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No 335 June 5 - 18, 2014

Cuban cigar history brought up to date

The history of tobacco, and especially of cigars, has been documented in many books and articles – but that is for the historians.
What I think is of interest to today’s cigar smoker, are the relatively recent developments within Cubatabaco (the Cuban state tobacco company) that have given rise to the improvement in quality and variety of offerings coming out of Cuba today.From 10-23 July, 2014 our selection of desk humidors at less 25%, (-15% Dunhill Whitespot) plus the last few at less 50%

In the late 1990s, during the massive worldwide cigar boom, France and Spain (the two largest consumers of Cuban cigars) were concerned about the decline in quality of these cigars due to over-production in trying to meet the growing demand.
Something had to be done.
The two government tobacco monopolies, Seita (France) and Tabacalera (Spain) formed a company called Altadis, which in December 1999 bought 50% of Habanos - the marketing arm of Cubatabaco.

The following summary from Wikipedia confirms what we had noticed, and benefitted from, in the supplies from Cuba:
In 2000, the Franco-Spanish tobacco giant Altadis purchased 50% of Habanos S.A. There has been speculation that their influence has led to Habanos' drastic restructuring of their cigar lines and size offerings, the adoption of marketing practices and production methods more in-line with cigar companies that market in the US, and the increasing number of "special release" and "limited edition" lines of cigars.[citation needed] It has also been suggested that Altadis might be ramping Habanos up ready to trade with the US, anticipating the end of the embargo.[citation needed] Altadis was acquired by Imperial Tobacco in February 2008.[1]

The Benefits
On the production side:

  • Draw-testing was introduced to check the construction of the bunches (binder and filler) before applying the wrapper; this would identify any “plugged” bunches, which could be re-done or discarded. At the same time this saved the cost of wasting expensive wrapper leaf.

(This had been successful in the Dominican Republic cigar industry for several years)

  • From 2004 all export cigars were to undergo “deep-freezing once the cigars were boxed, and before shipping out of Cuba. They are put through this to undergoars ustry for several years)ed. At the same time this saved the cost of wasting expensive wrapper leaf.
  •  freezing process over a 5 day period. The temperature is gradually reduced to -23°C, maintained at this temperature for 3 days, and then gradually restored to a normal temperature over a final 24 hours.

This effectively annihilates the tobacco beetle and even the eggs. A massive bonus to cigar smokers; but care is still needed in respect of all Cuban cigars, especially those produced pre-2004 – keep them cool!


  • The greatest benefit for the cigar smoker is the proliferation of “Handy Packs – 3’s, 5’s and boxes of 10. Much easier to experiment with all the new vitolas before investing in a box of 25, and much easier to maintain a good assortment of brands, shapes and sizes in your humidor.
  • Creating interest for the cigar smokers since 2001 is the annual release of “Limited Editions”. Not necessarily in Handy Pack formats, but normally available in singles from any Wesley’s (may have to be specially ordered). Also Regional Editions for release in specific countries.
  • The annual Habanos Festival in Cuba, encouraged by Cigar Aficionado Magazine – the 16th Festival was in February 2014.
  • Colección Habanos and Special Releases are another story.

The quality – only the best
The format – something new every year.
The packaging – May be a replica humidor, or one specially made in an unusual format
Very limited quantities – for the collector.

Two of the latter are currently available:
Habanos Collection
Colección Habanos 2012
Cuaba Bariay - #979 of 1000
20 Dulcinea -  “doble figurados” – perfecto cigars, 232mm x Ring 47

The aroma on opening the ‘Book’ of cigars almost had me reaching for a cutter and lighter; restraint prevailed – for the moment.” Colin Wesley

Ramon Allones HumidorRamon Allones Humidor – replica of “ancient” model humidor with 50 Ramon Allones Imperiales cigars. Almost a Churchill size, 165mm x Ring 48.
#199  of 350 made specifically for the La Casa del Habano stores worldwide.

“The beauty of this cabinet is only surpassed by viewing and sniffing the beautiful content – fifty colour-matched, little beauties.”   Colin Wesley

In the previous article we talked about the “basics” of cigar smoking –
what to consider when choosing your cigar.

