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No 330 March 20 – April 2, 2014

Look!  See!  Feel!
The Sandblast Pipe

Whenever I take out a drawer of quality pipes with assorted finishes, I note the customer’s reaction.
This usually follows a set pattern:
A steady thoughtful look over the whole range;
A careful pick-up (by the mouthpiece) of a smooth finish with an appreciative look at the grain – maybe a comment or two;
Then a hand stretches out and picks up, by the bowl, a sandblasted pipe – giving it a gentle rub to enjoy the overall feel in the hand.

That’s the effect a good sandblasted finish has on almost everyone.
It invites you to pick it up and feel it.

Sandblasting was invented by Alfred Dunhill in 1917.
He used the plentiful Algerian briar which had strong hard wood, with softer wood interspersed.  It had a higher percentage of soft wood than the French briar (becoming scarce and pricey), and this definition of the grain made it exceptionally suitable for sandblasting.

“Sandblasting” is achieved by holding the bowl (in gloved hands) inside a sealed glass box and guiding it carefully, allowing the strong jet of fine hot sand to follow the pattern of the softer wood in the grain, blasting it away in the process, leaving the “shell” of the briar.

The pipes are usually finished with a darker stain, and may be buffed - highlighting the pinnacles of the ridges.
Over the years many other pipe companies adopted this concept, in time using iron filings or glass granules to achieve the effect

In some cases sandblasting can be used to disguise the odd surface flaw on an otherwise good bowl, where filling in the flaw may disfigure the appearance of the bowl.

Sandblasting, by its nature, can only be applied to bowls with plenty of hard wood, and contrasting grain.
Too much soft wood, and the bowl may shatter in the process.
Too much hard wood, and there is insufficient definition in the grain.

Besides the good looks and appealing feel, sandblasting, by removing the softer wood, creates a much lighter bowl, and by increasing the surface area may contribute to a cooler smoke.

Genuine sandblasting is a skilful, relatively costly exercise - but can be used to add value to a good quality bowl with surface flaws. After curing and sorting there are likely to be more good bowls with surface flaws than good bowls with a clean surface.
So despite the difficulties involved, sandblasting can reduce the wastage factor in pipe making, and the sandblasted pipes are often less expensive than their smooth counterparts.

Sandblasted pipes show so much character!
Even after many years of smoking, the pipe still looks dignified; with the smoothing of the ridges a silky gnarled finish develops over the original sharp surface.

Note: Sandblasting should not be confused with machine roughening or carving of the bowl, either all over or in patches.
Such “Spot carving” or “Rusticating” processes are particularly effective where the grain is not as definite.

We have sandblasted pipes in the following brands:
Marca Parma               R555.00
Marca Sport                R305.00
Marca Mignon             R290.00
Marca 6                       R450.00         
Savinelli Prestige Collection               R3650.00
Stanwell Rhodesian  & Viking           R1325.00
Stanwell Vario (with smooth areas showing the quality of the briar, and adding a contrasting feel to the sandblasted areas)   R995.00

And of course the originator of the finish - Alfred Dunhill Ltd:

The White Spot
sandblasted pipes: Shell Briar, County, Cumberland.

You’d like to try a sandblasted pipe?
To experience the lightness and the feel?

From 27 March to 9 April 2014 we offer
15% off Dunhill sandblasted pipes
25% off the other sandblasted pipes listed above.
Only from Wesley’s shops and Website

Grab this opportunity with both hands!

Have a look
See what appeals to you
Enjoy the feel

Colin Wesley

No.330; 20 March – 2 April, 2014

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


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Fortnightly Articles
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No 331 April 3 - 16, 2014

Ringsize - the diameter of your cigar

How does it affect your smoking enjoyment?

With the recent emergence of cigars offered with ringsizes of 56, 58 and even 60, I thought it appropriate to revisit this statistic.
What is the meaning and origin of these large numbers?

In countries using the Imperial system of measurement (feet and inches), such as England in the past and the United States today, the diameter of the cigar is expressed in “rings”, where a ring is 1/64 of an inch (precise old engineering measurements).

