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No 370  November 12 - 24, 2015

Cuban Seed

The name Eumelio Espino Marrero may not mean anything to you but, as a cigar smoker, without him and a few other botanists before him, you would not have the pleasure of smoking the great Cuban cigars of today.

In 1978-79 the disease, Blue Mold appeared in the tobacco plantations of Cuba, fortunately when harvesting was almost complete. But then it devastated the 79-80 crop. Almost 95% of the crop was lost, covering 150 000 acres.
And this could have spelt disaster, and the end of the Cuban cigar as we know it.
There was panic in the cigar world – we bought Cuban cigars from Germany, Spain and a remote island off the west coast of Africa – anywhere we could.
The fungicide Ridomil was used to save the 1980/1 crop but this (and other pesticides) could not be a permanent solution. There was concern that the Blue Mold would become fungicide-resistant as actually happened to some plants in 1994.

Dr. Eumelio Espino Marrero was director of research at The Instituto de Investigaciones del Tabaco, the Cuban tobacco research institute. From 1970 to 1999 he headed up a small team of scientists in a programme to improve the tobacco varieties in Cuba. The goal for the scientist was to develop seeds that would produce plants that would be resistant to Blue Mold, and other common diseases such as black shank (fungal), broomrape (parasitic) and “something Dr Marrero called ‘necrosis ambiental’, an atmospheric toxicity that damages plants”; and yet preserve the unique taste and aroma of the Cuban cigars.

This work was a follow-up of previous research which had identified two main varieties of seeds, Criollo and Corojo from which all the tobaccos needed for the Cuban cigars originated at that time: Criollo for the binder and filler, and for the wrapper, Corojo (Criollo seed cross-pollinated with Sumatra seed).

It took 14 years of dedicated research involving the analysis of 42 500 individual plants to come up with two disease resistant species when Blue Mold cropped up again in 1994.
Under Dr Marrero, further research produced the next successful hybrids in 1998 and 1999; he ended his direct involvement in the research station with his final Criollo 2010 hybrid.
This hybrid, together with the Corojo 2006, are hybrids that are almost totally resistant to the major diseases.

At the 2014 Havana festival Dr Marrero gave a presentation of the 539 steps in the production of a Cuban cigar from a seedling to the finished cigar. He emphasized that the work “used only traditional methods of pollination. We did not use any type of genetic manipulation”.
Cigar Aficionado

Now with these great seeds, and with their intimate knowledge of the soil in each valley, and probably each acre, the planters, growers, and blenders of Cuba can bring us the myriad of subtle flavours and strengths we enjoy today.

Further -
Did this little bit of history whet your appetite?
Would you like to know more about the background of cigars and cigar smoking?

We are finally about to receive our copies of Rick Hacker’s The Ultimate Cigar Book, 4th Edition.
The publisher’s introduction says it all:

“Forget 1492. This book starts out in B. C. (Before Columbus) and transports the cigar enthusiast on a fun and fact-filled adventure into virtually every realm of today’s popular and growing cigar smoking pastime. Written by one of the most knowledgeable and internationally-celebrated pipe and cigar authors of our time, Richard Carleton Hacker’s well-known wit and wisdom will keep the reader enthralled with every turn of the page, as he takes you on an information-packed would tour of cigars. Starting off with a history of cigar smoking, the author then shows us how cigars are made today (handmade, handrolled, and machine made), divulges the secrets of finding the “perfect” cigar, and discusses the ritual of smoking and how to properly care for and store our cigars. From there the book lists a number of innovative cigar accessories, suggests which beers, wines, whiskeys, brandies, and cognacs go with what cigars, enlightens us with a chapter on cigar smoking celebrities, and concludes with the world’s first International Compendium of virtually every cigar brand known today, complete with histories and observations on taste, according to the author’s HPH (Highly Prejudiced Hacker-Scale) ratings. If that was not enough, there is even a dictionary of CigarSpeak!”
Skyhorse PublishingThe Ultimate Cigar Book - Richard (Rick) Carleton Hacker

I’ve known and appreciated The Ultimate Cigar Book since its 1st Edition in 1993.
The cigar world is not static - there’s always been something new
in each successive edition.
Can’t wait to add this to my collection.

