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No 315 - 25 July, 2013

Prestige Pipes Re-visited

Last Friday afternoon we sold the Dunhill 2 Star, Straight Grain Bent Rhodesian (R13595.00).
The young man who bought this pipe, compared it very carefully with its Root Briar equivalent, before calmly stating, when he studied the grains, that there was no real comparison.
He was quite happy to pay the difference for this unique pipe.

After he left the shop, I brooded on what he had to say about each pipe.
The one aspect that differentiated them was beyond the craftsman’s control – the natural formation of the grain.
And that’s what influenced the decision.
Both pipes were beautiful; the quality of the workmanship was beyond question; everything necessary to bring out the beauty of the grain, the fitment of the mouthpiece and the total balance had been done perfectly in each case.
Perfect examples of Prestige Pipes.

Question: So what is a Prestige Pipe?
Answer: The top quality ranges from top quality manufacturers – they’d be in the Gold Medals in the Comrades.

I re-visit an article from 2008:
A Prestige Pipe is made from well-aged briar, confirmed by the good hard grain displayed on the surface of the bowl. Degrees of close, tight Straight or Bird’s Eye grains are the norm. The bowl is either flawless or only slightly specked.
As these bowls are identified in the process of manufacture, they are ear-marked for special attention. Each manufacturer has his closely-guarded secret processes to enhance the beauty and smoking qualities of these chosen pieces - fine sanding, repeated staining and polishing, deep sandblasting, treatment with heat and special oils. All these will do wonders, but they take time and great skill, and are very costly.
A Prestige Pipe may undergo as many as 30 finishing operations and can take over 2 months to complete.

As we go up the price scale in our Prestige Pipe Collection you may notice that the manufacturer has added something to the pipe to make it even more attractive. A better, more complicated finish enhancing the grain, a better quality mouthpiece for both appearance and comfort in the mouth, a little decoration or insignia in brass or sterling silver in recognition of its quality.
It must be remembered though, that these decorations, or the pattern of the grain, are mainly cosmetic. They do not affect the smoking quality of the pipe to any great degree.
What is important to the smoking quality is that the briar be properly cured and dried (bowls with good graining will respond better to those processes), carefully sorted**, and then that the pipe be properly finished by skilled people.
**Here’s an example from 2001: “Pipes – what’s in a good brand name?” – just don’t look at the prices.
The metamorphosis from the rough ebauchon to the finished product is akin to that of a caterpillar to a butterfly.

Possibly you could think of Prestige pipes as falling into 3 categories:
The Classic shapes pioneered by Alfred Dunhill. These classic shapes are part of the normal range of the particular manufacturer – but every now and then during manufacture a bowl of exceptional quality and beauty is found, which is then given special attention to nurture a Prestige pipe.
Designer pipes. Pipes with unusual finishes and shapes – often created by skilled designers but still conforming to the basic principles of a good smoking pipe. The Stanwell company works with such designers as a matter of course, and there are many individual “Pipe Artists” in other parts of Europe and in America.
Collectables– I’m talking now about the modern pipes created in limited quantities for special occasions. This trend was started by Comoy pipes in 1976 with their “Christmas Pipe”. Today we have the very collectible annual “Pipe-of-the-Year” from many top pipe manufacturers, in limited quantities, often (as in Limited Edition cigars) in shapes that are not part of the normal range. Strict quality controls ensure that only the best briar is used on these pipes. At Savinelli in 2008 we were shown a new pipe for a special edition – only 47 bowls out of the hundreds of the chosen shape that were turned, were found to be of a sufficiently high quality. You don’t get much more limited than that!

Are they worth the extra price?
The demand for Prestige Pipes is testimony to the fact that they are appreciated for their rarity, beauty of the grain and smoking quality.
They are always in short supply – testing the integrity of the manufacturer.
A top quality manufacturer will not lower his standards.
And we have been fortunate over the years to be able to select a good range of these Prestige pipesthe best range in South Africa.