So the size of a cigar may be 42 x 5: 
Diameter 42/64 inch and length 5 inches.
In the metric system this would translate as 16.67 x 127mm:
Diameter 16.67mm, length 127mm:

Frequently the systems are mixed, and the size is described as 127mm x Ring 42 (or 42 x 127).
You can find out more about “Shape and Size” in the website Library (In a Nutshell: Cigars – Smoking for Pleasure); and, in the Cigars section, some pictures of common shapes and sizes.

Back in 2001 when I first covered this statistic of a cigar I said “so much for the maths – what is the relevance to the cigar smoker”.

The Blend:
The filler of the cigar can be made up of two to five different leaves, each contributing to the taste, aroma and burning rate of the cigar. We once attended a seminar in which we tasted individual cigars each made of only one variety of leaf. And then a cigar rolled from a combination of the same leaves.
Definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its constituent parts – it’s the synergy!
And the larger the ringsize, the more variety of leaves can be used giving rise to more complex flavours. That’s where the perception of flavours of nuts, coffee, etc. come in – developing gradually as the cigar burns.
But too much variety may cause confusion – some of the slimmer cigars have the most tantalising flavours (think Montecristo No.4 or Cohiba Siglo II).
The Draw:
The larger the ringsize the easier the draw.
A larger ringsize suits some people, but not all - if you prefer to really “sip” your cigar you may not draw sufficient air to keep the burning end alight.
That’s when you may find a slimmer ringsize (Ring 32 to Ring 42) to be more suitable.

On the contrary, drawing too hard on a slim cigar in order to get more smoke, may cause the cigar to burn too fast, giving a hot smoke and harsh, bitter taste.
In this case, try drawing in a little air with the smoke, or go for a thicker cigar.

By virtue of its size, the larger the ringsize the more flavour you experience with each puff.          
If this is too much for you, yet you enjoy the taste, try a smaller ringsize in the same brand.

If you prefer an easier draw (more smoke per draw) go for a larger ringsize
If you prefer to sip your cigar (less smoke per draw) go for a slimmer ringsize.
You will very likely prefer different ringsize cigars on different occasions – that’s the reason for keeping a variety of shapes and sizes in your humidor.

You can alter the draw by reducing / enlarging the cut of the cigar – but remember not to cut past the cap line.

It may be that you want to sample one of the new “big” cigars, but find the larger ringsizes (58+) too uncomfortable to put into your mouth. Just press the cigar firmly against your lips and draw comfortably.

Some considerations:
If your first choice of cigar is a Robusto (124mm x Ring 50), for example Hoyo Epicure No 2, and it is not available, you have choices:

  • If you want to stay with the Hoyo brand and same ringsize, you can choose the Hoyo Petit Robusto

(102 x Ring 50). The blend will be similar, but adjusted to develop the full flavour over the shorter length.  Perfect for when time is short. Today such “Petit” cigars are finding their place in many cigar smokers’ selections.

  • Alternatively try another shape in the Hoyo brand, having about the same overall volume of tobacco – for example Hoyo Epicure No.1 (143 x Ring 46). The blend may be very similar, but the smaller ringsize will change the volume of smoke and intensity of flavour with each puff, and especially how you draw on the cigar.
  • If neither of these options suits you, you may need to try a true Robusto in another brand.

Try for example, a Partagas Serie D No.4 (124mm x Ring 50). This will have a different flavour, but a similar draw and burning rate.

The same options apply to a slimmer cigar: try a shorter cigar with the same ringsize, or a thinner cigar with the same length – or a different brand of your favourite ringsize.

In the final analysis, for practical purposes, the relevance of ringsize (and length) is that it will determine the rate of draw that is most comfortable for you and the amount of time you need to smoke the cigar.

In spite of the current restrictions on smoking, there are still some places where you can relax with your cigar.
But you may have to transport it away from its safe humidor - how will you carry it?
This is where a good cigar case is necessary – read more about the essential criteria.
You don’t have one yet?
Well now is your opportunity to buy one at a special price:

From April 10 - 23, 2014 we offer:
Less 15%  Dunhill White Spot Cigar Cases
Less 25%  other Cigar Cases
Only from Wesley’s shops and website

Special Note: the German Leather Cigar Case with 2 glass tubes:

  • Is the only cigar case with a belt loop – especially for going outdoors,
  • Is firm, and seals tight – perfect protection for your cigars.

