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No 220 - July 9, 2009
Blending in Cuba

My last article on cigars looked at the blending options open to cigar manufacturers outside of Cuba. The world is their oyster in that they may select leaves from any area - from any cigar leaf plant grown in any soil – to create their many different blends.
So how do the Cuban blenders manage, restricted as they are to cigar leaves grown only in Cuba?

We had an interesting experience at a Seminar during the 1995 RTDA Convention in Cincinnati, USA.
We were all asked to taste-smoke 3 cigars, each made from a single leaf from a single tobacco plant (Dominican Republic as it happens). The individual characteristics of leaf from different parts of a plant were very distinct – would you believe very drying in the mouth, bitter, almost tasteless, etc ………
It was clear that it is not practical to make an acceptable cigar from one leaf type or, I guess, from any one plant – blending is the key.
If you add to this the fact that tobacco plants from different regions, even of the same plantation (Vega), will have quite different characteristics – then you can see that for Cuban blenders with their many different vegas, choices between shade- and sun-grown plants, leaves picked at different times from different levels on the plant, the realm of choice becomes very wide indeed. Thank goodness.

Let’s look at the leaves at different levels:
Ligero” – the topmost leaves, full of strength and flavour;
Seco” – from the middle of the plant – more towards medium strength and flavour, they are the subtle leaves in a blend;
Volado”- from the lower level of the plant – milder, and thinner which makes for easier burning.
Each class requires curing and aging particular to that group. As a general rule the stronger leaves are cured and aged for longer periods than the thinner leaf.
The leaves are aged in “pacas” (bales) labelled with full information about the leaf including its size, the year of harvest and the date of packing – even where it was sorted. This is necessary for the blender to select leaf suitable for wrapper, binder and filler, and in addition will tell the blender “the specific local character of the leaf which is the key to the distinctive blending of each Habano brand” (www.habanos.com).

The blender has several tools to create his vision of the blend for a given cigar, for example:

Curing can be used to change the nature of the leaf. Cohiba cigars achieve their unique character through a special third fermentation process.

“The success of Montecristo has a lot to do with unique tangy flavour. This partly created by storing ligero leaves for filler in special type of cedar wood boxes, partly because of unique technique of arranging filler leaf. Generally slightly milder than Cohiba with less ligero leaf in their blend” Theo Rudman

This is what a distributor of Montecristo Edmundo has to say: Its exquisite tobacco blend has been prepared exclusively with selected leaves from Vegas Finas de Primera in the region of Vuelta Abajo in Cuba. The aroma of this cigar, perfectly balanced with its characteristic medium to full flavour will arise even greater enthusiasm among the faithful smokers of Montecristo brand.

Reading up on the new Montecristo “OPEN” range also threw some light on the subject. One comment stated that to improve the burning rate of the cigar, and to make it lighter, the blender had increased the proportion of Volado leaf.
(Mind you, I didn’t find it so light – maybe because it was so full of flavour. Have you tried one yet?) See more
So the skill of the blender comes in judging the proportions of the various leaves – type, origin and age – and then maintaining the integrity of the blend over the years. Masterful stuff!

Want to read more?
Theo Rudman’s Complete Pocket Guide (4th and last edition) has a wealth of information on growing, curing, aging and rolling – still valid, not much really changes in this area of the classic cigar world.
Or visit The_Growing_Cycle
This entire website (from an Australian Aficionado) is very interesting.

Well now, are you ready to compare 3 different hand-rolled Cuban cigars?
We’ve chosen the half corona vitola:
Naturally, the benchmark Montecristo No.5 (Vuelta Abajo) – medium- to full-bodied – long filler
Le Hoyo du Depute (Vuelta Abajo) – medium strength – long filler
Jose L Piedra Petit Cazadores (Vuelta Arriba) – medium to full – short filler

Cuban Half Corona Selection R230.00
Montecristo No.5 - 102mm x Ring 40 (Vuelta Abajo) R120.00*
Le Hoyo du Depute - 110mm x Ring 38 (Vuelta Abajo) R110.00*
Jose L Piedra Petit Cazadores - 105mm x Ring 43 (Vuelta Arriba) R66.00*
(*Normal price for single cigar in glass tube)

Compare the two Medium/Full bodied cigars from different areas
Compare the Medium and the Medium/Full cigars from the same area (Vuelta Abajo)
Enjoy three very different Cuban cigars!

