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No.460 August 29, 2019

Cuban cigars going forward

The double question is: why are Cuban cigars different from all others, and why are they considered the best?

The double answers, in reverse, are that after adopting from Spain in the mid-1700s the 3 part cigar - Filler, Binder and Wrapper - they were ahead of everybody in the construction of premium cigars.
In addition they used only Cuban tobacco to put the parts together, making the Cuban taste to be considered the best in the world of premium, handmade cigars across the Globe.
This situation lasted up to a few years after the American embargo on Cuban products into the USA.

At that time American investors in the cigar business joined forces with Cuban immigrants, well versed in the cigar tobacco fundamentals, to look at improving the cigar products in other islands and countries within similar climatic condition to those of Cuba.
By using smuggled Cuban seeds they initially hoped for the “Cuban taste”.
This was not to be, and the hope was abandoned.
Each new area developed, and refined its own taste: Dominican Republic, Brazil, Honduras, Nicaragua, Jamaica and more.
Not being confined to using only their own home grown tobaccos, the market was expanded by blending tobaccos from the other countries. New tastes and flavours under new brands proliferated.

Has this really been successful?
If numbers can talk, in 2018 the USA imported 360 million premium cigars (a 1995 record broken), of which 117 million were from Nicaragua.

The question now is what will happen if, and when, Cuban cigars are freely available in America?
Will the smokers find the mystique around Cuban cigars to be true or false?
If true, will Cuba be able to produce enough cigars without compromising on quality, either in the production of tobacco or in the way it is used to turn out the finished products.
Today Cuba battles to produce 100 million sticks each year. (Think 1995)

The manufacturers of non-Cuban cigars are quietly confident that the first “Hurrah” will soon settle down through natural attrition. The taste may not be acceptable to many cigar smokers, and the price to many more.
Resistance to the Cuban taste and prices are only two of the factors concerning the resurgence of Cuban cigars in the American cigar market.

A third factor that could really disrupt the market is the ownership in the USA of many of the Cuban brand names.
Two international companies with headquarters outside the USA have significant investments in the premium cigar business in the USA, and elsewhere.
Imperial Tobacco based in the UK, owns fifty percent of Cuba Tobacco and a total ownership of what was Consolidated Cigars in the USA. Consolidated Cigars had the USA rights for brands such as Montecristo and H.Upmann cigars which are currently produced in the Dominican Republic (and sold only in the USA).
Scandinavian Tobacco Company, based in Sweden bought General Cigars in the USA along with the brand names of Romeo y Julieta and the trump card brand Cohiba.

One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to see the advantage to Imperial, in that it has virtual control over the production of Cuban cigars, and can favour the brands which it owns.

The legal eagles are preparing to go into action to attack and defend each other in the battle for the Big Smokes.

Up to the end of the last century the thickest cigar rolled in Cuba had a ringsize of 52.
Today, possibly in response to the non-Cuban manufacturers, Cuba has 30 cigars with ringsize of 56 and more.
This took quite some doing – redesigning blends, changing rolling techniques, adapting packaging.
We can offer Cohiba Behike 56 (166mm x Ring 56), and Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo de Río Seco (140mm x Ring 56), Montecristo Open Eagle (150mm x Ring 55), Partagas Serie E No.2 (140mm x Ring 54).
Really great cigars in every sense of the word.

Don’t run the risk of damaging these cigars by carrying them loose or in the wrong size case.
We don’t only offer the cigars – we offer suitable cigar cases,
and for a limited period you can buy them at a special price ….

From September 5-18, 2019
 We offer 25% off cigar cases for large ringsize cigars:
Ramos Ubrique (Spain) priced from R1600.00
2-cigar case 73-Ex1060 from India R605.00

The Las Vegas “Big Smoke” is happening.
At the back of your mind put Wesley’s “Little Smoke” Cigar Dinner – October / November 2019

Colin Wesley

No.460 August 29 - September 11, 2019

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No.461 September 12, 2019

What’s new?