We talked about our range of Selections, the easy way to find out more (new selections available soon).
The next step - correct cutting is essential to your enjoyment.
You have several options for cutting, and different cutters to suit these options.
But remember never to cut below the cap line.

Now you can choose a cutter from our wide range.
Choose soon – because ……

From 9-25 June, 2014 we offer:
-15%  Dunhill Cigar cutters
-25%  other Cigar Cutters
Only from Wesley’s shops and website

Make the most of your cigar-smoking hobby – your affordable luxury!

Colin Wesley

No.335  June 5 - 18, 2014
You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.


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No 336 June 19 - July 2, 2014

I’ve no time to finish the pipeful
The bottom half of my pipeful tastes bitter

I’ve no time to finish the pipeful - the time for both pipe and cigar smokers to enjoy their choice of smoking is becoming limited on many occasions.
Cigar smokers have recently been able to fill the shorter time with the satisfying “Short” or “Petit” Robustos and Churchills.  So it does not come as a surprise that we are now fielding more requests from our pipesmokers for smaller bowled, but not tiny, pipes.
Dimensions of approximately 35mm to 45mm outside height, 17mm to 18mm inside diameter.
Smoking half a pipeful, whether it is the top half of a full bowl or just half filling a large bowl, doesn’t seem to work.
The bottom half of my pipeful tastes bitter
Another reason to consider a smaller-bowled pipe.

A classic ten minute pipe –  new to our range is the “Bamby” A classic ten minute pipe may sound obvious
– and new to our range is the “Bamby” pipe.
Bowl height 35mm, inside diameter 15/16mm – 13cm long. No filter option.
Small neat shapes in classic proportions. 
“TwoTone” R275.00;  “Walnut” finish R240.00

But for some smokers these “non filter” pipes may not be acceptable.

Also for the real dyed-in-the-wool pipeman just too small.
So what are the other options?  Here are some pipes we offer in the Wesley’s shops and from the website that should suit, all with filter options (6mm or 9mm).

Savinelli Primo Fumo pipesThe stylish light-coloured Savinelli Primo Fumo pipe, with its medium/small bowl and toning ring, and fitted with a 6mm Teflon peg. R925.00
The light colour will darken with smoking, enhancing the grain.      
The soft suede pouch is a bonus.
Click for Shapes         

Savinelli Shape 626 – Such an elegant shape – one of the most popular shapes in any finish from Savinelli.
Neat enough to carry with you, but with sufficient bowl capacity for a satisfying smoke

Savinelli Punto Oro Natural
Savinelli Punto Oro Natural
Shape 626  R3000.00

Savinelli Budget – the Capitol shape 626
Savinelli Budget – the Capitol shape 626 R795.00

Savinelli Dry System

In the Savinelli Dry System range shapes 3613 and 3621 fall into this category and
have the advantage of the built in sump and the smokehole on the top of the lip. 
Shapes: Satin finish, Black rustic   R1140.00


Dunhill Whitespot Bruyere Group 2
A Dunhill Whitespot from group 1, 2 or 3 will always be a joy to smoke and will be admired for  its classic proportions just scaled down. Bruyere Group 2 R4450.00

Something more rugged and hardy -
  complete with a 9mm Teflon peg?

The Lorenzo Pavia pipes

The Lorenzo Pavia pipes Spot-carved   R265.00 Rustic R245.00 Shapes 

Orthe Passatore Pico

the Passatore Pico R795.002 shapes, 2 finishes


From June 26, 2014 we offer less 25% on any of the above pipes (15% off Dunhill Group 2 pipes).

Savinelli: Primo Fumo; Dry System shapes 3613, 3621; Shape 626 in any finish
Lorenzo Pavia; Passatore Pico; Lorenzo Bamby

But only for 2 weeks – offer finishes 9 July 2014.

If you have enough pipes in your collection (is this possible?) select one of the smaller bowls and reduce the capacity by using a “Drikule” mesh plug, a disposable Philtpad or Denicool Crystals in the bottom of the bowl. All these devices allow one to smoke all the tobacco without having any dottle - a cost saving factor.
Just clean the Drikule plug and change the Philtpad periodically.

