Senior Ultimate Reamer

The whole process is very satisfying, and if done regularly will add to your smoking pleasure!

Colin Wesley
March 27 to April 9, 2008

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No 188 - April 10, 2008
Limited Editions

In the Habanos 2007 Newsletter these cigars are described: “The Limited Edition distinguishes itself for the inclusion of sizes which are not part of the usual range of the brand, and is characterised by a special manufacture.

The careful selection of the two-year aged wrapper from the upper level of the plant grants it a darker color and turns this product into something unique. Binder and filler leaves used for the making of the Limited Edition cigars have been aged for two years as well turning these smokes into something far more great.” While we may not agree with the grammar, we certainly applaud the sentiment and the results.
Some years ago James Suckling wrote in Cigar Aficionado magazine of an interview with Fernando Lopez (head of Cuban cigar factories), and more recently (August 2007) again made the point that “One thing that I noticed about the two cigars is that their wrappers were not very maduro. In fact, they didn’t look very Colorado, or dark chocolaty brown. They were darker than normal, however. I remember a few years back that Habanos said that Edición Limitadas were not necessarily dark wrappers but specially selected tobacco with addition aging. I remember a conversation with Hilda Baró, who is the head of the Partagas factory back in 2002, and she said during a visit to her factory that some people have been confused with the Edición Limitada program because many have been calling them maduro cigars. “This is not true,” she said. “These cigars are not maduro. They are simply made with aged wrappers which have been coming from the upper parts of the plant, particularly the top ones or coronas.”
Because wrapper leafs come from the top of the plant, they are richer and slightly thicker, which gives them a slightly darker color brown after processing. In fact, for many years, numerous tobacco growers in the Vuelta Abajo didn’t even bother picking their coronas because they took too much time to cure and process. In any case, the cigar people I spoke to in Havana a few weeks ago about the limitadas called the limitada wrappers colorado oscuro or oscuro, but not maduro.”
He was talking of two cigars he had just bought in Hong Kong ($35 each!!) - Hoyo de Monterrey Regalos Edición Limitada (135mm x Ring46) and Romeo y Julieta Escudos Edición Limitada (140mm x Ring 50).
Towards the end of last year our “Outstanding Selection” (now sold out) compared Cohiba Maduro 5 cigars with the Hoyo Regalos. Did you buy one? If so, what did you think?
It would now appear that a base has been established for these extra fine cigars to become part of the annual production. It also seems that they will be confined to the major brands.
Two promised limited editions for 2008 are “H.Upmann Magnum 50” and “Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Special”. The advance, specially packaged, samples from this year’s Habanos festival look superb, and both these fine cigars have relatively light coloured wrappers. They should be available June/July 2008.
But we don’t have to wait until then to taste and test this category of cigar because the R & J Escudos, the last limited edition release for 2007, has just arrived in South Africa. We have teamed it up with 2 other outstanding similar size R & J cigars – the “Short Churchill” (124mm x 50) and the “Exhibicion No.4” (127mm x 48).
Because there are several things to compare, you may have to budget for more than one pack:
• The Short Churchill is a classic Robusto size – compare with the Escudos which is16mm longer. Other than the length of time needed to smoke it, does this length affect the smoking experience? Smoother? Cooler?
• The Exhibicion No.4 and the Short Churchill are two examples of the traditional short thick cigars, exemplified for South Africans in the Upmann Connoisseur No.1 (127mm x 48) and Hoyo Epicure No.2 (124mm x 50), and each size has its devotees. Now you can test the two sizes from the same brand - do you have a preference?
• The Short Churchill in this selection was boxed Oct.2007 – that’s the same cigar that was awarded 92 points (third highest) in a preview of the blind tasting for Cigar Aficionado June 2008. The description reads: A subtly pressed robusto with a gleaming wrapper. The draw is a bit firm, but manages to impart a complex flavor profile of leather, cocoa bean and wood punctuated by an orange peel note and a long, tobacco finish. How many of those flavours can you identify?
• James Suckling says that the Escudos reminds him of the Short Churchill in flavour – What do you think?
What’s more, you can use the “Tasting Form” enclosed with the selection to rate each cigar.
That should give you plenty to do over the long weekend!

Romeo y Julieta “Robusto” Selection R 375.00
Short Churchill (124mm x Ring 50) R170.00*; Exhibicion No.4 (127mm x Ring 48) R159.00*;
Escudos Edición Limitada (140mm x Ring 50) R191.00*

*Price of single cigar in glass tube

Colin Wesley
April 10 to April 23, 2008

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No 189 - April 24, 2008
The Albanian Advantage

This is the time of the year when we start receiving parcels of goods we ordered in Europe in February, and it is exciting: Did we buy well? What will be the response from our customers?
These questions are usually answered quite quickly as the goods are costed, unpacked and sent out to the shops within a few days of arrival.
But not so this year.
Last November the Euro cost approximately R9.00; when we ordered in February it had increased to a little more than R10.00; but by the time the shipments reached us the Euro cost us well over R12.00.
Not a pleasant situation.
The only way to minimise the increases of over 30% since the last 2007 orders, was to average the new landed costs with those of our existing stocks. A laborious exercise in numbers which is not my cup of tea – but fortunately Gillian drinks this cup of tea quite happily!
The whole detailed exercise was done - three times for the three shipments from our major suppliers, with some still to come. But it was worth it - we are quite satisfied with the outcome – increases contained to between 10% and 20%. Obviously we can’t rule out further increases this year, but if the Rand improves against the Euro or maybe even if it stays where it is they shouldn’t be too bad.
Interesting – in 2002 the Spot Carved was R189.50, now it is only R245.00 (although it has been below that in the intervening years).
It was while we were looking at the Lorenzo prices that we again appreciated the “Albanian Advantage” – locally grown briar, short transport costs and relatively lower manufacturing costs (though these latter costs are becoming a problem area).
From Lorenzo’s Albanian division we can still offer a good “entry level” pipe for under R160.00, or with a filter option for under R250.00. And the Teflon peg is virtually unsnappable.
I don’t think that this combination of Lorenzo expertise, with careful quality control and the Albanian Advantage can be matched anywhere else in the world.
These are just the best “value pipes” around.
At the Lorenzo warehouse we were again able to pick up a small quantity of the “BIG” pipes that were so well received last year. This time all 4 shapes have the 9mm filter option and we’ve decided to make them our special for next week.

