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No 147 - August 10, 2006
In the Beginning ...

This time the conversation was across the Internet counter rather than in the shop.

A relatively new Internet cigar customer threw this suggestion to me: “How about a selection of the Cuban cheapies for the newbies? When I first started looking at cigars, anything under fifty bucks (forty if at all possible) was all I was willing to go for. I would’ve been over-the-moon to be offered an affordable starter pack.” (Thanks Ross)

On the face of it, that sounds a good idea, but I think it is flawed.

Three “cheapie” cigars are likely to be machine made – with a slightly coarser wrapper giving a rougher smoke. As a beginner, to smoke these only, thinking they represent “cigar smoking”, could put you off for life. In addition, they won’t afford the opportunity to experience the enjoyment of a top quality, smooth, mellow smoke. They also won’t offer you the opportunity to compare an in-between quality machine-bunched, hand-finished – maybe not quite as smooth but usually with a very good draw, and certainly more competitively priced. I talked about these three types of cigars in a previous article.

Last time I answered the question ““How do I start making up a selection of cigars?” I stressed the importance of variety in size and shape – to which I could add price. Sometimes a curry, for example, could take a rough cigar; sometimes a celebration, for example, demands the best - a luxurious, positive pleasure.
The beginner needs to experiment with a wide variety – find a tobacconist that offers single cigars and try them out over time.
Then there are the Wesley’s Selections.
Each one is put together with a purpose, outlined in the enclosed leaflet – and they are always good value.
The Selections are usually one-offs so watch for them and enjoy and appreciate the variety.

Ross – the first selection you bought from us was the Half Corona 3 pack, the size kept the price down and it included 3 top quality cigars; and now you’re waiting to try the Top Rated selection you’ve just received.
(Maybe you and a few friends would like at some time to enjoy a dinner with the June ‘Dinner Selection”. You’ll need plenty of time.)

Our next special (starting 17 August) will give you the opportunity to compare different qualities.
Look out for it.

Colin Wesley
August 10 to August 23, 2006

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No 148 -August 24, 2006
This one is for the Ladies

(But not necessarily exclusively.)

Having just celebrated National Women’s Day on 9 August, and coincidentally attending a seminar on the retail market of the future where it was forecast that the bulk of the purchasing will be done by women, I asked myself: “What do we offer to our lady smokers?”
The obvious answer is: “Well we carry most of the cigarettes available in South Africa, including the exotic Sobranie Black Russian and Cocktails, the fun Djarum clove & tobacco cigarettes from Indonesia, plus a selection of natural and flavoured cigars and cigarillos.”
And then another coincidence:
A couple came into my shop with the specific objective “To buy a pipe for my wife”. In the course of the conversation across the counter, it appeared that both were smokers, but when the husband settled down with his pipe for a contented half-hour smoke, his wife felt short changed. So she “borrowed” a few puffs on his pipe, and was smitten.
Now the time had come for her to have her own pipe.
It had to be elegant, lightweight, not too big, and preferably with a longish stem to keep the smoke away from her hair.
A visit to the 10 minute pipe drawer gave her the options, and she settled for a beautiful Savinelli Mini Churchwarden.  While she was about it, she chose a light tobacco which appealed to her nose.
They left very pleased with themselves and happy with their purchases.

My thoughts were: “Well, we must have more couples like this – in addition to our growing list of lady pipe smokers”.
On occasions the purchase of a pipe is a joint affair, with plenty of input from both parties. It becomes subtly obvious that the pleasure of this pipe is going to be shared. I may get a slightly blushing comment: “Well sometimes I have a little taste”.

If your wife or partner is enjoying a puff or two on your pipe, why not give her a pipe of her own?