Back to which ringsize cigar is best:
For most satisfaction and pleasure from your cigar hobby, it is important to find the ringsize most comfortable for you ……… try different ringsizes and work it out.
Consider both ringsize and length when choosing which cigar to smoke – and the time available to enjoy it.
Avoid the temptation of choosing too big a cigar for that 30 minute smoke

Colin Wesley

No.331  April 3 - 16, 2014

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


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Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"
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No 332 April 17 – 30, 2014

Beyond Potholes

Those of you who read my articles on Pipesmoking will have read the articles (Nos.319, 321) on possible “Potholes” you may encounter along the path of enjoying your pipe.
Those are some of the general potholes that many pipe smokers are confronted with at some stage.
But they are definitely not exhaustive.
Here is an email trail between a pipesmoking customer with a different problem, and what we suggested to solve it.

Hi Colin,

I purchased a budget pipe some months back from you store in Rosebank. One of the (Lorenzo) budget sports variety. I have found the ritual of preparing and packing the pipe to be highly therapeutic. The smoking has been very pleasant too. I finally seem to have got packing the pipe down to an art of sorts. The pipe seemed like a natural extension on the cigars which I have enjoyed for a decade or so.

I have been experimenting with various mixes of, old gold, cherry and rum and honey tobacco, all purchased at your store.

This last weekend I was given an unused An…. pipe with b..-b.. filters. Being eager to break the new addition in I made an approximate thirds mix of the tobaccos as mentioned earlier. Smoking was a really pleasure to start with. Perhaps two thirds of the way through, the taste became strange and unpleasant. Sniffing the smoke coming out of the bowl, it had a distinct ammonia scent. I stopped smoking at that point.  I am not sure of the source of the flavour, if it was the new pipe or maybe something I did with the tobacco.
I am hoping you can point me in the right direction on how to eliminate this flavour shock please?  I love puffing on the pipe and would like to try and avoid experiences like that. My other pipe has no filter and I have not noticed the ammonia flavour with it. 

Good day B
Thank you for your interesting and intriguing email.
I am pleased that you are enjoying your pipe. In many cases it can be a very good substitute or companion for a good cigar as the smoking pattern is very similar.
The ammonia aroma is a puzzle. I can’t see how the filter could be a cause as the smoke only passes through it after it has left the bowl – but let’s find out by trial and error.
I suggest:
Smoke the same mixture of tobacco in your original pipe to see if you still get the ammonia smell
If there is no smell, then try again with the An…. – first without the filter
Then again the An…. with the filter.
Hopefully the ammonia aroma will crop up on only one of these occasions.

It may be that the An….. pipe simply didn’t cure properly and needs a longer, gentler breaking-in process. Not pleasant but possibly worth it.

I hope that this is of help.
I’d be pleased to know how you get on.


Colin Wesley

Maybe you have a problem not yet covered - just tell us about it.
We may be able to help you. We will certainly try.

Those of you who read past articles in the Library will know what respect we have for Lorenzo – the master of “value” pipes. Pipes that may not be spotless in appearance but are delightful to hold and smoke like a pipe of much higher price. Pipes that offer very, very few problems.
The spot-carved finish is a particular favourite – both with me and with those who buy them.
It is an honest well-cured pipe, ready to smoke – and the finish leaves no hidden surprises.

Well this year we found on our visit to Lorenzo warehouse: 6 spot-carved Lorenzo pipes, all different prototype shapes that just needed a “brush up”, plus 10 Titano Oom Paul T1 shapes (4 on the website, balance in the franchise shops).
They have arrived, looking even better than we remembered, and will be on offer from next week.

The pipes pictured are the exact pipes on offer through the website.

Less 25% on 16 specially selected Lorenzo pipes
But only for 2 weeks – from 24 April to 7 May, 2014.

I can’t guarantee a 100% perfect smoke from all of them, but I will guarantee a full 100% refund if any one of them presents a latent problem, that can’t be resolved.
Put one to the test – but be quick – or lose out.