  • In 1942 the name and the concept of wanting to sound English was introduced to Denmark and to Danish pipes – the name Stanwell was chosen – undoubtedly not new today.
    Then the company registered their shapes which were first created by Danish Carver Sixten Ivarsson. Many were modifications of classic English pipe shapes. And many of which
    still survive in their elegant fashion today. Nothing new there.

  • At the time, a template to turn 4 bowls at a time was new – widely in use today.

  • When Stanwell introduced them acrylic mouthpieces were new, as were the Delrin pegs to offer the 9mm filter option – not new now.

  • The Vario finish with its polished thumb rubbing patches was once new, not anymore.

  • New to us, but not new to Stanwell - Hans Christian Andersen Shape 7 (right) Smooth and sandblast.

  • Their most recent innovation was the use of glass beads for “sandblasting”.
    These are less aggressive towards the briar and used under a lower pressure; more time consuming,
    but creating a much more defined and detailed finish. No longer new.

  • A characteristic of Stanwell pipes that has never wavered or been tampered with is their smoking quality – certainly not changed or new.

Adding these widely accepted qualities to the succession of new ideas, one had to start wondering what next “new” would occur to reward new or established pipe smokers when buying a Stanwell pipe.

It was announced in July - the biggest warehouse pipe sale we have ever been offered.

The pipes on offer all come from those which we normally buy.
We didn’t really throw caution to wind, but we bought enough to add in our existing stock and average the overall prices.
They are down by R200 – R500, with the Vario under R1000.

And if that’s not enough …..

September 19 – October 2, 2019
25% off the NEW prices of Stanwell pipes.
Prices from  R995.00

A friend of mine once told me to always look at the downside before making a decision.
The Downside?
We are unlikely to be offered these substantial discounts again.
So the next and following shipments, even though we average with existing stock, will definitely increase in price.
It follows ….

Now is the time to add a Stanwell pipe to your collection!

Colin Wesley

No.461 September 12 - 25, 2019

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No.462 September 26, 2019

Humidor - DIY

I have often said that face-to-face is the best way for two people to communicate.
But that may be showing my age, and I am getting used to, and enjoying, handling certain emails in a more personal way.

Here is a recent trail that morphed into this blog.

Sent: 07 September 2019 01:45 PM
To: cg@wesleys.co.za

I am a box maker and would like to make a humidor or two.
I have all the materials (wood, veneer, brass hinges and Spanish Cedar) but lack knowledge regarding humidifiers and hygrometers.

The humidor I intend to build will have interior dimensions of 235 x 197 x 75mm.
Would you be able, and kind enough, to recommend what may work best for this size humidor.

Many thanks
Brian Coetzee
Artisan Boxmaker
White River

Sent: Tuesday, September 10, 2019 8:19 AM
To: Brian & Gail Coetzee

Good day Brian,
Thank you for your email.
With respect may I suggest that you have a look at these two articles in our Library under the Aspects of Cigar Smoking.

1. Article No 38 – reading a checklist of what we look for when considering buying a humidor.
• General construction and finish: Do you like the look of it? Is the finish solid wood or a veneer? Are the corners mitred? Are the hinges adequate and good looking?
• How well does the lid close?It should be as close to airtight as possible. Beware of a warped lid. Lift the lid a centimetre or so and let it drop - you should be aware of a cushion of air.
• Does it have a natural cedar lining? If not, has the inside been sealed? Cedar usually looks nicer, but there is nothing wrong with any well-sealed walnut or other hard wood.
• Large Humidors (50 cigars or more): Does it have divider(s)? Separating sizes or brands is useful, and the dividers offer support and prevent damage that might occur through having to handle all the cigars each time you want the one at the bottom of the box.

From your dimensions I would suggest a moveable division, front to back to stabilise the cigars.