The wife of a past French Ambassador to South Africa was a wonderful example to lady pipe smokers. She was very elegant and smoked her pipe at cocktail parties and formal functions. (Those were the days before smoking  restrictions.)
According to Richard Carleton Hacker lady pipe smokers have been around since the 1600’s.
And we can paraphrase A E Hamilton’s 1927 question – “Shall women smoke?” to “Shall women smoke pipes?” And his reply is relevant: “They do”.

So, better late than never, we are attending to this requirement with our next special. 

From 31 August  to 13 September, 2006 we offer
25% off
Savinelli Mini Churchwarden and Marca Mignon pipes

We’ve directed this article at the ladies because it’s high time we did!
But these pipes are equally suited to men – they offer a shorter smoke – cooled by the length of the stem.

Colin Wesley
August 24 to September 5, 2006

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No 149 - September 7, 2006
Test your Senses

This week we consider the connoisseur or aspirant connoisseur.

It has been written that a cigar can satisfy all our senses except hearing.
We would like you to put your senses of sight, smell, touch and taste to the test.

For the experiment we have put together 3 great Robustos – Romeo y Julieta Exhibicion No.4,
Cohiba Robusto and Partagas Serie D No.4 – Total value R412.50 (3 cigars in glass tubes).

This “Blind” Robusto selection will run from 14 September – but limited to only 25 selections.
Diarise September 14 to order – only R340.00.

The twist is that we have removed the bands and labelled the tubes A, B, C.

The bands are in a separate packet
with their identifying A, B or C.
A score sheet is provided for you to rate each sense
on a scale of 1 to 10.
When you have smoked and rated all three, try to name them.

This of course is not compulsory.
You can take the bands out of the separate packet and replace them on the cigars and experience three great smokes.
Or you can try to guess which is which without rating them.

Cuban Robusto

However if you’d like to enjoy a “blind tasting” then:
Appreciate the appearance, the construction, the aroma;
Savour the anticipation while you light the cigar;
Close your eyes and concentrate on the quality and mellow smoothness of the smoke;
Use the score sheet to evaluate each aspect of the cigar;
Try to smoke each cigar under similar conditions.

We used to hold “blind tastings” when we were involved with the Cigafrique cigar club. They were great fun, and quite eye-opening.
The big eye-opener: When we first started the tastings we offered the cigars (a mixture of Dominican, Cuban, Honduran) as the members arrived, and they started smoking them straight away. For the first few tastings, the Cuban cigars scored badly – lower than the lighter cigars. This concerned and puzzled us.
Then we changed the timetable – only handing out the cigars after the members had enjoyed a cigarillo with a few snacks and a drink. The results were dramatic. Cuban cigars topped the ratings at most of the following events.
Take the hint, and smoke the cigars after having had something to eat and drink - be it biscuits and tea, or a meal with wine and coffee – and maybe a little cigarillo.

Have fun, and we would love to know how you got on – send us an email.

And now for something really special:

Join us for an “Evening with Davidoff” -
to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Zino Davidoff.

The date to diarise – our next Cigar Dinner – Thursday 12 October 2006.

Colin Wesley
September 7 to September 20, 2006

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No 150 - September 21, 2006
Heads You Win

A very affordable meerschaum, that is.

Some time after our January order of meerschaum pipes arrived, we received an email from our supplier in Turkey offering us a parcel of small heads, assorted. These heads are made from blocks of meerschaum that had a few surface flaws and, as with briar, are not suitable to make classic shapes. These we are told are given to the apprentices (young artists) to carve the most suitable head. This miniature work is very good training for them before being allowed to progress to the larger blocks.
The price was good, and since we knew how long it had taken for the previous order to arrive, we accepted the offer.
The parcel has arrived, and the better price has cancelled out the weaker Rand.
They will still sell for R395.00.

And we are going to use these pipes as our next special.
Our reason for this is that we feel the “special” price of R295.00 will make them even more attractive as an entry pipe into the mystical world of meerschaum, or as a very affordable addition to a meerschaum collection. (You may find a head you haven’t got.)
And since we still have 20 medium-size heads (in fitted cases), we’ll also offer them at a special price.