If your preferred tobacco blend is really very slow burning you may have to rub it out a little more and let it dry out for a short breather before filling the smaller bowl.
Alternatively ease up the burning rate by blending in a little burley based aromatic tobacco (Houseblend No 43) or a fine cut tobacco such as Houseblend No.1 (bit more difficult, but works well).

A short pipe smoke might not be quite as fulfilling as that evening smoke in a larger bowl, but using the correct bowl size, with an appropriate tobacco blend could fill that short time space beautifully and prevent any possible bitterness at the end of the smoke.

Colin Wesley

No.336  June 19 - July 2, 2014
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No 337 July 3 - 17, 2014

Dispelling perceptions

A cigar is a cigar isn’t it?
Well, they are all the same, aren’t they?

This is a common perception of someone considering trying a cigar for the first time.
However, once you’ve smoked a variety of cigars you know that this is not the case, so let’s look at a few basics – the types of cigars you can find on cigar shelves in South Africa.

The first, most important basic, is that it is the soil that determines the taste of the leaf on the plant.
Cuban seeds planted in the Dominican Republic won’t give you a Cuban-tasting cigar.

Cuban cigars are widely considered to be the “best” cigars in the world.
This perception probably stems from the fact that Cubans were the first to produce, and market internationally, technically very well-made cigars.
(A bit like French Champagne in the world of sparkling wine.)
In addition they just happened to offer a rich, spicy, full-flavoured taste.

To my mind, the best event in the development of widespread, technically well-made cigars was the embargo on Cuban cigars to the USA.
American cigar companies had a huge market, and needed quality cigars to replace the Cuban products.
This led to a proliferation of improved cigar plants, plantations and factories in neighbouring countries, each producing cigars with their own distinctive characteristics.

In 2006 these characteristics were analysed by James Suckling for Cigar Aficionado.
We summarise his opinions:
Dominican Republic: Fresh, clean and spicy with a light decadent flavour; the most refined;
Honduras: Earthy and strong by comparison, with a slight bite on the finish;
Nicaragua (three areas - Estelí, Condega and Jalapa): Smooth and more balanced;
Mexico: Almost salty, with lots of meat, coffee and spice flavor;
Colombia: Green-pepper, grilled-meat, earthy character – bitter;
Peru: Delicate, elegant and almost fruity;
Costa Rica: Round-textured with an almost buttery character;
Brazil: Rich, smoky and spicy;
Panama: Astringent and earthy.
With all these choices (not available to Cuban blenders) no wonder blenders outside of Cuba can “think outside-the-box”.
More recently, added to these varieties are the exciting wrappers from Ecuador: The coastal region of Ecuador has one of the best climates in the world for wrapper leaf. The soil is rich in minerals and natural components; the temperature is mild; and cloudiness gives a natural cover that helps to grow bright, soft and elastic leaves. This wrapper helps to produce a smooth, medium-bodied cigar.

So what can you find on the cigar shelves in South Africa:
Cuban cigars are still the most favourite – but they are not all the same. The Cuban blenders and growers are truly masters of their environment, and use every nook and cranny to create a variety of tastes and prices.
Experience the difference between a Limited Edition cigar and a similar size cigar from standard production, and even a budget cigar.
The Dominican Republic led the way in improving production standards, the first, for example, to introduce draw-testing. There are several brands - for the original light taste, try Don Diego.
A prestigious brand is Davidoff which has several blends in its portfolio: the original mild Davidoff, the fuller-flavoured Millennium blend, and now its blockbuster puros from Nicaragua (rolled in the Dominican Republic). For extra-large ringsize, El Credito and La Aurora have something to offer. Well-priced Principes offer 2 very neat Maduro blends.
From Nicaragua, with an Ecuador wrapper, the Quorum brand has established itself in South Africa. This is not surprising since it is the No.1 selling bundled cigar in the USA.

In the range of smaller cigars, the puro Spanish Caliquenos, made entirely of burley tobaccos, offers the opportunity to experience a very unique flavour.

More – there is a wide choice of smaller, short filler machine-made cigars; 100% tobacco brands from Cuba and from Europe.
Recently introduced from Europe, using 100% Cuban tobacco, retailing for less than R100.00, are three Montecristo blends in distinctive, coloured tins:  Regular (Red), Light (Blue), Vanilla (Brown).
These are in addition to the Montecristo Club and Cigarillos from Cuba.