Colin Wesley
No.220 July 9 – 22, 2009

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No 221 - July 23, 2009
“Teaching HOW to fish”

We often wish we could be certain that our website is offering the service that our visitors need – especially those new to the world of pipes and cigars.The aim is to ”teach how to fish” rather than “to give the fish” - as the saying goes (more-or-less).
And then we receive a cry for help or a nice compliment, and we are satisfied:
Our library is helpful, with its basic “In a Nutshell” and archived “Across the Counter” articles; and so are the notes sprinkled throughout the website.
The following email illustrates just what we are trying to achieve.

Sent: 07 May 2009 08:32
To: cg@wesleys.co.za
Subject: How I fell in love with Pipes 
Good Morning Mr Wesley 
This e-mail is just to share with you my new-found interest in pipe smoking. 
About a month ago, I walked into your branch here in Port Elizabeth with the intention of purchasing my first tobacco pipe. This (somewhat sudden) decision to purchase a pipe was purely nostalgic, in that both my grandfathers (both unfortunately already passed) smoked pipe. 
I walked into the shop with absolutely no knowledge about pipes, pipe tobacco, or pipe smoking. Admittedly, I got a little bit of a surprise as to the cost of the pipes in the display cabinet, but this is understandable seeing as I knew NOTHING about pipes. This may also be a good time to mention that I am a student with a very limited income :-). Then, with the help of one of the ladies who work there, I finally settled on one of the very cheap basket pipes (less than R100) and a 50 gram packet of one of your houseblends, the No1 Rhodesian Blend. I left the shop with a smile and eager to try the pipe. That evening, I settled down with the copy of "the Complete Pipesmoker" and "the Perfect tobacco Blend" which was also given to me by the lady at the shop.
Later, I filled the bowl half-full, and lit the tobacco (admittedly, quite a few times), sat back and enjoyed my first smoke of a tobacco pipe. And I loved it!
The very next day I went to your website, and read and read and read.
I learned about the proper method of packing and lighting, about the different materials (briar, meerschaum etc), the different manufacturers, the different tobaccos and I have since read through ALL the pipe related articles in your website's library. The very next week, I went back to the Wesley's shop and purchased a companion pouch, a pipe tool, and pipe cleaners. And last week I went back once again to purchase two 25 gram packets of No 43 "Old Gold" and No 23 "Mocca" to start sampling different tobaccos. 
To make a long story short, I fell in love with pipe smoking, I am fascinated by the histories of the manufacturers and the pipes, for example the origin of the white dot on the stem of Dunhill pipes, I love the aroma of the different tobaccos and I am now starting to appreciate the look and feel and "pedigree" of an prestige pipe (those very ones that gave me such a surprise on my very first visit to Wesley's). I am already saving up to purchase a better quality pipe, of course, I wont be able to afford a prestige pipe in the near future, but maybe something along the line of a Lorenzo Walnut bent or a Two Tone bent .
Well, that's the story of how I fell in love with pipes. Thank you Mr Wesley for the abundance of information on your website and the knowledge of your employees (even if they are at other branches in other provinces than yourself). I look forward to some day visiting your shop in Johannesburg and meeting you in person. 
Kind regards

So thank you Neil for your email which we read, enjoyed and were very gratified by.
I guess one of the articles you read was our correspondence with Ben, and possibly about the Budget / Value pipes
We feel that you have all by yourself made the correct decision on your next pipe, and to try different tobaccos. (Don’t forget to have at least one taste of a Latakia blend like No.55.)
We’re also delighted to read that the website was clear enough to get you started on packing the pipe correctly. Don’t worry about having to re-light several times. That’s one of the good things about pipe tobacco – it doesn’t contain any chemicals to keep it burning.

A further illustration – Neil worked out which pipe(s) would be good for him as a starter smoker – maybe you’d like to try them too. Here’s some encouragement.

From July 30 to August 12, 2009
25% off Lorenzo Filtro Two Tone finish (with optional 9mm filter)
Straight R420.00 R315.00
Bent R450.00 R337.50

Whether you’re new to the wonderful world of pipes - or have been enjoying your pipe for years, these pipes with their optional 9mm filter and Teflon peg make a valuable addition to any collection.

Colin Wesley   
No.221; 23 July – 5 August, 2009

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No 222 - August 6, 2009
DON’T “Just do it

We have just enjoyed a stay at a Bush Camp for a few days.
As usual, I included a few carefully selected cigars to savour under the stars.
The first night went well:

My chosen cigar was a Trinidad Reyes, a regular favourite. In anticipation of its enjoyment I carefully decapitated it with my preferred cutter – cigar scissors (giving a gentle twist as I applied pressure).
Part of the “pigtail” cap just popped off, and I trimmed the edge of the remaining band holding the wrapper together.
To light up, and to smoke, I needed to leave the warmth inside the chalet for the brisk, crisp air outside. Suitably dressed this was no problem – but the gentle breeze was.
Not being a great fan of turbo lighters, I only had a standard flame lighter with me, and I needed to find a quiet corner to light up.
In the Boma, next to the slowly dying coals, I found the perfect spot. Within two minutes I had the cigar foot glowing beautifully and sat back to enjoy the end of the evening.
And enjoy it I did – especially the first centimetre of the cigar which was blissfully mild and flavourful and, thanks to the careful lighting, with no hint of being charred, no “burnt” taste at all.

