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No 5 - January 11, 2001
What do I need to do to keep my cigars in good condition?

A cigar is a perishable luxury item.
A neglected cigar will vent its feelings.It may become so dry that it unravels or smokes hot and harsh. Or it may become so wet that it won't stay alight, and the draw will be "hard enough to herniate you" as Dale Scott (regular contributor to Smokeshop Magazine, www.smokeshopmag.com) says in his 1997 article "Inside the Wrapper".

The factors affecting the comfort zone of your cigar are temperature and humidity.
The 70:70 rule applies, ie. Relative Humidity of 70% at 70ºF (21.1ºC)
(The Gourmet Guide to Cigars – Paul Garmirian, 1990)

Temperature:
Cool is essential, 19ºC to 21.5ºC. If your cigar is stored at too high a temperature for too long, the dreaded tobacco beetle, embedded deep in the cigar, may hatch and eat its way out of your lovely Robusto, leaving a neat hole that renders the cigar unsmokeable. 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 warm jacket, even in summer. That's where you should keep your cigars.
Humidity:
Relative Humidity
is the amount of water vapour present in the air compared with the maximum the air could hold at that temperature - any more than the maximum and the air will be saturated and it will start to rain. Cooler air holds less water vapour before it is saturated, so the same amount of water vapour will be closer to saturating the air and give a higher relative humidity reading.
Relative Humidity is measured with a Hygrometer (Hygrostat).
Dale Scott postulates that the cigars need the same amount of water vapour all the time, so if the cigars are stored at 20ºC (68ºF) the Relative Humidity reading on the hygrometer should be 75%. If the cigars are stored at 21.5ºC (72.5ºF) the Relative Humidity reading should be 68%.
Consistency:
Cigars don't like drastic changes - so if you keep them within this comfort zone (20-21.5ºC, and 65-75% relative humidity) they'll be happy and the small changes in temperature and humidity won't make any practical difference.
Generating humidity - keeping the air moist:
Humidifiers can range from a damp wad of cotton wool or florists' oasis, up to a high-tech unit, which only requires attention once every three to four months. In practice, resist the temptation to over humidify your cigars.
Measuring humidity:
Several types of hygrometers are available. Most of them will give you only an approximate reading. However many cigar Aficionados claim that the only true way is to feel the cigars. They could be right - there is a certain degree of subjectivity involved. You may prefer your cigar slightly drier. Theo Rudman quotes a British cigar merchant as saying: "A dry, aged cigar gives you the taste of pure tobacco, not simply water". Try it, but smoke slowly.
The Humidor:
"A container for cigars which seals and contains a hygrometer and humidifier." This definition covers anything from Tupperware to the finest, cabinet quality, cedar box with inlaid design. Every time you open the "humidor" the air changes. This small exchange of air helps maintain the freshness of the air, but it's the reason why you need to watch the humidity.

Travelling - don't allow your cigars to get too warm - beware the cubby-hole:
If you're taking a full box, damp the outside of the box and wrap it in a strong plastic bag - folding the bag to provide an adequate seal. As you use the cigars fill the empty space with crumpled tissue paper, moistened with one or two drops of water. (Not too much)
The safest method, especially for a variety of cigars, is to use individual glass tubes. The cigars will keep almost indefinitely in the same perfect condition as they were when they went into the tubes. And the tubes can also be used to "doggy bag" unfinished cigars.
Most leather cigar cases are not airtight and don't include a humidifier, but see the exception.
Hint: Use a three-cigar case and replace the middle cigar with a cigar freshener.


When things go wrong:
Your cigars are too wet or too dry. Don’t despair, they can be restored provided the wrapper is intact.
Take it easy - cigars don't like sudden changes. To reverse either way takes much patience.

Too dry
- the cigars feel really hard, almost brittle. Leave the cigars in their original cedar box, wipe down the outside of the box with a wet sponge or place a wet sponge next to the box, seal the whole box (and sponge) in a plastic bag and leave it in a cool place for at least a month. Alternatively, put the cigars in a Tupperware, or similar, container on a bed of cedar sheets (you can normally find one in any box of 25 cigars). Next to, but not touching the cigars, put some damp cotton wool or sponge. Open, feel the cigars and cotton wool (moisten if necessary), Generally they will be perfectly acceptable provided the natural oils haven't evaporated (usually through overheating).