Besides the characteristic flavours, remember to consider the basics of cigar smoking,
Ringsize and Occasion

It is probably wiser to keep your Cuban cigars separate from the non-Cuban.
You might have to consider an extra humidor.
To help:

We offer our selection of desk humidors at less 25%, (-15% Dunhill Whitespot) plus the last few at less 50%

From 10-23 July, 2014
Only from Wesley’s shops and website

“Spoilt for choice” might be an exaggeration, but there is no need to view the cigar selection available in South Africa as “boring”. Any Wesley’s will offer you a variety of cigars to buy singly.

Colin Wesley

No.337 July 3 - 17, 2014
You can read previous articles from "Across the Counter" in The Library.


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No 338 July 17 - 30, 2014

“My husband spends ages trying to get his pipes really clean,
and he doesn’t succeed – they smell.”

One Saturday recently I had finished explaining the workings and benefits of e-cigarettes to a customer (he left with a disposable model to “try it out”) when I noticed one of my staff in earnest conversation with the wife of a regular cigar and pipe customer of ours.
They had selected one of our Cigar Selections and were passing by the pipe counter.

The lady stopped to pick up a packet of pipe cleaners from the box on the counter:
“Have you got any thicker, stronger pipe cleaners?” she asked
“Yes, we do. What do you need them for?” my staff member replied
“Because my husband spends ages trying to get his pipes really clean, and he doesn’t succeed – they smell.”

“What about our Pipe Spray? Has he tried it?
It comes with a bundle of bristle cleaners and does a great job of loosening up any of the gunk that is naturally filtered out by the pipe, and builds up in the shank and mouthpiece. It’s very good” says my staff member, handing her a can to look at. “There are instructions on the can.”

“Well I hope so, because at the moment he is using 4 or 5 pipe cleaners every time he smokes his pipe, and it’s not clean.”
“He enjoys the pipe, but the smell after he has finished smoking it is irritating to both of us.”

She was given the assurance that the pipe spray, if used regularly, would clean up and sweeten the pipe: just one spray shot at a time, followed by the bristle cleaner, should do the trick.
The pipe spray was sold.

Over the years we have had many compliments on the performance of CG Pipe Spray, even when used on pipes that have been out of action for some time – “it’s amazing” is the usual response.
In fact it is almost obligatory for a full maintenance session.

If your pipes are not fresh and clean, it’s worth a shot.
Maybe a few shots and some elbow-grease if the deposits are really old or tough!

From July 24 to August 6, 2014, you can save 25% on the price of CG Pipe Spray
Normal price R48.50
Special price R36.38 – for these two weeks only.

As they say – the results are nothing short of amazing!

Colin Wesley
No.338: 17 - 30 July, 2014

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


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No 339 July 31 – August 13, 2014

The Dinner

The date:       Monday, 21 July 2014
The Place:     Katzy’s Cigar Lounge
The Event:     Wesley’s Cigar Dinner

The incoming guest queue automatically slowed down as people stopped to watch Luis, the chief Cigar Roller from the Dominican La Aurora cigar company, apply the wrapper to at least one of the prepared bunches (binder and filler) of a 1495 blend Robusto cigar.

This made it easier for us to cope with the registration of each guest as we handed out a pre-cut La Aurora 1495 “15 minute Break” cigar to whet the appetite. Very well accepted by all.

This was later followed by the La Aurora 1495 Robusto – specially rolled for the dinner over the preceding weekend.  The blend is:
Filler:  Dominican Corojo ligero, Nicaragua piloto Cubano and Peruvian ligero
Binder:  Dominican Corojo
Wrapper:  Ecuador Sumatra
A splendid smoke was the consensus.