Colin Wesley

No.332 April 17 – 30, 2014

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


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Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"
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No 333 May 1 - 14, 2014

The Basics

Over the last 20 years, the world of cigars has exploded.
I can safely say that never before in the history of cigar-smoking has there been a wider, more varied selection of cigars from which you can choose.
So how can a new “explorer” begin his foray into the territory of the world’s most affordable luxury – the Premium Cigar?

Here are some basics selected from articles in the Wesley’s Library:
The beginner should start with:    Cigars, Smoking for Pleasure  - includes descriptions of all types of cigars: their strength, burning rate, type of flavour; and how to select, cut, light, enjoy and store them.
Then consider:
The Blend:
Cuban Puros;
Blends using leaf from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador, Mexico, Java, Connecticut;
The list of combinations is endless, and can be confusing.
The Ringsize:
Read more about range of sizes, and the effect of ringsize on your smoking experience.
The Length:
You won’t always have the same length of time available to smoke your cigar - there must be a cigar for longer or shorter periods. A rough guide (depending on your puffing rate or how often the cigar goes out) is:

15-30 min

mini cigarillo / demitasse

30-60 min

½ corona / petit robusto / petit corona / corona / royal corona / robusto / corona extra

1-2 hours

churchill / pyramid / double corona

If you plan to smoke your cigar during the World Cup or a rugby match, then you will want a larger cigar.  A normal after-dinner cigar would approach 45 to 60 minutes.
If you’re starting a collection - you will probably find that one or two sizes from each end of the time scale will balance your selection. I personally can’t envisage a selection without a half corona and a Churchill.

Now you’ve considered – how to choose:

As we say to our new Pipesmokers, the best way to find out is to “put it in your pipe and …….”
The flavour, the ringsize and length for you, is best discovered by experiencing a variety of cigars, knowing a little bit about them.
Do you know the difference in taste between a Dominican cigar, a Cuban and a Nicaraguan?
More important, do you know which you prefer?
Have you considered an easy-burning complex-flavoured short filler cigar? You may find it is perfect for your in-between time smoke.
What do you smoke round the braai, on the golf course? Something at a reasonable price because you won’t be concentrating on the cigar.
And the size: what would you smoke when time is relatively short? What would you smoke when you have a long relaxed evening ahead of you? When it is too cold to stay outside for long to smoke your cigar?
Is there really a difference between different brands of Cuba cigars?

We’ve made it easier for you – “trial without error”
Wesley’s shops carry a variety of cigars available singly.
Buy some single cigars of different types and smoke them slowly and quietly over a period of time.
Make notes for each: Did you like the flavour; What time of day did you smoke them; Had you had food – savoury or bland; Did they last too long; Was the draw comfortable.
Check your cigar using a Tasting Score Sheet.

Even easier:
Have a look at our range of Selections.
Each pack consists of three cigars carefully chosen for you to find out your answers to these questions.
Each pack has a leaflet describing the origin and character of the cigars.
Each pack will offer you an experience which will help increase your knowledge and pleasure.

Currently we offer:
Robusto Trio Selection – Nicaraguan, Cuban, Dominican in the popular Robusto size.
Petit Selection – A new size type for when time is short
Short Selection – Experience top quality short filler, short cigars
Torpedo Trio – Three Pyramid cigars from Cuba, Nicaragua and a Dominican with a Cameroon wrapper
Budget Cuban Selection – Full Cuban taste at an economical price.
Half Corona Selection – Cuban Montecristo 5 (the benchmark); Cuban Jose L.Piedra Petit Cazadores (a very popular size from this budget brand); La Aurora Principes Maduro (excellent quality from the oldest Dominican house).

Available from all Wesley’s shops.

Unfortunately, the law does not allow us to post you a tobacco product. But if you know a friendly shopkeeper in your area who normally sells any tobacco products, we could use him as a means of getting cigars to you – and he will make a profit.
Give it thought, and we will see if we can be of service to you – helping to make your cigar smoking pastime even more enjoyable.

Back to the basics – and what could be more basic for lighting your cigar than a good quality, strong, thick match – manufactured in Europe. 
Available in different lengths – choose the size most suitable to your desk or pocket.
Choose and buy now – because ………..

From May 8 - 21, 2014 we offer:
-20% off all special matches
This offer only from Wesley’s shops and website

If we can be of service it will be a pleasure!