2. Article No 378 – humidification.
Relative Humidity is a function of temperature – it is the amount of water vapour in the air compared with the amount required to saturate the air at that temperature.
At 70°F (21°C), 70% is considered to be the ideal relative humidity in which to store your cigars.
The important attribute of the beads is that they are bi-directional - they will release moisture when the RH falls below 70%, and absorb moisture if the RH goes above 70%, thus maintaining a more-or-less constant relative humidity.
Read more via the links on here

Obviously the Nano beads are the answer since they do not over- humidify the area.
I suggest that item 73-J5521 would be the best size.
I hope this is of help to you.

Sent: 11 September 2019 06:09 PM
To: 'Wesleys'

Hi Colin
Many thanks for your most helpful and informative email.
Couldn’t have asked for more. It seems you are the best person I could have contacted.
I will be in touch soon to get those amazing nano beads.
Thanks again!
Brian Coetzee

You may also find these humidifying beads useful in your humidor.

From October 3 -16, 2019
 We offer 25% off
CIGAR brand humidifier brand Humidifier Range

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the temperature (19ºC to 21.5ºC is ideal) – but you don't have to run around with a thermometer. You know the cool place in your home or office, the place where you would be comfortable in a jacket, even in summer. That's where you should keep your cigars.

My subsequent phone call to Brian resulted in one more email:

Hi Colin
Thanks so much for calling.
The link below is the article I spoke of, written by Tobias Lochner, on behalf of the BPM Toolcaft website…
Sincerely, Brian

I trust that this blog and link will be useful to other DIY cigar fans, and will add more personal enjoyment to their cigar hobby.

Colin Wesley
No.462 September 26 – October 9, 2019

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No.463 October 10, 2019

A beautiful finish!

In the beginning all pipe blocks (ebauchons) are treated equally.
They all undergo the same boiling treatment to remove saps and resin, and then it is off to the drying room. Here, over a period of 6 to 18 months the dry air will have a dramatic effect on the blocks. As the moisture is drawn out, some blocks will show cracks, some will split completely and others will survive to become dry and porous with an off-white colour - now suitable to continue in the pipeline.

So why do we see such a variety of finishes?

Consider Dunhill The White Spot.
All finishes are the same quality “the finest” (and they are), then why all the different finishes, and how do they decide which finish will suit the prepared ebauchon.
First they turn the bowls according to the size and shape of the ebauchon, then they wet the surface of the bowl to reveal the grain pattern.
For example the Shell (sandblast): For this finish the grains on the bowl, harder and softer briar, must be very distinct so that when the soft wood is blasted off, the remaining hard wood will stand out giving the mountain and valley effect. A little staining with light polishing and you have glowing peaks and darker valleys.

Root Briar: On the other hand, if the “artist” looks at the grain and sees that the lines flow in a beautiful pattern, he would rather use a light coloured stain to create an almost natural finish. Obviously since briar is a natural product such grains are more rare, and the price Smoking pipes with a lighter coloured finishcorresponds.
And if the grain shows parallel vertical lines all around the bowl, it is even more rare and such “Straight Grain” pipes demand an even higher price.
Also, of course, the finish will be kept light to show off the grain.
The benefit for you is that you are able to see any surface flaws, and appreciate the amount of hard and soft briar.
Both are necessary for a beautifully patterned surface.

Smoking pipes with a lighter coloured finish - darkened with age
Such beautiful grains can be found in any group of briars, and most manufacturers pick out the grains and finish the bowls with a light stain. “Accentuate and show off the grains, hold nothing back” – is the yardstick.
As they are smoked, these light-coloured pipes mellow with age into a rich honey-brown finish enhancing, not hiding, the grain, giving even more pleasure.

Smoking pipes with a lighter coloured finishSavinelli offers a wide range of qualities, but when they find such perfect grains they also keep the finish a light natural colour so that the purchaser can appreciate it.
They brand the pipe with a Gold Dot – the Punto Oro (left).

Maybe they even designate a promising piece of briar to be hand carved according to the direction of the grain - the Autograph. (right)
These pipes will often have a smooth finish, and are nearly always light – exception when a small spot appears, and a panelled (part smooth part sandblast) finish is more appropriate.


Smoking pipes with a lighter coloured finish

Even when the briar bowl is not as high quality as the Punto Oro, special grains can be found,
relatively free from surface flaws.
And the finish is kept light like these Siena pipes.