Night two:
I chose the Hoyo Petit Robusto since the weather was much colder and windier, and I didn’t feel I could spend more than 30 minutes outside with my cigar. The cutting went easily, but my protected spot in the Boma was not quite as effective as on the previous night. Recklessly, I nevertheless started to light up.
This was a big mistake.
My flame kept blowing out, and it was impossible to establish an even burn over the whole foot of the cigar. With the help of a good few puffs, and rapid rotation of the cigar it was finally alight, but what a difference from the first night. This time the initial taste was burnt and bitter, and worse was to come as the burn was anything but even.
But I wasn’t going to give up, not least because of all the warm clothing I bothered to put on.
To cut a long (and miserable) story short, I had to re-light several times, accompanied by some desperate puffing, and after about 10 minutes I finally had the cigar burning properly – but almost the first 2 cm had been ruined – which didn’t leave very much!
The little Petit Robusto did its best to comfort me, but the damage had been done, and it was my fault.
I had disregarded the advice on lighting up I so often give my customers: “Cigars are not fast food. Take care of the preparation to smoke a cigar and you will be rewarded by the skill and passion of all the people involved in the production of this – one of life’s true luxuries.”

Night three:
“I learn, Mr Fawlty, I learn!”- More care with the breeze and the lighting of my stunning Partagas Serie D No.4, and I experienced the relaxation and enjoyment I’d hoped for.

Of course, by now you’ll have realised that what I should have had with me was the lighter we discussed this time last year – the Dual Flame lighter: normal flame converting to Turbo at the touch of a button.
In case you expect to be in the same boat – here’s the special for this fortnight:

Because the Dual Flame offers one cigar lighter for all seasons,
from August 13 until August 26, 2009 we offer this

R563.00 lighter for only R450.00

So take my advice – DON’T “Just do it” – at least not when lighting your cigar.

Colin Wesley
No.222 August 6 – 19, 2009

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No 223 - August 20, 2009
The “Oom Paul

Oom Paul Smoking Pipe It didn’t take too much research to convince us that the full bent, flat-bottomed, tall-bowled, square pipe was custom-designed for “Oom” Paul Kruger and was the original “Oom Paul” pipe. Physically, the shape suited him.Kruger was a large squarely built man, with dark brown hair and brown eyes. He wore a moustache and full beard when he started to play a role in public life, but in later years a chinstrap beard and no moustache (Wikipedia). And the shape is very comfortable, resting on the  chin with very little leverage on the teeth so that both hands can be free.

Research gave us a definition for the “Oom Paul” shape:
The Oom-Paul (Afrikaans for Uncle Paul) is a pipe shape named after Paul Kruger, President of the ZAR (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek) during the late 1800's. It is defined as a bent pipe that has the end of the stem roughly in line with the top of the bowl."  Actually it’s the top of shank and bowl, and they didn’t say full bent.
An alternative name for this shape (possibly from Dunhill) is the “Hungarian”, but this came some time after Paul Kruger died in 1904.

Research also gave us a bit of a laugh: “During the Boer War (1899-1902), one of the British generals was called Uncle Paul by the natives. His favourite-pipe was a Bent-model.   However, the natives mispronounced the word: "Uncle". They said Oom. This special Bent is called "Oom Paul".  (We won’t say where that came from.)

Another research comment: “I love smoking an OomPaul style pipe – my nose gets to smell some of the smoke that rolls off the top of the pipe – fresh and fragrant”

The shape has long been popular worldwide, and over the years much poetic license has been taken with the classic shape by many manufacturers. Have a look at the wide range on the webpage of “Best Smoking Pipes”. We had a wonderful selection from Lorenzo in the 1970s under the heading “UnclePaul”, and more recently the truly giant “Titano”. View some old black and white pictures here.
The shape has never lost its popularity in South Africa – in the 1980s  it was on sale everywhere as the “Kruger Opstaan”. In fact we recently spoke to the manufacturer of the Kruger Opstaan, and he told us how in one day they had sold 5000 dozen pipes to each of two South African distributors – that’s 120000 pipes! Mind you he didn’t say when a re-order came, but I remember that we sold plenty in our shops. We’ve even had a couple in our refurbished collections, along with 2 Dunhill “Hungarians” at the other end of the  scale. Watch for them.