To re-cap on the merits of meerschaum pipes – they are:
Lightness – no strain on your teeth;
Power of absorption – no soggy dottle;
Length of life – indefinite, provided you don’t drop it on concrete;
The purity of tobacco flavours achieved by this rare mineral – meerschaum has a neutral taste;
Cleaning is simple - just scrape out the bowl with a blunt tool or the back of your pipe knife blade.
In addition, since there is no build-up of carbon in the bowl, you can smoke a size smaller than usual.

Over time the bowl will colour, and the latest treatment to the outside of the bowl protects it from picking up stains or substances from your hand. (Note the slightly deeper yellow glow to the bowl than on previous shipments.)

The shapes shown on our website are examples of what you can expect. The pipes ordered through Safeshop may differ slightly from those pictured on the website.
We will send the closest substitute – or we will phone you to discuss the actual pipe we plan to send.

Whichever head you receive, the pipe will not disappoint you with its smoking qualities - they are quite simply superb!

The special offer runs from 28 September to 11 October, 2006
R295.00 for the small Meerschaum heads in boxes,
R495.00 for the medium Meerschaum heads in fitted cases.

Don’t miss out!

You’ll soon realise why Meerschaum is known as “The Emperor of Pipes”.

Colin Wesley

September 21 to October 4, 2006

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No 151 - October 6, 2006


In those 88 years nobody, not even Winston Churchill, did more for the cigar  world
than Zino Davidoff.

The face of Winston Churchill may be synonymous with the large cigar named after him, but it was Zino Davidoff who developed and promoted the “fine art of cigar smoking” in a much broader sense.
Davidoff designed the first retail Humidor Room – a climatically-controlled cigar cellar. He also pioneered the personal humidor, now found in common use all over the world.
In 1946/7 he conceived and launched the famous “Chateau” range of Cuban cigars. These were the first Cuban cigars to be presented in the deeper, square, slide-top natural cedar cabinets which he designed, and which allowed the cigars to breathe and intermingle better. These were an instant success, and are still used for the best cigars today.
His charm, care, and wide knowledge of cigars, made him admired and loved the world over.

Read the new book by Dieter H. Wirtz: “Davidoff” Legend - Myth - Reality;

Briefly, Davidoff was born in Novgorod, near Kiev, in 1906. In 1912 his family left Russia for Geneva, where his father opened a tobacco shop. When he was 20, Zino Davidoff left Geneva for a 3 year cigar apprenticeship, travelling the countries with great cigar plantations – Argentina, Brazil, and finally Cuba where he spent 2 years on a tobacco farm. In 1929 he returned to Geneva to open his own shop – with its unique built-in cigar cellar.

His fame grew over the years, and finally the Davidoff brand was launched: First on Cuban cigars, and then in 1990, when he became concerned about the future of his brand in Cuba, on cigars from the finest quality Dominican leaf.
The Davidoff company was sold when Zino Davidoff reached the age of 65, but he stayed on with the new owners – as a consultant, and an ambassador for the brand. The brand “Davidoff” has expanded into other luxury products, but the culture of excellence is unchanged, promoting “The Good Life”:
 “Eat less – but eat only the best; Drink less – but drink only the best; Smoke less – but smoke only the best.”

In his 1967 book, “The Connoisseur's Book of the Cigar” Davidoff wrote: "The cigar has been my life; I owe it everything: my pleasures and my anguish, the joys of my work as well as the pleasant leisure hours it affords, and, if I have acquired over the course of the years some bit of philosophical perspective, it is to the cigar that I am in debt."

When Davidoff died in January 1994, the cigar industry lost one of its greatest legends.

Fortunately Davidoff was a generous man, sharing the vast knowledge he acquired through his devotion to cigars with his employees, customers, and indeed with the rest of the world.
His pursuit of excellence, and the high demands he made on his suppliers raised the standard for all premium, handmade cigars, and for cigar accessories.