 75-UltCigar4  R495.00

The Ultimate Cigar Book is an ideal reference book.

From November 19 to December 2, 2015 we offer
15% off The Ultimate Cigar Book, 4th Edition
Normal price only R495.00
Offer only from Wesley’s Shops and Online Store.

The Ultimate Cigar Book may not fit into a stocking or hang on a tree – but makes a well-appreciated gift for any cigar enthusiast - really worth having.

Colin Wesley
No.370  November 12 to 24, 2015

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


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No 371  November 26, 2015 to January 20, 2016

The name “Savinelli”

Synonym for Style and quality?

The very name has a lyrical tone to it, and very Italian.

This is not surprising as the pipe manufacturer is in the 4th generation of the Savinelli family, and is still a powerhouse in the pipe manufacturing world.

Every year new models and finishes are presented to the world of pipesmokers to broaden their collection or to welcome a new pipesmoker to the enjoyment of the art.

Two of this year’s offerings from Savinelli are:

Savinelli elegant Churchwarden Duo
the elegant Churchwarden Duo
54-SavChDuo R1795.00

Savinellli Tevere Rustic
and the stylish Tevere Rustic,
embellished with a patterned gold band.
54-SavTevR R1150.00

But costs are always rising and it takes strong, ethical standards not to cut corners and compromise quality to maintain sales.

Decisions need to be made right at the beginning of the pipe manufacturing process.
The quality of the briar blocks bought, the time consuming cleaning and curing of the blocks, followed by the extensive period of drying the blocks.
If any of these are compromised, the results could be disastrous.
Then production starts and the blocks are graded and channelled into quality streams.
In 2001 we highlighted this channelling showing progressively higher qualities in the same 614 shape.
Look at the pictures in an early article.
While you’re there note the prices: The Grezze was R225.00 in 2001 – R850.00 today (now Grezza).
Not bad over 14 years, and with our currency depreciations!

Obviously further costs are incurred in the shaping, sanding, and finishing the appearance of the pipes; from the entry level Capitols and Grezzas to the highest quality Giubileo Oro Natural and Punto Oro Natural.

What we want to do is to take advantage of the thorough basic cleaning, curing and drying processes that we know each briar block has been given, and use these blocks to offer you presentable good value Savinelli entry level pipes, all with 6mm option.
So we have bought the entry level unpolished Grezza pipes, in good shapes. Some we will give a light brown satin-finish staining, the others we will leave as the original briar, for you to smoke as is, or to finish as you wish. And we still have some of the Capitol pipes which were especially finished for us.

These are the pipes we offer for our next special

Savinelli Grezze entry level pipesSavinelli Grezze entry level pipes
54-SavGrz R850.00
Savinelli Grezze Polished entry level pipesSavinelli Grezze Polished entry level pipes
54-SavGrzPol  R950.00
Savinelli Capitol entry level pipesSavinelli Capitol entry level pipesSavinelli Capitol entry level pipes
54-SavCapSm R950.00

From December 3, 2015 to January 13, 2016 we offer
25% off Savinelli entry level pipes:
Grezza, Grezza Polished, Capitol.
Offer only from Wesley’s Shops and Online Store.

Experience the pleasure of style and quality from Savinelli, starting at the entry level pipe.

Colin Wesley
No.371  November 26, 2015 to January 20, 2016

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


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No 372  January 21 to February 3, 2016

Our Fortnight Articles – why?
Our Product Selection – why?

In the year 2000 we made a decision which changed the nature of our business operation, and our lifestyle. The decision was to give up on our “mailing list” as our means of communicating with our customers and create a website and a database.
We had to decide on whether we wanted to be just a “buy from” website or something with more interest to our database, and to the open marketplace.
From our experience, working in the shop on a daily basis, and from the annual newsletter we posted to our mailing list we knew that the dissemination of knowledge about the products we sell in the Wesley’s shops (and online) was more important than only the price.