I started looking more carefully at the range of Prestige Pipes I had personally selected from Dunhill, Savinelli and Stanwell.
Each pipe is indeed a beautiful example of skilled craftsmanship: working with an inanimate piece of briar, to make the best of it for the benefit of a pipesmoker.
Each pipe is one I fell in love with when I saw it.
But some have graced our shelves too long: to make room to refresh our range, they must go before we visit Dunhill and Savinelli in September 2013 and January 2014.

From 1 August 2013, a select number of these prestige pipes will be offered at very special prices.
For example:

Dunhill Bruyere; Group 4 Canadian (2011)
Dunhill Bruyere; Group 4 Canadian (2011)
54-DHDPB4109Sil R6495.00   R3150.00
Savinelli Punto Oro Fume Kingsize 316
Savinelli Punto Oro Fume Kingsize 316
54-SavPOFumeK316  R2730.00   R1250.00

How can you resist?

However ……..
You may not yet be ready to add one of these to your collection.
So for you we have a consolation prize:

FREE - with any normal price pipe over the value of R395.00,
purchased between August 1 and 14, 2013
One can of CG Pipe Spray.

You need it anyway – so that should be a very acceptable gift!

Colin Wesley
No.315  25 July – 7 August, 2013

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No 316 -August 8, 2013

Make it go right!
From the start …

It sometimes happens like this:
I’m in my shop on a Saturday and a youngish man approaches me saying “I want to start smoking cigars. I have visited your website and have read ‘Cigars - Smoking for Pleasure’. Where do we go from here?”

We go into the Humidor to look at some examples to illustrate what he’s been reading.
We’re on common ground.
We discuss size, taste, cutting, lighting up, and generally how to smoke a cigar.
We agree that the cigar appeals to 4 of the 5 senses: it should look good, feel good, smell good and taste good.
He settles on 2 cigars, one Cuban and one Dominican, both Petit Coronas.

Over time he returns for more cigars – and for help with problems he has experienced.
What might have gone wrong?
And what might be going wrong for you, spoiling your enjoyment of your new hobby?
We’ve covered this before, but similar questions crop up regularly – and the answers bear repeating.

“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 or a Petit Robusto. 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 Dutch cigar or smaller Cuban cigarillo. Save the big, rich cigar for afterwards, as you would a liqueur.

“I cannot keep the cigar burning, it keeps going out!”
Not to worry, it happens because premium cigars don’t have any chemicals to encourage burning. To keep it alight, combustion needs a steady supply of oxygen – regular easy puffing is the answer. And the smoke will be cooler and richer affording more enjoyment.
If it goes out, tap off the loose ash, blow through to expel stale smoke and re-light.

“The smoke is hot.”   
Maybe you are drawing too hard, puffing too fast, quite often because you’re concerned about keeping it alight (see above). However, this has the same effect as bellows on a fire – resulting in very increased heat levels.

“I get a bitter taste.”
If this happens at the very first few puffs, it could be a bad taste from a charred foot due to careless lighting up (see below).
If the bitter taste occurs towards the end of the cigar – it is the end!  It is a sign that you should put the cigar down and allow it to fade out with dignity, no stubbing please.

“My cigars often burn unevenly.”  This is most often the result of careless lighting up.
When lighting, hold the foot of the cigar above NOT IN the flame. You are not trying to braai chops!
As the oils evaporate, the foot will ignite spontaneously at a lower temperature without spoiling the delicate taste of the first few puffs.
Rotate the cigar above the flame, and check to see whether it is igniting evenly. Maybe pay a little extra attention to parts that are reluctant to catch.
Only when the whole foot is glowing evenly (more-or-less), draw gently, and then check again.
When you, and the cigar, are comfortable, you can sit back and relax, and watch the ash grow.

