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No 109 - February 24 , 2005
The Wesley Houseblends
- more than just a pretty blend!

Way back in the early 1970's we became aware of the importance of developing a range of really top quality Houseblend tobaccos. As J Tennison Burrows in Durban we had always stocked a range made for us by the Glick family in Pretoria North - but they were almost entirely South African in origin without much finesse in the blending.
Mind you, one of them - No.1 Rhodesian Blend - is still very popular to-day.

We needed to offer a range comparable to the imported tobaccos from Dunhill, Four Square, Sobranie, Gallaher, McConnell - the English-type tobaccos which depend on blending natural, and naturally-rich, tobaccos to create a smooth, flavourful smoke.
So for these classic Latakia / Virginia / Turkish / Perique blends, we consulted with a private blender in London (a supplier to the trade). By 1975 the consultations had proved successful and we had our tobaccos similar to Sobranie Mixture, St Bruno, Three Nuns and Gold Block (Nos. 50 or 55, 15, 58 or 13/58, 13) - offering real price savings too. Tried and tested over the years these blends have always appealed to the "traditional" pipe smoker. Now even more so as many of the original blends have disappeared from our shelves, indeed from the market.

At that time few artificially flavoured blends of any quality were available - and those that were tended to burn hot. MacBaren tobaccos were the exception - but even when we visited the factory in Denmark we weren't allowed so much as a glimpse of the manufacturing process.
Manufacture of these lighter, more aromatic "Cavendish" tobaccos was not allowed under English law (to do with artificial additives), so we had to seek help from other experts.
Again we were successful, and in late 1981 we wrote in our print newsletter (posted to over a thousand customers - postage was much cheaper then):
"A new range of Cavendishes has been added to Wesley's Houseblend tobaccos. We have been developing them since our return from Europe in March, and now they are ready. They are all cut in the typical American "cube cut", and have plenty of artificial flavouring, but have been adjusted to suit the South African demand for natural flavour and body as well."
No.43 Old Gold was the last addition and today is our top seller in this category.

In 2010, in response to a change in tastes from the plain aromatics towards blends with more natural flavour and body, we created a new blend: No.46 Full Gold– a popular aromatic Burley combined with Matured Virginias, Turkish and a hint of Perique.

2013 - This was followed by No.47 Vanilla Gold - lightly matured Virginia, smooth Turkish for natural sweetness, and a delicate Vanilla aroma

Testing the new blends is another story in itself. We start with the theory of the type of ingredients that would provide the tobacco we want. (Here my wife's training comes in useful, but whether it is the chemistry degree or the cooking experience that is of most use we haven't quite worked out.) Then we need to test the theory in practice. I don't smoke a pipe, and even if I did, my opinion on its own would not be sufficient. A cross-section of "tasters" is necessary - and sometimes the results are not what we hoped. When we wanted to develop a new smoother Latakia blend (and at a lower price) we asked several of our customers (Latakia devotees) to test the first draft. It was so unacceptable that not even one volunteered an opinion. So we went back to the drawing board - and developed Latakia A, which was passed with distinction and is now a popular part of our range (No.55).

While the Houseblends have been developed to smoke "as is" we are very aware that individual tastes vary and that the blends (or indeed branded tobaccos off the shelf) may need a little "tweaking". Maybe to correct "It bites my tongue" or "Burns too fast/slow" or "Not enough flavour" or "Unacceptable aroma (my wife says it smells awful)". All these and more are addressed in "The Perfect Blend" - or you can email me with your particular (smoking) problem.

Why try a Wesley Houseblend?
If you've read this far you can appreciate the care that has gone into developing interesting quality blends. In addition we know our Houseblends very well, and from your comments we can usually tailor a blend which really suits and satisfies you as an individual. This applies to the new Pipesmoker who can determine his own particular likes and dislikes by trying a variety of strengths, cuts and flavours; and to the experienced Pipesmoker who can generally find a blend similar to the one he is smoking (at a lower price), replace his favourite which is no longer available, or entertain his spirit of adventure while staying within the parameters of his preferred tastes. Maybe try a Tasting Pack.

From March 3 to March 16 we will be rewarding all our regular Houseblend customers, and our new Recruits, with a gift when they buy a Houseblend - one tobacco purchase per customer.