The “dissemination of knowledge” is achieved through the fortnightly articles “Across the Counter.
They cover questions through the shops, and via emails; and other items we’ve come across that will add value to your cigar smoking hobby, making it more interesting and less trouble.
The articles are also listed by subject in The Library, under headings such as:
Starting Cigar Smoking
Choosing a cigar; Starting a collection
Maintaining condition of Cigars
Plugged cigars and other problems
What can go wrong?

But what are “the products we sell” and why have we chosen to stock them?

Very simply, we buy stock for the Wesley’s shops and website which offer a clear benefit to the cigar smoker.
Cigar Cutters:
A good sharp cut – so it doesn’t mangle the cigar.
A variety of prices – to suit the cigar smoker who may lose them easily; the cigar smoker who
would  like a cutter for the bush and one for the smoking room;
A variety of ring sizes and styles (punch; flat or v-cut cutter) – the cigar smoker will decide which suits him best.
Cigar Cases, Travel Humidors:
The cigar smoker will sooner or later want to carry some cigars away from their Humidor – for a short time, a longer time, a journey. We offer the options.
Cigar Ashtrays:
Essentially they should allow the cigar to rest horizontally – but within this parameter we stock beautiful crystal or ceramic ashtrays, ashtrays which close off the ash (also good for travelling). Your favourite ashtray won’t hold the cigar horizontally? Try the cigar rest.
Combo lighters for pipe and cigars; Turbo for windy conditions – or a turbo lighter with a cigar punch; extra thick, extra-long matches.
When you visit the page there is a checklist of what to look for. Within those parameters we have a range of prices, sizes and finishes – to suit your home or office, your pocket book, the quantity of cigars you have to store.
5 articles for background knowledge, then your choice of the humidifying mechanisms.
Don’t forget the convenience and effectiveness of the glass tubes.

And what about the cigars themselves?
While we are not permitted, by law, to receive a payment for cigars via the internet we can keep you up to date with what is going on in the world of cigar production.

Many cigar smokers have grown up with the impression that Cuban cigars are the “ultimate” cigar smoke, much like Champagne is often thought to be the ultimate in sparkling wine.
For these cigar lovers we brought the news of the deep freezing process done before the release of the cigars which led to the virtual demise of the dreaded “cigar beetle” (Lacioderma).
The link is to an article written in 2003. Hardly a sign of beetles since freezing was introduced in 2006.

We make sure you get to know about the arrival of special cigars:

  • The annual Edicion Limitada;
  • The ultra large 52, 54, 56 ring size cigars; the amazing Behike cigars were among the first;

Their arrival caused one of my customers to pronounce “There is only are thing wrong with these cigars, and that is that I can’t find a single thing wrong with them”

  • The short (110mm or less), thick cigars, ringsize 50 or more – the generic “nub”.

We explain what started the trend for these cigars, and why; and, now, what’s available in various brands such as:
Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto, Montecristo Petit Edmundo or Petit No.2 (short Torpedo), 
Montecristo Media Corona, Partagas Serie D No.6, Romeo y Julieta Petit Churchill.

  • The rejuvenated Vegueros brand with its 3 brilliant vitolas, Mananitas, Tapados, Entretiempos.
  • The arrival of the long-awaited 4th Edition of Rick Hacker’s “The Ultimate Cigar Book

While Cuban cigars are “puros”, blended purely from leaf grown in Cuba, blended In-the-Box”,
more adventurous cigar smokers would also like to know about non-Cuban cigars – the result of thinking Out-of-the-Box
Through our 3-pack Selections, we introduced cigar smokers to the mildness of the Dominican cigars, the full-bodied Nicaraguan/Honduran blends, the use of Ecuadorian wrappers, the caramel richness of the Maduro leaf. These selections make it easy to compare such cigars with each other, and with their Cuban counterparts.
(You can download a tasting form to record your impressions)

A common problem for many of our customers, is what cigar to smoke when time is limited and a small, long filler cigar, is just not right.
This is the time for a “short filler" cigar: light, flavourful, with a consistent and easy draw.
The best of these are the Premium Short Filler cigars, which have been available from Willem II, La Paz, De Heeren van Ruysdael which we introduced in 1989, and later P.G Hajenius.
But now all these brands are gradually being withdrawn from the market.
What can we find to fill this gap for you?
After much research we settled on 3 excellent short smokes from the Belgian “Young Selection” brand – very well accepted.
Then the Port Health authorities moved the goal posts in respect of the application of health warnings. After much discussion, the cigars were re-introduced in 2015 under the De Hertogh label.