In the mean time the Lorenzo company has returned to the classic Oom Paul shape, with trap, 9mm filter option and teflon peg. We imported a range last year: 4 sizes in a high-polish rich brown finish. Now we have these same pipes in the well-priced “Spot-carved” and “Rustic” finishes. (I just picked a pipe up – “what pipe?” – it was so light!)

This shape can be good for you too, as part of your aim to have a pipe for every occasion:
It stands on any level surface – little chance of spilt ash;
Amazing balance, very  little leverage on your teeth;
Hands-free smoking - perfect for the hobbyist and handcrafting;
The modern version has a trap for dry smoking, with 9mm Filter option and a teflon peg.

You guessed it – from August 27 for a fortnight only, we’ll offer 25% off the
worthwhile Oom Paul.

From August 27 to September 9, 2009
25% off Lorenzo Oom Paul: 4 sizes, 3 finishes (with optional 9mm filter)
From R250.00 R187.50 to R795.00 R596.25

These well-balanced pipes with their optional 9mm filter and Teflon peg make a worthwhile addition to any collection.

Colin Wesley   
No.223; 20 August to 2 September, 2009

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No 224 - September 4, 2009
In & Out of the Box

This is our third cigar selection in an unintended series.
The cigar selections illustrating our previous two articles generated so much interest that we thought “One more? Why not?”  
The first “Robusto Varies” selection combined a top quality Cuban cigar with two “Out-of-the-Box” blends manufactured in Dominican Republic and Honduras using leaf from several countries.
The second “Cuban Half Corona” compared three “In-the-Box” Cuban cigars in the smaller half corona format.
Now we have for you another selection of more-or-less half corona size cigars, at an incredible price, covering Budget and 5 Star cigars: In- and Out- of-the-Box.
And – surprise, surprise – The Budget cigar is from Cuba!

To achieve 5 Stars in a blind tasting, a cigar must score high points (90 or more out of a possible 100) in the following categories:
Sight – How does it look? The cigar should be glossy, smooth, fine-veined;
Touch – How does it feel? Run your fingers along it -Press it gently – it should have no uneven bumps; and be firm but springy (not too hard or soft);
Smell – the aroma, sniff the open foot. Does it smell rich and fresh, make your mouth water;
Taste – the flavour when smoking – does it start relatively light and smooth, and develop as the cigar is smoked?
Aftertaste – Does the good taste remain?
Construction – It should burn evenly, with a comfortable draw and hold a good ash;
Download a Tasting Form

These are the cigars we’d like you to try:
5 Star Honduran - C.A.O Italia Novella 114mm x Ring 44
Manufactured in Honduras, the cigar is described on the CAO website as “made with tobacco from 4 countries, a full bodied smoke wrapped and bound in dark smooth Honduran leaves and filled with Peruvian and Nicaraguan tobaccos as well as Cubano seed tobacco grown in Italy”. Italy is known as the producer of some of the world's finest wines and olive oils, but not of cigar tobacco! Grown exclusively for CAO, the Italian Habano seed used for CAO Italia was originally brought to Italy from Cuba more than 40 years ago. The seed is grown in the Benevento region of the southern portion of Italy, located between Rome and Naples. This tobacco lends a unique earthy sweetness to the robust, full-bodied flavour.
Thicker than the normal half corona (Ring 40) it is even described as a robusto on some websites.
The CAO Italia Novello scored 90 in a Cigar Aficionado blind tasting.

5 Star Nicaraguan - Quorum Tres Petit Corona 114mm x Ring 38
J.C. Newman Cigar Company founded in 1895 manufactures such quality cigars as Diamond Crown, Cuesta Ray, Diamond Crown Maximus and La Unica. Although their cigars are not freely available in South Africa they are one of the biggest names in the industry having maintained the same quality over the years.
Quorum is a top quality cigar packed in bundles at an extremely affordable price from this house. Manufactured in Nicaragua, the filler is a blend of Nicaraguan, Dominican Republic and Honduran leaf, with a wrapper 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; cloudiness gives a natural cover that helps to produce bright, soft and elastic leaves. This wrapper helps to produce a smooth, medium-bodied cigar.
Smoke Magazine, gave Quorum cigars a remarkable 9.2 out of 10 in their Spring, 2007 issue.
Watchpoint – open up as much of the head as possible to ease the draw – but don’t cut beyond the cap.