Chatting with Luis before the dinner, I was intrigued by his use of the word Sumatra when describing the wrapper he was using. 
Everything I had read about the 1495 blend referred to the wrapper being grown in Ecuador.
Jose Blanco, who created the 1495 series, said of the Ecuador wrapper “To me, it adds a lot of flavor. It has body. It's a different type of tobacco. I'm a firm believer that the soil does everything. You have to have a good seed, but the soil is the main thing.”
Off to Google where I discovered that the wrapper leaf grown in Ecuador is normally from either Connecticut or from Sumatra seed.
Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana is quoted as saying:
“I can tell you that any wrapper grown any where in the world, will taste sweeter and look better when is grown in Ecuador.”
The coastal region of Ecuador has one of the best climates in the world for wrapper leaf. The soil is rich in minerals and natural components; the temperature is mild; and cloudiness gives a natural cover that helps to grow bright, soft and elastic leaves – in this case from Sumatra seed.

A cigar plant is often referred to by two names – the country where it is grown, and the origin of the seed: thus Ecuadorian Sumatra.

That spiked my interest in the nature and value of the other leaves in the blend:

Corojo: Through selective breeding, Corojo (co-roh-ho) was developed in the mid-1940’s from Criollo, and named after the farm on which it was developed. The word “Criollo” (cree-oy-yo) refers to the “native” cigar tobacco seed of any country (eg Dominican Criollo, Nicaragua Criollo) but is usually used to refer to the pure “Cuban Seed” from which all Cuban varietals have been developed.
However the Corojo plant had a low yield and was susceptible to diseases like Blue Mold. Most Corojo today is a hybrid – more productive, less susceptible. Excellent for filler and binder (and often for wrapper).

Ligero: This term refers to the position of the leaves on the plant. Ligero (lee-HAIR-oh) are the leaves second from the top of the plant – the strongest in texture and richest in taste due to the amount of sun they receive.
(The uppermost leaves of the plant form the “Corona” – see Limited Editions).
Slower to mature than the seco leaves found at the middle of the plant or the easy-burning volado leaves at the bottom, ligero leaf is slow burning and is normally rolled in the centre of the filler bundle – combustion being maintained by easier burning leaves around the outside.

The 1495 blend includes Ligero leaves from Dominican Corojo and from Peru
Peru produces some excellent rich tobacco, but it is normally used as a small amount of the overall blend.

Piloto Cubano: This is a term that means (approximately) "grown in the style of Cuba" or "Cuban Style", and is the name given to the original Cuban Seeds when they were taken from Cuba, probably covertly. The seeds came from the Pinar del Rio area of Cuba, possibly near the town of Piloto.
The Dominican Republic was the first to develop this tobacco, but the La Aurora 1495 blend uses Piloto Cubano from Nicaragua – for fuller flavour.

Read more about Regional flavours (outside of Cuba)

Back to the dinner:
The third, the major, cigar was the H.Upmann  2012 Limited Edition Robusto.
H.Upmann Cuban cigars are of high quality – smooth, normally medium flavoured. However, as usual, the wrappers of the superior Ediciones Limitadas are richer and slightly thicker, giving the cigar a darker colour and a unique, full flavour. Reviews of the Upmann Robusto 2012 cigars have commented that they are slightly loosely packed, so make a smaller cut than usual and test the draw before lighting. (You can enlarge the opening if necessary.)

A trio of ice creams with a Caribbean theme completed the evening:
Café con Leche – typical Cuban milky coffee drink, the ice cream is made with fresh ground espresso and cream
Rum and Raisin – Made with finest Cuban Rum, and rum-infused raisins.
Chocolate – a major export of the Caribbean – rich and decadent.

These had been sourced from Cremeria – specialising in exceptional artisan ice creams mixed by hand and churned in a machine. Flavours specially designed for your evening by Helen, 083 968 1418.

You can experience the H.Upmann 2012 Limited Edition Robusto for yourself in the
Wesley’s Robusto Selection
Available from any Wesley’s Franchise – R380.00

You are too far from the nearest Wesley’s?

To put the situation simply, no South African citizen, living in South Africa can buy a tobacco product through the internet or postal system. And we may only supply tobacco products through the internet or postal system within the trade – not to private individuals. The fine is substantial.
Maybe you know of a friendly Café or Bottle Store owner in your area, who sells tobacco products.
We could supply him – and he would make a small profit.

There are a number of selections available in the Wesley’s Humidors.

Find out more about cigars, and enjoy the variety!

Colin Wesley

No.339  July 31 – Aug13, 2014

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