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No 84 - February 26, 2004
Communication: Face-to-face beats Fax-to-fax

We have been dealing with the Lorenzo company for.more than 30 years.
Firstly by Airmail letters, then by fairly regular annual meetings at a Trade Fair in Frankfurt (followed by more letters); then by the amazing fax machine and phone calls, and now by the even more amazing email facility.
As fast and efficient as this service is for normal orders, it doesn't beat face-to-face.

In January this year we visited the Lorenzo offices in Italy, and while the outside temperature was sub-zero, the discussions we had inside were warm and friendly.
As usual there were biscuits and hot Espresso on the table, and the first 30 minutes were taken up with general talk on the pipe business both in South Africa and worldwide. It appeared that we fit in comfortably with many countries where the demand for good value pipes is growing. A good brand name is important, but it must also offer good value for money. In this regard we discussed the progress of our basic value pipe order and we expect delivery in the middle of the year which suits us nicely.

Then the fun began. We were permitted to enter the warehouse - exciting because although we didn't know what we would come across we anticipated good news.

The visit was very rewarding - we found:
Six shapes of Extra Large Spitfire spot-carved pipes - add to cart.
An oversize Canadian - one shape only - true Lorenzo quality in a smooth matt finish - add to cart.
A range of flat-bottomed, stand-up Lorenzo bents in 5 shapes - add to cart.
3 shapes of Ricardo and Valgardena rejects - the pipes with the amazing feel about them - add to cart.
An assortment of 13cm long, small-bowled, elegant 10 minute pipes - add to cart.
A better selection of the black sand type range to top up our stocks - add to cart.
An immediate supply of some briar Dinky and Mini pipes, ideal for a 10 minute smoke - add to cart.

The "cart" was now pretty full but, as we left the warehouse, there on a shelf lay nine "Summa cum Laude" handmade pipes in 2 shapes. We haven't seen these for years - the most hand-fitting shapes ever made by Lorenzo. With a squeeze we added them to the cart.

To our delight, the pipes arrived yesterday, and will soon be seen on the website and in the shops.

Colin Wesley
February 26 to March 10, 2004

PS We talk about the ideal cigars to smoke when time is short - half corona or demitasse.
For pipe smokers the equivalent is the "10 minute pipe".

From March 4 to 17 we offer both Mini and Dinky shapes at less 25%.
Take advantage!

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

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Across the Counter
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No 85 - March 11, 2004
All is not Gloom & Doom

Every year we despair over the Government budget speech with its inevitableincrease in taxes on tobacco products (this year tax on cigars was raised to over R1200 per kilo). And then, one of the chores following is going through the new pricelists from suppliers of tobacco products, and adjusting to all the new prices. And they're usually up! (It takes a couple of weeks for these prices to filter through to the shop counter, as we start to receive new stocks.)

This year has been no exception - but for once there were some notable reductions in some Cuban brands, as the improved exchange rate more than covered the increase in tax.
And at this time there was one amazing surprise find!
For some time I have been looking for a quality handmade non-Cuban cigar (at a reasonable price), preferably a Robusto size offering a light but tasty smoke, for those who prefer something not quite as strong as most Cubans.
There it was - just one line in a long price list - Charles Fairmorn Tradition, Puros Finos, Robusto; Long Filler, handmade in Honduras. But it was the price that made me really sit up and take notice.
The single cigar would retail at only R55.00 in a glass tube.
This was almost too good to be true - could this be what I was looking for?
I immediately phoned the agent to confirm the arithmetic and the availability. The arithmetic was correct, but the availability was limited to less than 10 boxes. I ordered a box of 25, and put a reserve on the balance of the stock.
The cabinet box duly arrived and the cigars looked lovely - very smooth pale golden brown wrapper, each cigar cellophaned.
Removed from its cellophane, the cigar released a pleasant aroma and felt in good condition.
It was now time to put it to the ultimate test - smoke it!
The draw was much easier than I expected, so I noted for future reference to cut a smaller hole. The smoke was somewhat dry, and initially a little sharp - but it soon settled down to be light and a little spicy. The construction was excellent, the burn was even, and the ash showed nice clear, close rings. Smoking time was approximately 45 minutes and at the end, my final assessment was that it was a good all round cigar but with a draw just too easy for me. A subsequent smoke with a smaller cut was better, but I needed to pay attention to the strength of the draw I made. At this time I also compared it with the Fonseca Cosacos - the lightest of all Cuban cigars. It didn't suffer by comparison although the flavour was quite different.
I bought the balance of the stock.