“OK, this is obviously important – go over it again, what should I use to light my cigars?”
Briefly, this can depend on where you are, especially the weather conditions!
• A quiet setting: Cigar matches or a gentle butane flame would be perfect. If you don’t have extra thick matches, maybe use two at a time. A spill of cedarwood makes a good taper.
• At a braai, in the bush, or in the Cape breeze: Something a little stronger may be called for – a Turbo is the answer.

The Turbo: A relatively recent (as these things go) development in the lighter field, it is akin to a blow torch and should be treated with the same respect.
You don’t want to burn a hole in the middle of the foot of your cigar!
The two- or three- jet models offer a broader flame, but you should test for the optimum distance by looking at the flame. It is bright blue at the hottest, lighter a bit higher up. When it starts to disappear – that’s where you should hold your cigar. (Beware - you can still burn your hand at this height. I did!)

Watchpoint: Turbo mechanisms require extra-purified gas. Dunhill gas is highly refined, pure, Dunhill turbo-compatible butane gas. This ensures that valves are less likely to clog and malfunction, and the anti-corrosive properties protect all metal parts, thus considerably extending the life of all lighters. Dunhill Gas is the only gas in South Africa that is stamped “Turbo compatible”. 

A new 3-jet, flip-top model Turbo lighter has recently arrived on the market – well-priced at R270.00, effective, in two finishes, and with a built-in cigar punch:

And from August 15 the price will be even better:
You will pay just R230.00.
But for two weeks only – offer expires August 28, 2013

A good time to invest in a Turbo lighter, but remember – ABOVE NOT IN!!

We’ll look at more “things that might go wrong” next month.

Colin Wesley
No.316  August 8 - 21, 2013

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No 317 - August 22, 2013

Put the tobacco in your Pipe and smoke it?

You have bought the pipe with the Teflon peg, and the medium-size bowl.
Well done – you have chosen wisely.
Now you can go home with the tobacco, pipe tool, pipe cleaners, plenty of extra thick matches and that natty little folding pipe rest – ready to settle down, relax, and enter the world of pipe smoking.

You’ve picked up a copy of The Complete Pipesmoker” (or read it online) so you know about treating “The New Pipe” gently until the carbon layer forms.
(Maybe you could have saved some trouble and bought a refurbished pipe.)

Now you’re going to put some tobacco into the pipe, light it, and smoke it.
What can go wrong?

How do I “put” the tobacco into my pipe?
Pack the tobacco to suit your puffing rate, it should feel easy but firm.
Blow through the stem to make sure it is clear. If it isn't, use a pipe cleaner or the pick of your pipe tool to clear it. Feed the tobacco into the bowl, pinch at a time. Press down and check the draw - it must be firm but not too tight. To start with you may have to test the draw with each pinch, but in time it will be second nature to pack it just right for you.
If you have filled the pipe, but the draw doesn't feel right for you, empty it out and start again.
It won't smoke well if it doesn’t suit your comfortable strength of draw.

Watchpoint: Don’t chop and change your tobacco unnecessarily – stick to one tobacco if possible, or you’ll just confuse yourself with different burning rates. You can experiment later when you’ve got it right.

“How can I smoke it when it keeps going out???”
First – pipe tobaccos don’t contain additives to keep them burning, so they are likely to “go out”.
But you can start right, and will develop a feel for how often you need to draw to keep the “fire” burning.
Start right:
The first thing is to pack the pipe to suit your puffing rate (see above).
Lighting: This is a two-part process. Loosen the top of the tobacco slightly so that it will accept the igniting flame readily. Apply the flame (from a slow-burning match or a pipe lighter) to the surface of the tobacco, while drawing steadily to draw the flame down into the bowl, moving the flame from side to side over the whole surface so that all the tobacco at the top of the bowl is charred. Be careful not to burn the sides of the bowl. After a puff or two the tobacco usually goes out. Tamp down, tease the surface, and relight in the same way.  You will probably have to repeat this several times before you have finished the bowlful of tobacco.

