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 No.520 June 30 – July 13, 2022

For the most flavour “chew your cigar smoke”

 This is one of the hints from an earlier website I visited – he was right, but more practical instructions from a cigar-loving educator are included in this blog.

You can enjoy your cigar just smoking it, but sometimes one wonders about all these strange flavours that are talked about – leather, barnyard**, chocolate, floral notes, etc
I mean there is no leather in the cigars, have you ever had wet leather for a meal, if not how do you know how it tastes? But if you have spent much time with horses, you may recognise the flavour and aroma and it may bring back memories of those times.
** Ammonia is a natural by-product of the chlorophyll in the leaf which contributes to the flavour, it is also a typical smell of a barnyard.

In fact certain flavours in the cigar trigger certain memories.
And these memories are probably very personal.

Considering only flavour now – body and strength to follow later.
We are talking of more than just the 5 basic flavours – sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami (added since 1985)
Amongst other websites, I spent a most enjoyable hour listening to a YouTube interview with Travis from Altadis USA. He is their chosen “educator’ – visiting shops and talking to the owners about the romance of cigar smoking – from “seed to cedar” as the saying goes, and then really enjoying the smoking.
(Incidentally he mentions some of the Altadis brands.)

That was once Consolidated Cigar who we visited in Florida. It was a trip with our children – and none of us could believe the size of the salads. Consolidated is the company from whom we first bought our Dominican “CG Cigars” that were so well accepted – price, quality and flavour. Unfortunately a substantial rise in South African customs duty and excise per kilo brought the price too close to that of the cigars from Cuba and the CG cigars faded out.
Just the name triggers a memory – so imagine what a taste or aroma can do.

Back to the YouTube presentation.
During the interview, after really good tips on cutting and lighting a cigar, Travis expands on a way to get the best flavour experience. Following is a compilation of some of the preliminary tips from Travis and from the websites I visited:

  • Cut and light carefully – most of which is common knowledge now. I’ll try not to get distracted from flavour but he offered a very interesting way of cutting his cigar.
  • If a cigar is not lit properly so that only one side is burning, the flavour of the blend may be distorted and become harsh or bitter.
  • Smoke slowly – drawing too hard raises the temperature and the flavourful oils can be burnt. That’s all you’re going to taste – burnt smoke.
  • You will find a greater variety of flavours in a cool smoke;
  • The ash shouldn’t form a cone – too much wrapper burning alone?
  • If you want to seriously determine the flavour profile of your cigar, cleanse your palate before you start. Just plain water, or most fizzy drinks, or most lemon flavoured drinks or a lemon sorbet will do, and keep hydrated all the time.
  • A cigar’s flavour notes can change from beginning to end. A cigar is designed to be smoked in its entirety;
  • Sit back and relax – the point was made that many cigar lounges don’t have clocks on the wall. It is just you and your cigar, even with a crowd around.
  • Choose the cigar that you like – don’t be influenced by advertising and what other people like, except to try a new cigar to see if you like it too.

How to experience the clearest flavours.
The technique has several distinct steps which meld as you smoke.

The Steps (as at minute 31 of the interview)

  • After lighting your cigar, allow it to burn for about 1cm. This will gradually warm up the oils which provide all the flavour – you can feel the warmth moving down the cigar.

Now is the time to taste:

  • Take 2 or 3 slow draws – on the third make it a long draw and hold the smoke in your mouth. Move it all around “chew it”, puff out your cheeks so that the smoke covers all parts of your mouth and reaches the area of some of the sinus cavities with their many taste receptors.
  • Then purse your lips and blow the smoke out slowly, at the same time lifting your tongue to the roof of your mouth so that the smoke will roll over the underside;
  • Then rub the tongue over the roof of your mouth and draw in some air through your mouth – let the oxygen stimulate your taste buds; Lift your tongue to the top of your palate, rub your tongue over the gums, around your cheeks, and taste. Now can you taste the flavours?

Try it with your eyes shut from beginning to end for a richer experience.
You see a cigar smoker sitting back with his eyes closed, now you know what he is doing.
All kinds of flavours are there, and they will offer different descriptions to different people depending on the memories they trigger.
Maybe it is difficult to imagine the flavour of “dirty feet” being appealing – except to the cigar smoker for whom the taste brings back memories of great sports games at school or university.
And don’t discount the aroma of the smoke in the ambient air – it can tell you a lot.