Davidoff was the benchmark – and the benchmark was high.

The Pursuit of Excellence:
The Cuban Davidoffs were rich and aromatic – but above all they were prized and appreciated because the excellence of their quality ensured that they consistently offered an exceptionally smooth smoke.
In 1991 Davidoff moved production to the Dominican Republic under the care of master blender Hendrik Kelner. The Santo Domingo tobaccos used in the cigars were naturally lighter than Cuban leaf, but the requirement for consistent, excellent quality was unchanged, and the same smooth, mild, creamy smoke was achieved. The trend at the time was to lighter smoking, and the Dominican cigar appealed particularly to the United States market (in which the strong Cuban cigars had not been available since the 1960’s) and to new cigar smokers who often found Cuban cigars too heavy.
But then tastes in the US started to change, and there was a demand for richer “Cubanesque” cigars. Davidoff already marketed a full-bodied Honduran “Zino” but it was felt that the time was right to launch a new richer “Davidoff” – the Millenium Blend with a wrapper from Ecuador. Typical of the attention to excellent quality – this wrapper comes from a hybrid plant which Davidoff developed with the local farmers over some years. Once again the Davidoff skill is apparent in the harmony of the blend and the excellence of the cigar.

The esteem of the name “Davidoff” in the cigar trade is such that when in 1996 the Davidoff factory in the Dominican Republic was destroyed by fire, neighbouring factories immediately provided equipment and facilities for the Davidoff rollers to keep working.

On 12 October 2006, we pay tribute to the name “Davidoff” and especially to the “Grand old man of Cigars” himself - “An Evening with Davidoff” in the Grillhouse restaurant in Johannesburg.

If you are unable to attend the dinner – the good news is that from
Friday 13 October we will offer the same three cigars that we enjoyed at the dinner (plus a bonus of one extra Exquisitos) for R250.00 - while stocks last.

Colin Wesley
October 5 to October 17, 2006

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No 152 - October 19, 2006
A Shop-within-a-Shop

An advanced concept for Wesley’s.

We may not be the first company in the world to use this concept, but we are the first in South Africa to use it for the Tobacconist trade.

Many years ago Dunhill in London positioned a Dunhill shop within another shop – but that shop was Harrods’s, which is some way distant from the Dunhill location in Duke Street, St. James’. Both Knightsbridge and St. James’ attract their own streams of tourists and high-end clientele – a great success.

Savinelli tried a similar idea in Milan by opening up in the leading department store, but due to the severe restrictions on sales of tobacco products in Italy, this was not successful.
Savinelli still has a lovely little shop on Via Orefici – just across from the Cathedral.

We have long felt that this concept would be ideal for Wesley’s in South Africa.
Not just to be represented in the major cities, but also to be represented in some of the smaller towns, in co-operation with other service-orientated, owner-run shops.
Towns where there are a number of discerning pipe or cigar smokers – but not enough to make a pure tobacconist viable.
Towns where there are enough discerning people to make a quality service-orientated, owner-run shop viable – because that’s where a Wesley’s would fit in best.
Towns just large enough to support a quality shopping complex – with secure parking and safe, pleasant surroundings – and able to offer an enjoyable shopping experience to customers from neighbouring towns and country areas.

Platsak Cellars in the Riverside Mall on the outskirts of Nelspruit was our first
Shop-within-a-Shop”. From Day One of opening last year the two elements (fine drinking
and fine smoking) have complemented each other very nicely.
Nelspruit has been for some years one of the fastest growing municipal areas – and Riverside Mall attracts clientele from Lydenburg to Mocambique, and Phalaborwa to Swaziland.
Platsak Cellars reflects this diversity and offers customers a choice to suit most tastes and pockets.
The Wesley’s shop within the Platsak Cellars shop is also relatively large – and offers a substantial range of products including a walk-in Humidor for cigars.