From March 18 to March 31, 2004 we offer a 3-pack of these interesting cigars for only R150.00.

But be warned - if your taste runs only to heavy Cuban - this cigar is not for you!!
On the other hand if you are minded to take a break - this could be just the cigar. Cut a smaller hole (you can always make it bigger) and don't draw too hard.

Taste the difference!

Colin Wesley
March 11 to March 24, 2004

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

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No 86 - March 25, 2004
I repeat - It pays to visit
In Italy, earlier this year, we not only visited Lorenzo - we also paid a call on Savinelli.

It was snowing gently in the city, but the welcome and the coffee
were warm. We chatted about the pipe business at home and worldwide, and elaborated on our recent fax which had outlined the effect that the collapsed Rand (2001) had had on pipe prices for 2002 and 2003; but that if Savinelli could hold 2003 prices to us for the Dry System range in the quality made specially for us, we could now take advantage of our stronger currency and reduce the retail prices.
(In our opinion this system offers all the benefits a smoker needs, particularly the new pipe smoker).
Before the second round of Cappuccinos they acceded to our proposal (for the first half of the year). This was great news, and the suggested retail prices for the Savinelli Dry System pipes are now:

Regular 3613/3621 R495.00 (formerly R550.00)
Kingsize 2614/2622 R595.00 (formerly R650.00)
Extraordinaire 1616/1641 R725.00 (formerly R795.00)

Savinelli Dry System Regular Shape 3620 - Rustic Black - only R330.00

Other exciting news is that we were offered a limited quantity of this pipe at a stunning "close-out" price. Supplies have arrived and are available in the stores.
Extra special offer!
From April 1 to April 14 - while stocks last - you can buy the
Savinelli Dry System Regular Shape 3620 - Rustic Black - for only R295.00.
Don't delay! If you're in the market that's the time to buy!

It was a most successful trip - and you also reap the benefits!

Colin Wesley
March 25 to April 7, 2004


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

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Fortnightly Articles
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No 87 - April 8, 2004
Preparing my new Humidor

A phone call subsequent to the sale across the counter of a humidor for a birthday gift brought home to me the fact that we'd never put in writing the introduction of cigars to a new humidor.
You can't just throw them in - the wood and air must be moist and ready to receive their precious charge. This may take a day or two.
So here we go:

Prepare the inside of the humidor.
Gently wipe any absorbent surfaces with a damp cloth and close the lid. This will help bring up the humidity before putting any cigars in the humidor. If the wood is bone dry it will soon absorb the moisture generated by the Humidifier and if this is not sufficient it will draw moisture from the cigars. As an added indicator while preparing, leave a piece of damp cotton wool in the humidor - feel it regularly.

Instruments (mounted in the lid):

Humidifier - to generate humidity.
Fill this with boiled (or distilled) cold water, preferably mixed with regulating fluid to control the rate of evaporation.
(Until the humidity has settled down, the humidifier may need to be refilled every 10/12 days.)
Watch point - Don't overfill it. You don't want water dripping on your cigars.

Hygrometer - to measure the relative humidity.
Before mounting, the hygrometer needs to be set. (This can take as long as 8 to 10 hours.)
1. Place the hygrometer in a cup, raised slightly so that it can breathe.
2. Cover the cup with a wet cloth and stand for 2/3 hours.
3. Uncover the cup - the humidity reading on the hygrometer should be 100%. If it isn't, turn the adjusting screw until it is 100%.
4. Replace the hygrometer into the cup and leave the cup uncovered for 2/3 hours. The humidity reading should drop.
5. Recover the cup with a wet cloth. Stand for 2/3 hours.
6. Uncover the cup - the humidity reading on the hygrometer should be 100%.
(If not, maybe reset once more and try again.)
No problem - if it won't achieve exactly 100%. It just means that your hygrometer will always read short (or over) by the percentage points short (over) of 100. For example if it reads 98% then always 2 points short, so that 70% humidity will be indicated when the pointer shows 68%. Remember this.
7. Now mount the Hygrometer in the lid. If it is attached by Velcro check to see that the Velcro patch to be attached to the hygrometer does not interfere with the breathing of the instrument or with access to the screw adjuster. You may have to cut the Velcro into 4 squares and stick these between the breathing holes. If the attachment is by a magnet there is no problem.