If you have time listen to the technique as described at minute 31 on the YouTube interview.
In fact the full hour is well worth the time.
“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time”
Travis also discusses: value of stems in a cigar; the Thursday tasting by the Altadis Grupo do Maestros to check the quality, the balance and the consistency per year of the cigars being manufactured; the best way to relight a cigar; the meaning of zesty tasting notes in a cigar; the difference between flavour profile and body; the Montecristo Social Club.com for news and education, and much more.

On the Highveld, in Johannesburg, with less oxygen at this altitude, the cigar will often go out.
And there is a certain method to relighting to give you a clean smoke that is not harsh. That will form part of another blog, in the meantime listen to what Travis has to say at minute 19

It’s a brilliant interview.
I wish Colin were here so that we could share it.

More “tasting”:
You’ve heard of “retrohaling”, maybe even tried it.
This essentially, is blowing some of the smoke out through your nose where there are many more taste sensors in the sinus cavities than in your mouth. And it certainly works.
But less is more.
Retrohaling too often may dull these delicate receptors, so save it for 3 or 4 times a cigar. Maybe at the beginning, in the middle (where the most flavour can normally be found) and then as the cigar is coming to tits end.

Sooner or later you may need to put your cigar down and move around, or maybe the ash is too long, and you need to gently tap it off before it drops – you need a cigar ashtray so that you can lay the cigar down level to prevent it burning just up one side. That would be a real problem for flavour- you’d be smoking only part of the blend so carefully put together.
Another memory – we attended a cigar expo in Cincinnati in 1995, (the height of the American cigar boom). There were individual lessons and at one of these we were given several cigars to test. The first cigars were each rolled from only one type of leaf – the final cigar was a combination of all the leaves. What a difference, the single leaf cigars were one-dimensional, and even harsh and unpleasant. One could really appreciate the skill of the blender in choosing the different leaves for filler, binder and wrapper which would combine to create the smooth full-flavoured cigar we enjoyed at the end of the presentation.

Back to the ashtray – one that will keep your cigar level.
It needs a long rest to hold the cigar. or better still a support that can be moved to hold the cigar level from its full length at the beginning to the couple of centimetres left as you approach the end.
We saw such an ashtray in the Davidoff shop in Geneva and came back to South Africa all set to arrange for it to be made here. Then we found that one of our German suppliers has a similar ashtray with a sliding bridge - we bought it and have repeated it regularly.
We also have two swivel-lid ashtrays and a fold-over ashtray with long rests, and two beautiful crystal ashtrays of a similar designs.

It’s no good reading that you must keep your cigar level if you don’t have a suitable ashtray, so we’ll offer just 6 ashtrays at a special price for the next almost 2 weeks.
I must tell you that our supplier has been short of stock due to logistics problems caused by the pandemic, but hopefully we will have enough:

From June 7 – 20, 2022
25% off 6 really good Cigar Ashtrays

73-J3292 Sliding Bridge ashtray R802.00
73-J3661 or J3662 Swivel Lid ashtrays R750.00
73-J4301 Fold-Over ashtray Set  R2195.00
73-J3539 or J3431 Crystal ashtrays R1004.50

Smoke the cigar for the cigar - not for what anybody else thinks.
Have fun, relax and enjoy it.

Gillian Wesley
No.520 June 30 – July 13, 2022

You can read previous articles from “Across the Counter” in The Archives Library.Top

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No.521 14-27 July, 2022


How do I store my tobacco?

That’s the easy one – in any airtight container.
It could be a Tupperware container – they seal up nice and tight,
Or a glass jar with a screw-on lid,
Or a ceramic jar with a seal.
Do you have a favourite jar that perhaps holds some memories for you?
But it’s not airtight?
Just keep your tobacco in a plastic bag in the jar.

Your container could hold loose bulk tobacco, or your tobacco in its original pouch.

Maybe your tobacco is supplied in a can – if the can is reasonably airtight, the tobacco should keep quite well. In fact research showed that after time, even years, tobacco from an unopened can matured and became richer.
Together with some pipes we bought from an estate was a can of Dunhill Royal Yacht, 100g. It is around 60 years since this tobacco was available. A customer bought the can and found that it was still moist and had kept its flavour – even better than he remembered the new cans he had been familiar with in the past.

But remember – every time you open the container, some air will rush in and your tobacco may dry out.
Too dry – it will burn too quickly, too hot, and it may destroy the flavour.
Attach a small sponge to the lid of your container and keep it moist – the tobacco will readily absorb the moisture.
Or use Humydroles® one or two depending on the size of your container; they also work perfectly in a pouch.