We now have more similar outlets about to pop out of the pipeline – in smaller towns, in smaller sizes, but still well-stocked.
Our wings are spreading as we aim to offer better service to those discerning smokers in wider South Africa.
We’ll keep you posted.

So what shall we do for a special this fortnight?
To match the “Shop-within-a-Shop” concept, it should be something
small, elegant and practical ……..
How about the Lorenzo Cadry – at less 25% from October 26 to November 8?
Now that’s a good offer – a superb little well wooded, freeform pipe at only R138.75!

You’ll be glad you added one to your collection.
Colin Wesley
October 19 to November 1, 2006

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No 153 - November 2, 2006
One word - “Trinidad”!

To those unfortunate people who are not familiar with the wonderful world of cigars, the name Trinidad conjures up nothing more than a bright, sunny Caribbean island, with white sandy beaches, palm trees and sparkling waters – nothing wrong with that, but we in the know, know better.

I am grateful to James Suckling (the journalist for Cigar Aficionado who reports on Cuban cigars) for much
of the following information on the appearance and development of the Trinidad cigar.
The cigar which those of us who have smoked them feel is excellence personified.

The original “Diplomatico Trinidad” which preceded the 1998 commercially produced Fundadores, was the same blend as the Cohiba Lancero, but it had a slightly darker wrapper. This gave the cigar a richer, more powerful character than the Lancero. Packaged in plain cedar boxes of 100 cigars, the “Diplomatico Trinidads” were used as gifts from Fidel Castro and other government officials.
In 1998 the Fundadores size was commercially launched. An elegant 192mm by 40 ring gauge – in boxes of 24. Supplies were very limited, but it was also the size that limited the cigar’s appeal to many cigar aficionados.
In November 2003, Raul Valladares, master blender for Tabacuba, who is credited with the creation of the blend for Trinidad, was in London to launch the now more familiar, and more sought after, three new sizes (vitolas):
Reyes (110mm x Ring 40) - A slightly longer Half Corona
Coloniales (132mm x Ring 44) - A slightly thicker Petit Corona
Robusto Extra (155mm x Ring 50) - An extended Robusto
With his more than 40 years experience in cigar tobaccos he said “I am always looking for an extremely aromatic and elegant cigar”. He added that the new Trinidad is a unique blend – nothing to do with Cohiba.
James Suckling put it more descriptively “These cigars are for someone looking for flavours and complexity and not in-your-face, beat-you-on-the-head character”.
At the beginning of the evening launch, Manuel Garcia, commercial director for Habanos SA said “It would be an unforgettable experience smoking the new Trinidads”. At the end of the evening James Suckling concurred with him.
By coincidence, I smoked a few Coloniales while away recently and that most enjoyable experience is probably what prompted me to share my pleasure in “The Very Best” (as the late Theo Rudman described this brand in the 4th edition of his “Complete Pocket Guide to Cigars”).

From November 9 we offer a 3 pack of one each of these magnificent cigars for only R315.00.
New prices of Cuban cigars from 1 November –
So normal price for these three cigars in glass tubes R437.50

James Suckling believes that Trinidad is one of the best cigar brands from Cuba. “I have never smoked a bad Trinidad.”
From my experience, I can’t help but agree.
How about you?

Colin Wesley
November 2 to November 15, 2006

PS Talking of the very best, I opened last week the new R & J Short Churchill just arrived on our market, and discovered that it is one of the most magnificent cigars I’ve seen recently. A true Robusto, it was awarded 91 points by Cigar Aficionado in an August 2006 tasting. They wrote:
“An attractive cigar with a good draw and burn. It's a medium to full-bodied smoke, packed with leather and coffee notes and a touch of sweet wood. A smooth, rich cigar.”
Box of 25 R2974.50 ; Single cigar in glass tube R143.00 ; Later this year they will be available in aluminium tubes in 3-packs. We had a few recently – quite stunning.

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