Too wet
- The cigars are damp and spongy. Leave the humidor slightly open for a few days, and then closed without humidification for as long as it takes. Open every few days to check – the air needs to be exchanged.

If they are mouldy (blue-grey "fur" which forms when the conditions are too hot and damp) you could treat the affected cigars separately, but it’s probably too late.
"Bloom"(or plume) is a white "dust" on the surface of a cigar (akin to that on a plum). It is not harmful and can be brushed off with a soft brush. (Some people believe it improves the cigar.)

Colin Wesley

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

 
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No 6- January 25, 2001
Are you one of the lucky ones?

Are you one of those rare pipe-smokers for whom everything has gone right from puff one?
The right pipe … the right accessories … the right techniques all came naturally … and luckiest of all, the right tobacco from which you haven't strayed. The taste is right, it doesn't die on you, and you have never experienced tongue burn.

Or have you been something of the opposite?
It wasn't easy … you made mistakes … your tongue thought you were running a vendetta against it. You wasted half packet after half packet of tobaccos in your search for something, if not perfect, at least acceptable.

It could be easier!
You could experiment methodically with your tobaccos - trying small quantities of different types of tobaccos, for example, instead of possibly the same type over and over.

Take a look at the Wesley Houseblends - feel them, smell them, taste them.
Explore the world of tobaccos using small quantities of a variety of Houseblends … savouring the aromas, identifying the flavours, mixing, making notes, assessing, discarding, varying the proportions, adjusting the burning rate, trying again … relaxing and appreciating.

The Wesley Houseblends cover the basic natural tastes (Latakia, Perique and matured Virginia) plus a variety of Aromatics - Cherry, Mocca, Whisky and our top seller the gentle Old Gold. We're happy to give you free samples to try, and when you find your "Perfect Blend" you'll be happy to know that there are significant price savings in bulk buying.

Now you have triumphed!
You're settled in with your pipe and tobacco - but there are still more options!
Whatever stage you have reached in your pipe smoking you might still be ready for a change in your tobacco … maybe only for after dinner … or outdoors … or on holiday; maybe to confirm that your usual blend is still the best for you, or to discover whether your tastes have changed.

You don't want to change your tobacco?
Try a different pipe.
Corncob, clay, calabash, meerschaum or cool waterpipe - they all add to your smoking pleasure.

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

 
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"Conversations with Customers"
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No 7- February 8, 2001
"I'm looking for a gift for a man"

This must be one of the most common statements we hear in all our shops.
Our first response is: "Does he smoke?"
If yes, no problem. As you can see from the website, the Wesley's shops carry a wide range of "Products & Paraphernalia" for the smoker - of pipes, of cigars or of cigarettes. Browse though the site at your leisure, and then visit your favourite Wesley's or contact the Mail Order Department.

Answer: "no" - then let's look at another aspect of Wesley's.
We have made it our business to cater for other gifts to help him relax and enjoy his leisure hours.
Have you ever wondered where to find one of these?
· A wine opener with a quality worm.
· A wine thermometer that glows in the dark.
· Interesting beer mugs, bar accessories and ornaments.
· A stainless steel hipflask with a captive cap (can't get lost in the snow or sand).
· An ice crusher with metal teeth.
· A penknife with corkscrew, scissors and pliers, and blades sharp enough to cut biltong.
· A pocket torch with an adjustable beam.
· A pack of quality cards - including some with South African themes.
· A set of Poker dice or Dominoes - other games.
· A billfold with plenty of spaces for credit cards.
· A walking stick that won't collapse when leant on.
· A walking stick with a concealed blade or flask.

Most of these and more can be found in any Wesley's. The range of gifts in each Wesley's depends on the size of the shop, its location and the inclinations of the owner.
We are certainly worth a try.