To check the condition of your tobacco – pinch it:
Take a small amount of your tobacco in your fingers and squeeze it.
Release your fingers – the tobacco should slowly release as well.
If it sticks together in a clump, it is too moist;
If it crackles it is too dry.
Either way, it is easy to fix.
Too dry:
Spread it in a wide basin; cover the basin with a damp (not dripping) cloth or towel and allow it to rest for some time – anything from 15 minutes to several hours. The tobacco will absorb the moisture from the ambient air. Stir and feel it occasionally. The pinch test will tell you when it is right.
Too wet: You’ll have real difficulty in keeping it alight.
Spread the tobacco over a large tray or part of a table. The air will absorb some of the moisture and the tobacco should dry. Test it.
Note: Drying it in the sun or maybe an oven or microwave will probably dry out any flavourings. It won’t taste the same.

Now your tobacco is ready to store in a perfect condition for smoking.

And my pipe? Any special way to store it?
You’ve scraped out the dottle with a blunt tool;
You’ve run a pipe cleaner through from lip to bowl;
And then?

  • Throw it in a designated drawer when it’s cool?
  • Hang it up by the bowl on a hook?

What about the juices that have been absorbed into the wood?
Actually what you really want to do is to support the pipe vertically, bowl down, so that any remaining juices will run down into the bowl and gradually evaporate.
A good pipe rack is the answer.

  • If possible you should have more than one pipe, so that each pipe can dry out before being smoked again. (Look at our good-smoking good-value Corncob or Jujube wood pipes)
  • If you have many pipes, and it may be a couple of months before you get round to smoking them again storage needs a bit more thought. That’s for another blog (or a reply to an individual email).

We have recently received our third shipment of Pipe Racks for 3 pipes and for 6 pipes, plus a couple of Revolving Round Stands for 10 pipes.
The slot for the stem is open so that wider mouthpieces will fit.
Nice looking, and they will hold your pipes in the correct position to dry out, ready for your next smoke.

For just one fortnight we will offer these pipe racks at special prices:

25% off Pipe Racks
Normal prices: R795.00, R995.00 and R2750.00
Valid July 21 to August 3, 2022

Simple storage tips for tobaccos and pipes, to make your pipe smoking hobby even more enjoyable.

Gillian Wesley
No.521 14-27 July, 2022

You can read previous articles from “Across the Counter” in The Archives Library.Top

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No.522 July 28 – August 10, 2022

Purging your cigar – a refreshing technique

When you’re smoking your cigar, some impurities will build up inside.
Impurities like ammonia (a natural by-product of chlorophyll), natural gasses, unburnt tobacco particles, all of which affect the taste of the cigar. It’s not as sweet anymore.

Purging is a technique to remove these impurities and refresh your cigar.
And it’s very simple – just blow them out.
Make sure there isn’t too much loose ash, and instead of your normal slow draw, blow gently through the cigar.
Seriously, that’s it.
That’s a dry purge.

You can do this at any time while smoking your cigar.

  • Maybe soon after lighting to remove the taste of the charred tobacco.
  • Maybe halfway when the impurities have started to build up.
  • Or at any time you feel your cigar isn’t as sweet and fresh as you’d like it.

It is important to use this technique when relighting a cigar.
You’ve settled in and are really enjoying your cigar - and something distracts you.
You take another draw, and ….. - the cigar has gone out.
On the Highveld, in Johannesburg, with less oxygen at this altitude, this can happen often.
And there is a certain method to relighting to give you a clean smoke that is not harsh.

The steps:Relighting to give you a clean smoke

    • Brush off excess ash;
    • Light your cigar – holding the flame close to the burning end.
      Move the flame around over the whole burning surface and watch.
      You can see when the whole surface is alight.
      I love the expression “cherry up the end”;
    • Make sure it is well lit then put the cigar back in your mouth. Hold the flame 4-5cm from the end and blow gently through your cigar;
    • The impurities will be blown out and catch alight from the lighter.
    • The flames could last for a few seconds or longer. Repeat until the flames are finished.

For a demonstration, see Travis at minute 19.20 on  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTmd4tzi_x4&t=1417s
For a more erudite explanation than mine visit Cigars Lover Magazine website
Your cigar probably won’t taste exactly the same as when you first lit up, but it will be smoother and less harsh than without purging.