Colin Wesley

48 Extra thick MatchesPS We also offer 20% off the JA matches from the Far East – packs of 5 boxes.
A couple of funny ones in each box (brittle  or  short on sulphur  or   2 stuck together) but our customers tell us the rest work very well – “good as Europe any day”

No.333 May 1 - 14, 2014

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


Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"
Back to:
Aspects of Pipe Smoking
Aspects of Cigar Smoking
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No 334 May 15 - 28, 2014

Does anybody still smoke a pipe?

A question I am often asked by non-smoking customers is “Do you really still sell pipes, I never seem to see anybody smoking one these days”.

Because of the restrictions of where one may smoke, the comment may have some truth in it.
But the fact is that we introduce new prospective pipe smokers to the world of “briar and baccy” every week.

• Some are people who have never smoked at all, but the allure of the pipe with the image of peace and tranquillity that it projects, is persuasive enough for them to “give it a try”.
• Experienced cigar smokers, often interchange their smoking timetable between a cigar and a pipe for economic reasons; or for circumstances - cigars encourage conversation, while a pipe enhances solitude.
• Cigarette smokers converting to the slowest form of smoking, the pipe - with its routine, its paraphernalia and its restfulness. It requires a conscious decision, not a sudden impulse.
(I hear the comment “Restful! I struggle to get the thing to light up and to stay alight.”  But start right, then with time and practice, and gentle puffing, the restfulness will come.)

Pipes come in an endless variety of shapes, sizes and finishes – one size does not fit all, all the time.
Pipe people collect pipes, and part of the pleasure is choosing the right pipe for the occasion:
“That’s it - a pipe that fills my hand, with the satin feel of smooth wood.”
“Around the braai?  Hmmmm – I think that thick-wooded pipe will stand the breeze, and the rough finish won’t show any knocks.”
“Quickly - We’re going out in a short while, just time for a short smoke in a small pipe.”
“Hands free today – I must get on with my work. That pipe will stand on its own when I put it down.”
“I remember that little shop on the corner – what a nice man. We talked about all sorts of things, and I bought this little bent rhodesian. A pleasing memento.”
“Yes! That’s what I feel like – my calabash.”

As with a cigar, a pipe appeals to all our senses, except sound.
But unlike a cigar or a good wine, when the pipeful of tobacco is finished, the pipe does not disappear. It is still there, resting, waiting to be picked up again, filled with tobacco, set alight and enjoyed over many years.

Each pipe brings its own story with it, which impacts on the life of the man who comes to own it.
A Pipeman has such an affinity with his pipes that he seldom forgets how, when or why each pipe came into his life, and most are given much TLC.
And he can go to great lengths to have a favourite pipe repaired, rather than just tossing it aside like an empty disposable lighter.
A true story from a tobacconist:
Thank you for the good job you did on refurbishing the Dunhill pipe. I have a very happy customer.
He is 90 years old, and his comment, after running his old shaky, wrinkled finger over his pipe:
“This is a good job, now it can last for another 50 years.”
I stayed with him while he stuffed his pipe with tobacco, half the tobacco in the bowl, the other half on the table. After trying to light his pipe with a lighter, having to feel the flint side of the lighter because of his eyesight, he put it away, took a box of matches and said “Still the best way to light a pipe.”
He lit his pipe and ohh …. that face said it all – one happy heart.

We mentioned “paraphernalia”.
One of the really necessary purchases, after the pipe, is the tool for tamping and cleaning - and it doesn’t have to break the bank.
Prices range from R7.50 for a simple tool, to R965.00 for a fine pipe knife from England.
Even better:

From next week we offer less 25% on any pipe gadget or pipe knife
(15% off
Dunhill pipe gadgets).
But only for 2 weeks – from 22 May to 4 June 2014.

Just in time for Fathers’ Day – 15 June 2014

A final word from Sam Slick, the Clockmaker:
“. . . the moment a man takes to a pipe he becomes a philosopher. It’s the poor man’s friend; it calms the mind, soothes the temper, and makes a man patient under difficulties. It has made more good men, good husbands, kind masters, indulgent fathers, than any other thing on this blessed earth.”
Thomas Chandler Haliburton, 1836

Colin Wesley

No.334 May 15 - 28, 2014

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