“I’ve done all that – but it still won’t stay alight!”
• Check the texture of the tobacco. Are there a lot of big pieces? Is it a flake tobacco?
“Rub out” the bigger “flake” pieces. A finer tobacco will burn more easily.
Actually – DON’T RUB!
You’ll end up with a lot of tiny bits of tobacco that come through with the smoke and may block the smoke passage, or even reach your mouth.
Rather separate the strands: Place a small amount of tobacco between the palms of your hands and roll it into a ball. Then gently tease out the individual strands. Now you can feed the tobacco evenly into the bowl.
• Is the tobacco too wet?
Tobacco keeps better when it is slightly damp (and teases better), but burns better when it has dried out a little. Store your tobacco damp, but dry your daily ration a little (naturally) and put it into your pouch.
Watchpoint: If you dry it in the sun it may lose the natural oils; drying in a microwave will probably change the taste.

“The pipe burns so hot – my tongue is sore!”
The most common reason for a “hot smoke” is that the tobacco is burning too fast – due to excessive puffing.
But why?
• You’re over-concerned that the pipe will go out, and are drawing too hard to keep the fire going. Relax, and slow down. Rather re-light than overheat the bowl.
• Your tobacco blend may be too “mild” – not satisfying enough (like very weak tea). Try a more full-bodied, or maybe a richer blend.
• The draw may be too tight. Loosen the tobacco in the bowl, and be more careful with packing next time.
Read about some of the modern thinking on “tongue-bite”.

“The bottom of the bowl is a soggy mess!”
New pipe smokers often smoke “wet” as the salivary glands go to work when something is put in the mouth.
A pipe with a moisture trap will help – or you could use a stem filter or bowl filter to mop up the juices
Until your salivary glands become accustomed, keep your pipe more in your hand than in your mouth.

Now you’ve put it in your pipe and you’re ready to “smoke it”:
Don't rush it, puffing furiously. Smoking should be an extension of breathing, gentle and rhythmical giving a cool smoke, good for the pipe and for the tongue. The majority of pipe smokers do not inhale, the taste is all in the mouth. Of course you will also enjoy the fine aroma of the smoke.
If the pipe goes out, gently tap off the loose ash and relight; but don't refill a warm pipe, use another pipe and let the old one rest and dry out.
It isn't necessary to smoke solidly for hours.
Stop when you're satisfied, put the pipe down, and it will go out naturally. When you're ready for another smoke, relight the pipe; or start another pipeful if you prefer.

Keep it clean: When you’re finished, empty the bowl, remove the filter, and run a pipe cleaner through the stem. (Have a deep ashtray or bowl ready for the discarded ash and to hold the filter between smokes.)
If you’re using a filter, remove it between smokes (makes it easier to clean the pipe) - replace it once it is too moist.
Don’t oversmoke the pipe – let it dry out between smokes by resting it bowl down in a pipe rack or pipe rest.

Do you have a Pipe Rack or Pipe Rest yet?

If not, why not accept our offer on this essential piece of pipe paraphernalia:

From August 29 to September 11, 2013
25% offPipe Racks, Pipe Rests
Normal prices from R32.95

Pipesmoking can be as easy as it sounds.
It just takes patience and practice.

You can do it!

Colin Wesley
No.317  August 22 - September 11, 2013

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No 318 - September 5, 2013

Make it go right!
From the start and then onwards…

In the previous article we looked at some of the “things” that can go wrong as you start your new hobby of cigar smoking.
Let’s discuss any possible ongoing problems.

“I’d like to try different kinds of cigars – you say that I won’t always want to smoke the same thing”
Yes, well – you might find one you want to stick to, but much of the fun of cigar smoking is to experience a variety. After all, in cigars, one size does not fit all.
Read a bit more about the Nicaraguan resurgence, smooth Dominican cigars; premium Short Filler cigars; the Big Three names in handrolled cigars; the art of blending – in Cuba, and “out of the box.
Not all of the cigars mentioned are still available, but have a look at our range of Selections
Each pack consists of three cigars carefully chosen for you to find out your answers to these questions.
Each pack has a leaflet describing the origin and character of the cigars.
Each pack will offer you an experience which will help increase your knowledge and pleasure.