Another benefit for you: in October 2012, I was finally registered as an importer of “explosives”.
So we can offer you the longer, thicker matches to light up your cigars, pipes and braais.
And for the next fortnight only:

From January 28 – February 10, 2016
less 15% off 10cm and 20cm matches while stocks last.

What will happen in 2016 remains to be seen, and experienced.
You will find on our website, and in the Wesley’s shops, the knowledge and products which we think will expand your enjoyment of the “world’s most affordable luxury” -  a good cigar.

Colin Wesley
No.372  January 21 to February 3, 2016

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


Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"

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No 373 February 4 - 17, 2016

Part II - Pipes:
Our Fortnight Articles – why?
Our Product Selection – why?

As I said in the previous article in 2000 we decided to give up our “mailing list” as our means of communication with our customers, and to create our website and our database. Since then we have been writing fortnightly articles on the aspects of both pipe- and cigar- smoking.
We know we have more to offer to our customers than just our prices.
Everything in our shops has been bought with a reason in mind, and for the purpose of satisfying our pipe smokers.
Behind every product there is a story.
We tell these stories and, where necessary, give our opinion or advice through our “Across the Counter” articles (many in response to questions from our customers) which are collected in our Library in date order.

They are also divided into topics such as:
Starting Pipe Smoking
Choosing your pipe; Size, shape and finish
How to Put the tobacco in your pipe and smoke it!
Pipesmoking Potholes – what can go wrong?
Maintenance and Longevity;
(Detailed instructions for complete cleaning:)

What do you think …. Does anybody still smoke a pipe?

Then what are the products we sell and why have we chosen to stock them?
Very simply, we buy stock for the Wesley’s shops and website which offers a clear benefit to the pipe smoker.

Pipes:  We buy only from quality, trusted manufacturers – companies that have a long history of expertise in making pipes: Dunhill, Savinelli, Stanwell, Lorenzo, Marca, Nording.

There are 14 categories of pipes on our menu – why such a variety?
Well, there are different benefits; consider these together with price, style, finish – let’s look at some of them: 

Starter pipe, with a moisture trap and filter optionSavinelli Dry System, Marca Dry, Nording, Lorenzo value pipes.
Affordable value pipes, which still offer a very good smoke – Lorenzo, Savinelli.
Next step upSavinelli, Stanwell, – what’s the next step up?
Aspire to a Prestige pipe – The White Spot from Dunhill (“best of the best”), Savinelli Punto Oro and Freeform (a new selection personally chosen during our recent visit being prepared now)
A short smoke needs a smaller bowl – a half-filled pipe or half-smoked pipe doesn’t work for most pipe smokers. We offer 10 minute pipes, and some smaller filter pipes such as the Lorenzo Pavia, (Marca Snug to arrive).
The pipe should fit your hand comfortably – run through the different brands to see the variety of shapes and sizes. Pipes are on grids to make it easier.
Then there is Stanwell – larger innovative pipes with indefinable Danish style.
 “Smoke gets in my eyes” – try a longer stemmed pipe, with small or large bowl; choose from a wide range of prices by Stanwell, Savinelli, Marca, Lorenzo.
Variety – change your taste experience without changing your tobacco – Meerschaum, Calabash, Clay, Corncob.

Pipe paraphernaliato add to your pipe smoking pleasure:
Every item is of benefit to you, the pipesmoker, and we offer a good range, from the simple to hi-tech.
Caring for your pipe – Filling and emptying; keeping the pipe clean and dry.
Improving the quality of your pipe smoking – the use of mopping-up “filters”, pipe covers.
Tobacco pouches and Pipe Bags – do you really need them?
Lighting – slow-burning matches or a dedicated pipe lighter.
Jars, Rests and Ashtrays – to preserve the tobacco, rest your pipes, contain the ash.