Some suggestions from individual Wesley's:
Brooklyn - Stainless Steel Cocktail Shakers; Bar Sets.
Cresta - Collectible Model Cars.
Eastgate - Quality Stainless Steel Hip Flasks, including the Nat Sherman Cigar Flask.
East London - Coffee Specialists; Coffee Grinders, Espresso Cups and Pots; Cafetieres.
Mbabane - Fine Jewellery and Watches.
Nelspruit - Big 5 Candles; Sabie Valley Coffee (gift packed).
Port Elizabeth - Bar Lamps; the largest range of Zippo in the Eastern Cape.
Richards Bay - Framed Nautical Knots; Brass Ships' Bells.
Rosebank - The new Swiss Army Tool; MAGLITES; Canasta Cards.
Westville - Tie Pins & Cuff Links; Glass Ships in bottles.

And we are not politically incorrect - all these gifts are also suitable for "a gift for a woman".
My wife is never without her elegant little Swiss Army Knife with scissors and a torch.

Colin Wesley

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

 

 
Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"
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No 8- February 22, 2001
"Why not a Short Filler cigar? "

Often maligned or ignored by many cigar smokers, I feel these cigars have a very definite role to play in the world of cigar smoking.
Consistency is the keyword.
Being machine made, the consistency of construction is very high. Machines can be set to weigh out exact amounts of tobacco, roll them into an exact diameter and cut to an exact length, with no margin for human error. So a good, even, easy draw is virtually assured. Since the filler is composed of small pieces of tobacco (hence the term "short filler") the composition can be a Blender's dream. Up to as many as 15 to 20 different tobaccos may be used to fine-tune the blend, and again the degree of consistency will be very high. Here the skill of the tobacco buyer comes into play - to ensure consistency of flavour from year to year.

Short filler cigars that use all natural leaf, will usually state "100% tobacco" on the box.
For my taste I look for the 100% tobacco sign and choose a size to complement the time I will have to smoke it. I find, and this has been borne out by various discussions and at functions, that such a short filler cigar is a good "first cigar" of the day or evening. Activating the taste buds, not hammering them. Leaving them ready for something more substantial later. They are also ideal for a coffee break smoke or just a light smoke at any time. My suggestion is that you consider them to see where they can fit into your cigar smoking portfolio. Cigars such as La Paz, certain Panter, Agio, Willem II – and now the Vasco da Gama range.
They will add another dimension to your pleasure, and in many cases a financial benefit to your pocket.

Mass market Cigars.
Very often the binder is homogenised tobacco leaf (HTL) which is really only tobacco stalks and fibres mixed with water and cellulose, then pulped and rolled out like paper. But it is very pliable and resilient, allowing machines to process up to 800 cigars per minute. Over a full day that is an enormous production advantage compared with the 100/150 per day a good hand roller can achieve. The wrapper can be natural leaf. This option is usually reserved for the more upmarket mass produced cigars. See Agio Senoritas, Panter Mignon, Agio Meharis Cigarillo, Willem II Sigretto. The production of these cigars falls somewhere between the 150 fully handmade cigars per day and the thousands per day of high-speed machine made cigars. Those cigars using HTL tobacco for both the binder and the wrapper are often flavoured (eg. cherry, vanilla, rum, etc.) and quite often chemicals are added to minimise the natural tobacco taste, leaving the cigar so mild that to smoke 6 or 7 a day is no problem. A good example of a small flavoured cigar is Ritmeester Moods - to be featured soon.

Colin Wesley

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

 

 
Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
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No 9- March 8, 2001
Lighting Up

We may not know quite where we may light up, but it is still essential to know how.

Your Cigar:

You want to get the cigar alight so that you can smoke it, but why the rush?
Anticipation is a major part in the fulfilment of your enjoyment. Just watching the foot of the cigar start to glow is exciting - "Will this cigar really taste as good as I expect?"
The first few puffs will answer the question, but these can be influenced by the way you have lit the cigar.