You didn’t have time to finish your cigar, but it is too good to discard?
Leave it (level) in the ashtray. It will go out naturally, no need to stub it out.
You can then use the same steps above when re-lighting the second half of your cigar later.

If “later” is only the next day, then “doggie bag” it:

  • Cut off the charred end of the cigar – that will make sure it has stopped burning, and prevent too much “burnt ash” smell.
  • Place it in an airtight tube –
            An old aluminium tube
            A glass tube with a sponge for maintaining humidity (will hold up to ring 52)
            A beautiful stainless steel tube, maybe you’ll keep it just for this purpose (will hold up to ring 52)
  • Relight using the technique described above.

Note; The glass or stainless steel tubes are also ideal for keeping cigars in perfect condition when travelling, and can be used again and again.

From August 4 - 17, 2022
We offer less 25% on
Glass tubes Ring 52; length Robusto to Churchill from R12.00
Stainless Steel Tube Ring 52; up to Churchill length R595.00

There is apparently no downside to purging a cigar – it is an excellent technique for refreshing your cigar.
And the result is a cigar which continues to be a pleasure to smoke much closer to the end.

Gillian Wesley
No.522 July 28 – August 10, 2022

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No.523. 11-24 August, 2022

Savinelli – a long and fruitful association 

Savinelli started in a little shop in Milan back in 1876.
That is a long time to be in business, especially when I think of the number of famous pipe names that have come and gone.

Checking back on Wesley’s print catalogues from the last century, I find the first Savinelli pipes in the 1969 edition.
That is a long time for a business association.
Why has it been so successful? (And why do I say fruitful?)

It’s all due to their attributes: Skill, Quality, Imagination and Innovation.

In 1969 and for some years after we only knew of the first two: Savinelli offered superbly crafted briar pipes in classic, or slightly Italian, shapes – with a quality of briar which only comes from clever buying and careful curing. At the beginning we used to buy their full range of shapes and finishes, from the “De Luxe” (R7.75) to the magnificent Punto Oro Birds Eye (R14.75 – now over R6000).
When the Rand dropped to 90c to the Dollar we said, “That’s it, no more imports from the US”. But other currencies followed and we had to adjust the range of pipes we could import from all manufacturers to suit the South African market. So now we only buy Savinelli Autographs or Punto Oro pipes when we can choose the pipes individually.

The Quality: One of the fundamental processes in pipe manufacture is the curing and drying process - the wood needs to be hard, clean and dry. Because of the expense, it is normally carried out properly only by a manufacturer who makes a range of pipes right up to the highest quality. Grading is usually finalised after the curing and drying process, so each pipe at each price point from a given manufacturer has had the same basic treatment as the top of the range; although the best bowls will receive progressively more attention in the finishing processes.
Have a look at pictures of the price progression from Savinelli we posted in a 2001 blog.

We first became aware of this when Savinelli launched their Dry System pipes in about 1981.
It was no accident, but a carefully thought out strategy to devise a pipe that would offer a cool, dry smoke despite the excessive moisture produced by the artificially flavoured tobaccos which were becoming so popular.

Savinelli progressed from the traditional finishes to pipe styles and colours more appealing today:
Special shapes and colours such as Joker, St.Nicholas and Regimental (with appropriate coloured bands).
Flavours - Espresso (Ltd. Edition, flavoured, boxed with an Espresso cup and saucer), Menta (mint tea flavoured), Miele (honey flavoured), Liquirizia (you guessed it - Liquorice flavour; Matching Tamper).
Celebrating Italy and Italian occasions:
Leonardo da Vinci series with each shape highlighting one of his many achievements
Venere “Birth of Venus” pipes as a tribute to Botticelli
Venezia pipe in 2021, a limited numbered edition in 2021 celebrating the 1600th anniversary of Venice
And every year a limited edition of signed Savinelli Collection pipes,

We didn’t mention their promotions at the various Trade Fairs, almost always in the form of special prices on certain ranges of pipes.
This has enabled us to offer pipes to the South African market at prices substantially below normal – and we frequently offer further special discounts so that the South African pipe smokers can enjoy very good quality Savinelli pipes without breaking the bank. The downside: can’t be repeated at these prices.