Talking of ashtrays – we’ve just received a new shipment of the smoky glass and black ceramic pipe ashtrays. The essentials: generous bowl size, with cork knocker and pipe rest.
Unfortunately, thanks to currency changes, the prices have increased.
But we’ll offer them at a special price for the next fortnight only:

From February 11 - 24, 2016
less 25% off pipe ashtrays
79-J0842, 79-J0715
while stocks last.

What will happen in 2016 will happen.
Prices will no doubt increase, so watch out for our special offers.

We shall continue to present information on our website which we feel will help to improve the most personal and economical way to enjoy tobacco – a relaxing time with your pipe.

Colin Wesley
No.373  February 4 - 17, 2016

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
Commentary Articles
Complete Archives Index

No 374  February 18 – March 2, 2016

The next cigar!

As usual, at this time of the year, soon after the festive season, we have people coming into the shop (or sending emails) wanting to know more about cigar smoking.
They have smoked their first cigar during the holidays and the bug has bitten.

We have written plenty of articles on this subject, but they want the nitty gritty:
Here are answers to some basic questions that usually crop up.

The cigar keeps going out.
Premium cigars do not have any chemicals added to encourage burning.
They need a pretty constant supply of oxygen; so draw steadily, but slowly.
When the cigar does go out, just blow through it gently, then light up again.

The smoke gets hot.
Too much puffing, and probably too hard, will act like bellows on a fire.
Slow down! Cigar smoking is not fast food.

A bitter taste at the beginning.
If from the first few puffs you have possibly charred the foot when lighting up.
It will pass but be more careful in future, keep the cigar above not in the flame.

“Sometimes I feel dizzy or even nauseous” - There are a couple of possible reasons:
• Did you choose the right size cigar? If the cigar is too big to finish in the time available – you may be “finished” before the cigar is. A Robusto needs at least 40 minutes to enjoy to the full.
You only have 25 minutes? Rather choose a Half Corona, a Petit Robusto or a “nub”. Such cigars are blended to offer full satisfaction in a limited time.
• Did you choose the right cigar for the occasion? A rich cigar on an empty stomach is almost a recipe for disaster. Before your meal select a lighter short-filler cigar or smaller Cuban cigarillo. Save the big, rich cigar for afterwards, as you would a liqueur.

An uneven burn – one side burns more than the other.
Possibly a bit careless with lighting up – especially if you use a turbo.
Rotate the cigar slowly and apply the flame to the unburnt area - try to even up the burn.

Here’s an interesting one for me:
An uneven burn – the inside of the cigar burns quicker than the outside.
If the burn is down the inside of the cigar like a tunnel, the humidification of the cigar may not have penetrated beyond the wrapper and binder, leaving the filler too dry.
The filler leaves may not have been properly fermented, or put together correctly: poor construction.

A bitter taste after you have smoked for a while.
If you are into the last ⅓ of the cigar, this is the signal that the cigar is finished.
Just lay it down – it will go out by itself with very little after-smell

Now that you are relaxing with your cigar, expand your knowledge and enjoyment.
Start with “Cigars – Smoking for Pleasure” a leaflet you can read online, or pick up a copy at any Wesley’s.
Then visit The Library (our Blog) and scroll down the Subject Index to find articles that interest you:
Choosing your cigar, Cutting; Lighting up; Cigar ashtray.

What’s special about a “cigar ashtray
A big enough bowl – there will be lots of ash, even from a smaller cigar.
A long enough resting place – the cigar should rest horizontal so it won’t burn unevenly, or fall out of (or into) the ashtray. This resting place is also important when you have finished with your cigar – lay it down and it will go out on its own giving off the least amount of “burnt-out” odour.
Your favourite ashtray doesn’t have a resting place – consider a single cigar stand which will hold the cigar in place for any ashtray.

You don’t have a suitable ashtray?
From 25 February we offer you
The opportunity to buy a special crystal cigar ashtray at a special price:
The opportunity to adapt your favourite ashtray with a single cigar stand

25% off the price of a crystal cigar ashtray.
25% off the price of a single cigar stand.
Don’t delay - the offer is only until 9 March 2016

These suggestions should start you off on the road to the enjoyment of the “world’s most affordable luxury” -  a good cigar.

Colin Wesley
No.374  February 18 – March 2, 2016

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