Normal Gas lighter:
Butane gas burns with a controlled, odourless flame. The flame should be large enough to cover about half of the foot of the cigar. Rotate the cigar with the foot at an angle just above the flame (or above an angled flame) until it ignites spontaneously and starts to glow. Occasionally blow gently on the foot to see if it is evenly lit, or where some attention is needed. Act accordingly, then start to draw gently and enjoy the beginning of one of life's great luxuries.
Wooden spill or match: A spill should preferably be cedar, a match thicker than normal (or use two).
Light your cigar as you would using a normal gas lighter, but allow the first flash on lighting the match to finish before applying the flame to the foot of the cigar to avoid a sulphurous first puff.
Turbo - the "miniature blow torch": The flame is very strong and hot - perfect for the golf course or outside in any sort of bad weather, but it should be used very carefully or the foot will be charred in seconds with no chance of the natural oils gently evaporating away. The oils will simply be burnt up, and the cigar may reflect this burnt taste. In the quiet of your home or favourite smoking restaurant use a gentler flame. Relax - take your time.
Liquid fuel lighter: Liquid fuel may impart a possibly unacceptable taste to the smoke. Light as normal, but blow gently though the cigar before the first puff to remove any residual taste. As with the Turbo, it is a perfect lighter to defeat the elements.

Your Pipe:
A normal gas pipe lighter, with an angled flame makes lighting really easy – or use a spill or matches when at peace, Liquid Fuel for windy conditions. (A Turbo flame is not suitable for pipes – the flame is too strong and too hot.)
Lighting is a 2-part event. First you create a completely charred top by gently drawing and moving the flame over the whole surface of the tobacco. The initial charring of the entire surface spreads the fire and ensures that the tobacco will burn evenly right the way down to the heel. (It is best if the lighter has a slightly angled flame to help avoid burning the rim of the bowl.)
Part 2: Once the top of the tobacco is charred, and has risen from the burning and the expansion of the air in the bowl - remove the pipe from your mouth, tamp the tobacco down quite firmly, and relight the pipe.
Pipes have a habit of going out. It is not unusual for even experienced smokers to relight the pipe several times during the enjoyment of a pipeful.
So don't despair if your pipe fades, just tamp, relight and relax.

This fortnight we feature the practical, well-priced IMCO lighter for pipe and cigar - combined with 50g of Houseblend tobacco or
a Don Mateo Maduro cigar (Robusto size).

This cigar (normal price R50.00 in a glass tube)
was given a rating in the CigarStyle Robusto tasting.

Colin Wesley

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

 
Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"
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No 10 - March 15, 2001
RINGSIZE

- the Diameter of the cigar
- how does it affect your enjoyment.

Ringsize
:
In countries using the Imperial system of measurement (feet and inches), such as England in the past and the United States today, the diameter of the cigar is expressed in "rings", where one ring is one 64th of an inch.
So a cigar may be 42 x 5:
Diameter 42/64th inch and length 5 inches;
In the metric system this would translate as 16.67 x 127:
Diameter 16.67mm, length 127mm;
Frequently the systems are mixed, and the size is described as 42 x 127 (or 127 x 42).
You can find some common shapes & sizes in Cigars - Smoking for Pleasure or here.

So much for the Mathematics - what is the relevance to the cigar smoker?

The Draw:

The larger the ringsize the easier the draw, and the more smoke you will receive with each draw.
A large ringsize suits some people, but not all. If you prefer to really "sip" your cigar you may not draw sufficient air to keep the burning end alight. You may find a slimmer ringsize (32 to 42) more suitable. Drawing too hard on a slim cigar in order to get more smoke, may cause the cigar to burn too fast, giving a hot smoke and harsh taste. In this case, try drawing in a little air with the smoke.
If your favourite Robusto, for example Hoyo Epicure No.2 (50 x 129), is not available, the same ringsize in a different brand may be preferable to a thinner Hoyo.
This is almost always true of Montecristo No.2 - a Torpedo with a massive 52 ring foot.
A 38 x 152 Cohiba Corona Especial is unlikely to be a satisfactory substitute for a Cohiba Siglo IV (Corona Extra, 46 x 143).