Cigars should not be put into the humidor before the humidity is between 65/70% - and make sure there are no wet patches or drops of water on the surfaces.
Check the cottonwool one last time before removing it.

Don't rush setting up your humidor. Too much moisture is as bad as none. Be patient and you will be rewarded with a constant supply of well-stored and cared for cigars - Yours to enjoy!
If you are experiencing problems with your humidor - check your instruments. It's never too late.
(Read "What do I need to do to keep my cigars in good condition.")

If you're thinking of upgrading the image of your cigar storage from a plastic box -
or if you need more storage space with the dry season is coming up (except in the Cape) -
take advantage of our next special:
From April 15 to April 28 Wesley's shops (and the website) will be offering
15% off the price of all their humidors - better still, 25% off Savinelli humidors.
If we haven't got what you want - maybe we can order it for you and honour the discount.

Colin Wesley
April 8 to April 21, 2004

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

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No 88 - April 22, 2004
Surprise, Surprise!

And some surprises are really nice

The most recent shipment from Savinelli contained two pipes we hadn't ordered- one of which we weren't even aware of. A limited quantity in black rustic of shapes 2320ZKs (which we thought was sold out), and 1604ZEx in black rustic which we thought was long gone.

The double surprise was that the prices to us were very special.
Would you believe R330.00 for the quarter bent 2320ZKs, and only R450.00 for the extraordinaire 1604ZEx?
Just looking at these pipes took my mind back to the early 1980s when the Savinelli Dry System pipes were first launched.
Why were they so special?
What was different about them?
System briars were not new - why buy them?
Knowing that Savinelli would have sound reasons for launching a technically different range of pipes, we asked them to enlighten us. They did.
After a careful study of existing system pipes (taking some years) they identified the areas in which there was room for improvement - in other areas the maxim "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" prevailed.
The areas for improvement were:
1. The smokehole on the top of the mouthpiece became rectangular, not round, allowing the smoke to emerge like a fan instead of concentrating on one small area of the mouth - and giving more taste.
2. The introduction of the balsa insert to absorb the moisture collected in the trap - which eliminated the gurgling, and made the pipe easier to keep clean and dry.
3. The peg portion of the mouthpiece was made with parallel sides (not tapered) giving a firmer grip in the shank - almost impossible to accidentally separate in the pocket.
The traditional balance was left as it was - the bent pipes just hang almost weightless from the jaw - and the metal band which prevents the shank from swelling or cracking was retained.
The overall result is technically the best designed pipe in the world.

This was brought home to me again just last week when a young customer asked to see some bent pipes. After I'd shown him the Savinelli Dry Systems, and demonstrated their benefits, he paid only casual attention to the other bent pipes I offered, soon settling on shape 2614KS.
Unless the metal band doesn't appeal, or want a straight/classic/freeform pipe - you probably would too.

Now what about a special offer for April 29?
How about 10% off the already great prices for shapes 2320ZKs and 1604ZEx? And let's throw in the last of the 3620Z as well.
But we have less than 50 pipes in total - so what if you miss out - or prefer another shape?
Let's say 25% off any other Savinelli Dry System pipe. But only until May 12 - so diarise the dates!!

Colin Wesley
April 22 to May 5, 2004

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

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No 89 - May 6, 2004
What price.the Cuban Taste?

It's well accepted that the unique Cuban cigar taste is associated with the best cigars in the world.

But how much do you have to pay to enjoy this unique taste?
Well, not as much as you probably think.

There is no question that a cigar fully handmade with lots of T LC by an expert roller using the choicest Cuban tobaccos offers the pinnacle in cigar smoking, but more often than not a lower peak may satisfy.

