12 - April
own Pipe or Cigar Club
a previous article (December 14) we posed the question:
"Is a pleasure shared a
We talked about the pleasures of reading about cigars - books
and magazines. The new laws prohibit the sale (including import
for resale) of magazines whose main purpose is deemed by SA Customs
to promote smoking. Some of the current issue of Cigar Aficionado
were impounded at SA Customs, and we don't know whether you will
see any more of these magazines on the shelf in future. So buy
this issue while you can. Back
Wesley's are selling them off at very good prices, including some
that are going for high prices from the Cigar Aficionado website.
is another way of sharing your pleasure - your own Pipe or Cigar
Simply smoking with friends at an appointed place and time
- like a Dinner Club or a Book Club.
to a request from Mr Bundwini, one of our website visitors, we
offer a few guidelines.
of a Club
A congenial time spent with friends - fellow pipe or cigar
Most clubs seem to work on a consistent day and time, eg. the
second Tuesday of the month at 5:30pm; or every Saturday at 10:15am.
The time and frequency depends on your other commitments.
The location can be fixed, flexible or rotating; at private homes
or at smoking-friendly venues - club, pub, coffee bar, cocktail
Snacks or a meal.
· A set fee per function - pooled.
· Everybody pays for his or her own drinks/snacks.
· The host for the occasion pays.
If you envisage
a more formal club, some points to bear in mind are:
Who will administer the subscription?
What will the subscription be used for?
Who will organise the functions?
Gather a few friends together, they may invite other friends -
let it snowball.
· Smoking and conversation;
· A presentation of smoking or other products or techniques, by
a member or outside enthusiast;
· Each meeting one person brings favourite cigars or pipe tobacco
for everybody to try - free, or pay in to a kitty each time;
· Introduction to a new pipe tobacco - scoring;
· Tasting cigars - comparing different sizes or leaf or rolling
· Tasting blind and rating the cigars.
ideas from the activities of other clubs - some websites follow.
visiting, close the window to return to this page.
note: Some of these sites seem to be out of operation at present
May 21, 2018
will provide a forum for cross-information.
Give us your ideas and functions to list on the Wesley's website.
we can facilitate a periodic get-together of all the clubs in
for a casual meal or formal dinner.
imaginative new experience
Have you ever tried a gently flavoured cheroot with your
Next week we feature the light, mild Moods cigarillo.
you have a question that would offer suitable material for
If we use it, you will receive a cigar (or tobacco) with
13 - May
all these new brands from Cuba?
cigar boom that started in the early nineties was the obvious
breeding ground for the multitude of new cigar brands that flooded
the market when the established brands could not cope with the
skyrocketing demand. Most of these new brands originated in the
Dominican Republic and Honduras.
entrepreneurs entered the trade, factories mushroomed, tobacco
was bought willy-nilly, rollers were poached or hastily given
basic training, fancy labels and boxes proliferated, and quality
was low down on the list of priorities. It was said at one stage
that there were more Don "This" and Don "That" on
the market than there were "Don"s in a Spanish phone book.
Such is the market place when driven by demand and supply.
In Cuba the land suitable and available to grow the variety of
leaf needed for a good cigar is limited and they did not have
direct access to the vast United States cigar market. However
they could not afford to miss out on the burgeoning global market.
Production was increased from 80 million in 1990 to 148 million
in 1999. The industry could not cope and quality was sacrificed.
And in this same period, when capacity was stretched to
its very limits, Cuba launched new brands. Why?
I subscribe to the theory that because big Cuban names
such as Montecristo, Punch, Romeo y Julieta, H.Upmann and others
are registered in the USA, then if (or when) the embargo against
Cuba is lifted royalties would have to be paid to the owners of
these brands. A good way to avoid these payments would be to create
new brands, with names registered by Cuba Tobacco.
And so we have seen the introduction of brands such as Cuaba,
Vegas Robaina, Vegueros,
Cristobal and now Juan
By creating such new brands Cuba Tobacco would be able to invite
distributors to bid for the market rights for these brands. Production
could be tailored to suit the best interests of Cuba.
interesting scenario, which has become even more interesting.
In 1999 the tobacco giants SEITA of France and TABACALERA of Spain
combined to form ALTADIS. ALTADIS has subsequently acquired 50%
of HABANOS - the marketing arm of Cuba Tobacco - and 100% of Consolidated
Cigar in the USA. Consolidated own Montecristo, H.Upmann and other
Cuban labels. The possible ramifications of these developments
are mind-boggling, and are of grave concern to the whole cigar
wait and watch.
Lopez (Flor de) - the revival of an old Havana
available in South Africa in 3 sizes.
price in glass tubes
Fortnightly Feature was - 3 glass tubes with 3 sizes
of Juan Lopez R165.00
Compare 3 sizes of the same brand with reference
to taste and draw.
Remember if the draw is too easy, try a thinner cigar.
No 15 -
your cigar smoking!
of my cigar customers have recently revived their
There are many similarities: the smoking rituals, the enjoyment
of the taste, both types of smoking require time, patience and
an understanding of the tobacco product.