It has been a long and fruitful association, never more so than in February 2020 when we paid our annual visit to the Savinelli offices and factory outside Milan, just before the Covid 19 restrictions,
Savinelli understands the South African market - the difficulties and the possibilities. So when they discovered some old Dry System pipes in a warehouse spring cleaning they thought of us. How fortunate that was.
They offered us the cleaned and polished pipes at a price below the normal Capitol quality Dry Systems we buy. And they’re a higher quality with the Savinelli stamp on the shank.
We’ve been buying them steadily since the end of 2020 and are delighted to find that Savinelli is still coming up with small quantities of different shapes or finishes.
At present we have the widest range yet and will offer them on special from 18 August 2022 - for 2 weeks only.

It’s not only pipes that Savinelli understands. They know what pipe smokers need – pipe tools, pipe filters, cleaning materials, pipe ashtrays, tobacco jars.
All very good quality, excellent design and definitely fit for purpose.
Take the new ceramic tobacco jar we have just received – cream colour with a stylish “Craquelure” finish. Big enough for about 200g tobacco, but not too big for your desk, With an excellent tight-fitting seal.
A typical Savinelli quality product

There is much more I could say, but I leave it to you to try and to decide.
Starting with the Savinelli “Old” Dry System pipes:

25% off all Savinelli “Old” Dry system pipes
Normal prices: R1595.00, R1795.00, R1995.00
From August 18-31, 2022

Special offer extended to September 7

Our long association with Savinelli has been very fruitful for us, and for the South African pipe smokers.

Gillian Wesley
No.523. 11-24 August, 2022

You can read previous articles from “Across the Counter” in The Archives Library.Top

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Fortnightly Articles
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No.524 September 7-28, 2022

Cigars to enjoy when your time is limited 

I’m not talking about a charming little Purito or Cigarillo for a quick smoke at interval, or while you’re waiting for your other half to be ready to move.
Rather about the occasion when you are ready to relax with a good full-bodied cigar, but have only about 20-40 minutes available.

In the last blog we considered the situation where you had to lay down a really good cigar because you couldn’t finish it. About the best way to re-light, and the “doggie-bag” possibilities if you can only continue to smoke the cigar many hours later.

But there are times when you know just how long you have to smoke a good cigar – and it is not enough time for your usual robusto or corona or bigger.
You’d like a cigar thick enough to contain a selection of tobacco leaves in order to provide a rich complex smoke. But one that won’t last too long.
Don’t try to smoke your usual bigger cigar quicker that it should be. That’s a sure path to a hot bitter smoke.

The Half Corona was the original vitola designed for these occasions - 102mm x Ring 40.
Think Montecristo 5 and Cohiba Siglo I
There were sizes available that were just a little longer, or just a little thicker but they were all essentially the same – good, pleasant, fairly rich cigars.

But for those smokers who normally like a Robusto or bigger, they were just not satisfying enough, and in 2004 the “Petit Robusto” (102mm x Ring 50) was introduced by Hoyo de Monterrey. It was virtually a cut-down version of the extremely popular Epicure No.2 (124mm x Ring 50)
The smoking time of 25-30 minutes was good, but it lacked something.
That “something” was the requirement of a modified blend to develop the flavour fully in the shorter time.

The thicker the cigar, the greater variety of leaves, the more complex the smoke. Over the next few years the manufacturers took this to heart and a wide variety of short thick cigars was offered.
In 2008 the Oliva company released the shortest, thickest of them all – the Nub (102mm x Ring 60)

But a 60 ringsize could be, literally, more than a mouthful for some smokers, even when less than the full area of the head is opened up.
When time is limited, these smokers would sacrifice a little complexity for comfort, enjoying the Petit Robusto size (102mm x Ring 50) or the new Cuban vitola, 90mm x Ring 44.
From Habanos (the marketing arm of Cuban cigars):
H. Upmann Half Corona is a new vitola (44 ring gauge x 90 mm length) in agreement with the current circumstances for many Habano aficionados or for those who are interested in the world of the Habanos. Many prefer a short-sized cigar as a solution to the little time and scarce available places to smoke, without giving up the fullness of sensations that a Habano can offer.

We have put together a list of these 20 – 40 minute cigars that have been available this year.
Availability changes like the wind – we check every week and order when the cigars come into stock.

See the list of these “Limited time” cigars.
Offered at very appealing prices.

Try the 'Limited Time' Cigar Selection
You can still enjoy a rich flavourful cigar, even when time is limited.
Add a couple to your humidor.

Gillian Wesley
No.524 September 7-28, 2022

You can read previous articles from “Across the Counter” in The Archives Library.Top