1. Buy a total of 50g to 249g of a single Houseblend or several different Houseblends and choose one of

** A free Pipe Gadget
** A Packet of "Clean 110" Pipe Cleaners (100 tapered and 10 bristle)
** A Humydrole®.

2. Buy 250g to 499g - choose 2 of the free gifts
3. Buy 500g or more - 3 free gifts are yours.

As I keep telling our cigar devotees - many smokers need and like to experience variety.
Enjoy the taste from Wesley's!

Colin Wesley
February 24 to March 9, 2005

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

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Across the Counter
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No 110 - March 10, 2005
Three Hoyos

During my first years in the Johannesburg cigar business (in the 1970's), there were plenty of Cuban cigars available but two cigars appeared to be more revered than all the others:the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2 (Ring 50 x 124mm), and the much larger Montecristo No.2 (Ring 52 x 156mm, pyramid).

If you wanted a good cigar you were told by those in the know to buy an "epicurenumbertwo".
I don't think that the brand name Hoyo de Monterrey was even considered in this context.
No analytical reasons were given - they were just "the greatest smokes".
And when Blue Mould seriously struck Cuba, drastically curtailing supplies, there was near panic in the boardrooms, professional offices and homes of their devotees. Nothing else would do.

And the Epicure No.1 just wasn't the same.
Well it isn't, is it? Slightly longer and thinner (Ring 46 x 143mm) it offers a completely different smoking experience.

When we started importing cigars from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua we found that the Epicure No.2 size cigar was often named Rothschild, and before long it was our most popular size cigar: "What have you got in a Rothschild size?"
It became clear to us that this popularity was created purely by the dimensions of the cigar, not necessarily by the blend or taste. The draw is easy; the flavour is full and the length of smoking time comfortable.
But when the Cuban Cohiba 50x124mm cigar was produced, they used the name Robusto - and this is the name that has become the generic for all cigars of approximately these dimensions.

Our thoughts were confirmed during the cigar boom of the 1990's when, in every brand that offered it, the cigar of these dimensions became the best seller.
In fact in the Premier issue of Cigar Aficionado (Autumn 1992) the "robusto/Rothschild" size was selected for the first tasting - in a fine article they described the size as the "perfect power lunch smoke".

However, all over the world today, you have to finish your cigar while you're still in a smoking zone. As a result, shorter cigars are more in demand. But the desire for the broad burning area and easy draw of a thicker cigar is still there.
The Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey brand has long excelled in the production of large ringsize cigars such as Epicure No.2, Churchill and their fabulous Double Corona.
And so in 2004 Hoyo introduced their short, thick Petit Robusto (Ring 50 x 102mm). The comfortable draw is there, while the shorter length reduces the smoking time. It also provides a lighter smoke since the flavour doesn't have the time to develop as far as in a longer cigar.
We received our first supplies in December and they've gone down very well.

Now it's your opportunity to find out what all the buzz is about:

From 17 March to 30 March, 2005 we offer the Three Hoyos at the very attractive price of R250.00
Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2, Epicure No.1 and Petit Robusto.
(Normal price R349.00)

Colin Wesley
March 10 to March 23, 2005

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

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No 111 - March 24, 2005
Pipe of ..the Year

This title is usually confined to the exotic, numbered, limited production pipe produced annually by most top quality manufacturers. It will often become the pride of a "Collection" and may not even be smoked. (Just wait till you see the magnificent Savinelli Pipe of the Year 2005!)

But I like to feel that this title can also apply to the best pipe "find" of the year.
The pipe which offers outstanding value for your money.
The pipe which was intended and cured for a high grading, but the appearance and grain of the finished piece just didn't meet the original expectations - maybe a little lack of tight-grained hard wood, or the emergence of a few insignificant (to the smoking quality) surface flaws.

Such pipes do not appear on pricelists;
They can only be found by visiting the factory warehouse and talking to the people;
Preferably talking to the quality control inspector who has the final say of "yea or nay" to the acceptance of the pipe for its hoped-for grading;
………………………….. and then comes the bargaining.

Last year in the Lorenzo warehouse, we found the Giant Canadian, and in previous years we brought you the "Roma", the giant "Tugboat" bent, the "Summa cum Laude". There are just a very few left of the Canadian and the Summa cum Laude - many of the customers who bought the others have come back to me with glowing reports.

This year we found the "Upright" - a large, square-shank, standing bent with optional 9mm filter.