One of the main differences, and a good reason to combine the
two, is the cost factor. A good 30-minute cigar may cost anything
from R30.00 to R80.00 - the equivalent quantity of pipe tobacco
should be in the region of R4.00 to R5.00. The capital cost of
a good pipe with all the paraphernalia
is less than the cost of a box of 25 cigars.
Smoke your cigars when out to dinner or sharing the experience
with friends; smoke your pipe when relaxing alone. Smoke
either as the mood takes you.
The natural taste / flavour of a cigar comes from the blending
of tobacco leaves for the filler from similar plants grown in
different areas (maybe with the addition of flavourings). See
"Cigars - Smoking for Pleasure".
The flavour in pipe tobaccos is created by blending leaves from
very different tobacco plants, processing and maturing the blends,
adding flavouring essences.
In both types of smoking, the enjoyment and satisfaction come
from the taste buds - not from a need to inhale.
Just as you select the correct
size cigar, and the appropriate flavour for the occasion,
so you can select the right size pipe and the "perfect"
If your impressions
of pipe smoking conjure up thoughts of a raw, sore tongue - banish
them. This can easily be avoided by smoking more slowly. (See
"The Perfect Blend".)
The key focus is the strength of the tobacco. If a tobacco
is too light you may smoke too fast, the tobacco will burn hot
and a sore tongue will result.
Consideration of strength is also important in a cigar
- we'll talk about this next time.
feature (just in time for Father's Day), a "really
useful" design of pouch for pipe, tobacco and tools - either
leather or synthetic - with 25g of a Houseblend
tobacco thrown in. Use the opportunity to replace your
lost or ageing pouch, and try a different tobacco at the
No 16 -
of strength in a cigar
- a complex question!
More complex than
in pipe tobacco (see the previous article),
and the answer is dependent on several factors and your personal
reaction to these factors. This reaction is subjective - we need
to recognise our own likes and dislikes so that we can make personal
adjustments to a rating given to a cigar by somebody else.
For example, how could you and I define "strong" coffee?
I make instant coffee with 2 loaded spoons of granules, you may
prefer a half spoon. If we know this about each other we can make
allowances. Coffee that you consider strong might not be anywhere
near strong enough for me.
In a similar way, this applies to the character of a cigar.
Test this theory with
a little cross-referencing between the ratings given by Theo
Rudman, Rick Hacker and Wesley's,
and establish where your personal strength rating lies.
Some of the factors
that come into play are:
- The actual tobacco
in the blend:
The perception of strength is closely allied to the richness
of flavour of the tobaccos in the cigar. This gives rise to
the terms: "light, "full-bodied", etc. This flavour is influenced
by the country in which the tobacco is grown, and within each
country the degree to which the leaf is matured. The 4 countries
that dominate the supply of cigars to South Africa (and their
strength characteristics) are: Cuba (mostly full-bodied), Honduras
(medium to full), Dominican (mild to medium) and Holland (light).
(See "Cigars - Smoking for pleasure")
Since the time of Castro some top brand names (eg Dunhill) have
been manufactured in the Canary Islands. These are also mild
to medium in strength. One of the newest brands is ST DuPont.
- The Ringsize:
Too thick might give you too much smoke per draw, and make you
feel dizzy. Too thin might burn hot and bitter. Both could be
perceived to be "strong".
- Rate of smoking:
Smoking too fast often causes a hot, bitter smoke - the cigar
gives the impression of being "strong".
- Time of day:
That delightful light, short filler cigar perfect for the morning
might be meaningless in the evening.
- Before or after
a meal (and the nature of a meal): In a series of blind
tastings with which we were involved, it was found that when
cigars were smoked before snacks or a meal, the lighter Dominican
cigars rated more marks than the traditionally strong Cuban
cigars. When the cigars were smoked after food, the ratings
turned around. At a recent function the pre-dinner premium Dominican
cigar was "surprisingly good", but the same brand and blend
offered after dinner was "disappointing".
seems fairly obvious from the above that a single cigar is unlikely
to satisfy everybody all of the time. Experiment with different
cigars. How would you categorise their strengths?
Does your humidor offer you sufficient choice?
categories on our pricelist:
Since we have no control over the last 4 factors, we have
based our "strength" categories on the main tobacco that forms
the filler of each cigar, making reference to food and occasion.
We have gratefully drawn on the knowledge and experience contained
in Theo Rudman's "Complete Pocket
Guide to Cigars", the works of Richard
Carleton Hacker and our personal preferences.
We've arrived at
5 levels of strength:
Suitable in the morning or before a light or delicate meal.
- A little more
taste and body - yet easy going enough for the novice. Excellent
after lunch or any light meal. Good with cocktails.
- Pre-dinner or
after a more substantial lunch
- sufficiently satisfying even for an experienced smoker.
hearty - the perfect ending to a rich or spicy meal.
- Smoke with care
- superb with a robust liqueur or strong coffee after a sumptuous
meal, or when there is plenty of time. A demanding smoke.