Smoking pipes with a lighter coloured finish


We asked Savinelli if it were possible to have a third finish for the Dry System pipes.
Between us we agreed that the pipes with the more attractive grains, a good proportion of
hard wood and minimum surface flaws, could have the lighter, more natural finish.
Using only one coat of stain would keep the price down – a double benefit.
And so the “Chiara” was born.

The Marca pipes come from a factory that works with thousands of turned bowls – this keeps the price lower
through economy of scale. And in every dozen pipes there will be a few with attractive grain patterns, and lack of surface flaws that are worth showing off .

Smoking pipes with a lighter coloured finishSmoking pipes with a lighter coloured finish
So we have the Marca Mignon Natural

and the Marca Snug Natural.

The purchaser can appreciate the finish and check the proportion of hard and soft wood and any possible flaws.

Smoking pipes with a lighter coloured finish

Even more so with the Nording Eriksen Keystone pipe
with its separate bowl.
Four bowl finishes, but the most beautiful is the “Natural
– the blonde and black combination is stunning.

Hard wood
: This responds better than the soft wood to the initial cleaning and drying processes.
A bowl with good hard wood will be lighter in weight, more porous and quicker to form the protective carbon lining
in the bowl, ensuring the desired cool dry smoke.
However, softer wood with its deeper colour, is essential to create a beautiful grain pattern.

Let’s give you a special opportunity to add one of these lighter coloured pipes to your collection.

October 17 – October 30, 2019

25% off the attractive lighter coloured pipes with their beautiful graining:
Savinelli Giubileo d'Oro R9500.00
Savinelli Punto Oro Natural or Fume from R3000.00
Savinelli Autograph from R4850.00
Savinelli Siena R1850.00
Savinelli Dry System Chiara finish from R1395.00
Marca Natural – Snug or Mignon from R485.00
Nording Eriksen Keystone from R680.90

20% off the unique Dunhill White Spot Root Briar: From R8500.00

Next time you are shown a pipe in a lighter, almost natural, finish, take advantage of the fact that nothing is hidden.
You know exactly what you are getting – and will appreciate the pipe all the more.

The finish is restricted to finer grained pipes.

Colin Wesley

No.463 October 10 - 23, 2019

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No.464 October 24 - November 6, 2019

Cigar smoking – Hobby, Art or Science?

Cigar smoking involves four of our five senses.
All five if you want to add in the crackling sound a bone dry cigar makes when rolled in the fingers beside your ear. (Not recommended).
However the other four senses of Sight, Feel, Smell and Taste are not universal in all people. We don’t all experience them at the same level of intensity or sameness.

So what? A cigar is a cigar and people smoke them.
Accepted – but nearly all come up with the same questions which may, or may not, have universal answers
due to the subjective nature of the question.
How can we define ugly, sweet, strong, hard or soft? What is right or wrong in practice or etiquette?

I recently came across an article which for me threw some new light on some old questions that I will share with you.

Cigars wrapped in cellophane.
Should you remove this before putting the cigars in your humidor, or not?
Answer – you choose.

Benefits off

  • The cigars will humidify/dehumidify more easily. This promotes the development of bloom, (not mould).
  • The condition, feel, of the cigars will be easier to submit to the “pinch test”: too hard, too soft.
  • Much easier on the eye and to the nose

Benefits on –

  • Cellophane is not plastic. It is made of cellulose which is organic and semi porous allowing humidity to pass through it. As the cigar matures, ready to smoke, the cellophane will turn yellow or orange in colour.
  • Cellophane will protect the wrapper from damage if you “pop” one in your pocket or briefcase. At the same time it will retain its humidity.
Hint – Cut off the flap over the foot and allow for a little more access to conditions in your humidor through the foot.

Lighting up your cigar.
This should be looked at as a two part process.

  • First – the often misunderstood “charring of the foot” before actually lighting the cigar.