The International Selection of 5 cigars is a good starting place.
Too far from the nearest Wesley’s?
Visit any good tobacconist – there should be a variety of cigars you can buy individually.
And to prevent confusion, you may like to make notes - possibly download a tasting sheet

“And when I have all these cigars – how am I supposed to store them?”
It’s all there in the Wesley’s Library (or in the leaflet from Wesley’s) – the finer details in a separate article

“The band - should I leave it on or take it off”
This is a personal choice. But if you do decide to remove the band, wait until after you have smoked about a centimetre. At this stage the cigar should have shrunk a little, and the band should slip off easily. Earlier, you may damage the wrapper.

“My cigar is coming apart.” This could be from the head or from the foot.
• From the foot  - the cigar may be either very dry or very wet. In either case it may be smokeable but not very enjoyable. If it’s not too bad, check your humidor and hopefully you can restore the rest of the cigars.
• From the head - possibly too dry or wet, but most likely the cut has gone beyond the cap line, taking off the whole cap which is there to hold the cigar together. Be more careful next time – consider the punch cutter or the safety cutter with a backing that prevents the cut from going too far

The Punch:
We have 4 models – the budget model with rubberised casing, the GunMetal model, the aluminium-cased Passatore model, and the beautiful Dunhill ”Bullet” cutter
Each has a surgical steel “punch” and a manual ejection system with key-ring fitment.
The most recent addition is the high quality Passatore Dual Punch, made in Germany. With 7mm or 10mm option for different size cigars – the 10mm is ideal for your Robusto.
Note: Turn the punch, not the cigar.
Idea: If you moisten the head of the cigar you may get a smoother cut – try it.
Remove the concern about cutting too much off the top of your cigarpunch it!

And from September 12 you can invest in a punch cigar cutter at
25% less than the normal price (15% off Dunhill Bullet Punch)
But for two weeks only – offer expires September 25, 2013

A punch is a useful element in your cutting equipment.

Colin Wesley
No.318  September 5 -18, 2013

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No 319 - September 19, 2013

Pipesmoking Potholes

So you have the pipe going nicely: a comfortable draw, and you are using fewer matches or bursts of butane with each pipeful. You’ve arrived.
But you may still come across some potholes.

The Mouthpiece is too tight
Don’t force it – you may crack the wooden shank. If it won’t budge, put the whole pipe in a plastic bag in the freezer for a day or two. (We have left a pipe in the freezer for two weeks with no ill-effects.)
Hopefully the wood will shrink less than the peg.
Once you have the mouthpiece separate, it is time to remedy the situation.
First clean the peg, and the inside of the shank. If the area is sticky the mouthpiece won’t move in or out easily.
Use pipe cleaning fluid or pipe spray to thoroughly wipe the outside of the peg. Finish by lubricating it with graphite (pencil the peg) or a silicone impregnated cloth.
Spray the inside of the shank, and use a thick, folded pipe cleaner or a twist of absorbent cloth to remove all residue of tars.
Now see if the peg slides more easily.
If not, then shave (scrape) a little of the surface of the peg with a sharp knife (blade). Be careful to go around the whole peg so that it keeps its shape.
Finish by lubricating with graphite (pencil the peg) or with a silicone cloth.