The finish in most cases
is satin autumn brown,
but there are just a few high-polished pipes.
And, as we have come to expect from Lorenzo, the pipe is well-balanced and relatively light for its size.

We had placed a nice order for pipes**
and our friends were feeling generous - we agreed on a great price:
This "pipe find of the year" will retail for only R395.00.

And for the period March 31 to April 13, 2005
these imposing pipes (while stocks last) will be on special at less 25%.

Colin Wesley
March 24 to April 6, 2005

** PS Keep an eye on the Lorenzo, 10 Minute and Value pipe pages.

We were again able to buy the 10 minute "Elegants"; a neat, chunky, pocket-sized "Club"; and 3 "Studios" to replace the currently out-of-stock "Dinky".
Back in stock are the Two-tone and Walnut finish value pipes in several shapes and sizes.
And you'll appreciate the new shapes in Lorenzo Flat and Meerschaum-lined.

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

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Across the Counter
Fortnightly Articles
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No 112 - March 24, 2005
Your Cigars this Winter

This is a repeat of the article we wrote last June - this time in advance of winter, instead of when the cigars are already drying out!

 
e="3">If you haven't checked your humidor or cigar storage area recently do so now. The relative humidity should be around the 70% mark, but feel the cigars - they will tell you more than the hygrometer. If they are starting to harden and lose their sponginess they are asking for more moisture. Maybe use a little piece of damp cottonwool (not touching the cigars) as a simple indicator.

Check that your humidifier is filled and that the holes in the face are clean. If they look a little blocked give them a brush. Also run your hand over the inside of your humidor. If it feels bone dry, remove the cigars and wipe the whole area with a damp (not wet) cloth. Allow the moisture to be absorbed and then return the cigars. If you have a large humidor, remember to rotate the position of your cigars on a regular basis. Don't suffocate those at the bottom.

At one of our cigar dinners a young man at our table said that in winter he augmented his humidifier by dividing off a section in his humidor and placing some damp oasis in a container in the space. This sounds like a practical idea - but if you do this, then feel the oasis occasionally to make sure it isn't getting slimy.
Once you have the humidity under control check the surroundings of your humidor. Winter is the time for heaters to be switched on, sunlight to be allowed in and doors to be closed. Any of these, or a combination of these, can adversely affect your cigars.

Make sure the storage area is cool - and with good humidity your cigars will be a real joy to smoke on a crisp evening in front of the fire.

Talking of a Cigar Dinner
- we are looking forward to a really special evening on 21 April.

Master Cuban Cigar Roller, Torcedor Eduardo Gonzales, will be in attendance. He's brought his Cuban leaf with him, and you'll have the opportunity to watch an expert in action - and to buy his cigars at only R50.00 each. And in the course of the evening we'll raffle a Humidor with 25 cigars rolled by Eduardo on this trip - with a Certificate signed by him - R100.00 per ticket.
truly great item of memorabilia.

The cigars we will enjoy are:
San Luis Rey Club - Ring 22 x 100mm. All Havana leaf, machine-rolled* in Cuba. (*It's difficult to roll a very thin cigar by hand.) Smooth light Cuban taste with a relatively easy draw.
Traditionally Cuba focussed on larger cigars - demitasse was the smallest except for a few mini cigarillos made under license in Europe. Cuba has now seriously entered the small cigar or "cigarillo" market with the big names - Cohiba, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, San Luis Rey, and others.
Ramon Allones Petit Corona - Ring 42 x 129mm. Back in 1839, Ramon Allones was the first person to put coloured labels on the boxes. His cigars have a pronounced Cuban taste - favourites among connoisseurs of full bodied cigars. You'll enjoy a really flavourful smoke between courses.
El Rey del Mundo Choix Supreme - Ring 48 x 127mm - Now here is a Robusto that deserves to be better known in South Africa. When Cuban cigars were in such short supply some years ago we bought some from Switzerland, and they went down extremely well - they still do. Good draw, burns slow and even. Not too big to enjoy with coffee at the end of a very pleasant evening.
  Dinner Preview - or for those who can't make it.
The 3-pack of cigars will be available
from Thursday, 14 April 2005 at only R150.00.
Normal price for the 3 cigars in glass tubes is R219.00!

Colin Wesley
April 7 to April 20, 2005

PS If you miss the dinner, you can see the roller in action at Wesley's Rosebank and Eastgate
- phone the shops for dates and times.

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

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