Intensity of taste:
The larger the ringsize, the fuller the taste. If you find the taste of a cigar too strong, try a smaller ringsize in the same brand. Chances are that the combination of filler, binder and wrapper will give the same flavour - just less of it. But don't forget to smoke more slowly or the cigar will burn too hot.
Ringsize and length:
A long cigar will offer more opportunity for the smoke to cool and be "filtered" - the last few centimetres will usually have a really strong taste. But the real relevance of length is that (combined with the thickness) it determines the time it will take to smoke the cigar.
You'd choose a Churchill when you have a whole rugby match to watch on TV?
Try a Corona Extra for a shorter programme.

It follows that you can only really compare different brands, by smoking cigars of the same ringsize and length.
To the true connoisseur, the ringsize is the most important factor in selecting the size of a cigar, though choice of ringsize may vary according to the mood of the moment.This fortnight we feature a pack of three great Cuban cigars, each having a different ringsize.
They all received four stars from Theo Rudman. We quote his comments.
Corona Extra 46 x 143
Rafael Gonzalez: "High quality tobacco, with distinctive honey flavours.
.............................. (This size is) probably (the) best (with) a strong following amongst
............................ . connoisseurs."

Petit Corona 42 x 129
Ramon Allones: "Ideal for experienced smoker…. pronounced flavour …. favourite ................ ..............................among connoisseurs of full bodied cigars."

Panatella 32 x 152
La Gloria Cubana Medaille D'Or No.4:
........................... "Old Havana brand, re-introduced 20-25 years ago."
........................... "Soft floral aroma and flavour."
............................
We say: Draw gently to achieve a cool, mellow smoke, or draw in a little
............................
air each time

Colin Wesley

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

 
Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
"Conversations with Customers"
Back to:
Aspects of Pipe Smoking
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No 11 - March 29 , 2001
"Filter" pipes

Many years ago there was a common pipe expression "the cheaper the pipe the more elaborate the filter".
This was because the wood used for cheaper pipes was not as carefully cured as it might have been. Good pipes were made from well-cured, hard, dry, porous briar and needed no filter. Besides, in order to create a 6mm bore in a vulcanite peg, the peg would have to be very thick to be sufficiently strong, resulting in an overly thick shank. The technical problems have now been overcome by the introduction of flexible Teflon inserts capable of holding 6mm and 9mm filters.
But that is not the only reason that there is a demand is for more and more filter pipes.
The pipe is a natural filter and moisture will condense from the smoke and deposit in the shank and mouthpiece. Many smokers, especially new smokers, secrete excessive saliva or use the very popular "Aromatic" tobaccos which, due to the flavouring oils, have more moisture in the smoke than the older natural blends. This can lead to a messy pipe and the unpleasant smoke known as a "wet smoke".
The function, therefore, of today's "filters" is similar to that of a sponge - to absorb moisture by mopping up excess juices, without spoiling the taste.
These filters may be 6mm or 9mm diameter - made of Balsa wood, or Paper rolls, or capsules containing Meerschaum granules, Charcoal pellets, Crystal pieces - all serving the same purpose, to remove moisture and provide a cool dry smoke.
Some filter pipes are Savinelli Dry System (6mm), Savinelli Classics (6mm), Rossi (6mm), Stanwell (9mm), Lorenzo (9mm), Capitol (6mm), Lorenzo Value Pipes (9mm)

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

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


Our current fortnightly feature offers you the opportunity to try a Stanwell filter pipe or to add another to your collection at a keen price.
The featured price includes a 50g packet of MacBaren pipe tobacco
- a double Danish treat.

Standard Pipes

If your pipe is a standard pipe, the bore through the shank will be too narrow to accommodate a 6mm or 9mm filter. Use a bowl filter -Denicool silica gel crystals, or a clay Philtpad. The small metal stem inserts often called "filters" cannot absorb moisture. They can slow down and cool the smoke, and some moisture will deposit on the insert and can be cleaned off with a tissue. However, the prime function of these metal arresters is to prevent small pieces of tobacco being drawn into the mouthpiece, blocking it and causing a difficult draw. The re-usable wire mesh Drikule plug placed in the bottom of the bowl serves the same purpose.
These "bowl filters" allow you to smoke all the tobacco in the bowl - no soggy "dottle" - no wastage. They can of course also be used with a filter pipe.

Colin Wesley

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

 
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