Budget Cuban - Guantanamera Minutos 100mm x Ring 42
Guantanamera as a Habano was introduced to the international market in 2002. (Guantanamera is the title of the famous song written and popularized by the Cuban composer Joseito Fernandez in 1928.) The cigars are made with tobacco from Vuelta Arriba, the second most important tobacco-growing region in Cuba. All sizes are "mecanizado" – totally machine made at a modern factory recently created in Havana. The light-brown wrappers are finer than those on some of the older machine-made cigars - smooth with no lumps, bruises or thick veins.
Wrapped individually in cellophane for better preservation, their caps are pre-cut, and the short filler provides an easy, mostly consistent, draw

All this for the incredibly low price of R150.00
From 10 September 2009, while stocks last – only from Wesley’s shops and website.

Smoke, compare and enjoy!

Colin Wesley
No.224 September 4-16, 2009

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No 225 - September 17, 2009
The Down Side

A friend of mine once said to me “Always look for the downside of any offer that comes along. If you can live with it, fine. If not, stay away.”
It’s good advice.

For some time now we have been singing the praises of the “Teflon Peg”:
Can hold a 6mm or 9mm filter to mop up juices.
Impervious to heat and moisture.
Valid praises indeed, but its very strength can lead to accidents.
We emphasize:

A most important word of warning about filter pipes:
Filter pipes must be smoked with either the filter or an adapter (usually supplied with the pipe).

Smoking without the filter (or adapter), even once, will allow moisture to condense in the empty space and seep into the shank, causing it to swell. This will result in a cracked shank, or a loose mouthpiece which is very difficult to remedy. If this happens to you, take it in to your nearest Wesley’s for an opinion.
The Tenon/Peg is tougher than the wood!
Keep it clean so it won’t stick. Wipe and pencil it occasionally so it slides easily. Have a look at the Gallery
Because of the metal band, Savinelli Dry System pipes are excluded from this warning

What are we getting at?
The teflon peg is not rigid, but the filter – even more so the adapter – will prevent it from being pliable under pressure.
Quite often the wall of the wooden shank of these “filter” pipes – especially the 9mm version – is relatively thin and if there is competition for space between the peg and wood, the teflon will win.
In any case, as the pipe is smoked over time, a thin film of residue will form on the inside of the shank and/or on the outside of the Teflon peg. The fit between the shank and peg tightens, and when something has to give it is often the wooden shank.
This may start with a thin, hairline crack, hardly visible at first, which gradually widens causing the shank to swell and possibly leak. At the worst a piece of shank may break off, or the shank may expand so much that the resultant excessive leaking makes the pipe unsmokeable. Have at look at the Gallery.

So what can be done to prevent this problem?
Keep the inside of the shank and the outside of the peg clean, so that they slide comfortably together.
As part of your regular cleaning routine, even before you feel any tightening of the fit, use Pipe Clean (aerosol or liquid) regularly to keep both parts clean.
The shank: Spray in a little Pipe Clean and wipe thoroughly with twisted tissue.
The peg: Spray Pipe Clean onto the peg (or directly onto a tissue) and wipe well
Repeat until the tissue stays clean. Allow to dry.
Now lubricate the joint with graphite by penciling the peg. Twist the peg into the shank to transfer some of the graphite, and you’ll have a smooth fitting join again.

So you made a mistake – what can you do to remedy it?
• The teflon peg is loose (Don’t try to heat and swell, it will very likely melt.)
• The shank has developed a crack
In either case, send the pipe to your nearest Wesley’s for treatment, or for a metal band to be fitted by our pipe restorer. It will be cleaned and refurbished at the same time (Maybe you’re a handyman – bind the shank to stop the crack widening – but first remove the residue with Pipe Clean.)

And what if the teflon peg comes out of the mouthpiece?
The peg has been glued into the mouthpiece and can come loose.
Very simply – just glue it back with a glue designed to take some of heat. Before you do, remove all the sticky residue with Pipe Clean to make sure the glue can do its job properly.
Maybe the peg is stuck in the shank - just remove it with thin-nosed pliers.
Ooops, it broke!   Don’t worry, we have inexpensive replacements.

The next fortnight we offer the CGA Pressurised Pipe Cleaner spray (CFC free) - R33.30
That’s more than 25% off the normal price of R44.50 - includes
10 free Bristle Cleaners

From 24 September - Offer finishes 7 Octember 2009
And we’ll throw in a graphite pencil!

So, can we “live with the Downside”?
Absolutely! – the benefits of filtering far outweigh the occasional mishap. And such mishaps can easily be avoided with just a little care and cleaning.
And if it happens soon after you’ve started smoking your new pipe, bring it back for treatment or a metal band (no charge).

Colin Wesley   
No.225; 17 – 30 September, 2009

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