According to Nick Perdomo, from Perdomo Cigars, this charring should be done by holding the cigar vertically above the flame and rotating the cigar. This allows the hot air to char the foot and weld the binder and wrapper together, preventing uneven burning of the two leaves. All this without puffing on the cigar.
The gentle puffing is done during the actual “lighting” of the cigar, again in the hot air above the flame.
I have watched these two operations on a video and they each take almost one to two minutes to be done properly.
(Cigar smoking is not fast food, the slower the better).

Smoking the cigar.

  • Paramount, don’t inhale the smoke, and pace your puffing to one or two puffs a minute.

The enjoyment of a cigar is on the palate and through the tastebuds in your mouth, not in your lungs.

  • Cigar smoking is often done in social surroundings so if you forget to puff, your cigar will go out.
    No problem, just blow out through it and relight.
  • On the other hand getting excited, or anxious, and puffing frantically can be disastrous for both the cigar, and for you.

Excess puffing will cause the cigar to burn hot and bitter. It will accelerate the absorption of the oils moving along the body of the cigar towards the head, ruining the last third of your smoke.
An expensive, unnecessary mistake.

  • Accompanying this fiery onslaught on your cigar will be the build-up of nicotine poison which can lead to light headedness, nausea or at worst vomiting.

 When to stop with your cigar?
The simple answer is when it is no longer enjoyable for you.

Various blends have different smoking times and powers of absorption defining how much of each cigar is smokeable.

  • A light blend with a Connecticut wrapper may have you reaching for the tweezers to hold the end while you extract the last puffs.
  • Whereas with a rich Maduro you may be done, with the last full third, or quarter still to go.

Quote Smoking a cigar is not a race; there is no merit, or award, by being finished first.

When you lay down the cigar there is no need to stamp it out.
There are no chemicals used to keep it burning. Just put it down and let it extinguish itself in the dignified manner it deserves.

Back to the leading question: Is cigar smoking a Hobby, an Art or a Science?
I think the answer depends on where you stand in the world of cigar smoking.

  • If like most of us, you are just a cigar smoker who enjoys the whole rigmarole around cigar smoking, you would describe it as a Hobby. An activity about which a certain background knowledge of the process of the cigar life from seedling to cedar, as it is sometimes called, will allow you greater appreciation of a premium cigar. But you don’t want to be bothered or bewildered by too many details of the processes involved or the origins of seeds etc., etc.
  • For those in the actual farming and manufacturing of premium cigars there is so much done by Feel, Smell and Taste which have no exact scientific backup for them it surely is an ART. An Art often passed on from one generation to the next, in family secrets.

  • It will be more of a Science for those in the monitoring of the physical and chemical processes in cigar making. Recording the results of exercises or projects performed, trying to define and develop the best seeds and soil conditions, including the weather statistics of an area to decide which tobacco seeds will be most suited to which area.
    Note: Such statistics are kept for every registered tobacco plantation in Cuba. Each year an analysis is done to decide how much of each type of leaf is going to be needed to balance the production. Then allocating the appropriate seeds to the best locations to achieve these goals – how more scientific can you be.

When the whole world of cigar smoking comes together innovation is inevitable.

Innovation in the cigars themselves, new seeds, new blends, new brands.
Innovation in the cutters from single blade guillotines to double blades with ergonomic grips, cigar punches with different diameters up to 70 ring sizes.
Innovation in humidification from Oasis to Nano Beads. The list goes on and on.
Innovation in lighting up from matches and spills, to butane flames and torches with one, two or three jets to cover all climatic conditions.

For our next cigar special we will offer a three Jet Turbo lighter in two finishes, with a built-in punch.

This will be for the period October 31 to November 12, 2019
55-EJ047 Chrome
55-EJ046 Black with Chrome trim
Normal Prices R423.50
Special Price R317.63

With Summer in full bloom you will no doubt be enjoying your cigars outdoors.
These 3 Jet Turbo lighters will neutralize any cross breezes with no trouble at all, allowing for a perfect two stage light up.
Try one for yourself.

Colin Wesley

No.464 October 24 - November 6, 2019

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