The Lorenzo “BIG” special will run from May 1 to 14, 2008
R550.00 less 25%

If you missed them last time, go “BIG” and pick one up this time!

Colin Wesley
April 24 to May 7, 2008

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No 190 - May 8, 2008

The FAQ from people unfamiliar with premium cigars is “Why is the one end sealed?” The simple answer is this prevents any passage of air through the cigar which may cause the fine oils to evaporate, diminishing the flavour of the carefully-selected blend, leaving the cigar dry and tasteless.
The time to “unseal” the cigar is shortly before it is smoke - and it must be done with care.

The instrument you choose must be sharp so that it does not squash the cigar or tear the wrapper.
The cap must not be completely removed or the cigar may unravel making it difficult and unpleasant to smoke (unless you really want a mouthful of leaves). As Rick Hacker says – “the best guideline is to make the cut slightly above the horizontal line where the cap connects with the wrapper”.
 “Unsealing” can be done in four ways depending on the size and shape of the cigar. (I exclude biting off the end as in old Western movies.)

1. “V” cut – a v-shaped segment is removed from the rounded cap allowing a free passage of air. This is particularly desirable on the narrower ring gauges (up to ring 40/42) where the draw can be tight and the opening should be as large as possible. The v-cut can be used on cigars up to Churchill size (ring 47). The shape of the cutter prevents too much of the head being cut off. However, it does not work on the broad, flat head of the thicker robusto cigars so popular today.
2. “Flat” cut – this removes a portion of the cap to give the exact size aperture that suits you.
The instrument may be a single blade guillotine which cuts across the head from one side to the other, or a double blade, 2-finger cutter which cuts from both sides to the centre (almost 360°) and is much easier to control. Better quality double blade cutters are self-sharpening.
In our opinion Cigar Scissors offer one of the best options for cutting your cigar – they will cut any size, with an opening of your choice, and can be sharpened like any other scissors, prolonging their life indefinitely. As you apply the pressure rotate the cigar against the blades, to slice though the cap and establish the cut-line before making a clean cut. (This way you could remove only the cap, leaving the underlying leaves undisturbed.)
A variation on the flat cut is to cut off a “corner” of the head, and smoke the cigar with the open part uppermost in the mouth and the smooth section on the tongue. This was told to me some years ago. My informant called this the “Cuban cut” (and he seemed to know what he was talking about). Whatever it is called, I like it and I use it often.
3. The Punch” cut – a pre-determined size hole taken out of the end usually by an exceptionally sharp, surgical steel round blade. It’s drawback is that it is inflexible as to size, and one would need several different sizes in any collection.   4. A Hole – made by a “Drill” or “Piercer”. The hole is generally too small to allow an easy draw, and as the smoke is rushed through the narrow aperture juices tend to deposit, changing the flavour of the cigar.
A thought: A good quality knife (like the Swiss Army Victorinox) can be used in most of these ways.
So, there are only 6 types of instruments and we obviously aren’t predisposed towards 2 of them, then why do we have such a range?
Another simple answer – price, blade quality and hand/eye appeal. There is a time and place for everything.
For example, our prices range from R32.95 to R995.00. Again, why?
Let’s take the 2 extremes – the R32.95 cutter is a plain, double blade guillotine, razor-sharp to begin with (but not good for more than 40 to 50 cuts) perfect in an emergency or when your cutter may get “lost”.
The R995.00 model is top quality from Donatus, ergonomic design, self-sharpening, of Solingen steel – maybe kept at home or in the office (for safety), and it feels so good every time you pick it up or use it.
Let me tell you a little  more about Solingen and the company Donatus.
Solingen is a small German town on the Rhine in Westphalia. Historically, the town enjoyed all the necessary resources to develop a fine steel industry – lush forest provided all the wood needed for charcoal and the surrounding creeks and streams were rich in iron ore deposits. And the Rhine was the gateway to the wealthy city of Cologne (some 30km away) and the world beyond. For more than 4 centuries high quality steel knives and sword blades have been manufactured there, and the name Solingen stamped on a blade is the guarantee of very high quality steel.
Since 1959 Donatus has been manufacturing high quality cigar cutters and scissors in Solingen. (Good grief – nearly 50 years!) Great care and precision have gone into the design and manufacture of each model they produce, from the relatively simple single blade guillotine to the ergonomic 2- and 3-finger models, and the pear-shape blades of the desk and pocket scissors. All the blades have steep bevels to ensure a quick clean cut of the cigar with the minimum of pressure being applied – no squashing. There is still a demand for the original V-cut models, and of course the versatile scissors, but with the popularity of the thicker cigars Donatus have developed additional designs that can efficiently and cleanly cut the larger ringsizes. At Donatus nothing is left to chance. Each item goes through many quality controls before being accepted to be stamped “Donatus, Solingen”.
At Donatus they really understand and appreciate fine cigars – and the importance of a good, clean cut.
Because it’s good to spoil yourself, and because a good cigar deserves a good cutter,
from May 15 to May 28 we offer
25% off all Donatus cutters (Maybe this is a good “hint” for Father’s Day!)

Colin Wesley
May 8 to May 21, 2008

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