The mouthpiece is loose!
Pegs seem to have a mind of their own – but these are some of the observations we have made over the years.
• If your pipe has a teflon peg, and you have been smoking without the filter (or an adapter), the wood may swell slightly from moisture absorption – but the tenon won’t. You may have to send the pipe to us for some work on the inside of the shank.
• If it is a vulcanite peg, then the peg itself can be enlarged – to a certain extent. Heat the peg over (not in) an open flame. This will soften the vulcanite, and you can then press the peg down gently vertically (or horizontally) against a hard surface, causing it to swell. Hold it there until it has cooled.
Then test it:
If it is too thin, repeat the process
If it is too thick, shave it down as above.
Watchpoint: Make sure that the peg is kept at right angles to the mouthpiece. Don’t bend it.

Part of the mouthpiece is stuck in the wood.
This is obviously the “tenon” or “Teflon peg”.
The actual pipe mouth piece is made of vulcanite or an acrylic material. The Teflon tenon (6mm or 9mm) is glued into the mouthpiece. With the heat, and the strain as the mouth piece is pushed in or pulled out of the shank, the glue may soften, and the peg separates from the mouthpiece.
Remedy: Use pointed nose pliers to ease the tenon out of the wooden shank. Be careful to pull straight or you may distort or break the tenon.
Clean the peg, and inside the mouthpiece. Then with any good 2-part glue, glue the tenon back into the mouthpiece. Note: the surface of the tenon is smooth for half its length, the other half has rings for the glue to adhere to. That’s the end that goes into the mouthpiece.
While you’re about it, clean inside the shank with a pipe cleaning fluid – if it is sticky it may cause more strain on the join. That’s possibly why the tenon came loose in the first place.
Finally lubricate the tenon with the Dunhill White Spot Silicone cloth so that it will slide smoothly and easily in and out of the shank.

The peg has broken off my mouthpiece
Normally this happens with the vulcanite peg on a vulcanite mouthpiece. (Very occasionally the Teflon peg may break.)
In either case, if the rest of the mouthpiece is in good condition, the peg can be replaced.
The pipe is cleaned up at the same time, and you will have a virtually “new” pipe – and already broken-in.
How to prevent this in future?
When removing the mouthpiece, hold the mouthpiece and shank close to the join and gently twist and pull.
If it broke when you dropped the pipe on the concrete floor – what can I say?

My tobacco is tasting bitter and sour
It is possibly not the tobacco – you may have over-smoked the pipe. Do you always let it cool down and dry out before refilling it?
Start right: from the beginning the pipe should be cleaned out after every smoke. Remove the soggy dottle of unsmoked tobacco, and the filter if any; insert a pipe cleaner through the mouthpiece and shank and leave the pipe to rest bowl down so that it can dry out completely. If you leave the bowl damp then the wood will absorb the moisture causing it to go sour, and it will require an extended drying-out period before it can be smoked again.
Look at it this way: the cleaner and drier you keep your pipe, the sweeter it will smoke.
Resist the urge to refill a warm pipe.

My pipe tastes bitter even before I light the pipe.
Take a look at the mouthpiece – is it dull and grey?
Probably the vulcanite has started to oxidise – a natural process caused by heat and moisture. And this is even more likely in humid areas of the country.
The remedy is a mild abrasive (NOT water-based), a soft cloth and plenty of energetic elbow-grease.
Mouthpiece polish is available from Savinelli, Dunhill White Spot and as part of a cleaning set.
Make a habit of polishing the mouthpiece regularly.
And finish with a protective layer of silicone from the Dunhill Polishing cloth.
Watchpoint: If you use a buffing wheel, be careful not to stay on one spot for too long, or too hard, or the mouthpiece will burn.

Well it looks as though regular cleaning is important to the well-being of your pipe, and to your enjoyment of the smoke. That’s why we are offering a special price on cleaning products:

Less 15% off Dunhill Polishes, and the Silicone cloth
Less 25% off all other polishes, cleaning liquids and Pipe Spray
For the 2 weeks from 26 September to October 9, 2013

Look at it this way: the cleaner and drier you keep your pipe, the sweeter it will smoke.

Colin Wesley
No.319  September 19 - October 2, 2013

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