With innovative blending and new machinery you can spend less than R55.00 per cigar - and they're even more economical by the box. For example:

Bolivar Belvedere (a nice cellophaned slim corona - 125mm x Ring 39) rolled in the traditional Cuban machine-made manner using short cut filler, binder and wrapper all from the prime Vuelta Abajo area in the western part of Cuba: R53.00.

Guantanamera Cristales (150mm x Ring 41) are made in a new factory on the outskirts of Havana using tobacco from the Vuelta Arriba region in the eastern part of Cuba. This area is usually used to produce leaf for Cuban cigarettes (not cigars): R49.00.
Guantanamera cigars were reviewed in August 2003.

In both cases these cigars offer a fairly easy comfortable draw thanks to the new machinery.

New to the South African cigar smoker is the Vasco da Gama Corona No.2 Capa de Cuba (153mm x Ring 42). This cigar is made in Europe in the Arnold André factory. The filler is a carefully selected blend of several tobaccos from the former Dutch East Indies and Brazil, with a homogenised tobacco leaf binder and - a Cuban wrapper (capa): R48.00
Rick Hacker says: "In many ways the wrapper is the most important part of the cigar, not just because it provides 30% to 60% of the flavour, but also because it is the embodiment of the cigar's total character".
An extra nice touch is that each cigar is wrapped in cedar wood, which enhances the flavour and also provides a spill for lighting the cigar.
My thoughts: The slogan of "Vasco da Gama" cigars is "Discover a new world".
I did - and I enjoyed the experience!

So there you are - three cigars at less than R55.00 each that will give you the unique Cuban taste and a comfortable smoke. There are others, but we have selected these three for our next cigar special:

From May 13 to May 26, 2004 - only R110.00
3 cigars in tubes in a sleeve (a perfect casual cigar case)
Bolivar Belvedere • Guantanamera Cristales • Vasca da Gama Corona No.2

Colin Wesley
May 6 to May 19, 2004


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

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No 90 - May 20, 2004
Variety is .....

We've been having fun over the last few weeks - and as a result we hope that you will too.

The acceptance and popularity of our 3-pack cigar specials, and of the selections we sold in December, prompted us to see how we could expand on this idea. But we didn't just want to work on the price. We wanted to make each selection "interesting" beyond its price.

After some careful study we have come up with 7 selections of mixed brands - covering some of the most popular sizes, plus selections for a dinner, a weekend and, for even more variety, a 5-cigar International selection in a wooden travel case. Each selection has its own descriptive leaflet included.
And, incidentally, the prices are great

In the course of compiling the selections, we came across some interesting trivia in Theo Rudman's "Complete Pocket Guide to Cigars":
Back in 1839, Ramon Allones was the first person to put coloured labels on the boxes;
In 1848, the brand "El Rey del Mundo" was established - it translates as "King of the World";
In 1901, the brand "Bolivar" was founded and named after Simon Bolivar - a Venezuelan revolutionary hero;
The brands "Diplomaticos" (1966) and "Quai d'Orsay" (1970's) were created especially for the French market;
In 1998 "San Cristobal" was launched in Cuba and was considered to be the best of the modern Cuban brands.

All very interesting, but not as interesting as the cigars themselves - and the composition of the selections.
For example, the Half Corona selection chosen for the short 25-35 minute smoke contains a classic half corona (102mm x Ring 40) but for those who find the ring 40 just a little too slim we include two "long (110mm) Half Coronas" which may possibly be better described as "short Petit Coronas" since they are slightly thicker at Ring 42 - a 2/64 inch (0.8mm) thicker diameter that may make all the difference. Try it and see.

Our selections give you the opportunity to compare cigars with other like-sized cigars, or offer a variety of cigars to be smoked at the appropriate times.

Take the advantage and have fun!

Colin Wesley
May 20 to June 3, 2004

PS. Another modern Cuban brand is the all perfecto range "Cuaba", the largest of which will be the main cigar at our Cigar Dinner in Johannesburg on June 3. If you can't make the dinner, look out for the 3-cigar offer afterwards.

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

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