21 - July 4 . Featured:
"Sample the Strengths"
For R155.00, the pack of "Three Coronas" one each
Cuba - Punch Corona,
Canary Islands - ST DuPont (NEW),
Honduras - Don Mateo
No 17 - June
- pipes with personality
There was a buzz around
the International Ambiente Fair this year: "Pipes
are back in favour"
was being paid to those pipes not quite in the classic mould.
Pipes expressing some element of "freeform" and individuality.
Preferably fitted with a filter system.
"Freeform pipes" burst
on the pipe scene in the late 1950's / early 1960's and Denmark
was the breeding ground. Names such as Kriswell, Stanwell,
Larsen and Jensen become as well known as Savinelli, BBB, GBD,
Barling and Comoy.
Everybody was caught up in this new wave.
Manufacturers who didn't have the craftsmen to produce these new
shapes contracted small firms of artistic craftsmen to make pipes
for them, and branded them with their own names.
(Dunhill "styled by Harcourt" was a classic example of this arrangement.)
But production costs were high and the individually hand-carved
pipes were expensive.
pioneered the use of a metal template from which four bowls could
be turned simultaneously. The Danish carver Sixten Ivarsson (now
considered the father of modern pipemaking) was commissioned to
create new shapes capturing the spirit of the "Freeform" movement.
Each shape was registered.
Each shape was perfect and true to the vision of its creator.
Suddenly "Freeform" pipes were affordable to a larger pool of
is the major pipe manufacturer in Denmark, producing over 100,000
pipes per year, exported to all the corners of the earth. The
company still enjoys relationships with the most talented craftsmen
in Denmark to produce new shapes. Over the years more than 200
shapes have been discontinued - the current range of 75 shapes
(both traditional and modern) includes the best of the past and
the inspiration of the present.
From July 5 -18 (current) we feature one of the Stanwell
The "Calabash" - which expresses the essence of the freeform
spirit in a classic manner.
The Stanwell Speciality Shapes are made in limited quantities
from top quality briar.
18 - July
Richard Carleton Hacker
"The Cigar Czar" by the media, author of over 300 published articles
on pipe and cigar smoking, member of France's honorary "Confrèrie
des Maîtres Pipiers de Saint-Claude", elected to the exclusive
"Academie Internationale de la Pipe", knighted by the "Internationales
Tabakskoliegium" in Germany, Rick Hacker is one of the world's
most celebrated, internationally known pipe and cigar authors
of our time. His books are listed as important reference works
by the Encyclopaedia Americana.
More important his works are informed and witty, easy and entertaining
He was asked by the
Pipesmokers' Council of Great Britain in an interview published
on their website (www.pipesmokerscouncil.org) and in their booklet
"Pipesmokers' Welcome Guide 1999":
"How did you start writing about pipes?"
Richard answered as follows:
One of the most
frequently asked questions reporters put to me is "How did you
ever start writing about pipes?"
To be honest, it is a question I never really thought about, as
pipe writing, just as pipe smoking, has always come quite naturally
to me. But I guess, in the scheme of things, pipe smoking had
to have come first. Otherwise I could never have written about
it, even though I was a published writer long before I was a published
I actually remember
when it all began - during my junior year in college. As was my
scholastic style, I was cramming for final exams on the eve before
that fateful event. My study hall was an Italian restaurant whose
owner kept filling me with coffee and pasta free of charge, which
was fortuitous as I had no money. But the protein and caffeine
weren't enough. I needed a friend to stay with me throughout the
night, someone to keep me awake and just alert enough to retain
the information needed to pass the test the following morning.
In desperation - I don 't know why, perhaps because I thought
it made me look smarter (which it did) - I had purchased a pipe
that afternoon, a classic billiard. It was not an expensive briar,
but it fit my hand perfectly. I suspect it may actually have cost
less than the tobacco I bought to go with it. In any case, as
I scrutinized my notes, I filled my new briar with tobacco, struck
a wooden match, and thereupon began a love affair that has lasted
to this very day. Of course, I passed the test, a tribute that
I owe to the scholastic bearing of my billiard.
Since then, I have learnt that there are infinitely better grades
of briar and that the quality of the pipe is proportionately related
to the enjoyment of the smoke. However, that is not to say that
price is the deciding factor. One of the secrets of pleasurable
pipe smoking is to find a pipe that is within your means, but
buy the very best you can afford. No one ever regrets buying quality.
Another salient point is that you can never have too many pipes.
As for tobacco, never stop searching or you lose the thrill of
discovery. Eventually you may find nirvana, and if so, use it
as your "safe haven", when you want to relax. But there might
be something better in the next tobacco specialist's shop, and
your next bowlful may be even more rewarding.
Today I have an enormous collection of pipes, and all of them
are my friends. They have seen me through good times and bad,
and have never let me down when I needed them. So the least I
can do to repay their kindness is to write about them and to share
their pleasures with others. Which is what I'm doing now. Which
is how I got started writing about pipes in the first place. Rick
Hacker's books can be bought from Wesley's and other specialist
Tobacconists, or ordered through Wesley's Mail Order (011 4402717).